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Friday, April 06, 2007

Commentary: Enterprise Article on Mayor Greenwald Slanted

I was quite surprised on Wednesday evening to read the Davis Enterprise Article that covered the city council discussion on the West Village. In my view it unfairly pilloried Mayor Sue Greenwald and it missed out on some of the key points that Mayor Greenwald was trying to make.

First of course is the headline that dispels any reasonable belief that this would be a somewhat impartial analysis of the proceedings:
"Annoyed City Council reaffirms position on West Village project"
Key word here is "annoyed." Annoyed is a word that requires subjective categorization of events. It implies that one has been annoyed by a specific situation without explaining of course whether that annoyance is justified.

Next Davis Enterprise Reporter Claire St. John writes:
"But the philosophy of how to present that message was at issue Tuesday night when most council members criticized Mayor Sue Greenwald for bringing the issue to the table without supporting documents and with an intention to change the message, if only slightly."
"Most" in this case is the council majority who generally opposes Mayor Greenwald's policies and frequently clashes with her. There is little context to this categorization and it implies that this is something unusual rather than business as usual (when in fact the council majority often criticize Greenwald and they are often wrong to do so). Moreover, just because the council majority of Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson and Councilmember Stephen Souza and Don Saylor criticized Mayor Greenwald, does not mean there is any validity to their criticism. They have at times criticized her and she has been the one who is right.
"Greenwald said the council's position should be that it wants to annex the development if at all possible, pointing out that the council does not require affordable or student housing within the city to break even."
The mayor's motion was actually:
"It shall be the position of the City of Davis that annexation of the University’s West Davis neighborhood is a goal that we strongly support in concept."
A key component of that motion was to provide a more accurate and detailed fiscal analysis. One huge point of contention is that the current fiscal analysis fails to consider a scenario where the university is the provider of fire and police services to West Village.

Another subjective invective statement:
"The council didn't get to the West Village item until just before midnight, and annoyance was apparent."
There is that word again--and again no discussion as to whether the council majority was justified in being annoyed. One could argue that Mayor Greenwald should be the one annoyed because the majority refused to allow this item to come forward as a regular agenda item.

The article quotes Don Saylor:
“We have no staff analysis in front of us, there are questions of the analysis that are not before us, there are questions of the assumptions that are not before us. This is incredible... And then there's a request to change council policy.”
And yet the article fails to mention that the reason that there is no staff analysis is that the council majority refused to allow this to be agendized as a normal agenda item and instead had to be brought before the council as an item submitted by a councilmember which allows for no staff work to be done on it.

The article also includes this quote from Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson:
Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson repeated that annexation should occur only if it pencils out, the same statement the council made four years ago.

“I wish the mayor would remember, once a policy or issue has been approved by a majority, it becomes city policy... That's government; that's democratic process.”
Of course there is no context for this quote. It is unclear what the Mayor Pro Tem is speaking about and it is unclear what statement means in reference to the article. It was as though the reporter had this great quote and could not find a place to put the quote. The reader is left to wonder if the Mayor Pro Tem is objecting to the Mayor bringing this item forward because the council majority has already ruled on the issue. Does that imply that the council can never rehear consideration? Well that cannot be the case based on practices by the this council. So then what? I have no idea what Asmundson was objecting to and the reporter never clarifies the quote, puts it in proper perspective. or even makes it clear what the speaker was saying.

My sense of this issue was that Mayor Greenwald was attempting to bring this item forward in order for there to be a fresh fiscal impact report that would examine the cost without the city provision of fire and police services.

Additionally the Mayor seemed to desire a public discussion rather than the discussion of annexation that has been relegated to a council subcommittee. Moreover she believes that the fiscal assumptions that the fiscal impact would be neutral or negative would destroy any hope for annexation.

It should surprise few that while the article was loaded with invectives and incomplete information, there was little coverage in this particular article as to why we ought to consider annexation. What benefits the community would have to bring in a housing development planned on the city border by the university rather than leaving it cut off from not only city services but also city government. We're talking about 475 single-family homes and townhouses along with apartments that would house an additional 3,000 students. We do not want faculty and students to reside in our community?

It is my general view on matters such as these that fiscal analysis is an excuse rather than a reason to not do the annexation. If the council majority believed that such an annexation would benefit them, they would have done it long ago--just as they have pushed for other peripheral housing developments which probably also have the same fiscal impact on the city as the West Village would. The major reason for opposing this is that it would not benefit them to add affordable housing as opposed to adding homes that cost $500,000 or more. Why is that? I guess we can do the math and figure out who is more likely to support them.

In the end this is a simple political analysis--affordable student and faculty housing just doesn't fit their goals. Hopefully students and faculty will remember this next time they claim to be university friendly.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting