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Friday, August 04, 2006

Power Broker

The Davis City Council now hold a roughly 3-2 balance on issues of controversy. The former council held a 4-1 balance with only Sue Greenwald representing the progressives on most issues. She seemed a bit of a slow learner on the police issue, but she came around on that by the mid-to-end of the last term.

In many ways, a 3-2 balance makes things more interesting than a 4-1. With a 4-1, there is not a lot of chance for maneuvering. And there is also safety in numbers, as no one member has to cast the deciding vote.

We watched Stephen Souza on Tuesday try to establish himself somewhat in the middle on one issue. Lamar Heystek, introduced a motion to give the public a chance to opt out of aerial spraying. As a courtesy, Sue Greenwald seconded that motion. (This is going to be a big difference with this council, as last council this would have never even gotten a discussion. Now with two members in the minority, Sue will not have a countless string of motions die for a lack of a second. That does not mean they will prevail, only that there will be a fuller discussion). In the end, even Sue defeated that motion.

However, Heystek made a second motion, to cover only ground spraying, this time Souza seconded it. And it ended up passing, 4-1, with Ruth Asmundson joining in. Bob Dunning discussed some of this in his column last night, but of course left out the second motion and the fact that it carried. He only criticized Lamar for trying to appeal to the "CAVERS." Interesting that it was my impression that he was being brave by sticking himself out on the line. But I guess that's a matter of perception.

All of which leads back to my initial point--will there be a consistent 3-2 block on most issues, or will Stephen Souza attempt to become a power broker and be a swing vote. Will he swing on important core issues or on the periphery?

I've been disappointed with Souza on the issue of the police. He has personally witnessed police misconduct. He has in the past been a fighter for civil rights and civil liberties. But last term, he was clearly with the 4-1 council majority on this issue. He's also been a staalwart on growth issues--siding with the developers each time. Yet he has a chance to be a huge factor on the council, but he'd have to break from the Saylor-Asmundson voting block to do so. He has yet to show the willingness to do that--at least not on a vote that matters.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting