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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saturday Afternoon Briefs

Vanguard gets mention in letter to the editor

Featured in Friday's Davis Enterprise Letter's to the Editor:
Council's action was the right one

On Dec. 12, the Davis City Council decided unanimously to keep its Senior Citizens Commission just as it has always been. It will not be merged with any other commission, but will remain in place as it has ever been since 1973. The City Council's determination also makes clear the decision will not be tabled, as suggested by staff, but is final.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to all those seniors who gathered signatures for petitions to leave their commission alone and to those who had the courage to put pen to paper in signing those same petitions. The City Council finally heard your voices, loud and clear. Senior citizens are considered a vital part of the Davis community, deserving of full commission status.

The Davis Enterprise was instrumental in getting the word out about our struggle to keep this commission alive. The groundswell of support began from an initial letter to the editor, and grew in momentum. Eventually we caught the attention of reporter Claire St. John, who covered the story in several articles, two on the front page. Much to my surprise, I discovered we were also being written about on the Vanguard Internet blog.

The light of day being shone on our local political process should have been a result of following our commission guidelines. Those guidelines include the all-important Brown Act — often referred to as the "sunshine law." It requires that all business conducted by local government be given proper notice to afford opportunity for public comment.

That process is there for a very good reason, and should always be followed to the letter. Not only does adhering to sunshine laws encourage honest and open government, it is a statutory requirement. For any part of a local administration to circumvent the requisite notice and opportunity to be heard does nothing but invite censure, antagonism and cynicism of our government institutions.

I look forward to far brighter days ahead.

Elaine Roberts Musser


Survey finds apartment vacancy down, rental rates up

On Thursday, UC Davis released a survey on apartment vacancy. It found that "the apartment vacancy rate in the city of Davis declined to 1.8 percent this fall, and rental rates rose by an average of 2.6 percent."

Moreover, the average rent for a two-bedroom apparent (44 percent of the units in the survey) rose from $1,092 to $1,112.

This is a stunning increase in the ten years that I have lived in this community. In 1996, when I moved here, I paid half that rent for a two-bedroom apartment that I shared with a buddy.

This study coupled with the study we cited on Thursday about the amount of money per hour it takes to be able to afford to live in an apartment in Yolo County provides startling evidence that Davis is pricing the average college student out of this community.

It appears that the No.1 priority of the new general plan should be focused on providing affordable apartment rentals for UC Davis students seeking go to the university. And second, that in order to continue to attract world class scholars to this university, we need to provide housing that young assistant professors can afford.

The City of Davis needs to take this issue much more seriously. And the university needs to step in as well and either provide housing for new faculty, as other universities do, or partner with the City of Davis to do likewise. The vitality of this community depends on this.

It seems fairly obvious that any new development project needs a much higher proportion of their units to be affordable to lower and middle income households than are currently mandated. This needs to be a priority in Davis if we are to maintain the unique flavor of this community.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We begin with No.7: Bob Dunning versus the ACLU.

On April 25, 2006, the Davis Enterprise obtained the audio tapes from the arrest of a 16-year-old minor. Two days later, reporter Lauren Keene ran a front page article on the tapes, complete with interviews of Deputy District Attorney Patricia Fong and Defense Attorney for the Buzayans, Whitney Leigh. In addition to the story, the Davis Enterprise took the amazing step of posting the tapes on their website for the entire community to listen to.

That Sunday Davis Enterprise Assistant Publisher/ Editor Debbie Davis wrote in a main editorial about the content of the tapes:
“LISTEN FOR YOURSELF. The audiotapes are available on The Davis Enterprise's Web site, Click on the story "Audio of hit-run arrest revealing," and follow the links to the recordings. You'll hear a Davis police officer discharging his duty to this community in a decidedly professional manner. He's doing his job, and he's doing it well. In every contact with the hit-and-run victim, the witness and every member of the Buzayan family, he is polite, respectful and professional.”
However, Debbie Davis is not an attorney and has no legal training. Therefore, it seems actually inappropriate for her to be making legal judgments. She is certainly able to make general comments about what she heard, but by pronouncing him as doing his job and doing it well, without any legal training, she is making legal judgments that she lacks the training to be able to make. Her statements about his demeanor rather than the legality of his conduct confuse the point for the average reader.

The local Yolo County ACLU (attorneys Bill Kopper, Natalie Wormeli and Paul Gerowitz) was very concerned about the propriety of this case and also the coverage of this case. They were extremely critical of the conclusions reached by the Davis Enterprise Editorial Board and Chief Editor, Debbie Davis. They wrote an Op-ed that appeared in the Davis Enterprise on Sunday May 7, 2006.
“The Davis Enterprise's editorial last Sunday touting the propriety of Officer Pheng Ly's conduct in the Halema Buzayan case does a disservice to the citizens of Davis. The editorial demonstrates a profound ignorance of the facts of the case, and also the law. Officer Ly's conduct was not proper or lawful.”
The ACLU makes two key points:
  • First, “Officer Ly pursued an action against the Buzayan family without carefully examining the damage to the two vehicles involved in the hit-and run.”

  • Second, Officer Ly made an illegal arrest by arresting the minor for “a misdemeanor charge committed outside his presence without an arrest warrant.”
The bulk of the ensuing debate would focus on point two—whether an officer can make such an arrest of minor as a specific clause in California law.

Robert Day wrote a letter to the editor published in the Davis Enterprise citing this clause:
“California Welfare and Institutions Code 625(a) specially provides for the probable cause arrest of a minor without a warrant for both misdemeanors and felonies. This is a departure from the law as it applies to adults.”
Day fails to identify himself as a retired member of the Yolo County District Attorney’s office. Day and Tim Talbot who represents the DPOA (Davis Police Officer’s Association) begin feeding Davis Enterprise Columnist Bob Dunning information to combat the ACLU’s position on the second issue.

Bob Dunning on May 12, takes his first shot with an entire column devoted to the issue:
Far be it for me, a nonlawyer sitting in the bleacher seats, to question the opinions of three of this county's finest legal minds, but California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 625 says 'A peace officer may, without a warrant, take into temporary custody a minor: (a) Who is under the age of 18 years when such officer has reasonable cause for believing that such minor is a person described in Section 601 or 602.'”
Bill Kopper then responds to Dunning, with an email to Debbie Davis that was printed at least in portions in Bob Dunning’s May 16 column (by the way notice the Dunning tactics here):
“On Saturday, Enterprise Editor and Assistant Publisher Debbie Davis, who has been my immediate supervisor at this newspaper for many years, received the following e-mail from Bill Kopper, a local attorney and former mayor who the previous Sunday had co-authored an op-ed piece in The Davis Enterprise contending that Officer Pheng Ly's conduct in the Halema Buzayan case "was not proper or lawful."
Said Kopper's e-mail to Davis: "Mr. Dunning's May 12th column lambasting Ms. Wormeli, Mr. Gerowitz and myself about our May 7th Op. Ed. is particularly offensive because [attorney and retired administrative law judge] Mel Trujillo had informed Mr. Dunning that he was incorrect on the law (and the precise reasons Mr. Dunning was incorrect) prior to Mr. Dunning writing the column."
Continued the e-mail: "Officer Ly was not permitted to take Halema down to the police station, question her, and arrest her without an arrest warrant under the auspices of Welfare and Institutions Code section 625."
Kopper then went on to argue why "statutory law and case law absolutely prohibits Officer Ly's conduct toward Halema without an arrest warrant."
Note this part: (Dunning continues)
“Kopper's charge, basically, is that I wrote a column knowingly using false information. He makes this contention based on the alleged timing and the alleged contents of a phone conversation he was not a party to. It's hearsay at best, and an outright falsehood at worst. Plus, you'd have to agree that the information I allegedly "received" was accurate, on point and overwhelmingly conclusive.”

Dunning then proceeds to argue points of law—(after admitting that he was a "nonlawyer) which obviously required some assistance since he’s not a practicing attorney. The assistance came from Mr. Day and Mr. Talbot.

This episode succeeded in creating a tremendous amount of uncertainty about the Buzayan case to the point where few in the community were certain about whether or not Officer Ly acted properly or improperly (mission accomplished!). One thing became very clear to this blogger—Bob Dunning was carrying the water for the Davis Police Department and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office. There was no effective way to communicate with the public without the interference of Dunning. There was no effective way to win a debate against Dunning. That is a tremendous amount of (largely unchecked) power.

Dunning’s bottom line is this:
“In the California case ‘In re Samuel V.’ the court clearly states, ‘On this appeal we determine Welfare and Institutions Code section 625, subdivision (a) does not violate federal constitutional equal protection rights of a juvenile by allowing a peace officer to arrest juvenile misdemeanants solely on probable cause without a warrant or any requirement the offense be committed in the officer's presence.’

That case seems to answer most of the questions raised about the propriety of the arrest of Halema Buzayan: probable cause, no warrant and the arrest of a juvenile for a misdemeanor not committed in the officer's presence.”
Sorry Mr. Dunning, but that does not even address (let alone answer) most of the questions about the propriety of the arrest because you failed to address the central contention as directed in Section 625 and 626 of the California Welfare and Institutions code.

Bill Kopper writes the Editor of the Davis Enterprise published on May 26, 2006:
California law barred Officer Pheng Ly's arrest of Halema Buzayan without a warrant. The law in this area has been settled for more than 25 years.

Bob Dunning and others rely on Welfare and Institutions Code section 625, which allows an officer to take a minor into temporary custody without a warrant. If an officer takes a minor into custody under section 625 for a nonviolent misdemeanor, WIC sections 626 and 626.5 require the officer to immediately take the minor before a probation officer. An officer cannot take the minor to the police station for questioning before taking her to the probation officer. (In Re Michael E, 112 Cal.App.3d 74.)


The best that can be said is that Dunning was careless. Mel Trujillo advised Dunning to review WIC sections 626 and 626.5 the day before his column was printed. Dunning did not ask the ACLU why we concluded Officer Ly's conduct was illegal before he published his column. Apparently, Dunning still does not understand the shortcomings of his legal analysis.
According to Buzayan Attorney Whitney Leigh, this still constitutes an illegal arrest precisely because Officer Pheng Ly failed to follow the provisions of the aforementioned code.
“Pursuant to California Welfare and Institutions Code Sections 625 and 626, Officer Ly was required to take Halema, a minor, to a probation officer prior to conducting any interview with Halema. But Ly deliberately disregarded this rule in a blatant effort to exploit a minor in confessing to a hit and run outside of the presence of her parents. Ly later attempted to justify his nighttime arrest of Halema in her pajamas based upon his need to ensure that the minor and her parents would not engage in a further conspiracy.”
This critical provision in the code was conveniently omitted by Dunning in his discussion and for good reason—it undermined his case. However, this give and take between Kopper and Dunning shows us clearly and distinctly, whose side Dunning was on in this case. He was far from the neutral bystander that he portrays himself as.

This was a crucial development in the Buzayan case and the City Council races in May of 2006. For that, this earns our No.7 story of the year.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday Briefs

Programming note

In the last days of this year, we will have our year in review where we present the top 10 Davis Political Stories of 2006.

Khalid Berny

The first week of January, the People's Vanguard of Davis will have a full exclusive interview with Khalid Berny. Berny is a Clarkburg resident accused of allowing his goats to roam at-large--charged with 170 misdemeanor accounts.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Berny case is once again, we have the Yolo County District Attorney's office suggesting that if Mr. Berny dropped his civil lawsuit against the Sheriff's Department, the District Attorney's Office would drop criminal charges against Mr. Berny. This was similar to Deputy District Attorney Patricia Fong who justified the prosecution of Halema Buzayan because the family was planning a civil suit against the Davis Police Department.

We'll have the full story in January, but people need to start asking tough questions about the operation of the Yolo County District Attorney's Office.


Recently the National Public Radio stations broadcast a program about volunteers who provide respite services for the caregivers of homebound frail elderly. For listeners who live in Yolo County, this might have sounded familiar. Citizens Who Care Inc. of Yolo County (CWC) has been providing this service to hundreds families since we began as a local non-profit volunteer agency in 1988.

In fact, volunteers of CWC were assisting elders as early as 1975 under the umbrella of the county Mental Health Association. Especially during the holiday season, the stress on caregivers is great. A little time off can lift the burden a little, offering a chance to do errands, visit others, or simply rest. In an angry and problem-riddled world, here is something everyone can do to help others and strengthen families. It makes the whole community a stronger and better place. Call to volunteer, to make a donation, or buy a ticket to our Winter Concert fundraiser on February 17 & 18. Our phone number is 758-3704.

You will feel good knowing you have made the holidays brighter for our elders and their families.

Ken Wagstaff
Executive Director
Citizens Who Care

All letters or guest commentary should be sent to:

Stunning Poll on Iraq:
Withdrawn on a fixed timetable: 52%
Kept in Iraq to secure the country: 26%
More troops should be sent: 12%


Source: Times/Bloomberg poll
The significance of this poll is that only 12% of Americans polled support increasing troop strength in Iraq. I don't know if I've ever seen a poll where public opinion is running 78-12 against a policy that the President seems to be proposing. The president may be leading but no one is following him.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

The death of blogging?

It only makes sense that we started this week with a story about the death of newspapers and now apparently the newspapers have fought back with their own story about the death of blogging.

Marc Fisher of the Washington Post writes in yesterday citing a British firm Gartner which does a study and prediction based on statistics that purportedly show that some 200 million people worldwide who had started blogs have already given them up.

Those who predict a quick end for blogging have missed essential points about blogging in general. First of all, blogging has evolved over time to the current form. The internet was immediately a source of information and also interactive information. The rise of blogging has actually occurred over the entire lifespan of the web (and the mass web).

Blogging fills several fundamental niches (holes if you will) in the reporting/ news industry. First, it gives people a source for unfiltered information. We no longer have to rely on large corporations to purchase printing presses in order to be able to quickly and easily disseminate information. Am I overstating it to say that blogging is as revolutionary a concept as Guttenberg's printing press and the ability to mass produce written information? If so, not by much.

Second, in a conversation yesterday I had about blogging, the idea came up that newspapers are general interest papers--they have to cover everything. The Davis Enterprise has to cover the city council meeting but also Davis-fest. The Sacramento Bee covers Davis, but also Sacramento and many over communities in their media market. Blogs can cover very specific topics. No newspaper could focus solely on Davis politics and survive. But a blog for the most part can.

Third, blogs provide the public with an outlet for interactive communication. The difference between a newspaper and a blog is amazing in terms of the ability of blogs to interact with their readers. My readers can respond immediately and for the most part without fear of censorship. Newspapers require letters to the editor, separated by time and restricted by editorial decisions.

Fourth, the ability to get news that no one else covers. The ability for Senator Allen's comments about "Macaca" and Senator Burn's comments about firefighters were able to bypass traditional media censors and be halfway across the cyber-world before the traditional media sources even knew what was happening.

All of these point to an evolution in the way that blogging happens. Those who practice blogging as a hobby may indeed drop off. But think about this for a second--the Daily Kos gets millions of hits a day. Clearly, they are feeding a niche and a market that the current media do not tap. That is not to say the process will not continue to evolve. The most striking thing is that Marc Fisher writes about the end of blogging on a Washington Post blog.

Blogging is here to stay. Mass media will continue to develop and the process will be better for it.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Affordable Housing Needs to be a Priority

According to a report released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition on Friday, December 17, 2006, in order for a Yolo County Family to afford a two-bedroom apartment, they must earn $17.50 per hour.

A family in Yolo County who makes minimum wage needs to work 104 hours per week. It requires a minimum of 2.6 jobs to be able to afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Yolo County.

More alarmingly is that in order to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Yolo County, one must work 85 hours per week.

These data are available at: click here for data

This is for Yolo County as a whole, it does not break it down by city. However since the average home price is over 25% higher in the City of Davis than the county overall, it seems likely that in Davis, those average apartment rents would be even higher.

Once again, this give us a startling example that the jobs that are being brought with the counstruction of a Davis Target are not going to be sufficent for the workers to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Davis.

The Davis Enterprise on Sunday quoted the executive director Robert Wiener:

"Every year it is becoming more difficult for low-income families to find decent homes they can afford in California... This report clearly illustrates the pressing need for affordable housing in our communities."

As the city council begins to look at the general plan, they need to seriously address the issue of affordable housing in Davis. Living wage laws would help in this regard, but we cannot increase these wages to $17.50 per hour or even higher. The bulk of that difference needs to come in the form of providing the average working person a place where they can afford housing. Otherwise, all Davis is doing by bringing in businesses like Target, is create a bunch of new commuter jobs for Dixon or West Sacramento residents.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

A Vote for Arnold was a Vote for More Prisons

Yolo County has generally been a reliably Democratic County. In 2004, Kerry received 59% of the vote in Yolo County to Bush’s 39 percent of the vote. In fact, Yolo in 2000 was one of only six California counties to oppose Proposition 22, which limited marriages to those legally sanctioned unions between a man and a woman.

So it comes as a bit of a shocker to see Arnold Schwarzenegger win Yolo County by double-digit margins. Did Yolo suddenly become a Republican County? As we look down ticket, the answer is an emphatic no, all Democrats down ticket won by at least double digits and some gained over 60 percent of the vote. The only other Democrat to lose was Bustamante who lost by three percent, in a race that he lost by huge margins statewide. It’s safe to say, Democrats in Yolo County outperformed their margins of victory statewide.

I am left to the conclusion that a large number of otherwise reliable Democratic voters switched sides to vote for Arnold. While Angelides ran an amazingly flat race, I think Democrats quickly forgot about the 2005 special elections where Arnold went after unions, teachers, nurses, etc. Did Arnold suddenly become a Democrat?

On Monday, the Sacramento Bee wrote an article, “Fears of welfare, health cuts.” Apparently the state of California is projected a $5.5 billion shortfall and the fear among advocates for working families and the poor is that he is going to once again balance the budget on the backs of those individuals who can least afford it.

To make matters worse, yesterday, the Bee ran an article, “$10 billion plan for new prisons readied.”

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is preparing to roll out a plan next year that will call for about $10 billion in construction for prisons, jails and medical facilities, and include support for a sentencing commission, according to sources familiar with the proposal.

Sources said the breakdown on funding would allocate about $4.4 billion to prisons and re-entry institutions, $4.4 billion for county jail and juvenile beds and $1 billion for medical facilities to satisfy court monitors in two federal cases overseeing health care and treatment of the mentally ill.”

We already spend around $6 billion per year just on correctional facilities. Do we need improved prison facilities? By all means. But this is a question about budget priorities and the distribution of very scarce resources. The governor is threatening to cut money to the poor while additional money is being allocated to correctional facilities.

The thing about correctional facilities is that they are in essence a "black hole." When you put money into education, you are making an investment--you are putting money into educating our youth now, so that they can be more productive in the future. When you put money into health care, you are making an investment--you allow people to get medical treatment now which allows them to live better and more productively in the future. When you put money into prisons, you are throwing it into a black hole. It bandages the problem of having too many inmates, but it does nothing to prevent people from ending up in prison to begin with.

It is very simple. When Democrats vote for Republicans, even moderate Republicans, even when there is a strong Democratic majority in both houses of the legislature, they are voting for priorities and Republicans place prisons as a priority over health care, over the poor, and over education.

That is the bottom line. But it is a lesson that Yolo County Democrats have not learned. Many prominent ones have continued to back Republicans in non-partisan races over Democrats. That is part of the same problem, because now you are advancing the career of young Republican officeholders at the expense of Democrats for what is at best a short-term gain. When Republicans get elected to office, we know what happens and we know whose priorities suffer. We ought to never forget.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wednesday Midday Briefs

Police Reports: Police warn of man possibly posing as officer

There is a good lesson in this story for everyone, a man knocks on someone’s door at 1:45 a.m. and claims to be a police officer investigating a shooting that occurred at the complex (no such shooting occurred). The resident was sharp and alert enough at that point to ask for a badge and the man responded that he left it in the car. The resident saved himself by doing the right thing and never opening the door, particularly at 1:45 a.m. unless you know it is for certain a police officer. He called the police and that is the right thing to do because police dispatchers, as the article suggests, will be able to quickly determine if this is a legitimate police officer. When in doubt, always call 911 first and verify. The police officer can wait a few minutes—if they are a police officer.

That is the serious lesson.

The humor is never in the incident, or almost never, but also in the reporting on the incident. In fairness, you have to presume a person innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law, but sometimes you can probably leave this stuff unsaid.

For instance, “Lt. Colleen Turay said the suspect… may have been up to no good.”

"May" have been up to no good?

The second detail that caught my attention is the description—African American male in his late 20s, 5-11, average build.

That should narrow it down. Personally, I am going to stick with asking everyone claiming to be a police officer for their ID. I suggest everyone else does the same.

Dunning strikes again… Yolobus for the County Supervisors

Dunning quotes Rich at as “I’m not sure which is worse: the supervisors’ 40 percent pay hike or their $6,840 per year ‘car allowance.’”

Rich goes on to suggest that Yolobus might be a cost-cutting solution—seeing as it is subsidized by the taxpayers.

Nothing against Yolobus, but I suspect neither Rich nor Dunning is thinking about the life of an elected official. If they merely had to make one trip a day from home to work, then Yolobus would be an excellent choice. But that is not how the life of an elected representative goes.

The life of an elected official is hurried. It is crammed full of meetings with very few windows in between. Yolobus and public transportation simply do not fulfill that type schedule. Supervisors and other elected officials have to meet in various places and various times during the course of a day and week, and they have to be able to leave immediately and travel directly. The bus does not fulfill that. $6800 and change sounds like a lot of money until you realize how many miles these people are likely logging each year.

Examining African American Arrest Rates in Davis

Yesterday we reported briefly on the disproportionate amount of times African Americans were arrested in San Francisco compared to their proportion of the population. The African American population is just 8 percent of San Francisco’s total population and yet they represent nearly fifty percent of all arrests. Looking at this another way, that is roughly 6.25 times what one might expect given the proportion of the population of African Americans in San Francisco.

The San Francisco police have offered up a number of factors to explain this discrepancy. These arguments are mainly based on group characteristics. The problem with that form of analysis is that we would then expect to see the same type of magnitude of disproportionality in all cities and we clearly do not. San Francisco’s discrepancy is much higher than other comparable cities.

“Many experts acknowledge that the factors Fong and her officers cite may contribute to the city's black arrest rate. They also note that in cities throughout America, African Americans are arrested in numbers that exceed their presence in the population. But they say the black arrest rate in San Francisco is so much higher than other California cities that the disparity cannot be explained completely by the factors cited by police.“ (San Francisco Chronicle, December 17. 2006).

By comparison the report suggests that this rate is twice that of Sacramento and Fresno, three times that of San Jose, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego, and four times the rate of that in Oakland.

The question arose in a comment section of yesterday’s brief discussion item of how that compares locally. I have the figures that were cited by then Assistant Chief Steve Piece on August 22, 2005. This data only goes to August 19, 2005. Perhaps we can receive an update from the now acting chief.

In 2005, African Americans were 3.75 times more likely to be arrested than you would predict simply on the basis of population. In 2004, African Americans were 3.3 times more likely to be arrest than what you would predict based on their proportion of the population. In 2003, African Americans were 3.3 times more likely to be arrest than what you would predict given their proportion of the population.

I feel uncomfortable drawing conclusions based on these data in comparison with the big cities, given that I do not have raw numbers, only percentages in front of me. But an educated guess places the rate of disproportionality somewhat above that of Sacramento and Fresno but well below that of San Francisco. It seems a bit higher than in places like Los Angeles and a lot higher than places like Oakland. However, comparing Davis to large cities is perhaps unfair as well. I would like to see how this rate compares to adjacent cities and also cities of similar size. But nevertheless it is interesting to at least look at these numbers and see where Davis falls relative to Sacramento and Los Angeles. There is a clear problem in San Francisco that is going to take significant resources to study.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tuesday Midday Briefs

City of Davis Independent Police Ombudsman

I stumbled upon the new webpage for Davis' Ombudsman, Bob Aaronson. From this page, you get background information on Mr. Aaronson, but also contact information in the form of his email address and phone number.

Most importantly there is a link to a police complaint form.

While the system in Davis remains in need of reform, Mr. Aaronson seems to be a straight shooter who will do a fair job of investigating and auditing complaints against the police. Anyone who believes that they have been wronged by the police is strongly encourage to come forward and go through the formal complaint process. Frankly, we need to see if this process is going to work, and the only way that will happen will be to actually use the process.

We would encourage anyone with stories about racial profiling or other forms of racial profiling to come forward and speak out at Davis City Council Meetings. In addition, feel free to send us any information that you:

Alarming Racial Divide in San Francisco Arrest Rates

The San Francisco Chronicle published an article recently highlighting a startling discrepency in the arrest rates in San Francisco for African-Americans compared to the rest of the major cities in the state:
Black people in San Francisco are arrested for felonies at nearly twice the rate they are in Sacramento. They are arrested at twice the rate of black people in Fresno, three times the rate in San Jose, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego, and four times the rate in Oakland.

The disparity between San Francisco’s black felony arrest rates and the seven other largest cities’ — measured by the number of African Americans arrested per 1,000 black residents — is so large that many experts and civic leaders who reviewed the numbers said they are “disturbing” and require an investigation.

As the Blogger Left in San Francisco writes: "One half of all felony arrests in San Francisco are of African Americans. Who represent less than 8 percent of the city’s population."

While the article focuses on San Francisco, you'll notice a bit closer to home that Sacramento and Fresno are on the higher end of that list as well.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Cleaning up the District Attorney’s Office

Last June, Jeff Reisig was elected Yolo County District Attorney with strong support from the current employees of the district attorney’s office. As he is about to take office, he faces a number of very tough choices, for if he is to survive in office, he will need to deal with numerous problems among the very people who helped get him elected in the first place. It is in many ways an unenviable task, but one for which he may have no choice.

While it did not gain the attention of some of the more notorious cases, perhaps the most egregious case of overzealous prosecution stemmed from charges filed against a Clarksburg goat farmer, Khalid Berny, an immigrant from Morocco. He was charged with 170 misdemeanor counts that would have put him in prison for three years. His crime: he allowed his livestock to roam uncontained on a number of occasions. They prosecuted him despite his payment of restitution and impound fees to the animal services department and despite the fact that he no longer even owned goats and therefore was not a threat to repeat his crime.

Most amazingly is that on the eve of his trial, he obtained new attorneys, Matt Gonzalez and Whitney Leigh, who sought and received a continuance. On July 26, 2006, just two months after they were set to go to trial and put him in jail, the Yolo County District Attorney dismissed the charges.

Better known and in many ways equally disturbing is the handling of the Buzayan case by the Yolo County District attorney’s office. While Officer Ly has shouldered much blame within the community for pursuing this arrest—without the prosecution by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, this case likely never would have come to public light.

The question is why pursue a legal case against a juvenile for a minor bumper bender that resulted in $800 worth of damage and was settled civilly?

In Judge Thomas Warriner’s Court Deputy District Attorney Patricia Fong twice admitted that the DA was determined to pursue juvenile proceedings against Miss Buzayan based on their concern that the Buzayan family would sue the Davis Police Department and the City of Davis for the improper conduct of Officer Ly.

Following the dismissal of the misdemeanor charges, the Yolo County District attorneys office released the tapes of the incident to the Davis Enterprise resulting in an “improper online broadcast of the private and confidential information about the Buzayan family.” This despite going into court and asking the Judge to release such information and having Judge Warriner deny their request. Remember juvenile proceedings are confidential. The family and the defense attorney have the latitude to release information that may benefit the juvenile, however, the prosecution is not allowed to release information. This is to protect the juvenile from cases such as these.

Finally, in the ensuing spin, Deputy District Attorneys Tim Wallace and Clinton Parish would accuse the Buzayan family of “paying off” the victim in order to avoid prosecution. Parish writes on the “Yolosoap” website, “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.”

Tim Wallace put the blame squarely on the family of the juvenile stating that she “knew she screwed up and was unwilling to accept responsibility for it. Sadly, her parents only enabled their child’s deceipt. (sic)” Further he blames the uproar over this case as “the doing of very small and vocal portion of the community accepting a SF criminal defense lawyers (sic) spin of the facts rather than trust their own institutions.”

Of course, the small portion of the community was concerned about this case in the summer of 2005 long before the arrival of the San Francisco criminal defense lawyers in late January of 2006. Moreover, Wallace should not have been discussing this juvenile case. Finally, “rather than trust their own institutions”? This is precisely the problem—it is difficult to trust our institutions such as the District Attorney’s office when they appear to be waging a war of retribution rather than a furtherance of justice.

When these institutions appear to abuse prosecutorial discretion by the pursuit and the prosecution of individuals who do not pose a danger to either themselves or the community for reasons that appear, at least by the admission of Fong, to not fall into the realm of protection or guidance, then we naturally begin to question rather than trust our institutions. Trust in institutions is not a blind check. It must be earned and it must be maintained.

The Berny and Buzayan prosecutions demonstrate the danger involved if the District Attorney fails to serve the interest of justice and instead serves the interest of prosecutorial zeal. And it is this instinct that needs to be cleaned up in addition to many others.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, December 18, 2006

Thinking outloud: The Death of Newspapers?

It's worth reading the December 14, 2006 edition of the Sacramento News and Review. Jeff vonKaenel, owner and CEO of the News and Review, writes about "why corporate management of daily newspapers spells disaster for the news business, community debate and our way of government."

I'm kind of ambivalent about his point. Unlike a lot of bloggers, the first paper I read in the morning is the New York Times, followed by the Washington Post, and then the National Journal's Hotline (which as a political junkie, is my bread and butter). It is only after reading those traditional news sources, that I start looking at blogs and other new sources of information.

"People may be getting their news from various sources today: radio, television, online. But most of the original reporting--even that which ends up on radio, TV and the Internet--is done by daily newspapers. Daily newspapers also do nearly all of the investigative reporting that monitors how government spends its citizens’ money and watch over how the government works to protect its citizens’ interests."

I have to wonder about print elitism (the reverse of print envy), and it brings me back to the point that I made in response to Davis Enterprise Columnist Richard Harris a couple of months ago--is the daily newspaper really on the cutting edge anymore? Many of the biggest political stories of 2006 came not from daily newspapers, but from bloggers and other independent sources that then filtered up to the mainstream press.

The control of the US Senate came down to a couple of Senate races that hinged on blogger and youtube reporting. Webb does not win in Virginia without "Makaka." George Allen was a sure-bet until a kid following Incumbent George Allen around with a hand-held uploads a video onto youtube and suddenly Allen is in hot water.

And maybe this is part of the point that vonKaenel is trying to make by looking at the impact of corporate ownership.

But I think it is something much bigger and it goes the heart of the problem that we have in Davis. How do people get access to information about local politics? They read about it in the Davis Enterprise. That is largely the only source for information. If they do not cover it, people do not know about it.

The Davis Enterprise, their editor Debbie Davis, and their staff are the gatekeepers of information that affects the people of Davis. And that gatekeeping power is tremendous.

This blog has broken what a number of people who I have spoken to believe to be, major stories. Are they being reported? Not really. If the Davis Enterprise does not consider it news, it does not get reported. And that's the problem that we are seeking to breakdown.

The other factor is that daily newspapers are passive. Now they are learning to adapt. The major papers now have blogs to give their readers more interaction. People do not want to passive absorbers of information, they want to react it to and participate.

This is a new technology, but as more and more people start participating through blogging, they will become more comfortable with the process.

So while I disagree with vonKaenel, I also sympathize with his vision and his beliefs.

But at the end of the day, I just think he's wrong when he says:

"The cost is more than the thousands of jobs lost in the newspaper business in just a couple of years. It’s more than the future value shareholders will never receive. It’s the price we’ll all pay for losing the institution that represents a major foundation of a working democracy that really scares me."

Democracy will survive without the daily paper. News sources will evolve and adapt. The news business will adjust. And I think we'll be better for it, because no longer will corporations and editors and people with the resources to print have a monopoly on the gatekeeping of information.

That's a strength for democracy, not a weakness.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday Briefs

Setting the facts straight about lawsuit against school district

There seems to be a great deal of misconceptions around the community dealing with the issue of a lawsuit filed against the School District by Mr. Guy Fischer because of the alleged failure by the district to deal with issues pertaining to the harassment of his son.

We discussed this briefly last week, but again in yesterday’s Davis Enterprise, Richard Hogan of Davis writes, “This lawsuit will have a direct impact on my purse. With a child attending school in the Davis school district, I will be required to compensate for the loss in funding…. I will pay in the end.”

The suggestion has been made that the district would pay out potentially the $100,000 that Mr. Fischer is suing for plus lawyer fees and that this would take money from the school district's budget that would otherwise go for learning and education. While I am still trying to get a hold of the school district (I think they are out for the winter break, so this may have to wait until January), my understanding is that most government agencies have an insurance pool for such cases. A number of entities will buy into the pool for insurance against such lawsuits. They may have to pay a deductible. However, the bulk of the costs are paid by the insurance pool and not directly from educational funds. So the direct effect of this lawsuit on Mr. Hogan’s child’s education is not going to be noticeable.

Mr. Hogan then closes his letter with: “This is what happens in a sue-happy world. Enough already!”

We all hate frivolous lawsuits, but with all due respect to Mr. Hogan and his opinions—how dare he judge the merits of Mr. Fischer’s case on the basis of a single article in a newspaper? We have a legal process where the facts will come out and a jury after hearing those facts will determine if Mr. Fischer and his son have been wronged and if they are entitled to compensation for their wrongs.

As suggested in last week’s blog, if people are so concerned about the district having to pay out money in lawsuits, perhaps they ought to take action and put pressure on the district to be more responsive when situations like these arise.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

How the Senior Citizens Prevailed in their Fight Against Council

As Elaine Roberts Musser came before council to give them an earful on their tactics and rhetoric, I was eerily reminded of another recent situation where the council took on a citizen’s commission and that time with very different results for the commission.

Musser accused council and specifically Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson and Councilmember Stephen Souza of duplicity, of strong-armed tactics, and made strong and pointed political threats. Council reacted defensively to these allegations, just as they have in the past. But at the end of the day instead of disbanding the Senior Citizens Commission and putting it on hiatus, they apologized for any misunderstandings and they dropped their move to merge the Senior Citizens Commission with the Social Service Commission.

Why was the Senior Citizens Commission able to survive while the Human Relations Commission was not?

First, the HRC “chose” the wrong target. When the HRC took on the police issue, they took it on just as they had any of number issues in their previous few years under the leadership of Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald. However, the police were different from all other targets. Police, even in a “progressive” town like Davis hold a strong measure of support—at the end of the day people want a strong and effective police force and many are willing to trade the rights of others in order to keep their security.

The police were able to counter-mobilize against the HRC, with Chief Jim Hyde and Lt. Dorothy Pearson able to rally large numbers of individuals in defense of the police. Moreover, through the help of council and the Davis Enterprise, they changed the issue from that of the police’s misconduct, to the conduct of the HRC itself. The HRC was portrayed as out of control and politicizing the issue of police misconduct. The battle culminated with the HRC being put on hiatus.

There is no such target in the case of the Senior Citizens Commission. The Senior Services Commission may remain more supportive of the move than the Senior Citizens Commission, but there this action poses no threat to them and thus they are largely a bystanders in this battle. This is simply a battle between Souza-Asmundson (with Saylor on the sidelines waiting to be third man in) and the Senior Citizens Commission and community.

Thus there is a situation where the Senior Citizens are mobilized but there is no group counter-mobilized to either go after the Senior Citizens Commission or defend the council. Moreover, this conflict is not about council policy in terms of a specific issue, rather it is a structural issue about the shape and scope of commissions. That gives the commission a bit more leeway in their battle.

Still, you would have to believe if the HRC was in the position of the Senior Citizens Commission, you would not have seen Asmundson and Souza falling over themselves to apologize for any misunderstanding.

The biggest difference in these two battles appears to be the influence of the constituencies that the two commissions represent at the polling booth. Seniors represent not only a sizable population group but also a potent voting bloc. First, seniors vote in high numbers, making their power disproportionate to their actual share of the population. Second, seniors are not necessarily natural opponents for the council majority. It is likely that a majority of seniors supported the council majority and particularly Ruth Asmundson. The council majority may rely on the senior vote as much as they rely on other constituencies. By alienating the senior vote, they would put their majority status in jeopardy.

The minority community of Davis, on the other hand, was very vulnerable. First, they are a small percentage of the population. Only two percent of Davis is African-American. Only nine percent is Latino. Second, their voting share is likely considerably smaller than the 11 percent of the population that they represent. Third, the council majority reasoned they were not going to get the vote of that demographic anyway and they were able to, through the police issue, mobilize a much larger base of people in defense of the police.

In the end, Elaine Musser Roberts was able to attack the council, specifically Souza and Asmundson with impunity. The HRC and Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald found themselves outnumbered and outmaneuvered by the efforts of the police chief to protect his turf.

Roberts was able to fight the council and win. In the process, she gained a number of admirers, tired of the council running roughshod over citizen commissions and concerned about an apparent power grab and consolidation of power and influence by council. While Roberts has won this battle, the war is still being waged. The Human Relations Commission is a shell of its former self and the council majority can simply lick its wounds and fight another day. Meanwhile, as we have seen, the rights of minorities in this community remain tenuous at best. Fortunately, the rights of seniors and the representation of the senior community remain intact. However, it is now incumbent upon the senior community to get the word out and remind their community who had their backs in this fight and who was ready to greatly diminish their influence.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Commentary: Where is the local coverage by the Davis Enterprise?

As I closed down shop late last night, I remarked to friends about just how extraordinary this past week's Davis City Council Meeting had been. There were no less than five major stories during that meeting: proposed merger of the Senior and Social Services Commission; the city’s general plan update process; the failed police car camera system; the city’s EAP service contract; the city’s parks consulting contract; the duplicity & disingenuousness of both Don Saylor and Stephen Souza as well as Ruth Asmundson’s Surrogate moment. We covered them all; it took until late yesterday for the People's Vanguard of Davis to finish covering that City Council meeting.

The remarkable thing about it, is that the Davis Enterprise and their city reporter, Claire St. John, covered one single story from it--the discussion on the general plan update with a brief mention of the Senior Citizens Commission merger at the end. I looked at the paper this morning and one of the front-page stories is that John Edwards is going to run for President but not Even Bayh. It is two years before the Presidential election, one year before the first primary, and frankly neither of those guys are going to win. If I want to read about national politics, I'll go to the New York Times, the Washington Post or read the National Journal. But I read the Enterprise to get local coverage and they have failed to provide that with regards to this past meeting.

For example, not a lot of people will pay attention to that Employee Assistance Program (EAP) issue, but that is a major scam being perpetrated upon City Employees by Cigna and the "pennies wise, pound foolish" cost-cutting city staff. Read the article several times if you have to, there was a lot of work put into that article, but my reading of this situation is that the only way that Cigna will make money off that bid is if they cut service from 9% of employees down to 2 or 3 percent. And it's being sold as a way to save money while maintaining or even increasing service level.

I am left with but one conclusion--if you read the Davis Enterprise, you will get a very small and a very skewed picture of what is happening in Davis City government.

Of the five most crucial issues that came before the council, only two were covered. The Davis Enterprise did have substantial coverage of the Senior Citizens issue in the weeks leading up to the final vote on Tuesday. But even in this case, the reader would have missed a lot of important context.

Claire St. John of the Davis Enterprise writes:
A subcommittee of Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson and Councilman Stephen Souza recommended the merger and asked the two commissions to explore the idea, but the Senior Citizens Commission rejected the proposal immediately, collecting signatures and making strong statements against it. "It was an idea," Souza said. "I'm sorry if it was misunderstood."
What the article on Wednesday does not mention is that it was more than "an idea." On September 12, 2006 the merger appeared as a resolution in the agenda backed by a full recommendation for passage. And yet, the reader having no context for this issue would conclude that Souza and Asmundson had come up with an idea and then changed their mind.

The striking thing about this meeting is how blatantly duplicitous the major faction of the City Council was during this meeting. The very last item that they discussed sums it up--Councilmember Don Saylor misrepresented his motivations for voting to take no action on an RFP (request for proposal) item that would authorize the taking of bids for a park's consultant. Saylor voted with Heystek and Greenwald two weeks ago so that he could preserve his parliamentary option to bring up the item for reconsideration once Asmundson returned from her oversees trip. Souza then claimed this wasn't an acceptance of the consultant--which is true to an extent, but also misleading about the way this process works. And finally, the need for reconsideration came because Asmundson was absent during her travels. Greenwald had very generously put any item that Asmundson wanted to consider, off until Asmundson returned. Yet, this generosity and courtesy was not rewarded by the council majority on an item that Asmundson had not requested be postponed until her return.

Then there is the issue of the police cars. Here is a case where the city knew that there was a problem with the in-car digital recording equipment that cost the city over $140,000 to purchase and install. The city does not come forward with this information to inform the members of the city council, let alone the public. And to date, the Davis Enterprise has not covered it.

The biggest ally of the council majority is an uninformed electorate. Unfortunately, a lot of people who believe they are informed are not getting the full story or any story at all. That is one of the reasons why in late July I started this blog. And one of the reasons why I continue to put time and energy into researching the stories that I write about.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Examining the Buzayan Case: Miranda Rights Violation

Buzayan Case Charges that Davis Police Officer Ly Ignored Request for Attorney

Last spring Davis Enterprise Editor Debbie Davis upon hearing the tapes from the Buzayan case--the ones that the prosecutor wanted her to hear--proclaimed:
"LISTEN FOR YOURSELF... You'll hear a Davis police officer discharging his duty to this community in a decidedly professional manner. He's doing his job, and he's doing it well. In every contact with the hit-and-run victim, the witness and every member of the Buzayan family, he is polite, respectful and professional."
This pronouncement by Debbie Davis has always troubled me, because to the best of my knowledge Ms. Davis is neither an attorney nor does she have any sort of legal training.

The issue of Officer Pheng Ly's demeanor during the incident got some how overblown in the press. The issue was never that Officer Ly was rude or abrasive, rather that he violated the rights of young Buzayan.

As the complaint filed by the Buzayan family states:
"The Yolo County District Attorney's Office and Ly mischaracterized the complaints made by the Buzayan family as arising out of Ly's demeanor during his interactions with them - as opposed to his multiple violations of federal, state and local laws - and then refuted "strawman” arguments never made by the Buzayan family"
The complaint filed by the Buzayans however claims a much more serious violation of the law--"Defendant Ly also deliberately and unlawfully denied her request for an attorney in direct violation of both federal and state law."

This is a violation of Miss Buzayan's Miranda Rights. This was taken by some to mean that Officer Ly failed to read Miss Buzayan her Miranda rights. But the rights embodied under Miranda not only include the requirement that the officer inform the individual of their rights, but also that at the moment that she requests an attorney, any interview immediately cease. Particularly, in the case of a minor, it is incumbent upon the police officer to ensure that her rights are not violated.

Listening to the recorded transcript between Officer Pheng Ly and Halema Buzayan one hears:
Officer Ly: ugh before I…emmm… ask you questions about the case, I wanna read you something very important.. emm OK?

Halema Buzayan: Umhem

Ly: You have the right to remain silent. Do you understand?

HB: Yeah… to be quiet?

Ly: Yes

HB: And not answer your question OK?

Ly: Any thing you say may be used against you in court. Do you understand?

HB: Not really.. no.

Ly: Ok. Anything you say may be used against you in court. OK. Basically, if you tell you me anything I can go to court and say this is what she told me. OK.

HB: Umm OK?

Ly: You have the right to the presence of an attorney before and during any questioning. Do you understand?

HB: So, like right now or no?

Ly: Yeah right now if you want one you can.

HB: Will it be my attorney? Or…

Ly: It could be……….any attorney that you want.

HB: OK… uhhh… my parents… like my dad has an attorney. Could I use that one?

Ly: He has a…. he has a…he’s…he’s… he’s…an attorney…? He has a law partner..?

HB: No no no no he has…. No no he has an attorney like for UC Davis employees they have them.

Ly: Ugh umm yeah.


Ly: Yeah, if he is available

HB: OK, could you? Can you do that?

Ly: if you can not afford one, then one will be appointed for you free of charge before any questioning if you want. Do you understand that.
As the complaint explains: "As Ly well understood, Halema's statement, "ok, could you? Can you do that" constituted a request for an attorney under federal and state law, requiring him to cease his already unlawful interrogation of Halema. But Officer Ly, in direct violation of state and federal law, denied a minor's request for an attorney. Officer Ly, Davis Police Chief Jim Hyde and the Yolo County District Attorney would later falsely claim that Halema Buzayan did not request an attorney, or that her request was "ambiguous.""

According to legal experts who I have spoken with, the moment that Miss Buzayan said, "Ok, could? Can you do that?" Officer Ly was required to cease his interrogation. For some reason however, the issue of Miranda became focused on the question of did Officer Ly read Miss Buzayan her Miranda Rights.

For example, on May 2, 2006, Bob Dunning in his column writes:
“As the alleged "facts" of this arrest have seeped into the public consciousness over the last few months, I was told time and time again that Pheng Ly never advised Halema Buzayan of her Miranda rights, a serious violation in any arrest. And yet, as I listened to the tapes, there was Officer Ly ¬ clearly and directly and deliberately ¬ advising Halema of her Miranda rights and making certain she understood.”
Dunning’s column illustrates the misconception about this issue that was repeated in the Davis Enterprise newspaper last spring which created that perception that Officer Ly had been unjustly accused of wrong doing and that the community owed him an apology. Officer Ly on his website (which in the last week seems to have been taken down) similarly would claim that the issue was the reading of the Miranda rights rather than the denial of attorney upon request.
The record here on the transcript is pretty clear if you are familiar with the law. The error for the community was when non-lawyers such as Debbie Davis clouded the public issues by false assertions that Officer Pheng Ly was “doing his job and doing it well.”

---Doug Paul Davis reporting