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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Commentary: Protecting Davis from Peripheral Growth is a High Priority

Recent developments with the county and other proposals have caused me to look at our current means to protect ourselves from sprawl and leap-frog development projects.

A Bob Dunning column recently stated:
the Measure J concept has served Davis well … it doesn't prevent growth, it simply allows everyone to have a say …
Furthermore he has in the past argued:
Measure J is neither anti-growth nor pro-growth, but simply a measure that allows people to vote on growth.
Dunning is wrong on this account--Measure J is the single-most important growth control device that Davis currently has. All one needs to do is make a comparative look at Davis history. Leading up to 2001, when Measure J took effect, there were any number of large subdivisions added on the Davis periphery that greatly increased the growth and size of the city residentially.

How many peripheral subdivisions have been approved since 2001?

Zero. That is in six years zero.

In fact, the very threat of a Measure J vote requirement has been a deterrent for growth proposals.

There has been one single development project that was proposed since Measure J was passed--Covell Village. Covell Village failed by a nearly 60-40 margin despite having 4-1 support in the city council. If it were not for Measure J, Covell Village would be under construction right now.

This is also why most of the talk in the Housing Element Update and in growth in Davis in general, seems to be focused on infill rather than peripheral growth.

So to suggest that Measure is neither anti-growth nor pro-growth is an empirically unfounded statement.

What I think is less obvious to many Davis residents is that there is another growth-control factor that is just as important--the pass-through agreement between the city and county. Basically this is an arrangement that enables the city of Davis to pass through over $2 million per year of redevelopment money to the county and in exchange the county has ceded land use authority to the city.

What that means is that the county cannot build large developments on the Davis periphery without city permission. The city cannot build those developments without a Measure J vote.

This process may be under assault right now however with proposals by the county to change three key areas that are inside the city's agreed upon sphere of influence--Northwest Quadrant, Covell Property, and the antiquated subdivisions east of Mace Boulevard along I-80. If the county can succeed in changing the land-use designations for those properties they are well on their way toward development.

Members of the Davis city council may be working behind the scenes to attempt to force this growth on Davis. We are talking about a 2100 unit senior housing development north of Covell and west of Lake. We are talking about development in the Covell Property that the voters of Davis just a year and a half ago soundly rejected, and we are talking about commercial development along I-80 that even members of the council majority strongly oppose.

Fortunately for the residents of Davis we have a pass-through agreement and Measure J to help protect us, but we must remain vigilant in protecting those safeguards. And we must pay attention to what the City Council and the Board of Supervisors are proposing.

Some have interpreted this stance to mean that myself or others like me oppose all growth. Nothing could be further from the truth--I simply believe that the city should have land-use authority for the area around the city and that the county should not have the capacity to force growth on cities. I also believe that the voters should maintain control over what projects get built and what projects do not get built. Measure J needs to be renewed in the coming years to continue to provide that level of security.

I also think people are lulled into a false sense of security by some of the proposed projects and growth rates. The SACOG designated growth is 1 percent per year. That has been euphanized to mean "fair share." That is the measure that the council majority has adopted.

But what does "fair share" actually mean? A one percent growth rate means a new development the size of Wildhorse every three years and the size of Mace Ranch every seven years. One percent means that by 2050, we are looking at nearly 100,000 people. That doesn't sound like a lot but it will require nearly double our water supply (think that may be why they are developing that expensive water supply project that along with the sewer project will quadruple our water rates in real terms in the next 20 years?) If all cities in California grew at that rate, water a scarce commodity would become even more scarce and even more expensive. At a time of uncertainty about global climate, is a one percent growth rate, really a fair share for anyone?

Realistically, Davis will grow into the future as will California, but I think we need to be looking at smart growth rather than fair share growth. We want to maintain our character and the nature of our community. In the meantime, more communities will likely follow Davis' model of protecting their growth rate and development.

All of which makes the next round of elections all the more important. We need to get people into the the County Board of Supervisors seat that will respect and support the pass-through agreement but more importantly acknowledge the city of Davis as the sole authority on land-use on its own periphery. Just as important, we need a council majority that will support a renewal of Measure J and work to limit new peripheral development rather than support it. That means helping to retake the city council from the current majority of Asmundson, Souza, and Saylor.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Briefs

County Proposals For Joint Study Areas

The County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to approve the following (courtesy of an email from Katherine Hess to the Davis City Council):
1. Meet with the City of Davis through the 2x2 process to allow for joint exploration of revenue producing uses and opportunities regarding development adjoining the City.

2. Designate a joint “special study area” in the area north of Covell Boulevard and west of State Highway 113 (the Northwest Quadrant), by both the County and the City of Davis, to allow for joint exploration of revenue generating opportunities and “special needs housing” (such as housing for seniors), to take advantage of the proximity to the University, University Retirement Community, Sutter-Davis Hospital, and other nearby social services.

3. Add 383 acres of commercial and mixed uses at the northwest corner of the intersection of Covell Boulevard and Pole Line Road, through the use of a joint “special study area” overlay by both the County and the City of Davis to allow for joint exploration of revenue producing uses and opportunities, as well as to allow for coordinated planning with the adjoining Hunt-Wesson cannery property

For the areas along I-80 east of Davis:

4. Add 30 acres of highway commercial use at the interchange of Chiles Road and Interstate-80 and 13 acres of commercial use at the interchange of Mace Road and Interstate-80, south of County Road 32A. (County staff recommendation)

5. Look at the entirety of the I-80 corridor for research, science park, and biotech businesses.
More on the Joint Study Areas

In response to yesterday's blog entry, Mayor Sue Greenwald told me that she was concerned that Don Saylor while opposing the joint study area on I-80, made comments that indicated that he was not opposed to it for the Covell Property and Northwest Quadrant.

This would indicate that both Councilmember Saylor and Souza have both expressed some measure of support for "joint study areas" with the city and county.

There is concern expressed by several people that this means that the council majority was trying to use the county general plan update process and the county's support for joint study sessions to force growth on the periphery of the City of Davis.

Dunning Goes After ACLU

In early March, we reported that the ACLU had written a letter to the Davis Joint Unified School District supporting the Valley Oak Elementary School remaining open based on concerns about it being the sole minority-majority school in the district.

As we reported then:
"The ACLUNC is deeply concerned that a decision to close VOES [Valley Oak Elementary School will violate the constitutional rights of its students." Furthermore they suggest "Because VOES is the only elementary school in the Davis Unified School District where students of color represent a majority of the student body, we believe that a decision to close VOES would have a racially disparate impact on students of color."

"It is also our understanding that closing Valley Oak School will seriously disadvantage those students who would otherwise have attended VOES. Such a closure will deny its students equal access to education in at least two ways. First, the lack of transportation to different schools will result in many children missing early morning classes because of their long walk, thus significantly limiting their class time and increasing their truancy. Second, there is no guarantee that English Language Learner programs will be provided for students who need them at their new schools. English language teachers assert that even an interruption in class time, let alone depriving students of the class altogether, will result in a harmful impact, which will obviously be aggravated if the students are sent to a school without an ELL program."
Yesterday Bob Dunning weighed in this letter from the ACLU that was subsequently withdrawn. In fact, I would suggest that the issues raised by the initial letter indeed had merit. There are concerns about the closing of Valley Oak Elementary School will seriously disadvantage those students. There are concerns about the transportation issue. There are concerns about the EL program's ability to move without seriously disrupting the positive education provided to many students. So in fact, it would potentially have a harmful impact.

Contrary to Mr. Dunning who just over a month ago laid out his liberal credentials for me (or at least asserted them), I think the ACLU's original letter was right on the mark. These are essentially the arguments made by the Davis OPEN folks that Mr. Dunning has strongly and rightly supported. And their only mistake in my opinion, was that they withdrew the letter under apparent pressure from some in the community.

However, I think reasonable people can disagree on this point. Mr. Dunning has every right to disagree with the ACLU and as he has shown in the past, dislike the ACLU (look no further than last spring's long drawn out feud with former Mayor Bill Kopper).

What I think is less defensible is this point:
Although no one knows quite how it happened — and all the locals swear they had nothing to do with it — the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California inserted itself into the Valley Oak controversy at the last possible moment by firing off a letter to the Davis school board that pretty much sealed Valley Oak's fate for good.
What evidence does Mr. Dunning have that the letter from the ACLU "sealed Valley Oak's fate for good?" The letter was not discussed by the board. The letter was not mentioned in private by the members of the board who voted to close Valley Oak. The conversations I had with some of those members focused on finances and declining enrollment as did their public statements. If Mr. Dunning has evidence to the contrary, please step forward with it because I see none and he offers none. He says nothing as to back up that claim. Offers no further comments even on that sweeping assertion.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

District Debates Parcel Tax Renewal and Valley Oak Parcel Tax Wording

Last night the Davis Joint Unified School District took up the issue of polling to determine a number of issues involved with the renewal of the parcel tax.

They have hired a firm to conduct a survey that will question 400 registered voters on a number of issues including how much to raise the parcel tax by in order to accommodate the increase in the cost of living, district priorities, and they will also explore changing the term of the parcel tax from a four year term to perhaps a six or eight year term depending on the responses of the public. The responses would be accurate to a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent within a 95 percent confidence interval.

Currently, the parcel tax represents roughly 5.5 percent of the district's revenue. It is assessed at $166.90 per parcel in the past measure and the renewal would add an additional 20 dollars to this tax--a modest increase that represents a basic COLA increase.

The parcel tax must be very specific in terms of what it funds. At the elementary school level it helps fund classroom size reduction and an elementary reading program. At the secondary level it funds the seventh period for the junior, extended hours for the library and help for at-risk kids. In addition it funds $20 per student for classroom supplies district-wide, technology, counseling, nurses, and training for teachers. (For a full list click here).

The poll will ascertain the public level of commitment those things the parcel tax currently funds. In addition, the board will come up with an additional 20-25 items that it could potentially fund based on community input from various meetings. The pollster will also ask a two open-ended questions to ascertain whether there are other priorities that the public has that the board perhaps has not considered.

Board Member Gina Daleiden mentioned to me that the public can give direct input to the district through the district website, the website directs people to email the district.

Without this parcel tax the district would be in serious financial jeopardy. The problems that the district faces now, pale in comparison to the problems that it would face if the parcel tax were to fail.

The most interesting and also the most contentious part of the discussion last night focus around the second parcel tax and Valley Oak.

They will specifically test separately for the Valley Oak parcel tax. What was perhaps most interesting is that contrary to the concerns raised last week by Board Member Keltie Jones, the consultant said that it has been his experience, particularly in Minnesota that the primary tax gets a bump from a second tax that is tied into it, rather than is harmed of. This represents a general measure of support for education in general. The first proposal gets a boost and in fact the passage of both becomes more likely when they are put on the ballot together than if they were test separately.

Board President Jim Provenza wanted different ways of phrasing the initiative tested--would calling it a nine school initiative be more successful than a tax to keep Valley Oak open. The consultant suggested that almost all language was completely testable in these surveys.

Board Member Sheila Allen flatly stated that she thought a Valley Oak only initiative would lose but a neighborhood schools initiative would pass.

Both Gina Daleiden and Keltie Jones were concerned about language not being misleading. Jones pressed for the language to be that of the initiative and in fact at times seemed very much against even having a ballot. The concern of Daleiden was mostly to be sure that the board not mislead the public.

They made it clear that the motion that was passed was to close Valley Oak unless the public decided it was a priority to keep it open and fund it. It seemed that the board consensus was that they would make it work if the public were willing to increase taxes to fund it. Tim Taylor, who made the original motion, said he was heartened by the consultants comments that the duel measures actually improved chances of passage rather than the other way around.

One thing I think that the board lost sight of somewhat is that the purpose of a poll should be to obtain as much information as possible rather than needing to get the wording for the initiative exactly right before hand. They need to know what the public is willing to support and what their priorities are. Based on that information they can then make informed decisions about what should or should not be on the ballot. But in the meantime, they should ask every question. That means ask the public about the second parcel tax in as many different ways as possible to see what the public will support and what the public wants. And as Provenza and other suggested, do not put a measure for Valley Oak parcel tax on the ballot that will likely fail if you can avoid it.

Keltie Jones suggested that they needed to be the ones to make the decision on priorities and they should not simply base it on the poll. One thing that I suggest is that a poll might tell the board that the public has different priorities from them and that might be very useful information and they may indeed want to make decisions based on the information that the public gives them. That is perfectly legitimate in my view.

Members of the public from Valley Oak seemed concerned by some of this discussion. Fred Buderi of Davis OPEN also suggested they might test a single-ballot initiative with the entire increase encompassed within it. He pointed out that in fact some of the general parcel tax funding provisions went to some students and not the entire student population. I think that is also something that could be tested although from what the consultant said, it may be better to have both ballot measures--which is certainly a bit counterintuitive. I think most assumed that two would be more difficult to pass than one and that it might even jeopardize the one. It would be ironic if the opposite were the case.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday Briefs

Dunning's Comparison of Davis to San Luis Obispo More than a bit Ironic

I was interested reading Bob Dunning's give and take in last night's column with Sue at on San Luis Obispo and the San Luis Obispo downtown. I grew up in San Luis Obispo and attended Cal Poly for undergraduate school before moving to Davis in 1996 with a brief stop in Washington D.C. in between. My folks still largely live in San Luis Obispo, so I keep up somewhat with the local politics down there.
NEWS FROM THE SOUTH … "My son is living in San Luis Obispo this year," began the guided missive from Sue at … "This is the town we should strive to be." … Sue, please, there are children present … San Luis Obispo is a state school … you know, like Sac State …

"They have plenty of parking structures in all corners of their downtown, a trolley-looking bus to move folks around if they so desire and they have turned many of their alley ways into beautiful gardens that give patrons a porch to sit on rather than those we tend to make within parking lots." …

Yes, Sue, downtown San Luis is lovely, but the attitude in this town has always been that others should be copying us, not the other way around … "San Luis has also attracted many top retail stores to pull people into downtown and these stores are generally all open until 8 p.m. or later." … plus, there's the Madonna Inn to pull in all those gawking tourists …

"How cool would it be on a hot summer night to go downtown in the evening, shop and sit in a beautiful garden out the back door of one of our G Street or F Street businesses to enjoy a meal or dessert? I think our local small businesses are missing the point. In San Luis Obispo, the small businesses make it because of the larger chain businesses and their efforts to make beautiful garden walks and patios between buildings and in alleyways. "You don't have to look far to realize that our nicest (cleanest and best maintained) plaza, the Borders complex, was given to us via a large retailer." … indeed … instead of opposing Target, our local merchants you should tried to bring it downtown … another opportunity missed …
I somewhat disagree with Dunning and Sue's takes on the San Luis Obispo Downtown. For one thing, there is no big box store in Downtown San Luis Obispo. The development that would be closest to such a store, would be a complex very similar to Davis' Borders complex where there is a Barnes and Noble instead of a Borders, a Ben and Jerry's, a Starbucks and a movie theater. All of which Davis has already in the downtown.

But the big point that jumped out at me in Dunning's column was his closing remark on Target. "instead of opposing Target, our local merchants you should tried to bring it downtown … another opportunity missed …" As if that somehow followed based on the analogy to San Luis Obispo.

That is certainly not what San Luis Obispo did. San Luis Obispo did not bring big box retail into the downtown. Moreover many of the signature local businesses that were in downtown San Luis Obispo when I was growing up are gone and they have been replaced to some extent by more chain stores that are less likely to be locally owned.

The biggest irony of course is that San Luis Obispo has gone through a fight, centering around Target, that would remind many people of Davis.

There was a property that the San Luis Obispo city council had agreed to annex and approve for development that was just outside of the city limits. They approved a development that would bring in a Target, a Lowe's, and an Old Navy. Now there was much made about the fact that in Davis, Target had to face an election for the first time, but that was a bit misleading, because in April of 2005, San Luis Obispo had a very similar election, albeit not directly on the issue of Target, but rather whether the city should allow the proposed Marketplace Development on the Dalidio Property.

That was placed on the ballot by activists for vote in April of 2005, and like in Davis last year, it was a very close election and unlike in Davis, the proposal was defeated by a 51-49 margin.

However, the developer was not dissuaded. Unlike the city of Davis, there is no county-city agreement on land-use authority outside of city limits but within the agreed upon sphere of influence. And the county placed on the ballot last fall, a county-wide measure authorizing the development of the property. With the entire county able to vote and the county being considerably more conservative than the city of San Luis Obispo, the measure passed overwhelming.

Of course that is not the end of the story. There has been a lawsuit filed on a number of grounds to prevent the construction of the development and it is now tied up in court with another hearing coming in the near future.

The situation in San Luis Obispo is remarkably similar to the types of things that we have seen in Davis. In fact, it is a bit more extreme, for this would be the equivalent of the voters of Davis voting down the Covell Village development and the Yolo County approving it. Unfortunately, that may not be so far-fetched as the County of Yolo has approved placing the Covell Property in a "joint study area" with the city of Davis. Fortunately, Davis is protected by their hard fought pass-through agreement whereas San Luis Obispo is not.

So I wonder how many people would rather have as Mr. Dunning suggests?

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

County Moves Forward with Recommendation for "Joint Study Areas" on Davis Periphery

On Tuesday, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors voted to approve three areas in the Davis sphere of influence as "Joint Study Areas." These areas include the Oeste Ranch area in the Northwest Quadrant and an area in the Covell Village west of Poleline both of which would be designated for residential housing developments, and an antiquated property east of Mace Road along I-80 which would be designated for commercial development. Ostensibly these Joint Study sessions would be used to determined changes in land use designations for the County General Plan Update.

The City of Davis and the City Council remains at least in public adamantly against such developments. As Katherine Hess, Davis Community Development Director wrote in a hand-delivered letter to the board, "we continue to be concerned that the current recommendations being considered could set in motion potential significant land use inconsistent with the long-standing policies embraced by the City and County on urbanization within the City's Planning Area."

The City-County pass-through agreement grants exclusive land use authority to the city of Davis in the Davis planning area in exchange for over $2 million a year granted to the county.

Hess writes:
"The City continues to be very concerned about possible inclusion of retain uses along Intestate 80, either at Mace Boulevard or at Chiles Road. The City of Davis is aware of the fiscal difficulties facing the County. We hope that the funds that the City's Redevelopment Agency passes through each year provide some assistance to your budget. Development along the freeway without the consent of the City would jeopardize that $2 million per year. Retail development that would generate an equivalent amount of revenue for the County seems improbable."
At the last meeting Stephen Souza, Davis City Councilmember, expressed interest in joint meetings to discuss an array of issues, however, the city council as a whole is strongly opposed to a joint meeting. At the two-by-two last week between the city and county, Councilmember Don Saylor was very clear that by agreeing to talk that is all the city was doing. They were not agreeing to reconsidering issues such as peripheral growth.

As Hess wrote:
“There is no City Council consensus on whether the city and county should jointly consider urban development in the northwest quadrant or in the north-central planning sub-area... Although there may be opportunities for continued discussions about future land uses in these areas, we support having these discussions outside of the process for the current General Plan Update.”
Some members of the Davis City Council have pointed out that in fact the voters in Davis resoundingly defeated the development proposal by the city in Covell Village. That being the case, even discussions considering land-use alternatives for the Covell Property should be considered by the voters a direct affront to them. Others members have suggested further that the County is basically declaring war on the city of Davis by trying to force changes within the Davis sphere of influence.

That leads us however to the logical question as to why the County would be pushing this issue so hard if the Davis City Council is so strongly opposed to these developments. A number of people have suggested that while some of the members of the Davis city council have publicly opposed these developments, that others privately support all of these developments but are not willing to admit it publicly. According to a number of sources, the suggestion is being made that the County pushing this issue will give them cover and once they have joint study sessions, some sort of arrangement will be used to justify peripheral growth in Davis that right now is politically infeasible.

While in the past, I have dismissed these notions as somewhat conspiratorial, there is a strong logic to it. For instance, why would a member of the County Supervisors, who is a resident of Davis and a strong ally to some on the city council continue to push this project that the council is unanimously opposed to unless they were getting some sort of differing message in private? In general, the Board of Supervisors tend to defer to the members who represent a given city on such issues, so this issue is being largely pushed by the members of the board who represent Davis. Why would this issue be pushed unless they were at least getting some indication from the city that there would be a possibility that a joint study session may result in a change in preferred land use changes to the areas being studied? Unfortunately, I am forced to conclude that there may be behind the scenes maneuvering by members of the Davis City Council that have kept these approaches alive.

I had no problem with an idea of holding joint City-County discussions on a broad array of topics as suggested a few weeks ago by the Davis City Council. I had no problem with Mariko Yamada's proposal for a sort of Yolo County Council of Governments. It seems there should be some sort of coordination as local governments re-write their respective general plans or in Davis' case, their housing element. However, I am strongly opposed to the county studying areas on the Davis periphery for changes in preferred land use. Land use authority on city edges should be within the domain of the city as the pass-through agreement dictates. These have been long fought for land use principles and they have served both the city and county very well. The County has received revenue well in excess of what they would have received from development and the City has been able to control how and when it grows.

I honestly do not understand the County's continued pressing of this issue while at the same time it seems to be conceding as Hess' letter suggests that "the General Plan Update EIR will not include changes to the existing land use map for these areas."

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Racial Achievement Gap Wide in Davis

The Davis Enterprise reported last night that while students in Davis overall performed very well on the Academic Performance Index, there was also a very wide gap between the highest group Asians and white/ non-Hispanic, and blacks and Hispanics.
Davis students from an Asian background scored highest as a group, with a 934 API. White (non-Hispanic) students in Davis score 884, African-American students scored 758 and Hispanic/Latino students scored 721.

This makes for a gap of more than 210 points between the highest scoring ethnic subgroup and the lowest. Those figures undoubtedly will be discussed by the Davis district's new Achievement Gap Task Force, which was formed several months ago and is now meeting regularly.

Socioeconomically disadvantaged students in Davis scored 707, while students with disabilities scored 668.
However there is some good news in these figures:
“All our other subgroups demonstrate gains,” [Clark] Bryant [director of curriculum and instruction for the Davis school district] said, “with the largest gains being among our English learners (26 points) and our students with disabilities (23 points).”
What this appears to demonstrate is that many of the programs in Davis are indeed working. Parents at Valley Oak Elementary school have cited the success of the English Learner's program as a reason for the school to remain open despite other data that suggested perhaps a decline in enrollment. The suggestion was the school district should not close down a successful school and concern was expressed by both parents and teachers that in fact the program would be disrupted if moved from one location to another.

On the other side of the argument, several members of the board and administrators suggested that the programs could be relocated without disruption to the students. That the district needed to use its resources to continue its successful programs to benefit all students.

To me this continues to demonstrate the vulnerability of students both from disadvantaged and racial minority backgrounds In Davis there is a considerable gap between the achievement of white and Asian students and those of black and Hispanic students. Because of the commitment by the school district that gap lowered over the past year, but it remains unacceptably high for a city and district as well off as this one.

On a statewide basis, Jack O'Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction was alarmed by this racial divide.
“I am deeply concerned that significant gaps exist between the API results for different subgroups of students,” he said in a news release. “I have begun an intensive effort to find ways to close the gap that exists between successful students who are often white or Asian, and financially well off, and struggling students who are too often poor, Hispanic, African American, English learners or with a disability... As a state, we have a moral, ethical and economic obligation to address the needs of every group of students.”
It is very clear to me that we must continue our commitment in public education to closing this gap for the very reasons cited by Mr. O'Connell.

Education is the solution to many of our social problems of inequality and poverty. It leads students to a better life when they are successful, but unfortunately education is not performed in a vacuum and we need to do what we can to help those students who are most vulnerable and of the greatest need. That perhaps was the saddest part of what happened last week with Valley Oak--that those students had what appeared to be a value asset and tool taken away from them.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tuesday Briefs

Letter to Blog Editor:

Lost in projection

Mr. Kirk Trost was incorrect in public comment at the Board Meeting last Thursday when he suggested that the difference between the different sets of K-6 enrollment projections, which were based on different mobility factors, is negligible. The difference in K-6 enrollment projections between the “October Projections (Mobility X)” and the January Projections (Mobility # 2) is 323 students by 2012, the last year for which Mobility X data is available – since the mobility factor used in the October projections is not public information, I call it X.

The October projections were produced for 2006-12 using 2005 data and presented to the BUSATF sometime in fall 2006 but were never made public until January 4 when the Davis Demographics & Planning included them in its PowerPoint presentation at the School Board meeting. Greg Davis, the President of DD&P, underlined the fact that these projections estimated the 2006 enrollments rather precisely (8,580 K-12 projected; 8,606 K-12 actual).

Since these projections are not accessible to the larger public anywhere else than at the website of Davis OPEN (, I am posting the numbers below. The four numbers that follow a particular year are for K-6, 7-9, 10-12, and K-12, respectively. The numbers in parentheses are the ones in the Final Report of the Task Force (p. 19) on the basis of which the recommendation to close Valley Oak was made. I believe the Board members should base their final decision on the October projections since they are the only ones that were tested by time and proven to be sound. An alternative could be to take the average of the two projections, or seek an independent review of the different sets of projections in a way that is open to the public, and not just a selected few.

2007: 4,334 (4,276); 2,075 (2,063); 2,110 (2,147); 8,519 (8,486) – 2008: 4,368 (4,246); 2,033 (2,019); 2,136 (2,141); 8,537 (8,407) – 2009: 4,357 (4,149); 2,120 (2,075); 2,115 (2,133); 8,592 (8,357) – 2010: 4,439 (4,126); 2,105 (2,052); 2,172 (2,171); 8,716 (8,350) – 2011: 4,495 (4,193); 2,140 (2,080); 2,157 (2,151); 8,792 (8,423) – 2012: 4,513 (4,190); 2,131 (2,023); 2,261 (2,211); 8,905 (8,424).

Baki Tezcan

Major Changes with the Davis Downtown Business Association

The Davis Downtown Business Association (DDBA) recently announced that they would no longer be accepting supplemental money from the City of Davis. What this means is that while the city would still collect the assessment fees for the DDBA from its membership, it would not supplement that money with approximately $66,000. In the meantime, the DDBA would still continue to exist but it would change its priorities and goals.

One of the major changes will be the elimination of the two fulltime positions--the executive director position held by Laura Cole-Rowe and her assistant Melissa Martinez. Those positions would be combined into one position that pay considerably less. In fact, it would pay less than the assistant position that Ms. Martinez had previously earned.

Why all of these changes? Most of this stems from the fallout from the Target election. The DDBA had taken a neutral position on Target since its membership and the board were both split. There were two board members who were strongly No on K but they never pushed the board to adopt a position. When Target passed there was considerable blame that went around in some of the merchant communities that the DDBA had not done more--despite the fact that no one really asked it to do more--certainly not the merchants who were later complaining.

As a result of the Target passage, several merchants got together and created a 14-point memo that they used to approach the board of the DDBA. One of these 14 points was not to accept city money. In response, the board created the Task Force for examining various concerns, making recommendations, and eventually helping to reorganize the entire DDBA structure.

In the meantime, several of these merchants got together and founded DIMA (Davis Independent Merchants Association). The members of DIMA would send out surveys. Some have suggested that the membership of DIMA was inflated by the leadership and that everyone who had taken a stand against Measure K had become a member of DIMA whether they were aware of it or not.

Others have complained that DIMA and this organizational effort should have taken place before the Measure K vote and had those resources been turned toward defeating Measure K, the merchants would have been in a far better and stronger position. In essence, these businesses and merchants responded too late to the Measure K threat and did not provide the No on K campaign with enough valuable resources and help until very late in the election. Had this help come earlier, the narrow victory by Measure K could have been prevented.

However, the blame here was placed on the DDBA and its reliance on city money rather than on other aspects.

One key question is whether city money influences policy? The answer to that appears to be yes. But on the other hand, the city never said anything to the DDBA about Target. Nevertheless, some of the membership did not want to accept money from a city that supports peripheral and big box development.

In any case, there was a strong move afoot to separate the DDBA from city money. If one looks around the state, most of these organizations in fact take city funding and form partnerships with the city. Davis is one of the few that did not have a big box. As several have suggested a big box is coming--for better or for worse--the next question should have been how to get money to help the downtown adapt and survive.

The Task Force would meet from January through February talking about the mission, the values, and how the downtown becomes "extraordinary." Many of the things that were highlighted by this task force, in fact the DDBA had been doing for many years. Things like downtown vision, parking, events and marketing were things that were already happening.

The process was downsized from six committees to three. Their goal was to center it down to "grassroots" and why the DDBA was formed 20 years ago--to help the merchants. Of course others have pointed out that there is a misconception that merchants are at the majority of everything, when in fact, they are only a small minority of all the businesses in the downtown.

The Task Force looked long and hard exactly at what staff was doing and began nitpicking as to what they should do. It is not clear that either the Task Force or the Board realized that the consequence from not taking city money would mean that the paid staff would be gone. However, in the end, by a series of one-vote margins, the board ended up approving policy that would lead to the elimination of their two full-time staff positions and place the policy into the hands of three committees.

At an organizational meeting last week, DDBA President Maria Ogrydziak, spoke repeatedly about making Davis an "extraordinary destination" and that they had high hopes and was sure that they can reach these incredible goals. Moreover she was certain they are really on an incredible path here.

The three committees are the committee on downtown visions and community relations, committee on marketing and events, and the committee on parking. Again these are tasks and goals that were previously achieved with the help of two full-time staffers and now placed into the jurisdiction of three committees made up of volunteers who are downtown merchants.

However, there was no talk at this meeting as to how they would transition from paid staff to volunteers. There was no talk about who would take over the day-to-day roles that previously two paid staffers had performed. The meeting was heavy on rhetoric, but very light on substance and there was no discussion whatsoever on the big issues or the daunting task faced by the board and the organization.

At a city council meeting the same night, last Tuesday, the city council would press some of the concerns that were not raised on their own. Finally they began to address concerns about how these activities would occur without staff resources. The answer they provided is that they are looking toward membership to take on some of that burden. They are going through a transition period and more of the responsibilities should be shouldered amongst the members themselves.

They were asked what if they do not take up these responsibilities? Ogrydziak's answer was that they were convinced, knowing the people involved in this, that it will succeed.

Councilmember Souza however made the crucial point that right now there is a lot of energy and enthusiasm toward this move, but over time that will wane and fewer people will be involved in such efforts.

At the core, it is difficult to believe that volunteer committees can replace the work of two full-time paid staffers. There is a reason that organizations of this sort hire paid staffers and it has everything to do with the concerns that Souza laid out.

In the end, the city may have to take up some of the slack for the events that the DDBA used to put on. One event that has already gone by the wayside at least for this year is Davisfest. That event cost $44,000. Souza and others expressed regret that this event would not continue because it had the potential to become a signature event that would draw people regionally to Davis' downtown.

The DDBA is convinced that they can still have an extraordinary downtown even with one-third of the resources and without two fulltime staffers. But color me skeptical on this point, I think they are going to miss their paid staff a lot more than they think and not just from the standpoint of putting on major events and activities but also in terms of the day-to-day ministerial tasks that were performed by staff and that made the downtown a lively and special place to be for many Davis residents and visitors.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, March 26, 2007

Guest Commentary: Open Letter to Valley Oak Colleagues and Community Members

Dear Valley Oak Colleagues and Community Members,

When Rodney King was beaten nearly to death and his civil rights were violated, the African-American people waited for justice. They trusted our “system” to find the officers guilty. This was a long and difficult wait. When the unsatisfactory verdict came in, violence erupted. The people were enforcing their own form of justice: retaliation.

I have spent the last several months in a state of guarded optimism. I waited, hoping that someone would see all of the issues surrounding the closure of our school, and a just decision would be made. In my opinion, the only just decision is to keep our school open. While our situation is by no means of the magnitude of Mr. King’s, it is parallel. Our children are being denied their civil rights. I also believe that the ignorance and indifference of the privileged allowed them to make the decision they have made. While violence is never the answer, it is time to take matters into our own hands, so that justice is served. We must follow the examples of Gandhi, Martin L. King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and others, to shed light on this injustice and change the decision. This is not a time to be quiet.

Our children are being denied their right to a free education at their neighborhood school. The financial problems of this district are not the children’s fault, nor are they their problem. Davis Joint Unified School District (downtown) administrators are to blame. Admittedly, I am not privy to the discussions that occur behind closed doors. However, I understand that a district official missed an application deadline for matching funds for Montgomery Elementary. Apparently this mistake cost us over four million dollars.

This is the largest example of irresponsible leadership, but not the only one. Our district has been throwing money at their problems for a few years. Instead of being proactive in solving district issues, our administrators have been reactionary. When our first and only African-American principal faced racism and eventually left the district, questions were raised about how the district addresses diversity and supports the underrepresented. The district hired consultants to help recruit administrative candidates, because they can’t retain those they hire. This cost money.

I personally was invited to go on an all expense paid trip (plus the cost of my substitute teacher) to Carolina. The purpose of the trip was to recruit teachers of color. I declined the offer, but Steve Horowitz, Mel Lewis, and I believe someone who took my place did go. They came back with no candidates. We live in a university town with candidates of color. CSUS is 30 minutes away, and they have a multi-cultural teaching credential program. We could have set up a partnership with them at no cost.

The district made a brief attempt to be proactive when they provided substitutes for a few of our “minority” employees to attend a meeting on how we might recruit and retain candidates of color and improve the climate for existing employees. This was to be an ongoing discussion. After the first meeting we never met again. The money they did spend was wasted when they didn’t follow through.

We asked task force to analyze data, and then paid more consultants to analyze the data in the data. The district is again paying for consultants to help them find a new superintendent. In the meantime, they are paying TWO superintendents. (I am not a mathematician, but those two salaries combined probably JUST fall short of what we need to keep the school open.)

By now, I am sure the pattern is evident. Money has been wasted. The district can not retain qualified employees, nor does it attract administrators from underrepresented groups. Let’s call a spade a spade.

We have been working in privileged community and a poorly managed district where racism and discrimination are prevalent. The word NIGGER appeared on the high school wall and nothing was done. Children with two mothers or two fathers don’t feel safe at school. We have an achievement gap that the district admitted is not due to language or education level of the parents. A Latino custodian at Montgomery was harassed by police one night when his car wouldn’t start and he was in the parking lot after hours. Our own Mel Lewis has been harassed by police. A Davis committee that was supposed to be dedicated to creating an atmosphere of equality and acceptance was disbanded.

Valley Oak was an easy target. The initial announcement was made during the summer, while the school had no principal. I am convinced that every step has been carefully calculated. We have a large number of community members who speak other languages, and don’t have the same ability to be heard. They took advantage. The district has a money problem that they want to solve by closing the school with the most children of color and the strongest programs to support the underrepresented and struggling children.

This is the truth as I see it. This is not about teachers, and where we may end up in 2008. This is about children who have been asked to foot the bill for an expense that is not theirs. When I asked district administrators at yesterday’s meeting what would be done to ease the transition for these “babies,” especially incoming kindergarteners who would have to leave after one year, I was told that the families would be given maps. Those of you who were there know that I walked out.

I am now calling for all of us to be the voice of the children. We have perfectly legal courses of action. Post your thoughts on Bill Storm’s blog. Write letters. Tell your truth. We can march. We can have sick-outs. We can work to contract. We can write editorials and send them to the Davis Enterprise. I believe we even have grounds for a civil suit. How can you close one school with 500 students from diverse backgrounds in favor of an affluent school with half that number of students? How is that “as good as or better?” (Words of a task force member during the initial data gathering phase)

I can no longer be quiet. Let’s organize ourselves in support of our neighborhood children and in honor of those who fought so hard for equality. I do believe we can make a difference.

I know that this is a long message, but it is almost a year’s worth of thoughts.

---Nicole Smith

Nicole Smith is a Fourth Grade teacher at Valley Oak Elementary School

Keltie Jones Announces She Will Not Seek Another Term on Davis School Board

On one side of the Sunday Davis Enterprise, board president Jim Provenza announced his intention to seek Mariko Yamada's County Supervisor Seat. Not to be outdone, on the other side of the front page of the Davis Enterprise, immediate past president Keltie Jones announced that she would not seek another term on the board. Neither move was unexpected.

Ms. Jones was appointed to the school board in October of 2002 to fill out the term of John Poulos who moved from the district. She would then be elected in her own right one year later in November of 2003.

The two moves leave open both seats for this November's school board races. It presents parents and supporters of Valley Oak with another opportunity to change board direction on Valley Oak.

Ms. Jones was one of the most ardent proponents of closing down the Valley Oak School. She was also a very strong supporter of former Superintendent David Murphy.

She told the Davis Enterprise:
"I have also learned that I have no taste for the political maneuvering that accompanies an elected position in this town, and I have no desire to participate in another campaign."
An interesting statement because Jones has played on both sides of the Davis political divide most recently both as a supporter of Measure X and Lamar Heystek. However, in general she looked towards and against personalities rather than policies as a guide of whom to support. Supporting Heystek, purportedly because of personality and opposing Mike Levy and Don Saylor because of personal animus.

At times she had become downright abrasive on the school board berating the Fischers who complained against the district's handling of their son's harassment, berating at a public meeting Rev. Tim Malone over complaints about his son's treatment, and berating fellow board members and Valley Oak parents over the closing of the school.

Jones was part of the cadre that extended Superintendent Murphy's contract and appointed the Best Uses of School Task Force. The chair of that task force was Kirk Trost of the Hyde, Miller, Owen and Trost Law firm. Trost was a former boss of Jones.

While Jones was in the majority up until the November 2005 board elections, she increasingly found herself in the minority on key votes following the election of Sheila Allen, Gina Daleiden, and Tim Taylor. However, she was not only a member of the 3-2 majority responsible for the closing of Valley Oak, she actively worked to weaken Tim Taylor's compromise motion that would place the Valley Oak issue on the ballot as a second parcel tax.

There are two pieces of key unfinished business that she wants to accomplish before she leaves office. First, she told the Davis Enterprise that she wants to help guide the district through a new search for a superintendent and second she wishes to see the passage of the parcel tax.

In the end, the retirement of Jones presents an opportunity for parents and supporters of the Davis schools to find new blood. The closure of Valley Oak, of which Jones was a strong advocate, along with her support for Superintendent Murphy and his administration tarnishes an otherwise strong tenure for Jones.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Commentary: Provenza Candidate to Beat for Supervisor?

It is very early to be sure, but reading both Bob Dunning's column on Thursday and Matt Rexroad's blog on Saturday where he said, "Many people in Davis seem to think he is the one to beat," the question that comes forth to me is whether current School Board Member Jim Provenza is the candidate to beat to replace Mariko Yamada as the 4th District Yolo County Supervisor.

Dunning writes:
Forget the politics, forget the potential issues, forget what your mama taught you about seizing the day, if Provenza runs, he's a lock … no one else is even close … like Helen Thomson, one of the most revered political figures in this town's history, Provenza has never been a candidate for City Council, which means his reputation remains untarnished … put simply, his solid-citizen, agenda-less work on the Davis school board makes him hard — if not impossible — to beat …
While I suspect that Dunning's support at least in part stems from Provenza's strong advocacy for keeping Valley Oak schools open, I think he is correct that Provenza will be tough to beat. One needs to look no further to the broad range of support that Provenza has already wrapped up.

We look at the elected officials who chose to stand behind him. The venerable Davis icon Maynard Skinner--former Mayor, many time councilmember, who has at times been identified with the progressive era though he himself was not a progressive and at times has supported measures like Measure X. Then there is Ted Puntillo, the recently retired Davis City Councilmember who was part of the pro-growth, pro-Covell village council majority.

We also have school board member and colleague Gina Daleiden who was Don Saylor's campaign manager. Board Member Sheila Allen has supported candidates on either side of the fence including Souza but also Lamar Heystek. On the left we have Lamar Heystek, vanguard of the Davis Progressives on the City Council and finally, Mariko Yamada who currently holds the seat and candidate for the 8th Assembly District.

Not at the event but supporting Provenza include several other notables including former Mayor and vanguard of the Progressive era, Bill Kopper, former City Councilmember Jerry Kaneko, and Lea Rosenberg will be Mr. Provenza's treasurer.

But even the elected officials do not tell the full story. In the crowd was a hugely diverse group. On the left, such progressive stalwarts as Pam Nieberg and Norma Turner (among many others). You have the Davis Democratic club contingent that includes Betty Weir, Bob Bockwinkel, and John Chendo. You also have people like Sheryl Patterson who ran Mike Levy's city council campaign.

You saw a group of people supporting Jim Provenza that you do not normally see together at the same time supporting anyone less than Governor or President--and sometimes not even then.

While I had known Jim Provenza for some time, it was only recently that I really saw him in action. And what I saw is despite his somewhat moderate demeanor was an avid and strong fighter and advocate for the causes that he believed in. The first time in action was when dealing with the issue of harassment. It was his work that led to strong new language that enforced a consistent policy against harassment based on things such as sexual orientation and gender identity. He not only pushed that issue through but he held Superintendent David Murphy to his language even as Murphy was trying to equivocate and water it down.

More recently and with greater fanfare he was a strong and forceful advocate for keeping Valley Oak open--and he fought hard, he tried several different approaches to find a third vote to join himself and Sheila Allen. In the end, he could not find one but it was not for lack of trying.

The most impressive part of it all was that through it all he remained respectful, measured, and dignified. He showed us that one can fight for their ideals and still be genteel--a rare quality indeed. And to a large measure that is reflected in the broad range of support that Provenza has. He can disagree with people without being disagreeable.

Provenza said at a recent school board meeting that in working with the legislature through his job with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, he learned a valuable lesson, that you can be strong opponents on one issue and strong allies on the next one. Thus you never want to burn your bridges. This seems to me exactly the kind of leadership that the fourth district and Yolo County wants. These qualities make Provenza a tough candidate to beat.

That is not to say that there will not be tough competition. Richard Harris, who has a long legislative history including work with Vic Fazio as District Director is strongly considering a run. John Ferrera who is Senator Denise Ducheney's Chief of Staff has told people behind the scenes that he is running. Both of these individuals could indeed be formidable, although few people really have heard of Ferrera and neither of them can match the broad name recognition and even broader support that Provenza has right now. At this point, this is Provenza's race to win, one of the other candidates will have to take it from him and that will not be easy.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting