Oxnard City Hall: Driving Blindfolded

Producing monthly financial statements is the most basic function of a Finance Department in any professional organization.  It’s really not asking for anything extraordinary…

California state law requires every general law city to produce monthly financial statements and file them with the city clerk and the city council.  These statements should inform both the public and the city council, as to the city’s current financial position and the results of its various operations. It’s an important management tool for making better decisions and keeping people accountable.

Unfortunately, the city of Oxnard does not produce monthly financial statements, and they haven’t done so for many years. 

Merely asking the city to start doing it has been ineffective, so Moving Oxnard Forward has now filed a petition for a judge to issue a writ of mandate, which would compel the city to comply with this state law.

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Council Keeps LMD Audit Results from the Public

Mayor Tim Flynn’s official candidate statement for the November 2018 election begins with a wonderful platitude:

“Several years ago, I promised the residents of Oxnard honest, competent and transparent government at City Hall. I also asked you to Believe in Oxnard.”

Is he keeping that promise? Judge for yourself!

Consider just this recent example:

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Wastewater Bond Rating Improves After Oxnard Loses Measure M Lawsuit

After the City of Oxnard lost their lawsuit against Measure M (which repealed an 87% rate increase schedule), the wastewater bonds got an improved rating from S&P.

The ruling means that the city owes millions of dollars in refunds to ratepayers.  Yet, on July 23, 2018, in the first S&P report following the court’s ruling, the ratings agency left the wastewater bonds at BBB for the underlying rating, but they changed the “outlook” from negative to positive.  The “outlook” is essentially S&P’s future trend predictor on the rating, and the city’s press release touted the shift as “great news for the residents of Oxnard”.

The ratings improvement may seem counter-intuitive for the circumstances, until you remember that the city struggles with basic math – and that they gave both the public and S&P bad data.  We demonstrated that during the Measure M trial. Now S&P has more accurate data, and they see it’s not what the city had previously portrayed.

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Measure M Victory in Court

Measure M just won a two year battle in Ventura County Superior Court!

On March 23, 2016, the Oxnard City Council personally sued Aaron Starr (President of Moving Oxnard Forward) to try to stop Measure M from rescinding the city council’s abusive 87% sewer rate increase.

Judge Rocky Baio stated in his May 23, 2018 ruling: "Oxnard has not met its burden of proof, and the Court finds Measure M to be a valid exercise of the will of the citizens of Oxnard as expressed through the initiative process."

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Trash Utility Thrives After Being Denied Rate Increase

In January of 2016, the Oxnard City Council tried to raise your trash utility rates by 23%, as part of their plan to increase rates for all three utilities.  They argued that these rate hikes were critical for financial health and public safety reasons. Of course, the City Council always believes that extracting more money from the public is the solution to addressing every problem.

The trash rate increase passed on a first reading (January 19), but failed on a second reading (January 26) only because you helped us mount a massive public protest.  Since then, trash rates have only increased by 1%.

Yet somehow, without that rate increase, the trash utility is thriving today!!  They’re now paying cash for things they were previously planning to do with bond debt.

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Post-Recall Analysis

On May 1, 2018 we came close to ending some political careers! Over 47% of the electorate voted to remove Mayor Flynn from office … not knowing which candidate might replace him. That is quite a statement!

Since the election we have had an opportunity to further study the results.

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Negative Audit Results Hidden from Public

One week AFTER the May 1 recall election, the city of Oxnard finally revealed to the public the financial audit results that they’d been hiding since March.

We had noticed that the report was running a couple of months late.  With a recall election threatening to remove four of the council members, they certainly didn’t want any negative news to get out. 

When the draft agenda for April 24 (one week before election day) was posted to the city’s website, it said the audit would be presented then -- but that was pulled from the final agenda, and the public didn’t actually see it until May 8 (a week after the election) instead.  So what were they hiding?

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City Causes Election Cost to Double - Blames Opposition

The opponents of the May 1 recall election can’t justify the management failures of the current council.  Instead they are urging the public to vote against the recall because they allege it to be a waste of resources…after the city itself caused the cost to double.  Let’s talk about that.

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Closing Arguments in Measure M Trial

As our followers well know, the City of Oxnard has been suing Moving Oxnard Forward President Aaron Starr personally for the past two years to overturn the public vote on Measure M – which rescinded the City Council’s 87% sewer rate increase.

On February 23 the court heard final closing arguments in the case, following trial dates in December and January.

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Poison Pill Contract

Facing a recall election for their approval of excessive utility rates, the Oxnard City Council on December 12, 2017 voted 4-1 to approve an interesting new financial agreement under terms designed to tie the hands of a future council from lowering utility rates.

This is a shameless effort to preserve their bad policy even if the voters recall them from office for it.

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