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OVN EDITORIAL: Jan. 17, 2020: Your water, your voice: Be heard at meetings

Do you care about your water rights? The city of Ventura does.
It is spending millions of dollars to gain control of Ojai Valley water rights, seeking “a preliminary and permanent injunction reducing [Ojai’s] uses of surface water and groundwater affecting the surface and/or subsurface flow of the Ventura River.” 
On Jan. 12, Mayor Matt told members of the Ventura Democratic Club: “Imagine me sitting in that room being told you’re running for this district and you have to sue everybody, in other words. That gave me a pit in my stomach.”
But don’t worry too much about their expenses or about his pit because on your notice or summons, it states that the Ventura City Council is planning that you will pay for it: “The City prays for the following relief ... (5) for judgment against all persons who, presently or in the future, own an interest in real property adjacent to the Ventura River or its tributaries … (6) own real property overlying the Ventura River Watershed’s Groundwater Basins and who fail to appear in this action” (Page 74). 
Ventura keeps growing, with 2,516 pending projects in the pipeline since May 2019. Even now, with a working temporary settlement with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, and no need for further legal action, it plans to double down with a cross complaint against the Ojai Valley that Channelkeeper never wanted. As the city of Los Angeles did in the 1920s when it destroyed the Owens Valley, the city of Ventura seeks to ensure it can grow without limitation. Owens springs dried and disappeared, and groundwater-dependent vegetation died off. Ventura claims it has pueblo water rights that supersede our riparian rights to the water. This is a grab for precious resources to enrich the city of Ventura, which is fiscally irresponsible.
Mayor Matt LaVere has told the Ojai Valley News, on tape and in writing, that he cannot share the results of the vote because it was in closed session. Of course, he can and should tell us his vote. The Ventura city attorney tells the Ojai Valley News there was no vote, that the action to serve 10,500 people in the Ojai Valley was part of the 2014 Channelkeeper lawsuit. The reality is that the mayor and these council members are legally responsible for the actions taken by their lawyers, and if they didn’t condone them, they could stop paying them.
LaVere told the Ojai Valley News that he had not read the lawsuit before it was served on the Ojai Valley, and let the city attorney and attorneys in Walnut Creek, Best, Best & Krieger, make this decision for him. This Ventura council is the puppet of the lawyers the city employs. The lawyers in Walnut Creek do not care if our friendship with Ventura is destroyed, if our cities go bankrupt paying them, or even if we have water.
LaVere and the city of Ventura are spending millions of dollars in attorney fees to attack the Ojai way of life. They threaten our economy, our property values and the beauty of the valley itself. LaVere is running to be our representative on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. He cannot be allowed to represent our community when he is involved in legal action against us. We urge the Ventura city residents to recall Matt LaVere and every member of their council for financial recklessness and an inability to lead.
These lawyers are holding three meetings beginning Jan. 30 to tell us how they want this to go. There is no “collaboration.” Our community needs to be there and be ready to fight for our water rights and against this adjudication, a means for Ventura to grow larger, and to make an end run around the new state environmental groundwater sustainability rules (Sustainable Groundwater Management Act), which do not apply in adjudicated areas.
We ask that the city of Ojai step up and act to intervene legally on behalf of its citizens.
We ask that Casitas Water step up and act legally on behalf of its ratepayers.
When Ojai is provoked, we can rise to the occasion.
We need to be resilient with our resources, we need to keep our water rights if we are going to sustain ourselves in the future. Farming is at stake, the environment is at stake, our fire resilience is at stake.
The city of Ventura has a battalion of water lawyers and it is two steps ahead of us.
The Ojai Valley must come together now; stand up for our rights, and work together to fight Ventura and this adjudication.
We were provoked before and kicked out Golden State and we can kick out Ventura. Working together, will be key. Here is what you can do now:
1. Demand Ventura City Council dismiss the case. Call council members, email them. Urge your Ventura friends to recall them. Their email addresses are This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
 2. Go to the Town Hall, “Your Water Your Voice,” at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 21 at the Boyd Center at Sarzotti Park. The Ojai Valley News is hosting this event with an expert panel to explain the situation, offer advice and answer questions. The event will be livestreamed and on public access Channel 10.
3. Go to the Ventura/Walnut Creek lawyers’ meeting Jan. 30 at Matilija Auditorium, 703 El Paseo Road. Make sure to bring questions and a tin cup as a symbol of solidarity.
4. Subscribe! Information is worth it! Start following the Ojai Valley News on our website and social media, keeping you informed and joining you on Ojai’s convoy to the Los Angeles Courthouse on June 1, 2020.
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