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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hate Crime Arrest in Davis

Sometimes the most revealing stuff are the little news items and other blurbs rather than the big headlines.

Yesterday Lauren Keene of the Davis Enterprise writes about an arrest made in a hate crimes case.
"The victim was identified as an 18-year-old Jewish man who reportedly walked by six to seven people chanting “white pride” and racist comments outside the Rite-Aid store on Russell Boulevard and Anderson Road shortly before 1 a.m.

As the victim walked by, one of the suspects said to him, “You’re down with that, right?” according to police reports.

When the victim said he was not, several of the suspects attacked him, with one allegedly removing a silver-studded belt from his waist and hitting the teen with it"
Okay, now a couple of things about this incident are particularly concerning. This incident provides valuable lessons for future prevention.

It's 1 a.m., and you see a group of six or seven people chanting scary stuff, why would you walk by them?

Second, remember the lessons from Ghostbusters. At the climax of the movie, the demigod asks Dan Ackroyd's character if he's a god, and he answers no. She proceeds to beat the crap out of them with her magic, prompting a member of the group to declare, "IF someone asks you if you are a god, you say YES." Let me tell you, if a crazy group who outnumbers you six or seven to one, asks you if you are down with something, it could be the most disgusting and horrendous thing in the world, you say YES. Don't get me wrong I'm not making light of the situation, but there is a time stand up for your principles and a time to keep quiet. This was a time to keep quiet. Again, not blaming the victim, but I think we all have to be careful.

Third, if you are going to walk alone at 1 am, even if you are a guy, it's not a good idea. We teach women to not walk alone at night. Guys, myself included, take it for granted in places like Davis. We ought not to.

So far two teens from Vacaville have been arrested. That leaves five of them presumably at-large or otherwise not arrested. Where do they live?

Hate crimes are clearly a continuing problem in this community, this is just another reminder of that.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Fairfield and Wal Mart: Illustrates the Pitfalls of Big-Box

Some interesting notes from the Vacaville Reporter on Fairfield and Wal-Mart.

Apparently Wal Mart has a store that they are closing down at one location and want to buy a new store--a SUPER store--at another location. A 200,000-square-foot SUPER STORE.

Currently there is a Shopping Center there that would be destroyed and the residents were upset about the location for the wall near a residential area and two schools. And they met until 1 a.m. Sounds familiar.

There are two things of great interest from the standpoint of Davis. First, is that Wal-Mart was closing their current store regardless of how the council voted. So they basically threatened the city council with the loss of $400,000 in annual sales tax if they did not approve the new supercenter.

It is worth noting that in August the city passed an ordinance that limits the size of retail projects in Fairfield to 80,000 square feet. So just four months later, Wal-Mart is able to force the hands of the city to get what they want.

Second, is that $400,000 figure in annual sales tax, which is two-thirds of the projected Target sales tax in Davis.

That leads me to a number of questions. What is the comparison in size between the existing Wal-Mart on Chadbourne Road and the proposed Target in Davis? Why is the tax revenue for a Fairfield Wal-Mart only two-thirds of the projected revenue for a Davis Target?

In any case, this illustrates for the Davis community the fundamental problem of big-box retail stores--once they come in, they have tremendous power to dictate their terms and they can basically threaten the City Council with the loss of huge revenue to get what they want. Or they can go elsewhere and the city loses a sizable tax base. All of these promises that the council has made regarding this development seem questionable at best. Look at Fairfield, just four months after passing an ordinance to limit the size of new retail development, they grant an exception.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Appearance of Conflict Grinds CHP Murder Case to a Halt

On November 7, 2006 we reported on the apparent conflict of interest between Judge Stephen Mock and Yolo County Prosecutor Ann Hurd:

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

The Sacramento Bee on Friday reports that a death penalty case involving two men charge with killing a CHP officer is on hold while a court decides whether Mock should be removed due to his wife's job.
"An out-of-county judge, specially appointed to hear the controversy, has already decided in favor of Mock. That judge ruled that though it was a "close call," Mock can remain impartial."
Their argument, as we suspected a month ago, centers around whether Judge Mock can separate his professional and private lives. Moreover, the defense argues that it is the "perception of the potential" for partiality that is the central issue.

While these are all issues that we brought up last month, it is unclear whether Hurd serving as Chief Deputy District Attorney in the office rather than the prosecutor in the case that is before Mock will taint the judgement of Mock. If a more general finding comes down, it seems likely that Mock would never be able to preside in a criminal case while his wife is in a leadership position at the District Attorney's Office.

A November 13, 2006 article in the Davis Enterprise suggests that is indeed the issue at stake.
Defense attorney argued that a judge can be disqualified “if the judge or spouse of the judge is a party to the proceeding... It is presumed that Judge Mock's spouse would participate in making policy decisions of the prosecutor's office handling this case, and some observers may reasonably entertain a doubt that the judge will be able remain impartial throughout the course that this case make take,” the motion states.
Mock challenged this charge, noting that District Attorney David Henderson--his wife's boss--has exclusively handled this case.
“... I can say with certainty that my wife has never handled this matter, and that she has not - indeed she cannot - supervise Mr. Henderson inasmuch as she is in a subordinate position to him”
As we have mentioned in the original article, sources claim that Mock and Hurd go to great lengths to act in a professional and ethical manner. However, as the delays in the case illustrates a further problem here--the mere appearance opens the door for the defense to use this as a delaying tactic. In the end, it will cost the county a great deal of time and energy to fight this move by the defense. Is this a worthwhile use of resources, when clearly in the future this issue will come up again?

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Midday Brief Discussion Items

California Supreme Ruled Bloggers Cannot be Sued

I missed this until last night when I was looking up California law regarding police requests for identification. On November 20, 2006, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that bloggers and participants in Internet bulletin board groups cannot be sued for posting defamatory statements made by others.
In deciding a case closely watched by free speech groups, the court said a federal law gives immunity from libel suits not only to Internet service providers, like AOL, but also to bloggers and other users of their services.

"Subjecting Internet service providers and users to defamation liability would tend to chill online speech," today's unanimous ruling said.
As I read this, I cannot be sued because of something that Rich Rifkin posts on my blog. Thank goodness.

Loose Change

I have been negligent in posting announcements about Community Events, but here is one that might be of interest.

On Monday December 11 at 5:00 p.m. DCTV, or Davis Community Television (channel 15) will show "Loose Change, 2nd edition". Below is a description.

You can also watch Loose Change for free on line at any time.

Response to Rexroad: We need better government, not less government

Yesterday's main blog discussed the issue of pay increases for County Supervisors. It is my view that County Supervisors are underpaid compared to private sector jobs of comparable skills and expertise.

Rexroad blogged about it:

I mentioned Rexroad, but he was peripheral to the main point other than the fact that he decided not to take the pay raise—which of course is his right (even if I do not see that as a necessary gesture).

However, he made one point that is of interest to me:
"We need less government not more."
In my opinion, we need better government, period. If that means in some cases more government, that is fine. If that means in some cases, less government, I am all for it. Each of us will undoubtedly interest better government according to their ideology and experiences.

However, the idea of better government requires that we have a system that encourages the best quality people to come forward regardless of their financial background and situation. It is very hard for this system to produce people like Lamar Heystek, people from modest to meager financial backgrounds, who can afford to get elected and are willing to sacrifice their free time and financial security in order to serve at very little in the way of compensation.

I want to see us pay our Supervisors commensurate to the time and energy they spend serving the public. I do not think that higher pay equals more government. In fact, if you have higher qualified people it may bring about less government since they may be able to find cheaper and better ways to perform the tasks set forth to them.

That is not to criticize the current members of the board, rather it is to suggest that we adequately compensate those who are serving in hopes that we will encourage high caliber people in the future who will be willing to serve the public.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Lawsuit against the School District Proceeds

It did not have to be this way. Guy Fischer only wants a safe environment where his son can attend school without fear of harassment. But unfortunately the school district has not done enough in Mr. Fischer's mind to assure this.

On November 10, we broke this story, as I happened to be at a Davis Human Relations Commissions meeting where Harper Junior High School Principal David Inns gave a report about this incident that indicated that they had taken care of it and parent Guy Fischer came in and said that everything was not taken care of and they do not believe that their son is safe attending school. Since then this issue was brought up at the Davis City Council and School Board Meetings, received front page coverage in the Davis Enterprise, and now has been covered on at least two news broadcasts in Sacramento.
The Fischers said the school has done little to help alleviate an atmosphere where homophobic harassment is tolerated. "We have given them every opportunity to make it safe for Zachary to come back to school and they have failed to do that," said Fischer.
According to a Sacramento ABC News 10 report last night,
"Zachary Fischer says on more than 23 occasions, students used vile and offensive language, even after he reported the incidents to administrators."
Some of the worst things we cannot even repeat here, but they are quite vile and horrifying that Junior High School students would utter such things.
But district officials said that isn't true. "We feel very badly that a student was harassed and yet we also feel that we work very hard to make sure it doesn't happen or when we hear about it we stop it happening immediately," said Associate Superintendent Ginni Davis. She said that several students involved in the harassment were suspended and the parents of about a dozen others were notified so they could reprimand their own children. In addition, the principal of Harper Junior High, David Inns, said he held an assembly to inform all the students that such language is neither appropriate nor will it be tolerated.
Unfortunately, we sound like a broken record on this incident. Get Zachary Fischer back in school and worry about the rest later. It is that simple. The school district needs to make this happen. They needed to make this happen on November 11, 2006 and they need to make this happen on December 8, 2006. The lawsuit now complicates this process, but for the sake of the welfare of the student, the school district should work with the family to get the student back into school.

Please view the video of the news broadcast from Sacramento News 10 from Thursday evening.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thursday Midday Briefs

Lawsuit remains controversial

It is of great irony that all five members of the Davis City Council supported the city of Davis suing the city of Dixon over traffic problems associated with the development of the Dixon Downs Race Track. Ironic because those five members never seem to unanimously agree on anything. And ironic because they seem to be the only ones who do.

This week several more newspapers and columnists attacked the lawsuit.

The California Aggie called it: "unnecessary and selfish"
"The city of Davis unjustifiably filed suit against the city of Dixon on Nov. 21 in reaction to the Dixon City Council's approval of the proposed racetrack, Dixon Downs."
The Aggie seems to support the project:
"The report adequately evaluated the Dixon Downs project, and the Dixon City Council was wise to approve a development that will bring needed funds and infrastructural improvements to its city."
Bob Dunning last night in the Davis Enterprise lampoons the notion:
"Little did the city of Davis realize when it decided to sue the proud city of Dixon for approving a horse racing track and gambling emporium that it would set off a round of litigation that would cause the entire state of California to disintegrate into a thousand competing entities.

True enough, Dixon had it coming, thinking it could decide its future all by itself without seeking Davis' advice or consent. Dixon also didn't ask our permission before building Wal-Mart or allowing El Charro — the best Mexican restaurant in California — to close.

Rightly or wrongly, however, Dixon was offended, and Hell hath no fury as a Dixonite scorned."
Dick Dorf in his Davis Enterprise column last night writes:
"If Davis follows through on this lawsuit, it could cause a breakdown of communication and cooperation between cities. Also, it could cost Davis hundreds of thousands of dollars to prosecute.

On Nov. 21, Davis officials filed the lawsuit in Solano County Superior Court, alleging serious impacts. The lawsuit alleges the environmental impact report failed to analyze potential traffic impacts. This type of a lawsuit is difficult to prove. What about the effects of Arco Arena or an inadequate I-680 connection to I-80? What are the effects of a three-lane I-80 causeway?"
The Sacramento Bee on December 1, 2006 in an editorial suggests:
"That will be a legal decision. But then there is the court of public opinion, and whether one city is being a worse neighbor than the other. It might turn out to be a conversation that Davis regrets launching."
Personally, I think the Sacramento Bee article sums up my viewpoint precisely--Davis might be right on this issue, they might prevail, but I think this is a conversation that Davis will regret launching in the long run.

Reassess Souza's home!

I had to laugh last night at this letter to the editor:
Reassessment would be unfair

I read in the newspaper that Councilman Stephen Souza wants Yolo County to reassess PG&E's property to see if it is paying its fair share of taxes.

I wonder how he would like having his property reassessed, along with other homeowners in Davis who are paying taxes on $100,000 homes that are selling for $500,000 or $600,000. Come on, Souza, don't be a sore loser.

John Brown
I've said before, I think there are legitimate reasons to be upset about the SMUD outcome. I don't think people appreciate the magnitude of an $11 million campaign. Heck there are Senate campaigns that don't cost that much. But this letter is still funny.

Programming Alert

Tonight at 10 pm on News 10 Sacramento, Dan Adams will have an in-depth story on the Junior High School Harassment Case. For those who don't catch it, we'll have a link to the video on the blog tomorrow.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

County Supervisors Give Themselves Pay Raises

The question of pay raises for elected officials is always a controversial topic. The fundamental reason for that is that most legislative bodies have to actually vote for their own pay raises. That process makes the act of granting a pay raise, no matter how needed, fundamentally unseemly. I completely understand that. There are all sorts of factors involved--you have government which has scarce resources that must allocate those resources for all sorts of needs. You have the public, most of whom inevitably are of modest means and have to scrimp and save to put together a nice existence. And you have a general distrust for the work that government bodies do--for a variety of reasons from perceptions of corruption and unseemliness to perceptions of inefficacy. The bottom line is that the subject of pay raise because it comes from the body itself, is inherently controversial.

While there is no perfect way to insulate the body from unseemly decisions, I have never really been bothered personally by the prospect of a pay raise. The main reason for that is that legislative bodies are generally paid sufficiently less than comparable private sector jobs. Moreover, the air of public scrutiny is usually sufficient to prevent unseemly money grabs by the officials.

The big controversy surrounding the County Supervisors right now is that they voted to change the formula by which their salaries are calculated. Previously they tied their salary to one-third of what a Superior Court judge earns. The supervisors decided to increase that to 40 percent.

The current pay for Yolo County supervisors is $49,730. Given that this is a full-time job that pay does not represent a very large salary. The average salary in California for a County Supervisor is $64,515. That's not exactly a rich person's salary either. But that certainly is more livable than the current pay for County Supervisors.

Sacramento County supervisors earn $82,000 while Solano County supervisors make just under $80,000. To live in Yolo County, you'd have to have a second salary to augment the below median salary you are getting for being a County Supervisor.

Given that this is a beyond full-time job it seems rather obvious that unless you are independently wealthy or have a spouse pulling down a strong second income, a lot of people are not going to be able to afford to be a county supervisor. It is the same problem that we mentioned with the compensation for being a Davis City Council member--$500 per month. While it seems like a good idea to have small pay for public servants, the reality is that that severely restricts who can afford to serve.

A Superior Court Judge in comparison will make $175,000 by July 1, 2007. The increase of 33 percent to 40 percent means a pay raise from $63,000 to $70,000 or a forty percent pay raise over the current salary. That still does not allow Yolo County Supervisors to catch up to their neighbors, but it does close the gap. And it certainly makes the pay more competitive with private sector jobs that they have to give up to serve the public.

This seems like a necessary change if we are to attract good people who are not all independently wealthy.

For that reason, I see no reason for statements like the one made by Matt Rexroad who is refusing to take an pay increase, that he did not even vote on.
"When I was elected as a Supervisor on November 8th the pay was set at a certain amount. That is the amount I will make during my entire four years as a Supervisor.

Tomorrow the agenda has a pay raise item for Supervisors. It would take the base pay of 33% of a judge to 40% of a judge. It may pass but I will not accept it. I also will not accept the travel allowance."
We understand that Rexroad probably doesn't need his Supervisor's salary to survive, however, we believe in a system where you don't have to be as well off as Rexroad to serve our county. Paying an additional $7,000 per year doesn't seem like a big trade off to us for properly compensating our elected official for their strong work and commitment to our governance.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday Midday Briefs

Law Suit by Fischer Family Goes Forward against the Davis Joint Unified School District

As we reported over the weekend, the Fischers will file suit against the Davis Joint Unified School District this week in a dispute stemming from the perceived failure by the school district to properly deal with an harassment incident.

Last night’s Davis Enterprise contained some of the details of that suit. Among the demands included: in-home tutoring for the junior high school district, institution of a mandatory suspension for all students making homophobic comments, appoint a nondistrict neutral third party ("other than Harper Principal David Inns") to monitor and implement a zero-tolerance program toward homophobia, and finally to pay a sum of $100,000 damages for failure to follow California law.

Mr. Fischer's son has not been in school now in well over a month. He was pulled out on October 31 following incidents of harassment that resulted in the suspension of two students, detention for a number of others, and no action toward a larger number of more minor participants. The Fischers do not believe that these students received a punishment commensurate with the offense.

The key concern at this point is that the student was harassed on two different days when he returned to school.

The school has recommended several alternatives including independent study. However, the family believes that independent study would be a blemish on his academic record that could prevent him from going to law school which is his goal.

Park Consultants will be revisited by Davis City Council...

Just not last night.

As we suspected last week, Saylor's vote last week to take no action on an item that would hire a park consultant for $75,000 was a parliamentary maneuver that would have allowed him to bring up the item for reconsideration. He mentioned this at last night's city council meeting, but Mayor Sue Greenwald in a rare moment of chivalry pointed out to Saylor that if he brought this up for a vote this week, he would lose. Saylor apparently hadn't thought through the ramifications of his requesting a vote of reconsideration with Asmundson still in the Philippines. Although he did rather clumsily backtrack on the vote, suggesting that he didn’t want a vote, only a clarification on the rule. Greenwald probably would have been better served allowing him to bring it up and then killing the motion. Hopefully, Saylor will remember this act of chivalry.

Aggie Column Yesterday Misleading on Dixon Downs Suit

While I have not made up my mind on whether or not I support the city's lawsuit against Dixon, I do think that accuracy in reporting is an important quality. The aggie as we have printed in the past has made serious errors in their coverage, and they do so again yesterday in their op-ed piece excoriating the city about its lawsuit.

They write:
"The city of Davis should work with Dixon in its efforts to mitigate the impacts of the new project rather than file legal suits that will tie up the process for an unreasonable amount of time."
In fact, the City sent City Manager Bill Emlen and City Attorney Harriet Steiner to Dixon City Council Meetings in order to express their concerns. They received no response to the public statements. These appearances followed numerous attempts to contact the City of Dixon through written correspondence.

Whatever you can accuse the City of Davis of doing in this case, they made a large effort to work with the City of Dixon and alert them to their concerns and it was the City of Dixon who failed to respond. The City felt it had little choice but to sue at this point. As I said, I'm not necessarily in agreement with that decision to sue, but that has nothing to do with City of Davis failing to try to work with Dixon.

Students and other readers unfamiliar with this issue who read that will undoubtedly come away with the faulty conclusion that the City of Davis was negligent in its attempts to communicate, while nothing could be further from the truth.

Iraq Study Group: Bush's Policy in Iraq 'Not Working'

CNN reports: "President Bush's policy in Iraq "is not working," the Iraq Study Group said in releasing its long-awaited report."

In other news, the sky is blue and the sun is hot. Glad we figured that one out.

--Doug Paul Davis reporting

Davis Police Vehicles' Digital Recording System Inoperative

During a recent traffic stop caught on video by the passenger, Officer Jeff Beasley tells the driver that he is recording their encounter. We can see this clearly on the recording. However, when the family inquires about the police recording they are informed that it does not exist. The family suspects that malfeasance on the part of the officer is the explanation for the failure for the department to provide video of the incident.

As it turns out it is a serious problem, but of another source. It is not malfeasance at all; rather it is a series of technical and administrative problems that have led to a very expensive recording system that does not work. An unnamed source now confirms this fact that the police in-car recording system does not work.

This is apparently a source of great concern to the Davis Police Officer's Association. One of the reasons that this system was installed was as a means to be able to review all traffic encounters and any encounter within range of the video camera. This could potentially assist officers accused of wrongdoing if they are innocent of the allegations. It can also help to verify complaints against officers when they do violate the law or department policy.

This is a system that was authorized back in June of 2005, which would put a digital audio and video recording system from Mobile-Vision, Inc in all marked patrol vehicles according to a City Council report written by then Police Chief Hyde from the June 8, 2005 City Council Meeting. The authorization included a "one-time system purchase, installation and training not-to-exceed fee" of $149,500. This figure included first year maintenance, training and support. There was also an expectation of a yearly outlay of approximately $5,000 to cover maintenance expenses.

In the fall of 2005 all police vehicles became equipped with this digital recording system according to a July 12, 2006 Davis Enterprise article by Lauren Keene. The camera is mounted on the vehicle's windshield. The cameras automatically begin to record once an officer activates the emergency lights.

One of the great advantages of this system is that it is supposed to be resistant to manipulation. The video is automatically downloaded once an officer pulls into the parking lot of the police station. This makes it an extremely valuable resource in resolving complaint and procedure issues. However, this is apparently where the technical problem exists, according to the source.

The City is apparently aware of this problem; however they have not come forth with the information to the public.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tuesday Midday Briefs

Police Issue is a Nationwide Problem

In an incident caught on videotape and showed on youtube, Los Angeles Police Officers repeatedly beat a suspect in the face as he cries out that he could not breathe. The FBI is now investigating the incident that occurred in August.

In November at UCLA a student in the computer lab was shot with a Taser and of course this incident was caught on film. "As the student was screaming, UCPD officers repeatedly told him to stand up and said "stop fighting us." The student did not stand up as the officers requested and they shot him with the Taser at least once more." The incident horrified bystanders and is also under investigation.

Meanwhile last week in New York, a man was leaving his bachelor party at a strip club in Queens that was under police surveillance and he was shot and killed by at least 50 bullets. That matter is now under investigation.

While these incidents are under investigation and we should use caution in drawing too broad conclusions before they have gone through due process. It is important to be aware of a trend that seems to be developing, especially as we have given the federal government broader discretion in dealing with terrorists. It seems we have tacitly given approval for state and local law enforcement to infringe on the rights of citizens.

All of these incidents should concern us because here in Davis, there have been multiple complaints against the police department. The most serious is one that has not been publicized yet, it involved a June beating of an 20-year-old college student of Iraqi decent. He was beaten outside of his apartment after a neighbors wife called the police following an altercation. The punch line if you will is that it was the student's friend who was involved in the altercation, which was a mild verbal disagreement.

While the level of police misconduct has not risen to the level of those incidents in Los Angeles or New York, it should be a cause for concern. The hiring of an ombudsman is really only the first step.

Every week, I hear of a new racial profiling incident. Racial profiling is a particularly insidious problem because it is difficult to detect, nearly impossible to prove, but it ends up undermining the trust of entire segments of the community.

Busted--The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters

A somewhat unlikely source sent me this youtube video. It is a 46-minute piece done by Ira Glasser, former head of the national ACLU and it gives citizens a guide for how to handle encounters with the police both in terms of asserting your rights during such encounters, but also how you should respond to various types of situations. I highly recommend that you click on this site when you have a chance to watch it and bookmark it for future reference.

I'm going to give the link here but eventually put it on the side-bar as a permanent link.

Dunning "Struggles" to Come Clean

Last week we criticized Bob Dunning and Noreen Mazelis for a lazy and mean-spirited attack on Lamar Heystek.
STRUGGLING WITH LAMAR....writes my friend Noreen: "Per Sunday's Enterprise ('Briefly,' Page A3) Lamar Heystek will be on a panel with three other privileged men to discuss 'struggle.'", 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....

Adds Noreen, "There appears to be no Jew on this panel. I guess I-House (the "struggle" sponsor) doesn't think that Judaism has a 'perception of struggle.'" ....apparently not....
I knew immediately from my knowledge of Councilmember Heystek that he had not come from a place of privilege in his life. However, it was not until I spoke with people who knew of his upbringing that I realized that Heystek had to work his way up from a very poor and impoverished upbringing, having grown up in very poor sections of Oakland and having to work his way through school.

While the act of making these kinds of unfounded and unresearched charges certainly rises to the level of laziness and mean-spiritedness--mistakes do happen. I've made my share of mistakes on this blog and I have always tried to be upfront and forthright about those mistakes. That is the way to build credibility and ensure accountability--if to no one else but yourself.

The concerning part about Dunning's response to these revelations is that he is in complete and utter denial as to his mistake and he has a complete unwillingness to acknowledge that he may have jumped the gun or that his comments may be construed as insensitive and mean. This is concerning because it points to a lack of accountability.

Can we trust anything that Dunning says? It appears that we cannot.

Dunning has basically issued two forms of denial in this case. His first response is:
"I didn't say he hadn't suffered adversity."
This is a false denial. Dunning chose to quote Noreen Mazelis and Dunning chose not to dispute her claim that Heystek was privileged and had not struggled. Moreover, he chose to pile on with his own cynical sarcastic words that "nobody knows the trouble he's seen." He both aided and abetted the claim that Heystek was not qualified to speak on struggle.

He second response is that everybody has their struggles.
"I'm sure Lamar has had his struggles. So have I. I said, and I repeat, that he wasn’t old enough to have struggled with a razor. It's not really an outrageous line. If it didn't make you laugh, fine, but it wasn't mean and vicious and below the belt."
Dunning misses the point twice in this response. Dunning did not write about his own suffering or anyone else's suffering. He wrote about Heystek's lack of suffering adversity when he knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about Heystek's background as a child or a young adult. And he mocked Heystek's background even as he knew nothing about it.

Moreover when he said "it was not really an outrageous line," he was part-right. By itself the line is not outrageous, but there is context to it and the context is Mazelis' charge that Heystek is somehow a privileged person who is not qualified to speak about suffering. By piling on, Dunning's line is as outrageous as Mazelis' and Dunning's column becomes a hit piece against Heystek.

The key unaddressed issue by Dunning is why it was improper in the first place for Heystek to speak on the topic of struggle. If we have indeed all struggled--then are we not all qualified to speak on the topic at least to some degree or another? Or is the claim that Heystek has not suffered enough? Dunning leaves that point unaddressed.

Dunning's attack in the end reminds me of Rush Limbaugh's attack on Michael J. Fox. Limbaugh spent considerable time arguing against Fox's position on stem cell research which was completely legitimate, however, the moment he crossed the line and suggested that Fox was faking the severity of his illness to garner sympathy, Limbaugh completely lost control of the message and it ended up backfiring on Limbaugh and the issue whose cause he was taking up.

It is perfectly legitimate for Dunning to attack the policies of elected officials such as Heystek. We may disagree with him and may argue against his point. But when you start attacking a person's character and a person's upbringing that raises the stakes considerably. If you try to attack someone's character at all, which is ill-advised and likely to backfire even if it is true, you had better be darn-sure that you are correct.

Dunning make a huge error in attacking Heystek's character without checking the facts first. That was a huge mistake in its own right. He has now compounded that mistake by refusing to own up to it.

We urge Dunning to come forward in his next column and issue a public apology to Heystek for the erroneous character attack and we urge Mazelis to do the same in a letter to the editor. Civility requires it and accountability demands it.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, December 04, 2006

Will Target Change Our Downtown?

It was interesting reading Dunning’s column on Sunday at to why a Target in Davis won’t ruin downtown. But as usual, Dunning misses the fundamental point: Target is coming because they believe they will make more money by having a store in the Davis market. That means they will be taking away revenue from other places.
“When I look back at the number of times I’ve shopped at Target in Woodland, it was virtually never for an item I could just as easily have purchased in downtown. The last time I checked, the Mustard Seed doesn’t sell 100-count boxes of jumbo paper clips. Neither does Union Bank.”
So let me get this straight Bob, nowhere in Downtown do they sell jumbo paper clips? Is that what you are saying? I’m sure some of the shops who do set that product would be interested to know that. But Bob, might have trouble figuring that out if he’s looking for office supplies in a restaurant or a bank.

I’m fairly certain that what Bob actually meant is that he couldn’t buy products like that in bulk in the Davis Downtown. And Bob that is exactly the point—the Davis downtown businesses cannot compete for bulk sales with Target. Thus building a Target in Davis puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

Dunning also argues that Target will be “attracting those who would have shopped at an out-of-town Target anyway,” thus “having little or no effect on the health and attractiveness of downtown Davis… Trust me on this.” Nonsense.

Those who argue that all we are really doing is redirecting those shoppers from Davis who have to travel to Woodland are missing a point—Target would not build here and go through the heavy and expensive effort to win a ballot measure if they expected a mere transfer of the existing market.

Let’s think about this—first of all there are the one-time expenses including a $300,000 political campaign just get approval to build a Target. There are also the large construction costs. Finally, there are the ongoing costs of hiring additional employees to staff the new Target.

Nope, if Target just believed that the construction of the new store would transfer the Davis share of the Woodland Target market, they would not have built a new store. It would not make any sense for them to do so. So obviously, they are expecting to make more money by having a new Target store. And if they expect to make more money, they must be expecting to take market share from existing businesses and transfer it to Target because of the new convenience of shopping in Davis.

They won’t be taking away that business from the Mustard Seed or Union Bank, but they make take away business from downtown stores that actually sell similar products as Target—you know like the baby store, stationary and office supply stores, clothing shops, etc. How many businesses have overlapping products? Doesn’t Target believe they would capture a lot of this market share? They must otherwise they would again not expend the resources to build a new store.

It is true that for some of Davis, the Target in Woodland is not much further than the new Target will be, there is something about driving out of town that acts as a barrier to some shoppers. For instance, I go to Mace Avenue in Davis quite frequently but I rarely go to Woodland. And when I do go to Woodland it is usually on my way to the airport for a specific reason—departure or arrival.

At the end of the day it is hard to know what impact the new Target will have on downtown, but it is naïve and/or dishonest to suggest that the impact will be minimal since the same people who went out of town will be the ones who shop at the in-town Target. If that were actually the case, Target would have had no incentive to build a new location in Davis. We can assume that their marketing gurus determined that there would be substantial additional revenue to Target by opening a new location.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Davis Internal Review Process Under Scrutiny in Buzayan Case

In the latest in our periodic series that examines the Buzayan lawsuit, we examine the complaint against Sgt. Gina Anderson, who is in charge of the Davis Police Department's Internal Affairs Department (IAD).

When the Buzayans complained that Officer Ly's conduct was unlawful, the first thing they did was to file a formal complaint with the Davis Police Department. Every complaint filed proceeds to the IAD and Sgt. Gina Anderson.

According to the complaint, the Buzayans met with Anderson on June 28, 2005 where the minor told Anderson that her mother had been the one driving on the day in question.

It was Anderson's job to investigate the actions of Officers Hartz and Ly regarding the complaint. It is not the job of the IAD to continue a criminal investigation against the defendant. However, that is exactly what Anderson did during her IAD interview with the minor.
"But your mother has admitted to driving the car... So that would mean that if your citation was dismissed then your mother would be arrested... I just needed to let you know that if you are not the person who did it, she’s admitting to doing it, then your case will end up getting dismissed and we would end up arresting her."
In a May interview with KGO, the Buzayans' attorney, former San Francisco Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, says that the actions of Sgt Anderson were improper.
"They were putting a lot of pressure on her, and I don't think that's an appropriate way to conduct an internal investigation about whether or not a police officer has conducted himself properly."
It is very important that the public understands that the job of the IAD, Sgt. Anderson in this case, is to ascertain whether or not the officers involved in this case--Hartz and Ly--acted properly. It is not her job to interrogate the witness. It is not her job to investigate whether the minor or her mother was the one driving. It is not her job to obtain a confession from the minor.

Anderson admits as much during the course of the interview of the minor:
"This is a side note because I’m interested in Officer Ly’s behavior, and if he violated any (phone rings), if he violated any of our department policy then I need to know that too. As far as on a personnel level we can handle that with him. Because you know we take allegations of misconduct by our police officers seriously. So that is a complete side-note. I want to get back to it and handle it, but that is an aside to what I’m talking about right now."
In fact, she is specifically forbidden from doing so.

As the complaint filed with the Northern Division of the California Federal District Court alleges:
"Defendant Anderson also knew that it was unlawful and against Davis Police Department policy to use an investigation of a Davis citizen's complaint as an opportunity to browbeat a minor by threatening her with her mother's incarceration."
As we suggested in our seven-part series on Police Oversight, IAD's are notorious for problems in terms of their ability to investigate the wrongdoings of police officers. That is one reason why many experts have suggested removing internal investigations from the IAD and placing it in an independent body of law enforcement professionals. Moreover, this is an example of why the current Ombudsman model is problematic--complaints under this model still go to the Internal Affairs Department first. While the current model has some problems, at least now Anderson knows that Ombudsman Bob Aaronson will be looking over her shoulder, and that alone could be an improvement for this system.

Meanwhile it will be up to the court to sort out whether or not Anderson's actions in the Buzayan case violated the minor's civil rights.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday Midday Open Thread

Sacramento Bee article today:
The Sacramento Police Department has launched what officials and technology experts believe is the first interactive Web log for a police department in the country. The blog is a central part of the department's increasing focus on doing business on the Internet, from answering citizens' questions to producing recruitment podcasts and expanding the availability of online crime reports.


The department launched its blog in August, and since then, nearly 100 people have created user accounts to post questions. The interactive element of the blog is filed under the "Ask Officer Michelle" page, on which Officer Michelle Lazark -- a department spokeswoman -- has answered questions ranging from how to follow through on witnessing a crime to how to find out who investigates officer-involved shootings.
Click here for full article

Question: Is this something that would be worthwhile for Davis to do?

Flashback to the Davis Police Oversight Debate

One of the things we'll be doing during the month of December is reviewing some of the things that happened in the first six months of 2006 before this blog was in operation. A lot of these things will set the stage for what we are going to see as 2007 begins.

In many ways, without this next video clip, this blog would probably not exist. On the evening of January 17, 2006 I received a call asking me to record the City Council Meeting. This is not the first time I had done this; usually I popped in the tape, and went about my business. For whatever reason that evening, I left the TV on with the meeting going and as I was working on other things. And what I heard shocked and appalled me to the point where for the first time I started paying attention to Davis City Politics.

I had known about the police issue, I had heard about the Buzayan case from that summer, but I was not paying a lot of attention to it. There are two things on the video clip that made me pay attention.

The first was, and Don Saylor had said the same thing earlier that evening--they had thoroughly reviewed the complaints against the city and found them totally without merit. Puntillo added that this would be an eye-opener for many in the city. I had by this point known about the Buzayan case, and the specifics involved and I believed that this case had a lot of merit and was very troubling. This case is going through the legal process now and I think the city is going to take a huge hit on it.

The troubling part of that statement for me is what had they actually done in "reviewing" these cases? Did they conduct a separate investigation? The city council cannot give specifics of closed door meetings, but the sense I got was a very definitive no. So if they didn't actually conduct an investigation what did they do? Well I believe they read the report from the internal investigator, just as (the City Manager) Jim Antonen had when he sent a letter to Dr. Buzayan explaining to him that his complaint was unfounded. That letter is at the very center of the reason why there was a push for a review board and that letter is the very reason why Mr. Aaronson now sits in the position he is sitting as Police Ombudsman. As far as I can tell, they read the investigation report and Antonen's letter and came up with their conclusions. In other words, they took the police internal review report at face value. This is exactly why we need an ombudsman who is independent of the process and can conduct their investigations into complaints.

Puntillo voted for the ombudsman but he never supported the idea of oversight. Indeed, in emails to supporters that we have obtained as parts of public records requests, he consistently said the council would be "forced" to hire an ombudsman, but he assured them that Chief Hyde was okay with this and that neither he nor the council would never support an independent review board.

The stunning statement from Puntillo, and ultimately the one that forced me into action was his later statement:

"What I want are police officers out there that are using their training and their instincts, I don’t want them thinking about oh somebody’s going to be reviewing what I’m doing. I want them to do what they are trained to do and that’s protect us."

That may be the most offensive and irresponsible statement I had ever heard from a public official. At that point, I realized that I not only disagree with these guys, but these guys were dangerous. The fundamental principle in the rule of law and government is that of accountability. Everyone, in every job, especially in the public sector, needs to be accountable for their actions. Everyone needs to know that what they do will be reviewed and scrutinized. That is embedded in our principal of checks and balances and the provisions of oversight granted in the constitution to Congress over the President.

That applies even more when the people in question carry guns and have the legitimate authority to use them under some very specific and controlled conditions. Even with no measure of police oversight, the police have a review process and are required by law to hire someone who is going to be reviewing what they are doing. It may be their supervisor, it may be the police chief, or it may be internal affairs. But they always will have someone.

The question of oversight focuses not on whether actions will be reviews, but rather who will do that review. The question of review itself is a given. And for Puntillo to make that type of statement, he shows himself to be ignorant and more importantly complicit in the problems that face this community.

I understand full well that Puntillo was far from the most polished person on dais--he was often extremely blunt in his assessments. That was at times both a strength and a weakness. Puntillo is no longer on the council. However, and this is the point I think that needs to be driven home today--not one person on that board, not even Greenwald, said one word about Puntillo's statement in public. Not one of them. Silence is compliance.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting