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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Commentary: Interesting Split on the Cannery Park Property

Friday's Davis Enterprise captured an interesting debate within the progressive community as to what ought to be done with the roughly 100 acre Hunt-Wesson cannery site north of Covell Blvd that is currently zoned as light industrial.

The article quotes one of the General Plan Housing Element Update Steering committee members, Pam Gunnell, appointed by Mayor Sue Greenwald as favoring maintaining the property as currently zoned.

Said Ms. Gunnell, who ran for City Council in 2002:
“I have a real concern with preserving industrial land for the city... It's difficult for me to hear the word ‘workforce housing' because where are they going to work?”
On the other hand, Committee member Eileen Samitz appointed by Councilmember Lamar Heystek, strongly favored changing the designation to residential.
"The city has 160 acres of undeveloped industrial and light industrial land, not including the cannery property; the property is half paved already; and plenty of time has passed and the property has yet to attract proposals from industrial businesses."
This is a microcosm of an interesting debate within the progressive community. Mayor Greenwald has long been an advocate of bringing in high tech companies to Davis and believes this to be an ideal site for such industry.

Others in the community view the property and its development potential very differently. Many prefer that Davis has limited housing growth. They recognize that this 100 acre property is already partially paved, and therefore such a development would not require the development of agricultural land. Therefore if there must be new housing developed, it should be in this location.

There is a further problem however with the Hunt-Wesson site, although it is within the city limits already and would not require a Measure J vote, the adjacent property is the 800-acre elephant in the room--the Covell Village site.

One of the fears is that the two properties would be considered at the same time.

The Enterprise quotes Kevin Wolf, the committee chairman and a strong proponent of Covell Village during the Measure X campaign as saying,
“Do we really think we're going to take and leave that for the next 30 years and develop on other ag land?”
This is a tricky issue to be sure. One for which I can see both sides. In the end, I probably come down a bit closer to changing its use to housing while at the same time making it clear that Covell Village will be a huge fight if the Committee deems that it needs to revisit the issue. Keeping the property light industry would probably slightly reduce the chances for development on the Covell site, however, Davis does need more housing and if it is to develop housing, I would rather it not take ag land to do so.

Personally I think any decision to re-examine development on the Covell Village site is a huge show of disrespect for the will of the Davis voters, 60 percent of whom voted against the project. People have asked if I could foresee it never being developed as a realistic option. Never is a long time. However in the near future the concerns about infrastructure remain just as viable as they did in 2005. So in the foreseeable future, I remain opposed to development on the Covell Village site.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, August 24, 2007

Candidates and Officeholders Come out in Force For Democratic Ice Cream Social

100 plus degree heat did not stop 100 Democrats plus from coming out yesterday to the Democratic Ice Cream Social at former Davis City Councilmember Jerry Kaneko's home.

The highlight of event was the celebration of Democratic luminary Betty Weir's 92nd birthday. Assemblywoman Lois Wolk gave her an Assembly Award for lifetime service and Supervisor Mariko Yamada gave her one on behalf of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

There were celebrations about the hiring on the new Superintendent of Schools and recouping of $4.5 million for the construction of Montgomery Elementary.

One of the features of this annual event is the perilous soap box that every public figure (and then anyone else who wants) gets three minutes to stand on and speak.

The most bizarre moment came as Stephen Souza of the Davis City Council upon conclusion of his speech suddenly offered for a $100 donation to both Measures P and Q, someone could push him into the pool. An offer that Mayor Sue Greenwald smilingly obliged, although I think Councilmember Souza just wanted to get into the cold pool and out of the heat.

Enjoy the multitude of pictures.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Davis Joint Unified School District Finds a New Superintendent

Last night, School Board President Jim Provenza had two huge announcements for the community.

The first and the reason that the entire community it seemed made the meeting was the announcement of the hiring of the new Superintendent James Quezon Hammond as the new superintendent.

Trustee Provenza said:
"The Board is pleased that Dr. Hammond has accepted the offer to lead our oustanding schools to new levels of excellence and achievement... Throughout his career as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent Dr. Hammond has demonstrated intelligent and inspiring leadership, and a deep passion for well being and academic achievement of all students, including those who are struggling to succeed. He is a rising star in public school administration. We are lucky to have him."
The other announcement that the Mr. Provenza told the community was that the school district had won their appeal and will now be able to recoup the $4.5 million lost when a deadline was missed on a grant during the construction of Montgomery Elementary School. Hard work on behalf of the school district to get their financial house in order and strong advocacy on the part of several elected officials led to this victory for the students of Davis Unified.

The meeting was largely ceremonial with each of the school board members speaking to the hiring of Superintendent Hammond.

Davis Board member Gina Daleiden expressed confidence that Dr. Hammond is the right leader for the Davis schools.
"Our extensive conversations with Tukwila school, parent, and community leaders revealed that Dr. Hammond is widely regarded as an extraordinary leader. Colleagues describe him as courageous in his decisions, and have enormous respect for his superb communications and managerial skills.”
Board Member Sheila Allen, who later was downright giddy added:
“The Tukwila staff emphasized that Dr Hammond fosters a culture of collaboration and teamwork that brings out the best in people. His enthusiasm and energy are contagious!”
Board Member Tim Taylor:
“Dr. Hammond has the extensive experience and proven leadership qualities our board desired in a new superintendent. He also has a genuine affection for students, and in return has their trust and admiration. It’s a pleasure to welcome him to the Davis Joint Unified School District.”
Board Member Keltie Jones:
“I am delighted with Dr. Hammond’s appointment. He brings a fresh level of energy and creativity to our district.”
A number of members of the public also spoke to congratulate Dr. Hammond who continues the recent tradition of hires from the Seattle area. He actually grew up however in Whittier, California and then went to Western New Mexico University and St. Martin's College before receiving his Educational Doctorate from Washington State University in 2003. He has been a teacher, a basketball coach, an assistant principal and principal in Tacoma.

Most recently Superintendent of Schools for the Tukwila School District in Seattle, Washington, where he has held the position for over 3 years. Tukwila has received local, state and national distinction as a school district in the following areas: for passing $60 million in bonds to construct all new school buildings; for implementing research-based school programs to improve student achievement; for developing collaborative partnerships to improve student learning with community, government agencies and foundations; and for responding to the needs of a culturally, ethnically and economically diverse student population. Most recently, the Tukwila Community School Collaboration was given the National Award for Excellence by the Community Schools Coalition and was recognized on Capitol Hill (Washington DC) in June of 2007.

Asked by the Vanguard about the duel announcements, Board President Provenza spoke to the Vanguard and made it clear that the Superintendent was number one with a bullet.
"The Superintendent is number one because a superintendent, a strong leader for the school is essential in everything we do. But the 4.5 million dollars sure doesn't hurt, we needed that money. Now we have money to continue our facilities fund to begin addressing the structural problems at Emerson and the other facilities issues in the schools."
Provenza emphasized Dr. Hammond's leadership, his ability to connect with people, and his compassion for all students.
"In his other districts he has been personally engaged whether they be the high achiever, the average student, or the student who is at risk or needs special help in school."
One the key focuses for the new superintendent will be on the achievement gap.

According to Mr. Provenza:
"He brought his prior districts achievement level significantly up past other districts and focused on problems of English learners and students that were having difficulty achieving in school, all the while bringing the overall achievement up for all students. And he did it not only by engaging teachers and students, he did it by engaging the community. He brought the city and the police chief and every other government official together and said what should we do to improve our schools. And they all worked together, in fact they were given a national award for community-school achievement in that district."
Board Member Provenza also emphasized that attention to closing the achievement gap and minority hire is a huge reason for his hire.
"That will be one of his strengths. He brings diversity in that he is a minority himself. He also comes from a background where he grew up with students who were struggling in schools and he knows personally the challenges that they face. At the same time, he has a PhD and he is an expert in education and he'll be able to address the problems of all of our students. He is truly a superintendent that will serve our entire community."
Dr. Hammond spoke to this issue as well emphasizing the importance of embracing diversity.
"I think the biggest thing is that diversity is important and has to be embraced. It has to be accepted. And diversity means acceptance and tolerance for all sorts of dynamics, not just race or culture but religion and gender, sexual orientation, the whole nine. I think to really understand what diversity means and embrace is a very important component."
Superintendent Hammond then went into detail with me on four gaps that make up what we call the achievement gap.
"As far as the achievement gap for me, I think it's been a very popular slogan for educators or even people in popular society to use. Really what we are talking about is a performance gap on standardized tests. So really getting our eyes to look at a performance gap on standardized tests and particularly looking at our demographics on African Americans, Hispanic and Native American Students and how there's disparity with Caucasian and Asian Students and really what causes this performance gap is really a multitude of other gaps."
First the preparation gap where some students begin well ahead of others in terms of things like vocabulary. Second, the opportunity gap which has do with expectations for success that we place on students. Third, the relationship gap where we create a school environment where the staff proportionately resembles the make up of the student population.

According to Dr. Hammond,
"Kids will perform better once they know people care about them."
Finally there is the parent-school gap where some households, often with people who are trying to make ends meet and they may have poverty and social issues that they bring to the fold in addition to education issues.
"All of those factors to me lead to the performance gap or what you call the achievement gap. I think it is a very complex sophisticated question that's going to require a lot of intentional work, a lot of research, a lot of data, a lot of student evidence to dictate our behaviors. So I'm hoping that we can begin that work because of the urgency behind the need."
Superintendent Hammond then added:
"I think that is going to be one of my biggest challenges. I think that and a lot of other things are going to be a huge part of my learning curve over the next few months, absolutely."
This was a much larger applicant pool than expected or even hoped for. According to Mr. Provenza,
"There were 33 applicants. That was larger than the search firm that we hired, Leadership Associates, that's one of the main search firms for superintendents in the state of California. They told us not to expect many people and that it would be very hard to hire a superintendent. Instead, we got the 33 applicants and they said that was more than they received for any other school district."
Board Member Provenza attributed that to the make up of the Davis Community and the quality of the district as a whole.
"I think Davis is a great place to live and a great place to work. And I think our school district has a reputation for excellence. And a community that is particularly committed to the schools. There's very few other communities where you will see bond measures and parcel taxes pass every time. Where you see the amount of volunteerism and the amount of parents. Where you the community that so supports the schools as in Davis. People want to come here."
The reception from the board members and the community was overwhelmingly glowing. As I mentioned above, Board Member Sheila Allen seemed to be on cloud 9.

I asked Board Member Jim Provenza when he knew this was the right fit for this district.
"When we interviewed him. He had very stiff competition and we had some very good applicants, but he really shined in the interview, he really connected with us and impressed us with his ability as a leader. He truly is a leader."
For his part, the new superintendent seems excited but a bit overwhelmed.
"Just a little sense of being overwhelmed but at the same time very excited. From my initial interactions, just an exciting dynamic community. People value the schools. People value the kids. The quality of education, so it's just an exciting time for me personally."
Dr. James Hammond will officially take over on a full time basis on November 8, 2007. Until then he will be transitioning with the able help of Interim Superintendent Richard Whitmore. Dr. Hammond will travel down a number of times over the next two and a half months as he prepares to succeed David Murphy as the new superintendent. This was indeed an exciting time in Davis and we shall follow this transition as the board and district continues to face key challenges.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Commentary: Lack of Solano Candidates in Assembly Race a bit Vexing

There was a good article first run in the Fairfield Daily Republic on Monday and then run in the Davis Enterprise last night (Tuesday) on the 8th Assembly campaign and the lack of Solano County Candidates.

When the 2008 election occurs, it will have been 12 years that the 8th Assembly District seat has been held from Yolo County and unless something dramatically changes, that pattern may yet continue in 2008 as Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada (Davis) takes on West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

Two-thirds of the voters in the district reside in Solano and not Yolo County. That advantage is somewhat reduced in a Democratic primarily where Yolo County is more heavily Democratic than Solano County and Yolo County voters come out in a higher percentage most of the time.

For example in 2002, the last time there was a contested primary in the 8th Assembly District and the last time the seat was open, just under 20,000 people voted in Solano County. Just over 16,000 people voted in Yolo County. There was still an advantage in Solano, but it was less than 4000 votes. Whereas Solano County had a 67% advantage in voter registration, it only had a 17.5% advantage in voter turnout.

Steve Hardy, the Solano County resident, did finish first in Solano County. But he only prevailed by 1700 votes over Lois Wolk and by 2900 over Christopher Cabaldon. In Yolo County however, he got wiped out receiving only 1925 votes whereas Lois Wolk received just under 8500 and Cabaldon just under 6000. Thus Hardy won small in Solano on his home turf so to speak but lost big in Yolo and finished third with 27.8% of the vote district wide to 41% by Wolk and 31% by Cabaldon.

The article interviews several Solano County officials and finds a general lack of interest by prominent officials in seeking a higher office.

First, Steve Hardy decided not to run this time after getting appointed head of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
“I was holding up the parade, waiting to see if I got this appointment, but that's been three months and nobody has sallied forth... I wish they would. I believe there are a number of very fine candidates from Solano County that could have entered the race and they all chose not to.”
Vacaville City Councilwoman Pauline Clancy also declined to run.
Longtime Vacaville City Councilwoman Pauline Clancy said she has been approached in the past about her interest in seeking a higher office. She has declined and believes other county officials have made similar decisions.

“I've been asked many, many times to run for higher office and I have said I can do the most good for the citizens at the level that I'm at,” she said. “I have no desire to go to Sacramento in that quagmire.”
Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering:
“Among elected (officials), we all talk about it quite a bit,” said Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering, who spent 20 years as mayor of Suisun City. “I don't know that I know the answer, but it's not that it doesn't go without discussion.”
He goes on to say:
Given Solano's size and prominent, high-growth location between Sacramento and the Bay Area, Spering said he expects the county to the assert itself politically, although he added it was probably too late for someone new to become competitive in the 2008 Assembly race.

“At some point ... I think you're going to see a groundswell in local representation in the state Legislature,” he said. “Right now, Solano County hasn't politically matured to that point.”
One potential clue into the reason for the dearth of candidates aside from just shear coincidence might however be that Solano County has been well represented in the Assembly regardless of the home county of their Assemblyperson.

Fairfield City Councilmember Jack Batson applauded currently Assemblywoman Lois Wolk for "doing her homework" on Solano County before her 2002 campaign.
“Lois has made herself visible for every possible occasion here... Before she ran, she was here asking lots of questions and I think she was pretty much up to speed.”
That visibility probably helped her narrow the gap enough in Solano County that she was able to off-set Hardy's advantage there with a very strong performance in Yolo County.

It is probably not too late for someone to join the race, however, they will face two candidates that have been campaigning and raising money since January. Already, Cabaldon's campaign has raised over $370,00 while Yamada has raised $140,000.

Nevertheless at some point you have to look at this as a market situation. If Solano County felt that they were being shorted in terms of representation, the politicians in Solano would put up a candidate and the voters would be clamoring for a Solano County candidate. That again does not seem to be happening.

So for now, Solano County is the sleeping giant, a fast growing county whose vote is split into two Assembly Districts but who has not asserted its power and strength even in a District where it holds an edge in terms of voter registration. Will it wake up this cycle or will it wait another six years to be heard? Only time will tell and a lot of that may have to do with how Cabaldon and Yamada are perceived. Outside of a few elected officials that have endorsed primarily Mayor Cabaldon, it is not clear just how much is known about either candidate.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Commentary: A One-Year Review of Police Oversight in Davis

One year ago from August 24, 2006 to August 30, 2006, the fledgling Vanguard in the wake of the then Davis City Council majority of Asumundson, Puntillo, Saylor and Souza voting to put the Human Relations Commission on hiatus ran a seven-part series examining the Davis Police Oversight System. Within a month or two, the city of Davis would hire Bob Aaronson as the police ombudsman for the City of Davis. Last week, the Vanguard interviewed Mr. Aaronson and discussed his first year on the job. Today the Vanguard will discuss a number of police oversight issues and make him regret putting his thoughts on the record (just kidding).

My initial response to the proposed oversight system now in place was strong opposition. There were three reasons for that primarily. First, there was no public component to it--there was no place where an individual could make a complaint in public and receive a public redress of their grievance. Second, the Ombudsman position itself was fairly weak--it was a part-time position, the Ombudsman acted basically as an auditor who reviewed completed investigations if the individual making a complaint was not satisfied. Finally and probably most pointedly, I failed to trust the council to produce a system that would work given their misgivings about and opposition to the need for oversight to begin with.

I will begin with the last point. The other points will be evaluated as I look back over the recommendations I made on August 30, 2006.

To be quite frank, one of the reasons I never trusted the council to create an oversight system that worked is that the very first meeting that I ever saw from them (January 17, 2006), Councilmembers Don Saylor and Ted Puntillo spent their time attempting to demonstrate how unnecessary police oversight in Davis was.

That statement was summarized by this quote by Ted Puntillo:
"What I want are police officers out there that are using their training and their instincts, I don’t want them thinking about oh somebody’s going to be reviewing what I’m doing. "
Don Saylor stated that they had "thoroughly reviewed the complaints against the city and found them totally without merit." This was a stunning statement given it did not seem likely they conducted their own investigation of these complaints. Puntillo then added that this would be "an eye-opener for many in the city."

Up until the point at which these statements were made I have lived in the city of Davis for nearly nine and a half years and had never been involved in city politics. By the time this little scene was done, my life would be unalterably changed. And let me tell you, Ted Puntillo was right, it was an eye-opener for me to hear elected public officials make these sorts of blatantly irresponsible statements.

A few weeks later, on February 21, 2006, then-Police Chief Jim Hyde and Councilmember Don Saylor went through a series of statistics to demonstrate to the public how low the number of sustained complaints were in the city of Davis. Basically what Jim Hyde told Councilmember Saylor was that there were 74 citizen complaints from 2003 to 2005 and of those only 5 were sustained.

Statistics are given a bad rap because most people do not understand how to properly analyze them. This leads to the assumption by many that statistics can be used to say whatever you want them to say. This is patently untrue however. One needs to be able to interpret statistics properly. To his credit, Councilmember Saylor on that date did ask the correct question--asking Chief Hyde how these numbers compare to other communities. However, Chief Hyde dodged this question by stating that communities vary and therefore are difficult to compare. And Saylor never pressed him on the issue when he clearly should have. Had he pressed him, he would have found out that the number of sustained complaints was right around the national average whereby less than 10 percent of all complaints are sustained by the Internal Review Process and in fact, Davis had a higher number than a lot of other jurisdictions.

Ombudsman Bob Aaronson when asked as to whether Davis was in need of an independent oversight system said:
"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."
I still believe that a good police oversight system benefits rather than harms the interests of police officers. It fosters trust that they are doing their jobs the proper way and also provides an outlet for those who are dissatisfied with the handling of their encounter with a police officer. Often that dissatisfaction stems from misunderstanding about the law and an individual's right under the law. By having someone who is independent of the police be in the position and have the authority to explain to an individual that the incident was handled properly, it allows for those who would otherwise distrust the police to be educated about proper procedure.

Getting back however to my original trepidations--the point of this demonstration is to show why I was skeptical of this city council, who had pointedly and deliberately argued that we do not need police oversight, would then be able to turn around and create a police oversight model that would work. They never laid out the case for oversight as Mr. Aaronson did. They took oversight to be a criticism of all police because it arose from specific complaints against the police rather than a means by which to foster community trust in the police.

The jury is still out on that bottom line however. As a whole, I think Bob Aaronson was a good hire. In the comments to the interview last week, some complained he was probably too cautious with his assessment. I would tend to agree with that viewpoint. He has made it a point to protect his political capital until the big case comes forward. While I can understand that desire, I think there are enough data to really look into past practices so that we can come to terms with them and correct them for the future.

At the same time, we have not seen the big case yet either. My biggest problem has been the lack of willingness of those in the community with what appear to be valid complaints that are worthy of investigation (it may turn out that the investigation would clear the officer of wrongdoing, but investigation is still needed) are not willing to come forward. These people are often unwilling to come forward. Part of the reason for that is that they are afraid to. In part, they saw what happened to Buzayans and decided it just was not worth it. That has been a source of much frustration personally.

One of the big questions is that of racial profiling and whether it occurs in the department.

When asked in a California Aggie article if there is "racism within the Davis Police Department," Chief Landy Black who had been in the department for two months at the time responded:
"It's absolutely untrue. I think there was a great deal of political influence in what was going on. There was a need from some people for [their own] publicity, and with the current climate of policing, it gets you notoriety to claim racist policing."
While that was perhaps not the best way to ask the question, I am still uncertain as to how the Chief could know this that soon. Nevertheless, I am not altogether convinced that racial profiling equals racism rather than poor policing technique or even laziness.

During the course of this year I asked the same question of both Former UC Davis Police Chief Calvin Handy who also serves on both the PAC (Police Advisory Commission) and the CAB (Community Advisory Board) and the Ombudsman Bob Aaronson.

When I asked Calvin Handy here was his response:
"My first act as [UC Davis] police chief here was to meet with large groups, students, staff, and faculty, and they had this consistent belief that racial profiling was happening in the city of Davis... After 12 years it is kind of amazing given how much we engaged in the process that people are saying the same thing. This problem has just gone on for too long and too pervasive."
Last week Bob Aaronson said something remarkably similar:
"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."
Part of the problem that I have had is how would you even go about proving racial profiling? It is a difficult problem to address.

In response to my evaluation last year of the Police Oversight system. As I examine it now, there are probably several recommendations that I would no longer make, but there are several that I think are still pretty valid.

First, I believed that it would be difficult to have an Ombudsman without it being a full-time position. From my discussions with Bob Aaronson, I believe that more than ever.

Aaronson's response here makes a lot of sense--that it is a matter of balancing priorities:
"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."
It is worth noting that Councilmember Stephen Souza keeps trying to expand the role of the ombudsman to cover the entire city, a notion he first brought up in February of 2006, a notion he mentioned again in March of 2007 and a notion he most recently mentioned in conjunction with a proposal to remove the investigation authority from the Human Relations Commission. I do not see how this is a possibility without hiring a full-time ombudsman with a professional staff.

Second, I recommended that the Ombudsman be given a stronger role in the initial oversight. As this system has developed, it has changed structurally even though it has not changed on paper. What seems to have happened is that the PAC reviews the Internal Reviews from the Department and that the Ombudsman acts as almost a public liaison who assists and talks to individuals about complaints and helps them if they wish to file a formal complaint.

Third, I suggested using the PAC to replace the Internal Affairs Department.

Bob Aaronson last week suggested basic support for Police Internal Affairs departments:
"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."
I differ from Mr. Aaronson here though I lack his over 20 years of direct experience as an ombudsman. My experience had demonstrated in fact a problem with the internal affairs departments in general. Too many cases are returned as not sustained even when the individuals have valid complaints. One of these cases locally was the Bernita Toney case who complained that a police officer falisified a police report. The internal review process concluded this complaint was not sustained. Yet in a court of law, a jury found that the police report had in fact been falisified when they decided to acquit Ms. Toney of all charges against her. This is but one example. The worse example was the use of the Internal Affairs department to threaten and intimidate Halema Buzayan instead of investigating the complaint against Officer Pheng Ly.

It is interesting to note that Mr. Aaronson commented about Davis Police Sgt. Gina Anderson's, who is now in Citrus Heights, handling of the Buzayan Investigation.
"[B]ased on my explicit training to the Department, they now know that you cannot try to advance a criminal investigation through the investigation of a citizen complaint."
The suggestion here is that this was inadvertent and due to a lack of training. Perhaps. But the effect was to intimidate and threaten a minor who was attempting to file a complaint against the actions of a police officer.

My fourth suggestion was to strengthen the CAB. The CAB is composed of many individuals purportedly from diverse segments of the population, but for the most part only a few of these individuals were critical or skeptical of the police department. It was not until March, that the city finally admitted that this was not part of the oversight process. Nevertheless, it would behoove the new police chief to reconstitute the CAB and place on it more individuals who are critical of the police for the very reason that he would get better feedback from the community if he did so.

Fifth, I suggested improving community outreach. The new police chief seems amenable to that, and some of that is going on. But without specific impetus, I think there are segments of the population that would not be reached. Along the same lines, I suggested improving representation on the boards, make the CAB meetings public. This has not occurred yet.

Finally, I suggested they reinstate the Human Relations Commission. They did this but really stripped this commission of its power and influence. They did at least keep the civil rights ordinance intact, but the HRC is not the body that it was prior to June of 2006. I have spent enough time on this subject, but I think the community really misunderstood what the HRC was aiming to do with police oversight and the valuable function it performed prior to 2006.

In many ways, I do not think either the Ombudsman's job or the Chief's job have started yet. We are still waiting for the "big one." That will occur at some point, it is inevitable no matter how well-intentioned we are, something is going to occur. The question will then become, are we properly equipped to handle things. Overall, I would say that some of my fears about this system have been alleviated. I think we were fortunate to land an individual with the experience of Mr. Aaronson. But as he discovered in Santa Cruz, when you rule against the police there is a heavy price to pay. We have not seen whether anyone can withstand that kind of pressure just yet and that will be the crucial test for this system.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, August 20, 2007

District Attorney's Office Continues to Press Charges for Sodexho Food Service Protesters

Last week, a group of 24 protesters from the original May 1, 2007 protest had their day in court. This group of individuals who we covered at the May Day rally, sat down and blocked the Anderson and Russell intersection in Davis. Now they are seeking to have the charges thrown out.

At a press conference following the hearing, John Viola, with the National Lawyers Guild in San Francisco argued that the complaints were defective since the protesters were exercising their free speech rights and not involved therefore in illegal conduct.

According to Katie Davalos, one of the students involved, herself a third year UC Davis student:
"Basically, we asked for a demur, claiming the charges were faulty, but it was denied. From here on out, we are each individually being represented by public defenders, and are going to continue to fight the charges. We have not made a plea yet, but our next court appearance is August 29th at 10:00am."
The charges stemming from the May 1 rally, violation of Code 409 failure to disperse will now go forward against the students who engaged in civil disobedience at the rally.

Said Ms. Davalos:
"We feel that the DA is trying to set precedent against protesters, as there has been no such procedure in the area yet. We are all willing to see this through to the end, whatever that may be, so that we can set precedent in our favor."
The District Attorney's office, represented by Deputy District Attorney Rob Gorman claims that the protesters maintain the right to free speech and freedom of assembly, but that where such exercise occurs it is restricted. Protesting in the middle of the street and blocking an intersection, in his opinion, is against the law. If they were to have done it on campus or in any other public place, it would have been fine, he said.

Steven Ordiano, a UCD alumnus and former Sodexho worker on campus, was one of the protesters arrested May 1.

He told me:
"I am not a lawyer and nor do I fully understand the way the legal system works in these situations. All I know is that we are being met with much opposition from the courts."
Furthermore he wanted the emphasis to remain on the issue at hand--"UC employment for all workers working at UC Davis."
"As of today, we have not heard from either Lois Wolk or anyone from the UC administration to discuss UC employment. We will continue to hold them accountable for their blatant disregard for the workers of our community."
Along the same lines, Katie Davalos said:
"It's important to remember that we're doing all of this for the workers, and we are hoping to make change for the betterment of our community. We are willing to do what it takes to see that change occur, and the court's reluctance to understand our motives is further proof that such change is necessary. We are all hopeful that the charges will either be dropped soon, or that we will be found not guilty so that we can return to the workers with good news."

The Davis Enterprise in their coverage of this last week emphasized university claims that it would cost an additional $3.2 million for the university to add the Sodexho Food workers as full university employees. That would cost students--the university claims around $600 additional dollars per year.

On the other hand, the organizers would point to the low wages and costly and poor health benefits that Food Service Workers earn under their Sodexho Contract. Becoming full time university employees would mean wages up to $12 per hour and better health care benefits. Currently workers who make only about $1200 per month at most are having to pay up to $400 per month for their health insurance.

The question at this point for me is quite simple--this is an act of civil disobedience. This is a simple failure to disperse. Why is the District Attorney's office wasting taxpayer money, court time, and resources on such a small scale incident?

Some will suggest that a few weeks ago I suggested that the law is the law and it must be adhered to. I do not disagree at all. The law is also flexible in terms of what remedies should be taken in order to rectify a situation. In situations where there is no threat to public safety, I would argue that the District Attorney's office has higher priorities than to pursue failure to disperse charges. I would also suggest that if it deems further punishment beyond arrest and dispersement as a necessity, it considers community service as an option.

That said, I really do not see the compelling public need. The students who were arrested engaged in a peaceful sit down. Yes it disrupted traffic. Yes it disrupted the bus service. But at the end of the day, it was well organized and steps were taken to avoid confrontation between the police and the protesters. I do not see what interest is served by expending further resources in an effort to gain some sort of conviction here.

As we shall see later this week, the District Attorney's office seems to have rather strange priorities. They come down hard some things and then they allow more dangerous individuals to walk.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Partisan Republican Attempt to Alter California’s Electoral College Distribution

Guest Commentary by Bill Ritter

Following the 2000 presidential election in which Al Gore received more than 500,000 votes nationwide than George W. Bush there were calls to abandon the Electoral College system of electing a president. Nothing has been done on a national level to change that system, although I believe most citizens would agree with the “One man, one vote” concept of Democracy, in which every person’s vote is counted equally.

Currently there is an attempt in California by Republican lawyers and political operatives to change the way only California’s presidential electors are to be selected. They have begun to circulate petitions for an initiative entitled the "Presidential Election Reform Act" (PERA). PERA's sponsors -- the misleadingly-named "Californians for Equal Representation" -- hope to qualify it for the June 2008 primary ballot.

Current California election law and that of 48 other states dictates that the highest vote getter for the presidency wins all of those state’s electors. Here in California, this “winner takes all” rule would be changed to allow each congressional district to elect one presidential elector creating the situation in which nearly 20 out of 53 California congressional districts could be won by the Republican presidential candidate due to those district’s high Republican registration numbers and voting history and thereby awarded a Republican presidential elector. This would create separate “winner take all” elections in every California congressional district. But across America, for example in historically Republican majority states such as Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and most of the western states and all of the southern states including Florida would remain “winner take all” states, thereby disenfranchising their Democratic presidential voters and favoring Republican presidential candidates.

If we are to have authentic presidential election reform we need a national change affecting all states whereby every vote is counted in the same manner equally throughout America. That is the only way to ensure fairness to all.

An excellent and informative article on the subject is written by Mr. Vikram David Amar entitled “The So-Called Presidential Election Reform Act: A Clear Abuse of California’s Initiative Process.”

He writes:

Transparent Partisan Ploys Interfere With Legitimate Reform Efforts: This Isn't an Issue of National Electoral Reform, But of Turning a Blue State Partially Red

……if moving away from winner-take-all rules made policy sense for the country, surely blue states should not do so if red states are not doing so as well. It is neither fair nor sensible to think that California Democrats, who hold a majority in the state, should unilaterally give up their clout in electing a President if Republican majorities in other states are not doing the same thing in states they control. It is more than ironic that an organization that calls itself "Californians for Equal Representation" could support a scheme that would produce such partisan inequality.

One cardinal rule about Presidential electoral reform today ought to be that it must not predictably and intentionally disadvantage one party over the other. Sensible change in this area is hard enough to accomplish without wasting our time on obviously partisan ploys.

Real Reform Would Involve A Direct National Popular Election

Which brings me to the real way to make every vote count and encourage Presidential candidates to campaign in California - adopt the national popular election plan (and which is also being considered by legislators in California right now.) If the national popular vote winner were automatically made President, every voter's vote nationwide would count - and count for the same thing. (There's something Californians truly dedicated to "Equal Representation" should rally around.)

Mr. Amar’s entire article published in FindLaw—Legal News & Commentary, can be found at:

A related story by the Sacramento Bee can be found at: