Oxnard Council Recall?

By George Miller

Aaron Starr’s Moving Oxnard Forward wants to recall four of the five Oxnard Council Members and has begun the process. The main reason given is the Council vote to increase wastewater rates.

If I was going to demand a recall of them, it would also be for other reasons- votes on housing, planning, budgets, energy, social policies, transportation, public safety, etc.  The rates had to be increased. The Wastewater Enterprise Fund, which is separate from the city’s General Fund, was running dry, even with major deferrals of maintenance and capital projects.

But Starr performed a great service for the community by questioning (and holding down)  the 2016 and 2017 increases and the process used to arrive at them. He identified huge problems and deceptions by the city.

We now know that much of the work on facilities promised in return for past increases was never actually performed. We now know that so-called “infrastructure fees” don’t even seem to be legal and are used in lieu of the council attempting to justify higher taxes for their General Fund priorities. We now know that even though the City said that they had reduced the capital plan, they merely pushed part of it out beyond the 5 year planning horizon but didn’t otherwise change it. We now know that the Council trashed its own investment rules – and prudent fiscal policy- to support their spending plan, which will raise long term debt much higher than it should be. We now know that large portions of the capital projects plan may not actually be necessary, or not as soon as planned. We now know that large chunks of the master plan were never made available for inspection by the public, or even if they were done. We now know that large sums were spent for outside consultants, much of that because the City had no plan in place to attract, promote and retain adequate employee resources. We now know that the URAP process was a caricature of a Citizen Advisory effort, run like a kangaroo court by city staff. But we now know all of this only because of Aaron Starr, Alicia Percell (Starr’s “significant other”) and their more vocal supporters. So we owe them a debt of thanks. If it had been me, I would have declared victory for this and for holding down the rate increases.

Starr has taken a lot of abuse from some Council Members and members of the public. He has been accused of wasting City time, money and jeopardizing the City’s credit rating , as well as other base motives.  The City has opened its checkbook for mostly ham-handed litigation to stop Measure M, which 72% of the voters approved to rescind the increases. While not  a lawyer, that seems sort of moot to me now, with a new Prop 218 rate-setting process now completed, which implicitly accepts the 35% increase put in effect last year. Even Starr’s rate counter-proposal presented to the URAP (Utility Rate Advisory Panel) built that into rate projections going forward.

As far as the credit rating and excessive legal expense- if the council had listened to and worked with Starr, if it had listened to and approved  either of the two compromise offers advanced by Mayor Flynn- NONE of this would have happened or been necessary. The arrogance and stupidity of a Council majority allowed that to happen. The Council has run into someone who knows how to play hardball and they don’t like it and aren’t particularly good at dealing with it. Have they learned anything from this? Except for Flynn, apparently not.

As far as recalling only 4 of the 5 Council  members…. Bryan MacDonald originally voted against the increases, then reversed himself on the second vote when it became evident that he was all alone, would be used as a scapegoat and feared the credit rating threat. The justification he used sounded a bit ludicrous. Starr didn’t want to reset the recall clock and wasn’t enthusiastic about attempting to recall the entire Council, so he didn’t add MacDonald to the list and papered over their differences.

There are plenty of other reasons for recalling the Council  members. But the REAL question is, if we recall them, who do we replace them with? Would new ones be any better? Wouldn’t you like to see what the choices are before making up your mind? Unless there are some really good, electable alternative candidates, we could just end up worse off than we were before. For example, I have big problems with some of Councilman Bert Perello’s votes. But, he is one of the strongest reformers we’ve seen in city government. He questions almost everything and  is intolerant of corruption and unnecessary expenditures. Some Council members and some members of the public hate that, but he performs a very useful role for the City that almost no one else is doing, except, perhaps Treasurer Phil Molina. Are we better off dumping him?

Last question: is the $220,000 estimated cost to the City to hold a special election justified?  It won’t matter if it’s justified or not if enough people sign a properly done recall petition- it would be legal. But since some people asked the question, the cost could potentially be more than offset by the savings IF- and that’s a big if- better people with better ideas and performance took office. It would be a good exercise for incumbents to defend their records, tell us what they could do better and convince us that they could- vs. would be replacements.  The job is harder than it looks.

 

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


Get Citizensjournal.us Headlines free  SUBSCRIPTION. Keep us publishing – DONATE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 + 2 =