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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Group That Rebuilds Senior Homes Coming To Yolo County

Yesterday in at the UC Davis Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center, a non-profit group, Rebuilding Together held a fundraiser that was designed to raise support and inform the local community about the group and their services. Rebuilding Together announced that they are coming to Yolo County to help rebuild and retrofit the homes of senior citizens in order to increase their safety and prevent serious injuries.

One of the key issues facing seniors is the need to perform the types of minor home modifications that will prevent falls and other accidents that lead to serious injury.

Elaine Roberts Musser, who also serves as the chair of the Davis Senior Citizens Commission, put together this program. In her introduction she stressed the importance of preventing falls. "Falls prevention is the key to preventing a downward spiral from which some seniors do not recover." Falls may lead to serious injuries that lead to a quick deterioration of the quality of life and tremendous financial cost.

According to the release:
"The need for home accessibility modifications is of great concern among healthcare providers and EMS workers. The local Emergency Medical System is burdened by the number of fall related calls they respond to each month. Healthcare workers do not know who to refer their clients to for the installation of safety devices. Seniors are experiencing the same difficulty as identified in an Area Four Agency on Aging survey that showed the need for home repairs/modifications is their #2 concern. It is difficult for seniors to find an installer that is trained and they can trust.

Low-income, elderly homeowners prefer to age in their homes, but they must overcome major hurdles to maintain that option. Physical and financial difficulties make it hard for homeowners to install the safety devices necessary for independent living. In addition, locating a trained installer is problematic and in many cases, impossible.

The National Safety Council has determined that falls cause or lead to 17,100 deaths per year in the U.S. Eight of ten fatalities are a result of an initial fall, and half of all falls occur inside the home. More than fifty percent of people who have a hip fracture never return to their prior level of mobility and independence. The average cost of institutionalization is $46,000 per year or more, an expensive alternative. The problem is growing, as one in five Californians will be over 60 years of age by the year 2010."
One of the key speakers at the event was Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada. Yamada stressed the need for greater attention to be placed on senior issues overall and the issue of home safety in general.

One the key ways to protect seniors is at the front end through by performing retrofits to make the homes that seniors live in safe. Rebuilding Together is a key to these type of situations.

As Yamada pointed out:
"The statistics on elder falls isn't pretty. Falls are the number two trauma call in our five-county emergency services region. Four out of ten nursing home admissions are fall-related, with half never regaining previous mobility and a quarter facing death in twelve months Yet, about two-thirds of these falls were preventable.

Elder falls--not heart disease, stroke or even Alzheimer's--are the number one reason for seniors' loss-of-independence. In much the same way as parents take steps to "child-proof" their homes to protect kids from hurting themselves, all of us should take responsibility to "fall-proof" our own and our parents' homes, to avoid needless injury and reduce the strain on our emergency services network."
Heidi D’Agostino, Yolo County Code Compliance & Business Licensing Officer, and Dan Stroski, Yolo County District Attorney’s office, will also be featured speakers. Both have been involved in recent sting operations by the Yolo Unlicensed Response Apprehension Team (YoU RAT). Comprised of the District Attorney’s Fraud Investigators Office, Yolo County Code Enforcement, other local law enforcement, the California State Contractors Board and the Department of Insurance Investigators, YoU RAT identifies unfair business practices that occur with unlicensed contractors, businesses and trades in Yolo County. Unlicensed contractors often prey on the elderly and vulnerable by not performing the work they are paid for, or by doing substandard work.

Mr. Stroski spent a good deal of time explaining the YoU RAT operation which involves going into homes and performing stings whereby the locate and identify potential suspects who may be practicing contracting without licenses. The licensing rules are put into place to protect citizens. One of the most vulnerable groups of citizens are seniors who provide easy targets for the more unscrupulous of these individuals.

He said one day in West Sacramento they netted 28-31 people in a single day. In the seven months of existence, they have nabbed 71 unlicensed contractors who were practicing without licenses.

In many cases their goal is less to incarcerate them than to get them into compliance which means to have a license and to obtain worker's compensation insurance, so as to ensure that their employees are covered and that they are not liable for workplace damage. In many cases they have waived a good portion of the fine if they simply get themselves in compliance.

Jail is generally according to Mr. Stroski reserved generally for those who are committing fraud by portraying themselves as licensed through phony license numbers. This kind of misrepresentation is felony fraud. Also at times these charges can come with elder abuse enhancements, if they are trying to take advantage of seniors.

According to Heidi D'Agostino, "not just everybody should be in the homes of our senior citizens." Licensing requires FBI background checks, fingerprinting and other certifications.

Carrie Grip, the Executive Director of Rebuilding Together then presented information about their group along with a video about the Sacramento Branch of Rebuilding Together.

Rebuilding Together is a nonprofit organization that preserves homes to ensure that seniors and individuals who are disabled can live independently in their own residences. They provide home modifications such as gab bars, specialized railings, wheel chair ramps, smoke detectors, shower assist devices and more. This work is completed by teams of volunteers who are trained in the proper installation of safety devices such as these.

Rebuilding Together is a national non-profit group that came to Sacramento in 1991. In their first year in Sacramento, 70 people came and helped to rebuild the homes of seniors. Since then, over 1300 repairs have occurred in the Sacramento area costing $4.5 million. They often have 1000 volunteers a day who work on up to 15 homes.

Rebuilding Together would like to expand their fall prevention services into Yolo County and are partnering with the Triad Task Force, a public/private collaboration of agencies and county service providers – the action arm of the Yolo County Commission on Aging & Adult Services (YCCA&AS). Together they propose a program to assist not only older, low income adults, but all disabled individuals of every income level in becoming safer in and around their homes, by offering home safety education and evaluation, and minor or major home modifications at reasonable fees, or no cost for those of low income.

Ms. Grip told the audience,
Rebuilding Together is excited to expand its Home Safety Services program into Yolo County. We look forward to working with health care providers, emergency medical workers and civic representatives to address the issue of home related falls. The impact of a simple modification such as a grab bar will decrease the number of home injuries and improve independence for local residents.
The interesting part of this effort is that it is truly a cooperative effort between a number of different types of agencies and non-profit groups. Ted Puntillo who is a former Davis City Councilmember and now the Yolo County Veterans Sercices Officer spoke of a specific case of rather horific conditions a local gentleman who is a retired veteran and a long time worker. The efforts that would put into helping this individual were rather exemplary and it makes one realize the needs that so many seniors have.

As Michelle Samuels said,
"I think we've all heard it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes an active and coordinate effort to sustain that village."
The City of Davis has generously donated $25,000 to modify homes in Davis.

There are several ways that individuals can help this organization. They are going to have a workday in Yolo County on September 29, 2007. They really need volunteers for that effort and of course money and resources.

Individuals interested in helping this cause are encouraged to contact Rebuilding Together.

Their website is:

Or call them at: 916/455-1880

One quick note of commentary: I think this information largely speaks for itself, but I was very impressed with the program and the efforts of this group and I strongly encourage people to donate their time and volunteer to help rebuild the homes of seniors, especially those with the skills to do so. I came away from this program with a much fuller understanding of this problem and sympathy for this cause.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, May 18, 2007

Polling Reveals Prospects for Valley Oak Parcel Tax Bleak

While the Davis Joint Unified School Board generally received good news from the returns from the polling they commissioned to test proposals for a new parcel tax, the one piece of bad news was the general unviability of the second parcel tax that would fund the continuation of Valley Oak Elementary School. While its presence on the ballot did not appear to doom the initial parcel tax, there did not appear to be sufficient support to even warrant its inclusion on the ballot.

The initial polling of 437 households in Davis conducted in late April had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent. The initial Valley Oak Polling which presented to the voter information about Valley Oak and then asked:
"Therefore, the district may place a second parcel tax proposal on the ballot to raise the funds needed to keep Valley Oak Elementary School open. Would you favor or oppose such a proposal?"
The findings for this revealed that just 35.9 percent favored this proposal while 42.9 percent opposed it. Remember all of the tax items need a two-thirds vote in order to gain approval.

Even when a the dollar figure of $32 per year was included, the opposition stayed relatively stationary at 41.7 percent, which the support rose from 35.9 to 46.2 percent, that primary came from the 20 plus percent of undecideds rather than from the opposition.

Making prospects worse, a full 51.4 percent of those polled considered themselves very aware of the district's recent decision to close Valley Oak Elementary School and 82.4% considered themselves very or somewhat aware of the decision.

As the pollster who presented these results said, these findings indicate that the proposal is "a long way short" of the support needed to obtain a two-thirds majority. He didn't "see it as having a viability district-wide."

However, additional polling does suggest that having both items on the ballot, "does not seem to disrupt the ability to get the two-thirds vote that you need" on the initial parcel tax. In other words, having the Valley Oak item "will not harm viability" of the initial parcel tax.

Even when they changed the wording from testing "Valley Oak" to testing the wording of keeping "all nine schools," the second proposal still fails. "The semantic change does not give the second proposal any more life."

He further argued that the Valley Oak proposal does not even pass in the Valley Oak neighborhood and that in no district does it achieve a two-thirds vote and furthermore it is a long distance from even a majority.

When asked if under ideal campaign conditions, whereby there was an unopposed campaign if it could achieve a two-thirds vote. The pollster said, "I think it's a long way and will never get there [to two-thirds support]." He said is was simply too great a distance to make up that kind of ground, and in twenty years of work, he has never seen that kind of movement. He said, "it would be an extraordinary situation to move from this level of support to two-thirds."

And while the polling again suggests that it would not harm the chances of the main parcel tax, the sense seems to be at this point, that they should not take the risk on the parcel tax as an option to keep Valley Oak Elementary School open. In fact, there are a number of reasons to not do it, aside from the risk. The most likely route to take would be the continuation of their efforts to draft a charter and turn Valley Oak into a charter school.

Overall the news was overwhelmingly good for passage of the main parcel tax. 81.3% favor supporting the parcel tax, "without changing any of the details of the current parcel tax." With only 7.8% opposition, that is well above the two-thirds vote needed to approve the renewal of the tax at current levels.

They also tested for an increase in the parcel tax up to $194 per home and $97 per apartment per year. Support drops, but it remains at 64.3 percent and more importantly only 20 percent opposition.

They also tested for length of renewal being extended from four years to six years and found about the same level of support as they had for the tax increase.

As we have mentioned previously, the parcel tax will most likely be on the ballot with the library tax. Testing them together found that both parcel taxes appear to have strong support--in the 70 percent ranges even when polled together with a full 63.5 percent pledging support to both and an additional 12 percent supporting just the school parcel and 9.1 percent supporting only the library tax. Just 7 percent of the voters opposed both.

The polling companies conclusions and recommendations are as follows:

There is an overall strong base of support for renewing the parcel tax. The current use of the parcel tax appears to align well with the community's priorities for education and the community seems strongly in support for funding additional programs as well.
"Increasing the cost of the tax to address the impact of inflation does reduce the level of support available for renewal but we believe there is adequate support among parents and very active voters to recommend that a proposal to increase the cost to $194 be placed on the November ballot."
Moreover, most of the changes being considered are feasible including an extension to six years. Adding an "oversight committee" would help to build support for the renewal. A senior exemption for voters over 55 years of age does not appear to harm the prospects for passage with other voters. However, they do not recommend adding in a CPI index to the parcel tax, as support for a COLA does not appear high enough.

They were very clear that there is no such thing as an easy tax election, however, they felt with a strong campaign and limited or no organized opposition, that these taxes with some adjustments were both feasible and likely. With only a bare 10 to 20 percent opposition, it seems promising that organized efforts to oppose the measure will not be mounted.

Still while the findings overall for the parcel taxes were reassuring, the support for a Valley Oak parcel tax, even in its own neighborhood is very discouraging. It demonstrates that the efforts underway to produce a charter school need to continue.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thursday Midday Briefs

Davis Enterprise Headline on Anderson Bank Building Issue Causes a Stir

Under the headline of "City opts for history over commerce," the Davis Enterprise article caused some controversy of its own as I received a number of complaints via email.

The article itself also generated complaints of people claiming that the coverage was skewed toward building owner Jim Kidd and his comments and away from the 3-2 council majorities' viewpoints.

The headline alone though has to give one serious pause because it actually takes sides implicitly in the policy dispute.

On one side of the argument was Jim Kidd's initiative to lower the building windows citing the need for improved space for retail development.
"Over the last twenty years I have been attempting to rent and keep retailers at the corner of the location of the Anderson building. For the most part it has been a constant revolving door of these struggling to be successful."
This argument by Kidd and his supporters suggests that the issue is about commerce, and that in order for the downtown to be vital and to war off the big boxes which "are at the gates of Davis" you must allow him and others like him to create a more business friendly image.

However, the majority on the council on this issue rejected that Manichean view of commerce and history as a zero-sum game in which a choice in favor of history is automatically a choice against commerce (as the headline applies).

Councilmember Lamar Heystek spoke of the need to weigh the character of our downtown community in addition to the economic value such development may create. He did not view economic goals as the only important consideration, however, it is unfair to suggest as the headline would that he chose historical importance over commercial uses.
"If we place the goal of economic development above all other goals, I think the city would look a lot different."
Councilmember Stephen Souza was explicit and adamant that retail development is not the only realistic alternative for that space and preferred to look at other commercial uses.
This evening we've been fixated on retail, we've been fixated on this notion of retail, and trying to find a use that meets the building, rather than trying to find a use that fits the building." And I'll say that again in a different way, we want to find a use that fits the building rather than altering the building to fit a use. I'm not convinced, I'm just not convinced at this point in time that we have exhausted and been creative in trying to find a use that fits the building.
For some reason in recent debates commerce has been limited in those debates to retail. Retail is not even the majority commercial use of downtown. Thus the headline also denotes a very limited conception of commerce as only applying to retail rather than the much broader array of types of commerce that the term actually implies.

The problem with the headline is that it adopts the perspective of the applicant rather than a neutral perspective for framing the issue. The applicant's perspective was that this was a struggle between history and commerce and that commerce lost. Whereas those on the council majority saw it as a question of balancing the considerations of history with the possible alternative types of commercial enterprises that could more appropriately fill that space.

It is worth noting since the issue arose, that the boards of directors of the Davis Downtown Business Association and the Davis Chamber of Commerce both supported lowering the windows. It is also worth noting that the chief editor of the Davis Enterprise is a past member of that board and that her husband is a current member of that board. It's not clear that the decision was made by that individual, but it is worth noting.


Malcolm X Day Event

Malcolm X: Davis Library Blanchard Room 6 PM - Sat. May 19th

We will celebrate the life of Malcolm X this Saturday in the Library. Bring your friends and the whole family as we learn about the important events in the life of Malcolm X.

Refreshments will be served.

Awards will be presented.

Malcolm will be remembered and honored.

Davis High School Catalysts for Social Justice

This Monday, May 21st, the DAVIS HIGH SCHOOL CATALYSTS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE STUDENT RESEARCH SCHOLARS will host their 4th Annual Research Presentation, entitled:


These young people have worked and are working hard to present a body of data that will be of service to Davis families, teachers, and community members. They have undergone an abbreviated training in research and advocacy regarding race relations at Davis High, Davis, and the country. Please come and support them.

You can contact Jann Murray-Garcia (753-7443) if you have any questions.
---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Civil Rights Fighters Honored in Davis Tuesday Night

At Tuesday's City Council Meeting, a number of community leaders in civil rights were honored with Thong Hy Huynh Awards. The awards are named for the 1983 killing of Huynh, who was stabbed to death in a racially motivated killing on the Davis High School campus.

This year seven individuals received awards in six different categories. Mel Trujillo who passed away last month received the Lifetime Achievement Award, Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada and Michelle Reardon received the Humanitarian Award, the group Youth for Hope received the Young Humanitarian Award, Yolo County Clerk Freddie Oakley received the Civil Rights Advocacy Award, Hamza El-Nakhal the Community Education and Awareness award, and the Davis Wiki received the Excellent in Community Involvement Award.

Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada has been a long and forceful advocate for civil rights in this community. She has long been a champion in the area of health and human services and an advocate for the poor. However in my mind, it has been her advocacy on behalf of police oversight and particularly on behalf of young Halema Buzayan that has distinguished her from many other public officials in this town.

Last year she became the only public official at the time to advocate and support the installation of a police civilian review board in Davis. In 2005, she spoke publicly during a a joint session between the Davis City Council and the Human Relations Commission and encouraged the council to study the establishment of an independent review function for the Davis Police Department. She did this because her office had specifically fielded five cases dealing with the alleged mistreatment and/ or harassment by Davis police officers.

In a February 2006 letter to then Davis Mayor Ruth Asmundson, Yamada wrote:
"Had I not had first-hand experience guiding a longtime Davis resident through the existing Citizen’s Complaint process against the Davis Police, I would not have had the opportunity to experience its frustrating and “fox-in-the-hen-house” dynamic."
From the standpoint of Jamal Buzayan, who is currently involved in a lengthy court battle and a civil rights lawsuit in federal court stemming from the 2005 arrest of his daughter for an alleged hit-and-run accident that has since been dismissed by a Yolo County judge,
Mariko [Yamada] is the only public official who stood by the truth and sought justice from day one until now."
Yamada was also a strong supporter of the efforts of the former Davis Human Relations Commission, publicly urging the council last June to retain the commission and its chair.

For these reasons, Supervisor Yamada is strongly deserving of the honors bestowed upon her on Tuesday night.

On Valentine's Day, Yolo County Clerk Freddie Oakley thrust herself, perhaps unwittingly into the limelight, in her protest of California Laws that prohibit the marriage of Same-sex individuals.

Oakley in a written statement issued on February 14, 2007 said:
For four years in a row, I have followed the law and denied marriage licenses to same-gender couples who apply annually on this date. I will continue to follow the law.

But this situation, where following the law requires me as a public official to treat people unequally based on gender, is a painful reminder to me that we have not learned the lessons of courtesy, decency and fairness that we seek to teach to our children.
She concluded by saying:
Today I am protesting this discrimination by giving a special Valentine's Day memento to people who request one. I do this at my own expense, in the exercise of my own civil right to call for a change in the law I must faithfully administer. I am the hand that must ultimately deny the application of some couples to contract a civil marriage, but I truly believe that the American values of courtesy, decency and fairness mean that if anybody gets a Valentine, everybody should get a Valentine.
In issuing the "certificates of inequality," Oakley earned praise in the gay and lesbian community, many of whom waited in line that day to obtain a certificate of inequality. Meanwhile she earned the scorn of some of the Christian Conservatives.

By putting herself on the line and taking a principled stance, she is duly deserving of the numerous honors that have since been bestowed upon her.

It was with great sadness, that Mel Trujillo could not be here on Tuesday night to receive his richly deserved award for Lifetime Achievement. His wife, Joyce Trujillo, received it in his stead, as our dear friend and comrade in the struggle for civil rights succumbed to cancer last month.

Those who were able to make it to his memorial service, would have heard first hand from Rick Gonzales, Jr. and Carlos Matos, Trujillo's commitment to civil rights. First, his longtime involvement in the Concilio of Yolo County which is an organization dedicated to among other things, helping young, especially Latinos, go to college. And now most recently the Martin Luther King, Jr. scholarship which also helps young minorities go to college. It was a great privilege to watch Trujillo in action in January, for what turned out to be the last time as he was able to raise the money from community members to be able to give scholarships to I believe it was nine deserving individuals, many of whom will be the first members of their family to go to college.

Trujillo dedicated his life to the fight for civil rights and social justice. I got to know him especially well in the last year. He grew angry and disgusted with the situation involving the Davis Police Department and what he perceived as the complicity on the part of various elected officials in the City of Davis. He was particularly disturbed by the Halema Buzayan incident, in which he became almost unwittingly involved through his confrontation with Davis Enterprise Columnist Bob Dunning.

Mel Trujillo you see grew up in poverty in New Mexico but was able to use the GI Bill to have a 20 year career in the military. In his late 30s, he parlayed that into a college degree and then law school, where he became an administrative law judge. It was his knowledge of juvenile law that enabled him to intervene with Mr. Dunning on behalf of young Halema Buzayan and her treatment by Davis Police Officer Pheng Ly.

Trujillo was also a strong supporter of the Davis Human Relations Commission and its former chair.

Mel Trujillo was a fighter for civil rights for 30 years, and many in this Davis Community who were the beneficiaries of his efforts will sorely miss Mel. His honor for lifetime achievement was so richly deserved.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Council Preserves Anderson Bank Building as an Historic Site

The Davis City Council last night voted by a 3-2 margin to accept the "no change alternative" to the Anderson Bank Building, turning back a heavily lobbied bid by owner Jim Kidd to alter the window structure of the historic building. Councilmember Lamar Heystek and Mayor Sue Greenwald were joined by Councilmember Stephen Souza to support the preservation of the Anderson Bank Building.

Mr. Kidd speaking before the council made the case based on the need to be able to better attract customers to retail purchases through a larger and more visible window display.
"Over the last twenty years I have been attempting to rent and keep retailers at the corner of the location of the Anderson building. For the most part it has been a constant revolving door of these struggling to be successful."
Furthermore he suggested that he has at times been forced to rent this space at well below market value--at times as low as 50 cents per square foot. It should be noted however, that that is not his current rent is nowhere near that rate.

The big push though was a direct appeal to the downtown businesses who had opposed Target and other big box expansion as a threat to downtown vitality and retail.

"The big boxes are at the Gates of Davis," he emphatically proclaimed.
"Our city is surrounded by big boxes... And they continue to pull our shoppers and our sales dollars out of the city. Perhaps many in this room have been tempted to shop outside of Davis at these big boxes. We need better stores and more of those sales dollars to remain in Davis."
At the same time, he admitted that this change was not going to really stop this.
"The change that I am proposing may not stop this flow of sales dollars, but it will help to improve this downtown intersection as well as the downtown."
Davis City Staff recommended against such changes on the basis of the EIR which found that these changes would make very significant impacts on the historic status of the building.

City Staffer Ike Njokou argued that the proposed changes would alter the building's ability to physically convey its previously identified historical significance.
"Part of the EIR analysis is what we call an historical resources analysis that was performed by an historian, preservation historian. And she indicates in that report that was made by the draft EIR that both Option A and B would impact the integrity of the building, however with mitigation she does believe that Option A could be implemented, staff's concern with that is it does create a disjointed appearance relative to the building because you have to present the window sill which is a significant portion of that building."
Moreover the window sill is the current defining feature of the building, and its alteration would completely alter the building and its historic nature.
"Because the sill, the window sill is deemed as a current defining feature of the building. If you were to remove that sill it does create an appearance that is no longer consistent with the theme for that portion of the building. You have to realize that this building has three uses and also is designed accordingly. The second floor is designed for offices, where Togos is, is designed for retail, and this 2500 square foot section is designed as a bank section or bank use space, and was used as such for a while with other uses at times."
The building while recognized as a city landmark, and is eligible to be formally nominated for the national registry has not yet been included.

According to the chair of the Historical Resources Management Commission, Rand Herbert, this is due to resistance by the Mr. Kidd to its inclusion. An inclusion that would probably and perhaps likely preclude any future alterations.
"National register nomination of private property have to be done by the land owner... It is my understanding that you cannot make an adverse nomination to the register... I don't believe that the city can nominate to the national register against the wishes of the owner."
Mr. Rand, whose committed voted unanimously to recommend the "no change" alternative, reiterated the point that Mr. Njoku made about the importance of windows for the historic nature of the windows.
"Windows are considered architectural historians and architects to be the single most defining feature of any building. And I think if you cast your minds eye around to house and other buildings that you've seen where the windows have been drastically altered, it has a big effect on the way that building looks. It was designed to have windows of a certain kind."
A strong argument was made by several of the importance of historic preservation for community. One of the things that has struck me about this community as I have learned more and more of its rich history, is how few buildings remain that are historic. It is tragic as to how many of the buildings of such historic value were already demolished.

As Robin Datel, former chair of the HRMC and current professor of geography at Sacramento State put it:
"I think that our downtown has very very important functions other than just retailing and that is that is our most important civic space. That is to say it speaks to who we are and who we were. And that's what preservation is all about."
This ideal of the character of Davis and the Davis downtown has been a pervasive and overarching theme in recent debates. This idea was picked up on by many both in attendance and behind the dais.

Councilmember Heystek spoke of the need to weigh the character of our downtown community in addition to the economy value such development may create and suggested that economic development does not belong on top of our hierarchy of priorities by itself.
"If we place the goal of economic development above all other goals, I think the city would look a lot different. I opposed the Target development, and there was mention by the applicant of big box development, I opposed that because I thought it was out of character for our city, no matter how many millions of dollars in revenue it would have brought the city in the years to come. And for the same reason, I believe that my position on that is consistent with my position on the Anderson Bank Building. I don't believe that altering this building is in character with our downtown."
Mr. Rand added:
"The general plan calls for the preservation of historic resources, the landmark status means that the loss of such a resource would be a significant loss to the community... Historic buildings have an attraction to people, this one is situation such that people getting off the train walk into town, they see a really fine building."
Councilmember Stephen Souza also spoke strongly in favor of preservation.
"In fact, I believe that it is a substantial adverse change to lower it. Our general plan policies encourage the protection, the enhancement, the re-use of historic and architectural resources. Option A it would detract from the historic appearance of the building. Option B would be more appealing, but it won't result in a substantive environmental impact. Mitigation measures, I don't care, regardless of what we do here, I want the mitigation measures enacted."
Mr. Souza spoke strongly and eloquently of the need for preserving this cherished historical landmark.

"The JB Anderson Building was built 93 years ago, and that building is part of the gateway to our community. That gateway has very few representations of what Davis was. Someone said it... "who were are, what we were," and I would add, what we want to be or what we will be."
"There are five commercial historic resources left in that area, this is the only, the only, landmark commercial two story building left... We can't remake them, we can't lower the windows, go back, and fix the windows, I believe, and create what was..."
Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson made a motion to approve option B, that motion was seconded by Don Saylor.

Saylor spoke strongly in favor of the remodel:
"This is a close call I think. Yesterday, I spent an hour and a half across the street from the building, just to kind of feel it, see what the building looks like... So I sat beside it awhile and let it talk to me."
The building apparently told him that he should remodel the windows.

However, on this day, Saylor and Asmundson were not joined by Mr. Souza. This was perhaps Stephen Souza's finest moment on the Davis City Council. He spoke eloquently and passionately for historic preservation. He also touched on a key point... that we have become fixated on the single commercial use for the building--that of retail. And while retail is vital, it is not the only type of business that exists in Davis and it is not the only way to make use of this historic space.
"This evening we've been fixated on retail, we've been fixated on this notion of retail, and trying to find a use that meets the building, rather than trying to find a use that fits the building." And I'll say that again in a different way, we want to find a use that fits the building rather than altering the building to fit a use. I'm not convinced, I'm just not convinced at this point in time that we have exhausted and been creative in trying to find a use that fits the building."
He continued to make a number of alternative suggested uses for the building. One of these included the creation of a restaurant.
"Rather than punch four giant holes under the windows to extend the windows, why don't we think about punching one small hole in the back to make it a stack and make it a restaurant."
Mr. Souza on this point is exactly right on. In many cities, you do not have a lot of street exposure or window space and they have to generate innovative uses for such space which is so scarce and valuable. I've seen fantastic businesses including restaurants and even retail stores that basically enter the street from glorified doors and hallways. The key is to be innovative. Mr. Rand had used the example of Bistro 33's spectacularly innovative use of the old City Hall. By thinking outside of the box, historic preservation and business do not have to be zero sum games.

As Mr. Souza put it:
"I don't think there has been proper marketing... you have to do proper market otherwise I don't care what kind of windows that you have in the building, you're not going to survive. I don't think that the windows make the use, I think that the business owner makes the use work."
Overall Mr. Souza was extremely critical of Mr. Kidd and his enterprise.

Mr. Kidd during his comments attempted to justify the state of the building by claiming to have pumped a million dollars into upgrades following the fire, many of which were according to him, not required. Instead he suggested he did it because the tenants needed them to be competition and profitable.
"During the past years I have spent over a million dollars restoring the building after the fire in 2002... [many of] which were not required."
Many present including several on the council criticized Mr. Kidd for allowing the exterior of the building to degrade. While Saylor used this as an excuse to give Kidd what he wanted, Souza used it as a point of criticism and condemnation calling his upkeep pathetic.
"The exterior of the building is pathetic, it needs cleaning. It's pathetic. It needs to be re-painted or cleaned, in fact, I would love to see it go back to the brick that it was, to give it the history that we should be up here cherishing, because there isn't much of it left for our grandkids."
In the Davis Enterprise article on Sunday, Mr. Kidd made the "threat" that if the council did not give him what he wanted, he would spend $75,000 to put it on the ballot himself. Such a self-serving use of taxpayer resources however would likely not go over well in this community and Mr. Kidd would be well advised not to follow through.

However, that was not the limit of his heavy-handed tactics. He also made the veiled and subtle insinuation that if he did not get his way, he would simply demolish the building. A threat he coyly employed as he made assurances that if he did get his way, he would not demolish the building.
"If we can come to an agreement tonight, I would like to do even more improvements and restoration to this building. In this respect I have no reason to consider tearing down this building now or any time in the future. If we can reach a satisfactory solution to the immediate issue, I would be willing to sign a pact with the city to that effect."
Notice that he himself raises this possibility as he goes about debunking the idea that he would consider that possibility.

Furthermore, he waged a very public and heavy-handed campaign to obtain permission that was denied just five years ago by a different council. This time, he got a number of merchants to sign his petition, some of whose signatures may have been acquired in the past. He posted signs around the downtown area and in the yards of some visible private homes. Finally he organized a lobbying campaign that included a number of emails. One councilmember remarked to me that they failed to recognize any of the names of the people--although some of those people turned out to be tenants and business associates of Mr. Kidd.

Councilmember Souza was most blunt on this point.
"I'll say this straight up Mr. Kidd, when I got those 64 emails, all coming from gmail, that convinced me that something very strange was going on here. I've never got 64 emails with everyone having a gmail account, usually its pretty varied, so it made me rather suspicious, I think you would have done yourself more justice if you did run a campaign as you did over windows."
On this point, Mr. Souza once again was dead on. He was joined in a 3-2 vote in favor of the substitute motion for no action moved by Heystek and seconded by Mayor Greenwald.

Tuesday marked a solid victory for those who support historic preservation. I must say in what will be a very brief remark for right now, that I came into this process with a slight lean toward the principle of historic preservation. However, I also sympathized to some extent with Mr. Kidd's viewpoint. I know several of the members of the council went back and forth on this issue as well. In the end, it was the conduct of Mr. Kidd and his heavy-handed campaign that turned me much more strongly into the opposition camp. This is not a campaign and should not have been conducted as such. If Mr. Kidd persists in his campaign, I believe the wise voters of Davis will see through his ploys and see them as limited and self-serving. We do not need more divisiveness. I strongly support downtown business and retail. It remains a reason that I so strongly oppose out-of-town big box retail. I believe however, we can accomplish far more working together rather than fighting each other on divisive issues such as this. Historic preservation and retail and commerce should be positive sum games--not zero sum games. That means that they should work with each other and not viewed as either/ or situations. Hopefully in the future we can remember that and work toward common purpose and vision.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Legislature Moving on Legislation that Would Restore Civilian Oversight of Police in Wake of California Supreme Court Decision

Last year in Davis, the issue of civilian oversight was one of the hot issues stemming from several high profile incidents in Davis last year regarding not only complaints of police conduct, but the difficulty of navigating through the complaint system.

With the Davis City Council adoption of an ombudsman and the subsequent hiring of Bob Aaronson to fill that position, the issue has disappeared from the radar of most Davisites.

During the contentious February 21, 2007 meeting from last year, one of the prime objections made by City Attorney Harriet Steiner had to do with questions of the legality of public access to misconduct records from the police.

The California Supreme Court has since ruled in Copley Press v. Superior Court, that the public does not have access to the disclosure of records relating to a peace officer's appeal of a disciplinary action under the California Public Records Act. This act effectively stripped civilian review boards of their ability to review officer's personnel records in their investigations and led to the halting of public police disciplinary proceedings after the Supreme Court ruling.

This ruling was further bolstered in February when an Alameda County Jude ruled that the Berkeley Police Review Commission's public hearings violated state confidentiality law.

According to a recent Los Angeles Times Article:
"California law is among the most restrictive in the country concerning the release of information about police misconduct. Florida, Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas have had "sunshine" laws for many years without adverse consequences to police officers. These laws require public records to be open. California law, by contrast, keeps the media and the public in the dark."
However, supporters of civilian review, have not completely lost this battle--at least not quite yet. There are a number of laws making their way through the legislature including SB 1019 sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero of Los Angeles and AB 1648 authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno of San Francisco.

The Senate Bill has already passed committee and according to Senator Mike Machado's office will come to the floor in the next two weeks. The Assembly Bill has not yet passed the committee, but is expected to shortly.

These bills would do three things.

First, they would overturn the Supreme Court decision and restore the limited public access to police complaint records that existed prior to the Supreme Court's ruling.

Second, they would allow for greater public access to information about those cases that are sustained including the ruling, charges brought for, and any displinary action. In addition they would authorize a police chief to release internal documentation supporting the department's findings when an outside agencies rules that an officer's conduct is in violation of the law or police policy.

Finally, these records would be made accessible under the California Public Records Act, so any individual could make a request.

Neither of Davis' legislators have taken a stance on this legislation.

There is a long list of supporters including National Black Police Association, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LA Police Chief William Bratton, ACLU, San Francisco Board of Supervisors, NACOLE (National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement), the Democratic Party of Alameda County, San Francisco County, the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, among others.

It was only in the wake of what happened in Los Angeles two weeks ago that Villaraigosa and Bratton are fully supportive of SB 1019.

The incident in Los Angeles gives this bill a new shot of momentum as under the current law, as the Los Angeles Times reports, the police chief would be prohibited from disclosing the names of the officers involved in the incident, moreover whether the officers had any prior sustained force complaints. There has to be some sort of transparency that enables police officers and frankly any public official to be held accountable for their actions and the public to be able to determine whether or not they have.

Moreover, and this also can vindicate officers in addition to indict them, the public would not have access to facts developed in the disciplinary investigation including witness testimony. It could be that the officers are vindicated by these findings, but the public would not be able to find out about them--they would have suspicions based on what they have seen and heard in the media.

I think Bernard Parks, the former LAPD Chief made this point exceptionally well in a letter to Senator Romero quoted in the LA Times article:
"Ultimately … the public should have a right to know about how their government works and functions. Secrecy around citizen complaints and police misconduct will only result in greater mistrust of the police, poor police-community relations and ultimately less responsive and accountable police agencies. SB 1019 presents a step in the right direction toward addressing the problems caused by the Copley Press decision."
---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Fallout Still Occurring in Wake of College Republican Game

The California Aggie reported yesterday that discussions were held in the ASUCD Senate regarding the actions by the Davis College Republicans in their now infamous but aborted capture the flag game. The gist of this discussion was an insistence by the DCR members that their actions were "misunderstood" and "misconstrued" that they were not "racist" and that their rights were violated. Many of the members perceived that there were threats against them.

A couple of quotes from the Aggie.
"Street theater is a common technique used to propel a dialogue," said Allison Daley, DCR chair and a sophomore political science major. "Our First Amendment rights were seriously violated."

Daley said she has received over 50 "threatening" e-mails since the DCR event and does not feel safe on campus.

Several students said DCR members were unfairly being stereotyped as "racist," "white" and "upper-middle class."

Aaron Saltzman, a senior international relations major, said DCR harbors no racism.

"We're very concerned, we're very troubled, because we don't hate someone of a different skin color," Saltzman said. "I'm Jewish. And I, too, am also concerned about racism and prejudice … so I can empathize. But when we're accused of being racists as a group, unconditionally, simply because we think illegal immigration is bad, that turns legal and political dispute into a matter of … hatred that demonizes ourselves."
As I have previously expressed with this issue, I agree that their first amendment rights were violated by an angry mob and that was not right. Nor is it right that members of the group have received threats.

I also think Jorge Jimenez a UC Davis alumnus quoted in the paper is exactly right.
"While you have a right to express racism, based on ignorance, then I have the right to call you what you are. And I have the right to say that this society is hurt by those ideas and those views... The problem is not my perception of your racism, the problem is your racism, and I will do whatever it takes to defend the defenseless."
People have the right to free speech, they also have the right to be criticized based on what they say. In short, the DCR has opened themselves up to the charge of racism. Is that really what the DCR was hoping to accomplish?

Here are my thoughts on the incident.

First, the question about racism has been raised. My thought is that word has been largely overused in society. It is not that racism doesn't exist, it is simply that racism is not the only driving force in people's views. It is possible to oppose illegal immigration without being a racist. It is also possible to be completely insensitive without being a racist. It is possible to be demeaning to people without being a racist. There is nothing inherently racist about the game. You do not have to hate Latinos to perform all of the actions and statements made by the DCR regarding illegal immigration. Therefore, I find that label unuseful.

That said, that doesn't mean there are not racist and xenophobic undertones that have underlied this debate. There has been a long history of nativism in this country and at least some of that has been fueled by xenophobia which is in short, a form of racism. By turning the debate into a game of capture the illegal immigrants, the DCR has handed their opposition the r-word and given it some legitimacy.

Second, the game itself was inappropriate for the college setting. It makes light of a very serious situation and it trivializes the actions of others.

Third, one must question the wisdom behind the game. It was unlikely to change anyone's mind. It was much more likely to anger people and polarize opinions. The only people likely to have sympathy for the game itself were people likely to be in their corner to begin with. Therefore, from a political standpoint it was not likely to succeed at its most basic intended goal to draw attention to what the DCR perceived was an important problem in a meaningful way that might be able to sway people.

Fourth, as many have suggested, the Republican party severely damaged itself in the pushing of Proposition 187 despite the fact that it passed in 1994 by wide margins. If anything, games like this are likely to harm the Republican cause by making them look like a bunch of extremists.

There was a good letter to the Davis Enterprise yesterday from Cristina Gonzalez.
"A conversation about immigration issues would have been appropriate and welcome. A game that dehumanized undocumented immigrants and made light of their troubles was not, particularly when this game was scheduled to coincide with the campus' Hispanic celebrations. This was not a comment on immigration, but a provocation against Latinos.

It appears that the College Republicans who participated in this event were not interested in substantive debate. Rather, they wanted to play a game that wasn't funny to many members of the community.

Whatever our political convictions, I think we all would like to see members of the younger generation learn to use their freedom of expression with respect and consideration. The College Republicans who caused this painful disruption made an unfortunate mistake. They should reflect on it and find more mature and professional ways of interacting with the campus community in the future."
The DCR has defended their actions through the veil of free speech. Unfortunately the mob has unwittingly played into that defense by denying them their lawful right to free expression. The lesson that the DCR has learned from that is the wrong lesson. What they need to learn is that there are proper ways to exercise free speech and then there are ways that will get them ridiculed, ostracized, and get their message misconstrued. This played right into the hands of those who believe that anyone opposing illegal immigration is indeed a racist.

In short, this game may play well to the base that is angry already about the issue of illegal immigration, but when you are a small minority both on campus and in the community, it is more likely to anger people than it is to convince people. It leaves open the charge of racism, even if the charge is not completely warranted and it plays into the negative stereotypes that students have about the Republican party. In other words, there was probably a no more damaging thing that the DCR could have done to harm their cause short of having a lynching party and dressing up in sheets.

People may have the right to free speech, but that does not mean they should say everything that pops into your head. When you insult people's sensibilities, it does not bring people to an understanding of your position. Rather it makes people angry and makes people stop listening. I don't think one person's mind was changed based on this game. Moreover, while you did not get to play this game, you probably got more publicity having had your rally shut down than you would have had if people simply ignored you. In this case however, I don't think that helped you either.

There are likely three reactions to this game. The right probably agrees with it, but they agreed with it before. The left thinks the organizers are a bunch of racists. And the vast moderate middle thinks the group are a bunch of kooks.

If the goal is to change people's minds, this was an utter failure. If the goal was to polarize opinions and anger people, then this was a success. I just don't think in the end, this decision helped anyone's cause.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday Midday Briefs

Psuedonymity on the Internet

I guess to the surprise of few I come down strongly in favor of psuedonymity.

But there as an interesting piece in the Washington Post today on the subject:

These days we want "transparency" in all institutions, even private ones. There's one massive exception -- the Internet. It is, we are told, a giant town hall. Indeed, it has millions of people speaking out in millions of online forums. But most of them are wearing the equivalent of paper bags over their heads. We know them only by their Internet "handles" -- gotalife, runningwithscissors, stoptheplanet and myriad other inventive names.

Imagine going to a meeting about school overcrowding in your community. Everybody at the meeting is wearing nametags. You approach a cluster of people where one man is loudly complaining about waste in school spending. "Get rid of the bureaucrats, and then you'll have money to expand the school," he says, shaking his finger at the surrounding faces.

You notice his nametag -- "anticrat424." Between his sentences, you interject, "Excuse me, who are you?"

He gives you a narrowing look. "Taking names, huh? Going to sic the superintendent's police on me? Hah!"

In any community in America, if Mr. anticrat424 refused to identify himself, he would be ignored and frozen out of the civic problem-solving process. But on the Internet, Mr. anticrat424 is continually elevated to the podium, where he can have his angriest thoughts amplified through cyberspace as often as he wishes. He can call people the vilest names and that hate-mongering, too, will be amplified for all the world to see.

I guess in some ways I am an internet romantic, believing that the goal of the internet is to divorce ideas from the physical appearance of individuals who utter them, so that we might judge an idea by the internal logic of that idea rather than automatically accept or dismiss it on the basis of whether or not you like the individual who happens to utter it.

Then again, psuedonymity also creates a protection, and so you see on a lot of anonymous blogs and bulletin boards people saying things to other people behind not only the mask of their identity but also the distance that a keyboard lends over a person to person encounter.

The downside of this is a story from back in March where a 400 pound woman gave birth to a child a few days after finding out she was pregnant.
When a California woman recently gave birth to a healthy baby just two days after learning she was pregnant, the sudden change to her life was challenging enough. What April Branum definitely didn't need was a deluge of nasty Internet comments.

Postings on message boards made cracks about Branum's weight (about 400 pounds — one reason she says didn't realize sooner she was pregnant). They also analyzed her housekeeping ability, based on a photo of her home. And they called her names. "A pig is a pig," one person wrote. Another suggested that she "go on the show 'The Biggest Loser.'"

"The thing that bothered me most was, people assumed because I am overweight, I'm going to be a bad mom," Branum says. "And that is not one little bit true."

Still I think the upside outweighs the downside. The downside can be mitigated through moderators and rules and a basic culture created on a blog. One of the things that moderates my own writings is having to look people in the eye and receive emails and occasionally angry phone calls after I write about them. The same does not hold for the hundreds of people who post comments, usually with either a psuedonym or as "anonymous."

At times I have thought about required registration, but I always come back to the same problem. Many people have good things to say, accurate things to say, important things that need to be heard but cannot do so because they are afraid. I encounter it all the time when I get a person who comes forward with a horrific story about the police or another situation, but are too afraid to come forward. They are too afraid to press a complaint. They are too afraid to even tell their story. This is a small community still where people either know each other or know someone who does and there is a legitimate fear factor about coming forward and reporting the truth. But sometimes they can say it with their names protected and that makes all the difference. I know a lot of people will view that as illegitimate, but I don't think it is. I have personally received enough threats to understand people's fear.

Just some thoughts for today...

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Guest Commentary: Changing The Anderson Bank Building Not in the Public Interest

Tomorrow an item will appear on the Davis City Council Agenda that will first certify the Environmental Impact Report.

The City Staff Report is recommending that they take the council adopt the "no action alternative:"
"Determine that the “No Project Alternative” is the appropriate project based on the staff analysis and the findings of the Historical Resources Management Commission. This determination rejects both Design Options A or B and effectively precludes lowering the windows in question at the Anderson Bank Building."
According to yesterday's Davis Enterprise:

The City Council will make a final decision on whether the windows can be altered at its meeting Tuesday night, but a staff report advises the council against making any changes. The city's Historical Resources Management Commission agreed.

Kidd said if the City Council won't allow the changes, he'll go to the voters by putting a measure on the ballot.

“It'll cost me something like $75,000, but that's what I'm willing to do,” he said.

Kidd has been lobbying the council to approve bigger windows, planting signs around the downtown area that read “Better Windows/Better Retail/Better Downtown. Lower the Anderson Building Windows. KEEP OUR DOWNTOWN VITAL.”

Signed “Citizens and Merchants who Care About Davis,” the sign is to let the City Council know that the high windows not only hurts retail inside the Anderson Bank building, but the downtown as a whole, Kidd said.

“An empty storefront or a lack of display windows discourages shoppers and has a negative ripple effect on surrounding merchants,” Kidd wrote.

Twenty-nine downtown business owners signed a petition to alter the windows, and Kidd forwarded the City Council a string of letters from retailers who expressed interest in locating at the bank building if it wasn't for the high windows.
In all likelihood they will adopt staff recommendations, I can recall times when they have altered staff recommendations, but not a time when they have reversed them. However, it seems that regardless of what the city council determines tomorrow night, this issue will not go away.

What was interesting to me on Saturday being out at the Whole Earth Festival, was just how much this issue really crossed political lines that usually are rather clear in Davis. We will present both sides of the issue.

This piece is written by the Davis Historical Society, Friends of the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis, and Friends of Davis Historic Resources.

Please click here in order to read their article: Changing The Anderson Bank Building Not in the Public Interest

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Vanguard Comes to the Whole Earth Festival

It was a spectacular day in Davis yesterday, the temperatures in the comfortable range in the 70s. In previous years I can remember days where the temperatures closed in on 100 and others where it was cold and rainy. This however was a perfect day to sit at a booth from early in the morning until early in the evening.

I got a chance to meet in person a great many of our regular readers. I greatly enjoyed putting some faces with some names.

Overall the experience was a great success. The power of a good banner which you could easily read and drew attention from the other side of the quad. What drew people to the booth was our trademark description: "Vivid Description of the Dark Underbelly of the People's Republic of Davis." I cannot count how many people came up to our booth saying, "I just have to ask, what is the dark underbelly of Davis." The idea of course as those who are regular to the Vanguard is that we explore issues that to many people are hidden. People's conception of Davis is as a pristine progressive community. Unfortunately, as I explained to our new found potential readers, that is a facade and beneath that facade is a very different picture. That is the picture that the People's Vanguard of Davis tried to report on. The WEF turned out to have a good crowd to make that case to, although a number of people were not from Davis but rather from the surrounding areas.

One of the most endearing moments was when Cecilia was hosting a teach-in to a bunch of activists from Palo Alto as she told stories from the past year, they sat around the booth intently listening.

The children pictured are our great niece and nephew. Cecilia comes from a very large family and is the youngest of eight children, she has 30 nieces and nephews and a large and growing number of great nieces and nephews.

I also got the opportunity to walk around and to see what other activists where at the WEF. Left-wing and environmental was of course the mantra.

The Tuleyome Group was there pushing a couple of key initiatives including one aimed at global warming. There were a number of organic food groups there. Amnesty International of course was there. I saw the Peace and Freedom Party, the Green Party, and the Libertarian Party. What was interesting to me, and I could have missed it, but I saw neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party. However, there were two booths for Obama, one from Sacramento and one from Yolo County. There were no other Presidential candidates out there. I don't know exactly what this all means, but I found it interesting.

One of the more interesting groups was the Prison Reform--Restorative Justice group. The lady there was from Sacramento and I was explaining to her what was going on in this county and I invited her to check out some of the stories on this blog because some of them would blow her away. She was familiar with the Buzayan story, but I told her about Khalid Berney and his arrest and prosecution for goats running at large.

I also spoke to the group organizing the food workers. They will be having another mass rally on Wednesday, May 23, 2007. So they urge everyone to join them again as they try to put pressure on the University.

(Be sure to click on each of the pictures above that I took of the various groups and organizations.)

Overall it was a fun but exhausting day yesterday and I hope some of our newfound friends will join us. The success of the booth and the draw of the banner I think made me realize that we have to take this out to Farmer's Market as well.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting