Even after the Oxnard City Council likely spent well over $500,000 of your money in legal costs to overturn your vote on Measure M – and then losing in court – they chose last Tuesday to double down by appealing the judge’s ruling.
Measure M was adopted with 72% of the vote in November 2016 to repeal an excessive 87% rate increase in our sewer bills.
Of course, the city has fought residents since the beginning. First the city sued to keep Measure M off the ballot … and lost. Later, after voters enacted Measure M, the city amended its lawsuit to overturn the people’s vote – and the rate repeal was placed on hold while waiting for trial.
The trial details were rather embarrassing for the city. We demonstrated that their figures were tainted by math errors that would fail a 7th grade math test. Their math errors understated by millions the amount of revenues they were generating. They miscalculated by millions how much revenue is required to comply with their bond contracts. In the end, the city’s numbers just didn’t add up to the financial calamity that they claimed to the judge.
Ultimately, Judge Rocky Baio decided that not only were the facts on our side, but so was law, ruling that Measure M was a valid exercise of the people’s right to use initiatives to repeal excessive sewer rates.
Well, it appears that the city is not ready to refund just over $5 million of overcharges ratepayers endured while Measure M was on hold. Even bond ratings agency Standard & Poor’s in November conceded that refunding the overcharges to ratepayers would have no adverse effect.
Yet, on Tuesday the Oxnard City Council voted 6-0 to spend a lot more of your money to appeal their court loss.
Thwarting voters through the courts wasn’t the only tool in the city council’s toolbox. While waiting for trial in 2017, the city council replaced the rates repealed by Measure M with a brand new set of rate increases, a 75% increase spread over six years.
So, even after the city lost in court, wastewater rates are currently 49.5% higher than they were when this process started in January 2016. Your rates will increase another 5.25% on July 1.
With these increases under their belt, the wastewater utility has accumulated tens of millions of dollars of reserve funds. Additionally, the state has awarded $9.5 million of grants to help pay for some short-term projects.
The city claims their battle against your vote is a noble endeavor … that public safety demands that they use your tax dollars to eviscerate your constitutional right to overturn abusive utility rate increases.
Of course, their public safety argument rings hollow once you point out that city hall is diverting millions of ratepayer dollars to the general fund instead of spending it to repair and maintain the wastewater utility infrastructure…and with past rate increases, they did not actually use the funds for the capital projects they promised.
When a politician tells you that there is some underlying principle that demands you to fork over more of your money, the odds are good that it’s really just about the money.
Rest assured, we don’t quit just because we are bullied by the city council, and once again we will vigorously defend the rights of voters in court.