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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Local Leaders and Activists Push for Health Care in Sacramento

On Thursday on the steps of the Capitol a coalition of labor unions and community organizations who are in support of a new health care single-payer system concluded a four day-day, six city publicity tour.

The goal of "It's Our Healthcare" is to put pressure on lawmakers in hopes of passing a new single-payer health care system.

There was a large and enthusiastic crowd with a large amount of labor leaders, union members, local leaders, and other residents who came out in support of health care reform.

One the key speakers was Lt. Governor John Garamendi who spoke passionately of the need for health care reform. He spoke about how the cost of health care was vastly outstripping inflation. He spoke in a favor of a health care system that was "affordable and available" to everyone in this state.
"No matter how hard you work, no matter how many hours a day you work, everyone is at risk of losing their health care, losing their job, losing their home, and losing their life. It's got to change and it can change."

"America knows how to do this. We have created in the United States a single-payer universal health care system that is available to every federal employee. It's there, we know how to do a universal health care system that allows people to get health care wherever they want from whatever provider they want to get it from. When they say we can't do it, hey we've done it for every American over 65 years of age. It's called Medicare. So don't tell us we can't create a universal system that fairly distributes the cost of our system to all parts of the economy, all parts of our society. We have done it for the most expansive part of the American population senior citizens. It is a universal, single-payer health care system that allows every person over 65 years of age to have quality health care, universally available, throughout the United States."
Local leaders attending the rally included Assemblyman Dave Jones from Sacramento who also spoke, Davis Mayor Sue Greenwald, Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada, and School Board Member Sheila Allen. Notably absent from the rally was Lois Wolk, who some sources have said has just now signed on to support Dave Jones' legislation, but she has not been a leader on this issue.

There are a number of different proposal going through the Capitol. Some of the unions are pushing for a compromise that would provide for affordable, accessible, health care for all.

As Garamendi suggested, it is an embarrassing fact that the United States is the worst of the industrialized countries of the world in terms of health care quality and coverage for its citizens. In this day and age, it is remarkable that people are losing their lives and their health due to the lack of access to basic health services in the wealthiest country in the world. That needs to change and it is long overdue.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, June 29, 2007

Commentary: Who is left to defend Yolo County Farmland?

As reported yesterday in the local press, Sacramento developer Angelo Tskaopoulos is proposing developing a 2,800 acre parcel of prime agricultural land along the I-80 between Davis and the Yolo Causeway.

Unfortunately the people who were supposed to be protecting Davis and Yolo County from exactly this sort of development are making statements that should make every single resident very nervous.

Supervisor Mike McGowan, who represents West Sacramento, in both the Sacramento Bee and Davis Enterprise was non-committal but sympathetic.

Supervisor McGowan told the Bee:
"It's still very much at the conceptual level, and I need to get much more information about it before I can form any serious conclusions."

"The idea of this region being at the forefront of stem cell research is certainly an exciting one, but the rest of it has yet to be fleshed out."
Meanwhile he told the Davis Enterprise:
“I'm very intrigued with the idea of a research park... We need to look constructively at the Interstate 80 corridor between West Sacramento and Davis. Does it make sense for the county, Davis, UC Davis and West Sacramento to place something of legitimate scientific endeavor out there? If the answer is ‘maybe,' then we should look at it at least in the broad concept.”
However, given his record on growth this is not a surprising position by Supervisor McGowan.

The surprising position is that of Supervisor Mariko Yamada--who up until this calendar year was widely regarded as a slow-growther. However, it appears that has begun to change sharply this year just as she announced a bid for the Assembly.

Earlier this year she alarmed supporters and Davis Progressives with a proposal to look into joint study-areas on the periphery of Davis as possible locations for future development and zoning changes to allow for that future development. The city of Davis has adamantly been opposed to any changes in the pass-through agreement and believes that the city has land-use authority on the periphery. Moreover, she seemed at times amenable to revising the pass-through agreement between the city of Davis and Yolo County.

Now, she appears open to this proposal.

Supervisor Yamada:
"We are in the 21st century, and we need to keep an open mind about how we are going to approach land use and the I-80 corridor from the Bay Area to Sacramento."
I have long been a supporter of Mariko Yamada and have known her personally since 1998 when she was the office manager at the Democratic Headquarters in Davis where I worked as a field director for Mark Desio who was running for State Senate. It pains me very much to say this, but her position is unacceptable.

She added in Enterprise:
“It's part of the new direction the county is going in."
This unfortunately dovetails with her position on a 2,000-unit senior development on Oeste Ranch in the Northwest Quadrant and her view on the pass-through agreement itself.

Yamada at that time was claiming that the county needed to find new ways to generate revenue sources. I cannot disagree with that nor can I disagree with her goal for increasing and improving social services including those to seniors. Counties are at the lowest end of the totem pole when it comes to revenue sources. However, tearing up the pass-through agreement will not solve the problem. The city gives the county far more in the pass-through agreement in order to not develop, than they would get by developing.

The issue here is not about a stem-cell research center. If Mr. Tsakopoulos wants to build a research center, I would be greatly be supportive of it on the UC Davis campus. However, this is basically a means by which to build homes and other development projects on prime agricultural land and that, I cannot support.

In contrast to both McGowan and Yamada, Matt Rexroad expresses my viewpoint:
"The place where the Tsakopoulos family owns land is pretty good farmland... Would it be great to have a research center like this in Yolo County? Yes. Does it have to be located on that parcel? No."
Mr. Rexroad is a Republican. Guess what? So is Duane Chamberlain. I challenge anyone to find a stronger advocate of protecting farmland on this Board of Supervisors than Mr. Chamberlain. Matt Rexroad may be a right-wing Republican, but he's far closer in his viewpoint of this issue to me, than I am to the three Democrats on this board.

It seems that the only protectors of land at the county level are Republicans. While the track record of McGowan and Thomson on development is consistent with this type of proposal, the shocker here has been the move by Supervisor Yamada. Prior to January of this year, Yamada along with Chamberlain had been strong defenders against development. Why the quick and huge turn? Is it a matter of running for the Assembly? It is a matter of lack of funding for social services?

At the end of the day, it probably does not matter why. Nevertheless, Yamada has basically cut herself off from her previous base of support and has left herself without a political base as she seeks election against West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

Prior to writing this article, I gave Supervisor Yamada a heads-up that this was coming and offered her a chance to respond on the record. She did not take me up on that offer.

At this point, I cannot in good conscience defend the actions of someone who I strongly admired last year for being the only publicly elected official to publicly support and champion civilian police oversight, the Buzayans, and the Human Relations Commission. While she remains strong on civil rights and social services, her evolving positions on land-use are indefensible.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, June 28, 2007

State Senate Bill Would Impose Growth on Cities

At Tuesday's Davis City Council Meeting, Councilmember Don Saylor reported on SB 303, a bill in California's State Senate, that has significant land use implications for a number of cities. Councilmember Saylor learned about this bill from the League of California Cities.

This bill, authored by State Senator Denise Ducheny, has already passed the Senate committee in March. It figures to have much stronger opposition in the Assembly. It may be heard as early as July 3 in the Assembly Committee on Local Government. It has also been referred to the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development.

Senator Ducheny, a Democrat, has entitled the bill "The Housing Affordability Act."

According to her release:
"The new legislation is designed to ensure responsible planning, require full compliance with environmental laws and boost affordable housing for all income levels. Local and regional governments will maintain control of the current process for determining how much housing is needed (Regional Housing Needs Assessment, RHNA) and where it will go. Now, however, the land will be zoned when the site for housing is chosen by the local community."
However, the League of California Cities among hundreds of individual cities, environmental groups, have come out in very strong opposition to this legislation precisely because they fear it will take away local and regional government control over assessing housing needs. Specifically they are concerned about some of the provisions that will require the housing element to cover a 10 year rather than a five year period.

In essence, it requires the worst of all worlds. The housing element will continue to be updated every five years. However, the period that the "regional housing needs assessment" will cover is a 10-year period, meaning that the housing element will not be required to accommodate 10 year housing needs rather than five. The fear is that these projects will become front-loaded in the planning stage, and the rate of growth will increase dramatically as a result.

Moreover, they will now require the zoning for the housing element update to done concurrent with the housing element update. In other words, the projects will be essentially zoned and ready to go at the beginning of the five year period, further adding to the effect of front loading the housing at the beginning of the ten year period, in effect increasing the growth of most locales.

According to the League of California cities:
"The combination of extending the RHNA to ten years and requiring upfront zoning will trigger significant sprawl because no time is provided to phase in the availability of housing sites."
This legislation appears to be the counterpart of the concern about the county's general plan update designating various joint-study areas that would eventually look at changing zoning by the county on key properties on Davis' periphery. It would be tantamount to state mandated growth.

With the strong and growing opposition by the League of California Cities and the apparent stronger opposition in the State Assembly, the prospects of this legislation fortunately appear to be diminishing.

However, at this point there appears to be some concern as to who the sponsor of this legislation is, or more importantly, who works for State Senator Denise Ducheny as her chief of staff. That would be John Ferrera, a Davis resident, who is a candidate for the 4th District Yolo County Supervisor Seat.

There are a number of tough questions that need to be addressed regarding this legislation, but also the philosophy behind it.

The County and City have been at odds during their general plan update precisely over the principle as to who should determine growth on the periphery of cities. Now we have the state sticking their nose into local land use decisions as well. That's not to suggest that there are not good intentions behind designing a bill that would improve the housing supply and increase the amount of affordable housing. However, such legislation has a very different impact on smaller cities than it does on large cities.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Police Oversight Legislation Held Up by Assembly Committee

In August 2006 California Supreme Court decision in Copley Press v. Superior Court, issued a ruling that has effectively shutdown public proceedings for civilian review of police oversight. This ruling has effectively 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. We are not talking about allegations of police misconduct, we are talking about sustained findings that have found officers guilty of actual misconduct.

Since then, a number of bills have moved through the California State Legislature in an attempt to restore the public's right to know about officers who have been found guilty of police misconduct. SB 1019, sponsored by the Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, passed the State Senate earlier this month with strong support in a 22-11 vote.

Yesterday the Assembly Public Safety Committee Chaired by Democrat Jose Solorio, vice-chaired by Republican Greg Aghazarian (who is going to run for the 5th Senate Seat held currently by Mike Machado) took up the bill for review. The other Democrats on this committee include Fiona Ma, Hector De La Torre, and Anthony Portantino.

Senator Romero came before this committee and delivered a brilliant speech in support of police oversight and open government.
This bill is about the public's right to know. It is about the kind of democracy do we want to live in. It is about the public being able to hold our government accountable as public servants. Let's stipulate right away that most peace officers do a great job, by providing public safety. But we do know that peace officer misconduct also exists. I live in a city that has burned twice because of poor police-community relations. We also know that the police and community must have a trusting relationship in order to provide public safety. Police rely on the public to solve crimes and to step forward as witnesses. And policing is done to protect and serve the public and it is best done and trusted when there is nothing to hide. If the community feels that they can truly trust what they see. Police officers work in public, they interact with the public, are given public funds and occasionally receive complaints from the public. And when complaints are filed and found to be true, then the public should have the right to know as there is for most other members of the public. If a lawyer commits misconduct you can look that up. If a doctor commits misconduct, you can find that out. If you are arrested, not convicted, just arrested, we can all find out what happened. But if that same police officer that arrested you commits misconduct and it is sustained, not just alleged but sustained, without this bill, you will never know. It will be held secret.
Moreover, her chief contention was that the Copley decision goes too far in protecting the privacy of police officers who have had sustained complaints against them.

Post-Copley the pendulum has swung so far that it has completely toppled the balance of privacy and the public's right to know. And to be clear I would say that there is no privacy interest in sustained misconduct by a public employee including police officers.

As we mentioned last week, various police officer associations have strongly come out against this bill, to the point where they have made threats against the legislation that if the legislature ends up passing this bill, they will work to defeat the Term Limits reform initiative that will be on the February ballot. Romero addressed these threats and the charge that this bill is anti-law enforcement.
Peace officers are not just private citizens doing private things, they are public servants, using public authority to potentially use lethal force on the public to enforce the public's law, our law. This bill is looking to restore a balance between privacy and a public's right to know passed the Senate with bipartisan support despite the intense lobbying against it mainly by police organizations. And it passed even despite a political threat. But this bill is not anti-law enforcement. This bill is supported by law enforcement. The national black police officers association, the Los Angeles, Oakland, and East Palo Alto and Newark Police Chiefs. And the San Francisco Sheriff as well. It is supported by elected officials throughout California, who understand that we never should be afraid of sunshine in government.
There was also testimony from the Newark Police Chief, who is strongly in favor of civilian review and has suggested that police should have nothing to fear from public scrutiny. In fact, this bill would restore public trust with the police that will make their job easier rather than more difficult.

The most compelling testimony came from two individuals who had suffered personally from police misconduct. First, Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers who told of her personal experience of being beaten in San Francisco with a baton to the point where it ruptured her spleen in 1988. The officer was the brother of the police chief and there were not police oversight laws in place. The other woman spoke in tears of a recent tragedy where her daughter lost her life as the police violated a number of procedures during the course of a chase.

The ACLU had organized many citizens coming to this meeting, and perhaps 50 or more showed up in support of the bill, however, this effort was overshadowed by the overwhelming showing of the various peace officers groups from across the state. The police officers argued that this bill would imperil their safety and their family's safety.

In the end, the chair Jose Solorio, expressed his support in the concept of this legislation, but his concerns about some of the specifics of this bill. He asked Senator Romero if she wanted a vote, and she said that she did and implored the committee to act on this legislation. In a committee of four Democrats and two Republicans, not one Democrat stood up to make a motion for this legislation that had already passed the State Senate by a 22-11 margin. Not one.

A very angry Senate Majority Leader left the room stating: "Did someone turn out the lights in this room?"

Mark Schlossberg, Police Practices Policy Director of the ACLU-NC, who had helped to craft this legislation stated afterwards:
“By not even allowing a vote on this important bill, the Assembly Public Safety Committee has given the police unions exactly what they want: a cloak of secrecy over police misconduct and a lack of public accountability... By remaining silent our elected officials favored police secrecy over the public interest.”
It was a sad and demoralizing experience yesterday. This was a committee made up of Democrats and not one of them had the courage to act. I have gained a large measure of respect for the work of Gloria Romero who was brilliant in her presentation and dynamic as a speaker as she fought for social justice against what turned out to be indifferent colleagues in the other house of the California legislature. It was obvious that the members of this committee caved in to the intimidation tactics of the police associations.

This lack of action by the California State Assembly puts this legislation in doubt at least for 2008. This means that it will not be at least for another year before the legislature can correct the Copley decision, that weakened severely already very weak oversight laws in California.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

City Puts Out Propaganda Piece on Water Supply Project

Like many resident of Davis, I recently received in the mail a publication from the City of Davis' Public Works Department: "Utility Connection." I had not even received the publication yet when I got calls and emails about it, incensed not only at the content, but in the fact that this was propaganda paid for by city expense using taxpayer money.

One need look no further than the front page to realize the gist of message:
"In this special issue of Utility Connection, we offer a more detailed look at two critical public works projects. These two projects--a water supply project and a wastewater treatment project--are important to ensure a high-quality water supply for Davis citizens and protect the water quality of our rivers, wetlands and creeks."
The implication throughout this publication is that our drinking water is unsafe. This is simply not true. The drinking water is completely safe using the current water supply. There are questions about the quality, but they are not issues of safety. Several people, familiar with this situation have suggested that the city is trying to scare people into believing that current water supplies are unsafe, but this is simply untrue.

The publication makes four key points.
  • The city's water supply is 100 percent groundwater
  • There is a limited supply of groundwater
  • New water quality regulations must be met but the necessary upgrades are costly
  • The health of the groundwater basin is at risk
Currently, the city relies mainly on intermediate depth aquifers. These aquifers have been a reliable source for groundwater since the 1950s. These aquifers have never failed to recharge even in leaner water years. The only question has been water quality. And what is important to understand, is that it is not water quality of the water supply, but rather water quality of the discharge. In other words, the water that we drink, unpleasant as it may be, falls within the standards that are considered acceptable by state and federal water standard guidelines. The problem is that when it is discharged, it does not fall within the standards of wastewater guidelines.

Here is where we get into controversy. The city, the city's engineers, and the city's water consultants that they have hired from various companies, have suggested that the only solution to this problem, is to import surface water from the Sacramento River, which requires building a costly bypass and intake facility to draw the water in. Now of course it turns out, that that water will always be available during the winter, but in drier years it will not be readily available for use during the summer months, which means we will have to rely on our own groundwater to supplement it regardless.

The city is arguing that there is a limited supply of groundwater, however, that is likely not true. First, as mentioned previously the intermediate-depth wells have never failed to recharge. There is no evidence at this point in time that deep aquifers have a limited supply. Most experts familiar with this situation have estimated that there is enough water from deep well aquifers to supply us with 30 to 50 years of water--even if they don't recharge.

Even under the so-called conjunctive use model that uses surface water in conjunction with groundwater, we require the use of deep well aquifers to provide the water that is not available during lean times from the Sacramento River.

Given current estimates of the capacity of the deep well aquifers, it is conceivable that we may have to, in 50 years, import surface water. The city is using this fact to argue that we need to do it now, but many experts not currently getting paid by the city suggest that there is no evidence that we need to do it now.

Economists would suggest that we forestall and avoid major capital improvement projects as long as possible. This is due to advances in technology that may improve upon current methods of delivery, thus reducing costs and make whatever investments and expenditures obsolete by the time they go online. We thus need to look into the possibility of going to deep well aquifers and see if that will give us the kind of quality improvements that would enable us to forestall such a huge expenditure--and we're talking hundreds of millions of dollars of Davis ratepayer money for the surface water project in addition to another set of hundreds of millions for the wastewater project, that we have to do now in order to meet current regulations.

Once again however, the city is trying to scare the citizens by implying that we have a limited supply of groundwater, that the health of the groundwater is at risk, and that the only way to meet new water quality regulations--and these are again outflow regulations not intake regulations--is to import surface water.

The city has by-and-large arrived at these conclusions without sufficient study of deep aquifer alternatives.

Why is that?

Here we need only to follow the money. Remember two weeks ago in the Davis Enterprise, we saw the picture of Jeff Pelz and Bruce West chatting with Don Saylor at his announcement party? These two gentlemen were from West Yost Associates. West Yost Associates is the water consulting engineer company that is in charge of designing and constructing the new water intake system.

So here you have the owners of a major company that will be earning tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars from a city contract, at the re-election party for a city councilmember who has been a stalwart for pushing through this project.

Coincidence? I don't believe in such things.

Here you have associates from a company standing to make huge profits from city contracts openly supporting a councilmember for re-election. At the same time, you have the city financing this neat little propaganda piece to its residents implying that we lack adequate water supplies without importing water and that the water is unsafe.

I do not trust the analysis from interested parties in this process. If we are going to undertake such a huge capital expenditure, I want to be sure. And when I see things like the picture of Don Saylor with West Yost Associates at his fundraising party and then read a propaganda piece funded by the city, I do not have confidence that we are getting independent analysis. I fear that we are getting sold this project by companies trying to make millions and councilmembers currying favors for key supporters.

We need to start asking tough questions about this process before it is too late.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, June 25, 2007

Proposing Senior Housing and Peripheral Growth in Davis

Many Davis residents were stunned earlier this year to hear that the county might be considering a massive senior housing development on the periphery of Davis. This development at Oeste Ranch would provide 2000 plus units of senior housing.

However, it also represented a very basic incursion onto the city's sphere of influence by the county. The city and county specifically have a pass-through agreement which allows Davis to retain control of any development on their own periphery. As such, any development requires a Measure J vote by the public. In exchange for the county not developing on the city of Davis' periphery, the city of Davis passes through somewhere on the order of $2 million of redevelopment money to the county. This represents the income the county would have--at least potentially--if they were to develop.

Earlier this year, the county appeared to drop this specific development proposal as county staff argued it would not be a revenue enhancer.

Davis residents should not assume the issue is dead however. First, the county is pushing for joint-study areas between the city and county. These study areas would look into zoning changes. Currently most of these areas are zoned for agricultural use, however if they get zoned for residential or even commercial development this would greatly change the calculus of such a fight and many fear would make it inevitable that sometime down the line, these areas would get developed.

Second, we are getting some word that the Davis General Plan Housing Element subcommittee may be taking up the issue of senior housing. One proposal is a massive development of a senior village.

At a recent joint meeting of the Social Services and Senior Citizens commission, one of the members of the Housing Element Steering committee informed the members of those committees that at the next meeting of the housing element steering committee they will take up this issue. This announcement by Donna Lott, seemed to cause much rancor among the membership of these commissions.

This proposal would provide Davis with middle income housing for Seniors. However, city staffer Jerilyn Cochran suggested that Davis already had sufficient senior housing and pointed out that the city had taken large losses on housing such as the Eleanor Roosevelt project.

Is this an attempt by the Housing Element Subcommittee to take up the issue of Oeste Ranch? That seems like a good possibility.

The advantage of course with the housing element taking up such issues is that any proposal by the city of Davis is at least in the short-term regulated by Measure J and thus a vote is required.

I have no problem with providing more affordable housing to Senior whether they be lower income or middle income. However, the Oeste project seems a particularly bad idea. In general, I am opposed to peripheral development, however in specific, I think this project has several drawbacks.

First, it would represent leapfrog development--development on a parcel of land with another undeveloped parcel in between existing developments. The problem with such developments is that it puts pressure on the city to approve development for the undeveloped parcel as well. The rationale there is that, it's really just infill as it is bounded on three sides of the city.

Second, while the location is near Sutter Davis Hospital, it is far from the core of town, meaning that the residents would be well-isolated from the rest of town which is far from an ideal situation.

Third, while some seniors like to live in senior housing, many would prefer to live in more mixed housing with a variety of demographics. So there are questions about the viability of the development.

Fourth, as Ms. Cochran suggests, Davis has a good amount of senior housing already, and so there must be questions as to whether Davis is really in need of a housing development that would provide for upwards of 4500 new residents. Would this development be accommodating existing residents or would it be drawing in people from outside of the area? Not that it is horrible to draw people from outside of the area, but with limited space and resources, we must first make sure that we are providing enough services for existing residents.

This once again appears to be a situation worth following if you are concerned about peripheral development and what the housing element steering committee is doing.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Things We Can Do in Our Community to Help Save the Planet

The issue of global warming has finally captured the media, public, and politician of the left side's attention. Yes, it is probably about 20 years later than it should have been and the effects of global warming appear almost undoubtedly to be upon us. We have wasted too much time with debates as to whether global warming is happening and what is causing it and not enough time figuring out ways to mitigate the damages.

I give the city of Davis some credit in looking into ways that the city can reduce its carbon footprint. But I do not believe the city has gone far enough. And in many ways, the measures that it has taken on other issues, will counteract efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.

Here are three ideas that I have come up with.

First, require solar panels on all new homes. Last weekend I visited my parents in San Luis Obispo. Sitting outside in the backyard with their neighbor, I spied their solar panels. He informed me that they have paid all of $35 in electrical bills in the year since they installed the panel. Now solar panels are extremely expensive to install, costing what it would cost to buy a decent new car somewhere between 15 and 20 thousand dollars. However, the belief is that it would pay for itself within ten years. More importantly, it would take a tremendous amount off of the power grid in the city if this were done on a mass basis.

It is probably not realistic yet to require retrofitting of the devices, but when you buy a new house it makes sense. First, what is an extra 15 to 20 thousand on top of $400,000 to $600,000 you would pay for a new house. And second, if you plan to own the home for any length of time, you will make up the money in electrical bills. And there is always the expansion of technology discounts, the more that one buys of this technology, the cheaper it gets.

Unfortunately, the council in April got caught up in the debate on a new project as to whether or not to require such things and many on the council majority argued against it. That makes no sense, this is such an energy saver--utilizing the sun, especially in a place like Davis where perhaps 90% of the days are sunny.

Second, expand the greenbelts and bike routes to accommodate Gem cars as well. Our current infrastructure is not set up to accommodate energy saving electric cars rather than fossil fuel burning conventional cars. If we are serious about conserving, there is no reason that in-town trips should be done with conventional cars--none. But as a friend pointed out, here the city is supposed to be environmentally conscious, councilmembers even drive gem cars, but will not be able to get to the new Target store in them. How much sense does that make? Imagine being able to drive in your gem car downtown without having to use many of the major roads? Expensive, but how much gas consumption would we be able to reduce just by reducing greatly the number of in-town trips.

Third, the Whole Earth Festival taught me a very valuable lesson. Every day, we buy a huge amount of packaging including disposable food containers. At Whole Earth, plates and cups were charged a deposit that was returned to the customer up the return of their plates and cups. The plates and cups were then recycled or composted. That leads to the question--why not do that in town? Why not do that at Farmer's Market? Why not greatly reduce the amount of packaging and disposable food containers that we use and instead either return for re-use, recycle, or compost? It would cost us nothing but an initiative to implement that practice city-wide and it would greatly, greatly reduce waste.

If we are serious about global warming and protecting the environment, then we need to get serious about finding new ways to conserve. Innovation and other saving policies need to increase. So far the council majority has talked the talk when it is convenient, let us see them walk the walk and actually propose policies that impact us all.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting