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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Update on the Junior High Harassment Case

We have been following for the last three weeks plus, the ongoing situation of a family whose son was harassed at Harper Junior High School in Davis. The incidents involved anti-gay slurs and repeated incidents of abuse.

The family and their attorney sent the Davis Joint Unified School District a very clearly outlined eight page letter depicting the events and listing the necessary steps to be taken by the district in order for the family to feel that their son could attend school again. This letter allowed the district ten business days to respond and that time has now elapsed and the District made no effort to respond.

Moreover, the district has still failed to provide the son with an in-home tutor and the son is falling further and further behind in school. He has not been in school now for well over a month. This is a 13 year-old kid in 8th grade.

The school district has told a number of people that the victim in this case is responsible for the problems. Apparently the family has been told that the kid was a bit too cocky and he talks too much (what kid doesn't?). There has also been an allegation that he was a bit of a show-off rich kid wearing a Rolex watch to school. Some of this may have merit, but that does not excuse the ongoing abuse and it certainly does not excuse the school for failing to work with the family to provide a safe learning and educational environment.

The key issue for this family is the safety of their son. He came back to school twice after the initial incident was reported and was further harassed. The family does not feel like the school is providing a safe environment for their son and moreover they are not providing him with a tutor.

A few things that are coming up this week in this ongoing case:

On Wednesday, News 10 ABC in Sacramento will have an in-depth feature on this case. The reporter Dan Adams is covering it and if you have concerns about this case you are invited to contact him at: DADAMS@NEWS10.NET

In addition they will be filing this week in the Northern California District Court in Sacramento. They really did not want to sue; but they do not feel safe putting their son back in school.

As I've stated in past coverage of this issue, my feeling is that the school district has done a huge amount to put programs into place to prevent future incidents. However, they seem to believe that this is sufficient. On the other hand, the family feels that they have not done enough to insure that their son is safe and can attend class in a safe environment. The school district has not communicated what they plan to do to protect this student from future abuse, so I do not know what they have offered the family, but it seems that they have been incommunicative and cut off contact. If this goes to lawsuit, it seems tragic for all involved and fully avoidable. The young son has future ambitions and is likely going to be the one who has to suffer.
Unfortunately, this is a continuing pattern in the Davis school district, one would have hoped that we could be more responsive to these sorts of problems—however that does not appear to be the case.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Senior Citizens Commission Continues to Strongly Oppose Plans for Merger

The Davis City Council continues to seek the merger of the Davis Senior Citizens Commission with the Social Services Commission. The Senior Citizens Commission, as we have reported now several times, from the start, has opposed such a merger for a variety of reasons including the diminishing of their influence among the commissions and also the distinct duties between what those two commissions currently work on.

In an article last night in the Davis Enterprise, Souza is being fundamentally dishonest about his goals and motivations behind this move.

Councilman Souza has said the merger recommendation was meant to generate conversation, and the final decision will not be made until the council takes its vote.
This is simply untrue. The merger recommendation occurred in conjunction with a number of other proposed changes that were implemented. Back in September, Souza went to both commissions in order to gauge their desire to merge. The Social Services Commission, which was at the time filled with a number of strong allies of the current council majority including Kevin Kline, Michelle Reardon, and Donna Lott, consented to support the merger by a 6-1 vote.

However, the Senior Citizen Commission led by Elaine Roberts Musser, was very strongly opposed to such a meeting. As we reported back on September 26, 2006, when Souza did not immediately get his way, he spent over an hour attempted to browbeat the chair of the commission into agreement becoming at times belligerent and abusive (to a senior!).

When this merger idea was brought up in September, it was clearly not done merely to generate discussion, rather it was intended to make changes. Souza and Asmundson never anticipated such resistance to their plan. It was only after strong opposition from the seniors on the commission, and the seniors in the community (I am told they now have several hundred signatures), that Souza’s stated goals changed to generating discussion about the new roles of the commissions.

However, it was not until the October 24, 2006 (click here to see a video clip from that meeting) meeting that the notion of generating discussion even came up. There was absolutely no mention of this at the September meeting. The original idea was that they would approach both commissions to see what they thought about the idea. And this occurred after both Greenwald and Heystek were adamant about gauging the level of support for the merger by the two commissions.

Once again this week, the Senior Citizen commissioners clearly stated that they oppose any merger with the Social Services Commission. Musser argues that we have a council that has commissions to do things like bikes, trees, art. Given that, it makes little sense not to allow the seniors to have their own separate commission.

To this date, Souza has not articulated a strong reason to go ahead with this merger. The idea that the combination of the two commissions will make for a stronger voice is spurious at best and ad hoc in its origins.

Asmundson and Souza said the merger of the Senior Citizens and Social Services commissions would eliminate overlap and bring a greater voice to both concerns. The new commission would be called the Commission on Aging and Social Services, and would include a subcommittee of seniors to work on issues that affect the elderly only.

The degree of overlap between the duties of the commission is heavily disputed by members of the Senior Citizen commission who suggest, very credibly and convincingly, that they deal with very different issues. They believe that they have a full agenda and that they should take up those issues pertinent to seniors rather than work on the broader agenda that the Social Services Commission works on.

At this point, this seems like a power game pure and simple. The Council would be well advised to at their December 12, 2006 meeting let this matter drop. An alternative approach may be to create a special joint commission to deal with issues that both commission share while allowing them to function separately on those issues that are not in common. That would seem to accomplish the best of both worlds—enabling the Council to get part of what it wants while allowing the Senior Citizen Commission to remain independent and able to pursue issues of paramount importance to the Senior Citizen community.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Midday Briefs

Does Dunning know what a Mulligan Actually is?

Dunning in the latest installation in his continuing saga against Lamar and “Target-did-not-get-a-mandate-gate” writes:
“You know, Sharon, Lamar’s remark was so off the wall and he’s so new at this that I’ve decided to give him a Mulligan on this one… basically, he’s trying to convince us that because it passed by such a small margin, it didn’t really pass at all…”
Yes, Bob, Lamar is claiming that Target didn’t actually pass… right. Mulligan? How many columns has Dunning written about Heystek in the last two weeks?

Looks like the good professor called it right two weeks ago when he wrote me:
“You might want to jot down Friday, November 17 as the day on which Bob Dunning started another of his standard snide and sarcastic campaigns against a new, threatening progressive Council member.”
Of course this is nothing compared to Wednesday’s column, but it’s just another example.

Speaking of Dunning... he keeps hitting on the Yamada and Souza elitism shtick

He quotes Tim as saying:
“I find it interesting that politicians such as Souza and Yamada can’t accept their defeat.”
Now I’ll be darned if I’m going to let Dunning force me to defend Souza, but geez, Bob, could you for a moment accept the possibility that when your opponents spends $11 million in order to defeat your ballot measure that you’ve been working on for a considerable length of time, you might not be the most gracious person in the world. I’m willing to accept defeat; deceit is a little tougher to swallow.

Tim if you are taking offense to that, it’s time to lighten up and get some skin. Either that or start following the opera, because politics is a tough world and those were softball comments.

Selling the suit

Another Davis Enterprise article this one on November 29, 2006, ostensibly to tell us that the city has indeed followed through on the lawsuit, because it does not actually give any further details that their previous article from a November 21, 2006 did not.

Meanwhile Crilly Butler of Davis writes into the Enterprise to ask:
“The Davis City Council is going to sue the city of Dixon for approving a horse racetrack because it’s going to increase pollution and traffic congestion. This is the same City Council that supported “our” new Target store, when the Target EIR itself stated that the impact on air pollution and traffic were “significant” and “unavoidable”?
Yes Crilly, I am afraid so. At some point, I’d like to hear Stephen Souza, Don Saylor, or Bill Emlen explain the logic. At least give credit to Greenwald and Heystek on this one—they were consistent—against Target, against Dixon Downs.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Swing and a Miss by Dunning and Mazelis

Wednesday we reported that Bob Dunning and Noreen Mazelis were off base in their attack on Councilmember Heystek for being part of a "struggle" seminar.

Noreen Mazelis wrote in to say:
"Per Sunday's Enterprise ('Briefly,' Page A3) Lamar Heystek will be on a panel with three other privileged men to discuss 'struggle.' "
Dunning’s insensitive adjoinder was:
wow, nobody knows the trouble he's seen, overcoming his college education and teaching position at UC Davis to become one of the youngest City Council members in Davis city history … struggle? … Lamar? … heck, he's not old enough to have even struggled with a razor …
People defend Dunning as being funny and making fun of everyone equally, but this was not funny. This was a mean-spirited and vicious attack by Mazelis.

Moreover, this is an example of sheer laziness by Dunning. If Dunning wants to criticize Heystek for being privileged and poke fun of the perception that Heystek has lived an easy life, perhaps he ought to actually get off his rear end and do some verification.

As it turns out nothing could be further from the truth. In the light of the truth, Dunning’s quips and lack of investigation are absolutely inexcusable and appalling. This is a stunning example of outright irresponsible commentary by Dunning. As I said, there is nothing funny here. Heystek has never ridden the train about the tough life he has lived and that is to his credit. But I feel utterly compelled to set the record straight.

I knew that Heystek did not come from a privileged background. What I did not know is just how disadvantaged he was.

Heystek's friends report he grew up in very impoverished parts of Oakland, before his family moved to a very modest neighborhood in San Leandro. He and his twin brother (who has served 8 years as a Bay Area School Board member) used to have to run home from school because the neighborhood they lived in was so dangerous. It was common place to be beaten up or robbed and shootings were frequent. Lamar, his brother and older sister (who is a longtime Marine Corps veteran currently serving in Iraq) learned to protect themselves by running to and from school to avoid the violence of the streets.

Heystek's mother suffers from a chronic and debilitating illness and was not able to help in the raising of the children. His father worked long hours at very modest jobs to support the children and care for his wife.

While attending San Leandro High School, Heystek went to work at a Safeway store beginning a 9 year career as a retail clerk in the grocery business. When he was admitted to UC Davis he transferred to the Market Place Safeway in Davis working full time to support himself and afford his schooling both as an undergraduate and a graduate student.

Heystek is very close to and protective of his family. He rarely speaks publicly or privately of his background and the hardships he and his siblings faced growing up. Nonetheless he has a compelling personal story of overcoming adversity, poverty and building a credible and compassionate life.

Perhaps Dunning and Mazelis ought to do some research before they make assumptions about people's background and use it to attack them. Heystek's background is anything but the musical whimsy that Dunning’s insensitive, snide and hurtful remarks imply. Both Dunning and Mazelis owe Heystek a formal apology in the Davis Enterprise.

---Doug Paul Davis Reporting

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thursday Midday Brief Discussion Items

Yolo Probations Department "Most Wanted List"

The Sacramento Bee reports:
"The Yolo County Probation Department has added photos and descriptions of its "Most Wanted" fugitive probationers to its Web site."
And as if that did not sound strange enough, go to the actual page, you have people wanted for crimes such as "Unauthorized Possession of a Controlled Substance." You have a few wanted for spousal abuse, several substance abuses, and burglary. Not to make light of these crimes.

CBS 13 Covers the Target Issue

The other night, CBS 13 in Sacramento had a feature on Target. Here's a link to the video of that news story:

A few thoughts on Rifkin's Living Wage Column

Rifkin argues against a minimum wage citing research that suggests that minimum wage does more harm than good. He writes:
Far more destructive would be a "living wage" in Davis, where the floor, according to Lamar, would be $10 per hour.
Let us put this into perspective. In January california's minimum wage will increase to $7.50 per hour and in January of 2008 it goes up to $8.00 per hour. Davis being much more expensive to live than a lot of other places it is not outrageous to suggest that it might have a higher minimum wage than the state level--especially for large employers who are more likely to be able to absorb the cost.
Rifkin writes: "I know a nursery owner who hired part-time workers to water her plants. When the California minimum wage was last increased, she was forced to buy an automated irrigation system to do that task instead. Now, no one has a job watering those plants, thanks to our high minimum wage."
This is a good point, but it also illuminates the reason why the new living wage should not be universal. Target provides us with a good example.

In 2008 or beyond when Target in Davis opens they project somewhere around 250 jobs at $8 per hour. How many fewer employees are they going to hire if they have to pay $10 per hour? They may hire fewer, but that's by no means a certainty. But even if they hire fewer, it would be nice if the people who they did hire could actually reside in the city of Davis and therefore redistribute most of their income into the city's economy. Whereas if they had to live in the cheaper West Sacramento or Dixon, a lot of that money would escape into other municipalities. That would seem to be a win-win for Davis and Target and may actually result in more earnings for Target down the line.
If Councilman Heystek's ambition is to help low-paid workers who are trying to support their families, he should forget his living wage ordinance and push for a more generous EITC.
Perhaps Rifkin forgets that Heystek has almost as little power to enact an EITC as City Councilmember as Rifkin does as a columnist. So if Heystek is to help low-income families, he has to do things that are actually within his power.
Unlike most welfare schemes, the EITC does not encourage idleness.
And neither does a living wage which obviously relies on the individual performing long hours of work.

I do not see the living wage proposal placed on large employers in Davis being a huge depresser of the job market. Rather I see this as an opportunity for the city to keep more of its employees residing in the city limits which will improve revenue not only for the city but also for its businesses.

More on the Anti-Gay Junior High Harassment

After some technological struggles, I have managed to clip the testimony of Guy Fischer from the November 12, 2006 Davis Joint Unified School District board meeting. This is a 12 minute video clip.

CBS 13 in Sacramento had a news feature on Monday on this incident, click below to watch the video:

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wednesday Midday Brief Discussion Items

Saylor’s Parliamentary Sleight of Hand

It was an interesting dynamic at the council meeting with Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson absent due to an exclusive invitation with the Pilipino President. Suddenly the narrow 3-2 majority became a 2-2 deadlock on anything controversial. The battle lines were drawn on the issue of hiring a $75,000 consultant to conduct a survey on future park usage.

Heystek and Greenwald came out strongly against the suggestion, citing as we did in yesterday’s blog, concerns about budgetary priorities. Realizing that he lacked the votes, Saylor first tried to table discussion until December 12, when Asmundson would return. But that move was defeated by a 2-2 vote (a tie is essentially non-action). Saylor then attempted to convince Mayor Greenwald and Councilmember Heystek that the consultant was the right way to go. This made for an interesting exchange, but ultimately failed. I’ll say this—when you need their votes, it makes for a much more cordial atmosphere than when you know you have a de facto majority.

Finally, they voted to take no action. But Saylor had one more trick up his sleeve and with a shocking move he joined Heystek and Greenwald in support of that motion. Why would he do that? Parliamentary procedure states that in order to reconsider an item, a person who voted with the prevailing side is the only one who can bring it up for discussion again. Saylor could not bring the item back had he voted against taking no action. (At least that's my understanding of the rule, I am no parliamentarian). Thus, when Asmundson returns, Saylor can bring the item back for discussion and they can vote to hire the consultant.

It was a little disappointing that a fiscally cautious member such as Saylor would approve such an expenditure. Thus we urge Saylor to practice the type of fiscal restraint he has repeatedly urged council and the school board to undertake over the years.

Dunning Goes After Heystek Again

Dunning in yesterday’s exegesis references Noreen who remarks that “Lamar Heystek will be on a panel with three other privileged men to discuss ‘struggle.’” I had to look it up and among the other privileged men is none other than Desmond Jolly. I do not know how many people know Desmond Jolly, but if Desmond Jolly does not know what struggle means, none of us do. Yes, he is a well-regarded Professor Emeritus now, but I’m willing to bet he had to jump through more hoops in life than most people in this town to get there.

Now Heystek is actually the butt of the joke by Dunning, but I need to point out that clear oversight by Dunning (and Noreen who may not know who Jolly is or where he comes from, but Dunning certainly does or at least should).

Dunning with his usual rapier writes:
wow, nobody knows the trouble he's seen, overcoming his college education and teaching position at UC Davis to become one of the youngest City Council members in Davis city history … struggle? … Lamar? … heck, he's not old enough to have even struggled with a razor …
While Heystek probably isn’t going to be auditioning for “Oliver Twist” any time soon, I’d hardly say he’s lived a privileged life. He worked his way through school while working at Safeway to support himself. That’s not worthy of a pity party (and he’s never asked for one), but I doubt most students at UC Davis these days have to work to get through school. He was a clear underdog for the council but managed to create enough support in the progressive community and with a grassroots organization to get on the council where he makes a very meager income. Meanwhile he has another full-time job just to scrape by as a university lecturer, which is not a high paying gig.

A lot of cities who expect City Councilmembers to do a full-time job actually pay a full-time job’s wage. For those who cannot survive on the $500 per month salary that a councilmember in Davis gets, they have to work an additional job. No one should feel sorry for Lamar, he’s done well and he’s doing what he wants to do, but let’s not pretend that he lives some kind of privileged life--in fact, he's probably the councilmember who can most relate to the issue of struggle as he's fought hard to obtain good wages and fair treatment for workers. And while we are at it, maybe if we do not want all our councilmembers to come from wealthy backgrounds, we can actually pay them a more decent wage. But then again, we'd have to have money to do that and we keep paying that money out for consultants.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Deputy DA Makes Outrageous Claims Against Buzayans

One of the truly extraordinary aspects of the pending Buzayan lawsuit is how many different parts of the law were alleged to be broken and how many different public and private agencies and organization are alleged to be involved. Last week, we covered some of the lawsuit that was aimed against the Davis Enterprise, but there is far more to the lawsuit than just this.

Another interesting aspect of the lawsuit is that the Yolo County District Attorney's Office (or at least members of the District Attorney’s Office) publicly accused the Buzayan family of "paying off" the victim in order to get her to drop the charges.

On May 12, 2006, Deputy District Attorney Tim Wallace wrote on the Yolosoap Box, "we prosecutors primarily attempt to punish anti-social intent. Halema knew she screwed up and was unwilling to accept responsibility for it. Sadly, her parents only enabled their child's deceipt (sic)."

That was followed two days later, May 14, 2006 by fellow Deputy District Attorney Clinton Parish. Parish writes "This was a case that should have been concluded after a court trial, but it was not because the parents were rich enough to pay off the victim." Moreover, "the vocal minority keep accusing the Davis Police and the Yolo County District Attorney's Office of some kind of wrong doing. Simply put, there is no wrong doing on our part. The only wrong doing was that of paying of a victim so they would not testify."

It is unclear exactly what Mr. Parish is asserting here. The case was ostensibly dropped primarily because it was the policy of the City of Davis and the Davis Police Department to avoid criminal prosecution of incidents such as this if the victim is compensated. Officer Ly actually strongly encouraged Buzayan to pay for the damages to the vehicle and moreover strongly implied that if Mr. Buzayan compensated the victim for the damages to her vehicle, the case would be dropped. This exchange is on tape.

So if Mr. Parish is referring to the compensation to the victim for damages as “paying of (sic) a victim so they would not testify” this seems a very misleading description of what took place and why the compensation was given to the victim.

The troubling aspect of the statement by Parish is that it implies more than just compensation. It implies some sort of nefarious act or motive by the Buzayan family. And it does so without much in the way of evidence to back it up. Parish strongly implies a bribe of some sort.

The behavior of the DA's office, if these allegations against them prove true, is rather appalling. It seems inappropriate that members of the DA's office would make these types of charges in a public forum. Moreover, it seems inappropriate that members of the DA's office who are not directly involved in this case are discussing a juvenile matter at all.

All of this will be sorted out come trial time, but if these allegations prove true, the new District Attorney needs to take strong action to control and sanction the members of his department. Hopefully this will serve as a good time to start "cleaning house." Again, I reiterate all of this is contingent upon a court ruling, but looking at these statements even six month later, I find them to be a rather astounding display of "malice and bravado."

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Midday Brief Discussion Items

I was looking up some stuff yesterday and I happened across on of Matt Rexroad’s recent blog entries:
Today I was with my family cruising along I-80 headed for Thanksgiving festivities. We were just east of Vacaville when a California Highway Patrol Officer was on the side of the road hitting vehicles with the new radar gun.

I am fully in favor of the new equipment but think it is eventually going to cause some kind of an accident. I look up and see someone pointing some kind of a gun at me from that distance and my first reaction is to take cover and return fire.
My reaction was: are you kidding me? This guy is a Supervisor-elect? I wasn’t there and didn’t see the “pose” the Highway Patrol Officer was taking with his radar gun. But good lord, as an elected official you should not be joking or thinking about “returning fire” on a Highway Patrol Officer, it is utterly irresponsible. I’m certain the Highway Patrol office is not going to be happy about reading this. Especially to write it on a public blog, that’s just unbelievable.

Dunning’s column on Friday quotes from one of our own readers, Deb Westergaard’s letter to the editor. Deb is outraged that the council is suing Dixon over traffic concerns after the council put a huge Target project on the ballot that will also, amazingly enough, produce traffic concerns and add significantly and unavoidably to pollution. One small nit to pick, Dunning writes, “you see, in exchange for Davis-generated pollution, we get sales tax dollars, but we get nothing in exchange for Dixon-generated pollution unless we sue.” I like the cynical tone there and Dunning is partially right, but in fairness to the city, they are not suing for funding but rather for mitigating traffic problems. Nevertheless they are both right—the City Council has a lot of explaining to do on this one.

Finally, Tim Wallace, a deputy DA for Yolo County, writes a letter to the editor yesterday discussing the proposed rezoning of Westlake shopping center. As a neighbor of that shopping center, I was very saddened to see the demise of Rays and then Food Faire. It provided a convenient place to get a few last minute groceries. It should be a priority of the City to get a new food establishment into that site. Sadly, they are going to rezone it and move away from the local grocery store. The belief is that no local grocery store can make it in these locations which may or may not be right.

However, Wallace’s main concern is the emergence of a “problem business.” “Anything that is primarily a liquor store in that location undoubtedly will become a magnet for crime.” Take off your DA’s hat for a few minutes, good lord Mr. Wallace. We certainly do not want to attract those type of people to Westlake when there is a perfectly good Circle K two blocks away on Lake Blvd. Perhaps we’d be better off going to a dry city, that way we can avoid crime altogether.

It brings to mind an email acquired through a public records search from Bob Glynn. Glynn was one of the main people who spearheaded the drive against the Human Relations Commission. His main problem was their support for a resolution to withdraw US troops from Iraq in December of 2005. A resolution introduced to council by Stephen Souza and passed by a 4-0 vote with Don Saylor abstaining (and this was of course all the HRC's fault). In any case, on June 26, 2006, Glynn writes to council: “When you consider the Target proposal tonight I hope you keep in mind the fact that Target will probably draw more undesirable people to the area…”

When we want to decry elitism in this city, perhaps we ought to go back and look up the term “undesirable people.” So apparently, we want to bring in Target and liquor stores but worry about “undesirable people” and “problem business.” No one of course calls people on this stuff. I find this a lot more irritating though than a city council member upset that PG&E paid $11 million in an attempt to confuse the voters on the issues. But that’s just me.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Calling City Priorities Into Question

Everybody likes parks. We all want good parks for our children to play in. We want good parks for ourselves to have good recreation in (as opposed to bad recreation?). Politically speaking, everyone has to be for parks—just as they are for schools and firefighters and the environment.

That said, I’m as much a self-proclaimed and proud tax and spend liberal as anyone, but there are also budgetary realities and sometimes you have to really question the choices that are being made about city spending.

There is growing concern about the structural constraints of the budget—too much money being automatically tied up in ever-growing city staff salaries. Again, we do not begrudge people their livelihood but we have to question choices that are being made.

Claire St. John’s article last night demonstrates just such a problem. Tonight, the City Council will consider hiring consultants at a cost of between $50,000 and $75,000 to update the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan (adopted in 1998) and “create a survey to learn how residents can be better served by their parks.”

So we are going to pay a consultant to take a survey to learn how residents can be better served by their parks? Is this why we passed a park tax?

When the city council decided to hire an ombudsman, one reason that they created a part-time rather than full-time position, was the lack of money. Parks are important, but one has to question the priorities of the council in this matter. Granted this is undoubtedly one-time money, but it is not clear that this is the most pressing need for the city at this point—to survey residents about parks.

Meanwhile there is the heated battle brewing over the use of public tennis courts and whether the Davis Tennis Club should have permission to reserve tennis courts in Walnut Park for league play.

I do not agree with Don Saylor very often, however, he did make a couple of good points at the last meeting. The first was that the Parks and Recreation Commission had a full hearing on the tennis court issue and rendered a recommendation. Perhaps, the council should have heeded that recommendation rather than rehearing the issue. The second point was that council was bringing up a large number of items that required staff preparation work, and that perhaps the council ought to start prioritizing the items they agendize. The rest of the council clearly disagreed with Saylor, but he did have a valid point.

The council needs to recognize that they have a very limited budget. We all love parks and we enjoy having nice parks, but sometimes you cannot simply spend money to create a survey about park usage. There are priorities and there are more pressing concerns that need to be addressed and deserve funding opportunities long before we start hiring Park Consultants to design surveys.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, November 27, 2006

Prejudice Core?

If you didn’t catch the latest column yesterday from Jann Murray-Garcia and Jonathan London—“Build Immunity to Homophobia,” you missed out on a very nice piece primarily penned by London where he asks “where are the young people getting the message…”

For those who missed the Michael Richards (forever known as “Kramer” from Seinfeld) tirade caught on tape—there is a very similar issue at work. For as you watch Richards explode at his African American hecklers, he launches into a racist profanity filled tirade. One is for a moment tempted to write it off as something that happens in the heat of the moment. But we need to stop and think for a second. For in his moment of anger we see the purity of thought absent of any socially correct filters. And at that moment he looks at an African-American in the face and sees a “Nigger.” Unless there is part of him that sees African-American in such light, that’s not going to be the word that he jumps on.

And that brings us back to our own backyard, to the young junior high school student, whose only crime may have been he was a bit too cocky or perhaps he had no crime at all; it just doesn’t matter. Kids bully. They look for the most vulnerable spot and they hit on it again and again and again until it becomes raw and bleeds. That’s the way kids are. But that too is no excuse. For you cannot call someone gay epithets in a fit of anger without looking at them and seeing that the word “gay” or its more pejorative derivations as epithets.

There has been a lot of talk in the last year about the dark underbelly of Davis ethos being a little less pristine than some might like to believe. I do not know how deep it goes, but there is a very dark and ugly strain of racism and homophobia that infuses our liberal veneer. Most of us seem either unaware of this problem or we bury our heads in the sand. We bury this side of us deep down however, because at our core we are ashamed and we know it is wrong. That’s why it comes rushing to the surface in the most ugly way when we are angry and our protective barriers are lowered.

London asks the critical question about homophobia that we should be asking not only about homophobia but racism and prejudice in general. “Where are the young people getting the message?” And it goes to the core:
If you really believe that it is not coming from you (the parent), the adults in their lives, then it is all the more necessary to institute proactive, systemic, school-site curriculum and character training programs that counter and reserve the insidious messages from the “other” parents and/ or media-saturated peers.
None of us want to think of ourselves as prejudiced or racist. We go to great lengths to deny it. And yet in children we see a weaker barrier of social correctness, we see in them what is worst in us and it is laid out bare for all the world to see, just as we see it exploding to the surface in the anger and hatred of Michael Richards. Has it been there all along? We dare not believe the answer is yes, but at the end of the day, we wonder, just maybe whether it is. (Or in our less frank moments, we deny it altogether).

The first step to fixing any problem is to admit that we have one. In all the talk that has occurred over the last year, not one person in a position of power or influence, not one, has admitted that there might be a problem in this community. We get into defensive mode and want to believe that things are not so bad here. We defend our neighbors saying this is a good community. We defend our police saying that they have a tough job where they put their lives on the line. And we are right—this is a good community and police do have a tough job.

Our young people are the ones who shall lead us into the future and we need to teach them the values of the future, a future where hatred and prejudice go by the wayside. But we can only do that if we are honest and frank with them, because unlike adults, children can see through the bs. We need to teach our children that it is wrong to look at someone different from them with fear and mistrust. That at the core everyone is just a person and is entitled to be treated as a person. And we need to teach them to not be bystanders, to stand up when someone acts out of hatred or ignorance and tell them that it’s wrong and that you will not tolerate it anymore.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Why is Davis Suing Dixon?

As the Davis Enterprise reported last week, Davis is suing Dixon over the construction of Dixon Downs racetrack. The basic problem is the concern that the racing events will let out and dump a huge amount of traffic onto I-80 at the same time. Bill Emlen, Davis City Manager, was quoted at suggesting: "This type of event has major pulses of traffic that come out of it."

Apparently, the racetrack at Golden Gate Fields at Albany near Berkeley has caused similar problems in the Bay Area where the event traffic mixes with the normal high volume flow of traffic to create even more gridlock.

The Davis City Council is not trying to stop the project per se—although it does not appear that would not disappoint them greatly—rather they are trying to get the City of Dixon to mitigate for the expected flow of traffic. Meanwhile there are movements underfoot in Dixon to put the manner to the ballot and the Davis City Council hopes their action will move that towards reality.

While on the surface this seems like another crazy Davis move, there is a logic to it. The City of Dixon was apparently very unresponsive to concerns by the City of Davis about traffic problems. Bill Emlen actually went before the Dixon City Council to express those concerns, but they were not addressed. The City made several other attempts to communicate through written correspondence but Dixon did not respond. This lack of responsiveness by one jurisdiction to another is rather appalling.

Nevertheless, judging from the early public response to this move, Davis has a lot of explaining to do to this community to get them to understand their rationale behind this somewhat shocking move.

It has been my experience that cities and other jurisdictions involved in ongoing litigation are less than forthcoming with pertinent facts to the public. The political realm is often at odds with the legal realm in this manner. In the political world, the public demands to be fully informed about such maneuvers. However, in the legal world, such maneuvers are often hashed out, as this one was, in private session. That means the public will necessary not be privy to the information and discussions that led up to such an endeavor. When the final decision comes forth it is often shocking. Moreover, there is a tendency for all parties to “lawyer-up” or shutdown communications about the manner pending court action.

The Davis City Council needs to lay out in as much detail as possible the exact reasons for their decision to sue the City of Dixon, so that the public can be fully informed about their rationale.

A second area of concern is the need for this action to occur in the first place. While the City of Dixon is autonomous in terms of city government from the City of Davis, there is also an overlap of resources. For instance, there are strong laws dealing with how running water must be treated in this country. In many ways, common thoroughfares are just as much public goods as natural resources. It is shocking that in this day and age, the only recourse that the City of Davis has is litigation. This is obviously something that should be taken up at the state level, but it is surprising that there are no other means by which to settle the dispute over highway usage, than the courts.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting