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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Talk is Cheap, We Need Real Environmentalism

It was interesting reading the Davis Enterprise on Thursday evening about the City Council's overtures toward a greener and more energy efficient city. And let me be clear, this absolutely should be a priority.

Outlined on Wednesday evening at a joint City Council and Planning Commission meeting were a number of seemingly strong and bold initiatives including stronger green policies for redevelopment projects and Stephen Souza's "pre-written green manifesto ranging from cleaner air and water to environmentally sound "carpet systems" and avoiding "migratory bird collisions."

As I say, all of this sounds good, but perhaps we ought to review a little track record of the City of Davis in this area.

One of the signature projects of a "green" Davis in the last 25 plus years was the 1980 construction of a solar panel heating complex in the Davis Community Park.

In 2004, twenty-four years after the project was built, Tim Townsend, a mechanical engineer specializing in solar power, went before the Davis City Council and informed them that in fact, the solar panels do not work and have never worked. The following is from the minutes of the March 16, 2004 City Council meeting:
"Tim Townsend questioned the usefulness of the city’s largest solar panel at Community Park pool. He alleged that the solar panel does not work and has never worked. He reported that he has spoken to city staff and has not received a satisfactory response other than a statement that it would be too costly to remove. He stated solar panels should be a matter of civic pride and everyone that visits Community Park is lead to believe that the panels actually work. He asked that Council consider removing the panels"
It was only at this point that Bob Weir began to study the problem. At the November 29, 2004 City Council Meeting Weir and Donna Silva, Parks and Community Services Director came back with a Capital Improvement Program to replace the non-functioning solar hot-water heating system at Community Park. This was projected to cost $41,000 in addition to over $100,000 (in 1980 dollars) spent on the initial project.

That report reads:
"Over time the system had several significant operational problems that facilities personnel were never able to overcome. Basically there were problems with the temperature control of the facility as well as repeated problems with leaking connections. For these reasons, many years ago, the system was taken out of service and a conventional water heating system was installed for the pool."
Of course, what this report did not mention was the initial cost of the solar panel project nor does it mention that this project was often included on city brochures advertising the City of Davis as the progressive and environmentally friendly mecca.

I harken back to this failed project of years past, because in many ways the current proposals represent a continuation of those types of follies. The biggest example is putting the new Target in a LEED certified building.

From Thursday's Davis Enterprise:
"The city's Natural Resources Commission is expected to receive a report based on the nonprofit Build it Green program, a points system that tracks green and sustainable features built into a home.

Build it Green's cousin, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a voluntary national standard for high-performance, sustainable buildings. It has focused mostly on commercial buildings, such as the Target slated to be built on Second Street near Mace Boulevard. The LEED standards also will be considered for implementation."
The problem with the "green manifesto" is the same problem as exists with a LEED cerfied Target Building--you are doing window dressing environmentalism to cover up for city planning policies that at the whole are unstainable into the future and inherently environmentally unfriendly. Who cares if we place a Target in a LEED Building if we contribute to the carbon footprint that Target is leaving on this earth? Who cares if we are going to build with new and greener standards if we continue to grow and develop in inefficient and non-sustainable manners. If our future growth leads to the degredation of environmental resources such as water that we will have to siphon out of the Sacramento River.

The Council majority of Souza-Saylor-Asmundson are the people who bring us a LEED-cerfitied Target building and were the same people who brought us the Covell Village development project that would have put a huge strain on existing resources including water, that will increasingly be a huge issue. And yet they want us to believe they are environmentalists? Why because they can certify buildings as they build on open space, drain wetlands, and develop farm land? Because not one of them acknowledged that Covell Village would have been a mistake? That even last year, Asmundson running for reelection claimed that the problem with Covell Village was their failure to explain it properly to the voters?

If Davis wants to be a green city by actual behavior rather than by visible but overall unuseful means, then we need to start planning a city that will be environmentally responsible and not just in our own backyards, but also at the regional and a global level and none of these policies seem geared toward that realization.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

The Future of Reparking in Davis

On August 14, 2006 the city implement strict rules against "reparking" based on a new city ordinance. The idea at the time was that by forcing cars to move to a different block every hour and a half to two hours, it would ease up some of the strain on the limited number on street parking spots in the downtown area. At the time, I thought it was a very Orwellian concept that would not work as planned, but nevertheless, they went forward with it.

Well now here we are in January, and apparently this is one of the topics under reconsideration. There are apparently two problems right now with the "reparking" program. The first problem is that instead of actually freeing up parking spots, you are just rotating cars around to the next block at various intervals. So you have the same amount of cars parking for the most part, they simply move from one block face to another. Rather than saving parking spots, it is probably creating more traffic problems.

The second problem came up during a budget item in November: the city is running short in revenue from parking fines. What has happened is with such a strict enforcement system with the new reparking prohibitions coupled with the GPS units (that really look Orwellian) on top of the parking enforcement vehicles, is that people have been complying with the law. Now that may seem like a good thing, but as we discovered in November, the city actually used to count on that revenue source in their budget. The stricter regulations have led to a decrease in a source of revenue for the city. Only perhaps in Davis is it a bad thing that people are being more diligent about following the law.

In short, it appears that the tougher restrictions have not met either the objective of cleaning up the parking problem of downtown streets and they have resulted in the unintended consequence of actually reducing city revenue collected in fines. On the other hand, they may have the drawback of discouraging people from having lengthy shopping visits to downtown by putting an artificial or psychological cap on the amount of the time they spend.

These factors would seem to be a strong incentive for the downtown businesses to find other solutions to the perpetual and growing problem of parking. Not to mention, we need to figure out a way to make people use the under utilized existing parking structures for their parking.

It is our opinion that the city of Davis ought to abandon the "reparking" prohibition in the downtown area and work towards encouraging people to utilize the parking structures and alternative forms of transportation into the downtown core. With the inevitable development of the new Target facility on the periphery, it is all the more imperative that these solutions be developed sooner rather than later so that we can preserve the character of our downtown and allow it to continue to thrive into the future.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, January 26, 2007

A further examination of the Eleanor Roosevelt Circle Affordable Housing Project

A few weeks ago we had a critical article on the Senior Affordable Housing project, Eleanor Roosevelt Circle. The developers of that project--Luke Watkins and David Thompson requested a chance to address some of the concerns raised in that article. So last week I toured the Eleanor Roosevelt Circle facility and met with Mr. Watkins and Mr. Thompson for several hours.

The facility itself is very nice. Each unit is either completely accessible to disabled citizens or is designed to be easily modified to accommodate disabled citizens. This was an important feature because Seniors may move into these facilities and not need the accessibility, however, if they live there for a period of time that may become a need in the future.

The facility has an on-site manager who works 40 hours per week and lives on the premises. There is also a full-time maintenance person and a social services coordinator, who also works 40 hours a week.

The original purpose of the project was to serve the needs of the moderate income with affordable housing. For a variety of reasons, they could not have the entire facility set aside as moderate income housing for seniors and still get the funding to complete the project. The moderate income are those 120% of median income or around $60,000 per year. So what has happened is that now one-third of the units are set-aside for disabled seniors, and the rest are either low and moderate income seniors, with the moderate range set aside for about 13 units.

Unfortunately, I'm not certain how good a deal that actually is for moderate income people. It's about a 605 square foot place for about $975 per month. Now they do get a good deal of other benefits from living in this community, however it seems to me that that's a fairly small apartment for that amount of money. On the other hand, it's certainly a better deal for low income people who would pay as little as $226 per month.

The sense I got from this is that the varying communities served by this project are the result of needs for funding. You really have three groups--disabled seniors, moderate income seniors, and low income seniors.

This leads into the first problem identified in the original article, which was the narrow definition for senior in the bylaws--requiring it be 62 or older when there are perhaps a number of 55 year olds and older who would like to take advantage of this affordable housing project.

According to Mr. Watkins and Mr. Thompson, this designation was necessitated by federal laws. The federal senior designation for a senior housing project is 62 years of age or older and by using that designation they can discriminate by age, thereby preventing younger people from residing in the apartments.

On the other hand, the 55 years of age or older definition would be a state definition. However, that would require only one person in the unit to be 55 years of age or older. The HUD regulations allow as many as three people to reside in a given one-bedroom apartment, which means that 55 years of age or older would only require one person to be a senior and the rest of the inhabitants of the apartment could be a spouse and a kid, both of whom could be substantially younger than 55 years old. They wanted to avoid such a situation. Unfortunately, that appears to leave a number of people in the 55 to 62 range out of the project at least for the time being and that is unfortunate.

There have been concerns raised about the vacancy rate. The developers maintain that one of the problems is that seniors were reluctant to sign up for housing that they had not seen yet since they would be committing to live there for the long term. Mr. Watkins and Mr. Thompson believe they will be able to fill out the remainder of the apartments shortly. Particularly in March when they believe a number of Section 8 vouchers will become available and that will enable them to fill all but the 120% of median spots.

A question that remains how many of these will be occupied by local residents, however the developers in this case pointed out that many might go to parents of current Davis residents, who wish to reside near their families. That did not seem to be the indication given by recent announcements from Mayor Greenwald who was imploring local people to sign up for housing before the announcements would be made regionally and perhaps statewide.

The remaining concern is about the availability and more importantly accessibility of transportation. As the developers point out, there is a Unitrans busline that is literally across the street (right in front of the Davis Police Station). However, as Senior advocates tell us, that proximity may work for a young person such as myself, but it entails problems for disabled seniors for whom that distance is quite far and waiting outside in the elements is problematic.

A second problem is that Unitrans only runs around town, and one would need to transfer to Yolo Bus in order to go to Sacramento or Woodland to meet shopping needs or to go to federal and state agencies. That would require as much as a two hour trip out and another two hour trip back--which would essentially take up the entire day for what might be a menial errand for a person with more direct transportation.

Senior advocates also point out that the other senior facilities have their own transportation. Mr. Watkins and Mr. Thompson however, counter that those facilities are larger than the Eleanor Roosevelt Circle, which has only 61 units, and they believe a good percentage of those people will likely own their own cars. Thus, they argue that the cost of having in-house transportation would be prohibitive and would require them to cut back on other services since the cost of rent is basically capped by affordable housing regulations. They suggest that the Seniors could utilize Davis Community Transit, which would require a reservation, but should provide their needs.

This is an instance where I disagree with the project developers. From what I understand, Davis Community Transit is difficult to reserve and does not travel outside of the city of Davis. While a number of residents may own cars, as they intend to live at the facility for a good amount of time, those numbers will likely decline as the residents continue to age.

While the cost may be prohibitive, the developers and the city ought to be able to work out some sort of arrangement to provide reliable transportation for the Seniors at this facility.

One thing is clear, this project is a very complex array of issues many of which stem from the need to obtain and secure funding. It is unfortunate that the project cannot accommodate people under the age of 62, there would seem to be a number of people with needs that could utilize these services. We will be watching how this project fares over the future. It is clear that we need more facilities to accommodate the needs of seniors and disabled residents that are affordable to people making lower and middle incomes.

There is one lasting impression I have from the meeting with Luke Watkins and David Thompson and that is repeatedly they cited that their project meets more needs of more types of diverse people than existing projects. Some of that might be dismissed as propaganda, but it does bring to mind that a progressive city such as Davis is not nearly as accommodating to its seniors and middle income populations as it should be. Transportation will always be a problem for seniors, and while we agree that the ERC is closer to the bus lines than other projects, the overall transportation in the city is suboptimal.

Moreover, and this is a repeated problem, the city must get serious about affordable housing. When a 605 square foot apartment renting for $975 a month is "affordable," there is a severe problem with our definitions. As the city embarks on the housing element, we need to keep in mind that if we do not want this city to become an exclusive gated community, we need to take affordability seriously.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Guest Commentary: Addressing the Issue of Homelessness in Davis

The critical resource that the homeless of Davis is housing. It is a commonly known fact that there is a long term and emergency shelter program operating in the city of Davis, operated by Davis Community Meals. This facility houses up to 16 homeless individuals at once, the focus of this program being long term transitional housing for clients who lack shelter but who would like to get back on their feet.

A major requirement for placement in this and other long-term housing programs in California like Davis Community Meals is the need for clients to be sober and if a client is suffering from a mental illness, the illness must be stable and treated with medication.

We have been lucky in Davis to have in place the Cold Weather Shelter in Davis, which is geared to serving homeless individuals who are also substance and alcohol consumers at the time of shelter.

Davis Community Meals also hosts a family program. The 2005-2006 Homeless Count coordinated by the Yolo County Homeless Coalition identified a homeless population of 148. It is a given fact that while there are other homeless resources present for the different populations of individuals who are homeless in our community, slightly more than half of this homeless population does not have a roof over their head.

The national consensus among homeless specific social service providers and some in our federal government is that, a housing first model where we house our chronically homeless and then provide needed social services is a good strategy and a start in ending chronic homelessness.

With this in mind, I bring up an important issue facing the homeless of Davis which is also an issue in other areas of Yolo County. This issue pertains to the lack of stable year-round housing options for the alcohol and illicit substance consuming and the income-less homeless (including the mentally ill) of Davis, California.

I propose at least a place to start with this crisis with the goal in mind that we are to find long term housing options for every homeless individual that seeks housing. Community members, staff from the city of Davis and members from the Chamber of Commerce should coordinate with other social service agencies and county government in order to host a outreach fair for the homeless. An outreach fair would encompass health service screening and social service assistance in one centralized location. In the city of Davis's future evaluation of affordable housing projects, there should be an effort to designate some of these units for the homeless who do not have a fixed income.

A condition could be established that homeless individuals being housed must look for work in at least six months from the date of being housed. Members of the homeless suffering from severe mental illness that we get off the street and house in such units could be matched up with social service advocates that could assist such members of the homeless population in applying for social security benefits.

A major impediment in a lack of housing for our homeless suffering from mental illness is that a good majority of these individuals do not know where to start in applying for social security benefits. Without income, our mentally ill can not be housed in a long term fashion.

An option to subsidizing the cost of rent for our homeless in the city of Davis could be via establishing a community fund to subsidize the rent of a homeless person for a period of six months. Another option is to work with local apartment complex managers in order to provide some of the vacant apartment complex units to members of the homeless without a fixed level of income. The homeless individuals without housing could actually be housed.

The solutions I have suggested, are a few of many that have worked in other communities across the country. We have the income in the community to house our homeless; we do not have to rely entirely on city and county government funds. We as a community must have a political will to house every homeless individual who wishes to be housed. This is the bottom line.

This article does not even be speak the other issues plaguing the homeless community that the community as a whole; not just city and county government agencies could do on the issues of a lack of health care upkeep, proper nutrition and the need for more drug detox (drug rehabilitation services and supporting discharge services).

I invite responses to my blog entry. It is my intention to bring about dialog around this critical issue in that we must house more members of our homeless population in the city of Davis. Please reader gain some inspiration from this article and do not just passively read my entry.

Richard Cipian is a college student and a homeless activist in the community.

He has a blog at:

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I wanted to get this up here as well, following up on the profile we did earlier this week on the Rev. Kristin Stoneking who named to the Housing Element Steering Committee for the General Plan by Councilmember Don Saylor. This was a letter in yesterday's Davis Enterprise:
Stoneking is anti-neighborhood

Councilman Don Saylor's appointment of the Rev. Kristin Stoneking to the city's 2013 General Plan Housing Element Steering Committee (Page 1, Jan. 18) merits attention from neighborhoods around Davis.

Stoneking and her Cal Aggie Christian Association board have managed the feat of totally alienating Elmwood Drive neighbors who initially were willing to support a reasonably sized C.A. House development project. Stoneking and the C.A. House relentlessly insisted on a density that 1) city planning staff identified as inconsistent with the neighborhood character, and 2) required an amendment to the General Plan. Their justification was purely financial: The project wouldn't "pencil out" if they had to respect existing density and the surrounding single-family neighborhood.

Stoneking and her board operated like developers but insisted on and received special treatment because of their "mission" from Don Saylor, Steve Souza and Ruth Asmundson. During his election campaign, Saylor had sat in a neighbor's living room on Elmwood and voiced explicit opposition to the C.A. House project.

His choice reflects a lack of respect for the General Plan and planning staff, and support for the cynical, project-by-project process that allowed the C.A. House to proceed. There no doubt will be a rush to defend this appointment, on this page and elsewhere, by cloaking the facts in familiar C.A. House rhetoric.

Other committee members, and citizens who pay attention over the next six years, will make up their own minds along the way. My view, from personal experience, is that Saylor has assured the committee at least one anti-neighborhood, non- collaborative, pro-density appointment.

Michael Harty
We'll be continuing our profiling of several of the other members in future blog entries.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Dunning's Misleading Column

Earlier this week on January 23, Dunning wrote:
THOSE BAYING LEGAL BEAGLES … last week I mentioned in this space the persistent rumor that legal types are examining the various blogs in town for possible causes of action, an observation that struck a chord with my friend Mike at … writes Mike: "You hit the nail on the head better than you could know when you said there are lawyers trolling the area for suits, and I don't mean Brooks Brothers." … amen, Mike, you're the one hitting nails on the head …

Adds Mike: "There is nothing that turns those guys on but a great mystery to open that journey down the long and winding road to truth (and discovery), and the pot o' gold at the end of the rainbow. All it takes is someone who got wrecked and hankers after a king-size settlement to get the ball rolling." …

An interesting observation, indeed, given that various bloggers in town continue to pump out actionable libel and defamation nearly every day of the week, perhaps under the mistaken impression that "anonymous" blogs are no-holds-barred free-for-alls where the usual rules of law are suspended … they aren't, which is a lesson some of them will no doubt learn in the near future …
So it turns out Mike at writes me to clarify that his email to Dunning was "cherry-picked" and distorted.

Mike was kind enough to write in and provide us with the full email which was in response to a completely different topic:
howdy there-

you know I think you hit the nail on the head better than you could (yet) know when you said there are lawyers trolling the area for suits...& I don't mean Brooks Brothers...

there is nothing that turns those guys on but a great mystery to open 'that journey down the long and winding road to truth' (called discovery), and the pot'o'gold at the end of a rainbow.

all it takes is someone who got wrecked and hankers after a King-size settlement... in Rodney _________________...

to get the ball rolling, as it is. but innocent town folk may ask, why should we get the Bill. And therein lies the justice of the American way:
each and severally.

those who shirk their duties, or do the legal opposite, should pay.

anyway, have a nice holiday...
Mike's comment was most likely in reference to the exchange in Dunning's January 11, 2007 column:
Writes Larry at "Bob — Your analysis of the Target vs. Downtown debate is so truthful, so logical and so sensible I can already guess next Sunday's Enterprise headline: CAVE sues Dunning and Enterprise."

Don't laugh, Larry … there are Bay Area lawyers scouring Yolo County caves for clients even as we speak...
But, of course Dunning used the words of Mike to give it an entirely new and unintended meaning.

John Lofland's guest commentary this morning asked, "How literally/seriously should we take anything that Bob Dunning says?" I think we see that the answer is we ought to treat everything he says with a grain of salt because it is clear at least to this blogger, that we're not getting the full story.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Commentary: Concerns About City Staff Providing Alternatives to Preferred Direction

On Tuesday night, at the Davis City Council's Workshop on Water, Davis City Councilmember Lamar Heystek asked city staff and consultants to provide him with some of the disadvantages about using a regionalized water plan. Their response was that they couldn't think of any. Needless to say we could probably think of a number of drawbacks to a regionalized water plan, but therein lies the problem with this city's staff. They come to a conclusion and are often unwilling to explore alternatives to their preferred solution.

We saw the same dynamic at work with Mayor Sue Greenwald's repeated questions of staff. They were not answering her question. This force her to start "badgering" them in order for them to stop commentating and to start answering her actual questions. This drew angry responses from both Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson and Councilmember Don Saylor. Unfortunately, the Mayor needed to ask tough questions to get them to start coming forth with information that did not fit into their preferred plan.

This concern is broader than just a problem with the water issue, however, this water issue illustrates it because none of the Councilmembers save possibly Stephen Souza, with his business background dealing with swimming pool cleaning, really have any expertise on water. So they are reliant on the evaluations of staff and other experts when attempting to understand issues of this type of complexity.

However, if staff is not willing to explore alternatives, even if the purpose of that exercise is to ultimately dismiss those alternatives, they do both the City Council and the city of Davis as a whole a disservice.

And yet that is exactly what we see over and over again, staff creates a report and makes recommendations. They present those recommendations to the city council. The council then asks questions of city staff. Those questions tend to lead the council in a certain direction and if a particular member opposes the direction recommended by staff, especially if they are in the minority, it becomes difficult to get cooperation from staff.

As is the case of the water issue, it may turn out that the staff's recommendations are accurate and the best choice. But there are a number of issues and concerns that need to be fully explored to determine whether that choice is the best or not. It would have been better if staff were prepared to address and open to discussing what alternative plans would look like. It would have been better if council could have received a full vetting of options. In the end, they may have come to the same conclusion as staff on this issue, but they as elected decisionmakers should not be limited by the opinions and recommendations of an unelected City Staff.

Furthermore, staff's reluctance to pursue alternative approaches should not be enabled by the council majority. Councilmember Saylor may have known exactly what approach he wanted to take on this issue from the start, but he should not have tried to prevent Mayor Greenwald from trying to pursue her line of questioning. Questioning the plan is a good and healthy exercise. Staff badgering occurs when the staff is unwilling to partake in a given line of questions--this is fundamentally a problem with the staff's reluctance to pursue alternatives. If the Mayor is "badgering" staff, then direct staff to address her actual questions and line of thinking rather than simply editorializing with preset answers.

It is concerning to watch this dynamic as there are a number of important issues that City Council simply does not have the expertise to address. Council should more fully direct staff to approach such topics with a wider variety of options and allow the council more discretion to select their option of choice.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Guest Commentary: Dunning's Reckless History of Davis

I write to rebut Bob Dunning's latest installment in the reckless history of Davis he has inserted into his column for many years.

In the Enterprise of January 24th, his latest bizarre cause and effect assertion reads:
" . . . they tore down my old elementary school to make way for out-of-town farmers selling organic rutabaga . . ."
Well, the fact of the matter is that the building was taken down in September, 1966 because it could not meet earthquake safety standards.

And, on September 21, 1966, the Davis Enterprise reported that the building was to be replaced by an "Arden-Mayfair supermarket and a row of shops."

But, that plan was never realized. Indeed, the lot was vacant and subject to delay and dispute for 34 years!

Only in 1990 was the block dedicated as an an extension of Central Park and the home of a new farmers market.

This was the last act in an enormously complicated political struggle featuring the iconic Maynard Skinner as the major mover and a vote of the people of Davis.

Of course, Bob will say he is not serious when he declares his school was take down for rutabaga farmers. He was only making a joke.

That claim is of course the problem: How literally/seriously should we take anything that Bob Dunning says?

John Lofland

John Lofland is a professor emeritus of sociology at UC Davis and author of many works on Davis history, including Davis: Radical Changes, Deep Constants.

Correction added at 8:46 PM on Thursday

1966 taken from 1990 is 24 not 34 years, which is an error in my comment.

What is worse, I took this number from page 142 of my book, Davis. That text was subjected to a parade of copy editors and fact-checkers and none of them, including me, caught it!

I suppose this suggests how hard it is to get things right and how careful we have to be.

John Lofland

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Commentary: Davis City Council Water Workshop

Last night the Davis City Council spent probably six hours listening to and discussing water--water supply and water treatment.

The new water plan is in its early stages, there was a permit requested in 1994 and the new water project would not be completed until around 2015.

One interesting thing about the meeting last night is when I walked into council chambers and there were about 20 or so 50-year old, white men, in nice suits. And I suddenly realized how big and powerful this industry really is. Then I spent several hours listening to engineers and consultants and lawyers talk about the complex issue of water and water rights and delivery.

Part of the problem as a layman with no expertise at all in this field, is deciding whether to accept what they said at face-value or to figure out ways to question them.

The bottom line presented last night is this--there are concerns about the future viability of the city water supply and also the quality of both the supply and the wastewater. There are time sensitive issues that require diligent attention to the time line in the application process in order to keep the city of Davis' place in line and the feeling of the presenters was that we had better stake our claims now or we will get shortchanged in the future.

The proposal right now is to get permission to do some sort of bypass to siphon off water from the Sacramento River and divert it to a pumping station that would be a shared facility with the City of Woodland and UC Davis.

The cost projections for this are prohibitive in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Basically water users would on average see the price they pay double from this year ($37 per month) to 2015 ($70 per month). That's not quite as bad as it seems, the average projected inflation would be about 3.5% and this is about 7% increase annually. That is no doubt inflation, but it means that there would be about a $17 increase based on inflation alone even without this improvement.

The most interesting exchange of the evening was during Mayor Sue Greenwald's period to question the staff on these issues. The Mayor was trying to get some answers to her questions without the editorializing by staff who clearly strongly favored the given proposal. This became frustrating for the Mayor who was for instance trying to ascertain the quality of the water from deep wells without getting the staff's viewpoint that using such wells was not viable in their opinion.

Her pressing on this matter caused both Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson and City Councilmember Don Saylor to complain. The Mayor probably could have explained a bit better why she was pushing in this matter, but by the end it became clear that her point was trying to look at alternatives rather than simply accepting this report at face value. Her colleagues need to allow her that privilege even if it means that she has to push staff who were clearly trying to keep the conversation steered in their own direction and towards their own recommendations.

The Mayor sent me this statement:
"Staff expressed great concern with the risk of construction costs outstripping the cost of inflation (that is a more accurate way to phrase the perennial "prices will keep rising" fear). But there are also risks with doing a huge capital project sooner rather than later, especially when regulation changes and climate changes make the future so unpredictable. The longer we wait, the more information we have and the more technology improves. And, in fact, we did suffer from building our current wastewater treatment facility prematurely. Had we waited, we would have known more about current regulations, and we would have built a facility that would have required a relatively inexpensive upgrade, rather than the 150 million dollar project we face today.

I favor doing an equal weight feasibility study that seriously looks at the possibility of postponing the surface water project until much of the wastewater facility is paid off. It will take about thirty years to pay off each project. If we can provide safe water from the deep aquifer for another 15 or 20 years, we can phase these projects so that we won't be forced to put the entire burden of both of these massive projects on today's rate payers, and particularly on today's seniors on fixed incomes."
The general tone expressed by the water experts is that water is going to be an increasingly scare commodity in the future and that we have to grab our share first. However, that seems somewhat problematic in terms of how future events are likely to play out.

No one asked the question I had which was how likely it would be that this would be a viable source of water in the future. It seems to me that given population growth and climate change, that we might be paying a bunch of money upfront for a commodity that will be unavailable in 10 to 20 years. Their argument is that we need to grab our rights while we can, but in lean times, it may not play out in that manner as the state needs to find an equity of distribution based on needs rather than demands or order of preference.

Thus it might be that we are spending a lot of money in preparation for something that will never yield water given increased demands on the source before we even get a stake in it (remember there is 10 years to go between now and then, and there are people in front of us in line).

Moreover, there is great uncertainty about climate changes and how that will impact precipitation including snowfall but also rainfall. The variance in form may determine how water gets to us--ground water versus runoff. The variance in amount may determine whether there is even water to obtain in the first place.

Second, no one asked about the environmental impacts on the Delta that siphoning off even more water from the Sacramento River will produce. I know that the Delta is not in our city, but does that mean that we should not consider the impact of increased demand on the Sacramento River. And it is not just our city that is in line to obtain this water source, but the entire region is lining up for it. Yet no one asked that question.

Overall, I have to say after watching this presentation, I'm more alarmed about this issue than I was previously. Hopefully I will learn more and there will be further opportunities to ask questions on this vital item.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Free Speech and Blogging

Last night I found myself once again the target of Davis Columnist Bob Dunning's sardonic humor. Oh he did not mention me or this blog by name, but it was pretty clear who he was referring to. (Davis has few other blogs and this is the only one that routinely discusses Dunning). However, he brought up some points I think that call for addressing, including what might be construed by some as a legal threat.

It is no secret that Bob Dunning's column has been a frequent subject of this blog and in a very critical manner. However, we have always done our best to merely make factual corrections of Dunning's assertions rather than attempt to deride his character. Nevertheless, a man who has made his living for the last 30 years by sarcastically deriding public figures, has little tolerance when the shoe is on the other foot.

Last night Dunning wrote:
"given that various bloggers in town continue to pump out actionable libel and defamation nearly every day of the week, perhaps under the mistaken impression that "anonymous" blogs are no-holds barred free-for-alls where the usual rules of law are suspended . . . they aren't, which is a lesson some of them will no doubt learn in the near future . . ."
As a public figure, there is a great deal higher burden to prove libel and defamation than a private citizen would have. A private citizen, would only have to prove negligence--that a reasonable person would not have published a given defamatory statement.

However, a public figure would have to demonstrate "actual malice"--that something was published that was knowingly false or in reckless disregard for the truth.

Dunning falls at the very least into the category of a "limited-purpose public figure" one who "has access to the media to get his or her own view across" and also one who "voluntarily participates in a discussion about a public controversy." Dunning fits both of those definitions.

What might Dunning be referring to?

The only public charge he has made was this one from January 12, 2007:
"Twice on this blog I've seen truly ugly references to Catholicism as it pertains to the Above-Pictured Columnist made by anonymous cowards … if this ugliness had involved any other faith, it would be condemned by this town's alleged civil rights activists as "hate speech," but it's apparently open season on Catholics … yes indeed, real life hate-mongers right here in the Most Relevant City in America …"
Following the January 12, 2007 column I did a search on the blog to see if I even mentioned the word "Catholic" or "Catholics" and in fact I did not.

Upon further scrutiny a person who made comments did in fact reference Dunning and Catholic although I would hardly categorize it in the light that Dunning did.

Furthermore the California Supreme Court has specifically protected bloggers from libel suits for "posting defamatory statements made by others."

The California Supreme Court on November 20, 2006 wrote:
"Subjecting Internet service providers and users to defamation liability would tend to chill online speech... Until Congress chooses to revise the settled law in this area" people who contend they were defamed on the Internet can seek recovery only from the original source of the statement, not from those who re-post it."
In other words, I am not responsible for the content posted by others on this blog.

At this point it seems that Dunning merely dislikes being the focus of scrutiny by this blog in much the same way as the rest of the community is the focus of scrutiny and ridicule by Dunning. However, as far as I can tell, none of this rises even remotely to the level of libel and every statement made by this blog that is not immediately provable through the public record, I can back up with multiple witnesses testifying to the accuracy of my statements. Therefore, Dunning's charge of libel and defamation is patently false and ultimately unprovable.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Midday Briefs

Response to Letter to Sacramento Bee

Ruth Pagano of West Sacramento wrote into the Sacramento Bee complaining what she believes are about my blatant false representations of recent events in Davis.

An unfair blog on Davis PD

In the article "Political blog is the talk of Davis," Jan. 14, John Lofland is quoted as saying about David Greenwald's political blog on the city of Davis: "It was very entertaining . ... He's producing an alternative reading of everything that's happened in Davis' recent history." For some, the blog may in fact be only viewed for entertainment purposes, but it is clear, at least for this observer, that Greenwald's personal agenda and blatant false representation of what has "truly" occurred in Davis' recent history is causing more harm than good.

The fact that Greenwald is upset over the unfounded complaints against Davis PD (yes, Davis PD has been cleared of any wrongdoing) is an outrage and should be publicly protested instead of being praised with almost a full page in the Sunday Metro section.

I wonder what Greenwald would write on his blog if he either required police assistance or if someone hit his car and ran.

- Ruth Pagano, West Sacramento
Her chief example is my being upset over "the unfounded complaints against Davis PD." She goes on to further write--"yes, Davis PD has been cleared of any wrongdoing."

There are plenty of areas where reasonable people could disagree with my views on various issues that pertain to Davis. That's why we have elections and public discourse.

However, in this instance Ms. Pagano is patently wrong in her complaint. I assume she is referring to the Buzayan case, since that is the case I have written most about. She is correct that the city of Davis police department's own internal affairs department cleared the officer of wrongdoing, however, a Federal Judge found enough credible evidence which refutes that opinion to hold the lawsuit over for trial. To suggest that the officer or his supervisors have been cleared in this case is patently misleading. The outside entity that has cleared the police officer of wrongdoing is the Davis Enterprise Columnist Bob Dunning and Editor Debbie Davis.

We shall see what happens in this court case, and the police officer will get his day in court to defend his conduct, however, from what I have seen, there is plenty of evidence to sustain findings of misconduct on the part of multiple agencies.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

General Plan Steering Committee Profile: Rev. Kristin Stoneking

With the composition of a 15 member steering committee who will work on the General Plan Housing Element now having been named, we will over the course of the next few weeks profile a few of the members.

Named by Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor is the Reverend Kristin Stoneking, a campus minister and director of the Cal Aggie Christian Association. You may wonder what a Reverend would know about land use.

At first glance, the pick seems innocuous enough. The organization is self-described as a “diverse, open community” which is progressive—open minded, respectful, and willing to share and learn.

However, a further look shows that the Cal Aggie Chiristian Association and their Reverend Stoneking is at the center of a very heated battle.

Following the defeat of the peripheral development at Covell Village, much of the development battle will turn to infill—the building of smaller but perhaps taller and more dense developments within city limits. The advantage of infill for developers is that they do not require Measure J approval.

However, as the example of the Cal Aggie Christian Association demonstrates—even smaller scale projects can be hotly contested, especially those that are deemed to ruin the character of their neighborhood.

In 2004, the Association proposed the construction of a six building complex to house 38 students of a variety of faiths and backgrounds. However, the site that they picked was only a .8-acre site which had been two lots and zoned for a single-family home. The council voted by a 4-1 vote to approve a General Plan change to increase the density allowance for the lot. Greenwald, who is generally a strong support of infill development, was the only dissenter.

Members of the Elmwood Neighborhood Association objected to the size and density. They sued the city but that lawsuit was dismissed and then they filed an appeal.

That battle is still ongoing, but now Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor has put the focal figure in the fight on the steering committee for the next General Plan Housing element. This is a strong signal about the potential direction that the council might go in terms of infill development.

Those who live not only in the Elmwood neighborhood, but also other neighborhoods that might experience large-scale infill development should be aware of the ramifications of this appointment.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, January 22, 2007

Commentary: More Thinking About the Police Audit

For those who did not catch Debra LoGuercio's column in yesterday's Davis Enterprise, it is worth a read if you haven't already turned your paper into compost. LoGuercio is editor of the Winter's Express, also owned by the McNaughtons.

LoGuercio really questions what we learned from this study that has been given coverage across the state from the non-profit group Cal-Aware. I have never directly submitted a public records requests with the Davis Police Department, but I have with the city and requested information from the Police Department with City Clerk Margaret Roberts and I have always been treated fairly and received the information I have wanted.

The most pertinent portion of her column though relates to our article that we ran on Sunday, January 14, 2007 that dealt with the handling of the story by the Davis Enterprise and tip off (claimed to be inadvertent) by Debbie Davis. If you haven't read the story there is a good response from Davis Enterprise reporter Cory Golden who was the reporter who conducted the audit. My major concern with the handling of it was that I believe the test should have been invalidated when Davis Enterprise Editor Davis tipped them off--hey mistakes happen, we understand that. But they continue. Interim Police Chief Steve Pierce then is quoted as saying his department would have handled it the same way, despite questions raised by the reporter himself in his notes to that effect. And the Davis Enterprise article never really illuminates all of this.

LoGuercio writes:
Some local police departments fared better. Dixon got an A-minus, Davis scored a B-plus, and Winters a B. However, not only was the Davis Police Department inadvertently tipped off about the audit, their "average citizen" was a familiar Davis Enterprise reporter. Big, fat cheaterheads. Davis should've gotten a zero and been disqualified. On the other hand… they cheated and still only got a B-plus? Losers. Elsewhere, Fairfield scored a solid F, while Suisun and Vacaville less-than-failed.
So let me get this straight, the police department that happens to be tipped off, also gets one of the higher grades. Now in fairness, again, Golden points out that in fact, a number of departments around the state figured out what was going on and still rated very low--which makes you all the more concerned.

Nevertheless our concern from the start was the lack of public accounting of this story--when you read the Enterprise it is more of a whitewash of the event buried in the middle of the story and without the background which should truly concern the average reader.

--Doug Paul Davis reporting

A Couple of Police Incidents at UC Davis Last Week

In a story that made the news across the region, a student in possession of a replica rifle led to lockdown of Dutton Hall last Thursday.

What is interesting about this incident is that the first person questioned was an African-American man, however when detained by police it was discovered that he had no weapon on him--so they quickly released him.

Shortly thereafter there was another call in the same building and another situation. This time the person was a white man and he was carrying a rifle. They determined it was a replica and fined him $100 and released him.

Now a number of students are openly questioning how they could mistake a black man for a white man or if they simply jumped to conclusions based on racial stereotypes. We shall see how this situation develops and if there is an investigation.

Meanwhile there was another incident earlier in the week.

The other incident was reported in the Cal Aggie on Thursday it involved a graduate student who was stopped on his bicycle.

He was pulled over for a failure to stop at a stop sign.

Upon being asked to produce an ID, he claimed he did not have it.

At this point, he was placed in handcuffs and claims he was shoved to the ground and searched.

He further refused to sign the ticket. At which point he was told he had to sign the ticket or be arrested. He then proceeded to sign the ticket but has since filed a formal complaint against the police department.

This is a difficult case to try to examine, particularly based on the story that appeared in the paper.

But a few observations.

First, if a police officer stops an individual for a valid violation, according to the vehicle code, the individual is required to show an ID. Our reading of the vehicle code previously determined that without an actual violation, the officer cannot simply request identification. However, that was not the case here. Even in that case, it is recommended that anyone asked to show ID complies with the officer's request and they can sort out any problems later.

So that is the first thing the defendant did wrong in this case.

The second thing that the individual did wrong is to fail to sign the ticket. Signing the ticket is not an admission of guilt, however, failure to sign the ticket can get you arrested.

However, the police may have erred in this case as well. And I stress may. I have had a number of long discussions about cases where the subject is verbally resisting the officer's commands, particularly in light of what happened at UCLA. Clearly, it is not the best time to confront an officer and there are other means of redress (although they do require at times the ability to have the resources to fight erroneous charges--however the bottom line and I've told a number of individuals this--you are not going to win at the scene when the officer has determined you have done something wrong).

The question is how should the officer respond to verbal resistance. And this brings us back to the UCLA situation where the police clearly escalated a minor problem way out of all proportions by responding excessively and disproportionate to the threat posed by the verbal resistance.

This is another potential case where the police may have taken a minor situation and blown it out of proportions. The officers according again the defendant (and again it is tough to judge based only on his side of the story), escalated the situation first by placing him in handcuffs and then by physically forcing him to the ground.

One question that we must ask and will be sought in the internal review (or at least should be) was did the subject present any sort of danger to the police officers or were they simply impatient.

The subject clearly would have made this easier on himself by simply complying, but there are questions to be determined in the conduct of the law enforcement officer starting with a determination of the actual threat presented by the subject and the need to escalate rather than deescalate the resulting conflict.

Regardless this appears to be another good time to suggest people if they haven't already read this video from the ACLU about knowing your rights when confronted by the police:

--Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday Midday Briefs

Davis Police Chief Finalists

The Davis Enterprise reported on Thursday that City Manager Bill Emlen has announced that there are three finalists for the Police Chief position vacated in June by the departure of Jim Hyde for the same position with the Antioch Police Department.

According to several sources, Nick Concolino, who we ran an article on a few weeks ago, is not among the top three candidates. According to Emlen, one of the candidates is a woman, two of them are from out of state, and two of them work currently for law enforcement organizations, but one does not but has experience working as management in police organizations.

However, to date Bill Emlen has not announced the names.

According to the article there will be a meet and greet for the new candidates:
Now, Emlen plans to conduct some preliminary interviews and background investigations with the finalists "to see how much further we want to take them through the process," he said.

Once that has been determined, the city will conduct a more intensive round of interviews, as well as a "meet-and-greet" opportunity with members of the public, Emlen said.
The plan at this point would be to have a hire by the end of January, would suggests that this process will occur very quickly.

People's Vanguard of Davis hopes that the public has a full chance to meet and weigh in on this most important of hires that will be a large factor in the future of the Davis Police Department.

Eighth Assembly District Democratic Race

The Davis Enterprise ran a story today about the Eighth Assembly District Race and listed five names: Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada, Yolo County Supervisor Mike McGowan, West Sacramento Mayor Chris Cabaldon, Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor (who insisted on inclusion in the article), Vacaville City Council Member Steve Hardy.

Early thoughts on this. It seems like Wolk and the Democratic machine may back Cabaldon this time. That would leave much of the establishment in his corner. Yamada will have the strongest backing of progressives and labor and that will make her formidable if she can make in-roads into Solano County. Steve Hardy ran in 2002 and is the only candidate from Solano against two people from Davis and two from West Sacramento, that would make him a powerful player.

At this time, I cannot see both McGowan and Cabaldon running because they have similar supporters, political leanings, and are from the same city.

As I mentioned in a comment, I do not see Don Saylor as a viable candidate at this time. Unlike the other four, Saylor was largely uninvolved in terms of the organization of the 8th Assembly District Committee meeting. He may be throwing his name out there, but I don't see him beating out any of the top four.

Early handicap: Cabaldon wins if the Democratic establishment machine coalesces around him and can get him the resources and organization to spread out across the district. Hardy wins if he can take the bulk of Solano county while Yamada and Cabaldon split Yolo County. Yamada wins if she can cross county lines by organizing progressives and labor.

Dunning on Valley Oak

Davis Enterprise Columnist Bob Dunning writes: "Sometimes I think there must be another 'Bob Dunning' working for this very newspaper. How else to explain the nasty e-mails, bitter bloggers and livid letters to the editor all claiming that 'Bob Dunning' said something I know I didn't say? Or telling me something about my personal life or the neighborhood where I live that's based on fiction, not fact."

I think a lot of people think there are at least two Bob Dunnings, given the amount of faces he shows in his columns.

Of course, we can go back and re-read his past columns.

On January 9, 2007, Dunning wrote:
"I guess if your kid goes somewhere else and your school isn't threatened with closing, you can look the other way and pretend it isn't happening …"
In making this point, he is calling civil rights groups to task for failing to stand up for Valley Oak school. A somewhat ironic complaint given his track record of not supporting civil rights groups and at times working openly to weaken them.

As with most of Dunning's writings there is also a subtext there. The subtext allows him to imply something, but then later claim he didn't actually say it. The subtext to that statement was that Valley Oak involved his kids and civil rights groups were not sufficiently disturbed by this because they are a bunch of NIMBY's and this wasn't in their backyard (but, the subtext here was that it was in his backyard).

In today's column's Dunning denies the subtext of that first argument in his response to a letter to the editor writer.

The irony is that I agree with him on the main issue and his main point in his column today:
"We ought to be appointing task forces charged with the job of coming up with a plan to keep all the schools operating, not closing them. If any town can do it, it's Davis."
But Dunning undercuts his potential allies through his polemics.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Task Force Adds Korematsu to List of Possible Closures

In a move that will no doubt only serve to inflame already heated tensions, the school district's task for added the closure of Korematsu to a list of options that includes now closing Valley Oak and keeping all nine elementary schools open. There are also a couple of derivations thereof which would include Korematsu only serving grades K-3 or Valley Oak only serving grades K-3.

Several times in the past we have reported on the closing of Valley Oak and suggested that it was not in the best interest of the students attending there. Others have pointed out that while it is true that Valley Oak has a high attendance, much of that is from out of neighborhood kids attending the school to utilize the GATE program.

However, it would seem to us that leaving the students from some of the more at-risk backgrounds in their own neighborhood school is in their best interest.

Likewise, it makes little sense to close a school that the school district just spent tremendous resources to construct. The parents in Mace Ranch have worked long and hard to get their school.

Kirk Trost who chairs the task force told the Davis Enterprise Friday that there were several factors that put Korematsu on the list:
"(Korematsu) is a new facility, which potentially gives the school board greater options with respect to re-use in the future," he said. "And it would result in less impact on students," since Korematsu currently serves only grades K-1. Closing Valley Oak would result in more children being moved to a different campus.

"That's not to advocate (for that option)," Trost said. "But these were issues I've heard people discuss as to why we might include Korematsu as a school for consideration for closure."
It is the view of the People's Vanguard of Davis that these options will serve to mobilize each neighborhood against the other neighborhood's school. If that happens, someone invariably stands to lose this battle. The better option at this point would be for both neighborhood schools to band together and push for the nine school option. Neighborhood schools should be the goal of the district. Moreover, we recommend that the parents in other neighborhoods join together, today it may be Korematsu and Valley Oak, soon it may be your neighborhood school.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting