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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Saylor Tries to Have It Both Ways on Sodexho Struggle

As I opened the press packet from the May 23, 2007 Protest in support of the UC Davis Food Service workers, I was surprised to see a letter to Chancellor Vanderhoef from Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor in support of the Sodexho Workers.

After all, Councilmember Saylor has at best a mixed record on labor issues. When Don Saylor first ran for the Davis Joint Unified School Board in 1995, he was endorsed by the Davis Teacher's Association. However, four years later he did not receive their endorsement. During the course of his first term on the board, the union often found him unreliable. He even was the only member to vote against their contract on one occasion.

As a member of the Davis City Council, Saylor came out last year against a living wage ordinance. Back in August, then newly elected Councilmember Lamar Heystek tried to get a living wage ordinance put on the agenda. Saylor at that time led the way to prevent such an ordinance. By a 3-2 vote, the council prevented that item from being placed on the agenda as a regular agenda item. However, Councilmember Heystek brought it back in late September as an item prepared by a member of the council.

During the debate on this item, Saylor attacked Mr. Heystek's motivations for this item even though he and his colleagues had encouraged Heystek to do so.

Saylor criticized him by saying:
“To bring it up as a discussion is appropriate. To bring it up as a full-blown ordinance for a first reading, that’s not talking about policy, that’s talking about politics in a lead-up to an election.”
Thus given Councilmember Saylor's history on labor issues it was surprising to see his letter in the protester's packet. However, a thorough reading of the letter shows it to be mixed support at best.

Saylor writes to Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef,
"I rarely weigh in on internal matters of campus operations and recognize that there are many aspects to operational issues of this sort... However, I am personally very sympathetic to the concerns of these employees and their families. I know many other Davis community members share that view. I believe it is in the best interest of the campus to resolve this issue in a collaborative manner in the near term, rather than face a protracted dispute."
From the language here you can see that while on the one hand he recognizes that this is an internal matter that has many aspects to it--which is a typical statement by Saylor, he has sympathy for the concerns and he urges a resolution, notice he did not urge the chancellor to accede to the demands of the workers and grant them university status.

He only goes as far as to suggest discussions.

Later in the letter he comes back to this point:
"Again, I am not privy to the array of factors you must consider in weighing this issue."
This is the point he often makes to those who question his motivations and decisions, the public is simply unaware of the intricate deals of such arrangements. Thus he is granting deference to the Chancellor but in so doing he is giving the Chancellor a clear out. The Chancellor could simply say, you are right, you do not know the details and if you did, you would take my position.

Once again, Saylor will only go as far as to urge talks--not demand action.
"Nevertheless, I urge you to meet personally with the workers and their chosen representatives as soon as possible to discuss their proposal that UC Davis alter its relationship with Sodexho and hire the same, dedicated workers directly."
Clearly, Saylor is trying to play both sides in this dispute as he so often does. He grants sufficient deference to the Chancellor, he has a considerably nuanced position, and he only goes so far as to urge talks but not recommend action.

Compare this letter to the April 10, 2007 letter from Councilmember Heystek to Chancellor Vanderhoef.
"I was alarmed when I heard UC Davis contracts out over 500 service workers..."
"Approximately 550 contracted-out workers employed by Sodexho and custodial contractors are organizing with student supports and AFSCME in hopes of becoming UC Davis employees. I support this effort out of a concern for the well-being of the UC Davis community."
He goes on to say:
"Having been a member of three labor unions, two as a University employee and one as a shop steward in the grocery industry, I believe that UC Davis should make responsible employment decisions and adopt policy based on social justice and economic equality... The right to affordable health care, decent wages and, most importantly, equitable treatment of employees doing similar work are values the University should uphold. Furthermore, the money currently used to pay Sodexho should stay within the university community."
Given the language that Councilmember Heystek uses compared with that of Councilmember Saylor, which councilmember really believes in social justice and economic equality and which one is going through the motions and trying to have it both ways?

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Afternoon Briefs: Vanguard to Have Farmer's Market Booth and Much More

Vanguard to Host Farmer's Market Booth

The People's Vanguard of Davis will host a booth at the Davis Farmer's Market tomorrow. We will have literature and discussions about local issues.

In addition, a key attraction will be two petitions calling for the end of the Iraq War. One of which will demand a cut-off of funding immediately except that which is necessary bring home the troops and support the veterans after the get back home. The other will have a time-table for a withdrawal and no funding without a deadline by which troops must be home. Both of these petitions are supported by veterans' groups. People will be free to sign the one that they are most comfortable with signing or have a discussion about the issue.

Here's the language:
"We the undersigned do not support funding the Iraq war. We ask that Congress cut off all funding to the war for any purpose other than for bringing the troops home, veteran's needs, and rebuilding Iraq."

"We the undersigned do not support funding the Iraq war without setting definitive deadlines for troop withdrawal and supporting veteran's needs and rebuilding Iraq."
Student Activists Organize Around Malcolm X and Sodexho

Last night at the Silo on the UC Davis campus, more than 50 students and activists met for a panel discussion on a list of topics that ranged from Malcolm X to Civil Rights to modern activism. The group organized by UC Davis student Devon Lee, brought people of various groups and activism together in hopes of networking and branching out to create a new progressive movement in Davis. Devon Lee was one of the chief organizers last year of student march from the MU to the Davis Police Station in protest of racial profiling practices.

One of the panelists a long time civil rights leader helped to organize people against racial profiling in the West Sacramento area and spoke of the success in fighting the gang injunction. Moreover he cautioned people that West Sacramento Police continue to target minorities and that that struggle is still ongoing.

One of the panelists included Javier Ortiz, a Chicano Studies lecturer, remarked that this was the first time he had seen a large black contingent of students on the UC Davis campus.

Activism was a large topic of conversation, with students expressing difficulty in organizing given a heavy class load and many students needing to work multiple jobs in order to pay for the ever rising cost of tuition.

There were several representatives from Students Organizing For Change, the group leading the protests to make food service workers university employees instead of Sodexho employees. They talked about ways in which people can be active and organize in a short period of time using modern resources such as Facebook and the Internet.

My wife, Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald spoke both as a former member of the HRC and current Union organizer with SEIU. She talked about the need to take direct action and spoke of her experience of helping the Janitor's in Houston to organize and obtain union status and get a new contract that substantially raised the level of pay and benefits for over 5,200 workers.

Shh... Don't Tell Officer Ly

In the Halema Buzayan case last year, Officer Ly determined that Ms. Buzayan was lying about her claim that she was not driving that evening, based on a head scarf. Her mother was wearing a head scarf that evening and she was not. Officer Ly reasoned in a recording, that he felt that the witnesses would have mentioned a head scarf. Attorneys for the family have seized upon this as evidence of Officer Ly prosecuting on the basis of a misunderstanding about their religious attire and a contention that Ms. Buzayan since she was not wearing the head scarf that evening, never wore a head scarf. In fact, she does and she did last night.

Here is a picture with my wife Cecilia and Halema's brother, Mahamed, showing Halema in a headscarf. All three of these individuals have been involved in controversial events in the last year.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Woodland Arrest Sets Stage for Legal Battle on Medical Marijuana in Yolo County

Last week, Josh Fernandez of the Woodland Daily Democrat reported that Bobby Harris owned the pot that was involved in a late night Woodland arrest. For those who do not remember or were not here, Mr. Harris had been a candidate for the Woodland City Council when his house was raided in early 1990 and a number of marijuana plants were seized after being found growing in his basement. Since then, Mr. Harris has become one of the leading advocates for medical marijuana and lynchpin behind the medicinal marijuana initiative and subsequent laws that aid individuals suffering from serious illness.

I interviewed Bobby Harris this week and he told me that he charges well below market rate to people who are in need of the drug for medicinal use. For him this is not about getting rich or even making a lot of money, it is about helping people in need to get the treatment that they deserve.

Mr. Harris has lived in Arcata up in Humboldt county for the last 11 years or so, working with that county in hope of setting up a system to implement the law to enable medicinal use. The laws up there are much more conducive toward helping people get the treatment they need.

However those efforts have now run squarely into Yolo County law enforcement. As Bobby Harris wrote in a letter to State Assemblywoman Lois Wolk:
“One basic and very serious problem I’m running into… is that the local DA is starkly and dramatically violating state law.

It’s like a Kafka novel about a police state. Now, that can’t be Yolo County, can it?”
Following the passage in February by the Yolo County Board of Supervisors of a medical ID card law—a law that Harris calls fundamentally flawed and aimed at helping law enforcement and their “laziness” rather than helping medical marijuana patients—Harris decided to take the fight for medicinal use back to Yolo County.
“Initially, I had to go to Arcata to begin the task of implementation. Now, I have to return to Yolo County to complete this job. Yolo County (in my estimation) is the lynchpin of political policy, for affecting eventual, statewide implementation”
Unfortunately, his legal battle in the early 1990s left him without much in the way of resources—no car, no place to live in Woodland, and no money. He got two young friends in Woodland—Brian and Chris—to bring his belongings from Arcata to Woodland—a five or six hour drive.

This included bags full of marijuana plants. Along with the marijuana, Harris provided Bryan with documentation that stated that he was Harris’ caregiver including written permission from his physician certifying that he was transporting the marijuana for the needs of a patient. According to Harris, this should have made the transport legal.

However, Woodland and Yolo County authorities would argue otherwise as we’ll see shortly. Harris probably made at least two errors, one of which was to try to transport the entire plants down there. The other was allowing the two young men to travel with a jeep that was not in perfect condition.

When asked how it was that they were contacted by the police, Harris told me that as the men entered the outskirts of Woodland, they were pulled over by Woodland Police Officers. “Basically it was what they call a pretext stop,” he said. The back window of the vehicle had been broken and the young men put a plastic cover over it as a opposed to repairing it. The police noticed the plastic flapping around. “Unfortunately we are in a system where it is legal to pull people over for such things.” As the officer approached the car of course, he quickly smelled the large quantity of marijuana and searched the vehicle and found nine pounds of marijuana plants.

Proposition 15 which was passed by California voters and overwhelmingly passed by Yolo County voters in 1996 does not contain any kind of limitations for the amount of marijuana that can be transported. However, AB 420 authored by John Vasconcellos does.

Mr. Harris believes that Vasconcellos’ law was an unnecessary sell out and compromise of Proposition 215. It gives statewide guidelines pertaining to the amount of marijuana that can be transported and given to patients. These limits are up to 6 mature or 12 immature plants and up to half a pound of dried, processed marijuana.

Mr. Harris’ friends were found with 9 pounds. But as he explained, about 8 of those pounds are unusable parts of the plant. There was only about a pound worth of usable marijuana and the rest was basically trash. Of course neither the police nor the DA’s office see it this way.

Moreover, as Bobby Harris pointed out to me, there are exemptions in the law if there is a physician statement that they need more than one half pound. His physician gave him a document that authorized pounds and 25 plants. He adamantly told me that he made those specific preparations and that he was fully authorized to transport the amount that was transported.

I recently spoke with a former prosecutor who told me of a case that happened awhile back whereby they had seized a large quantity of marijuana plants. But because the plants will rot if you keep them in plastic bags, you have to wrap them in paper, like you would vegetables. Once you wrap them in paper they dry out and they lose a considerable amount of weight. By the time the evidence got to court, there was much less in weight and they had to account for where the rest of the marijuana went. A key question they said will be whether the court will weigh usable versus unusable quantities.

I asked Bobby Harris whether they are being charged with a federal law or a state law. And he said, “state law.” If they are being charged with a violation of state law, it would appear that the DA’s office will have a legal battle on their hands. My sources tell me that the DA’s office is a bit apprehensive about the case.

According to Fernandez’s article in the Daily Democrat:
“Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig has another opinion.

Reisig has made it quite clear that he favors federal law over state law when it comes to medical marijuana.”
As the Vanguard reported in February, both Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig has argued that he is bound by federal law over state law. He and Sheriff Ed Prieto argued that the county should not pass an ordinance authorizing the use of medical marijuana ID cards.

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

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

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

However, Reisig avoided the question because he knows full well that the county and local police do not enforce federal laws, rather they enforce state laws and the state law of California is clear, not only does the law allow the use of marijuana with the permission of a doctor for the purposes of medicinal use but the state law Senate Bill 420 requires counties to provide identification cards. And the State Supreme Court upheld this law this past December.”
The fundamental problem according to Mr. Harris is inadequate training on the part of law enforcement authorities to deal with these issues.
“Local law enforcement officials (from the top to the bottom) are inadequately trained to understand, engage and evaluate matters in this area of state policy --- and they are being used through the agency and power of the local DA to blatantly violate state law.

This is not simply reckless or indifferent behavior by the local DA, it is plainly intentional conduct, based upon his obviously incorrect understanding of the law and the huge responsibilities of his office.”
Harris told the Daily Democrat:
“If (Reisig is) going by federal law, he's violating his oaths of office… There's a little understanding on the part of law enforcement."
The argument from Reisig makes as little sense today as it did in February, I have not heard of a District Attorney charge an individual and prosecute a federal crime.

Overall Bobby Harris is not impressed with Yolo County’s efforts on the medicinal use of marijuana front.
“You say that Helen and some other local politicians are supportive of P215, but the facts are that (even) SB420 has been on the books for several years, without adequate response and support by them. They haven’t acted to expand the - - spectacularly absurd - - state (supposedly “threshold”) limits on possession and cultivation, for example; while, Humboldt Co. has responsibly done so.

So far, Yolo Co. has failed to properly implement this initiative, after more than a decade, despite this latest small (and unlawful, as earlier explained) consideration and program given to patient ID cards.”
Still, Mr. Harris saves his most pointed criticism for Jeff Reisig, Yolo County’s new district attorney.
“Yolo County is much more sophisticated than to permit this sort of gibberish which is emanating from the DA to prevail as public policy. What’s going on over there in Yolo County?”
Bobby Harris was well aware of the problems involving Dave Henderson’s tenure as District Attorney, what he was not as well aware of was that Reisig was Henderson’s handpicked successor.

Listening to Jeff Reisig back in February arguing against state mandated identification cards on the basis of federal supremacy, it was clear that at some point this type of situation would occur, where there would be a major bust of an individual transporting medicinal marijuana. With good counsel, it seems likely that this arrest could be thrown out, however, this case does represent a bit of gray area. Part of the problem here has been the lack of aggressiveness of state and local official to implement voter mandated programs in the face of federal opposition. However, contrary to the viewpoint of Reisig, he represents the state of California in legal hearings, not the federal government and as such he has a duty to uphold the laws of the state of California. If federal officials wish to prosecute individuals for possession and transport of marijuana for medicinal use, let them come here and do that.

Reisig, the Woodland Police, and Yolo County Sheriff’s Office need to follow state and county law. It would be helpful if the county supervisors would follow-through after their 3-2 vote in February to make the law even stronger and prevent county law enforcement agencies from making such arrests.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see where this case ends up going as it has the potential to be a landmark case in the fight for medicinal use of marijuana for patients who are suffering from debilitating and in many cases terminal illnesses. It would be very nice to see the two local County Supervisors who are health and welfare advocates step up here and prevent this from occurring in the future.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Chief Black Calls For More Personnel and Training as Budget Priority

On Tuesday May 22, 2007, the Davis City Council had a workshop on the 2007/ 2008 Fiscal Year Proposed Budget. One of the components of this budget were the public safety needs of the police department. Newly hired Chief Landy Black made his first statements as a chief for what he saw as the budgetary needs and priorities of his department.

According to City Manager Bill Emlen, unfunded needs are "basically items that we did not include in the budget but were suggested by the various departments during the course of the budget process."

It is clear to many observers that the Davis Police Department is understaffed in terms of both support staff and actual officers on the beat. Back in February, the Police Ombudsman as well as the council spoke of the need to upgrade training of officers. However, I think one point that really has not been discussed in this community sufficiently is the issue of staffing of the police department and in the unfunded needs (see the graphic), you see a number of them that relate directly to the need for more staff.

These needs include: an IT analyst/ project manager, a fourth lieutenant, a new training officer, a police dispatch supervisor, a police services specialist who specializes in calls for service, and of course additional police officers. The need for new police officers is quite clear and has been for some time. This point has been driven home not only with long response times to often serious crimes such as a daylight downtown bank robbery, but also by basic logistical problems.

Chief Black spoke strongly to the need for the proper levels of personnel as a means to adequately train and supervise officers on patrol. He acknowledged that this was crucial toward dealing with public confidence issues that have arisen in recent years. However, his point also drove home the need for the people that the public may not see--the supervisors, training officers, and support staff all of which appear to be greatly lacking.
"50 percent of our officers are working in the patrol division with minimal supervision. With the public confidence issues that have been dealt with over the last couple of years with the city of Davis I think can be remedied by having quality training, quality supervision, and oversight, and that can't be done by simply moving people around, we need to actually take an aggressive plan, to put in that oversight process, to bring in the people who will be doing the oversight, and show how to properly do their job."
Moreover Chief Black also spoke of the need to ensure that technology such as the video cameras and police computers are operational not just as a means to protect the public but also to protect the officers.
"Part of the problem that we are trying to overcome is a perception of our inability to manage the technology within the department which is creating both a public confidence problem because they expect that our technology's going to do what it is supposed to do to ensure their rights and give us the ability to defend ourself when there are criticism of our actions."
Fortunately it seems that both the video cameras and the in-car computers are now working most of the time, but there was a long delay that not only fed into the perception about the department but also put police officers at risk in several different ways as the chief alluded.

One of the positions in great need is for a fourth Lieutenant position. However, Black also suggested that dispatch is in need of a supervisor. Basically there is one person who is responsible for that job 24 hours a day.

I witnessed this first hand last Saturday as I rode along with a police officer for a "ride along." On this Saturday night they had five units on the beat and two "party officers" who are on overtime and are there to respond to noise complaints and other out of the control party events late on the weekend or Thursday nights. At 1:00 a.m. officers responded to a serious incident involving injuries and an assault.

This incident eventually took up all but one unit that was on duty. Because they needed that last unit free, they did not respond to several of the noise complaints. This was done just in case another serious incident occurred, the one unit could not be tied down.

This incident illustrates how thin the resources are stretch, if a single moderate incident can tie down all but one unit, it is clear that the department simply does not have enough resources to ensure the safety of the city at peak times such as late at night on the weekends.

While the department also requested some equipment, it is clear that personnel is a clear priority both for the department and this community. However, it is also clear that the new personnel needs to coincide with more training. Unfortunately, there are a great number of departments and services in this city that also need to be funded. However, in my view, getting more police officers and more command officers should be one of the highest priorities in this city. Some of the problems that we have seen in the last few years result directly from the lack of staffing and as importantly the lack of supervision and training of the officers who patrol this city. From that perspective of both this community and our police force, we owe it them to fully staff them and properly train them.

I do not mean this to dismiss the need for equipment. Assistant Chief Pierce who is more familiar with past issues, once again made a pitch for a live-fire training facility. I understand the need for that and how that could be of value. However, scarcity of funding means making tough decisions in terms of what gets funded and what does not. From my standpoint, I would prefer that money go toward more personnel, supervisors, support staff, and some of the training proposals that have been discussed in recent years.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sodexho Workers and Supporters March on Mrak Hall; Mrak Hall Locked Down

In the second large protest on the UC Davis campus this month, over 100 Sodexho Workers, Union Organizers, and other supporters marched from the Memorial Union to Mrak Hall in protest of the University's outsourcing of food service workers. On May 1, over 500 people marched down to the intersection of Anderson and Russell where 24 people sat down in the street and were arrested in a peaceful act of civil disobedience.

According to organizers, the main issues are ability over over 550 food service workers, custodians, and cooks to get university jobs which would entitle them to higher pay. An outsourced worker gets around $10.35 an hour versus a starting minimum over over $12 hour and a max of up to $15.50 for a university employee. However, even more important are health care benefits. One of the workers told me she was paying over $100 for her health care package where a UC Davis employed worker would only pay about 5% of that.

The protesters marched from the Memorial Union to Mrak Hall where they chanted and begged and requested Larry Vanderhoef to come out and talk with them. At one point asking him to quit hiding and to come out and talked.

The organizers read a newly released letter from the Chancellor's office telling them that the university intended to honor their contract with Sodexho until it expired in 2010. This brought an angry reaction from the protesters.

A small contingent of 15 protesters had gotten inside the building prior to the protest and spoke to the crowd from second story windows. According to later reports, 15 of these people were arrested when they refused to leave the building.

The building was eventually locked down out of concern for public safety and the safety of the employees working in the building, although the crowd was largely well organized and did not seem to present a tremendous danger. The doors locked and protesters outside demanding action.

One of the organizers told me that other universities arrangements were made so that the workers could be both Sodexho Employees and university employees, thereby honoring the contract while the workers were able to enjoy the full benefits that other university employees enjoy.

Alma Martinez, one of the organizers, had a strong message to the folks in Davis who may only be somewhat aware of this struggle in their midst.
"Our message is wake up Davis! On May first, you saw what we can do. The perception is that this is just a white town, but we're here, we care about issues, we are not just letting this thing go by.... Here locally there are things happening that we can change, and we can bring up justice in our own community."
Meanwhile the university appears to be trying to run out the clock. According to Alma Martinez,
"It is definitely a stalling tactic. This is not the first time this happened, this also happened two years ago... What they did last time is try to push it back to summer... But this time around we made sure we had enough support [at the] start this time around, that's why we waited so long to actually have the first public action. That's what they are trying to do, summer comes along, students leave, and we have to start all over again. But this summer it's going to be different, we are going to constantly be here. We are definitely going to keeping fighting this until it happens. As Dr. King puts it, injustice to one is injustice to all."
In an April 10, 2007 letter to the Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, State Assemblywoman Lois Wolk said:
"I am very concerned about the practice of contracting out of more than 500 service workers at the University of California, Davis. In talking with some of these workers, many of whom were students and rely on these wages to pay for school, it became apparent that their health benefits are minimal and that their wages are among the lowest in the entire UC system."
Still the Assemblywoman has played a low key role, urging Vanderhoef to meet with the workers and the AFSCME representatives to "discuss how and when UCD will eliminate its contracting-out practice. but not doing so in a public manner. "

Meanwhile it remains clear that this battle is far from over with the university apparently now digging in its heals and the protesters not about to go away.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Analysis: Why Kidd Failed To Get Support to Lower Anderson Bank Building Windows

Last week, the Davis City Council in a very close 3-2 vote, decided to deny an application by Anderson Bank Building owner Jim Kidd to lower the windows in the portion of the building on the corner of Second and G in Davis currently occupied by Futon Emporium. While we often have 3-2 votes, this is one of the closer vote I can recall, as it could have gone either way with any number of combinations.

The general consensus is that while I think most observers believe the council found value in the conception of historic preservation, it was as much the actions and conduct of the applicant as any principal that in the end led to the denial of the application to the lower the windows.

One thing strongly suggested by city staff is the lack of upkeep and maintenance performed by Jim Kidd. Had Kidd poured resources into the building and still not been able to attract quality business to the corner unit, there was have been far greater sympathy on the part of the staff and some of the members of the council.

However as several council members pointed out last Tuesday, the building is in need of much repair.

As Councilmember Stephen Souza and several members of the public pointed out, the exterior of the building is badly in need of repair. However, Mr. Souza was most pointed:
"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."
The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) called for a number of upgrades to the building that the council suggested even after rejecting the application:
1. Remove all existing awnings on the southern and eastern elevations of the building in order to expose the historic and character-defining arched windows original to the building.

2. Repair and restore the building’s cornice along the street-facing elevations.

3. Removal and replacement of the existing second floor windows to match in-kind the original second floor windows of the building.

4. Clean the exterior of the building, and either expose the original brickwork or repaint the building.

5. Restore and replace all existing exterior lighting fixtures to match in-kind the original lighting fixtures.

6. Repair and restore the Grate for the Bank Bell.
We'll talk more about these shortly.

The second reason that Kidd's application failed is that he for whatever reason waged a heavy handed campaign aimed at putting pressure on the council. First, he placed lawn signs in various locations urging support for lowering the windows.

Second, in a Davis Enterprise Article on May 13, 2007, he threatened to go to the voters if the council did not support him.
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.”
Third, he collected a number of signatures and solicited emails, both of which were questionable in terms of whether the petition actually had the signatures of current business owners (in some cases, we know that they were either old petitions or did not have the signature of the current owner) and also questionable in terms of some of the emails generated.

As Councilmember Souza stated:
"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."
As members of the council, the EIR, and members of the public indicated, the building is indeed in great need of repair and renovation on the exterior. Mr. Kidd suggested he put $1 million into repairs, some of which were not required following the 2002 fire, but my examination suggests a number of repairs that are needed and would greatly enhance the commercial as well as the aesthetic value of the building. I agree fully with the recommendations in the EIR and will add a few of my own thoughts.

As Saylor said during last week's city council meeting:
"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."
I had realized after driving by it on Saturday night that I had never really taken a look at the building either, so I too went to the building. The building talked to me as well, but it said something very different than what it told Saylor. It was screaming to me, please repair me, I'm dirty and falling apart. Please take care of me. Please paint me. Restore my original color. Don't cut me open.

I took a number of pictures (see above) and here are my thoughts.

First, I agree with the EIR, the current color is not very attractive, I think a more natural brick color would look tremendous.

Second, the awnings definitely detract from the building and partially obstruct the windows.

Third, the outside is indeed filthy and in need of a cleaning--although I think restoring the bricks would be ideal. In addition, some of broken and cracked.

However, the big thing I took away from my encounter with the building is how ludicrous the window argument is. The argument they were making is that it would be difficult to attract people inside who cannot see in. But the windows are not up that high, and moreover there are two glass double door entrances, one facing "G" Street and the other facing Second Street that allow for full view. It is difficult to maintain the argument that people cannot see into the building and therefore fuller side windows are of a grave necessity.

A good business who markets the building could easily create fascinating window displays that draw in customers. As you can see from the pictures, the current business has not utilized the window space at all. That combined with a revamping of the exterior to make it more attractive would probably do far more to make that location more profitable than any changes to the windows.

As Councilmember Souza aptly stated:
"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."
In short, I do not know what Saylor was looking at, but my visit to the location made me much less sympathetic toward Mr. Kidd's plight. In short, fix up and clean the building and market the space better. I do not even believe that it is necessary to not have retail there, if it is marketed properly, but as Councilmember Souza pointed out, retail is not the only option.
"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."
I will say I am now convinced that even if we are fixated on retail, the window situation is not an impediment. What seems to be the bigger impediment is the condition of the building--and that is completely on Mr. Kidd. Moreover, the bigger impediment seems to be the lack of utilization of window space by the existing business rather than the lack of proper window space.

The council made the right call here and we can only hope that Mr. Kidd heeds their recommendations to renovate this lovely historical building--it is good for the character of the city and it will be good for his business. History and commerce should not be diametrically opposing concepts and there is no reason that the historical character of the Anderson Bank Building cannot be preserved while at the same time the location made more profitable.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

DHS Events Show Both the Promise and Problems of Race in Davis

As adviser Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia said in her introduction last night, "Adults, I wish we could just learn from young people, they are not afraid to go there [ask tough questions and make tough conclusions]. Adults are afraid to go there." In many ways this embodied the entire presentation of the research designed, conducted and implemented by the Davis High School Catalysts for Social Justice Student Research Scholars. This panel of 13 students of racially, ethnically, religious and academically diverse backgrounds was commissioned to ask the tough questions that the school district and we as a community have dealt with all year and for many years. It explored "the causes and solutions to the persistent disparities in academic achievement and discipline patterns seen at DHS and throughout this high-performing school district."

This research was arranged and presented as an academic would collect, analyze, and present their research at a conference. Dr. Murray-Garcia announced that the course "Race and Social Justice in U.S. History" had been approved by the school district. It is a course that meets the graduation requirement for U.S. History and "explores the struggle of both White and non-White ethnic groups in their historic and ongoing struggle for social justice." It currently has over 100 students registered which has allowed for three classes taught by Kevin Williams. (I hope to do a story on this course in the coming weeks).

The theme of this research and title of the presentation was "Growing Up Biracial in Davis." One of the themes that they discussed with an author was "How would children feel if they had no role models and if none of the protagonists could they relate to?" This is the dilemma facing biracial students who at times feel that they belong in several groups but at the same time belong in no groups.

The presentation began with survey data, many of which had just been presented to the Davis Joint Unified School Board by the Achievement Gap Task Force. The racial breakdown of DHS students shows that just under two-thirds of the students are white (63.4 percent), which marks a somewhat sharp decrease from six years ago when nearly 70 percent were white. Latino students grew from 10 to 12 percent and Asians from 15.7 to 19.3 percent. Africans stayed fairly steady with a small increase to 4 percent.

An examination of teacher race and ethnicity shows that there was very little change in the racial composition of teachers over the last six years. White teachers comprise 85 percent of the certificated faculty. There are just four African American teachers this year out of 464 teachers district-wide and none of them are at DHS.

In addition to underrepresentation of teachers, there was a considerable racial gap among DHS Graduates. Over 80% of White and Asians students met UC/CSU requirements while just 51 percent of African Americans and 45.7 percent of Latinos did. That disparity is very pronounced in math where 62.5 percent of Asians and 44 percent of whites were enrolled in advanced math course. That number falls to 22 percent for African Americans and 15 for Latinos.

GATE enrollment showed a similar disparity. According to their research,
"Key finding here is that there have been increases, albeit small, in the proportion of students who were of African American, Latino, and Native American descent enrolled in the district’s GATE program. Disturbingly, these proportions are not close, even with re-screening, to the proportions of White and Asian students enrolled in the district’s GATE program."
On the flip side, minorities were more than twice as likely as Whites and Asians to receive Special Education Services.
"African American, Latino and Native American students are 2 times as likely as Whites and 3 times as likely as Asians to receive Special Education services. This phenomenon is consistent with national trends in racially unequal assignment to Special Education. There were small increases in the proportion of Black, Latino, and Native American students receiving special education services."
The suspension data show a large and demonstrable disparity as well. For 2005-06, 1 in 30 White students and 1 in 80 Asian students were suspended. Compare that with 1 in 8 African American and 1 in 12 Latino students.
"The data are consistent with the well-documented and persistent national and statewide finding that African Americans and Latinos receive more harsh sentences for their criminal convictions than Whites. In an article in Time Magazine (May 27,2002) entitled, “Learning While Black,” a research study in Indiana was reported, with the original paper having been published in the December issue of The Urban Review. "
They also looked at in-house suspension (as opposed to at-home suspensions). District-wide for this year, 1 in 20 White students, 1in 5 African American students, 1 in 7 Latino students, 1 in 50 Asian students, and 1 in 30 Native American students served In-House Suspensions.
"In-House suspension data are not usually collected and are not federally-mandated to be reported. Interestingly, these rates are more racially unequal than traditional at-home suspension data."
That was the first part of their findings. The second part is a focus group study that interviewed 10 biracial students in three groups. Here they explored the research question: "What is the experience of growing up biracial in Davis, and is there anything that parents, teachers and/or peers can do to make it more positive?" They present three sets of findings. First themes common across all three groups. Second, themes distinct to each group. And finally advice for parents, teachers, and peers.

The Latino participants really liked Davis as a place to grow up biracial. As one student in focus group said:
"We are fortunate to live in Davis because everyone’s very open-minded and I think people are willing to embrace your culture if you tell them about it..."
On the other hand, they also found, that it was more challenging growing up biracial in Davis than in other more racially diverse cities.
"Yeah, it is different in different cities. It’s partly because we go to a city that has a population of maybe like one Black person. Then they really do look at you weird, and they’re like, “What are you doing here?” And then they do not know like what you’re wearing and then like…no clue. And like, they’re totally against Black people. And they actually think that Black people have like a way of living differently from everyone else. So, it’s different in different cities. It matters how many biracial people there are and how many Blacks and how many whites there are there."
They also expressed difficulty at times with having multiple identities.
“Yeah, they’ll criticize you. “Hey, why are…I thought you were Black. Why don’t you…why are you dressing White?” Like. And then you feel out of place. And then if you dress Black and you’re in a big group of White people, they’re like, “Oh, look at this ghetto fool walking up over here.”
Moreover that treatment differed based on their social group. They found their black friends were less accepting of them being biracial but whites were uncomfortable with the racial identity at all and thus very hesitant to talk about it out of fear of offending.
"I have White friends they always seem like really careful like anytime they ever mention somebody who’s Black. They’re always really careful to try and not offend you. So sometimes that gets kind of too annoying. It’s like, come on, calm down, I won’t be that offended if you just express your opinions. "
The students also present advice to teachers, students, and their parents. A couple of the key recommendations to teachers included not prejudging a student's ability and motivation to learn based on their identity.

Another key was that they all wanted more teachers of color. This has been a persistent theme in all of these studies. But it is good to hear it from a student's perspective in addition to an educator. Remember also the early theme about role models and the lack thereof.
"Yeah, it’s kind of disappointing. You know. I’m pretty sure that they can teach just . as good and they might have different approaches to teaching. The school might learn something new. Like if there’s noone that can teach this class or they’re just not given that chance. Cause I just wanna know that. Probably won’t ever find out, but I just kinda wanna know. "
A key theme in the advice to both parents and teachers was to teach the children about both sides of their heritage and to be direct about it.

Like all good research they concluded with a summary and also limitations of their work. Anytime one does research, it is very important to understand the limitations of the work. First, they would have liked to have had more students in the focus groups because they acknowledge that they did not capture the entire spectrum of experiences and perspectives of their biracial students in Davis. Second, while focus groups help to generate ideas, they do not help to quantify their prevalence. And finally, they wanted more time to analyze and think about the data.

Overall they suggest:
"We can say that there is a distinct experience, sometimes positive, sometimes more challenging, to growing up biracial in Davis.

Young people in Davis are some of the best experts on their experiences, and it benefits all of us in the community to take their ideas seriously."

Following the presentation there was a lengthy question and answer period. There were more than 100 people in attendance, including four of the five school board members: Keltie Jones, Gina Daleiden, Tim Taylor, and Sheila Allen. Also Davis City Councilmember Lamar Heystek and Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada.

The concerns about the lack of diverse faculty were of paramount concern this part of the pointed criticism expressed by both the public and some of the students.

As one student put it:
"This has been about the third or fourth time its been brought to their attention [lack of minority teachers at DHS], if that doesn't work, I don't know what will."
According to Jann Murray-Garcia it is in part a public relations problem.
"Davis has been known as the Mississippi of the west, and that's not being fair to Mississippi."
Civil Rights leader and Reverend Timothy Malone said pointedly and passionately:
"We're told all the time they can't find an African American teacher--they are not looking hard enough!"
Longtime Community Activist Tansey Thomas asked point blank:
"Why would an African American want to teach here?"
Finally school board member Tim Taylor, himself African American said:
"I refuse to look at the glass as half-empty, I choose to look at it as half full... I'd like to fill it up the rest of the way to the top, however."
His response drew some angry rebukes. Many of the longtime members of the audience believe that the situation has actually gotten worse and not better.

The passion of the audience reflects the longevity of this issue. As my wife, Cecilia, mentioned on the way home last night, it was just amazing to her that this is even an issue, that we are in 2007 and we do not have an African-American teacher at Davis High School.

In all, it was a strong and passionate presentation and reflected well on the strength of the students and their abilities. I understand fully that the school board is taking steps to address these issues, but this community has seen attempts in the past and seen good suggestions that were simply not implemented. As we suggested previously, reports making many of the same suggestions have sat on the shelves collecting dust. I think this community wants action rather than rhetoric and I think that above all else is what drew some of the ire in the direction of Tim Taylor.

However one point needs to be driven home--the great work of these very talented, bright and articulate young students and the direction that they got from Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, May 21, 2007

Malcolm X and Modern Community Civil Rights Leaders Honored in Davis

In 2005, the Davis City Council acting on a recommendation from the Davis Human Relations commission passed a proclamation to recognize and celebrate the birthday of Malcolm X on May 19. This proclamation was approved and signed by Mayor Ruth Asmundson.

Among the provisions in that proclamation was a recognition of the role of Islam and an awareness of the importance of Malcolm X to the broader population of America:
"Whereas, Malcolm X has become a legend and a hero for Black and White youth alike. No one Black man has so captured the imagination and allegiance of BLack young people as has Malcolm X."
When the Human Relations Commission drew up a similar proposal for 2006, however, Don Saylor objected and was joined by Ruth Asmundson and Ted Puntillo in voting against such a recognition. Sue Greenwald and Stephen Souza abstained but did not object.

Bill Calhoun, a long time African American resident and among the first African American teachers in Davis, sat on the HRC. He was outraged by both the decision to oppose a Malcolm X Proclamation and by the way way the Council treated the issue during the meeting.

As a result, last year, Bill Calhoun out of his own pocket, rented the council chambers and presented a movie on the life of Malcolm X that over fifty members of the community attended.

It is unfortunate the Davis City Council has not seen fit to both honor a civil rights leader but also to educate the community about who Malcolm X was and what he stood for. What a lot of people forget is that Malcolm X himself had come to see the errors of some of his ways and embraced a much more peaceful and inclusive message prior to his death, and it were those views that in many ways led to his untimely death.

We have had in this community an incident where the misconceptions about Malcolm X led to very serious consequence. The student who was suspended for that incident was awarded on Saturday evening and he said as the result of the incident and his speech, many students have come up to him and said that this caused them to learn much more about who Malcolm X was and many in fact, had not heard of Malcolm X prior to the incident. This was a seminal figure in American history and we are not educating out children about his role--the good and the bad. The City of Davis has not helped in that educational capacity and the manner in which they pulled this man's celebration from their long list of recognitions.

This year, Mr. Calhoun was able to secure the Library Blanchard Hall for the event. In addition to the movie, Mr. Calhoun award a number of individuals and groups for civil rights achievements.

This included:

Human Rights Award: Sue Chan
Civil Rights Award: Dean Johansson
Outstanding Student Leader Award: Hui-Ling Malone
Outstanding Courage Award: Jamal Buzayan and Mohamed Buzayan
Lifetime Achievement Award: Richard and Elaine Patterson
Outstanding Student Organization Award: DHS Black Student Union

Upcoming Event:

A reminder that tonight at the DHS Multippurpose Room at 7 PM will be a presentation by Catalysts for Social Justice (formerly Youth in Focus) who will discuss "Growing Up Bricial in Davis.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting