Editorial

OVN editorial on OPINION page: Ventura council hooked by BBK

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At the status conference for the Ventura water lawsuit this week, Scott Slater, a 36-year-veteran water litigator for one of the most powerful lobbying firms in the country, representing the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, which owns approximately 8,000 acres of land in Ventura, schooled Judge Highberger, who is new to water law.
Mr. Slater — a private water company CEO — spelled out how the next five years of the case against thousands of Ojai Valley and Ventura residents will go: “The debate is never going to be over.” He explained to the judge that he will be presiding over this case for years to come.
The city of Ventura has a temporary settlement with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper. Rather than finish that litigation, Ventura City Council seems to be hooked on BBK like crack. In May, Ventura Council’s total contract not-to-exceed amount for its law firm, Best Best and Krieger, was $4,588,000 through June 30, 2022. But, last year, the Ventura City Council voted to increase that amount by $1.8 million to the new limit of $6,388,000 and extended the communications firm Mustang Marketing’s contract by $50,000 to the new limit of $150,000 through Feb. 28, 2025. So far, since 2014, the city of Ventura has paid $5,380,000 for the services of BBK, $850,000 for Santa Barbara Channelkeeper lawyers, and $93,000 to Mustang.
By Ojai Valley News calculations, at a burn rate of about $3,000 per day over the past 12 months, Ventura is looking at $22 million every 20 years. In the words of playwright A. R. Gurney: “So get a book. Get a good book. Get Ivanhoe. We could be a while.” 
And for later this year, expect to see the pockets of BBK get a healthy new lining with more payment authorizations.
Ventura is at least four times larger than the Ojai Valley and will likely outspend us at at least that rate. But it has only money to lose. Ventura and the big boys with the deep pockets will still have water at the end of this fight, regardless of outcome and access to additional supply from other avenues. Why is Ojai paying such close attention? We are the only ones at risk of going thirsty.