The state of affairs at Oxnard City Hall has been tumultuous for years, with certain ebbs and flows, but may be hit critical mass on Tuesday, May 1, the day of the recall election. We do understand that bureaucracy is often heavy-laden with its own problems of efficacy, wasteful spending and red tape that delays progress, but there is a system of rules and balances that help keep it all in check. When disgruntled residents employ democracy and put items on the ballot to effect change or to reverse changes that they feel are unnecessary or exploitive, there is another branch of government, the judicial, to ensure that the public’s momentum won’t cause more harm for the greater good. And that is exactly how a particular utility rate increase led to this recall election.
The long and short of it, residents who wanted to stop a wastewater rate increase passed Measure M to do that, but city officials said that without at least some sort of rate increase, there wouldn’t be enough money to maintain facilities. The wastewater plant had ongoing issues even before Measure M. In court, a judge placed Measure M on hold. The four of the five City Council members then agreed to consider a lower rate increase and all five members ultimately approved the smaller rate increase.
During the interim between those two votes, Aaron Starr, a former City Council candidate who is now running for mayor in the recall, vowed to replace the four members of the initial favorable vote by holding that recall. He and several others who shared his concerns gathered thousands of signatures to recall the four members — Mayor Tim Flynn, Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez and Councilmen Oscar Madigral and Bert Perello. With verification of enough signatures, the recall election was set in motion. After the recall election qualified for the ballot, Starr then had to defend his position in court regarding Measure M and why the city did not have to implement new increased wastewater rates. The decision is still pending.
As we have stated before, the premise and passage of Measure M was about wasteful spending that falls on the backs of Oxnard residents. But somehow, the cost of the recall election gets a pass, although it is running close to $500,000, with the final tally yet to be calculated. Further, six months from now, the City Council will see district elections and the makeup of the council may shift entirely. So what, exactly, was the point of all of this if it wasn’t about unfair costs to taxpayers? Some say, democracy in action. Fair enough, but that point is surely lost in the price tag and extremely limited terms of the possible new members. We believe that if residents really want a change of leadership, they should focus on the November elections and move forward with the City Council currently in place until then. At the very least, when the current City Council wanted taxpayers to pay more, it was to improve services. The recall, however, seems to be just about spending taxpayer dollars to win a fight, as Starr seems to have done.