Measure M, our initiative which successfully rejected the City's 87% sewer rate increase, was scheduled to go into effect on December 12, 2016. To stop that from happening, on December 7, 2016, the City of Oxnard filed for an ex parte hearing to ask the judge for a temporary restraining order on Measure M.
Judge Rocky Baio granted the City of Oxnard’s request for a temporary restraining order on Measure M. In effect, the judge hit the pause button on the reduction of rates until the city's pending lawsuit against Measure M goes to trial, at which time the judge can decide who is right.
What is most important for everyone to realize is that despite previous public comments to the contrary, the City Council is not seeking a delay in the implementation of Measure M for the purpose of a proposing new, more reasonable rate structure. Their legal documents clearly state that they want this delay so that they can ultimately go to trial in the hope of having Measure M declared illegal – and keep in place the full 87% rate increase.
It appears to us that the City Council’s mission is to eviscerate your right guaranteed under the California Constitution to reduce unreasonable fees through the initiative process.
The City Council might attempt to paint this court decision as a win for them. However, in granting the temporary restraining order, Judge Baio went out of his way to say that he was not concluding that the city was likely to prevail on the merits at trial, a normal factor in deciding whether to grant a temporary restraining order.
Instead, Judge Baio said he made his decision based on the comparative risk of harm to the city that is being asserted – though we don’t necessarily agree with the City’s narrative! – versus the harm to the ratepayers if the rates are temporarily left in place.
The tipping point for the judge appeared to be his understanding that should our side ultimately prevail at trial, ratepayers will be made whole because they will be entitled to demand refunds on any amounts overcharged. And when we do eventually prevail, we will do everything we can to ensure that the process for claiming a refund is simple and accessible.
We expect to return to court on January 4, possibly to schedule a trial date. In the meantime, we will continue our efforts at discovery.
This is just a preliminary step of a long process. We are committed to working vigorously on behalf of ratepayers so that all of us ultimately receive value for our hard earned money.