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We elect politicians to deliver solutions, not lawsuits

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By Trevor Quirk 
If you are like me, you are troubled by the water lawsuit for several reasons. 
You are troubled because the city of Ventura chose to sue you. 
You are troubled because you are hearing and watching news interviews of politicians saying they had no choice. The city did not have to sue you; it chose to. In fact, it wanted to sue you so bad, it asked the Trial Court judge for permission to sue you. When the Trial Court judge said no, the city made another choice— it chose to appeal. It chose to pay its lawyers to go to court and ask another court— the appellate court — to review the Trial Court’s decision. The city told its lawyers to appeal and got permission to sue you. The lawyers don’t make these decisions. The client, the city politicians do. 

 

Speaking of lawyers... 
You are troubled because the city chose to hire fancy out-of-town Walnut Creek lawyers (Best Best & Krieger) to sue you. You are even more troubled when you find the Ventura City Council meeting minutes and discover the city chose to allocate, to date, $3 million of our taxpayer money, to pay the Walnut Creek lawyers to sue you. Heck, at least the city could have hired local lawyers and put that money back into the local economy. 
You are troubled because had the city properly managed our public resource — the Ventura River — we are not getting sued and your taxpayer money isn’t going to Walnut Creek lawyers. 
You dig deeper and discover, 21 years ago, the state of California warned the city, in writing, that the Ventura River was a problem. Twentyone years ago. The state told the city when it pumped water at Foster Park, the river went dry. There is a direct correlation. The city has graphs showing it. The state told the city to fix the problem. The state told the city it pumped twice as much water as all other pumpers. Twenty-one years to solve this problem. But, it gets worse. 
In 2007, the Feds — specifically the National Marine Fisheries Service — warned the city, in writing, again. It told the city the river was a problem. It told the city to curtail its pumping. It told the city the steelhead needed 11 cubic feet per second to live. The city did nothing. Had it fixed the problem, I’m not writing this, you aren’t getting sued and your taxpayer money isn’t going to the Walnut Creek lawyers. 

 

The story goes on. 
In 2013, the city hires its own environmental consultant named Hopkins. Hopkins writes a report. You can read it in the Dropbox link below. Hopkins tells the city the river is a problem. The fish are endangered. They need water to live. Put at least 2 cubic feet per second in the river or else the fish die. The city tries to bury the report. Santa Barbara Channelkeeper asks for it. The city says no. The Channelkeeper get it, but only after making a Freedom of Information Act Request. 
In 2014, the Channelkeeper get involved. They ask the city to fix the river. The city says no. They try to meet with the city, the city says no. They go to City Council meetings, they send e-mails, the city says no. The city gets sued. In 2016, the city elects a new mayor. The mayor and the rest of the City Council don’t fix the problem. Had they fixed the problem, I’m not writing this, you aren’t getting sued and the Walnut Creek lawyers aren’t getting our taxpayer money. 
In June 2016, three months after the new mayor is elected, the river is pumped dry. 

 

I am troubled by this. 
In January 2018, the Appeals Court thing described above goes down. The city chooses to pays its Walnut Creek lawyers more money. It tells them to go to court, tell the judge the trial court was wrong, and get us permission to sue you. The Walnut Creek lawyers tell the Appellate judge: “The city not only asserts the reasonableness of its own water use, it has crosscomplained (legalese for suing you) against other entities that also draw water from the Ventura River watershed, alleging that their (your) water use is unreasonable.” 
The city paid the Walnut Creek lawyers our taxpayer money to pass the buck and point the finger upstream, at us. They are in court telling the judge, it’s not our fault, please let us sue you because you are the reason the river is running dry. The court says OK. The city knows it is going to sue as of January 2018. You are not made aware of this lawsuit until January 2020, when you get served with a summons or registered mail and, after the deadline to run for county supervisor expires. I am troubled by this, but it gets worse. 
On Sept. 30, 2019, the city agrees to pay “a certified check in the amount of $850,000 payable to the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper. According to the interim settlement agreement (you can read it in the Dropbox link), the city’s payment is for “Channelkeeper’s attorney’s fees and costs incurred because of the Action ….” That same day, the Ventura city mayor, the same mayor who chose to sue you and who is also running to be your supervisor, issues a press release. The press release says nothing about the $850,000 the city just agreed to pay. It says: “[w]e are proud to be working with the Channelkeeper…” That’s in the Dropbox, too. 

 

I am troubled by this. 
On Dec. 6, 2019, the deadline to run for county supervisor expires. City Mayor Matt LaVere is running to be your supervisor. He also voted (presumably — the city refuses to produce the records) to sue you. On January 2, 2020, after the deadline to run for supervisor expired, the city chose to serve you via registered mail and via summons. The document is in the Dropbox. I am troubled by the timing of this. 
On Jan. 12, 2020, Mr. LaVere was asked whether he voted to sue you. He responded: “I can’t talk about the votes in closed session.” A candidate asking for your vote should tell you whether he voted to sue you. 
On Jan. 14, 2020, the city refused to tell the Ojai Valley News how the City Council voted because, according to Ventura City Attorney Gregory Diaz, “The report out obligation did not exist…” Californians Aware, a nonprofit specializing in this area, disagrees: “The Brown Act specifically provides that they must release the vote…” 
On Jan. 21, 2020, I stood among 200 to 300 people at the Boyd Center in Sarzotti Park in Ojai. We were told the city’s politicians, and their Walnut Creek lawyers are not done delivering lawsuits. 
A third wave is coming. Well, so are we. It’s time to organize and demand our politicians deliver solutions, not lawsuits. Join us by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

— Editor’s note: Trevor Quirk of Upper Ojai, an attorney, gained local recognition for helping to fight the Thomas Fire in 2017 and for his relief efforts afterward. He said Thursday that he is considering running as a write-in candidate for Ventura County supervisor in the March 3 election to replace Supervisor Steve Bennett. “If the people want me to do it, if there is large enough support and infrastructure in place, I will strongly consider it,” he said. He is asking for those who would support his candidacy for supervisor to email him at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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