The Ugly Truth About LMDs

We all know that Oxnard City Hall does a poor job of maintaining public landscapes. Just look at the overgrown weeds and unpruned trees.

Even the people who live in a Landscape Maintenance District (LMD) – and pay an extra assessment on their property tax bill – do not receive the services promised.

Adding insult to injury, Oxnard City Hall misspends the money and lies about it.

How do we know?

Well, we have the proof on video … and we want you to view it for yourself.

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What Oxnard Says Versus What It Does

Oxnard City Hall’s words are often at odds with its actions.

During our recent lawsuit –– where we prevailed against the City’s illegal Infrastructure Use Fee (IUF) –– the City of Oxnard claimed to the Ventura County Superior Court that any period shorter than eight years to return to the City's utility enterprise funds (i.e. water, wastewater and solid waste) the $36.5 million it had illegally charged would be an unreasonable hardship, as it had competing priorities for these monies.

The City Council even submitted to the Court a formal resolution making this claim.

The Court wouldn’t give the City eight years, instead granting the City three years to repay the judgment at the rate of $12 million per year –– a lot more than the roughly $4.5 million per year that the City sought to avoid a “financial hardship.”

Several weeks after that decision, though...

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Court Update on Utility Refunds

About four weeks ago we mentioned that we filed a motion for the Ventura County Superior Court to hold a hearing on September 17 to:

  • Declare that the City of Oxnard failed to comply with the court order,
  • Order compliance with the Writ and direct Oxnard to refund to ratepayers the amounts that it has unlawfully collected since June 16, 2021, and lastly,
  • Set an Order to Show Cause, a court hearing where the City will be compelled to argue why the judge shouldn’t hold them in contempt of court.

Our filing of the motion spurred the City to respond the next day, taking actions to ensure there would be at least partial progress before the judge heard our motion.

Here’s what happened in court.

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VCStar Editorial Board: Oxnard's "Mistake"

mistake bag of money

Contrary to the soft-pedaled view expressed in The Star’s recent editorial (“Oxnard moves on from a mistake”), the City of Oxnard’s Infrastructure Use Fee charged to utility ratepayers was much more than a mistake – it was quite deliberate.

Not only did the Ventura County Superior Court describe the City’s too-clever formula for siphoning the money as “arbitrary, capricious, unsupported by facts, and entirely speculative,” it also labeled the City’s scheme “illegal and unreasonable.”

The editorial board applauding the City for admitting its mistake now – after losing a four-year court battle with us – is comparable to praising an embezzler for admitting his crime after the jury found him guilty and the judge sentenced him to prison.

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Oxnard City Hall's Turf War

Imagine everyone in town pays this gardener to mow lawns. You agree to pay the man additional money for ENHANCED services, such as planting trees, removing weeds, trimming hedges, etc.

But he doesn’t perform the extra work. Soon, he’s only mowing your lawn half as often. Instead, he spends the money on a slick marketer to sell you SUPER-ENHANCED services.

Sounds like a load of fertilizer, right?

Welcome to Oxnard’s Landscape Maintenance Districts (LMDs), where for the privilege of paying an additional assessment on your property tax bill, you too can pay extra for services that are over-promised and under-delivered.

For years residents have complained to Oxnard City Council about various abuses within LMDs.

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Oxnard Takes Cookies, Returns Crumbs

Imagine this. You learn that your child pocketed 36 cookies that did not belong to him ... and he ate 32 of them.  After you confront him, he returns the remaining four cookies and proclaims what a good boy he is for doing so.

Does returning ONLY SOME of what he took excuse him or even make him noble?

Of course not! But that’s what Oxnard City Hall would have you believe about its utility rate refunds.

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Oxnard Tells Court Math is Hard

We have a development to report since our last update.

As you know, the Ventura County Superior Court ordered Oxnard City Hall to reduce your utility rates by June 16 by the amount of the Infrastructure Use Fee (“IUF”) – an embedded charge that Judge Matthew Guasco described as “illegal and unreasonable” – and to report back by July 31 that it had done so.

Predictably, the City did not reduce utility rates … and did not report back to the court ... it simply defied the court order.

But suddenly – only after we scheduled a court hearing to address their noncompliance – the City begrudgingly filed a report with the court on Tuesday.  So, what’s the City’s reported excuse to the court for not having yet reduced utility rates?

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Oxnard Defies Court Order to Lower Utility Rates

Oxnard City Hall was ordered by a judge to lower your utility rates by June 16 ... but they have refused to do it.

Last December we prevailed in a lawsuit against the City of Oxnard for unlawfully charging its City-owned utilities (i.e. water, wastewater and solid waste) an Infrastructure Use Fee (or “IUF”), siphoning tens of millions of dollars to the City’s general slush fund (and increasing your utility bills to pay for it).

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Oxnard's $100 Million "Mistake" Told in Court

Imagine what would happen if YOU provided false information to a judge.

Just because Oxnard City Hall publishes a number, don’t assume that it’s correct

… especially if they’re trying to persuade the public to accept rate increases or to vote against a ballot measure … or if they’re trying to persuade a judge in court!

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Anti-SLAPP win in court

We just had another win in court last week, with a judge granting an anti-SLAPP motion against the city of Oxnard.

In November, Oxnard voters adopted Measures M and N. 

  • Measure M requires that council meetings be held outside the standard workday so more of us can participate, gives the public greater opportunity to speak, and mandates that City Hall provide more information to the public in advance of the meeting.
  • Measure N requires the city to repair our streets to certain standards by certain dates or else reduce our sales tax rate.

Oxnard City Hall is fighting these reform measures to improve transparency and accountability to the taxpayers.

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