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Friday, October 06, 2006

More on Saylor and the Living Wage

Listening to Saylor again talking about the living wage a number of things strike me once again. You have a real sense of viciousness cloaked in a veneer of decency by the calm and measured tone that Saylor uses.

But the most striking thing is the sense you get when reading the Souza letter to the editor--Saylor says he supports the concept of living wages, but his words betray him. Listen carefully, when he talks about the notion of $10/ hour wage, he says that this may end up costing jobs. That's the argument used against minimum wage increases (which is essentially what this is). Saylor claims to support the living wage but uses the argument of the opposition? And that's where Saylor trips himself up for the observant listener. Of course, he knows he's giving this speech at 12:45 am and that the audience undoubtedly is small. But for one of those rare moments the Davis Enterprise and Claire St. John picked up on this display and called Saylor and Souza for what they were doing--trying to intimidate and browbeat Heystek.

It is worth mentioning yet again that the complaint that Heystek was using this to electioneer and that he waited to the last minute is not credible. Heystek introduced this item back on August 1--a full month and a half before it was heard. The council voted against agendizing it with staff support but Souza and Saylor both encouraged Heystek to bring it forward on his own. Had staff had the month to work on it, it could have been ready for a September 9th hearing instead of September 16. Moreover, Souza and Saylor could have shaped it more to their liking. But they played hardball and then tried to pillory Lamar who was just in his fourth meeting. Lamar held up well, fighting for what he believed and making a compelling display that this was a sincere belief.

In the end, the community sees Saylor at his worst. If the community supports the notion of a living wage--a modest $10/ hour wage for large retailers who can afford a slightly higher overhead in exchange for community good will. If the community supports the rights of workers, they need to see the current majority on council for what they are--friends of big business and big developers. The words of Saylor are not the words of the progressive movement. They are not the words of the Democratic party. They are the words of the opponents of minimum wage increases, the words of the opponents of the union creed "a fair day's for a fair day's pay", and the words of the conservative establishment. In trying to blast Heystek, Saylor has outed himself.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Video Clip of Saylor criticizing Heystek

The following is about a six minute clip from the 9/16/06 Davis City Council Meeting, I invite all to watch this and see exactly what Saylor said to Heystek and then Heystek's response.

Responding to Souza’s Letter on Living Wage

One of the more fun aspects of writing in a blog is the opportunity to respond to all sorts of things in the political sphere of Davis. Last night I was pleased to see a letter to the Davis Enterprise by Councilmember Stephen Souza. Despite the fact that I actually have a backlog of new entries to post, it’s always nice to have fresh material on a subject I’ve already written about.

Souza writes, “While both Council member Don Saylor and I support a living wage…”

I’m glad Souza wrote that, because if he hadn’t I would have never known from the rest of his letter that he supported the concept of the living wage.

He continues, “we know of no other place where an arbitrary discrimination about number of employees, revenues or size of a business has been upheld in court.”

Souza is actually correct about this, in July, a court struck down a law in Maryland attempting to force Wal-Mart to pay some of the health care of its employees. A ruling in Maryland that invalidated a state law designed to force Wal-Mart to pay for a portion of its employees' medical costs could pose a problem for a similar law in New York. The basis for this law is that a very high percentage of Wal-Mart employees end up requiring state assistance for their health care. In California, Medi-Cal (i.e. the voters end up paying health care for Wal-Mart employees). In fact, this issue is on the forefront of the fight for affordable wages and health care.

Yes, Souza is correct that these laws have not been upheld. However, this issue is part of the core progressive agenda and we see which side Souza is on in this fight. Moveover, we see the use of the word “discrimination,” exactly what Souza feels about this policy—he’s not against it because it was struck down, he opposes it because he’s against the policy itself.

Souza also states, “the particular living wage ordinance was trotted out at the last moment before other council members could review or comment on the measure.”

As reported in our previous blog entry, this is a misleading claim AT BEST. Councilmember Heystek actually brought the issue forward at the August 1, 2006 meeting. The council majority led by Souza and Saylor REFUSED to allow it to be prepared by staff for agenda. They encouraged Heystek to prepare the item himself which he did. And when he did, he was roundly criticized by Souza and Saylor for electioneering. Had Souza and Saylor allowed staff to prepare it, it could have come out at the first meeting in September after council recess, that would have given them an additional week to consider and modify the proposal.

This complaint, not surprisingly is sheer politics. So it is with great irony that Souza ends his letter by stating:

“While it is an election season, it would be my hope that all of us seek to find some merit and information in the views of others and that the meetings of the Davis City Council focus on the business of the city, leaving election campaigning outside the Community Chambers.” He says without irony.
---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Following up on the Meeting from Tuesday

The Davis Enterprise did not cover the meeting, but the California Aggie did and had an article in today’s paper. (Click here to read the full article)

There were a few statements by Saylor and Asmundson that require some response.

"The ground rules are really very clear," Saylor said. "One thing Mayor Greenwald enjoys is long discussions that aren't related to the matter at hand. There is a way to do business thoroughly and effectively."
In fact, Saylor is wrong because he fails to recognize that the chair in such meetings has considerable discretion to relax those rules in order facilitate discussion during the meetings. The ground rules themselves should not have been used to justify the type of conduct we saw at Tuesday’s meeting.

"Unfortunately, it seems like every meeting is a struggle," she said. "[Greenwald] is trying to change our ground rules. She thinks it's the prerogative of the mayor to do what she wants." Asmundson added that she feels the reason the council wants procedure strictly followed is because of the mayor's tendency to give long comments during the question period.
Again, we see the expressed need for the strict adherence to formal rules without the express stated purpose of exactly why that needs to be the case for issue that comes forward to council.

Saylor said he also feels that Greenwald's attempt to reorganize the council's order of handling business was routed in personal interest. "What you saw last night was an attempt by Mayor Greenwald to infuse an agenda on a simple policy action," he said. "Problems occur when ground rules are not adhered to or altered piecemeal at the whim of others."

This again brings up the question: what is the personal interest of the Mayor to modify the rules for discuss on what was largely an informal item. We still do not see the compelling need for this whole drama.

He [Saylor] added that he feels the mayor has overstepped her role and should adhere to the ground rules for her position.
This to me signals a future intention by the council majority. When they start using the term “overstepped her role” that means they intend to make some changes to get her back in line with the council majority or to replace her. It has been clear for some time that that has always been their intention, however they lacked the political will to do so. Now it appears they will try to use this to ratchet up support for making changes.

"The mayor has articulated an inflated view of the role of the presiding officer," Saylor said. "Mayor Greenwald would serve the community well if she would study those ground rules and use them consistently during City Council meetings."

In fact, my understanding is that the presiding officer has considerable discretion even within the formal rules to relax rules as they see fit—as long as the rest of the council goes along with it. However, in this case, the council chose not to go along with it. They have not provided any explanation either for the need to follow the strict guidelines in this specific instance nor have they offered any sufficient explanation to explain their boorish and childish behavior in provoking a long and protracted battle over a seemingly petty procedural issue.

We all expect the council to have disagreements on policy issues. I may not agree with the majority on the council some of the time on those issues—but that’s expect. The fighting on procedural issues however is far more destructive and the community will be far less forgiving.

The mayor needs to pick her battles more carefully, but the parlor games and political showmanship of the council majority is ridiculous to the point of absurdity. If Don Saylor thinks this makes him look good, he is sorely mistaken.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Fight Night at the Council (Again)

Merging the commissions…

It was interesting reading the comments of Kevin Klein, outgoing chairperson and member of the Davis Social Services Commission. For one thing he identified himself as such which I had thought was against council rules to identify yourself as a member of the commission when writing letters to the editor.

Regardless, Klein writes, “All said and done, it's no wonder the Social Services Commission unanimously approved the merger of the two commissions.”

Of course the Senior Citizen’s Commission did not vote to approve the merger and in fact are strongly opposed to the merger. It seems in rather poor taste for the Chair of one commission to be publicly going after the chair of another commission on this issue. Musser-Roberts should have the right to express her opposition to this move without facing an attack from the Chair of the Davis Social Service Commission.

Not that I am surprise that Klein would take this course of action. For some reason he saw fit to attack the former chair of the HRC and interject himself into that controversy that really did not involve him.

Procedural Tensions with the City Council

There was a moment last night of high irony as the council fought on the issue of consensus. It seems this council fights even over whether to do things by consensus.

That leads me to my main point on all of this—the ensuing fight between Don Saylor and Sue Greenwald over procedure. They were dealing with an item that was not an action item, Sue suggested that they make comments and question simultaneously. Don pointed out and Ruth and Stephen agreed that the rules state that there is a written policy about how this is to be done. And there is.

HOWEVER, and this is an important point, Sue made a suggestion for a different approach since this was a less formal item. And Don for reasons that are not completely clear (nor made clear), strenuously objected. The only explanation the public got was that there are written rules. Well we know there are, but the chair often has the discretion to waive those rules for less formal items. Don could have gone along with this, there does not appear to be a compelling reason not to, other than a strict and blind adherence to rules, and instead of fighting and looking like a bunch of squabbling kids, they could have been discussing something important like the future of the city.

Two basic observations—first Don looked extremely petty making an issue of this in the first place. The rest of the majority and Sue certainly added to the problem.

The most mature councilmember appears to be the one who is by far the youngest of the five—a bit of irony not lost on those watching the exchange… Lamar Heystek, avoided the fray, he supported Sue on the procedural issue. Sue needs to better pick her fights—she certainly was right in that she had the discretion to waive the rule, Saylor certainly had the right to insist that they follow the rule but it didn’t seem like an important enough issue. Instead it looks like a power struggle and no one except Heystek looked good in the exchange.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Give us your tired, your sockless, and your underwearless?

It was amusing reading Tim Spangler's sit-in for Bob Dunning. Aside from the obvious humor is a buried point...
It's simple really. Do a soul-check. You want a Target. You need a Target. Even the vocal and expectorating minority want a Target deep down inside. Unless the anti-Target crowd is also the anti-wearing underwear and socks crowd, they need it just as much as the rest of us unenlightened consumers.
On the surface it's a simple point that everyone can understand--and that makes it all the more dangerous. We all need a target because we all wear underwear and socks. (Actually I very rarely wear socks even in the dead of winter, but that's another point entirely).

Now this begs the question--if we need Target to get our socks and underwear, are there huge masses of Davisites walking around without socks and underwear? Isn't this the un-said assumption here--that we are missing something. Now I'm not into checking people drawers, but I'm going with a big 'no' here. There does not appear to be a shortage of either apparel in our fair city.

I'll go even a step further--I have never in my life bought either socks or underwear at Target. I know this is a shocking revelation, but it's true. In fact, I wonder how many others in this city have never bought either socks or underwear at Target?

Now I've lived in Davis for over ten years, and it's just never been an issue of not having socks and underwear.

And if socks and underwear are the key election issue, perhaps Mayor Greenwald would be so kind as to make a counter-proposal. What if we instead of building a huge megastore to cover two very basic commodies, we brought in a small store that sells only socks and underwear. Heck if it's price, we could bring in a discount sock and underwear store. In fact, I'm sure some local developer or business person might be willing if given the permission to (gasp) open such a store.

Somehow I'm guessing that's not what Saylor, Souza, and Asmundson are looking for. They don't want us to have a discount sock and underwear store, they want us to have a huge big-box retailer in Davis. This is not about socks and underwear. This is about having a store where you can get your socks and underwear while you get your food, liquor, and drugs--all in one fell swoop.

So Mr. Spangler is absolutely correct--we are not anti-socks and underwear. But I think he knew that to begin with, even if he does a nice job of bait-and-switch.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, October 02, 2006

Gossip and Rumors

Some interesting tidbits that were overheard this weekend...

Acting Police Chief Steve Pierce offers an explanation for the incident at Davis High School. He said that the kid fit the description of a person who had committed a crime and that they were looking for. That seems like a strange statement from the acting chief for a number of reasons. First the security guard I do not believe is under the control of the chief. And second, the explanation came at a public event where someone told him about the incident--so he suddenly knew this off the top of his head? It will be very interesting to see the explanation that the principal provides and see if it squares with the police chief.

Stephen Souza was heard this weekend saying that the issue of the police is only a issue for certain types of people in this community. What in the world is that supposed to mean Mr. Souza?

Don Saylor speaking at the Democratic Bean Feed got a very tepid response. We've heard that he's putting out feelers to run for the Democratic Nomination for the State Assembly for the seat that Lois Wolk will retire from in two years. Based on his response, we suggest he try for the Republican nomination, he might get a better reception. He then spoke about Democratic party values... He might try to remember in the future living wage and unions are kind of important to Democratic voters.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting