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

By 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 will say, who needs this headache?
 
3) The infrastructure will fail and not be able to function in a way to ensure the health and safety of the residents.
 
4) Businesses will not give such a dysfunctional city a second look. They want infrastructure that works.
 
5) What programs and services would you cut from the General Fund in order to refund the ratepayers the $21 million IUF?
 
If Starr loses ~
 
1)  You will recall the council. This is a competent and balanced council.
 
2) The residents who support you will continue to believe your fairy tales about how awful city government is and the atmosphere at city hall will remain toxic as long as you are around to stir things up.
 
3) You may well instigate more lawsuits, costing the residents untold hundreds of thousands of dollars.
 
4) As long as the city is defending itself against your reckless charges, it cannot move on with becoming a world-class city.
 
Questions for Mr. Starr ~
 
1) Who are the financial backers of Moving Oxnard Forward and Oxnard Recall?
 
2) Judge Baio will not overturn the 35% rate increase for many reasons. So how much can you really save ratepayers, after all, aren’t we quibbling over the 5.25% annual increase, which for the average ratepayer is $2-3 per month extra?
 
3) How can you justify the $221,000 cost of a special election?
 
4) What are the very real costs of a credit ratings downgrade?
 
5) What programs and services would you cut from the general fund in order to refund the ratepayers the $21 million IUF?
 
6) When your supporters repeat the misinformation you know to be wrong, why do you make no effort to correct them?
 
Response to the “will of the people in a democracy”~
 
We do not live in a “democracy”. We live under a system of representative democracy meaning we elect people to represent us. The Council made the tough decision and now you want to waste our money on a wacky recall.
Mr. Starr, your demagoguing of this issue is really shameful. Just admit that your ego couldn’t take losing to Council member Madrigal in the last election and he is the true target of your recall.
Residents who sign your wacky recall do not fully understand what is at stake and you have failed big time to inform them. Shameful, but that is who you are apparently.
The Recall~
Edmund Burke famously said “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” Among the chief aims of the framers of the American political system was to provide a series of filters for the factionalism of majorities and minorities who are riled up about a particular issue.
 
Why not recall all 5 council members? The one “no” vote was simply in response to fear of your attempts to recall the rate increase supporters.
 
This is from a May 11, 2017 posting on MOF, “Oxnard City Hall is plagued by scandal, financial malfeasance and mismanagement. We endure outrageously high taxes and fees. We pay council members more than any other in Ventura County. In exchange, Oxnard City Hall delivers crumbling roads, substandard services and poor performance.”
 
Councilman Perello, and I assume the other 3 as well, recall petition states that he “ . . . oversees a city hall plagued by scandal, mismanagement and financial malfeasance. Replace (them) with someone who will demand accountability, deliver competent oversight, support transparency and won’t circumvent voters.”
 
Council member MacDonald ~
 
The real travesty is Council member MacDonalds’s inability to make the tough choice based on crass political expediency to avoid the rigors of a recall election campaign. The Mayor tried to get Mr. MacDonald to specify what it was he needed to vote “yes”. Bryan just reiterated the tired refrain that he could not trust the numbers. Another council member, when asked what it was Mr. MacDonald wanted, said “he doesn’t know”. So whether the 5-year rate increase schedule is 5.25% or 2% is irrelevant to Mr. MacDonald, he simply wants no part of a recall reelection campaign. This is not leadership. It is a failure of leadership on Mr. MacDonald’s part.  
 
Mr. Starr can proceed with the recall and run yet again for a council seat. The single-issue nature of his platform dooms him to failure. The voting public is not a single-issue entity, thank goodness.
 
Chairman MacDonald, you serve on both the Utilities Task Force and the Fiscal Policy Task Force. There is no one that has a better or more comprehensive understanding of these issues than you. Yet at city council meetings, when you are given numerous opportunities to express your concerns, you remain largely silent. You said you don’t trust the numbers. Would that be the staff’s numbers? The consultant’s numbers? The auditor’s numbers? Mr. Starr’s numbers? What don’t you trust and why haven’t you exercised your leadership role as a member of these sub-committees and convinced the other council members to postpone the hearing until your concerns are alleviated?  
 
At Tuesday’s meeting, you had the chance to be a leader. Instead you threw the other council members under the bus. You turned tail and caved in to the blackmail of this Libertarian government-killer. You know, I remember another 4-0 vote that you were contemplating being the lone dissenting vote (on whether to sue SCE/NRG over the Puente Power Project). You said at that time, “What am I going to do, go stand in the corner by myself?’”
 
Madrigal, Ramirez, Flynn and Perello showed true statesmanship last night (ed. note: refers to the recent vote on rate increase). They took a principled stand, and will now pay a heavy price for it. Mr. MacDonald, I am sad to say, took the easy way out.”
 
FOIA Request for Costs of Starr Lawsuits ~
 
As per a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted 5-26-17 to the Oxnard City Clerk, the following information was supplied concerning the legal fees invoiced to the City of Oxnard involving lawsuits with Aaron Starr.
 
The total amount so far is $242,928. Bear in mind that costs continue to accrue and that this does not include the hundreds, if not thousands, of staff hours devoted to these lawsuits.
 
Add the $221,000 anticipated cost of a special election and the total becomes $463,928.
 
The City will have spent close to a half of a million dollars or more defending its right to charge utility rates sufficient to operate and maintain its wastewater infrastructure and fulfill bond covenants because of the vain ambitions of a failed candidate. This is real money that could have been spent of public safety, parks and programs for children and seniors.
 
Do not sign the wacky recall petition of Mr. Starr’s paid signature gatherers.
 
Questions submitted by a member of the public ~
 
Question: Do you think that merely because the city has to spend money to defend themselves that we shouldn’t go forward?
 
Answer: I object to taxpayer money being spent on what I consider to be frivolous lawsuits. The City has a legal right to collect rates sufficient to operate and maintain its wastewater infrastructure and meet its bond covenants. The City has fully proven its case. Just because Mr. Starr says he can do it cheaper does not make him an engineering expert. I would not ask my accountant to diagnose and treat my medical condition.
 
Question: Keeping in mind that based on legal truths the city has been funneling money from one account to another for what it wasn’t intended for. Thats our forced tax money!
 
Answer: The City will lose on the infrastructure use fee case and the IUF will be refunded. Bear in mind that the general fund will be the source of the refunded money. My question has always been, how many cops or firefighters or librarians or children’s services helpers will have to be eliminated to free up the $21 million?  
 
Question: Do you think this is ok?
 
Answer: I believe the IUF was a flawed method to allow the enterprise funds (wastewater, water, trash) to pay for their very real impact on city services and infrastructure (cops, fire, streets, etc.). Remember, city property does not pay property taxes that would cover those impacts. There is no free ride.
 

Steve Nash

________________________

Steve Nash is a Planning Commissioner in the city of Oxnard.  He holds a B.A. in  Environmental Studies from U.C. Santa Barbara

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

  1. Steven Nash June 15, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Mr. Hicks cont.,

    3) The costs of infrastructure failure would result in deleterious impacts on the health, safety and welfare of the residents of Oxnard. The overseeing regulatory agencies would also take notice and levy heavy fines on the city for sewage spills into the receiving waters.

    4) We should do whatever we can to attract, retain and nourish business opportunities. Having a reliable infrastructure in place accomplishes those goals.

    5) The utility rate increases stop the process of “kicking the problem down the road”.

    6) You’ve corrected nothing.

    Reply
  2. Steven Nash June 15, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Mr. Hicks,

    1) The city will pass on the higher interest rates to the ratepayers. They have a legal right to do this.

    2) We have a good management team in place now. Why would we assume we could attract similar or more qualified candidates to replace them? Oxnard is gaining a reputation as someplace you do not want to work for if you are top management.

    Reply
  3. William Hicks June 14, 2017 at 10:52 am

    1) If the loaning rates increase it may be a good thing in that the city will be less likely to borrow and live within their means.

    2) The top managers should feel free to go to greener pastures. They ate up what they could in Oxnard, and like locust will be on their way to greener pastures. Greener pastures, watch out for these guys.

    3) If infrastructure fails, it’s because of mismanagement from these “top managers.”

    4) If business wants out it’s because of mismanagement of those same “top managers.”

    5) The habit of kicking the problem down the road when you could have handled these costs in smaller increments is why you may have to make the choice(s) of what you must have and what you can do without. Much like what all families have to deal with when they ignore the small leak in the roof until it destroys the living room when it rains.

    6) I’m trying to correct YOUR misinformation now.

    Reply

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