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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving to all

The People's Vanguard of Davis will return on Monday with the latest news and commentary on Davis politics.

Thank you to all my loyal readers.

---Doug Paul Davis

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dunning's Ridiculous Lampoon of Souza and Yamada

As far as letters to the editor go, it was pretty uneventful and unnewsworthy. Yet somehow it becomes fodder for the sardonic humor of Dunning.

On November 15, 2006 County Supervisor Mariko Yamada and Davis City Councilmember Stephen Souza wrote a rather ordinary and standard letter of thanks to the contributors and supporters of Measures H & I. Completely unremarkable unless you are Bob Dunning.

Public power quest is still alive

Davis voters sent an unmistakable Election Day message about public power — we want it! The twin SMUD annexation Measures H and I passed here by a nearly 62 percent margin despite PG&E's unprecedented $11 million disinformation campaign to defeat us. Unfortunately, their efforts to frighten and confuse Sacramento SMUD ratepayers and West Sacramento and Woodland residents were too great to overcome — this time.

On behalf of Yolo4SMUD, we wish to thank all of our contributors and supporters — including The Davis Enterprise — for advancing the dialogue on the clear benefits of municipal over investor-owned utilities. The quest for local power, which began nine years ago in Davis, is still alive, strong and well. Stay tuned, and thank you.

Mariko Yamada, chair

Stephen Souza, treasurer
Dunning writes:
let's correct that statement about a "62 percent margin" … there was no such thing … SMUD got 62 percent of the Davis vote … a 62 percent margin would be 81 percent "yes" and 19 percent "no." …
Okay, they misspoke or mistyped, they got 62 percent of the vote not a 62 percent margin. Let's haul off and write a column on it... oh yeah, he did. Must have been a slow news day.
You might want to read that last sentence again … Davis folks, you see, were too smart to be frightened or confused … but the lowlifes in those other cities we're forced to share a county with just couldn't put two and two together and were thus at the mercy of the merciless power company …
Yes this letter to the editor is a clear example of "our elitism shining through." I won't defend Souza on this score, but anyone who knows Mariko, knows she is anything but an elitist. If anything she's humble to a fault.

Moreover I just don't see any evidence of elitism in this letter. What I see is frustration and anger that PG&E spent $11 million plus on a campaign to distort the issues and their record on the environment. The only difference between Davis and Woodland and Sacramento is that Davis is a bit more liberal and it took more to convince them that PG&E was an environmentally friendly company than a fradulent "No on Measure X" flyer purporting that a vote for PG&E was a vote against Measure X (or something like that).

If Dunning wants to be outraged, how about being outraged at PG&E for dumping $11 million into a campaign to keep their services in Yolo County and using every trick in the book to try to confuse the issue.

And if we are to be outraged, perhaps we shoud be upset that Dunning is filling our newspaper space with such banalities. Oh yeah I forgot, he's funny. Can anyone explain to me the humor in this column, because the only one I'm laughing at is Dunning himself for writing about this.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

OPEN THREAD: Davis to Sue Dixon over Racetrack

Davis Enterprise reporting the City of Davis is suing the City of Dixon over the Dixon Downs Racetrack.

I have all sorts of questions in my mind:

  • How much will the traffic impact us?
  • Does Davis have any say over what its regional neighbors do within their own boundaries?
  • Is suing a genuine gesture or are they trying to make a dramatic show?
I have no fully resolved these issues, so I'm curious about everyone take on this. I was against the development of the racetrack, but I'm concerned about the procedural and technical issues involved with one jurisdiction and another, but also the larger question about overlapping cost effects. Kind of an interesting issue as communities become more and more interdependent.

Schools Climate Still Needs Improvement

In February of 2003, the Davis Joint Unified School district heard from well over 100 students, parents and community members about problems of violence, discrimination and taunting at the schools.

The experience was an eye-opener for many on the school board and in the community who while they thought there was a problem, had no real idea of how bad it was--how deep and how widespread--at particularly the high school.

As a result of these meetings--several of them over the course of a few weeks--the school board created plans for a school climate committee and voted to hire a part-time School Climate Coordinator. Interestingly enough, they did this at a time of district-wide and state-wide budget problems.

In the wake of the recent events centering on the anti-gay harassment of a junior high school student, the district is now evaluating whether or not to expand the position.

During the meeting last week, the school board asked Mel Lewis, now the district's School Climate Coordinator, to draw up an action plan designed to reduce or eliminate harassment not just at Harper but at all Davis schools.

Lewis at the meeting pointed out he was doing a 1.5 time job on a half-time salary. The school board seemed to agree that the Mr. Lewis needs to be better sourced as did the father of the student, Guy Fischer. Fischer said "this is a full-time problem. There are a lot of things that could be done."

Lewis clearly has been given a strong mandate and he needs the resources to follow through on that mandate. We are supportive of the expansion of the climate position, at the same time some of Mr. Lewis' comments at the Human Relations Commission meeting on November 9, 2006 were of concern to us. Mr. Lewis at that time pointed out that the school district did a better job in this regards than adjacent school districts. That may or may not be true; however, this was not the time to make such an assertion.

However, it seems that the larger picture is pretty clear. The school district clearly needs to expand their programs because these types of problems do not appear to be going away.

Moreover, the community needs to be more aware of these types of ongoing problems. Most people at the school board meeting expressed a variety of mixed emotions of these events--one of the common ones was surprise and shock. Unfortunately, at this point, people in this community should be neither surprised nor shocked that these types of events still occur. They occur regularly albeit beneath the surface. We cannot deal with these types of problems if we are not aware of them. Therefore, one huge task of the school district if they are to be educators is to make the community well aware of these ongoing issues.

Finally, these issues do not exist in any sort of proverbial bubble. They extent beyond school district jurisdiction, they go into the community, and out beyond the community. As Mr. Fischer and his family's experience shows us full well, the harassment that his son suffered and continues to suffer went well beyond the boundaries of Harper Junior High School, affecting their home and home life.

This is a job for not only the school district, but rather a partnership between the schools, the city, the county and even the community. And yet, at the same time this issue has erupted, the Davis City Council is considering cutting back on the powers of the Human Relations Commission. Education is not the only role of such a body. They need to be able to actually investigate and make recommendations to the City Council for action, not just more talk.

We're pleased that this dialogue is occurring. Many in the community know that these problems have existed for quite some time but they usually bubble just beneath the surface of public consciousness. The suggestions for preventing future occurrences are good. Now the school district needs to take strong steps to make Mr. Fischer comfortable sending his son back to school.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, November 20, 2006

Buzayan Lawsuit Goes Forward Against Davis Enterprise

Last week a US Federal Court Judge allowed the Buzayan lawsuit to proceed against the Davis Police Department, the Yolo County District Attorney's Office and the Davis Enterprise. The defense was denied a motion for summary judgment. Moreover, the Judge allowed the Buzayan family to sue the Davis Enterprise and the Yolo County District Attorney's office for the unauthorized release of tapes of the Buzayan family which caused the improper online broadcast of the private and confidential information about the Buzayan family including their home address, unlisted phone number, names, ages and birthdates of the families' minor children (unrelated completely to the case), and the driver's license number and social security numbers of several of the people involved.

There were several remarkable things about this release of information about the Buzayan misdemeanor hit and run case involving a 16 year old minor at the time. First of all, the DA's office took it upon themselves to release the information without court clearance--in fact the judge had specifically told them not to do so. Second, the Davis Enterprise was apprised of the personal nature of the information and refused to pull it off their website. In fact, it is still available from their front page even today.

A book could be written about various portions of this case.

A few highlights of what will come up. First, a statement by the Deputy District Attorney in charge of this case that the reason that this case was brought to trial, was that the family was planning tp sue the Davis Police Department. This was said in front of Judge Warriner, who was reportedly so surprised he asked the DA to repeat herself, which she did… verbatim.

Second, the paper, the Yolo County District Attorney's Office and Officer Ly all mischaracterized the nature of the complaints made by the Buzayan family. They were not complaining about Ly's demeanor during his interactions--rather they were complaining about multiple violations of federal, state, and local laws.

Third, the news accounts reported a series of statements and misleading summaries of the tape recording in the paper. Those individuals, who relied on the newspaper's account of the description of the tapes, would have been misled as to their contents. Moreover, the plaintiffs allege that there was a selective release of the tapes. For instance, we do not hear the interaction between the Internal Affairs Sgt. Gina Anderson and Halema Buzayan. On the Internal Affairs tape you can hear Sgt. Gina Anderson threaten Halema to confess or her mother would go to prison.

Fourth, a member of the Yolo County District Attorney's Office on the Yolosoapbox accused the Buzayan family of paying off the victim in order to get her to drop her charges.

Finally, Ly on his website makes the stunning challenge to the Buzayans to take a polygraph.

All of these are additional points peripheral to the original arrest.

For those somewhat unfamiliar with this case, I recommend the KGO news reports which are quite good. If you use MSN Internet Explorer, you can view a series of videos of the newscast which provide good details of the case.

Most of this will be sorted out during the course of the trial. Now it will be interesting as to how the Davis Enterprise chooses to report on the lawsuit--and if they do. The Davis Enterprise itself is a defendant, as is Debbie Davis the assistant publisher/editor as well as Lauren Keene the reporter who covered the lawsuit. You can foresee the possibility of some sort of conflict of interest in attempting to report on a story which you are a party to and report on a case to which you are a defendant in. How will the Enterprise attempt to bridge this gap or will they not report it all.

Newspapers obviously have a great deal of legal protection against such cases and this will be interesting to see how this proceeds. Obviously the key point will be less that they published this stuff and more that they left it up on the server now for a full six months after publication.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Programming Alert

To my loyal readers:

I wanted to give everyone a heads up on what this week is going to look like. I have what I consider to be four major pieces of news that will be released. I'm hoping at least two or three will be out by tomorrow. May have to wait on one.

I am going to be out of town from Wednesday until Sunday. There will be something on Wednesday morning most likely and then on Monday morning. I hope everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving and we have a lot going on next week, so hopefully everyone Turkey's up (except for the vegetarians) and is ready to go on Monday.

Thanks to all of you who have made this so successful.

---Doug Paul Davis

Souza's Flawed View of Davis

Yesterday’s Sacramento Bee describes the split in Davis between the older Davis and new Davis. Ironically, the split is much less pronounced in the Target issue than it was in the City Council election, where the Center Core voted for Heystek/ Forbes and the periphery voted exclusively for Asmundson/ Levy. Moreover, a lot of the precincts were very tightly split. So Davis was just closely divided on the issue, regardless of where they lived.

Souza tries his hand at being election analyst—which is really not his knack.
Souza, a 27-year Davis resident who lives on the city's perimeter, thinks the ruckus over Target is the latest incarnation of Davis' growing pains. "In Davis, there has always been resistance to change," the council member said.
This is a flat out misreading of the situation in Davis. This is not a resistance to change at all. But this is the type of argument used to attempt to marginalize the opposition—just as Dunning’s CAVE depiction attempts to do the same.

I have no problem with change. Neither do many in this community. For example, they are talking about bringing in Trader Joe’s. That constitutes change. If they put Trader Joe’s up for a vote, what would be the margin? 70-30? 80-20? Would there even be organized opposition to Trader Joe’s coming to Davis? Do they even need to think about putting Trader Joe’s on a ballot?

No Stephen, we are not against change for the sake of being against change. What we do not like is the specific changes that you have proposed. Not all of us. Not all of the time. In fact, 60% opposed your Covell Village change and only 47% of those who voted opposed your Target change. We are not against change, we are against specific changes for specific reasons.

At the end of the day, this about a conflicting vision of how Davis is to grow—do we want large big box retail stores? Or do we want smaller and more locally owned business? Do we want huge housing developments? Or do we want smaller projects that are more homie and that do not look like they came directly from Levittown itself?

What kinds of values are important? For me, the biggest issues about Target were not just size of the retailer but that we are giving it severe advantages over locally owned and established businesses. Moreover, I have concerns that my values—of living wage, of environmental protection on a global basis, of basic social justice—are not embedded within the Target model of business.

It is therefore a misconstruction of the situation to read conflict as opposition to change as such. We do not oppose change. We oppose these changes. We oppose changes that alter the character and flavor of the city. Changes that threaten the fabric of moral values. That’s what we oppose.

Souza does us a disservice with his mischaracterization of the Davis psyche. Souza instead wages dishonest efforts to construct conflict over visions as mere psychological resistance to change, to reduce his opponents to psychological impairment regarding change. In so doing, he basically belittles our concerns and attempts to marginalize his opponents.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Souza's shot in the dark on PG&E

At Tuesday's City Council Meeting, Councilmember Stephen Souza got up before council to talk about the recent SMUD-PG&E election. Souza was a strong supporter of the SMUD annexation attempt in Yolo County.

One of the key parts of the election was the dispute between SMUD and PG&E over how much it would cost for SMUD to purchase PG&Es infrastructure. SMUD believed it was worth between $86 and $133 million while PG&E focused on the number $520 million.

Souza never really understood this point, he got burned by it at a Measure H & I debate by the PG&E spokes man. Here's my best understanding of the rule. For electricity infrastructure, fair market value is not determined by current worth. Rather it is determined by replacement value. Hence PG&E is claiming that the fair market value for their infrastructure is $520 million. SMUD was disputing that figure and placed it much lower at between $86 million and $133 million. I do not know enough to know which figure was accurate.

However, regardless of PG&E claims, they are not being assessed at replacement value but rather at actual value. The Board of Equalization is the one that assesses their value and the amount that they are paying taxes. The Board of Equalization is certainly going to be far better aware of the assessment laws than Councilmember Stephen Souza and it is unlikely that they have been assessing PG&E's current taxable value incorrectly.

Of course, Souza could have discovered most of this if he had asked questions in private about how taxes are assessed versus fair market value issues that arose during the campaign. Instead he has suggested that council agendize this. We see no purpose for this and believe it a waste of staff time and resources and that council should put its energies into other areas.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Father of Junior High School Student Speaks

The following is a clip from Tuesday's Davis City Council Meeting. Guy Fischer, whose son has been harassed at Harper Junior High School spoke on the matter.