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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Looking Yet Again At the Water Issue

I spent quite a deal of time over the past two weeks looking into the water issue, I still believe myself to be woefully uninformed on this issue and thus at a severe disadvantage when going up against experts on the subject.

Yet I read last night's article in the Davis Enterprise with some alarm because tough questions are never really asked.
"The city plans to partner with UC Davis and Woodland to draw water from the Sacramento River and use it as the water supply much of the year.

This would rescue the underground aquifers from which the two cities and university draw water today, project designers say, since the aquifer may not produce enough water to meet all of that demand in the future."
My conversations with people have suggested that the current mid-level aquifer supplies us with something on the order of 15,000 acre-feet per year which is enough to supply a town the size of Davis with enough water for a year.

Furthermore, according to those same experts this aquifer has never failed to replenish. Do the city planners have studies suggesting that it will not?

According to city water specialist Jacques DeBra: "The underground water supply beneath the cities and university may not be reliable enough to meet future demand"

Again one must ask based on what kind of growth projections?

Councilmember Don Saylor is quoted as saying, "This is not a political issue. ... This is a core service issue."

Of course this is a political issue. Politics is means by which scarce resources are allocated. Water is a scarce resource and this is a political question of determining how to best supply Davis residents with the best and most reliable supply without putting a huge burden on the average family who would have to spend a tremendous amount of money per year for this project.

It seems to me that this discussion needs to come within the framework of a very frank discussion of future growth and also a very sincere effort to figure out if we spend the construction costs if there will even end up a supply n the future given the realities that the precipitation pattern may quickly change and that Los Angeles may end up losing their chief supplier of water and have the political muscle to take a large share of Northern California water. We could end up spending a tremendous amount of time and money on this project and end up worse off than we currently are now.

If we are concerned about the future viability of the mid-level aquifer, perhaps we should explore the idea that Mayor Greenwald suggests and see if deep aquifers could prove a viable means of supplementing our current supplies.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

More Development Pressures on Yolo County

I was leaked a letter of a development proposal along Highway 113. It is just south of Woodland and just outside their urban limit line. But Davis residents should also be aware of it as it is only five minutes from Davis.

In the letter, Mr. Onkar (Mike) Gill of Yolo Vinyards writes:
"My intention for the development is to construct several 'Big Box' stores, a shopping center, restaurants, a gas station and high density housing. Due to the commercial nature of the development and the location, which will attract a high volume of customers, Yolo Marketplace would provide the community with significant additional revenue, services and job opportunities.

I have been contacted by several national retailers who have expressed interest in the site since it has easy access off State Route 1 13 and is quite accessible from either Interstate 5 or Interstate 80."
He writes the Board of Supervisors because he needs to change the usage of the land to commercial.

Now this proposal never came before the planning commission, it was sent to the Supervisors just a days prior to their first hearing on the General Plan. This entire thing seems pretty strange for such a massive project. Make no mistake: this would be a major, major endeavor. Not one big box, but "several." Plus a high density housing project.

The developer claims that he has three votes on the Board of Supervisors. I do not buy that for a minute. Rexroad has strongly criticized it on his blog saying, "So in that light, the chances of me supporting this proposal are about the same as the Sacramento Kings winning the Super Bowl on Sunday....not impossible but extrememly unlikely." I'm not sure what Rexroad's measure of impossibility is, but I'll go out on the limb and say the Kings will never ever win the Super Bowl.

I am fairly sure I see at least three votes against this proposal. However, I find the approach and audacity of this developer maddening. For a such a massive proposal, you would think he would realize he needed to have much more than just a letter to get the proposal moving.

However, I have decided to post this article mainly because I believe that Davis residents have not paid sufficient attention to the County General Plan process. Some involved in the process have expressed surprise that the Oeste Ranch project, which is in the General Plan, has not created more of a stir. Of course it helps when the local paper is not making a big production out of it. We should not take for granted what the County will do in terms of development not only in our direct sphere of influence but in areas just outside it such as this proposal.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday Briefs

Clarification on Development Project in Northwest Quadrant

I was under the impression that the development was north of Sutter Hospital, however, new information sent to me indicates in fact it will be west of the hospital. Here is the map of where it would be from last year's Davis Enterprise.

County Clerk Freddie Oakley Takes a Stand For Same Sex Marriage

The Sacramento Bee this morning that Freddie Oakley, the Yolo County Clerk-Record has designed her own marriage certificates that she will distribute to same-sex couples on Valentine's Day.

This is an action that she has taken on her own time, using her own resources, and I think this is perfectly legitimate. No tax dollars were used and this is her own personal view.

As you can imagine the reaction has been mixed to this proposal. However, the Sacramento Bee quoted Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a Democrat, as seeing no legal problem with what Oakley is doing. She suggests that if the voters do not like, they can always vote her out.

Assemblyman Doug La Malfa, a Republican, who lives in Oroville but represents the northern part of Yolo County said it was inappropriate.
"If I was a Yolo County supervisor, or whatever, I would ask her to do this on her own time and not out of her office."
County Supervisor Matt Rexroad wrote in his blog this morning:
"I'm completely opposed to same-sex marriage. However, I'm not going to tell another elected official in Yolo County not to do something with her own time and resources. She's not violating the law. She's expressing an opinion that she holds. Bring it up at election time. "
My own personal belief as one who strongly supports the right of same-sex couples to marry, is that people like La Malfa should keep their nose out of the business of Yolo County voters and local governance. He may represent portions of this county in his assembly district, however, he does not live in this county, he does not get a say in who is Yolo County Clerk or what she does.

Let's applaud Freddie Oakley for taking a stand for what she believes is right. Whether or not it costs her votes, she took a stand and deserves plenty of kudos for sticking to her principles. If the rest of government acted likewise, this would be a much better country.

Correcting Jim Smith's Blogcentral Commentary on 5th Senate District

One of the things I do a lot to prepare for writing articles and commentary to read a lot of the local papers and commentary. I get a lot of information from outside of this realm, but it is always good to know what is going on. One of the Blogs I read on a regular basis is Jim Smith, who is editor of the Woodland Daily Democrat. Honestly, I wish Debbie Davis and some of the Davis Enterprise reporters would do something like this.

Unfortunately, I found some inaccuracies in Smith's column yesterday, which I put in a comment. However, while Smith acknowledged the error that I pointed out, he left his column unedited. Most people are not going to see my correction which is not on the main page, but will only read the column.

Smith was discussing Cabaldon's announcement for the State Assembly and what this would mean for other races.

Smith writes:
"Now, consider: What happens with Lois Wolk? She's a very strongly connected Assembly Democrat who has done what she needed to do to get along with the party. She is also well liked by her constituents. If she, as has been speculated, decides to run for the 5th District Senate position, what happens to Machado?


So, consider: Does Machado bow out of the race if Wolk decides to run for the Senate? Or, has Machado been granted some other legislative position to leave the race open for Wolk? If so, what position. It's unlikely Machado will simply drift off into the sunset."
Of course, Senator Mike Machado, unless the term limit laws are changed in February of 2008 (which is a possiblity), will be termed out. This is his second term, he narrowly won re-election in 2004 against Former Stockton Mayor Gary Podesto.

Wolk most likely will not run unopposed for the State Senate, in fact, one rumored challenger is John Garamendi, Jr., a former Davis resident and son of the Lt. Governor, John Garamendi. That would be a fun race to watch. But this is one of the few contested Senate Seats in the state and the bulk of the population is not in Yolo County.

Smith also writes:
"It's a fact that when the 5th District was gerrymandered to include portions of Yolo County the fit didn't go very well. Machado is an excellent representative for the Bay Area portion of his district, but doesn't mesh all that well with the diversity of those folks in Davis or Woodland."
The 5th Senate district does not extend into the Bay Area. It goes as far west as Fairfield, which is certainly not in the Bay Area. It goes as far north as the Yolo County line. And the bulk of it goes south to Stockton. But it does not go to the Bay Area, it goes into the Central Valley.

Mistakes are going to happen, the key thing when blogging is to be open and honest about them and correct them so that future readers are not getting misleading or inaccurate information.

UPDATE at 8:30 am on Saturday morning: I just logged onto to Smith's blog and he has now posted a correction.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Staff Report Recommends Against Davis Development Proposed by County General Plan Committee

The County is doing its update to the County General Plan. Only in the last week has there begun to be attention to this very important process. Talking to a few of the County Supervisors they have expressed alarm and dismay that the public is not more involved in this process. However, Tuesday February 6, 2007 the County Supervisors will meet and receive the General Plan recommendations from their steering committee (much as in a year and a half, the Davis City Council will likewise receive their recommendations).

There have been several misconceptions about this process. First, all the County Supervisors are doing is receiving the report, they are not approving the General Plan.

Second, just because it is in the report, does not mean it will be approved. In fact, staff has a list of recommendations, many of them opposing items in the general plan. (Click here for the Staff Report)

There are two key issues of concern to Davis residents. First there is a proposal by the committee for a development of 2100 units, for senior housing, over 20 years to the Northwest Quadrant of Davis. This is the area west of Highway 113 and North of Sutter Hospital.

A summary of the report reads:
"The urban limit lines for each of the existing cities are respected as providing for a fair share of future growth, with the exception of the “northwest” quadrant at the edge of Davis where the Planning Commission felt additional growth would be appropriate if it could be shown to be to the county’s benefit."
There is a perception that this is going to be approved by the Board of Supervisors. This seems highly unlikely.

The staff report strongly recommends against this development:
"For the most part the staff is in agreement with and fully supports the recommendations of the Planning Commission. However, the staff has made a few supplemental land use recommendations that differ from the actions of the Planning Commission.

On the residential side, staff is recommending against the addition of 2,100 residences within the unincorporated area near the northwest quadrant of Davis, as these units are not likely to have fiscal benefits for the county that would justify the growth given concerns regarding inconsistency with long-standing growth policies, provision of infrastructure and services, and effects on the city/county pass-through agreement."
I spoke to Supervisor Matt Rexroad on the record about this. He also seemed to oppose this sort of development imposed on cities.
"My view of the [proposal] for development in the northwest quadrant of Davis is that for that area to be developed it belongs in the Davis General Plan — not the Yolo County General Plan. The people of Davis need to work that out. If they vote to do something there and the City Council wants to annex the land — then I will work toward a deal for annexation."
While I often disagree with Mr. Rexroad, on this issue, we are in full agreement. It appears that the concern that this will be a done deal is misplaced given the staff report and probable opposition from key supervisors.

The other issue is a change in the pass-through agreements between the city and county. These control how much money the county receives from a given development. They also allow cities to determine where growth on their periphery occurs.

Staff recommends that both the Northwest Quadrant and Covell Village areas be jointly studied by the City and the County. This strongly suggests that in fact, the County has no intention of imposing growth on city's peripheries without the consent of the cities themselves. This is an issue at the heart of Measure J and the fight against Measure X.

Supervisor Rexroad seems in support of this notion as well:
"The current pass through agreements between the cities and the counties are what has protected large tracts of agriculture land in Yolo County for decades."
In summary, while it was concerning to hear that the County General Plan Committee had approved a recommendation for a large development in the Northwest Quadrant of Davis, it seems that fears that this was imminent or a done deal are misplaced. The process will continue for most of the calendar year of 2007 and only then will recommendations be approved. With the staff report on our side, it seems likely that these proposals will not see the light of day. That does not however mean we should not follow this process very closely over the next few months to monitor what our county government is doing.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Police Chief Candidate to Visit Davis

According to a release from the City of Davis, one of the applicants for the Police Chief candidacy, Landy Black, will be visiting Davis on Tuesday, February 6. Black is currently a Police Captain and Precinct Commander for the city of Seattle.

Mr. Black will be visiting Davis to meet with the City Manager, Department Heads, Police Department staff and City Council members. He will be available to meet with members of the public in a casual setting from 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm in the Council Chambers. The open session of the City Council meeting begins at 6:30.

General Plan Steering Committee Profile: Brenda Little

We continue with our on-going profile of members of the Davis General Plan Steering Committee by looking at Stephen Souza's choice, Brenda Little. Little is the director of property management for Tandem Properties. Tandem Properties is one of the largest property management companies in the city of Davis. It is owned by John Whitcombe among others. Whitcombe has consistently been one of the strongest supports of Stephen Souza.

Whitcombe and Tandem Properties was the chief developer involved in the proposal and construction for the failed Covell Village development project initiative. Voters in November of 2005 defeated the massive project by huge margins. And yet, here we are, having the developers of the Covell Village project on the General Plan Steering Committee.

What is clear is that while Councilmember Souza did not directly put John Whitcombe on this committee, he put a person with clear development interests instead. This is a person who likely stands to directly gain from new development and a more favorable general plan to development.

What is interesting is that Councilmember Souza who owns a pool cleaning company has in the past done business with Tandem Properties. At some council meetings, he has recused himself from weighing in on items directly effecting Tandem Properties. He did this during a Covell Village hearing process, but I believe later on, he got a ruling that suggested that his past dealings did not create a conflict of interest. Souza of course was a strong supporter of Measure X and Covell Village. Whether he had a direct business relationship with Whitcombe and Tandem, he has a strong political connection there.

The purpose of this is to suggest the interests of Brenda Little are squarely in the realm of the pro-development majority of council. Ms. Little will obviously continue to represent the interests of the largest and most powerful development and property management company in the city of Davis. It is clear where the priorities of this committee lie.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

A fresh look at the Ombudsman and Police Oversight in 2007

Today's Sacramento Bee contains a nice piece on the Ombudsman Bob Aaronson ( This seems like a good time to revisit some of the issues that arise in the article.

Mr. Aaronson is quoted as saying:
"What we have here is a failure to communicate."

"The (hit-and-run) case was actually an opportunity to have a community dialogue about the role of law enforcement, the role of community members and the expectations we have of interactions between law enforcement and community," he said. "That opportunity was missed, to everyone's detriment."
Following the Buzayan case, I completely agree with Mr. Aaronson there was a total and complete failure to communicate. I do not think that served the public's best interest well and I do not think that served law enforcement's best interest well.

Even now, comments I see in the newspaper and on this blog believe that there is disdain for the police. That is just simply untrue. One can be critical of certain practices and even certain particular police officers without having disdain for the police as a whole.

Some of us simply believe in the constitution. The constitution includes protections for the rights of the accused. It lays out conditions under which people can be searched, detained, questioned, etc. And there is a serious concern when the rights of the accused are violated. That concern is often translated as meaning soft on crime, but in fact, it is a concern that innocent people will have their rights violated. In order to protect the rights of the innocent we must protect the rights of all, because in this country we are theoretically innocent until proven guilty.

Moreover there is an unwritten covenant between the community and its law enforcement. It is a covenant based on trust and communication and when that covenant is stressed or broken, it leads to problems on both sides. We as a nation believe that in our system of government there needs to be checks and balances. In the federal government that means one branches has the power to check the power of another branch. In state and local government, it means that there are bodies and individuals with the power to oversee the operations of governing bodies. When a neutral third party is overseeing the operations of the government, it fosters and reinforces that trust and communication.

That is why many of us last year requested the formation of a citizen's body to be that overseer. Law enforcement and the city council prefers this current model, of having an expert such as Mr. Aaronson act as that check, and while some of us have other preferences, we would all like to see Mr. Aaronson succeed.
"In dealing with police departments throughout the state, the most common citizen complaint is that an officer was rude, Aaronson said."
I honestly wish Mr. Aaronson would not have said this. Not because I necessarily think it is untrue, but because I think there are much more serious and more valid complaints than this. What I am concerned with is not whether or not an officer is rude or polite, although I would much rather have a polite and professional officer. I am concerned with the policies that lead to pretense stops and also the rules of engagement for the escalation of police force based on the perception of verbal noncompliance. While I respect Mr. Aaronson, I think his statement makes it too easy for people to be dismissive of what are at times serious and valid complaints about the operations of the police.

The Buzayan case was misinterpreted to be a case based on the demeanor of the officer rather than what are alleged to be serious violations of department policy and state and federal laws.

I was interviewed as well during the course of the interviews for the article that appeared a few weeks ago about the People's Vanguard of Davis.
"Davis resident David Greenwald runs the People's Vanguard of Davis blog and has roundly criticized the Davis Police Department's conduct. He has spoken at length with Aaronson and calls him "an excellent hire."

He wishes Aaronson had more power to implement investigations and mete out discipline; instead, the ombudsman reviews existing internal investigations and makes nonbinding recommendations.

"(Aaronson) is more of an auditor than an ombudsman," Greenwald said."
I spelled a lot of this out in the series about police oversight in Davis. From my conversations with Mr. Aaronson, I think he has a good deal of understanding about what the strengths of the Davis police department are. But he also has a good sense for things that need improvement. My fear is that he really is not in a position where he can recommend changes but does not have the authority to enact changes within the current power structure.
"I expect over the life of his role as ombudsman there will be times he will support the Police Department; other times he will be critical of it," Pierce said. "I'm open to the ideas and criticisms he has.

"If we're doing something outside the community's expectations and Bob tells us we need to change the way we do business, that is something I will certainly take to heart"
The critical test for Mr. Aaronson will be the next time there is a major incident--and maybe his presence alone will prevent something like the Buzayan case or some of the other lesser known but often just as serious cases from the past year. I think a lot of us thought that Former Chief Jim Hyde was going to be an outstanding Police Chief and were stunned by the manner in which he became defensive and shut down communications in the face of scrutiny and criticism of his department.
"After months of observation, Aaronson says a new police chief is the Davis Police Department's most pressing need."
The next police chief will make or break this department. If we get a good police chief, we can begin to forge a new covenant between the citizens and the police and we can put the last year behind us. If we get a poor police chief or one that lasts only a few years, then in ten years this will be revisited yet again. The most amazing thing about the events of the last year is that they are not new. If you talk to long-time residents who have been involved in the process something like this occurs every so often, the issue comes up and then it is never resolved and reemerges once again in the future. We need to be able to fix it during times of non-crisis so that we can avoid another incident like we had last year.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wednesday Briefs

Now that Cabaldon is in... What does the 8th AD Look Like?

Vacaville City Councilmember Steve Hardy was quoted in this morning's Fairfield Daily Republic as saying, "I haven't made the final decision but I probably will (run)."

Meanwhile, Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada is a bit more guarded in her statement, only stating "considering entering the race fairly seriously now" but said she had not made a decision either.

Don Saylor wrote a letter to the Davis Enterprise, "I want to clarify that I will not be a candidate for the 8th Assembly District in 2008."

Of course most of us already figured that out when he endorsed Cabaldon at yesterday's announcement in Davis.

Saylor continues, "However, I have come to the conclusion that I can be most effective by continuing my work here in local government."

Looks like an announcement for reelection to the city council.

Assuming Hardy and Yamada both jump in (a fair assumption at this point), how does this race shake out.

Supervisor Matt Rexroad blogged a few weeks ago that Hardy would have an advantage as the only Solano County candidate.

In fact in 2002, he was the only Solano County Candidate and he finished third (27.8%) to Lois Wolk (41.2%) and Cabaldon (31%). What's interesting is that Hardy finished first in Solano but a distant third in Yolo County.

Speaking of Matt Rexroad...

And let me say, we do not agree on a lot politically, but on a personal level I like him and I admire the fact that he has maintained a blog to communicate with his constituents. I think that is the wave of the future and I think all office holders should develop one as a means to communicate with their constituents.

That said, reading his blog on "The Choice for Woodland" perhaps it is time to remind him that he is no longer Mayor of Woodland, he is a Supervisor for the County of Yolo. As such, while he represents the interests of Woodland, he also has jurisdiction over the entire county and its operations. As such, his primary concern should be the choice for Yolo County, not the choice for Woodland.

It is somewhat academic since he is a Republican in a Democratic district, but the other supervisors do not speak merely about their home communities, they speak of the entire county especially when they are the representatives of the county on interagency bodies. If Mr. Rexroad wants to represent Woodland, perhaps he should go back to being mayor of Woodland.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Commentary: City Staff, Is the System Broken?

On Monday after my article appeared on the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) situation involving a city staffer who gave false and misleading information to council about a 23 year city vendor, I received a call from a former city councilmember. That councilmember expressed both gratitude and frustration. It seems that during their tenure this was a frequent problem. The only difference back then is the no one bothered to report it. According to them, city staff would often give false information to council, sometimes it was intentionally so. Accurate information and alternative viewpoints were very difficult to obtain.

This problem is largest for those who are members of the minority faction. The majority often simply does not care how city staff operates as long as they get their agenda passed. Process goes by the wayside. At the same time, with a city manager driven system, the city council is almost and completely reliant on the advise and information provided by city staff. The council is not given their own staffers, as other systems of government including the County Supervisors provide. And while these employees are completely at-will and can be hired and fired with no cause given (as opposed to civil servants who have immense protections), it is only those who control the three votes that really have such power to force the city manager's hand.

It goes beyond simply a matter of city staff making mistakes. When we look at the water issue, one of the biggest problems is that city staff controls the flow of information to the city council. The water issue is a greatly complicated issue, as I discovered when I tried to wade through merely five years of public records on the subject.

A few things became evident from the public record. First, that city staff and not necessarily city council had vast control over the trajectory of policy. City council did pass by a 3-2 vote authorization to embark on alternative 5 in 2002. However, a stream of EIRs and MOUs led council eventually upon a very different path. City staff often had a larger role than council in guiding the trajectory of this policy.

Second, staff has been very reluctant, especially for the minority view, to provide them with alternative options. This was very clear last week when Mayor Sue Greenwald tried to push staff to provide her with answers to questions. Each time, the staff response was that we could not pursue this option. The Mayor wanted an answer to the substantive question, not an opinion on its feasibility. We should have an array of consultants that would give us different advice from the advice recommended by the staff and then the council can decide which is the best approach.

The problem of course in the case of water is that a councilmember simply lacks the expertise to understand the dynamics of the water supply and waste treatment plans. They have to rely not only on city staff, but also on consultants and lawyers to navigate through a very complex policy realm. Consultants and lawyers who are not always neutral bystanders and disinterested parties. That creates a situation where staff through their expertise serves as the gatekeeper of information and that situation puts a tremendous amount of power in the hands of an unelected city staff and removes a tremendous amount of power from the hands of people that the voters in this city elected.

Third as we have mentioned in past articles and commentary, this situation creates a perverse power structure where the City Manager is often deemed to be the chief power within the system. The City Manager not only holds the office space, controls city staff, and makes many if not most of the executive decisions that do not require council action, but the City Manager also has the power to structure debate and control the flow of information. While the City Manager answers to city council, in effect, the City Manager answers only to the strongest powers within city council, the council majority. In effect, as long as the City Manager does the bidding of the council majority, he is largely free to do as he chooses. This situation creates vast problems for council minorities who lack the power and leverage to have much say in the conduct and operations of city staff and the city manager.

More valuable even than numerical numbers is the flow of information. That flow of information is almost completely controlled by city staff working at the behest of the council majority. Without access to their own staff, the council minority not only has a numerical disadvantage, but they lack the ability and platform to be able to provide their own information to counter the message sent by the council majority.

At times, this puts the council minority at an even stronger disadvantage, because they do not even possess the information at times to counter what the council majority is doing. At other times, it has required members of the council minority to get independent assessments or do their own research. These are people who were elected by the same people who elected the council majority and people who are not being paid more than a token $500 stipend. This is not the way that these members of the Davis City Council ought to be treated.

It is clear to me that changes need to made in the structure of city government. As the complexity of governmental decisions increases, we need our council members whether they be in the majority or in the minority to be given a full array of options and alternatives so that they can make an informed decision. Unfortunately those needs are not being met by the current system.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cabaldon Formally Announces His Run For 8th AD

At the Train Station in Davis, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon with more members of the media than supporters and more elected officials than members of the public announced his bid for the Democratic Nomination for the 8th Assembly District of California.

Flanked by several of his early elected official endorsements, Cabaldon was introduced by Davis Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson. Also speaking were two County Supervisors Helen Thompson and Mike McGowan, two West Sacramento City Councilmembers Oscar Villegas and Wes Beers, Woodland Mayor David Flory, and Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor.

Woodland City Councilmember Jeff Monroe was there briefly in his Sheriff's Uniform, but he was on duty and could not be on stage. However, he too has formally endorsed Cabaldon's candidacy.

The most interesting statements made by Mayor Cabaldon came in response to questions from the press.

Beth Curda of the Davis Enterprise asked what issues were most important to him. Interestingly his first response was controlling sprawl. This seemed a bit ironic considering his growth policies while Mayor of West Sacramento. Not to mention he was flanked by several of the more pro-development elected officials in the county including Davis Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson and Councilmember Don Saylor--both of whom were strong proponents of both Target and Covell Village.

Secondly, Josh Fernandez of the Woodland Daily Democrat asked him who was the consultant working on his campaign. His response was that he hadn't hired a consultant and that had not been determined. This runs against the reported information that Richie Ross would be his campaign consultant. Ross was his campaign consultant in his previous race for the Assembly in 2002.

Finally, (and someone will have to forgive me because I do not know the reporter who asked the question), he was asked how long he had considered running for the Assembly. He mentioned that he ran for the Assembly in 2002 and that it was basically a good thing for his city that he lost and that Lois Wolk had won. Which was somewhat of a reprise of the statement he made during the Davis Democratic Bean Feed last fall--but was a rather striking statement coming from an elected official and prospective office seeker.

Meanwhile the anticipation and speculation will continue to mount as to who else will run for office. Clearly neither Don Saylor nor Mike McGowan will be candidates for the Assembly.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

2008 City Council Candidates

In order to regain a majority on the council, Progressives are going to need to hold onto Mayor Sue Greenwald's seat while they take at least one other seat. At this point, both Councilmembers Stephen Souza and Don Saylor are up for reelection in 2008. It looks fairly certain that Saylor would run for reelection. He does not seem a viable candidate for Assembly at this point. And his other option would be to run for the Supervisor seat, which would be Helen Thomson's seat which is not up until 2010.

Stephen Souza seems inclined to run for Supervisor IF and according to some who have spoken to him, only IF, Mariko Yamada runs for the Assembly.

If both Souza and Saylor run for re-election, the most likely candidate for the third seat would be Mike Levy, who ran a very strong third in last year's council elections. If Souza ends up running for Supervisor, which at this point seems more likely than not, School Board Member Gina Daleidan would be an obvious choice. Daleidan is a close ally of Don Saylor.

The progressives however, are much more wide open. One possibility might be Jim Provenza, the President of the school board. He would be a formidable candidate if he chose to run. However, the smart money seems to be on him running for Supervisor.

So my question to this blog would be: who should the Progressives get to run? Should Provenza run for Supervisor or City Council?

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tracing the recent history of the water supply project

A review of a variety of staff reports, public workshop notes, and newspaper articles reveals a rather interesting labyrinth of policies that have led us from the council approved recommendations of the 2002 Water Supply Study to the current policy and trajectory of policy that is far more expansive and more expensive then the original course of action.

In September of 2002, Council by a 3-2 vote approved Alternative 5 of the 2002 Water Feasibility Study.

“Alternative 5. Increase treatment capacity at Bryte Bend to supply treated surface water to meet average day and most of maximum day demands. Pump groundwater as needed to meet the remaining demands. Treat groundwater as needed to satisfy project objectives. Under this alternative, water from the Sacramento River would be treated at Bryte Bend and pumped to Davis/UC Davis. The capacity of Bryte Bend would be increased to approximately 90 mgd to meet Davis/UC Davis average day demands and approximately 75 percent of the maximum day demands… To take advantage of existing groundwater pumping capacity, the remaining demands would be met with groundwater pumped from the deep aquifer wells. Peak hour demands and fire flow would be met from above ground storage reservoirs.”

In a continuing mantra, Councilmember Ted Puntillo was quoted in the Davis Enterprise saying, "If we don't act, we're going to be put in the back of the bus there, and I don't know if we'll ever get to the front again." In fact, during this year’s workshop on January 23, 2007, we would hear similar statements, this time from city staff and water consultants.

The two dissenting votes caste at this time were by Councilwoman Sue Greenwald and Councilman Mike Harrington.

Greenwald sought to gather more information about the deep aquifer option—an alternative she also pushed in this year’s meeting.

You will also notice that currently Alternative 5 is no longer the operational plan. Apparently somewhere along the way, West Sacramento opted out of that option as we find out—they needed the capacity for themselves given their massive growth. The plan now is Alternative 7, which as far as I can tell no one has ever actually caste a vote on. This was the worst case scenario at the time in 2002 and by far the most expensive of the options. West Sacramento's massive growth is going to end up costing Davis ratepayers quite a bit of money.

Alternative 7. Supply all demands using treated surface water from a new Sacramento River diversion and a new water treatment plant… Under this alternative, water from the Sacramento River would be diverted from a location north of the existing diversion point for Bryte Bend and would be pumped to Davis/UC Davis. A transmission pipeline would be constructed to convey water from this location to Davis/UC Davis... A new water treatment plant would be constructed near Davis with a capacity of approximately 50 mgd, and would meet Davis/UC Davis average day and maximum day demands. Peak hour and fire flows would be met with above ground storage reservoirs.”

Just how did we get there? Following the maze of public hearings, newspaper articles, and staff reports, a picture begins to emerge--it happened in small increments based on decisions to implement MOUs and EIRs of studies rather than actual votes of authorization on an overall plan.

Just over a year later, in September 2003, the West Sacramento plan was still underway. The Davis Enterprise reported on September 29, 2003:

“Financial, political and structural analyses are the next steps, as Davis, UC Davis and West Sacramento staff continue to explore the possibility of piping Sacramento River water to Davis by way of West Sacramento's water treatment plant, players in the discussions say.

The quality of the water that leaves West Sacramento's treatment plant is much higher than Davis', said Jacques DeBra, a Davis water specialist. Its successes include more user satisfaction, fewer water softeners and less use of bottled water, he said.

The three entities are working on a mutual agreement and looking at the feasibility of the project, which is one of several options Davis and UCD officials spent two years researching for the community's future water supply. The Davis City Council, along with UCD officials, decided last year to look at supplying the community with water from rivers as well as from underground in the future.”

By November 6, 2003, a Davis city council vote authorized Woodland to be added to an MOU along with the City of Davis and UC Davis to do a deep aquifer study. That was passed by a 4-1 vote with Councilman Mike Harrington dissenting. (Remember Greenwald's preferred option was always the deep aquifer route so naturally she went along with this part of the project).

The aquifer study was approved on a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Mike Harrington dissenting. Harrington believes the study is linked to a growth-induced need for more water capacity, rather than just a search for higher-quality water.

"Instead of focusing on demand reduction," he said Tuesday, "we're focusing on (increasing) supply."

However, as the Davis Enterprise noted, the West Sacramento plan was still alive:

In addition to the aquifer study, Davis and UCD will continue working with West Sacramento officials toward piping Sacramento River water to Davis years from now for use on campus and in town, if that is feasible. If the project pencils out for all parties, the water would be pumped through West Sacramento's water treatment plant on its way to Davis. If the project were completed, the river water would be the primary source in Davis, with groundwater supplementing it when needed.”

This would be the last time we see the West Sacramento facility and option 5 mentioned in the public record.

On May 19, 2004, we see an Amendment No.2 added to the Consultant Agreement with West Yost and Associates for the Water Supply Feasibility Study. This officially added Woodland to “some” of the alternatives.

From the May 19, 2004 staff report:

The City Council approved the recommendations from the 2002 Water Supply Feasibility Study. Implementation requires preliminary engineering support to accomplish initial milestones leading up to authorizing the project Environmental Impact Report (EIR). This scope of work will study, to the same level as the feasibility study, options that would involve the City of Woodland that could be included in the EIR process. This provides the city with more options to study and evaluate in the project EIR. This approach ensures that the final project alternative would be covered in the EIR given the challenge of options involving other agencies.”

To this point we have mostly focused on the supply portion of the water issue, it is important to note that in June of 2005, comes the alarming development that the wastewater treatment costs were going to be considerably higher than originally projected. The problem with wastewater is that while the water supply is mainly okay for various elements and compounds, the supply end at times exceeds the allowed standards for some things like selenium.

From the June 15, 2005 Davis Enterprise:

“Price tag estimates for the Davis project have increased dramatically during the past several months, as engineers have gotten a better idea of what is needed in the plant upgrade. It will be funded primarily by increasing sewer rates, and the project has already triggered increased rates in recent years.

For several months, public works representatives said an upgrade would cost at least $50 million.

"We now know that, sadly, that's probably not it by half," Public Works Director Bob Weir said in May, when the council raised sewer rates.”

How much more? Try $140 to $150 million dollars instead of the original estimate of $50 million.

The article also quotes then-Woodland Mayor Matt Rexroad:

"It's a relatively easy retrofit for us, but not for Davis… We were between a rock and a hard place. Davis is between a rock and a mountain."

On July 15, 2005, the council approved an MOU to complete a Project EIR report and authorizing West Yost and Associates to provide engineering services in support of the Project environmental process. This staff report pushed the advantages of the regional MOU approach--that would be Woodland, UC Davis, and the city of Davis.

By this point it was clear that the city of Davis had moved away from the approved Alternative 5 which was to expand an existing facility in West Sacramento.

By May 11, 2006, the plan with West Sacramento appeared to be officially dead.

From the Davis Enterprise:

“Officials and water experts in Davis, Woodland and at UC Davis are working on a project that they say would give their customers a more reliable, higher-quality water source. They are beginning the official environmental study for the project and will host two public workshops this month.

Today, all three water purveyors supply their customers with ground water. As demand increases and wells run deeper, there is little way of knowing how much water is available, sources say. In addition, ground water has minerals that build up on faucets and in pipes and pose problems for quality, both in using the water, and in meeting treatment standards for water that runs through the sewers from homes and businesses.

For a decade, the cities and UCD have studied options for treating surface water and sending it through pipes to their customers. At one time, they talked with water experts in West Sacramento about using that city's treatment plant. Jacques DeBra with the city of Davis said this week West Sacramento's growth means it will need its treatment plant capacity.

The plan now is for Davis, Woodland and UCD to draw water from the Sacramento River, send it through pipes to a shared treatment plant they would build, then distribute it to the three areas.”

Little discussion was made of this change or the fact that they were de facto moving onto alternative No.7 deemed the worst case-scenario in the 2002 feasibility study and moreover, it was by far the most expensive option. There was little-to-no revisiting of alternatives or the suggestion that perhaps the city should restudy the issue. In fact, from our review of the history, the Woodland joint project appears to be the trajectory to which the city of Davis had been moving for a considerable amount of time, well before the West Sacramento plan was officially dead.

So we now have the worst case scenario—where we build an entirely new facility, including a new intake facility. Meanwhile the staff last week tried to avoid the tough questions of Mayor Sue Greenwald as she tried to ascertain whether or not there were alternatives and the staff became locked in to alternatives—aided and abetted along the way by the council Majority of Saylor and Asmundson.

The projections right now are for the wastewater treatment plant to be around $150 million and according to the presentation, the costs for the new water supply project would be $300 million with Davis’ share being around $150 million. This is very important for people to understand, at the time Alternative 5 was passed in 2002, the costs for Alternative 7 versus Alternative 5 would be about twice the initial projections. That’s just over a five year time period. So when you see that both projects are projected at around $300 million combined for the city of Davis, you might consider those as low estimates and think about the real cost being considerably higher. We are talking in the neighborhood of around $100 per month for the average family for water alone.

A couple of additional points that need to be raised here. First, according to a person with good working knowledge of the water system, the intermediate aquifer has never failed to recharge. That aquifer provides all the water a city of the population of around 68,000 needs with about 15,000 or so acre feet a year.

The new plan calls for Davis’ share of the new water to be the rights to another 20,000 acre feet. And by the way, this is winter water and the time when we need the water help is during the summer.

So why do we need to double our water? Are we planning to grow to 140,000? At our current growth rate it would take 100 years to get to 140,000 and our water rights would expire by 2040.

This is a huge expense and the staff has not proven the need and has dodged the tough questions every time they have been pushed on this issue.

A final point, the point has been made that we need to "keep our place in line." But what has not been discussed is how much money we have spent to do that. Just looking at the outlays since 2002, it appears we have spent well over $1 million just to keep our place in line by expending money on the various studies and EIRs. In the total process since 1992 or whenever the process began, we may have spent as much as twice that. That's just the cost of keeping us in our place in line. We have not even broken ground work on this project yet.

The costs of both the supply and treatment end have at least doubled since 2002. That needs to be kept in mind. Will these current estimates be correct? Or are we looking at even more increase in cost? I would suspect we are looking at even more unanticipated cost.

Last week's workshop was informative, but it was really a discussion that assumed we were going forward this option rather than one that proposed we continue to look at alternative options. I think Davis residents who will be facing at least triple their current rates ought to look very serious at the need for water given current population growth projections.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, January 29, 2007

Cabaldon to Announce Bid for 8th AD Nomination

We are hearing word from a number of sources that West Sacramento Mayor Chris Cabaldon will announce his bid to run for the 8th Assembly District Democratic Nomination. He would be the first official candidate to throw his hat in the race.

That is however just the tip of the iceberg. Mike McGowan is expect to announce that he is not running for the Assembly and will then endorse Mayor Cabaldon. Cabaldon has been scrambling in an attempt to shore up a large number of endorsements in what is expected to be a heated and expensive fight for the nomination for the seat that Assemblywoman Lois Wolk is termed out of.

Calbadon has reportedly hired the venerable Richie Ross to be his campaign consultant. There is also speculation that Craig Reynolds will be involved as well. Reynolds has been Wolk's chief of staff and is a prominent consultant who runs a number of campaigns for establishment and conservative Democrats in local races he generally has supported the developers including his strong involvement in the yes on measure X campaign among others. What would make this interesting is that Reynolds and Ross have a well publicized feud reported in the News and Review a few years ago.

Now the question is who else will run for the 8th Assembly District. The strong money is that County Supervisor Mariko Yamada who garners strong union and progressive support will make a run. Also Vacaville City Councilmember Steve Hardy may also make a run, although there are rumors flying that he may not. Don Saylor despite his insistence of being included does not seem a viable candidate at this time.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

City Staffer Botches Testimony To Council on EAP

The People's Vanguard of Davis has learned that when Davis City Human Resources Administrator, Melissa Chaney, told the Davis City Council at the January 16, 2007 City Council Meeting, that the city's 23 year long provider of Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Psychological Resources Associates (PRA) was not in compliance with the Knox-Keene, act she was giving out false information.

According to a letter submitted to City Manager Bill Emlen last week and copied to each of the City Council Members from PRA director Dr. Dean Dickerson, PRA is not Knox-Keene act certified because they are exempt from Knox-Keene licensing requirement. Therefore they do not need to be licensed as an HMO or a large insurance company would.

The Knox-Keene act was enacted to protect consumers (such as the city of Davis and their employees) from potential abuse from large HMOs or insurance companies who have a history of over-promising and under-performing on those promises. PRA provides health care services on a per visit basis and therefore operates as a "direct contract provider" rather than as an insurance company.

Dr. Dickerson goes on to write, "Unfortunately these large companies have used the Knox-Keene licensing issue as a false and deceptive argument to capture contracts that previously had been provided by local professional groups." Essentially, these large HMOs market to prospective clients that they are Knox-Keene licensed and the small EAP providers are not thereby implying falsely that the small provider who is providing EAP services is doing so illegally or is out of compliance with the law.

This is exactly what has happened in this case.

Melissa Chaney acknowledged that she herself had just become aware of this provision of the law, just prior to the January 16 City Council Meeting, not during the RFP (request for proposal) process which was conducted during the prior six months. While she can perhaps be forgiven for not knowing whether the law applied to PRA, it is deeply troubling that she never bothered to ask a vendor that the city had done 23 years of EAP business with for clarification on this vital issue.

When asked by Mayor Greenwald, Chaney said, "we didn't realize that this provision was even in effect, that this license was mandated until we went through the RFP process." In fact, during the RFP process (conducted during the final six months of 2006) this issue did not come up as Ms. Chaney had not requested that Knox-Keene act certification be a requirement to provide EAP services to the city of Davis. Had she included that in her RFP (request for proposal) the current provider would have informed her that the Knox-Keene act did not apply to them.

Greenwald continued to press, "and you didn't discuss this with the 23 year local provider?"

Chaney responded, "No. During the RFP process we just followed the process of going through the RFP."

City Manager Bill Emlen made the unusual statement that they were not certain about this information. He even suggested that city staff might need more information on the Knox-Keene act and whether it applied to PRA, but that he felt that the bid by Cigna stood on its own merits. However, despite his statement the suggestion that PRA was somehow not licensed, changed the tone and course of the conversation.

(Click here to see the full video clip of this exchange)

Both Mayor Greenwald and Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson were sympathetic toward local business getting contracts if at all possible but they could not justify it when they got information suggesting that the local provider was not certified.

It thus was clear that both Mayor Greenwald and Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson's positions were swayed by this particular issue--the lack of a Knox-Keene license for PRA. Asmundson stated a preference to give the process more time given the length of the relationship and the fact that PRA was a local provider. However, the concerns about Knox-Keene licensing finally swayed her to support Cigna. Greenwald remained ambivalent about it, in the end voting for both the "take no action" substitute motion made by Councilmember Lamar Heystek (to allow for further fact finding) and then finally approving of Cigna. Heystek was the only dissenter in the end.

While I too was unaware that PRA was exempt from the Knox-Keene act, I found the entire issue very unsettling because it did not make any sense that a person or firm who had been in business as long as Dr. Dickerson would be out of compliance with state licensing requirements. Moreover, PRA provides EAP services to many of the other local municipalities and other governing bodies including Woodland City, Davis Joint Unified School District, and Yolo County. To put it simply, Ms. Chaney's claims seemed dubious.

Ms. Chaney's failure to follow due diligence is fundamentally troubling especially considering that the City Council must absolutely rely on and trust the advice and information presented by the city staff. And Ms. Chaney has violated this not only by getting the information wrong, but by not making a simple phone call to PRA to clarify this issue.

Both Mayor Greenwald and Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson voted in favor of awarding the bid to Cigna and therefore can ask for reconsideration. Regardless of the merits of the Cigna bid (which I have serious doubt about in its own right), due diligence requires a full investigation into this episode to ensure that this does not occur in the future.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Public Defender Requests Judge Mock be Disqualified from Hearing Murder Case

Saturday's Woodland Daily Democrat reports that the man suspected of killing a retired UC Davis professor will attempt to remove Judge Stephen Mock from hearing further proceedings.

Public defender, Richard Van Zandt incidicated that he intended to make a motion to disqualify Judge Mock, but the Daily Democrat reports that he did not elaborate on the specific reason that he should be disqualified.

However, one easy point of speculation quickly goes to his marriage with Ann Hurd, who works for the District Attorney's Office. Judge Stephen Mock is the lead Superior Court Judge in Yolo County. His wife is Ann Hurd, the Chief Deputy District Attorney. Judge Mock assigns cases to judges while his wife assigns prosecutors to the same cases.

Adding more fuel to that speculation is that this is not the first instance where a defense attorney questioned the ethicacy of Judge Mock presiding over such a case. This follows a high profile murder case involving two men charged with killing a CHP officer that was held up while a court ruled on whether Jude Mock's relationship with the No.2 person in theYolo County District Attorney's office represented an inherent conflict of interest.

On November 7 in our article, "Appearance of a Conflict of Interest" we suggested that this relationship presented at least the appearance of a conflict of interest even if both individuals performed their duties admirably. Others have countered that Judge Mock's positions is an administrative position rather than one of true authority and they suggest that if anything he is more favorable toward defendents than others in his department.

This may in fact be true, although, looking at a few cases, I begin to wonder about that. Particularly his failure to intervene in the Berny case when it was clear that something was amiss with Judge Fall.

Regardless of the propriety, it is becoming increasingly clear that as defense attorney's begin to make an issue of this relationship (at this point I am jumping to the conclusion that this is the reason for the request), the issue becomes less one of principle and more one of practicality.

Can this county afford that this relationship is challenged each and every time Judge Mock presides over a high profile case?

These delays and additional hearings simply add to the growing cost of the criminal justice system. It would seem the best interest of all involved if one of these individuals were transferred to an adjacent county. In the interest of expediency and efficiency of the court system this would seem the easiest solution if someone in the place of power can make it so.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

General Plan Steering Committee Profile: Jay Gerber

Continuing our periodic series profiling some of the members of the General Plan Housing Element, we look at Jay Gerber.

Jay Gerber owns the Cable Car Wash in Davis. He was appointed to the General Plan Housing Element steering committee by Councilmember Don Saylor. Not surprisingly he has been a strong supporter of the council majority appearing on a number of endorsement lists and financial statements.

He was also a strong supporter of bringing a Target to Davis. Along with Ruth Asmundson, Terry Whittier, Rod Rifredri, and Bonnie Barnitt, he was among five people to sign the Yes on Target ballot statement.

Gerber was a former chair to the Yolo County Planning Commission. He was a strong supporter of growth in unincorporated areas. In a 2002 Davis Enterprise he was quoted as saying, "The goal should be to cluster growth in the unincorporated cities like Esparto, Knights Landing, Dunnigan and Clarksburg rather than in the middle of ag fields."
He said proposals come to the Planning Commission regularly if not frequently for building projects in unincorporated cities, most of which want some new housing, mostly upscale. "Esparto has been the most active with two new housing developments recently," he said. Most of that development has been upscale or market rate housing.
Gerber was also a member of the "No on J Committee." Measure J was an ordinance passed by Davis voters in 2000 that mandated voter approval for certain changes in land use--particularly any conversion of open space into an urban designation. The measure allows the voters to approve any future annexations for the purpose of development.

From a February 13, 2000 Davis Enterprise article:
Gerber predicts that in-fill disputes will happen more frequently, and people will buy up homes and turn them into rentals.

The community needs to respond to growth pressures on a regional level and J makes that more difficult, Gerber added.

''I think Measure J will cause us to disconnect ourselves from our region, our county and our neighboring communities,'' he said. ''Responsible planning does not include planning by initiative. This is planning by initiative.''

Gerber also said he's not sure the public will take the time to read the massive documents that accompany proposals. Proponents add that the council members must approve all documents before a project goes to a vote of the people. Opponents further say J does not protect farm land. Shoving growth off to less agriculturally sensitive communities will lead to a greater loss of farm land, they say.
Gerber as owner of the Cable Car Wash Company said in a July 30, 2006 article, that he files the reports and submits required environmental documents:
"In the 1980s and '90s, when Gerber sold gasoline at his business and had to track daily statistics, he measured the gasoline in the tanks and tallied the numbers by hand. Today, when he submits reports or required environmental documents, he is the one working on them.

"I'm the bookkeeper, the chief purchasing agent. I'm the (person) who hires, and fires ultimately," he said.

But, he said, he enjoys those aspects of the business. "
According to documents we found, on March 29, 2002 the Sacramento Water Regional Control Board issued a notice of violation to the Cable Car Wash for late report submittal and failure to sample in accordance with the Monitoring and Reporting Program. "Groundwater beneath the [904 Third Street in Davis] site is polluted with petroleum hydrocarbons and associated constituents."

Councilmember Saylor has thus named a person who is a strong proponent of new development and who was a strong opponent of the seminal Measure J which has served to help preserve open space, to serve on a steering committee that will update the General Plan.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting