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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Saturday Briefs

Sacramento Bee Coverage of Yamada Misleading

The first internet version of the Sacramento Bee article by Lakiesha McGee contained a very inaccurate description of County Supervisor Mariko Yamada's announcement event in Woodland on Wednesday at noon.

That version read:
"Yamada told a crowd of mostly reporters gathered at the steps of the Yolo County courthouse in Woodland that she plans to focus on supporting working families."
That description accurately described West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon's announcement in Davis in January. However, it was far from accurate in describing Yamada's event which had as many as fifty members of the public in the audience, in addition to a number of elected officials behind the podium with her.

The print version would later correct this after the Yamada Campaign complained. That version reads:
"Yamada told a crowd gathered at the steps of the Yolo County courthouse in Woodland that, if elected, she will continue to focus on supporting working families."
Of course there was no acknowledgment of the error and anyone who read only the initial internet version would get a misleading picture.

Good letter in support of keeping Valley Oak Elementary School Open

This is from the Friday March 2, 2007 Davis Enterprise
Tax ourselves to keep school open

How could a town such as Davis, whose primary identity and attractiveness is squarely based on its superior school system, even consider closing a successful neighborhood elementary school? People decide to pay the enormous premiums on housing to live in Davis for one primary reason: superior public education.

Valley Oak is a superior school, even for Davis. Valley Oak is a neighborhood school successfully serving the most economically and ethnically diverse section of Davis with the most successful English learner program in Davis.

Everyone knows there is a gap between the projected school budget and the cost of running the schools, not as a result of the schools, their teachers, students and parents, but because of the management of the schools by the school board in its incorrect assessment of enrollment projections some years ago.

For this fault of others, and no fault of their own, a unique, thriving, exemplary elementary school serving the most in need of special educational resources has been targeted to close, and by doing so dispersing its educational community, disassembling its parent-teacher organization, scattering its student body, breaking up friendships and study circles and depriving an intact neighborhood of its primary unifying institution.

How clever. How much easier, less courageous, less inventive and principled than in seeking additional and reallocated resources — and by doing the right thing by and from all its citizens.

By closing Valley Oak, what a clear and unequivocal signal the school system would be sending not only to the Valley Oak community, but to all lower-income families and ethnic minorities: When push comes to shove, yes, even in dear good Davis, money counts, race counts here, too. Those that have it get more; those that don't, well, maybe some other time.

Davis can afford its public schools; we are wealthier than we admit. No one will have any less of a comfortable life if we tax ourselves an additional $25, even $50 per household to ensure all public school are fully funded. The only real question is: Are we as decent as we are wealthy? We will soon find out.

Peter London

Freddie Oakley to Be Honored by Gay Rights Group

The Davis Enterprise also on March 2, 2007 reports that Yolo County Clerk and Recorder Freddie Oakley will be honored by the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center. She will receive the "Building Bridges Award."

According to the article:
The award is given to an individual who has shown leadership in fostering positive relationships between diverse communities in pursuit of equal rights for all, said Lester Neblett, executive director of the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center.

"By issuing symbolic 'Certificates of Inequality' to same-sex couples who are denied the right to marry, and doing so at her own expense and on her own time, Ms. Oakley made a tremendously courageous stand," Neblett said.

"Through her actions, she acknowledged the inherent unfairness of denying gay and lesbian people the right to marry the persons they love and denying gay families the huge number of legal rights, protections and financial benefits that go along with marriage.

"Although Ms. Oakley herself is straight and happily married, her actions built a bridge between the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and all Californians who support equal rights."
Freddie Oakley has come under fire for her involvement in the issuance of Certificates of Inequality; however, many support her for her courage.

The Charles Goethe Controversy in Sacramento

The Sacramento Bee reports:
The Sacramento City Unified School District board voted Thursday to form a citizens committee to brainstorm new names for the [C.M. Goethe Middle School] after officials learned of Goethe's lesser-known, dark side as a national leader in the eugenics movement.
What caught my attention though was this line:
[Sacramento City] Councilman Kevin McCarty still finds the Goethe story unsettling. "I didn't even know what eugenics meant until a month ago," he said.
Not to make too much out of this, but I find it somewhat alarming that an elected City Councilmember of a city of the size of Sacramento had never known what "eugenics" was until recently. Of course that is not nearly as alarming as being told that a former Police Chief in Solano County had never heard of New Zealand.

Free Film on 9-11

Mark Graham of Davis wrote me a few days ago that he had a film on 9-11 that he would make available to the public for free.

The film contains evidence on the truth about 9-11.

For those interested in contacting Mark Graham, all he needs is some contact information. You can contact him by clicking here and sending him an email.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

County Expands EAP through Psychological Resource Associates

In striking contrast to the claims made by staff at the city of Davis back in January, Yolo County continues to receive its Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through Psychological Resource Associates (PRA).

If you recall, city staffer Melissa Chaney made the claim that PRA was not Knox-Keane certified and that this lack of certification meant they could only offer limited services (also see). We later discovered that in fact that was not true and that PRA was exempt from the certification standards since they were a pay-per-service operation.

This week, the County Human Resources department announced additional benefits available to employees through the EAP provided through Psychological Resource Associates.

Some of these programs include: Financial Counseling including credit counseling, first-time homebuyer Workshops, identity theft counseling, default and foreclosure counseling.

They also provide legal information and services through Legal Match, which is a national company that provides their clients with an extensive law library written for the consumer of legal services with over 220 legal topics. These topics include general information in layman's terms to better help the employee understand the law. Legal Match also provides a referral services to refer employees to lawyers in the area.

The claim that the city of Davis was making in terms of PRA's lack of certification was an odd one to begin with given the number of local governance bodies served by PRA and the fact that Dr. Dean Dickerson and his colleagues at PRA are individually licensed by the State of Californian to provide EAP services. Yolo County continues to receive their Employee Assistance Program through PRA and it is clear that PRA offers a wide variety of services in addition to just short-term psychological care. Several other local governing bodies also receive their EAP services through PRA.

The City of Davis claimed that they wanted a more versatile program for their EAP, however it is clear to many that an HMO or national insurance corporation such as Cigna is more likely to lead to a cutback in overall services than it is to expand them. It is unfortunate that the city would opt to switch their provider from a local provider to a national provider. One of the stated goals of any city should be to keep as much business as possible within the hands of local business. Not only does that encourage local business and improve the local economy, but often local businesses do a better job even if they may not have the economies of scale to things cheaper. As our numbers indicate, it appears Cigna would at the very least lose some money in the contract that they signed with the city. That should have been viewed with much more suspicion by the Davis City Council and city staff than it was.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, March 02, 2007

Superintendent Murphy To Retire/ School Board Receives Best Uses of School Task Force Report

Longtime Superintendent David Murphy of the Davis Joint Unified School District stole the show last night with a surprise announcement that he was stepping down effective July. Citing family needs and personal changes, Superintendent Murphy said that the District would immediately appoint an acting Superintendent to aid in the transition and he would work with that individual as the Board sought a new full-time Superintendent.

While Murphy was heavily praised at this meeting, he has long been a source of great controversy both within the school district and in the community as a whole. It is no secret that the majority of school board members were not happy with his performance, however their hands were largely tied by an extension granted by a previous board on their way out.

Meantime the bulk of the school board meeting took up the issue of Valley Oak Elementary school, its proposed closure, and the report by the Best Use of Schools Task Force.

Chair Kirk Trost presented the Task Force’s methodology and findings for nearly an hour and a half Thursday night. He expressed deep sorrow to have to report their recommendation for closing Valley Oak Elementary School.

The Davis Joint Unified School District contracted with Davis Demographics and Planning, Inc. (DDP) to update and analyze demographic data and make projections as to future population. The assumptions and methodology were sources of great controversy within the community—especially those in relation to scope and magnitude of future development. However, their findings suggested that over the course of the next 10-15 years, the district enrollment would fall by 400 students and that nearly 250 of those would be in elementary schools.

That would leave the optimal number of elementary schools at around 7 to 7.5. They quickly settled on the eight schools as the optimal strategy.

One of the key issues that they addressed was transportation and how far students would have to walk to school. Their statistics and projections suggested that closing down Valley Oak Elementary school would have virtually no impact on the number of Valley Oak students who would be within one mile walking distance and the number of students within one and a half mile walking distance from their school. That means that for current Valley Oak Students, on average, the walking distance using those two metrics would be virtually unchanged.

Board President Jim Provenza asked about looking at half a mile distance, and Trost suggested that they had not looked at that and suggested that this was a distance standard used by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the Center for Disease Control, and various walk-to-school organizations. He also pointed out that if they used a tougher standard it would not be uniform throughout the district.

The Task Force also strongly suggested the need for schools in the 420 range in order to have full facilities and program options that they considered optimal.

Finally, they made the argument that if Valley Oak remained open a very large percentage of students attending Valley Oak would be Title I students—between 60 and 70 percent. Whereas the Valley Oak Closed Option would result in the greatest amount of socioeconomic diversity and balance across the District with only around 30 percent of any school being Title I.

All in all it was a very strong presentation by the Task Force and Mr. Trost. The Task Force now wishes to be relieved of their duty, although the school board still has remaining questions of them. And it appears that may happen as soon as Saturday during a special meeting.

The Community then came out to speak and the vast majority were parents in the Valley Oak area. In fact, only one community member was in favor of the eight-school option and that was Michelle Reardon, a former school board candidate and current member of the Social Services Commission for the City of Davis. She actually recommended North Davis elementary close. She argued that getting a little extra funding from a bond measure would only be putting a band aid on the problem and that the community is not going to grow rapidly.

A number of representatives from the organization Davis Open were in attendance and spoke at length on their concerns. One clear disadvantage that this group had was that they were individually only able to speak for three minutes, whereas not only did the Chair Kurt Trost speak for nearly an hour but each of the members of the committee were able to speak as well. There was no symmetry in the speech allowance, it would have been more reasonable if a spokesperson from Davis Open were permitted a chunk of time to do a more full response.

Nevertheless, I think the opponents were able to get their point across. Rick Gonzales, Jr, a long time teacher and educator in this community who works for the Concilio, an organization devoted to getting Latino and low income students to college by awarding scholarships spoke about the prowess of the ELL program at Valley Oak and argued that it is the best in the district and for that reason alone, Valley Oak needs to stay open.

Another member of Davis Open, Fred Buderi said “I "do not think it is in the best interest of the community to close an elementary school." He remarked that one of the biggest challenges is finding affordable housing for people with children and that the Valley Oak area is one of most affordable for people with children. He suggested that the General Plan process is just beginning and he identifies dozens of sites within the valley oak area for growth.

Baki Tezcan argued that enrollment has not declined yet. He cites the 1999 election that authorized the building of two new schools to bring a total of nine schools to the school district. Closing Valley Oak, he argued would be "dismissing democratic input of davis who approved nine schools." He said this was a question of "whether elders are entitled to overturn will of the people especially if they are from white upper classes." Finally he questioned both the assumptions and the validity of the projections. "Beyond three to five years, projections never certain and should not be characterized as such." Differences in projections were described by the task force as simply a technical adjustment and those assumptions may simply be incorrect.

The basic argument put forth by Davis Open was that they did not believe that school should be pitted against school or neighborhood against neighborhood. Mr. Trost told the board that great pains were taken to avoid that as well. Davis Open argued that the strength of Valley Oak was the diversity and richness of its programs. The strength of its GATE program, of ELL, and the strong neighborhood program made it unique and worth preserving.

One of the big assumptions made by the Task Force was the strength of big schools. However, it seems to me and it was argued by members of the public that there are advantages to small schools as well. And this needs to explored as a possibility.

School Board member Keltie Jones apologized to the Task Force for any abuse they suffered from the community in response to the work that they had done. Mr. Trost took offense to the suggestion that they did not solicit information from any specific community—he said that could not be further from the truth. He concluded by saying he personally thinks this is the right thing to do, although painful and a decision that bring him great sorrow, but he wouldn’t have made the recommendation if he did not believe it was in the best interest of all involved including the students at Valley Oak Elementary school.

In a future meeting the board will ask further questions and take a vote on it. At this point, it is hard to know what will happen. I know of at least two board members who will oppose closing down Valley Oak Elementary School. Will there be a third to join them? That I just cannot predict. The Task Force really pushed for them to make an immediate decision and not put it off for a year as three school board members recently indicated a preference for.

While I found the task force recommendations compelling, I think a creative policy and program revision can be found to keep nine schools open in the short-term and I think in the long term, there is going to be a measure of growth and a need for additional schools.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Commentary: Why is a reality show looking at Yolo County Law Enforcement?

Josh Fernandez of the Woodland Daily Democrat perhaps had the line of week in his opener to the article on a proposed reality television show that will cover Yolo County Law Enforcement. Fernandez wrote: "Either Hollywood is running out of actors or Yolo County is a breeding ground for up-and-coming thespians." (Admit it Josh, you just wanted to use the word "thespian" in an article).

Lost in the oddity of the proposal to create a reality TV show based on Yolo County law enforcement, is the question of why would a producer choose Yolo County--a generally small and rural county--of all places to do a television show?

A small amount of research by our crack research team has revealed rather close connections between Scott M. Hervey--the prospective producer for this endeavor and Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig.

At first glance it would appear to be strange that a person whose work includes representation of rap artists and one of the "Bay Watch Babes", would be affiliated with the perceived clean-cut persona such as Mr. Reisig.

However as it turns out Mr. Hervey and Mr. Reisig attended law school together at McGeorge Law. Hervey earning his JD in 1995 and Reisig in 1996.

The relationship goes well beyond that. Hervey was a strong supporter of Reisig's DA candidacy.

The following was posted on Matt Rexroad's blog on November 8, 2005:
"As a business attorney who has clients throughout the region, I understand how important West Sacramento is to the growth of the business community in greater Sacramento. However, in order for the W. Sacramento business community to grow, the overall community has to be safe. Jeff understands this. He is the clear choice for DA."--Scott Hervey, Partner Weintraub Genshlea Chediak Law Corporation.
So now we understand how an entertainment lawyer such as Scott Hervey would bring a reality television proposal to Yolo County. He supports his old law school buddy in his run for District Attorney's office. When his buddy wins, he proposes a reality television show that would net him millions which will at the same time present a sanitized image of Yolo County law enforcement which will in turn help Mr. Reisig's public image. This is nepotism at its worst. Hopefully now the County Supervisors will do the right thing and reject this embarrassing proposal.

(Caption: Scott Hervey right with Jeff Reisig to his left, Ron Rohde, and Former County Supervisor Frank Siefferman, Jr in December of 2005 at the Sacramento Metro Chamber)

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Souza Admits "Inconvenient Truth" Racial Profiling Does Exist in Davis

It was somewhat surprising to see in the California Aggie on Tuesday that City Councilmember Stephen Souza acknowledged “that racial profiling exists in Davis.”

This follows a year where several of his colleagues — repeatedly — stated that they had reviewed a number of recent complaints against the police department and found them to be totally without merit.

One of the people who came forward during that time was Jamal Buzayan. Another was Bernita Toney who has now had her complaints against the police department vindicated and validated in a court of law as she now awaits an attorney to take up a civil suit on her behalf against the city of Davis.

Recently Mr. Souza suggested on this blog, that the issue for him “is not should the City have oversight [but rather it] is what type we should have.”

The California Aggie quotes him as wondering how often racial profiling occurs.
"What I want to know is if there are cases that have been specifically cited by individuals in the community," he said. "I want to know if there's truth to those allegations. If we find cases of racial profiling in Davis, I want make sure they are dealt [with] appropriately and they will never happen again."
While I have generally been a proponent of transparency in governmental actions, especially law enforcement, my biggest concern has always been that those in government acknowledge that we have a problem. It was always clear that neither former councilmember Ted Puntillo nor current councilmember Don Saylor acknowledged that there was a problem. Mr. Puntillo used words like “forced” to describe the council’s move to install even an Ombudsman.

Without an acknowledgment that there exists a problem, it is difficult to enact policy that will lead to a solution for a problem. It is for that reason I was heartened to hear Mr. Souza acknowledge a problem.

The Davis Enterprise last night described an assembly at Davis High School on Tuesday for Black History Month. The keynote speaker was Ron Tyler of the ACLU. He called the issue of racial profiling another “inconvenient truth.”

The Davis Enterprise reports:

He focused on the issue of racial profiling and told the crowd they didn’t have to be people of color to experience profiling.
“Every teen who has gone to the mall has experienced age profiling,” he said, referring to young shoppers who are sometimes closely watched by store personnel.

Tyler, who is a lawyer, shared his own story of profiling. Going to a jail to meet with a client, he was stopped and searched by a police officer who didn’t know him.

While he chuckled at his own situation, he said, “For some people, the consequences of racial profiling are much more severe.”

“Take action,” he told his listeners, “beginning with self-awareness.”

Tyler warned the students to not let personal prejudices interfere. He also told them to speak up and to support one another, as well as support efforts to completely outlaw racial profiling.

“When we don’t stand up to inconvenient truths, everyone suffers,” he said.
Last May around 150 African American UC Davis students marched from the UC Davis Memorial Union to the Davis Police Station. For around two hours, student after student got up and gave testimonials about personal incidents where they believed they were racially profiled. I would estimate at least 20 to 30 students spoke about cases of harassment—many of them not minor.

The sad thing about this incident is that it could have brought about community dialogue. Not one of the city councilmembers at that time were at this rally. The Davis Police Officers for the most part stood behind the glass, often snickering and joking with one another rather than listening to the very credible accounts of racial profiling. The police chief at the time, refused to come out and address the concerns of the crowd.

Recently the Ombudsman Bob Aaronson lamented on the lost opportunity that the Buzayan Case represented to the community.
“As I was quoted in a recent Sacramento Bee article, the Buzayan matter was a missed opportunity to begin a meaningful community dialogue around law enforcement issues… Every honest person who played a role in the Buzayan matter must, in hindsight, admit that he’d/ she’d do some things better, more circumspectly, if a ‘do over’ were possible. Healing requires acknowledgment of as much by everyone. Those who haven’t benefitted (sic) from hindsight will simply repeat their mistakes, to the community’s and their own detriment.”
This march was another lost opportunity for dialogue. Councilmember Souza is unsure how widespread the problem of racial profiling is in Davis? He was on the Human Relations Commission for a number of years and undoubtedly heard many complaints over the years. He was on the watch, when a State Senator’s Staffer endured a racial profiling incident several years back while precinct walking in Davis. And had Mr. Souza been at the rally he would have heard many credible stories and complaints. Furthermore Mr. Souza has sat behind the dais and heard even more as individual after individual came forward last March to press their complaints. And then previously in February. And yet again in April.

The African Americans in this community would tell Mr. Souza, if he asked, that this has been a problem not for years but for decades. That it arises as a public issue every few years but rarely is something done to change it. Hiring an Ombudsman was a good first step, but it remains the first step rather than the completion of the solution. There is much more work that needs to be done.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Yamada's Woodland Announcement

At noon on the steps of the Yolo County Courthouse, Mariko Yamada flanked by many local elected officials and joined by many members of the public at-large announced her bid for the Democratic nomination for California's 8th Assembly District.

Woodland City Councilmember Art Pimentel introduced Yamada to the crowd of supports. "I admire Mariko's commitment to the people she represents. Her dedication to making Yolo County a better place for all is commendable." He added, "Mariko's dedication to making Yolo County a better place for all is truly commendable, and I know she will continue to fight for the working families of Solano and Yolo counties in the State Legislature."

In a written statement Davis City Councilmember Lamar Heystek said, "There is only one candidate with the social service background who can advocate effectively for affordable housing, quality jobs and a living wage for the families of this district. Her name is Mariko Yamada."

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

County Supervisor Mariko Yamada Announces Bid For 8th AD in Fairfield

County Supervisor Mariko Yamada announced her intention to seek the Democratic Nomination for the 8th Assembly District this morning in a very cold Fairfield outside of the County Government Building.

Flanked by her husband Janlee Wong and Solano County Entrepreneur C.C. Yin, Supervisor Yamada made her formal announcement.

"I have always admired Mariko's integrity and commitment to people, and particularly her commitment to civil rights. She works very hard to make people feel included in our democratic process," Mr. Yin said.

Supervisor Yamada emphasized her commitment to working families and social services, vowing not to leave behind the least of our citizens. "I'm talking about the responsibility to remain committed to civil rights for all people, to advocate for those most vulnerable in our society, particularly the working poor, the elderly, and the disabled. I'm talking about speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves."

In a written statement she also said,
"Working families know that one illness, one accident, one shift in retirement benefit payments, one job loss in a family, can rob them of their progress towards the American Dream. As a social worker and county supervisor, I see the daily casualties of the misplaced prioities of our nation and our state. Local governments struggle to provide basic services in the face of constantly changing regulations and the chronic underfunding of basic services. I believe it is time for the people to give voice to common sense policies."
Yamada joins West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon who announced last month at the Davis train station. She issued a challenge to her opponent and other potential opponents, urging them to run a clean and positive race based on ideas and vision rather than personal attacks and negativism. She made sure to emphasize that there could be disagreements on policy goals and position, but that this race should be run on ideas not personal attacks.

At noon in Woodland, Yamada will have her Yolo County Announcement.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

"Cops" Proposed for Yolo County Law Enforcement

(Cue up "Cops" theme song)

It seems like sometimes the best stories are the ones that are almost accidental. I was at the Yolo County Board of Supervisor's Meeting yesterday for the Medical Marijuana issue and a "Cops" episode broke out.

Actually is was an agenda item that proposed a reality television show to follow around the Yolo County Sheriff's Office and chronicle their every moves--or at least all of their positive moves.

Scott Hervey from Weintraub was the person handling the arrangements.

The entire idea provoked considerable concern from members of the County Board of Supervisors.

Mr. Hervey in addition to Sheriff Ed Prieto and District Attorney Jeff Reisig asserted repeatedly that this will not portray Yolo County law enforcement in a negative light. Moreover the Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office has complete control over content and can prevent any information from coming forth that is negative or reflects negatively on the department or the county. Repeatedly they mentioned this will cast the department only in a positive light.

Supervisor Matt Rexroad had some concerns. He did not want this to portray the county in any sort of negative light. “I do not want this to turn into Reno 911.” He said he would feel more comfortable with county counsel having veto rights to content written into the contract.

Mr. Hervey stopped short of that guarantee in the contract but did try to alleviate that concern.

Supervisor Thomson was concerned that the public defender was not represented in this negotiation process. At least 20 percent of prison population is severely mentally ill. Who will sign for them? Will their rights be properly represented. Also, concerned with confidentiality issues. What happens if this impacts some trial in court negatively? She said she was not interested in sensationalism, but rather she was interested in telling the real story. But that's exactly the problem, the real story is often boring and sometimes casts things negatively.

In the most humorous moment of the proceedings, Supervisor Duane Chamberlain referred to District Attorney Reisig and Sheriff Ed Prieto as "Rocky and Bullwinkle."

All joking aside, the Board of Supervisors seemed very uncomfortable at least at this point with the proposal and the lack of information that they had on this prior to it coming before them.

My concern is that here we have a system that has numerous very serious complaints and lawsuits against it and it is going to be portrayed in a very sanitized version to the public. The Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's office gets full editorial control? That's not information, that's propaganda. The ugly sides of the operations will never make the air but we will see the Sheriff's Deputy walking the old lady across the street, so to speak.

This does not seem to serve the public's interest whatsoever. The only way this is going to sell is if there is something entertaining and sensational about it. So if that's not going to be about the Sheriff's themselves, it has to be about someone? Some poor mentally disabled person who acts crazy? Is that what entertainment has come down to?

This seems a very inappropriate endeavor for our county and hopefully it is ultimately rejected by our elected official.

I like "Cops" as much as the next person, but sanitizing law enforcement does no one any good.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Board of Supervisors Approves of Medical Marijuana ID Cards by 3-2 Vote

The Yolo County Board of Supervisors earlier today heard an item to approve and authorize the implementation of the Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program in Yolo County as required by Senate Bill 420. The Health Department would be the entity responsible for issuing identification cards to eligible residents.

Despite federal law making the possession of marijuana illegal, California law authorized by Senate Bill 420 in 2003 requires counties to issue medical marijuana identification cards for medicinal purposes.

This authorization would be to simply accept an application and fee, take a photo of the user, a verification that the patient is a Yolo County resident and that the doctor is licensed in the state of California and indeed prescribed the drug to the patient. Medical marijuana would be allowed for patients with AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and other serious ailments. They may have up to eight ounces of marijuana in their possession and up to six plants per patient.

A number of individuals affiliated with various advocacy groups including health advocacy and patients advocacy made a strong case that marijuana had very strong positive effects.

Peter Simpson who is the executive director of a social service agency pointed out that marijuana has legitimate medication value for people with needs. People who are staving to death from AIDS and suffer nausea from pain medication are literally starving to death as they lack the calorie intake to survive. Marijuana use both reduces nausea and increases appetite.

Another concern raised was the instances of arrest for marijuana possession which has risen by a large margin in the last 15 to 20 years. This was presented as a means to keep sick people out of the legal system where they do not belong and allow them to get the help of that they need. Aaron Smith of the advocacy group Safe Access Now pointed out that this would help remove the burden from law enforcement to identify those who are legitimate users by providing them with a uniform means of identifying individuals who have legitimate purposes.

Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig and Sheriff Ed Prieto both argued against this proposal from a legal standpoint. Reisig argued, "If this passes, it puts law enforcement in between a rock and a hard place." He pointed out that the majority of counties have not gone this route. Moreover this is a "Violation of federal law, period." The U.S. Supreme Court he argued, made it clear that federal law through supremacy cause makes federal law binding in the states.

Supervisor Mike McGowan asked District Attorney Reisig if an officer stopping someone is enforcing federal or state law?

Reisig completely avoided that question and simply repeated that this put a law enforcement officer between a rock and a hard place.

However, Reisig avoided the question because he knows full well that the county and local police do not enforce federal laws, rather they enforce state laws and the state law of California is clear, not only does the law allow the use of marijuana with the permission of a doctor for the purposes of medicinal use but the state law Senate Bill 420 requires counties to provide identification cards. And the State Supreme Court upheld this law this past December.

Supervisor Mariko Yamada strongly supported this item. She pointed out that she supported Proposition 215 in 1996. She said it requires courage to lead the way rather than someone else tell us what to do. She argued that this brings structure to what is already a chaotic system and that the issue was compassion versus criminalization.

Supervisor Helen Thomson moved this item and McGowan seconded the motion.

Supervisor Thomson said that the District Attorney and Sheriff are between a rock and a hard place.
“For me medical necessities outweigh that concern. Many people are helped with this ability to use this drug. It is time we got over the strange way of dividing how we access drugs for pain and get over punishing people who are in pain instead of helping them.”
The motion passed 3-2 with Rexroad and Chamberlain dissenting.

It was a bit disappointing to see Rexroad vote against the item as he had come out in favor of the item on his blog just a few days earlier citing he had "real doubt about making it illegal while we allow alcohol and tacacco (sic) to be used freely. We have to draw a line somewhere but I am not sure that the current line can be justified."

Nevertheless with the three Democrats on the board voting in favor of it--Yamada, McGowan, and Thomson--Yolo County has achieved Yamada's somewhat tongue-in-cheek goal of "not letting Los Angeles get ahead of us on this issue."

On a more serious note, this is something that can help a lot of people who are dying and in a great deal of pain live out their last days in a greater measure of comfort and human dignity than the current system allots them. It seems amazing in this day and age that we have draconian notions of law enforcement and antiquated fears of abuse stand in the way of sick people and relief. It is a shame that our law enforcement community was not more supportive of this endeavor that would seem to make their job easier rather than more difficult.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Yamada's Proposal for Countywide Talks Goes Back Two Years

On Friday, February 23, 2007 Elisabeth Sherwin of the Davis Enterprise wrote that "Davis Councilman Stephen Souza and Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada are eager to bring the city and county to the table to talk about a cooperative future."

The implication of this article was that Supervisor Yamada and Councilmember Souza were working jointly on a plan to bring the city and county into talks. This is in fact untrue.

The bulk of the article suggests that the idea put forth was by Souza.

However, the article fails to mention that this is not a new idea. In fact, Supervisor Yamada introduced this idea to the County Board of Supervisors in January of 2005, a full two years ago. However, it quickly became apparent that Yamada lacked the votes to win approval of her proposal and in fact was the only Supervisor to support the idea. So instead of putting it up for a vote, she asked that the memo she wrote to her colleagues setting forth her idea be submitted to the County file for the public record.

During the course of last week as Yamada learned of the article being written by Ms. Sherwin, Yamada sent both Ms. Sherwin and Councilmember Souza a copy of her two year old memo--however this was not mentioned in the Davis Enterprise Article. The basic idea was that the County and City Governments collaborate and cooperate on the drafting of a new general plan. "I believe that our current General Plan process provides an excellent initial opportunity for a “council of governments” to listen to each other about the future of Yolo County," Yamada wrote.

Dated January 25, 2005 the memo contained a proposal for a Yolo County Council of Governments (YCCOG).

Yamada wrote:
"Recent events, including the Gateway Auto Mall issue, the issuance of the SMUD Annexation Feasibility Study, and the challenges in scheduling an Yolo County “all-electeds dinner”, have reinforced my observations over the past year that we may wish to consider a more structured communication mechanism between the County and our four city partners in Davis, West Sacramento, Winters, and Woodland on issues of mutual concern."
Yamada concluded:
"Dialogue among Yolo County officials is not a new idea, but one that continues to reinvent itself. Should our Board agree in concept with going forward with a “Yolo County Council of Governments”, or YCCOG, I would request that this idea be explored with each of our City partners, and that our CAO and appropriate departments be asked to analyze further what staff impacts would result from the development of a more regularized discussion opportunity among the various governments in Yolo County.

It is not my intent to “add another meeting” to our already overflowing schedules, but to suggest that there may be a better way to communicate among ourselves—at least annually--on issues of countywide significance."
Advocates of slow growth have been concerned that these talks would be used to force growth upon the cities on their periphery. However, what is ironic is that had this structure been in place two years ago and there was a joint body in existence, much of the concern about development on the northwest quadrant of Davis may have been alleviated because there would have been improved communication between the city and county bodies about their needs and concerns with regards to development and also county resources and services.

As we have discovered in the realm of foreign relations--talking is never a bad idea. It may not resolve differences and bring common understanding, but it is preferable to the alternatives.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, February 26, 2007

Police Officer's Falsified Report Leads to Drawn Out Legal Ordeal for Local Resident

On March 7, 2005, police were called out to the Shasta Point Retirement Apartments in Davis on a report of children allegedly left unattended in a vehicle in the parking lot. According to the police report a witness saw two juveniles, ages five and two years old, in a vehicle alone at noon. Nearly an hour later, the witness reported that both juveniles were still in and about this vehicle unsupervised.

Sgt. Delaini arrived on the scene just after 1:00 pm and contacted the mother of the juveniles, Bernita Toney. According to the police report, Ms. Toney told the police a woman who was with a dog had been asked to watch her children. The police would apparently talk to the wrong woman with a dog.

According to Ms. Toney, when Sgt. Delaini arrived at the scene she was kneeled down in the front seat on the passenger side. She stated that when Sgt. Delaini

“looked at the kids his words were they look fine, don’t look like they have been harmed in any way. He went on… They look healthy, not endangered.”

Ms. Toney later wrote,

“I did not leave the children unattended and the first officer on the scene did not find the children unattended.”

It was the next police officer on the scene, Officer Docken, who wrote the report and eventually filed it with the DA when a warrant was issued for the arrest of Ms. Toney for failure to care for her children. The Yolo County District Attorney’s office would charge Ms. Toney with two misdemeanor counts of a

“violation of Section 273a(b) of the California Penal Code, Abusing or Endangering Health of a Child, in that [she] did willfully and unlawfully, under circumstances other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death, cause or permit a child to suffer, and inflict thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, and, having the care or custody of said child willfully cause and permit the person and health of said child to be injured, and did permit said child to be placed in a situation that its person and health was endangered.”

According to Officer Docken’s report, the “lady with the dog” was Ms. Burke.

“Witness Burke’s statement: Burke went out the front of the building to walk her dog. She saw two little children in the car parked in front of the building. The rear passenger door was open. She heard crying. She approached the children. The older child shut the door. Burke tried to talk to the children, but they would not talk to her. She was outside for about a minute, before she returned to the lobby. She was in the lobby for about ten minutes before the police arrived…. Burke believes that the children’s mother is a single parent who probably cannot afford to hire someone to watch her children. Burke did not want to see the mother punished.”

This is a key statement as we will later see, for Ms. Burke would testify under oath that she never gave a statement to any officer, investigator, etc. Moreover as Ms. Toney said, “This was not the person I left watching my children.”

The District Attorney’s office offered Ms. Toney diversion and under advice of her public defender, Ms. Toney who believed herself innocent, decided to take diversion. However, in the course of filling out the paperwork, she was required to make statements that she believed cast her within the light of being guilty. She could not in good conscience fill out this paperwork. “Upon receipt of the packet, I found that the questions in the material were impossible to answer. Contents included questions like, where did you commit your crime. The logical option was to retroactively reject the District Attorney’s offer.” And so against the advice of counsel, Ms. Toney rejected the diversion offer and opted to have her day in court in front of a jury.

In the meantime, Ms. Toney filed a complaint against the police for falsifying the police report: “Officer #29 wrote and submitted a police report (05-01347) that contained false information.” She then added,

“I feel this police report was purposely misconstrued to convince members of [the] DA’s office they would have probable cause for my arrest. Probable cause must be based on facts. The fact is, if the report would have been a reflection of the truth there would not [have been] probable cause for my arrest. She was informed that I had [a] witness. She did not give a good faith effort to contact my witness.”

On October 9, 2006 Sgt. Gina Anderson who headed the Professional Standards Unit (until her transfer to Citrus Heights Police Department), sent Ms. Toney a letter.
“I personally viewed your complaint with the Interim Chief of Police, who makes the final decision in all matters of this nature. Your complaint alleging dishonesty has been classified as UNFOUNDED. However, during the course of this investigation I found your criminal case was not sufficiently investigated and therefore a violation of our rules and regulations for which there was a finding of SUSTAINED.”

In fact, Ms. Burke would tell investigators for the public defenders office and later testify on the stand that the report was false.

According to the report,

“Mrs. Burke was asked if she was talked to by an officer from Davis Police Department. Mrs. Burke replied she was not. Mrs. Burke stated she never talked to any officer about the incident.”

Ms. Burke was then read the statement in the police report from Officer Docken.

“Mrs. Burke stated the statement is a fabrication. Mrs. Burke stated the car door was not open, the children were not crying and she returned to her residence, not the lobby.”

Mrs. Burke then suggested that she

“believes [front desk employee of Apartment complex who phoned the police in the first place] may have told the police officer this information. Mrs. Burke stated [she] assumed all of this and blew everything up.”

Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hayes reportedly wanted to drop the case but was told by her superiors that she had to get the conviction and therefore could not drop this case. We saw similar complaints against Ms. Hayes in the Khalid Berny case where a resident was prosecuted for an offense that was relatively minor and threatened with long imprisonment. This represents a pattern of complaints against the Yolo County District Attorney’s office and their refusal to stop prosecuting cases that lack strong evidentiary support.

Ms. Toney went to trial a few weeks ago and the jury took less than an hour and a half to acquit her of the misdemeanor charges. This is an example of a very unfortunate incident highlighted not only by poor police work and a fabricated police report, but by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office’s overzealous prosecution of all offenses regardless of their lack of sound basis and evidence. The Yolo County District Attorney’s office steadfastly refuses to drop any case and orders their deputy district attorney’s to proceed in an attempt for a conviction often against their better judgment.

According to many people in the system the police report is a key determination of which cases go to trial and which ones do not. In this case, the falsified report led the Yolo County District Attorney’s office to file charges against Ms. Toney and they would have succeeded based on the recommendations of the public defender’s office who recommended to Ms. Toney that she take diversion.

Others have informed me that in other locales, the District Attorney’s office is much more vigilant in overseeing the production of police reports and frequently bounce them back to the police to fill in missing information and to get them right. However, in Yolo County, the District Attorney’s office NEVER bounces them back to the police. This leads police to often cut corners in their investigation.

When they deal with lower income people and minorities such as Ms. Toney they usually get away with it because they are rarely challenged, since they lack the financial resources to contest such charges.

The other concern here is how Sgt. Gina Anderson came up with an unfounded complaint when the witness herself denied she was ever contacted by Officer Docken. Did Sgt. Anderson contact this witness? And if so, how did she arrive at the conclusion that this was unfounded?

What is perhaps more tragic is that this case went on for nearly two years. Because this situation was ongoing, Ms. Toney was unable to complete her certification to become a manicurist and her testing to get her realtor’s license. This gravely impacted her economic situation as a single mother - with two small children and two older children - who was working hard to make a better life for her family. The ongoing legal situation cost her two years worth of lost wages and income.

This case illustrates the continuing problems with both the Davis Police Department and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Commentary: Whither Human Relations Commission

Somebody asked me last week if I was planning to go to Thursday night's Human Relations Commission meeting. I went to the first two--and it was a good thing that I did because at the second meeting, Guy Fischer showed up and told the story of his son's harassment. I have not been to one since and this was no exception. I looked at the agenda and there were two items about events, one item about the Thong Hy Huynh Awards, and one event on a Forum that they were deciding what topic to have it on. Those were their actions items which told me what I needed to know--they were taking no action.

I do not blame this on the membership per se, because they are doing exactly what the City Council had in mind when they disbanded the former Human Relations Commission back in June (where my wife had served as chair). Unfortunately, I have only a limited amount of time these days and I have to choose my meetings very carefully.

The anti-discrimination ordinance grants the human relations commission with the power to be an investigative body rather than an educational body.

Section 7A-15(C) of the Davis Anti-Discrimination Ordinance:
"Any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against in violation of the provisions of this ordinance may file a request to have the Human Relations Commission investigate and mediate his or her complaint. The Commission may adopt rules of procedure to accommodate the needs of such investigation mediation. A complaint to the Commission shall not be a prerequisite to filing a civil action under this section, and the findings and conclusions of the commission issued in response to such proceedings shall not be admissible in a civil action."
At one point the HRC was going to review this code to see if it needs revisions. I do not know what came of that.

On the other hand, there is a strong role to play even if the HRC is to be merely an educational rather than an investigative body.

This point came up in another discussion based on comments on the Sacramento Bee website in comment section following an article on the Fischer case. (See my commentary from earlier this week on those comments).

If one reads the comments there, there is a string of anti-gay comments. The school board has implemented a series of strong rules that impose a zero-tolerance policy against harassment. But it seems obvious that what is happening at the school level reflects a deeper seated societal bias against gay people--even in portions of progressive communities such as Davis.

A number of the protesters last week against Freddie Oakley were from Davis. People are entitled to believe that homosexuality is immoral or that the lifestyle is wrong. However there is a line between an expression of political and religious preferences and an expression that is simply hate speech--some of the protesters crossed that line and some of the commenters on the Sacramento Bee drove it into a gully of hate.

The school board can change the rules at the district level but what are they going to do about society? In past years, this is where the Human Relations Commission would have a strong role--helping to educate the community and bringing awareness to this problem. In fact, this is where this human relations commission could still have a role because they are after all now an educational body. But the Human Relations Commission found out about the Fischer harassment case in November (at the same time as myself) and other than the chair of the commission going to the School Board meeting, to my knowledge they have not done a thing.

The City Council wants no eggs broken by the HRC after what happened last year. But the history of social change and the movement for social justice call for eggs to be broken and milk to be spilled in order to change the trajectory of society and the mores of citizens.

Fredrick Douglass writing in 1857 recognized this as well anyone:
"If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters."
The heroes of the Civil Rights struggle did so by creating turmoil against established authority.

For a body to be effective in producing social change, they must upset the current order.

The bottom here is that there remains a strong place in our city and in our governance for a body that can both educate the public and raise a ruckus to further the cause of social justice. The city council last year severed our government from such a body. While they were concerned about divisiveness in the community--how do you teach people that it is wrong to discriminate and hate gay people without causing divisiveness? How does one stop discrimination without drawing the ire of those perceived to be discriminating? How does one teach tolerance without going after those who are intolerant? How does one teach love without going after those who hate? Even the strongest teacher's of passive disobedience and non-violent resistance recognize that in order for you to turn someone from hate with love, it inevitably requires confrontation and confrontation means that one must spill some milk.

It will take this city a long time to recognize what they lost when the City Council disbanded the Human Relations Commission. At some point they may realize that maybe we gave up too much...

---Doug Paul Davis reporting