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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Target Related Items

I have about several separate things to write on Target today, so I'm combining somewhat different things into a single column.

Someone from the Don't Big-Box Davis passed along this little nugget of truth. I swear you can't make this stuff up. Target hired a sign waiver for election day on the corner of Covell and Pole Line. They paid that person $25 per hour. Talk about showing us where the priorities are. Obviously it was extremely important for them to win this election. And obviously much less important to pay their workers well as I don't think they even pay their managers $10 an hour. This is likely twice as much as they'll pay any employee at the new store. But to win the election, they'll pay whatever it takes. In this case, $25 per hour to a sign waiver and over $300,000 overall.

I'm operating under the assumption that Measure K will be approved once the final votes are counted. It is however, worth noting that Measure K was ahead by 1200 votes after the pre-election day absentees were counted and ended up ahead by around 600 votes overall, so on election day, the No on K side actually got very slightly more votes. I still expect Measure K to win after the last votes are counted, but it's worth noting anyway.

I have said this before and I'll say this again, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the No on K folks--they faced tremendously long odds on this one. I know polls in June showed that Target would pass easily--60-40 range. I never quite believe those kinds of polls, but I tend to think that's the case that Target was heavily favored in June. Most people in the end are not ideological about such things--especially the students who I am fairly certain pushed this over the top. I completely understand the reasoning of the students on this. The people I have a problem with are those who were swayed by the green Target campaign, that makes me sick. If you want a Target that's fine, but let's not pretend this is something other than a large corporation that practices exploitative policies on the environment and workers around the world. If you can live with that fine, but no amount of giving Target a green spin and a leed building is going to change what they are. I accept losing, I detest deception.

That leads me to my next point--the small businesses who are deadly opposed to Target and went public with that--I have tremendous respect for them. But my next question is to them--come next election are you going to continue (if you have in the past) to support Souza and Saylor for council or are you going to back the people who were on your side in this battle. Make no mistake here, part of what progressives wanted to preserve was the character of our city and the downtown is a huge part of that character. But if next election, those same small businesses are backing Souza and Saylor, then we'll be having this fight again in a few years. For so many reasons, we need change on the council, hopefully the businesses of downtown will join us to fight those who gave us Target and Covell Village.

Finally, I wish I had had time to put this on before the election, just too much going on in this town leading up to the election. But even more reason to oppose Target, they are not very compassionate toward the disabled community. The disabled community often gets overlooked in these battles. Fortunately they have fighters like our own Anne Evans to advocate on their behalf. Here's an article she wrote about how Target is being sued for not having accesible web site for the blind:

The National Federation for the Blind, an organization that represents blind people, is suing Target Corp., because Target’s Web site is inaccessible to blind Internet users. Target's argument is their Web site isn't subject to the Americans With Disabilities Act, a 1990 law that requires retailers and other public places to make accommodations for people with disabilities. Target argued that the law only covered physical spaces. Making information technologies available to persons with disabilities is not only a matter of human rights, it also makes good business sense. Take aim at practices and policies by the Target Corporation that discriminate! Boycott Target!
Evans brought this up with the Human Relations Commission a few years ago pointing out that the city's website was not blind accessible and the city at the insistance of the HRC made changes with their website to be accessible. This is a very telling thing, because, while Target is arguing that the law only covers physical spaces, it is not exactly difficult to make a website blind accessible. It is certainly not very costly and as they point out, it only makes good business sense to be able to reach a maximum amount of customers. So again very telling that Target would choose to fight this legally rather than make a change. To me that is inexcusable.

I will probably never shop at Target again, previously I might have gone to Target once or twice a year. I shop at Costco, good cheap prices, but they pay their employees extremely well and give them outstanding benefits. Wal Mart keeps their prices down by paying their employees very low and then browbeating their suppliers and threatening them to keep their supply end low. What Costco does is they sell one single national product per type. So the products have limited competition. So if you want to buy Ketchup, you can get one brand of Ketchup. And if you sell Ketchup to Costco, you know you'll get a huge share of the Ketchup market and that allows you to sell it for much less and still make a worthwhile profit--because basically you sell more of your products. Then Costco (again unlike Target or Wal Mart) turns around and gives their employees huge shares of the profit and have one of the most progressive health care policies in the country. I wouldn't want a Costco in Davis either, but it nice to have one in Vacaville that I go to a few times a year to stock up in bulk products.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lieberman will be with the Democrats

Just in case you were worried...

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. Joe Lieberman, who won re-election as an independent, has a message for his Senate colleagues in the next Congress: Call me a Democrat.

