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Editorial on OVN OPINION page: Ventura water postcard unpacked

Was any Ojai resident comforted by the glossy postcard: “Update from the city of Ventura”?
We wanted to be. First, they “hope” (we all need hope these days) that we and our “loved ones are staying safe and healthy” — friendly… then comes a lie in bold lettering:

 

“As a reminder, the city is not pursuing active litigation in this matter.” 

 

If an answer is required, as it is by Sept. 8, then the litigation is active. 
Defendants have to spend time and money to answer, including a filing fee of more than $400, and if they choose, retain an attorney. If the litigation is not active, then why is the city spending tax dollars on attorneys’ fees related to the litigation?
Next they tell us when the upcoming case management conference with the court will occur: Aug. 17. We suggest you call the number on the card 805-654-7740 or write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out how to attend this conference.

 

 

Then, “We’d like to remind those impacted ...”

 

It’s going to cost you in water allocation, and it’s already costing you in dollars. If you live in the Ojai Valley and you use the water, you will be impacted when your right to water changes. Casitas Municipal Water District is currently charging us $600,000 per year for its legal defense. Local farmers and well owners are also being drained of their resources by the city of Ventura’s legal attack.

 

“The city remains dedicated to working with other water users.”

The city of Ventura began its dedicated work by contending (in its “Ninth Claim for Relief”) that Ojai’s use of water is not reasonable or beneficial to the watershed. We last heard that Casitas Municipal Water District had walked away from the negotiating table because Ventura brought nothing to the table but its gluttony and its empty plate. Now the city of Ventura is attempting to negotiate with other water agencies, which lack the funds to spend on attorneys and are therefore forced to negotiate with their powerful neighbor. 

 

“To protect local control...”  

 

Whose local control? 
The city of Ventura contends (in its “Third Claim for Relief”) that the water rights of the Ojai Valley users “are subordinate” to the rights of the city of Ventura because the Mission of San Buenaventura, established by Junipero Serra, with an aqueduct built by the slave labor of Ojai’s native Chumash who inhabited the region for 13,000 years gives Ventura a first priority to the Ventura River watershed. 
The hypocrisy of the city of Ventura’s plan to re- move the monument to Serra’s legacy outside City Hall is a hollow distraction from its final power grab from our nation’s first people, and the current com- munity in the Ojai Valley. The Ventura City Coun- cil gave false witness Thursday in a statement on its decision: “When a group of people has suffered trauma, we all need to step up and do something to heal that. The actions the Council took are a step forward as we stand in solidarity with our Chumash community.” 
We agree with Councilmember Christy Weir’s statement, “I believe our city can do a better job of celebrating our Chumash heritage, and I have quite a few ideas of how we can do that.” 
Council’s first idea should be to “step forward” and drop its shameful demand for “mission,” “pueblo” water rights, which amount to fruit of the poisonous tree. 
This misleading document must be used as a court exhibit to have the case thrown out.

 

Ventura, at a Stage 2 water level, clearly does not believe there’s a water shortage. City leaders continue to waste, build and grow, and have turned upstream to a smaller community with fewer resources to take our water supply for themselves.
Ventura is actively trying to garner support for a settlement that would not require “active litigation.” It wants to settle the case, because it has nothing to offer.
The only friendly act the city of Ventura can take is to dismiss the lawsuit and negotiate with all parties as equals, by taking its proportionate responsibility for reductions, and creating protections for smaller water users. 
At this point, the city of Ventura council members still look like bullies, forcing everyone to incur great expense to benefit the lawyers at Best Best & Krieger and the city of Ventura’s profligate water usage. So far, the only good feeling was a shiny card with a canned COVID-19 greeting.

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