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Saturday, December 30, 2006

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our eighth installment, No.6 Yolo County District Attorney's race.

We have spoken at length on this blog about the problems in the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office. In the coming months, we will speak about more of the problems that exist. In 2006, we had a clearly defined battle set up between two Deputy District Attorneys Jeff Reisig and Pat Lenzi.

District Attorney Dave Henderson will retire shortly (in January) after serving as Yolo County District Attorney since 1984 and working in the District Attorney’s office for over 30 years. It was a long tenure marred by serious allegations of corruption and malfeasance. The culture of his office is one of a “good-old boys network.” His handpicked successor was Jeff Reisig. Reisig was only 35 years old at the time of his election. He is a right-wing Republican and he had the support of every law enforcement officer organization in the county and many of the public officials. That included numerous elected Democratic officials such as Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor and Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto. These Democratic officials wore “Democrats for Reisig” buttons at the Davis Farmer's Market actively campaigning for him.

Reisig was opposed by fellow Deputy District Attorney Pat Lenzi. Lenzi, a moderate Democrat and mother of a Marine stationed in Iraq, brought to the table a different perspective. She had a strong focus on issues of children and women. Issues that have long been ignored by the current District Attorney. But she also had an excellent record as a tough but fair prosecutor.

As one might imagine, given the large number of endorsements from key officials, Reisig had a strong and sustained advantage. He was able to out raise her and outspend her.

Despite these advantages, in the closing week of the race, it seemed close enough that Resig would pull out a very dirty campaign tactic. In 1999, while working as Deputy DA for Sacramento County, Pat Lenzi was involved in a serious automobile accident (a drunk driver hit her car) that had for a time caused her some memory problems. James Hawes was a sexual predator, who was convicted for committing a string of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, sexual assault, and several other offense. This was a convicted sex offender who was trying to seize on this issue to get a new trial.

The Woodland Daily Democrat on May 31, 2006—just over one week prior to the election seized on this information printing an extremely slanted version of the story.
The story led of with: “An admission by Deputy District Attorney and candidate for District Attorney Patricia Lenzi of a brain injury affecting her memory - which led to her failing to give defense lawyers a piece of evidence favorable to their client - is raising questions about her competency for the top office.”
Yolo County Deputy District Attorney and Jeff Reisig supporter Tim Wallace then played the role of the subtle hatchet man:
"That disclosure came as quite a shock to me in the extreme because I've never seen any evidence of it… I'm not saying it's not true, but I've never seen any evidence of memory loss… If she has memory losses of the severity that she described under oath, then I don't think she's fit to be District Attorney… This office performs an invaluable service to the community and they need to know the person in our top office is competent."

Notice that he heavily couches his statement but the punchline is that if this is true, she is unfit to serve. Tim Wallace you will remember along with Clinton Parish made a series of irresponsible and outrageous statements about the Buzayan family. They were both strong supporters of Reisig and frequently attacked Lenzi in vicious and juvenile ways.

The article went on to cite 2005 transcripts taken out of context that suggested that, “Sometimes I don't recognize my own house, when I go home. Sometimes I don't know my own street.” Told completely out of context from her statement this was a vicious and devastating blow by a supposedly impartial newspaper.

This story appeared in the Daily Democrat, which had endorsed Reisig. However, most of the county does not read the Daily Democrat. So the Reisig campaign reproduced the article and sent it out to every home in Yolo County to make sure that everyone saw the article.

Despite all of that, the margin of victory by Reisig was fairly slim. Pat Lenzi won in Davis, but lost badly in Woodland for the margin of a 54-46 victory.

Now Reisig will inherit many of the problems of the Henderson office. Moreover he owes his victory to the efforts of Deputy District Attorney’s such as Patricia Fong, Clinton Parish, and Tim Wallace who are under scrutiny for misconduct in their roles in various high-profile cases. In the end, Reisig’s success and failure will rest on his ability to manage his office and in many ways clean house despite the political allegiances he owes some of those deputies. It will be a difficult and unenviable task in the coming months and the People’s Vanguard of Davis will be monitoring this office to see how they respond to what lies ahead.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, December 29, 2006

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our seventh installment, No.3 Davis votes for a "Green" Target.

Target is perhaps the most written about topic on this blog. I note that there are 37 blog entries on this blog that have Target as a label. The decision by the Davis City Council to place the issue of Target on the ballot preceded the formation of this blog. The issue of Target became among the most important local issues during the fall campaign.

I began the fall campaign planning to vote against the construction of Target. There were two primary reasons for this. One, there are no stores like Target in Davis. That was a reason given by both sides of the issue--in both support of and opposition to building a Target. But for me, what makes Davis special is that it is a small college town without a lot of the huge commercial enterprises that blight our countryside across this nation. If we cannot keep a giant corporate conglomerate out of Davis—what hope do we have in the rest of the country.

The second reason for opposing Target was, following from the first, I am a believer in small and locally owned businesses and good paying union jobs. I think stores like Target give us cheap merchandise and not in the good sense and poor customer service. I want the knowledgeable salesperson to help me with my purchases not a person hired at ridiculously low wages who knows as little as I do about the general products. And I want well-paid and well-treated employees who are not treated as mere commodities.

However, and this is something I realize more and more, what really angers me is not people who oppose my viewpoints because I enjoy differences of opinion and conversing. No, what really angers me is when people are dishonest and deceptive. The Target campaign was dishonest and deceptive.

If you want to make the argument that we need a Target because it provides us with cheap products in-town that people would have to drive out of town to buy, I will disagree with you that that should be a rationale for bringing in a Target. However, it is a fair argument and not one that I am going to complain about.

However, the marketing of the “green Davis-friendly target” was nauseating beyond words. And duplicitous. They sold Target in Davis by changing their trademark color from red to green. Somehow that was supposed to symbolize that Target fit in with Davis values.

The Davis Enterprise in their October 15, 2006 endorsement of Target closed with this:
"Davis' Target store will be an environmental showplace as well--one of only 10 retail stores worldwide... that have achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification."
Theresa Francis in writing a letter to the Davis Enterprise actually had the best response, “I'm going to open a Hummer dealership in a giant LEED building; that way I can help save the environment.” And that sums it up. You have a giant corporation with world-wide impact on the environment. Opening a LEED building in Davis is not going to change that. Nor does it address the labor polices of the company which are also quite bad.

Both PG&E and Target have poor environmental records and both tried to sell themselves as environmentally friendly. It was an insult to the intelligence of the Davis voters. Unfortunately, this is not the only example of the pro-Target side trying to manipulate the voters on the issue of the environment.

On November 5, 2006 we write:
“A November 1, 2006 advertisement in the Davis Enterprise suggested that the EPA was in support of Measure K. The EPA spokesperson wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the Davis Enterprise, clarifying that the EPA had not taken a position on the Target Development.

The text quoted in the advertisement was verbatim from the emails exchanged between the EPA's Project Manager and Councilmember Don Saylor. However, those quotes were juxtaposed with other material to suggest that the EPA had in fact supported the measure. This is a clear attempt to change the meaning of the information that the EPA provided to Councilmember Saylor.

Saylor completely twisted the words of the EPA to suggest to the public that the EPA was supporting this project. This is a gross attempt by Saylor to manipulate the public into supporting the Target project and Measure K.”
The EPA then wrote a letter making it clear that they took “no position regarding the proposed Target development.”

This was just one of the misleading acts committed by Davis City Councilmembers acting as supporters of Measure K. Then we have the entire living wage issue. The major problem was that Target was proposing bringing in 200-250 jobs into Davis with their store opening. Now research suggests that is a misleading figure at best because there are generally coinciding job losses when big box retail stores open in a given market. However, even granting those figures, the average worker would make minimum wage. As recent statistics demonstrate, that is not even sufficient for a single-wage earner with no family to be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Davis.

Newly elected Councilmember Lamar Heystek raised this issue at one of his first council meetings on August 1, 2006. Heystek at that meeting asked for the council to agendize a living wage ordinance for discussion. The council majority voted down that request. Councilmember Stephen Souza specifically recommended to Heystek that he bring it up as a councilmember’s item and do the legwork himself. This led to an agenda item on the September 18, 2006 agenda to create a living wage that would pays workers of large retail stores $10/ hour instead of minimum wage.
  • Saylor complained at that meeting, “To bring it up as a discussion is appropriate. To bring it up as a full-blown ordinance for a first reading, that’s not talking about policy, that’s talking about politics in a lead-up to an election.”

  • Souza wrote a letter to the editor suggesting, “The particular living wage ordinance was trotted out at the last moment before other council members could review or comment on the measure.”
One of the points that Souza made on the night of September 18, 2006 was that he and Saylor had been working secretly on a project labor agreement. Until that moment the actions of Souza & Saylor were not known to either Mayor Sue Greenwald or Councilmember Lamar Heystek.
"We [Souza and Saylor] have been working on that and we've almost completed it, we're hoping that these actions won't jeopardize it, because all parties have been in agreement so far to date... We were hoping that we'd be able to bring that to you as an announcement, but we have not got it completed but we are very close to having it completed."
This rationale was used to quash the proposal for a living wage. However, we discovered in November, coincidentally right before the election, that there were negotiations for a project labor agreement but it involved not Target workers but those who would construct the Target store. So Souza clearly misled the community and the council of what was going on.

As we discussed at the time at some length, these negotiations occurred outside of the authorization by the City Council. Members of the Davis City Council, Souza and Saylor did this on his own.

Souza was misleading in his characterization at the September 18, 2006 meeting when he led us to believe that this would be some sort of broad labor agreement. Souza and Saylor were both unscrupulous in their back door deal cutting.

As Heystek would write in a letter to the Davis Enterprise:
“I am disappointed that the exclusive group working on behalf of Mr. Dewes is interested in pursuing labor issues only insofar as it will win the election for Target. Should Measure K pass, the days after Nov. 7 will surely test their mettle when it comes to fixing the long-term integrity of Target's labor practices. I invite them to express a full commitment to this issue by supporting legally tested safeguards such as a living-wage ordinance. It's the right thing to do.”
In the November 2, 2006 Davis Enterprise article Souza played down the importance of this announcement.
“We don’t want to make a big hoopla about this…We don’t want to say anything about it, and then after the election we could say something.”
You will note that the date this occurred was the Thursday before the election. You will also note that it is now nearly two months later and I have yet to hear an announcement of a project labor agreement. Was this a cynical manipulation by Souza and Saylor in order to prevail in what was a very close election?

Once again, we see a very deceptive campaign run by the supporters of the Target Project. The opposition to Target was outspent by nearly a 20-1 margin. The supporters of Target promised people cheap consumer goods, a green and a labor friendly Target, and that mustered them an impressive victory by less than 700 votes. The opposition to Target against all odds nearly were able to pull off an improbable victory only to come up just short. For that, the Target campaign and ballot measure is our No.3 story of 2006.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thursday briefs

Officer Pheng Ly's Survival is the Rule not the Exception

Bob Dunning in yesterday's column, unwittingly raises a very key issue when he comes forth with his top 10 list:
"Here then are the Top 10 stories you will not read about on Sunday morning.

1) Pheng Ly does not leave Davis. Despite having abuse heaped upon him right and left, Officer Ly reports for work every day and does the job he was hired to do. Lesser men would have left long ago."
Dunning describes this as though it were an unusual occurrence--a badge of honor if you will. In fact, if we look at the record of those accused and found guilty of police misconduct, it is filled with names who were not fired, were not driven out of the town on a rail, but rather a list of people who were promoted and awarded. As noted civil rights attorney John Burris, who specializes in police misconduct cases, points out in his book, Blue vs. Black, judgments and complaints are often never placed in an officer's service record and these officers remain in the police department often despite long lists of complaints and court judgments. They are then promoted into leadership positions where the problem not only continues but it is perpetuated.

While the Buzayan case is itself still being adjudicated and the officer's involved are presumed innocent, it is nevertheless interesting to note that three of the key actors in this case from the Davis Police Department all still have jobs, two of them have transferred to other departments with promotions, and one was named Officer of the Year in Davis.

Gina Anderson is now Lt. Gina Anderson of the Citrus Heights Police Department, she was given the transfer and promotion a few months ago despite being implicated for abuse of the internal investigation unit's power by threatening Halema Buzayan on tape with her mother's incarceration if she did not confess. In June, Police Chief Jim Hyde, himself strongly implicated in the event accepted a higher paying job with the City of Antioch. Finally, Pheng Ly while not promoted to our knowledge has received an Officer of the Year award in March as well an apology from the Mayor.

While we accept the notion of innocent until proven guilty, it seems untoward to give promotions to officer's under legal scrutiny and it seems even more untoward to promote officers who have long histories of complaints and malfeasance. Nevertheless, this is the way the police world works and Officer Ly's example is the rule and not the exception as Dunning would indicate.

Benefit for the Children of Myanmar on January 13, 2007

Max Harrington invites members of the Davis Community to the Palm Court Hotel on Saturday, January 13, 2007 from 6 - 8:30 PM for a win and dessert reception. Proceeds will go directly to help 185 children of the Myo Oo Orphanage in Myanmar.

Contact MCF USA Assistant Director Rita Montes-Martin at (530) 759-8434 or email her at:

For more information:

---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 continue with our sixth installment, No.9 City Councilmember Stephen Souza’s failed attempt to merge the Senior Citizen’s Commission with the Social Services Commission.

As any experienced politician will tell you, the third rail in politics is taking on senior’s issues. It was an experience the Republican Party would learn to the hard way in 1995 when Bill Clinton was able to parlayed proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security into newfound traction against a Republican Congressional juggernaut fresh off impressive sweeps in the 1994 election. That rule applies no less in the city of Davis where now, Stephen Souza must grapple with an angry senior vote. What makes seniors a formidable force is not only their numbers but the fact that they all vote and they do not quickly forget who put their political power in jeopardy.

It is ironic that this issue comes out the outcrop of the last city commission battle with the HRC. There the council majority took advantage of the political weakness of the minority community to disband, put on hiatus, and finally severely curtail the power of the HRC. During the course of restructuring the HRC, the council subcommittee of two—Souza and Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson came up with the idea that they could merge the Senior Citizens Commission with the Social Services Commission.

Let us be clear on this issue, no matter how much Souza and Asmundson tried to back track off of their earlier claims and actions—the intent from the start was to merge the commissions. The rationale and the defense would come later.

As we discussed on December 14, 2006, the intent of Souza and Asmundson was merger not “generating discussion of the merger” as Souza would later post-hoc claim. Instead they placed on the September 12, 2006 council agenda a recommendation to merge the two commission along with a resolution that would enact that merger. The only reason it was not passed at that very meeting was that Councilmember Lamar Heystek and Mayor Sue Greenwald convinced the council majority to get more feedback.

Souza then took the item to both commission meetings. The Social Services Commission (stacked with a large number of council majority supporters) voted overwhelmingly to agree to the merger, but the Senior Citizens Commission strongly opposed such a merger. Led by Chair Elaine Musser Roberts, the Senior Citizens Commission fought back at the meeting, in the press, and in the community.

Armed with a petition of 140 Senior Citizens, Musser forced the council to backtrack. First staff recommended that they wait two years before reconsidering the merger and then finally the council put the idea to rest all together.

As we wrote at the time:
“The most striking part of this entire experience is the blatant dishonesty by the Councilmember Souza and Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson about their original intentions which were quite clear. They made serious errors about how they chose to approach this issue. It would have been a responsible thing to do to take a step back in September when these errors became apparent and put this process on a different trajectory. Instead, they tried to finesse around their mistakes and then deceive the public about their true intentions.”
For those who have not seen it, I highly recommend watching the video of Elaine Roberts Musser giving the council, specifically Souza and Asmundson a severe dressing down.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Best of Yolo County Blogs

In tonight's Woodland Daily Democrat, The People's Vanguard of Davis gets one of our blog entries excerpted on Page A8 on the Editorial Page.

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our fifth installment, No.8 Police Officer of the Year Pheng Ly.

On April 17, 2006, Judge Thomas Warriner dismissed the misdemeanor hit-and-run charged against 16-year-old Halema Buzayan. The family had complained about the conduct of Officer Pheng Ly during the course of his arrest and questioning of the minor. This case had become a focal point in the struggle for police oversight.

The father, Jamal Buzayan declared, “Case Dismissed, Justice is Done.”

Halema Buzayan said, "It's a really good day. I think it's a great feeling to know that justice has prevailed."

Just two weeks later however, the entire scene shifted. The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, in opposition to a ruling from Judge Warriner, released audio recordings of the hit-and-run investigation to the Davis Enterprise. The Davis Enterprise would run a front page story on April 28, 2006 and post those recordings on their website.

More damaging however was the April 30, 2006 Editorial from Davis Enterprise Editor Debbie Davis.
Listen for yourself, and then decide whether you believe Davis police Officer Pheng Ly was hostile, discriminatory or abusive when he arrested a Davis teenager last summer for suspected hit-and-run.

After hearing the audiotapes released Friday by the Yolo County District Attorney's Office, our answers are no, no and no.

Jamal Buzayan filed a citizen's complaint against the Police Department two days after his daughter Halema's arrest on June 13, 2005, saying the incident "went beyond the reasonable standards of acceptable, civilized behavior." He's wrong.

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.
(I will remind people once again, Debbie Davis is not a lawyer).

Bob Dunning on May 2, 2006, would follow up this editorial with his own remarks.
Frankly, I expected the tapes might provide a little something for everyone to hang their hats on. Maybe a harsh voice on one side or the other, or a moment of misunderstanding that would be interpreted one way by one group and another way by the opposite side, leading to one of those inevitable impasses where everyone digs in their heels and nobody wins.

I was wrong. There were no harsh voices, misunderstandings or unclear meanings on the tapes. They are straightforward and easy to understand. It would be hard for 100 impartial observers who know nothing of this case to not reach exactly the same conclusion about their contents.

And, while there are aspects of this case that people may wish to continue to argue about, one thing is clear from a close analysis of the tapes: Davis police Officer Pheng Ly is owed an apology by all those who have suggested he is a rogue cop motivated by both racial and religious discrimination.
That apology would come that evening at the Davis City Council.

Officer Ly addressed the council, "I am not bitter about what has happened to me. I have already forgiven and moved on. It is time for me to get back to working for the good citizens of this community."

Mayor Ruth Asmundson would utter that apology on behalf of the city. A few months later, some of the supporters of the Buzayans pointed out to the Mayor that Halema Buzayan had been arrested and had her case dismissed, was she not owed an apology as well. Asmundson’s response was that “I think Halema has learned her lesson.”

Despite Ly’s words that night that he was not bitter and that he had forgiven and moved on. His words on his website which was only taken down in the last few weeks say something very different:
“I hereby challenge the family (particularly the arrested minor) to take a polygraph test with me, regarding the facts surrounding this case, with an independent and certified company or polygrapher and that the results of those tests be immediately made public in their entirety. I have nothing to hide and want the truth to come out.

From the very beginning, it was crystal clear to me that the highly paid defense and wealthy family did not want this case to be tried in a court of law, where all the facts would have been legally brought out, but rather in the more ambiguous and inflammable court of public opinion through the careful use and manipulation of the media. Yes, the family has spent a lot of money over this "minor fender bender". In fact, they paid the other car owner almost $900 even though they denied ever hitting her car! Now if someone accused me of hitting their car or damaging their property and I know I didn't do it, I would never pay them off; particularly so quickly and especially with no questions asked! I believe this type of behavior is commonly referred to as "consciousness of guilt" in the legal system. This is clearly a wealthy family that believes they can buy their way out of any and everything.”
Yes, Officer Ly was not bitter, not bitter at all.

Like everyone else involved, Ly shifts the emphasis to demeanor and away from process.
“Was I so upset at the family that they truly thought I was going to physically strike them as they have accused me of? Was I rude, demeaning and yelling to the family when I questioned them as they have accused me of? Did I illegally question the minor without advising her of her Miranda rights and deny her an attorney or parent as they have accused me of?”
As we showed previously, the tapes clearly indicate that while Officer Ly read Miss Buzayan her Miranda rights, he ignored her request for counsel.

As the lawsuit alleges:
“Ly also challenged the Buzayans to take a polygraph, but conspicuously did not offer to answer questions regarding whether:

• He determined that members of the Buzayan family were making false statements, based upon his assumptions about their cultural characteristics;

• He lied to Andrienne Wonhof-Gustafson regarding the Buzayan families' willingness to pay for the damage to her vehicle regardless of fault;

• He instructed the Buzayan family to compensate Mrs. Wonhof-Gustafson, and then claimed that their willingness to do so was evidence of guilt;

• He lied to Dr. Buzayan when he claimed to want only to "speak to Halema;"

• After arresting Halema, he deliberately did not take her to a probation officer, as the law expressly requires;

• He entered the Buzayan home on the 13th of June, 2005, without a warrant, while concealing his intent to arrest Halema;

• He knew that Halema had asked for an attorney, and ignored her request;"
These matters will fortunately be sorted out in a court of law rather than in the Davis Enterprise or City Council Chambers. However, it seems irresponsible for an officer of the law to be making those types of accusations on a website. It is striking that the day the story on the Buzayans filing a lawsuit against the police came out in the Davis Enterprise, Officer Pheng Ly’s webpage came down. Moreover, it was completely irresponsible of Mayor Ruth Asmundson to apologize to Officer Ly on behalf of the city. When the lawsuit is finally adjudicated, Mayor Asmundson will have to answer for those words. She will either be vindicated by those words or she will be condemned for them. I think a responsible government official should have withheld comment until the civil case was resolved.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our fourth installment, No.4 Lamar Heystek is elected to the Davis City Council.

We were at the party at the University Inn on Richards Street at Davis, it was election night, nervously bustling with excitement. We've been here thousands of times before, but this one felt different, this night. It began to drag on, the numbers were not coming in. The machines were not working. Finally, we get the numbers from the absentee ballots. It does not look good for the progressives in Davis—Asmundson is leading the pack followed by Mike Levy. There in a distant fourth place is Lamar Heystek.

We had voted for the then-25-year-old Lamar Heystek just two years before. Unlike many, we had not trusted Souza or Saylor, and so Heystek was our third vote after Greenwald and Harrington. Heystek had run hard, but in the end, he was a 25-year-old fresh out of school. 2006 would be different. Heystek would spend two years working hard to make himself a strong candidate—working on city commissions (such as Parks and Recreation) as he worked at Safeway to put himself through graduate school. By 2006, he had emerged as one of two progressive backed candidates.

Flash forward to that night in June, it’s getting late, the returns are slowly, slowly trickling in, Heystek is moving up, Levy is moving down. But it’s now after 1 a.m., it’s been a long day, indeed a long campaign, and it doesn’t appear likely we’d get good results until the next morning. So we went home and fell into a restless sleep until awakened some time after four by a jubilant Lamar Heystek. He was ahead. But it was precarious. A slim lead over third place Levy and by an even slimmer margin he was behind Asmundson for MAYOR.

It took another ten days, but Heystek had won a seat on the Davis City Council. As intense as the build up, the results were almost anti-climatic. The result after days of recounting concluded with the exact same results that we had had that morning of June 7 following the election.

That anti-climax perhaps obscured just what a shocking event this indeed was. The conventional wisdom was that Asmundson would once again win as Mayor, but former Councilmember Stan Forbes, with experience and name recognition would be second, Heystek would finish third, and Mike Levy as the relatively unknown newcomer would finish a distant fourth and UC Davis student Rob Roy would finish an even more distant fifth. Instead, it was Heystek who would secured the second council seat missing by just 123 votes from becoming Mayor. Levy finished a strong third and Forbes finished in fourth, some 345 votes behind Heystek.

All the more remarkable because of the long and sustained heat that Heystek took for backing civilian police oversight and for his close political association with HRC Chair Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald. Yet in the face of intense scrutiny and pressure, Heystek never once wavered in his convictions.

During the final months leading up to the June city council election the Davis Enterprise (under the direction of Assistant Publisher/Editor Debbie Davis) would conduct biased and unfair reporting and editorializing in an attempt to discredit Halema Buzayan, her family, the Davis Human Relations Commission as well as anyone who spoke out in support of holding the Davis Police Department accountable to do competent, fair, honest and lawful work for the public they serve. Lamar Heystek spoke out in support of civilian police oversight, in support of the Human Relations Commission and the community leaders who had supported a civilian police oversight review board. Debbie Davis, her reporters and columnist Bob Dunning would feverishly work to convince the community that the arrest by Davis Police and the prosecution by the Yolo DA's Office of Ms. Buzayan was correct and that the Human Relations Commission was out of control. The Enterprise would publish only some of the tapes, omit evidence favorable to Ms. Buzayan from their articles, editorialize on the righteousness of the police conduct, endorse Asmundson and Levy for election and their columnist Dunning would come in for the kill.

On May 3, 2006, Dunning upon declaring the Davis Police Officer Pheng Ly audio tapes had nothing on them which would incriminate the officer, wrote, “the City Council candidate who stands to lose the most from the failure of the arrest tapes to deliver any damning evidence against the Davis Police is Lamar Heystek.”

The worst was perhaps a May 11, 2006 column from Dunning:
THE LATEST FROM LAMAR … candidate Heystek, perhaps sensing that public opinion in this contentious debate has suddenly and dramatically swung in favor of Officer Pheng Ly, has apparently come to the conclusion he is on the wrong side of this great divide and the momentum his campaign has been building in the last month is about to be derailed … how else to explain the panicky "press release" he fired off late last week that began, "No candidate realizes the need for vigorous law enforcement more than I do." … funny, that wasn't what he was saying just the other day about Officer Ly's vigorous enforcement of the law …

Lamar goes on to explain that two of his neighbors in East Oakland were shot to death, in part he says, because of the lack of a police presence … he concludes: "I pledge to you that I will remain committed to law enforcement that serves all our goals as a community: safety, freedom from fear, and justice for all." …

Great stuff, Lamar, but it's too little, too late … the public simply can't get out of its mind the image of you sitting next to Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald at one recent council meeting, clapping raucously each time a speaker approached the public microphone to batter the reputation of Officer Pheng Ly or demean the efforts of the Davis Police Department …
As usual Dunning swings and misses as he tries to gauge the degree of public backlash directed at Heystek for the crime of sitting next to Escamilla Greenwald at a city council meeting and advocating for a civilian police review board to guard against police misconduct. Too late? A month later, Heystek would become the youngest person elected to Davis City Council in over 30 years, while Dunning would have to resort to catcalls from the cheap seats every now and then.

The ugly side of Dunning would re-emerge in November with help from Noreen Mazelis.

Dunning wrote: "Writes my friend Noreen: '… Lamar Heystek will be on a panel with three other privileged men to discuss 'struggle.' " Dunning then adds: "... wow, nobody knows the trouble he's seen, overcoming his college education and teaching position at UC Davis to become one of the youngest City Council members in Davis city history ... struggle? ... Lamar? ... heck, he's not old enough to have even struggled with a razor ..."
And yet again, Dunning swings and misses. This time writing from a point of view of sheer ignorance, Dunning did not realize for some reason that not only does Heystek not come from a place of privilege, but he comes from some of the poorest parts of Oakland. Heystek used to have to run home with his twin brother from school to avoid being beaten up. His brother is now an elected school board member in the City of San Leandro and like Lamar a graduate from the Unversity of California (albeit Berkeley).

Heystek’s father put together a very modest living to raise two sons and a daughter, a Marine Corps veteran serving in Iraq. Heystek worked his way through school by working at Safeway, worked his way through graduate school, and worked his way right onto the city council.

Most of even his closest supporters did not realize how impoverished a background that Heystek has because he simply does not talk about. It was not a point in his campaign. It was something he lived through, does not like to reflect upon, and does not advertise.

What Heystek does advertise is sincere conviction. Barely seated on the Davis City Council, Heystek took up the fight for the living wage. Heystek brought the issue up in August 1, 2006. But the council majority wanted no part of it, however Souza specifically encouraged Heystek to bring it up on his own.

When Heystek did upon return from an August council hiatus in September, Saylor accused him of politicking.
(From the 9/20/06 Davis Enterprise) “There’s just a number of questions about this,” Councilman Don Saylor said. “To bring it up as a discussion is appropriate. To bring it up as a full-blown ordinance for a first reading, that’s not talking about policy, that’s talking about politics in a lead-up to an election.”
And yet, given the constraints placed upon Heystek by the council majority, he had little choice given the timeline for having the ordinance effect the Target proposal.

One of the reasons Souza gave for opposing the living wage was he and Saylor were working on a secret project labor agreement. From the September 18, 2006 meeting:
"We have been working on that and we've almost completed it, we're hoping that these actions won't jeopardize it, because all parties have been in agreement so far to date..."

Of course, in November, we find out that the project labor agreement had nothing to do with wages for Target employees. (By the way, it was reportedly imminent in November, I wonder if it has been completed?)

Undaunted Heystek continued the progressive fight for a living wage and opposing Target. The election of Lamar Heystek gave progressive Davis a fighter and champion for their cause who would not back down even when facing against long odds. For that, Heystek’s election ranks as the fourth biggest story of 2006.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, December 25, 2006

2006: The Year in Davis Review

These last days we will have a countdown of the top 10 stories from Davis in 2006. We continue with our third installment, No. 10 Target gets placed on the ballot and Samantha McCarthy does a sit-in

Meeting until the late hours of the night, the meeting on June 20, 2006 was long and explosive. Council had a four-hour discussion, marred several times by tension and arguing both between the council majority and then Mayor Pro Tem Sue Greenwald, and also by the council (particularly Mayor Ruth Asmundson) and members of the community.

Supporters of the proposed Target argued that the store would increase shopping options for Davis consumers including providing them with cheap consumer goods and also generating revenue for the city through sales tax. Proponents argued that the Target would produce around $675,00 per year in sales tax revenue.

Opponents such as Mayor Pro Tem Sue Greenwald suggested that the figure compared Target to the revenue of a "vacant field" rather than an alternative development project. Greenwald's calculation placed the figure at closer to $125,000 per year or $2 per Davis resident.

Moreover, there were strong concerns by residents of the adjacent community that the project would disrupt and disturb their community. Some were concerned about traffic, crime, and noise. There was concern that the project was being built next to a super-fund cite. And finally there was a lot of concern about the effect that the Target would have on downtown business.

The council’s ultimate decision was put the issue on the ballot--a move that Greenwald called "cowardly."

Dissent erupted between the members of the council and also the council and the public over the issue of public comment.

First, there was debate among council over whether speakers who had commented on the issue at the previous meeting could speak again. Then there was strong opposition when Asmundson ended the public comment period.

Samantha McCarthy would sit down in the middle of the floor in protest. "Refusing to leave had nothing to do with Target. It was a matter for fairness and process."

The meeting stopped while McCarthy ignored requests that she leave the meeting. Asmundson halted the meeting and four officers and one sergeant (the entire police force on duty at that time) reported to the meeting.

McCarthy: "There was a few minutes more of comments to go and that alone should have triggered a time extension. Ruth has publicly stated that council meetings are for council business and that if people want to talk they can see her during office hours. She has forgotten totally about public comment being for the public and not just for council. That meetings INCLUDING public comment are for all to view and see and that as of yet her office is not included as a public forum."

McCarthy would eventually leave the room on her own and the meeting resumed at around 9:25 p.m. So the council in trying to save time actually ended up taking up 25 additional minutes diffusing the situation. It seems more reasonable to have just allowed the public to speak and if it takes longer than you want, that's the price of democracy.

The next week the council would put the HRC on hiatus and McCarthy had an angry outburst, prompting Mayor Asmundson to again threaten to close down the meeting and having Steve Pierce remove McCarthy from the room. Pierce looked at McCarthy and shrugged as though to say, I don't want any part of this one.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sunday Midday Briefs

Closing Valley Oak School will Disadvantage Children Already Disadvantaged

Undoubtedly, one of my favorite columns to read in the Enterprise comes from Jann Murray-Garcia and Jonathan London.

Dr. Murray-Garcia this week writes about the potential closing of Valley Oak, a subject we touched on a few weeks ago that stirred a great deal of controversy. I think Dr. Murray-Garcia does an excellent job of summing up my feelings on the subject.
She writes: "While we recognize that it is not the intent of the Davis school board, the residents of Davis or the Mace Ranch residents to hurt these children..."
This is exactly how I feel. However, my column somehow gave the sense that there was blame placed on the parents in Mace Ranch, when that was not the intention at all.
She continues: "We have to face squarely and honestly that we will likely exacerbate the disadvantage current Valley Oak students face if their neighborhood school is closed."
This was our chief concern--the welfare of the children who go to Valley Oak school.
She asks: "How can we argue against closing Valley Oak without pitting the good people of Davis' neighborhoods against one another?"
This is the toughest question of them all--for if you accept that there are finite resources and that the school district has too many schools for too few pupils, then how do we reconcile these problems?
Finally, she sums it up: "We don't pretend to have the right answer to this difficult problem. But we do know our solution should not result in further disenfranchising those least able to bear those short- and long-term consequences."
Exactly. This issue needs to be raised within this community precisely because the answer is difficult and yet the problem is clear.

---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 continue with our second installment, No. 5 PG&E spends $11 million to defeat the Sacramento Municipal Utility District Yolo Annexation Vote...

There was a long-time effort on the part of Yolo County elected officials to bring public power to Yolo County through the annexation of the Yolo County power infrastructure to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). The remarkable thing is that elected officials who can hardly agree that the sky is blue all came together to support this proposal--city councilmembers from the three major cities in the county, every member of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, and even school board members and special district unanimously supported the SMUD annexation.

In many ways, it seemed like a slam-dunk--at least in Yolo County. Unfortunately, this was not a level playing field. It was one heavily tilted toward the electricity giant, PG&E. Yolo County had to pass not one but two measures--H and I-- and Sacramento County had to consent to the expansion of SMUD into Yolo County through the passage of Measure L (not to be confused with the Davis Measure L in support of Choice Voting).

The battle lines for this election were drawn early.
  • SMUD estimated Yolo County energy customers would save $148 million over 20 years if they switched providers.

  • Pacific Gas & Electric Co. estimated the move would cost this area's customers $835 million.
The dispute had to do with the value of PG&E's infrastructure and facilities.
  • SMUD estimated that value was between $86 million and $133 million.

  • PG&E on the other hand, estimated that its facilities were worth more than $500 million.
Those cost differences accounted for roughly half of the difference in the projected cost to Yolo County energy consumers. The rest of the difference was derived from predictions about the future cost of natural gas, a key component for generating electricity.

PG&E aside from the structural advantage of only having to prevail on one of three measures, had one other key advantage--virtually unlimited resources. They spent $11 million on their campaign to convince Yolo County voters that this was too risky. SMUD, on the other hand, could spend no campaign money as they are a public agency and prevented from doing so. So grass roots citizen driven campaign organizations ran the Yes on H & I (Yes on SMUD) campaign in Yolo County raising from local businesses and the general public just over $100,000 to fight PG&E's propaganda machine.

PG&E's strategy was first, to cast doubt on the fact that Yolo County consumers would save money by switching to SMUD.

Second, PG&E presented themselves as environmental friendly and SMUD as enemies of the environment.

The People's Vanguard of Davis devoted numerous articles to discussing this topic.

One of the more duplicitous tactics by PG&E and their campaign consultants was the mailer sent to Davis households that suggested that a vote for PG&E was equivalent to a vote against Covell Village.

In the end, the deck was stacked against a victory by SMUD. Measure H narrowly prevailed in Yolo County. Measure I narrowly was defeated in Yolo County. But Yolo County was irrelevant as Measure L was overwhelmingly defeated by a huge margin in Sacramento County.

As I wrote in the post mortem:
"Even granting the large defeat in Sacramento County, I'm a bit disappointed with the Yolo County results. Had Yolo solidly voted to support SMUD, it would have been a loud and clear signal. First, that PG&E could not buy our votes with their ten million dollar plus campaign, fraught with deception. Second, that we were not happy with our service from PG&E."
In the end, the process concerned me much more than the outcome. In politics you win or lose. But there is a bitter pill to be swallowed when you face a corporation with unlimited resources who unleashes their money and propaganda in ways designed to confuse the voters.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting