Editorial

Editorial

Ojai Valley News EDITORIAL, Jan. 24: Public agencies run by attorneys?

Toon Ojai Water War11

Who do our elected officials work for? 
Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere, an attorney, told the Ojai Valley News on Jan. 12: “I can’t talk about votes in closed session. ... not being a water professional, I don’t know enough to push back. I have to take what my lawyers are telling me is true. … What that meant, and what we were told, is the only way to do that is to bring all of the users into what’s called an adjudication process. … I have not been provided another option.” 
Not provided another option? Rather than bother to learn about the issues with the watershed in the district LaVere wants to represent as supervisor, the Ventura City Council members did what they were told by the city attorney and their Walnut Creek attorneys, Best Best & Krieger. 
We have 16 water agencies in our valley that are also named in the lawsuit and also represent us as ratepayers. Some purveyors have made statements saying their lawyers won’t allow them to speak to their customers about the lawsuit. Again, who do they answer to?
The Ojai Valley News has filed a formal complaint with the District Attorney’s Office because the Ventura City Council refuses to inform the public how the council members voted on the decision to include thousands of Ojai Valley property owners in its lawsuit.
The state’s open-meeting law — the Brown Act — provides that people have the right to know when the decision was made, what exactly the decision was, and who voted for or against it.
Of course, this water rights snarl began when some environmental lawyers convinced the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper that, without spending any of their own money, they could increase the number of steelhead in the Ventura River and from a total adult population of 500 in the entire central and southern Pacific Ocean. 
Among others, the steelhead’s greatest threat is that seas and streams are becoming too warm for them to reproduce (temperatures above 64.4 degrees). Since Best Best & Krieger was obviously a dead failure in putting the onus on the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper to prove that the fish population could be restored with SBC’s physical solution for Ventura or to make them prove that the subsurface water flow is truly impacting the surface flow, BBK lawyers are back at the trough attempting to secure themselves a guaranteed paycheck for an estimated 10– to 15-year adjudication process. 
The Ojai Valley News has been told by a source that more attorneys than clients meet behind closed doors, without scientists or engineers and without many named defendants even aware of the deals being brokered. 
Our community says stop. 
Ventura City Council: Take control of your attorneys. Take a step back, and remove the lawyers from the room. The Ojai Valley has enough water experts to fill five town hall panels without repeating a single panelist! 
Ojai Valley residents have been good conservationists, making huge improvements since 1989, while Ventura has not. Let your neighbors help you, and with all the stakeholders, seek livable solutions for the watershed rather than outdated allotments formulated by lawyers and courts not invested in our community or in our vital resources. 
Adjudication is the solution where the only winners are BBK and the Channelkeeper attorneys.
The insanity of the millions of dollars that have and will be spent, the futility of the Channelkeeper’s action, of Ventura’s action, and of the entire litigation quagmire hit home with a jolt with Thursday’s breaking news from the Los Angeles Times: “Defying environmentalists and public health advocates, the Trump administration on Thursday will announce the replacement of Obama-era water protections with a significantly weaker set of regulations that lifts limits on how much pollution can be dumped into small streams and wetlands. The changes to the Clean Water Act's protections are expected to hit California and other Western states especially hard.”
Take action now! Call, email or mail the form letter provided (page B7) 
Ventura City Council members — 805-654-7800
Mayor Matt LaVere, Sofia Rubalcava, Lorrie Brown, Jim Friedman, Cheryl Heitmann, Erik Nasarenko and Christy Weir. Their collective email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Contact those who represent you and ask them to act on your behalf:
Casitas Municipal Water District: 805-649-2251
Ojai City Council: 805-646-5581
Ventura County Supervisor representing Ojai Valley, Steve Bennett:
805-654-2703 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
California State Sen., Hannah-Beth Jackson: 805-965-0862
State Assemblymember Monique Limón: 805-564-1649
U.S. Senator Julia Brownley: 202-225-5811
Show up to the upcoming public meetings held by the city of Ventura as representatives and bring questions.
Meeting: Jan. 30, Best Best & Krieger host from 6 to 8 p.m. at Matilija Auditorium, 703 El Paseo Road, Ojai.
Meeting: February 5, Ojai Valley News hosts a new expert water panel, location TBA
Vote: Primary Election March 3
Vote: General Election Nov. 5