A Process Fit for a Sewer System?

We need your help again.

As we all know, the city had enacted an outrageous 87% wastewater rate increase in January of 2016. You helped us fight back, and together we qualified Measure M for the ballot to repeal the rate increase and make the city try again to be more reasonable. Measure M won overwhelmingly, and now the city must try again to set rates that cover their actual costs ... but don’t abuse the ratepayers.

Please attend a very important meeting on February 1, starting at 6:00 pm at:

Oxnard Performing Arts Center, Ventura Room
800 Hobson Way, Oxnard, CA 93030

Here’s what’s going on.

Last month, the Oxnard City Council appointed a Utility Ratepayers Advisory Panel (URAP), a citizens’ panel to review a new proposed wastewater rate structure and make recommendations.

When Mayor Tim Flynn asked me to serve on this URAP, I was reluctant. I do not want to be part of a pointless dog-and-pony show – a farce with a pre-determined outcome. Back in 2015, the city council created a similar body to make recommendations, but city staff prevented them from functioning … and we wound up with 87% rate increases.

Mayor Flynn insisted this time would be different, so I agreed to serve.

Unfortunately, it became clear at our first URAP meeting on January 25th that the city staff does not want the URAP to review their work and will do anything to cripple the process.

Which is why it is so important for you to be at our next URAP meeting … tonight … to bear witness and put pressure on our City Hall.

Here are some of the transgressions we experienced at the January 25th meeting:

  • Assistant City Manager Ruth Osuna hijacked the meeting. Even though the Oxnard City Council has a policy which obligates its committees to operate under Robert’s Rules of Order, the URAP was told they would not be allowed to use Robert’s Rules for their meeting. Instead Ms. Osuna insisted she was in charge ... and would make the rules for them. Can you imagine city staff doing that at a city council meeting? It would never be tolerated!

  • At one point Ms. Osuna directed a city staff member to not answer legitimate questions from a panel member about what data was available for review by the URAP.

  • After staff showed URAP members some limited financial data which included multi- million dollar transfers from the wastewater fund to the city’s general fund, I attempted to inform fellow panel members and the attendees about the nature of this scheme – then I was told by the Assistant City Attorney that we are not allowed to discuss the details behind the numbers being displayed on the screen.

  • I was told I was not allowed to make statements about facts of which I know (if city staff won’t share the facts, someone else needs to), and that I am only permitted to ask questions of staff. (I’ll take “Abusive Utility Rates” for $1000, Alex, and I’ll phrase my answer in the form of a question.)

  • Ms. Osuna denied that the city possesses a rate modeling tool that we know they have because we previously received a copy of it from city staff in November.

 It was simply surreal.

Oxnard city leadership wants to be able to claim that a citizens review panel participated in the rate setting process, because that suggests that there is some sort of buy-in from the public, but clearly they don’t want that to actually happen. They want the appearance of public participation but not the reality. But you can help make it a reality … if you show up at the meeting.

Please attend tonight, February 1, starting at 6:00 pm at:

Oxnard Performing Arts Center, Ventura Room
800 Hobson Way, Oxnard, CA 93030

Aaron Starr, President
Moving Oxnard Forward

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