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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Attorneys for Accused Gang Member Challenge Court Ruling Regarding Court Appointed Attorneys

In the latest development in the controversy over the West Sacramento gang injunction, a group of lawyers and activists declared their intent to seek an order from the court appointing counsel to represent one of the defendants, Mr. Timothy Acuña, a 31-year-old Broderick resident who was served with the proposed injunction while in jail on an unrelated auto theft charge.

Mark E. Merin filed the motion for his law office to defend Mr. Acuña. Several local news organizations such as Fox were there to cover the small event.

In a release sent out by a group lead by Rebecca Sandoval and Reverend Ashiya Odeye who have spearheaded the effort against the Gang Injunction, a motion filed by prominent Sacramento civil rights attorney Mark E. Merin argued that the civil action against the so-called "Broderick Boys" should allow defendants a right to court-appointed counsel. A similar injunction was earlier ruled unconstitutional.
"[Defendants desire] the appointment of counsel to challenge the constitutionality of the contest its applicability to [defendants]...and to insure that due process is afforded to everyone"
Without representation, said Merin, the costs of the count-appointed representation would "pale" when compared to the "social costs of an entire community roiled by perceived railroading of vulnerable defendants unable to defend themselves."

Mr. Jimenez stated at the press conference, that they believed that the civil rights of certain individuals had been violated by the police department, and that they are going into court on Monday to ask the judge to appoint counsel to them because they have the right to legal representation.

Attorney Mark J. Reichel said that the case should not be a civil one. “If you are facing jail time, it is not a civil case,” said Reichel.

According to the official motion that was filed, the fourteenth amendment requires appointment of counsel to indigent defendants when the individual faces loss of his physical liberty or personal liberties. This is exactly the situation that Mr. Acuña is in, and yet he has not been appointed counsel for his defense.

The motion further states that the complexity of the proceedings and the issues presented will likely lead to erroneous decision if counsel is not appointed.

Reverend Odeye spoke in defense of the defendant, stating
“he is essentially being charged for owning a red truck. He has never been accused of any gang activity before.”
The lawyers and activists present stated that they felt that the injunction was completely unnecessary for West Sacramento, and that it was really just a way to allow for institutionalized racism. Reverend Odeye went on to elaborate that the part of Sacramento that he lives in has much worse crime and gang activity than West Sacramento, but they don’t have a gang injunction. He therefore questioned why West Sacramento was in need of one.

Meanwhile the Yolo County District Attorney's Office continues to assert what an appellate court previously ruled that the defendants in gang injunctions are not entitled to court-appointed, taxpayer-funded defense.

Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden told the Sacramento Bee:
"Certainly, they don't like that opinion, but my expectation is that the court will follow the higher court rulings."
West Sacramento Mayor in an previous interview with the Vanguard told us this was a difficult issue that requires balance.
"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."
However he felt that they had been able to address a number of concerns from the original injunction this time around:
"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."
The issue of legal representation remains troubling. Ordinarily people in civil court are not afforded court appointed attorneys. However, ordinarily civil penalties do include jail and when they do, people would be in fact afforded court appointed attorneys to defend them. This is a case whereby defendants face potential jail time if the injunction is imposed and they violate the injunction. Most of these individuals are not people with the resources to be able to hire their own attorneys.

He (they) certainly should have the right to challenge the accusation in a court of law and the District Attorney should have the burden of proving that they are indeed members of the Broderick Boys gang. If the evidence is as overwhelming as they claim, that should be an easy sell.

Unlike the Mayor of West Sacramento suggests, I do not see that as merely an abstract political philosophy question, I see it as an issue of paramount importance in our society. Because if they can deny constitutional rights to one class of people out of fear that they will harm others, who is to say they cannot deny rights to all of us. If you are convinced that gangs exist and are a threat in West Sacramento, and I am, then you will not be afraid to allow the due process of law to prove it.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting with the commentary and Simon Efrein covered the event

Friday, October 12, 2007

Should Davis Develop the Northwest Quadrant?

I caught part of the General Plan Housing Element's discussion of the Northwest Quadrant last night. It was actually a very good discussion that clarified in my mind at least a number of issues that still are lingering from the county's discussion in July. The biggest issue it actually clarified for me is the pragmatic and practical reasons why the city and not the county should determine growth on city edge's. At the very least we see why the county did things backwards.

If the county really felt the need to grow in the Northwest Quadrant and other areas on the Davis periphery it should have started with talks with the city of Davis. I understand full well that one of the things that Supervisor Mariko Yamada wanted to do was have a Yolo County Council of Governments along the same lines as SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments). However that proposal was rejected. Short of creating a formal mechanism, the existing structure exists at the two-by-two level to engage in those talks. It seems to me that the bigger problem here is less the lack of communication and more the fear that they would not like answer.

However, the need for these talks was underscored for me last night by some of the discussion of developing the Northwest Quadrant. Even some of the more development friendly members of the committee felt that given the time frame that the committee was charged with, looking ahead seven years, there is no way that the city should be developing there.

Several other issues also came up--lack of commercial development on the west side of town, distance from the city core, lack of adherence to smart growth principles, etc. The idea here is that this development is far from downtown, meaning people would have to drive a good distance just to get to the center of town. That forces people to drive more in order to shop and eat, which leads to traffic, congestions, pollution, more carbon emissions, more infrastructure problems.

In fact the feeling seemed to be as they considered four separate parcels in the area that the city needs to look at this area as a whole rather than piecemail and needs to plan commercial development alongside residential.

That seems like a very reasonable approach. All of which underscores why the county had no business talking about developing in this part of town because frankly the county was not considering any of these factors. And that is the problem in general, the county was thinking in terms of generating revenue (a dubious notion at best) and the county was not thinking about what growth in these areas would do to the city in terms of infrastructure, commerce, transportation, and even future development. Again, if this was something the county really desired they should have discussed it in advance in great detail, well before it came before them in terms of their General Plan update.

Two other issues to broach, one was the notion discussed by the public, which included some developers and non-developers about how the northwest quadrant should be developed. One of the ideas that came forward was that the citizens of Davis allow growth in these areas in order to gain permanent agricultural mitigation. In theory, that sounds like an intriguing possibility. However, we are essentially talking about development up to road 27 and as far west as Pedrick Road and County Road 98. In other words, a huge swath of development.

The logic here was that we parcel and piecemail this development in order to avoid huge developments at any one time. The idea being that pressure is building for development and if we do not act as a spigot, we will get flooded. This analogy makes little sense to me. First of all we are talking about allowing a tremendous amount of growth to reach that point. Second, who is to say that the pressure would not continue to build even when there is land in permanent mitigation to change that land use status. I think we have to be careful about leaning too heavily toward mitigation as the solution to development pressures. I also think the amount of growth we are talking about might be over 50 years, not the next 7.

The other point that gets raised here is senior housing. What we now are seeing are several separate proposals for senior housing. The city of Davis has a Senior Citizens commission and part of their purview ought to be direct community discussion about the need for senior housing. I think one of the good things that came from last night's discussion was the acknowledgment from the Housing Element Steering Committee members that their job was one of looking at land use not approving specific projects. I agree with that approach. Just as I agreed in July that talk about a stem cell facility was premature, the question then was whether land use designations should be changed and whether land should be included for future development in the general plan. That is precisely the question here as well.

Discussion about whether and to what extent senior housing needs to be developed should take place in the Senior Citizens Commission. I think it would behoove the council and the steering committee even to have that kind of community dialogue occurring while housing is considered--particularly in the controversial Covell Village area.

One of the issues that has to be resolved at the council level and probably will not be resolved until after the new council elections is whether we should be planning for RHNA mandated growth or whether we should be planning for 1 percent growth that was developed and implemented by the city council. That conversation started to occur two weeks ago but needs to continue. The Council Majority seemed to want to postpone it until they got a report from the Housing Element Steering Committee but it seemed last night that the steering committee really needs to have direction from council in deciding what property to include in their plan.

At the end of the day, I think there needs to be more broad-based discussion in the community about where, when, and what type of growth ought to take place.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Commentary: Davis' Support for Schools and Libraries

The polling has closed on the non-scientific, non-random sample poll on the Vanguard for Measures P and Q, and once again, the polls seem to track with other polling that has been done. 76 percent of those voting on the Vanguard support the library tax while 73 percent of those voting on the Vanguard support the schools parcel tax.

Permanent absentee ballots have arrived to residents on Davis--which means that voting has begun and the election is on. Think about this folks--because even as a pretty keen election observer, I was floored by the sheer number of people in the Davis area that are permanent absentee voters--according to Tuesday's Davis Enterprise, there are a little over 14,000 permanent absentee voters in an area with just over 30,000 voters overall. I am surprised they do not have the statistics on the turnout for permanent absentee voters, but it has to be much higher than the general population. My wife is one of them. I, on the other hand, have always been a person who has liked to vote on election day and get my sticker to parade around town.

There is at this point a fairly good chance that Davis will pass both the school and library taxes this fall. That is an amazing accomplishment. This blog, the Vanguard, has tended to focus on some of the darker aspects of Davis, looking at the dark underbelly of a city known for its progressive politics, and frankly I have never ever been short on material to write about. I do this because I believe the people of this district need to know what is really going on in their government and their community. I do this because I do not feel that other media outlets are properly reporting these issues.

But today, for a few minutes, we are going to put that on hold. We are not going to talk about declining enrollment, closing schools, contract disputes, achievement gap, racial tensions, poor administrative policy. We are not going to talk about efforts that are underway to hopefully fix many of these problems. We are not going to talk about the lack of county funding for basic social services because the state does not allow enough money to flow to counties and cities even as it expects them to pick up the slack for budgetary cuts at the state and federal level. We are not going to talk about the number of children living below the poverty level and not getting proper nutrition. We are not going to talk about seniors who do not have access to basic services.

Today we are going to talk about the basic value of learning in our society and why Davis is a good place because of its continuing commitment to learning and investment in learning.

There are many cities across the state, that have schools that are in need of major capital improvements. They need infrastructure overhauls. They are falling apart. Some are old and worn and some just need to be knocked down and built up against from scratch. And yet I know places where they place school bond, after school bond, after school bond on the ballot and they get to 58%, 62%, 64%, sometimes even 66.1% and they cannot get to the two-thirds vote needed to get the money to fix their schools.

Stop and think about that for a second. What message does that send to children? What message does that send to those who go to work or learn in buildings that are falling apart knowing that their community cannot provide the money to fix them? What message does it teach our children about democracy when we live in a state where a minority of people can block the will of the majority?

Is there any doubt that it sends a message to children, teachers, and district staff that the community does not care and therefore it is okay for them to be complacent? Is there any doubt that it makes it difficult to instill civic pride in children who grow up knowing that a minority of 34% can thwart the will of 66%?

Yet we do not have to worry about that here in Davis. The parcel tax is regularly renewed. It looks like the libraries will get the funding that they desperately need. For all of the complaints and the bellyaching that I have done about this community with regard to some issues, and the government of this community that I think at times has taken advantage of that generosity, taken it for granted. Local government, has if you read yesterday's edition, at times misappropriated that funding, has at times if you read about the Montgomery Elementary School fiasco misplaced public faith. Despite all of that the electorate of the city of Davis has stood by its commitment to education. And for that we should all be eternally grateful.

Without education, people have no chance in society to learn about it and to make a difference. Without education, people have little chance to make a good living. And without an early commitment to education, it is difficult to create the conditions necessary for lifelong learning.

Of all the things that have touched me about the library campaign, the one that hit me the most was the story that Helen Thomson told about being the oldest of eight and having her mother who was not an educated woman, nevertheless understand the need for her children to get an education both in and out of school and understanding that reading is the basis and the building block for that education. It is a story that my wife as the youngest of eight could relate to, for it was her mother that instilled the need for her to get her degree and become only the second member of her family to graduate from college.

It is a story that I too can relate to, even though unlike Supervisor Thomson or my wife's mother, my mother was teacher with many degrees, my mother would take me every week to the library and when I was young I would sit and listen to the librarian read stories to the children. When I grew older, I used to go to the library and check out my own books and read them. As an adult, I have never forgotten these lessons, as I sit in a small room writing this surrounded by a large number of my own personal collection of books.

You do not get a second chance to instill these values into children at a young age and it requires both a good library and a good school system to do so. At the end of the day, it does take an entire community to raise a child. It takes a community that works in concert with the values of parents. It takes a community that works to support its schools. It takes a community that works to support its libraries.

It takes a community that sends a message to our children from day one on that learning is the most important thing that you can do and we will do our best to provide you with the best possible environment for you to do so. If that means we need to pass a tax, then that is what we will do. It is a powerful message to every student in this community, that we believe so strongly in the value of education that we are willing to put our money where our hearts are and support you.

That is the message that Davis can send on November 6 and that is the message that voters can begin to send today as they turn in their permanent absentee ballots.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Commentary: The City of Davis Spent $75,000 on THIS?


Late last November, before many on who read this blog frequently, were even reading the Vanguard, the City Council had an item on the agenda that would consider hiring consultants at a cost of between $50,000 and $75,000 to update the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan (adopted in 1998) and “create a survey to learn how residents can be better served by their parks.”

That's right up to $75,000 to learn about how residents can be better served by their parks. Frankly at the time this seemed an extreme waste of money. Both Mayor Sue Greenwald and Councilmember Lamar Heystek argued at the time that if we are going to spend money provided by Measure G it ought to be on projects that have not yet been completed that go to actual improvements of the park.

But the council majority did not agree with that viewpoint. How important was it to the council majority for this survey to be conducted? Well Ruth Asmundson was not at the original meeting because she was on her Philippines junket. So the vote ended up at 2-2, or should have ended up 2-2. However, Don Saylor recognized the likely outcome and utilized parliamentary procedure.

As the Vanguard described at the time:
But Saylor had one more trick up his sleeve and with a shocking move he joined Heystek and Greenwald in support of that motion. Why would he do that? Parliamentary procedure states that in order to reconsider an item, a person who voted with the prevailing side is the only one who can bring it up for discussion again. Saylor could not bring the item back had he voted against taking no action... Thus, when Asmundson returns, Saylor can bring the item back for discussion and they can vote to hire the consultant.
At the next meeting, Don Saylor as expected brought the item back for consideration, this time with his 3-2 majority in tow.

At that meeting on December 12, 2006, Don Saylor dodged accusations that he had strategically voted against the project in order for the item to be reconsidered.

Councilmember Saylor angrily responded to allegations of parliamentary maneuvers:
"Let me respond. I'll be very specific. Earlier this evening we talked about an item that had to do with Employee Assistant Program, one of the councilmembers asked that that item as a courtesy be held over and we agreed with that. I voted to hold that over as a courtesy to a colleague. Two meetings ago we had an item that we were stalemated on, two of us believed that we should proceed, two believed that we should not. I asked that we hold that item over until December 12 so that we would have a full council so that we could consider it. That motion was defeated. Then the motion that we were voting on was, should we take action on that item, and the motion was we should not take action on that item that night. And I think that was the motion... And having voted on that motion in the affirmative I now have the right to request reconsideration by the full council. That's what I'm doing."
Stephen Souza defended the authorization of the request for proposal (RFP) suggesting that he was just doing it to consider such a survey, not to actually authorize it.
"This an RFP, it is a request for proposals, it's not an adoption of a proposal, it's not the acceptance of a proposal, it was just a request for proposals. So if we consider this, all we're considering is putting out a request for proposals. I see no harm in putting out a request for proposals. We then would then if we had a proposal come back to us, we would then have to accept the proposal or reject the proposal."
On April 27, 2007, as we suspected at the time, with little fanfare, the city of Davis had an item on the consent calendar to approve at a $75,000 expenditure for the update of the Parks and Facilities Master Plan.

So what did the people of the city of Davis get for their $75,000?

Remember at the time of the January debate, Mayor Greenwald and Councilmember Heystek were arguing that this is something that staff could perform, and the staff and the Council Majority were arguing that they could not. Well here is the first of the surveys and what their "key findings" are and you decide.

First, they did not design a random sampled phone survey.
"On May 17, 2007 the city-wide Celebrate Davis event was held in Community Park. While sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Davis is a platinum sponsor and signature participant in this popular special event. To kick-off the master planning process, an intercept survey was administered by Parks and Community Services staff during the event. The intercept surveys were designed to engage both children and adults about their parks usage, preferences and desires for the future. Over 900 complete surveys were collected and analyzed, key findings are listed below."
Here are the key findings:
  • Nearly sixty percent of Davis adults visit Davis Parks daily or multiple times a week
  • Walking/ running and playing with kids are primary reasons for adult park visits
  • Rainbow City Park is the most popular park for Davis youth
  • Davis youth primarily get themselves to parks by bike or by foot
  • Davis residents have plenty of ideas for new park amenities
  • Davis residents want more passive recreation opportunities, evening and after-school programming
These are all great findings and I am sure they are very helpful. However, let's look over this list very carefully.

First, it seems that extrapolating from a survey taken at a park is not a good way to determine the percentage of adults that visit Davis Parks. You are basically asking people at a park how often they use a park and assuming that holds for the general population.

Second, is there anything that they discovered from the other key findings that they couldn't have done by a cheap mail out survey prepared by staff? I like survey data as much as the next person, but we spent $75,000 to determine what people do at a park and what additional features they want. That seems overly extravagant.

Third, I really did not need a survey to tell me why adults primarily visit the park, I would guess that the other usage would be for picnics and barbecues.

Fourth, I think you could solicit ideas for new park amenities any numbers of ways that would be less costly.

Finally, I am very glad to know that youth get themselves to parks by bike or by foot, since they cannot drive. The only other option would be for their parents to drive them to the park. Did we really learn much from that finding?

Despite the arguments of the council majority, there is nothing here in the survey that could not have been done in-house. And I have to seriously question the validity of some of the findings of the survey, particularly the usage finding, given how the survey was conducted.

The bottom line here for me, is that the council majority went to extraordinary efforts to get this survey passed, it took them three meetings to do so. And what have we learned from it and what have we gained from it?

The city is having a phone survey as well this month. I have not seen the questions yet, but I have heard from a few people who have received the phone survey and they are not impressed with the level of questions.

The city has had long discussions in recent weeks about budget priorities. This money was earmarked for parks, so it could only go to parks, but my point is, given limited money, why not spend it to finish the long list of unfinished projects from the previous parks master plan? Why waste it on consultants? Why waste it on a survey that really does not tell us much that we could have figured out for ourselves? We could have come to the same conclusions for a considerably cheaper cost to the city, so why wasn't this done? If our budget is as strained as we believe it to be, this was a colossal misappropriation of funding. We said this to council at the time, but the council majority still went to extraordinary lengths to get this passed.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Op-ed by Congressman Mike Thompson

Occasionally, an issue comes before Congress that is so clearly aligned with American values that Members across the political spectrum come together to support a solution. Giving uninsured children access to health care is one of those issues. And the strong bipartisan House and Senate votes for the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program were examples of how Congress is trying to cut through politics to improve the lives of American families.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP, known in California as Healthy Families) has a history steeped in bipartisanship. A Democratic President and a Republican Congress created the program, which today covers about 6.6 million American children – 800,000 of whom live in California. They are members of families that make no more than 250 percent over the poverty line – too much to participate in Medicaid and too little to afford private insurance.

This reauthorization guarantees that all of the kids currently enrolled in SCHIP will continue to receive coverage – and gives states the tools and the resources they need to find and enroll almost four million additional eligible children. California alone has identified 200,000 kids that would be immediately eligible for enrollment, if only it had the adequate resources.

This bill provides those resources. It gives states incentives for ensuring that only the neediest children are enrolled. And it is completely paid for. It has the support of 43 Governors – including our own – in addition to the support of an unusual cadre of bedfellows: private insurance companies, organized labor, the pharmaceutical industry, and hundreds of leading health and children’s advocacy organizations.

Unfortunately, there is one person in Washington who can turn even this issue into a political football. This week, President Bush vetoed Congress’ reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. On the heels of his request for an additional $190 billion for the war in Iraq, he has told Congress to spend no more than $5 billion on children’s health care. If the president gets his way, SCHIP won’t be reauthorized – it will be downsized. This means 20 percent of the children currently enrolled – over 1.4 million kids – will be kicked out of the program.

These are real children who live in our communities. Today, in Yolo County, more than 3,700 kids are enrolled in Healthy Families. They get primary and preventive care – which means that they are less likely to end up in the emergency room. And if they do end up in the ER – they have insurance. Our parents and grandparents used to tell us to be “penny wise rather than a pound foolish.” Investing $35 billion in the SCHIP program today is an infinitely less costly proposition than providing no health care to uninsured children – because, one way or the other, as a nation, we will pay for it later.

Naysayers, with the President as their loudest voice, have concocted a variety of myths about the SCHIP reauthorization. I have long preferred facts to myths, so let me set the record straight: This bill does not increase entitlement spending, because SCHIP is not an entitlement program – it is a capped block grant. This bill doesn’t allow states to cover the children of “rich” parents, nor does it allow them to cover illegal immigrants or parents or childless adults. This bill opens the door to quality health care for 10 million of America’s children. And arguments to the contrary are dead wrong.

The President and his followers can say whatever they like about this reauthorization. But as Republican Senator Charles Grassley, a staunch supporter of this legislation, said on the Senate floor last week, “you can’t call a cow a chicken and have it be true.”

The truth is, the President’s veto of the SCHIP reauthorization is politicking of the worst kind. It directly contradicts the priorities and the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly support Congress’ efforts to extend this program. And it is a shameful move from the President of the richest country in the world – home to more than 9.4 million uninsured children.

In the near future, I will join a majority of my colleagues in casting my vote to override this veto – and we will continue doing so until we prevail. America understands, even if the President doesn’t, that reauthorizing SCHIP in order to expand health care for our children is a fight we cannot afford to lose.

Mike Thompson is a Congressman representing the First Congressional District of California. The Vanguard is proud to announce that he will be writing guest commentary periodically. If you would like to sign up for his email newsletter, you can do so by clicking here.

Davis Teachers Angry at Contract Offer from School District

Last year, Davis teachers were given a 6.5% pay increase that many felt was long overdue. To the school district, this increase was supposed to cover both years of the new contract. However, the decision to give the full 6.5% percent in the first year and leave the second year undetermined may end up triggering a bitter and protracted contract dispute.

For their part, teachers will suggest that the 6.5% closed the gap on where their wages should be, but more pointedly they site figures suggesting that the school district spends more on consultants and legal counsel than they do on health benefits for the teachers.

Twice now at recent school board meetings, teachers have protested the contract offer of a one percent pay raise.

Wearing green T-shirts with the emblem, "2+2" on their chests to refer to their contract demands of a 2 percent salary increase and 2 percent toward improved health benefits.

From the standpoint of the school district, they just do not have the money.

School board President Jim Provenza in September:
"The state does not give us a 4.5 percent COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) just for a salary increase — I wish they did. They give us 4.5 percent for all cost increases, whether it's utilities, building costs or books. ... Everything that increases in cost has to be covered by that. (And) it also has to cover what we lose from declining enrollment... We were happy to provide a 6.5 percent (salary) increase last year; we knew that would put us in a deficit this year."
Bruce Colby is the associate superintendent for business services.

The school district is facing declining enrollment that could lead to the districting losing around $600,000 in ADA next year. According to Mr. Colby, a one percent pay increase would cost the district $368,000 per year, while a 2 percent increase would be double that amount, or $736,000.

The question for teachers however; is, what is the best expenditure of money by the school district? They cite statistics that show that the pay for administrators has gone up much faster than that for teachers. They cite that the pay for the new superintendent was increased far more than that for teachers, and while the amount given to the superintendent may be a drop in the bucket compared to the teacher's salaries, it is emblematic of where the priorities of the district lie.

On the one hand, you are paying your top executive, the new superintendent nearly $200,000 per year in salary alone.

One the other hand, DTA President Tim Paulson argues:
"We have 125 members paying over $900 a month [toward health coverage]. Many are single parents, and 25 percent of their salary goes to health benefits. That is ridiculous."
That kind of disparity in a public institution is bound to create resentments come contract time.

The Teachers have a delicate path to walk at this point with the upcoming Measure Q vote. From the teacher's perspective - - over whom 98% voted to recommend endorsement of Measure Q - - is absolutely essential as it provides the district with around 16% of its funding. Without the passage of Measure Q, we will see deep cutbacks in programs and that would mean equally deep cutbacks in the number of teachers and possibly their salaries.

However, the teachers also have to recognize that the district needs and desires that money just as badly as they do, and they hope that that will give them a bit of leverage.

The school district felt that they had a good round of negotiations with the teachers last week, and at one point it felt like this would defuse the current situation.

Keven French at the school board meeting said as much:
"We did have a positive meeting (with the DTA) one week ago."
He claimed that they made a new offer which included a cost-of-living increase and upgrades to the current health benefits package, but it appears from the response by teachers at the school board meeting that this was not enough.

We shall continue to monitor this situation here on the Vanguard.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, October 08, 2007

Davis Teachers Association Backs Off Endorsements

Back in September, it appeared that the Davis Teachers Association had endorsed school board candidates Joe Spector and Susan Lovenburg. However, after a series of votes, the DTA decided to back off the original endorsement and has decided not to endorse anyone in the school board race. Interestingly enough, the Vanguard became privy to this information a week and a half ago following the September 25 vote, but was asked not to report on it.

Yesterday's Davis Enterprise however, reported on the entire dealings.

The Political Action Committee had originally unanimously endorsed Susan Lovenburg and Joe Spector. The endorsement was viewed as controversial by some of the membership. An election was held at Korematsu which confirmed the original endorsements, but they had low turnout at that meeting and Rep Council made the motion to have another election, and hold it at the school sites where there would be more representation.

At this point, a vote was taken as to whether to endorse both Susan Lovenburg and Joe spector, both names were placed together, and that was rejected by the narrowest of margins--five vote separating the yes and no votes. As a result there was yet another election, but this basically confirmed the results of the second election.

The decision has been made not to endorse in the school board race, instead they have decided to focus their energy on Measure Q and contract negotiations. 98% of the membership voted to endorse Measure Q.

The Vanguard spoke by email with each of the candidates for a reaction.

Richard Harris:
"I had a number of teachers contact me and say they were upset with the entire process. Apparently they did something about it."
Bob Schelen said that he has respect for both the teachers on the endorsement committee and the DTA, and does not believe it appropriate to comment on an internal policy matter.

That said he said:
"I would urge teachers that live in the District and those that support teachers to cast one of their two votes for me. School budgets and teacher salaries matter, I will work to give teachers the tools they need to teach our children so they can compete for 21st Century jobs."
Susan Lovenburg also refused to add to the coverage in the Davis Enterprise, similarly suggesting that she was not privy to the inner workings of the DTA.

She did add:
"I am pleased, however, to have received the support of the California School Employees Association. They endorsed my candidacy at their meeting last Thursday."
Joe Spector who had originally been endorsed in the process was most outspoken in his reaction:
"I fully understand how the political process of the Davis Teachers Association works, having been a contract negotiator for my union for ten of my 25 years in the DTA. While I am honored that the Political Action Committee and the Representative Council recommended me for endorsement to the general membership, I am of course disappointed that a mere 5 votes prevented the leadership recommendation from being ratified. As a member of the Davis School Board, I will continue to support the dedicated teachers and staff of the DJUSD."
Meanwhile, speaking of endorsements, the Davis Enterprise has endorsed Susan Lovenburg and Richard Harris for school board. I have never been fully comfortable with the concept of a newspaper endorsing candidates particularly in non-partisan, local races. Indeed, the Vanguard is remaining neutral in this race and shall make no endorsement. Ironically, the Vanguard has been accused of bias while the Enterprise purports to be fair and impartial.

Frankly, the Enterprise endorsement has always been a bit suspect in my mind. In 2004, they endorsed Stephen Souza and Don Saylor for City Council. In 2005, they endorsed Yes on Measure X. In 2006, they endorsed Ruth Asmundson and Mike Levy for City Council, Jeff Reisig for District Attorney, Matt Rexroad for County Supervisor, as well as Yes on Measure K for Target.

The Vanguard will have an election edition as we get closer to the election, it will likely feature statements from all four the candidates and let the reader's decide who they want to support.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, October 07, 2007

West Sacramento Police Under Fire in Arrest of Two Black Port Workers

On Thursday, a massive protest of 150 International Longshore and Warehouse Union members, who gathered outside the Yolo County courthouse in protest of an arraignment hearing of two of their fellow members charged with obstruction of justice. It was described to me by one of observer as "the largest and best organized protest that anyone could remember seeing in Woodland." A bus full of Longshoremen turned out with a flat-bed truck which served as the stage. The case was continued to the 22nd of this month.

The following is the description of the incident from the union website:
"On August 23, West Sacramento police and private security guards viciously attacked, maced and arrested two Local 10 brothers, Jason Ruffin #101168 and Aaron Harrison #101167, coming back to work on the SSA terminal after lunch. When the guards insisted on searching their car, the longshoremen questioned their authority to do so and called the Local 10 business agent. While one was talking on the phone to the BA and without provocation, they were assaulted, dragged from the car, handcuffed, jailed and charged with “trespassing” and “obstructing a police officer”.

How the hell can longshoremen be “trespassing”, returning to work after lunch, having already shown their PMA ID cards to guards at the terminal. Was it racial profiling because the two longshoremen were black? Authorities citing a new maritime security regulation that permits vehicle inspection doesn’t mean maritime workers can’t question it. It doesn’t take away a union member’s right to call his union business agent, And it certainly doesn’t give authorities, private or government, the right to assault and arrest you without provocation."

According to their attorney quoted in the Woodland Daily Democrat:
"I think this is the result of a big misunderstanding at the port of West Sacramento that day. As the court process progresses, that will be established."
However the former ILWU Local 10 president sees this as more nefarious:
"They roughed them up and maced them and they think they have the right to do that. You have a clear case of police brutality and racial profiling."
According to the Daily Democrat:
"This is just more fodder against the West Sac PD," said Rev. Ashiya Odeye, director of the Justice Reform Coalition, a Sacramento-based civil rights advocacy group. "This just shows what they've been doing to the citizens of West Sacramento. But now they have made the mistake of doing this to members of a union."

Odeye, along with other activists, have been mounting a grass-roots opposition to an injunction being sought by the Yolo County District Attorney's office against a local gang in West Sacramento in part because of what Odeye said were rampant reports of police brutality against innocent residents in the area.
The Deputy Chief of Police for West Sacramento Police Department gives a very different story as to what happened.

According to the Daily Democrat:
Henry Serrano, deputy chief of police for the West Sacramento Police Department, said that's not what happened.

Serrano said Harrison and Ruffin normally work at a port in Oakland, and were new faces in West Sacramento that day.

He said they were then randomly selected for search by port security upon their return from lunch. The search was performed in accordance with Coast Guard requirements - not because of their race, Serrano said.

"Every so many vehicles they check," Serrano said. "So that's where they were confused about that."

Harrison and Ruffin refused to be searched, which resulted in West Sacramento police officers coming to the port to assist security personnel.

The police ordered the two port workers to clear the driveway if they would not submit to the search - they refused to move, Serrano said.

"For over five-and-a-half minutes our officers try and talk to these individuals and try to explain to them, 'you don't have to be searched if you don't want, but you can't just sit here, blocking the drive,'" Serrano said. "There's no compliance and eventually the officers tell them they need to get out of the car."

Failing to comply with what Serrano said was a lawful order, Harrison and Ruffin were removed from their car by the officers.

Serrano said the entire incident lasted no more than several seconds as the driver was squirted with pepper spray and taken from the vehicle.

"The passenger wasn't even touched until he was handcuffed," Serrano said. "They were not being compliant with a lawful order, which is subject to Coast Guard regulations."

Serrano added that a port security videotape of the incident, which is currently in evidence, verifies his version of events.

Future protests are planned if the charges against these two workers are not dropped.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting