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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tuesday Briefs

ACLU Becomes Involved in Valley Oak Closure Controversy

In a letter to the Davis Unified School Board on March 1, 2007, the ACLU Northern California Division expressed concern about the impact of the closure of Valley Oak Elementary School on the rights and welfare of the predominantly minority student population at Valley Oak.

"The ACLUNC is deeply concerned that a decision to close VOES [Valley Oak Elementary School will violate the constitutional rights of its students." Furthermore they suggest "Because VOES is the only elementary school in the Davis Unified School District where students of color represent a majority of the student body, we believe that a decision to close VOES would have a racially disparate impact on students of color."
"It is also our understanding that closing Valley Oak School will seriously disadvantage those students who would otherwise have attended VOES. Such a closure will deny its students equal access to education in at least two ways. First, the lack of transportation to different schools will result in many children missing early morning classes because of their long walk, thus significantly limiting their class time and increasing their truancy. Second, there is no guarantee that English Language Learner programs will be provided for students who need them at their new schools. English language teachers assert that even an interruption in class time, let alone depriving students of the class altogether, will result in a harmful impact, which will obviously be aggravated if the students are sent to a school without an ELL program."
Finally, they make the point that "the Valley Oak community was not represented on the Task Force making the recommendation to close its school."

City Council To Review the Performance of the City Manager

Tomorrow evening at a special meeting, the Davis City Council will meet behind close doors to perform their annual performance evaluation of the city manager. As a personnel matter such evaluations are of course confidential.

However, as I suggested on Sunday with regards to Superintendent David Murphy, it seems one thing to keep personnel records of rank and file employees confidential, however, when dealing with public records of employees who are high profile and very public such as the city manager such a rule makes much less sense. It seems to me that laws protecting City Managers, Superintendents, Police Chiefs and the like do not serve the best interest of the public by keeping highly paid public employees accountable for their actions by the public.

This is of course an issue not within the control of the city council, but it is something that I would like to see gain more attention--transparency in government does not work well when unelected employees who are in public leadership positions that affect the entire community are exempt from having public input and public scrutiny.

HRC Seeks Nominations for Thong Hy Huynh Memorial Awards

"The City of Davis Human Relations Commission is seeking nominations for this year's Thong Hy Huynh Memorial Awards. The Commission will honor individuals and community organizations that have made significant contributions in resolving or improving civil and human rights issues in the City of Davis. The Commission encourages groups and individuals to submit award nominations prior to the deadline of Friday, April 6, 2007 at 4:00 p.m."

For further information and for nomination forms please click here.

Homeless Awareness Day at UC Davis

Dear Doug Paul Davis,

I am writing to inform readers of the Davis Vanguard about the outcome of the Homeless Awareness Day at UC Davis sponsored by The Associated Students at UC Davis (ASUCD). The event took place on the 27th of Feb. at the Memorial Union at the University of California, Davis campus. A little background behind the event is needed.

The Homeless Awareness Day at UC Davis was inspired by the death of Jesse Newberry, a 24 year old youth who died by being hit by an Amtrak train around Freeborn Hall near the UC Davis campus. Activists took the idea of a homeless awareness day to the Associated Students at UC Davis and the Associated Students went to work on a senate resolution.The senate resolution designated a Homeless Awareness Week at the UC Davis campus and it called on other bodies of local government to pass resolutions that observed the homeless awareness week at UC Davis. With the passing of the resolution, we were able to finalize the logistics for a Homeless Awareness Day event at UC Davis.

The kick off of the event was a clothing drive where we were able to collect numerous clothing donations from students at the campus as well as from concerned community members. Besides the clothing drive that we had for the homeless, we planned a resource fair and invited the attendance of social service agencies from the community that provide service to the poor and the homeless of our community. Having the organizations at the fair served two functions. The first function for the resource fair was so that the homeless and other disenfranchised groups attending the rally would become more aware of resources that are available to them in the community. The second function of the resource fair was to give students interested in social issues an avenue to volunteer for a social service agency. We also invited several speakers to the event.

We invited Steve Jerome Wyatt, an ex-homeless individual and current community college student and homeless activist to read from a pre-written script authored by Jesse Newberry's mother. Jesse's mother was very happy to have the community recognize the life of her son. We invited Lawson Snipes, a homeless man and Editor-in-Chief of the homeless publication and journal - The Spare Changer. Lawson spoke about his experience of being homeless at UC Davis in the early 1970's as a UC Davis student.

We had two UC Davis students present poetry on homelessness and poverty.

Another speaker at the event was Davis City Council member Lamar Heystek.

At the event were representatives from California Assembly Woman Lois Wolk's office and from the Yolo County Board of Supervisor Helen Thompson's office.

The student senate resolution that designated the Homelessness Awareness Day at UC Davis was presented as well as a mayoral proclamation which was authored by Sue Greenwald that established a sister homeless awareness week in the city of Davis Feb 27th through the 2nd of March. Also presented was a similar resolution that Assembly woman Lois Wolk introduced in the California Assembly.

I think a very big thanks has to go to The Associated Students at UC Davis as well as the students of the UC Davis California Public Interest Research Group. Without their assistance, this event would not have been possible at all. Putting this event together was truly team work.

The event was a success for many reasons. The first reason is that the event allowed students on campus to learn about social service agencies that serve the impoverished. The organizations present were able to at least get some students interested in what it is that they do. The event had good press coverage. Many community members in Davis and in other parts of Yolo County seen that it was truly possible for different groups of people including community members and homeless people to get together and learn about homelessness.

Now that homelessness has been officially recognized in the community, homeless activists will now set out on the path to push for more educational events specifically around the topic of homelessness and hunger in the city of Davis. We would like to try to look at the feasibility of partnering up the homeless with specific employers in the downtown Davis area.

Untreated medical illness is prevalent in the Davis homeless population. A idea we like to try to push for is the feasibility of getting family practice doctors in the community to agree to see homeless people once a week. Homeless people have access to Y-CHIP which is a very basic form of medical insurance that is for the homeless of the community. Hopefully more medical access for the homeless will increase the number of medical problems that are treated in the homeless population.

We would like to start the discussion of getting marriage and family therapists in the community to volunteer some of their time to provide counseling for the homeless in the community. Counseling is a very big need for the homeless in Davis. It it is reality that once a person is homeless, it is very difficult to get out of homelessness.

If a person is going to be homeless for a long period of time, there should not be a reason why they cannot have a medical or mental health issue treated at a early stage.

Government works very hard to address the needs of the homeless and the impoverished. There is much that the private sector and the community can do to improve the quality of life for our homeless. I and other activists hope to at least stimulate discussion around how we can improve the quality of life of our homeless for the long term via contributions from the community.

For information about the Homelessness Awareness Day at UC Davis, please visit the California Aggie website.

Thank You very much for your support,

Richard Cipian

---Doug Paul Davis reporting