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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thursday Briefs

County Supervisor's Race Coverage in the Davis Enterprise

Tuesday’s Enterprise article about who is lining up for District 4 Supervisor left out a key quote that was provided to Davis Enterprise Reporter Elisabeth Sherwin in response to her question, “Mariko, why, why, why, would [you] not run for Supervisor after serving only one term?”

Yamada's response was this:
“By the time my term ends on December 31, 2008, I will have actually served District 4 for nine years—four years as District Director and five years as Supervisor. Over the past thirty years, I have had the opportunity to work in federal service and for three California counties—Los Angeles, San Diego and Yolo. I hope to take that experience and local government perspective to the State Legislature.”
Also notably absent from that article was any quote or statement by prospective candidate and current School Board Member Jim Provenza. That absence is particularly conspicuous because all four of the other prospective candidates--John Ferrera, Bob Schelen, Richard Harris, and Erik Vink--were quoted.

It is not as though this were a timely article that had to come out on Tuesday. So why did Elisabeth Sherwin not contact Mr. Provenza?

Looming Fiscal Crisis in the City

At Tuesday's special workshop the city disclosed once again that there is a revenue shortfall. The short-term shortfall stems from a number of factor one of which is a $700,000 shortfall in revenue from parking and traffic violations. But there is a longer term revenue problem looming--one that has the city discussing new ways to tax citizens.

There is very real concern by Mayor Greenwald that we are going to end up taxing many retirees and others on fixed incomes right out of their homes in Davis.

Part of the problem that Mayor Greenwald has been very consistent in pointing out is that the city has been extremely generous with both benefits packages to employees as well as retirement benefits.

Rich Rifkin hit the nail on the head last week in his column when he pointed out that currently:
"As of now, a person needs to be with the city for only five years to obtain free medical premiums for life after he retires."
As Rifkin cites--currently Davis is paying the medical bills for 143 retired employees and that number will skyrocket in the next 10 years or so. Moreover these expenditures are paid out at the time that a person receives the benefits--there is no money set aside, which means each year, the budget will become more and more stressed by the system.

One solution that Rifkin recommends is that we increase the amount of service from five years to twenty five years in order to receive the medical retirement benefits. That would prevent future problems, but it does not fix the current problem because those under contract currently would still operate under the old system.

To her credit, Mayor Greenwald has been warning the community and her colleagues for several years about this problem, and she continues to vote against new benefits, but she is merely one vote often against four on this issue. At some point, the citizens of Davis will have to pay for these financial indiscretions.

Sunshine Week sees Federal Government Initiative Facing Veto

Democrats this week with broad bipartisanship support in Washington passed a number of bills meant to force government agencies to be more responsive to Freedom of Information Act requests for public Documents.

In all there were four bills passed by the House--each one with 75% support or higher.

According to the Associated Press:
Aided by substantial Republican support, the Democrats approved legislation to force government agencies to be more responsive to the millions of Freedom of Information Act requests for public documents they receive every year.

The House also easily passed bills to require donors to presidential libraries to identify themselves — an issue as Bush prepares for his own library — and to reverse a 2001 Bush decision making it easier for presidents to keep their records from public scrutiny.

Finally, lawmakers approved a bill to strengthen protection for government whistle-blowers.
There is strong opposition from the White House most particularly to the Presidential records bill.

It will be interesting to see if the bipartisan support is strong enough to override the veto--the vote counts of course were sufficient, but will that Republican support hold on a veto override, that remains to be seen.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting