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Saturday, October 28, 2006

PG&E Continues its "Green" Makeover

Some things in politics just take your breath away and leave you shaking your head. The PG&E campaign is one of them. Actually in some ways, Target and PG&E are using the same script. If these were candidates, you'd be thinking, that they suddenly found environmentalism.

Theresa Francis wrote to the Davis Enterprise:
I'm going to open a Hummer dealership in a giant LEED building; that way I can help save the environment.
Bob Dunning of all people writes:
would we allow a strip joint on the site just because it was housed in an award-winning building?
(Personally I think that Bob just wants a strip joint, but that's just me).

PG&E is using the same play book. First, they use the No on Measure X campaign to tell us that a vote for No on H & I is just like a vote for No on X. Now they are leafletting the town (or at least my residence) with a door hanger that pronounced them the guardians of the environmental order and SMUD as the evil polluters.

Look I can understand them wanting to hold onto their natural monopolistic market share and that they hate it when competition comes along, but good gosh, give us at least some credit for having some intelligence. Just because you call yourself environmentally friendly doesn't mean that you are.

This is a company that built a nuclear power plant on an earthquake fault and that has been cited for numerous unauthorized releases of radioactive waste.

"Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has agreed to pay $96,000 in penalties for losing track of radioactive spent fuel at its defunct Humboldt Bay nuclear power plant. (12/05)"

"Facing fines of $25 million per day for the last 15 years, PG&E, owner of Diablo Canyon, faces a make-or-break ruling in June when the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control board decides whether to slap a cease-and-desist order on the plant for its thermal pollution and resultant marine environment kill-off -- allegations that PG&E denies. That could be on top of the $14 million PG&E was fined by the state and federal governments in a related case for withholding evidence of pollution. The utility is currently in negotiations with the board over the case that could include a potential trade of some of the 13,000 acres (including 10 miles of coastline) surrounding the plant. PG&E's customers, however, have paid for that land over the years and no one can explain how a trade of ratepayers-to-public ownership can work. (5/22/2000)"
The San Francisco Guardian reports:

In 1997 PG&E was tried and convicted in criminal court for endangering the lives and property of gold country residents by failing to trim tree branches near electrical wires frequently enough to prevent major fires. Evidence showed that PG&E executives had diverted tree-trimming money to fatten profits and salaries of top corporate executives.

The story of the company's poisoning of community water supplies in Hinkley became a major Hollywood movie called Erin Brockovich, and a similar environmental disaster is still underway just south of San Francisco. Meanwhile, residents of the Bayview-Hunters Point district in San Francisco are suffering from alarmingly high rates of asthma and other illnesses that they link to PG&E's dirty power plant in the neighborhood (see "Poison Power," 1/28/98). In addition, the nearby Potrero power plant, which PG&E sold to Mirant Corp. in 1998, is scheduled for expansion.

PG&E stole nearly $200,000 from San Francisco by illegally running its power lines to the Presidio, according to a 1995 lawsuit the city filed against the company. Indeed, PG&E's service to San Francisco residents is illegal, according to the terms of the 1913 Raker Act, which requires the city to operate a public power system. The company's monopoly has led to decades of structural corruption at City Hall (see "How PG&E Wires the City," page 26).

In 1998 a major blackout hit the city – leaving nearly half a million San Francisco residents without electricity (see "Still in the Dark," 12/16/98). Officials determined that a failure to make a key backup safety check at a San Mateo substation caused the outage. For several years the company had been cutting back on maintenance staff to fatten profits.

In 2001, after lobbying for the 1996 bill that deregulated part of the state's electricity industry, PG&E shuffled off more than $600 million in profits to its holding company, gave its top brass $50 million in bonuses and raises, and declared bankruptcy. Since spring 2001, rates have soared 40 percent and customer service for everything from hook-ups to billing problems has worsened (see "Feeling the Crunch," 9/4/02).

Under its proposed plan to get out of bankruptcy, PG&E wants to free itself of the last vestiges of state regulation while at the same time making a very anti-free market demand: ratepayers must protect its shareholders and CEOs from any potential future losses (see "Competing Energy Visions," page 30).

PG&E has a long record of harassing internal whistle-blowers and reporters who dare to take on the giant company.

Whistle Blowers Beware

Also from that article in the Guardian:

Silencing critics

Although PG&E likes to insist it is a tolerant and responsible company, it has a long history of retaliating against any employee who blows the whistle on its irresponsible practices.

In the 1997 Nevada County fire case, one of the prosecution's star witnesses was Jim Sprecher, a PG&E engineer who had written a report concluding that the company was letting trees go untrimmed for too long and jeopardizing public safety. Instead of heeding Sprecher's concerns, the company demoted him, relegating him to an unimportant job and ostracizing him socially, he testified.

He also testified that the report mysteriously disappeared from his unlocked filing cabinet at work at some point between 1993 and late 1996, when he was contacted by Nevada County prosecutors (see "Vanishing Report," 5/21/97). The report's recommendation to increase spending on tree trimming was ignored by PG&E higher-ups.

At PG&E's April 1998 shareholders meeting, Neil Aiken, a shift foreperson at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, stood up and told shareholders about safety problems that came from cost cutting at the plant. He told the audience he came forward only in desperation, because he had exhausted all possible routes of solving the problem within the company. He also released a report detailing the safety issues called "Going Critical" (see "Nuclear Leak," 4/22/98).

That year PG&E executives forced Aiken to undergo psychiatric evaluation. He was locked out of the plant and forced off his job after 24 years (see "Plugging the Leak," 11/18/98). The Project on Liberty and the Workplace took up his case, and the U.S. Department of Labor found PG&E guilty of retaliation in November 1999 (see "PG&E Fires Whistleblower," 4/5/00).

PG&E also has a history of blackballing reporters who challenge the utility. Energy writer J.A. Savage sued PG&E in 1988, charging that the company had gotten her fired from two jobs because she had once worked for an antinuclear group and had written for the Bay Guardian. She settled the suit for an undisclosed sum in 1995 after the state Court of Appeals found that her allegations had enough merit to go to trial (see "Reporter Beats PG&E," 11/8/95).

"PG&E wields considerable power over the press covering its activities," Judge Williams Newsom wrote in a 1993 appeals court opinion dealing with the question of whether PG&E should be able to blacklist reporters who work for the Bay Guardian. "In the case of a public utility enjoying such extensive monopolistic authority ... there is an important public interest in assuring the freedom of the press in reporting on matters lying within the exercise of its franchise."

PG&E has used its formidable power to undermine that constitutionally protected freedom. The haze of P.R. the company generates regarding its operations has proved effective in protecting the utility's empire – at the direct expense of the public's financial interests, safety, and health.

Campaign manipulations are one thing, outrights lies are another. PG&E is about as environmentally friendly as the Bush administration. Yolo County voters should not get sold down the river on this.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Patriotic Attacks: Last Refuge of a Losing Candidate

In the heat of battle is seems any attack is inbounds. Recall back to 2002, when Max Cleland, a Vietnam vet who lost portions of his right arm and most of his legs in combat duty had his patriotism questioned because he dared to suggest there might be problems with the Patriot Act. Cleland would lose that race.

This past week, incumbent John Doolittle attacked Charlie Brown, his Democratic opponent for his patriotism. Charlie Brown not only fought in Vietnam but served for 26 years in the Air Force. Brown’s wife Jan also served in the Air Force. And their son, Jeff is an Air Force captain who will begin a fourth tour of duty in Iraq in December. How dare, John Doolittle attack Brown’s patriotism, HOW DARE HE.
Charlie Brown called Republican Rep. John Doolittle a coward who is "hiding behind the flag" and slammed him for failing to serve in Vietnam.

"While I was being shot at in Vietnam, John Doolittle was practicing his tennis game at (the University of California) Santa Cruz," Brown said during a news conference as he was surrounded by fellow veterans.
Meanwhile Doolittle attacks Brown for being linked to anti-war activists like Code Pink, Cindy Sheehan, and Sean Penn.

The writer Samuel Johnson once wrote that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Johnson was not indicting patriotism in general, but false patriotism. What is false patriotism? Acting as though the only way to be patriotic is to back wars even as they are clearly going awry. Attacking the patriotism of brave veterans while at the time of were you were safely ensconced in your privileged life. False patriotism is pretending that the words of the constitution read, “my country right or wrong.”

Folks, we need to see through these facades of patriotism and realize that true patriotism is about honor, sacrifice, and principles. We should not sacrifice those principles at the alter of expediency or under of the false guise of national security. We need honest debates about the direction and leadership of this country. And we need to honor our brave war heroes with the praise that deserve whether we agree or disagree with their viewpoint. Much has been lost in this country, much of that that has been lost has been decency and respect. Brave people like Charlie Brown are again answering the call of our country to help win it back. We need to help him do so.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, October 27, 2006

Council Continues to Seek Merger of Senior Citizen's Commission

At Tuesday's City Council meeting the council continued their move towards a merger of the Senior Citizen's Commission with the Social Services Commission. This is a move strongly opposed by the Senior Citizen's Commission and supported by the Social Services Commission.

For the first time, we see the rationale behind this rather perplexing move. It remains completely unclear as to why Souza has continued to push this issue other than sheer vanity. Souza's argument is that by combining the two commissions, you make a more powerful one.

He certainly to date has not made any kind of argument for why that might be. In fact, there are several reasons to argue that combining the issue would actually dilute the influence of both commissions. There would not be a single member lost, however, that means you are looking at a 12-14 person commission charged with a very broad range of issues. It seems likely that a lot of the specific issues may not get addressed and much of the work would have to be performed in subcommittee anyway (which begs the question, why not just leave it as it is if you have to hav a lot of subcommittees).

Mayor Sue Greenwald makes two very good arguments against the merger. The first, is that it is not clear that these two commissions really have compatible jurisdictions. The mayor argues that the Social Service's commission primarily focuses on issues of disabilities and the poor. When informed that they may not primarily focus on those issues, she strongly argues that they should. The Senior Citizen's commission heavily focuses on issues pertaining directly to Seniors.

While there is clearly some overlap between the duties, the overall focus is very different and seems better to remain distict except at those times when the issues converge. Councilmember Heystek suggested that they might have either liaisons to each other or have joint committee meetings when their jurisdictions overlap.

The second issue that Greenwald raises is the time of meetings. A lot of seniors, as she points out, cannot drive at night and cannot be out late. The Senior Citizen's Commission meets during the day, however, staff suggested that the meetings for the new commission would be at night--a great inconvenience to the seniors not only on the commission but in the community as a whole who might like to attend meetings. Staff's suggestion was that they arrange for rides, but that seems to be almost insulting and greatly erodes the independence of the membership and likely will erode future interest in serving on this commission.

Under fire, the Council is now suggesting they have meetings and discussion until December and then will wait to make a decision. Several suggested that at that time they might decide to keep things at is.

That seems very unlikely. While a view of the meeting reveals Souza in an amiable mood talking about the power that the merger will bring to these commissions, it is in striking contrast to his previous behavior with regards to this issue where witnesses suggested that Souza browbeat and attempted to intimidate the chair of the commission to go along with his plans.

The Senior community has responded in kind and now the council majority is complaining about the tone of discussion in the community. This is a typical game played by Souza and Saylor--they have free reign to attempt to get their way, but when people call them on it, they complain about tone and tenor.

At the end of the day, there seems to be no reason for this merger other than perhaps the ego of Souza. He named nothing concrete that would be gained by this. The senior citizen commission continues to oppose it. I see no reason whatsoever for this to be brought back at the December meeting.

Seniors would be wise to remember this effort by the council and the extent of this effort to merge the commissions.

Please view segments of the debate from Tuesday night beginning with a long talk from Souza. This is about a nine minute video clip. (It may take a little while before the link is active, please be patient).

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Target Panders to Far Right on Emergency Contraception

Target took a stand on emergency contraception. In a media statement dated November 10th, 2005 Target said: “In the rare event that a pharmacist’s beliefs conflict with filling a guest’s prescription for the emergency contraceptive Plan B, our policy requires our pharmacists to take responsibility for ensuring that the guest’s prescription is filled in a timely and respectful manner, either by another Target pharmacist or a different pharmacy. The emergency contraceptive Plan B is the only medication for which this policy applies.”

While that official policy may seem reasonable it puts a tremendous amount of burden on a customer holding a valid prescription. Further, you need to understand that this has a huge impact in small rural towns where the choice is often Wal Mart (which won't fill the prescription at all) and Target (who might refer a customer to another location, which may be very far away). In reality that this leaves many rural people without much of a choice.

There is the convenience and the practicality charge and then there is the potential abuse, in the form of allegations that they actually just flat out have refused to fill prescriptions. The far right is now using this issue to further erode reproductive freedom as several states led by conservatives governors and legislatures have back legislation to allow pharamacists to refuse filling such prescriptions. Once again, this will leave the poor and the rural without true reproductive freedom.

This is just another example of the Target corporation not supporting the values of the Davis community.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A look Target Business Practices: Very un-Davis

Supporters of Measure K have claimed that Target is a good fit for Davis values. However, some of the research into the Target Corporation calls this into question. For instance, the NAACP gave Target an "F" for their economic empowerment of African-Americans. If Davis is indeed a city of a diversity as the "Target in Davis" website claims, then they should take this sort of criticism seriously.

In 1996, the NAACP launched the ERI as a sustained consumer movement to measure corporate America's financial relationship with the African American community. Since then, the ERI has expanded its scope and has continued to annually highlight diversity efforts made in lodging, telecommunications, financial services, general merchandising and automotive industries.

Each of the industries is rated in five performance areas. Information contained in the report is based on data provided by participating companies in 2005. Survey questions are graded and assigned point values which are translated into a letter grade.

Company Score Grade
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. 2.67 C+
Federated Dept. Stores 2.42 C
Nordstrom, Inc. 1.79 C-
J.C. Penney Company, Inc. 1.63 D+
Saks, Inc. 1.16 D
Sears Holding Corp. 0.00 F
Dillard’s, Inc. 0.00 F
Kohl’s Dept. Stores 0.00 F
Target 0.00 F
Target received an F grade on this score. At the NAACP’s 97th annual convention, President Bruce Gordan called on all blacks to boycott all Target stores. The NAACP is focusing on Target because it is one of the nation’s most prominent retailers.

Target also have a poor record in terms of the use of sweatshop labor to produce the products that they sell. Target has been cited on many occasions in the past five years for extremely poor working conditions among those in third world production factories.

For example, Target continued to source from the Nobland garment factory in Guatemala despite management's aggressive opposition to union activity and the companies were slow to respond to intervention requests by U.S. LEAP. Union organizers were subject to harassment and termination, and the factory was abruptly shut down in June 2005. (see:

Also, Target sources from a factory in Guandong, China where management routinely hides evidence of poor labor conditions in order to pass screens. Some of the abuses include: 80-180 hours per month of uncompensated overtime; severe injuries to the workers; false documentation to make the labor practices look legit.

Finally from the National Labor committee:
"In April 2003, a federal court on the Pacific island of Saipan approved a $20 million settlement on a class action lawsuit filed against Target and 21 other companies. The lawsuit charged that the companies contracted sweatshop labor on Saipan, a U.S. Commonwealth and should be held accountable for worker treatment and conditions in foreign-owned factories operating on U.S. soil. According to the complaint, the more than 13,000 garment workers in Saipan regularly worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, often times "off the clock" without receiving any pay or overtime. The lawsuit also accused Levi Strauss and other companies of operating a "racketeering conspiracy" through which workers, who are mostly young women, sign contracts waiving their basic human rights and pay recruitment fees of up to $10,000 to secure sweatshop jobs. By agreeing to the settlement, the companies admitted no wrongdoing."
Are these business practices examples of Davis values? I find it very telling that while the "Target in Davis" folks are very aggressive on the issue of the LEED and having LEED certification, they have completely ignored the fact that Target in Davis will be but one store among thousands and the impact on Davis is small compared to the global impact by Target. Target has gotten a break because most of the media scrutiny for poor labor practices and poor environmental practices has fallen on Wal Mart--a larger and more notorious company.

However, Target continues torefuse to allow its workers to unionize and has practiced many of the same union-busting activities that the more notorious Wal Mart has used. Furthermore, the sponsors of "Target in Davis" such as Ruth Asmundson refused to allow a living wage ordinance to come before the city council. An ordinance that would have provided workers at Target with $10 per hour wages. As we've documented, current miminum wage would be insufficient to allow Target workers to reside in the city.

So while the 250 jobs claim might be true, most of those jobs will live in West Sacramento or even Woodland rather than Davis. That itself would negate some of the advantage putting a Target in Davis would have in terms of reduced oil consumption. If even 200 of the 250 projected new workers live outside of Davis you are talking about 5 round trips a week at 19 miles a piece for 200 workers. That's 1000 trips per week and 52,000 trips per year. So already a good portion of the existing trips are used up just by the employees of Target. I'm just not seeing a huge advantage in gas comsumption.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Real Environmental Record of PG&E: Manufactured Studies to Cover-up Environmental Crimes

For those who have seen the movie “Erin Brockovich” you know the story—residents of a small rural town in the Mojave Desert, Hinkley, California, alleged that PG&E contaminated drinking water with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium—chromium-6 and that this exposure led to widespread illness and disease. They used the chromium-infused water as a coolant at some of its natural gas compressor stations but the discharged water tainted local groundwater supplies. Earlier this year the company agreed to pay $315 million to settle the dispute, nearly a decade after agreeing to pay around $160 million.

Typical of settlements, the company refused to admit wrong doing however, PG&E spokesman Jon Tremayne issued a statement Friday saying, "Clearly this situation should never have happened, and we are sorry it did." (USA Today, 2-16-06).

Given that those practices go back to the 1950s and 1960s, it’s not clear that we should use this case to taint PG&E. More stunning however, is their recent attempts to manufacture a study that demonstrated no link between chromium-6 and cancer.

From the USA Today article:

In December, the Environmental Working Group published a detailed account of PG&E’s alleged attempts to corrupt a previous medical study on chromium-6’s carcinogenic effects.

Drawing on records obtained under California’s Public Records Act, the public interest group chronicled how shortly after the first Brockovich case resulted in the huge plaintiffs’ award, a PG&E-paid; environmental consultant persuaded a respected Chinese scientist to participate in an update of his 1987 study that found chromium-contaminated water in rural China was linked to an increase in villagers’ cancer.

The new study found no such link between chromium-6 and cancer. In its investigation, the Environmental Working Group alleged that the revised study, published in the influential Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, was written by PG&E consultants rather than by the now-deceased JianDong Zhang, whose revised paper misspelled his name three times.

The public interest group obtained records from California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment that supported its doubts about the revised study, including the sponsors’ alleged failure to disclose who actually wrote the manuscript and who paid for it, in addition to their allegedly incorrect use of several epidemiological terms, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Here’s the full report from the Environmental Working Group which documents how PG&E conspired to reverse findings of a cancer study.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that the San Francisco-based consultants, ChemRisk, "conceived, drafted, edited and submitted to medical journals" a "clarification" of the Chinese study, according to documents filed in another chromium lawsuit against PG&E. They did so despite a letter of objection from the Chinese scientist who led the original study, calling their reversal of his findings an "inappropriate inference."

Davis residents who listen to the rhetoric of PG&E may want to read through that report. It is very illustrative—first, PG&E is running on its green record and while the actual Hinkley case did occur decades ago, the attempts by PG&E to manufacture a study to exonerate their past behavior is utterly indefensible and is a matter of recent record and behavior. Of course these facts have not been brought up in the current campaign, but I think Davis residents need to know about it.

The issue here is about responsibility and this is how PG&E reacts when they have made a mistake, instead of making things whole and doing the right thing, they try to lie and connive their way out of responsibility.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Campaign Crunch Time for Target and Measure K

As the election is now less than two weeks away, we are being bombarded with campaign literature.

Yesterday I received a letter signed by among others former and future Mayor Ruth Asmundson and Former County Supervisor Betsy Marchand declaring that they are my "neighbors," "PTA leaders," "coworkers" and "my friends." Leaving aside that they are none of these, they declare that they "have listened to both sides of the debate are voting for Measure K because..." Ruth Asmundson did not listen to both sides of any debate, she is part of the council majority that brought this issue forward, fast-tracked it, and then decided to place it on the ballot.

The letter cites the number of out-of-town shopping trips by Davis residents to Target as being 300,000 and that the trip is 19 miles round-trip from Davis and that adds up to more than $530,525 per year of gas. Sounds convincing right? Well, now account for this. Target in the Second Street Crossing location for me would be a 12 mile round trip, that saves only 7 miles per trip. Moreover, it would be city miles most likely rather than highway miles, so I may burn comparable amounts of gas. Certainly not enough of a difference to want to bring in a Target. People have the tendency when going to shop out of town to make fewer trips and make more purchases there. If the average person makes five trips a year at 19 miles round trip, if it were say an average of 8 miles round trip, they might make 15 trips per year, and the gas mileage is at best a wash. It's hard to calculate because the building of a more convenient Target is likely to change people's shopping habits.

But there is more--Target in Woodland is not a stand alone and so usually the rare times I went to Target I did it in conjunction with going to Gottschalks (a much larger store than the one in Davis), Mervyns, and other shopping needs. Target was never my only targeted destination. And so the argument that we would substantially cut down on our out-of-city trips is misleading. That of course leads me to conclude they will eventually have to bring in more such business to Davis because they will amazingly discover that Target does not fulfill all of our shopping needs (or any of mine as I head down the road to Vacaville for my COSTCO experience).

Next they try to tempt me once again with the LEED certification of the store, which is the equivalent of putting a pollution filter on a Hummer--it's not dealing with the environmentally disastrous portion of Target which is on the production rather than the consumption end. They claim that the building will reduce 12,000 pounds of CO2 emissions annually but fail to cite how bad Target is globally for CO2 emissions.

The meager wages and Asmundson's opposition to a living wage ordinance that would apply to Target means that Target workers will not be able to afford to reside in the city of Davis. So while they make the claim that it brings in 250 jobs, they fail to mention that none of those jobs will pay people enough to live in Davis. Nor does it get into their anti-union activities nor does it get into the sweat shops that produce the goods we buy. Funny that we never hear a discussion of that from the Target supports. Yes Asmundson claims to support unions, but ask the Unions if they plan on endorsing her any time soon.

And finally they mention it will allow us to "capture about $1 million each year in local sales tax revenue..." The figure that had been cited was $659,000. Now it's a $1 million, I wish they could make up their minds. Neither figure mitigates for the possibility of alternative development at that cite and so to paraphrase Sue Greenwald, it is a comparison of the revenue that Target generates versus the revenue of a vacant field--inflated numbers or not.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Democratic help not arriving for Brown

An article this morning in the Sacramento Bee reports that the John Doolittle Campaign is receiving money from the Republicans to help shore up his re-election bid. Help however will not be arriving for Democratic challenger Charlie Brown who is poised to upset the long-term representative.
But last week, in a stopover in Sacramento, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, suggested that any investment by the Democrats' political committee in the Brown campaign will be limited. "This is a homegrown race for Charlie Brown," Pelosi said. "It's about him, his relationship to the district, and, if anything, he will be contributing to his success more than any of us will be contributing to him."
Democrats have a chance to unseat both Doolittle and Pombo. Charlie Cook and Chuck Todd of the National Journal rate Pombo as the 34th most vulnerable seat up from 37th last week and Doolittle as the 41st most vulnerable seat up from 46th last week.

These are seats that Democrats have a chance to literally steal from the Republicans, but where is the help. Local Democratic Congresspeople have failed to endorse Brown or McNerney who is running against Pombo, or Durston who is running against Dan Lungren. Where is the local Democratic support from local state legislators like Lois Wolk and Mike Machado?

Unfortunately this is not limited merely to the Sacramento area. Democratic Bloggers across the country have had to literally shame safe incumbent Democrats into giving money.

As reported in this morning's Hotline put out by the National Journal:
In yet another sign of their growing influence, Dem bloggers are shaming unopposed House Dems into donating a combined $26M to Dem candidates. (Bloggers have also nudged cash-heavy WH'08 Dems like Bayh, who has $11.3M in the bank).

With Dems "increasingly convinced that House control is within their grasp," party activists are "publicly excoriating politicians in safe districts who have hefty campaign balances" (Zeleny, New York Times, 10/24).

In a posting last week, managing ed Chris Bowers identified 69 Dem incumbents "without serious opposition," whose combined campaign treasuries total "roughly" $50M. In his post, Bowers "suggested that these lawmakers donate as much as 30% of their cash" to the DCCC, or "directly to challengers" in races that "had not been considered vulnerable until recently."

According to Bowers, the transfer of campaign funds from safe incumbents to newly-viable challengers "could be the difference between a landslide election that changes politics in America for more than a decade to come, and an election where control of the House is determined on a knife's edge."

Bowers also posted a list of the Dem incumbents, and "asked his readers to contact them." The list includes Reps. Edward Markey (MA), who has $2.3M; Robert "Bud" Cramer (AL), who has $1.6M; Adam Schiff (CA), who has $1.4M; and Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL), who has $1.3M, according to MyDD calculations. Rep. Martin Meehan (MA) "easily topped the list" with $4.9M CoH.

On 10/20, Bowers' effort "received a boost" when's PAC also "asked its members to contact the safe incumbents." PAC Exec. Dir. Eli Pariser: "We just don't want to see anyone hoarding at a time when there is a need for the greater good" (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 10/24).
If Democratic activists wish to retake the House and Senate, they need to put pressure on Democrats with money and safe seats to give it to people like Brown, Durston, and McNerney. People should call up the campaign offices of Dianne Feinstein who is unchallenged largely and sitting on 16 million dollars, Mike Thompson, Mike Machado, Dorris Matsui, Lois Wolk and others to give money to Democrats so that Democrats can re-take the House.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sierra Club opposes Measure K

The Sierra Club Yolano Group has come out in opposition to Measure K and the building of Target.
This project will congest local roadways with 10,000 additional car trips per day to this site, and result in significant degradation of air quality locally. In the EIR, cumulative impacts on air quality for all criteria pollutants are considered “significant and unavoidable” and the emissions of criteria pollutants are greater with this project than those anticipated under current zoning. These impacts on air quality cannot be mitigated. Many studies have shown that air pollution from traffic is directly linked to increased rates of respiratory and cardiac disease, especially in children and the elderly.

Bemused by the Davis Target Debate

On Sunday, the Sacramento Bee wrote with great bemusement: "Davis has become the only city in the nation to force Target to win ballot box approval before it can build."

The crux of the article though is this statement towards the middle of the piece: "Davis' great Target debate is a little hard for some Sacramento politicians to relate to. Big box stores are so common here that another Target hardly merits attention."

And that is exactly at the heart of the debate--as they say, only in Davis is this such a big issue. Sacramento has tons and tons of Big Box stores. To some this is just a matter of Davis being a quirky, college town. Not surpringly, I disagree with this assessment. To me, I think cities like Sacramento have it wrong.

As I've suggested in several previous blog entries, there are many reasons to oppose stores like Target. We could start with the labor practices of Target itself, move to the sweat shops that produce its merchandise, and finish with environmental concerns. I do not understand why supposedly liberal Democratic politicians in Sacramento DO NOT CARE about these sorts of issues?

If we're talking about conservatives towns in rural American, I can understand it, but why do liberal politicians not care about these kinds of issues?

Twenty-five years ago when I was growing up, my family drove across the country first one way and then the other. Each city had its own little stores and flavor. Eight years ago as an adult I drove across the country with a friend and all of that had changed. You see the same stores in the "same" towns all across the country. Only the names of the towns change. The stores remain the same. And that's sad. Little mom and pop stores used to be the backbone of America, and now they are fighting for their lives against the big bad wolves in the form of Big Box Retail, Chain Restaurants, and other national chains that have sprung up everywhere. Davis is an Oasis from the monotony of chain stores. In ten years, we'll hardly recognize it at this rate. Bigger, better, faster, cheaper.

Hey, there was a good letter to the editor last night in the Davis Enterprise responding to Mr. Rifkin's column from last week.
Snap up some deodorant at Longs

Regarding "Sweet-smelling reasons to vote yes," no wonder Rich Rifkin wants a Target in Davis. He doesn't know where he can buy deodorant. Please let him know they sell it at Longs Drugs, and it is pretty cheap!

Kelly Safford
I guess we have to add deodorant to the socks and underwear list.

Signed sockless in Davis...

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, October 23, 2006

Democrats Strive to Re-take the House and Senate

For the second time in two weeks, the Charlie Brown campaign came to Davis for a fundraiser. Two weeks ago they appeared with Former Senator Max Cleland and Former Congressman Pete McCloskey. Hoping to raise $5000, they raised nearly $15,000.

Last night they were back at the Palm Court Hotel in Downtown Davis, this time armed with Former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who was at the center of the Valerie Plame controversy. The Brown campaign was stunned to walk into a room in an event not in their district and see well over 150 Democrats who are eager to take back the House and Senate. Brown and Wilson riled up the crowd, throwing out red meat and attacking the Bush administration for their conduct of the war and their overall attacks on the basic tenets of the constitution. It was a night for all Democrats. There was this true sense of energy and anticipation.

Unfortunately in his battle for a congressional seat, Brown is getting thrown everything in the book. Apparently one of the lines of attack from Doolittle, is the fact that Brown is a lifelong member of the ACLU and Doolittle is attacking him for being a member. The ACLU defends all organizations whether it is the KKK or whomever because they believe that the Constitution of the United States protects the rights of even the most dispacable organizations and people. And only by standing up for it when the Constitution is violated for such organizations and people, can they protect us when they go after us. Unfortunately, that is often used against the ACLU and its members.

The Democrats have an honest and true chance to take back the house and the Senate. This blog covers the local scene, and unfortunately, a lot of our local Democrats (some of them deserve quotes around the name "Democrat" are not pulling their weight).

First, let me tip the cap to the Davis Democratic Club who a few weeks ago gave $7500 to several Democrats in the area who are trying to win house seats--that includes Brown trying to unseat Doolittle, Jerry McNerney trying to unseat Pombo, and Bill Durston trying to unseat Dan Lungren.

Second, let us all tip our caps to true Blue Democrats like Senator Boxer who has given tens of thousands to individual Democrats trying to win house seats like Charlie Brown, Jerry McNerney, and Bill Durston. She has given millions to the DSCC and the DCCC which are the Democratic committees that fund and support the Senate and Congressional candidates. Barbara Boxer is a "big D" Democrat and she's trying to help the Democrats win back the house and Senate. As is Hillary Clinton who has given away millions to Democratic campaigns as well.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting.

No on Measure X Responds to PG&E

On Friday, we reported that PG&E was using the "No on X" visage to convince Davis voters that they were green. Yesterday, the People's Republic of Davis received a communication for the "No on X" group. It was a copy of a letter to the PG&E asking them to cease and desist from using their image in the No on H & I campaign and demanding that they retract the implication that "No on X" has anything to do with No on H & I.

No on X

xxxxx County Road 97, Davis CA 95616

October 20, 2006

Davis Enterprise
Woodland Daily Democrat

Sacramento Bee
Sacramento News and review
The Flatlander
People’s Vanguard of Davis

California Aggie


We have sent the following letter to PG&E and to its campaign consultants:

Dear PG&E,

No on Measure X was the successful citizens’ campaign to stop the Covell Village residential development in Davis. PG&E has distributed a mailer to all Davis residents which uses an image identical to the No on X campaign sign.

We object to the use of the No on X campaign sign image. We demand that PG&E send a letter immediately to all Davis residents retracting the implication that the No on X Committee has anything to do with your campaign against Measures H and I—the proposals to replace PG&E with SMUD as the electrical provider for Davis.

The No on X Committee does not endorse PG&E’s position against Measures H and I. PG&E has no right to use our lawn sign image in your advertisements and thereby misrepresent our citizens’ group on this issue. We object to your implied message to Davis voters that if they voted No on X they should now vote no on H and I. Measure X had nothing to do with PG&E or SMUD.

We demand your immediate response to this letter.


The No on X Committee:

Anne Driscoll (530) xxx-xxxx, Stan Forbes (530) xxx-xxxx, Carolyn Hinshaw (530) xxx-xxxx, Dick Livingston (530) xxx-xxxx, Pam Nieberg (530) xxx-xxxx, Bill Ritter (408) xxx-xxxx, Eileen Samitz (530) xxx-xxxx, Ken Wagstaff (530) xxx-xxxx

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Journalistic Ethical Lines that Should Not be Crossed

It was with some anticipation that I looked at the editorial section of the Davis Enterprise this morning. For on this Sunday morning it was quite likely that the Davis Enteprise would be offering their endorsement on Measure H & I (Smud Annexation). One has to wonder if this was appropriate at all given Debbie Davis' husband, Bruce Gallaudet's relationship to PG&E and the No on H & I campaign. Davis and the Enterprise probably save themselves serious allegations by taking the Yes on H & I position, against the stated position of Gallaudet, but the questions about the proper relationship between Journalism, Business, and Politics do not resolve themselves so easily.

The legal Definition of a conflict of interest:
A situation in which a person has a duty to more than one person or organization, but cannot do justice to the actual or potentially adverse interests of both parties. This includes when an individual's personal interests or concerns are inconsistent with the best for a customer, or when a public official's personal interests are contrary to his/her loyalty to public business.
As we reported earlier this week, Debbie Davis' husband signed two ballot statements in the sample ballot that oppose Measure H. First he signed the statement opposing Measure H and second he signed the Rebuttal to the argument for Measure H. In other words, the husband of the Editor of the Davis Enterprise, took a public position on an issue that Davis would have considerable power as to whether or not to endorse. It is inappropriate in our opinion, that Davis or her husband take public positions on political issues. If they do take public positions on political issues, Davis should recuse herself from being involved in the endorsement process. As far as we can tell, this did not happen.

The more serious issue involved a meeting in December 2005 for the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission. According to the minutes of the meeting, "Mr. Gallaudet stated he has partnered with P.G. & E." "If P.G. & E. leaves, it will be like losing a friend. This is a big gamble. I don't want to gamble, or to lose a friend, " concluded Mr. Gallaudet. It is unclear exactly what Gallaudet meant by "partnered." But it is pretty clear from his statement that he had rather strong business ties to PG&E, possibly had financial ties as well, and clearly retained strong political support for the electrical company.

A more general problem with the Davis Enterprise is the very strong ties Debbie Davis has to the business community. Debbie Davis is the immediate past chair of the Davis Chamber of Commerce. Bruce Gallaudet serves on the board of directors of the Chamber. In June of 2006, the Chamber of Commerce supported the Second Street Crossing project (popularly known as Target). Sherry Puntillo, who is the CEO of the Chamber, explained in the Davis Enterprise that the Chamber supported Target in June when it was before the council, but now is neutral.

Indeed, according to an email we received from a member of the Chamber, the Chamber had no notification to the public about their changed stance. Not on their website. No in their newsletter. Not in a press release. It is unclear when or how they changed their stance, but apparently they did. Meanwhile their members like Sherry Puntillo and her husband, former Council member Ted Puntillo continue to strongly support Target and Measure K. Puntillo is featured on the TV ad that has been bombarding Davis TV for the past few weeks.

Meanwhile not surprisingly last Sunday, the Davis Enterprise Endorsed Measure K in support of a Davis Target.

Debbie Davis and Bruce Gallaudet's leadership positions with the Chamber of Commerce seems to put her in conflict with her other duty to the public in the form of fair endorsements. Editorial boards of course are paid to give their opinion. However, there should be a reasonable expectation that the Editor does not have other commitments either political or business that would cloud her judgment.

Is Davis well-served by having an Editor with such strong ties to the business community? Recall that the Davis Enterprise endorsed Measure X, a measure that 60% of Davis Residents opposed. Recall that the Davis Enterprise endorsed Ruth Asmundson and Mike Levy. Davis residents supported Ruth Asmundson and Lamar Heystek. So it seems to a large degree that the Davis Enterprise is out of step with the Davis voter.

Those things happen in small towns, however, it seems inappropriate for the Davis Enterprise to be weighing in on issues when the commitments of the editor's husband or the editor herself overlap with the commitments of being an editor. Debbie Davis should have recused herself from endorsing on Measure H & I. And Debbie Davis and her husband should avoid taking public positions on policy issues that affect the City of Davis or the County of Yolo.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting