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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Valley Oak Charter Passes Signature Threshold

The Valley Oak Charter School has now passed the signature threshold for both teachers and parents. According to the charter school law, a charter needs to demonstrate sufficient interest by obtaining signatures from half of the number of teachers that are projected and half of the number of students that are projected to enroll in the school.

The Valley Oak Charter has been keeping a running tally on their website. As of last night, they had crossed both thresholds.

The Charter projects 13 teachers, so they are required to obtain the signature of 7 teachers. To date, 19 teachers have signed to teach at Valley Oak.

They also project 305 students, which means they need the signature of 153 parents who have an interest in their child attending the Valley Oak Charter school. They just passed that threshold last night with 169 signatures.

The Valley Oak charter has now demonstrated more than sufficient interest required by law to go forward and be submitted.

On Monday the Valley Oak charter will be submitted to the District Office. By law there are only a few reasons by which the charter can be denied by the school district, budgetary concerns are not among those.
  • Charter school presents an unsound educational program
  • Petitioners are unlikely to successfully implement the program described
  • Petition does not have the required number of signatures
  • Petition does not include required affirmations
  • Petition does not include comprehensive description of 16 required elements
At this point, the district would have to argue either that it presents an unsound educational program or that they are unlikely to successfully implement the program described. At this point, neither of those seem likely given the care and professionalism that were put into developing this charter.

In the meantime, the school district is probably going to have to work up two budgets for next year, one to include the Valley Oak Charter School and one to not include the Valley Oak Charter School.

As I have remarked in the past, all of this seemed so unnecessary to begin with. There was obviously strong community support to keep Valley Oak elementary school open. Many have suggested that the Best Uses of Schools Task Force came to this decision in good faith and reluctantly. That is perhaps true. My objections were that once they came to the decision, whenever that occurred, it seemed that the arguments they made were tailored to only that decision.

Moreover, my bigger objection is that I do not believe that they fully examined alternative means for funding the school. They also did not perhaps anticipate the passion of the parents at this school to organize and create a charter. If they had, perhaps they would explored the potential of a magnet school more closely.

At this point, the district and the charter school have a vested interest of making the magnet aspect of Valley Oak succeed. Bring in students from out of town. Those students whose parents work at UC Davis but live in Woodland, Dixon, or Sacramento. Those parents who live in districts where the educational outcomes are not nearly as high as Davis.

We have so much to offer the region that it should be a slam dunk that we can draw in kids from around it. But not if we do not attempt to utilize it.

The parents at Valley Oak should be applauded for their passion, their vision, and their tenacity. Many of them believe that they were singled out because they are working people and therefore would be easy pickings for a school closure. They have proven that is not the case at all. They have shown a care for their children's education that rises well above and beyond the call of duty. And for that, we should all applaud and appreciate their efforts, because if every parent had this type of conviction, a lot of the problems in our educational system would cease.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, November 02, 2007

School Board Receives Full Explanation of Truancy Policies

It was a meeting in stark contrast to the previous board discussion on the issue of truancy. The meeting was such a stark contrast to the point where people were openly shaking their heads wondering why the original meeting in September had to go as poorly as it did.

To her credit, Pam Mari, Davis Joint Unified School District Director of Student Services admitted that the previous conversation did not go as well as was hoped. However, she suggested that communications have drastically improved.

As so often seems to be the case, there was a miscommunication about expectations. She seemed to believe that the board already knew what was going on with regards to truancy, when in fact they clearly did not. It should be noted of course, that this was her first presentation in her present position. Nevertheless, the entire incident underscores the need for communication to occur at a high level.

Unlike the September meeting, Pam Mari was flanked by Lt. Darren Pytel of the Davis Police Department who was able to clarify the role of the police as it relates to issues of truancy. Also present were Trease Peterson, the Youth Intervention Specialist, and representatives from the Yolo County Probations department and the Yolo County DA's office (Patty Fong).

Lt. Darren Pytel made it clear to the public that the use of the term "sweep" meant something different to the police than to the public. To the public the perception was that they would go around town and attempt to round up youths who might not be in school. "We have no intent to do that." Instead, they have found that a lot of high school students, when being truant, end up hanging around in the park next to school. If this is the situation they encounter then they approach the students with a consensual stop and ask them where they should be. According to Lt. Pytel, most students are fairly honest about what they should be doing.

Chronic truancy is also linked to criminal behavior and substance abuse.

Currently they are allowed by the education code to return the students to school. This does not constitute an arrest, and nothing is placed on the record or legal action taken, however, they do intend to notify the public.

Pam Mari laid out what amounts to seven levels of intervention based on the severity and persistence of the problem. (See the slides from the powerpoint presentation).

These range from preliminary steps to make contact with parents and students at the low levels of the policy to home visits in the middle levels, to full legal action at the high levels.

Police involvement begins at level three where a visiting team of the Davis Police Department Youth Specialist or an officer and a school administrator attempt to visit the home of a consistent truant. This is a consensual visit whereby the policy have no authority to enter the home. They can enter only by consent. They are limited to attendance issues and prefer to have school personnel present. There is a letter that would be deliver to the student or parent and they then follow up with a certified letter to the home.

At the level five, the student is classified as an "habitual truant" and is generally referred by the Yolo County District Attorney's office to a Truancy Mediation program. Finally level six is where formal legal action occurs where by a notice-to-appear in court is present and the students and parents can face legal action.

It should be noted of course that level six only occurs after the previous five steps, it does not seem likely that this would ever be implemented unless the parents are being almost intentionally neglectful. Assuming that they follow through with the first five steps as diligently (as it appears on paper) they should be able to avoid full legal action.

On the other hand, Pam Mari remarked that the first letter finally went out last week, and this letter went to 45-55 Davis High School Students, which seems to me, a very large number of students who would have enough of a truancy problem that they required a first letter.

Board member Tim Taylor - who had expressed some concern at the previous meeting - expressed that he was both happy and impressed with the thought and explanation that went with this.

Taylor remained concerned about one aspect, and that is about how this process works and what criteria was applied for students to be brought back to school. Lt. Pytel explained that mostly the police made consensual contacts with people, cruising around and stopping kids who appeared of school age to ask them where they are supposed to be. Chief Black clarified with me that this largely occurred around the school itself but occasionally went into the broader community. However, it was not a large scale community-wide effort and was also not generally focused during times when students would have legitimate reasons to be about--such as during lunch or at the end of the day when some students had no classes or other arrangements.

The question of suspension came up. It seemed contradictory to Tim Taylor, Jim Provenza, and Gina Daleiden that suspension was a viable punishment for a student who was being truant. There was concern expressed, since suspension was the only punishment laid out in the policy code. Pam Mari suggested that it was largely counterintuitive, but said that every so often it makes sense. She suggested that two students had been subjected to this over the course of her tenure, in over 1000 cases. Tim Taylor pressed this point, suggesting that there may be reasons for suspension in addition to truancy, but does not understand why the punishment for not going to school would to keep the student from going to school.

Board member Keltie Jones suggested a scenario where a good student might blow off a single class that bored them; however, this does not seem to be a very likely scenario for habitual truants.

Jim Provenza eventually read from the education code which suggested looking for alternatives to suspension and detention. There also seemed to be a consensus to deemphasize suspension but not take it completely off the table.

In general, there was concern about how to handle the academic component of this. Two problems that are foreseen is that students may be reluctant to go back to school after missing considerable class due to being so far behind. Trease Peterson approached me after the agenda item to explain that they have given this dilemma considerable thought and have attempted to incorporate it into the broader program, so that students are not simply left with a sense of hopelessness.

Additionally, there was concern about the district policy whereby suspensions automatically mean coursework would become a zero. For students to suffer an academic punishment for behavioral problems, again seems counterintuitive. Many of the students who would be truant or suspended for other purposes, are likely to have enough academic problems to begin with.

Superintendent Richard Whitmore, who was in his final meeting as interim Superintendent, said that his single biggest regret was that they did not address that particular issue.

The issues that were not raised were SARB (School Attendance Review Board) which was multi-jurisdictional, and the issue of portable PDA devices and their use on campus.

However, for the most part, the key issues got raised, the school board had considerable buy-in to the process, and again one has to wonder why these things have to be so difficult. Had the initial presentation occurred like this, much anguish and confusion would have never materialized. Hopefully this is a lesson learned.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thanksgiving Turkeys for Needy Yolo County Families

Matt Rexroad called me up last week and asked me to help him get 350 Turkeys for Thanksgiving for needy Yolo County Families. I have accepted that challenge.

I need each of you to help by donating what you can.

You can help by either dropping off a turkey to the Wayfarer Center in Woodland or sending a check made out to the Wayfarer Center. Mail it or deliver it to:

711 College Street
Woodland, 95695

Case of Alleged West Sacramento Police Brutality Goes to Court

I received a press release the other day about this West Sacramento case of police brutality. The incident occurred over two years ago, one of the brothers was so badly hurt that they are just now able to even stand trial or testify. They are charged with resisting arrest and and two counts of battery of a police officer. The brothers have filed a civil suit in federal court alleging that they are victims of racial violence and excessive force by the police officers.

The police claim they had grounds for arrest on suspicion of use of a controlled substance. However, according to the Sacramento Bee, "No drugs were found on either man, according to testimony, and no drugs were detected in their systems."

According to the Sacramento Bee article published on Wednesday:
"Defense attorneys Anthony Palik and Hector Salitrero said Fermin Galvan-Magana, 31, and his brother Ernesto Galvan-Magana, 30, had not been able to come to trial until now because the younger brother suffered debilitating head injuries.

"Ernesto was in a coma 1 1/2 months and he was in the hospital for two months," Salitrero told the jury in his opening statement.

According to testimony, officers struck Ernesto Galvan-Magana three times with a Taser gun and then several times with their batons.

Salitrero described the officers' actions as excessive and racially motivated. He said the baton blows caused Ernesto Galvan-Magana's skull to collapse.

"There were no less than eight strikes to Ernesto's head, any one of which could have been lethal," Salitrero said.

Yolo County prosecutors argued the officers' actions were appropriate to subdue the man, who they said was kicking, punching and out of control."
The police's version of event is recounted in the Sacramento Bee article from Wednesday:
"The encounter began about 3:20 a.m., police Detective Donald Schlie testified, after he saw a car parked on a dead-end street behind a middle school near a levee in the Bryte neighborhood.

The area near Riverbank Road and Toddhunter Avenue is known for late-night crime, he said, and he radioed for his partner in another car to join him.

Schlie testified that he then saw two men at the bottom of the levee, about 25 feet away.

He said he engaged Ernesto and Fermin Galvan-Magana – who live nearby – in casual conversation, explaining that he was not attempting an arrest.

"I asked them, 'How is it going?'" Schlie said.

The detective said Ernesto Galvan-Magana was acting as if he was under the influence of a controlled substance – that he was sweaty and was making fast movements. He said he told the two men to raise their hands, first in English then in Spanish.

Ernesto Galvan-Magana failed to comply after several requests, Schlie said.

The detective said he fought with Ernesto Galvan-Magana for about four minutes, trying to subdue him with his Taser and then his baton, striking him in the legs and arms.

Other officers were called to the scene to assist, he said.

Fermin Galvan-Magana, who yelled at the officers to stop, also was struck with a baton and needed medical care, according to testimony."
Here's the full press release:
"The trial of Ernesto and Fermin Galvan-Magana - one knocked unconscious and another struck at so many times by West Sacramento Police batons that he suffered multiple fractures of his face and skull - continues here Wednesday in Dept. 4 of Yolo County Superior Court.

Both brothers have alleged excessive force - Ernesto was in a coma for nearly two months - and claim that one arresting officer had tattoos of a "racial nature" on the middle fingers of both his hands. The court has confirmed the presence of tattoos.

Although police admit the brothers were not breaking any laws when stopped in June of 2005, Ernesto is charged with felony resisting arrest and two counts of battery of a police officer. Fermin faces only resisting arrest charges, according to the defense.

Evidence provided by defense lawyers note that although West Sacramento police said they had grounds for arrest for suspicion of use of a controlled substance in June of 2005, subsequent investigations revealed defendants had no drugs and medical tests did not show the presence of a controlled substance,

Both defendants have alleged they are victims of racial violence and excessive force by the West Sacramento Police Dept., said Palik, who has also filed a civil suit in federal court alleging injuries caused by the use of excessive force by the same officers.

The officers said they never aimed their baton blows above Ernesto's shoulders, but police reports note he was struck 30 times with batons causing seven to eight fractures of his skull and face. The prosecution's own medical expert confirms at least one, and possibly two, skull fractures could only have been caused by baton strikes aimed at Ernesto's head.

Fermin Galvan was knocked unconscious after, he said, an officer struck him in the head and back. Despite the officer's testimony he never struck Fermin above the belt, the prosecution's own expert witness on police tactics testified unequivocally at the preliminary hearing that the elongated bruise on Fermin's back could only have been caused by a baton strike."
The Vanguard will be closely watching developments in this case.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Congressman Thompson invites you to a Telephone Town Hall

I hope you will join me this Thursday evening in a live town hall meeting via telephone. You will be able to directly ask me questions about issues that impact the 1st Congressional District and I will respond on-the-spot for all participants to hear.

Telephone town halls are a great way to bring residents from across Northern California together to share their concerns and get real-time answers. I’m looking forward to hearing your questions on important issues like healthcare, the war in Iraq and climate change and then sharing what I’m doing in Congress to help. Please take this opportunity to make your voice heard.

More Information

What: A toll-free telephone town hall with Congressman Mike Thompson

When: Thursday, November 1st from 7 PM to 8 PM

How to join: When the call starts, dial 1-866-447-5149 and enter the pass code 13293.


Congressman Mike Thompson

Council Pushing Forward with Far Reaching Farmland Protection Ordinance

Back in July, the council agreed to support a 2:1 agricultural mitigation for all development projects on the Davis periphery under all circumstances. The council voted at that time to support an adjacent buffer of one-quarter mile next to all developments regardless of whether that adjacent mitigation would exceed the 2:1 prescribed ratio. However, the council majority also exempted agricultural projects of less than 40 acres from adjacent mitigation.

(See the July 12 20007 article for the full discussion at that point.)

The idea behind mitigation is that any development along the periphery of Davis would require the developer to concurrently set aside twice as many acres to be protected and preserved as agricultural land. Crucial to the agricultural protection is the notion of adjacent mitigation, which means that there would be a quarter mile designated buffer zone along any development that would be designated as a protected land that would have a permanent designated land-use of agricultural. The idea here is that with that buffer zone, you reduce the possibility of developing the next parcel of land and therefore prevent leap frog development and urban sprawl.

In addition to the adjacent mitigation there would be another strip of land protected somewhere else that along with the adjacent strip would account for twice the acreage of that developed. So if you had a 100 acre parcel for development, you would have to mitigate for a total of 200 acres, part of that would be a quarter mile strip adjacent to your developed property and the rest could be wherever you could secure such mitigation within the planning zone.

The idea here is that as you develop outwards, you create a permanent urban limit line by setting aside specific land into permanent mitigation.

The council also directed staff to return with modifications to the minimum mitigation ratio.

At last week's meeting, Don Saylor, who was originally a skeptic of this proposal back in July, asked a series of tough questions about the need for the quarter-mile adjacent mitigation. Suggesting that it was not viable for farming in the size allotted by the ordinance.

According to Mitch Sears, Davis City Staffer, the idea of adjacency is to address the outward expansion of the city so that larger tracts of farmland are protected.
Don Saylor: "What is this ordinance titled?"

Mitch Sears: "Farmland Protection."

Don Saylor: "But it's really something else is what you just said. It's not agricultural mitigation from what you just said--it's something else. What was the word you just used?"

Mitch Sears: "Farmland protection."

Don Saylor: "Earlier when you were describing the reason for the quarter-mile boundary--you said it was something other than agricultural mitigation."

Mitch Sears: "The primary threat to farmland in the central valley is urban expansion..."

Don Saylor: "So it's the urban expansion prevention ordinance?"

Mitch Sears: "We're taking language from the general plan..."

From the General Plan:

"In order to create an effective permanent agricultural and open space buffer on the perimeter of the City... peruse amendments of the Farmland Preservation Ordinance to assure as a baseline standard that new peripheral development projects provide a minimum of 2:1 mitigation along the entire non-urbanized perimeter of the project.

The proposed amendments shall allow for the alternative location of mitigations for such projects including but not limited to circumstances where the project is adjacent to land already protected."

Don Saylor: "So a permanent agricultural and open space buffer ordinance is what we're talking about? Because it doesn't seem like we're preserving agriculture."

At this point City Manager Bill Emlen stepped in:

"Obviously it's got multidimensions to it. There is an agricultural land preservation component to it. Once again I think it gets down to the question about the importance of maintaining urban encroachment to preserve viable farmland."

Don Saylor: "We're exempting affordable housing and public use, what's the rationale for exempting those uses if we're preserving agriculture and we're creating this permanent buffer against urban expansion, then are we saying some urban expansion is okay?"

Mitch Sears: "I think it was in recognition of Measure J that has similar exemptions."

Don Saylor: "So some urban expansion is okay?"

Mitch Sears: "Yeah. The way that the ordinance is constructed doesn't say that you can't grow, you grow and there's a cap essentially put on that next step of urban expansion. That was one of the basis for the general plan action and also for the way the ordinance was envisioned, constructed and analyzed."
Councilmember Lamar Heystek was one of the chief proponents of this measure.
"We are situated in an agricultural landscape. I think it [this ordinance] makes votes under Measure J more of a balanced presentation. I think that some citizens may subconsciously support a Measure J decision knowing that we're going to preserve more agricultural land in perpetuity than is being taken away. I think the 2:1 proposal that was presented originally in July was by far the strongest preservation ordinance that had ever been seen by any municipal government in the state. But with council having taken action to say that 2:1 was the absolute minimum that was an even farther leap forward and I commend the council taking that step. We will have the strongest agricultural mitigation ordinance and farmland protection ordinance in the state."
Councilmember Heystek had previously described this ordinance among his most proud accomplishments of his first year on the council:
"I’m proud that I proposed and successfully fought for the passage of the strictest agricultural mitigation ordinance in the state – one that requires the preservation of two acres of ag land for every acre developed."
Don Saylor continued to express concerns about this ordinance in his closing comments--however in the end he voted with the majority to pass the agricultural mitigation and farmland protection ordinance.

However, for those with a strong commitment to preserve viable agricultural and farmland this is an innovative and forward looking initiative that will enable us to preserve our agricultural heritage in the face of growth and urbanization pressures.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Guest Commentary: YES On Q for Quality Schools in Davis

8,400 students
600 classrooms

Tomorrow’s doctors, teachers, mechanics, physicists, inventors, musicians, farmers, scientists, entrepreneurs, authors, leaders …

On Tuesday, November 6, voters in the Davis Joint Unified School District will be asked to renew the District’s instructional program parcel tax. Your YES vote for Measure Q is an investment in the future for 8,400 Davis school children and for Davis. As a community, we are defined in large part by our commitment to our schools and to education. The outstanding quality of Davis schools makes Davis a special place to live, whether or not you have children in the school system.

The local funding generated by Measure Q is vital to preserve and maintain the many classroom programs cherished by our community. We are speaking to friends, neighbors, and fellow Davis residents at every opportunity to explain the critical importance of Measure Q. Without Measure Q, Davis schools will not have the funds to support many current educational programs that make our District unique. Your support of Measure Q will make a difference at every school across Davis, Kindergarten through high school.

Renewal of the parcel tax will allow the District to continue to fund:
• Class size reduction at elementary schools
• Reading programs that form the basis for future academic achievement
• Class periods and teachers so our secondary schools can offer music, art, foreign language, additional AP courses, and career/technical classes
• School counselors, nurses, and student support
• Additional library hours for greater access
• School-based technology support
• classroom materials
• Training for our teachers and staff
A modest increase of $34 per homeowner will not only maintain these vital, ongoing programs over the next four years but will additionally fund:
• Improvements in school lunch nutrition with more farm fresh produce
• Math specialists for grades 4-6 to prepare students to reach their highest math potential in Junior High and High School and as they enter college or career
In very real terms, Measure Q is about having 20 young students per class in grades K-3 instead of 30 crowded together. Measure Q is about continuing a 7th period at secondary schools (unusual in surrounding areas) to allow students to take both foreign language and art, or to be a part of the world class Madrigals, Orchestra, or Band. Measure Q is about being able to offer a class in agricultural biology or mechanics or biotechnology. Measure Q is about academic counselors to help students find a path to college and a crisis counselor to help students find a path away from harm. Measure Q is about support for our English Learners and at-risk students. Measure Q is about reading and math specialists to ensure academic and lifelong success for all of our students.

Measure Q is specifically designed to increase these classroom resources, and for just 55 cents per day per homeowner, we can deliver the difference for our students. This is not a new tax--Measure Q simply asks voters to renew a commitment to educational excellence they first made in 1983 – and which they have renewed every four years since.

There are two new features to this renewal of the parcel tax. First, a Citizen’s Oversight Committee will oversee every penny to ensure the community can see and understand that Measure Q funding directly supports the classroom and funds exactly what is delineated in the ballot measure. We’re excited to offer our community and business members a way to participate in the oversight along with the citizen-elected school board. Second, a senior exemption is available. We are appreciative of the generosity and support of many of our seniors, and understand the difficulties of a limited income. Therefore, a full exemption is available to those 65 and older who request it at the business office at DJUSD.

The Davis community has built a wonderful environment for student learning and the Davis Joint Unified School District continues to advance the goals we share for student success. Our students are thriving by many measures including graduation rates, college and career placements, as well as API and Exit Exam scores. As School Board Trustees, Davis residents, and Moms, we are grateful for the generous investment the community has made in our children by passing a local parcel tax measure every four years since 1983. This is a remarkable accomplishment achieved by only a handful of school districts in California, and, in fact, Davis led the way as one of the first in the State. It is, perhaps, not surprising that districts that have the support of their communities through local parcel tax measures also are among the highest performing districts in the state. And in Davis, we are doing as much with much less, even with our parcel tax for our instructional program. DJUSD has $7,392 to spend per pupil, while comparison districts such as Palo Alto spend $12, 461. Look at the results, think of our children and our town, and step forward to be counted in support of our future: the children of Davis.

We seek your help once again on November 6 to continue this “quintessentially Davis” tradition with the passage of Measure Q. Please join us in maintaining the high quality of a Davis public school education. Our quality of life depends on the quality of our Davis schools. Vote Yes on Measure Q!

Sheila Allen and Gina Daleiden
Co-Coordinators of Measure Q campaign
DJUSD Trustees

Sheila Allen and Gina Daleiden are elected members of the Davis Joint Unified School District's Board of Education.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Making a Davis-Woodland Dedicated Bike Lane a Priority

A few weeks ago, a man was killed bicycling on County Road 99 between Davis and Woodland. It was just before 6 a.m. and the man wore a bicycle helmet and he had a light. But he was no match for the vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed on the narrow road. It is a road I have traveled by bike many times, although always during broad daylight.

The tragic death of bicyclist Willie Lopez serves as a stark reminder that our county roads are increasingly becoming urban thoroughfares that share narrow lanes with farm machinery, bicyclists and suburban traffic.

Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad recently remarked on his blog:

"This should further prioritize a dedicated bike path between Woodland and Davis."

Two years ago marked a spike in Multiple-Casualty Incidents. As a result, a task force was created by Supervisor Mariko Yamada to determine why deaths on county roads were increasing at such a high rate.

According to her, no patterns has emerged but they were able to identify the top 20 most dangerous roadways and intersections in Yolo County and have obtained a grant to help get data on where road upgrades need to occur.

Yolo County now has a master plan for bikeways and is actively seeking to produce a dedicated bike path between Davis and Woodland.

They are also looking at an improved transportation corridor between Woodland and Davis that would help create a pathway for electric vehicles. The "e-ways" as they are calling it, would be a dedicated pathway that has a portion set aside for bicyclists and another portion for electric vehicles.

These are all steps in the right direction. There are actually two important issues that come together. On the one hand, basic safety for bicyclists who need a pathway away from vehicle traffic that travels in excess of 60 mph on narrow roads. The other of course in environmental, creating pathways for easy access for both bikes and electric vehicles, would create an incentive to use those vehicles instead of cars on the short trek between the two cities.

There is already a dedicated bike path along side I-80 over the causeway between Davis and West Sacramento. However it would be helpful there as well to have a way for electric vehicle to be able to go over the causeway and into West Sacramento and Sacramento itself.

The City of Davis is also looking to expand the accessibility of the dedicated bike path from Davis to West Sacramento.

Ken Celli wrote a letter to the editor on October 24, 2007:

"On Monday night, the Bicycle Advisory Committee voted to expedite four capital projects for inclusion in the existing Bicycle Plan, one of which would be a connector ramp from either the Pelz Bicycle Overcrossing or Pole Line overpass to the Old Route 40 bike path that parallels Interstate 80. This is the bike path that is sandwiched between I-80 and the railroad tracks. Currently, the only Davis access to this bike path is from Richards Boulevard (via Olive Drive) or Mace Boulevard. There is no access in between.

By opening up this corridor, all of North, East and South Davis can commute entirely by bike path east toward Sacramento without dangerously commingling in the rush-hour automobile traffic on Fifth Street, Second Street or Mace Boulevard; traffic that is projected to increase four-fold with commercial development on Second Street near Mace."

The city of Davis was the first city to have dedicated bike paths, however, it is time for Davis to expand itself far reaching view into the next century. Davis needs to lead the way to help push the county to expand its bike access paths so that safety can be a high priority for all bicyclists. Just as importantly, the more people we can get out of their combustion driven cars and into alternative means of transportation, the better we will be able to reduce our carbon footprint, a stated goal of the city council.

A Davis-Woodland bike path seems like a perfect partnership project between Davis, Woodland, and the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. Hopefully the Davis City Council will step up as well to make this goal a reality.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Commentary: Gay Homecoming Court and the Meaning of Diversity

This week I got an interesting email from New York with a link to the Sacramento Bee article describing the fact that the Davis High Junior Homecoming court was comprised actually of two princes--as the honor went to a gay couple, elected by the student body.

Now what was interesting about this email is that this individual had discovered Davis and the blog last year during the incident where a Junior High School student was harassed because he had two gay parents.

He asked how the same district that was somewhat indifferent at least originally to the issue of harassment of a student could also be so path breaking as to honor a gay couple.

From the Sacramento Bee article:
"People were so excited for us," Gatewood said of the couple's victory, announced a few weeks ago. "We were a little surprised, but Davis ..."

"Is a liberal town," interrupts his boyfriend of four months, Raphael. "Go 10 miles in any other direction and you'll get some other feeling."

Indeed, the news might surprise few in Davis, a city embraced and, at times, mocked for its liberal leanings.
In my opinion, this fits very neatly into my perception of Davis. In many ways it is on the surface very liberal, very progressive, very tolerant. That manifests itself in many very overt demonstrations that are strong on symbolic value, but very weak in terms of actual policy matters.

There is what I have termed: the dark underbelly of the People's Republic of Davis. Everyone asks me what that means, to me the People's Republic of Davis implies that Davis is some far left Utopian. The dark underbelly is one of ugly reactionism. It is the voice of hatred, division, corruption, and conservatism. It is the part of ourselves that we all deny and try to hide away in the dark recesses of our minds and souls.

But it looms there at every step of the way. We support diversity when it is easy, simple and symbolic.

But when we talk about hiring a more diverse faculty, there is a strong voice of dissension.

We had a long discussion earlier this week on the Vanguard as to whether we really need a more diverse teaching workforce.

There was a strong undercurrent that a more diverse teaching workforce means having to hired less qualified teachers.

Jann Murray-Garcia, one of the organizers of the Diversity Forum on Monday, wrote on the blog:
"Here we are again...when we ask for racial/ethnic diversity in the teaching workforce, for the good of all students..some folks are assuming we NEED to settle for lower quality teachers. Wow.

I don't know what to say, Neighbors. It's 2007. A diverse teaching workforce does not HAVE TO mean a less qualified teaching workforce. Give us as applicants and as parents a little more credit than this.

Hear the implicit notion screaming from many of the comments: racial/ethnic diversity means inferiority. "
So we go back to square one: how does a city that will celebrate, not just tolerate, but celebrate the fact that it has a gay couple for the junior homecoming couple, at the same time argue that we do not need diversity in the teaching force and that such discussion is really looking at PC. At the same time there has been lack of follow through regarding issues of diversity and tolerance in the school district. We have a pervasive achievement gap between whites and Asians on the one hand and African Americans and Latinos on the other--even in households where the parents are college educated. We have tough problems, that require tough solutions.

I do not have answers to these questions, but for a town that is so firmly liberal or perceived as such, there are many non-liberal opinions that end up posted on this blog from people who claim to be liberals. These are not liberal views that I know, support, and believe in. These are not the values that I was taught to embrace and celebrate.

If Davis can have a gay homecoming couple, we can certainly find a way to hire more minority teachers. We can certainly find a way to make minorities feel more safe in their homes, our community, and in our schools. I do not think that is such an unreasonable request.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting