Moving Oxnard Forward President Aaron Starr surprised the Oxnard City Council by bringing a process server with him to the April 5 City Council meeting. City Attorney Stephen Fischer and City Clerk Daniel Martinez were served with a new lawsuit after Mr. Starr finished his public comments at the start of the meeting.
As documented in our previous blog articles, instead of providing the legally required “title and summary” for our initiative to repeal excessive wastewater increases, the City Attorney instead sued Mr. Starr, ridiculously claiming the initiative is illegal.
The city’s lawsuit is a stalling tactic. The city knows that without the title and summary in hand, we cannot begin to collect petition signatures, and the filing deadline is May 20 to get the initiative on the November ballot. The clock is ticking.
The only option left to still get the initiative on the November ballot (and let the voters of Oxnard have their say on an 87% utility increase) was to go on the offensive.
On April 5, we filed a suit against the City of Oxnard asking for a writ of mandate from a judge to order the city to provide us with the title and summary. We are seeking an expedited hearing schedule, since the clock is ticking to qualify for the November ballot. Mr. Starr announced this new suit against the city during public comments at the April 5 meeting of the Oxnard City Council.
When the city sued Mr. Starr, their suit claimed they are in a hurry to get resolution on the matter, yet they delayed by refusing to even serve Mr. Starr with the suit until three days after he publicly shamed them for the stunt in the March 29 City Council meeting.
To demonstrate how things can work when someone is REALLY in a hurry, when we pushed back with the April 5 lawsuit against the city, we served them on the same day the suit was filed.
Below is the text of Mr. Starr’s statement during public comments at the city council.
My name is Aaron Starr, and I serve as President of Moving Oxnard Forward.
For over 100 years, the initiative process has been a cherished right reserved for voters under our state’s constitution.
On March 8th I filed with the city clerk an initiative on behalf of Oxnard’s electorate to repeal your recent wastewater rate increases.
On March 23rd your filing of a lawsuit to prevent the people from going forward with this initiative constituted an abuse of civil process intended to frustrate the people’s will.
The first status conference with a judge is not scheduled until August 19, well past the May 20 deadline for us to be able to submit signatures to place our initiative on the November ballot.
The expensive law firm you hired to do this tried that same sneaky trick in Fresno and lost … twice.
It’s difficult not to take personally being sued by your own city, especially for exercising one’s First Amendment rights.
The city has deep pockets and this bullying tactic can easily ruin someone without sufficient resources.
You have presented me with a difficult choice. I could walk away, surrender to this abuse of power and allow my city to gouge poor, hard-working Oxnard families an additional $326 per year for their sewer bills. Or I can defend them at great risk to my personal well-being.
So, with a heavy heart, I hired the law firm that prevailed in the Fresno case against your attorneys and we have filed today a petition with the court for a writ of mandate to require that you follow the law, and issue the title and summary needed to begin the signature-gathering process to place our initiative on the ballot.
Because this is an election matter, we will be pursuing an expedited hearing schedule. The media and the citizens of our city will be watching closely to see whether you engage in legal maneuvers to delay this.
We did not start this fight. We do not want to resolve this with lawyers and a court room, but you don’t leave us any other option.
As always, we are prepared to talk and be reasonable, while still defending the constitutional rights of our fellow citizens.
Last week, the media had to shame you into actually serving me with your lawsuit so that this process could move faster, which is ironic since your suit claims to be in a hurry to resolve this.
Let me introduce you to Lucas Meyer. Lucas is a professional process server and he is here to demonstrate that it is actually possible to serve legal papers the same day that one files a lawsuit.
Below are links to news coverage of the turn of events:
Click here for video of City being served legal papers during City Council meeting
Click here to see the new lawsuit we filed asking for expedited hearings and a court order that the City Attorney provide the title and summary for our initiative.