Watch what politicians DO … not what they SAY.
Do you remember how we were told by Oxnard officials that high wastewater rate increases were absolutely urgently needed for repairs at the wastewater plant?
Well … on tonight’s city council meeting (Agenda Item L-1) ... City Hall plans to borrow up to $30 million dollars in cash from the three city-owned utilities – including $10 million from the wastewater utility! – to bail out the general fund.
The City’s staff report for this agenda item claims that the utility funds have sufficient cash “to be able to afford the long-term (10-year) loans to the General Fund.”
The city council counts on the public having a short memory … but WE remember.
We recall Mayor Tim Flynn asserting that without these rate increases there would be sewage flowing in our streets, and sewage would mix with our drinking water. These capital improvements were urgent for public safety!!
How many times did we hear Councilmember Bert Perello say that these huge rate increases were absolutely necessary for the “health, safety, and welfare” of the public? He actually advocated for higher rate increases than the council adopted.
We'll never forget Perello dramatically holding a toilet seat in the air and proclaiming, “When there’s nothing in the bank, I suppose you’re gonna stop using these?”
Will he now vote for the city to rob that bank?
We remember Perello complaining about borrowing between different funds as, “This city has been robbing Peter to pay Paul for way too long.”
We cogitate over his complaints about past rate increases not having been used for the promised capital projects, yet nobody was held accountable ... and then proclaiming about THIS rate increase, “I expect you to hold me accountable.”
We reflect back on then-City Manager Greg Nyhoff describing the need for the rate increases as, “First and foremost it’s the public health.”
We think about all the rusty equipment photos they showed the public to scare us about what would happen ... if we didn’t give them every penny of the rate increase.
We muse over the City's dog-and-pony shows during the 2017 Utility Ratepayers Advisory Panel (URAP), where capital improvements scheduled for 2020 and the next two years were presented as, “Urgent capital projects to maintain minimum required operational reliability” (URAP 2/1/17).
We’re still in a court battle with the city over Measure M, which repealed the City Council's excessive 87% wastewater rate increase … but of course the city came back and replaced it with a 75% rate increase.
As recently as last month the City shamelessly argued in its appellate brief that they desperately need these funds for repairs.
Of course, now the wastewater utility has accumulated cash, and suddenly those urgent repairs at the wastewater plant are no longer so urgent, and the “health, safety, and welfare” claims are left by the wayside.
We also maintain vivid memories of when the city attempted to substantially raise rates for the other two utilities – water and trash – but public pressure caused them to scale back and impose rate increases that were less onerous. Even those two utilities are swimming in so much cash that the city proposes to borrow $20 million from them.
There is one thing that ought to stop the City though … it’s called THE LAW.
Our lawyers tell us that this borrowing scheme violates Prop 218, specifically California Constitution Article XIII D, Section 6(b)(2) which states about utility fees/charges, “Revenues derived from the fee or charge shall not be used for any purpose other than that for which the fee or charge was imposed.”
The city is attempting to turn the utility funds into their piggy bank.
So, our message to City Hall is this: “We expect to hold YOU accountable!”