The three-term Connecticut lawmaker defied party leaders when he launched his independent bid after losing to Democrat Ned Lamont in the August primary. During the campaign, he vowed to be an "independent-minded Democrat" if he were re-elected. In Tuesday's election, Lieberman won strong GOP support and given the closely divided Senate, Republicans are expected to court him.

So will he count as a Democrat or an independent who caucuses with the majority Democrats? In an e-mail message late Thursday, Lieberman spokesman Dan Gerstein said the senator will begin his new term as a Democrat.

With the Democratic takeover of the Senate, Lieberman is in line to become chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

In a post-election news conference, Lieberman said he was reassured by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid that he would retain his seniority when the new Senate convenes.

New HRC: Welcome to the Real World of Davis

Last month the new Human Relations Commission met for the first time and began to try to think about its new charter. Many of the members I do not think really understand what goes on in Davis. But last night they got their first taste of the real Davis.

First, the Principal from one of the Junior High Schools came and told about an incident where a student was harassed by over a dozen of his classmates who attacked him with anti-gay statements. From listening to the Principal it sounded as though the school was taking many necessary steps to rectify the problem. But then the father spoke up and told us that only a few of the culprits were suspended for their action. More alarmingly is the fact that the student returned to class a few days later and was harassed again. So he was pulled out, and came back again, and harassed yet again. Now the student has missed three weeks of school. They were attacking this kid with anti-gay slurs because he has two fathers. Both fathers came and told about the situation and both expressed concern about what they saw as the lack of response by the staff to this situation.

Despite the claims of the HRC Chair, John Dixon, this is not merely an issue of the school district. The harrassment of the student has also occurred off campus to the point where the harassers have followed the student home and even vadalized his home.

The response to the parents concerns by the HRC was mixed. At a personal level members expressed shock and dismay. Shelley Bailes was outraged. But Chair Dixon expressed the fact that this was now largely an educational body. Other members seemed uncomfortable with those prospects.

This dovetailed into an agenda item raised last week by Heystek that the resolution re-authorizing the HRC was at odds with the anti-Discrimination Ordinance. One of the tasks set forth by the council for the HRC was to determine whether the two are incompatible and what should be done including the possibility of re-writing the anti-Discrimination ordinance, one of the most sweeping in the country. The other possibility was to recommend to the council to re-write the resolution to be in compliance with the ordinance.

Two of the members including Bailes and Vice Chair Najme Minhaj seemed very uncomfortable with doing this. Arthur Clinton and alternate Thomas Hagler (who was acting as a full member with only five regulars there) seemed comfortable with the idea that the council could change the ordinance.

This is a real threat to the anti-discrimination ordinance--a landmark ordinance written in 1986 that authorizes the HRC to be far more than just an educational body and authorizes it to mediate and investigate acts of discrimination. The previous HRC, despite what certain members of the community said and what certain councilmembers stated, was actually acting within their full authority.

There were members of the new HRC that were clearly caught within a quandary of the obvious intent of the majority of council to roll back the duties of the HRC and the obvious need to address acts like the one they listened to last night.

At the end of the day, the new HRC is going to realize exactly why the old HRC did as it did. They are going to hear complaint after complaint come forward and become increasingly frustrated if they indeed change the ordinance to remove the power from the HRC to investigate.

The most refreshing thing was to listen to the comments of Rahim Reed. I had not seen him or met him in person, and so it was unclear where he stood on a number of issues. Reed is the Vice Chancellor of the Officer of Campus Community Relations. He's an African American man, and he stood up there and said what a number of us have been saying for the past year. Davis thinks it's a progressive community and an educated community, but many citizens simply bury their heads in the sand and don't see the problems that exists with racism, with racial profiling and with incidents such as last year's with the Muslim teenager. It was music to my ears to hear this man say this. I wish he would have gone before council in February and said this. I wish he would have gone before council in April and said this. I wish he would have gone before council in June and said this. But he said it last night in November and it was exactly what the new members of the HRC needed to hear.

The new HRC is going to learn very quickly what the real Davis looks like in the very underbelly that no one wants to admit exists. The HRC is the body that deals with it. As people attacked the HRC and the Chair last year, I kept wondering how they would react if they witnessed what the HRC witnessed. If they had to listen to parents and community members coming before them time after time with the same stories of harassment and intimidation. And in many ways I was very grateful that this new body got a taste of this before they decided whether to recommend to the council to remove the last of their formal powers to actually investigate complaints of discrimination. We shall see where that goes, but I have both hope and dismay after watching the meeting last night.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, November 09, 2006

NY Times Headline: Democrats Take Senate

Enterprise Engages in Spin Control

Folks, you just cannot make this stuff up. It is hard to imagine and yet utterly predictable at the same time.

Here we are, literally two days after the election, one day after the election addition of the paper, and now the Davis Enterprise is trying to mend fences for the city.

On the front page of tonight's paper is an article that was written in the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal. Now when was the last time you saw an article from the Providence Journal picked up? Two days after Target passes, and you have an article called "Thinking outside big box."

Forgive me if I'm insulting your intelligence. I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I believe and live by the maxim that you should never ascribe to malice what can be explained by stupidity. But let's be honest, is there any other reason for this article from a medium sized paper from across the country to be on the front page of the Davis Enterprise? I'll listen to reasonable alternative theories, post them in the comments below.

In the meantime, let me spell this out... Here's the message--the Davis Enterprise supported Target, Debbie Davis supported Target, Sherry Puntillo supported Target, the Council Majority Supported Target. Target presumably has passed. Now most of the small businesses from downtown wrote into the Davis Enterprise and signed a letter of opposition to Measure K. The power elite in Davis now fear that the businesses in downtown will leave before Target comes here. And so they have put this article in the paper to show the businesses of downtown that they can survive.

The caption says it all "Small stores fend off large retailers with service, specialties." Message to downtown: specialize with good service and you can survive.

Now let me tell you a nice story, a few months ago, the wife and I went to the matress store downtown, she's very particular about the matress, and the guy patiently spent a good hour making sure that we were happy with the matress. He gave us a good deal as well, but I'm certain that we could have found the matress for cheaper somewhere else. But we wouldn't have gotten that kind of service. My wife has been happy with our matress from day one and we didn't have to buy it only to return it later. You cannot get that kind of service and care at a big box, you just cannot.

So I agree with that aspect of the article. But the overall net effect is concerning and it is buried in the article--when a big box moves in, small businesses leave town.

While it's generally accepted that retail giants such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot or Target can drive out some local businesses when they move into an area, in effect forcing people to lose their jobs, these large employers also create potentially hundreds of new positions to staff new stores. The net effect these changes have on a regional economy's labor market is still up for debate.

Elena Irwin, an associate professor of economics at Ohio State University, said the research regarding small retailers and stores like Wal-Mart is crystal clear.

"Small retailers get driven out of business when Wal-Mart moves into town," she said. "The research on the overall effect of Wal-Mart on jobs is mixed. There is the possibility of a significant loss of jobs or a modest increase after five years. Communities shouldn't expect a net increase in jobs because a Wal-Mart moves to town."

So yes, some businesses may survive. So may adapt. Some will continue to provide good personal service to this community. I do not have a problem with the article itself or what it is saying.

It is interesting to note, that when I looked up the original article, the title was different from title in the Davis Enterprise. The original title: "Small stores seek niches to fend off big competitors."

However, I find the timing and placement of the article "cynical, manipulative, and most likely politically motivated" (That is going to be my new catch phrase).

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

George Allen Officially Concedes

Democrats officially take the Senate, although realistically I was pretty sure this one was Webb's as soon as Webb took the lead late Tuesday night.

New York Times Story on the Concession

Exorcising Demons of 1994

In 1994, I was a young volunteer and activist working on a Congressional Campaign for Walter Capps. By the time the polls had closed on the West Coast at 8 pm, there was a new Speaker of the House--Newt Gingrich and the Republicans had won the Senate as well. Small consolation in California was that Senator Feinstein was spared in a very close victory over Michael Huffington who spent tens of millions.

A funny thing happened that night though, as the results came in for the 22nd Congressional Race, Capps--a religious studies professor and political neophyte who was taking on then Assemblywoman Andrea Seastrand a long time political figure who was the widow of Eric Seastrand a long-time Republican office holder. Seastrand a firebrand Conservative who fit in well with the "revolutionary" class of 1994. On the worst Democratic night at least since 1980 and perhaps since well before, Capps was holding his own, going toe-to-toe with Seastrand. In the end, he literally fell a few hundred votes short of a victory. Two years later he would claim that victory, but he passed away in 1997 as he finished the first year of his first term. His wife, Lois Capps has been in Congress ever since.

That night, I went to bed somewhere after 3 am, exhausted, the reality of the day hadn't really hit me quite yet. In the morning, the alarm goes off and there is Paul Harvey on the radio, gloating. A herd of dancing elephants rampaged through Washington last night, he said. It turned my stomach. It was the dagger that made everything real.

I'll never forget that moment. When history writes of November 7, 2006, they will note that the Democrats took 28 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate. That former number might creep up to 30. If you compare those raw numbers of seats chaniging hand, it will be fairly unremarkable in the annals of history. And yet, those numbers will belie just how improbable what happened would occur. You see, we might have projected this for the past month or so, but go back in time and this was exceedingly unlikely.

The environment at the beginning of 2006 looked poisonous for the president, but the number of marginal house seats was exceedingly low. Most pundits could point to 12, maybe 18, at the very most. They just didn't see the Democrats winning all of those. Democrats held 18 of the 31 Senate seats. Remember this is the same batch of Senate seats that the Democrats took in 2000 to even up the Senate at 50-50. This is the only class where Democrats had the majority of Senate Seats. There were at most 8 Republican seats in play and Democrats needed to take six of them. But it was even harder than that--Democrats had won in Redstates like Nebraska and Florida last time. They had to hold off tough challengers in Minnesota, Michigan, Washington, New Jersey and Maryland. Even on Tuesday afternoon, NO ONE, honestly believed the Democrats could take the Senate.

I say all of this to show how improbable what happened was. Scandals, Iraq, and general discontentment put as many as 50 seats in play. Democrats have won 28 so far, I think by the time it's done, may 30 will go to the Democrats, far more than anyone ever thought possible six months ago. In the Senate, the Democrats got fortunate as there were weak challengers in Nebraska and Florida. Katherine Harris was an embarrassment to the Republican party (at little payback for 2000 no doubt to see her clocked cleaned). Democrats won big in Minnesota and Michigan where there could have been tough races. Even Maryland and New Jersey went by almost double digits. The Democrats did not lose a single incumbent in the House, Senate, or Governor, and they did not lose a single-seat previously held. That's amazing.

But what happened in the Senate was nothing short of miraculous. First, Pennsylvannia--everyone knew that Santorum was dead and he stayed dead. In Ohio, it was a massacre of DeWine and Strickland beat the nemesis of 2004, Blackburn. So nice payback there. Those were the two givens. Rhode Island, honestly I like Lincoln Chafee, I worked with his father in the Senate on some legislation back in the day, he was good man and really a liberal. But Democrats needed that state and won it. Missouri was a battle to bone and McCaskill beat back a very conservative Jim Talent to win that. Montana is one of the most conservative states in the country, Tester is no one's idea of Democrat, but he's a populist and was able to beat Burns--a thoroughly corrupt man.

And finally in Virginia--George Allen was the darling of the conservatives and apsirant for the 2008 Presidential Nomination and possibly the Conservative frontrunner. He was poised to win and win big until he slipped up with the now infamous "Mackaka" reference. Anyone who doubts the power of new technology look no further than Montana and Virginia. Both incumbents slipped up and got caught on home video. The difference between now and 2006 is Youtube. They put it on Youtube and the gaffe's spread immensley. Burns attacked firefighters and Allen made some unforgiveable statements about a native Virginian because of the color of his skin. Power to the bloggers! They ultimately did not win in Connecticut, but I think they'll trade Connecticut for Montana and Virginia. Now the Democrats need to govern.

We have a lot of work left to do in Yolo County, but despite the disappointing local results, I went to bed last night finally after being up for nearly two days with a big smile on my face knowing that the Speaker of the House is Nancy Pelosi and that the Democrats control congress.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Local Congressional Battles bring Victory

Yes Charlie Brown ended up losing to John Doolittle on Tuesday night, but from all accounts no one was acting like this was a loss. You see, Charlie Brown went toe-to-toe with an eight term incumbent in a District that have a 16-point registration advantage to Republicans and Charlie Brown gave it everything he had and gave Doolittle all that he wanted. In the end, he lost just 49-46--beating Democratic registration by 13 points. That would have been an extremely astounding victory for Democrats.

Brown fought against Doolittle on issues of ethics, his ties to Abramoff, and his support for the war in Iraq. For his efforts, Brown a long-time veteran of the U.S. Airforce, his son serving four tours of duty in Iraq, had his patriotism questioned and his name linked to Sean Penn, Code Pink, and Cindy Sheehan.

The interesting thing to watch now will be--will Doolittle get indicted? If he does, Brown is in an excellent position to jump back in and take the Fourth District for the Democrats.

Meanwhile, there is no moral victory in the 11th District. The 11th District, has much more favorable numbers than the Fourth for Democrats, only a 5 to 6 point registration disadvantage. Still Democrats do not fare well in such districts. But don't tell that to Jerry McNerney. McNerney had battled Pombo in 2004 only to lose. This time, he emerged with a solid victory.

McNerney was able to stay within 1200 votes in the more conservative San Joaquin county and make up the difference in the more liberal Contra Costa, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties.

This was a great victory for grass-roots politics. Pombo wants to try to get an overhaul of the Endangered Species Act through the lame-duck Congress, despite the fact that the environment was one of the issues that eventually helped to bring him down.

McNerney is a lesson for Democrats and a victory for people like Howard Dean who has created the 50-state program, trying to find Democrats who can go toe-to-toe with Republicans even in the most conservative of areas. Tuesday night seemed a vindication for those policies.

Now, McNerney is going to Congress and Pombo is going home. Charlie Brown did not win, but Doolittle is going back to Congress a humbled man, knowing that he barely survived one fight of his life, but he faces another--possible indictment of Abramoff money. We'll watch closely these developments and see if Doolittle ends up going back to Northern California as well.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Update: AP Calls Virginia for Webb; Dems win the Senate

Dems control both houses for the first time since 1994.


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

Update: AP reporting that Rumsfeld is resigning

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will step down.

UPDATE: AP Calls Montana for Tester

Democratic Challenger Tester has won according to the AP. If there is a recount, with a 3100 vote lead at this point, it looks like Tester will win. And Webb looks good in Virginia with an 8000 vote lead. Democrats look poised to take the Senate. Unbelieveable.

Narrow Divide

Democrats have picked up 28 seats in the House to take control, with a possibility of perhaps two more. Democrats hold a slight 229 to something majoirty at the moment. A narrow advantage.

Democrats have picked four seats in the Senate, with Montana the two candidats separated by 1800 votes, with Democrats John Tester ahead. Jim Webb leads George Allen by 7000+ in Virginia. Both will likely go to recounts. They might not be decided for weeks. If Democrats prevail, they will control the Senate 51-49--the slimmest of margins.

Charlie Brown narrowly loses to John Doolittle. Jerry McNerney defeats Pombo.

In Yolo County, the them continues. Matt Rexroad leads Frank Siefferman by a narrow 600 votes with some precincts perhaps outstanding. Much closer than perhaps some expected.

SMUD appears to be going down to a split decision--H passing by 400 and I failing by 400. Don't ask me how that happens.

Target is passing by the narrowest of margins--a 600 vote gape on Measure K. A further illustration of the very narrow divided in the City of Davis. Didn't council warn about dividing the city? Meanwhile Choice Voting wins by 1600, an advisory vote that had no campaign against it.

Statewide, the horrendous campaign of Phil Angelides for Governor doesn't doom the Democrats, as they win across the board for the constitutional offices except Bustamante going down thoroughly to defeat.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Democratic Pick ups:

House: (+28)

Ellsworth (IN-8)
Yarmuth (KY-3)
Donnelly (IN-2)
Murphy (CT-5)
Hodes (NH-2)
Sestak (PA-7)
Space (OH-18)
Shuler (NC-11)
Mahoney (FL-16)
Carney (PA-10)
Giffords (AZ-8)
Klein (FL-22)
Hill (IN-9)
Gillibrand (NY-20)
Shea-Porter (NH-1)
Arcuri (NY-24)
Mitchell (AZ-4)
Atmire (PA-4)
Boyda (KS-4)
Braley (IA-1)
Kagen (WI-8)
Hall (NY-19)
Walz (MN-1)
Lampson (TX-22)
Perlmutter (CO-7)
Loebsack (IA-2)
McNerney (CA-11)
Murphy (PA-8)

Senate: (+6)

Brown-OH (pick up)
Casey-PA (pick up)
Menendez-NJ (Dems hold this tight seat)
Stabenow-MI (Hold)
Klobuchar-MN (Hold)
Cardin-MD (Hold)
Whitehouse-RI (Pick up)
JIM WEBB-VA (Pick up) New pick up

Governor: (+6)

Deval Patrick-MA
Bill Ritter--CO


Brown loses to Doolittle
McNerney wins
Measure K is ahead pending absentees and provisionals
Measure H passes; I fails but irrelevent because Sac voted against L
Rexroad wins

Appearance of a Conflict of Interest

One of the major complaints about the Yolo County Criminal Justice system is the apparent close ties between the District Attorney's Office and the County Judges. Overly prosecutor-friendly judges seems to be common-knowledge in Yolo County.

One huge apparent conflict of interest is that Judge Stephen Mock is the lead Superior Court Judge in Yolo County. His wife is Ann Hurd, the Chief Deputy District Attorney. Judge Mock assigns cases to judges while his wife assigns prosecutors to the same cases.

The outward apparence here is that there is a conflict of interest in this situation. Indeed this has been a source of defense attorney complaints for some time.

Some have suggested the problem is more appearance than fact. They cite that the Judge position as one that is more administrative than a position of power. Moreover, they suggest that Hurd and Mock themselves go to great lengths to be above the board.

Nevertheless, this is a troubling arrangement for a number of reasons.

First, our system is predicated on the notion that we rely on rules and structure to prevent abuse of power rather than the good will of individuals.

Madison at the founding of our nation wrote in Federalist #51:
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.
The basic premise here is that we produce government to control the governed but also the government itself. We do that through structures and laws that do have to rely on the good will and good behavior of individuals. So an apparent conflict of interest that is not abused, is still a conflict of interest. When Mayor Sue Greenwald the other week had an issue come up involving a portion of town where she owned property, she recused herself from offering in the deliberations or the policy decision. She may have indeed acted in good faith had she continued to sit, but the very possibility that interests would conflict necessitated her from recusal.

The second basic problem, if even if Mock act honorably and ethically in his position, the very fact that a Judge would be married to a Deputy DA in the same jurisdiction is a cause for concern. Once again, the suggest has been made that if anything Mock is more pro-defense counsel in his decision, once again, we are relying on the honor of a man rather than leaving no chances. Hon. Mock may indeed be above reproach, but it is the system that we are concerned about.

I think we need a close look at the way our system runs here in Yolo County, there have been a number of stories and incidents that are of concern. This one was brought to my attention by one of the readers of this forum, but there are several others that should be examined as well.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Heystek fights for Social Justice

In politics, even when you agree with someone on the issues, you never quite know what you are going to get. It was that way with Lamar Heystek. I supported now Councilmember Lamar Heystek in the June election along with Stan Forbes as they were the candidates of the progressive left here in Davis and opponents of the status quo candidates Asmundson and Levy. The question I wondered at the time, is “what kind of councilmember would Heystek be--would he try to please everyone, would he merely vote the right way, or would be a candidate who would go to the mat for his principles and be a fighter for Democratic / Progressive issues?” Well folks, I'm very pleased to say we have a fighter on our side now. We now have someone on the city council that will go to mat for our issues. And yet, at the same time, he's a gentleman. He doesn't have to roll in the mud with his adversaries.

Yesterday, Councilmember Heystek had a brilliant letter to the editor in the Davis Enterprise. Here's a key excerpt from the letter addressing the issue we've been talking about the last few days.
Less than two years ago, the Target Corp. spent at least $350,000 in its successful attempt to defeat Proposition 72, which would have ensured health care for millions of California's workers. Now, Target is spending nearly as much on Measure K in Davis to prevail once again against the interests of working people.

When the Target proposal weaved its way through the city's entitlement process, Target spokesman John Dewes had expressed no interest in pursuing any worker safeguards, including a labor peace agreement. Now, just hours before Tuesday's election, why do working people suddenly become his cause célèbre?

I am disappointed that the exclusive group working on behalf of Mr. Dewes is interested in pursuing labor issues only insofar as it will win the election for Target. Should Measure K pass, the days after Nov. 7 will surely test their mettle when it comes to fixing the long-term integrity of Target's labor practices. I invite them to express a full commitment to this issue by supporting legally tested safeguards such as a living-wage ordinance. It's the right thing to do.
There are a few key issues that Heystek brings up. First, Target does NOT support the values of progressive Davis. Not only did they spend money to defeat a health care proposal, but they spent money consistently to support very conservative politicians seeking elective office. Some have suggested that they don't want their tax money going out of city. Well, I don't want my hard earned money going to line the campaign coffers of conservative politicians. I don't want it used to defeat health care proposals for California workers.

Second, and most fundamentally, he points out the duplicity in the whole PLA agreement that Souza-Saylor are working on. Dewes and Target have no interest in unions. They've rejected all overtures for using unionized workers in their stores both in the future Davis store should K pass and nationally and globally. So why suddenly are they supporting a PLA with union construction workers?

Third, Heystek calls them to the task on their union support by inviting them to support a living wage proposal. That will be the true test of their support for the rights of workers. Heystek calls them to task for having an eleventh hour conversion on the eve of the election in an attempt to convince the public that they support the rights and values of Working Class America. The values of the progressive movement in terms of the rights of workers. This is as Saylor once described "malicious, cynical, and probably politically motivated."

Fortunately for the progressive, the City of Davis now has a progressive champion willing to stand up and fight for our values, even when those values may be controversial. That is all we can ask.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, November 06, 2006

OPEN THREAD: Election Predictions

In the style of the Daily Kos, I thought in honor of the election day tomorrow, I'd create a place where everyone can leave their election predictions.

One suggestion, I know a lot of people like to log in annonymously, either log in with some kind of name or leave some kind of name at the end of your message so that we can give you proper accolades on Wednesday.

So here are the predictions:

1. Breakdown of the House of Representatives--how many seats for the Dems and Reps
2. US Senate
3. Governor's Mansions
4. Local Races of interest:
* Doolittle vs. Brown
* Pombo vs. McNerney
* Siefferman vs. Rexroad
* Measure K
* Measures H & I (bonus for the Sacramento Measure L)
* Measure L (Choice Voting in Davis)
5. "Upset" of the Day

I'll post mine in the comments as well

Serious Questions Remain Unanswered by Souza and Saylor in Target Negotiations

On Friday and Saturday, the People’s Vanguard of Davis reported that Davis City Councilmembers Stephen Souza and Don Saylor had entered into negotiations between the Target Corporation and the Builders Union regarding a project labor agreement (PLA) over the construction of the Target building should voters approve Measure K on Tuesday, November 7, 2006. A number of troubling aspects of this arrangement were raised both on Friday and Saturday. The following is an assessment of what we know and what we do not yet know in this arrangement.

Did city council authorize council members Stephen Souza and Don Saylor to enter into these negotiations? No. Souza and Saylor neither asked for nor received authorization to pursue these negotiations. Did they need to receive authorization? Souza claimed both in the Davis Enterprise article and at the September 18, 2006 City Council meeting that the PLA needs no council action and that they were not required to seek any sort of council approval for negotiations or the results of the negotiations. Is this true? Are their actions legal? These remain open questions. There has been some suggestion from off-the-record conversations that this might not be legal.

Who are the parties in this negotiation? According to the Davis Enterprise, one of the Target negotiators was Jay Ziegler. Ziegler is the Campaign Manager of the Yes on K campaign and he is apparently working with Saylor in some capacities on the Yes on K campaign as we know from the EPA’s letter of complaint regarding Councilmember Saylor. Moreover he is a paid consultant for the Target Corporation. Matt Kelly, a representative for the Sacramento-Sierra Building Trades Council, appears to be negotiating on behalf of the unions.

Are Souza and Saylor parties to these negotiations? Statements at both the September 18 council meeting and the newspaper indicate that they are. What role are they playing in these meeting? Are they neutral? Are they facilitators? Are they negotiating on behalf of Target? Why is the campaign manager for the Yes on K campaign involved in these negotiations? These are all questions to which there are no answers right now. Souza and Saylor as strong backers of the Measure K campaign and who have extensively worked behind the scenes on this campaign certainly do not appear to be neutral parties in these negotiation. So what role are they playing? If they are facilitators it would seem that their relationship with Ziegler and the Yes on K campaign would disqualify them from serving in an impartial role. Are they therefore negotiating on behalf of Target? That might not be unlawful, but it certainly would not sit well with many voters in Davis to have a sitting councilmember negotiating on behalf of a corporation. It seems that we need some answers as to what role the two councilmembers are playing in these negotiations. At minimum this appears unethical.

If they are parties to this, why did they not inform their colleagues until September 18, a month into their negotiations? Souza announced on September 18 that they had been involved in negotiations for 30 days. Even if they were not legally bound to disclose this—and again this is an open question, it would seem common courtesy to inform their colleagues of these undertakings.

Moreover why where Souza and Saylor able to participate in this process but not someone like Councilmember Lamar Heystek, a strong supporter of organized labor and the rights of workers? The decision to do this on their own, meant that they effectively decided which councilmembers could and which could not participate in talks. That’s part of the objection here. Perhaps a councilmember like Heystek would advocate more strongly for the union employees than someone like Saylor or Souza. By making this decision unilaterally and without consultation of their colleagues, Souza and Saylor took matters into their own hands.

Perhaps their defense would be that they are acting as private citizens? Saylor has often said in other contexts though, that he could never merely be a private citizen, he would always be associated with his office. If that is the case, perhaps there is a situation where Saylor and Souza are operating under a “color of law” where they are using their roles as elected officials and representatives of the city to give them authority and credibility to conduct negotiations. This is a key question because if we assume that as private citizens they are permitted to be involved in this process—are they actually acting as private citizens? There is no oversight of this, it has happened outside of public light, there was no authorization or sanction by the city council on this issue. Should there have been? This where I think, if the conduct of Councilmembers Souza and Saylor is not outright unlawful, where they really push up against the ethical line.

Is this merely a political issue or is there a greater problem with their conduct? Clearly, we have a situation where Souza used this as a reason to not support living wage and suggest that the discussion of a living wage might jeopardize future negotiations. That deception, is a political question rather than a legal one. There are a number of other political questions in this situation as well. Souza made the claim in the Enterprise that he thinks a PLA is better than a living wage. But again, the living wage and PLA do not seem to effect the same workers. Again, that’s a political question, but the legal question is whether laws have been broken and whether Souza and Saylor parlayed their positions on the council into trying to politically influence negotiations in an attempt to swing the election in their favor. These are serious charges that require a serious investigation by someone completely independent of this process and city government who is familiar with the laws.

I think there are serious questions raised and unanswered that deserve an investigation. I would recommend to Mayor Sue Greenwald, Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson, and Councilmember Lamar Heystek that they press for an independent investigation of the actions of their colleagues Souza and Saylor. These questions need answers and the citizens of Davis need assurance outside of the political process that everything that has occurred has been legal.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Chamber Clarifies Their Positions

Anyone see the letter to the editor in Thursday's paper, it was kind of buried but it was from Jeff Adamski and Sherry Puntillo:

Chamber reiterates its positions:
The board of directors of the Davis Chamber of Commerce wishes to reiterate its positions on Measures H, I and K. For Measures H and I, the SMUD annexation proposal, the Chamber has not taken any position and will not do so. With respect to Measure K, the Second Street Crossing development, while the Chamber supported the project through the planning process, we have updated our position to neutral.
Okay we're all clear now. Thanks for that.

Anyone wondering what that was all about?

On October 17, the People's Vanguard of Davis reported on the Chamber of Commerce's perplexing change from an endorsement of Target when it was a City Council issue, to no position once it became a ballot measure. The rationale behind that change is perplexing. Moreover, most of the key people in leadership positions are all personally supporting it and the change in position was never formally announced.

Meanwhile, a few days later we discovered that Bruce Gallaudet of University Honda, a board member on the Chamber of Commerce (and husband of Davis Enterprise Editor Debbie Davis) used the Chamber of Commerce attribution on the Sample Ballot Statement against Measure H.

It is nice that they clarify that they have no position on SMUD or Target, but that's all they tell us. There is no public announcement repudiating the use of the attribution by Gallaudet and there is no explanation as to why they would support Target in June but not November.

This seems standard policy by the Chamber to not publicly deal with issues of these sorts, but it's almost like there is a cloak of secrecy involving some of this stuff.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Lamar Heystek in No on Measure K Ad

For those of you who are tired of watching Ted Puntillo support Measure K in the TV ad on cable, here's a grassroots effort with Lamar Heystek on a homemade video posted on youtube. Enjoy.

Saylor Distorts EPA Position on Measure K

A November 1, 2006 advertisement in the Davis Enterprise suggested that the EPA was in support of Measure K. The EPA spokesperson wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the Davis Enterprise, clarifying that the EPA had not taken a position on the Target Development.

The text quoted in the advertisement was verbatim from the emails exchanged between the EPA's Project Manager and Councilmember Don Saylor. However, those quotes were juxtaposed with other material to suggest that the EPA had in fact supported the measure. This is a clear attempt to change the meaning of the information that the EPA provided to Councilmember Saylor.

Saylor completely twisted the words of the EPA to suggest to the public that the EPA was supporting this project. This is a gross attempt by Saylor to manipulate the public into supporting the Target project and Measure K.

Kathleen Johnson, Chief of Federal Facilities and Site Cleanup Branch, Superfund Division wrote a letter to members of the City Council, the newspapers, and the two campaigns dispelling the notion that EPA was taking a stand. The People's Vanguard of Davis has acquired a copy of this public document.

The letter says:
EPA is writing this letter to make very clear that EPA takes no position regarding the proposed Target development, currently up for a community vote as Measure K on the November 7, 2006 Davis ballot.

Unfortunately, a November 1, 2006 advertisement in the Davis Enterprise, could be read to suggest that EPA is taking a position on Measure K. In response to an email from Councilmember Saylor, EPA answered questions regarding our Superfund cleanup and potential impacts to the redevelopment in two emails, dated October 26 and November 1, 2006. As a public agency, we responded to the request and provided the information regarding the Site. Although the text quoted in the advertisement was taken verbatim from emails between EPA’s Project Manager and Councilmember Saylor, it was juxtaposed with unquoted headings and paraphrased materials that arguably change the import of EPA’s words.
The EPA had a dialogue with Councilmember Saylor answering questions about their Superfund cleanup and potential impacts to the redevelopment in two emails.

Don Saylor was the only one who had access to those emails. Thus it is clear that Saylor took the words of the EPA and twisted them to meet his needs and put them into an advertisement that would appear in the Davis Enterprise to try to convince the voters that the EPA approved of the Target project.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting