"What we've got here is failure to communicate."
-- Strother Martin as the prison warden in Cool Hand Luke
As reported in the Ventura County Star (Oxnard decides against raising water rates at least for now), the Oxnard City Council voted Tuesday night to not increase water rates by 66% over the next four years ... at least not yet. (Not to be confused with the sewer rate increase adopted last January and whose repeal is scheduled to be on the November ballot.)
It appears that arguments put forward by members of Moving Oxnard Forward may have convinced Councilmember Bert Perello to join Councilmember Bryan MacDonald to now oppose the rate increases. Perello stated that city staff failed to put forth simple, convincing arguments for the massive rate increases that will harm Oxnard households and businesses.
Perhaps Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn suddenly recognized that passage of this rate increase would require him to be the deciding vote on a very unpopular ordinance. So, Flynn did what many politicians do ... he waffled.
First, Flynn stated that he was a supporter of the rate increase. Then, he stated that he would vote in opposition because city staff failed to communicate the need to the ratepayers. He told staff that he wants them to spend the next 90 days educating the public and then bring this proposed rate increase back to the city council for a third bite at the apple in October.
No, Mayor, there was no failure to communicate. We simply disagree with your conclusions.
We understand perfectly well that your plan to go into debt and spend an additional $254 million for the water recycling facility at our expense will not benefit us.
We understand perfectly well that the city's general fund is back-charging the utilities millions of dollars every year for street and police services. And that the increase in water rates is partly a shell game to charge us ratepayers more so that more money can be diverted to the general fund.
We understand perfectly well that the Cost of Service Study plans a 24% "inflation" increase in salaries over the next three years for existing utility employees. Those of us in the real world are not expecting to receive 24% pay rate increases.
Yes, Mr. Mayor, by all means keep communicating. Go ahead with "the most ambitious outreach effort in the history of the city." Proceed with recruiting "hundreds of ambassadors" to educate us.
If the underlying facts remain unchanged, all this jawboning is not going to convince us that it is necessary to charge Oxnard households an additional $300 per year for water.