A win for former Oxnard mayoral recall candidate Aaron Starr, the court sides with approving the validity of Starr’s Measure M, a 2016 voter-approved initiative to reverse then newly implemented wastewater treatment rates that would have increased by a total of 87 percent over five years. The case was originally filed in March 2017.

“Oxnard has not met its burden of proof, and the court finds Measure M to be a valid exercise of the will of the citizens of Oxnard as expressed through the initiative process,” wrote Superior Court Judge Rocky Baio in an eight-page ruling filed on May 23. Final arguments wrapped up in February.

“The Court finds Measure M to be a valid exercise of the right of the citizens of Oxnard to decide what type of wastewater system would best serve the overall needs of their community,” Baio wrote, noting that the wastewater system was functioning at the time Measure M was voted on. Baio, however, did end the ruling with: “The Court is compelled to quote Justice Mosk in his dissenting opinion in one of the many cases addressing the validity of the Political Reform Act of 1990 (“Proposition 140”): ‘I observe at the outset that the wisdom of Proposition 140 is of no consequence to the analysis. To be sure, the initiative may be judged foolish and impractical. But it may also be viewed otherwise. Certainly, the exercise of governmental authority by ‘citizens’ as opposed to ‘politicians,’ including the wielding of legislative power, has long been an ideal within the Western political tradition, and sometimes even a reality.”

A May 26 email from Moving Oxnard Forward, Starr’s personal newsletter, addresses the verdict.
“Ultimately, it appears the judge concluded that the voters have a right to choose a Honda Accord system, even if the City Council wants a Mercedes Benz,” he wrote.

In a special session on Tuesday, May 29, Oxnard City Councilmembers discussed appealing the ruling.
“I am very disappointed. But as of now there is no final judgment from which to appeal should the Council ultimately decide to do so,” said Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez. “My reason for opposing this measure was public and environmental health and safety.”

A lesser increase to wastewater rates was implemented last May, however, while the validity of Measure M was going through the legal process. The approval of new rates were the impetus for the recent recall election, which failed.