The Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton (CCCoS) is an organization with roots going back more than 10 years. It was first formed by leading Stockton Area residents in order to address a proposed change for a strong-mayor form of city government. Political Science Professor Jerry Briscoe was at the forefront of the organization's efforts.
In 2001, Dr. Briscoe and others became concerned that the Stockton City Council was prepared to outsource the operations and maintenance of the city’s water utilities without adequate public hearings or an opportunity to let residents vote.
CCCoS lobbied, educated, and finally circulated a petition to let people vote on any water contracts of $5 million dollars or greater. We won by over a 60% margin. Since the Stockton City Council signed the contract prior to the measure passing, CCCoS, Sierra Club, and the League of Women Voters of San Joaquin County filed a lawsuit to challenge the City’s action; the basis being that the city failed to perform an environmental report that is required under California law called CEQA: the California Environmental Quality Act.
We won in court, and on March 1, 2008, Stockton’s water was returned to municipal operations.
August 2002: Qualified a ballot initiative with 18,000 signatures. The measure would allow the public to vote on future contracts to privatize the municipal utility.
February 19, 2003: Two weeks prior to the election, the City Council circumvents a public vote and signs a 20 year contract with OMI-Thames Water.
March 4, 2003: The ballot measure passed by a 60% margin, but unfortunately did not have a retroactive clause; thus, the contract was valid with OMI-Thames.
March 26, 2003: The Coalition attempted a 30-day referendum to overturn the City Council's action and the project contract. We were 800 signatures short. OMI and the Stockton Mayor circulated counter-petitions advising people to have their names removed if they had signed the Coalition’s petition. They claimed our Coalition was lying.
May 2003: The Coalition, Sierra Club, and the League of Women Voters of San Joaquin County filed a lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to stop the project until properly reviewed with public participation.
January 2004: San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt ruled in our favor - we won on all points. The judge ruled that privatizing, in and of itself, needed environmental review. The city was ordered to return to municipal operations in 180 days. The City and OMI appealed to the State Court of Appeal.
March 15, 2004: After repeated challenges to his decision by the City of Stockton and OMI-Thames, OMI turned in a brief with an obscure California Government Code (5956) and stated it "may or may not apply." McNatt agreed to grant the city a new trial, which had the effect of nullifying his original decision in our favor and allowing OMI to remain as utility operators.
April 6, 2004: We appealed this ruling to the State Court of Appeal.
December 2004: The Coalition prepared "1st Annual Service Contract Compliance Report" showing OMI's non- compliance with the contract. The City did not respond and the local newspaper, The Stockton Record, did not cover the Report.
February 2004: California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office entered as an amicus on the Coalition's behalf at the state appellate level.
March 2005: The State Appellate Court sent our lawsuit back to Superior Court for the judge to rule on Code 5956. This was not a "new trial" but specifically a rehearing on one code section.
January 2006: Coalition prepared a "2nd Annual Service Contract Compliance Report" that showed continuing non-compliance and infrastructure neglect by OMI-Thames, along with lack of monitoring oversight by the City of Stockton.
December 2006: We win a second time! Judge Elizabeth Humphreys rules that the city disobeyed the California Environmental Quality Act in approving a contract with OMI-Thames. In February 2007, the City of Stockton appeals.
June 2007: The City drops their appeal and accepts the court ruling. The utility will return to municipal control on March 1, 2008.
A long citizens battle to reclaim public water ends.