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Friday, June 15, 2007

Column: View from West Davis

This is going to be my new weekly column of thoughts and tidbits from the week that has passed. A little bit lighter and more playful than the usual serious and hard-hitting coverage.

The end of weird Davis?

Professor John Lofland in his chronicle of Davis describes the transition from Davis as eco-city and a hero to progressives across the country to "weird Davis."

He writes:

"By the early 1990s, Davis was receiving little media attention... But then something odd happened. In 1993, the media spotlight shone on Davis again. However, this time it was negative. Instead of being a hero, the town was treated as a weird and quirky fool. Other negative labels included goofy, odd, eccentric, and flaky."

Chief among these "weird" ideas was the idea of creating a tunnel under the Pole Line overpass to serve as a corridor by which toads could safely pass.

The Sacramento Bee this week reports on a study that was undertaken.
"No record occurs of the tunnel ever being used by a toad," said John McNerney, Davis wildlife resource specialist. "It was well- intentioned but not successful."

The toad tunnel, installed a dozen years ago this summer under a new over-crossing ramp, was intended to prevent the amphibians from being squished by cars.

Apparently, the toads never used the tunnel enough, if at all, and the population of toads that once hopped around the area has died out.
Since we have now symbolically put to rest the stereotype of "weird" Davis by burying one of its chief iconic embodiments, perhaps we can get back to the Davis of 1970s and early 1980s as being on the forefront of environmentalism and civil rights. I suggest we start by not gutting the city's 23 year old anti-discrimination ordinance, but that's just me.

Saylor's Freudian Slip

It's election time. Okay, not election time in the sense that elections are imminent, but election time in the sense that people are acting like they are candidates.

Anyone witnessing the last three plus years of the city council, is under little illusion that Don Saylor is any sort of liberal. And yet, he's now trying to at least look the role.

Sources told me that just recently Saylor has posted a "war is not the answer" lawn sign on his property. This from the man who abstained from the council's anti-war vote back in 2005.

More recently, Saylor has been on the forefront of the health care campaign. This past Sunday he spoke before the Davis Democratic Club's Champagne Brunch and trumpeted the new movie, "SICKO," by Michael Moore. One problem is that he kept referring to him as Roger Moore. Someone finally had to correct him and point out that Roger Moore was one of the bad actors who replaced Sean Connery as James Bond. Saylor quipped, "it's a good thing I'm among friends." Indeed. I know, Michael Moore did "Roger and Me." But come on, Saylor is not a Michael Moore fan.

It's a good thing for the rest of us that we are not fooled by such transparent overtures.

My Day as a Fire Fighter

I arranged with the Davis Fire Department to go on a ride along. Unfortunately, I fell pray to the notorious "ride along" jinx. This jinx apparently besets all ride along people and means that you get almost no action the day of your ride along. Indeed I was shown the log on the days leading up to my ride along versus the day of my ride along.

I had one call and that was to the police department. I'm thinking, I've already seen the police department on my police ride along.

Anyway, it was a very enjoyable time. Thanks to Fire Chief Rose Conroy for helping arrange it. And thanks to Captain Bobby Wiest and his crew for a good time. They let me dress up and spray some water, which was fun and gave me a new appreciation for the job, especially putting that heavy gear on in the heat. And I got lobbied as well on the needs of the fire fighters. I'm sympathetic to their needs, but a bit concerned about the city's budgetary problems and those concerns.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting