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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Enterprise Article Misleadingly Suggests Sodexho Workers' Pay Now On Par with UC Employees

Even in the Davis Enterprise's yearly synopsis of their top stories, they find a way to summarize events in a misleading way. Reading through the entire article, there were several points that were off including on the school district. We will discuss that at length in the coming weeks so for right now, we focus on their story No.4, the Struggle for Fair Pay.

Let us start by giving them kudos for acknowledging the Sodexho food worker protests as the fourth biggest story for 2007.

However this statement could not have been more false:
"In August, Sodexho announced it would raise pay and benefits to be on par with those paid by the university. The increases will add about $2 million in annual costs for dorm residents."
As we reported at the time, neither the wages nor the benefits will be on par with those paid by the university.

As we reported in August, the university added $2 million to the pay and benefits for the still outsourced-Sodexho workers. However, it would only cost the university an additional $1.2 million to bring these workers in as full university employees.

In other words, to say that these rates are "on par" with university employees is flat out false. A large amount of the difference is in the benefits package, where workers have to pay out of pocket for their health benefits. This means that from the salary they actually do get, they are having to pay as much of a quarter of their income for health insurance. And health insurance that pales in comparison to the type of coverage they would get as a full university employee.

While this picture has improved over the course of the year as the result of workers organizing, it is still not on par with what a university employee would get for wages, benefits, and other factors. Health coverage costs are now half what they once were with an added monthly stipend for other treatment. However, there is no vision or dental insurance. There are no benefits for those workers who only work 20 hours per week.

The salary comparison is both interesting and misleading as well. The wage increase has brought Sodexho workers within a dollar in most cases of their unionized university counterparts. However even that is somewhat misleading. The Sodexho wage compares with the very bottom of the pay scale for the university employee. However, whereas in most cases the university employee will get as much as a four dollar per hour wage increase during the course of their employment, the Sodexho worker is basically earning a flat wage.

Conditions for Sodexho Workers have certainly improved. This frankly would not have happened without the kind of organizing they did. Anyone who believes unions are irrelevant needs to recognize that these changes did not occur on their own. However, all these workers are asking for is to have the befits of full-time university employees.

it would only take an additional $1.2 million to fully bring in these workers as university employees. That sounds like a lot to the average person but to put this into perspective, this amounts to less than one-quarter of one percent of the operating expenses of the university. That would be like an individual who makes $50,000 having to adjust their budget to include an addition $125 payment. It may not be painless, but it should not break the bank either.

The University has used the issue of balancing student fees with employees wages and yet that is not the only source of money that can be freed up to pay for these expenses. The university continues to give lucrative wages and increases to their upper administration while trying to hold the line on people making very marginal incomes, while at the same time they have structured the pay increase to attempt to directly pit workers against students. It does not have to be that way.

Unfortunately when the public is being told that Sodexho workers have received pay and benefits that are "on par" with those of university employees, they are being told misleading information. It is little wonder that the public thinks this issue has been put to bed.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, January 04, 2008

Commentary: Gang Injunction Reinstatement Announcement Misleading

If you have read the news, almost all of it coming directly from the spin machines at the Yolo County District Attorney's office, you will have heard that the District Attorney and West Sacramento has won a huge victory with the gang injunction.

In a press release last weekend, the District Attorney Jeff Resig announced:
"A Yolo County Superior Court Judge has re-issued a permanent injunction against specific members of the Broderick Boys criminal street gang operating in West Sacramento, CA. Judge Timothy Fall issued the permanent injunction against nine Broderick Boys gang members on December 19, 2007. The court order creates a “Safety Zone” in the City of West Sacramento in which the named members are prohibited from associating with other gang members in public, trespassing, possessing weapons, possessing graffiti tools, possessing drugs and/or alcohol and/or intimidating witnesses. The named members are also subject to a curfew within the Safety Zone from 10 p.m. until sunrise."
District Attorney Jeff Reisig stated:
“It is impossible to ignore the devastating impact gang activity has in our communities. An effective response must focus on prevention, intervention, education and enforcement. In the big picture, gang injunctions are merely part of this equation. However, when sanctioned and monitored by the courts, gang injunctions are a lawful and powerful tool that responsible civic leaders should consider in appropriate situations. By persistently pursuing this case, City leaders have demonstrated their commitment to public safety in West Sacramento.”
As the Sacramento Bee reported on December 31, 2007:
The nine alleged members – whom prosecutors called "the worst of the worst" – did not appear in civil court earlier to defend themselves against a request for restrictions on their activities. So on Dec. 19, Yolo Superior Court Judge Timothy Fall granted the injunction against them.

"They never showed up," Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden said Sunday.

"They're never going to show up," said Linden, who is handling the Broderick Boys case. "And we've done what we can by personally serving them and getting the court order against them."
Sounds good right?

And now the rest of the story, that was not reported in the newspapers or at least not completely.

The case of Victor Dazo, one of the named Broderick Boys defendants. He is one of the nine who did not show up to contest the gang injunction. Now why did he not show up to contest it? He is in prison and probably because of that, is not able to go to court to fight the injunction.

Fine you say, maybe he is a bad guy and deserves to stay in prison. Maybe so, but in most cases in these sorts of cases, courts routinely continue cases due to "good cause" being found when defendants are not in court because they are in prison, rather than issue default rulings against them as we saw in this case.

A default judgment basically means that the individual did not fight the factual allegations of being a gang member, or the gang existing, or the serving of the injunction being proper, etc. In other words, the judge had no other side to look at in this case.

Where am I going with this you might ask?

Well the Sacramento Bee reports:
"On Jan. 31, prosecutors and defense attorneys will be in court again, arguing whether to apply the new injunction to a dozen other individuals.

The hearing will also determine whether the injunction should be broadened – enforced against the Broderick Boys as a criminal street gang and to hundreds of other alleged, unnamed gang members."
What is actually happening on January 31, 2008, is that those defendants who are fighting the injunction will respond in court against the injunction. And if they are successful, the injunction may fall apart against Mr. Dazo and the other eight people who did not respond.

On Jan. 31, prosecutors and defense attorneys will be in court again, arguing whether to apply the new injunction to a dozen other individuals.

The hearing will also determine whether the injunction should be broadened – enforced against the Broderick Boys as a criminal street gang and to hundreds of other alleged, unnamed gang members.

The Bee goes on to report:
"In the meantime, Linden said there was no need to wait to enforce restrictions against those who hadn't bothered to defend themselves – most of whom, the prosecutor said, are previously convicted criminals."
They can start enforcing restriction on these individuals, if the rest of them are not in jail. However, the idea that these individuals did not bother to defend themselves is misleading at best. And the idea that the DA is home free on them, is accurate as well. That will depend on whether the judge upholds the gang injunction this time.

I know a lot of people think we are better off for having gang members or alleged gang members denied their constitutional rights to defend themselves, but from my perspective we have adhere to those rights. It puts all of us at risk of an overzealous prosecutor if we do not.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Commentary: Revisiting Hate Crime Attack

Just prior to the break, we covered a pair of hate crime incidents that occurred in the city of Davis. Now that the holidays are over, it is imperative that we revisit these incidents.

The first set of incidents occurred during the weekend of December 15. Two homes, approximately a block apart were attacked with racially charged graffiti. The official explanation by the police was this was a high school friendship situation that got out of control.
"'This is high school tensions that got way out of hand,' [Sgt. Scott] Smith said today. 'Now these kids are looking at significant charges because they chose to resolve their friendship issues in the way that they did.' "
But if that is the case, this remains just as troubling to many in this community. It is troubling if high school students are resorting to racial epithets to resolve their differences. Where do these students get this type of racial animosity? Who is teaching it to them? In other words, in my opinion and the opinion of others, even if an accurate description, the incident remains troubling and something that needs to be addressed by the school and also the community.

This is not the end of the story. We are equally concerned by the relative lack of coverage the incident received. Buried in a briefly on A-3, a second article appeared on A-4 of the Davis Enterprise.

As one Vanguard reader put it, this was not a valid complaint at all. The psuedononymous reader wrote:

"The Enterprise printed the story where it should be printed, and given its comparatively high readership level, thereby ensuring that many, nany (sic) more people in Davis are aware of the incident than any Vanguard story will."

However, they miss the point here. The highest readership on a paper is front page. Some people will read the brieflies, but those numbers are considerably lower than those who merely see the front page stories. The key question is how important is a hate crimes attack in Davis to the public? Is this something that will generate interest and controversy? The answer to me is yes.

Jann Murray-Garcia and Jonathan London used their periodic Davis Enterprise column to address this issue. In fact, the column was a last second re-write to address an issue they saw as paramount to the community. They used a portion of their space to take the unusual step of criticizing the paper that provides them with space.
I (Jann) shivered when a Davis High School student asked me if I knew anything about the hate crime that occurred in Davis on Saturday, Dec. 16. Despite reading that Sunday's paper, I had missed the mention of this incident on Page A3 in a "Briefly" section of The Davis Enterprise.

That mention of the hate crime showed up at all in The Enterprise is progress. To have the Davis Police Department investigate this as a hate crime, report it to our local newspaper and have it in the paper within 24 hours is indeed progress. (Kudos to the DPD!)

None of that happened five years ago with the spray painting of the N-word on a cul-de-sac in West Davis, outside the home of a young African American couple. Back then, it took independent community action from Davis Blacks for Effective Community Action and others to push the police and The Enterprise to cover the story and investigate the event as a hate crime.

This most recent hate crime made it on to Page A3 in The Enterprise's "Briefly" section (Dec. 16). The slightly longer follow-up report of the hate crime announced the arrest of a 17-year-old and the impending arrest of an 18-year-old, both Davis High students. It appeared on Page A4 of Tuesday's Enterprise.

At the risk of breaking professional decorum, Jonathan and I must publicly state that we need better than that from our local newspaper.

Without the substantial reporting and historical context of hate crimes in Davis, our public memory, our community conscience is compromised. Our ability to parent and teach and police, our ability to remember, is compromised.
The article goes on to demonstrate the recent history of hate crimes in Davis and why they need more coverage. For me this is a very simple issue that requires a very complex solution. The hate crime is an attack upon an entire segment of a community. When they write "KKK FUCK NIGGERS" on one person's home, they are not just vandalizing someone's property, they are not merely attacking that individual, they are telling an entire segment of the community that they are second class citizens and that they should live in fear.

Perhaps this is an issue where the youth need to lead us, like Amanda McCaffrey, a junior at Davis High School did in a brilliant letter to the editor.

I am a junior at Davis Senior High School, and am taking Race and Social Justice in U.S. History. Through the course of our studies, our curriculum has proved to us that social change and improvement is impossible without acknowledgment of our society's problems.

Therefore, I was very distressed to see the alarmingly brief article in the Dec. 16 Enterprise about our community's most recent hate crime. I wonder how our community can ever hope to make appreciable progress in our tolerance level if we are not made fully aware of the very issues that make it impossible.

Although the community may prefer to remain in blissful ignorance with regards to local intolerance, it is essential that we be made to confront these issues that are wounding our society beyond repair. I do not mean to demand that our newspaper publish spiteful accounts or call our neighbors to arms; I merely suggest that we give those who have been hurt by prejudiced and ignorant acts the dignity of recognizing that pain.
Do you we not want to set better examples for our youth? Do we not want to give them hope that the future will not bring a repetition of past acts of hatred?

In short, should we not as this community come together to address the issue of hate crimes, to attack these heinous and debilitating attacks at their roots?

After the original article, someone asked what more I wanted to see--jail time? Absolutely not. Jail time for the perpetrators does not even begin to address the problem. The first thing I want to see is community awareness. I want this community to understand that there is still a problem. Even if it is only a small and ignorant minority for whom it is a problem for, we need awareness. We do not get awareness when we have an issue that is buried in the middle of the paper just as people are going into their holiday celebration mode.

Second, this is an opportunity. We have a new police chief. This is a freebie for him. This is where the police have an opportunity to reach out to a community that often feels separate and show them that the police care and will be vigilant in attacking incidents of hate crimes. The police can take the lead here and help to raise community awareness.

Unfortunately as critics are undoubtedly quick to point out, none of these are solutions to the problem. Frankly if I knew more education was the answer, if I knew a more vigilant police force was the answer, if I knew more jail time was the answer, if I knew certain programs were the answer, the problem would have been solved long ago. Obvious there is no magic bullet here. No simple answer. No fix-all solution.

But one thing I know is not the answer is burying out head in the sand and ignoring it because it is ugly and unseemly and it makes us feel uncomfortable and it makes us perhaps question ourselves (if we are being honest) in ways that magnify that discomfort. But we have to do it, because we cannot afford to allow another generation to grow up believing that they can express their anger, frustration, or resolve their problems by resorting to racial epithets. We just cannot do that anymore. These things tend to fester unless dealt with in an appropriate manner.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2007 Year in Review--10 Biggest Vanguard Stories of 2007

As the first full year of the People's Vanguard of Davis comes to completion, we will countdown the top 10 stories from year. This is the second year we have done this.

Last year we counted down the 10 Biggest Stories in Davis.

This year we countdown the 10 biggest stories that we followed on the People's Vanguard of Davis.

We conclude with the top story of 2007: The County General Plan Process.

In late January, residents of Davis and indeed members of the Davis city council were blindsided with proposals that would throw the city-county pass-through agreement and land use policies on their heads. The county was proposing studying development on the Davis periphery, despite long-standing and lucrative agreements in place that gave the city of Davis landuse authority on the city edges.

Three places in particular were at stake. First a large area in NW Davis where senior housing was being examined--the Northwest Quadrant on the Bidding property. They were looking at perhaps a 2000 unit senior housing development. They were also looking at possible developments at Covell, where Davis voters had recently overwhelmingly voted against development. Finally, late in the process there was suggestion of a large housing development along the I-80 corridor abutting the Yolo Causeway.

The process began in early February, where the County Staff recommended against developing on the Northwest Quadrant.
The County is doing its update to the County General Plan. Only in the last week has there begun to be attention to this very important process. Talking to a few of the County Supervisors they have expressed alarm and dismay that the public is not more involved in this process. However, Tuesday February 6, 2007 the County Supervisors will meet and receive the General Plan recommendations from their steering committee (much as in a year and a half, the Davis City Council will likewise receive their recommendations).

There are two key issues of concern to Davis residents. First there is a proposal by the committee for a development of 2100 units, for senior housing, over 20 years to the Northwest Quadrant of Davis. This is the area west of Highway 113 and North of Sutter Hospital.

A summary of the report reads:

"The urban limit lines for each of the existing cities are respected as providing for a fair share of future growth, with the exception of the “northwest” quadrant at the edge of Davis where the Planning Commission felt additional growth would be appropriate if it could be shown to be to the county’s benefit."

There is a perception that this is going to be approved by the Board of Supervisors. This seems highly unlikely.

The staff report strongly recommends against this development:

"For the most part the staff is in agreement with and fully supports the recommendations of the Planning Commission. However, the staff has made a few supplemental land use recommendations that differ from the actions of the Planning Commission.

On the residential side, staff is recommending against the addition of 2,100 residences within the unincorporated area near the northwest quadrant of Davis, as these units are not likely to have fiscal benefits for the county that would justify the growth given concerns regarding inconsistency with long-standing growth policies, provision of infrastructure and services, and effects on the city/county pass-through agreement."
However, despite staff recommendations that recommended against this project, the board of supervisors continued to push for study areas.

The February 6, 2007 meeting was packed and the city of Davis presented a united front against county proposals.
The Yolo County staff's recommendation was to oppose the Northwest Quadrant development proposal as they did not see it as a source of revenue for the county. Instead they recommended a joint special study area with city and county for this development.

The City of Davis came and delivered a united front.

First, Mayor Sue Greenwald spoke. She strongly favored a continuation of the pass-through agreement giving Davis and Davis' City Council control over edge development. She considered a joint study session a violation of this pass-through agreement and this trust. The joint study group was not appropriate.

Greenwald did not oppose senior housing or special needs housing, however, she believes that the best plan should be determined by the City Council. She appreciated that county had financial problems as county services outpaces development proceeds, but argued that housing is not a good source of revenue (something that the staff recommendation by the county agreed) and argued that even retail development has diminishing returns.

Davis City Staffer Katherine Hess delivered a letter from City Manager Bill Emlen. She simply stated that development on the Davis periphery should be made by the city through a city process and she asked that the Board of Supervisors would concur with that.

Councilmember Don Saylor was in full agreement with Mayor Greenwald. He said that he appreciated that the county has real issues that need to be addressed and that the destinies of the county and city are intertwined. Davis has a process for dealing with its development and will be undergoing its own general plan update. He saw that as the appropriate agency and forum to address development issues. Moreover, while Davis does have a history of peripheral development it does not have a process for the Northwest Quadrant. He believes there are issues with housing for seniors and this may not be the most appropriate location or the best use of site given the distance from the core downtown area. Moreover he suggested that commercial development at Mace and I-80 are not "obvious" for us and mentioned that there are several commercial projects already in the works and does not want a new development area outside of the Mace Curve that could be detrimental to this development.

In general, the two members of the Davis City Council and one city staffer were united on this issue that the city and not the county should be the agency involved in determining where, when, and how peripheral development occurs. There were concerns about process and also specifics in this development.
However, the meeting was marked with contentiousness and tensions rose between the city and county.

Statements made by Supervisor Mike McGowan should have raised a red flag:
"I don't care where (Davis) puts their additional units, but from any standpoint they have to absorb their fair share. I'm not telling them where to grow."

He added:

"One of the reasons we are embarking on the General Plan update is that we can't maintain the old way of doing business; we aren't generating the revenues we need."
More concerning to Davis residents should have been the statements made by their own representative, Supervisor Helen Thomson:
The Davis Enterprise writes:

"But Thomson later suggested there was much to talk to Davis about in addition to new housing.

In exchange for the county's policy of directing commercial and residential projects to the cities instead of building them on agricultural land, the cities pay the county a fee in what's called a pass-through agreement.

In 2005-06, Davis paid nearly $2 million to the county in its pass-through agreement, Thomson said. But that agreement is nearly 15 years old and there are other issues to discuss. Thomson cited her own example of "poor planning" by the city of Davis — allowing homes to be built on seven 20-acre parcels at Binning Ranch north of Davis."
By late March, discussions continued between city and county, without much common ground sought.
On Monday, the City of Davis-County of Yolo two-by-two committee met. This body is composed of two members from each body--Sue Greenwald and Don Saylor from the city council and the two Davis County Supervisors--Helen Thomson and Mariko Yamada.

There were moments of relief such as when both Thomson and Yamada indicated their support for the current pass-through agreement indicating that there would not be any move to renegotiate it.

The pass-through agreement is an agreement by the county not to develop within the sphere of influence of the city of Davis, in exchange, the city agrees to give the county a share of the redevelopment money they would have been entitled to had they developed. In this case, Davis gives the county roughly $2.7 million (the figure was somewhat in contention with the county suggesting it might be $2.1 million).

This is a much larger number than the county likely would get if they tried to develop the land. Moreover, it is considerably larger than the pass-through agreements between the county and Woodland and West Sacramento. So when the county talks about not having enough revenue, it seems like Davis ought to be the last place that the county is looking towards.
The City of Davis made clear their position.
Councilmember Saylor was very clear that the City of Davis through the pass-through agreement, maintained the land-use authority on the periphery. He also strongly maintained his opposition to the specific projects mentioned. The county was adamant however that this has not been a project-based plan so far but rather that they are looking at concepts and philosophies. However, specific sites have been identified as possible study areas by the county.

The issue of the joint study sessions at this point seems to be the sticking point. The county is looking at the change of designations of very land areas. This seemed strongly opposed by both Greenwald and Saylor. Greenwald viewed this as the first step toward development process.

Greenwald in speaking of lands on the Davis city-edge: “I would expect the county to keep its agricultural designation... It would be a somewhat hostile act that would impede cooperation.”

Yamada took exception to the use of the term hostile, but Greenwald's point here was dead-on: the county should not be changing the land-use designation here. At this point, the joint study session is viewed by Davis council as a means by which to try to force a change and that is not supported, at least from what I have seen, by the council. In the end, I think this proposal will be dropped, but as of now it is THE point on contention.
The county continued to press for joint study areas despite the concerns of the city of Davis.

On Tuesday, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors voted to approve three areas in the Davis sphere of influence as "Joint Study Areas." These areas include the Oeste Ranch area in the Northwest Quadrant and an area in the Covell Village west of Poleline both of which would be designated for residential housing developments, and an antiquated property east of Mace Road along I-80 which would be designated for commercial development. Ostensibly these Joint Study sessions would be used to determined changes in land use designations for the County General Plan Update.

The City of Davis and the City Council remains at least in public adamantly against such developments. As Katherine Hess, Davis Community Development Director wrote in a hand-delivered letter to the board, "we continue to be concerned that the current recommendations being considered could set in motion potential significant land use inconsistent with the long-standing policies embraced by the City and County on urbanization within the City's Planning Area."
By late June, this tension was threatening to turn into all out war. The proposed 2800 development along I-80 served as a flashpoint that threatened to spin this out of control.

As reported yesterday in the local press, Sacramento developer Angelo Tskaopoulos is proposing developing a 2,800 acre parcel of prime agricultural land along the I-80 between Davis and the Yolo Causeway.

>Supervisor Mike McGowan, who represents West Sacramento, in both the Sacramento Bee and Davis Enterprise was non-committal but sympathetic.

Supervisor McGowan told the Bee:

"It's still very much at the conceptual level, and I need to get much more information about it before I can form any serious conclusions."

"The idea of this region being at the forefront of stem cell research is certainly an exciting one, but the rest of it has yet to be fleshed out."
Meanwhile he told the Davis Enterprise:
“I'm very intrigued with the idea of a research park... We need to look constructively at the Interstate 80 corridor between West Sacramento and Davis. Does it make sense for the county, Davis, UC Davis and West Sacramento to place something of legitimate scientific endeavor out there? If the answer is ‘maybe,' then we should look at it at least in the broad concept.”
It was Supervisor Mariko Yamada's words that stung the community and brought this process to a head.
Supervisor Yamada:

"We are in the 21st century, and we need to keep an open mind about how we are going to approach land use and the I-80 corridor from the Bay Area to Sacramento."

She added in Enterprise:

“It's part of the new direction the county is going in."<
In response to the Vanguard's pointed criticism of her policies, Supervisor Yamada penned a response in the Vanguard.
The commentary, “Who Is Left to Defend Yolo County Farmland?” questions my record concerning land use decisions. My record, both public and private, is clear and consistent on the issues of protecting agriculture and open space, and fostering a safe and sustainable environment.
She then listed out a long list of policies she had supported or opposed.

The crux of her statement was here:
On March 27, 2007, I joined in a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors in choosing a general plan preferred land use alternative that balances rural sustainability with strategic joint study areas to be considered for potential economic development. The County remains hopeful that joint discussions will occur.

The idea of a stem cell research facility in Yolo County is conceptual; there is no specific proposal to be considered at this time. At present, I am keeping an open mind about the research, educational, and life-saving potential such a facility might bring to the region.

Consistent with my deliberative style, I do not make a decision on an issue until I have all the facts before me and have taken input from all sides. I am not a “one-size-fits-all” representative, nor do I place the threat of political liability above the soundness of good public policy.
This triggered a lengthy debate on the Vanguard, however, it did little to address the question at hand: why even consider such a massive proposal and little to satisfy her growing number of critics, many of whom had been her strongest supporters just a few months before.

In response, Holly Bishop and Pam Nieberg, published their own guest commentary on the Vanguard.
"Mariko Yamada’s spin-meisters have really been hard at work. In her submittal to the Davis Vanguard, she is now claiming that her “open mind” on a 2800 acre project proposed by Angelo Tsakopoulos is really about a stem cell research center. She makes no mention of the actual development proposal brought forth by Tsakopoulos. She states only that “the idea of a stem cell research facility in Yolo County is conceptual”, and that she is “keeping an open mind about the research, educational and life-saving potential such a facility might bring to the region.” Nowhere in her article does she reveal the actual full proposal or her apparent support for it as published in the Bee and the Enterprise last week."
The bombshell came out on July 6, as the county released the staff that proposed all three areas as special study areas.

This was a trigger point for a public call for recall by former Mayor Bill Kopper and current Mayor Sue Greenwald. The Vanguard came out quickly against such as effort.
While the Vanguard shares a deep concern about these proposals, which seem to be tantamount to pressure from the county to develop on Davis' periphery in violation of the pass-through agreement, the Vanguard believes that a recall is the wrong response to this threat, for a number of reasons.
However, despite the concerns about a recall, the threat of the recall changed some of the dynamics on the ground and may have led to cooler heads prevailing at the county level.

This would be one of the finest moments for the Vanguard as the the Vanguard would report live from directly inside the Supervisor's chambers. Thousands were logged on to the running commentary. Best of all, the Supervisors knew it.

At one point in the process, Supervisor Rexroad proposed the elimination of the study areas and was voted down 3-2. There was an adjournment. Suddenly when the Supervisors reemerged, they put the proposal to rest.

The Vanguard would issue a long description of the process which led to the pass-through agreement being preserved and cooler heads prevailing.

There were times during this process that war between the city of Davis and Yolo County seemed inevitable. There were times during the Board of Supervisors meeting that recall as an option was very much alive and may have come to fruition however at a crucial point, the county seemed to at least temporarily blink. Things calmed down. However, the scene was tense and serious. For all of that, the County General Plan process and the proposed special studies areas was the top story in 2007.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007 Year in Review--10 Biggest Vanguard Stories of 2007

As the first full year of the People's Vanguard of Davis comes to completion, we will countdown the top 10 stories from year. This is the second year we have done this.

Last year we counted down the 10 Biggest Stories in Davis.

This year we countdown the 10 biggest stories that we followed on the People's Vanguard of Davis.

We continue with the 2nd biggest story: The Closure of Valley Oak.

The issue of closing a school is always very controversial. However, the issue of Valley Oak was more than just a simple decision on whether or not to close a school. There was a whole range of socioeconomic and even racial issues here. Valley Oak is a school that is the only majority-minority school in the district. When the District made the decision to open Korematsu in the more affluent Mace Ranch, the fate of Valley Oak was likely sealed. Nevertheless, the school district commissioned the Best Uses of Schools Task Force to make the tough decision of whether and which school to close.

The key issue was projections that predicted declining enrollment.

In early January, the projections looked bleak:
"Thursday's school board meeting brought a heated discussed as the District unveiled new projections. The projections show around a 400 student drop from 2006 to 2016 with around 200 of those being in elementary school enrollment."
However, these projections are subject to interpretation, and many challenged their veracity.
"Fred Buderi, a Valley Oak neighbor, raised a very important point about the potential residential development of the PG&E site that could bring many additional students to Valley Oak. But this development is not factored into the future enrollment projections prepared by the Davis Demographics & Planning. His remarks were dismissed by the board saying that they should not take into account plans that are not yet approved. On the other hand, Baki Tezcan points out it is "ironic that after counting for Covell Village in building Korematsu, now they say they cannot count for something that does not exist even though it will not require a city-wide vote and will probably happen in due course and produce new students in need of a school to go."
By late February, the Task Force recommended closing Valley Oak.
"The Best Use of Schools Advisory Task Force has voted by a 6-1 margin to recommend the closure of Valley Oak Elementary. A full report will be drafted and presented to the Davis School Board at the March 1, 2007 meeting."
On March 2, 2007, Chair of the BUSATF, Krik Trost presented to the school board his case for closing Valley Oak.
"Chair Kirk Trost presented the Task Force’s methodology and findings for nearly an hour and a half Thursday night. He expressed deep sorrow to have to report their recommendation for closing Valley Oak Elementary School.

The Davis Joint Unified School District contracted with Davis Demographics and Planning, Inc. (DDP) to update and analyze demographic data and make projections as to future population. The assumptions and methodology were sources of great controversy within the community—especially those in relation to scope and magnitude of future development. However, their findings suggested that over the course of the next 10-15 years, the district enrollment would fall by 400 students and that nearly 250 of those would be in elementary schools.

That would leave the optimal number of elementary schools at around 7 to 7.5. They quickly settled on the eight schools as the optimal strategy.

One of the key issues that they addressed was transportation and how far students would have to walk to school. Their statistics and projections suggested that closing down Valley Oak Elementary school would have virtually no impact on the number of Valley Oak students who would be within one mile walking distance and the number of students within one and a half mile walking distance from their school. That means that for current Valley Oak Students, on average, the walking distance using those two metrics would be virtually unchanged.

Board President Jim Provenza asked about looking at half a mile distance, and Trost suggested that they had not looked at that and suggested that this was a distance standard used by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the Center for Disease Control, and various walk-to-school organizations. He also pointed out that if they used a tougher standard it would not be uniform throughout the district.

The Task Force also strongly suggested the need for schools in the 420 range in order to have full facilities and program options that they considered optimal.

Finally, they made the argument that if Valley Oak remained open a very large percentage of students attending Valley Oak would be Title I students—between 60 and 70 percent. Whereas the Valley Oak Closed Option would result in the greatest amount of socioeconomic diversity and balance across the District with only around 30 percent of any school being Title I."
On March 5, 2007 the Vanguard ran a full criticism of the BUSTF report.

One of the big criticisms is that the report read like a lawyer's brief, arguing one side rather than presenting an array of options to the school board.
"While the group spent an admirable amount of time and energy working on its report over the last two years, the group has nevertheless produced a product that in the end falls well short of what both the school board and the district needed. The chief complaint is that this report reads like a lawyer's brief arguing for one viewpoint rather than presenting the school board with an array of options and evidence on which they could make an informed decision.

One of the first things that struck me about the presentation last week and the report as a whole was its format. The report and the presentation made an argument. Those things that fit into that argument were presented. Those things that did not fit into that argument were not presented. That may be helpful for a lawyer's brief, however, the purpose of this task force should have been to provide the school board itself with options, not to advocate one position or another. As such, the best format may have been to present fully all reasonable alternatives and then perhaps make a recommendation based on those alternatives. However, that is not what this report did.

That is not what the school board wanted. The school board is now stuck in a very difficult position of either accepting findings that they may or may not agree with, or going against the work of a volunteer group that has spent two years working on this. If they choose the latter, they fall prey to the question--why did they create the task force in the first place if they were merely to do what they wanted to do anyway."
On March 15, 2007, the school board heard a lengthy response from the Davis OPEN group, who were the activists dedicated to keeping all nine schools in the district open.

One of the big issues here was demonstrating that walking distances would increase if Valley Oak closed. The BUSTF report showed that if you use a one-mile distance, the students would be largely unaffected by the school closure. But most young children do not walk a full mile. By looking at a smaller radius, the data would have shown us that in fact, closing the school has a negative impact on walking distances.
"First of all, this data conclusively demonstrates that closing the school would have a negative impact on the specific students that attend Valley Oak regardless of the standards for the rest of the district. Second, many students at Valley Oak have transportation issues since they are Title 1 students and this close would be a larger burden on them than on students in other attendance areas going to other schools."
Doubt was also cast on the methodology for projecting future declining enrollment.
"Baki Tezcan presented evidence that cast some doubt on the methodology used to come up with the projections. His presentation was impressive enough to prompt Task Force Chair Kirk Trost to come back up to clarify their findings with numbers that did not seem to match the numbers used by Tezcan.

Baki Tezcan pointed out as we did the change in the projections from December 2006 to January 2007. The key difference was the use of Mobility #3 in December to using Mobility #2 in December and that shifted the finding from a stable +/- 186 K-12 students to an approximate decline of 400.

Tezcan said that method #2 compared all students in each attendance area from year to year while method #3 had a sampling of students. He suggested that sampling was the more preferred method for projecting and that it was the Task Force rather than DDP that made that call to switch to Method #2.

Tezcan then presented three sets of projections, the third one being "October projections" based on 2005 student data. These data show an actual small increase in enrollment. Tezcan demonstrated that the projections using this methodology more closely were demonstrated by actual numbers than the preferred methodology of the Task Force. When he averaged those three studies, he found a slight increase rather than decrease in enrollment over the next few years."
In the end, the school board by a 3-2 vote accepted the findings of the BUSTF.
"One exchange in particular kind of summed up how this evening would go--Board Member Tim Taylor would mention that there were differing interpretations of the enrollment projections and he asked Mr. Whitmore which he should believe. Mr. Whitmore pointedly said that none of the staff were demographers, but that the Task Force had worked long and hard with the demographic data and he would tend to take their findings strongly into account."
It was a long evening that began with a young protest march (click above to see pictures).
"The day began with a show of force--the force of dozens of small school children laughing and screaming in the hopes of saving their school as they slowly marched from Valley Oak Elementary School to Council Chambers. It was a distance of nearly a mile and remarkably it seemed to take 45 to 50 minutes for their small legs to cross the distance."
The school board then would vote to close the school with stipulations.
"In the end though, it seemed that the board, or at least Tim Taylor, while believing nine schools was unfair to the other eight, fiscally irresponsible, and unsupported by the demographic data, could not deliver the final death knell. He offered a massive motion which would do the following:

1. Open Korematsu as a K-2 school for 07-08.
2. Keep Valley Oak open in 07-08
3. Open Korematsu as a K-6 school in fall of '08
4. Close Valley Oak in fall of '08
5. Place on the ballot a second parcel tax to fund Valley Oak in November of 2007 provided that the first parcel tax passed.
This was too much for Keltie Jones who pushed hard and was very fearful a second tax bill would doom their first. She got Taylor to water down even the compromise language so that a poll would be taken and the second parcel tax would be put on the ballot only if it wasn't going to doom the first. Now perhaps what Jones was forgetting is that by putting them both on there and tying the fate of Valley Oak to the first parcel tax, they are in essence recruiting 50 to 100 dedicated parents who have a vested interest in doing the grass roots work to get them both passed. If only the first parcel tax were on the ballot--none of those folks would work to get it placed on the ballot. So in actuality it might be more likely to pass because it is tied to Valley Oak than if it were not."
It was clear from the start that the second parcel tax would not be viable. Indeed later polling showed that there just was not community support to pass th additional tax and keep Valley Oak open. The strategy shifted to charter school.

In late September, the structure and basics of the Charter School were laid out in front of 60 people at the Valley Oak Elementary School multipurpose room.

The Valley Oak Mission statement:

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

They presented four key focal points:

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

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

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

* Bridge the digital divide through utilization of educational technology by the larger VOCS community, both on campus and at home."
In early November, the Charter passed the signature requirement 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

However, this did not stop the district from attempting to torpedo the proposed charter.

On November 15, 2007, the school board got to hear the presenters presentation and subjected them to a series of tough questions on a variety of concerns.

"There were many tough questions that were asked by the school board during this process--rightly so as this will have a dramatic impact on their budget and their planning. This was not their formal response to the charter, only a questions at a public hearing.

What is important to understand despite their tough questions was that according to the education code, there are only a few reasons by which the board could deny the charter."


"Concerns from the board appeared primarily centered on admission policies, enrollment numbers and overall concerns that if Valley Oak either failed to attract enough students or failed to attract students from outside of the district, that the district would have other problems with which they needed to deal with."
Board President Jim Provenza directed board members to wait until the staff report came before making comments.

This came in early December.

In harsh terms, the district staff drafted a resolution--not just a staff report but an actual resolution--that would deny the Valley Oak charter based on three of the criteria for denial fleshed out into nineteen separate points. Most of these points could have been resolved by a simple negotiation and a quick edit. Nevertheless the report was placed into resolution form.

The petition drafters responded to these criticisms in a firm manner than attempted to hold back obvious frustration at the tone of the response.

Bill Storm, science teacher and proponent of Valley Oak Charter School said:
"The draft resolution severely distorts both our proposal and the requirements of the Charter Schools Act and makes serious errors of fact in denying the petition... We continue to be willing to work with the district in resolving any legitimate issues. Such work would require that all parties act swiftly and in good faith... f the Davis school board acts to deny the charter, we are confident that the charter will be authorized through the appeal process outlined in the Charter Schools Act... We have made presentations, provided drafts of the educational plan, governance design and budget presentations (to the district), and have repeatedly requested meaningful dialogue and feedback. Instead, last Friday (the district) posted a draft resolution to deny the petition for the Valley Oak Charter School."
On December 6, 2007, a big battle was brewing and it appeared that confrontation that would be lengthy and heated was inevitable.

Several board members were alarmed at the tone of the report. However, once the meeting came forward, cooler heads prevailed and newly hired Superintendent James Hammond struck the necessary tone of moderation.
"New Superintendent James Hammond was first to speak. All week long we had read in the papers the staff report, the lawyer's report, and we were prepared for the worst. But James Hammond took control of this meeting. Instead of having staff present their report, instead of allowing them to set the tone for the meeting, something very different happened.

James Hammond spoke in very general terms and then suggested that they had options, that they did not have to make a decision this evening. And that gave Board President Jim Provenza, in his last meeting, the opening that he needed. And he suggested that if it were possible that the district could meet with the petitioners and that they could hash out their differences.

So instead of conflict from the start, the tone was set that compromise and reconciliation was a possibility and the rest of the board to their credit followed this lead."
Concerns by board members were laid out however the agreement was to come to a resolution and compromise rather than seek confrontation. So as 2008 arrives, the process still looms however with hope.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Year in Review--10 Biggest Vanguard Stories of 2007

As the first full year of the People's Vanguard of Davis comes to completion, we will countdown the top 10 stories from year. This is the second year we have done this.

Last year we counted down the 10 Biggest Stories in Davis.

This year we countdown the 10 biggest stories that we followed on the People's Vanguard of Davis.

We continue with the 3rd biggest story: Superintendent David Murphy gets fired.

On March 1, 2007, the Community Chambers was packed in anticipation of the Best Uses of Schools Task Force Report which was expected to recommend the closing of Valley Oak Elementary School. However, before this would happen, the very foundations of the community would be rocked by a very surprising announcement, with just a year to go on his contract Superintendent David Murphy announced he would be stepping down effective July and retiring.

In part of a statement to the board, he read:
“Since February 1, when I turned 60, my wife Robbie and I have been discussing what would be best for our family and with our life... It is now an appropriate time for me to conclude a wonderful era of 35 years of public service and spend more time with my family while we are all healthy and happy.”
At the time we would write:
"Longtime Superintendent David Murphy of the Davis Joint Unified School District stole the show last night with a surprise announcement that he was stepping down effective July. Citing family needs and personal changes, Superintendent Murphy said that the District would immediately appoint an acting Superintendent to aid in the transition and he would work with that individual as the Board sought a new full-time Superintendent.

While Murphy was heavily praised at this meeting, he has long been a source of great controversy both within the school district and in the community as a whole. It is no secret that the majority of school board members were not happy with his performance, however their hands were largely tied by an extension granted by a previous board on their way out."
Quickly it would become clear that this was no voluntary retirement. Voluntary retirements do not have large severance pay associated.

It was really former school board member Joan Sallee who spilled the beans when she told the Davis Enterprise:
“I was deeply saddened to hear of Murphy’s retirement. ... I am very sorry that the current school board did not see fit to retain his services. The district has suffered a grievous loss, at a time when we can least afford it.”
As the Vanguard speculated at the time:
"This has been a tumultuous year for the school district with a number of different financial scandals. In November of 2006, the board halted construction on a new King High School building. Allegations were made at that time by Board Member Jim Provenza that "shoddy practices in the business office have cost us" money on the project. He further said, "I'm happy we have a new chief budget officer (Colby) and (we're) cleaning up the mess we've had in the past.

Earlier this month the project was re-approved with money from redevelopment funds. Board member Tim Taylor cast the lone, "no" vote and he too made allegations about irregularities in board money use. "For me, the issue is some financially funky stuff that's gone on to get us to this point. It has absolutely nothing to do with King High."

Another scandal in the last year was the Total School Solutions scandal which led to the resignation of a number of administrators. Total Schools Solutions is a Fairfield-based firm run by Tahir Ahad, who served as deputy superintendent for business services for the Davis School District from 1999 through May. Employees who worked at Total School Solutions while at the same time working for the school district were perceived to have a conflict of interest and this led to new conflict of interest regulations within the school district requiring disclosure of other employers that school district employees work for. At one point, the employees at Total School Solutions were largely made up of administrators from Davis Joint Unified who were simultaneously on the both payrolls."
This is but the tip of the iceberg as we shall find out this coming year. However it was clear at the time that the current board was angry having been saddled with a three year last second contract extension by the previous board.
"The previous board was fiercely loyal to Superintendent Murphy and his staff. In fact, on their way out, one of their last actions before new members Gina Daleiden, Tim Taylor, and Sheila Allen took over was to extend Murphy's contract until July 31, 2008, which had for all intents and purposes tied the hands of the new school board. Something that deeply upset several of the members of the current board."
Within a week, the board would announce their interim replacement, Richard Whitmore. Controversy would arise due to the fact that David Murphy would be receiving severance pay at the same time the board was paying a new superintendent.
"The Davis Enterprise reported last night that "recently resigned" Superintendent David Murphy will continue to receive his salary until mid 2008 (when his contract would have expired). The district would pay Murphy approximately $225,000.

A week ago, Superintendent David Murphy surprised many in the community by announcing his retirement. Already the Davis Enterprise is calling it a "resignation."

This represents mounting evidence however that Murphy was in fact involuntarily terminated. One would not receive a settlement package for merely retiring or even resigning. This arrangement pretty much confirms our suggestion last Sunday that Murphy was in fact fired.

According to the Davis Enterprise:
"Over the coming three months, ending May 31, Murphy will “focus his efforts on mutually agreed-upon duties,” including completion of a reference manual outlining the superintendent’s duties and responsibilties (sic). Murphy also will use accrued vacation time."
A couple of points that need to clarified. First, the District is paying David Murphy $225,000 of taxpayer money not to work. That is a pretty strong statement there.

Second, we need to remind the public that it was the outgoing school board with BJ Kline, Joan Sallee, and Marty West that as one of their last acts, decided to extend the contract of David Murphy and made it extremely difficult for the incoming school board to terminate an employee that they believed was doing a poor job. Those members cost the Davis taxpayers and perhaps the students a tremendous amount."
This of course, in a city like Davis spawned controversy and letters to the editor.

George Warner writes:
Let's see if I have this straight. We're paying one school superintendent $168,000 for an $80,000 job and another $235,000 for sitting on his hands for a year or so.
Barbara Wochok writes:
Under a "complex settlement," nearly $300,000 in taxpayer dollars will support two superintendents during one year. One will be housed at the district office, one not.

Obviously, administrators matter more than students at Valley Oak. Taxpayer dollars are taxpayer dollars. Once again the money goes to the top, not to the classroom. How sad!
My perspective at time is that the school district had little choice but to do this, even if it meant biting a small financial bullet with a one-time severance payment.

As I wrote at the time:
What would be nice is if the local paper instead of writing editorials about how much we will miss David Murphy, actually reported the truth about what Murphy did and why he was likely fired. We have talked about the King High debacle here several times, but do these people understand that the district lost nearly $5 million in matching funds because it failed to meet deadlines? A fact that was buried in a paragraph near the end of the editorial on Sunday. Let's see five million versus $200,000. Hmmm.... Someone want to do the math here.
Mr. Whitmore earned high praise from Board President Jim Provenza and Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Delaine Eastin.
Board President Jim Provenza called Whitmore, “a leader who excels in managing both the education of children and business and financial operations that are so crucial to school districts.”

Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin speaks very highly of Mr. Whitmore. According to The Davis Enterprise:

During his years with the state, Whitmore worked closely with then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, a Davis resident who attended Monday night’s meeting of the Davis school board. Eastin called Whitmore “an inspired choice for interim superintendent” in Davis, and added, “I can think of no finer education leader.”

“His extraordinary intelligence, integrity and administrative skills will serve this great district very well indeed,” Eastin said. “Richard will work closely with his board and his staff, keeping them engaged and well-informed.”
Meanwhile the Davis Enterprise did not hesitate to lavish praise on the departed Superintendent.

Columnist Bob Dunning wrote that the "town owes Murphy a standing ovation."
"Like most superintendents, David Murphy had his supporters and his detractors … it comes with the territory … it would be impossible to be a superintendent of schools in Davis and make hard decisions without someone taking a shot at you, including the local daily columnist …"

"Yes, I've had a few disagreements with David Murphy during his tenure here, but none that made me question his integrity, his dedication or his desire to make the Davis district the best it could be "
Richard Whitmore would oversee a tumultuous time for the school board, one of his first meetings in fact was the decision to close Valley Oak.

On August 22, 2007, the school board announced the hiring of a new superintendent, James Hammond.

Board President Jim Provenza:
"The Board is pleased that Dr. Hammond has accepted the offer to lead our oustanding schools to new levels of excellence and achievement... Throughout his career as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent Dr. Hammond has demonstrated intelligent and inspiring leadership, and a deep passion for well being and academic achievement of all students, including those who are struggling to succeed. He is a rising star in public school administration. We are lucky to have him."
This was one decision where all five members of the board enthusiastically backed:
"Davis Board member Gina Daleiden expressed confidence that Dr. Hammond is the right leader for the Davis schools.

"Our extensive conversations with Tukwila school, parent, and community leaders revealed that Dr. Hammond is widely regarded as an extraordinary leader. Colleagues describe him as courageous in his decisions, and have enormous respect for his superb communications and managerial skills.”
Board Member Sheila Allen, who later was downright giddy added:

“The Tukwila staff emphasized that Dr Hammond fosters a culture of collaboration and teamwork that brings out the best in people. His enthusiasm and energy are contagious!”

Board Member Tim Taylor:

“Dr. Hammond has the extensive experience and proven leadership qualities our board desired in a new superintendent. He also has a genuine affection for students, and in return has their trust and admiration. It’s a pleasure to welcome him to the Davis Joint Unified School District.”

Board Member Keltie Jones:

“I am delighted with Dr. Hammond’s appointment. He brings a fresh level of energy and creativity to our district.” "
The Vanguard caught up with the new superintendent that evening:
For his part, the new superintendent seems excited but a bit overwhelmed.

"Just a little sense of being overwhelmed but at the same time very excited. From my initial interactions, just an exciting dynamic community. People value the schools. People value the kids. The quality of education, so it's just an exciting time for me personally."
Overall, it was an extremely eventful year for the school district. For good measure, Dr. Hammond already had to step in defuse a brewing battle between the district and the supporters of the Valley Oak Charter School.

Furthermore it seems that supporters of David Murphy, particularly former board members Joan Sallee and Marty West went out of their way to dredge up past controversies. In an op-ed, they accused the current board of fiscal mismanagement. As most will see in the coming weeks, the problem rests not with the current board but with the past board and the superintendent. (See the Vanguard's follow up as well).

For all of this, the firing of David Murphy is the third biggest Vanguard story of 2007.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 Year in Review--10 Biggest Vanguard Stories of 2007

As the first full year of the People's Vanguard of Davis comes to completion, we will countdown the top 10 stories from year. This is the second year we have done this.

Last year we counted down the 10 Biggest Stories in Davis.

This year we countdown the 10 biggest stories that we followed on the People's Vanguard of Davis.

We continue with the 4th biggest story: Sodexho Foodworkers Organize to Become UC Employees.

On May 1, 2007 protesters seeking university pay and benefits for food service workers held the first of a number of well-organized events. The main issues are ability over over 550 food service workers, custodians, and cooks to get university jobs which would entitle them to higher pay. An outsourced worker gets around $10.35 an hour versus a starting minimum over over $12 hour and a max of up to $15.50 for a university employee. However, even more important are health care benefits. One of the workers told me she was paying over $100 for her health care package where a UC Davis employed worker would only pay about 5% of that.

Police placed the number of protesters at 150, but the number appeared to be at least 400, and possibly more.

They held a rally at the MU for about half an hour. Then marched around the quad, down to Freeborn and held a brief rally there before heading down Howard to Russell and then down Russell to the corner of Russell and Anderson.
"The event was well organized. The police did a good job of blocking traffic, diverting it away from the protest and also did not engage with the protesters.

It was only when the larger group left the street to stand on the sidewalks, then a group of perhaps 24 to 30 people sat down in the middle of the intersection."
"At this point, Lt. Dorothy Pearson gave the order to disperse. When they did not disperse, officers read the protesters their rights and arrested them, one-by-one leading them into a bus.

When this was done, the protesters peacefully dispersed and there appeared to be no incidents. It was well handled by both the police and the organizers to make a point. Although you can see from one of the photos above, the police were ready with riot gear (or two of them were) if the crowd got out of hand."
Three weeks later, there was another large protest this one going directly to Mrak Hallthe main issues are ability over over 550 food service workers, custodians, and cooks to get university jobs which would entitle them to higher pay. An outsourced worker gets around $10.35 an hour versus a starting minimum over over $12 hour and a max of up to $15.50 for a university employee. However, even more important are health care benefits. One of the workers told me she was paying over $100 for her health care package where a UC Davis employed worker would only pay about 5% of that..
"A small contingent of 15 protesters had gotten inside the building prior to the protest and spoke to the crowd from second story windows. According to later reports, 15 of these people were arrested when they refused to leave the building.

The building was eventually locked down out of concern for public safety and the safety of the employees working in the building, although the crowd was largely well organized and did not seem to present a tremendous danger. The doors locked and protesters outside demanding action."
The lockdown of the building appeared to be an overreaction by the police and the university administration. The small but vocal crowd was of no threat to the safety of anyone.

We spoke with labor organizer Bill Camp who is the director of the Sacramento Central Labor Council. He described in detail the organizing efforts, some of the complaints about treatment by the police, and some other interesting details of protesting and being arrested at UC Davis and in Yolo County.
"Last Wednesday Bill Camp, 63, was one of several protesters who entered Mrak Hall, sat down on the first floor and was arrested for failure to disperse. And in fact, the protesters including Camp, were charged with not only failure to disperse but also trespassing.

The protesters went into the building in advance to see how to enter the building. They tried to see Chancellor Vanderhoef, but access to his office was blocked, and he was not there. Camp, wearing a tie and slacks, appeared as though he was some “old professor,” to use his words. The protesters went up to the second floor because they couldn’t get up to the fifth floor where the chancellor’s office is located. So, they went to the fourth floor and were going to walk up to the fifth floor."
The university began to receive pressure from a number of elected officials most notably however, Assemblywoman Lois Wolk.

The response by the university was disappointing. First they attempted to pit the Sodexho workers against the students, by suggesting to the students that they would raise student rates if the workers were granted university status and paid commensurate with what a university employee would get rather than an outsourced contract laborer.

"In an article in Dateline UC Davis, the university said that it wanted to hear from the students "who pay the bills" regarding the demands of food workers efforts to become university employees.

On the one hand, according to the article,

"Sodexho already announced that it has established an independent third-party grievance system, introduced the UC Davis Principles of Community to employees and boosted wages consistent with UC's recent pay increases for its lowest-paid workers."


In a Sodexho letter dated May 18 and posted online with [Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Janet] Gong's, the company's senior vice president, Bill Lacey, pointed out that the company in 2003 voluntarily elected to follow the Sacramento Living Wage policy, and that the company believes "our compensation is competitive within our industry."

On the other hand,

"The university estimates the cost of providing improved wages and more affordable benefits to Sodexho workers at $2.1 million annually."

Janet Gong, the interim head of Student Affairs suggests the following:

"This is a significant recurring cost that cannot readily be absorbed within the existing university budget."
She added that the burden of paying the extra cost would likely fall on students who rely on Sodexho service in the dining halls and elsewhere on campus. "Being mindful of the additional costs our students would face and consistent with the chancellor's commitment to address these issues, we are exploring a variety of strategies to improve wages and benefits.""
The students and workers decided to use Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef's annual event as a means to protest, particularly since food service workers were being used to serve the guests their meal.

A large number of prominent public officials entered the Chancellor's university residence and ignored the protesters outside.
"More interesting was perhaps the reaction of leaders in this community--some of whom have expressed open support for the food service workers. For instance, Assemblywoman Lois Wolk had sent a letter to the chancellor in March urging him to negotiate with the students in good faith. She was also supposed to be meeting with the Chancellor in hopes of pressuring him to resolve the meeting. Given that, it was surprising to see the Assemblywoman walk right past the protesters, along with her husband Bruce Wolk, and say nary a word.

Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor exchanged pleasantries with me, however, he did not attempt to talk to the students despite his earlier letter of support. Nor did Councilmember Ruth Asmundson. Nor did former Mayor and current Judge Dave Rosenberg. Nor did Congressman Mike Thompson's representative Eli Faircloth."

All but one public official, that would be County Supervisor Mariko Yamada:
"There was but one exception to that list--County Supervisor Mariko Yamada. Ms. Yamada walked up to the protesters, offered words of support and hugs, and made the determination that she should not go in, in light of the protest. The students talked her into going inside, however, it was clear from the student's reaction that her support was very meaningful to them. Nor was the fact that several other leaders in the community had walked right past them without a word lost upon them."
Chancellor Dennis Shimek, whose hardball tactics have at times angered the organizers and workers intentionally showed his disdain for the group.
"Vice Chancellor Dennis Shimek at one point intentionally and deliberately walked right through the marching picketers--and for really no apparent reason as he walked through some grass in some open space and then returned to the Chancellor's residence. I caught up to him at the park, and told him that my mother had taught me never to walk through a picket line.

He asked me, "why is that?"

I responded, "it is the ultimate sign of disrespect."

He said, "they were in the path, I had the right to walk there, so I did."

He could have easily walked around them. He was attempting to intimidate them and bully them, just as he had up in his office during negotiations. This is a university employee's disdain for students who were exercising their lawful right to assembly.

Finally, what perhaps disturbed me the most was the treatment of the protesters by the UC Davis police. There were at least six police officers there for a pretty small protest. But that's understandable given the size of previous protests. What concerned me was that the police were taking pictures of the protesters."
Meanwhile the university has continued with their attempts to break the will of the protesters. In August, announcing that a deal had been made with the workers. In fact, it was a deal deal that was cut with the company itself.
"According to UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef in the release:

"We have listened to a wide range of sometimes-conflicting concerns, and I believe we are responding in a principled way to balance the cost of improved benefits and wages for our food service workers with the need to maintain access and affordability for our students... And, very important to me because I believe a contract is one's word, we are doing so without breaking our contract with Sodexho. Sodexho is being responsive to our requests and is committed to strengthening its overall compensation competitiveness and workplace environment."

The release further claims:

"According to the agreement, Sodexho will augment its existing medical benefits plan by increasing the employer contribution level, effective January 1. The specific employer contribution will be determined by Sodexho prior to its employee health plan open-enrollment period in October.

The changes to the Sodexho contract are expected to add additional annual costs of approximately $2 million -- an estimated $1.5 million per year in additional costs to Student Housing and $500,000 per year to the Student Union operating services."
However, the news was met with caution and suspicion by the workers themselves.
"Dan Cole is the lead cook at Segundo and in charge of the station at the Segundo Dining Commons. He has been an employee there for five years. He makes a marginal income and feels he pays a lot for his health care benefits even though they are not great benefits.

According to him, this agreement is a good start.

"Everyone’s initial reaction was kind of to get excited, but they doing it for the wrong reasons, why now? They are doing this to get around the union. I don’t see why if they can get us the two-thirds, why can’t they go the whole way."

That is a point that he kept emphasizing, the University was willing to go two-thirds of the way there in terms of wages and benefits, but that's not the end of the story. There is no reason that they cannot go all the way and give them university employee status.

He views the University's tactic however as a "tactic to get around the union issue. They want to keep us as minimally happy as possible to keep things the way they are."

He described many of the workers now as being more resolved.

"Absolutely, everyone’s reaction is quite excited."

If anything this has made them in even stronger support for the union and their goals of becoming university employees.

"Without the union, this would not happen at all. A lot of people recognize what the union brings us—whether you agree or disagree with the union here, it is clear that this would not have happened if the union weren’t here.""
As the year comes to a close, the student protesters from the May 1 event have charges pending before them and their case will work through the court system. Meanwhile, the organizers are planning more actions in an attempt to gain university status and a livable wage with good and affordable benefits for these workers.

For all this, the Sodexho Food Service organizing is the fourth biggest Vanguard story for 2007.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting