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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Eleanor Roosevelt: Affordable Senior Housing Project Goes Awry

Established as a means to provide afforable housing for Davis seniors, Eleneaor Soosevelt Circle provides Seniors 62 and over with a place to live. 35% of the 60 units are set aside for disabled seniors with the rent ranging from $250 up to $1,000 depending on household income level.

Unfortunately the project seems wrought with a variety of problems. Mayor Sue Greenwald announced at the most recent city council meeting that they were having trouble getting local applicants. They had managed to attract only a few seniors from Davis. And shortly they would advertise the project regionally and open it up to seniors from a variety of other areas. This was obviously a bit of a disappointment since they had wanted to great a facility to meet the needs of the local population.

Anne Evans, who is a local advocate for the disabled pointed out that the age barrier might be prohibitive. She suggested that there were a number of disabled seniors from the age of 55-61 who were not eligible for this project because of the age restriction of 62. And she made the point that it is very difficult for seniors over 55 who were disabled to find affordable housing in Davis.

It seems only logical that they would extend the age range down to 55 before they had to advertise regionally. There is not legitimate reason why a 55-year-old could not live there.

Apparently this is not the only problem with the project. It is too close to students and a number of seniors do not want to deal with the noise and late night activity. But perhaps some of this could be mitigated with a more realistic age range.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Dunning's Mandate

As I've said a number of times on here, one of the chief reasons I decided in late July to create this blog, the People's Vanguard of Davis, was in response to Bob Dunning and the Davis Enterprise, in my view, running roughshod over the Buzayan family and their rights. For that, the Davis Enterprise will have to answer it appears in the court of law (more on this coming up on Monday).

More importantly from my perspective is that there was no clear and obvious means of response to the battery of unrelenting attacks day after day against the Buzayans, the HRC, the progressives, Heystek, and even the ACLU. Fighting Dunning through letters to the editor meant a 350 word response to his five columns a week. Even esteemed members of the ACLU and former Mayors of Davis were not immune to the well-oiled Dunning machine, with full backing from both the DA's office and the DPOA attorneys.

As Twain wrote, never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, clearly he had Dunning in mind as he wrote this.

Ironically, Dunning has been fairly quiet in the ensuing months, but on Friday, once again, he chose to fire off an attack. This time aimed at a Lamar Heystek claim that the Measure K vote was "by no means a mandate." A modest statement if there ever was one.

Dunning points out that in fact, Target doesn't need a mandate, just a one-vote victory. The implication was that Heystek was somehow a sore loser.

My interpretation of Heystek's statement is somewhat different. Dunning is correct, that Target needs no mandate, it simply needs authorization--which it received. However, as Dunning should darn well know having been a long-time resident here, Heystek's statement was a reflection of a broader importance and that goes to the heart of the issue--Target was a vote on a single-issue and not a broader mandate for growth, for big boxes, or an acceptance of varying other possible constructed outcomes that the council majority might be willing to use to further their future goals.

The city remains closely divided on the issue of growth, what kind of growth we would like to see, and our acceptance of large corporations moving into our close proximity. Also just because the voters narrowly approved Target, does not necessarily mean they oppose the living wage, a point that Dunning eludes to in a short comment. He writes:
living wage... an admirable goal this living wage, but why not provide it for everyone? does Nugget charge you less for a loaf of bread if you can prove you are employed by a small, independent, local business.
Interesting that he would used almost identical verbiage as Souza did when he argued against a living wage ordinance. Cleverly veiled as it is, it is also tranparent the point tht Dunning is ultimately making. Dunning talks the talk of a non-commital and impartial observer, but he rarely walks that walk.

Dunning is also naive if he believes that the council majority would not be claiming a huge mandate for growth if Target was approved by say a 60-40 margin instead of by a 600-plus vote margin.

Heystek was the target of Dunning during the elections, the question is, whether this will be a mere passing moment where Dunning takes a few parting shots at the young councilmember or whether this will mark a turning point where Dunning begins to focus his attention on Heystek, who he may view as the next progressive theat. It was noted to me, that in the past Dunning has taken open shots at other progressive members of the Davis City Council when they emerged as threats to his world view.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, November 17, 2006

Victim of Alleged Racial Profiling Speaks Before Council

A few weeks ago, we reported on an alleged incident of racial profiling. This Tuesday the victim came before the Davis City Council to relay his account of the incident. Additionally, the video was sent to the office of the Police Ombudsman for review.

School Board Meets Over Junior High Harassment

In an emotional and sometimes contentious meeting last night, the Davis Joint Unified School Board agreed to create a climate in our schools where everyone feels safe and accepted. There was little in the way of specifics, but the consensus of the board was to direct the Climate Coordinate Melvin Lewis to create an action plan.

I came away from this meeting with very mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is clear, very clear in fact that the school board has a commitment and the desire to fix the problems. It was also clear that the intentions are good. What was disturbing however is that I did not get a good sense that they knew what needed to be done. This meeting seemed long on rhetoric--Keltie Jones, the school board president who is openly gay, talked about her dream of a society where the gay lifestyle is accepted on equal footing with the straight lifestyle, where billboards and magazines in society depict same-sex couples just as they do opposite sex couples.

On the other hand, I just don't know if they really know what to do to fix these sorts of problems. In some ways, this is not even a gay-straight-anti-gay problem, it is as much a problem of bullying and kids possessing the ability to pick on others by going to their most vulnerable spot. And for this young junior high school student, it was the fact that he has gay fathers.

Board member Jim Provenza hit on a key point that got lost in the multiple discussions about what to do. The immediate concern--and Provenza was duly disturbed by this--is that there is a student who does not feel it is safe to come back to school. He came back initially and was harassed again. He then came back on a Monday, and was harassed by one of the same kids who was involved in the first incident and the Principal felt he had no proof this time and let the kid go back to class. This is very disturbing. And this is the part, that I don't think has been dealt with. I think the district has done a very good job with the bigger picture, but a very poor job with dealing with the immediate concern.

The other really good comments came from Hui-ling Malone, who is the daughter of Reverend Tim Malone and the student member on the board. She talked about the need for students to step out of the spectator's role. Moreover, teacher's need to be consistent about enforcing a no tolerance policy towards harassment. It is not enough for them to ask the students to write a reflective essay after the fact, they need to be vigilant and proactive.

Tim Taylor, another board member, emphasized that there is a strong need for a school district to educate. Everyone saw this as an opportunity to educate the students and the parents and the community on these issues.

Everyone on the board clearly seems to have the best of intentions. There was agreement that action needed to be taken, agreement there needs to be more education and the need for it to move beyond tolerance and towards something stronger. The big picture was well addressed but I think the short-term was not focused on nearly enough. The family is upset with how this was handled from a disciplinary standpoint and that seemed to be the weakest area of focus. Everyone has a sense for what to do in the longrun, no one offered much in the way of suggestions for the family to get their son back into school in the shortrun.

In the coming days, we'll have video clips from this meeting. In the meantime, there was an interesting dichotomy between those who were surprised that this could happen in Davis and those who were not. That's the bigger lesson that this community needs to take away from such events. It goes back to what Rahim Reed said last week at the HRC meeting--people in Davis tend to bury their heads in the sand and believe that these types of things do not happen here.

The striking thing was the message from the gay and lesbian community that they do not feel welcome in this community--at least some members conveyed that. In the last year, we've focused heavily on the minority community in terms of police harassment, but it seems clear that the gay and lesbian community have a number of under-addressed concerns as well that need more focus and scrutiny. If there is a teachable moment on this, perhaps it is this one--that we need to be vigilant, not because the majority of people in Davis are hateful, but because when a minority of people are, it reflects poorly on the rest of us.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Heystek Raises Target Website Accessibility Concerns

Last week reported on the fact that the Target corporation has refused to make their website accessible to the visual impaired. Their reasoning is basically that the 1990 ADA Act does not require them to do so. Thus they would rather pay to fight a legal case than comply with the requests to make their website more accessible to millions of disabled and elderly people. This is particularly concerning because the relative costs of making their website accessible is pretty minor and it would probably be mitigated by increased usage by disabled and elderly customers.

Councilmember Lamar Heystek, brought up as a suggestion the city council author a letter to the Target corporation requesting that they make their website accessible to the visually impaired.

Councilmember Don Saylor began to ask questions as to whether other corporations do this and whether the City of Davis does this. In fact, the City of Davis does have a fairly accessible web site thanks to the efforts of the Human Relations Commission and the work of local activist, Anne Evans, who brought this issue to the attention of the HRC.

Councilmember Saylor may want to take a look at the City of Davis website where they have a lengthy explanation of this.

The City site has been developed to be "text-only" friendly and considerate of users accessing the site with special devices whenever possible. We use descriptive alternative tags (ALT tags) to supplement graphics. If you turn off image loading in your browser, the pages of the site can still be navigated and viewed. For use with special devices, the site has been tested using Bobby.

Adobe PDF documents can be converted to HTML or ASCII text using Adobe Accessibility Tools.

Accessibility is an important issue for our webpages. We are working hard to meet W3C Accessibility Guidelines and Section 508 Accessibility concerns.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The City of Davis has a strong commitment toward meeting the goals of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. We follow practices to make our web site compatible with text-based and speech-based web browsers, and to provide information useful to those who are unable to easily access basic City information by other methods. Should you have an ADA-related concern about our web site, please let us know by contacting

Now the Section 508 Accessibility requirements are as follows:

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an individual's ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. ‘ 794d), agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others. It is recommended that you review the laws and regulations listed below to further your understanding about Section 508 and how you can support implementation. (Source: Section 508)

The City of Davis website is now in compliance with Section 508. There is no reason why Target should be in compliance with these requirements—their addition is not an expensive undertaking and there are many Americans right now who cannot have access to these websites. It would be like constructing a building that you cannot enter if you have a wheel chair. In the year 2006, this seems to be common sense. Hopefully once Councilmember Saylor educates himself on this issue, he will recognize this as well.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Harassment Incident Escalated into Fire bombing

Last Friday we reported that a Junior High School student was being harassed because his fathers were gay. Last night, the Davis Enterprise finally reported on the story, five days after we first broke the news. Of course, there are little details given in this article and it is noteworthy that the family was never interviewed.

The article describes an assembly held at the junior high school meant to educate the students about harassment. However, the family is angry that stronger disciplinary steps were not taken. Only a very small handful of students involved in the incident were punished in any formal way, moreover, the student has had to be pulled out of the school three times and he has now missed nearly four weeks of school. Tonight the school board will hear about the incident and make a determination as to what has been done and what further needs to be done.

The father appeared Tuesday night before the Davis City Council. In a disturbing escalation of the incident, the father described that the harassment leaked into the community from the schools. Their car was firebombed and burned to the ground on their driveway. Only quick action by their son allowed the family to avoid their entire house burning down.

According to the father, the police have been very slow to respond to this incident. They have made the determination that this was arson rather than an accident and they have identified a person of interest. But they have no suspects or arrests in an incident that occurred now over a month ago. Nor have they contacted outside agencies such as the ATF or FBI to aid in their investigation.

At this point there are two separate issues--one is the continuing harassment of a junior high school student on campus that is a matter that needs to be addressed by the school district and the second is the escalation of this matter in the form of a criminal act of arson. The family feels neither have been treated with due diligence.

The initial response that I witnessed by the school district at the Human Relations Commission meeting was disturbing because they appeared from my perspective more interested in damage control than in dealing with this problem. Chief among them was the climate coordinator whose response to the family was basically that Davis was better in this regard to other school districts and he mentioned specifically West Sacramento. That may be true, but a family going through something like this does not want to hear that type of rhetoric, they want to know how this is going to be prevented from happening again.

At this point, the school district is telling the family that the student needs to be in school, but family fears for the safety of their son. Hopefully most of this can be resolved tonight at the school board meeting.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

City Running Short on Parking Fines

There was an odd moment last night when Finance Director Paul Navazio was presenting an update on the budget, one of the areas that had a shortfall was in public safety. It turned out they were running a deficit on parking fine and vehicle infractions. And we're not talking about chump change, it was in the tens of thousands if not higher.

Basically right now the city relies on the enforcement of parking violations as a steady source of revenue. What has happened however is that as they have gone to more and more strict systems of enforcement, the revenue has fallen off. With the implementation of the new GPS system and the no re-parking policy, the number of parking citations that have been issued has apparently fallen, moreover the expense of the system has risen. And so there is now a budget shortfall because the number of violations fell short of projections.

You have a catch 22 system going--you have a system that relies on people breaking the law in order to finance it. That seems archaic at best. You want to people to commit fewer not more violations of the law and yet you have budgeted the revenue from parking violations. It is just an odd system.

It seemed that the council acknowledged that this system is problematic at best and that you should not be relying on the revenue from parking violations to make your budget, and so I would guess that in the future they will fix the system.

So this is an item more of bemusement than of true criticism, but you still have to say... only in Davis is a reduction of traffic and parking violations a bad thing. (Actually I'm pretty sure that other cities problem have similar problems).

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Divide and Conquer is a Risky Strategy for the Council

One of the first lessons that my political mentor taught me a long time ago when I first got involved in politics was to avoid too many polarizing issues. He drew it out for me on a chalkboard quite clearly. You may take the majority position on each issue, but you will anger a different constituency as well. You may win on each issue, but at the end of the day those constituencies may add up to over 50%.

When the council took on the HRC and the police issue, it seemed that a majority of people were on their side. But these were very contentious issues and they angered a number of constituents who may have been with them on growth and development issues. Likewise the Target issue did not just anger the progressives who normally oppose the Council majority, but also it angered small business owners, particularly in the downtown. So while they might have had the barest of majorities support Measure K, they may have mobilized a powerful new constituency against them who will join forces with the progressives to work to oust them in 2008.

That brings me to yet another constituency that may be in the process of being mobilized against the council. The issue of the merger of the Senior Citizen Commission has angered many seniors. We’ve covered this issue a few times as it has developed. Overall the community seems indifferent to the issue of the merger of the Senior Citizen Commission with the Social Services Commission. However, one group that is angry is a group that has not generally asserted itself in Davis nor have they generally sided with the progressives. The council may once again have the majority that can get this through the council, but they may in turn mobilize another group against them.

The chair of the Senior Citizens commission Elaine Roberts Musser writes:
If council members are concerned about the tone of the conversation in the community, it is comments such as those aforementioned that get seniors' blood boiling. They know full well when they are being had... A total of 138 outraged seniors want their commission to be left alone to do its business — advancing the interests of Davis seniors.
That may not seem like a large number, but it probably speaks for a larger group. Small numbers of voters who change their loyalties in an evenly divided town could be pivotal in swinging an election.

As we wrote a few weeks ago, we were unimpressed with the reasoning behind the move. Musser was not either.
Councilman Stephen Souza claims, "By combining the power of both bodies, you wind up with a more powerful body and focus ..." What you really end up with is shortchanging constituencies of both the Senior Citizens Commission and the Social Services Commission, focusing away from seniors in particular.
Further she takes exception to the notion of making the Senior Citizens a subcommittee, since many are not able to drive at night and would not be able to attend the new commissions meetings which occur after dark.
I was also very troubled by a comment Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson made at the Oct. 24 City Council meeting. There was an indication that if seniors were not able to meet in the evening, then they could join a standing subcommittee. Why should seniors be relegated to subcommittee status, just because they cannot drive at night?
The Council majority may once again have the support both on the council itself and in the community to prevail on this issue. But at some point they will have polarized so many people, that they may have polarized themselves right out of power.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The PG&E Aftermath

I have delayed my writing of the PG&E decision until a week after the election (hard to believe it has only been a week). The problem with any analysis is that while H&I were extremely close elections, the fact that Sacramento had to approve it as well and it wasn't even close to passing in Sacramento, makes it difficult to do a true post mortem. It is disappointing though not surprising that it would fail by a large margin in Sacramento. After all, the benefits to Sacramento rate payers are not as immediately evident and it is far easier for PG&E to scare them.

Still I believe that had H & I passed in Yolo County it would have sent several loud and clear messages to PG&E. That message is mooted by a split decision. Dunning thought this was an odd outcome not understanding why someone would vote for one and not for the other. But in actuality it's not that odd with one passing by 400 or so votes and the other failing by a similar margin, as close as the two are to each other, this amounts to little more than random error by a small number of people not fully aware that these are two sides of the same coin, it's likely that 98 percent of the people voted the for both and only a tiny percent split their vote.

And yet, even granting the large defeat in Sacramento County, I'm a bit disappointed with the Yolo County results. Had Yolo solidly voted to support SMUD, it would have been a loud and clear signal. First, that PG&E could not buy our votes with their ten million dollar plus campaign, fraught with deception. Second, that we were not happy with our service from PG&E. (Obviously PG&E prevailed by casting doubt about the SMUD move more than by convincing us that we liked them).

This was a rare election in so many ways. There was near animous support among Yolo County Elected officials--every member of the three major city councils and all five members of the Board of Supervisors won. How is it then possible that PG&E wasn't soundly defeated in Yolo County?

The obvious answer was the slew of deceiving mailers and TV ads in Yolo County. PG&E managed to turn the strength of SMUD into an uncertainty by casting doubt on their ability to lower the bill for rate payers. This had to do with the costs of annexation. Watching the debate between SMUD and PG&E, it seemed that the pro-H & I side was ill-prepared for this argument even though they knew it was coming. Frankly after watching the debate, I had doubts myself about their plan even though I knew going in I was going to vote for SMUD regardless. The PG&E arguments were extremely effective unfortunately.

The second problem was that just like Target, PG&E tried to turn the issue of the environment--one of their weaknesses in their favor. So they launched a massive campaign to convince Yolo County voters that PG&E was environmentally friendly and perhaps as importantly that SMUD was not environmentally friendly (easier to convince people of negatives). They even went as far as to compare PG&E's effort to the No on X effort which we covered.

The bottom line of the PG&E effort was to convince the rate payers that they may not like the current system, but a new system may be worse, so stick with the devil you know. And when you have a resource advantage, it's easy to convince people to stick with the status quo by voting no. The no side almost always has the advantage in these types of races.

It is obviously difficult to fight back when you are facing a 10 million dollar plus campaign. But one way that might have been helpful would have been for each of the 20 officeholders to contact their core constituencies with a direct message of support for SMUD and an explanation of why it was important for them to support H & I. I'm not being critical of the SMUD effort, because they did very well facing overwhelming odds and an overwhelming resource disadvantage. At the end of the day, given that disparity, it was hard to win. I had hoped that the voters in Yolo County would see through the smoke and mirrors, but it seems very obvious that PG&E was able to obtain their by creating enough confusion and uncertainty to nudge a defeat on Measure I.

As I said previously, it was rendered moot by the large and overwhelming defeat in Sacramento County. This was a long and difficult process, so it is hard to know if this is the end of the fight or if they will try to revisit it. If they do wish to revisit it, they need to conduct a long and very concerted education campaign prior to the fact and they need to make it very clear exactly how much this will cost, so that PG&E has a more difficult time of mucking the waters.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, November 13, 2006

Will Target Election Re-shape Davis Politics?

In politics as in life there is a proverb, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. In the aftermath of Measure K, this seems to be at least potentially ringing true. While Don’t Big Box Loyalists hold onto to the hope that the conclusion of the ballot count may push the No on K side over the top, some real changes may have occurred due to the tactics used in the Yes on Measure K side.

As we reported earlier, a number of downtown merchants have left the DDBA and Chamber of Commerce, over a difference of opinion over Target and those organizations at least tacit support for Target. In fact, the Chamber was extremely duplicitous in their position on Measure K. They supported Target when it came before the City Council in June. The vast majority of their leaders and board of directors also publicly supported Target and Measure K. However, in almost of an afterthought to a letter from Don Stor, Sherry Puntillo informed the public that the Chamber had supporter Target in June but now had no position. No explanation was offered. Nor was an explanation provided in a brief letter co-authored by Puntillo and Adamsky. It was almost a CYA move while providing tacit support.

Apparently, a number of small merchants and downtown businesses grew tired of these political games. Don Shor last week informed us that in fact a number of businesses have formed an independent association and will be working hard to get a third vote on the Council in the elections in 2008. (Are we surprised that this gets no coverage in the local paper?)

The heavy-handed tactics by the political establishment coupled with the business associates may have won the election in terms of getting a Target approved, however, it may end up at the same time mobilizing opposition for future fights. They may have won the battle, but lost the war. The progressives in this community now have strong new allies in fighting against the current council majority, and hopefully in the future we will see everyone work together to defeat Souza and Saylor in 2008, should they decide to run for re-election.

In the meantime, I for one will continue to vote with my pocketbook by purchasing my goods downtown. I have long since decided never to shop at Target again. My hat is off to the brave downtown businesses who have stood up against the political establishment. And once again, my hat is off to the grassroots effort by Davis residents who nearly defeated Target despite being outspent by more than a 10-1 margin and despite the strong support from the political and business establishment and the mainstream Davis newspaper.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Davis’ Commitment to Civil Rights Suffers

Rahim Reed said it all on Thursday--Davis thinks it is a progressive town but it is not. People have buried their heads in the sands as incidents of racism, racial profiling and other episodes have occurred on repeated occasions.

While these incidents have occurred, the residents of Davis are largely in denial about them. The average person does not know what minorities face on an everyday basis.

During the course of the past year, person after person has come forward documenting cases of differential treatment of minorities as opposed to whites. African American students came out in masse several times to complain about racial profiling incidents where students have been repeatedly pulled over by the police for no apparent reason. The collective response from the majority of Davis has been to back the police and deny any allegations of wrongdoing. The majority on Council aided and abetted this mindset, turning the community against those making the allegations and turning the Human Relations Commission into a scapegoat for stirring up discontent.

In the meantime, on one of the few occasions when the local chapter of the ACLU spoke out last spring, they were roundly criticized with a series of columns from local columnist Bob Dunning, who, aided by legal advice from the very agencies under fire in the Buzayan case, argued repeatedly that there was no wrongdoing in that case. Who gave him the legal advice? Lawyers for the Davis Police Officer’s Association and Lawyers from the District Attorney’s office—both of whom are being sued by the Buzayan family. That case is currently in federal court and moving towards depositions. And yet people used Dunning’s arguments as reason to dismiss the allegations and exonerate the officer involved.

The degree and heat of the criticism caught local leaders of the ACLU off-guard and they have largely been muted to the other problems. The latest siege on civil rights is occurring right now, quietly, almost unreported in the mainstream press. In October, the HRC met for the first time under new membership. One of their first tasks is to evaluate the 1986 Anti-Discrimination ordinance, after it was brought to the attention of Councilmember Stephen Souza, that the authorizing resolution of the HRC passed earlier, was out of compliance with language in the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance.

At issue is a paragraph that specifically authorizes the HRC to mediate and investigate cases of alleged discrimination.

Section 7A-15(C):
"Any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against in violation of the provisions of this ordinance may file a request to have the Human Relations Commission investigate and mediate his or her complaint. The Commission may adopt rules of procedure to accommodate the needs of such investigation mediation. A complaint to the Commission shall not be a prerequisite to filing a civil action under this section, and the findings and conclusions of the commission issued in response to such proceedings shall not be admissible in a civil action."
During the past year, the community complained that the HRC had gotten away from its mission. They saw the language in the charter that the mission was that of “promoting tolerance” in the community. However, what they did not know was that the HRC was specifically authorized to do exactly as they had been doing—investigate cases of alleged discrimination. The City Council was unaware of this charge either. The revelation came as a shock to Souza in the October meeting.

Unfortunately as is often the case, the only way to make change is to rock the boat. Martin Luther King, Jr is a hero to most Americans but he rocked the boat. Rosa Parks rocked the boat when she refused to give her seat up on a bus. You cannot make changes in society without rocking the boat. No one wants their boat rocked. No one wants their comfortable illusions shattered. But sometimes it is necessary. The HRC learned the hard way that sometimes when you rock the boat, you toss yourself into the rough waters.

Unfortunately it appears that the new HRC has learned this lesson all too well. The preferred solution by the Council seems to be to do away with this section of the ordinance and weaken the protections to the landmark Anti-Discrimination ordinance. And the new HRC appears ready to let them do exactly that. Once again civil rights in Davis are under fire. Very little has been said about this danger. However, it appears that the Davis commitment to civil rights remains quite weak.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wildhorse Ranch: The Next Big Development Controversy

Just when you thought it was safe to watch your city council meetings... A few days after the voters have apparently narrowly passed the Second Street Crossing Project--better known as Measure K and Target, we have a new controversy developing.

On Tuesday night, the City Council will have on the agenda an item to approve an EIR Consultant Contract for the Wildhorse Ranch Project.

This is the early stages of the Wildhorse Ranch project. It is approximately a 25.8-acre parcel that will be developed into around 192 single-family homes.

The key thing here is that this will involve an amendment to the General Plan land use designation of the site from Agriculture to Residential and also a rezoning.

Anytime you make a general plan amendment it is subject to Measure J voter approval.

In other words, it would have to go before the voters for approval. The city since 2005 has gone through two bitterly divisive campaigns on growth. The first, Covell Village in November of 2005 was soundly and thoroughly defeated. The second, just this week, was approved by the narrowest of margins in the form of the construction of a Target.

The City Council figures to try to push this one through as well, leaving city residents once again divided on the issue of growth. Moreover at the pace of these enactments, you can figure that the city council is trying to wear down the opposition. The developers largely will front the money for these campaigns, just as Target did this fall, and it is up to the grassroots citizen groups to organize against. While the Target people put up a valiant fight against Measure K, it was somewhat smaller than the effort against Covell Village and this time the council was able to eek out a narrow victory.

Right now the applicant has requested that this project be placed on the ballot in November of 2007. If this ends up on the ballot in November of 2007, figure that the progressive community will be suffering from exhaustion. Fortunately, city staff does not believe that's enough time to deal with the legal and practical constraints of the Environmental Impact report. Thus a 2008 ballot measure would be more feasible. However, we need to remember that since 2008 is a Presidential election, that means there is a March primary rather than a June one. That extends the time period only by four months at the most.

Regardless of whatever machinations come forth on Tuesday, it's obvious that this item will pass 3-2 and that eventually the Davis voters will once again have to weigh in on a development project that is likely to bitterly divide the city. While Measure J provides us with a bit of a firewall against growth, the only real defense is a 3-2 majority on the City Council so that these projects will not go forward to begin with. We have less than one year and a half before the next council elections and that is where we really need to find a way to pick up a third vote on the council.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting