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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Score one for the blogosphere... on the bad side

It is a lesson that as a blogger, every blogger must inherently worry about. What you report affects people's lives, even as you are typing from the sanctity of your personal home and looking up information on the internet. This is the lesson we bloggers must take to heart.

On December 20, 2006 a conservative blogger Michelle Malkin reported that a source used by the Associated Press in Iraq, a Jamil Hussein did not exist.

This was used to show that the AP was making up false anti-war stories.

Well yesterday the AP reports:
Iraq's Interior Ministry acknowledged today "that an Iraqi police officer whose existence had been denied by the Iraqis and the U.S. military is in fact an active member of the force, and said he now faces arrest for speaking to the media..."
As these things go this ranks up there as an absolute disaster. You have an irresponsible blogger, making irresponsible claims that end up getting someone fired.

The upside about blogging is that it keeps the mainstream media on their toes and ensures better reporting. The downside is the you have untrained amateurs or in this case a political pundit with power and influence and a political shtick carelessly or maliciously harms another person.

As a blogger I am a strong supporter of the medium. I think that locally and nationally we need voices who can call it as it is. I have in a very short time, I believe made an impact in the community. I note that County Supervisor Helen Thomson read from this blog. That the Woodland Daily Democrat used a blog entry on their editorial page. That the Senior Citizen's Commission will have an agenda item this Thursday related to this blog. So there is a tremendous amount of interest and impact already for this new blog. This is a note of caution, with power and influence comes responsibility. But this is a note of caution to all of us to remember that what we say does impact lives.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Enrollment Projections look Bleak in Fight to Save Valley Oak from Closure

Thursday's school board meeting brought a heated discussed as the District unveiled new projections. The projections show around a 400 student drop from 2006 to 2016 with around 200 of those being in elementary school enrollment.

Greg Davis told the board that the Valley Oak school only has 220 students at present--the smallest number of schools in the district. Another 311 go to Valley Oak from outside the attendance area.

Fred Buderi, a Valley Oak neighbor, raised a very important point about the potential residential development of the PG&E site that could bring many additional students to Valley Oak. But this development is not factored into the future enrollment projections prepared by the Davis Demographics & Planning. His remarks were dismissed by the board saying that they should not take into account plans that are not yet approved. On the other hand, Baki Tezcan points out it is "ironic that after counting for Covell Village in building Korematsu, now they say they cannot count for something that does not exist even though it will not require a city-wide vote and will probably happen in due course and produce new students in need of a school to go."

It does seem strange that they would make projections without taking into account potential future areas of growth. I would have to see how they do their projections to see if it is merely done based on current population projections or they are taking into account some of the substantial infill growth projected over the course of the next decade. Baki Tezcan claims that the East Eighth Street development was not factored into the projections produced by the Davis Demographics and Planning.

Baki Tezcan also points out that several of the Task Force members suggested at a Valley Oak site council meeting in December that Valley Oak students would make the rest of East Davis more diverse if the school were to be closed. However, that would be accomplished at the expense of putting the burden on more poor students why forcing them to walk to schools farther away in distance or find other means of transportation.

Thursday's Davis Enterprise had three very nice letters to editor on Valley Oak. I was particularly taken by the letter by Brendan O'Hara who wrote about the strengths of neighborhood schools. "Neighborhood schools serve a larger purpose than simply educating the children who live nearby. In many ways, they help create community in a time when people are becoming increasingly disconnected from each other."

I remain a strong support of the neighborhood school concept for a number of reasons. Along similar lines Vickkie Duax writes: "One of the sub-points states:

""Student learning is advanced and enhanced by a welcoming campus climate where students have strong connections to their schools, their teachers and other adults and their peers."

It seems to me that closing Valley Oak directly opposes many of the board's stated goals. How are neighborhood children supposed to develop a "strong connection to their school" when they are bused to a different neighborhood? How are the parents supposed to be able to pick up their children in an emergency, if they don't have a car, and a walk will take 45 minutes?"

This has unfortunately been turned into a battle of school against school and neighborhood against neighborhood. I would hope the district might consider putting aside their projections and look at the arguments in favor of neighborhood schools as a whole, regardless of enrollment projections and the possibility of future projections of residential growth. I also continue to believe the closing of Valley Oak would put a large strain on a group of people who really lack the means and the resources. We need to strongly consider the future of our children and give them strong and solid foundations. This starts with a strong and positive elementary school experience in their own neighborhood with the children that they grew up playing with.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, January 05, 2007

Programming Note

I will be on KDVS tonight at 5 pm tonight with Richard Estes and Ron Glick. We will be talking about local issues that have been discussed on the blog.

KDVS is FM 90.3 and can also be heard on the net:

A New Day Dawns in the House

Yesterday Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as Speaker of the House. I did not want to let this momentous occasion pass without a few brief words.

Pelosi becomes the first Democratic speaker of the House since Thomas Foley in 1994. More importantly, she is the first woman speaker of House. We have had 220 years of Congress and this the first time the "marble" ceiling has been shattered.

Pelosi also becomes the first House Speaker from the State of California. She is a liberal from the Bay Area and a progressive.

Most importantly she becomes the most powerful woman ever in U.S. government.

She comes with a very difficult task at hand. The country needs strong leadership on Iraq and ethics. Those will be questions that we address later. For now, let us enjoy one of our own acceding to position of power and influence.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Gang Injunction: Crackdown on Gangs or Minorities who can't fight back?

A recent article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 26, 2006 (and reprinted in the Davis Enterprise shortly thereafter) brings the issue of the gang injunction back to the public spotlight.

It is a tricky issue because proponents believe that these tactics have reduced crime. Jeff Reisig told the San Francisco Chronicle that "It's absolutely worked... This works, and it's legal."

However, this is not just a nation built on positive outcomes but also policy and procedure. The ACLU filed lawsuit, but as I understand the court ruling, they never ruled on the constitutionality of the policy. In fact, it won on a technicality.

If this policy is legal, it is also marginal and troubling.

Perhaps most troubling was the way the injunction was enacted.
"In a move that still angers opponents, prosecutors gave notice of the suit to just one alleged member, and he lived in Rancho Cordova, 15 miles away. Reisig wrote in a court filing that the alleged NorteƱo, Billy Wolfington, would spread the word to compatriots.

Wolfington didn't show up in court to contest the injunction, however, and neither did any other alleged members of the gang. With no opposition in attendance, Superior Court Judge Thomas Warriner granted a permanent injunction on Feb. 3, 2005. "
This is the same Thomas Warriner who was the presiding judge in the Halema Buzayan criminal trial. He was a Deukmejian apointee to the bench and a right wing Republican.

Cosmo Garvin in August, 2005 ran an article on injunction. He quotes ACLU attorney Alan Scholesser.
“A lifetime curfew for an adult is an extraordinary punishment. I think if people had their day in court, there would have been some serious legal challenges and some very different outcomes.”

"But Deputy District Attorney Reisig told SN&R that the Broderick Boys have an active communication network, through which the individual who was served notice of the injunction was able to spread word to the rest of the gang.

Reisig added that serving notice on each individual who would be subject to the injunction would have expended “a tremendous amount of resources.”

“The law simply doesn’t require us to do that. The judge even said it was OK,” added Reisig."
Therein lies the rub--a judge with a notorious reputation for favoring the prosecution has legitimated this process. This is precisely the problem with the criminal justice system in Yolo County.

Is this targeting just gang members? Or are innocent people getting caught up in this legal net?

For example:
"In one declaration to the court, Benjamin Juarez said that he had been in trouble with the police as a juvenile but had completed his probation two years ago. Now 24, Juarez has a steady job and has purchased a home with his wife and young son in the “safety zone.”

“Although I complied with all conditions of my juvenile probation, and in fact was released from probation early for 'good behavior,’” Juarez explained in his statement, “the permanent injunction virtually imposes a lifetime of probation conditions for me.”
Is this guy a dangerous criminal or someone who just got caught up in this system? Then there is the 45-year-old grandfather who has a few tattoos and some very minor convictions from over 30 years ago as a youth.

Warriner's ruling on the gang injunction is outrageous. This from the SNR's follow up piece on December 1, 2005.
"All four of the ACLU’s clients in the case claim that they are not members of the Broderick Boys gang. (In fact, many West Sacramento residents say there is no such thing as the Broderick Boys and that local police and prosecutors have exaggerated the existence of the supposed gang.) And all said they received no notice that the gang injunction was being sought in the courts or that they would be subject to its restrictions.

But Judge Warriner ruled that the four had no standing to challenge the law, because they claim they are not gang members. The injunction “binds only defendant Broderick Boys and its members and authorized representatives” wrote Warriner in his ruling.

Furthermore, he ruled, “any person who is charged with criminal contempt for violating the terms of the injunction is entitled to the protection of numerous rights when defending such a charge.”
This ruling makes no sense, since the clients of the ACLU were in fact affected directly by the injunction.
"The judge’s logic exasperated opponents of the injunction. Jory Steele, an attorney with the ACLU, said, “Obviously, we vehemently disagree with the judge’s ruling. Our clients were indeed directly affected by the injunction.” Directly affected because they have been labeled as gang members by police and prosecutors and because--even though they deny gang membership--they nevertheless risk arrest if they are stopped by police after 10 p.m. in West Sacramento or if they are seen in public with anyone else identified as a Broderick Boy."
So yes, a judge ruled not on the constitutionality of the injunction, but rather that they had no legal standing to challenge it. A ruling that on its face fundamentally makes no sense.

Everyone is against gangs and wants to reduce crimes, but this once again appears to be a fundamental violation of the basic protections of our constitution. And frankly what Judge Warriner has done here is criminal.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Changing of the Guard (at the DA's Office) or More of the Same?

Monica Krauth of the Woodland Daily Democrat writes a story today on District Attorney elect Jeff Reisig taking office. Apparently the biggest challenges that the DA's office will face are the murder cases of Ramirez and Garza and also the Reisig imposed Gang Injunction.

No mention that Henderson's office suffered from a number of ethical complaints.

No mention of the pending law suits against the DA's office most notably from Halema Buzayan and Khalid Berny, who in separate incidents have accused the District Attorney's office of selective and malicious prosecution.

Reisig will indeed face many challenges, but none of those external challenges may compare with the task he has to perform in cleaning up his own office--an office that he was a part of and an office that almost unanimously backed his candidacy for District Attorney in June's Primary Election.

Like elsewhere in the country, the rule of law is being imposed often at the expense of civil liberties. No one wants crime to increase, no wants to have to live with gangs. Everyone wants safety. Those are not the issue.

The question is one of ends versus means. Do we accomplish a reduction of crime at the expense of our own liberties? Do we accomplish a reduction of crime more to the point at the expense of the reduction of those people who lack the resources to fight the charges against them.

The one thing I keep coming back to over and over again, Halema Buzayan's father had the resources to fight her treatment. How many other people in her position are not so lucky? Khalid Berny likewise had the resources to fight his prosecution. How many other Khalid Berny's are there out there that we just haven't heard about because they lacked the means to fight unfair prosecution?

Why are the local papers giving the District Attorney's Office a pass on these issues?

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Helping the Children of Myanmar

The following is a press release on an upcoming event...


January 2, 2007


Max Harrington

Executive Director, Myanmar Children’s Foundation (MCF) USA

Davis High grad sets sights on Myanmar’s orphans

By Max Harrington

Myanmar, a country of about 60 million people sandwiched between India, China, and Thailand, isn’t at the top of most Americans’ lists of must-see vacation spots.

Its relative obscurity, however, didn’t stop 2002 Davis High School graduate Max Harrington from traveling there for the first time in May 2005, while studying abroad on a UC-sponsored exchange program in Bangkok, Thailand.

That first trip sparked an interest in the country, formerly known as Burma, that would eventually lead Harrington to found a new organization dedicated to helping Myanmar’s orphaned children, the Myanmar Children’s Foundation, in November last year.

“I was blown away by people’s hospitality,” he said, adding that in spite of having so little, Myanmar’s people are among the most generous he had ever encountered.

After finishing classes at UC San Diego in June 2006, Harrington got on a plane and headed back to Myanmar, this time for five months instead of two weeks. While there, he became involved in helping Myo Oo Orphanage, home to 185 children.

Located in an impoverished rural area of the country, a bumpy six-hour ride from the capital Yangon, Myo Oo is run by a team of monks and volunteers from the surrounding village. The only paid staff – the orphanage’s teachers – are nearly volunteers themselves, working on salaries of about $6 per month.

Harrington’s idea for the foundation was sparked by working with Myo Oo, and the orphanage remains the focus of the organization – at least for the moment.

The foundation’s initial goal is to raise $10,000 for Myo Oo, which will pay for construction of a new dormitory building for the children and provide seed money for several projects to help the orphanage build a set of stable community-focused revenue sources.

The revenue-generating projects to be funded by the foundation run the gamut from vegetable growing to bicycle renting to micro-credit lending. All ideas came directly from the orphanage, and once up and running won’t need further support from the foundation, says Harrington.

“They understood what would be successful in their local community, but they just didn’t have the money to implement any of the ideas,” he said. “That’s where we came in.”

In the future, after working with Myo Oo, Harrington says that he would like to expand the foundation’s scope by moving it in the direction of becoming a grant-making organization that can work with a number of different orphanages.

The basic goal, however, says Harrington, will remain the same: helping orphanages to build a stable financial foundation to allow them to focus their attention on education, not fundraising.

“The monks [that run Myo Oo] have to spend as much time scrounging together funding as attending to the kids,” he said.

Oftentimes, Harrington says, Myo Oo cannot even afford to pay its teachers their meager $6 monthly salary on-time, and budgets necessary to buy books, food, and clothing for the kids are put together by the day and week, not month and year. Expenditures are kept to the absolute bare minimum necessary for survival: the children are fed a protein source only once per month and none have sandals or sleep with mosquito nets.

“The orphanage subsists on a very precarious financial foundation. Therefore, helping it to develop new, stable sources of revenue is really the key to its long-term ability to provide for the children,” he said.

Myo Oo, furthermore, faces what Harrington calls a ticking demographic time-bomb. Over 90% of the orphanage’s children are in Grades 1-5, and are taught directly at the orphanage. In five years time, however, as the children grow older and begin attending classes at nearby government schools, the overall cost of educating them will jump by as much as four times – a cost that the orphanage is unprepared to handle.

Harrington says that he believes that every dollar invested in the children now will multiply its effect many times over into the future: the rural communities where they come from will benefit from having educated citizens with good jobs, and the country by making sure that its poor and vulnerable aren’t forever handicapped by a lack of education at their early ages.

In an effort to educate people locally about Myanmar’s situation and the foundation’s work with Myo Oo and its future goals, Harrington will be giving four educational presentations [next week]. The talks, titled “A view from a Myanmar Orphanage,” will be given at:

  • The Davis International House on Monday, January 8 at 12 noon
  • The Davis Senior Center on Tuesday, January 9 at 1 PM
  • The Davis Public Library’s Blanchard Room on Wednesday, January 10 at 7 PM, and
  • The Woodland Senior Center on Friday, January 12 at 10:30 AM. Everyone is welcome.

Capping the week will be a wine and dessert reception fundraiser at downtown Davis’ Palm Court Hotel, on Saturday, January 13 between 6 – 8:30 PM. Attendees can enjoy live piano music and participate in a silent auction and raffle. All proceeds will go directly to projects at Myo Oo Orphanage. A minimum $10 donation is requested, and additional sponsorships are available for those choosing to be Supporters ($25); Friends ($50); Contributors ($100); Host ($250) or part of the Founder’s Council ($500). All members of the public are invited to attend.

For more information, including on joining as an event sponsor, visit the foundation’s website at

Or contact Myanmar Children’s Foundation Assistant Director Rita Montes-Martin at (530) 759-8434 or


Has Davis Ceded Too Much Power to an Unelected City Manager and Staff?

The idea behind the council-manager form of city government is to produce a system that combines the political leadership of elected officials with the strong managerial experience of an appointed professional local government manager. The idea behind this system is that the councilmembers set the policy and the city manager carries out the policy. This is one of the fastest growing forms of city government in this country.

However does it place too much power in the hands of an unelected bureaucracy? Does it infringe on the rights of minority members of the council?

This is a key point, because the council is in this model a legislative body whose members are the decision makers. Power is supposed to centralized in the elected council, which makes policy and approves the budget. The manager is appointed by council to carry out policy. If the manager is not responsive to the council’s wishes, the council has authority to terminate the manager at any time. In that sense, a manager’s responsiveness is tested daily. However, that responsiveness is only required of a majority of the council, because the minority lacks the power and numbers to vote to remove a city manager.

What we see in Davis are several problems that are a direct result of the structural system of government.

The councilmembers have no office space. This may seem like a small point, but the unelected city staff each have their own office space where they perform their work. If someone needs them, they can come see them or call them and leave a message. Now the city council has no such space. Space is power. If a city councilmember needs to meet with the staff, they must do so in the staff’s office. That provides the staff member with an advantage. The councilmember must seek out the staff member rather than vice versa. Imagine your boss having to come into your office rather than you having to go into your boss’ office. Imagine your boss having to seek you out rather than you having to seek them out. This displaces authority.

Along the same lines, the city staff is well paid whereas the city council is paid $500 per month. So again, the power is transferred away from the council who are treated as volunteers and towards the professional staff.

Moreover, the council shares staff resources—they are not allocated their own staffer. What that means is several things. First, the councilmembers do not have staff that is responsible and responsive only to them. Rather the staff is responsible to the city manager and their own department. Second, if you are a member of the council minority, the city staff has been non-responsive to council minority knowing that they do not hold control over who is hired and who is fired. What has happened is that minority members often do not get responses from staff and they then have to track them down. This is the opposite of what it should be.

As we saw with Councilmember Heystek’s proposed living wage ordinance, the council majority was able to prevent staff from working on that proposal. That meant that a city councilmember elected by the voters of Davis just as the council majority members are, had to on his own non-paid time, do the legwork needed to prepare the agenda item. That is a fundamental disenfranchisement of a sizable segment of the Davis of the population and that is a direct result of the council-manager system. Had Heystek had his own staff this would not have happened.

The question that now comes to mind is whether or not the city of Davis has ceded too much power to unelected staff members. Staff obviously serves at the pleasure of the council majority. And that means that staff reports—which again—the members rely on for the bulk of their information are tailored the needs and preferences of the council majority. The recommendations tend to take the side of the developers and the political establishment.

The council minority members are then forced to rely on these reports to make their decisions. We saw this play out fully when then Mayor Pro Tem Sue Greenwald took issue with the staff report estimating revenue from a proposed Target. She had to specifically go back through the report with staff to get them to re-figure their estimates based on different assumptions—one of those being the difference between Target and an alternative development on the same site as opposed to a vacant field—and when she went through those numbers at one point the staffer clarified that he did not agree with this assessment. Again, that’s a tremendous amount of power placed in the hands on a non-elected city staffer and at the expense of an elected public official.

So while it may be true that there are advantages to the council-manager style of city government, there are some severe drawbacks particularly in a sharply divided council whose divisions are rather bitter and divisive.

Davis should begin to ask the question as to whether or not this form of government serves its needs or whether we should go to a more professionalized city council. I would argue that we have gone too far and placed too much power in the unelected city staff. I think we pay our councilmembers far too little for the job that they do. Councilmembers basically have nearly a full time job and they are paid what amounts to a monthly stipend. Councilmembers should have their own staffer who can prepare reports and do research as they see fit. And councilmembers at the very least should have their own office space. In short, I think there are some severe shortcomings in this model that disadvantage elected councilmembers, particularly those in the minority.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Commentary: Some things are just not funny

I sat back last spring and watched as Bob Dunning savaged the Buzayan family. In fact, Bob Dunning did not just savage the Buzayan family, he savaged anyone who stood with the Buzayan family and anyone who stood up and defended the Buzayan family. And when he was done savaging the Buzayan family he wrote, “Time for some folks to give this case a rest.” Nevermind that he gets to write five columns a week. Nevermind he never gave it a rest when someone would say something or write something on the subject. He had the final word and he determined it was time to give this case a rest.

The thing that gets me is that as much as he can give it out with the best of them, but he cannot take it. You should see the email that he sent me after I criticized him for intentionally distorting his column on Councilmember Lamar Heystek.

It is within this context that I speak about his New Year’s Eve column where he talks about his predictions for the year 2007. I enjoy a political lampoon as much as the next guy, but it should be funny.

Are lawsuits funny? Is it funny that a 16-year-old girl was arrested by a police officer who then purportedly violated her constitutional rights?
Dunning writes, “Bay Area father-son-mother-daughter law firm of Lie, Lie, Lie and Lie files suit against city of Davis for having police cruisers capable of going faster than the cars of criminals.”
I wonder who Dunning is referring to? Bay area law firm? Lie? Could he be talking about Whitney Leigh? Clever Mr. Dunning but I see through your rouse.

Of course the subtext here is that the Bay Area Attorneys (Gonzalez and Leigh) are a bunch of liars who are filing a frivolous lawsuit.

While we are at it with lampooning lawsuits, Dunning writes:
“Best Uses of Schools task force recommends closing Valley Oak Elementary School when jury awards Republican third-grader $2.4 million after other students call her a “Gopper,” a slang term considered highly slanderous in Democratic Davis.”
I will give Dunning credit for throwing several different events into a single category, but it’s obviously hilariously funny to be making fun of a lawsuit filed by a junior high school student who was harassed because his fathers are gay. Yes, that is great fun.

I don’t want to be priggish here. But you know, perhaps certain things are not fair game to be lampooned in polite political discourse. Perhaps people’s lives deserve a little dignity—even if god forbid, we might not agree with everything that they did. The Buzayans are not public officials. The Fischers are not public officials. Perhaps the fact that they had to endure these events does not make them fair game for political satire?

Fischer Case

That provides me with a nice segue into the next topic of conversation. I watched last spring as the Davis Police Department and the District Attorney’s office worked to smear the reputation of the Buzayans. Tim Wallace and Clinton Parish are employees of the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, they are Deputy District Attorneys, they get paid their salary by the taxpayers of Yolo County. Officer Pheng Ly is an employee of the Davis Police Department, he is employed by the City of Davis and gets his salary paid by the taxpayers of the city of Davis.

These public employees accused the Buzayan family of paying off Adrien Wonhof in order to avoid criminal prosecution. They did this on publicly accessible web pages. We’ve posted the quotes in the past. You can read the exchanges here.

I find it distasteful and outrageous that public employees can publicly smear people who are suing their employers.

Well folks, I’m now hearing from reliable sources now that the Davis Joint Unified School District is doing the same to Guy Fischer, who is suing the school district because of the harassment his son has received at Harper Junior High School and for their failure to protect his son’s safety and welfare when they are acting in loco parentis.

According to my source, they are accusing Mr. Fischer of suing the school district because he is broke and needs the money.

That does not even pass the smell test to me, why would you sue for only $100,000 if you were in it for the money. Given legal costs, that’s nothing and suing is a high risk endeavor. That just makes no sense. And it is not true.

Public agencies should not be engaging in smear campaigns against litigants, I’m sorry but that is completely unseemly in my opinion.

Finally some positive news

I put in an announcement last week, but I wanted to make a personal plug and appeal for this upcoming event. Max Harrington is the son of former Davis City Councilmember Mike Harrington. Max has been working with an organization in Myanmar that helps orphans.

On Saturday January 13, 2007 from 6 pm to 8:30 at the Palm Court Hotel right on the Corner of 3rd and D in Davis, there will be a benefit for the Myanmar Children’s Foundation.

All the proceeds will go directly to benefit 185 children of Myo Oo Orphanage in Myanmar.

Folks, the suggested donation is $10/ person. I would personally like to see each and every one of you who can afford to give $50 or $100. That’s pennies to most of us, but that can help to feed and clothe one of those children for a long time.

If you would like further information please contact Rita Montes-Martin at (530) 759-8434 or email her at

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Khalid Berny: A Case of Discriminatory Prosecution by the Yolo County District Attorney

On July 26, 2006, Lauren Keene of the Davis Enterprise wrote a story about a Clarksburg farmer who was accused by the Yolo County District Attorney’s office of allowing his goats to roam “at large.” The District Attorney charged Khalid Berny with 170 misdemeanor charges—charges for which he would have faced 60 years in prison for had the District Attorney’s Office not dismissed the charges.

As it turns out, the Davis Enterprise did not do justice to this story. The story that follows comes from an interview the People’s Vanguard of Davis had with Mr. Berny. By far the most impressive thing about this story is that at every step along the way, Mr. Berny provided me with full documentation to authenticate and verify his claims.

Khalid Berny began not as a goat farmer, as the Davis Enterprise suggested, but rather as a fresh fruit and vegetable farmer. Vandals however destroyed about 40 acres of alfalfa on November 24, 2002 with the Sheriff’s office doing little to investigate or prevent this loss of damage. There was also a seizure of horses dating back to May 2003. At which point, Berny went to Europe for three months and returned to a field that could not be harvested.

It was then with the consent of Yolo County Agriculture Commissioner Rick Landon that Berny purchased goats as means for biomass reduction.

On August 31, 2004, Khalid Berny received his first citation for 40 goats being at-large. According to Mr. Berny, “they did not follow the proper procedure established in the Yolo County Code.”

According to Section 1-5.04 of the Yolo County Code:
“The Enforcement Officer shall issue the Responsible Person(s) a Courtesy Notice by service in the manner provided for in section 1-5.05. The Courtesy Notice shall identify the Violation(s) at issue and the steps required for compliance. In addition, the Courtesy Notice shall state that it is being provided as a public service for the purpose of advising the recipient of the requirements of the County Code and the means to achieve prompt compliance. The Courtesy Notice shall also state that compliance is required within fifteen (15) days, unless a shorter compliance deadline is necessary in the judgment of the Enforcement Officer because the violation presents an immediate public health and safety hazard.”
Furthermore, "If the Responsible Person fails to correct the Violation, a subsequent Administrative Citation may be issued for the same Violation. " However, that is only if the owner fails to correct the violation. In this case the prescribed procedure was clearly not followed. There was no courtesy notice, only a citation for 40 misdemeanor counts plus a $102 fine per goat.

On September 16, 2004, Mr. Berny received another citation, this time for 80 goats being at large. And finally on September 25, he received his final ticket, for another 50 goats being at large.

The final violation occurred after an accident with a tomato truck put Mr. Berny in the hospital. “I was rear ended by a tomato truck in front of my ranch on the 17th at 7:10 a.m.” He was taken the hospital and at 10:00, “animal control got a call from another CHP officer stating that my goats are at large and are told that the owner of the goats is in the hospital. They start impounding my goats, drowning 6 in the irrigation canal, killing 2 more in transport to Woodland.” Mr. Berny showed me a picture of the dead goats lying next to the irrigation canal.

At this point, Mr. Berny faced 170 counts of at-large goats, which included a $102 fine per goat and up to 60 years in prison.

It turns out that this is not the usual way for animal control to handle a situation of at-large goats. One of his neighbors in a sworn deposition, for example, stated that his goats had escaped twelve times in the month of June 2004. He got eight calls from animal control and was given no citations from Yolo County.

Another neighbor, in 2001, got a citation for 900 goats being at large. In addition, he failed to appear in court. He received an $81 fine total for his 900 goats being at large (Mr. Berny showed me a copy of the citation) and a $250 fine for the failure to appear. Berny on the other hand, had his fine of $102 per goat plus he faced misdemeanor charges for the violation.

At this point, the FBI was called in to investigate apparently for differential and discriminatory prosecution. (I have a FOIA request into the FBI, but I have not received confirmation on this yet.) At the same time, Mr. Berny filed a lawsuit against the county for harassment and discriminatory prosecution.

Similar to what we saw in the Buzayan case, the District Attorney offered in writing to drop the charges against Mr. Berny, in exchange for Mr. Berny dropping the lawsuit. Judge Mock, who we have pointed out is married to the Chief Deputy District Attorney, was aware of this offer but refused to intervene. Recall that Mock is under fire in another case because of his marriage to the Chief Deputy District Attorney. We ran a couple of stories on the appearance of a conflict of interest, this is the first tangible evidence that that charge may have some merit.

The Deputy District Attorney in this case, Deanna Hayes, was asked by a colleague as to why this case was being pursued, she falsely contended that Mr. Berny’s goats caused tens of thousands of dollars of damage to the adjacent property. A claim, strongly disputed by Mr. Berny’s neighbors. Hayes was also given strict orders from her boss not to drop the charges or settle.

The presiding judge in this case was Judge Fall. Fall made several critical decisions that placed Mr. Berny in deep legal jeopardy. First, he ruled that this was a case of strict liability. According to two legal precedents, in order for at-large livestock to represent criminal negligence, which is the allegation here, the 1922 Poole v. Clover case ruled that the owner needs to know that his livestock is at large and they must do nothing about it. In all three cases, Mr. Berny was not aware his livestock were at large and moreover in the last one, he was in the hospital. A more recent U.S. v. Semenza from 1987 ruled that there must be “intent.” That the owner must “willfully” permit the animals to run at large.

Furthermore, Judge Fall denied Berny a motion for discovery under Murgia that would have presented evidence to show discriminatory enforcement by the District Attorney. Fall would in fact, forbid the use of discriminatory prosecution as any kind of defense.

Defense Attorney Matt Gonzalez (who also represents the Buzayan family among others) at this point appeared willing to concede defeat and prepare for appeal, when suddenly Judge Fall who had played hardball with the defense the entire time, disqualified himself under California Code of Civil Procedure 170.1.

I have been told that this is extremely unusual basically this means that the judge either has “personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding” or he “believes there is substantial doubts as to his or her capacity to be impartial.” What is striking is the point at which he recused himself. He did not do it at the onset, but rather a fairly late stage in the proceedings.

The new judge was Judge Lebov—a retired Judge appointed by Jerry Brown. Lebov has a strong reputation as a fair-minded judge. He threw out all of Fall’s procedural rulings and forced Deanna Hayes and her boss Steve Mount to begin their prosecution from scratch. They would have to prove strict liability and discriminatory enforcement could be used as a defense.

It was at this point, that Hayes and Mount would formally apologize Mr. Berney and dismiss the charges on July 25, 2006. Mr. Berny on November 2, 2006 filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department and Animal Control. (It should be noted that animal control is under the auspices of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department and that Sheriff Ed Prieto signed off on a number of these documents.) He has now added the District Attorney’s Office to the lawsuit for selective and discriminatory prosecution.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Helen Thomson speaks on the issue of Supervisor Pay Raise

Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson spoke at the December 12, 2006 County Supervisor's meeting on the issue of the proposed pay raise for county supervisors. During the course of her talk, she mentions the People's Vanguard of Davis, reading from our blog on the issue of the pay raise for County Supervisor's. In addition to her mention of the Vanguard, she speaks passionately on the need to give elected officials adequate compensation.

Davis Enterprise Watch: Chuck Roe's Christmas Party

This is the first in what will be a periodic series that aims to monitor the coverage presented by the Davis Enterprise. At times we will point out stories that the Enterprise has not covered, other times stories that the Enterprise has spun or distorted, other times when the Enterprise misses key points in stories, and then there are times when for no apparent reason the Davis Enterprise will cover some minor non-event that will be as telling as any story that they tell.

Such was the case on Sunday, December 24, 2006 when the front page carried not a story but a single picture with a single caption. The caption tells of a Christmas Party where Bob Hamilton from Golden, Colorado, talks with Chuck Roe at Pyramid Construction. The two were former college buddies and Hamilton was stuck in Sacramento because of a blizzard in Denver that closed the airport.

What this does not tell us is what is Greg Rihl, a Davis Enterprise Staff photographer doing at a private party in Davis? This private party just happened to be hosted by the most influential developer in Davis and a member, along with John Whitcombe and Tandem Properties, of the Davis conservative elite.

It is very telling that Davis Enterprise Assistant Publisher/ Editor Debbie Davis would send a paid staff reporter to cover such an event. Roe is currently a board member for the Davis Downtown Business Association and the Yolo County Visitor’s Bureau and served in the past as Chairman of the Davis Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Does anyone else find it an amazing coincidence that the Davis Enterprise would just happen to send their reporter and/ or photographer to the private party hosted by one of the most influential developers in Davis? And that the picture of Mr. Roe himself ends up on the front page? Coincidence, I think not.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Another Alleged Racial Profiling Incident in Davis

While most of us were enjoying our Christmas holiday, David Johnson was pulled over by the Davis police department yet again. It was the second time in two months and over 10 times in the last two years alone.

He was driving his vehicle south bound on Poleline Road towards Safeway when he saw an officer driving north bound, the officer spotted his vehicle, made a u-turn, and eventually pulled over Johnson. The reason given for the traffic stop was a loud muffler. Johnson received a fix-it ticket and was allowed to go about his way.

Did Mr. Johnson have a loud muffler? Yes he did.

Was it likely that a police officer with his window rolled up several car lengths away could hear it? No it wasn’t.

The video clip that you are about to watch focuses on a specific portion of the incident. Mr. Johnson asked for the Sergeant on duty to come talk to him. Johnson very asks about two very important factors.

First, his previous ticket was an obstructed rear license plate. Johnson had been pulled over by Officer Beasley in this incident. However, the CHP had signed off on the license plate being legal. Johnson asks the Sergeant in this incident if his license plate was obstructed. The Sergeant explains that he wasn’t there at the time and didn’t see the what officer saw and that moreover, some officers specialize in different areas of the law than other officers.

The Sergeant never did answer Mr. Johnson’s question to whether or not he thought the license plate is obstructed.

The second and perhaps most telling part of the exchange had to do with the current vehicle violation—the loud muffler. Again, the Sergeant refuses to answer the question about whether the noise was audible through a closed window at distance. But more importantly, another vehicle drives by and they have a loud muffler as well. When Johnson asks him, the Sergeant explains that it would not be "feasible" be to pull over every car with a loud muffler and asked rhetorically if Johnson realized how few officers are on duty--four he states under his breath.

This of course begs the question—with limited resources, why is a police officer pulling over a motorist for a non-moving violation?

This gets into the heart of the charge of racial profiling. As I have become more and more familiar with these types of incidents a very clear picture is emerging. What is happening is basically a “phishing” exercise.

A police officer spots a vehicle that does not appear to belong. It may be an older vehicle in poor condition. It possibly may be the race of the driver. The more I see it is probably the vehicle more than the driver, although I’ve heard of wealthy black people pulled over on such stops.

Regardless, the police officer once identifying the vehicle, then needs a reason or pretense to stop the vehicle. Two months ago it was an obstructed license plate (and let me tell you, there was no obstruction) and on December 26, 2006 it was a loud muffler (and he did indeed have a loud muffler). Often these kind of stops they pull them over for something that did not happen and then never even write a ticket.

What they are then looking for is an outstanding warrant, drugs, weapons, or something big. So they use the traffic stop as a pretense to see if this person is a criminal and once they determine that the person is not a criminal, they treat them well and let them go.

This is a source of great frustration for members of the minority community and Mr. Johnson in particular. Unfortunately, while this video will be turned over to the Ombudsman, there is nothing on this that is a smoking gun. So all this becomes is more background information. The leadership in this city and the police department need to be proactive and change the way the department searches for criminals. Until that happens, these incidents will continue to occur and more and more people will be frustrated.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, January 01, 2007

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 tenth and final installment, No.1 Police Oversight and the Ombudsman

The issue of civilian police oversight (the ability of a community to hold its police accountable) did not start in 2006. In fact, it did not start in 2005, although the key events that set the stage for what we would see in 2006, did occur. Halema Buzayan’s arrest in June, set things in motion, but in fact, the issue was already boiling before Buzayan was ever arrested. The issue has been around for over 20 years as incidents of police misconduct and racial profiling were widely reported in the community. Old-timers on the Human Relations Commission, the first HRC in fact, talk about the issue coming up from day one and time and time again.

Things would again begin boiling over on September 22, 2005 at a joint meeting of the Davis City Council and Human Relations Commission. Dan Silva, Berkeley’s Police Review Commission Officer, had been invited to this meeting to address questions and concerns about the implementation of a police oversight commission in Davis. The meeting turned contentious, accusatory towards the council both by members of the public accusing the council of being slow to act and members of the commission. This meeting would be a prelude of things to come.

The Human Relations Commission created a subcommittee to study the issue and draft a report. The chair of that subcommittee was Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia, local pediatrician who was not a member of the commission. But before the subcommittee had a chance to report their findings to the council, the then Davis City Manager Jim Antonen would come forth on January 17, 2006 with a report that offered an alternative to the HRC’s proposal (before that proposal could even be presented to council).

In it, Antonen present a multi-level approach to oversight:
  1. Increased Training
  2. CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies)
  3. Citizen Advisory Board (CAB)—made up of 12 people appointed by the police chief to represent a cross-section of the community.
  4. Annual Report to City Council
  5. Police Advisory Committee (PAC)—three member that will review complaints and make recommendations to this City Manager, “they will not be part of the formal disciplinary process.”
In our police oversight series we have a full critique of this process. Our chief complaint is that the access to this review system is controlled administratively and the police chief himself and the city manager control precisely who gets to sit on the CAB and the PAC.

One of the most troubling aspects of the January-February city council meetings on this issue was a series of public comments made by the originators of the five-point plan—Davis City Manager Jim Antonen and Councilmembers Don Saylor and Ted Puntillo.

When speaking of the on-going complaints, the City Manager and these two councilmembers , Saylor and Puntillo, made statements to the effect that these complaints were empty and had no merit to them. And yet, for some reason they chose to implement a system that while in many ways imperfect, was still a large amount of change over the previous system.

City Manager Antonen who developed the alternative plan said:
“Most of these cases that have been addressed, and again you might sense a frustration because I have personally reviewed some of these complaints that have been reviewed to my office, and I investigated them myself, a quite frankly, I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday, in my former life I was a certified law enforcement officer, and for a while I worked for the office of criminal investigations and part of my duties were to look into cases of police misconduct. And so I have a background in that and it’s very frustrating when I look at these appeals, and I say they are unfounded, groundless, I would say bogus but I wouldn’t want offend anybody, but this gives us the opportunity to a police advisory committee to have another process that hopefully the community can buy off from, have a comfort level and believe me we will have stellular (sic) people on this committee and they will review these complaints per se after they have been through the process…”
(It should be noted that when the Buzayans filed their formal complaint against the police, it was Antonen who signed off on the internal investigation and upheld the findings. Keep that in mind as you read this statement based on what we know now know about the Buzayan case.)
Saylor: “I’ll just say that council has reviewed, carefully, in closed session those matters that are subject to litigation because that’s an appropriate action for us to take, it’s necessary for us to do that and we have carried out that responsibility… During the discussions that the council has had, and our investigations, and inquiries into litigation matters, I fail to see any of them that call into question the operations or behaviors of Davis Police Officers. And I’m very confident in the operation of the department as it reviews allegations of behavior of Davis police officers.”
Ted Puntillo was most brazen in his assessment and feelings about police oversight.
“Recently, Don [Saylor] alluded to it, that we studied and investigated the complaints that had reached the litigation arena recently, and I have to agree with Don, I was very unimpressed, and I think the results of those will be an eye-opener for the community when you see what we’re dealing with here…”
Then Ted Puntillo uttered the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard a public official say:
“What I want are police officers out there that are using their training and their instincts, I don’t want them thinking about oh somebody’s going to be reviewing what I’m doing. I want them to do what they are trained to do and that’s protect us.”
When I heard this statement on the television broadcast that night, I was not involved in city politics. It was at that moment that I realized that not only did I disagree with these guys, but that these guys were dangerous. The idea that we did not need police officers to realize that they were accountable for their actions was ludicrous but also very much against the principles of government on which this nation was founded on.

While the council agreed in principle with the recommendations that the city manager put forth, they did have a formal hearing on the HRC’s civilian police review board.

One crucial error that the HRC made in this process was including a recommendation to account for the diversity of the community in the make up of the review board.

The recommendation read:
"The CRB shall have eleven (11) members and one (1) alternate member and shall reflect the diversity of Davis by striving to represent members of many different communities"
The Davis Enterprise on February 3, 2006 would report:
"Under the commission's proposal, the City Council would draw the police review board's members from several categories: senior citizens, people with physical or developmental disabilities or mental illness, the homeless, African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, European Americans, Arab Americans, Mexican Americans, gay or lesbian people and college students."
This led to belief that the commission was recommending homeless people serve on the review board. That was neither the intent nor the wording of the recommendation. The council would make the appointments to this body. The recommendation was simply meant to suggest people who perhaps worked with the homeless or mentally disabled community be considered for appointment, as they would have particular interactions with the police that would give them insights that perhaps others would not have. The commission recommendation never required nor suggested actual homeless people or mentally disabled people serve on the board. This was easily exploited by the opposition to suggest that the HRC was out of control and making ridiculous recommendations.

Meanwhile, the council was extremely dismissive of the HRC’s report. Puntillo said that the report was “not worth the paper it was printed on.” While Puntillo had every right to disagree with their recommendations he forgot that this body had spent considerable time and energy researching and drafting this report in a good faith attempt to assist the city council with positive recommendations to solve a continuous problem facing the Davis community regarding its police department.

One of the issues that came up was the issue of the relatively low rate of police complaints in the city of Davis.

(The following was first reported in our August-September series examining police oversight in Davis).

At the February 21, 2006 City Council Meeting, then Davis Police Chief Jim Hyde, described what he called a fairly low number of police complaints and an extremely low number of sustained complaints.
• 2003 -- 23 citizen complaints filed; 2 sustained
• 2004 -- 17 citizen complaints filed; 0 sustained
• 2005 -- 34 citizen complaints filed; 3 sustained
These numbers were purported by the chief to reflect a very low level of need for police oversight (basically low complaints—lack of sustained complaints). The utter lack of sustained complaints has been cited again and again by the police and the council as evidence that this problem is being blown up beyond all proportions. On May 2, 2006, Don Saylor said, “Every specific case that has been raised has been shown to be without merit.”

A 2002 report by the U.S. Department of Justice warns against such a conclusion.
“[T]he meaning of a complaint rate is not entirely clear: a low force complaint rate could mean that police are performing well or that the complaint process is inaccessible; likewise, a high force complaint rate could mean that officers use force often or that the complaint process is more accessible.”
The problem with the data presentation by the chief is that it lacked any sort of means to evaluate the wrong numbers. Are these numbers low as the chief suggested? Or are they actually high. Saylor on February 21 actually asked Chief Hyde the right question, asking him how this compares to other communities. Hyde dodged this question by stating that communities vary and therefore are difficult to compare. And Saylor never pushed him on the issue.

If he had, we might have gotten a very different story. A good example appears in John Burris’ book, “Blue versus Black.”

Los Angeles in 1995 was the poster-child for police corruption that eventually led to the FBI and the Department of Justice mandating changes. In 1995, there were 561 citizen complaints against the LAPD. Of these, ZERO were sustained. Zero. Now you can argue, well that is because the citizens are making faulty complaints that have no merit. Yet if we look at another figure, Los Angeles ended up paying out $34 million in settlements to lawsuits filed against the Police Department during that year.

Los Angeles can represent a baseline for a measure of police corruption. Los Angeles in 1995 had roughly 3.5 million people or 55 times the population of Davis. If we project the rate of complaints in the city of Los Angeles to a city the size of Davis, we would expect 10.098 complaints in Davis in a given year, with none of these being sustained. What we see over the last three year period is 74 complaints or nearly 25 per year, 2.5 times the expected rate of complaints. Instead of zero sustained complaints, there were actually five.

The lesson here is that for a city the size of Davis, what looks like a small number of complaints, is actually a much higher rate than for 1995 Los Angeles with a thoroughly corrupt police department.

The next question is why there are so few sustained complaints by Internal Affairs Departments. And the problem is universal, in 2002, there were around 26,000 complaints nationwide. About a third of all complaints in 2002 were not sustained (34%). Twenty-five percent were unfounded, 23% resulted in officers being exonerated, and 8% were sustained.

Burris’ experience as a litigator against police misconduct leads him to the following conclusion about Internal Affairs investigations: They “offer little opportunity for the complainant to be heard. Invariably, when it’s his or her word against a police officer’s, the complaint is judged “unfounded”—even when the officer in question has a history of misconduct or abuse complaints. And, even when Internal Affairs “sustains” a complaint, the sanctions often fall painfully short of being reasonable—or punitive (see page 84 of Burris' book).”

This is not to suggest that every complaint against a police officer has merit or is accurate.
“People lie to get off the hook; they lie to get back at an officer who may have arrested them, or a friend, or a family member; they overreact; they resist a legitimate arrest and cause the actions that take place. But it’s ludicrous to believe that 84 percent of citizen complaints are unwarranted—as Philadelphia’s records suggests. (85, emphasis added).”
As our report on police oversight suggests, the system that the Davis City Council implemented is a weak system, that gives most of the power to the internal police only review process, however, it seems that Davis did get one break in this process—they hired Bob Aaronson as Ombudsman. As I have said on numerous occasions, Aaronson is in a weak position. His position is called an Ombudsman, which is defined as an investigator, but in actuality it is more like an auditor—someone who reviews the process after the investigation has been completed. However, Aaronson’s background suggests that he will call things as he sees them.

For example, in one highly publicized case, the Santa Cruz police department was accused on spying on war protestors. The police internal investigation exonerated the police. Aaronson issued a scathing report on the investigation. He said the investigation "is incomplete and flawed for a very predictable reason. It violates one of the most basic investigative precepts by having been compiled and written by the very individual whose decisions are and should be under investigative scrutiny." He went on to say, "I am surprised and disappointed that he was assigned to that task."

In the conclusion of our examination of the police oversight issue, we came up with seven recommendations in September:

  1. Strengthen the Ombudsman position by making it a full-time position. As we’ve seen, the City Manager has had difficulty finding a qualified person to take a part-time position and it seems clear at this point that the city needs a full-time position. In the future, we might be able to cut back on that as department practices adjust to avoid continued complaints and adverse findings.
  2. Give the Ombudsman a stronger role in the initial investigation. Both the San Jose and Boise models would accomplish that. The San Jose model would be a less drastic change but it would have a great impact simply allowing the ombudsman to monitor and participate in the entire investigation. The Boise model would change who conducts the primary investigation.
  3. Strengthen the PAC by using it to replace the Internal Affairs Department. This is drastic, but it seems very clear that the IAD cannot police or even properly investigate complaints against the police. The PAC is made up of legal professionals, a retired police chief and two attorneys. These are not amateurs. The current model puts them as mere observers; this change would put them into the forefront of the investigation.
  4. Strengthen the CAB by giving it specific advisory authority. Right now the CAB is not being used as a Community Advisory group. It needs to be given specific charges to advise the police on specific department policy.
  5. Improve Community Outreach. There needs to be forums for the public to participate to express concerns. Some of this happens already. However, in order for this to work properly, the department needs to go into the minority communities and actually interact with segments of the public who feel aggrieved in the current climate—that includes students, the African-American, Muslim-American, and Mexican-American communities.
  6. Improve Representation on the Boards. Find a way to get diverse opinions on these boards. Find students not heavily involved in student government. Find minority students. Find people who represent youth. Find representatives from the minority communities who may not support current polices. Give the public a true forum by which to express their views. And make the CAB meetings, public meeting.
  7. Re-instate the Human Relations Commission. When the City Council shut down the HRC, it shutdown the most effective body to register dissatisfaction with current system. By removing its membership, the Council chilled the possibility of a future Commission that would heavily voice its dissent of Council goals. That creates a very dangerous precedent for future interactions.
It is unfortunate that the council has actually gone in the opposite direction by removing or attempting to the remove authority to the HRC granted by the Davis Non-Discrimination it ordinance. Souza stressed this in September in making the point that the council is the ultimate body for oversight of the police--and that the public need not get involved. The HRC has been further weakened rather than strengthened and the result is that in recent events such as the anti-gay harassment of a junior high school student, the HRC has not been a participant in helping solve these serious community problems.

It remains to be seen how this will all play out. Aaronson seems to be in a tough position, but at least we have someone in that position who will not be an apologist for the police. Let me be very clear, that is exactly what I was expecting and I was very pleased that we ended up with someone like Aaronson. But this is far from over. However, the police oversight issue and the hiring of the ombudsman was the top story in Davis for 2006.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Students Deliver Potent Message of Peace on New Year's Day

A sad milestone coincided with the passing of a new year. Yesterday, the number killed in Iraq passed 3,000. There are many times when a number is a just a number, devoid of context and meaning. Then again, the number I always knew grew up knowing was 57,000--the generally accepted number killed in Vietnam.

Last night in Davis, the number 3,000 came alive in ways I never thought possible. Standing there, watching the park filled with 3,000 lights--paper bags filled with candles--was awe inspiring.

In Central Park, "Youth for Hope" put on a peace vigil that put it all into perspective for a lot of people in Davis. And for a few moments that number 3,000 came alive. As we enjoy our New Year we should all pause and reflect on the ultimate sacrifice given by so many young people for a cause and a war that seems so wrong to so many of us.

As impressive this event was put on by 15 and 16 year old high school students. Students who heard the call a month ago by watching the documentary “The Ground Truth,” about American soldiers. During a time when so many young people are disparaged as selfish or self-absorbed, these young people gave up their vacation to make a strong and profound political statement. It was a powerful moment in Davis last night, unfortunately, too few broke from their holiday routine to attend.

---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 ninth installment, No.2 Davis Police Chief Hyde Resigns and HRC Disbanded.

On February 7, 2006 Davis Councilmember Don Saylor concluded the Davis City Council Meeting with a long statement about his concerns about the Davis Human Relations Commission (HRC) including contentiousness, Brown Act violation, intimidation of fellow commissioners, and other acts of misconduct by members of the HRC. He recommended a subcommittee look into these allegations and make a determination. Councilmember Saylor's allegations were never documented or proven, nor was he ever held accountable to explain himself. He and his colleagues were determined to reduce the power of the commission and its recommendations regarding civilian police oversight. The council did not like the HRC recommendations as well as the commission's responsibility and duty to investigate and advise the council. Instead the council wished to dictate and control the commission's work, direction, and recommendations. It was at this point, that the Davis Human Relations Commission was put on notice.

The bulk of these allegations and the ensuing long public campaign against the HRC resulted from a single issue--the issue of police misconduct and the HRC's support and push for a civilian police review board.

In our last segment, on police oversight, we will spend much greater time chronicling the debate over police oversight. In this we will focus on the dynamics between the Davis Human Relations Commission and the Police Chief Jim Hyde that led to Hyde leaving for Antioch and the HRC being put on Hiatus.

The key time frame was that in the summer of 2005, the police issue heated up once again over the controversial arrest of 16 year old Halema Buzayan. What ensued were a number of private and public meetings between the HRC and Chief Hyde. Hyde quickly went on the defensive, refusing to acknowledge problems with his police force and then eventually refusing to meet with or work with the Human Relations Commission. This followed a series of contentious public meetings where the issue was raised before the commission and the city council by members of the public as well as civil rights groups.

The tide in this fight was turned prior to the January 17, 2006 Davis City Council Meeting. It was at this point when then Davis City Manager Jim Antonen came forth with his proposal for an Ombudsman as a preferred alternative to the civilian police review board. The HRC was largely kept in the dark about the development of this alternative plan and only found out about the item on the agenda a few days before.

The police chief however was not caught flat-footed. He and his staff organized a number of members of the local pro-Iraq war military community to come forth during public comment and support the police department. Chief Hyde did this because he knew these pro-war people were upset with the commission for having recommended that the city council adopt a resolution requesting that the President of the Unitied States withdraw our military from Iraq. Hyde knew these folks would be motivated to strike out at the commission as payback for advocating for the resolution and he was right. It was only through a public records request, that it was discovered how much coordination this involved under the direction of Police Chief Jim Hyde and his senior officers.

Chief Hyde enlisted Davis Police Lt. Dorothy Pearson to recruit supporters for police department who would attack the HRC and its chairperson.

In early January 2006 in an e-mail exchange between Chief Hyde and Lt. Dorothy Pearson:

Chief Jim Hyde: "FYI, calling in my cards. Are any of the military supporters willing to speak at public comment time … on the 17th at city council in support of the police department? HRC is pushing for there (sic) own police review commission."

Lt. Dorothy Pearson: "I am already circling the wagons! I am trying to get as many people as possible to attend and possibly speak."

On Jan. 12, Lt. Dorothy Pearson thanks James Hechtl [Davis resident, retired air force officer and pro-Iraq war supporter]. "The Chief called me last night after the meeting. He was singing the Military Family's praises. … I can't thank you enough for your help. I also sent Bob Glynn [Davis resident and pro-Iraq war supporter] a thank you e-mail and told him that you would keep the group posted on upcoming strategies."

Hechtl responds, "What kind of availability do you and the Chief have this afternoon (Thur). I want to meet with both of you with (sic) and discuss some strategy."

Hechtl and Glynn proceed to write numerous letters attacking the Davis Human Relations Commission and its Chair Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald.

This public attack on the HRC would continue in the newspapers with a series of very negative letters to the editor. This was all orchestrated by Lt. Dorothy Pearson, often on city time, using city resources to do it.

James Hechtl writes, "Ms. Greenwald and Ms. Garcia apply their racist views to every possible issue that confronts them. They look at the world through their prism of hate. ... The mere fact that they support numerous frivolous and hate-based lawsuits against the city should be enough to invite them and the rest of the Human Relations Commission to practice their trade in a more appropriate city. I recommend Johannesburg, South Africa."

(Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia is a Davis resident, parent, pediatrician and president of BECA (a Davis civil rights group) who worked with the commission on researching and drafting a report on racial profiling and recommending a proposed civilian police oversight review commission. )

Bob Glynn writes on May 5, "Davis must rid itself of this antiquated, racist commission and its bully chairperson, Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald."

This public campaign against the HRC and its chair Escamilla Greenwald was extremely effective. The city council, used this to their advantage, tightening the screws on the commission. Following the February 21, 2006 meeting where the council rejected the commission's recommendation for a civilian review board, the council would install several measures for additional training giving the directive that any public communication must be premised on the fact that the individual was speaking as an individual rather than as a member of the commission. Part of the problem here was that Escamilla Greenwald was a very visible and articulate spokesperson, who along with many of her colleagues were heavily involved in the movement for oversight even as a private citizens and identified as speaking only for themselves. Eventually the council would suggest that even this distinction of a citizen speaking for her/his self was not enough, that any public statement against the actions of the council was grounds for removal.

The spring of 2006 would eventually pave the way for two events. Chief Jim Hyde was a focal point of the problems in the police department. But it was the Buzayan case that really brought the issue to the public light. Chief Hyde made the calculated decision that he would back his officers regardless of the propriety of their conduct and support only the council actions for police reform. This made him a rallying point for those defending the Davis Police Department. However, he was clearly under tremendous pressure during this entire episode as was the department as a whole. There was a higher than average transfer rate out of the department, resulting in a lot of vacancies and now a number of new officers.

Following the June 2006 city council elections, Chief Hyde abruptly resigned and put a large amount of the blame for his departure on the Human Relations Commission as well as its chair Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald.

His resignation email was short and to the point:
"The destructive and divisive behaviors of the Human Relations Commission and in particular, their chairperson, have limited my effectiveness to work with this fine community. Despite the great work of the members of this police department, the HRC has divided the community along race and religious lines to fulfill a self serving political agenda. In my 27 years of government service, 10 years of clinical psychology, and 16 years of working with non-profit organizations, the HRC is the most dysfunctional and incestuous group I have ever witnessed. I hope that City Council will correct this community problem."
Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald would respond and point out to the public that in fact there had been a large breakdown in communications between the police department and the HRC. Much of that was due to the public campaign that Hyde had been running against the HRC.

"The police chief has resigned and thrown a large amount of blame in the direction of the Human Relations Commission and myself. After many months of hearing from members of the public, last summer we met with the police chief over concerns about the growing number of complaints about police misconduct. These meetings and interactions quickly turned adversarial as the police chief became defensive. Instead of engaging in public dialogue over these very serious issues, Chief Hyde retreated--he cut off communications with the HRC, he pulled his liaisons to the commission, and began a concerted public campaign to discredit the efforts of the HRC to reach common ground on reforms that could be done within the department.

"Sadly this did not have to be the case. But it serves as another reminder that many of the events that the public has witnessed in the last year have been unnecessary. The Buzayan family was more than willing to go through the process of review within the department until it became clear that no satisfactory result could be achieved. Recently, the young African-American students who marched on the Police Station made multiple efforts to meet with Chief Hyde and his staff. Assistant Chief Pearce went as far as to overtly discourage other police departments from participating in Statewide Campus events aimed at achieving dialogue and understanding on police-minority relations. Finally in frustration they marched on the police station, only to have Chief Hyde's staff stand behind protective glass windows, gawking and laughing at the protestors, many of whom had personal accounts of profiling.

"During the past year, the Human Relations Commission, after hearing repeated accounts from credible citizens in our community, recommended the formation of a Citizen's Review Board of the police department. The Police Chief reacted negatively and with attacks upon the HRC as well myself and members of the community for even suggesting such a body. Once again, Chief Hyde reacted defensively and inappropriately instead of working with the community to resolve these problems.

"Chief Hyde's departure does not solve the problems of the Davis Police Department. We need to hire a new chief that can work with community groups like the HRC and others to establish meaningful dialogue that can produce common ground results.

"Unfortunately, Hyde's parting words will serve to further polarize this community and breed contempt rather than understanding. I urge the City Council, no matter what steps they deem necessary, to seek to open a sustained and meaningful dialogue between segments of this community and the police department."

The Davis Human Relations Commission and its Chair Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald became the focal point for the police chief's departure and were blamed for creating animosity rather than a climate of tolerance and understanding. Chief Hyde would take a higher paying job at the larger city of Antioch Police Department as their police chief. But his public resignation and blame for it would push the Davis City Council into action once again, this time on June 27, 2006. Davis City Councilmember Ted Puntillo the prior week had requested be placed on the city council's next agenda a discussion on the future of the Davis Human Relations Commission.

As we have come to find out, Chief Hyde had a number of problems within the department that also led to his departure. However, the public scrutiny constructed by the chief, the city manager, and the city council fell solely on the Human Relations Commission and its chair Escamilla Greenwald.

The June 27, 2006 meeting would be loud and contentious. With the council chambers packed with citizens, over 40 community members, several of them past chairs of the HRC and a number of past and future elected officials spoke on behalf of the HRC. The police had their usual cadre of defenders at the meeting, but in the end, it did not matter.

Davis Councilmember Stephen Souza summed up his objections to the HRC's conduct with a parable of his own both read during the meeting on June 27 and in the paper.

From the July 16, 2006 Davis Enterprise: "Souza himself was a member of the Human Relations Commission from 1989 to 1996. An alleged rape and several other crimes against women spurred the then-Human Relations Commission to recommend a hate-crimes ordinance to the City Council."We pushed the issue three times," Souza said. "The council said 'no' two times. Two former mayors came to the commission and said 'We are the policy-making body. You are the advisers.' "Although Souza said he was miffed at the time, now that he's a councilman, he understands where the two former mayors were coming from."

But what the article failed to point out is that Souza was not kicked off the commission for his actions and the city council did not disband the commission for their actions. And that was the big difference, this council decided to disband the HRC because the commission advised on an issue and made recommendations against the wishes of the city council's majority.

The chief complaint by council was that the HRC overstepped its authority as an advisory board. But as we would find out in the fall, the HRC actually under the City of Davis anti-Discrimination Ordinance had much greater power than was generally acknowledged in the June 27 meeting.

Section 7A-15(C) of the Davis anti-Discrimination ordinance reads:
"Any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against in violation of the provisions of this ordinance may file a request to have the Human Relations Commission investigate and mediate his or her complaint. The Commission may adopt rules of procedure to accommodate the needs of such investigation mediation. A complaint to the Commission shall not be a prerequisite to filing a civil action under this section, and the findings and conclusions of the commission issued in response to such proceedings shall not be admissible in a civil action."
The HRC had acted within its authority by investigating these complaints and making a recommendation to the city council for changes.

In the end, Councilmembers Puntillo, Souza, Saylor, and Asmundson all voted to disband the commission, put it on hiatus and take new commissioner applications in the fall. Only one member of the commission, reapplied, John Pamperin. No one else chose to do so. The commission that was reconstituted in the fall was safely filled with new members who will do as they are told and the commission was neutered. The council has also stripped it of much of its investigative power.

As we saw with the contrary results of the Senior Citizens Commission, there was something else at work here. It was not merely the actions of Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald, for Davis Senior Citizens Commission Chair Elaine Roberts Musser was certainly no less assertive or brazen in her criticism of the council than Escamilla Greenwald. At the end of the day, the HRC represents the minorities in Davis, a small group of people who are somewhat isolated and politically weak.

The Police Chief and his supporters were able to prevail in the end by stirring up public sentiment against the HRC and creating a climate of fear that the police would be hamstrung by the process of civilian police oversight and unable to protect the residents of Davis. The irony is that the police chief ended up doing many of the same things that the HRC was accused of doing, but they got away with it.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting