Judge’s Final Word On Oxnard Measure M Overturning Wastewater Rate Increases

By George Miller

In May, after a year of litigation by both parties, after the recall election was safely over and right about at the 90 day deadline after the trial was completed, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Rocky Baio tentatively ruled against Oxnard’s lawsuit against local financial executive and activist Aaron Starr’s wildly successful (73% of vote) Measure M initiative to roll back Oxnard’s huge 2015 wastewater rate increase.  The City successfully convinced Baio to put a stay on enforcement while the litigation played out.

Baio’s final word on the case reinforced his previous conclusions. Some operative words below, extracted from the final ruling dated June 29, filed July 5, 2018:

The whole ruling, sent to us by Mr. Starr: Final Statement of Decision on Measure M Trial

The city’s case was based on claiming that the rate rollback would leave them with too little money to operate the plant and would not meet bond covenants. The judge noted that The People have the sovereign right to voter initiatives and can override the legislature in such cases. It also came out in court that Oxnard financial numbers severely lacked credibility, conveniently understating revenue and overstating expenses. Baio noted that ratepayers could choose to have an adequate system rather than state of the art.

Oxnard continues to have serious financial reporting and fiscal problems, which was only confirmed by the Assistant CFO Deanne Purcell’s (CFO Jim Throop has resigned) very frank and thoughtful presentation at the July 10 Council meeting….

Document: F-1 Staff Report
Document: F-1 Presentation
.

At stake is $5.5 million which could be refunded to ratepayers. It is not clear yet how that might be effected, when, or whether the city will attempt to appeal it and/or put a stay on refunds while this occurs. We have heard a lot of public and private chatter about whether the law was firmly on Starr’s side or was the plaintiff’s case poorly advanced, but nothing definitive. Although this is not a legal precedent, it would be a strong arrow in the quivers of other parties challenging such levies.

Public opinion was divided on the merits of the rollback, recall and outcome, with a majority of council meeting sentiment against Starr’s rate rollback and recall activism. He was accused of doing this for political gain, jeopardizing Oxnard’s wastewater service and credit rating and runnig up unnecessary legal expens and potentailly depleting the wastewater fund with rollback refunds. Starr has still another lawsuit pending on what he assearts are illagal “infrastructure” fees levied upon the three Oxnard utility funds without proper Proposition 218 verification of catuall costs. If Satrr prevails, the City might have t refund up to $7.5 million from the general Fund back to the utilities.

Starr believes that the utilities would be better if spun off into separate districts to be free of the political influence and incompetence that he believes exist in abundance. Officials have privately agreed with this in conversations with Citizens Journal.  There are obvious advantages to this, but the downside is that they would lack the city’s financial clout and interoperability in things such as public works cooperation.

Judge Baio has since moved into a court handling criminal cases. We believe that the Measure M case was his last civil suit. 

Starr intends to run for Oxnard Mayor again in the November election. This would be his fourth attempt to get on the Council (last attempt was unsuccessfully running for Mayor in the 5-1-18 recall election, which he initiated). Meanwhile, Council Members and certain regular meeting attendees rarely miss a chance to bash him.

Public tears into, defends, Oxnard Council on Measure M wastewater rate rollback court victory

Public tears into, defends, Oxnard Council on Measure M wastewater rate rollback court victory

By George Miller At the 5-29-18 special emergency  Oxnard City Council meeting, a two to one majority of two dozen speakers tore into the Oxnard Council for their actions leading to the Measure M wastewater rate rollback voter initiative

Starr’s Measure M Rate Rollback Upheld! City Overcollected $5.2MM

Starr’s Measure M Rate Rollback Upheld! City Overcollected $5.2MMBy George Miller Ventura County Superior Court Judge Rocky Baio has finally come back with a ruling  on the 1+ year old challenge by the City of Oxnard to Aaron’ Starr’s Measure M wastewater rate increase rescission, which passed with 72% of the vote. It would reinstate the Measure, which was stayed by an injunction […]

Oxnard Measure M Wastewater Trial Fails to Finish on Schedule- next hearing 2-23-18

Oxnard Measure M Wastewater Trial Fails to Finish on Schedule- next hearing 2-23-18By George Miller Friday, January 5, 2018 was supposed to be the last day of the City of Oxnard vs. Aaron Starr civil lawsuit challenging the legality of the Measure M voter initiative rescinding the 2016 88% wastewater rate increase. This has dragged on for a year. Judge Rocky Baio slapped an injunction on Measure […]

Oxnard Measure M trial nears conclusion

Oxnard Measure M trial nears conclusion  By William Westmiller & Deborah Baber-Savalla Aaron Starr and Oxnard City may complete their arguments tomorrow. After nearly two years of legal proceedings, the “Trial of Measure M” (City of Oxnard vs. Aaron Starr) could be concluded tomorrow, according to defense attorney Chad Morgan. The dispute over wastewater treatment rates will be in the […]

Busy day in court for City of Oxnard vs. Aaron Starr Measure M wastewater case

Busy day in court for City of Oxnard vs. Aaron Starr Measure M wastewater caseBy George Miller   Starr and City fight it out on the numbers, alleged harm to the city and Measure M financial justification On Friday, December 29, 2017, the City of Oxnard did battle vs local manufacturing financial officer, activist and Council recall initiator Aaron Starr. in Ventura County Superior Court, with Judge Rocky Baio presiding. […]

Starr Lawsuits Against Oxnard for Measure M (35% rate increase) and IUF

Starr Lawsuits Against Oxnard for Measure M (35% rate increase) and IUFBy Steve Nash Re: the Aaron Starr Lawsuits Against Oxnard for Measure M (35% wastewater rate increase rescission) and utility Infrastructure Use Fees   If Starr wins ~   1)  The rating agencies will downgrade our credit, resulting in greatly increased borrowing costs.   2) The top management will move on to greener pastures. They […]

Judge granted Oxnard stay on wastewater rate increase while city working on rates, opposition to Measure M. Trial will be on June 20.

Judge granted Oxnard stay on wastewater rate increase while city working on rates, opposition to Measure M. Trial will be on June 20.By George Miller Measure M stay granted on December 16 Most recently, trial was set for June 20 Oxnard to work on rate-setting process meanwhile Opponents of an Oxnard utility rate increase have been battling over it for nearly a year. Months before that, the  city had commissioned  a rate study which recommended 87% in […]

Oxnard resident in opposition to Measure M

Oxnard resident in opposition to Measure MBy Steve Nash MEASURE M History In recent years, insufficient funding to address all of the needs at the OWTP has resulted in deferment of required maintenance precipitating frequent failures of equipment and process units as well as safety concerns. In addition, staffing shortages have exacerbated these problems at the facility and resulted in criticism […]

Standard & Poors downgrades Oxnard (again) | Citizens Journal …

citizensjournal.us/standard-poors-downgrades-oxnard/

Sep 29, 2017 – He also handed out this written statement summarizing his points highlighted from the report, which were NOT Measure M or recall-oriented: 1. …. the Aaron Starr Lawsuits Against Oxnard forMeasure M (35% wastewater rate increase rescission) and utility Infrastructure Use Fees If Starr wins ~ 1) The rating …

Aaron Starr Serves Oxnard with a Prop. 218 lawsuit … – Citizens Journal

citizensjournal.us/aaron-starr-serves-oxnard-with-a-prop-218-lawsuit-cupcakes/

Apr 5, 2017 – Editor’s note: At your service! Aaron Starr has Oxnard served with lawsuit and residents served with cupcakes simultaneously. He says that the City has violated statutes and multiple legal precedents making it settled law that a city may not charge utility “infrastructure fees.” Aaron Starr of Moving Oxnard …

Aaron Starr wins another round against Oxnard utility rate increase …

citizensjournal.us/aaron-starr-wins-another-round-against-oxnard-utility-increase/

Apr 15, 2016 – There are actually two cases: Oxnard vs Starr, to stop the initiative (Case 479-696) andStarr v Oxnard to compel the City to provide the title and summary to get the petition underway. An outside attorney for the City, Holly Whatley*, said there are legal precedents that a ballot initiative cannot deprive a city of …

Oxnard staff proposes 6 Wastewater rate increase … – Citizens Journal

citizensjournal.us/oxnard-staff-proposes-6-wastewater-rate-increase-scenarios/

Feb 14, 2017 – Assistant City Manager Ruth Osuna released 6 proposed wastewater increase scenarios to the Utility Ratepayers Advisory Panel (URAP) on Monday 2-13-17. The City (City management, Public Works and Finance) has been working on these since last fall, but the rate-setting process went into high gear …

 

George Miller is Publisher and Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard. 


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2 Responses to Judge’s Final Word On Oxnard Measure M Overturning Wastewater Rate Increases

  1. Sheryl July 14, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Cities all use Enterprise funds as ATMs … at what point will citizens get involved in the endless rate increases? Congratulations to Aaron and Alicia …

    Reply
  2. Eileen Tracy July 13, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Congratulations, Aaron and Alicia.

    Reply

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