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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Post-Mortem: Davis Voters Approve Target Narrowly

Despite being heavily outspent by well over a 10:1 ratio, the grass-roots progressives who fought against a Target in Davis fought valiently and made this race much closer than I predicted.

The Don't Big-Box Davis people blasted out a statement early this morning:
"The election results show that there was no mandate for bringing a Target store to Davis - a razor-thin majority of votors chose faceless big-box retail, despite the obvious negative effects it will have on our city."
In the end, I believe that most people in Davis who ended up voting for this project were not ideological about their decision. They liked the idea of a cheap and convenient place where they could do their shopping.

I can appreciate that desire, particularly among the student population who lack resources and sometimes the ability to drive outside of town. The real question that I think a more responsible city council should have addressed was this: if we need a cheap and convenient place to shop for a variety of items, is Target the best option?

In the end, the Council Majority favored the building of Target--the four members who placed this on the ballot all endorsed it. We never had a true discussion about alternatives to Target. Instead we had another hard fought and bitterly divisive election that pinned citizen against citizen and merchant against merchant. And we'll see where this ends up. But the council has in the past expressed concerns about a bitterly divided community--and yet their own actions contribute to it. They dismissed, remember, the HRC because they felt it was dividing the community.

For me, I worry about the divide in this community between the progressive left that I have affinity to and those who seem much more pro-development even as it changes the nature and character of this community.

But I worry far more about the cynical manipulations that we have seen in the effort to get these things past. I wasn't heavily involved in Davis politics last year for Covell Village. I saw some of the tactics second and third hand and they were concerning.

This time there were a few issues that really struck as misleading and underhanded.

First, the whole Green Target issue. Look, it's Target, it's a large corporation, they buy products from sweat shops, they buy products that are not produced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. If that doesn't matter to you--that's fine, but let's not pretend like we can have a green Target. Let's not pretend that putting a Target in a LEED building is going to make environmentally friendly. That's a cynical and manipulative ploy.

Second, the issue of tax revenue. We never had a realistic discussion on how much revenue would come in, how much would be transferred from one sector to another, and finally how much Target would produce versus how much an alternative might produce.

Third, the issue of jobs which related to living wage. Fact is, people who work at Target will not be able to reside in Davis and that means that any benefit of drawing jobs into Davis will be negated by the loss of transfer of money from worker to economy.

Fourth, as we've been covering all week, the cynical manipulation of Davis voters on the issue of the PLA and labor peace. The railroading of Lamar Heystek's proposal to create a living wage ordinance under false guise that there was a deal in the works and this would jeopardize it. It turns out, as we have reported, there is no such overlap.

Finally, how much of the background activity by Souza and Saylor that took place without Council knowledge or approval, bent or broke laws. We need to have a fair accounting of that, I urge the Mayor and Councilmember Heystek to press for an investigation into these activities.

I do not think these issues are over and I urge the citizens of Davis to press their elected officials for answers on some of the behind the scenes activities that have been revealed.

In the end, the Council got their project, the slight majority got their cheap and convenient shopping outlet, and now the question is, what will be the price we pay for all of this. We'll find out in the next several years.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting