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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mishkas Cafe Project: Evaluating Historic Preservation with Commercial Development

The latest project that appears once again to threaten the historic nature of our downtown is the proposed redevelopment of a City-owned parcel at 604 Second Street between the historic Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion and the Varsity Theater. Currently, the site contains the Tank House and orange trees that contribute to the historic resources of the mansion.

The Mansion was built in 1874 and the Tank House was constructed sometime between 1874 and 1888. It was built to provide water to the Mansion and the grounds. It was originally located behind the house but was moved to its present location in 1979 to accommodate the construction of commercial development south of the mansion.

The Mishkas Cafe project would seek to demolish the Tank house, remove ten of the orange trees and then construct a three-story commercial building with the new Mishkas Cafe on the ground floor and two stories of office space above.

According to the Draft Environmental Impact report, the Mishkas Cafe project features competing goals and objectives. On one hand, the city is committed to commercial revitalization of the Downtown Commercial Core through the work of the Redevelopment Agency. On the other hand, the site being proposed contributes to the historic setting on the Hunt-Boyer Mansion.

The question here is whether one can achieve the proper balance between economic and commercial redevelopment and historic preservation.

The project proposal would have a number of significant and unavoidable impacts. First it would significantly impact the immediate visual context of the location. Second the removal of the 10 organge trees which are eligible for listing as Landmark trees represents a significant impact.

Third, "The Proposed Project would demolish the Tank House and 10 historic orange trees, contributing resources to the listed Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion, and would trench for foundation and utilities for a new three-story building. This would be a significant impact."

Fourth, the demolition of the Tank House would remove a listed contributing structure to a National Register property, again a significant impact. Also fifth, the height of the building would reduce the open space around the Mansion and again be a significant impact on the historic setting. Sixth, the trenching for the foundation and utilities for a three-story building would have a significant impact on loss of cultural resources.

While the project proposal contains a number of significant and unavoidable impacts, there are six project alternatives. These range from no project, to reducing the height to two stories to moving and rehabilitating rather than demolishing the Tank House.

According to the EIR, the sixth alternative which involves disassemble/ reassemble and rehabilitating the Tank House in its present location for commercial or public use--such as as a visitor or public information kiosk. There would be no significant environmental issues associated with this alternative. However, while it would meet historic preservation goals, it would not meet Downtown Core Commercial goals and policies including the creation of an economically viable project that generates direct fiscal benefit to the city.

According to one source, a two story building would be acceptable to the developer. As mentioned above, the tank house was originally moved from behind the mansion to the east side of the property. Moving the pump house to the west side of the property would be preserve it and be viable in terms of historic preservation. In fact, it would give it more visibility as it would move it closer to the street rather than between the Mansion and the Varsity Theater.

There is great concern about the downtown area's economic viability. We have recently lost or are losing a number of long-time businesses. Running an independent coffee shop is the type of economic activity I would like to encourage in the downtown area rather than discourage as long as key aspects of historic preservation can be maintained. Moreover, having a coffee shop next to the theater seems like a good use of coordinate commerce.

Therefore, so long as the pump house is in some way preserved, I would like to see an alternative aspect of this project go forward.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, June 22, 2007

Column: View From West Davis

This is my weekly column of thoughts and tidbits from the week that has passed. A little bit lighter and more playful than the usual serious and hard-hitting coverage.

Reisig will bring back the Gang Injunction

On April 23, 2007, the appeals court struck down West Sacramento's gang injunction citing its failure to properly notice alleged gang members as a violation of their due process. Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig, as a deputy DA had noticed only a single individual said to be a member of the Broderick Street Gang. When other alleged gang members failed to contest the injunction, Judge Warriner allowed Reisig to impose a curfew and curtail their activities.

The court ruling left Reisig with three options--one to appeal the court ruling, the second to fix the problems with the original injunction by providing proper notice, or third to let it die. Apparently Reisig intends to continue to pursue the injunction. We'll have to stay tuned to see how he intends to do that.

Closing of the Cantina: The End of an Era

It is with great sadness that I went to the closing of the Cantina del Cabo this past Wednesday in Davis. The Cantina has long been a mainstay in my life, with its tremendous selection of beers. It is the place where I celebrated many of my life's highs and lows over the last nearly eleven years. And it is a place that I shall dearly miss.

Wednesday evening though felt more like a party than a funeral, with many of Davis' political citizens living it up for a final time with an excellent selection of local music. Many of Davis' political figures from the past, present, and future were on hand--too many to really mention and aside from the point of the evening to begin with.

The Cantina was located across the street from the Davis Democratic Party headquarters in 1998 where I worked as Field Director for Mark DeSio's State Senate Campaign. As a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan, it is where I saw Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run on a night in early September. It was also a place I would go to unwind after the frustrations of a rough day on the campaign trail--and there are plenty of those in any political campaign.

There are many other memories I share of the Cantina and I will always believe that there is a piece of Davis now missing with its closure. I wish Tom Lovering, the owner, the very best in his future endeavors and I thank him for all the very nice memories over the last 11 years.

School Board will not pursue Second Parcel Tax

Those who saw the news last week should not have been very surprised given the bad polling numbers, but the school board did make it official that they would not pursue the second parcel tax as a means to save Valley Oak. This had been a virtual forgone conclusion since the polling numbers had come out so badly. But it is unfortunate nonetheless. The future of Valley Oak will now depend on the will of those who are in charge of writing up a charter to make Valley Oak a charter school.

Davis Inferno Demolition Night

One of the more humorous and time consuming satires of Davis politics, with a particular bent of lampooning Davis Progressives, including myself, this blog, and some of my close associates was the Davis Inferno. The Inferno had some very intricate stories, poetry, and was heavy on the satire. One day it was up with about four days worth of entries, the next day it was gone. Too bad, I like good satire and this was certainly funny.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Commentary: Subcomittee and Staff Look Ill-prepared in Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Deliberations

In many ways this was entirely of their own doing. In April, Councilmember Lamar Heystek pulled a consent agenda item off the consent calendar and moved to allow city staff rather than the city commissions subcommittee of Stephen Souza and Ruth Asmundson look into changes in the anti-discrimination ordinance. At the time, we reported that Councilmember Heystek respectfully but firmly pointed out to the subcommittee that they lacked legal training and moreover they had originally missed the provision. Councilmember Souza's defense was that they were not even aware of the provision in the anti-discrimination ordinance that authorized the HRC to "investigate" and "mediate" charges of discrimination. Heystek responded that proved his point--the council subcommittee had not done their homework and that he lacked confidence in their ability to handle such an important and complex task. Nevertheless, the council voted 3-2 with Heystek joined by Mayor Greenwald in dissent, to authorize the subcommittee to look at the anti-discrimination ordinance.

This criticism would come forth again on Tuesday as the Council subcommittee would come forward with their recommendation first to delete the provision and then to alter it. Without Councilmember Heystek's work, the council would have never been aware of this flaw to begin with as in October of last year, when the council was re-writing the authorizing ordinances and resolutions for all the commissions, neither Souza nor Asmundson had read through the anti-discrimination ordinance. As it turns out, they had not read it in June of 2006 when they shut down the HRC for doing what in retrospect was their job.

In addition to simply not knowing the provision within the anti-discrimination ordinance, there were several other appalling aspects of the subcommittee's work as presented on Tuesday evening. First, somehow between October when the issue first arose and June, and between April when the subcommittee was authorized to look at this question and June, no one asked the city attorney her opinion as to whether the city had to change to ordinance to make it consistent with the resolution. It was her opinion that they did not have to change the ordinance that led Councilmember Souza to withdraw his recommendation for making changes to the ordinance. How could that question not have arisen until there was a public recommendation?

Second, Councilmember Souza and Asmundson made the original recommendation in the council agenda:
“The subcommittee recommends that Section 7A-15(c) of the city’s Anti-discrimination Ordinance should be deleted.”
However, at the meeting it turns out they altered that recommendation without any sort of notice to the public or their colleagues. Instead of deleting that section, they altered it, substituting the HRC for the "city" and "city manager." This change was literally made at 5:30 on Tuesday evening.

Third, Councilmember Souza and Asmundson admitted that they had not read the minutes from the 1986 original deliberations until 6:00 Tuesday evening. In fact, the only reason they saw these minutes at all were that Councilmember Heystek requested of Kelly Stachowicz all the records from the 1986 proceedings and then all the councilmembers received copies of those proceedings. Asmundson claimed that there was no information in them that was useful, but this is simply not true. First, the council voted by a 4-1 margin to approve it. The one dissenting vote was Councilmember Jerry Adler. Mr. Adler at that time made a string of legalistic motions to alter various parts of the ordinance that he thought were problematic. He did not raise one objection however to the section in question. Second, the minutes also contained a list of citizens who at the time spoke in favor of the ordinance, citizens who are still in the community now and are in fact allies of the council majority. It is in fact a veritable "who's who" list of Davis residents.

Fourth, it was not clear from the deliberations that either council or staff understood the wording in the ordinance. It was only when Mayor Greenwald pointed out that the ordinance itself contained the key provision that precluded any findings of the commission's investigation and mediation from being admissible in a court of law, that Harriet Steiner acknowledged that there were in fact distinctions between the legal definition of "investigate" and "mediate" and a more general and common language usage.

The language reads:
"The findings and conclusions of the commission issued in response to such proceedings shall not be admissible in a civil action."
This section in fact indicates and clarifies that when the ordinance speaks of investigate, it does not mean a legal investigation that would have subpoena and more importantly, "adjudicatory" power. Rather, it was meant to be a more informal means of findings out facts and making recommendations to the actual body with legislative authority, the city council.

Fifth, following from this, it was clear that neither staff nor council really understood the history of the commission or its functions. This is especially appalling given that Councilmember Souza was a longtime member and in fact chaired this commission. Bill Ritter, a former chair, told the council that city had a times hired independent investigators to follow up more formally on HRC findings. In fact, as the three former chairs sitting in the audience pointed out, the HRC never had, used, or sought adjudicatory power. The council apparently had little understanding of what the HRC did or how it operated.

This is not surprising in light of the dispute last year, that in my opinion, was largely distorted and blown out of proportions. The council depicted an HRC out of control and bent on subverting the will of council. In fact, what happened was that as a series of complaints against the Davis police arose, the HRC had public meetings to determine the nature of the complaints against the police. They appointed a subcommittee to investigate those complaints led by Jann Murray-Garcia. That subcommittee released their report in February, but by that time the council had already gone another direction in terms how to approach the problem and opted for an Ombudsman rather than Civilian Oversight. The HRC, never took up the issue again formally, although some of their members were involved in pubic protests over the handling of the Buzayan and other cases. None of these actions overstepped the bounds of commission. The council had every right to do as they did and go a different direction, though the tone of the meetings and Councilmember Puntillo's denouncement of their work as "not worth the paper it was written on" was decidedly unprofessional and in poor taste.

Nevertheless, one must in the end question this particular subcommittee, which has seemed to not only fail to perform their duties in an adequate and timely manner with regards to the HRC, but it also badly blundered with another recommendation that in the end they had to withdraw--the recommendation to merge the Senior Citizens Commission with the Social Services commission. (For an overview of that process click here and also here.

The basic facts here are surprisingly similar, but play out over a longer time frame than the anti-discrimination ordinance. The subcommittee issued their initial recommendations for the merger in a consent agenda item and it was only because Councilmember Heystek asked for the item to be brought back later that we discovered that there was a full blown resolution for the merger of the two commissions. Souza would later claim this was brought forward for discussion, but it was not. It was a full blown resolution with a recommendation for merger and it was in a consent agenda item that would not be discussed unless someone pulled it.

When objections to the merger arose, Souza took it to each of the commissions, the Social Services Commission approved it, but the Senior Citizens Commission refused and in fact made a very public complaint about it. At one point, Mr. Souza in fact, berated and attempted to browbeat the chair of that commission, Elaine Roberts Musser, and the rest of the commission, but they would not back down. After a series of very public hearings, included a devastating speech by the chair before the council (see the you tube video of it here), the council not only backed off but attempted to make it appear as though they had not really intended to do anything more than "raise the issue" for the "purposes of discussion."

The historic record of this however does not bear it out and in the end like the anti-discrimination ordinance, the Senior Citizens Commission prevailed when Souza and Asmundson did a hasty reversal in the middle of the proceedings.

What is also interesting is that in both cases, the subcommittee of Souza and Asmundson did the primary work. Councilmember Don Saylor in neither controversy said a whole lot and in fact he did not make a public assertion of his view on either matter and allowed his colleagues and allies to essentially hang themselves.

There has been some controversy about the amount of work done by subcommittees as opposed to the entire body. I am of two-mindsets on the issue because on the one hand, I prefer public deliberations on staff prepared items. On the other hand, I think much of the preparation work can be done outside of formal meetings. What is clear however is that the council should think twice before assigning Stephen Souza and Ruth Asmundson to work together on a subcommittee. They have made two pretty large miscalculations that have in essence wasted both the council's time as well as the community's time. The amount of work that the Senior Citizens Commission and their chair had to do must have been tremendous. Instead of pushing forward with their duties they were forced to fight for their existence.

This process played out in a rather embarrassing way for both city and staff. Frankly both the subcommittee and the staff should be embarrassed at both their lack of knowledge but more importantly their lack of preparation on this item.

I am very grateful that the council did the right thing in the end on this issue, just as they did on the Senior Citizens Commission merger, but that should not excuse the steps that were taken in the interim and especially the lack of preparation and notification to the public.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Council Deliberations on Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

For those who missed the Davis City Council Meeting from Tuesday evening, here are some of the key snippets and exchanges. Included on here are the admissions by Councilmember Stephen Souza that he rewrote the proposal just prior to the city council meeting and that he has only that evening read the minutes from the original discussions. Moreover, you see Souza questioned on the use of the personnel board to lodge complaints against employees. You see Councilmember Heystek question City Manager Bill Emlen on how he would operate under the proposed changes. Finally you see Mayor Sue Greenwald flesh out that the "mediate" and "investigate" mentioned in the ordinance clearly do not refer to those terms in the legal sense since the ordinance explicitly states that these findings are not admissible in the court of law--whereas if the HRC were an investigative body with actual authority to adjudicate, the wording would be more reflective of that.

See for yourself by clicking on the video below...

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Assembly Committee to Hear Police Oversight Legislation on Tuesday

For those who watched the Davis City Council debate on Tuesday regarding the Human Relations Commission and the proposed changes to the anti-discrimination ordinance, one of the huge subtexts was the extent to which the HRC could conduct actual investigations whereby they subpoena records. The debate turned because some on the council apparently received the "new information" that the Davis Human Relations Commission in fact, never had such powers and never attempted to exercise such powers.

Belying that debate was the entire legality regarding the ability of a public body to obtain records from police officers and conduct hearings of allegations of police misconduct. Since the August 2006 California Supreme Court decision in Copley Press v. Superior Court, California law has prevented the public from learning about police officers who have been disciplined because of misconduct. Hearings and records that previously were public are now closed.

According to the ACLU:
"Unlike similar records on all other public employees, doctors, and lawyers, records on serious police misconduct and any resulting disciplinary action are now classified as confidential—that is, not public. This decision hides not only the extent to which problems may exist within a police department, but also the ways in which management addresses misconduct when it occurs."
State Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero said:
"Members, if your attorney is disciplined, you can find that out. It's public information. If your doctor loses his or her license, you can find that out. It's public information. If anyone of us in this room is arrested, not convicted, just arrested, or any one of our friends, our staff or family, we can find that out. It's public information. If the same peace officer who arrested you is disciplined or even terminated for serious misconduct, it, now after the Copley case, is completely secret."
Davis City Attorney Harriet Steiner went through a similar song and dance to what she did last year when the issue of a police oversight commission was first raised, explaining that state law prevents the airing of such hearings in public.

What she failed to mention on Tuesday, was that there is legislation moving through the California State Senate and Assembly, that would restore the legality of civilian review, effectively leaving the law as it was prior to the Copley Press decision where local jurisdiction would have the ability to create complaint review processes that are open to the public.

We discussed this legislation back in May as it was about to be heard on the Senate Floor. Since then, on June 4, 2007, the California Senate approved SB 1019. Our local State Senator Mike Machado voted for the bill as did Sacramento State Senator Darrell Steinberg and Contra Costa County State Senator Tom Torlakson.

Having passed the California State Senate, the bill is moving on to the Assembly Public Safety Committee. Next Tuesday, June 26, 2007 at 9 a.m. the committee will have a hearing on the legislation.

The Vanguard will be there to cover this important issue and organizers would like as many supporters as possible to attend the hearing.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee is a six member committee chaired by Jose Solorio from Southern California. The Vice Chair is Greg Aghazarian, who represents San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties. He will be the likely Republican Nominee for the open 5th Senate Seat. Assemblywoman Lois Wolk who represents the 8th AD and Yolo County will be seeking the Democratic Nomination as may John Garamendi, Jr.

It is unclear if Governor Schwarzenegger would sign such legislation, but there is a renewed pushed in the wake of the police incident that occurred in Los Angeles during the May Day protests. There was also a well publicized incident on the UCLA campus where a UC Police Officer used a taser multiple times on a student in the library that was caught on video. Such incidents have led to both Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton to endorse the measure.

On June 7, 2007, the Sacramento Bee joined 13 other California Papers including the Fresno Bee, Los Angeles Times, Oakland Tribune, Orange County Register, San Diego Union Tribune, and San Francisco Chronicle in supporting this legislation.

The Bee writes:
"One of the most important elements for maintaining the public's trust in law enforcement is how police departments and police boards handle investigations of members of their own forces.

Keeping those records secret, in the end, doesn't serve the police departments or the public, but for those officers who have been disciplined it's obviously in their interest to keep matters under wraps."
Predictably the Professional Peace Officers Association is strongly opposed to such legislation. What is interesting is that in an email, John Stites, the President of PPOA threatened to retaliate against legislators.

However, he did so by threatening to oppose legislation that would reform term limits:
“As I have said all along, PPOA and SCALE adamantly oppose this legislation to the point that if it is passed we will move quickly to oppose any term limit reform legislation publicly. There is no compromise on this. Ensure that it be understood that this will only be the beginning. I do not know how I can be more clear on this issue. Jim Vogts has been informed of our position.”
Tuesday's hearing should prove insightful, but it may also be moot if the Governor ends up opposing such legislation aimed to re-open the process of police oversight to the public.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


“Fait accompli,” were the words I used to close my remarks in yesterday’s column to describe the prospects for the proposed changes to the Anti-discrimination Ordinance that would have removed a key passage that empowered the Human Relations Commission to investigate and mediate complaints regarding allegations of discrimination. All went according to plan until about two-thirds of the way through deliberations when one of the members of the subcommittee recommending the changes to the ordinance, Councilmember Stephen Souza, suddenly and unexpectedly moved that there be no changes to the ordinance. The result was a 5-0 vote to make no changes to the ordinance and to basically restore the duties that the Human Relations Commission had previously performed up until June 27, 2006 when the council voted to disband the commission.

Perhaps the most stunning part of the evening was the way that we got to this point, the effectiveness of public testimony, and vigilance on the part of Councilmember Lamar Heystek and Mayor Sue Greenwald in somehow, some way, forcing the council majority to back off. Even more stunning was how woefully unprepared Councilmember Souza and several city staffers were about this meeting and how little either council or staff knew about the actual history of the Commission. This was particularly surprising given the fact that Councilmember Souza was himself a former chair of the Commission.

Assistant City Manager Kelly Stachowicz’s remark actually set the tone for much of the discussion:
“That particular resolution, one of the things that it did was attempted to remove the responsibility from the Human Relations Commission to investigate individual grievances with the intent of attempting to adjudicate them primarily because that particular responsibility is problematic in a public commission…”
Stachowicz specifically referred to the Commission's lack of subpoena power and lack of ability to get all information as a reason to strip its power to investigate and mediate. As we shall see, the interpretation of this language would prove key in the ultimate decision to restore the Commission with this power.

The first of many twists of this night came when Souza suddenly announced that they had changed their proposal, which first sought to delete the authorizing section from the ordinance and instead would edit it to shift the power from the HRC to the city and city manager.
“Section 7A-15(c) which is civil remedies under the anti-discrimination ordinance, speaks to a specific commission as the entity that would mediate and investigate, what we have done is change that language to not be specific and allow for the evolving nature of the city’s mediation ability and programs over time.”
Souza spoke of replacing the power of the HRC with that of existing organizations. The argument that he used was that the city now possesses resources that it did not have at its disposal in 1986 such as the mediation and fair housing program, the police advisory committee, the ombudsman, the personnel board, and the human resources department. He argued that only one of them has subpoena power, the personnel board. In order to do a proper investigation, a body must be able to compel individuals to come forward to testify, only the personnel board has that power, not the HRC, he stated.

Councilmember Lamar Heystek took strong disagreement with both the process by which this was brought forward and some of the specific proposals.
Councilmember Heystek pointedly asked: “We received this amendment to the ordinance shortly before 6:30, why was this not included in our council packet when it was delivered to our homes?”

Souza responded: “Because we prepared it a half hour before the meeting. We thought about it over the weekend, and me and Ruth discussed it, then we came and met with Kelly [Stachowicz] at 5:30 and proposed the language that you see before you.”

Heystek continued to press his point: “I certainly appreciate that you’ve done that, but I question whether or not we’ve given people, even here, who wish to speak who were not prepared for these changes, and perhaps people at home who haven’t had these changes presented to them, I think the council should be very eager to take public comment tonight, but I question whether or not we should take action tonight.”
He also questioned the relevance of the personnel board as an investigative body for civil rights complaints.
Souza responded: “It’s the appropriate body where individuals in the city lodge complaints against individuals in the city”

City Attorney Harriet Steiner had to step in here: “The personnel board is there so that if there is a personnel action against a city employee, if there is a complaint against a city employee… that is the hearing body on whether the employee should appropriately be disciplined for their conduct. That board is set up as an adjudicatory board, but that board is not a board where people come in and lodge a complaint against a city employee…”

Heystek: “That was my understanding of the role of the personnel board, so I will ask the subcommittee what relevance does the personnel board have to what we are dealing with tonight, changes to this civil rights ordinance, why do you bring up the personnel board if it is not otherwise a body that is open to the public?”

Souza: “If there is a discrimination complaint against an individual in the city from an employee of the city, that would be the vehicle that they use to adjudicate the issue.”
Souza also admitted in response to a question from Heystek that he had only read the minutes of the deliberations on the original ordinance from 1986 “this evening.” This appears to be another inexplicable example of Mr. Souza, who had a full nine months to prepare from the time this issue was first raised and a good four or five months since the issue was given back to the council the subcommittee. Why would he only read the minutes of the meeting on the evening of the council action, rather than as a member of the subcommittee as they deliberated on this issue presumably over the prior nine months? This seems inexplicable and utterly contemptible.

Asmundson seemed to attempt to justify this glaring oversight by suggesting:
“The 1986 minutes really doesn’t show us anything, it’s just the action it showed in the minutes, there was no discussion, and we couldn’t find any discussion on that motion.”

Heystek responded, “I respectfully disagree with you on that point.”
Also present at last night’s council meeting were members of the public who played a key role in this as well, with six members speaking, each one of them speaking strongly against the proposed changes to the ordinance.

Michelle Stephens, a current member of the HRC spoke for her out of town colleague Shelly Bailes first. “She was there when the anti-discrimination ordinance was written, and she is opposed to any changes.” And then Ms. Stephens spoke for herself:
“Changing this document would be a mistake, for over 20 years this anti-discrimination ordinance has served our community well, providing proof that the city of Davis is committed to human rights… We should not allow something that has shaped our city to be re-written so easily. Changing the ordinance will also effectively make the Human Relations Commission, a party-planning group…” “There is no such thing as having too many opportunities for citizens to voice their concerns.”
Dean Johanson, spoke on behalf of the Yolo County ACLU. He voiced the ACLU’s “opposition to any change in the ordinance as it stands now.” Furthermore, “as an individual who has in the past used the Human Relations Commission, I do think that what you are calling, ‘evolving,’ is actually de-evolution, you’re actually going back in time by making these changes.”

I also spoke on the need to keep to a mechanism that is free of court action that would enforce the anti-discrimination ordinance. Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald, my wife, and former chair of the Commission, spoke about some of the cases that the HRC actually dealt with and their role in bringing about changes in the school district’s climate policy, the city hate crimes, and other programs that dealt with civil rights.

Former HRC Chair Bill Ritter,
“In the nine years I served, this was an important task of the Commission, it was important because it gave teeth to the anti-discrimination ordinance, an avenue by which citizens could come and work out their problems as they perceived them.”
Mr. Ritter pointed out that the mediations services have always been a part of the process. In one case, the city manager, followed up with a private investigator to follow-up on the research that the commission had done.

Former HRC Chair, Tansey Thomas, also spoke out against the changes she cited a number of reports and recommendations that were not followed through upon.

Councilmember Heystek pressed City Manager Bill Emlen as to where he would be providing referrals to investigate or mediate the complaint of individuals. Emlen in fact had no idea and dodged Heystek’s question twice. First, stating it would depend on the nature of the complaint. And second stating, “I think they’ve been mentioned this evening the various options that are available.” Both of these were essentially dodges and non-answers.

Councilmember Souza then asked several key questions of City Attorney Harriet Steiner.
Souza: “Do we have to do anything in order to keep the ordinance legal in its intent and the resolution in the Human Relations Commission? Can we leave it as it is?”

Steiner: “I think we probably could leave it as it is.”

Souza: “Does any city commission, in particular the Human Relations Commission, have the ability under law to investigate?”

Steiner: “None of our commissions would actually provide what lawyers think of as a non-biased investigation, none of the commissions with the possible exception of the personnel board that we talked about before, really are set up to do an equivalent to what the courts do. Many of our commissions listen to the citizens, provide forums for issues, and come to a policy recommendation to the city council with an appropriate recommendation…”
This is actually a key statement because Steiner is speaking in terms of how lawyers think about the term, “investigation,” rather than other possible definitions of the word. It was Mayor Greenwald who demonstrated from the text of the ordinance that the intent was never to “adjudicate” and always referred to a much less formal mechanism of mediation and investigation. The ordinance specifically states that the findings are not admissible in court, implying strongly that the HRC was not to be a body that investigates in the manner in which Steiner speaks of the term “investigate.”

Greenwald pointed out that the council was not provided a copy of the actual ordinance.
Mayor Greenwald's reading of the ordinance was: “yes the Commission can investigate and mediate, but it would not provide material for action.”

Harriet stated that it says, “the findings and conclusions are not admissible in court for a civil action.”

Greenwald: “Investigation and mediation does not have only one definition.”

Harriet: “That’s what I was trying to say. There are different kinds of investigation and different kinds of proceedings. An investigation to come forward to have a community forum is a different kind of investigation than an investigation to try to adjudicate an individual complaint against another individual against a city employee.”

Harriet: “I don’t know that the Human Relations Commission has ever been in a position where it has taken an individual complaint and tried to come up with the answer as to what should happen on that particular complaint as opposed to a larger issue and what the community should do...”
The discussion seemed to turn on the term, “adjudicate.” The perception of the council seemed to be that the ordinance authorized the HRC to adjudicate a complaint, when in fact the language of the ordinance precluded such action and it had never been the practice of the HRC to adjudicate. It was Mayor Greenwald’s teasing out the term that led to this clarification and seemed to change the course of the meeting.

During this discussion, Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson and Councilmember Stephen Souza were conferencing. Suddenly, Asmundson stated that there was an announcement from the subcommittee.
Souza stated: “I would suggest, given the first answer to the question about whether we could just leave the ordinance as is, that I would move that we leave the ordinance as is, and that we direct the liaison to the Human Relations Commission to explain the other avenues that are available and clarify the meaning, and provide the information as to the avenues that are available for mediation and complaints.”
There was an air of disbelief, as it appeared briefly that the council minority could not believe what they had just heard and sitting in the audience, I had the same feeling. It was quite stunning given the direction of the conversation up until the last few moments.

Heystek quickly regained the initiative at this point however, and pressured the council to reconcile between the language of the ordinance and the language of the authorizing resolution of the HRC. He pointed out that in the future, councilmembers would not be reading the motions made on this date, but rather the language in the resolution. He spoke forcefully and ultimately prevailed in getting the subcommittee to re-write the resolution to include some of the language of the ordinance to make it clear that they had the ability to mediate and investigate, but not adjudicate (again a power that the Commission never had to begin with).

By a 5-0 vote, the city council not only left unchanged the historic anti-discrimination ordinance, but also appeared, and I stress appeared, since there will have to be another item on this in the future, to restore the previous power of the Human Relations Commission to what it had been prior to its being disbanded in June of last year.

This was the most stunned I have ever been at a council verdict and in many ways I still am not clear as to what happened. It appeared that public comment moved the council. It appeared even prior to the meeting, that perhaps criticism of the initial proposal, perhaps from this blog, moved the council to use stronger wording. And it appeared that the discussion brought up by Mayor Greenwald with regards to the issue of adjudication probably provided the final death knell.

Souza justified it by the answer that Harriet Steiner gave to his first question, but in fact he asked four questions and it appeared by the fourth question that he was simply lining it up for his eventual victory asking her about the role of adjudication and whether the ordinance itself was proper. Steiner’s response was that she was always uncomfortable with the language of the ordinance. The fourth question was about police oversight, a question and answer that were discussed at length last year and that Souza fully knew the answer to.

Thus my only conclusion is that somewhere during the course of that discussion, the issue of definition of investigation arose and the issue of adjudication made it clear that the ordinance never intended to authorize nor did the Commission ever act as a body that adjudicates individual complaints.

I will point out that people last year charged that the HRC was trying to become a de-facto civilian review board for police complaints, but that is not true. What the HRC was doing was taking individual complaints and attempting to advocate a general policy—the construction of a civilian review board. The council rejected that proposal, but that was the HRC’s intent, not to adjudicate the Buzayan case or any of the other individual cases. Those cases were only used to provide examples for a policy change.

It is very important to note that the HRC was never granted the power of subpoena nor did they ever seek to use the subpoena power. The charge was made that the commission overstepped their bounds and misused their power, but as we saw last night, it has be acknowledged that is simply untrue given that they never attempted to adjudicate individual cases. We can disagree on the forcefulness with which the commission conducted its business, but that alone does not mean that the commission was not outside of its charge.

In the end, the council did the right thing last night, but one must severely question several aspects of the proceedings. First, the late change of text for the ordinance butts up against a violation of the Brown Act which requires a period of proper noticing to the public. That change caught all involved off-guard. Second, the lack of preparation on the part of the subcommittee was irresponsible. Souza’s question of Steiner could have taken place in private and having her opinion that there was no conflict could have mitigated against this discussion. Third, the lack of staff providing of resources including the ordinance is appalling. Fourth, Souza’s admission that he had only read the minutes of the 1986 discussion last night, prior to the meeting, was not only appalling, but disrespectful to the work of past councils. Finally, this entire discussion embodies a sort of lack of preparation and lack of professionalism. It was clear from the discussion that neither the council nor staff really understood the history of the Commission or how they have operated in the past.

This is not surprising in light of the controversy that happened last year that in my opinion, as a very biased observer, was greatly distorted in the public realm. That is not to suggest that the Commission acted without error that is far from the case, however, their intents and their actions were greatly distorted in the heat of a political campaign and the heat of public scrutiny.

In Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald’s closing comments during her public remarks, she asked the council
“to take this historic anti-discrimination ordinance and instead of stripping it of its protections, to move in the other direction to make it stronger. I ask you to take these fractured ties in this community and bring us together. I ask you to lift up those who have suffered in this past year from hopelessness and despair and give them hope and guidance that the City of Davis will not turn its back on its commitment to civil rights.”
In many ways, a year removed from the controversy, when things could be treated with reflection rather than with impulse, they have done exactly that. The question though is really whether it is too late. The results last night stunned us all, but they also served to reinvigorate us. It was the first time in a long time that we had any sense of optimism, accomplishment and hope.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Commentary: Council and Staff Try To Justify Weakening of Historic Civil Rights Ordinance

If you read the Davis Enterprise last night, you would be led to believe that the historic, anti-discrimination ordinance that passed in 1986 was no longer needed. This justification might make sense if they were removing the entire ordinance, but instead they are removing one portion of text dealing with an enforcement mechanism and then attempting to suture up that hole somewhat artificially.
When it was adopted in 1986, the ordinance offered protections not otherwise available at the time, said Assistant City Manager Kelly Stachowicz.

“According to the city attorney, most of those things are now covered by state and federal law,” she added.

The city now has several mechanisms in place to deal with charges of discrimination, including a police ombudsman hired in September, the city's Mediation and Fair Housing Program and the Police Advisory Committee.

“The subcommittee believes there is an adequate web of resources available to individuals and the best roles for the current Human Relations Commission include listening, information intake and referral,” Souza and Asmundson wrote.
There are several components to this claim that need to be addressed.

First, most of these things are indeed covered by state and federal law. The problem is that unless the case of discrimination is egregious enough to warrant the Attorney General of California or the Justice Department/ FBI to intervene, the enforcement mechanism is a lawsuit in court. As we discussed last week, such a mode is expensive and impractical for most situations that arise. Moreover, as we also discussed, the only recourse available to individuals should not be the court system, this is a chief reason why the HRC was empowered in the first place even lacking the ability to subpoena people to testify.

Second the city may have several mechanisms, but most of them involve the police or housing. Those account for a very small percentage of the types of incidents that the HRC in the past has dealt with. So who is going to handle those type of complaints?

The word we are getting is that those complaints of discrimination would be rolled into the Police Ombudsman, Bob Aaronson's duty. Or at least that is what Councilmember Stephen Souza is reportedly thinking at this time. This is not the first time he has suggested expanding the role of the ombudsman. The problem is that it is not altogether clear that the ombudsman is the proper authority to deal with a number of these kinds of disputes that used to be handled by the HRC. Moreover, the ombudsman is currently working well beyond his part time duties, expanding his role would likely necessitate the city hiring additional staff to do the duties that the HRC used to perform.

The Enterprise Article cites the report from the subcommittee:
“As a public body, the commission is limited to what it can discuss in open session,” Asmundson and Souza wrote. “It is also limited in information it can seek regarding personnel issues, information about police officers, and information it can require other jurisdictions to share. This makes it difficult for the commission to appropriately, thoroughly and fairly mediate/adjudicate individual cases.”
As Mr. Souza ought to know since he was on the HRC, police issues encompass only a very small portion of the types of complaints that the HRC dealt with in the past. Moreover, Souza's report only dealt with again a very narrow issue base--police issues. The disputes that arose last year undoubtedly have led to this decision, but the subcommittee is thinking very narrowly when they justify the removal of the ordinance item based on a single-issue area that has now been dealt with through the hiring of the ombudsman.
"At a recent meeting, commissioners discussed the ordinance, and several said they felt uncomfortable in the role of mediator. Others said to dismantle an important city ordinance was inappropriate."
I find the fact that several members of the commission were uncomfortable with the role of mediator appalling. In past HRCs, it was strongly encouraged that the members go through mediation training--and many did. It is part of the duties that they had and were listed in the description. It would be like a member of the BEDC or the Planning Commission uncomfortable with reading and analyzing zoning laws or development agreements. My response is 'oh well, if you are uncomfortable, resign.' As we found out last year, this body and these laws are bigger than the individuals currently holding the appointments.

There is a perception out there that bodies like the HRC are limited in terms of what they can do to effect change. Nothing is really further from the truth. In 2002 and early 2003, the HRC heard a number of incidents involving racism and bullying at the Davis High School. The HRC, helped organize a community meeting that turned out be a real eye-opener for the entire community. Following the Forum on Bullying and Racism hosted by the HRC, the Davis Enterprise reported:
Talk about racism at Davis High School became real for school district officials Monday night, as emotional students recounted experiences with violence, discrimination and taunting.

Davis Joint Unified School District Board of Education members, Superintendent David Murphy, teachers and Davis City Council members joined more than 100 community members and students at a public forum on racism.

The forum, organized by the Davis Human Relations Commission and held Monday at the Veterans' Memorial Center, produced a long list of possible solutions and nearly five hours of testimony and discussion.

"I thought there was a problem. I had no idea of the depth and breadth of the problem and how deep it seems to be within ... our schools, particularly the high school," Joan Sallee, school board president, said after hearing the students' stories. "And I'm grateful for this meeting." (Davis Enterprise, February 25, 2003).
The result of this meeting was that numerous students came forward with heartfelt and emotional experiences and the school board and superintendent could no longer simply ignore the problem.
Emotional -- at times tearful -- students recounted vivid stories of discrimination and poor treatment on campus by their peers, administrators and staff. Some said they are uncomfortable talking to administrators about experiences. Others accused the school district of unfair punishments.

"There is no word in the English language like (the N-word)," Babajide Olupona, a DHS students and commission member, said, recalling years of discrimination and negative experiences in the schools and community. "No one really understands the impact of that word."

Other students offered detailed accounts of discrimination, vandalism of their property and violence based on race, ethnicity, religion and status.
The result of that meeting was that the Superintendent Murphy worked with members of the HRC to create new programs and new positions to deal with the problem. One of the results of that work is the climate coordinator position, now held by Mel Lewis.

We see from this both the possibilities but the shortcomings of the a body such as the HRC. First, the HRC was able to organize a meeting to educate the community. Second, they were able to work with the Superintendent to create new programs.

But third, as many who read these pages realize, the problems that were identified then, still exist now. Why? There was a lack of follow-through after the crisis abated.

However, the HRC was able to facilitate with the school district new programs, new discipline code language, and a new position. This set the stage for what has happened this year, where all of these aspects have been tightened up due to greater levels of follow-through and commitment by the current school board.

Most importantly, there was key communication fostered and changes enacted without a lawsuit having to be filed. I do not see how the Ombudsman would be able to perform this function.

In October of 2003, four teenagers threw more than 120 eggs at five vehicles--mainly owned by minorities including a gay man.
Russell and several friends, concerned community members and fellow victims of hate crimes scratched out signs and banners to protest the Yolo County District Attorney's Office's willingness to drop hate crime charges against a teen-ager who is charged with vandalizing several cars and a home on Oct. 26, 2003.

One of the victims is Russell, a 27-year-old openly gay UC Davis lab assistant.

"This is silent affirmation to people who commit these type of crimes because they can look and see that nothing is going to happen to them if they get caught," Russell said of the plea offer. "This allows this type of behavior to continue."

Four youths reportedly shouted racist and bigoted remarks as they threw more than 120 eggs at five vehicles and one house early that October morning. One car was owned by Russell; another was owned by a black family. The house was owned by a black family.

Witnesses told police they saw four juveniles throw more than 120 eggs at the two cars. Russell's vehicle suffered more than $4,000 in damage, he said. Liquid from the eggs seeped through into the engine, causing damage, and the paint was also ruined.

Russell was able to pick one of the juveniles out of a photo lineup and he was arrested for the crimes. However, the youth has refused to tell authorities the names of the other three suspects.

"This was devastating to me," Russell said about the hate crime. "Then to have the crimes basically dismissed makes the whole experience exponentially worse."

Raphael Moore, Russell's attorney, said the proposed deal - announced at a pretrial hearing last week - might include dropping the hate crime charges against the juvenile. The 16-year-old could face limited probation and the possibility of having his record expunged in three years if the plea agreement is approved. (Davis Enterprise July 15, 2004).
As a result the HRC took up Mr. Russell's cause. The result was that the HRC worked with the new police chief Jim Hyde, yes the same police chief and the same HRC chair that were at odds a year later. At this time however, the HRC arranged for public meetings where various individuals spoke about the problems of hate crimes. As the result of those meetings, Chief Hyde greatly improved and expanded the department's enforcement of hate crimes legislation.

Even though, Mr. Russell's case was never prosecuted as a hate crime and the juvenile was slapped on the wrist at most, it set in motion a series of changes that will ensure that such events do not occur in the future.

These are but two of the more recent and easily accessible examples of what the HRC has been able to do in the past. Both of these incidents show an effective use of this commission that can both investigate and use community resources to resolve disputes that do not have to go into the legal system as law suits and litigation.

The council now wishes to turn this commission primarily into a listening, intake and referral commission. My experience is that few will come before such a commission. In the past many came before the commission because it was the only body that would listen to their complaints where they believe they were getting a fair hearing. The council wishes for the most part to take this vetting which is often healthy and cathartic out of the public process.

In the end, the council is weakening an historic document to fix a small and limited problem that arose in 2005-06 when the dispute over the proper way in which to deal with a given set of complaints erupted more broadly than it should have. Instead of finding ways to resolve the situation, the council opted for the hatchet approach first purging the HRC, then rewriting its rules, and now changing a landmark civil rights document. This is compounding the problem that began with the inability of either the police chief or the council to recognize the existence of problems and complaints within the community. These actions may quell the public complaints at this time, but they also put a lid on problems rather than solve them, at some point they will erupt again, boiling to the surface. This current council will probably not be in power when they do and they will not have to deal with the mess that they have created.

Unfortunately this is a done deal, fait accompli. And it is a shame that Davis will once again take a dramatic step backwards in their protections against civil rights abuses.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, June 18, 2007

Commentary: Police Photography of Protesters Butts up Against the Line

Following up on last week's report on UC Davis police taking photos of the protesters and also this blogger on public property outside of Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef's university owned home, during a function that involved the university marching band as well as involved some of the very food service workers seeking university jobs with higher wages and benefits. I spoke to a number of individuals about the incident and a consensus view grew about the practice.

First I spoke to the area ACLU about the incident, and they said while it is not illegal for them to take photos of protesters, it also depends on what they intend to do with the photos and how they dispose of the photos. Regardless the ACLU intends to send a letter to the UC Davis Police as a means to communicate their discomfort with the overall practice.

I also spoke with the scene commander for the UC Davis Police. The first thing that she told me was that it was legal, that the police have as much right to take a picture of me, as I do of them. I told her that I understood from my discussions that it was perfectly legal for the police to do this and furthermore there is no expectation of privacy in public, but I said that does not necessarily make it the right thing to do. I explained to her that the police represent the lawful power of the government to use force in order to maintain order. It is one thing for the police in their official duties paid for by the state of California and the students at UC Davis, to arrest and photograph individuals participating in lawbreaking, it is another thing for them to merely take photos of people who are otherwise obeying the law. There is a strong differential between me photographing an event in an attempt to tell a story and the police doing so for other reasons.

There is a clear intimidation factor behind that approach. Some of the students at the time said that while there were not overt threats toward them, the implication was that they were being watched very closely.

The scene commander told me that given the history of these particular protesters that she made the call to have the officers under her command photograph them. I found that a very odd explanation. If anything, while some complained about noise and the banging on windows, this particular group of protesters has from what I've seen in several different events been extremely orderly and cooperative. When they have been arrested they have done so in a peaceful and organized manner. I do not see what photographing the protesters will aid in if they were to be arrested for failure to disperse or unlawful assembly. The police will either witness it or not.

I want to be clear that people who know this particular commander understand her to be a good and dedicated officer. However, given past activities by police with regards to protesters and the history of this country, I question the wisdom of photographing protesters.

From what I witnessed, there was not only an attempt to intimidate but a clear tension between those who were protesters and those who were attending the party and in charge of maintaining the peace. First, the protesters attempted to have one individual on each side of the chancellor's house, distribute fliers. The reaction from the party-goers was overwhelmingly negative and at times outright rude and hostile. This was clearly not a group of persuadables most of whom were high administrators and community leaders.

Second, there were the actions of Dennis Shimek, Associate Vice Chancellor of Human Resources. Shimek's actions were called into questions a week prior when he attempted to intimidate and got in the face of a student involved in negotiations. He continued his boorish behavior last week by intentionally walking through the marching protesters. Despite his assertions to the contrary, it was completely unnecessary. First, there was plenty of space to walk around the protesters, he certainly had no reason other than confrontation to walk through them. Second, as the pictures show, he went through looking for a fight. Third, it is not clear why he needed to go through to begin with, he went into an open green space lawn, turned around and came back. He was rude, belligerent, and in my opinion, clearly out to provoke something.

The actions of the police were more mixed. On the one hand, they did not get into a confrontation with the protesters and in fact did much to avoid a confrontation. On the other hand, it seemed more passive aggressive to be out taking photographs of otherwise law abiding citizens.

The scene commander informed me that no laws were broken on this occasion. When I asked what that meant for the photos, she was unsure. If a crime were committed, they were going to be downloaded onto a CD and booked as evidence. Other than a demonstration that the individuals were on the scene, I'm not sure what they would exactly prove. It is not like the individuals if they engaged in civil disobedience are going to deny they were there.

My opinion on this is pretty simple. First, if someone breaks the law, they ought to be arrested and pay the penalty for that crime. Civil disobedience is not performed with the expectation that the worthy cause negates the crime. Thoreau was perfectly willing to pay his price in jail for his failure to pay taxes. Second, the police represent the power of the government here. I have grown concerned that the UC Davis Police are acting on behest of the chancellor as a means to break and discourage the organizers rather than as a means to protect the peace.

As such, I think that photographing of protesters while legal represents an uncomfortable area in the law. It allows the police to attempt to intimidate rather than to enforce the law. It means that the government itself is watching one. And while there is no expectation of privacy, there should be an expectation that the government does not intrude in the lives of private citizens as long as they have not broken the law. This practice butts dangerously close to that principle.

To me this represents an erosion of civil liberties and the right to privacy from government interference in the face of 9/11 and the Patriot Act. Local law enforcement should act from one standpoint--to protect the peace and as long as that peace is protected, they should be passive rather than active participants.

We retain a right to speech, expression, and assembly in this country, rights that put even the notion of failure to disperse in question. Regardless, the question is whether the citizens of Davis wish to live in a community where the police are photographing individuals exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly? Because to be quite frank, it makes me nervous that people seem so willing to allow the encroachment on such rights and are so quick to excuse and explain it away.

I remain overall very troubled at the state of civil liberties in this country given the Bush administration's strong encroachment. I see this as just another extension of the Bush mentality whereby law enforcement is using their powers to monitor and observe lawful activities of dissenters rather than on people actually involved in law breaking.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Key Issues Facing the Legislature in Upcoming Races

Barring something very much unexpected, it seems that Yolo County voters will have two contested Democratic primaries for the state legislature. One that is already well underway is the 8th Assembly District Race between West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada. That one had their first debate last week, if you can believe that.

The other one may be getting underway soon, is the Fifth Senate District where current Assemblywoman Lois Wolk is widely expected to face John Garamendi, Jr, son of the current Lt. Governor and likely 2010 Governor candidate, John Garamendi. Last Sunday, Garamendi, Sr. spoke in Davis and sounded not only like a candidate, but looked like a frontrunner for the nomination and probably the Governor's Mansion itself. He may be the strongest candidate the Democrats have had in California in a generation.

Key issues face both races, perhaps none bigger right now than the healthcare issue. On June 28, 2007 at 1 pm on the West Side of the Capitol Steps will be a massive rally for healthcare. Currently a couple of versions of universal single-payer health care are making their way through the legislature.

A number of advocacy groups have gotten together with some of the larger labor unions to really press the issue, but you have to wonder with Governor Schwarzenegger still in office, if all of this is a moot point. This is where Lt. Governor Garamendi spoke so forcefully, calling for a single-payer system and describing in detail how the system has worked with Medicare and that we need simply to begin expanding that system and its coverage to the rest of the population.

In the course of the push for health care and support of a number of proposals in the legislature, it was shocking to learn that one of the members targeted by the group for their weak and/ or lukewarm support was our own Assemblywoman Lois Wolk. While former Assemblywoman Helen Thomson was always a stalwart on health issues on a broad array of fronts, it seems that Wolk has been less of a champion. She was on the list of legislators to lobby, hopefully the hundreds of cards and letters have pushed her into stronger support for health care reform.

Given the number of uninsured Californians, the effect on their quality of life and the effect on the overall economy, this bill is essential. Last summer, I witnessed first hand what happens to people without insurance. My friend experienced a catastrophic illness while he was unemployed and uninsured. The county system is insufficient to deal with the needs. Even for the indigent, the result is a huge medical bill and perhaps a lifetime of debt. And when the system knows that you cannot pay, they give you substandard care. Twice Sutter Davis released a man who was too weak to walk by his own devices, once he was found sitting on the curb on Covell too weak to walk any further and the other time they gave him a cab ride home but he could not climb his stairs to get inside. It was unconscionable and yet somewhat the standard operating procedure.

Education is a perennial issue of importance. This year we see that budget shortfalls once again lead to tuition hikes for UC and CSU students. This is far from the only issue facing higher education. The loss of affirmative action in 1996, means that the then-meager numbers of African American students and instructors have fallen still further. I would like to hear from all of the candidates as to how we can reverse that trend. This is of course not just a problem of higher education, but of all levels as Davis Joint Unified has struggled to bring in minority teachers.

An issue dear to my heart is that of civil rights and unfortunately at the 8th Assembly District debate, I did not get to hear the views of the candidates on issues of civil rights. West Sacramento made news of course in recent months when its Gang Injunction was struck down. Cabaldon as mayor has been fairly quiet on that issue of late, despite his support for it in the past. Moreover, there are a number of bills currently moving through the legislature that would restore access to public records about police officers in citizen complaints as well as other civilian review functions that have been struck down by the courts who argued that they violated police officer's rights to privacy.

Finally, a big issue in recent months has been the potential outsourcing of state jobs. Governor Schwarzenegger has at times proposed outsourcing various state level jobs, such as printing, to outside of the state claiming that it would save the state money. While that may sound like a laudable goal, his ulterior motive is to cut jobs for state union workers. He has recently proposed privatization of the CA State Lottery in an attempt to lease the lottery operations to private companies such as Goldman Sachs. The result would be the loss of hundreds of well-paying unions jobs with wages and benefits.

Closer to home the burning issue of Sodexho Workers attempting to become university employees so that they can get higher wages and benefits has been thwarted by an indifferent upper administration. While Assemblywoman Wolk has made some overtures on behalf of the students, her recent actions this week call into question her commitment on that issue. Wolk walked right past protesters on her way to Chancellor Vanderhoef's end of the year party. In fact, the only public official who paid the protesters any heed was Assembly candidate Yamada.

Organizing and unionization should be core issues for any Democrat. Garamendi, Sr. has an excellent record on labor issues and always receives very strong union support. Wolk's record in the Assembly has made labor unions uncomfortable and many are actively encouraging Garamendi, Jr. to throw his hat in the race. Cabaldon has earned the ire of labor unions for a variety of policy positions including bringing a Wal-Mart Superstore to West Sacramento, whereas Yamada enjoys strong support from local and state unions. Will labor matter in the upcoming elections? We'll find out.

If Cabaldon and Yamada square off again, I hope they can ask questions that are more likely to bring out some of the differences in these candidates. Meantime, hopefully in the next month or so, we will find out if Garamendi, Jr. throws his hat into the ring. Regardless, this next year will be very interesting here in Davis and Yolo County.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting