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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saturday Weekly Round: School Board Field Set

School Board Field Set

The filing period officially closed on August 15, 2007. There are four candidates running for two spots. The Vanguard will be attempting to interview each candidate and will be the source for information about the vital school board campaign.

The four candidates are Susan Lovenburg who has been very active both on the PTA and in general as a volunteer. Richard Harris a columnist with the Davis Enterprise and former District Director with Congressman Vic Fazio. Bob Schelen, a Researcher/Consultant for Majority Services for the Democratic Party in the State Assembly, and Joseph Spector who a former school psychologist.

I do not know much about Mr. Spector and I am not certain how strong a campaign he is going to run. My early handicapping of this race is that Ms. Lovenburg as the only female running has a tremendous advantage and I would say is likely to win one of the seats. That would leave the three men to vie for the second seat. Harris has already raised a lot of money for this race. Schelen needs to become the alternative to Harris with an emphasis on his support for keeping Valley Oak open and helping disadvantaged kids.

Superintendent Search Nearly Over

We may know as soon as next week who the new superintendent will be. Stay tuned to the Vanguard where we will bring you the news first.

More on West Nile Mosquito Spraying

An opinion piece in the Sacramento News and Review this week, argues that spraying is unproven in terms of effectiveness and untested in terms of long term health risks.

A few key quotes:
  • "In recent weeks, the district fast-tracked unproven and unsafe pesticides that were sprayed over 375,000 residents to kill adult mosquitoes."

  • "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that it is illegal to call these pesticides safe. "

  • "Short-term symptoms of mosquito pesticide poisoning include rashes, nausea and dizziness. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the long-term or cumulative effects because they are untested."

  • "Common sense tells us that we should use the safest possible mosquito controls. For decades, the SYMVCD has used effective non-chemical controls to stop the spread of infected mosquito larvae. Scientific literature has done little to support the case for large-scale spraying. Aerial spraying is just a Band-Aid solution."
In the lively discussion that occurred last week after the article in the Vanguard, one clear thing remained unanswered--whether the health risks of not spraying given the rather low infection and mortality rates of WNV in the local area outweighed the health risks that are untested of spraying. As it stands right now, you are much more likely to get killed in a car accident or even by other health threats than by West Nile Virus. That should not be taken as a minimization of the suffering some have experienced, but rather a suggestion that we take a totalistic view of health policies before we rush in.

The other question that should be answered is whether if the mosquito population goes unchecked--the spread of WNV will increase from its current low levels. Moreover, the question remains as to the best way to slow the spread of WNV--perhaps it is at the personal level by using insect repellent rather than in the environmental level by spraying.

Update on Vanguard's Fundraising for Yolo Crisis Nursery

Thanks to the generous support of Vanguard readers, the Vanguard's event has now raised $1550 for the Yolo Crisis Nursery.

The Nursery is still in need of both direct contributions as well as item donations.

To see their current wish-list, please click here

To go to the Yolo Crisis Nursery's website, please click here.

The Vanguard would also like to promote a benefit coming up in October in Vacaville that will be raising money for Tuberous Schlerosis Complex...

5K RUN and 2 mile Fun Run/Walkathon

(From Press Release) VACAVILLE, CA — On Saturday, OCTOBER 13, 2007 volunteers in the Northern California area will be gathering to participate in the Step Forward to Cure TSC 5K Run and 2 Mile Fun Run/Walk. It will take place at Lagoon Valley Park, rain or shine. There will be family activities, a raffle, silent auction and music. Prizes will be awarded to the top three individual fundraisers! For the certified 5K course: Age group division top 3 finishers and top 3 overall finishers will be awarded prizes.

REGISTRATION: 8 am at the event OR pre-registration mail-in/ drop-off at Fleet Feet, 354 Merchant Street: Vacaville, CA 95688. Registration flyers available at Fleet Feet, or contact Dena Mitchell at 707-451-1559. Online registration:

START TIME: 5K Run 9:00 a.m. 2 Mile Fun Run/Walk: 9:15 a.m.

FEE: 2 mile Walk: no registration fee. 5K event is $15 pre-registration or $20 on event day.

MAJOR SPONSORS: Fleet Feet Sports of Vacaville and Queen of the Valley Medical Center. Other sponsors include Alza Corporation. Plus many other local companies are involved.

Getting friends and family to sponsor (donate) to participants is encouraged to raise awareness of Tuberous Sclerosis. Raise at least $100 in donations will receive a Step Forward t-shirt.

All proceeds benefit the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance (TS Alliance). Step Forward to Cure Tuberous Sclerosis, a national fund-raising campaign, was created to raise awareness of tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a devastating genetic disorder, while generating the funds critical to identifying effective treatments and an eventual cure.

TSC affects in 1 in 6000 children. It is estimated to affect 50,000 people in the U.S. and more than one million worldwide. Although it can be transmitted through genetic inheritance, about two-thirds of TSC cases are believed to be a spontaneous mutation. TSC is a multi-system disorder, due to the growth of tumors in vital organs, such as the brain, heart, kidney, lungs and skin. People with TSC commonly have epilepsy, behavioral disorders (such as attention deficit disorder-ADD), autistic spectrum disorder, skin tumors and other symptoms. Currently there is no cure.

For 30 years, the TS Alliance has been the main source of information and resources to help individuals and families optimize care for those affected by tuberous sclerosis complex. For further information about the TS Alliance or TSC, go online at or contact the organization toll-free at (800) 225-6872.

Story about Matthew

Matthew has Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). He was diagnosed when he was 2 days old. He was scheduled for a heart surgery at birth for a coarctation of the aorta repair, which is a non-related condition. During pre-op screening for surgery, a brain ultrasound revealed sub cortical brain tumors. These tumors, along with a tumor in his heart, lead to the diagnosis of TSC. His heart surgery was performed at 5 days old without complications, thankfully. Yet this is the least of our concerns today. We are left with the more daunting realization that he has Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, a lifelong medical condition with unpredictable outcomes. And he will be advised not to have children, since there is a 50% chance of passing it on.

He is one of the fortunate 15% who are not severely affected by TSC, yet his future is unknown. His brain and recently diagnosed kidney tumors continue to grow. He also has mild sensory problems. He will continue to need testing in cardiology, neurology, developmental and behavioral specialties, renal, and optometry for years to come. As well as related surgical procedures if the tumors continue to grow. Not only is this an emotional stressor to a child and future adult, but also a financial stress on the health care system.

Research on TSC is having a significant impact on our understanding of epilepsy, autism, cancer, learning and behavioral disabilities, and diabetes. Progress IS being made. This research has the potential to be applied to the treatment and possible cures in all of these diagnoses’. See for more on research progress.

Support the Step Forward to Cure Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 5K Run and 2 mile Fun Run/Walk on October 13, 2007 at Lagoon Valley in Vacaville, CA.

Donate, register, or sponsor Matthew Mitchell online.

For more info or to volunteer: Dena Webb Mitchell 707-451-1559. Registration brochures also available at Fleet Feet of Vacaville, throughout the community, or call Dena. See website for more details about TSC.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, August 17, 2007

Interview with Davis Police Ombudsman Bob Aaronson

Last year around this time, the City of Davis hired its first Police Ombudsman Bob Aaronson. Aaronson has served in the capacity of independent auditor for the City of Santa Cruz among other municipalities. At the time this culminated a rather tumultuous year in Davis that saw allegations, protests, and the disbanding of the city's Human Relations Commission. Now a year later, things have calmed down, but have the underlying problems that led to these complaints and protests dissipated, the Vanguard sits down as talks to the Ombudsman Bob Aaronson to get his take on the current situation.

You’ve been here nearly a year, I know you’ve talked about it before, but is Davis what you expected?

No. Davis is a much more interesting place than I expected. And Davis is a much more interesting place culturally than I expected. As someone who has passed by Davis thousands and thousands of times, I did not have a clue.

What are your impressions of the Davis Police Department?

I don’t think that’s changed a whole lot since my discussion in front of the council. I think there are a lot of good people in the Davis Police Department. I think there are a lot of the challenges, some of the challenges are because of history, problems that have been present historically and you still live with the ghosts and then there are problems that are related to how many people are comparatively new at being peace officers. I think those are quite significant challenges.

So far, what are your impressions of Landy Black?

So far my impressions of Landy Black are positive. My sense is that he is getting out into the community; my sense is that he’s making connections within the department. And my sense is that those connections are good. Landy Black strikes me as an eminently decent guy and someone who is a real cop.

What has the primary focus of your position entailed?

There are two different things that I have been doing. One component that I have been doing is responding to citizens who have complaints and on average I am probably talking to between half a dozen and a dozen people a month. They call to talk about their situations and telling them what the process is and sometimes all it is is explaining to them that the procedural issues that they saw were appropriate.

The second part of what I’m doing is almost like being an organizational facilitator. And an example of that is being part of a process that got the cameras and the computers working. But there are also a myriad of ways that I have become an alternative channel for communication for different parts of city government about what’s going on. And what the problems are.

Do you believe that Davis was in need of an independent police oversight system?

I’m not the right person to ask because I’m someone who believes that every law enforcement organization ought to have some form of oversight. I’ve worked with a lot of organizations around the state and to me it’s not a critique of law enforcement it has to do with the fact that in absence of oversight not everyone is going to be squared away. That’s why we have cops. Because in the absence of cops, some of us are going to speed. Some of us are not going obey traffic laws and commit offenses. We need oversight. I think we all need oversight and benefit from it. It’s the reason why we don’t come into the world hatched out of eggs. We come into the world with two overseers.

Do you believe that the Police Internal Affairs Department serves an effective function or do you believe that too often police departments seek to protect themselves from scrutiny?

In my experience, most internal affairs organizations do a good job 90 to 95 percent of the time on cases. And of the remaining five to ten percent, are not handled the way I’d have them handle them. Not out of malice but out of a lack of training. There are instances where organizations will have a tendancy in order to avoid the limelight or order to avoid the harsh reality will try to find a way to avoid getting to the right result. But the number of times I’ve seen that happen I could probably count on two hands. And that’s based on over 20 years of work with law enforcement.

What changes would you like to see in the Davis police oversight system?

Clearly I would like to have more time to spend in Davis doing more active outreach to the community and also doing more ridealongs. But the challenge for a place like Davis—because the implication and the question is ‘what instead’ or ‘in addition to’—the challenge for a community like Davis, and it’s the reason why I came here, most oversight models are geared toward far larger jurisdictions and larger departments. I have a hard time arguing that a jurisdiction the size of Davis ought to be spending a quarter of a million dollars on oversight. I have a hard time arguing that. I could see spending a couple of million dollars on oversight or more for the city of San Jose. But smaller oversight, no one is really trying to figure out a way to do that and so my work here and my work in Santa Cruz also are efforts to explore is there a cost effective way to use some of the oversight tools in a smaller jurisdiction.

What do you view as the biggest mistake made by former Chief Jim Hyde during his tenure? How can we work to prevent repeat mistakes with the new Chief, Landy Black?

I try to have this rule that if I was not present, it is not fair of me to find fault. I have not viewed my charge as what occurred prior to my watch although I’ve accumulated some information about it. I think there is a host of things, where if I had been involved I would have hoped would have been responded to differently. I certainly have not been shy about the fact that I believe there was a missed opportunity for the community and the department to use the Buzayan incident as a means of having a discussion as opposed to a means of having an argument.

You mentioned that the city of Davis missed out on an opportunity during the contentious 2006 year. What do you think as an outsider looking in, should have been done differently?

If I had been involved in the underlying incident and I have not listened to tapes and I have not reviewed reports, but I have read enough information. I think I would have made different decisions about what occurred at the scene. Decisions that were not as intrusive. I think that decisions that were made in my view don’t amount to misconduct or I certainly haven’t seen anything that would suggest to me that they were misconduct, but I would say that in my view they are misjudgments. Candidly on the other side of it, I will also tell you… if I had been, if my family had been in the situation, I think I would have responded differently as well. And that to me is the point of the Buzayan case, there were opportunities for everyone to learn. Not just for the department to learn about how to handle something in a way that it is as effect but less intrusive, but also for the community to learn about how they can more effectively interact with the department in a way that increases the likelihood of a more positive or less negative outcome.

Does Davis PD have a problem of racial profiling in your view?

I have not seen first hand evidence of it. Where I have seen documents or I have seen incidents first hand that would allow me to establish that that occurred. On the other hand, there have been enough complaints by people of color that I’m not prepared to say it’s not an issue. As well there is some statistical information that I don’t know enough about to know whether it’s credible and if it is credible what it’s really saying. But clearly there is something there that requires more attention.

The DPOA has repeatedly asked for more police officers as a means for crime prevention, do you believe that such hires are necessary?

I am far more conscious about how much I don’t know than how much I do. If I were going to answer that question in this sort of a public fashion, I would want to have done some sort of a serious study of auditing response times, auditing workloads and the like. In all honesty, I don’t know. To answer that question one way or another would require me on some level to speculate.

What lessons can we learn from the UCLA tasering incident?

That one to me is pretty clean. Tasers are less than deadly force. But are probably the equivalent to the use of the baton. It is pretty hard to kill someone with a baton, but you are likely to have more moderate range injuries. You can argue it one way or another. I would be surprised if any officer would have used a baton on the student in the UCLA PD case. When you have a passive resister, you should not be using Tasers. To me that is a fairly basic lesson and one of the problems has been… that most of the first round of instruction in how to use Tasers was controlled by Taser International. And Taser International, and I’ve viewed some of their instruction, in the first round, but definitely in the first round there were scenarios where Tasers were being used on people who were not violently resisting. Hence what happened at UCLA PD.

(I follow up: So how best would it be for police officers to handle people who are not cooperating but not violent resisting and not a physical threat to either the officer or the public?)

Depends on the situation and the size of the person. Officers get taught all sorts of control holds and take down techniques, in the academy and in the FTO process. In an instance where there’s a large crowd gathered, the use of a Taser on someone who is not actively resistant and who is not actively violent is actually increasing the risk to the officer not decreasing it. Now it’s important to be clear and I have viewed on a number of occasions the videotape of the UCLA PD incident and my problem with the videotapes while the videotapes are very troubling, it’s really hard to be able to see enough of the student in a lot of the frames to know what things I would have done or what things I hoped an officer would have done.

What changes can Davis do in the next year to improve relations between portions of the community and the police department?

I would like to see a way that members of the Davis police department become more involved in the community as individuals and as officers and that means community meetings, neighborhood meetings, it also means encouraging people to do ridealongs with the Davis Police Department. There does need to be more of a connection. There clearly does.

You have previously mentioned problems with both supervision, chain of command, and overall morale—have these areas improved under the new chief? What further needs to be done?

Morale has improved because the department is grateful to have a new chief on board. But the underlying issues—the new chief has been there for three and a half months. You don’t fix a damaged family in three and a half months—this is clearly a work in progress. And the underlying issues involving supervision, chain of command, and communication are still there. They remain to be resolved in a successful way.

My biggest frustration for the past year has been the inability or unwillingness for people with legitimate complaints against the police department to come forward—what can we do about that?

That’s a good question. I have had a similar experience and not just with you but with other people who have brought forward to me that there are people who they were in touch with who had complaints and I have begged, cajoled, pleaded… You know, I have two different ways of expressing it. One is that I have an Amnesty International T-shirt that says ‘All it takes for the triumph of evil is for enough good people to be silent.’ The other one is just a more straightforward one. In the absence of people willing to bear witness, no one goes to jail. I understand why people are reluctant, I genuinely do, I understand that for a lot of people, it’s an act of bravery, it’s an act of courage to come forward with a complaint. But it’s really important, and part of the side benefit is that people who come forward with complaints ultimately, regardless of any other resolution, feel unburdened by having done that.

How can we effect change in the absence of people willing to come forward and to use your words—bear witness?

I don’t know, I think that’s probably my single biggest challenge. One of the things I could do is to do more outreach in the community. I have been reluctant to ask the city for more hours, because the city is trying to be fiscally responsible and I respect that. And the problem with what I talk about in terms of getting out into the community is that it’s time consuming. But there is a way candidly that I feel that I know the Davis Police Department right now better than I do the community.

I’ve been told you are not a big fan of anonymity on the internet, can you share your thoughts?

I tend to work by analogy. I think that people’s behavior on freeways is much worse than their behavior at parties or in bars because they are basically anonymous. I think that when you provide people with an anonymous environment a lot of the social controls for some people tend to dissipate. And if we can be anonymous, there are people who are prepared in a theater to stand up and scream [obscenities] to a guy on stage. Now they would never do that if the guy on stage could see their face and see who they were. But in a darkened theater there are people who do that. I have watched and I respect both the vote that was taken and also the sentiment that there are people who otherwise would not post if it was [not] anonymous, but if no one has noticed it, I’m an outspoken person, I’m not shy about offering my perspective and part of my attitude as a student of race relations and the holocaust is you got be willing to speak out and put your name to something.

Your impressions so far of the Vanguard? How can the Vanguard become a more effective tool in the community?

The most positive thing I think about the Vanguard is that there are things being reported in the Vanguard that I haven’t seen in any other media outlets that are at least available to me. And I appreciate that because I don’t just study Davis police issues, I study all of the Davis community issues to better educate myself. So I really appreciated that. I think there have been times that I have been concerned that the tenor of comments and discussion and some of them of them are by the bloggist and some of them by the commenters that are less than civil. I guess the starting place for me, if I caste you as evil, I lose the opportunity to have an effective conversation with you where I really get through to you. I worry about that aspect. That being said, I’m not arguing that the bite should go away. I think part of the bite is what works about it. It’s also true that I think in the year that the Vanguard, I ought to be interviewing you about the Vanguard because it has been about a year and three months or a year and two months that you’ve been doing the Vanguard, and I ought to be interviewing you about how’s that year been, what do you think your successes have been and what have your failures been. I think that the Vanguard has matured in that past year in really powerful ways. I’m sure that you asking in a way is a little self-serving… but I’m grateful that the Vanguard is there. I don’t always agree with it, but it’s rare I don’t learn something.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dunning: Populist or Social Conservative or Perhaps Both?

For those who read the Sacramento Bee article on Tuesday morning on Davis Enterprise Columnist Bob Dunning, it was an interesting read.

The article posits the almost existential question of who and what is Bob Dunning, and the answer is that he seems to be almost conflicted.
"So which is he? Closet conservative or closet liberal? The answer is: both and neither. In other words, nuance and ambiguity win out. Even Dunning says he's conflicted when asked about his world view and political leanings. (For the record: Yolo County's voter registration lists him as a Democrat.)"
It continues:
"To some, especially in Davis, he is considered too conservative to represent the progressive citizenry of the college town many dub "The People's Republic." These critics see him as a defender of the status quo and an apologist for pro-growth politicians and developers.

But among some Catholics, he is considered too liberal. Though Dunning is ardently pro-life, condemns homosexuality as a sin and boasts that he's "to the right of George W. Bush on the stem-cell issue," some of his other views have raised eyebrows among church conservatives. So, too, does the fact that he's been married three times -- though one short-lived marriage was annulled."
One of the interesting things, I learned from this article since I do not listen to Bob Dunning's radio show is how conservative he is on a lot of social issues. And perhaps, as the article suggests, he is not uniformly so. Nevertheless, some of the views here are rather shocking.
Except for a denunciation of right-wing Catholic League leader Bill Donohue, there was scant evidence of blatantly liberal Catholicism during several recent weeks of Dunning's show on Sirius:

* On homosexuality: "It's a sin. The Catholic Church teaches that the act is a sin. But don't violate anti-discrimination laws (against gays)."

* On the Good Friday prayer controversy: "Jews are upset because we're praying for their conversion, asking God to remove the veil from their hearts and overcome their blindness. ... If I was Jewish, I don't know if I'd make a big deal out of that."

* On pharmacists being forced to sell the morning-after pill: "People who are pro-choice are no-choice. They don't care about your conscience."
Recall that this is a columnist that accused this blog of being anti-Catholic. And yet he shows remarkable insensitivity toward Jews and their beliefs.

Back on January 12, 2007, Bob Dunning wrote in his Davis Enterprise column:
"Twice on this blog I've seen truly ugly references to Catholicism as it pertains to the Above-Pictured Columnist made by anonymous cowards … if this ugliness had involved any other faith, it would be condemned by this town's alleged civil rights activists as "hate speech," but it's apparently open season on Catholics … yes indeed, real life hate-mongers right here in the Most Relevant City in America …"
I was asked about this charge from the reporter when he interviewed me for the Bob Dunning story--he could not find a reference to Bob Dunning and Catholicism. In fact, if you do a search on Dunning and Catholic, you will find only my response to his January 12th column. There is a mild criticism of Dunning not living up to Catholic mores in some of the comments, but that is certainly not anti-Catholic nor is it something that emanated from my keyboard.

I did not realize it at the time of this interview, but apparently the very fact that I was personally willing to respond and criticize Dunning made me unique.
"Three other local critics of Dunning declined interview requests, saying they feared retribution in Dunning's column."
Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a Bob Dunning treatment can understand why that is the case.
Often, Dunning puts aside his breezy, snarky style and strikes back. In two January columns, he savagely dismissed the Vanguard bloggers, calling their analyses of his work "actionable libel and defamation" and writing, "In my book, this blog has become a rag, which makes it a blag."
One of the reasons that I began this blog last year was to create a vehicle by which to respond to Bob Dunning. The problem was that if Dunning attacked you, he twists your words. I have seen his columns where he attacks someone or completely distorts their email pulling key lines completely out of context to imply that they are saying something that they had no intention of saying. I have been shown original emails that bear no resemblance to his columns.

To respond to him, you get a 350-word letter to the editor and he can respond with five columns a week if he so chooses. At least with the blog, there is an opportunity to respond fully and to get the facts out there.

For his part,
"Dunning says people often mistake his humorous asides for attacks."
I do not buy this at all. I think it may be closer to the truth to suggest that Dunning dresses up his attacks in humorous asides. But they are attacks nonetheless.
"Among their examples, Greenwald and fellow critics point to what they perceive as Dunning's "personal attacks" against progressive councilman Lamar Heystek as well as his unwavering support of the Davis Police Department during a 2006 dispute about the adjudication of a controversial misdemeanor hit-and-run case involving a Muslim teen. (Some activists called it a case of racial profiling.)"
For example, in December, Bob Dunning through his confederate Noreen Mazelis unleashed an attack on Councilmember Lamar Heystek suggesting that he had not sufficiently suffered to be able to sit on a panel to discuss "struggle."
STRUGGLING WITH LAMAR....writes my friend Noreen: "Per Sunday's Enterprise ('Briefly,' Page A3) Lamar Heystek will be on a panel with three other privileged men to discuss 'struggle.'", nobody knows the trouble he's seen, overcoming his college education and teaching position at UC Davis to become one of the youngest City Council members in Davis city history...struggle?....Lamar?.....heck, he's not old enough to have even struggled with a razor....
Reading this passage, you can see that it certainly is wrapped in heavy sarcasm with attempts at humorous interludes, but at its core, it is an attack and in fact as we devoted a large amount of space last fall to suggest--a wholly unfounded one at that.

This was of course not the first time that Dunning attacked Councilmember Heystek. During last year's election, the Councilmember found himself under attack for being anti-law enforcement.

Dunning suggested first that Mr. Heystek had slipped in the city council race based on his position on police oversight and Officer Ly's conduct in the Buzayan case.
"He is now running third, maybe fourth, in a race where only two seats are available and chances are fading that he can make up the deficit between now and Election Day …"
Moreover, after Mr. Heystek released a statement of support for the police, Dunning derided him:
"Great stuff, Lamar, but it's too little, too late..."
Dunning then proceeded to attack his association to a certain person that I happen to married to.

Is that a funny aside or a personal attack on someone? I suggest it is both.

As I am quoted in the Sacramento Bee:
"Sometimes he uses his column as a bludgeon instead of a way to enlighten the community on issues."
Of course, not everyone is critical of Mr. Dunning.

The article cites two people in strong support. One an individual named Richard Bruce:
"He's an institution. He's a populist who's been relatively friendly to economic growth so that people can afford to live here."
A populist? It is indeed difficult to pigeon-hole the guy, but I would say he is more often a "shill" for the political establishment than a populist. He's probably more often friendly to economic growth, but even here you have to be more careful and nuanced. Dunning was basically against Measure X. I am uncertain how much he cares about people being able to afford to live here, but perhaps someone can cite examples to the contrary.

The biggest cheerleader for Dunning is the one person who ought to be in the position of authority over him and that is Davis Enterprise Editor and Assistant Publisher Debbie Davis. Davis plays cheerleader for Dunning:
"What I totally admire about Bob is that he has the facts to back up his opinion."
Really, perhaps Debbie Davis can give us the facts to back up Dunning's opinion on Heystek and struggle? Sorry to keep using that as an example, but it is so blatantly inaccurate.

In most ways, the views and ideas presented in the Sacramento Bee article are unsurprising to those who have followed Dunning. I have been in the past accused of not appreciating the fact that Dunning takes his positions on a case-by-case basis. I can appreciate that. I can see how Dunning's radio views would anger those both on the left and the Catholic Church.

Yet at the end of the day, I view him as I do Bill O'Reilly. Bill O'Reilly claimed when he was a bit newer to Fox News, that he was neither conservative nor liberal. And what you would see is about 80% of the time he would be on the right and then 20% of the time he would say just enough that the right hated so that it would be difficult to pigeon-hole him and so that he could anger just enough conservatives and get them to complain, so that he could say, see, I told you, I'm in the middle. But anyone who views O'Reilly on a regular basis knows he is a strong conservative on most of the important issues and that ideologically he relates better to that side of the aisle.

That is mainly how I see Bob Dunning. I wonder how he would go over if more people realized how far to the right he is on social issues. I suspect he may be more of a typical old-time Catholic Democrat on some of the economic issues, but I have not seen enough of him to make that determination.

I can appreciate at times Dunning's humor, but I remain a strong critic of his precisely because of the way that he wields that humor and the sheer force of five columns a week.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Councilmember Heystek Discusses His First Year on the Davis City Council

In the latest in my series of interviews, I discussed with Davis City Councilmember Lamar Heystek his first year on the job.

Overall, how has your first year as Davis City Councilmember gone?

My first year on the Council has gone very well. I constantly ask myself if Davis looks different because I’ve been on the Council. I believe the answer is yes. Then I ask if the difference is a positive or negative one. I would honestly say it’s been more positive.

What have you been most surprised by as far as the job itself is concerned?

Little has surprised me. If I mentioned something, people would probably say, “Why should that surprise you?” Nonetheless, I will say that the relatively minor influence certain councilmembers have on what the agenda regularly looks like continues to frustrate me. In a council-manager form of government, staff has enormous say as to what our week-to-week agenda looks like. As is to be expected, staff is informed by the direction of a majority of the Council. Since I cannot reliably count myself in “the” majority, I have considerably less influence on staff to shape our agenda. I have incessantly explained to the City Manager that I consider myself an “activist” councilmember – in other words, I see my ideal role as a legislator who proposes policies and laws. I should not merely exist on the Council to “vote my agenda packet” as a passive decisionmaker. I’m disappointed that many of the issues I’ve brought to the table for Council consideration have yet to make it to an agenda. It’s really quite a shame.

What are you most proud of accomplishing?

I’m proud of many accomplishments. One of my proudest achievements involves successfully lobbying (behind the scenes and in public) for more funding for street and sidewalk repairs. One of the most basic city services is the pavement, and now, in the current budget, we have over $100,000 more in funding for road rehabilitation. Right now, we’re finally seeing long-awaited improvements to the Alvarado/Anderson roundabout and the southern portion of Covell Boulevard. Several other accomplishments I am proudest of concern environmental responsibility. I’m proud that I proposed and successfully fought for the passage of the strictest agricultural mitigation ordinance in the state – one that requires the preservation of two acres of ag land for every acre developed. While I was the lone vote against the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District’s aerial spraying campaign last year, I’m proud to have successfully represented a significant portion of our population who felt that aerial spraying, in many ways, represented a larger public health threat. I’m proud that I successfully introduced a citywide goal of “conserving natural resources and preserving the environment,” leading to a sustainability project that includes a campaign to combat global warming. When I proposed an anti-global-warming objective at our goal setting session late last year, a few folks in the room (I won’t say who, but the only people who were there were councilmembers and department heads) laughed out loud. I was extremely shocked by this response. If we can’t be environmentalists in Davis, for God’s sake, where can we? During the same goal setting session, I proposed, albeit unsuccessfully, a goal to “ensure social responsibility.” To his credit, the only other person besides me to vote in favor of this goal was Finance Director Paul Navazio. Even though I did not succeed in having it adopted, I’ve worked in the spirit of this goal since my first Council meeting. I’m proud that I successfully fought to preserve the landmark 1983 civil rights ordinance. I’m proud that I proposed a living wage ordinance for large retailers, putting the issue on the map during my second Council meeting, and supported a visitability and accessibility ordinance to create more habitable housing for physically challenged residents, both of which were defeated by a majority of the Council. The living wage issue will continue to define what exactly our commitment to social responsibility really is, and I look forward to debating it in the future. Finally, I’m proud of my lone vote against the “3rd and B” project. Although I didn’t succeed in halting the project, I believe I successfully laid out the case for careful planning in our most sensitive neighborhoods.

What decision do you most regret?

This may sound clich√©, but I don’t regret a thing. It’s not because I don’t believe in any regrets – it’s just that I haven’t learned any new information after the fact that would cause me to change my mind about a previous decision. When I ran for City Council the first time, in 2004, I was a student. A good student. And good students know how to do their homework. I’ve always done my homework as a councilmember.

What development has been most disappointing to you?

I’m greatly disappointed that other cities are eclipsing our commitment to the environment. When Vacaville and Roseville can claim they are doing more for the environment than Davis – and when the symbol of our environmental know-how is a set of broken solar panels at Community Pool that have never worked – I think we have a serious problem. We’ve been resting on our laurels for too long. We’ve been trying to figure how we can grow more rapidly when we should try to sustain the infrastructure and natural resources of our existing footprint.

Overall, do you think that the city is headed in the right direction under the current council?

In some ways, yes; in other ways, no. There is a sense that certain monied interests have too much control at City Hall. I’m not saying those who have a financial stake in the decisions we make don’t deserve a voice in the democratic process. I just wish that voice wouldn’t drown out the voice of the rest of the people. I’ve always argued that financial benefits can be outweighed by unquantifiable costs, and that financial costs can be outweighed by unquantifiable benefits. It’s like that song from “Rent” – "Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes / How do you measure, measure a year?"

What are your goals for the next year and into the future?

Truly, my goals are to continue to do my homework and remain loyal to my principles and constituents.

If you could pass three things, what would they be?

A living wage ordinance for large retailers, a renter’s rights ordinance and everything I tried to pass in the first two years of my term but couldn’t.

What proposals should progressives be most concerned about coming down the pike?

I think an attempt to water down Measure J and the adoption of radically different General Plan should be the biggest issues for progressives. The voters should stand up in favor of closing various loopholes in Measure J to strengthen their right to determine our land-use destiny. And they should not allow the Council to adopt a new Housing Element that grossly alters the shape of our city.

If you could change one thing about Davis, what would it be?

I would seek to change the mentality of “limousine liberalism” that some people in Davis seem to hold. The hypocrisy of this philosophy is very damaging to our identity as a progressive community.

Regionally, what is the most pressing concern?

I think growth along the I-80 corridor is the most critical regional issue. As the growth of neighboring cities brings their borders closer to ours, we have to be increasingly vigilant of the impacts such growth has on the environment, our infrastructure and our quality of life. Much of the crime we experience in Davis can be attributed to our location on the I-80 corridor. Air quality and the condition of our roads have already been threatened as development pressures have increased.

Can the city of Davis co-exist with Yolo County? Is the pass-through agreement dead?

The City and the County can and must coexist. We are two agencies recognized by the State of California serving many of the same constituents, and these constituents count on both agencies to represent them. The County provides vital services to many Davis residents, and so does the City of Davis. I believe our residents rely mostly on the City, not the County, to ultimately determine the scope of development within our sphere of influence. To that end, the pass-through agreement is alive and well – at least as far as the City is concerned. To be perfectly honest, I’m not exactly sure what the County’s commitment to the pass-through agreement really is. That’s why I’ve personally lobbied supervisors to join us at the table to discuss land use within the context of the pass-through agreement. It’s one thing to talk about the joint study of targeted areas for development adjacent to our borders, which we’ve made abundantly clear we are unwilling to do at this time. It’s another thing altogether to talk about our basic relationship under a mutual pact that has existed for the better part of 20 years. It is imperative that w have this discussion before either agency embarks on any serious attempt at large-scale peripheral development.

Describe the funniest thing that has happened since you have been on the council.

I arrived at a closed session and saw what I thought were my shirts in a garment bag hanging in the conference room. At the end of the meeting, I asked everyone what my dry-cleaned shirts were doing there. Had I brought them in by mistake and simply forgotten? But why would I bring extra shirts to a Council meeting? Then I found out: apparently another councilmember had picked up my dry cleaning for me! Strange but true.

How has the People’s Vanguard of Davis changed Davis politics or has it?

I don’t know if the People’s Vanguard of Davis has changed Davis politics per se – it has endured no matter the medium – but I’m convinced it has changed political expression in Davis. Because of this blog, people are more engaged than ever in the democratic process. People are now more inspired to weigh in on issues they never would have read about in other print media. People are more freely sharing their views, and these views have a broader audience. The comments people leave are richer and more revealing than anything you would read on the heavily edited op-ed page of the local newspapers. The blog provides citizens with a genuine opportunity to be heard and therefore to shape public policy. As a decisionmaker, I appreciate reading the insights my fellow Davisites share. People underestimate the power of public comment. If more people spoke up at Council meetings and in other venues, the city would definitely look a lot different.

What question should I have asked but did not?

You never asked me if I got along with the rest of the Council. The answer is an emphatic “yes.” I can honestly say I interact well with each and every one of my colleagues on both professional as well as personal terms. I have strived to be as approachable as possible not only to my constituents but also my colleagues, who are human beings just like me. When I was elected, I was determined to be as much a positive presence on the Council as possible. I said during my “inauguration” speech that we should work with one another, even as we vote against one another. I never wanted to be seen as perpetuating anything negative that might have preceded my election. Since my age has unfortunately been a concern for some voters – I’m the youngest councilmember since Bob Black – I’ve strived greatly to behave in such a way that the issue can’t possibly be used against me in the future.

Since you used to work at Safeway, paper or plastic?

Believe it or not, I bring my own bags to Safeway. We (I mean they) give you a discount for reusing them. But what kind do I reuse? Paper. Ironically, I never liked bagging customers’ groceries in paper because customers who asked for paper usually were much fussier! To this day, whenever I run into a former customer, I can tell them exactly how they liked their groceries bagged. The “paper in plastic” customers stand out the most.

What is your favorite food?

I love haggis. What can I say – I’m part Scottish!

Do you have time to read a book these days and if so, what are you reading?

The only “books” I have time to read nowadays are City Council agenda packets, but there’s one book my boss at the Yolo Family Resource Center loaned me to read. It’s called Catalytic Leadership: Strategies for an Interconnected World. There’s also a book I bought at former Mayor Susie Boyd’s garage sale after the 2004 election. I still haven’t gotten around to read it. It’s called Who’s Running This Town? I’m curious to know...

Harry Potter or Sicko?

I have yet to see Sicko, but I’d choose Michael Moore over J.K. Rowling any day of the week. Sicko is on my list of movies to watch – if I can pull myself away from those agenda packets.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Supervisor Candidate Jim Provenza Talks About the Issues Facing Yolo County and the City of Davis

I sat down last night with School Board President Jim Provenza who is a candidate for the Fourth District Yolo County Board of Supervisors for a Vanguard exclusive interview about the issues facing Yolo County and the City of Davis. This is the first in a series of interviews with candidates and public and elected officials over the course of the next few weeks.

Why are you running for County Supervisor?

I’m running for County Supervisor because I feel it is essential that we protect Yolo County’s agricultural heritage, preserve farmland and assure the rights of cities to control their own destiny in terms of development is protected. I believe it is also important to bring economic development to Yolo County in a way that is consistent with protecting our environment and protecting our agricultural heritage. I’m also very concerned with the support that the county has been able to provide for mental health, services for senior citizens, as well as law enforcement services. I believe that Yolo County needs to do a much better job of bringing state funds and federal funds into our communities to support social services and law enforcement.

What accomplishment on the school board do you feel most proud of?

I think I’m most proud about changing the emphasis from one that focused solely on the high academic achievers to one that focuses on improving achievement for all students, emphasizing addressing the achievement gap and problems with English learners a high priority or one of the highest priorities in the district while maintaining the quality of educational services for all students.

What is your biggest regret about your time on the school board?

The biggest regret is that I’m going to have to go off the board in December. I love working for the schools and have wonderful colleagues on the board and wish that I could be in both jobs but unfortunately that’s not possible. So I will be moving on, if the voters decide that’s the best thing, to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

What are the biggest challenges facing the county?

The biggest challenges facing the county are really threefold. First, there are fairly significant budget problems in that Yolo County is being pressed on several sides. For one thing it gets a lower share of state funds back to the county than most other counties in the state. At the same time, the Williamson Act is being threatened. That is the act that is the act that provides for special compensation to farmers who continue to farm and that act is now being threatened at the federal level. The other is the pressure from other counties for sprawl type development. If you look at Placer County they just approved a huge, a huge development on agricultural land. Many of the counties surrounding us are growing so fast that it creates pressure here. We have some of the best agricultural land in the nation and there is going to be a tremendous amount of pressure on our county to become like someone else. It will be my job to ensure that Yolo County remains unique and that it develops in a smart and economically viable way, but that we preserve the land and we make sure that whatever we do that we keep in mind protecting the environment for our citizens.

What are your primary goals on the board of supervisors if elected?

One of my primary goals would be to do the same thing that I did on the school board which is to promote transparency in government. To show respect for the voters and the citizens by making sure that every decision sees the light of day. That when I make a decision that it is not the result of a backroom conversation. That is not the result of a backroom deal. That if there is a meeting, that the meeting be in public. That we consider the Brown Act to be the minimum standard not the maximum. In other words, that the Brown Act that prohibits secret meetings, that’s just the minimum standard, we should hold everything possible in public unless there is a very good reason not to do so. That’s the standard that we’ve had on the school board. If you have to have a personnel matter or making an offer in litigation of course that’s private. But aside from those very narrow exceptions everything should see the light of day and be done in public. Even though it is harder as a public official to do it, in the long run it gains a greater respect of the people and then when decisions are made, the public will supports those decisions.

How would you have approached the general plan discussion differently from how it was approached by the current board (if at all)?

I think really what needs to happen is that there to be much more communication. There were several public meetings, the public was pulled into the process, and this isn’t a direct criticism, but I think there is not nearly enough communication between the city and the county staff in terms of the direction of the general plan. The city had no idea what the county was planning. The city staff had no idea what the county was planning. And the city and county officials in many ways were talking past each other rather than to each other. If we are to have rational development in the city and the county, we need to have a rational discussion between public officials who share the same constituents. County supervisors, city councilmembers, school board members, we all share the same constituents. It’s essential that we work together, that we work in the open, and that we work in the common benefit for everybody. If we plan in that way, it’s a lot more work, but in the end we will have plan that will have the support of both the city and the county and the citizens who live in those areas.

Who ought to determine whether the City of Davis needs to grow and develop on its periphery?

The periphery, what is known as Davis’ area of influence, is set forth in the pass-through agreement between the city and the county. It is very clear in that agreement and I support the principal that each city should control its own growth.

You already answered the first part of the next question, which was “Do you support the current pass-through agreement?” The next part is, if so, how would seek to protect it?

I think every agreement, and that agreement has been around for a long long time, needs to be reexamined every so often. To the extent that changes need to be made. To the extent that the city has issues or the county has issues, we should always be able to sit down and negotiate and discussion how we should meet our mutual concerns. The county gets over $2 million in revenue each year from the pass-through agreement, if the revenue needs to change, if the revenue to be updated, that’s something that can always be talked about. If there’s ways to coordinate development ideas or planning ideas through the city and the county that’s always something that can be discussed. In fact, the agreement really has several options for the city and the county to talk to each other about development within a city’s sphere of influence. But ultimately the bottom line is that the county cannot run roughshod over Davis, over Woodland, over West Sacramento. Ultimately each city must be in control over its own sphere of influence. And working in a cooperative way, I don’t think that there needs to be conflict between the city and the county because I think if they can work in a cooperative way, everybody’s interest can be met in a win-win relationship.

What is the best way to address county revenue problems?

There several ways to address the county revenue problems. As I’ve stated, I think we need to go to the state and insist upon a more equitable sharing of revenues not just vis-√†-vis Yolo County, although that’s important, but I think we need to get together with other counties and work toward a relationship with the state which recognizes the fact that the counties are the funders of last resort for mental health, for welfare services, for medical services for the elderly. And neither the state nor the federal government provides enough money to pay for these things. And over the years the amount of tax revenues that stays in the county has gone down. Every time the state has a budget crisis they figure out a way to take more money from the counties. I think ultimately all counties face the same fiscal concerns from the largest to the smallest. Ours may be more severe than others but I think it is a very similar concern. I think we need to work very hard with other counties to change that relationship.

Locally I think we need to look at how we are spending the money, make sure that we are using economies of scale, make sure that we are where we can obtain services at a better economic cost, for example using community non-profit agencies, we should do so. And then thirdly we do need to look at economic development. We need to look at programs that could be jobs and taxes into the community, and I don’t think that’s inconsistent with controlling sprawl or controlling growth, it’s just making sure that decisions that we do make are consistent with protecting the environment and protecting the land. I think we need to look at not just one thing, you can’t just look at bringing business, you can’t just look at bringing in housing, you can’t just look at changing the relationship in terms of taxes, you have to look at a multifaceted approach to budget issues. You also have to be willing to make cuts when you see inefficiencies. You can’t just keep spending, you have to look at if we are not getting our bang for the buck in a certain area, you have to be willing to address that and consider whether or not that money could be spent differently.

How do you differ from your potential opponents on the key issues facing Yolo County and the City of Davis?

I haven’t heard any positions from any potential opponents at this point so it would be difficult to answer that. However, I’ll say this, I’ve been an elected official in this county. I’ve represented this entire district on the school board for the last four years. I’ve been actively involved in the Davis community for the last ten years. I have a record not only on school issues but on city issues and many other issues of local concern. I would hope that any potential opponent would be able to point to similar accomplishments and similar activity in the community.

As County Supervisor, who do you think you represent first, your constituents or the county as a whole?

Constituents always come first. Your constituents sent you to the county to represent them. You work with four other individuals who are representing their constituents on the board of supervisors. So that is not an either/ or, it is not a conflict. When you are sitting on the board of supervisors, you are representing your constituents and working with four other people who represent theirs for the good of the entire county. In addition to that, and I think that this has to be true of member of the board of supervisors, you have a responsibility to make sure that those people with the least influence, the least wealth, and the least ability to influence government are taken care of. That is one thing that I have consistently done on the school board. If there is someone without a voice, whether it be a low income person, whether it be a farm worker, whether it be a victim of domestic violence, in addition to representing my constituents, whether that person is a constituent or not, it will be my responsibility to see that that person’s voice is heard.

You were endorsed by Supervisor Yamada, in what ways would continue her policies and in what ways would you be different from her?

Well we’re two different people. And when she endorsed me, interestingly, she didn’t ask any of my positions on issues, she was aware of my work on the school board, and the type of elected representative I am and said based on what she sees in me, I would be the right person to replace her. I’d very much like to continue her advocacy on behalf of elderly people and disabled people and people without a voice in government. She has been a stalwart in terms of advocating for people who really need the help of government in order to survive. I would very much continue that effort.

I think that we agree more than we disagree on development and environmental issues. I happened to disagree on the general plan issue of including the study areas. But I continue to support her for State Assembly and she continues to support me for County Supervisor, although there will be areas that we differ.

How do you get along with the Davis City Council (as individual members)?

I get along fine with the city council. One of the things that has changed I think from my first two years on the board to my second two years, has been that we have worked very closely with the city council on issues of mutual interest. For example the Grande Property. We are working with the city on an agreement that will allow us to sell the property in a way that the property can be developed consistently with the desires of the neighborhood as well as the desires of the school district. What we found is that when we look at our mutual interests, we get along very well. In the past there have been turf battles between the school district and the city council, turf battles at the staff level, turf battles at the elected official level. We have none of that. When we have an issue of mutual concern, even when it’s a member of the council that I might disagree with on other issues, I’m always willing to sit down and work things out as are members of the council. We have two former school board members on the council who are very concerned about the school district. I see myself continuing a similar relationship with the city as a member of the board of supervisors.

How can you help the city and county work together rather than against each other on future policy decisions?

I think the discussion has to start early on whatever we are working on. There is a tendency, and I think it’s a human tendency, to just work on things and assume that everyone knows what you are doing. One of things that I found out in being an elected official is that usually people have no idea what you’re doing until the very end when it comes up for public vote unless you seek them out and make them part of the public process. If the county is going to do something that affects the city or the city is going to do something that affects the county, we need to start discussions early on from day one. A lot of disputes aren’t really disputes over policy, they are disputes that arise because people haven’t communicated early and haven’t communicated throughout the process.

How can the county work better with the University?

Again it’s really about communication. Letting people know what you need to do early, bringing them in early. For example if we are going to be talking about stem cell research, and our county wants a facility, we need to bring the chancellor in at a very early date and let the chancellor know what we’re thinking and find out what the chancellor is thinking. And try to work together to make those things happen. And it’s not that hard to do. Where you run into problems is when one person goes in a certain direction for a long period of time before telling the other person what’s happening. That tends to have the opposite result that we’re seeking. I think that by having not only regular meetings but by having regular substantive meetings in detail and making clear to everybody involved—for example if you are going to be doing a project—you not only have the university and the county involved if you are the city, but if there’s neighbors, you bring the neighbors in early, hear what they have to say. If you don’t bring them in early, you’re going to bring them in mad about a year later even if they otherwise might have gone along. You need to bring people along each step. If you come in at the very end and say here’s what I want to do, whether it’s a development or a project, people who otherwise might have been supporters are more likely to be suspicious or opposed.

How much should Yolo County grow in the next 20 years (annual rate)?

I haven’t looked at a growth rate for the county as a whole; I think the one percent Davis growth rate is good for Davis. Other communities may want to grow faster than that and you’d have to look at community by community. But the basic principle is that when you do grow, you don’t take prime agricultural land away because once it’s lost, you never ever get it back. You can correct almost any other mistake, but when you take farmland away, and that’s a state and national problem. Congressman Thompson just wrote an editorial in the Sacramento Bee the other day. He’s talking about how Yolo County is one of the areas that has been really successful at preserving farmland where other areas have not. So that principle must underlie every other decision we make including the speed of growth.

What do you think about moving the BOS meetings to evenings?

It might be difficult as a practical matter because of the size of the staff. I could see occasionally doing it, but on a regular basis because of the number of staff people who have to come to meetings and to be available to the board, and the length of meetings it might be difficult on a regular basis.

If elected, will you continue to work for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office?

It’s possible that I would work part-time. One thing that I would have to do is make sure that there are no conflicts of interest and get a legal opinion on that. I expect that I would work full-time as a county supervisor and also have part-time work for either the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office or private law practice.

How does your experience with the DA’s office help you with regards to law enforcement and public safety?

I’ve been involved in public safety really the last 18 years. 14 years a member of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in the legislative office in Sacramento and four years as counsel to Public Safety and the committee in the Assembly and the Judiciary Committee in the Senate where I handled criminal law legislation. Fundamentally what I learned is that in order to have effective law enforcement you have to have the funding to make that possible. For example, a few years back, the governor was proposing to eliminate money from witness protection, though that was a good way to save money in the state budget. That was money that went from the state to the local communities. That would have been a disaster, I fought tooth and nail against that and got the funding restored. That’s the money that goes to protect witnesses who are threatened basically with execution by gang members when they’ve been a witness on a homicide case. What it taught me is that the state often has no idea what the local government is doing. And no idea how important some of these programs are. The half cent sales tax for law enforcement in the early 90s prevented cuts of up to one-third in the budget of Sheriff and Police. One of the things that would have happened if we had made those cuts, is that we would have lost the ability to control crime because every study shows the more police and Sheriffs you have in particularly crime areas, the less crime gets committed. Instead you get a situation where a lot of crime gets committed and you have to incarcerate people, but you are not doing much prevention. I was able to intercede with the Democratic leadership in the legislature in the early 90s to establish that half cent sales tax that really saved local law enforcement in California. I was able to do that because of my contacts with the Democratic Party and the Democratic leadership at a time when other law enforcement representatives really weren’t being listened to.

I think I could continue that type of advocacy—now as a supervisor you are in a little different role—but understanding the state budget and understanding how law enforcement works I would be in a perfect position to argue at the statewide level to argue for local law enforcement including for our own county.

Do you plan to use blog and other technology during your campaign or as a Supervisor?

I’m working on it.

What do you think of the People’s Vanguard of Davis?

I think it’s a great way to get information out to the community. There are many mediums that people follow between the paper and TV and radio. But one of the nice things about a blog is that it allows for information to come out very quickly, in greater detail sometimes than newspapers can provide, and provides a way for people to give immediate feedback. Sometimes there’s views on the blog that I don’t agree with, but I always know that there will be someone expressing the opposite view about ten minutes after the article appears. So I think it’s a very interesting form of communication. I’ve looked at other blogs as well, such as one in Woodland that we all know about, I have enjoyed following that as well.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, August 13, 2007

Commentary: The Bulk of the Buzayan Federal Lawsuit Moves Forward

In late June, it was reported that U.S. District Court Judge England dismissed a single cause of action in the Buzayan case using the SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute. Now he has dismissed another cause of action, again under SLAPP, this time clearing the Davis Police Department of defamation allegation against the Buzayan family. These accusations stem from the police speaking out about the teen's arrest for a misdemeanor hit-and-run.

While the Judge dismissed this portion of the suit, the bulk and core of the lawsuit remains. Of the nearly 20 causes of action filed by Attorney's Matt Gonzalez and Whitney Leigh, only two have been dismissed, both of them relating to allegations of speech--one involving the newspaper and the other involving defamation by the police department in the course of defending themselves from the allegation in the public realm.

At the same time, Judge England has ruled that one of the key charges against the District Attorney's office remains very much in play.

Judge England writes:
"There is a strong public policy in keeping juvenile court records confidential, and it is up to the juvenile court to determine when disclosure of such records is allowed... Here, the defendants have not shown that they had a court order allowing them to disseminate any information relating to Ms. Buzayan's criminal case."
In fact, although the Judge does not say so explicitly, the Yolo County Superior Court Judge in the case, Thomas Warriner, explicitly told the district attorney's office that they could not release information or even make a statement about the case. They did so anyway. The family's attorneys took the District Attorney back to Judge Warriner's court, but the Judge at that point left it to a lawsuit to determine if rights had been violated by the District Attorney.

The statement by the Judge in this matter seems to indicate a strong probability that the Buzayan family may prevail on the core of their complaint. In addition to the causes of action against the District Attorney's office for violation of a minor's right to privacy, there are also those that aim at the core of the case--whether Davis Police Officer Pheng Ly's actions violated the civil rights of the then-minor, Halema Buzayan.

Attorney Whitney Leigh told the Davis Enterprise:
"It confirms our position that the defendants are liable for the negligent and, in our view, the intentional disclosure of private information that the state court had ordered them not to disclose... The greater majority of the (lawsuit's) claims the defendants have not and could not seek to dismiss, so we're gratified with this decision."
One of the key complaints against Officer Ly was an alleged violation of Miranda Law that was caught on tape.

This charge has been somewhat confused in the public realm to infer that Officer Ly did not read the minor her Miranda Rights. In fact as this transcript shows, he in fact clearly did read the minor her rights. What he did not do however was provide her with an attorney when she made an apparent request for one or even pause to clarify as to whether or not she asked for an attorney or if there was any question as to whether her statement, "ok, could you? Can you do that" was a request for attorney.

Another of the key complaints, are complaints against Davis Police Internal Affairs Sgt. Gina Anderson, who has since moved on to the Citrus Heights Police Department.

In the complaint filed by the Buzayan family and their attorneys, they allege:
"Defendant Anderson also knew that it was unlawful and against Davis Police Department policy to use an investigation of a Davis citizen's complaint as an opportunity to browbeat a minor by threatening her with her mother's incarceration."
This complaint stems from another allegation caught on tape, this one not released to the public that during the course of Sgt. Gina Anderson's investigation of complaints against Officers Hartz and Ly, that she in fact pressed the minor to admit that she was lying and in fact the one driving the car. And at one point, threatening to put her mother in jail if she did not come clean.
"But your mother has admitted to driving the car... So that would mean that if your citation was dismissed then your mother would be arrested... I just needed to let you know that if you are not the person who did it, she’s admitting to doing it, then your case will end up getting dismissed and we would end up arresting her."
In an interview with KGO Channel 7 News, former San Francisco Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, says that the actions of Sgt Anderson were improper.
"They were putting a lot of pressure on her, and I don't think that's an appropriate way to conduct an internal investigation about whether or not a police officer has conducted himself properly."
The job of an internal investigator during a citizen complaint is not to attempt to coerce a confession out of the defendant, it is to gather the facts involving the policies and actions of the police officers involved and determine whether the officers had acted properly.

As this ruling by Judge England indicates, the bulk of the Buzayan Case shall move forward.

The Davis Enterprise quotes new Davis Police Chief Landy Black as saying:
"While this ruling does not necessarily mean the end of the discussions and proceedings regarding the underlying incident, it clears the way to address what we feel are much more important issues and makes it possible for the healing to continue, and with fewer obstacles."
In fact, Chief Black can play a crucial role in the healing process regardless of how this case turns out. A strong effort is needed to reach out to various parts of the community that feel disenfranchised and to bring them back into the process.

The Buzayan case represents a key moment of understanding and reflection and strong leadership will be needed to avoid a repeat of some of the emotions and anger that erupted just over a year ago.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Attending the YearlyKos Convention, Report II

Guest Commentary by Bill Ritter

I wish to thank Doug Paul Davis and the People’s Vanguard of Davis for allowing me to report last Sunday from Chicago and again today on the phenomenally successful YearlyKos Convention, which took place August 1 through August 5.

As I mentioned last week, attending the YearlyKos Convention in Chicago was a real eye opener for me. For four days, fifteen hundred bloggers, political activists and journalists traveling from all over the country learned from each other and exchanged ideas about the Netroots, a national on-line internet community which is dedicated to returning democracy to the people and spawning the “Dawn of a New Politics” for America.

The YearlyKos Convention is the annual gathering of bloggers who use the blog founded by Markos Moulitsas as a way to fight back against the Republican right-wingers, conservative/right-wing talk radio and the Republican propaganda network—Fox News, who have dominated politics in our country for the past 25 years.

It was simply a thrill to be amongst so many progressive citizens committed to taking our country back and repairing the damage of the Bush/Cheney administration.

I have also posted several photos (which will be posted later today) from the convention including a picture of the main stage and the media stage where over one hundred electronic and print media reporters and journalists from across America sat as well as one of me with Charlie & Jan Brown who along with their congressional campaign staff attended the convention too.

Finally, I wish to share with Davis Vanguard readers what the conservative and Republican leaning Chicago Tribune editorialized to their readers on Monday, August 6:


“We might as well admit it up front: The first time we heard of the liberal blogging network known as Daily Kos was when Bill O’Reilly discussed it on his show. Next thing we know, hundreds of ‘Kossacks’ are hunched over their laptops at McCormick Place South, and seven Democratic presidential candidates are lined up to take their questions. Very impressive.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Chairman Howard Dean and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also RSVP’d to YearlyKos, a three day convention for liberal writer-activists. The event drew so much Democratic star power (and so much press) that it didn’t feel like too much of a stretch for the Washington Post to declare it the ‘Democrats’ Other Convention.’, once the personal Web log of native Chicagoan Markos Moulitsas, has evolved into ‘the flagship netroots liberal/progressive/Democratic Web site,’ in other words of a member who blogs under the name “paradox.” That particular entry, posted to welcome and inform curious O’Reilly viewers who are net-savvy enough to find the site, labors to explain what ‘netroots’ are all about. Suffice it to say that Hillary Clinton is the group’s third-favorite presidential candidate, thanks to her relatively hawkish stand on Iraq.

Though they couldn’t find time for the centrist Democratic Leadership Council’s conference earlier in the week, Hillary, Barack and the gang went all-out for YearlyKos, wagering that the bloggers can do for the left what Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have done for the right.

The Republican candidates, meanwhile, are still harrumphing about the format of last month’s CNN/You-Tube debate, in which Democrats responded to videotaped questions submitted by viewers—including one about global warming posed by a digitally enhanced snowman. A similar debate for Republicans looking iffy, with several candidates offering their regrets due to “scheduling conflicts’ while muttering about the erosion of dignity in campaign forums.

‘I don’t know that it makes sense to have people running for president answering questions posed by snowmen,’ former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney sniffed.

The Republican National Committee is similarly dismissive of YearlyKos, calling it a ‘panderfest to liberal partisans,’ maybe it is. But in 2007, freedom of the press belongs to anyone who owns a laptop. The YouTube debate drew 2.6 million television viewers and 45.5 million Web page viewers. Candidates who want to harness the power of the new media are going to have to muster up some respect for snowmen—and for bloggers.”