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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Open Letter to Housing Element Steering Committee:

Davis Does Not Want Development on Covell Village Site

Dear Chair Kevin Wolf and Members of the Housing Element Steering Committee:

At your recent meeting the issue of whether or not the Covell Village site should be considered for future development came up. By a large margin, the committee agreed that it was an appropriate location for future housing development.

The voters of the city of Davis disagree with that assessment. In 2005 there was a heated Measure J vote, this vote divided the city. Several of the members of the subcommittee worked to pass Measure X. However, the measure was defeated. It was not defeated by a narrow margin. It was not a close vote. It was defeated by a massive margin of nearly 60-40. It was not merely defeated by the citizens who lived next to the project. It was defeated in every precinct in Davis but one. It was a complete and resounding defeat.

It is my opinion that the steering committee did not give this vote by the citizens of this city enough credence when they discussed the issue a few weeks back.

Perhaps the committee will argue that in fact this is a different proposal. That people rejected Measure X because it had some flaws that will be fixed. Or perhaps they will suggest as then Mayor Ruth Asmundson did that we really did not understand the issues involved--a notion that is an utter slap in the face of the second most educated city in Davis.

No, we understood the issues just fine--building on prime agricultural land, building on a location that does not have the infrastructure to handle the increased traffic flow, now building on a road that will have more traffic due to development up the way in Woodland, the prospect of increased noise and air pollution from the traffic, no we understand the issues just fine.

The idea as put forth by the Chair that evening--building, developing that parcel of land in hopes that it will give the city of Davis the incentive to upgrade the Poleline and Covell intersection--is irresponsible and lies in the realm of wishful thinking, particularly in a city with a very limited budget that is slow to react to problems of infrastructure.

Moreover, as many have suggested the new idea put forward by John Whitcombe, the developer for the property, to have senior housing there is the worst of all possible outcomes. It does not solve the need for low income housing for families. It is not a great location for senior housing. And as many involved with the issue of senior housing have already suggested, Davis has enough senior housing already to meet its needs in the foreseeable future. In fact, at Eleanor Roosevelt Circle for example, a great and innovative project, the developers had to look outside of Davis in order to fill its spots. The idea that this would open other spots for affordable family housing is a non-starter.

Nevertheless, the case can be made that the voters rejected the previous development proposal rather than development at this location. Personally, I think the Housing Element Steering Committee should not make that assumption, but should rather prove that there is some kind of community support for development at this location prior to considering the spot for future development. Elections of the Measure X sort are too expensive and too divisive to repeat unless there is good evidence--rather than simple conjecture--that there is community-wide support for such future development.

Last week, the People's Vanguard of Davis conducted a straw poll on this site and among those who frequent the blog, the measure failed by well over a 2:1 margin. Some will suggest that this blog caters to the more progressive elements of the city, but anyone who reads the comments, will realize quickly that there is a fairly good cross-range of views. Indeed a number of people I have spoken too who favored the original Covell Village, were surprised that the committee was considering a Senior Housing proposal there.

In summary, it is our opinion that the voters of Davis spoke in November of 2005 about their views on Covell Village. This vote should at least be respected to a far greater extent than it has been by the Council Majority and the steering committee that is comprised in its majority of members selected by the Council Majority. Finally that we should not have a repeat of this vote unless absolutely necessary.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, October 05, 2007

Upcoming Davis Events

Vanguard Soliciting Help for Davis Neighbors Night Out

As many know, the City of Davis is having "Davis Neighbors Night Out" on October 20, 2007 from noon until 9 pm. This is an annual event whereby many neighborhoods have block parties and invite all of their neighbors and really anyone in the Davis community. When I last spoke with Davis city staff, there were well over 60 parties scheduled.

The Vanguard would like to create an on-line journal that includes accounts of various parties around town and photos from those parties. Obviously this is not a one, two, or even five person job.

We are thus asking for help from all of our readers.

If you are going to a block party and have a digital camera--send us pictures, a paragraph write up, your name, and your location. We are hoping to get correspondence from a number of different parties that we were unable to personally get to.

Please let me know in advance if you will be attending a party, what party you want to attend, and whether you will be assisting us.

Davis History Buffs: Top Most Important Events in Davis History

Round Table Discussion "The Top 10 Most Important Events in Davis History: Debate and Ranking"

Brown Bag Lunch

Date: Wednesday 10, 2007

Time: Noon

Location: Hattie Webber Museum, 445 C Street, Davis (Corner of C and 5th, NE Corner of Central Park)

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

City Retiree Medical Benefits: Smart Financing or Voodoo Economics?

In the City Council this past Tuesday, there was expected to be a routine explanation of the new GASB 45 reporting requirements on retiree medical benefits. What it became was a heated debate regarding the city’s budget, specifically the longstanding issue of structural deficit.

Paul Navazio, the city’s finance director, came before the council with the report that drew such conflicted remarks from the city council. Mayor Sue Greenwald brought down the hammer on the growing structural deficit from the commitments that the city has made, stressing that the city needs to be more committed to fiscal responsibility so that it can continue to afford the same level of service for its retirees.

Mayor Greenwald:
“Would it be fair to say that what we’re really looking at here when we do the accounting somewhat more correctly, is that we have an additional real annual deficit of about, citywide, 2.5 million to 4.2 million per year?”
Paul Navazio:
“Yeah, if we immediately implemented a fully pre-funded plan we would need to come up with another 2-4 million dollars to fully fund it… The long-term cost of this benefit exceeds what we’re building into our projections.”
Mayor Greenwald:
“And that’s really our deficit, right? I mean, nobody requires us to have a balanced budget anyway, except ourselves. So this 2.5 to 4.2 million deficit is equal to about 16% to 23% of our payroll, depending on the rate of return on the investment.”
Mayor Greenwald’s comments contrasted drastically with Councilmember Stephen Souza’s, who argued later that the city will deal with these issues because it is still here today, and therefore will continue to manage as it always has. This overly rosy outlook seemed ridiculous after Mr. Navazio was forced to admit by Mayor Greenwald that the city did in fact have a structural deficit that it was unsure of how to pay for.

Councilmember Stephen Souza:
“I have the faith that we’re gonna be able to take on each of these components, and one’s going to be more pressing than another, that’s just the way life is, that’s the way needs are, things break down faster than other things break down, needs arrive faster than other needs arrive, and we’re gonna address them as they come along, we’ve been doing that as a city, for almost, for over 90 years. And I have the faith that we’re gonna continue to do that for another 110 years, so that when we reach our 200th year anniversary as a city than we’ll be as fine a city as we are today 110 more years from today.”
Councilmember Souza even implied that the city might want to draw from its general reserve fund to pay for these deficits. The general reserve is onetime use money, meant for funding emergencies. To use it to pay for a structural deficit that recurs each year makes no sense.

According to the report, full funding of the City’s Retiree Medical Benefits would require annual contributions of about $4.3 to $6.0 million annually. Currently, the city only sets aside $1.8 million for this, and has this year only added another $500,000 to that number for fiscal year 2007/2008. This means that even after that half million, the structural deficit is still between $2.0 and $3.7 million, ANNUALLY.

The report recommended saving money in the long run by shifting gradually from the current method of pay-as-you-go funding to pre-funding of these benefits. However, to make that change will cost more money now, and as it is the budget is fairly strained. But more importantly, the model in the report assumed that health care premium rates are going to drop in the next several years, an assumption that Mayor Greenwald found to be very disconcerting.

Paul Navazio:
“They’re assuming for the short term…annual increases of health care premiums in the 10 to 11.5% range, and that’s consistent with what we’ve built into our own projections. I will say that the actuarial assumptions in this model assume that within the next ten year period, that the annual rate of increase would actually be reduced to 4.5% per year. This is an interesting assumption, one that we’re checking…nobody has a crystal ball on this, and health insurance has increased dramatically and continues to. Implicit in this assumption is the premise that health insurance costs can’t continue to increase in the current rates in perpetuity. If it keeps going at this current rate, than by 2020 health care will be 100% of GNP. There is an inherent assumption here that health care costs have to normalize.”
Mayor Greenwald:
“And they’re saying that this will happen in about ten years, right as the baby boomer generation starts to get old?”
Paul Navazio:
“Well by most economists standpoints, the current increases in health care rates are not sustainable. What that means for the future is something we’re going to look at.”
Mayor Greenwald:
“When I look at that 4.5%, it sounds like we’ll be lucky if our annual deficit is only 2.5 to 4.5 million. Because that 4.5% increase in the out-years that are being projected, are just based on the assumption that it can’t get any higher, so it has to come down, and I don’t know, it doesn’t give me a whole lot of confidence.”
The council meeting ended on the note that more research needed to be done by city staff, and more budget workshops needed to be held, before a decision could be made on how to properly address this issue. Mayor Greenwald made it clear that there may need to be some tightening of the city’s budgetary belt in order to deal with this, possibly including some salary cuts to city employees. While this idea may not sit well with a lot of employee’s of the city, it was the only idea that came out of the council at all on how to deal with this issue, and the fact of the matter is that the city cannot allow it’s unfunded liability to continue to build.

---Simon Efrein

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Interview with 8th Assembly District Candidate Mariko Yamada

The Vanguard sat down last night with Yolo County Superisor Mariko Yamada who represents portions of Davis and a number of rural communities in the Fourth District of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. She is running for the Democratic Nomination for the 8th Assembly District against West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Clabaldon. The Vanguard interviewed Mayor Cabaldon last week.
  • What do you consider the top issues facing the 8th Assembly District? Yolo County? Davis? And what are your priorities if elected to the state legislature?
Alright, well first thanks for having me on the Vanguard. I just want to give you some background on the overarching issues with the 8th Assembly District as well as the county and the City of Davis.

I think that foremost on everyone’s mind is healthcare, and also transportation and education and employment. Those are all interrelated, but those are, I think, the top four issues that that I see before us as the State grapples with some very difficult, very overarching issues. Yolo County, as one of the fifty-eight counties in California, is at the bottom of the property tax revenue retention and that has presented challenges to us as we are going forward into the twenty-first century with all of those overarching issues in play. As it relates to the City of Davis, I think the city and the county will hopefully engage in some very positive discussions as we go forward through this next General Plan process. And, we need to collaborate more and communicate more, so that we can work together on solving some of these overarching issues.
  • Can you get into [discuss] some of your priorities?
My priorities are pretty specific and I can share with you some of those that I’ve already put forth into my information and literature as we’ve been moving forward. As you may know, I am a social worker by profession, so with healthcare, I am a proponent of single payer universal. So, if elected to the Legislature, I will be advocating very strongly on that issue. I also have priorities in the areas of adults, aging and disability. And, you may have seen an article in the Davis Enterprise, just this last weekend, about the Aging Summit that we just put on. It’s the first one that Yolo County has had in the area of aging, adult and disability, I think that it is a primary concern of mine, because we’re about thirty years behind in addressing some of those issues, so I’ll be focusing on that as well.

I think I also have some specific proposals about how education and the social work profession can combine and collaborate to solve some of our serious issues within the education system. I think teachers are spending so much time on addressing social problems that they’re not really free to teach. Teachers certainly are not immune to the social problems of their students. But, I think what they went into their profession for was to teach and educate and I think a lot of their time is spent on addressing some of the social problems that children bring with them to school and if we are able to merge and able to have social workers and teachers partner I think that would go a long way into alleviating some of the teaching load and workload issues that teachers face. So, I would be looking at ways of collaborating.

How can the state on the one hand deal with tight budgets while at the same time provide a high level of services to those in most need—the poor, the aging, the disabled, and the children? In short, how can we take care of those most vulnerable?

I think the State has been under funding core services for a number of years now. I think first we had sixteen years of Republican rule followed by two short of a Democratic control of the Legislature and the state house. So, I think that when you have to address sixteen years of priorities that may not be directed to the most vulnerable in our state and our society and then only have a short time to address reorienting those priorities it becomes cumulative. It’s just a cascade on mostly having to catch up. I think that we have to address in a very realistic fashion the under funding of very real core services. Now having said that, I think there are ways to address some of the spending that may not be most appropriate, or the priorities that the state has had is directing money in not the best fashion. I think we are wasting funds in some respects. For example, going back to the healthcare discussion for a moment, we spend more in emergency room services than we would if we were investing in and funding preventive care. So I think it’s not only a matter of under funding, or a matter of not having enough money. The taxpayers are tired of hearing that there is not enough money, but I think that that is part of the problem. There are under funding issues, but the other side of that, is that we have to use the funds that we have in a much smarter fashion.
  • How would in your capacity as Assemblywoman, be able to assist the 8th District in bringing funding for these much needed service?
I think it is important, as the representative for this area, to clearly articulate the needs of local government. My background is in local government primarily. I’ve been in three counties and I think that we have to make sure that local priorities are articulated. I think that part of the problem has been the accusation is that when people go to Sacramento to work in the Legislature they forget where they came from - - where their roots are. I’m going to work very hard not to forget that all politics is local and all of our problems are local. If we can persuade enough of our colleagues in the Legislature, to return to the focus of how programs affect everyday people in the district, I think that is part of my commitment and my message at the state level.

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?

Well, that again goes back to my earlier answer, that is, I think that when you have more people in the Legislature that have a local government perspective that doesn’t become a “we – they” discussion, it becomes an “our” discussion. Remembering that counties are political subdivisions of the state, we’re very familiar with what the state is requiring. That’s what counties do. We are the administrative arm of the state, so it’s not as though counties are unfamiliar with what the state requirements are, but we all hear about unfunded mandates. It’s very important for state legislators that they may have the best ideas in the world about how to fix all the problems of the world, but unless they have a local government perspective, and remain close to people and see how their legislation could impact local individuals then I think they’re missing the boat. I think we need to focus our attention on how the state legislation actually affects everyday people and I think that maybe we’ve lost that communication and it’s become a “we / they” and hope is that we make it an “our” situation.
  • The other day, 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?
Well, you know David; I was actually on I-80 tonight, going back and forth, to Solano County, while I’ve been out precinct walking. And, actually the drive this evening, was not too bad, but that is always a gamble. You never know what it’s going to be like on I-80. I think we have made mistakes in the past in terms of how we have cited communities, in terms of how we have grown, and we need to capitalize on the good work that the SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments) Blueprint began. That did not include Solano County. That was a six county study on the other side of the Causeway including Yolo County. I think what we need to do in the 8th Assembly District, because we’re kind of a hybrid, you know, we have an affinity to Sacramento, the region, but we also have an affinity to the Bay Area, because Solano is pulled on the other side. I haven’t seen that we’ve been able to get the Bay Area and the Sacramento Region to be in even a larger regional dialogue that we already are. So, I think what we need to do too, is make sure that we are focusing on transitory development. We need to take a look at -- as lofty as a goal as it is -- we need to look at a commitment at some mass transit.

I’ll digress for a second here. All of the money, the spending that’s been done on the war in Iraq, if we had the money to invest in infrastructure and light rail, we probably could have built light rail from New York to San Francisco. I don’t have those exact figures, but I think our spending priorities are completely upside down. We have made mistakes. We need to stop making the same mistakes to good planning. We need to open up an even a larger dialogue between the Sacramento Region and the Bay Area, because we’re all in this together. And I think too, when we achieve a better jobs / housing balance we’ve got to make sure that people don’t have to drive so far to go to work. I see in the mornings, as I’m on my way to Woodland, going over the Richards overpass – but I avoid the underpass, because I’m going to Woodland – so I’m looping around and going to I-80 to catch 113. I see all of those cars backed up on I-80 off of Richards trying to get to the university. So, there are a lot of people working at the university that either don’t or can’t live in Davis and I think that we need to have a dialogue about that with both our city partners and our county folks and the university.
  • What types of proposals would you support in order to help local business succeed in the face of the growing threat of big-box retail?
Well, you know, I was on the “no” side of the Target discussion. I was not a public figure in that, because it was what I considered to be a city vote than rather than a direct county issue. So, I want to make that clear that my opposition to the big box was no so much because I didn’t think that people shouldn’t have a choice, but because to amend the General Plan to chase sales tax revenue, is not the best reason to amend your General Plan. I think your threshold for amending your General Plan has to be a very high threshold. And, I didn’t think that chasing sales tax revenue was a very good reason to amend the General Plan, but now that we know that that ordinance has passed, that provides future opportunities for big box, I think that the Downtown Davis Business Association and the Chamber of Commerce have to work together to ensure that the shopping options for Davis residents remain attractive. We also need to look at the parking issues in downtown Davis. I know that there are a lot of concerns that I’ve heard from visitors as well as residents that parking downtown, is very difficult. So, perhaps we can make this a win / win and arrange for some kind of off site shuttle service into the downtown area. There are some downtowns that actually have some closed off streets and made them only pedestrian friendly or maybe electric vehicle friendly. Maybe we’ll use the new parking lot out at Target to arrange for shuttle service to downtown.

I’m trying to remember what the statistics were on the precinct by precinct vote, but as you know, one of my focuses, as I mentioned earlier, is on seniors and folks with disabilities. I’ve heard that, anecdotally, seniors were supportive of having Target or a Target-like store nearby, so that they didn’t have to drive so far. They didn’t have to go too far to do basic shopping. So now that it’s passed I hope that we can collaborate and make something positive out of it.

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. Do you believe that this is a wise planning practice? What steps do you believe are needed to ensure protection from flood given growing population pressures?

My record on development in the flood plains [was] probably the most clear of anyone in local government. I was the only “no” vote on a major policy related project of the old sugar mill. I was the only “no” vote on the Board of Supervisors and that “no” vote was based on the fact that I actually drove the site three times that what I felt in my heart also matched what I felt in my head. And that was, to approve development behind an uncertified levy that close to where people would be put in harms way - - I just couldn’t in good conscious do that.

I think that development has occurred already in the flood zone. And because some of those mistakes that were made in the past I think it is easy for some policy makers to say, “Well, you know…there’s just one more development we can put in, because it’s already close to the housing, the infrastructure, that’s in existence.” But at some point, you have to say, “No.” At some point you have to say that there is a principle that is involved and that is that you should stop developing behind uncertified levees or in areas in which it’s very clear that the potential for flooding is so great.

I have another hat on the Board of Supervisors, and that is that I am Emergency Services Board Liaison. Remembering the tragedies and horrors of Katrina... We saw those tragedies and horrors played out both on television and in pictorials. I’m actually haunted still by some of those pictures…particularly, the disabled who were not able to get out. I think knowing what we know now, it’s basically unconscionable to approve development behind uncertified levees.

Now, when there are flood protections that a developer or a community can demonstrate. I think that one size does not always fit all. So I want to say in balance, when a developer or a community can come up with a standard of flood protection that can be proven and can be demonstrated then I think that that merits a look. But in principle, I think right now; until we achieve some real strong flood protection for our region we should really put either a moratorium on new development behind the flood plain or in the flood plain.
  • 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? How should California as a whole plan to deal with growth pressures in the coming decades?
I think if any one individual or one policy maker had the answer to that question we would have answered the question already. I think what I would want to put forth, as the answer to this question, is that it’s the approach that has to be taken rather than, how am I personally going to do it? The approach has to be one of balancing competing needs by listening carefully by listening to all points of view and not making a decision based on political expedience, or who’s yelling the loudest. I think that balancing growth and affordable housing and the environment and farmland…you almost have to do it at the same time on a policy level. You have to do it on a people level. As I said earlier in the interview, about the “one size does not always fit all,” I think that when you get good people around the table to have a rational discussion about how to balance growth, the environment, affordable housing and agriculture --- ‘cause you know you need all four of those in order to make a healthy community.

California is such a complex state. From north to south, from coastal to inland, is very complex already, so I’m not sure I can say how California is going to address it. I can say how I would address it as a representative in the Legislature. I think we need to have that approach of collaborating and getting new partnerships developed, because what I see a lot, in my work at the County, as well as my interactions with the state, there’s such great polarization. Everyone seems to think that their point of view is the only point of view that is correct. And although I am a very liberal and partisan Democrat I also believe that reaching out across the isle to try to work out solutions with people who may not think exactly the way that we think, or that come from a different life experience, or may feel that they only have the right answer – we have to be able to be able to reach out across the isle to try to work out some of these intractable problems.

Social workers start where the client is. We start from the position of looking at the problem as a whole and then try to martial the resources around the problem to fix it. Again, it’s an approach rather than me saying, “I have the solution to all of these problems.” I think that the citizenry doesn’t want to hear promises from people who are running for office they want to find out whether that person has the approach that they feel is consistent with addressing some of these huge problems that we all face.
  • The recent dispute between Yolo County and the City of Davis over who should determine growth on the city edges erupted into at times bitter contentiousness. What did you learn from this situation in order to avoid repeat episodes in the future? And as a member of the Assembly what approaches would you take at the state level toward local growth and control?
You know, I think that the issue of who controls growth on the city edge is based upon twenty years of history. The Pass Through Agreement was negotiated first I think in 1987 was a very good agreement, and was renegotiated just a few years ago, and it has served well. I think that the County’s position is that we would like to engage the city in a collaborative discussion.

As far as what we learned, from sometimes a contentious presentation by some of the citizens of Davis, is that we need to establish mechanisms, so that we can have those kinds of discussions before it comes to the Board. I proposed having a Yolo County Council of Governments several years ago. Unfortunately, we did not have Board concurrence to engage in that. But, what struck me about going across the river to attend SACOG meetings -- Sacramento Area Council of Government meetings, and that they’re very specific, they focus really on transportation funding – but the concept of having twenty-two jurisdictions sitting around the same board chambers and discussing issues of mutual concern I thought was a wise way to approach problems. But I always wondered how it was that all of the Yolo County representatives could go across the river to sit around that table before we sat around together in Yolo County. My hope is that we will some day have that mechanism that we can sit down as elected leaders as well as have open forums with the citizens to hear each other, not just hear one side. I look at the county, as the county as a whole, although I do have the privilege of representing ¾ of the City of Davis I also represent an area outside of Davis, which is the second largest farm acreage in Yolo County and a mixture of very diverse interests and rich habitat areas. So in balance, I think that the discussion that occurred at the Board was very unnecessarily contentious. We didn’t have communication mechanisms to engage each other before it got to that point.

You know, the Board did not vote to remove the areas entirely. That vote did fail on a 2 to 3 vote. But, we did remove the areas with hope that we would engage in future discussions with the city. My hope is that we can work that out.
  • And as a member of the Assembly what approaches would you take at the state level toward local growth and control?
The state does not regulate local planning decisions, so in terms of regulating where growth will go, there are certain guidelines, but local planning decisions will remain at the local level.

Well, one of the reasons I asked this question, is that there was a bill before the Assembly that died – fortunately – that would have changed the way that Housing Element updates to the General Plan were designed. And, it would have made it so that instead of a ten-year planning period it would be every five years. And so a lot of local governments became concerned that that would have been growth inducing.

I think that Dave Jones (Assemblyman) did have AB70, which not supported by the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, although I did support his bill, because it included some provisions for regulating growth behind the flood plain and that we would have state and local partnership in how those decisions are made. I know most of local government opposed AB70, because they felt that it was the state trying to regulate. But I think that again, it’s that approach of partnering instead of this we / they. It’s always, we / they. I hope we can get to the problems, more of solving the problems in more of a collaborative fashion.
  • At your first candidate’s debate, you supported the continuation of the two-thirds requirement for passing the state budget, has the recent budget impasse and the fact that a few members of the minority party held the budget highjacked, changed your view here?
At the first forum the question that was posed was; would you change the current way the budget was handled? Right? My view on that is that we have to preserve some aspect of the protection of the minority. What I would like to see is a two-year budget process with a sixty percent threshold. I think that when you have a two-thirds vote – at that forum the question was posed; would you preserve the current two-thirds majority? It only works to protect when the Democrats are in the majority. But I think that living with a year to year budget process can result in a tyranny of the minority, but a two-year process with a sixty percent threshold would be more fair.
  • 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?
As an advocate for single payer universal it may only be achievable if we go to the ballot. I have been participating for the past 18 months on the California State Association of Counties Healthcare Reform Task Force. We have been examining all three of the proposals based on its effects on the county. And, AB8, which was put together as a merged bill from both the Senate and the House is not something that the counties can support, because of its 7.5% employer contribution threshold. In effect, that would affect us, as we are the employer of record for in home support health services providers. These are folks that are actually saving the state money, by performing the work that is needed to keep seniors and disabled individuals in their homes and in their community. So, AB8 was not the answer for us. The Governor’s proposal also, we have some concerns about.

Although, I think shared responsibility, which is part of the Governor’s proposal, is something that I personally can be supportive of, and I know that my friends out in the union community are not supporting shared responsibility, individual mandates. I think that there is a difference between shared responsibility and individual mandate. For those that cannot afford to pay for their own healthcare, counties already are responsible for indigent health. So I think that there are enough elements floating out there. Again, I think if we have the approach of collaborating and making sure that we have a shared discussion about how to solve it that’s how we’re going to get there, but I personally am a proponent of single payer, universal. That is in the context that healthcare is a right not a privilege. You know, there are still a couple of pillars in this whole discussion that need to come to the table, and that is the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. I know that this is going out there in sort of “dangerous land,” but insurance companies do their business based on that you’re paying for something you hope will not happen. I think we ought to be investing money in what should happen, which is good, preventive healthcare, not waiting until an emergency occurs and when the costs are very high. If we invest more on the front end then we save money on the back end. Also, for a certain segment of our population that have pre-existing conditions - - we have to do away with that – we have to make sure that everyone is able to get healthcare when they need it. I think that there are enough good models throughout the world as well as other places in the country. San Francisco has started and Massachusetts has a system as well, so we need to take the best of what’s already happening to see if we can hammer out a solution. Who would have thought that, here we are in October, and here we are the Legislature is still working on just two small issues; water and health. It’s a symbol that people want to get these issues dealt with. I’m not sure how it’s going to go through the rest of this year. I would rather see something good and something substantial occur rather than something based on political expedience. I think that SB840 we just need to just convert to an initiative and see what the people have to say. The polling shows that the people want universal, single payer healthcare. And also with the Presidential Primary coming in February, February 5th, that is a huge issue for all of the candidates, at least on the Democratic side. We don’t hear too much about healthcare on the Republican side. I hope we get there.
  • The original gang injunction was thrown out by the courts. What do you think of efforts to renew the gang injunction—has it been improved upon? 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?
I was not supportive of the original gang injunction, because it was vague and unconstitutional. I think the courts proved that to be true. The efforts to reinstate another gang injunction I do believe is still not fair, because I think that if you are going to apply a curfew, or rights to assembly orders in a community it should apply to the whole community not just to one segment. I think that beyond that, my interest is in supporting law enforcement in balance with addressing why there is criminal activity in the first place. We have families that are stretched to the limit, because of their economic situation. We have families that are addressing decades-long issues of poverty, unemployment and sub-standard schools. We have to go to the root causes of what is motivating some people into criminal activity. I think that if you only look at the law enforcement side, and you don’t look at the root causes of what draws some people into criminal activity, then you’re not taking a balanced approach to solving the problem. But I do think that if you’re going to apply restrictions to the citizenry then they have to be applied to everyone and that’s the only way you can achieve some democracy in such an activity.
  • What accomplishment on the Yolo County board of Supervisors are you most proud of?
Just one? [laugh] Well if I can give you more than one? Well I have a lot of accomplishments that I’m proud of. I think first of all our Board, and I as one member, have not been afraid to take on the big battles. So you may edit this out, because I’m only limited to one or two, but as I mentioned the other evening, when we were at The Bean Feed, our board has exhibited great courage in taking on issues like the Conway Ranch, SMUD annexation, certainly the General Plan is a very large issue. I think our Board has exhibited the courage to take on the big battles in the face of many pressures. Personal and professional accomplishments; I am very proud of working to get the In Home Supportive Services Public Authority established, working for our most vulnerable seniors and disabled residents. We were the first in the state to achieve that after the state mandate in 1999. I’m also very proud of the work we’ve done to strengthen the Aging and Adult Services Commission. It is now chaired by a member of the Board of Supervisors. It has achieved some parity with the Children and Families Commission. I’m also very proud of ensuring that our ambulance and emergency response services have been settled now for at least ten years. That is a negotiation that I led for the county in collaboration with our emergency services personnel. A lot of people don’t know what the link is between 9-1-1 and the ambulance arriving at your house. It’s actually a county related function, so we had improvements and sustainability in our emergency services. We have also done a lot of work with our Parks Master Plan, with the Grasslands Regional Park. We’re going to be hopefully concluding the acquisition and doubling the size of Grasslands Regional Park, which is in District 4. That will become probably the largest regional park near urban area in Yolo County. Many of our parks are out in the Capay Valley area further West, but Grasslands, is right across the way off of Mace Boulevard, so those are just some of the diverse issues and accomplishments I am most proud of.
  • If you could accomplish one thing if elected to the Assembly, what would it be?
I think IHHS (In Home Supportive Services) reform would be at the top of my priority list, because this program already has 400,000 Californians enrolled. The eligibility has not been reviewed for decades, and we’re going to have a growing need to fill to keep people safe in their communities.

It is a program that is actually eating up our realignment dollars and is causing competition amongst social services, public health, and probation. I think that the program needs to be stand alone and I think the workers in that program – we need to take a look at how they can be engaged and blended into perhaps, our retirement system for the state. It is something that you perhaps have not thought of yet, because you’re young and still able bodied, but for silver tsunami end of the age spectrum, it is a glaring need. Actually, the dependency ratio for those of you that are still able to work, there’s going to be greater burdens upon you as the other end of the age cohort progresses it’s shift. So, it’s going to be a top priority of mine along with healthcare reform.

Thanks to my wife Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald for doing the transcription for this interview...

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Commentary: Large Money Raised in School Board Elections

Richard Harris Amasses a Stunning Amount of Money in Campaign Funds

The financial records were released on recently on amount of money raised by the various school board candidates, and Richard Harris has raised nearly $23,000, the other three candidates combined have raised $22,868.

School board races in Davis unlike City Council races have no campaign finance limitations. Therefore individuals have no limitation as to how much they can give a candidate nor is there a limit on how much money could be raised.

Much of Richard Harris' money comes from out of the city of Davis. In fact, a good portion comes from Sacramento area lobbyists, which makes a good deal of sense since Mr. Harris works as a lobbyist in the Sacramento are lobbyist firm, Nossaman law firm. Among some of the more notable contributions from Davis were donations from Dennis Lindsay, owner of Nugger Market, John Meyer a vice chancellor at UC Davis and a former Davis city manager, Craig Reynolds a political consultant and Lois Wolk's chief of staff, Robin Souza, wife of Stephen Souza, Lynne Yachzan who along with Randy Yachzan owns property in the NW Quadrant, Shoshana Zatz, a rural development specialist and wife of Luke Watkins of the Neighborhood Partners.

The second place candidate in the money race is Susan Lovenburg who received around $13,000 in contributions. Some of her more notable contributions included $250 from Kirk Trost who is a layer with Miller, Owen, Trost but perhaps better known as the chair of the Best Uses of Schools Task Force (Jan Bridge who was a key member of that group as well is one of her key advisers although she does not appear among the itemized $100-plus donors). Also among her donors were two past school board members John Munn and Marty West. Also in-kind contributions from Sheryl Patterson and school board member Keltie Jones.

Bob Schelen took in around $8000 including money from former state Senator John Burton, but also a number of donations from local residents including: Greg Cook, Bill Julian, Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada, Robin Souza again, Shoshana Zatz again, Joyce Trujillo, Jerry and Teresa Kaneko, Bill Strong, James Burchill, and Alvin and Sandy Sokolow.

Holding up the rear in a distant last place was the late starting campaign of Joe Spector who had only $1500 in the bank, although they are planning to raise a lot more than that according to people close to their campaign.

There are a few essential points that need to be made here. First, having seen the campaign materials from particularly Richard Harris and Susan Lovenburg, it appears clear at this point that they are planning for some sort of mailing blitz in the last month of the campaign. One thing to watch at this point will be whether Bob Schelen--who spent a tremendous amount of money on his ill-fated city council bid a decade ago only to get very few votes--will make use of his years of Sacramento experience and attempt to match Richard Harris in the last month.

Secondly, the amount of money being dumped into a local school board race is a bit stunning in my opinion, particularly the amount of money dumped in from outside of district. On the other hand, it does appear much of that money coming in is due at least in part to years of work in Sacramento. It is far from clear that this represents an attempt by outsiders to buy a Davis school board seat. Moreover, I honestly am not sure what they would do with such a seat if they had it. I suppose it is up to the individual voters as to whether the amount or source of the money has an impact on their view of the candidate.

Third and I think most interestingly is when you look at the names of at least the $100 donors, one has to ask where the progressive community is in this race. One simply does not see names of members of the progressive community. If one examines city council disclosures or the No on X disclosure, they will see a whole host of names that are simply nowhere to be found in the school board races.

One of the wild cards in this election will be the issue of Valley Oak and the Valley Oak charter school. Joe Spector has tied himself very closely with the folks supporting Valley Oak and those organizing the charter school. At the Farmer's Market, Joe Spector has played his instrument along side the Valley Oak Dragon "Dwezel." Bob Schelen has also been an unbashed supporter of both keeping Valley Oak open and supporting the efforts of the charter school with regards to a career and technical program. On the other hand, Susan Lovenburg supported the decision to close Valley Oak, is supported by Kirk Trost and Jan Bridge, key members of the Best Uses of Schools Task Force. She did go to the Charter School Meeting and has said she is open to see what the Charter proposal is. Richard Harris, also supported the closing of Valley Oak and has suggested that he is not in favor of the Charter School there.

The city of Davis was clearly split on that issue. An active and vocal group lobbied to keep the school open. However, another group was outspoken in believing that the school district simply did not have enough enrollment and resources to keep it open. When the district polled the support of Valley Oak for a parcel tax, the results were not encouraging towards getting the two-thirds needed to approve a tax, on the other hand, the numbers were close to 50-50, which would indicate that if people voted simply on that issue, it might be a close outcome.

How Valley Oak impacts the school board race and Measure Q is anyone's guess. But with a month to go, it appears at least in terms of money raised, there are two clear leaders.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Monday Briefs

Davis High Muslim Student Association's Fast-a-thon a big hit

The Davis High School Muslim Student Association on Friday had its annual "Fast-a-thon" and then just after sunset over 150 members of the public gathered together for prayers and then to break the fast. Speakers at the event included City Councilmember Lamar Heystek, School Board President Jim Provenza, and County Supervisor Mariko Yamada.

One of the organizers, Mohamed Buzayan, president of the school club in addition to being student body President told the Davis Enterprise last week:
"It's a great opportunity for community members to come together and socialize, while attending a highly spiritual event.

A lot of people think Ramadan is just about fasting all day, but it's so much more than that and we don't necessarily always get to learn about that in textbooks.

I think it's really important, with what is going on around the world at this time, to emphasize the concept of unity. It's amazing to see all these diverse people, Muslim or not, come together for a good cause.

We're truly blessed to live in a community like Davis, and fasting is our way of showing gratitude."
---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Forest Ethics and Activists Protest Against Clear Cutting the Sierras by Sierra Pacific

This past Saturday, ForestEthics activists held a protest in front of the 84 Lumber Co. in Sacramento, encouraging them to no longer purchase wood from Sierra Pacific Industries. SPI is the largest clear-cutting agency in California, having chopped down 39,701 acres in the last eleven years.

Not only does the company cut huge 20-acre swaths in the forest, if it replants a logged area, it is with only a few different tree types. Then they use herbicides to kill off the underbrush so that the trees have no competition. This destroys any chance that an ecosystem might re-emerge in the affected areas, and pollutes the air. In fact, SPI recently was forced to settle for $13 million on significant air violations at four separate mills in California alone.

“Fortunately, there is a better way,” said Stephen Elliot, an environmental activist. “SPI must become certified through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, the only credible one.”

ForestEthics wants three things from SPI: To identify and protect endangered forests in their territory, to stop clearcut style logging, and to obtain FSC certification.

---Simon Efrein

School Board Candidates Debate Career Technical Education

Last night the four candidates running for the Davis Joint Unified School Board engaged in a candidates forum for Career Technical Education (CTE). It was sponsored by the Davis High School FFA (Future Farmers of America), which is a program that is under the auspices of the CTE program.

Not only were members of the community informed about the goals and positions of the school board candidates, but it was an opportunity for the school board candidates to become educated about various facets of Career Technical Education.

Richard Harris, as school board candidate, pointed out near the end of the night's forum the good news that a strong message was sent out to the community. There will be two new people elected this year to the board of education along with a new superintendent and those new people are committed to strengthening the CTE program. The gauntlet was thrown down and regardless of who will be elected, there will be a focus on CTE.

There is a real belief by some in the educational community that CTE programs and the improvement of them can help alleviate some of our most pressing concerns--reduce drop out rates, improve attendance, and increase student involvement with school. These courses in fact can provide opportunities for all kids, especially those in danger of falling through the cracks in the Davis school system which often focuses only on those kids who are following the college prep track, and ignores those kids who are not.

As candidate Bob Schelen pointed out, he viewed CTE courses not as track B to the A track of college prep, but rather wanted to integrate the two together in such a way as to eliminate any stigma that CTE has. No longer should CTE be viewed as being for those kids who could not handle college prep. Instead he wants to see full parity for CTE. And he views these as the jobs of the future.

This viewpoint gibes with some of the statistics made available last night. 75% of skilled labor jobs require a high level of technical literacy and training, while only 25% require a bachelors degree or higher. In fact according to the Federal Bureau of Labor just 22% of California jobs require a bachelor's degree, while at the same time the supply of four-year college graduates exceeds the labor market's demand by over 45%.

The answer here is clearly not to eliminate college prep or to discourage students from getting bachelor's degrees. They key as a number of the candidates recognized is to incorporate some of the CTE into the college prep curriculum so that students can learn life skills while they are learning academic skills. Many of the jobs of the future will require a hybrid of skills--not simply academics or simply life skills.

While each of the candidates agreed on the importance of CTE, the focus of that concern and the concerns about funding varied from candidate to candidate.

One of the general themes that emerged was the idea that CTE has the potential to make learning and education more relevant for many students who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

Richard Harris argued that CTE could put meaning back into education and be able to reach the students and kids who deal with hands-on learning. We have to recognize that not everybody goes to college and we should not simply push them through for the sake of doing so.

For Joe Spector CTE is a pathway by which all students can succeed. He would like to see career concepts taught in every class, not just CTE classes. He favors expansion of magnet programs in town for particular emphasis at the various sites in order to make education more relevant. In particular he supports the technical and career focus that the Valley Oak proposed charter school provides.

Susan Lovenberg cited the statistics that only 22 percent of California jobs require a bachelor's degree and many will follow the college career path only to go back to school for career employment. CTE classes can benefit all students regardless of their career and academic path by helping to define career goals and set paths that will lead to those goals. CTE classes can create a special connection to the school that students may not find in other ways.

Finally Bob Schelen, as mentioned earlier, looks to eliminate the two-track approach and fully integrate CTE into the classroom in recognition of the fact that the work force and jobs are changing. CTE can help make school more relevant to many of the students. There also needs to be a means by which the stigma of CTE courses in Davis is eliminated. He, like his fellow candidates, views CTE as a means by which to bring students that are sometimes forgotten into the process and allow them to be participants in higher education.

However Susan Lovenburg would later sound some caution about this integrative approach, suggesting a caution about CTE courses for college bound students. She felt there needs to be courses targeted toward college needs but also toward those who do not have college needs. There needs to be some separation still in the two tracks to be able to properly focus courses toward those students not going to college.

Richard Harris feared that college admissions processes would focus on the academic aspect of the courses to the detriment of those who might not end up on the college prep track. He felt it was important that colleges not dictate how courses that are CTE should be taught. At the same time, he noted that in the A-G requirements there are many fine arts course but only a handful of industrial relations courses.

Bob Schelen on the other hand wants to see CTE courses working in relation with courses that prepare students for college. That does not mean that CTE kids need to take college prep courses, but rather he would like to see all students free to take the classes that they are interested in.

Joe Spector views the CTE process itself as underlying preparation for college by providing a base for students to decide what they want to study, as well as give them the ability to explore a range of interests for what future types of work they may partake in.

The big challenge that all the candidates seem to clearly recognize is how best to fund the CTE courses. There were numerous examples of funding that may be available from the state in the form of various grant programs. However, several of the candidates had other suggestions that might prove helpful.

Susan Lovenburg wanted to see CTE strengthened at the high school and to ensure that this is not something that is ignored as it has been in the more distant past. At the same time, she sounded the warning that given declining enrollment and less money there would be no new money for these programs--at least not from within the system. Instead we need to look toward outside sources. Therefore we need to monitor closely what legislation might provide money and have a plan in place to take advantage of that money the second it might appear.

Richard Harris recommended a local business summit where the district sought out the local business community to develop a relationship with the schools to talk about CTE and develop the type of programs that would benefit not only the students but also many of the local businesses.

Bob Schelen agreed with this approach, and also was looking for ways to be much more agressive in getting state money for these programs than we have had in the past. He wants this to be an absolute priority and CTE has been a centerpiece of his campaign.

Joe Spector focused on a three point plan. First, he wants to give people a voice who do not have a voice at this point and the CTE people often fall into that category. He sees the Valley Oak charter program as an example of how this can occur. Second, he would like see a pilot mentorship program at DJUSD where at-risk students will be assigned with a teacher and/or staff members who will get to know the student and give them opportunities to explore career options and offer guidance. Finally, he wants to develop magnet schools that will utilize these sorts of programs to really offer students who are non-traditional a way to have their interests met.

Along these lines, he sees internships as a great way to build relationships with industries in town that will help work with students to invest in their learning. Susan Lovenburg liked this approach as well as the local business model but was a bit concerned about how much it would cost. Richard Harris suggested that much of the cost would be borne on the business community.

In all, it seemed a productive discussion and there seemed a general commitment on the part of all of the candidates to renew a focus on career technical education. It was heartening to see many students and industry professionals in the room on a Monday night to watch and engage in a discussion of a topic that is often ignored in the college prep-centered atmosphere of Davis.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, October 01, 2007

County Leaders Clarify Issues and Concerns Regarding the Library Tax, Measure P

Back in 1989, the city of Davis passed a $42 per parcel library tax to help fund the library. In 2007, Davis residents still pay the exact same amount despite the fact that inflation has greatly reduced the purchase power of that tax. Measure P proposes to increase that parcel tax to $88 which still would not equal the amount of the tax from 1989, however it would enable the library to maintain its current level of service, to refurbish some of the library building, and to restore some programs that have been cut over the years due to lack of funding.

The Vanguard was able to sit down last week with three key supporters of the library. Helen Thomson, one of Davis' representatives on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors who along with Marik Yamada is helping to spearhead this effort. Mary Stephens was a long time valued and honored librarian who just this year retired as the county librarian. And Rich Peterson has been hired as the day-to-day Measure P campaign manager.

One of the goals of this article is to clarify a variety of issues and questions that arose on this blog and within this community as to what Measure P does, what it funds, and why the tax increase is needed to maintain the library as a modern and vital institution.

As we have discussed previous, Measure P will enable the library to maintain its current level of service.

According to Mary Stephens,
"For me the most important thing is to sustain at a minimum sustain the current level of service including hours. The library has been using reserves since about ’92 off and on depending on how the funding came through to make up for the shift of local property taxes by the state. The reserves are running out, so if there isn’t an increase in the funding, there will be a significant reduction in the hours, materials, and programs."
Measure P will also allow the library to hire additional staff--positions that have been eliminated over the years due to having effectively less money over time.
"It will also allow us to add some additional staff, I think there are two positions to work with kids after school which have been eliminated over the years due to the tightening of the budget."
Over 1000 people use the library per week and the library has a high volume of book circulation--over one million dollars worth of books are circulated.

Supervisor Helen Thomson expressed surprise at how many people use the facilities.
"If you’re over at the library, which I was recently and I was pretty surprised at how many people use the library on Saturday and Sunday, it’s just phenomenal."
Supervisor Thomson talked about the additions for the children's area and the community rooms.
"[They will] have two rooms instead of the one Richard Blanchard room. That will be able to be divided into two so there will be one large one or two smaller ones. It’s going to have a sound system which it desperately needs. The kitchen will be nicely fixed up so that can be the continuation of pot lucks and things. It’s a very used community room. We’ve contacted all of the community organizations that use that room for support and nobody has turned us down."
She also spoke about the need for computers to insure computer literacy, but for her this comes down to a central belief in the need for a library that began early in her life experience.
"For me I believe so strongly in a public library, I was the eldest of eight children and my mother took us all to the library once a week and said you get books. She made sure we read them and at the end of the week they all went back. My mother was not an educated person beyond high school and she was a very big library user who read continuously and thoroughly, through all of her life and she made sure the kids all had an appreciation of the public library. So I really think that it’s important that our library in Davis be an up-to-date much used, much loved, and it certainly is that. It now needs to be fixed up a little because it is so loved and used. It needs to have some additional space and some more equipment."
Computers are a vital service that some of us take for granted.

Rich Peterson pointed out:
"I think when your talking about computers, I think it’s really important, although your readership all have computers, there are still a significant number of people who live in apartment buildings all throughout Davis that just don’t. And it’s hard for us to imagine. Whenever you go in there after school there are kids of all types that are there using computers."
Supervisor Thomson followed up on that pointing out that in addition to a place where people can learn, it's also a place for people to socialize and a place for community.
"And when we were moving into this building, one of the maintenance men was asking, what are you going to be doing in there? We told him about the library election and he said, oh I go to the library everyday, when I have time, that’s where I go. I was really pleased to hear that because it’s also I think a place for all of us who are so busy with so many things that we don’t think about the fact that there are people who aren’t as connected and who don’t have family or friends close by and so they do spend time sitting in there and reading magazines and the newspapers. It’s a kind of socializing if you will as much as they can with other people who come in. It is that kind of place as well now.

The new libraries of the 21st century, the librarian doesn’t go around saying “shh, shh, shh.” They are encouraging people to be involved and active. They encourage the kids, there are some wonderful groups of teens at the library and some young people and they have reading times and book clubs."
One thing that I learned from this interview is that the library is a special district, it is its own tax entity, and therefore it cannot receive money from the county general fund. So the only way that the library can increase its funding is by raising the taxes that it levies.

Mary Stephens told me:
"The library is its own tax entity, it’s a special district administered by the board of Supervisors so it has a dedicated property tax. The challenge always for the county library was to do the best you could with the money the tax generated."
Helen Thomson followed up saying:
"I think it’s really important to understand that because the library is its own taxing entity just like special districts that are fire districts, or community service districts, or any of these other special purpose, special districts. The general fund of the county can’t be used for adding on for those purposes."
To make matters worse, the legislature in its efforts to mitigate funding problems for schools and elsewhere has shifted money from the library to schools.

As Mary Stephens pointed out:
"What has happened is the property tax shift has just really hurt us badly and we’re shifting between 30 and 40 percent a year forever... It’s shifted locally from county property taxes to the schools to reduce the state’s reimbursement. It’s called ERAF—Education Revenue Augmentation Fund. People don’t understand it because it’s so convoluted. And there was a proposition about a year ago to stop any additional ERAF shifts in funding. But the shift that is going on continues. The library has shifted over $5 million from I think."
For a library that's a huge amount of its operating expense being shifted. Now a proposition recently passed has stopped the expansion of that shift, but the shift still remains.

We talked about the services that Measure will help maintain if it passes. The big thing is hours. Hours could be reduced down to 40 hours per week from 60 unless Measure P can increase the funds available.

Mary Stephens suggested this will lead to a 30 percent reduction in the programs and hours.
"I know from our other discussions, in all likelihood, it would be to close Friday. And do a six day a week schedule. And probably work one shift. Right now it’s a shift and a half."
Rich Peterson added:
"They would also likely curtail the morning hours because the evening hours are so important. What happens if you start cutting away from the morning hours, then you lose the young children’s programs."
One of the big services that this would add would be after-school programing for kids, that includes story times, book clubs, homework help, and an expanded children's area.

Measure P represents an increase of $46 per parcel, per year. That works out to be just under $4 per month over what people are paying now. Remember, the library tax is a permanent tax, there is no sunset date, so the real choice for voters is $42 or $88 per year, zero is not an option. Measure P would simply override the current measure on the books.

Supervisor Thomson said:
"It goes from $42 to $88 per parcel. That $42 was set in 1989. It’s a significant amount if you say it doubles. At the same time, if you look at the value of the dollar, and what it purchases, it’s even so a significant amount but it’s not near the purchasing power of the dollar in 1989. We feel pretty strongly as a committee that we looked at… what was the absolute minimum that we needed to continue the programs that were existing and add some of the things that we felt the committee wanted because when we did a poll about… at least two years, all of the things that we are adding on are things that community said it would really like to have. Plus just the fact of the librarians being there day in and day out, they see and hear and talk with the patrons that come in, and they know what some of the needs are. Those of us who use the Blanchard Room on occasion, we know that that certainly can be expanded. There can be some amenities added there."
So why is the increase needed? As some have complained, perhaps Measure P goes too far beyond simply maintaining what we have in the libraries to include things such as expanding the Blanchard Room, adding multi-functional self-service check out kiosks, expanding bookshelf space, among other things.

Mary Stephens informed us that part of the need for the change in the check out area is a health concern.
"There is a big issue with repetitive stress with the current set up of the circulation area and this would permit us to bring it up to date and take care of a lot of those issues. The library was designed before the internet took off, even though we did a pretty good job of anticipating wiring and things for more computers but the volume coming through that desk, particularly returning. All the books have to be put back on the shelf regardless of the technology you have, so just the picking them up and putting them back on the shelf has led to a lot of repetitive stress. And this will help."
Rich Peterson also clarifies that the Blanchard Room expansion and reconfiguration is not really the bulk of the expense.
"The comment was made that the reconfiguration of the Blanchard Room was going to be the bulk of the money. That’s not true. The reconfiguration of the Blanchard Room is allowed because we’re trying to protect worker safety."
More crucially, Davis libraries will actually increase the amount of their operating budget spent on books.
"We’ll actually spend more money (proportionally) on books. Right now the Davis Public Library spends a fewer percentage on its book collection than any other of the county libraries. With this measure they’ll be able to expand both the adult and the children’s. Especially when you have the governor cutting $15 million out of the public library system—which for us means a thousand books—and that’s huge for Davis."
Many have also suggested that our library is outdated and does not provide as many resources as other city libraries.

According to Helen Thomson, Measure P fixes that.
"Yes it will. That’s why we want people to vote for Measure P because 67 percent is tough to get to even when you have a wonderful project and a reasonable amount of money and a lot of supporters. 67 percent is hard to get to. So yes, the money that will come from the tax measure will help to modernize, rehabilitate, add computers and books, continue the hours that we currently have, give us a more updated look, modernizing, and professionalizing. "
They are also looking into bringing library services to South Davis.

According to Supervisor Thomson:
"It does [help to bring library services to South Davis]. The city has a parcel of land down there in South Davis which they had agreed with the Board of Supervisors to hold [they deeded it] until such time as there is enough money to do a South Branch of the Davis Library. One of the reasons that it’s not been another year is that we were looking at going for an election last year, is we looked into very thoroughly, and had a community committee as to how much it would take, what kind of branch we could put there, how much money it might take, how we might be able to manage it within the context of the amount of money that people in polls said they were willing to spend, which was the maximum of $90. We couldn’t get beyond the $90 and still get a facility in South Davis."
Until they can build the facilities they are looking into some kind of store front or kiosk. Mary Stephens suggested the big issue for many was a place for people to drop of their books. People do not mind coming in to pick up books, but having a convenient place to return the books would greatly add to the usage for the library.

For people on fixed incomes, there will continue to be a hardship waiver.

Mary Stephens said,
"People will have to file annually. It’s announced at the end of April for a June 1 filing. Forms will be made available throughout the community. "
In closing, Helen Thomson argued that libraries remain vital for the functioning of Democracy.
"They have to think about how important the library is to democracy, and maybe that’s a great big vision thing. But in today’s world, where there is so much assault on democracy, keeping the library free and accessible, having the most up-to-date computers and technology, and access to information, is critically important in an educated citizenry and an educated citizenry is what challenges and questions the decisions being made nationally, locally and internationally. I strongly believe that’s an incredibly important principle to preserve. So people should ask the question as to whether this is a value to me and I would hope that Davis citizens would say yes, this is a value--$88."
This is of course not really $88 but rather $46 on top of what people are currently paying.

Mary Stephens said from her perspective,
"I look at the library as just the core of lifelong education."
For Rich Peterson it's a matter of equality of opportunity for rich and poor, young and old.
"Libraries are truly a great equalizer, it provides an opportunity for those that don’t have what most of us have, to be similarly educated."
The residents of Davis have a decision, for the increase of $3.50 to around $7 per month, they can insure that our libraries remain open, remain modern, remain vital in our community to all of our residents. This is a resource that small children use when they are first learning to listen to stories and then read. It is a resource that teens use to learn how to do research and gather information on computers. And it is a resource that adults and seniors use as they continue the learning that began when they were children. It is a small price to pay for an institution that so many get so much out of.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Charlie Brown and Other Key Electeds Highlight the Yolo County Democratic Bean Feed

Last night, was the 31st Annual Democratic Bean Feed at the Davis Veteran’s Memorial building. Just over 100 people gathered at this annual event that serves as a prime fundraiser for the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee. The audience included a large number of Democratic elected officials as well as a number of candidates for political office for November as well as for 2008.

The event also featured four main speakers. It was Christopher Cabaldon who noted the relatively small number of attendees this year as compared to previous bean feeds.
“I know we need a rah-rah speech but first I have to tell you, we've got to do better. We have a very important election coming up, not just the one in both of our cities in West Sacramento and Davis and elsewhere in the county, but next November is critical and we have to do better than we did tonight. I've been on the central committee now for almost 15 years and if we don't turn out to vote more people next November than we brought to the bean feed tonight, we are not going to win back the White House and we are not going to win the most contested senate race in all of California.”
The highlight of the evening came from a guest to Yolo County, but certainly one of its adopted sons, Charlie Brown who will be waging a fierce battle in the foothills as he attempts to unseat incumbent and embattled Congressman John Doolittle. Charlie Brown, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance and then remarked:
"I thank you for letting me lead the Pledge of Allegiance and I would like everyone, when you say the Pledge of Allegiance, to stop and think about what it means to you. You get too used to saying these things by rote, but I view this as when I, 35 years ago, became an Air Force Officer and I took my oath of office to support and defend the constitution of the United States, and when we say the Pledge of Allegiance -- I Pledge Allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which it stands -- it is everything this country stands for and that is liberty and justice for all. It is not to a political party, it is not to special interest groups, it is not to large donors, but it is for everything this country stands for. Now the trick here is to get people to think about that because when they think, they are going to realize it is the Democrats who upholding those values."
County Supervisor Mariko Yamada who is running for the 8th Assembly District offered this moment as a call to action for local Democrats.
“This is the annual call to action for all good Democrats, as was mentioned earlier, we may not always agree, we may not always exactly come to the same point of view, or support the same candidates, but in the end we are all Democrats and we all know what we stand for, and we all know what is the left thing to do in our country not the right thing to do...”
State Assemblywoman Lois Wolk will soon be facing a tough battle for the State Senate against Republican Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian.
“My opponent will likely be Greg Aghazarian from Stockton. [Crowd boos loudly]. And you don't even know him yet. But I'll just give you a hint, virtually every single piece of legislation for which I've been recognized statewide--mandated reporting of elder financial abuse by banks and by financial institutions, the wild and scenic river designation of Cache Creek, the flood protection of our region, he's voted against all of those things and plenty of others. So I'm looking forward to the race, I know you'll all be there, it's going to be a great November I can feel it.”
But again it was West Sacramento Mayor and candidate for the 8th Assembly District Christopher Cabaldon who really embodied the call to action as he juxtaposed his success as Mayor of West Sacramento against the realities of the limitations of his lifestyle and sexual orientation in this country.
“I know many of us feel it here, but we may be leading comfortable lives in prosperous communities, doing very well, but we know something is fundamentally wrong with our country and with our state and we know we should be doing something about it. Maybe we just become numb, all of the lies about the war and weapons of mass destruction, or clear skies, or arsenic's not so bad in the water supply really, the patriot act... And time after time after time, I think Americans and so many of us in our own communities become numb to what this whole Republican arrogance has done to our nation and to our society and to our government. To our expectations about what democracy and justice are all about.

I certainly feel it every day, I have an opportunity to lead an exciting city, and during the daytime I make decisions about what happens to our police department, but in this country I don't get the opportunity when I go home after figuring out what we do with the police force of the city and marry the person that I love. And when I get up the next day, and try to figure out whether or not we need save levee breach number 8 or levee breach number 9 in West Sacramento first, those are the kind of decisions that I'm charged with in our community, fundamental issues of public safety, but if I go to the Davis Blood Bank tomorrow to offer to donate blood to save someone, I will be turned away. And anyone like me will be turned away for the rest of our lives. So the paradox of what it means to be in this country, to be successful, to have some amount of power and prosperity and yet to know that there is something still fundamentally wrong with who we are as a nation and who we are as a society is compelling, it's powerful. For me it's what motivates the work that I do in public service. It's why no matter how dynamic and exciting my little town gets to me, I know that the challenges that we're facing in California and across this country that we step up and that we get serious about what's facing us.”
The Yolo County Democratic Bean Feed has been a hallmark event for a number of years. It serves as a rallying point for the local Democratic leadership as well as a key fundraiser for the party to engage in critical activities. There are key races facing this community and this nation. We all know about Measure P and Measure Q which will help to fund libraries in Davis as well as the schools. West Sacramento has a critical bond measure for its schools as well, funding nearly $60 million, it will be critical for that school district to obtain those funds as well as Davis to be able to sustain the high level of services that this community is accustomed to. But the two-thirds threshold is very high and it will require mobilization and coordination to pull that off.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting