The Vanguard has a new home, please update your bookmarks to

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Commentary: School District and Community Still Deciding How to Deal with Truancy Issue

In an effort to foster inter-jurisdictional cooperation, many of the local jurisdictions have "2 by 2" meetings to discuss issues of mutual interest that may at a later point in time be brought back up with the full body. Two members from each jurisdiction sit on a body that is governed by the Brown Act. On Thursday, two members from the school district--Jim Provenza and Tim Taylor met with two members of the Davis City Council--Stephen Souza and Lamar Heystek. One of the items that they discussed was the recent truancy issue which was brought to this body at the behest of School Board President Jim Provenza.

Originally Mr. Provenza brought the matter to this body because the school board was for all intents and purposes blind-sided at a September 6, 2007 meeting where they learned of efforts to crack down on truancy in the district, apparently already underway between the school district, the district attorney's office, and the Davis Police Department. The hope was that this meeting would provide the district with some clarity, but in fact, we learned very little from this particular meeting. School Board President Provenza himself deferred most comments until the school board could meet on November 1 to discuss this item. He did however invite Chief Landy Black and Lt. Darren Pytel to present a report on the police's efforts to date.

Davis City Councilmember Lamar Hystek pressed for some information about the efforts to date and the current policy, however, the response was that there was no changes to the current policy and any other answers were deferred to that November 1, 2007 meeting.

Councilmember Heystek relayed concerns that he had heard from Davis High School Students about the policy.

School Board Member Tim Taylor responded in part that he felt that much of the confusion and anxiety was created by the school board meeting and presentation by Director of Student Services Pam Mari.

From my perspective, having talked with a good number of students, most were not even aware that there was a school board meeting that discussed this topic. Their confusion stems from the lack of adequate communication from the school district and the police about activities that have been occurring on campus since last spring but also about activities that occurred on campus the first week of school.

That is not to criticize Mr. Taylor on this, in fact, he was quite forceful once again in not wanting to repeat what happened at the September 6, 2007 meeting.

“We need to ramp this up through the community, rather than have it dumped on the public through another board meeting. We need to make it clear that we're going to have dialogues at schools.”

Davis Police Chief Landy Black suggested that the use of the word "sweep" was not the best word choice. He suggested that is a word used by the police in a different sort of context than it is used in the public. This was much the same as the conversation I had a few weeks ago with Lt. Darren Pytel. The idea that the police would be able to do any sort of broad sweep of the community is not realistic given department resources. And in an interestingly candid admission, he acknowledged that the police often do not do a good job of public relations.

Councilmember Heystek suggested again that the district and the community needs to be proactive in terms of how they deal with this issue, not just in terms of cracking down on truancy, but also in terms of getting community buy-in and communicating with the public.

Mr. Heystek then pushed for a motion to direct city and school district staff members to distribute information on the truancy policy, and the rights and responsibilities of students, parents and school district employees.

Interestingly enough, one of the things that came out of my meeting with Lt. Pytel was a that he will be offer a session to students on Police Procedure. So on October 29, 2007 at 6 PM, a session on "An Introduction to Police Procedure: Emphasis on Juvenile Law" with be taught by Davis Police Lt. Darren Pytel, this workshop will cover law and procedures currently in effect for youth in California and the Davis Community.

Last spring Lt. Pytel offered a course like this for adults which I attended, for the most part I agreed with his information and I found it valuable to understand where police were coming from in terms of contacts with the public--both consensual and non-consensual.

In my discussions with many high school students it became very clear that most of them did not know what their rights were and did not realize when they were free to leave and when the stop was an actual detention and they were compelled to give the police any information.

I would encourage in fact both students and their parents to attend this seminar. Chief Black suggested that while this is scheduled for community chambers where the city council meets, it could be moved to a larger venue if there is enough interest.

I also understand that the students themselves may be organizing an event with the ACLU to talk about these issues as well. The more discussion the better from my perspective.

November 1, 2007 will now be a key meeting for this community in terms of learning what is happening in the schools and also in terms of setting the direction for future efforts to deal with truancy. As long as the community is informed in this process, this will be a healthy discussion.

One of the efforts I understand that is underway are efforts to form a SARB--Student Attendance Review Board. The advantage of a SARB is that is a multi-jurisdictional approach between the schools, the juvenile justice system, and the police. But it also aims to really figure out why the student is being truant so that they can get help, and so there is a partnership with counselors, mental health services, drug counseling services, social workers, etc. to actually get to the root cause of the truancy and determine what needs the student has for help. The goal here is to get the student into school and the SARB can be a great resource for doing that.

This is another reason, I think the efforts to date while well-intentioned needed school board direction and community buy-in.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, September 28, 2007

Interview with Assembly Candidate Christopher Cabaldon

The Vanguard on Thursday sat down with West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon who will face Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada in the June California Primary for the Democratic nomination to the 8th Assembly District.

What do you consider the top issues facing the 8th Assembly District? Yolo County? Davis?

The biggest issues for the district are the big issues in California right now. Issues with the delta and policies around water supply, floods, environmental protection, what we value in California and really the big debate about what’s happening here in our district. So the delta is really, essentially ground zero for the future of environmental sustainability and growth and development and public policy around the future of the state. And that’s right here. The 8th Assembly District doesn’t represent the whole delta, but of all the parts of California, our district is really the stewards of that place.

Issues around growth and congestion and air quality and the quality of life, how much we’re willing to put up with and what development means is a statewide issue but it’s felt in very few places more strongly than it is across the 8th Assembly District from Benicia to West Sacramento all along the I-80 Corridor.

Probably the third big issue is education. We face a gigantic gap in skills of the emerging workforce compared both to what today’s employers need, but also the kind of careers and opportunities economic and educational that we want the next generation to have access to and we’re just not keeping up. That’s an issue again, statewide, but again we’re feeling particularly strongly in a lot of communities in this district from the poorest parts of the 8th Assembly District places like parts of West Sacramento to the communities that have traditionally been very successful like Davis. So in the district those are the key issues.

Davis feels all of those in some way or another, it is not insulated from the challenges of educational opportunity and success and particularly the gap between those students that have always done well and those that we’ve never figured out how to create a quality education for. The delta, although Davis is not legally in the delta, all of the issues around farmland preservation, habitat, who gets what water, those are issues that Davis has been a statewide leader on in terms of raising those from the beginning. How do we protect the things that make California a special place to live in? And then growth and development generally that is the hallmark issue here in Davis. Just as it is in many communities across the district and the state and the legislature is going to have a lot to say about growth and development issues.

Yesterday, I was driving from Davis to Sacramento. It took me 20 minutes on I-80 to get from the highway 113 on ramp to the very far east outskirts of Davis. This region is set to grow a large amount in the coming years. How do you plan to prevent the I-80 Capitol Corridor from becoming the Congestion Corridor?

You say the Capitol Corridor and that is a big part of that strategy. The approach to dealing with congestion, and it is the same approach for dealing with air quality issues, because that’s what’s driving air pollution and a lot of the greenhouse gas emissions in our region. So we shouldn’t think about it just as a “I don’t like sitting in traffic” question, but it is also about our long term health and the environment too. Part of it is infrastructure and that is creating the alternatives for people to get out of their cars whether that means at the very local scale good bicycle or sidewalk facilities for pedestrians and cyclists all the way to the Capitol Corridor train system itself as an alternative for commuters to be able to stay off of the highway. It’s also things like the Port of Sacramento that we’ve worked really hard to take from bankruptcy to being a successful economic engine. Every time we add a new ship we are taking hundreds of trucks off Interstate 80. Trucking is now one of the biggest drivers of congestion on that highway. But the most fundamental change and it is the only one that has the potential for solving this challenge over the long range is that we have to grow differently. If we continue to sprawl with no personality, low density, McMansion subdivisions all over the place, there is no transportation system, no matter how much money you spend, that can deliver congestion free and easy mobility. It just isn’t possible. We’ve tried, other regions have tried, you can’t do it. So we have to have land use policies that the state supports that encourage and provide real meaningful alternatives that are attractive for people to live on the land differently and to be much more efficient about how we use land in our impact on the infrastructure.

You are a board member of the California Center for Regional Leadership, which encourages regionalism and discourages local governments from competing for sales tax-generating commercial development. Yet West Sacramento has encouraged large retailers such as Ikea and Wal Mart. Do you support proposals that would reduce the competition among local governments for Big Box retailers? (Examples: swap property tax for sales tax; limit the size of retailers). What did you do as mayor of West Sacramento to encourage locally owned businesses?

First you have to take a look at the actual policy assumption in our county. There isn’t a lot of sales tax competition. The cities and the county up to this point have had a very good working agreement about who does what and where major retail establishments are. And between the cities there is not a lot of fights. I can tell you in the time I’ve been mayor, the number of retail establishments we’ve competed with Davis or Woodland over could probably be counted on one hand and you wouldn’t even need all of your fingers. In the Bay Area and Sacramento County you see a lot of these kinds of fights between local governments trying to bid and provide subsidies in order to encourage businesses to bring sales tax to their communities.

For us, developing retail like Ikea and Wal Mart and Target, was about providing land use balance, it wasn’t principally about the revenues. We had virtually no retail in our city. We didn’t have even the kind of walkable downtown that Davis has. Even the Main Street that Woodland has, it just didn’t exist in West Sacramento and so there was no local places to shop. It was important, probably the number one issue in our city elections for about a decade, was attracting significant retail to the community so that people didn’t have to get into their cars and drive halfway across the region in order to shop. Both because they wanted to be proud of where they lived but also because of the environmental consequences of all of that driving. So for us it was really about that.

Having said, I do think it is important, a lot of what the state policies are around revenues and land use do drive a lot of local government who may have lost sight of what the purpose of land use planning is, which is to figure out what kind of community you want to be and a lot of them have instead tried to figure out how to make the most money off of land use and that’s not good for the economy, that’s not good for the local communities, it doesn’t help the state either. So whether it’s changing the tax policy to provide a greater weighting to property taxes than to sales taxes or changes around land use policy, that make it more possible for housing to pay for itself, and for retail to not be seen as such a big boon, those kind of state legislative policies do make a difference and are part of the equation. It’s the purpose of that Center for Regional Leadership, but I was on the speaker’s commission on regionalism several years ago and that was our principal recommendation is that the state needs to take aggressive action to deal with its own incentives towards the fiscalization of land use.

One of the big problems facing virtually every local jurisdiction that I cover on a daily basis whether it be the schools, the city, the county, or special districts is a lack of flow of money from the state to local governments, a the same time a large burden has shifted toward those local jurisdictions to meet the service needs of their constituents, how can the state do a better job of helping local government meet the funding needs of local jurisdictions?

Given the constraints of Proposition 113 on the ability of local communities to raise revenues like they used to pre-1978, one of the most important things the state can do is get out of the way. It’s all of the state’s regulatory requirements and program requirements kind of the big brother at the state level. Some legislator in Orange County says every school board ought to do this and it sounds like a great idea. But when you add up thousands of requirements, it means a place like the Davis school district can’t set its own priorities. So it has limited amount of money in the first place and then it has to spend money on stuff that it knows is not the biggest bang for its buck for kids, but it has to do it to comply with some state law. So I think kind of the immediate change that the state can do for school districts, for counties, for cities, for mosquito districts, is to pull back all of the regulatory requirements and allow all of the communities to set their own priorities with the money that they do have.

We’re past the day when local communities are going to be able to raise lots of their own revenues, but I think Davis has provided a good example when communities and residents see the power of their investment, when I see if I vote for a parcel tax I get a better school, or I get a library that’s worth going to, or I get a decent parks system, they vote for it. And more and more local governments need to do that too, and not just blame the state but take some responsibility. We’ve done that in this county. West Sacramento was the first to pass a local sales tax to support a wide variety of service improvements and amenities, Woodland and Davis followed, now it’s a state law that allows that to happen. So it’s not just a question of saying, oh whoa is us, and the state needs to save us, it’s also getting the tools we need to be able to solve our problems locally.

Concerns about flooding in California’s Central Valley exploded following the destruction of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. And yet, we continue to develop areas that are flood prone and in flood plains—this includes the city of West Sacramento under your leadership. Do you believe that this is a wise planning practice and what steps do you believe are needed to ensure protection from flood given growing population pressures?

We’ve been at this for a long time. Those of us in cities that are in deep flood plains like West Sacramento, have been paying attention to this long before Katrina. Katrina kind of raised the specter of flooding for the rest of the county, and for other folks in our region in particular, but the question about flood risk and safety has been on our minds ever since the community started.

The entire city of West Sacramento is in a flood plain. So for us, it is not a question of if we build inside the flood plain or outside of the flood plain, the state requires us to grow by certain percentages every year, and that has to occur. It is legally required that that happens in the flood plain because don’t have any other land. And all of the land around us is either underwater or in the flood plain too. So for us it has always been the question of how do we maximize the safety and how do we make sure that we’re not putting new people at unnecessary risk. So one of the debates lately is about whether or not the city should expand. The city of West Sacramento as opposed to Davis, has never annexed any land in its history. I’ve come out against proposals that would annex land that’s in deep flood plains because we can’t yet assure protection for the folks that might be moving there.

The alternatives aren’t great either. If we say no building in any flood plain, that’s the vast majority of the Sacramento region where urbanization already exists. We’d be saying, you can’t build in downtown Sacramento, you can’t build in midtown, you can’t build in Natomas, and then you’re saying you can only build in Davis or in Citrus Heights. There’s not enough room to accommodate the growth there and we don’t want to encourage people to live in the wild fire prone areas of the foothills. We don’t want to put them on habitat lands on sensitive groundwater aquifers. This is all a question of what the right balance is, making sure that everybody that’s making housing and office choices know what the risks are that we’re making sure we’re taking the right steps to solve it.

How can the 8th Assembly District balance the need for housing and jobs on one hand to accommodate huge projected growth particularly in the western part of the district with need to preserve agricultural land and environmental protection? As Mayor of West Sacramento, what have you done to promote that ideal? How should California as a whole plan to deal with growth pressures in the coming decades?

For the whole state of California, what we are doing here regionally is the right model. I chaired the regions council of cities and counties, as we developed the blueprint for the future project, we talked about this before, but that articulates what the proper strategy is. It’s not about how much growth you want to have, most of us would prefer to keep the communities the way that we have them. Some places like West Sacramento over the last ten years, have needed additional investment in order to be good places to live. It’s about dealing with the growth that is coming, because we don’t prohibit our residents from having children or their kids coming back from college from out of state. We want families to be able to stay together. So it’s not about the growth itself and we don’t have policies that encourage people to come here so we can meet some growth target. It’s where the growth is happening that is really where the whole ballgame is.

And so I think the failure of the last generation was to allow so much growth and sprawl into areas where development didn’t belong on farmland, in areas that were next to sensitive habitat and species, or were destroying places for recreation or for great inspirational vistas, the kinds of things that make this a wonderful place, while at the same time, no one was making any investments on old factory sites and brown fields and parcels that have been empty and abandoned for a generation in poor neighborhoods. There’s lots of land available for infill development and while that can’t accommodate every projected housing unit that’s needed over the next 50 years, it can accommodate a heck of a lot of it, probably most of it and so really the strategy has to be, both at the local level, at the regional level, and statewide, to drive development to those areas where we’ve already got urbanization, we already have the infrastructure, and where we need an economic shot in the arm. So that green field development becomes at best a last resort. My own view is that we never have to get there in many cases.

Everyone is for health care reform. What approach do you most advocate and more importantly, how can you get it passed in the current climate or will you be looking toward 2011 with a Democratic Governor?

The governor isn’t the issue at this stage. It really is about putting together a package and we can’t wait and particularly children cannot wait for 2011 while we wait on what might be a better governor or what might be a worse governor for health care reform. I don’t pretend to have the comprehensive answer to everything on health care reform. But I do know that we’re spending more than anyone else on the planet to provide less care to fewer people. We’re operating an extraordinarily inefficient system.

Everyone who participates in it from patients to doctors, the insurance companies, and everyone else acknowledges that there’s a lot of money wasted that if it were put back into the system, could expand care to a lot more people and provide real high quality care and preventative care that make the system function a lot more effectively. So a lot of that is about prevention, it’s about better use of technology; it’s about a lot less paperwork and bureaucracy in order to make the system work. Whether that can provide the dollars necessary to do the whole thing, I don’t know. But that’s the first step is to deal with those issues. And I think it’s pretty clear, almost everyone has made a health care proposal except for legislative Republicans who have got their head in the sand, but almost everyone else has made a proposal, all of which have their flaws but I think point to the real possibility of a meaningful comprehensive solution starting with kids.

The original gang injunction was thrown out by the courts. How does the new gang injunction improve upon the original? How can we balance and where do you balance the concerns between public safety on the one hand and the rights of the accused to have a fair trial with court representation?

This is a challenging issue, particularly for folks who don’t live in West Sacramento, who for whom it’s just an abstract political philosophy question, for the folks on the street in the community, many of whom are already dealing with issues around poverty and immigration and the gang and its threat to their families is one more insult from a society that in many cases has left them behind. Tackling the challenge of the Broderick Boys, which is a documented, verified, court-sanctioned gang in our city, has been a big priority. I don’t think its any secret that there were substantial concerns after the district attorney sought and got the injunction from the court the first time around from my self and other city leaders about the injunction and its scope.

This time around its very different and that’s because of concerns and issues that were raised after the first one was put in place, we conducted a lot of community workshops, listened a lot to civil libertarians, to public defenders, to folks in the neighborhood, to community activists and made some significant changes to it. So that where the first injunction applied to hundreds and hundreds of people, this one applies only to those individuals who have recent and serious crimes that are gang related, which narrows the scope quite dramatically. It eliminates the issues around “what color are you wearing” or “what kind of tattoo do you have,” which for me is not a sufficient justification for the raw exercise of government power. The balancing that we’re trying to accomplish I think is very important that we not have a world that’s envisioned in the “Minority Report” film, where you try to pre-guess who might commit crimes and then arrest and punish them before they’ve had a chance to do it. And on the other hand we use similar kinds of tools at something like a DUI checkpoint, where we stop everybody, there’s no attorneys, we haven’t already convicted them of anything, everybody gets stopped in order to assure that folks on the streets are safe and protected from drunk drivers. So we are for those moments, for half an hour, for forty-five minutes, detaining someone who has committed no crime in order to do that. So it’s really a question of what the right balance is, when you try to draw them in black and white, you ignore the impact that the gang is having on the community or you ignore the significance of the liberty issues that we’ve been trying to address.

What accomplishment in West Sacramento are you most proud of?

The complete transformation of the city’s sense of itself and its future. It would be easy to say, Raley Field, or Ikea, or the Waterfront redevelopment, or the turn around of our local schools, but those are really the drivers of something much more powerful which is that a decade ago, there were folks in West Sacramento that wouldn’t put the city on their return address, they would write some neighborhood name like Southport, because they were ashamed of West Sacramento. If you asked them where they lived, they didn’t want to say, there was a sense of desperation about the place, that there had been so many promises for so long, like a century that never came to a fruition, so the sense that we’re a working class town with a lot of poverty and diversity and it can’t get any better and not in a good way. Today, that’s completely different, you go to the supermarket or the post office and people are proud to be in West Sacramento, they expect things to be better, so even if you just came out of the social security line or the unemployment line, you have expectations about what the future’s going to be in West Sac. And that’s important because it’s made folks who don’t normally have expectations around the political process or around government into high expectation voters and constituents. That’s what you need to sustain change over the long run. So it’s not a building or a development project, it is now a community that has a sense of purpose about it.

If you could accomplish one thing if elected to the Assembly, what would it be?

I think the biggest issue that I want to solve is around growth and development and moving towards the smart growth principles that I think are critical for preserving the quality of life and the unique character that the small towns and mid-size communities in our district have and clean up the air and protect habitat and make it so that we don’t spend the rest of our lives in traffic, those are the bread and butter issues of the 8th Assembly District and that’s what I want to tackle in the short time I hope to have there.

What politician do you kind of wish you were most like?

There’s no single politician that I emulate. One that I work with quite a bit that I admire greatly is Darryl Steinberg in the State Senate. He approaches the work of legislating with passion, he’s totally values based, very progressive, wants to change and transform the world for the better in a very powerful way, he’s not just sitting in the seat. But he’s all about getting results. It’s not just about the press releases, it’s not just about saying that I voted the right way, but it’s about delivering real and substantial change on issues of mental health, or sprawl or fiscalization of land use, or so many of the things he’s able to marry both very strong core values with a real record of accomplishment. I try to emulate that work.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thursday Briefs and Events Announcements

Last week's peace rally draws criticism

A letter to the editor last night from our old friend Bob Glynn criticizes the co-sponsorship of last week's peace rally by Code Pink. Glynn was last seen railing against the Davis HRC and opposing the City Council's resolution that asked for our withdrawal from the war in December of 2005.

Last night he writes:
The real supporters of peace

Last Friday night, a vigil co-sponsored by Code Pink was was held in Central Park. I want to direct your attention to an article dated Aug. 25, 2005, titled "Anti-War Protests Target Wounded at Army Hospital." You can find it at Conservative supporters of the war called the protests "shameless." "Code Pink has a controversial leader and affiliations," the article states, reporting that Code Pink's co-founder supports the Communists in Southeast Asia and Cuba.

Ask yourself if this is the kind of people we want influencing our children in Davis. My son is going back to Iraq for his fourth tour of duty in January and if anyone wants peace, it is me. I think the full-page ad on Page D6 of Sunday's Enterprise sums it up beautifully, "They Have Sworn, Never to Leave a Man Behind, We've Done the Same."

Bob Glynn

I respond to this statement: "Ask yourself if this is the kind of people we want influencing our children in Davis."

Mr. Glynn was not at the rally last Friday. If he were, would have realized that Code Pink had a representative to the rally, but it was but a small part of the rally itself. The majority of the people at this rally were a group of Davis High School students who were part of the campus Teach Peace, Dave Dionisi of Teach Peace, Hamza Al-Nahkal representing the Muslim community, a student representing the Muslim Student Association on the UC Davis campus, a number of UC Davis students who helped to put this meeting together. The message was one of peace and of working together to try to end the war.

Mr. Glynn has no idea what was said or who was at this particular event because he was not there, but he was able to tie a local event, made up of local people to communists in SE Asia and Cuba. He was able to attempt character assassination. And yet, he has no idea what went on or how the rally was structured. In the future, I suggest Mr. Glynn talk to the organizers or attend the event before he attempts to attack those who attended or suggest that certain people that he considers objectionable are influencing our children.

Muslim Fast-a-Thon TOMORROW

The Davis High School Muslim Students Association PRESENTS: Fast-a-Thon

Cosponsored by the Islamic Center of Davis, the UC Davis Muslim Students Association, and the Council for American Islamic Relations

Learn about Ramadan

Try fasting for one day: Avoid eating and drinking during daylight; Break the fast with the community and a delicious, FREE dinner; Hear outstanding guest speakers; Congressional prayer for Muslims

When: Friday, September 28th; 6:30 to 8:00 PM
Where: Davis High School Multipurpose Room; 315 W. 14th St, Davis CA 95616

Democratic County Central Committee Bean Feed--SATURDAY

Yolo County Democratic Central Committee's

31st Annual Bean Feed

Major Sponsors:

Congressman Mike Thompson

Assemblymember Lois Wolk

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon

Great BBQ Dinner with Chicken and Ribs!

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

Veterans Memorial Center
203 East 14th St., Davis

6:00 pm - No-host social hour
7:00 pm - Dinner and program

Tickets: $35

Sponsorships still available!

$1000 - 10 tickets, $500 - 10 tickets,

$250 - 4 tickets, $100 - 2 tickets

Contact: Andrew Ramos
(707) 330-0697

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Council Majority Votes to Maintain One-Percent Growth For Davis

by Simon Efrein

At the recent Davis City Council Meeting, a side debate emerged during discussion of an update of the Davis General Plan Housing Element steering committee. It concerned whether or not Davis should pursue further housing development in the near future. Mayor Sue Greenwald put forth a motion to have staff look at amending the growth resolution passed in 2005 by the City Council. Her goal was to lower the amount of growth specified in the General Plan to the Fair Share guidelines outlined by RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation) until 2013. Councilmember Lamar Heystek seconded the motion as both council members encouraged holding off development until it was firmly ascertained whether or not it would be prudent to engage in large development in such areas as Covell Village, the project that was voted down in the last election by a 60-40 vote.

The other three council members, consisting of Don Saylor, Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson and Stephen Souza, all argued against changing the projected city growth rate of 1 percent, arguing that the 1 percent number represented a ceiling for development rather than a minimum rate. After both Councilmember Saylor and Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson voted no, Councilmember Souza decided to abstain from the vote after it was clear that his no-vote would not be required. During the debate about the motion, Councilmember Souza clearly opposed any change to growth policies established two years ago by the current council majority.

Mr. Souza directly declared that it does not matter what the growth parameter is for Davis, because the City Council can determine, of their own accord, exactly how much they want to grow each year, and that the 1% growth parameter was simply a recommendation.

I read our council growth resolution very, very closely, and it doesn’t say it’s a cap, the one percent minus affordable, which is, IS, about 325 houses a year if you average it out over any reasonable period. And that is not stated as a cap, it is stated as our policy. It’s very carefully worded, to not say it’s a floor, not say it’s a cap, but definitely to say it’s a policy. And that’s how it was presented to the growth steering committee, to plan for this much growth, because that’s the council’s growth policy. And that’s the policy that, given the current housing slowdown, and the desires of the community in every poll we’ve ever seen, and every vote we’ve ever taken, to grow more slowly, that we should … lower our growth policy.
Councilmember SOUZA:
Well in essence we’re a community that grows by initiative now, anything that we’re gonna have before us except for infill and one last piece of property that is of a substantial size, that’s the Lewis property, is via initiative. We as a body, will be a body that designs as we did with the Covell Village project. But the community is the part of our process that decides whether the project, whatever project that comes before us on any piece of property outside the city limits will be determined by the community. That is the process by which we determine growth in this community now. So it doesn’t matter if you have a one percent, a half percent, ten percent, whatever the percent may be. The determination of where, when and how much we shall grow is determined by the residents of this town. That’s the policy we have, and unless we’re going to amend that policy, that’s the true policy that determines when, where and how we’ll grow.
Don Saylor tried to play the middle ground here, suggesting while at the same time opposing any changes to the growth policy:
“We should wait until the Housing Element Steering Committee results are known.”
Councilmember Saylor misses the point, the key part of this process is in fact the direction given to the Housing Element Steering Committee. As Kevin Wolf, chair said, the committee can plan for whatever growth rate the city wants. But that growth rate is in fact going to determine which projects are included and which are not.

The major concern that Mayor Greenwald has here, and that is shared by the broader community, is that they are now disregarding the 1% growth parameter to establish housing allocations and projects from 2008 until 2013 in the Housing Element Update. Furthermore, projects included in the Housing Element Update for the general plan have a tendency to become reality.

Mr. Souza is correct that some of these projects will face the voters in a Measure J vote. However, advocates of slower growth, such as Mayor Greenwald and Councilmember Heystek, also understand that with limited resources available to slow growth advocates, opposing every Measure J vote is an inadequate way to control growth. The most effective method is to set a reasonable growth goal in the General Plan and allocate housing in the update accordingly.

While Stephen Souza abstained from voting, his position on this issue was clear, and he was largely joined by his colleagues Don Saylor and Ruth Asmundson. Mayor Greenwald did well to get the council majority on the record favoring a higher than 1% growth rate in the city of Davis. Davis voters have a clear choice in the next election. The current course set by the council majority will have a 1% growth rate equivalent to 325 units per year, which is higher than that required by RHNA. Given the housing market at this time, it is not clear that this is a sensible direction for Davis. However, this council majority has rarely seen a development project that they have not voted for. If left to them, we know exactly where this is going.

Simon Efrein is a beat reporter covering the Davis City Council for the People's Vanguard of Davis.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Interview with Fourth District Supervisor Candidate John Ferrera

The Vanguard recently sat down with John Ferrera, Chief of Staff to State Senator Denise Ducheny, who has recently formally announced his bid for the Fourth Supervisorial District to replace current Supervisor Mariko Yamada who is running for the 8th Assembly District. A few weeks ago, we spoke with his opponent, School Board President Jim Provenza.

Why are you running for County Supervisor?

Anna and I grew up in families that were really active in our communities when we were growing up. We learned that participating in things is the best way to get what you need and the best way to help other people. I think we’ve been that way ourselves. We’ve both worked in public service. It’s just been a natural progression for me wanting to take a little more responsibility. I feel like I’m at a place in my career and our family is at a place in our lives where we can give back a little more directly and this seems like the best opportunity to do that.

Can you describe your experience both in government and in the community and explain why you believe those experiences prepare you to serve on the county board of supervisors?

I have like I said worked in public service for 20 years, on the hill for working for a couple of different members, mostly working on transportation and economy policy, infrastructure policy and land use and environmental policy. I think all of those things are really important for how we set up the county and our community for the next 20 years. Here in California I’ve worked for two governors and two members of the legislature. Right now I’m working for the Senate Budget chair and I think all of those experiences from a professional level have helped me to bring people together and bring divergent interests together to help solve problems. Collaboration is a huge theme in what I want to do and working between levels of government and between government and the private sector and advocacy groups is a really important tool we used to be successful in government to provide what everybody needs.

In the community, we’ve been very active in each and every campaign and election since I got here. I walked precincts with the kids and with Anna every single time, against the recall, against the special election, I was actually the spokesperson on the televised debate for the Democratic Club for the recall debate. And then we’re active in the school, Pioneer Elementary is where our kids have gone. Jake, my son, is now in Harper Middle School and we’re really active in the schools. Coached in little league.

And then on the county level, Supervisor Rosenberg appointed me to the library advisory board so that we could work on getting services in South Davis to supplement the main branch. Supervisor Yamada reappointed me and Measure P is a great opportunity for South Davis actually to finally get some resources to get services to South Davis, so I’m proud of that.

What accomplishment in your adult life do you feel most proud of?

When I started with the Davis administration, we had a booming year because of the economy and we had some extra money in the state budget to spend. I was the leading person at the Business, Transportation, and Housing committee for Governor Davis and put together a $15 billion transportation plan. The reason why I’m so proud of that is not just the huge amount of dollars that we spent on infrastructure that we badly need in this state, but we did a great deal of work on alternative transportation, on transit, I worked with now Supervisor, but then Assemblywoman Thomson to make sure that Sacramento RT and Yolobus got its fair share of funding for clean air buses. So we changed out a lot of the fleet to cleaner burning buses which is great for the environment and also helped her on her work on the bike lanes in and around Davis, 113 being one and the pedestrian overpass for Raley Field. So having a direct impact on people when you have your job is really gratifying and I’m really proud of that work.

People have consistently asked me about you, my response is that you seem like a very nice person, you have a nice wife, but I know very little about what you’d do if elected. So right now tell us a bit about what you believe, philosophically—i.e. what are your core values? What is the primary role of government and who do you believe is government’s primary responsibility to serve?

I think government’s primary responsibility is to facilitate what people need, what human beings need, whether that’s our small business or our farmers, to help them succeed so that they can have money in the county coffers or the city coffers, to provide for people who can’t provide for themselves. Whether it’s health and human services which is 50 percent of the budget or whether it’s law enforcement and public safety, if we don’t help as a government to facilitate what people do for a living to be prosperous in ways that are environmentally friendly and serve the public, then we won’t have the resources to provide for the people who most need it.

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

One of my primary goals… I would say I have two primary goals and I have a lot of goals. The overreaching goal I have is a long-term vision and a creative vision for the future. We in government tend to look at the problem we face today or the opportunity that we face today and don’t do a good enough job sometimes of looking out on how our decisions are made today are impacting the future. That is a broad theme of mine. Another goal I have is to work as collaboratively as I possibly can, and I’ve really developed an ability to do that over 20 years in public service, to bring people together and facilitate conversations and collaboration that will help us solve our problems, and reach the opportunities that we have.

Specifically a big goal of mine is to help Yolo County deal with being in the middle of two huge growth areas-the Bay Area grows east and Sacramento is booming, even with the slowed economy and when the economy picks back up again, we're going to face that pressure again. We need to work very very closely with SACOG who has the responsibility of distributing our housing share for instance. And make sure that Yolo County is only getting what its fair share is, so that we're not forced to overgrow. It's very very important that we not overgrow because we've been given a greater responsibility than is fair from SACOG.

And another is being able to grow the economy to help take advantage of our strengths here in Yolo, so that we can provide for those people who need our help. Elder Care is a huge issue for me. We are working with Anna's mother who has an illness that challenges her advancing age. There are services that are available that aren't even public services that we can do a better job of facilitating people being aware of and taking advantage of. Yolo Hospice is a terrific example of that. A non-profit organization, wonderful people, who do a good job of helping others and we need to make sure that our citizens are aware of that.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the county?

As I said we are in the middle of two huge growth areas. I think growth is a huge issue and I think resources and revenue are a huge issue. Solano County announced plans to grow from 430,000 to 860,000 people. That’s not for Yolo County. And if we don’t look into the future, and take a broad and creative and long term look, to protecting our open space and agricultural land, and working with the cities in the county, not just from a county perspective, but with all of our partners, the tribe, the university, then solutions will be chosen for us instead of our being proactive and creative and making sure that we protect what we love about Yolo.

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

I think the current board has done a pretty good job. I respect the people on the board, I’ve worked with them. As you know, Supervisor Thomson has endorsed me and I find that really gratifying because I know that she’ll still be there and that means she still wants to work with me as the General Plan process spills over to 2009, which is what the staff has said. And implementation will be a huge issue. I think that even the board has recognized that there needed to be some better communication with the county’s partners on growth around the periphery. Davis, the Dunnigan Hills Agricultural District issue, sometimes people react to bad proposals, but sometimes people react badly to a lack of information and I think that a lot of the issues that have been raised in an emotional way before the board during the general plan process have to do with the fact that as the board recognized they needed to do a better job of communicating with their partners.

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

That is a joint decision between the city and the board of supervisors. I am a firm believer in collaboration, I am a believer of inter-governmental relations. That’s why I’ll keep going back to our relationships with the tribe, with the university and with our partners in the cities. I love Davis. I wanted to raise my children here. There are people who are born and raised here, people who have moved here, move here for what Davis is and that’s a great town, an intellectual town, with great resources for people and for children and we need to make those decisions collaboratively and I wouldn’t ever be making those decision unilaterally.

Do you support the current pass-through agreement? If so, how would you seek to protect it?

I think that the current pass-through agreement is a great example of how partners can work together as a voluntary agreement and it was an important step at a point in our history, twenty years ago, it’s a great tool to memorialize what our agreements are, that we’re respecting each other’s roles and respecting how Davis and the county are going to interact with each other. That being said, the pass-through agreement is twenty years old. It’s only received minor updates and discussions and I think that the changing relationship between the state and the counties and the state and the cities, with the growth of the university, with other things that have happened in our world that have changed over 20 years, that we really need to take a hard look and make sure that it’s doing what it need to do for the county and for the city.

In the article on you in the Daily Democrat, you regretted that the stem cell facility proposal was dismissed out of hand. You suggested that you did not support the housing, but the plan called for the use of revenue generated from housing to fund the stem cell research facility. Can you explain your thoughts on this and how such a facility could be supported without the housing revenue?

My perspective on that David is simply that as a supervisor, I want to do everything that I can to learn about the opportunities that we might have. One of our strengths, I talked about economy here and Yolo County, one of our strengths in Yolo County is our intellectual capacity, the university is a great participant in that. Doing things that push the envelope on stem cell and health research and alternative fuels will take advantage of huge strengths that we have in Yolo County. I think that we need to have as much conversation as we possibly can with somebody who comes with a proposal like the stem cell research center and find out whether or not it can work for the county. If the only way that it can work for the county is to build 7500 homes in a floodplain, then eventually we would have to say no. But not having the conversation about how otherwise it might be provided for, where revenue might come from, or if there’s another package that could be put together that mutually benefited the cities and the county and the proponents of the project, then why not have the conversation and try to find out the most we can about how we can take advantage of that opportunity and not just dismiss it as some people in our community did.

Do you believe that development is a way to address some of the county revenue problems?

Development as an economic development tool is just a short-term fix. The reason for seeking to provide affordable and workforce housing is not an economic bump. The reason to provide housing is twofold. One, we have a state legal responsibility to provide for the housing that’s distributed through the RHNA process. The other is that we have a human responsibility to provide for a very very basic need for our people. And if we don’t make Yolo a livable place and try our best to make it an affordable place for our workforce to live, it’s going to be all the harder to protect our environment because people that work for us or with us here are going to be traveling greater distances and for our economy because workers will seek to work closer to where they live and if they can’t live in Yolo County that’s going to make it awfully difficult for us to grow our economy.

As far as the budget and the economy is concerned, like I said, we have tremendous strengths here in Yolo County. Agricultural economy is enormous, it’s great, and the fourth district is the second largest agricultural district in the county. We have crops that we grow that are sometimes unique in their quality like the Clarksburg appellation of grapes. But we don’t have the infrastructure or the processing facilities or the storage facilities and so there are hundreds of tons of grapes sitting on the vine that may never be used in Clarksburg because we don’t have storage or processing facilities. The same is true of other crops. Tomato processing has gone out of the county, there are other crops that we could take advantage of and have the value here in Yolo County and that increases the revenue to the county and allows us to provide the services that we need to provide for the people who need us. Alternative energy is another huge area, again we have an agricultural economy and technology is catching up and providing us with ways to turn agricultural waste to energy in really an environmentally friendly way. If we can help with the research on that and with doing a better job with biomass and landfill gas to take advantage of those energy opportunities, then that is a great way to go for Yolo County to generate resources as well.

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

We have 190,000 people, it’s impossible to put a percentage, I think, on how much we’re going to grow. I think that there is no end of proposals for growth, some of them are bad and some of them are good. We need to take a really progressive standpoint and do our research and ask the really important questions about whether we are providing enough affordable housing as part of development proposals, whether we are providing alternative means of transportation so that we’re just not throwing people onto the roads, whether we have jobs-housing balance so that we don’t create more transportation and more gridlock in the county. I can’t tell you what a percentage is and I really don’t think it would be responsible for me to try to guess over 20 years x-percent. But I do want you to know that I am not somebody who thinks that grow for growth’s sake is beneficial to the county or will help us protect what we have in Yolo that we love.

You are endorsed by Supervisor Helen Thomson, in what ways would you support her policies and in what ways would you be different from her?

Supervisor Thomson has an incredible record of public service here in Davis and in Yolo County and actually in the 8th Assembly District. I think that she is a fantastic leader. I think she is the kind of leader that I would like to be. Somebody who seeks to bring people together to resolve any differences we might have, work cooperatively, to finding solutions to the challenges that we have. I think that she, like me, is disappointed in the breakdown of the dialogue in our county and in our nation, I think that we’ve lost some of our ability to communicate productively and to respect each other’s point of view and learn from each other and gain the most information that we can while we’re making our decisions. I can’t think of a specific example of something that she has done or a decision that she has made that I would have opposed, but as a leader, I think that she is a great example of someone that I would like to emulate.

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

That’s an interesting question because it seems to come from a perspective, and I’m not accusing you of this, but the question itself seems to come from the perspective that those interests are mutually exclusive or in conflict. I think people are tired of conflict and people are tired of the lack of respect of other people’s views. I am very active in the community as is Anna, we are everywhere around, we talk to the people who would be my constituents all the time and our community is what I would represent on the board and that’s very very important to me, but I think that the goals of Davis and the Davis community and El Macero, WiIllowbank, and the unincorporated areas and all of that ag land in the Yolo basin are consistent with what we need to do in the county as well.

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

Again David, I’ve spent 20 years in public service, working in places that fortunately or unfortunately have put me in between various interests, sometimes interests in tremendous conflict, and I think I’ve developed a professional expertise for bringing those people together, facilitating communications, finding solutions, and moving forward. I would hope and I would expect that I will have a good relationship with my colleagues on the city council, and I do, I have two endorsements from the city council, one from Ruth and one from Stephen Souza and my first goal in any relationship is always to work collaboratively and that’s what I want to bring to the board. I want to be reaching out and treating my colleagues on the city level, in the tribe, in the university, in other cities, and on the board as colleagues and work collaboratively with them.

How can the county work better with the University?

The university is part of a constitutional entity. The county and the city have little authority over many of the decisions that are made at the university. This is why it’s absolutely critical that we work well with the University of California. God knows we’re not going to agree with the decisions, all of the decisions that they’ve made or are going to make, but you work much better when you’re collaborating with somebody and you have a productive relationship and open communication then you do when you are at odds. And it’s very very important that the city and the county work closely with the university so that we have that kind of relationship so that the university feels bought into consulting us on decisions they make that affect the county and the city, and that’s absolutely critical.

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

I am willing to consider something like that, especially if there are issues that have a lot of community interest. My concern would be there is in a county where we don’t have a lot of resources and where we want to make sure that we guard them jealously, what the impact would be on the county budget opening at night and having county employees on call that really should be serving our constituents during the daytime. So I would have to balance evening meetings against those concerns.

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

I’ll have a website up soon. I’m not a blogger. Actually, and I don’t want to seem like I’m pandering to you, David, but you’re doing a fine job at the Vanguard, I think, objective and thoughtful research and reporting on issues that people may not have the time to research on their own, God knows, it’s hard enough for the average people to keep up with the city council and the board meetings, let alone all of the commissions and committees that they have and all of the input that they get on that level. I would commit myself to learning as much as I can, to being fully briefed on what we’re facing on the board, and leave the blogging to folks like you.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Valley Oak Charter School Meeting

Last night around 60 people including parents of Valley Oak Students, current students, former students, community leaders, candidates for school board, current school board members, and people from around the community gathered at the Valley Oak Multipurpose room to view an update and presentation on the Valley Oak Charter School.

Three of the four school board candidates were in attendance: Bob Schelen, Joe Spector, and Susan Lovenburg. Three of the school board members were there Jim Provenza, Gina Daleiden and Tim Taylor showed up around 8:00 PM.

But this evening was mostly about Valley Oak and five dedicated teachers who spoke about the offerings and the progress: Steve Kelleher, Bill Storm, Jan Coker, Allan Carlson, and Lisa Arvin.

The Valley Oak Mission statement:
"Valley Oak Charter School is a learning community of students, staff, families and the larger community that challenges each member to reach full potential. We draw upon a rich history as a neighborhood school that recognizes the strengths of a diverse population, welcoming all into a culturally-rich environment with high expectations for all students. We believe community-based cooperative governance makes for optimally responsive and innovative education."
They presented four key focal points:

  • "Coordinated school-wide schedule of flexible small-group instruction to address individual needs.

  • Participation of the greater school community in pursuing the educational mission of the school.

  • Integration of arts, technology and community service tools into all aspects of learning

  • Bridge the digital divide through utilization of educational technology by the larger VOCS community, both on campus and at home."
Lisa Arvin spoke about the EL learners program that she has been involved with for quite some time and described how it has enabled the students to learn English and not only that but become interested in learning and school to the point where she showed us concrete examples of how this program has enabled students to have great ambitions for success later in life.

The EL program at Valley Oak has been touted as among the best in the district. Ms. Arvin presented ELA results—greater percentage of EL students at Valley Oak achieved proficient scores and were reclassified as English fluent than any other school in the district or district wide.

Valley Oak plans to continue this program as a charter school.

Steve Kelleher described in some detail the organizational structure of the charter school.

First there will be an executive board composed of community members, teachers, board, DTA designee, and cooperative community. This will oversee the corporate and school operations. The charter will be in the form of a 501(3)C--a not for profit corporation.

Second there will be a teacher cooperative which is composed of the Valley Oak Faculty and they make the site level decisions.

Finally there will be a site director who will be chosen by the executive board and teacher cooperative. The site director sounds like the Principal in this structure.

One of the elements of the charter school, as Bill Storm described in our interview yesterday is this will be a technology magnet school.

He presented four goals:
• Connection to Larger Community
• Learning through technology
• School-to-home communication link
• Family technology
The basic idea here is that technology will help serve as a link to the larger community. The students will utlize this technology as a means to learn not only about the technology but about their other subjects. This will enable the family to have a greater connection and thus better communication with the school and they even hope, since Valley Oak is still primarily Title 1 students to work with corporate parterners to bring connectivity to every family.

There are challenges that lie ahead. At this point, the Charter is pretty much written. But now they need people to sign up. They have budgeted for about a max of 420 students, but the school has held over 600. However, they will need at least 200 to enroll for this to be viable.

The goal is that people in the Valley Oak area get priority for enrollment, but students from outside the area and outside of Davis itself are strongly encouraged to apply. You can get a sign up form at


One thing that occurred to me during the course of the program and ensuing discussion was the general feeling by many that in fact, Valley Oak was singled out by the Task Force because it seemed to be primarily an easy mark. They believe that these parents would not fight back like North Davis parents would have or Korematsu parents would have. This calculation was wrong.

If this charter school succeeds, the efforts of the Task Force could either be lost or at the very least misplaced. Throughout the discussions, the debate as it were, quickly focused on closing a school, rather than creative ways to keep all of the schools open. What was lost in that process, and never fully considered, was the option for the kind of magnet school that the folks at Valley Oak are looking to create with the Valley Oak Charter School.

In fact, I would argue that there really three strong lures to Valley Oak.

First, the Magnet School on Technology. It has been my basic observation that technology has increased and improved faster than our understanding of how best to utilize it.

Second, the EL Program. I think this point needs to be sold harder, you have regionally a large non-English speaking population, if you can promote the success of this program regionally, it may be possible to draw kids for this purpose from across the region.

Third, and I think actually most importantly, the combination of the Title 1 and the technology. We talk about achievement gap, but there is also a technology gap between wealthy students who have the computers at home and grow up using them, and some of the other kids who are never exposed to new technology and this will enable them to compete on more even footing.

As I said, during the course of the debate on Valley Oak, the Task Force fumbled the ball on the consideration of increasing enrollment through the creation of a magnet school. I know the folks who were fighting to keep Valley Oak open, presented the idea and it seemed to be summarily dismissed.

All of this effort on the part of the Valley Oak parents is great, but I cannot help believing that the folks at the Task Force imposed this on people who should be focusing on other things and that is too bad. In the end, the Task Force will not get their school closed and all of the budget concerns will remain OR the Magnet School may help solve that problem and the Task Force never seriously considered it. In any case, I do not believe the Task Force found the best uses of schools in this district, I believe they found the easiest solution to a difficult problem and rammed it through.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, September 24, 2007

Valley Oak Charter Proposal Moves Forward

The Vanguard talked with Bill Storm, a science teacher at Valley Oak who is involved heavily with the Charter School Process. He gives us an update on their progress and a preview of tonight's meeting which is from 7:00 to 8:30 PM at the Valley Oak Multipurpose Room located at 1400 East Eighth Street in Davis. There will be a presentation about the charter and a question and answer period afterwards. Spanish translation provided. Light refreshments will be provided. And for those who need it, childcare will be provided on site too.

Can you describe where the current process stands in terms of the development of the Charter School and also what will be happening at the Monday (tonight) Evening Meeting?

At this time we have nearly completed the charter document after months of collective development with many community members, teachers and parents. The charter is the petition that will be brought before staff and parents for their signatures within the next few weeks to indicate their interest in the school. We have been publicizing the meeting with flyers, appearances by Dweezil (our mascot) at Farmer’s Market, and much conversation with anyone who will listen.

Monday [tonight] evening at 7:00 in the Valley Oak multi-purpose room, teachers who have been active in the school’s development will be describing the charter to the public, putting flesh on the bones for parents so they can have an accurate read of the school we propose for their neighborhood. There is much to tell, as schools are complicated, and the notion of “charter school” is new to Davis, so we have some explaining to do. There will be a panel of five teachers representing the various grade levels and disciplines, including primary and intermediate grades, English Language learners, and a clear description of what we mean by a “high tech magnet school.”

This meeting will be followed by a signature-gathering campaign, with eventual submission to the Board of Education for their review and hopefully their approval.

Have there been any pitfalls or problems that have occurred along the way?

I have to honestly say it has been an outstanding and gratifying experience. I have told colleagues of mine at other Davis schools that every school should find themselves threatened with closure, because it is in that process of thinking “Why me?” that you discover what you are as an institution. Terminal self-examination is very exhilarating, something akin to St. Peter looking down at you from the pearly gates and saying, “So, what do you have to say for yourself?!” What my colleagues and I discovered was a school that absolutely must exist, a neighborhood institution worth an enormous investment of energy. The fact we have had to make that investment has been a distraction from other professional work we would have done if we hadn’t been fighting to save a vital institution, but we didn’t choose this fight. It came to us. That really has been the only pitfall. In all, those of us who have come to believe even more deeply in this school have been brought to a high pitch of directed energy to do the right thing, and that is a good thing for teachers to create together, and something very enriching for the kids they teach.

Has the district for the most part been supportive of these efforts?

We are most fortunate that Superintendent Whitmore was formerly Director of the Charter Division for California Department of Education. District staff has been responsive to our desire to create a high-quality school with a charter document that serves the interests of all stakeholders, including the district, to the greatest extent possible. They seem to respect our wish to remain in conversation with them as we wrap our minds around this very complex task. Besides Supt. Whitmore, district staff has a wealth of experience in running schools, and they have answered our questions and have met with us very freely.

What advantages to the students will the Valley Oak Charter School Offer?

First of all, they will retain the ability to attend Valley Oak, their neighborhood school which has distinguished itself not only in its academic performance for all its students, but in the innovative programs only found at Valley Oak, its deliberately caring and inclusive school culture, and its rich ethnic diversity. Additionally, the charter is developing a vision of taking concrete steps in using technology to bring a Valley Oak education fully into the 21st century with carefully planned innovation and ground-up technology training for students, teachers, and parents.

Also, a neighborhood school is the cultural center of any neighborhood, and as such imparts real value, monetary value, to area homes. Neighborhoods that have to ship their children miles away to school lose value, particularly in a competitive real estate market. Add to that a school district with no bus transportation for its students, a practice based on the concept that Davis is organized around bike-ride-distance neighborhood schools, and removing Valley Oak Elementary would cripple this particular neighborhood. A neighborhood losing real value along with its cultural anchor is not good for kids and families; period.

In addition to the excellent English Learner's program, is the Charter School looking to create any new sorts of programs?

As I mentioned above, we are making very specific plans to use technology in a way that the technology gap is addressed in a systematic way, while connecting parents and the community to bring them into the culture of the school. We have commitments of support from various sectors of the region who are poised to help us develop this vision the moment we have an approved charter. Obviously, some of this is quite funding-dependent, but with our combination of on-site education technology expertise, our outside institutional sponsors, and our in-city technology support, we will be in a very healthy position to attract the funding we need.

Is the Charter being written to attract new students from both across the district as well as outside of the district?

Yes. The charter is being written to give enrollment preference to our traditional neighborhood population. Any remaining space will be available to any student in the state, and remaining slots will be filled by lottery from the pool of applicants from within the non-neighborhood Davis students and out-of-district applicants, all being given equal consideration. Magnet schools have a history of long waiting lists, plus Davis turns away many intra-district transfers for lack of space, so we are optimistic that we will be able to fill the school.

Has the teacher's association remained supportive of this endeavor? Are there assurances that teachers who teach in the charter will be able to retain their district positions including seniority?

Yes. In fact, we have received extensive technical support from the California Teacher’s Association. Teachers at the charter school will remain part of the DTA bargaining unit, thus retaining their salary and seniority considerations.

At this point, what are the prospects looking like for successful approval of the charter?

We are optimistic. We have worked hard to produce a top-notch document and are continuing to comb it for problems and pitfalls, and we continue to work to anticipate issues that might arise in its evaluation.

What does the time-line appear to be at this point?

We hope to have the document finished in the next couple weeks. We will be seeking signatures on the charter petition for another few weeks. Thanks to various statutory requirements we have a deadline of November 15th for submission to the Board of Education for their review.

Is the Valley Oak charter set to open in September of 2008 if all goes as planned?

That would be our intention, yes.

Is there anything else that I haven't asked but should have?

We very much encourage parents to attend the meeting Monday evening. They will see that their charter school, while being a fresh idea in town, will still be a high-quality public school, with a professional teaching staff, deeply committed to the welfare and future of their kids. It would have been very easy for staff to move to a new school had they not believed in the heart of Valley Oak, both its kids and its neighborhood. Our jobs are secure, no matter where the kids go, but our job is to make the best decisions we can for kids, every day. Our position is that Valley Oak must stay there for the neighborhood, and we welcome all others to apply who wish to join the Valley Oak family. Following the public meeting, families can make their interest in Valley Oak Charter School by contacting a representative by e-mail, or by submitting information directly via a web form on the Valley Oak Charter School website,

The Vanguard will be at this evening's meeting and provide a full report on Tuesday morning.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday Notes: Day of Peace and Choice Voting

International Day of Peace Comes to Davis

In 1981 the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution declaring an International Day of Peace. In 2001, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a new resolution declaring 21 September of each year as the International Day of Peace.

The resolution:
"Declares that the International Day of Peace shall henceforth be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, an invitation to all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the Day...

“Invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system, and non-governmental organizations and individuals to commemorate, in an appropriate manner, the International Day of Peace, including through education and public awareness, and to cooperate with the United Nations in the establishment of the global ceasefire.”
Around the world, many different communities and nations gathered for a celebration of peace. Unfortunately, the day was marred by continued violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other locations across the world further illustrating the need for peace and reconciliation.

Friday evening in Davis, a small but dedicated group of Davisites gathered at Central Park in support of peace. Around 30 to 40 people from a diverse cross-section of the Davis citizenry attended the event which was marked by careful reflection and information.

A number of local peace groups attended the event which was co-sponsored by Code Pink. Also attending was Dave Dionsi from Teach Peace, several Davis High School students from the high school chapter, Hamza Al-Nakhal was representing the Davis Muslim Community, there was also a student from the Muslim Student Association on the Davis High School Campus.

The event was organized by UC Davis students Katie Davalos and Lauren Frederic.

Choice Voting Bill Passes the Legislature and Moves to Governor's Desk

As many may know, I still have reservations about Choice Voting. However, since it would appear that the voters in Davis are in support of it, to some degree at least given the advisory last year, and the city of Davis will be looking to implement it, AB 1294 could be very useful.

Under existing laws, General Law cities such as Davis cannot implement choice voting. The city of Davis would have to become a charter city in order to do so. That is by itself a complicated procedure that concerns a number of people who otherwise have few objections to the Choice Voting. For progressives, the idea of allowing the current council majority to write the City's Charter, is laced with potholes and other problematic aspects.

That would be solved if the Governor signs AB 1294, a bill that was considered a long shot a few months ago. AB 1294 would allow all California cities and counties to use choice voting regardless of their charter status.

For more information including background about the bill and ways to urge the Governor to sign it, go to the Californians for Electoral Reform website.

Valley Oak Charter School Informational Meeting

This is going to be a key week for the Valley Oak Charter School.

  • Tomorrow morning, we will have an interview with teacher Bill Storm about the process.
  • Tomorrow evening there will be an important meeting where those who have been working on establishing a charter school will update us on the plan and provide time for questions and answers.
Below, is more information:

Valley Oak Charter School Informational Meeting

When: Monday, September 24, 2007

Location: Valley Oak Multi-purpose Room

Time: 7:00 to 8:30 PM

There will be a presentation about the charter and a question and answer period afterwards. Spanish translation provided. Light refreshments will be provided. And for those who need it, childcare will be provided on site too.

Again, this is a crucial step for Valley Oak, please if you are interested in learning more about the current process log in to the Vanguard tomorrow morning and then go to this meeting tomorrow night.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting