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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Why is Davis Suing Dixon?

As the Davis Enterprise reported last week, Davis is suing Dixon over the construction of Dixon Downs racetrack. The basic problem is the concern that the racing events will let out and dump a huge amount of traffic onto I-80 at the same time. Bill Emlen, Davis City Manager, was quoted at suggesting: "This type of event has major pulses of traffic that come out of it."

Apparently, the racetrack at Golden Gate Fields at Albany near Berkeley has caused similar problems in the Bay Area where the event traffic mixes with the normal high volume flow of traffic to create even more gridlock.

The Davis City Council is not trying to stop the project per se—although it does not appear that would not disappoint them greatly—rather they are trying to get the City of Dixon to mitigate for the expected flow of traffic. Meanwhile there are movements underfoot in Dixon to put the manner to the ballot and the Davis City Council hopes their action will move that towards reality.

While on the surface this seems like another crazy Davis move, there is a logic to it. The City of Dixon was apparently very unresponsive to concerns by the City of Davis about traffic problems. Bill Emlen actually went before the Dixon City Council to express those concerns, but they were not addressed. The City made several other attempts to communicate through written correspondence but Dixon did not respond. This lack of responsiveness by one jurisdiction to another is rather appalling.

Nevertheless, judging from the early public response to this move, Davis has a lot of explaining to do to this community to get them to understand their rationale behind this somewhat shocking move.

It has been my experience that cities and other jurisdictions involved in ongoing litigation are less than forthcoming with pertinent facts to the public. The political realm is often at odds with the legal realm in this manner. In the political world, the public demands to be fully informed about such maneuvers. However, in the legal world, such maneuvers are often hashed out, as this one was, in private session. That means the public will necessary not be privy to the information and discussions that led up to such an endeavor. When the final decision comes forth it is often shocking. Moreover, there is a tendency for all parties to “lawyer-up” or shutdown communications about the manner pending court action.

The Davis City Council needs to lay out in as much detail as possible the exact reasons for their decision to sue the City of Dixon, so that the public can be fully informed about their rationale.

A second area of concern is the need for this action to occur in the first place. While the City of Dixon is autonomous in terms of city government from the City of Davis, there is also an overlap of resources. For instance, there are strong laws dealing with how running water must be treated in this country. In many ways, common thoroughfares are just as much public goods as natural resources. It is shocking that in this day and age, the only recourse that the City of Davis has is litigation. This is obviously something that should be taken up at the state level, but it is surprising that there are no other means by which to settle the dispute over highway usage, than the courts.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting