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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Students Claim Envelope Stuffing Never Actually Happened

Just yesterday people on the Vanguard were suggesting that the school board race was about as exciting as watching grass grow. Someone earlier this week told me somewhat flippantly, these candidates are too nice, we need a scandal. Looks like some may be attempting to generate some controversy.

In last night's newspaper, the Davis Enterprise ran an above-the-fold story based on a single source that suggested that Davis High School Teacher Don Winters had used classroom time in his capacity as Campaign Manager for Joe Spector to stuff envelopes for the campaign.

According to the Davis Enterprise:
B.J. Kline, a former board member, brought the alleged incident to the attention of Davis High Principal Mike Cawley, two current school board members and The Enterprise.

"This is campaigning at its worst," Kline said. "(It) should not be allowed to happen."

His allegation prompted plenty of discussion Thursday in Davis political circles. But when contacted by The Enterprise for comment, almost no one connected with the alleged incident, the school board campaign or the school district administration had much to say.
B.J. Kline has endorsed at least one of the opponents to Joe Spector.

The Vanguard has spoken with students off the record who claim that the incident never happened.

What did happen was that there was apparently supposed to be an envelope stuffing session occurring during lunch time. However, Principal Michael Cawley stopped that before it ever occurred. There was never according to my sources any type of envelope stuffing during classroom time.

The Enterprise quotes Interim Superintendent Richard Whitmore as saying:

"District policy is that student instructional time is to be focused on learning new material, and demonstrating subject matter expertise. This kind of alleged political activity doesn't have any part of a lesson plan that the district would approve."

On the other hand, the school sanctions groups, such as the DHS Young Democrats, which meets during lunch time in Don Winters room.

So it would appear that political activity during lunch time may be considered by the district to be different than political activity during actual class time.

In any case, this new discovery casts some doubts on the charges made by B.J. Kline that were reported in the Davis Enterprise.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, October 19, 2007

School Board Campaign Fliers--'Tis the Season

The season was late arriving, but now it is no longer safe to open your mailbox. Actually, all I ever get in my mailbox is bills anyway, so I'm not sure it was ever safe. However, opening the mailbox we got our first round of mailings from candidates.

The Vanguard has scanned a mailing from each of the four school board candidates and will now commentate upon them. All of these comments relate only to the material and should not be construed as endorsement or lack of support.

I have to start off with Richard Harris because he gives me such good material. Richard Harris who has raised - at least according to the last release - by far the most money, spends that money by essentially photocopying the Davis Enterprise endorsements and then writing a message on it: "I'd appreciate your vote! Thanks Richard Harris."

A couple of things immediately come to mind besides the sheer audacity of the effort. For one thing, he sent us photocopies of the newspaper article rather than trying to incorporate it into a flier. But you would think Mr. Green Schools would have printed it on recycled paper--right? If he did, it does not indicate it on the flier.

Second, I notice that it says, "Reprinted with permission from the Davis Enterprise." So now the Davis Enterprise is not only giving endorsements but allowing their articles to be used as campaign materials. I do have to give Richard Harris credit here, after all, who would not want to use the Davis Enterprise Endorsement as a campaign material. Moreover, at least he asked permission to reprint the Davis Enterprise article, unlike one of his opponents, Susan Lovenburg who copied and pasted articles into her website without seeking permission (which has now been taken down as of this morning).

Speaking of Lovenburg, did she have to pay for the free props in Harris' piece, the headline reads "Cast votes for Harris, Lovenburg." I hope this is somehow marked down as an in-kind donation.

On to Susan Lovenburg's actual piece. Half page postcard with statements from Former Superintendent of Schools Delaine Eastin, Former Davis School Board Member Marty West, and current Mayor Pro Tem and Former Davis School Board Member Ruth Asmundson. Fairly classic design. Two thoughts here in form of critique. When we read the quotes, it did not sound like Marty West or Ruth Asmundson. It sounded like someone else wrote the quotes and Marty West and Ruth Asmundson signed on. It happens all the time in politics, and maybe I am wrong here. It just struck me, I cannot remember the last time Asmundson used the word "pinnacle."

The only other critique I have, is that I know she selected these three because they are all "school" people. However, Susan Lovenburg is also endorsed by Davis City Councilmember Lamar Heystek. Putting someone on her mailer like Councilmember Heystek balances out the endorsements and gives progressives someone they can relate to. I know, he is not a former school board member, but I believe the piece would have been stronger with a quote from Councilmember Lamar Heystek.

Then we have Joe Spector. Joe Spector is not going middle of the road. He is flat out going for the Progressive Vote with this piece. It is a letter signed by Dick Livingston and Former Davis Major Ken Wagstaff. Joe Spector comes out with a strong message clearly tailored for the Progressive wing of the city: keep Valley Oak School Open, preserve Nugget Fields, Close the Achievement Gap, Keep Developer, Lobbyist, and Outside-of-Davis money out of this election.

I wonder who that last line was aimed at...

The most intriguing aspect of the flier is the message at the bottom: "Recommended by Davis Teacher's Association Political Action Committee and Representative Council." Originally, Joe Spector was endorsed by the Davis Teachers Association, but after the long ordeal, the DTA has rescinded their endorsements of Joe Spector and Susan Lovenburg. The DTA has decided to endorse no one in the school board race. So Joe Spector is left with that "recommended" statement.

Finally, we have Bob Schelen. Somehow Bob Schelen was able to get the endorsement of the Democratic Party in both Yolo County and Davis without Richard Harris, a long time political operative and member of the Democratic Party. Bob Schelen is the only endorsed candidate.

Not only that, but because the Democratic Party endorsed both Measure P and Measure Q, Bob Schelen gets to be on a slate card paid for by... the Davis Democratic Club and sent out to all of the households.

I do not know how he was able to get that accomplished. But that might be the political coup of the year so far. So all of the people in this town who do not even know that there is a school board election, but they are Democrats and they vote in every election will look at this and vote for Bob Schelen. Unbelievable.

My one critique of the piece is the quote from Lyle Smith, who is the campaign manager for Bob Schelen. The quote itself is good, but Bob Schelen has major endorsements from Jack O'Connell, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lt. Governor John Garamendi, several of the County Supervisors, School Board President Jim Provenza, City Councilmembers... Come on, you have to put a big name there not your campaign manager.

This was just the first round of fliers, there will be much more to come. The Vanguard will examine some of the more interesting future mailers as they emerge during the course of the campaign in our poor unsuspecting and beleaguered mailboxes.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Update: Answering Some of the Questions About Ultra Clean and Polling

On Tuesday, we ran a story questioning the relationship between Moore Iacofano Goltsman (MIG), Godbe Research, and Stephen Souza's company Ultra Clean Pools.

These questions arose as the result of feedback from members of the community who participated in the parks poll.

During the course of conversations, questions arose as to why the caller ID from these calls identified, Ultra Clean Pools, as the source of the call.

We made the decision to inquire as to how this came to be and whether there is a legitimate reason why the company owned and run by a sitting Davis City Councilmember would be involved with a vendor that has a city contract to conduct surveys and create a parks master plan.

Based on these questions, a letter was drafted to City Attorney Harriet Steiner and copied to the entire city council, City Manager Bill Emlen, and City Clerk Margaret Roberts.

The decision was made to ask these questions in a public manner including a full disclosure of the letter to City Attorney Harriet Steiner.

Davis City Councilmember Stephen Souza responded on the Vanguard:
"There is no relationship. You are confusing a poll on school board candidates and Measure Q with a survey being conducted by Godbe Research."
City Attorney Harriet Steiner confirmed Mr. Souza's contention.
"It is our understanding that there is no relationship between Stephen Souza and either Godbe Research or MIG. Rather, it is our understanding that Stephen Souza permitted the use of his phone lines at Ultra Clean Pools to be used to conduct telephone polls related to Measure Q. This survey was not done by the City and the City had no role in this survey whatsoever.

One of my associates has spoken with Bryan Godbe of Godbe Rearch. He explained that Godbe Research uses two primary data collection firms, Mountain West Research and EMH. A call from these data collection companies would likely register as an 800 number; the calls would not have been made from the Ultra Clean [line appears cut off]."
I appreciate the very quick turn around by the City Attorney on this matter. In fact, I have never gotten a response as quickly as this from the city.

The City Attorney further informed me that since the questionnaire is only a draft, it is not subject to a public records act request. The final questionnaire will be released when the survey and results are finalized, so as to not bias the survey itself.

This information clarifies that there was likely some confusion between the two surveys. However, some questions remain as to why and for whom Mr. Souza was conducting those polls and whether he was sharing the information generated from those polls with others including the school board candidates he supports, their campaigns or the campaign in support of Measure Q.

Mr. Souza states:
"The 3 question automated phone poll I conducted on school board candidates and Measure Q is completely separate from the live survey that Godbe Research is conducting on parks and recreation."
Again, when questioned by citizens and readers of this blog about who had requested or was benefiting from his polling efforts Mr. Souza's response to questions on this was less than satisfying and raise more questions than they answer:
"I am a citizen who is interested in the outcome of Measure Q. It will have an effect on our community and I wanted to see if it was passing. I wanted to see if I needed to do more to help assure its passage."
So the central question in our inquiry has been answered and addressed, but others still remain.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Word To The Wise: How Should Seniors Get From Here To There?

By E.A. Roberts


There is a feeling among some individuals that city commissions should only act in an advisory capacity. As both Chair and Vice-Chair of the Davis Senior Citizens Commission, I for one have never subscribed to that notion. Instead, I have consistently encouraged our commission to take on appropriate projects. To the delight of our Senior Citizens Commission, in partnership with the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the recent Transportation Safety Expo held in Davis on September 19 was a resounding success. More importantly it highlighted the issue of transportation as a top concern for seniors.

The event covered two major themes: 1) older drivers need to constantly assess their driving skills and adjust accordingly; 2) if operating an automobile is no longer possible or advisable for an elderly person, there are plenty of transportation alternatives in Davis. The event was well attended by seniors, law enforcement, and service providers. City Councilman Lamar Heystek made an appearance, taking time from his busy schedule to be present. The atmosphere was supportive and collaborative, with every attempt made to make the elderly feel welcome in a non-threatening venue.

It is extremely hard for seniors to give up driving privileges, something which represents independence. Once it is no longer possible to hop in a car and drive to a doctor’s appointment, the grocery store, a lunch date with a friend, life becomes considerably more difficult and isolating. This is especially true for an experienced motorist of countless years. To forgo the ability to drive is a loss of immense proportion, that cannot be underestimated. If you don’t believe it, try going without your car for an entire month. The loss of the capability to operate a vehicle can wreak devastation, drastically altering an entire way of living.

In consequence, seniors do not give up their driving privileges easily. However, many are constantly assessing their abilities, and voluntarily make wise changes in driving habits. For instance, older drivers often stop going onto freeways, don’t travel at night, avoid driving when fatigued or overly medicated. Some only drive when absolutely necessary, for instance solely to medical appointments or the grocery store. These prudent folks know their limitations.

Sadly, there are a few reckless senior drivers who will not curb themselves in any way, despite knowing they should. The results of such irresponsibility can be devastating to the public. A stark reminder is the recent case in Los Angeles of an older driver inadvertently plowing through a farmer’s market with his car, killing a number of people in the process. It appears he accidentally stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake. It is my understanding this man had a less than stellar driving record.

As an older driver it is important to constantly reassess your driving skills, then modify them in view of any changes in the ability to drive. You can obtain a special DVD called “Roadwise Review” from your nearest AAA office. An interactive computer program, it assists with testing skill sets for operating a motor vehicle. “Roadwise Review” helps gauge where changes need to be made, or highlights what particular weaknesses are present, to prompt the senior to limit their driving under corresponding circumstances. You can sign up for an appointment to be examined this way at the Davis Senior Center. Many elderly consumers who took the plunge the day of the Transportation Safety Expo were intrigued and pleasantly surprised by their test results.

A CarFit station was also accessible at the Transportation Safety Expo, sponsored by AAA, AARP and our Area Agency on Aging. Seniors were able to have their specific car configuration evaluated. Suggestions were made as to position of seat and mirrors, or what adaptive devices might be available to make them a better driver. A vast line of autos formed, with lots of senior drivers eager to take part in the program. All appreciated the opportunity to learn something new about what is out there to make them improved motorists.

The other part of this equation is the availability of public and private transportation options. Many vendors of such services were more than willing to participate in the Transportation Safety Expo - Unitrans, Yolobus, Davis Community Transit, Amtrak, Airport Shuttle, Checker Cab, American Cancer Society Volunteer Drivers, to name a few. Law enforcement was well represented, with literally piles of useful information from the CHP and Davis Police Department. The City of Davis Street Smarts campaign was prominently in evidence, including tips on bicycle safety. A DVD on local transit options was available free of charge. Copies can be obtained from the Davis Senior Center.

CHP Commander Ike Iketani was on hand to give a talk on older driver safety and answer any questions from the enthusiastic crowd. Other vendors on related topics were there with a wealth of excellent materials, such as the DMV. Older drivers should note it is possible to obtain a provisional drivers license, which might restrict driving to daylight hours only, no freeway driving, or just to essential destinations such as medical appointments. The AARP has a wonderful Driver Safety Program for seniors, that can result in a discount on car insurance rates.

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide was on hand to film the entire event for an upcoming DVD contracted for by the CHP. Attending seniors, including four intrepid Senior Citizens Commission members, were interviewed for this forthcoming DVD aimed at older adults. Ogilvy, often chosen for projects involving civic protection, has already produced a wonderful CHP DVD for caregivers of senior motorists. It gives tips on when concerned family and friends need to have the conversation with an impaired older adult driver to give up keys to the car. This type of tough discussion is not an easy topic to broach with someone.

Lessons to be learned: If you are an older adult driver and subject to blackouts, or your driving abilities are such that you should not be behind the wheel of a car - then voluntarily STOP. The life you may save could be your own or that of a loved one - or someone else’s beloved. It is your absolute responsibility to continually reassess driving skills, and make modifications accordingly. If your night vision is becoming compromised, don’t drive after dark. Reflexes that are becoming too slow might require the termination of freeway driving. Try public and private transportation options now, BEFORE the need becomes acute to discontinue driving. It will make the transition easier when the actual time comes to give up your keys.

If you are a relative or friend of an older driver whose driving capacity has become highly questionable, sit down and have the necessary conversation - no matter how awkward. Offer transportation alternatives. If absolutely essential, an impaired but stubborn senior driver can be reported to the DMV for retesting. It is a safe way to give the older driver a chance to prove themselves still fit to drive. At the same time it forces the senior to face reality, and admit any limitations that must be addressed for the safety of the community.

As a citizen of Davis, watch out for our vulnerable seniors - especially those using public transit, bicycles, or who choose to walk. Reflexes of the elderly may not be what they once were. An elderly person is not necessarily spry enough to make a mad dash for the other side of the street, to avoid an oncoming automobile that isn’t paying attention. One of our own commission members recently took a "header" over his bicycle handles, because the inconsiderate motorist from behind crowded him into the curb. Fractured ribs of this poor bicyclist were the painful result.

Have patience for the older driver, who is actually obeying the speed limit, but seems to be going excessively slow. If you are lucky, you may survive long enough to live to a ripe old age. Then you, too, can irritate the next annoyed young whippersnapper who feels the need to drive somewhere at top speed, in order to arrive one or two minutes sooner.

Confidential to Anonymous: A reader commented that his/her HOA here in Davis refused to work out a payment plan, when regular monthly association dues were not forthcoming because of a job loss.

Please note that CA Civil Code (CCC) 1367.1(C)(3) states that a homeowner may submit a written request to meet with the board to discuss a payment plan for the debt noticed pursuant to CCC 1357.1(a). However, this request needs to be mailed within 15 days of the postmark of the notice received from the HOA.

But was there proper written notice given to the homeowner? There are very stringent requirements that the HOA itself must follow. Look to CCC 1367.1(a), which requires:

(1) a general description of the collection and lien enforcement procedures of the association; the method of calculation of the amount; a statement the owner had a right to inspect the association records; a statement in 14-point boldface type in capital letters “IMPORTANT NOTICE: IF YOUR SEPARATE INTEREST IS PLACED IN FORECLOSURE BECAUSE YOU ARE BEHIND IN YOUR ASSESSMENTS, IT MAY BE SOLD WITHOUT COURT ACTION”.

(2) An itemized statement of the charges owed;

(3) A statement that the owner is not liable for late fees if it is determined the assessment was paid on time;

(4) The right to request a meeting with the board;

(5) The right to dispute the assessment debt by submitting a written request for dispute resolution to the association pursuant to the association’s “meet and confer” program as described in CCC 1363.810

(6) The right to request alternative dispute resolution with a neutral third party pursuant to CCC 1369.510 et seq.

If you are a homeowner faced with a similar situation, don’t do anything by telephone. Put everything in writing. If the HOA did not give the proper notice, then demand community mediation. This will inject a neutral third party into the process, forcing the association to comply with its own responsibilities. Often a HOA will rely on management or an outside collection agency to ramp things up - which is not appropriate if the HOA did not do everything in its power to avoid filing a lien or foreclosure.

Furthermore, there is an old adage that seems particularly apt in the situation as above described: “There but for the grace of God go I”. None of us will ever be immune from falling on hard times. Folks lose jobs all the time, medical emergencies can always occur, the loss of a spouse can be financially devastating, as can divorce. While a HOA must be able to collect regular monthly assessments to operate effectively, it also needs to behave like a good neighbor. This occasionally requires the insertion of some flexibility when homeowners find themselves faced with extraordinary circumstances. The loss of someone’s home is profound, life-altering, and emotionally and fiscally destructive. Foreclosure should be a step taken only as the very last resort. The law requires it. Any HOA that does not operate within such a humane framework deserves to have its current Board of Directors voted out.

Response To MBA Real Estate: Yes, a HOA can raise property values in the short term, but at what eventual cost? A HOA in Woodland unsuitably made all sorts of cosmetic improvements at the expense of making necessary repairs. This will most likely result in the necessity of either raising regular monthly assessments and/or levying a special assessment. Should that occur, many homeowners will have to sell out and move away. Already, many homeowners have placed their townhouses up for sale, but to no avail in this slow economy. These particular homes are now a glut on the real estate market. I wouldn’t be surprised if word is getting around about the HOA itself, and its unsavory practices. One homeowner living in that complex said to me he will never again purchase a residence if it has a HOA governing.

Elaine Roberts Musser is an attorney who concentrates her efforts on elder law and aging issues, especially in regard to consumer affairs. If you have a comment or particular question or topic you would like to see addressed in this column, email her at: You can also submit your concern in a letter to the following address: Elaine Roberts Musser, Word to the Wise, P.O. Box 2366, Davis, CA 95617.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Commission Recommends Free Speech Ordinance for Renters

Last Wednesday, the City-UC Davis Student Liaison Commission, which serves as an advisory body to the Davis City Council and examines a variety of issues that relate student affairs within the city of Davis, voted to to recommend passage of an ordinance protecting the right of Davis renters to display political signs in their windows or yards.

The issue came to the commission's attention after the ASUCD Senate passed a resolution, authored by Sen. Michael Lay, calling for an ordinance ensuring the right of Davis renters to post political signs. Several renters had complained to City and ASUCD officials that landlords were not allowing them to put up signs in support of certain candidates for public office.

ASUCD Sen. Andrew Peake:
"The right to free speech is a right guaranteed to everyone, not just to those who own property. When it comes to political participation, it shouldn't matter whether you own your home or not. When certain members of the community aren't allowed to participate in the democratic process in this way, it's a form of disenfranchisement."
City staff circulated a legal memorandum stating that landlords who prohibited their tenants from posting political signs were most likely out of step with the law.

The meeting itself was marked by harsh dialogue and contentious debate between students and property owners and business interests coming primarily from the property owners and business interests.

The most remarkable was an exchange between ASUCD Senator Andrew Peake and Davis Chamber of Commerce CEO Sherry Puntillo. There seemed to be concern on the part of Ms. Puntillo and also Brenda Little who is the manager for Tandem Properties (owned by John Whitcombe), that the allowance of signs on rental property would lead to disputes and hostility.

It was pointed out that neighbors have similar problems potentially and it does not seem limited to just rental problems. Sen. Peake suggested that this is not a huge issue and that neighbors would be able to resolve such conflicts on their own.

Sherry Puntillo then suggested that Mr. Peake was "naive" to believe that this would occur and rudely asked "what color is the sky where you are." Ms. Puntillo did not respond to emails inquiring into the incident.

In the end however, Sherry Puntillo voted with the majority to recommend the city council pass this ordinance. Only three members ended up voting against it, Brenda Little, Steven Worker who chairs the commission, and Christine Bonilla.

The issue of disputes--while clearly a concern--seems like a non-issue. It is not clear that there is any more danger about such disputes between apartment or rental unit neighbors than the rest of the population. And in fact, the sheer number of signs is likely to be significantly lower on such property.

I think the real issue is that apartment owners such as Tandem's John Whitcombe, have traditionally supported pro-development candidates and placed a multitude of signs on their property. Now by allowing renters to place their own signs there will be competition.

According to several who participated and witnessed it, the disdain showed to the viewpoint of students by Brenda Little and the Chamber of Commerce CEO was alarming.

There was the belief that the comments were patronizing and they lacked a modicum of respect for students. This commission was set up to give students a voice in Davis City Government, but the students at this meeting came away somewhat believing that they were viewed as second class citizens, and not treated as equals with respect.

Nevertheless, this incident should not overshadow what was viewed as a huge step toward victory for students to be able to gain a voice in politics even from their rental units. It is the hope that with the support of the City-UCD Liaison Commission that the council will approve an ordinance that allows renters to post signs in and around their rental units.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Questions Arise as to the Relationship between MIG and Ultra Clean

Last week the Vanguard questioned a survey that the city was conducting through a consulting group, Moore Iacofano Goltsman, Inc. Specifically the question arose as to the necessity of conducting a variety of surveys in the update of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. The city has approved expenditures of up to $75,000 for such updates.

This expenditure was opposed by Mayor Sue Greenwald and Councilmember Lamar Heystek.

After running the article last week, we began to get feedback from members of the community who participated in the poll. Most of these individuals felt the questions were superficial and constructed in such a way as to arrive at some sort of preconceived answer.

In the course of these conversations, the questions arose however as to why the caller ID from these calls identified, Ultra Clean Pools, as the source of the call. Ultra Clean Pools is the pool company owned by Davis City Councilmember Stephen Souza.

After a long period of pondering, the decision was made to inquire as to how this came to be and whether there is a legitimate reason why the company owned and run by a sitting Davis City Councilmember would be involved with a vendor that has a city contract to conduct surveys and create a parks master plan.

As part of the my inquiry into this relationship, I have drafted a letter that will be sent out this morning to City Attorney Harriet Steiner and copied to the entire city council, City Manager Bill Emlen, and City Clerk Margaret Roberts.

I have attached a copy of the letter here for all to read.

It inquires into the "reason that the calls from MIG have Mr. Souza’s company noted as the caller ID and the nature of the relationship between Mr. Souza, Mr. Souza’s company Ultra Clean Pools and MIG."

I further make a public records act request to see the exact survey that is being used in contacts with the community.

Everyone who has spoken to me about this has been puzzled as to why Ultra Clean Pools would show up on their caller ID and therefore it makes sense to ask questions. If there is a legitimate explanation that is fine, but this is city money, taxpayer money, and a city contract and the public deserves answers to these questions.

Update: Stephen Souza has posted on the Vanguard this morning, he suggests that there was some confusion and that these calls were a survey for Measure Q and school board candidates rather than the Parks survey. The Vanguard will be checking into this and update the situation as new information becomes available.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, October 15, 2007

Saylor Carries Water For West Yost

Sunday's Davis Enterprise reports on the latest in a series of discussions and hearings on the city of Davis surface project.

The Vanguard has discovered that Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor, has accepted campaign contributions from a firm that has a contract to do business with the city of Davis on the highly expensive and volatile issue of water.

The city is in the process of examining a new wastewater treatment system and creating a diversion from the Sacramento River to supply the city with water. Both of these projects at this point in time would cost at least $150 million each or in other words over $300 million and likely those costs will only grow.

For a full discussion of the history of this issue please see this article, Tracing the recent history of the water supply project.

During the course of the last five years, the city has slowly moved away from a joint project with West Sacramento with water augmented from deep well aquifers, to a new water bypass, a project now in the works in conjunction with the city of Woodland and UC Davis.

Just five years ago, that plan had been dismissed as the most expensive and prohibitive financially.

But the council majority has since taken the view that this project is necessary to insure quality water to Davis and also has suggested that our stake in the project necessitates us moving forward at this time for fear of losing our place in line if we delay.

On Tuesday, the city of Davis will vote on whether or not to certify the EIR. Each step in this process moves the project closer to a fait accompli even though there has to date not been a straight up or down vote on even whether this is the strategy that the city ought to pursue.

The stakes here are enormous however. The cost of the two projects being completed at the same time would mean an extremely large increase to the residents of Davis in their water rates.

Mayor Sue Greenwald has maintained that while it is clear that we need to implement the wastewater treatment facility in order to insure that our water discharge meets state and federal standards, the timing of the water supply project could be delayed in order to protect thepocketbooks and wallets of ratepayers in the city.

On the other side of the coin has been Councilmembers such as Don Saylor who have led the way in cheerleading and supporting this project.

City Councilman Don Saylor said the river water project would “improve the water quality and it will give our city and the future generations of people who live here a more reliable source, both in terms of supply and quality.
“It will lessen the cost of the treatment needed for wastewater disposal,” he said, “and it will ensure an ongoing supply of water.


“I think this is a key set of decisions for our community at this point in time in our history,” he said, “because we must ensure a reliable, reasonable-quality water source for future generations. I think this is beyond politics. It is a matter of being responsible stewards of our community's future interest.”
The Enterprise article is surprisingly balanced quoting from two experts from UC Davis, Professors Jay Lund and Ed Schroeder, both of whom questioned the urgency and necessity of the project.

However, the key supporter of this project is Councilmember Don Saylor.

Councilmember Saylor's support however draws attention to a couple of his key financial and other campaign supporters.

At his announcement party earlier this year, Don Saylor was featured in a picture next to Jeff Pelz and Bruce West of West Yost Associates.

West Yost and Associates has served as the chief consultants for the city on the water project. In May of 2004, the city added to an existing consultant agreement with West Yost and Associates for the Water Supply Feasibility Study. On July 15, 2005, the council approved an MOU to complete a Project EIR report and authorizing West Yost and Associates to provide engineering services in support of the Project environmental process.

In addition to attending his party, Jeff Peltz is listed as a $100 to Don Saylor's reelection campaign as is the firm he works for West Yost and Associates itself.

So now you have a major consulting firm that is in charge of doing work on one of the most expensive projects in the city's history has been contributing to the reelection of their chief supporter on the city council.

To me this appears to be a conflict of interest. Don Saylor has accepted money for his campaign from a company that has a contract with the city. For the sake of ethics and propriety it would seem like Don Saylor should to recuse himself from deliberating on this issue. That is the only way that the citizens of Davis can insure that their leaders are not accepting quid pro quo campaign contributions from vendors who seek in exchange favorable public policy decisions for themselves and their firms. Employees and their firms who do business with the city of Davis should not be solicited by or contributing to the financial campaign coffers of city councilmembers who have the final say as to whether these firms are awarded contracts with the city. This is a clear eithical and financial conflict of interest.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Guest Commentary: Wild and Scenic Film Festival and Interviews with Filmmakers

by Rebecca Wu

One winter evening in early January of last year I got a call from my mom reminding me about the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City. It sounded fun and there would be time to visit with the filmmakers and hear them talk about their films.

Many of the films run simultaneously and mom said I needed to pick out the movies I wanted to see. With dozens of films to choose from different titles jumped out like, The Fallz, The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, Crude Impact (about oil), Dream People of Amazon, Who Killed the Electric Car? Queen of Trees, Nomads: Wandering Women of the Whitewater Tribe, and Discover Hetch Hetchy which is narrated by Harrison Ford.

[Pictures: Image 2073: Michael Schoenfeld from Channel G. Image 2076: Stone Hall and Michael. Image 2094: Ann Hayden from Environmental Defense Fund is in the film Discover Hetch Hetchy. Image 2095 & 2096: Wendy and the group that worked on Hetch Hetchy. David Vassar, filmmaker is at the end in a gray vest. Image 2101: Chris Emmerck is a sports filmmaker and co-produced Nomads: Wondering women of the whitewater tribe. Image 7 and 2105 & 2114: Wendy Millek. She edited and co-produced. Image 2106: Slater meets her hero Jean-Michael Cousteau. Wendy in the Middle. Image 2119: Historic Nevada City Movie Theater. Image 2121: Filmmakers of Who Killed the Electric Car. Image 2189: Some of the hardworking people who put on the event. Image 2197 & 2199 & 2202: Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Informational displays of environmental organizations. Image 2203 & 2205 & 2207: South Yuba River Citizens League. Image 2210 & 2212 & 2214: Christopher Swain and Source to Sea. Image 2170 & 2173: Happy Filmakers; Image 2172: "Filmmaker."]

It was one of the most memorable weekends and now the Wild and Scenic Film Festival is coming to Davis! It will be here next Thursday on the 18th at the Veterans Memorial Center at 7pm. It is presented by Patagonia and hosted by Tuleyome and the Sierra Club Yolano Group. It is not going to be the big grand event like up in Nevada City but I know it will be worth going to. It may sell out early on.

Hundreds of hours of volunteers work go into the creation of the Nevada City film festival. This amazing film festival is set up so you can walk around to all the film locations in the heart of the town and maps are given out with the location of each of the theaters. Like Davis the town has many unique shops, restaurants and cafes that are scattered around the movie locations. Of course, there are many awards and you can vote for. The film you vote as your favorite becomes the Peoples Award. Now if any film festival comes to Davis there really needs to be Peoples Award, as the townsfolk like to be involved on some level.

The films run all weekend long and for an hour or more during lunch the filmmakers are at designated cafes and restaurants where they invite the public to have coffee and chat with them. I expected this advertised chat with the filmmakers to be packed but I figured I would give it a try. To my complete amazement I had an opportunity to chat with over a dozen different filmmakers and those involved in the film. They all had incredible stories to tell.

Meeting filmmakers and hearing them talk about a film they put their soul into brings a movie to life more than before. It also gave me a chance to see into the film making world. There were such different ways people had emerged into the film making world. It can be heartbreaking from all the struggles many independent filmmakers go through.

The first event I went to was a talk by Michael Schoenfeld who is the Community Outreach Coordinator for Channel G. It is a nonprofit organization that helps filmmakers create their documentaries so they can be used in the media. One type of project they work on is to shorten films. Short five-minute films can be recreated to go for fifteen seconds. These shortened films can then be played at places like the gas station while you fill up on gas.

Michael pointed out that the future lies in media and it could bring people together. “There are so many positive things happening." This recurring theme, that we all make a difference was jumping out of much of the films and prevailed throughout the weekend. “People don’t know how to get involved but stories and images will bring people there. We are the media."

He went on to mention he had just gone to a national convention and saw Al Gore talk passionately about the environment. Of course Al Gore’s movie on global warming has had a big impact on people around the country and the world. Michael has seen a passion for film and environmental films growing around the world. “In Brazil they are hungry for films. We have a force and the time is now.”

What matters is that a film is created if there is message. “The worst film I worked on was on Pit Bulls. They were so abused some were given to a sanctuary to live and two people used a hand held video to make a short documentary. It’s shaking on the video.” You really never know if video footage can be turned into something extraordinary.

By the way, he mentioned he is one of a few handful of volunteers for Channel G and they all have day jobs. Michael works as an elementary school teacher during his day job. In comparing Channel G to Starbucks he thought it was interesting that they had over 200 people working on entertainment. I left very inspired there were nonprofit organizations like Channel G in this world.

After scrambling to get to many of the films, some minutes long and others hours, it was time for lunch and I headed to a local café to see if I could at least hear a filmmaker talk about their films. Inside the quaint café was a group that had worked on the film Discover Hetch Hetchy.

Hetch Hetchy is sometimes thought of as a sister to Yosemite because it is a Valley located right next to it. Sadly, it was a magnificent national treasure that was dammed up in 1913 even though John Muir put up a great and gallant political fight to stop it. Today the valley is under water. Imagine Yosemite under water. The well respected David Vassar filmed it and Harrison Ford was the narrator of the movie.

Sitting at the table of the Discover Hetch Hetchy filmmakers was Ann Hayden who is the Senior Water Resource Analyst for the Environmental Defense Fund. She studied Hetch Hetchy to see if it was truly restorable in an ecological way. Would the valley be able to go back to its native and natural state after they tore down the dam? The answer was yes.

She first had a lot to say about David Vassar. “He is a brilliant filmmaker!” Of course he was sitting at the table but I still believed her because she was so alive and passionate about everything.

Ann did think it would take a while to get the legislation through that would actually allow for the restoration of Hetch Hetchy. “Its got broad appeal,” and “I think the issue has bipartisan support. Unexpected support by Republicans and Democrats.” Our very own Lois Wolk pushed Arnold into getting help. Our Governor went on to look at getting federal help in studying the possibility of restoration. Diane Feinstein on the other hand is one of the most outspoken against restoration because the reservoir is one of San Francisco’s main water supplies.

Of course I had to ask what it was like working with Harrison Ford and Ann’s little smile said a lot.

“I found him to be dreamy,” she said. “ I wasn’t totally sure he understood everything but a man came up to him and accosted him. He wanted to know why he supported this project. Harrison proceeded to inform him with details to all the man's questions. I was very impressed. He was great with everyone and with autographs.” Check out or

I thanked her and strolled over to another place in town. Eating Thai food with chopsticks was filmmaker Chris Emmerik. I learned he has made dozens of sport films on whitewater kayaking and has traveled the world creating films.

Chris, a previous nationally competitive kayaker, is from Hood River, Oregon and it took him two years to film the movie Nomads: Wandering Women of the Whitewater Tribe. It is about three women who kayak the Nile River and help run a nonprofit organization that helps people of Uganda fight against malaria. One of the women, Poly Green who had no film making experience decided she wanted to create a film. They got together to make it reality.

“What I really liked most about filming,” he went on to tell me, “I got to work with friends and it was relaxed, self paced and we had fun with it.” This must be better than those crazy sixteen-hour days actors talk about. “In a small production, there is less of a script and you just let things unfold.” I guess in many ways independent films are the greatest types of movies.

“To see our film go to the film festivals is great and to see how well it is received,” Chris mentioned between tofu bites. He offered me some and it was tasty. “The film inspires people. Instead of just traveling people can travel and help people.”

I asked him what the people of Uganda are like. He smiled and said they are very welcoming and warm. “You could be walking and kids would just come up and hold your hand…. It’s a good vibe there.” It was a self funded film and they had to stop for a long time during production because they ran out of money. Go to, or for more information or check out outdoor sport sections in stores for some of his films on Kayaking.

Down the street and around the corner is a fun looking pub where people seemed to be enjoying themselves. I asked if I could sit down and received a warm welcome from Wendy. She was at the film festival promoting Slater Meets Her Hero Jean-Michel Cousteau. Wendy Millete is the editor and one of the producers for the film.

The film is about a girl who gets a chance to go snorkeling with Jean-Michel Cousteau. Wendy has education in cinematography and was excited for Slater who had just been accepted into an arts school where she has an interest in the film industry. Wendy is also the editor for My Hero teacher training videos and went on to explain that anyone can post a hero on My Hero has become big around the world and is a great learning resource for people and children.

I asked her about Jean-Michel Cousteau who is a world famous ocean conservationist. She laughed and said, “He’s fun, and he is like a big kid. He speaks the language of kid and he is inspirational in his commitment.” Laughing and apparently on cloud nine from the electrifying energy of the film festival she looked right into my eyes and said, “You spend an afternoon with him and it deepens your commitment,” You can check out some cool websites. and

At another lunch chat table, I talked with Larry Huntington who produced and filmed, The Fallz. This movie is about the vast Iguazu Waterfall, which is between Brazil and Argentina. Larry started making movies after class in school for fun. “I just started making up stores and I knew I really liked it. I am a local and a volunteer for the festival.” It took him three days to film it and forty plus hours of editing. “I have a passion for the festival and it raises awareness for the environment. I want to start doing my part. I am 32 and I want to make a difference.” You can visit his website

During the film festival one of the most packed political films was, “Who killed the Electric Car?” It was played at the local beautiful historic theater and is now out on video at many rental stores. The electrifying energy gave me goose bumps and the standing ovation when the filmmakers walked on stage made me cry. I forgot I was taking notes and I misplaced my pen so I can’t tell you all the funny and fascinating things they had to say but I hope you see this movie.

Near the end of the film festival on Sunday, the awards ceremony took place. Some of the films that received awards would be doing a second showing so I would have my chance to see the award winning Source to Sea.

Wow, I learned during the awards ceremony that there were over 250 volunteers who put on this event and there were even host families who gave filmmakers a place to stay. What an event.

Source to Sea is the last movie I am going to tell you about. Christopher Swain decided to swim down the gigantic Columbia River from Canada to the ocean in Oregon. I am guessing he woke up one morning and decided he would, “swim for a healthy world.” He swam by pulp mills, and the film went over much of history of the river on his thirteen month long swim. After his film, he got up on stage and gave a heartfelt and very entertaining talk. People just loved him.

During his bumpy, toxic swim Christopher developed a golf size lump under his skin and had a skin reactions and ear infections. Overall, his health was pretty good and he, “got away with it.” The film reminds us that the dams affect the salmon when fish ladders are not put into place and that the pollution affects us.

“I swam through a ton of plastic bottles so if someone buys a product from recycled bottles it is one less plastic bottle in my rivers and oceans.”

“I took in the Columbia River like a sister. A sister who’s sick. You would do anything for her. You know you will come to her aid, at least until the escort boat (his friends) runs you over for the third time.”

“We would camp or people would email us and have us stay.” The media picked up on his grueling long adventure. “But then you would sing for your supper. I was up late talking and telling stories. If you put yourself on the line people come to help, especially Canadians. I think they were so amazed that an American cared about the environment.” The audience found this funny. “One thing you didn’t do was drink. The crew could be offered homemade wine from berries in a yard but while the crew is drunk asleep I am awake up telling stories.”

The festival came to a close and I couldn’t wait for next January to roll around. Next time, I would listen to my mom warning more and really plan which movies I want to see and schedule it because you could literally spend half your time trying to figure out where to go next because the movies were not always on perfect timing. Many are scheduled at the same time in many of the theaters with some being short and others very long. Other than that, I was awestruck at what goes into making a documentary and how much heart, soul and sweat of those involved goes into it.

Driving home I got to thinking about how each and everyone of us is a powerful and brilliant person regardless of degrees, age, speaking, writing,or film making abilities. Whether it is environmental issues or other issues we shape our world and our community and every little thing we do makes a difference. When I get wrapped up in my own little world these kinds of movies help bring me back to that place of community and connection. I hope you go see more independent films or maybe go see the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Davis or Nevada City. Enjoy.