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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Commentary: Davis as an anti-student College Town?

I've seen this all before in a way, having grown up in another college town which in most respects was not very student friendly. For some reason, there are constant wars between the town folks who are permanent residents and the students who are treated more like outside invaders than economic livelihood makers. There are many differences in San Luis Obispo and Davis, but there seem to be some major similarities, most notably that the university comprises a tremendous percentage of the economy both directly in terms of employment and indirectly in terms of drawing students who then spent their money on the retail and entertainment in the town. The other similarity is darker and more insidious, and that is the attitude of the townsfolk toward the temporary residents.

The recent debate over the 3rd and B St Visioning Project illustrates rather perfectly the tension in Davis' identity. On the one hand, the stated purpose of the project is to bring the university together with the larger community. The project's goal is to create "an urban village" that will include higher density homes with a stronger connection with UC Davis. On the other hand, they go about achieving that by eliminating a large number of student homes and housing on the edge of campus and replace them with owner-occupied homes. Owner-occupied homes meaning non-absent landlord, meaning not student rentals.

If you look at the city of Davis and compare it to a lot of other distinctly college towns in this country, you will notice that there are no areas that are distinctly student areas. There are few to no businesses that are distinctly there to serve students. To the extent that there are even any of those types of businesses the closest you can come in the city is on Third Street between A and University.

The closing of Roma was a tremendous blow to the vitality of this area, but you still have a number of restaurants that rely on students coming off campus to frequent them. You still have Navines which does a tremendous proportion of its business with the university. And you have a large concentration of student rental units not only on third street but throughout the neighborhood.

As I have stated three times now, one in each piece I have done on this project, the only part of Davis the really feels like a college town is this area of town immediately to the east of the university.

Compared with other college towns this area is extremely small in land area. In many ways it extends only up to Russell, over to B Street and down to 1st Street. That's really four square blocks, eight if you count University as a full block in between B and A.

And yet even that small space is under attack from those in this city. As it is, I am unfortunately forced to conclude that the "vision" here is completely and fundamentally anti-student whereby one key element in the "vision" is to eliminate the presence of students in the neighborhood currently most closely associated with the university. How ironic that this is actually being sold as a means to create a stronger connection with UC Davis--how do you do that by kicking all of the current student occupants out of the neighborhood?

It is interesting to understand that this is merely the latest round is a long historical process of removing students from the Davis downtown. If this "vision" is realized, Davis residents will have achieved an end for which they have been working since at least the 1930s.

As Professor John Lofland documents in his Papers on Davis History article "A 1920s-50s Student District in Davis, California," when Second Street was the dominant east-west link between the railroad and the UCD campus, a student district first developed on and near Second between A and B (and spread).
But in a late 1930s zoning struggle within the Davis elite that was won by the anti-student faction, student living groups--the norm of the time--were hemmed in and discouraged as a matter of public policy.

A key episode in 1938 set in motion a "student removal" (or at least strong containment) policy that has been in play ever since. So it is that from well over a dozen fraternities in the downtown just after World War II, we are now down to two, neither of which is in the University-Rice area. (Indeed, it is ironic as Professor Lofland notes, that one of the leading current defenders of a student presence in the Third and B area was himself one of the leading architects of student removal, in the form of stern living group treatment, over the 1970s and '80s.)

[Click here to view the paper drawn from above]

Student removal is thus an old story and debate. It is a constant struggle in Davis, at least according to Professor Lofland. So far this debate has not been framed in these terms, but rather as a debate between development and preservation. However, it seems of necessity to look at the overall impact of this policy if it is carried out.

The majority on council has taken strong measures to portray itself as pro-university. But the student population comprises 30,000 people. How can a city council be pro-university if their policies harm the largest consumers of university services and thus put greater strain on the university once again to provide adequate and affordable residences for its student population.

We should further note that this debate takes place at the end of Spring Quarter, just as students are about to take their finals. The students are not even paying attention to this issue. But in a few years, they will find their prime locations for residences torn down and replaced with multi-use and multi-level condos that are designated as owner-occupied. This is the type of college town we appear to live in?

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday Briefs: Weekend Happenings and More

Vanguard Booth at Farmer's Market on Saturday Morning Last week was so successful we will be back once again at Farmer's Market. Last week we had hundreds of signatures for our anti-war petition. We will bring it back again. In addition, we will have a petition to support affordable health care (at least that's what I was told).

Free Vanguard Bumperstickers!

Next week, we will receive our first order of bumperstickers. They will be selling for $2 a piece. However, the first 50 people that email me with a request including a name and address will received a People's Vanguard of Davis bumpersticker for free! This is a limited time offer.

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The People's Vanguard of Davis now has a facebook group. If you are a registered facebook user please click here to join the facebook group. If you are not a facebook user, but want to be, please click here to join facebook.

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The BeerFest Returns!

Dear Friends,

What are you doing Saturday 2-5 pm?

Why not join me at the BeerFest at Sudwerk!

Many of you know that I am director of Citizens Who Care, a private non profit Yolo County agency that provides social support and respite service to frail elderly and their family caregivers. Our trained volunteers will help about 60 clients and their families this year. To run the agency requires part-time assistance from assessment nurses, a program supervisor, and office staff. Even though the full-time equivalent staff total is only 2.5 people, by the time we pay them, our insurers and our landlord we find it takes over $125,000 a year to do what we do. So, we raise money! And one of our chief ways of doing that is by having fundraisers.
This Saturday we will have our third annual BeerFest! I hope to see you there! I have attached a flyer to share with your friends!

Thanks for your support,

Ken Wagstaff
Citizens Who Care (see our photo and ad in Thursday's Enterprise!)

For more information click here

--Doug Paul Davis reporting

Commentary: B Street and 3rd Project Moves on Despite Concerns

The proposed B and 3rd Street Visioning Project moved forward with approval from the Planning Commission on Wednesday night. This despite a number of concerns raised by residents in the neighborhood, some of which were altered, and by residents in the community concerned that such a massive and drastic project would alter the character of Davis.

The most serious concerns raised by the Commission were those of traffic and parking. While I agree that both of these are serious concerns, I think this is the beginning and not the end of the potential problems. The intersection of 2nd and B is of particular concern. That intersection is a disaster waiting to happen, not just because of the congestion on B Street, but also because of the somewhat obstructed visibility that a driver coming out of 2nd Street faces. The traffic planner says that is a light waiting to happen but it has not reached the outflow capacity needed to trigger such a change. What I think the city is missing is that many people simply avoid that intersection because of the difficulty particularly of making a left turn. That turns much of the traffic onto A Street, a street that will become even more congested if the density of that neighborhood increases.

It became apparent on Wednesday night that many of the residents in that neighborhood understood full well that this project is going forward. As I told several people this week, there is simply no way that this city council majority is going to vote against a development project. Moreover, with Sue Greenwald conflicted off this vote, it is basically going to be a 3-1 vote for approval on the council when it gets that far.

As such, the residents of that community seemed to strategically aim for compromise rather than outright opposition. Residents came forward with a list of recommended changes in the project itself. Resident John Hall basically came forward and said that the residents do not oppose a reasonable plan, but the current proposal is over-the-top.

The Planning Commission did make one recommendation to alter the proposal and that is to limit the buildings to 38 feet or three stories, which is certainly better than four stories, but still seems a bit much. The density is such that the trees are going to end up going.

As I suggested in my story on Tuesday, this is one of my favorite neighborhoods in all of Davis. This neighborhood is what originally drew me to UC Davis. I liked the atmosphere of the college town and this is really the neighborhood that has the college town feel with the older bungalows with both students and city residents living together. You go to many college towns in this country and you will get the same feel.

Driving through the neighborhood yesterday, it is clear that some of the homes are in disrepair. It is also clear that space could be better utilized. The solution however is not to raze the entire area, building up high density three story townhouses and other units. A more modest project could obtain much of what both the planners and residents desire.

There is one crucial mistake made by both the city, the planners, and the developers, and that is the Environmental Impact Report. The EIR looks only at the impact of the development area itself. Now that limited scope has been defended somewhat by city staff. Defended with some concerns about it clearly mentioned. But the lack of study of the impact of this project on the adjacent neighborhoods and streets may end up delaying this project by a considerable amount of time should the residents or adjacent neighbors wish to challenge the EIR in court. From the discussions it was never clear the rationale of why the council insisted on such a limited EIR.

The big question I keep coming back to in all of this has to do with part of the proposed reason for the project to bring the university and the city together. The idea here is to produce a number of owner occupied units rather than the current arrangement which has many of the units rented to UC Davis students. As many who live in the area have suggested, they enjoy living near and among UC Davis students. They do not have problems with noise from those students.

How in the world do you bring the community together with the university if the first thing you are going to do is get rid of the students? All of those students who live in our community will be forced to live elsewhere.

The problem here is not the students. The problem is that a number of the units currently are in poor condition, especially on third street between B and University. A number of the apartment units north of Second Street are also poorly designed and could use to either be torn down and rebuilt or redone. The culprits in both cases are the owners of the homes and buildings who have allowed their property to deteriorate considerably.

However, I think the model for redevelopment should not be to raze the neighborhood, destroying both the character and the historic nature of the area. Rather they should look no further than the so-called Turtle House on 2nd Street between University and A Street. This property was purchase by former Davis City Councilmember Mike Harrington, who pumped money in to restore it. It is now a mixed use home, housing not only the owner, but also a number of students who rent several of the other units. The house is no longer blight, no longer looks like a good wind storm will knock it over. And yet the historic nature of the home and the character of it are intact. Guess what, it is "high density" and yet the character has been preserved.

If people want to know what type of infill I support, what type of redevelopment projects we should be undertaking, we should look no further than this property. We can remake that neighborhood along those lines, preserve the historic nature of the area, preserve the college town feel, continue with the mixed use of business, owner occupancy, and rental units. That's the type of vision I would like to see. And that is the type of vision I simply do not see with this project.

It remains very clear that this project will go forward. It remains less clear as to whether the residents will tie things up in court with a challenge to the EIR. However, what is crystal clear to me is that this is the wrong type of project for this area.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Labor Leader Bill Camp Outraged at UC Davis for Treatment of Food Service Workers and Protesters

Bill Camp is an old-time, bare knuckles, labor organizer now with the Sacramento Central Labor Council. The Sacramento Central Labor Council is a council of the all of the unions in the six counties around Sacramento, including Yolo County. The workers and their unions send delegates to a council meeting each month, they select officers every three years, and those officers hire staff. Bill Camp is the chief executive officer selected by the elected board. Their job is to speak for working families, mobilize support for organizing, and mobilize political support to elect people for office who will support working families.

Last Wednesday Bill Camp, 63, was one of several protesters who entered Mrak Hall, sat down on the first floor and was arrested for failure to disperse. And in fact, the protesters including Camp, were charged with not only failure to disperse but also trespassing.

The protesters went into the building in advance to see how to enter the building. They tried to see Chancellor Vanderhoef, but access to his office was blocked, and he was not there. Camp, wearing a tie and slacks, appeared as though he was some “old professor,” to use his words. The protesters went up to the second floor because they couldn’t get up to the fifth floor where the chancellor’s office is located. So, they went to the fourth floor and were going to walk up to the fifth floor.

“What is different is everyone has text message, so we could text message all the time about where everybody was. So all of a sudden my phone gets a beep that says ‘cops in the stairwell be careful.’ You don’t even have to talk to each other, you just text message. ‘So meet you on the second floor.’ Text messaging was our secret,” said Camp.

So they all went into the conference room on the second floor and that’s where they hung out and hung out the window to rile up the crowd.

Mr. Camp felt that their approach really threw the university off in terms of what to expect and how to approach the protesters.

“The students were super, super nice to the university, nobody could complain about the students, but on the other hand they were very militant. So they were not going to get pushed around. So this was confusing to the university because they saw the militancy and they said, no this is a principle and we’re staying with the principle, we’re going to jail. But we’re not going to be jerks about it. We’re just going to go jail.”

The university let them have the conference room but they had to vacate at 5 pm. They went back inside and sat in a circle.

“But before we left we closed all the windows, put the chairs under the table, we picked up all the trash. You couldn’t ask for anybody to be more respectful. On the other hand, all of us were going to get arrested; there wasn’t any question about that.”

“It was an interesting mix, because it strategically really threw them off. They expect us to be jerks, but we’re not going to be jerks, but we’re not going to refuse not to get arrested, so they were very confused about that.”

So they were inside and could not see what was happening outside.

“I don’t know what happened, but my suspicion was that they freaked out about the students outside and they got scared. So they started arresting us guys. The reason they arrested us was to get us away from you [the protesters outside].”

The police officer came in and was sweating the whole time. He tells them it’s an unlawful assembly, they have to leave and if they don’t leave in three minutes they will get arrested. So of course, they all refuse to leave because it is their intent to get arrested. So one-by-one they arrest each of the protesters, read them their rights and asked them if they understand. It took over an hour to arrest all of the protesters including Camp—that is how methodically they did it.

“I’m sixty-three years old and it was clear I don’t move very fast, so I’m getting up and they ask me if I want a chair. I said yes. So they got me a chair. That’s about the funniest thing about it.”

They take them to the bus. They ask them if they would cooperate in the interest of good faith. Camp believes it was the city of Davis Police who took them to the bus.

As they take them to the bus, Bill Camp starts yelling “Si se puede!” “It freaked out the police officer, maybe she doesn’t know Spanish, I don’t know. But she got rattled. So she starts dragging me toward the bus. She was a UC Cop. She was mad that I was chanting. Maybe she didn’t know what I was saying. I almost fell down. I was kind of sorry that I didn’t fall, because she was in a hurry to get me onto the bus so I couldn’t chant anymore”

The bus was extremely hot, Camp felt that they had intentionally cut the AC to make it hotter. And they had the handcuffs on with their hands behind their back. They stretched the tendons in the arm and they left the handcuffs on for several hours. They didn’t take them off until about 6:00 pm. and they had put them around 1:30 or 2:00 pm. Even a week later Camp still complains about pain in his arm.

“That’s against procedure; you don’t put handcuffs on for that long. You simply put them on there to make sure I’m not going to do something bad.”

Mr. Camp was skeptical not only about the way they were treated after the arrest, but also he believes that the charges were being trumped up in order to punish and discourage the protesters.

“Normally you would simply cite and release, this is not a crime, it is simply a failure to disperse.” He believed that someone called the police and told them that they cannot put people in jail for a failure to disperse, that they therefore needed a stronger charge.

“Failure to disperse is nothing, this is a free speech thing, you don’t put people in jail for union organizing.”

What Camp argues now is that the nature of the police in this circumstance would change and that the police began to operate not as a civil authority that would protect the public from lawbreakers and moved into the realm of a more traditional role for the police in labor disputes and actively became the arm of the university as the employer who intended to break the labor dispute using heavy-handed tactics.

“At this point, the UC Davis police quit being police officers as a civil authority and became agents of the employers who were out to punish people for organizing the union. That is a classic characterization of what we call animus, animus meaning in my experience, meanness. When an employer gets real mean, about the way they treat the workers who are trying to unionize. The Davis University police officers quit being police officers and they became agents, anti-union agents of the chancellor [Chancellor Vanderhoef].”

They then took the protestors to the Davis Police Department and cited them for trespassing.

“I said ‘what the hell do you mean we were trespassing?’ We were sitting in a small circle; we weren’t blocking anybody’s egress and access. People were all doing business there in the building. We weren’t trespassing, this was public property at 2 pm in the afternoon, what the hell are you talking about, we weren’t trespassing. This is a government building, it’s 2:00 in the afternoon, we’re not trespassing.”

So why did they give them a trespassing charge—because it was the only excuse they had to put them in jail. Otherwise they really did not have any reason to put them in jail. That took a couple of hours; they took them from the Davis Police Department to the county jail in Woodland. The bus driver had turned off the air conditioning. It was a very hot day and they were extremely hot and uncomfortable on that bus. They did not get the handcuffs off until around 6:00 pm and they couldn’t call anyone until they were processed.

They processed others through and they let the protesters just sit there for quite awhile. They kept one guy in jail until 12:30 am.

“I know Ed Prieto, and Ed in my opinion is not an anti-union guy. So someone told those cops, someone told those officers in that jail to mess with us and to leave that guy in there until 12:30. That ain’t right. I think Ed needs to be asked about that because this is stupid, this is for a failure to quit. They are trying to punish people for trying to get a union contract.”

There is a principle involved here too. As Camp suggested, “We are not trying to get a contract for people making 50 bucks an hour, we are trying to get a contract for people making nine bucks an hour.”

One of the most interesting aspects of this to Camp was the tradition at UC Davis as an agricultural university that often relied on contract labor. “The most exploitative contract system in the world is the labor contract system. So this tradition of using labor contractors like Sodexho, to deny that there is a collective bargaining relation is nuts. It’s not nuts, but it should be embarrassing. It should be embarrassing that the university has adopted this old labor system that has been discredited by the entire state. When we wrote the labor law, we wrote that you can’t do that.”

He found it exciting to work with and be with the students. He found it a great group of students and they got to talk about the history of the labor movement--how it got organized before and civil rights. He found it a great experience personally and grew to have great respect for the students.

I asked Bill Camp to elaborate as to what this fight is about. Why they are fighting for fair wages and good benefits for the food service workers.

According to Camp there is a deep tradition going back to Lincoln where “everyone should have a chance to try to build a middle class life.” And the civil war was a battle as much over class as over race. The landowners in the south concentrated wealth at the expense of everyone else—not just the slaves. There were a few people super rich and everyone else was poor. Reagan came along and tried to destroy the unions, “he came up with the philosophy that Bush has, let’s make everyone super rich, if a few people become super rich, then somehow this money will trickle down, which is a lie. The only way you build a real healthy economy is if you build economic demand, and the only way you build economic demand is to give people enough money so that they go out and spend.”

“The fact of the matter is, the war that’s going on, this fight, is about you create jobs that pay enough money so that people can have a reasonable life, that’s what drives economic growth. The reason everybody in this state has a stake in the fight of these food service workers, is if we establish a principle, now the food service worker deserves to get a fair wage, that’s what this country is about, that’s what we’ve been about since the day we were founded...”

This fight is about good jobs and a healthy economy.

“You don’t build a healthy economy, without building healthy jobs. And you don’t have a healthy society without healthy jobs. If you keep everyone exploited and low wage, you create a set of values like the southern slave system.”

The fight is about taking these 500 food service workers and training them to get better jobs where they can get even better wages. We are losing out on an opportunity when we take the approach of trying to exploit the labor of these workers.

“George Bush represents a set of values to make a few people super rich and the rest of us slaves. We represent a set of values that says that everyone ought to have their work respected and they ought to have a chance at a middle class life.”

What does this mean for these particular workers?

“It means if they join a union, they will join a union of about 20,000 members statewide.” They will be members of AFSCME local 3299, “every other campus, those workers who do the same work as these workers, get paid about 12 bucks an hour, they get health care, as far as I know they work out some strategy for a pension.”

“Would they ever get paid enough? No, no one ever gets paid enough, but the fact of the matter is that they wouldn’t be vulnerable, they would have the same protections that other state workers have.”

He sees this as a way to empower the food service workers, make them part of a larger group with political power and leverage over bargaining. They would not be able to be fired indiscriminately, they would get health care, and they would gain real political power.

Some people have suggested that the way to go about this is by unionizing Sodexho workers rather than making the food service workers university employees. Camp very strongly disagrees with this.

“Sodexho is not an employer in the true sense of the word. Sodexho does not decide how much people get paid and whether they get health benefits. That’s decided by the university, so Sodexho would have a fake relationship.”

The key here is that there has to be an actual collective bargaining relationship and that requires a discussion with the entity that controls the purse strings. In this case, that is not Sodexho, who is a third party, but rather the university.

“You can’t have collective bargaining with someone who doesn’t have the power to make the decisions about wage and worker conditions. In all of the other bargaining that goes around in the country, you represent workers and I represent management, I have a pile of money and I get to decide what I do with that pile of money. You have to have a direct relationship with me, not through some third party that doesn’t control the money. It’s the university that collects the student fees and decides how much of that is going to go to food service. So it is the university who is the employer. You can’t have collective bargaining unless you have the real employer who has real power. It only can work within the confines of what the university wants to tell them.”

Vanderhoef sent a letter to the organizers, that was read last week, basically suggesting that the university has a contract with Sodexho until 2010 and that they intend to honor that contract. According to Camp, this does not matter. They have no obligation to honor a labor contract with Sodexho. “The university is the employer, so they cannot say they can disobey the law and not honor our contractual obligations to these employees.” As an entity of the State of California, the University has an obligation to bargain with their employees, and these are their employees regardless of whether or not there is a middle man. “They have admitted, though they’d never use these direct words, that these workers are their employees.”

There were complaints by people in the building about the behavior of the protests—loud banging on the windows, intimidation, and fear. I asked Mr. Camp if he saw any of that.

“I think someone gone and lied to those employees and told them this was dangerous. There wasn’t anything dangerous about that event.” You can feel if there is danger and Camp did not feel any danger or concern while he was in the building. He admitted that they made a loud racket, but that’s their free speech right. People have the right to complain about the exercise of free speech rights, but that doesn’t mean people do not have the right to express themselves. “People are angry about the exploitation and abuse of these workers.” He felt that the employees should be more upset that the university is treating fellow employees in that way.

According to an UCD employee who works in Mrak Hall and with whom I spoke some of the banging on the doors and windows was from students who wanted to get in because they had appointments and or had to get paperwork processed. They called stating that they couldn’t get in.

Camp said he never felt any fear, but he did see people acting as though they were afraid. “We told them, you have nothing to be afraid of, this is just a labor organizing demonstration. But somebody freaked them out, I guess they told them that someone would come in and hurt them. But I don’t know. Somebody freaked them out, it wasn’t us.”

I also asked him whether he thought they overreacted by locking down the building. He felt that they overreacted by the way they treated the protesters by keeping them in handcuffs as long as they did. He thought that was an overreaction.

“They could easily have left someone at the door; they were not going to get into a shoving match.” He was not outside and could not see outside. However, “everyone inside was sure super nice, I couldn’t imagine someone shoving people. So I don’t think they had to lock it down… They did and it kind of created a fortress mentality. And that’s behaving in a way that motivates us to even be more loud. I think there were other ways to do it.”

It is clear that this is a dispute that is not going to go away anytime soon. The protesters and the workers are committed to their cause, but unfortunately the university believes that they can break the will of the workers and the protesters by out-waiting them. This dispute is likely to carry into the summer. It is time that people put pressure on the administration and Chancellor Vanderhoef to put an end to this. The policies of the university are frankly an embarrassment in a liberal and progressive community such as Davis that cherishes the rights of protest and the rights of workers to organize. Serious questions must be asked about the role of the university police, the Sheriff’s Department, and Jeff Reisig’s District Attorney’s Office who made the decision to charge the protesters with trespassing as opposed to the more reasonable and moderate charge of failure to disperse. Are these law enforcement organizations acting on the behest of the university as an agent, as Bill Camp so eloquently states, in order to help crush the protest. If so, Davis and Yolo County residents must ask where the priorities of this Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s office lie.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Students Complain of Disparate Treatment of Minorities At Campus Concert Events

Last Thursday, a performer, Dahlak Brathwaite, a UC Davis student and a hip-hop performer was forced to shut down his own concert at the Coffee House under what is being claimed as discriminatory practices by the head of Cal Aggie Hosts, Chuck Coulton.

Chuck Coulton works under the UC Davis Police Department to provide safety, security, and hospitality to a number of events each year including concerts, sporting events, and major events such as Picnic Day and the Whole Earth Festival. He is official a dispatch, not a sworn officer but answering to the police chief, Annette Spiccuzza.

At a meeting at the Cross-Cultural Center, around 8 students met and charged that Coulton and the Cal Aggie Hosts engaged in discriminatory practices.

In an open letter from the performer, Dahlak Brathwaite, the Cal Aggie Host concluded that the show was at capacity and they were concerned that problems would arise if people got turned away after the show was at capacity. Mr. Brathwaite was given the option of a different venue or to ticket the event. While neither of these options were good, he chose to ticket the event (still for free).

It was at this point that problems began to arise. The university instituted a one ticket limit on tickets, which is according to the students at the meeting, was not a usual practice. They refused to allow people in without tickets or who appeared after 8:30. This despite the fact that this information was not printed on the tickets.

Former ASUCD Senator Christine Rogers questioned the policy, particularly of not allowing non-ticketed people in.
“You could look into the coffee house and see that it was less than half full and then there were about thirty people outside who couldn’t get into the concert. If you are not going to allow non-ticketed people to get into a free concert, why do you have a non-ticket line outside?”
Theresa Montemayor, assistant director for Campus Unions, admitted to the California Aggie that this was problematic.
"We shouldn't have created the expectation that students without tickets would be let in."
However, she defended the overall policy,
"If the room got too full there was some concern that the crowd would push into the performers. We were concerned for the performer's safety."
Furthermore, there were complaints of patdowns, which according to the students, is again not usual policy. Devon Lee, who organized the meeting on Monday, said the pat down at the door was superficial. He also described it as "needless," not necessary nor done before. They of course did not check every person who entered the coffeehouse but rather they only checked people with baggy pants or with hats.

As Ms. Rogers said,
“It was definitely selective because a lot of people going through the doors were not getting patted down.”
The deejay was told to slow down the beat, the crowd was too “hyphy.” Suggesting that if the beat were to fast, th crowd would be whipped into some sort of uncontrollable frenzy.

There was a large emphasis at the meeting of instituting uniform security procedures. However, the other complaint was really that many of the procedures seemed to be implemented on the fly, so that neither the performer nor the concert goers knew in advance what would be expected of them and how to proceed.

The most unfortunate aspect of this event is that family members and close friends of the performer were prevented from entry. All of these procedures seemed needless to the students who could clearly see that there was only a few people actually in the coffee house. At this point, the security should have been able to relax their procedures and allow people inside until the room was at capacity--which would not have been an issue at all.

The students are now complaining of discrimination and racism in the disparate treatment of some acts over others. Most concerts have very little security, even for events that are at capacity. Why was this one, which was nowhere near capacity and yet they had massive security. People were not let into the concert and people were turned away despite the room being less than half full.

As Ms. Rogers suggested,
“It was a simple problem and he did not handle it professionally as a university employee.”
Someone else said,
“Chuck himself is discriminatory of people of color, to the hip-hop element.”
Dahlak Brathwaite writes:
"I was fully conscious of the subtle discrimination that was happening but being desperate to throw my own show on MY campus, I played their game. I went along with their interrogation thinking that it would only effect me. After seeing people I knew and loved being harassed at the door or turned away while asking my crewmembers to perform to a near empty CoHo, I could no longer turn my face to the long tradition of discrimination against Hip-Hop occurring at my school. I decided to stand up then and I’m committed to standing up until change comes.

I demand a consistent and thorough protocol for all music events that occur on campus. This protocol should set guidelines according to venue, event size, and time but not music genre. This demand is simple, specific, and reasonable but change will not happen unless the people are united in this. I have no intentions nor desire to get anyone fired. My aim is to raise the consciousness of this discriminatory process that takes place on our campus as well as nightclubs and other venues in the Northern California region. This incident is a microcosm of macro problem and I can only hope that it will catalyze further action to address this issue elsewhere."
Does discrimination explain the disparate treatment by some performers and some audiences over others? Or is the university simply reacting to the perception of the need for security? Or is it a bit of both, that racial stereotypes are driving that perceived need for differential security?

It seems that the simple answer to this problem would be for the university to adopt a written protocol that specifies how the security arrangement will be handled for all concerts and then adheres to those rules. From the description that the students and the performer provided, this process broke down because the rules instituted on the concert at a late point in time were probably unnecessary and then the Cal Aggie Host decided to change these rules as he went along, leaving both the performer and the students frustrated because the rules seemed to keep changing.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New Fight over Remaking the Core Landscape at 3rd and B Street

A controversial new proposal is seeking to raze an entire block of homes in the Davis core area on the west side of B Street between 2nd and 4th and on 3rd Street between B and University (see map). It will replace the current homes, most of which are small old-time bungalows with large new buildings "in order to provide a more attractive “transition” between the downtown and the university." Part of this change will be to push out the student renters who live in this area and replace them with owner/ occupants.

The proposal includes 3-story mixed-use buildings with office and residential or owner/ occupied townhouses along B Street. It will explicitly be designed to discourage student rentals.

This project right now is known as the B and 3rd Streets Visioning Process.

According to Sarah Worley, The Economic Development Director for the City of Davis and the primary staff person on the 3rd & B project, at the Historical Resources Management Commission (HMRC) meeting last week, this process first arose in 2004 at the behest of the Davis City Council and two B Street property owners who requested to be allowed to demolish their existing structure and build much larger buildings on their land.

Both of the proposals were in violation of the Davis Downtown and Traditional Residential Neighborhood Design Guidelines, as well as the Core Area Specific Plan and the General Plan. One of these projects was rejected by the City Council; the other plan was withdrawn.

The project's goal is to create "an urban village" that will include higher density homes with a stronger connection with UC Davis (even though they are kicking out the students currently residing in that area.) It also again looks for owner occupancy and reinvestment in that area.

One of the concerns raised by many is that the EIR is inadequate, since the project area does not include studying the impact on areas just outside of where the zoning will be changed.

At the meeting last week, the HRMC voted on a motion:
"Is the Final EIR incomplete for the purposes of decision-making, particularly as it relates to impacts on historical resources, because it fails to adequately address the impacts and mitigations on the larger core area conservation district?”
This motion was made by member Rich Rifkin, who ultimately abstained from voting due to some uncertainties that arose from staff's objections, however, the commission voted 3-2-2 in support of that motion.

According to an outside consultant hired by the city of Davis, the limitations on the EIR were due to the directive of the city council.

The planning commission will meet next. Staff is recommending the approval of the EIR at the May 30, 2007 meeting.

As the staff report notes, there continues to be areas of controversy.
"At present and at the time of Council action on Vision 4 there was not community consensus as to the desired form of development in the project area. The one area of consensus was a desire for more owner occupied housing. There was also a recognition that some changes were necessary to encourage reinvestment and achieve a stronger connection between the Downtown and the University."
Some of the main objections appear to be coming from people just outside of the main project area, an area apparently not studied in the EIR. Only two of the property owners in the project area have expressed objection and their objection is based the requirement for mitigation of alley right-of-way. There are also two property owners within the area who are not interested in redevelopment who wish to see a smaller scale of development.

Here are some of the proposal that have drawn heavy concern and criticism as noted by the staff report:
  • fourth floor and maximum height of 56 feet
  • third floor and height of 45 feet
  • density bonus for construction of condo units
  • expanding existing 13 foot alley right-of-way to 20 feet
  • require alley right-of-way only from east side of alley
  • demolition of "Eligible Merit Resource and a group of structures that contribute to the historic setting of the area if suitable relocation sites are not available"
  • payments in-lieu of parking fees for non-residential uses and parking above one space per residential unit in mixed use projects.

Most of the people I have spoken to and many of the people speaking at the EMRC meeting have expressed very strong concerns about the project. Several people came up to me at Farmer's Market last Saturday and expressed grave reservations both about the project and the EIR which is moving its way through the process.

The primary concern I have is the narrow EIR under the explicit direction of the City Council. That is alarming not just because of the EIR process not taking into account the impacts on the larger area, but it is also indicative of where the council stands on this issue, which is to suggest that they are in support.

Staff pressed the HMRC to approve the EIR, but there were sufficient concerns by the membership to reject it by the barest of margins despite what appeared to be heavy pressure from staff. It seems unlikely that the Planning Commission would do the same tomorrow night.

The irony of this proposal is that this area of Davis is what first attracted me to the city. It presents the feeling of a true college town, with old houses, students, and small quaint shops that service primarily a student population. The character and feel of this neighborhood would be destroyed by the large-scale development. The students would be in essence evicted, the nature of the entire area would be changed.

As one of the members of the HMRC, Valerie Vann, pointed out, this project makes a traditional neighborhood, no longer a traditional neighborhood.

I understand the need and desire for densification and redevelopment. I would support such efforts on a case-by-case basis, but in this case, it does not seem to meet the needs of this neighborhood judging from the objections that have already been underway from a variety of different sources--two of whom are former councilmembers Mike Harrington and Maynard Skinner, both of whom came the HMRC meeting to speak against the proposed project and both of whom live in that neighborhood.

Unfortunately, this project appears to be underway at the behest of council and with the support of council, which suggests to me that this is already a done deal. While I suspect this will not go down without a fight, the council majority rarely has acceded to public pressure and they have rarely allowed public animus to get in the way of their goals and visions. This is particularly troublesome in an area that is so ripe with tradition and so vital to the character of our core area and to the students who utilize it in conjunction with their university living.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, May 28, 2007

Heystek Continues to Fight for Living Wage in Davis

Last fall, the Davis City Council struck down an effort by Councilmember Lamar Heystek to institute a living wage ordinance that would require large retailers to pay a 10 dollar-per-hour starting wage and three dollar-per-hour's worth of benefits to their employees.

By a 3-2 vote, the council majority of Stephen Souza, Don Saylor, and Ruth Asmundson rejected this ordinance. Only Mayor Sue Greenwald joined Councilmember Heystek in support. They argued that it may be unconstitutional (a notion struck down by City Attorney Harriet Steiner) and questioned why it would only apply to large employers. The council majority saw this as a poison pill aimed in the direction of Target just six weeks before the November election.

However, subsequent actions by Heystek have shown this criticism to be misplaced and the council majority as having severely misjudged the commitment by Councilmember Heystek to bring about a living wage.

In January, Heystek moved for the council to have the objective to have an ordinance that addressed a living wage effecting city contracts. That motion was supported unanimously by the council.

This past Tuesday (May 22, 2007), Heystek brought the issue up once again, asking staff:

“The council had given staff direction to analyze the issue of the living wage vis-à-vis our contracts when we were either renegotiating or updating those contracts, can you tell us whether that is still on track and what the timeline is on that procedure?”

City Manager Bill Emlen acknowledged that they had not started, however, he said, "it is something that is on our radar."

Councilmember Heystek was particularly concerned with outsourced labor by the city, particularly in light of the recent events at UC Davis regarding the Sodexho workers. He asked Parks and Community Development Director Donna Silva whether there were advantages of in-house over contractual workers.

Ms. Silva made it a point to clarify that the city policy is not simply based on cost, but also on other concerns--trucks, supervision, overhead, facility costs among other things. She also specified that for certain kinds of work contractual workers have an advantage especially when the job does not require much contact with the public and communication skills. She suggested it was more efficient to contract out than to hire in-house.

Heystek responded:
“I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite when I’m asking the chancellor how we can get some of the food workers in the dining commons to become university employees, so this is a very sensitive issue for me. I just hope that we are earnest in looking at how we fulfill our contractual obligations but then really look at whether we are paying a living wage with regard to these contracts. It is a matter of conscience to me..."
Mayor Greenwald also expressed concern about the health care situation of contractual employees.

Heystek however remains committed both to the living wage and to ending the outsourcing of labor.
"I would like to see if they’d consider bringing our contracted out workers first of all to a living wage standard and ultimately bringing them into the city’s direct payroll."
Moreover, he told The Vanguard that he questions the commitment of those on the council majority to this issue, while some of them have at the same time written letters to the chancellor of the university.
"We’re talking about writing letters to the university saying that your contracted workers need to be direct employees, well I think that our own contracted out workers should be direct employees. So how many council members are willing to say one thing to the university but say another thing to our city manager?"
The council majority does seem to want to have it both ways. They recognize that this is a generally liberal community when it comes to labor issues. Souza and Saylor are up for re-election in just over 12 months. They know they need to appeal to that wing of the Democratic Party in this community in order to win re-election, at the same time they have committed a tremendous amount of city resources to upper management in the city, while leaving considerably less for those at entry levels.

Furthermore, while they have a need to appeal to liberal elements in this city, they have strong backing of developers and business owners who would oppose attempts to pass a living wage ordinance, just as the council opposed efforts to apply it to Target. Now the city has lost the ability to ensure that hundreds of Target employees receive a living wage.

The council majority wants it both ways, but just as Don Saylor's letter to the chancellor on Sodexho showed his hand, he and his colleagues' inaction on living wage, shows theirs. They continue to want to have it both ways until those in this community that stand behind the true principles of labor rights and social justice stand up and tell them no.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Victims of Racial Profiling Reluctant to Step Forward

A year ago this past week, over 150 UC Davis students and Davis residents, most of them African American, marched from the Memorial Union on the UC Davis Campus to the Davis Police Station to protest against numerous incidents of racial profiling.

It was an event that was not even covered in the Davis Enterprise. I stood and watched the event for two hours as one by one student after student got up and talked about personal incidents involving the Davis Police. And no one from the City Council was there and the only paper that covered it was the California Aggie.

The Aggie quoted one of the organizers:
Devon Lee, another organizer of the event, said he feels the City Council has ignored students such as him.

"They weren't listening to us," Lee said. "They'd rather talk about a small business closing that affects people's recreation than the problems and circumstances that we have to deal with being students of color in the community."

"We protested for about two hours," Lee said. "We had police officers sitting behind glass windows laughing at us."
One of the reasons that I started this blog was the lack of coverage of events like this one and incidents such as those described at the rally. And yet, a year later I am still frustrated for a very different reason.

Each month I receive several emails from people in the community who have experienced or witnessed incidents involving the Davis Police Department. Sometimes the incidents happened too long ago for them to have filed a complaint--which in and of itself is frustrating. But more frustrating than that, is the unwillingness of people to go on the record, even as an anonymous source. People are afraid of retribution. People are afraid of getting involved. And people are afraid they will end up like the Buzayan family if they come forward.

One individual who I spoke with, is a respected member of this community who could bring a fresh new voice and face to this issue. The incident occurred at least two and maybe three years ago and he no longer will go to Davis as a result. He told me, "I believe there are some serious issues that need to be resolved in the Davis Police Department." Of course, he's not going to be the one to help resolve those issues because he won't say a word about it.

Another prominent resident of this community, an employee for the school district, was harassed by police in the parking lot of one of the schools shortly after he arrived in this community. Has he gone on the record? No.

I got another email a few months ago, a Davis resident was taking a course at Sacramento City College, the Davis branch. She told me about her classmates who had been repeatedly followed, pulled over, and even arrested. One time they said he looked like a car jacker even though he had a different car and plate number. But once again, could not get them to talk on the record.

One of the most egregious stories I know of occurred in late 2005, where the owners of a business establishment in downtown Davis had walked from a bar toward their home after a night of drinking. They had to use the restroom so they stopped at their store to use the one there. At that point, they found themselves surrounded by the police and held on the ground at gunpoint for 45 minutes. This despite the fact that one of them owned the store and directed the police to notice his picture on the wall. The situation was resolved when a police officer called the man's wife at home on the man's cell phone to verify his identity (of course the police officer had no idea who the man was calling or anyway to verify it, however he used the call as a reason to let them all go). However, after initially contacting us (my wife Cecilia), he refused to follow through with a complaint.

Yesterday at Farmer's Market, I told someone about this problem and they suggested that I write a special story categorizing the number and type of complaints and periodically update the numbers so that people can get a real sense for not only the number of emails I get but also encourage other people to come forward.

At this point, I have received around 13 emails or calls since January 15, 2007, none of them have gone on the record about their incidents.

I find myself frustrated at this point because without people willing to go and file complaints about these incidents, nothing is going to change. We will not find out if the oversight system works or needs to be altered. The community as a whole is unaware of such incidents, even though people within the community will tell you they have been going on for years.

Nothing is going to get resolved in this community unless people are willing to step forward and put themselves on the line. We all have reasons not to do it. Heck I cannot even blame people given what has happened to some, for not getting involved. In many ways it is like reporting a rape. The process is brutal. You go through the violation again and again. You are publicly scrutinized. But you do it because you know if you don't, it will happen to someone else. No one else should have to go through these kinds of violations and indignities. Unless people are willing to step forward, however, history will repeat itself over and over again.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting