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Monday, April 02, 2007

Monday Commentary

Caesar Chavez Day in Davis Draws Sparse Crowd

The New Human Relations Commission put on their first Caesar Chavez Day event in Davis. Much as the case was with the Martin Luther King day events, the minority community mostly stayed home. That point aside, the city needs to change the location of this event, the sun is not in a good location, there is very little shade, and most of us who are melanin challenged cannot sit in the seats for a prolonged period of time.

As usual there were a number of elected officials there--Supervisor Mariko Yamada, Mayor Sue Greenwald, Councilmember Lamar Heystek, and Assemblywoman Lois Wolk.

When Assemblymember Wolk closed her speech with "¡Sí, Se Puede!" it just did not sound right. It wasn't just because she sounded like an Anglo, but rather it is her record on helping the farm workers.

One of the most significant pieces of legislation passed by the legislature in the days since the death of Cesar Chavez was AB 923 in 2003. This bill authored by Assemblymembers Herb Wesson, the late Marco Firebaugh, and then board of equalization member Carole Migdon was a very innovative piece of legislation that would redirect state resources to bolster medical care for some of California poorest workers--most of whom have no health coverage--without raising taxes.

This was a revenue neutral bill that required the Board of Equalization, Employment Development Department and Franchise Tax Board to work together to convert the sales tax exemptions into farm worker health insurance tax credits.

So why did Assemblywoman Lois Wolk oppose it?

According to the San Francisco Chronicle (6/10/03):
Wolk voted against the bill and said she was opposed to it on a number of grounds, including the belief that it should not be permanent -- that it should contain a "sunset," in legislative parlance.
This would of course lead to memorable showdown between Richie Ross, the campaign consultant who also lobbies on behalf of the United Farm Workers and Craig Reynolds, the architect of developer Davis campaigns for issues such as Covell Village and many of the developer council, supervisor, and Assembly campaigns. Reynolds also worked as Lois Wolk's chief of staff after serving six years as Helen Thomson's chief of staff when Thomson was in the Assembly.

This leads to the question--why did Wolk want such pivotal legislation to be sunsetted? It also leads one to question her commitment to health care expressed on Saturday at the event. Wolk is going to run for the State Senate and may have Democratic opposition in the form of John Garamendi, Jr.

Should the county hold off on the library tax?

The school district will have most likely two parcel tax measures on the ballot this coming November. Is it wise for the county to have a third one, in the library tax?

This is not a question of supporting libraries--I support libraries and I support taxation to fund the public libraries more fully. This is a question of timing. Having three tax measures on the ballot is poor timing. The school district must renew their parcel tax.

According to the Enterprise the tax would go from $42 to $88--more than doubling the current tax. The tax is certainly needed, the question is when can it pass.

The Davis Enterprise reported yesterday that Katy Curl, Yolo County's new library director said that there may be no more time to delay:
“But now the fund the library has been using (to replace the amount from the state) is empty,” she said. And even though the county has delayed putting the measure on the ballot, there may be no more time to delay.
There may be no more time, but you also want to do all that you can to assure passage and since it is a tax, it requires a two-thirds vote. Realistically I do not see three tax measures getting two-thirds majorities on the same ballot. There is a February election and a June election, those would seem better times. We cannot risk the school parcel tax not passing and we cannot risk the library tax not spending. Someone has to do the wise thing and delay the election otherwise that may be a distinct possibility. Right now, it appears that the county has more flexibility than the school district.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting