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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Students Deliver Potent Message of Peace on New Year's Day

A sad milestone coincided with the passing of a new year. Yesterday, the number killed in Iraq passed 3,000. There are many times when a number is a just a number, devoid of context and meaning. Then again, the number I always knew grew up knowing was 57,000--the generally accepted number killed in Vietnam.

Last night in Davis, the number 3,000 came alive in ways I never thought possible. Standing there, watching the park filled with 3,000 lights--paper bags filled with candles--was awe inspiring.

In Central Park, "Youth for Hope" put on a peace vigil that put it all into perspective for a lot of people in Davis. And for a few moments that number 3,000 came alive. As we enjoy our New Year we should all pause and reflect on the ultimate sacrifice given by so many young people for a cause and a war that seems so wrong to so many of us.

As impressive this event was put on by 15 and 16 year old high school students. Students who heard the call a month ago by watching the documentary “The Ground Truth,” about American soldiers. During a time when so many young people are disparaged as selfish or self-absorbed, these young people gave up their vacation to make a strong and profound political statement. It was a powerful moment in Davis last night, unfortunately, too few broke from their holiday routine to attend.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our ninth installment, No.2 Davis Police Chief Hyde Resigns and HRC Disbanded.

On February 7, 2006 Davis Councilmember Don Saylor concluded the Davis City Council Meeting with a long statement about his concerns about the Davis Human Relations Commission (HRC) including contentiousness, Brown Act violation, intimidation of fellow commissioners, and other acts of misconduct by members of the HRC. He recommended a subcommittee look into these allegations and make a determination. Councilmember Saylor's allegations were never documented or proven, nor was he ever held accountable to explain himself. He and his colleagues were determined to reduce the power of the commission and its recommendations regarding civilian police oversight. The council did not like the HRC recommendations as well as the commission's responsibility and duty to investigate and advise the council. Instead the council wished to dictate and control the commission's work, direction, and recommendations. It was at this point, that the Davis Human Relations Commission was put on notice.

The bulk of these allegations and the ensuing long public campaign against the HRC resulted from a single issue--the issue of police misconduct and the HRC's support and push for a civilian police review board.

In our last segment, on police oversight, we will spend much greater time chronicling the debate over police oversight. In this we will focus on the dynamics between the Davis Human Relations Commission and the Police Chief Jim Hyde that led to Hyde leaving for Antioch and the HRC being put on Hiatus.

The key time frame was that in the summer of 2005, the police issue heated up once again over the controversial arrest of 16 year old Halema Buzayan. What ensued were a number of private and public meetings between the HRC and Chief Hyde. Hyde quickly went on the defensive, refusing to acknowledge problems with his police force and then eventually refusing to meet with or work with the Human Relations Commission. This followed a series of contentious public meetings where the issue was raised before the commission and the city council by members of the public as well as civil rights groups.

The tide in this fight was turned prior to the January 17, 2006 Davis City Council Meeting. It was at this point when then Davis City Manager Jim Antonen came forth with his proposal for an Ombudsman as a preferred alternative to the civilian police review board. The HRC was largely kept in the dark about the development of this alternative plan and only found out about the item on the agenda a few days before.

The police chief however was not caught flat-footed. He and his staff organized a number of members of the local pro-Iraq war military community to come forth during public comment and support the police department. Chief Hyde did this because he knew these pro-war people were upset with the commission for having recommended that the city council adopt a resolution requesting that the President of the Unitied States withdraw our military from Iraq. Hyde knew these folks would be motivated to strike out at the commission as payback for advocating for the resolution and he was right. It was only through a public records request, that it was discovered how much coordination this involved under the direction of Police Chief Jim Hyde and his senior officers.

Chief Hyde enlisted Davis Police Lt. Dorothy Pearson to recruit supporters for police department who would attack the HRC and its chairperson.

In early January 2006 in an e-mail exchange between Chief Hyde and Lt. Dorothy Pearson:

Chief Jim Hyde: "FYI, calling in my cards. Are any of the military supporters willing to speak at public comment time … on the 17th at city council in support of the police department? HRC is pushing for there (sic) own police review commission."

Lt. Dorothy Pearson: "I am already circling the wagons! I am trying to get as many people as possible to attend and possibly speak."

On Jan. 12, Lt. Dorothy Pearson thanks James Hechtl [Davis resident, retired air force officer and pro-Iraq war supporter]. "The Chief called me last night after the meeting. He was singing the Military Family's praises. … I can't thank you enough for your help. I also sent Bob Glynn [Davis resident and pro-Iraq war supporter] a thank you e-mail and told him that you would keep the group posted on upcoming strategies."

Hechtl responds, "What kind of availability do you and the Chief have this afternoon (Thur). I want to meet with both of you with (sic) and discuss some strategy."

Hechtl and Glynn proceed to write numerous letters attacking the Davis Human Relations Commission and its Chair Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald.

This public attack on the HRC would continue in the newspapers with a series of very negative letters to the editor. This was all orchestrated by Lt. Dorothy Pearson, often on city time, using city resources to do it.

James Hechtl writes, "Ms. Greenwald and Ms. Garcia apply their racist views to every possible issue that confronts them. They look at the world through their prism of hate. ... The mere fact that they support numerous frivolous and hate-based lawsuits against the city should be enough to invite them and the rest of the Human Relations Commission to practice their trade in a more appropriate city. I recommend Johannesburg, South Africa."

(Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia is a Davis resident, parent, pediatrician and president of BECA (a Davis civil rights group) who worked with the commission on researching and drafting a report on racial profiling and recommending a proposed civilian police oversight review commission. )

Bob Glynn writes on May 5, "Davis must rid itself of this antiquated, racist commission and its bully chairperson, Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald."

This public campaign against the HRC and its chair Escamilla Greenwald was extremely effective. The city council, used this to their advantage, tightening the screws on the commission. Following the February 21, 2006 meeting where the council rejected the commission's recommendation for a civilian review board, the council would install several measures for additional training giving the directive that any public communication must be premised on the fact that the individual was speaking as an individual rather than as a member of the commission. Part of the problem here was that Escamilla Greenwald was a very visible and articulate spokesperson, who along with many of her colleagues were heavily involved in the movement for oversight even as a private citizens and identified as speaking only for themselves. Eventually the council would suggest that even this distinction of a citizen speaking for her/his self was not enough, that any public statement against the actions of the council was grounds for removal.

The spring of 2006 would eventually pave the way for two events. Chief Jim Hyde was a focal point of the problems in the police department. But it was the Buzayan case that really brought the issue to the public light. Chief Hyde made the calculated decision that he would back his officers regardless of the propriety of their conduct and support only the council actions for police reform. This made him a rallying point for those defending the Davis Police Department. However, he was clearly under tremendous pressure during this entire episode as was the department as a whole. There was a higher than average transfer rate out of the department, resulting in a lot of vacancies and now a number of new officers.

Following the June 2006 city council elections, Chief Hyde abruptly resigned and put a large amount of the blame for his departure on the Human Relations Commission as well as its chair Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald.

His resignation email was short and to the point:
"The destructive and divisive behaviors of the Human Relations Commission and in particular, their chairperson, have limited my effectiveness to work with this fine community. Despite the great work of the members of this police department, the HRC has divided the community along race and religious lines to fulfill a self serving political agenda. In my 27 years of government service, 10 years of clinical psychology, and 16 years of working with non-profit organizations, the HRC is the most dysfunctional and incestuous group I have ever witnessed. I hope that City Council will correct this community problem."
Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald would respond and point out to the public that in fact there had been a large breakdown in communications between the police department and the HRC. Much of that was due to the public campaign that Hyde had been running against the HRC.

"The police chief has resigned and thrown a large amount of blame in the direction of the Human Relations Commission and myself. After many months of hearing from members of the public, last summer we met with the police chief over concerns about the growing number of complaints about police misconduct. These meetings and interactions quickly turned adversarial as the police chief became defensive. Instead of engaging in public dialogue over these very serious issues, Chief Hyde retreated--he cut off communications with the HRC, he pulled his liaisons to the commission, and began a concerted public campaign to discredit the efforts of the HRC to reach common ground on reforms that could be done within the department.

"Sadly this did not have to be the case. But it serves as another reminder that many of the events that the public has witnessed in the last year have been unnecessary. The Buzayan family was more than willing to go through the process of review within the department until it became clear that no satisfactory result could be achieved. Recently, the young African-American students who marched on the Police Station made multiple efforts to meet with Chief Hyde and his staff. Assistant Chief Pearce went as far as to overtly discourage other police departments from participating in Statewide Campus events aimed at achieving dialogue and understanding on police-minority relations. Finally in frustration they marched on the police station, only to have Chief Hyde's staff stand behind protective glass windows, gawking and laughing at the protestors, many of whom had personal accounts of profiling.

"During the past year, the Human Relations Commission, after hearing repeated accounts from credible citizens in our community, recommended the formation of a Citizen's Review Board of the police department. The Police Chief reacted negatively and with attacks upon the HRC as well myself and members of the community for even suggesting such a body. Once again, Chief Hyde reacted defensively and inappropriately instead of working with the community to resolve these problems.

"Chief Hyde's departure does not solve the problems of the Davis Police Department. We need to hire a new chief that can work with community groups like the HRC and others to establish meaningful dialogue that can produce common ground results.

"Unfortunately, Hyde's parting words will serve to further polarize this community and breed contempt rather than understanding. I urge the City Council, no matter what steps they deem necessary, to seek to open a sustained and meaningful dialogue between segments of this community and the police department."

The Davis Human Relations Commission and its Chair Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald became the focal point for the police chief's departure and were blamed for creating animosity rather than a climate of tolerance and understanding. Chief Hyde would take a higher paying job at the larger city of Antioch Police Department as their police chief. But his public resignation and blame for it would push the Davis City Council into action once again, this time on June 27, 2006. Davis City Councilmember Ted Puntillo the prior week had requested be placed on the city council's next agenda a discussion on the future of the Davis Human Relations Commission.

As we have come to find out, Chief Hyde had a number of problems within the department that also led to his departure. However, the public scrutiny constructed by the chief, the city manager, and the city council fell solely on the Human Relations Commission and its chair Escamilla Greenwald.

The June 27, 2006 meeting would be loud and contentious. With the council chambers packed with citizens, over 40 community members, several of them past chairs of the HRC and a number of past and future elected officials spoke on behalf of the HRC. The police had their usual cadre of defenders at the meeting, but in the end, it did not matter.

Davis Councilmember Stephen Souza summed up his objections to the HRC's conduct with a parable of his own both read during the meeting on June 27 and in the paper.

From the July 16, 2006 Davis Enterprise: "Souza himself was a member of the Human Relations Commission from 1989 to 1996. An alleged rape and several other crimes against women spurred the then-Human Relations Commission to recommend a hate-crimes ordinance to the City Council."We pushed the issue three times," Souza said. "The council said 'no' two times. Two former mayors came to the commission and said 'We are the policy-making body. You are the advisers.' "Although Souza said he was miffed at the time, now that he's a councilman, he understands where the two former mayors were coming from."

But what the article failed to point out is that Souza was not kicked off the commission for his actions and the city council did not disband the commission for their actions. And that was the big difference, this council decided to disband the HRC because the commission advised on an issue and made recommendations against the wishes of the city council's majority.

The chief complaint by council was that the HRC overstepped its authority as an advisory board. But as we would find out in the fall, the HRC actually under the City of Davis anti-Discrimination Ordinance had much greater power than was generally acknowledged in the June 27 meeting.

Section 7A-15(C) of the Davis anti-Discrimination ordinance reads:
"Any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against in violation of the provisions of this ordinance may file a request to have the Human Relations Commission investigate and mediate his or her complaint. The Commission may adopt rules of procedure to accommodate the needs of such investigation mediation. A complaint to the Commission shall not be a prerequisite to filing a civil action under this section, and the findings and conclusions of the commission issued in response to such proceedings shall not be admissible in a civil action."
The HRC had acted within its authority by investigating these complaints and making a recommendation to the city council for changes.

In the end, Councilmembers Puntillo, Souza, Saylor, and Asmundson all voted to disband the commission, put it on hiatus and take new commissioner applications in the fall. Only one member of the commission, reapplied, John Pamperin. No one else chose to do so. The commission that was reconstituted in the fall was safely filled with new members who will do as they are told and the commission was neutered. The council has also stripped it of much of its investigative power.

As we saw with the contrary results of the Senior Citizens Commission, there was something else at work here. It was not merely the actions of Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald, for Davis Senior Citizens Commission Chair Elaine Roberts Musser was certainly no less assertive or brazen in her criticism of the council than Escamilla Greenwald. At the end of the day, the HRC represents the minorities in Davis, a small group of people who are somewhat isolated and politically weak.

The Police Chief and his supporters were able to prevail in the end by stirring up public sentiment against the HRC and creating a climate of fear that the police would be hamstrung by the process of civilian police oversight and unable to protect the residents of Davis. The irony is that the police chief ended up doing many of the same things that the HRC was accused of doing, but they got away with it.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Saturday, December 30, 2006

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our eighth installment, No.6 Yolo County District Attorney's race.

We have spoken at length on this blog about the problems in the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office. In the coming months, we will speak about more of the problems that exist. In 2006, we had a clearly defined battle set up between two Deputy District Attorneys Jeff Reisig and Pat Lenzi.

District Attorney Dave Henderson will retire shortly (in January) after serving as Yolo County District Attorney since 1984 and working in the District Attorney’s office for over 30 years. It was a long tenure marred by serious allegations of corruption and malfeasance. The culture of his office is one of a “good-old boys network.” His handpicked successor was Jeff Reisig. Reisig was only 35 years old at the time of his election. He is a right-wing Republican and he had the support of every law enforcement officer organization in the county and many of the public officials. That included numerous elected Democratic officials such as Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor and Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto. These Democratic officials wore “Democrats for Reisig” buttons at the Davis Farmer's Market actively campaigning for him.

Reisig was opposed by fellow Deputy District Attorney Pat Lenzi. Lenzi, a moderate Democrat and mother of a Marine stationed in Iraq, brought to the table a different perspective. She had a strong focus on issues of children and women. Issues that have long been ignored by the current District Attorney. But she also had an excellent record as a tough but fair prosecutor.

As one might imagine, given the large number of endorsements from key officials, Reisig had a strong and sustained advantage. He was able to out raise her and outspend her.

Despite these advantages, in the closing week of the race, it seemed close enough that Resig would pull out a very dirty campaign tactic. In 1999, while working as Deputy DA for Sacramento County, Pat Lenzi was involved in a serious automobile accident (a drunk driver hit her car) that had for a time caused her some memory problems. James Hawes was a sexual predator, who was convicted for committing a string of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, sexual assault, and several other offense. This was a convicted sex offender who was trying to seize on this issue to get a new trial.

The Woodland Daily Democrat on May 31, 2006—just over one week prior to the election seized on this information printing an extremely slanted version of the story.
The story led of with: “An admission by Deputy District Attorney and candidate for District Attorney Patricia Lenzi of a brain injury affecting her memory - which led to her failing to give defense lawyers a piece of evidence favorable to their client - is raising questions about her competency for the top office.”
Yolo County Deputy District Attorney and Jeff Reisig supporter Tim Wallace then played the role of the subtle hatchet man:
"That disclosure came as quite a shock to me in the extreme because I've never seen any evidence of it… I'm not saying it's not true, but I've never seen any evidence of memory loss… If she has memory losses of the severity that she described under oath, then I don't think she's fit to be District Attorney… This office performs an invaluable service to the community and they need to know the person in our top office is competent."

Notice that he heavily couches his statement but the punchline is that if this is true, she is unfit to serve. Tim Wallace you will remember along with Clinton Parish made a series of irresponsible and outrageous statements about the Buzayan family. They were both strong supporters of Reisig and frequently attacked Lenzi in vicious and juvenile ways.

The article went on to cite 2005 transcripts taken out of context that suggested that, “Sometimes I don't recognize my own house, when I go home. Sometimes I don't know my own street.” Told completely out of context from her statement this was a vicious and devastating blow by a supposedly impartial newspaper.

This story appeared in the Daily Democrat, which had endorsed Reisig. However, most of the county does not read the Daily Democrat. So the Reisig campaign reproduced the article and sent it out to every home in Yolo County to make sure that everyone saw the article.

Despite all of that, the margin of victory by Reisig was fairly slim. Pat Lenzi won in Davis, but lost badly in Woodland for the margin of a 54-46 victory.

Now Reisig will inherit many of the problems of the Henderson office. Moreover he owes his victory to the efforts of Deputy District Attorney’s such as Patricia Fong, Clinton Parish, and Tim Wallace who are under scrutiny for misconduct in their roles in various high-profile cases. In the end, Reisig’s success and failure will rest on his ability to manage his office and in many ways clean house despite the political allegiances he owes some of those deputies. It will be a difficult and unenviable task in the coming months and the People’s Vanguard of Davis will be monitoring this office to see how they respond to what lies ahead.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, December 29, 2006

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our seventh installment, No.3 Davis votes for a "Green" Target.

Target is perhaps the most written about topic on this blog. I note that there are 37 blog entries on this blog that have Target as a label. The decision by the Davis City Council to place the issue of Target on the ballot preceded the formation of this blog. The issue of Target became among the most important local issues during the fall campaign.

I began the fall campaign planning to vote against the construction of Target. There were two primary reasons for this. One, there are no stores like Target in Davis. That was a reason given by both sides of the issue--in both support of and opposition to building a Target. But for me, what makes Davis special is that it is a small college town without a lot of the huge commercial enterprises that blight our countryside across this nation. If we cannot keep a giant corporate conglomerate out of Davis—what hope do we have in the rest of the country.

The second reason for opposing Target was, following from the first, I am a believer in small and locally owned businesses and good paying union jobs. I think stores like Target give us cheap merchandise and not in the good sense and poor customer service. I want the knowledgeable salesperson to help me with my purchases not a person hired at ridiculously low wages who knows as little as I do about the general products. And I want well-paid and well-treated employees who are not treated as mere commodities.

However, and this is something I realize more and more, what really angers me is not people who oppose my viewpoints because I enjoy differences of opinion and conversing. No, what really angers me is when people are dishonest and deceptive. The Target campaign was dishonest and deceptive.

If you want to make the argument that we need a Target because it provides us with cheap products in-town that people would have to drive out of town to buy, I will disagree with you that that should be a rationale for bringing in a Target. However, it is a fair argument and not one that I am going to complain about.

However, the marketing of the “green Davis-friendly target” was nauseating beyond words. And duplicitous. They sold Target in Davis by changing their trademark color from red to green. Somehow that was supposed to symbolize that Target fit in with Davis values.

The Davis Enterprise in their October 15, 2006 endorsement of Target closed with this:
"Davis' Target store will be an environmental showplace as well--one of only 10 retail stores worldwide... that have achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification."
Theresa Francis in writing a letter to the Davis Enterprise actually had the best response, “I'm going to open a Hummer dealership in a giant LEED building; that way I can help save the environment.” And that sums it up. You have a giant corporation with world-wide impact on the environment. Opening a LEED building in Davis is not going to change that. Nor does it address the labor polices of the company which are also quite bad.

Both PG&E and Target have poor environmental records and both tried to sell themselves as environmentally friendly. It was an insult to the intelligence of the Davis voters. Unfortunately, this is not the only example of the pro-Target side trying to manipulate the voters on the issue of the environment.

On November 5, 2006 we write:
“A November 1, 2006 advertisement in the Davis Enterprise suggested that the EPA was in support of Measure K. The EPA spokesperson wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the Davis Enterprise, clarifying that the EPA had not taken a position on the Target Development.

The text quoted in the advertisement was verbatim from the emails exchanged between the EPA's Project Manager and Councilmember Don Saylor. However, those quotes were juxtaposed with other material to suggest that the EPA had in fact supported the measure. This is a clear attempt to change the meaning of the information that the EPA provided to Councilmember Saylor.

Saylor completely twisted the words of the EPA to suggest to the public that the EPA was supporting this project. This is a gross attempt by Saylor to manipulate the public into supporting the Target project and Measure K.”
The EPA then wrote a letter making it clear that they took “no position regarding the proposed Target development.”

This was just one of the misleading acts committed by Davis City Councilmembers acting as supporters of Measure K. Then we have the entire living wage issue. The major problem was that Target was proposing bringing in 200-250 jobs into Davis with their store opening. Now research suggests that is a misleading figure at best because there are generally coinciding job losses when big box retail stores open in a given market. However, even granting those figures, the average worker would make minimum wage. As recent statistics demonstrate, that is not even sufficient for a single-wage earner with no family to be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Davis.

Newly elected Councilmember Lamar Heystek raised this issue at one of his first council meetings on August 1, 2006. Heystek at that meeting asked for the council to agendize a living wage ordinance for discussion. The council majority voted down that request. Councilmember Stephen Souza specifically recommended to Heystek that he bring it up as a councilmember’s item and do the legwork himself. This led to an agenda item on the September 18, 2006 agenda to create a living wage that would pays workers of large retail stores $10/ hour instead of minimum wage.
  • Saylor complained at that meeting, “To bring it up as a discussion is appropriate. To bring it up as a full-blown ordinance for a first reading, that’s not talking about policy, that’s talking about politics in a lead-up to an election.”

  • Souza wrote a letter to the editor suggesting, “The particular living wage ordinance was trotted out at the last moment before other council members could review or comment on the measure.”
One of the points that Souza made on the night of September 18, 2006 was that he and Saylor had been working secretly on a project labor agreement. Until that moment the actions of Souza & Saylor were not known to either Mayor Sue Greenwald or Councilmember Lamar Heystek.
"We [Souza and Saylor] have been working on that and we've almost completed it, we're hoping that these actions won't jeopardize it, because all parties have been in agreement so far to date... We were hoping that we'd be able to bring that to you as an announcement, but we have not got it completed but we are very close to having it completed."
This rationale was used to quash the proposal for a living wage. However, we discovered in November, coincidentally right before the election, that there were negotiations for a project labor agreement but it involved not Target workers but those who would construct the Target store. So Souza clearly misled the community and the council of what was going on.

As we discussed at the time at some length, these negotiations occurred outside of the authorization by the City Council. Members of the Davis City Council, Souza and Saylor did this on his own.

Souza was misleading in his characterization at the September 18, 2006 meeting when he led us to believe that this would be some sort of broad labor agreement. Souza and Saylor were both unscrupulous in their back door deal cutting.

As Heystek would write in a letter to the Davis Enterprise:
“I am disappointed that the exclusive group working on behalf of Mr. Dewes is interested in pursuing labor issues only insofar as it will win the election for Target. Should Measure K pass, the days after Nov. 7 will surely test their mettle when it comes to fixing the long-term integrity of Target's labor practices. I invite them to express a full commitment to this issue by supporting legally tested safeguards such as a living-wage ordinance. It's the right thing to do.”
In the November 2, 2006 Davis Enterprise article Souza played down the importance of this announcement.
“We don’t want to make a big hoopla about this…We don’t want to say anything about it, and then after the election we could say something.”
You will note that the date this occurred was the Thursday before the election. You will also note that it is now nearly two months later and I have yet to hear an announcement of a project labor agreement. Was this a cynical manipulation by Souza and Saylor in order to prevail in what was a very close election?

Once again, we see a very deceptive campaign run by the supporters of the Target Project. The opposition to Target was outspent by nearly a 20-1 margin. The supporters of Target promised people cheap consumer goods, a green and a labor friendly Target, and that mustered them an impressive victory by less than 700 votes. The opposition to Target against all odds nearly were able to pull off an improbable victory only to come up just short. For that, the Target campaign and ballot measure is our No.3 story of 2006.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thursday briefs

Officer Pheng Ly's Survival is the Rule not the Exception

Bob Dunning in yesterday's column, unwittingly raises a very key issue when he comes forth with his top 10 list:
"Here then are the Top 10 stories you will not read about on Sunday morning.

1) Pheng Ly does not leave Davis. Despite having abuse heaped upon him right and left, Officer Ly reports for work every day and does the job he was hired to do. Lesser men would have left long ago."
Dunning describes this as though it were an unusual occurrence--a badge of honor if you will. In fact, if we look at the record of those accused and found guilty of police misconduct, it is filled with names who were not fired, were not driven out of the town on a rail, but rather a list of people who were promoted and awarded. As noted civil rights attorney John Burris, who specializes in police misconduct cases, points out in his book, Blue vs. Black, judgments and complaints are often never placed in an officer's service record and these officers remain in the police department often despite long lists of complaints and court judgments. They are then promoted into leadership positions where the problem not only continues but it is perpetuated.

While the Buzayan case is itself still being adjudicated and the officer's involved are presumed innocent, it is nevertheless interesting to note that three of the key actors in this case from the Davis Police Department all still have jobs, two of them have transferred to other departments with promotions, and one was named Officer of the Year in Davis.

Gina Anderson is now Lt. Gina Anderson of the Citrus Heights Police Department, she was given the transfer and promotion a few months ago despite being implicated for abuse of the internal investigation unit's power by threatening Halema Buzayan on tape with her mother's incarceration if she did not confess. In June, Police Chief Jim Hyde, himself strongly implicated in the event accepted a higher paying job with the City of Antioch. Finally, Pheng Ly while not promoted to our knowledge has received an Officer of the Year award in March as well an apology from the Mayor.

While we accept the notion of innocent until proven guilty, it seems untoward to give promotions to officer's under legal scrutiny and it seems even more untoward to promote officers who have long histories of complaints and malfeasance. Nevertheless, this is the way the police world works and Officer Ly's example is the rule and not the exception as Dunning would indicate.

Benefit for the Children of Myanmar on January 13, 2007

Max Harrington invites members of the Davis Community to the Palm Court Hotel on Saturday, January 13, 2007 from 6 - 8:30 PM for a win and dessert reception. Proceeds will go directly to help 185 children of the Myo Oo Orphanage in Myanmar.

Contact MCF USA Assistant Director Rita Montes-Martin at (530) 759-8434 or email her at:

For more information:

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our sixth installment, No.9 City Councilmember Stephen Souza’s failed attempt to merge the Senior Citizen’s Commission with the Social Services Commission.

As any experienced politician will tell you, the third rail in politics is taking on senior’s issues. It was an experience the Republican Party would learn to the hard way in 1995 when Bill Clinton was able to parlayed proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security into newfound traction against a Republican Congressional juggernaut fresh off impressive sweeps in the 1994 election. That rule applies no less in the city of Davis where now, Stephen Souza must grapple with an angry senior vote. What makes seniors a formidable force is not only their numbers but the fact that they all vote and they do not quickly forget who put their political power in jeopardy.

It is ironic that this issue comes out the outcrop of the last city commission battle with the HRC. There the council majority took advantage of the political weakness of the minority community to disband, put on hiatus, and finally severely curtail the power of the HRC. During the course of restructuring the HRC, the council subcommittee of two—Souza and Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson came up with the idea that they could merge the Senior Citizens Commission with the Social Services Commission.

Let us be clear on this issue, no matter how much Souza and Asmundson tried to back track off of their earlier claims and actions—the intent from the start was to merge the commissions. The rationale and the defense would come later.

As we discussed on December 14, 2006, the intent of Souza and Asmundson was merger not “generating discussion of the merger” as Souza would later post-hoc claim. Instead they placed on the September 12, 2006 council agenda a recommendation to merge the two commission along with a resolution that would enact that merger. The only reason it was not passed at that very meeting was that Councilmember Lamar Heystek and Mayor Sue Greenwald convinced the council majority to get more feedback.

Souza then took the item to both commission meetings. The Social Services Commission (stacked with a large number of council majority supporters) voted overwhelmingly to agree to the merger, but the Senior Citizens Commission strongly opposed such a merger. Led by Chair Elaine Musser Roberts, the Senior Citizens Commission fought back at the meeting, in the press, and in the community.

Armed with a petition of 140 Senior Citizens, Musser forced the council to backtrack. First staff recommended that they wait two years before reconsidering the merger and then finally the council put the idea to rest all together.

As we wrote at the time:
“The most striking part of this entire experience is the blatant dishonesty by the Councilmember Souza and Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson about their original intentions which were quite clear. They made serious errors about how they chose to approach this issue. It would have been a responsible thing to do to take a step back in September when these errors became apparent and put this process on a different trajectory. Instead, they tried to finesse around their mistakes and then deceive the public about their true intentions.”
For those who have not seen it, I highly recommend watching the video of Elaine Roberts Musser giving the council, specifically Souza and Asmundson a severe dressing down.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Best of Yolo County Blogs

In tonight's Woodland Daily Democrat, The People's Vanguard of Davis gets one of our blog entries excerpted on Page A8 on the Editorial Page.

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our fifth installment, No.8 Police Officer of the Year Pheng Ly.

On April 17, 2006, Judge Thomas Warriner dismissed the misdemeanor hit-and-run charged against 16-year-old Halema Buzayan. The family had complained about the conduct of Officer Pheng Ly during the course of his arrest and questioning of the minor. This case had become a focal point in the struggle for police oversight.

The father, Jamal Buzayan declared, “Case Dismissed, Justice is Done.”

Halema Buzayan said, "It's a really good day. I think it's a great feeling to know that justice has prevailed."

Just two weeks later however, the entire scene shifted. The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, in opposition to a ruling from Judge Warriner, released audio recordings of the hit-and-run investigation to the Davis Enterprise. The Davis Enterprise would run a front page story on April 28, 2006 and post those recordings on their website.

More damaging however was the April 30, 2006 Editorial from Davis Enterprise Editor Debbie Davis.
Listen for yourself, and then decide whether you believe Davis police Officer Pheng Ly was hostile, discriminatory or abusive when he arrested a Davis teenager last summer for suspected hit-and-run.

After hearing the audiotapes released Friday by the Yolo County District Attorney's Office, our answers are no, no and no.

Jamal Buzayan filed a citizen's complaint against the Police Department two days after his daughter Halema's arrest on June 13, 2005, saying the incident "went beyond the reasonable standards of acceptable, civilized behavior." He's wrong.

LISTEN FOR YOURSELF. The audiotapes are available on The Davis Enterprise's Web site, Click on the story "Audio of hit-run arrest revealing," and follow the links to the recordings.

You'll hear a Davis police officer discharging his duty to this community in a decidedly professional manner. He's doing his job, and he's doing it well. In every contact with the hit-and-run victim, the witness and every member of the Buzayan family, he is polite, respectful and professional.
(I will remind people once again, Debbie Davis is not a lawyer).

Bob Dunning on May 2, 2006, would follow up this editorial with his own remarks.
Frankly, I expected the tapes might provide a little something for everyone to hang their hats on. Maybe a harsh voice on one side or the other, or a moment of misunderstanding that would be interpreted one way by one group and another way by the opposite side, leading to one of those inevitable impasses where everyone digs in their heels and nobody wins.

I was wrong. There were no harsh voices, misunderstandings or unclear meanings on the tapes. They are straightforward and easy to understand. It would be hard for 100 impartial observers who know nothing of this case to not reach exactly the same conclusion about their contents.

And, while there are aspects of this case that people may wish to continue to argue about, one thing is clear from a close analysis of the tapes: Davis police Officer Pheng Ly is owed an apology by all those who have suggested he is a rogue cop motivated by both racial and religious discrimination.
That apology would come that evening at the Davis City Council.

Officer Ly addressed the council, "I am not bitter about what has happened to me. I have already forgiven and moved on. It is time for me to get back to working for the good citizens of this community."

Mayor Ruth Asmundson would utter that apology on behalf of the city. A few months later, some of the supporters of the Buzayans pointed out to the Mayor that Halema Buzayan had been arrested and had her case dismissed, was she not owed an apology as well. Asmundson’s response was that “I think Halema has learned her lesson.”

Despite Ly’s words that night that he was not bitter and that he had forgiven and moved on. His words on his website which was only taken down in the last few weeks say something very different:
“I hereby challenge the family (particularly the arrested minor) to take a polygraph test with me, regarding the facts surrounding this case, with an independent and certified company or polygrapher and that the results of those tests be immediately made public in their entirety. I have nothing to hide and want the truth to come out.

From the very beginning, it was crystal clear to me that the highly paid defense and wealthy family did not want this case to be tried in a court of law, where all the facts would have been legally brought out, but rather in the more ambiguous and inflammable court of public opinion through the careful use and manipulation of the media. Yes, the family has spent a lot of money over this "minor fender bender". In fact, they paid the other car owner almost $900 even though they denied ever hitting her car! Now if someone accused me of hitting their car or damaging their property and I know I didn't do it, I would never pay them off; particularly so quickly and especially with no questions asked! I believe this type of behavior is commonly referred to as "consciousness of guilt" in the legal system. This is clearly a wealthy family that believes they can buy their way out of any and everything.”
Yes, Officer Ly was not bitter, not bitter at all.

Like everyone else involved, Ly shifts the emphasis to demeanor and away from process.
“Was I so upset at the family that they truly thought I was going to physically strike them as they have accused me of? Was I rude, demeaning and yelling to the family when I questioned them as they have accused me of? Did I illegally question the minor without advising her of her Miranda rights and deny her an attorney or parent as they have accused me of?”
As we showed previously, the tapes clearly indicate that while Officer Ly read Miss Buzayan her Miranda rights, he ignored her request for counsel.

As the lawsuit alleges:
“Ly also challenged the Buzayans to take a polygraph, but conspicuously did not offer to answer questions regarding whether:

• He determined that members of the Buzayan family were making false statements, based upon his assumptions about their cultural characteristics;

• He lied to Andrienne Wonhof-Gustafson regarding the Buzayan families' willingness to pay for the damage to her vehicle regardless of fault;

• He instructed the Buzayan family to compensate Mrs. Wonhof-Gustafson, and then claimed that their willingness to do so was evidence of guilt;

• He lied to Dr. Buzayan when he claimed to want only to "speak to Halema;"

• After arresting Halema, he deliberately did not take her to a probation officer, as the law expressly requires;

• He entered the Buzayan home on the 13th of June, 2005, without a warrant, while concealing his intent to arrest Halema;

• He knew that Halema had asked for an attorney, and ignored her request;"
These matters will fortunately be sorted out in a court of law rather than in the Davis Enterprise or City Council Chambers. However, it seems irresponsible for an officer of the law to be making those types of accusations on a website. It is striking that the day the story on the Buzayans filing a lawsuit against the police came out in the Davis Enterprise, Officer Pheng Ly’s webpage came down. Moreover, it was completely irresponsible of Mayor Ruth Asmundson to apologize to Officer Ly on behalf of the city. When the lawsuit is finally adjudicated, Mayor Asmundson will have to answer for those words. She will either be vindicated by those words or she will be condemned for them. I think a responsible government official should have withheld comment until the civil case was resolved.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our fourth installment, No.4 Lamar Heystek is elected to the Davis City Council.

We were at the party at the University Inn on Richards Street at Davis, it was election night, nervously bustling with excitement. We've been here thousands of times before, but this one felt different, this night. It began to drag on, the numbers were not coming in. The machines were not working. Finally, we get the numbers from the absentee ballots. It does not look good for the progressives in Davis—Asmundson is leading the pack followed by Mike Levy. There in a distant fourth place is Lamar Heystek.

We had voted for the then-25-year-old Lamar Heystek just two years before. Unlike many, we had not trusted Souza or Saylor, and so Heystek was our third vote after Greenwald and Harrington. Heystek had run hard, but in the end, he was a 25-year-old fresh out of school. 2006 would be different. Heystek would spend two years working hard to make himself a strong candidate—working on city commissions (such as Parks and Recreation) as he worked at Safeway to put himself through graduate school. By 2006, he had emerged as one of two progressive backed candidates.

Flash forward to that night in June, it’s getting late, the returns are slowly, slowly trickling in, Heystek is moving up, Levy is moving down. But it’s now after 1 a.m., it’s been a long day, indeed a long campaign, and it doesn’t appear likely we’d get good results until the next morning. So we went home and fell into a restless sleep until awakened some time after four by a jubilant Lamar Heystek. He was ahead. But it was precarious. A slim lead over third place Levy and by an even slimmer margin he was behind Asmundson for MAYOR.

It took another ten days, but Heystek had won a seat on the Davis City Council. As intense as the build up, the results were almost anti-climatic. The result after days of recounting concluded with the exact same results that we had had that morning of June 7 following the election.

That anti-climax perhaps obscured just what a shocking event this indeed was. The conventional wisdom was that Asmundson would once again win as Mayor, but former Councilmember Stan Forbes, with experience and name recognition would be second, Heystek would finish third, and Mike Levy as the relatively unknown newcomer would finish a distant fourth and UC Davis student Rob Roy would finish an even more distant fifth. Instead, it was Heystek who would secured the second council seat missing by just 123 votes from becoming Mayor. Levy finished a strong third and Forbes finished in fourth, some 345 votes behind Heystek.

All the more remarkable because of the long and sustained heat that Heystek took for backing civilian police oversight and for his close political association with HRC Chair Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald. Yet in the face of intense scrutiny and pressure, Heystek never once wavered in his convictions.

During the final months leading up to the June city council election the Davis Enterprise (under the direction of Assistant Publisher/Editor Debbie Davis) would conduct biased and unfair reporting and editorializing in an attempt to discredit Halema Buzayan, her family, the Davis Human Relations Commission as well as anyone who spoke out in support of holding the Davis Police Department accountable to do competent, fair, honest and lawful work for the public they serve. Lamar Heystek spoke out in support of civilian police oversight, in support of the Human Relations Commission and the community leaders who had supported a civilian police oversight review board. Debbie Davis, her reporters and columnist Bob Dunning would feverishly work to convince the community that the arrest by Davis Police and the prosecution by the Yolo DA's Office of Ms. Buzayan was correct and that the Human Relations Commission was out of control. The Enterprise would publish only some of the tapes, omit evidence favorable to Ms. Buzayan from their articles, editorialize on the righteousness of the police conduct, endorse Asmundson and Levy for election and their columnist Dunning would come in for the kill.

On May 3, 2006, Dunning upon declaring the Davis Police Officer Pheng Ly audio tapes had nothing on them which would incriminate the officer, wrote, “the City Council candidate who stands to lose the most from the failure of the arrest tapes to deliver any damning evidence against the Davis Police is Lamar Heystek.”

The worst was perhaps a May 11, 2006 column from Dunning:
THE LATEST FROM LAMAR … candidate Heystek, perhaps sensing that public opinion in this contentious debate has suddenly and dramatically swung in favor of Officer Pheng Ly, has apparently come to the conclusion he is on the wrong side of this great divide and the momentum his campaign has been building in the last month is about to be derailed … how else to explain the panicky "press release" he fired off late last week that began, "No candidate realizes the need for vigorous law enforcement more than I do." … funny, that wasn't what he was saying just the other day about Officer Ly's vigorous enforcement of the law …

Lamar goes on to explain that two of his neighbors in East Oakland were shot to death, in part he says, because of the lack of a police presence … he concludes: "I pledge to you that I will remain committed to law enforcement that serves all our goals as a community: safety, freedom from fear, and justice for all." …

Great stuff, Lamar, but it's too little, too late … the public simply can't get out of its mind the image of you sitting next to Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald at one recent council meeting, clapping raucously each time a speaker approached the public microphone to batter the reputation of Officer Pheng Ly or demean the efforts of the Davis Police Department …
As usual Dunning swings and misses as he tries to gauge the degree of public backlash directed at Heystek for the crime of sitting next to Escamilla Greenwald at a city council meeting and advocating for a civilian police review board to guard against police misconduct. Too late? A month later, Heystek would become the youngest person elected to Davis City Council in over 30 years, while Dunning would have to resort to catcalls from the cheap seats every now and then.

The ugly side of Dunning would re-emerge in November with help from Noreen Mazelis.

Dunning wrote: "Writes my friend Noreen: '… Lamar Heystek will be on a panel with three other privileged men to discuss 'struggle.' " Dunning then adds: "... wow, nobody knows the trouble he's seen, overcoming his college education and teaching position at UC Davis to become one of the youngest City Council members in Davis city history ... struggle? ... Lamar? ... heck, he's not old enough to have even struggled with a razor ..."
And yet again, Dunning swings and misses. This time writing from a point of view of sheer ignorance, Dunning did not realize for some reason that not only does Heystek not come from a place of privilege, but he comes from some of the poorest parts of Oakland. Heystek used to have to run home with his twin brother from school to avoid being beaten up. His brother is now an elected school board member in the City of San Leandro and like Lamar a graduate from the Unversity of California (albeit Berkeley).

Heystek’s father put together a very modest living to raise two sons and a daughter, a Marine Corps veteran serving in Iraq. Heystek worked his way through school by working at Safeway, worked his way through graduate school, and worked his way right onto the city council.

Most of even his closest supporters did not realize how impoverished a background that Heystek has because he simply does not talk about. It was not a point in his campaign. It was something he lived through, does not like to reflect upon, and does not advertise.

What Heystek does advertise is sincere conviction. Barely seated on the Davis City Council, Heystek took up the fight for the living wage. Heystek brought the issue up in August 1, 2006. But the council majority wanted no part of it, however Souza specifically encouraged Heystek to bring it up on his own.

When Heystek did upon return from an August council hiatus in September, Saylor accused him of politicking.
(From the 9/20/06 Davis Enterprise) “There’s just a number of questions about this,” Councilman Don Saylor said. “To bring it up as a discussion is appropriate. To bring it up as a full-blown ordinance for a first reading, that’s not talking about policy, that’s talking about politics in a lead-up to an election.”
And yet, given the constraints placed upon Heystek by the council majority, he had little choice given the timeline for having the ordinance effect the Target proposal.

One of the reasons Souza gave for opposing the living wage was he and Saylor were working on a secret project labor agreement. From the September 18, 2006 meeting:
"We have been working on that and we've almost completed it, we're hoping that these actions won't jeopardize it, because all parties have been in agreement so far to date..."

Of course, in November, we find out that the project labor agreement had nothing to do with wages for Target employees. (By the way, it was reportedly imminent in November, I wonder if it has been completed?)

Undaunted Heystek continued the progressive fight for a living wage and opposing Target. The election of Lamar Heystek gave progressive Davis a fighter and champion for their cause who would not back down even when facing against long odds. For that, Heystek’s election ranks as the fourth biggest story of 2006.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, December 25, 2006

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our third installment, No. 10 Target gets placed on the ballot and Samantha McCarthy does a sit-in

Meeting until the late hours of the night, the meeting on June 20, 2006 was long and explosive. Council had a four-hour discussion, marred several times by tension and arguing both between the council majority and then Mayor Pro Tem Sue Greenwald, and also by the council (particularly Mayor Ruth Asmundson) and members of the community.

Supporters of the proposed Target argued that the store would increase shopping options for Davis consumers including providing them with cheap consumer goods and also generating revenue for the city through sales tax. Proponents argued that the Target would produce around $675,00 per year in sales tax revenue.

Opponents such as Mayor Pro Tem Sue Greenwald suggested that the figure compared Target to the revenue of a "vacant field" rather than an alternative development project. Greenwald's calculation placed the figure at closer to $125,000 per year or $2 per Davis resident.

Moreover, there were strong concerns by residents of the adjacent community that the project would disrupt and disturb their community. Some were concerned about traffic, crime, and noise. There was concern that the project was being built next to a super-fund cite. And finally there was a lot of concern about the effect that the Target would have on downtown business.

The council’s ultimate decision was put the issue on the ballot--a move that Greenwald called "cowardly."

Dissent erupted between the members of the council and also the council and the public over the issue of public comment.

First, there was debate among council over whether speakers who had commented on the issue at the previous meeting could speak again. Then there was strong opposition when Asmundson ended the public comment period.

Samantha McCarthy would sit down in the middle of the floor in protest. "Refusing to leave had nothing to do with Target. It was a matter for fairness and process."

The meeting stopped while McCarthy ignored requests that she leave the meeting. Asmundson halted the meeting and four officers and one sergeant (the entire police force on duty at that time) reported to the meeting.

McCarthy: "There was a few minutes more of comments to go and that alone should have triggered a time extension. Ruth has publicly stated that council meetings are for council business and that if people want to talk they can see her during office hours. She has forgotten totally about public comment being for the public and not just for council. That meetings INCLUDING public comment are for all to view and see and that as of yet her office is not included as a public forum."

McCarthy would eventually leave the room on her own and the meeting resumed at around 9:25 p.m. So the council in trying to save time actually ended up taking up 25 additional minutes diffusing the situation. It seems more reasonable to have just allowed the public to speak and if it takes longer than you want, that's the price of democracy.

The next week the council would put the HRC on hiatus and McCarthy had an angry outburst, prompting Mayor Asmundson to again threaten to close down the meeting and having Steve Pierce remove McCarthy from the room. Pierce looked at McCarthy and shrugged as though to say, I don't want any part of this one.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sunday Midday Briefs

Closing Valley Oak School will Disadvantage Children Already Disadvantaged

Undoubtedly, one of my favorite columns to read in the Enterprise comes from Jann Murray-Garcia and Jonathan London.

Dr. Murray-Garcia this week writes about the potential closing of Valley Oak, a subject we touched on a few weeks ago that stirred a great deal of controversy. I think Dr. Murray-Garcia does an excellent job of summing up my feelings on the subject.
She writes: "While we recognize that it is not the intent of the Davis school board, the residents of Davis or the Mace Ranch residents to hurt these children..."
This is exactly how I feel. However, my column somehow gave the sense that there was blame placed on the parents in Mace Ranch, when that was not the intention at all.
She continues: "We have to face squarely and honestly that we will likely exacerbate the disadvantage current Valley Oak students face if their neighborhood school is closed."
This was our chief concern--the welfare of the children who go to Valley Oak school.
She asks: "How can we argue against closing Valley Oak without pitting the good people of Davis' neighborhoods against one another?"
This is the toughest question of them all--for if you accept that there are finite resources and that the school district has too many schools for too few pupils, then how do we reconcile these problems?
Finally, she sums it up: "We don't pretend to have the right answer to this difficult problem. But we do know our solution should not result in further disenfranchising those least able to bear those short- and long-term consequences."
Exactly. This issue needs to be raised within this community precisely because the answer is difficult and yet the problem is clear.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our second installment, No. 5 PG&E spends $11 million to defeat the Sacramento Municipal Utility District Yolo Annexation Vote...

There was a long-time effort on the part of Yolo County elected officials to bring public power to Yolo County through the annexation of the Yolo County power infrastructure to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). The remarkable thing is that elected officials who can hardly agree that the sky is blue all came together to support this proposal--city councilmembers from the three major cities in the county, every member of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, and even school board members and special district unanimously supported the SMUD annexation.

In many ways, it seemed like a slam-dunk--at least in Yolo County. Unfortunately, this was not a level playing field. It was one heavily tilted toward the electricity giant, PG&E. Yolo County had to pass not one but two measures--H and I-- and Sacramento County had to consent to the expansion of SMUD into Yolo County through the passage of Measure L (not to be confused with the Davis Measure L in support of Choice Voting).

The battle lines for this election were drawn early.
  • SMUD estimated Yolo County energy customers would save $148 million over 20 years if they switched providers.

  • Pacific Gas & Electric Co. estimated the move would cost this area's customers $835 million.
The dispute had to do with the value of PG&E's infrastructure and facilities.
  • SMUD estimated that value was between $86 million and $133 million.

  • PG&E on the other hand, estimated that its facilities were worth more than $500 million.
Those cost differences accounted for roughly half of the difference in the projected cost to Yolo County energy consumers. The rest of the difference was derived from predictions about the future cost of natural gas, a key component for generating electricity.

PG&E aside from the structural advantage of only having to prevail on one of three measures, had one other key advantage--virtually unlimited resources. They spent $11 million on their campaign to convince Yolo County voters that this was too risky. SMUD, on the other hand, could spend no campaign money as they are a public agency and prevented from doing so. So grass roots citizen driven campaign organizations ran the Yes on H & I (Yes on SMUD) campaign in Yolo County raising from local businesses and the general public just over $100,000 to fight PG&E's propaganda machine.

PG&E's strategy was first, to cast doubt on the fact that Yolo County consumers would save money by switching to SMUD.

Second, PG&E presented themselves as environmental friendly and SMUD as enemies of the environment.

The People's Vanguard of Davis devoted numerous articles to discussing this topic.

One of the more duplicitous tactics by PG&E and their campaign consultants was the mailer sent to Davis households that suggested that a vote for PG&E was equivalent to a vote against Covell Village.

In the end, the deck was stacked against a victory by SMUD. Measure H narrowly prevailed in Yolo County. Measure I narrowly was defeated in Yolo County. But Yolo County was irrelevant as Measure L was overwhelmingly defeated by a huge margin in Sacramento County.

As I wrote in the post mortem:
"Even granting the large defeat in Sacramento County, I'm a bit disappointed with the Yolo County results. Had Yolo solidly voted to support SMUD, it would have been a loud and clear signal. First, that PG&E could not buy our votes with their ten million dollar plus campaign, fraught with deception. Second, that we were not happy with our service from PG&E."
In the end, the process concerned me much more than the outcome. In politics you win or lose. But there is a bitter pill to be swallowed when you face a corporation with unlimited resources who unleashes their money and propaganda in ways designed to confuse the voters.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saturday Afternoon Briefs

Vanguard gets mention in letter to the editor

Featured in Friday's Davis Enterprise Letter's to the Editor:
Council's action was the right one

On Dec. 12, the Davis City Council decided unanimously to keep its Senior Citizens Commission just as it has always been. It will not be merged with any other commission, but will remain in place as it has ever been since 1973. The City Council's determination also makes clear the decision will not be tabled, as suggested by staff, but is final.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to all those seniors who gathered signatures for petitions to leave their commission alone and to those who had the courage to put pen to paper in signing those same petitions. The City Council finally heard your voices, loud and clear. Senior citizens are considered a vital part of the Davis community, deserving of full commission status.

The Davis Enterprise was instrumental in getting the word out about our struggle to keep this commission alive. The groundswell of support began from an initial letter to the editor, and grew in momentum. Eventually we caught the attention of reporter Claire St. John, who covered the story in several articles, two on the front page. Much to my surprise, I discovered we were also being written about on the Vanguard Internet blog.

The light of day being shone on our local political process should have been a result of following our commission guidelines. Those guidelines include the all-important Brown Act — often referred to as the "sunshine law." It requires that all business conducted by local government be given proper notice to afford opportunity for public comment.

That process is there for a very good reason, and should always be followed to the letter. Not only does adhering to sunshine laws encourage honest and open government, it is a statutory requirement. For any part of a local administration to circumvent the requisite notice and opportunity to be heard does nothing but invite censure, antagonism and cynicism of our government institutions.

I look forward to far brighter days ahead.

Elaine Roberts Musser


Survey finds apartment vacancy down, rental rates up

On Thursday, UC Davis released a survey on apartment vacancy. It found that "the apartment vacancy rate in the city of Davis declined to 1.8 percent this fall, and rental rates rose by an average of 2.6 percent."

Moreover, the average rent for a two-bedroom apparent (44 percent of the units in the survey) rose from $1,092 to $1,112.

This is a stunning increase in the ten years that I have lived in this community. In 1996, when I moved here, I paid half that rent for a two-bedroom apartment that I shared with a buddy.

This study coupled with the study we cited on Thursday about the amount of money per hour it takes to be able to afford to live in an apartment in Yolo County provides startling evidence that Davis is pricing the average college student out of this community.

It appears that the No.1 priority of the new general plan should be focused on providing affordable apartment rentals for UC Davis students seeking go to the university. And second, that in order to continue to attract world class scholars to this university, we need to provide housing that young assistant professors can afford.

The City of Davis needs to take this issue much more seriously. And the university needs to step in as well and either provide housing for new faculty, as other universities do, or partner with the City of Davis to do likewise. The vitality of this community depends on this.

It seems fairly obvious that any new development project needs a much higher proportion of their units to be affordable to lower and middle income households than are currently mandated. This needs to be a priority in Davis if we are to maintain the unique flavor of this community.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We begin with No.7: Bob Dunning versus the ACLU.

On April 25, 2006, the Davis Enterprise obtained the audio tapes from the arrest of a 16-year-old minor. Two days later, reporter Lauren Keene ran a front page article on the tapes, complete with interviews of Deputy District Attorney Patricia Fong and Defense Attorney for the Buzayans, Whitney Leigh. In addition to the story, the Davis Enterprise took the amazing step of posting the tapes on their website for the entire community to listen to.

That Sunday Davis Enterprise Assistant Publisher/ Editor Debbie Davis wrote in a main editorial about the content of the tapes:
“LISTEN FOR YOURSELF. The audiotapes are available on The Davis Enterprise's Web site, Click on the story "Audio of hit-run arrest revealing," and follow the links to the recordings. You'll hear a Davis police officer discharging his duty to this community in a decidedly professional manner. He's doing his job, and he's doing it well. In every contact with the hit-and-run victim, the witness and every member of the Buzayan family, he is polite, respectful and professional.”
However, Debbie Davis is not an attorney and has no legal training. Therefore, it seems actually inappropriate for her to be making legal judgments. She is certainly able to make general comments about what she heard, but by pronouncing him as doing his job and doing it well, without any legal training, she is making legal judgments that she lacks the training to be able to make. Her statements about his demeanor rather than the legality of his conduct confuse the point for the average reader.

The local Yolo County ACLU (attorneys Bill Kopper, Natalie Wormeli and Paul Gerowitz) was very concerned about the propriety of this case and also the coverage of this case. They were extremely critical of the conclusions reached by the Davis Enterprise Editorial Board and Chief Editor, Debbie Davis. They wrote an Op-ed that appeared in the Davis Enterprise on Sunday May 7, 2006.
“The Davis Enterprise's editorial last Sunday touting the propriety of Officer Pheng Ly's conduct in the Halema Buzayan case does a disservice to the citizens of Davis. The editorial demonstrates a profound ignorance of the facts of the case, and also the law. Officer Ly's conduct was not proper or lawful.”
The ACLU makes two key points:
  • First, “Officer Ly pursued an action against the Buzayan family without carefully examining the damage to the two vehicles involved in the hit-and run.”

  • Second, Officer Ly made an illegal arrest by arresting the minor for “a misdemeanor charge committed outside his presence without an arrest warrant.”
The bulk of the ensuing debate would focus on point two—whether an officer can make such an arrest of minor as a specific clause in California law.

Robert Day wrote a letter to the editor published in the Davis Enterprise citing this clause:
“California Welfare and Institutions Code 625(a) specially provides for the probable cause arrest of a minor without a warrant for both misdemeanors and felonies. This is a departure from the law as it applies to adults.”
Day fails to identify himself as a retired member of the Yolo County District Attorney’s office. Day and Tim Talbot who represents the DPOA (Davis Police Officer’s Association) begin feeding Davis Enterprise Columnist Bob Dunning information to combat the ACLU’s position on the second issue.

Bob Dunning on May 12, takes his first shot with an entire column devoted to the issue:
Far be it for me, a nonlawyer sitting in the bleacher seats, to question the opinions of three of this county's finest legal minds, but California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 625 says 'A peace officer may, without a warrant, take into temporary custody a minor: (a) Who is under the age of 18 years when such officer has reasonable cause for believing that such minor is a person described in Section 601 or 602.'”
Bill Kopper then responds to Dunning, with an email to Debbie Davis that was printed at least in portions in Bob Dunning’s May 16 column (by the way notice the Dunning tactics here):
“On Saturday, Enterprise Editor and Assistant Publisher Debbie Davis, who has been my immediate supervisor at this newspaper for many years, received the following e-mail from Bill Kopper, a local attorney and former mayor who the previous Sunday had co-authored an op-ed piece in The Davis Enterprise contending that Officer Pheng Ly's conduct in the Halema Buzayan case "was not proper or lawful."
Said Kopper's e-mail to Davis: "Mr. Dunning's May 12th column lambasting Ms. Wormeli, Mr. Gerowitz and myself about our May 7th Op. Ed. is particularly offensive because [attorney and retired administrative law judge] Mel Trujillo had informed Mr. Dunning that he was incorrect on the law (and the precise reasons Mr. Dunning was incorrect) prior to Mr. Dunning writing the column."
Continued the e-mail: "Officer Ly was not permitted to take Halema down to the police station, question her, and arrest her without an arrest warrant under the auspices of Welfare and Institutions Code section 625."
Kopper then went on to argue why "statutory law and case law absolutely prohibits Officer Ly's conduct toward Halema without an arrest warrant."
Note this part: (Dunning continues)
“Kopper's charge, basically, is that I wrote a column knowingly using false information. He makes this contention based on the alleged timing and the alleged contents of a phone conversation he was not a party to. It's hearsay at best, and an outright falsehood at worst. Plus, you'd have to agree that the information I allegedly "received" was accurate, on point and overwhelmingly conclusive.”

Dunning then proceeds to argue points of law—(after admitting that he was a "nonlawyer) which obviously required some assistance since he’s not a practicing attorney. The assistance came from Mr. Day and Mr. Talbot.

This episode succeeded in creating a tremendous amount of uncertainty about the Buzayan case to the point where few in the community were certain about whether or not Officer Ly acted properly or improperly (mission accomplished!). One thing became very clear to this blogger—Bob Dunning was carrying the water for the Davis Police Department and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office. There was no effective way to communicate with the public without the interference of Dunning. There was no effective way to win a debate against Dunning. That is a tremendous amount of (largely unchecked) power.

Dunning’s bottom line is this:
“In the California case ‘In re Samuel V.’ the court clearly states, ‘On this appeal we determine Welfare and Institutions Code section 625, subdivision (a) does not violate federal constitutional equal protection rights of a juvenile by allowing a peace officer to arrest juvenile misdemeanants solely on probable cause without a warrant or any requirement the offense be committed in the officer's presence.’

That case seems to answer most of the questions raised about the propriety of the arrest of Halema Buzayan: probable cause, no warrant and the arrest of a juvenile for a misdemeanor not committed in the officer's presence.”
Sorry Mr. Dunning, but that does not even address (let alone answer) most of the questions about the propriety of the arrest because you failed to address the central contention as directed in Section 625 and 626 of the California Welfare and Institutions code.

Bill Kopper writes the Editor of the Davis Enterprise published on May 26, 2006:
California law barred Officer Pheng Ly's arrest of Halema Buzayan without a warrant. The law in this area has been settled for more than 25 years.

Bob Dunning and others rely on Welfare and Institutions Code section 625, which allows an officer to take a minor into temporary custody without a warrant. If an officer takes a minor into custody under section 625 for a nonviolent misdemeanor, WIC sections 626 and 626.5 require the officer to immediately take the minor before a probation officer. An officer cannot take the minor to the police station for questioning before taking her to the probation officer. (In Re Michael E, 112 Cal.App.3d 74.)


The best that can be said is that Dunning was careless. Mel Trujillo advised Dunning to review WIC sections 626 and 626.5 the day before his column was printed. Dunning did not ask the ACLU why we concluded Officer Ly's conduct was illegal before he published his column. Apparently, Dunning still does not understand the shortcomings of his legal analysis.
According to Buzayan Attorney Whitney Leigh, this still constitutes an illegal arrest precisely because Officer Pheng Ly failed to follow the provisions of the aforementioned code.
“Pursuant to California Welfare and Institutions Code Sections 625 and 626, Officer Ly was required to take Halema, a minor, to a probation officer prior to conducting any interview with Halema. But Ly deliberately disregarded this rule in a blatant effort to exploit a minor in confessing to a hit and run outside of the presence of her parents. Ly later attempted to justify his nighttime arrest of Halema in her pajamas based upon his need to ensure that the minor and her parents would not engage in a further conspiracy.”
This critical provision in the code was conveniently omitted by Dunning in his discussion and for good reason—it undermined his case. However, this give and take between Kopper and Dunning shows us clearly and distinctly, whose side Dunning was on in this case. He was far from the neutral bystander that he portrays himself as.

This was a crucial development in the Buzayan case and the City Council races in May of 2006. For that, this earns our No.7 story of the year.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday Briefs

Programming note

In the last days of this year, we will have our year in review where we present the top 10 Davis Political Stories of 2006.

Khalid Berny

The first week of January, the People's Vanguard of Davis will have a full exclusive interview with Khalid Berny. Berny is a Clarkburg resident accused of allowing his goats to roam at-large--charged with 170 misdemeanor accounts.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Berny case is once again, we have the Yolo County District Attorney's office suggesting that if Mr. Berny dropped his civil lawsuit against the Sheriff's Department, the District Attorney's Office would drop criminal charges against Mr. Berny. This was similar to Deputy District Attorney Patricia Fong who justified the prosecution of Halema Buzayan because the family was planning a civil suit against the Davis Police Department.

We'll have the full story in January, but people need to start asking tough questions about the operation of the Yolo County District Attorney's Office.


Recently the National Public Radio stations broadcast a program about volunteers who provide respite services for the caregivers of homebound frail elderly. For listeners who live in Yolo County, this might have sounded familiar. Citizens Who Care Inc. of Yolo County (CWC) has been providing this service to hundreds families since we began as a local non-profit volunteer agency in 1988.

In fact, volunteers of CWC were assisting elders as early as 1975 under the umbrella of the county Mental Health Association. Especially during the holiday season, the stress on caregivers is great. A little time off can lift the burden a little, offering a chance to do errands, visit others, or simply rest. In an angry and problem-riddled world, here is something everyone can do to help others and strengthen families. It makes the whole community a stronger and better place. Call to volunteer, to make a donation, or buy a ticket to our Winter Concert fundraiser on February 17 & 18. Our phone number is 758-3704.

You will feel good knowing you have made the holidays brighter for our elders and their families.

Ken Wagstaff
Executive Director
Citizens Who Care

All letters or guest commentary should be sent to:

Stunning Poll on Iraq:
Withdrawn on a fixed timetable: 52%
Kept in Iraq to secure the country: 26%
More troops should be sent: 12%


Source: Times/Bloomberg poll
The significance of this poll is that only 12% of Americans polled support increasing troop strength in Iraq. I don't know if I've ever seen a poll where public opinion is running 78-12 against a policy that the President seems to be proposing. The president may be leading but no one is following him.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

The death of blogging?

It only makes sense that we started this week with a story about the death of newspapers and now apparently the newspapers have fought back with their own story about the death of blogging.

Marc Fisher of the Washington Post writes in yesterday citing a British firm Gartner which does a study and prediction based on statistics that purportedly show that some 200 million people worldwide who had started blogs have already given them up.

Those who predict a quick end for blogging have missed essential points about blogging in general. First of all, blogging has evolved over time to the current form. The internet was immediately a source of information and also interactive information. The rise of blogging has actually occurred over the entire lifespan of the web (and the mass web).

Blogging fills several fundamental niches (holes if you will) in the reporting/ news industry. First, it gives people a source for unfiltered information. We no longer have to rely on large corporations to purchase printing presses in order to be able to quickly and easily disseminate information. Am I overstating it to say that blogging is as revolutionary a concept as Guttenberg's printing press and the ability to mass produce written information? If so, not by much.

Second, in a conversation yesterday I had about blogging, the idea came up that newspapers are general interest papers--they have to cover everything. The Davis Enterprise has to cover the city council meeting but also Davis-fest. The Sacramento Bee covers Davis, but also Sacramento and many over communities in their media market. Blogs can cover very specific topics. No newspaper could focus solely on Davis politics and survive. But a blog for the most part can.

Third, blogs provide the public with an outlet for interactive communication. The difference between a newspaper and a blog is amazing in terms of the ability of blogs to interact with their readers. My readers can respond immediately and for the most part without fear of censorship. Newspapers require letters to the editor, separated by time and restricted by editorial decisions.

Fourth, the ability to get news that no one else covers. The ability for Senator Allen's comments about "Macaca" and Senator Burn's comments about firefighters were able to bypass traditional media censors and be halfway across the cyber-world before the traditional media sources even knew what was happening.

All of these point to an evolution in the way that blogging happens. Those who practice blogging as a hobby may indeed drop off. But think about this for a second--the Daily Kos gets millions of hits a day. Clearly, they are feeding a niche and a market that the current media do not tap. That is not to say the process will not continue to evolve. The most striking thing is that Marc Fisher writes about the end of blogging on a Washington Post blog.

Blogging is here to stay. Mass media will continue to develop and the process will be better for it.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Affordable Housing Needs to be a Priority

According to a report released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition on Friday, December 17, 2006, in order for a Yolo County Family to afford a two-bedroom apartment, they must earn $17.50 per hour.

A family in Yolo County who makes minimum wage needs to work 104 hours per week. It requires a minimum of 2.6 jobs to be able to afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Yolo County.

More alarmingly is that in order to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Yolo County, one must work 85 hours per week.

These data are available at: click here for data

This is for Yolo County as a whole, it does not break it down by city. However since the average home price is over 25% higher in the City of Davis than the county overall, it seems likely that in Davis, those average apartment rents would be even higher.

Once again, this give us a startling example that the jobs that are being brought with the counstruction of a Davis Target are not going to be sufficent for the workers to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Davis.

The Davis Enterprise on Sunday quoted the executive director Robert Wiener:

"Every year it is becoming more difficult for low-income families to find decent homes they can afford in California... This report clearly illustrates the pressing need for affordable housing in our communities."

As the city council begins to look at the general plan, they need to seriously address the issue of affordable housing in Davis. Living wage laws would help in this regard, but we cannot increase these wages to $17.50 per hour or even higher. The bulk of that difference needs to come in the form of providing the average working person a place where they can afford housing. Otherwise, all Davis is doing by bringing in businesses like Target, is create a bunch of new commuter jobs for Dixon or West Sacramento residents.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

A Vote for Arnold was a Vote for More Prisons

Yolo County has generally been a reliably Democratic County. In 2004, Kerry received 59% of the vote in Yolo County to Bush’s 39 percent of the vote. In fact, Yolo in 2000 was one of only six California counties to oppose Proposition 22, which limited marriages to those legally sanctioned unions between a man and a woman.

So it comes as a bit of a shocker to see Arnold Schwarzenegger win Yolo County by double-digit margins. Did Yolo suddenly become a Republican County? As we look down ticket, the answer is an emphatic no, all Democrats down ticket won by at least double digits and some gained over 60 percent of the vote. The only other Democrat to lose was Bustamante who lost by three percent, in a race that he lost by huge margins statewide. It’s safe to say, Democrats in Yolo County outperformed their margins of victory statewide.

I am left to the conclusion that a large number of otherwise reliable Democratic voters switched sides to vote for Arnold. While Angelides ran an amazingly flat race, I think Democrats quickly forgot about the 2005 special elections where Arnold went after unions, teachers, nurses, etc. Did Arnold suddenly become a Democrat?

On Monday, the Sacramento Bee wrote an article, “Fears of welfare, health cuts.” Apparently the state of California is projected a $5.5 billion shortfall and the fear among advocates for working families and the poor is that he is going to once again balance the budget on the backs of those individuals who can least afford it.

To make matters worse, yesterday, the Bee ran an article, “$10 billion plan for new prisons readied.”

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is preparing to roll out a plan next year that will call for about $10 billion in construction for prisons, jails and medical facilities, and include support for a sentencing commission, according to sources familiar with the proposal.

Sources said the breakdown on funding would allocate about $4.4 billion to prisons and re-entry institutions, $4.4 billion for county jail and juvenile beds and $1 billion for medical facilities to satisfy court monitors in two federal cases overseeing health care and treatment of the mentally ill.”

We already spend around $6 billion per year just on correctional facilities. Do we need improved prison facilities? By all means. But this is a question about budget priorities and the distribution of very scarce resources. The governor is threatening to cut money to the poor while additional money is being allocated to correctional facilities.

The thing about correctional facilities is that they are in essence a "black hole." When you put money into education, you are making an investment--you are putting money into educating our youth now, so that they can be more productive in the future. When you put money into health care, you are making an investment--you allow people to get medical treatment now which allows them to live better and more productively in the future. When you put money into prisons, you are throwing it into a black hole. It bandages the problem of having too many inmates, but it does nothing to prevent people from ending up in prison to begin with.

It is very simple. When Democrats vote for Republicans, even moderate Republicans, even when there is a strong Democratic majority in both houses of the legislature, they are voting for priorities and Republicans place prisons as a priority over health care, over the poor, and over education.

That is the bottom line. But it is a lesson that Yolo County Democrats have not learned. Many prominent ones have continued to back Republicans in non-partisan races over Democrats. That is part of the same problem, because now you are advancing the career of young Republican officeholders at the expense of Democrats for what is at best a short-term gain. When Republicans get elected to office, we know what happens and we know whose priorities suffer. We ought to never forget.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting