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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lt. Governor Garamendi Speaks in Davis

Last night, Lt. Governor John Garamendi spoke at the Davis home of UC Davis Law Professor John Oakley and County Clerk Freddie Oakley. Garamendi who formerly served as a State Senator for the City of Davis is a Democratic candidate for Governor in 2010. Thank you to my wife Cecilia who took the photos and recorded the speech in my stead as I was under the weather. Here are some of the Lt. Governor's remarks.

We're in the process of making some absolutely crucial decisions about the future of California. I don't think we really understand how important this period is that we're living.

Education, you talk about education, you can talk about Davis or the surrounding area of Yolo and you can see all of the issues right here. You can see those communities where you have real serious educational issues--where you have poverty, immigrants, and minorities. You can see the pressure, you can see the dropout rates, you can see the kind of things that are going on and you don't have to go too far away and you can see some excellent things, excellent education. And of course you have the community college and of course this excellent university. So it's all right here.

Then the pressure on the land as our population grows. This morning 305 million Americans, and somewhere around 38 million Californians, probably a little more than that today, the extraordinary pressure that that's putting on the resources, the land, upon the water, transportation, air, all of those things, it's kind of like Davis.

Not too far away, but impacting this community is the budget of the state of California. At the beginning of the end of that process, it's the most important statement that we make annually about what's important to us. What's important to California? We're in this period of time and we're making a decision right now about what California's going to be in the years ahead. I have to tell, I am very deeply concerned. But I'm also really hopeful because Californians have always had this desire to do better. It's a place where we can do better. It's a place where we can grow and raise our families, where opportunity exists.

At the same time there is a reluctance to reach out and do the things that make that possible. And the reluctance is seen in this year's budget. Actually the last five years of budgets. If that's the statement about what's important to us in California then we are in deep trouble because the things that create the economic growth, the opportunity for people to get a good job, to climb the economic ladder, those investments are not being made. In fact, we're disinvesting. Each year we're investing in less things that create that economic growth, specifically education.

This university in 1990, the day I left the legislature, we spent $15,000 per student at the University of California. Last year we spent $10,000, actually a little less than $10,000. Now that is a statement of what’s important. A similar reduction has taken place at the state university system. There is no way this economy is going to prosper 10 to 15 years from now unless we reverse that and invest in education. K through 12, similarly, all of the discussion about kids not being prepared, all true.

Transportation issues, are we investing in transportation? No we’re not. We’re talking right now about stimulus packages and all of that. Where’s that money going to go? Is it going to go to the kind of transportation that this modern state needs? We don’t know. We’ll make a decision collectively, as a group, as a society. We’ll make a decision, are we going to continue to build the great freeway system which ultimately creates most of the climate change problems for the state of California? Or are we going to go into a different direction, one that moves us toward a modern transportation system? Modern like railroads. Modern like high speed trains. Modern like buses, public transportation systems.

If you take a look at the budgets that are coming down, the answer is we’re not going in that direction. We did pass the high speed rail bond. Will there be money to build it? Possibly. Twenty years ago, Jim Costa and I sponsored two pieces of legislation to establish the high speed rail program in California. We’re patient people, twenty years, it was signed into law and became law in 1990.

If you look at the health care system in the state of California, we have the most extraordinary health care system. It delivers the very best medicine in the world. We have six and a half million Californians that don’t participate in that system. That’s raw, it’s also an enormous drag on the economy. We spend a third of all the money in the health care system on administrative costs. At the new business school over here, you write a thesis, a project and you’re going to spend one-third of your money on administrative costs, they’re going to throw you out as a dumb-dumb. But yet we spend one-third of all the money on administrative costs that’s 17 percent of our economy.

So we’ve got some real issues. And these are decisions that we’re making right now about the future of California.

We’ve made a decision to deal with greenhouse gases. Now the implementation of that, when the going gets really tough, because we have to change the way we spend our money if we’re going to deal with greenhouse gases. We’re not going to be able to spend our money on things that we once did—oil, gasoline. We’re going to have spend our money on renewable. We’re going to have to spend our money and subsidize those things that reduce the greenhouse gases. Fundamental decisions, my vision is to get at those things. To cause us as Californians to once again realize that can do the things to create a great state, that give us a good environment, that deal with the greenhouse gases.

There is enough water in California to deal with the water issues. We can do those things, but not if we do not use our government wisely as a tool to achieve success, as a way of solving our problems. Those folks in California that say that government is bad, they are the worst, they are the people that will cause us to fail. You look down through the history of America, you look down through the history of California, we have always succeeded when two things came together simultaneously—a strong powerful government that put in place programs, incentives, subsidies, and direction and then a strong private sector that working together with government, built the state. It happened every single time we made progress.

Agricultural industry wouldn’t exist as it is known in California today were it not for UC Davis and the investment that public made in Agricultural Research and the Agricultural Extension programs and the water programs and transportation programs and the education programs.

So where are we going as Californians? We’re going to know very soon. What’s happening in Sacramento with the budget today is the worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve been around since 1974 in government and I’ve never seen this kind of thing happen before.

The governor declares a fiscal emergency three weeks ago and then leaves down for a vacation. Hello? Hello is there an emergency? Well apparently it’s not so great so as to disrupt a ski vacation. Come on Governor. You said you’re going to make everybody stick around, where are you?

I tell you these things can be solved. I can see how they will be solved. The Republicans will vote for a tax increase, they will. There’s at least four members of the Assembly that will under the right circumstances vote for a tax increase. They only need five and there’s two in the Senate. I know who they are. And I know that they will vote for it—under the right circumstances—so you have to create the political atmosphere in that building. And you don’t do it by calling people names. You do it by working with them.

The other thing is, we’re the eighth wealthiest economy in the world. We’ve got our troubles. This economy’s not as strong, not as robust as it was two or three years ago. But we’re still the eighth largest economy in the world. We have great wealth in this state and we will make a collective decision are we going to spend that money and invest that wealth in things that create opportunity and economic growth or are we going to horde it, keep it to ourselves, we’re making that decision.

If we took one percent of the wealth that the California economy produces each year, took that wealth, and applied it to education, transportation, dealing with the climate, there would not be a budget problem today. It’s more than a trillion-and-a-half economy. It’s great wealth. How do we use that wealth? Do we use it for short-term, for whatever we’re doing at this moment or do we do what has always been the California tradition, that is to invest. Invest in those things that create opportunity—education, infrastructure, research.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Looking at the Facility Needs for Emerson and Davis High School

There were a lot of strange looks at the Facilities Masterplan introduced back on December 18 to the Davis School Board. The ultimate price for the long and exhaustive wish list was $200 million. Some asked what the value of such a pie-in-the-sky masterplan was, and they would be right to a certain extent. However forgotten there is the fact that this the beginning of the process, not the end of the process of developing a masterplan. Everything possible is now on the table and now begins the process of winnowing down to a workable and realistic plan.

There were two projects however that are not going to wait that long. The highest priority project right now is the track and football field at the Davis High School. Second on the list is upgrades to Emerson Junior High School.

The costs for these projects are considerable, their need is great however.

The school board put the Track and Field as the highest priority. Some in West Davis are undoubtedly groaning. However, there is a logic here that needs to be understood. You get a sense of it watching the presentation on the state of the field. I got a sense of it talking to a few high school students who use the field as well. Basically it is a big safety hazard in several different ways.

The two biggest are the condition of the track itself which makes for treacherous footing and has resulted in numerous injuries. Also the condition of the stands is very dangerous and has also caused numerous injuries. In short, it is a safety hazard and a huge liability for the school district.

The changes needed at Emerson fall into the code compliance category. I'm not going to say they are aren't potential safety hazards but they are not immediate safety hazards. Moreover, according to the consultant the need to make these upgrades is not as immediate. What he told the board was that until the school district has to work on these facilities, they do not need to make the upgrades. Once they work on the facility they would have to upgrade it. That gives the district some time to play with.

The basic hope is that some of the money needed to upgrade the track and field complex at the high school can be raised privately through the Blue and White Foundation. At the meeting, Foundation president Michael McDermott said that the Foundation has raised about $200,000 and has pledges for another $100,000, numbers paled of course by the $5 to $10 million project.

The school district does not have much money in their facilities fund. They basically used the rest of it to complete the King High construction. The $4.5 million that the district got from Montgomery went to pay off the bond they took out for King High when the district discovered that they were lacking the money they thought they had for the project.

There is expressed concern that this means that Emerson will close. There have certainly been rumors to that effect. However, the most important thing that came to light during the meeting on December 18 is the fact that really, Emerson's needs are not huge safety concerns. Emerson according to what we heard and what Board Member Tim Taylor said is not suffering from deteriorating conditions to its buildings. What it needs is to become code compliant and that is something that is neither an immediate need nor urgent.

Moreover, all five board member expressed some form of support for Emerson, it is just they all recognized that the safety hazards of the high school track push that need to front.

As mentioned previous Mr. Taylor dismissed concerns about deteriorating conditions at Emerson as not borne out by surveys by district architects. Board President Gina Daleiden said that the projects are not mutually exclusive. Sheila Allen emphasized the importance of the academic program and facilities at Emerson. Susan Lovenburg wants the planning for a modernization of Emerson to be further fleshed out.

She said:
"I'd like to see some phased-in approaches to Emerson' as well as 'some exploration of different types of programs that could attract additional funding from state, federal and private sources."
In short, as I have been stating all along here, I do not think people at Emerson have all that much to worry about assuming that the district can find ways to remain in the black. The most important asset that Emerson has going for it right now is geography, the logistics of closing it would be considerable.

So while DHS has been pushed up to the front, Emerson seems in good stead.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Monday, December 29, 2008

Scaled Down Wood Burning Ban and Restrictions Before Council Next Week

Back in July, the Davis City Council voted unanimously to support a wood burning ban and send the matter to the Natural Resources Commission to write an ordinance. Even at that point of time, while supportive of the concept of banning wood burning stoves, it was clear that council was well ahead of the public on this issue.

Specifically I worried that the public did not even know this was coming down for the most part until the council had already discussed the issue. In the subsequent weeks and months, as the public has become aware of the issue, the public has turned against the idea of banning wood burning stoves.

Back on August 27, nearly a month after the council voted unanimously to move forward with a resolution, I wrote in the Vanguard:
On July 29, 2008, the Davis City Council unanimously voted to recommend to the Natural Resources Commission to draft a resolution that would implement a full ban on wood burning in Davis with an exemption for hardship.

I will say at the onset here, that I am fully in support of that decision, particularly with such an exemption for people of lower income backgrounds who rely on wood burning as a cheaper means by which to heat their homes in the winter.

However, at the time I was concerned about the way in which this issue had been dealt with by the city, the city council, and the local paper--or that is, not dealt. I got up to speak before city council on the night of July 29, 2008, to recommend two things. First, that we need exemptions for people with hardships. And second, that we needed better outreach before this meeting.

On the morning of July 29, I wrote this article in the Vanguard
. It essentially lays out my position on the technical aspects of this issue. But I believe that for many in this community, they did not know this issue was even under consideration until that article appeared the Vanguard and subsequently an article in the Davis Enterprise on July 31, 2008.
As a result, the Natural Resources Commission has made an alternative set of recommendations from staff recommendations. Both sets of recommendations significantly scale back the original council action approved on July 29, 2008.

The staff report is roughly 25 pages, thus this summary will not do it justice.

However, staff does make five recommendations that if the council approves them, an ordinance would be brought back well before November 2009 which would constitute the beginning of the next burn season.

Staff recommendations:
a) Work with Dr. Cahill and the YSAQMD to establish monitoring to gather specific air quality information, to be used in assessing what further restrictions may be in order;

b) Adopt the following wood burning restrictions: Establish burn/no burn days based on Federal air quality standard of PM2.5 of 35 ug/m3 and apply the same criteria to open hearth and non-certified appliances. Restrictions do not include the eventual ban on open hearth an non-certified appliances. Further restrictions will be revisited once air quality data is collected and analyzed.

c) Work more closely with the YSAQMD to disseminate all manner of information on the wood burning, i.e., health effects, proper burning techniques, etc;

d) Pursue programs that would encourage the change out of old appliances and the conversion of open hearth. This can be done through promotion of YSAQMD’s Woodstove Change Out Program and pursuing funds to increase the grant amount to further encourage change outs;

e) Pursue viability of using resale requirements that may reduce the number of open hearths and non-certified appliances.
Natural Resources Commission Recommendations:
a) Wood burning will only be allowed on “Allowable Burn Days” defined as a forecasted average regional PM 2.5 of 25 ug/m3 (particulate matter) or lower and a forecasted average wind speed from 6 PM to midnight of 5 mph or greater.

b) Wood burning will be allowed a maximum of 6 hours per day per residence and only burning of seasoned dry wood is allowed.

c) Beginning March 1, 2010, wood burning is only allowed in EPA Phase II-Certified wood and pellet stoves and prohibited in fire places or non-EPA certified appliances.

d) A one time permit is required (for law enforcement and educational purposes). Permit issuance would start March 1, 2010.

e) This proposed ordinance does not pertain to any appliances fueled by natural gas or propane and/or designed and exclusively used for cooking purposes.

f) Exemptions are allowed for temporary breakdowns of other heat sources and power outages.
The major difference between two the recommendations is that Staff's recommendation focus on burn restrictions and contains no bans at this time. The NRC bans open hearth and other non-certified appliances but allows EPA Phase 2 certified appliances.

Staff report explains that they have followed Dr. Cahill's approach:
"At the October NRC meeting, Dr. Cahill, a former professor in the UC system and local expert on global climate change, offered to work with the city to gather air quality information. Staff supports Dr. Cahill’s measured approach of gathering specific information that will aide in assessing the air quality and the nature of future action. This would be accomplished through a donation of monitoring equipment and Dr. Cahill’s expertise and time to evaluate data. Staff has met with Dr. Cahill and a monitoring station has been set up."
The staff report does not know what the fiscal impact of this approach will be.

The enforcement issue has been a concern. The idea that the police would have to become the enforcers seems a waste of police resources among other related problems. The NRC draft ordinance includes enforcement as a response to those who burn illegally, staff seems uncomfortable with the notion however.
"While it is simple to suggest that the Police Department enforce the ordinance, the nuances of actually doing so are quite complex. There are several elements that make the draft ordinance difficult to enforce."
The staff report continues:
1. Because of the inherent difficulties of monitoring actual burning time, the 6 hour
maximum burn time is not enforceable.

2. Enforcement is complicated when various appliances are treated differently. Police officers would be required to distinguish between open hearth, non-EPA certified wood burning stoves and inserts and EPA Phase II certified stoves and inserts. Some of this concern is relieved if permits are issued.

3. Police officers would be required to distinguish between seasoned dry wood and unseasoned or wet wood.

4. And lastly, this type of call could be triaged and be a very low priority. It is difficult to estimate what percentage of calls the Police Department would be able to respond to.
This actually only gets to the tip of the iceberg. Quite simply enforcement would have to be treated specially. Because different devices, different woods, and burning time periods are involved, it would make the police's job very difficult. This is not a like a noise ordinance or a smoking ordinance that would be fairly straight forward to enforce. The city probably does not have the resources to deal with the enforcement and frankly this is not what the police should be doing either. This section needs considerable thought and attention--while I might in general favor the NRC approach, it would be very difficult to enforce which might make the staff approach more feasible.

Finally the issue of burn/ no burn criteria is discussed.

Staff's assessment of the NRC recommendation:
"The criteria the NRC recommends uses an air quality threshold that is lower than the Federal standard. To our knowledge, this lower threshold has not been used in any other burn restricting ordinances. The NRC recommendation further adds an additional factor of wind speed which is also unprecedented."
Staff on the other hand:
"Staff believes a more measured approach and collection of air quality data will assist with the establishment of burn/no burn criteria based on the City’s air quality. The data collected will help define the air quality challenges in the City and thus allow for the development of burn/no burn thresholds that target the city’s needs. Staff recommends starting with moderate restrictions, the Federal standard, and then stepping towards a more restrictive ordinance as may be deemed necessary by the results of the data collection."
It is helpful that the staff report includes a chart to show the impact of each regulation:

The bottom line here is that staff's approach is probably the least preferred alternative at this point. The impact to people who have allergies and asthma of wood burning is immeasurable. It is probably a larger percentage of the population than the percentage that makes frequent use of wood burning.

However, what happened was the initial wood burning ban got too far ahead of the public on this issue and there has been considerable blowback over the last four or five months. The result was the need for a more scaled-back approach. Wood burning bans in short need to be slowly phased in and the public needs to be educated on the health hazards involved. That certainly had not occurred in July, which is why we expressed concern at that point in time that the issue had not been properly vetted.

From our perspective, the NRC approach is the better approach than the staff report. It contains the goal of phasing out and banning non-EPA approved devices and has a more stringent measure for no burn days.

However, even with this more scaled back approach, there remains the concern that because it is multifaceted, it will be difficult to enforce. That is not a reason not to pass it, but it does need to be thoroughly examined.

The Vanguard understands the rationale behind the more measured approach, but fears it does not go far enough and is not aggressive enough in terms of dealing with the very real health hazards involved in wood burning.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, December 28, 2008

As Regional and State Growth Rates Fall, What Will Be the Impact on Davis?

The Sacramento Bee reported back on December 18, 2008 that the regional and state growth rates have fallen to its lowest levels in more than a decade.

In six counties surrounding Sacramento which include Yolo, Sutter, Yuba, Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento Counties, the growth rate from July 1, 2007 to July 1, 2008 was only 1.39%. Separately, Yolo County grew at 1.46 percent adding around 3,000 people. Placer was the fastest growing county in California at 2.6 percent. Sacramento grew at a rate below the statewide level at 1.11 percent.

Statewide the growth rate was actually lower at 1.16%.

More people moved out of California than moved into California during this time period.

What does all of this mean for Yolo County and Davis?

Davis has spent considerable time and energy focusing on the issue of growth. One of the arguments in recent years has been that Davis must take on its fair share of new growth. That was a more poignant argument in the early part of this decade was population growth was exploding and the housing market booming.

Regional governance groups like SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments) and RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) have developed models for growth based on allocations of fair share. In other words, the basic model determines how much of the region's growth a given area should accommodate.

The problem is that this has become a moving target for local growth politics. Back during the Measure X debate, the argument used by proponents was the Davis would be penalized if it did not take on its supposed fair share of growth.

However, by 2007, RHNA had come out with new numbers suggesting that Davis needed to take on a much smaller share of growth--considerably less than the current projected growth rate of 1%. When it did however, the debate was shifted in Davis.

First, the 1% growth requirement became a growth cap. Now 1% is the target and the limit rather than the threshold that we need to meet.

Second, the debate in Davis is about internal housing needs rather than regional fair share growth allocations. Frankly this is what the debate always should have been about from the beginning.

In this sense, falling state and regional rates may relieve some pressure for Davis to grow. However, perceptions about the internal needs of Davis, which have thus far been more theoretic and less concrete, have continued to drive the debate.

Frankly, for everyone but the most ardent no-growther, the question is really about where, how, and how quickly we grow. I am not in the no-growth camp. I would also prefer not to put a number on our growth rate.

From my perspective one problem with housing in Davis is that UC Davis has taken on less than its share of student housing. UC Davis has the lowest percentage of on-campus housing in the UC system. There are several advantages for UC Davis to provide more housing. First, they can subsidize it, which lowers the costs to the students. Second, they have a large amount of available land. A good, dense, and environmentally friendly project on the UC campus would go a long way toward helping the city better assess its own needs.

A recent survey of apartments in Davis found that the vacancy rate in the city of Davis increased slightly this fall to .8 percent. However, the rental rates continued to rise by an average of 4.36 percent. Interestingly, though the vacancy rate was higher this year, the rate of increase was also higher than the previous year where a .7 percent vacancy yielded a 4.18 percent increase in rent. This despite the depressed housing market and economy.

In the comparable cities, Woodland saw a 4.1 percent vacancy rate but a 4.8 percent rent increase. On the other hand, West Sacramento nearly has 20% of its apartments vacant and the resultant rate only saw a .6 percent increase.

Clearly Davis needs more student housing. The argument again for UC Davis to provide on-campus housing is first that they have the land and can subsidize the property, but second that UC Davis' growth in recent years is a large culprit in the lack of student housing in Davis. By providing more housing, more single family units within the city could be freed up for people who work in Davis but have not been able to live here.

This is the strongest pressure driving the need for Davis to grow. Earlier this month, the Vanguard suggested one option, similar to what Cal Poly did, which is create a large and dense housing complex on campus. A facility of that sort, highly innovative and land conscious, could take a huge pressure off the city to have to expand its borders.

For all of the talk about internal housing needs, very few of the proposed projects in the Housing Element Steering Committee's top sites have a sizable student housing component. Almost all of them focus instead on single family residences with a few affordable and multifamily dwellings thrown in the mix.

In other words, with perhaps the exception of Nishi, which has other problems, there are no plans put forth to deal with the largest internal housing need we have.

The West Village will break ground this year and provide an additional 2000 units or so for student housing. That is a good start, but with UC Davis continuing to grow and not enough student housing at present, West Village is clearly not enough.

Many residents are not opposed to growth with good, environmentally friendly projects that continue to preserve the character of Davis. The problem is from many of our perspectives, the new subdivisions that we have seen in town could have been plopped down anywhere in the country. That's not the kind of large scale growth we would like to see.

Give me a housing project I can get behind and I will. I would like to focus on environmentally sustainable, smaller houses so that middle income people can afford them, a student housing component, a senior housing component, and a work force housing component.

The city of Davis has already approved housing for Verona, for Simmons, and for Grande. That's over 200 units right there. In addition, West Village will provide a large number of units over three phases. In addition, Lewis is proposing 600 units, on a property that would be better served with a business park. The Wild Horse Ranch will be proposing somewhere just under 200 units in the coming months for a project that would require a Measure J vote.

In this housing market, that is more than enough housing to last us the foreseeable future. I would like to see one additional project, and that would be a high density, UC Davis campus project that provides 3000 to 5000 beds on the UC Campus in an environmentally sustainable way. If we do that, I think we our needs for a while in terms of housing.

The external pressures have lessened and the housing market is in bad shape. That will give us time to work on making what we do have as carbon neutral as possible--a very worthwhile endeavor in the coming years.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Rise of New Investigative Reporting

Back in November the New York Times had an interesting article, the focus was on a San Diego blog--Voice of San Diego.

Writes the New York Times:
"Over the last two years, some of this city’s darkest secrets have been dragged into the light — city officials with conflicts of interest and hidden pay raises, affordable housing that was not affordable, misleading crime statistics.

Investigations ensued. The chiefs of two redevelopment agencies were forced out. One of them faces criminal charges. Yet the main revelations came not from any of San Diego’s television and radio stations or its dominant newspaper, The San Diego Union-Tribune, but from a handful of young journalists at a nonprofit Web site run out of a converted military base far from downtown’s glass towers — a site that did not exist four years ago."
Indeed in this country we have seen a trend of local newspapers going out of business, struggling financially, cutting their staffs, etc. The result has been that there are fewer and fewer investigative reports from mainstream newspapers. This has led to a huge hole in local coverage, a hole filled now by the rise of "a new kind of Web-based news operation" which is now forcing the local papers to follow the stories that they uncover.

Sound familiar?

The New York Times reports that similar operations have cropped up in New Haven, the Twin Cities, Seattle, St. Louis, and Chicago. In fact, there are many more in big and small towns.

Where this movement perhaps differs from the Vanguard is that it is being led by professional journalists rather than citizen journalism posted by unpaid amateurs.
The fledgling movement has reached a sufficient critical mass, its founders think, so they plan to form an association, angling for national advertising and foundation grants that they could not compete for singly. And hardly a week goes by without a call from journalists around the country seeking advice about starting their own online news outlets.

“Voice is doing really significant work, driving the agenda on redevelopment and some other areas, putting local politicians and businesses on the hot seat,” said Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. “I have them come into my classes, and I introduce them as, ‘This is the future of journalism.’ ”
All around the country, newspapers are struggling to survive. We learned recently that the owners of some of the largest papers in the country the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune are declaring bankruptcy. Locally reporters are being laid off because of struggling times.

The death of newspapers does not have to come, what needs to happen is that newspapers change the way they operate.
"That is a subject of hot debate among people who closely follow the newspaper industry. Publishing online means operating at half the cost of a comparable printed paper, but online advertising is not robust enough to sustain a newsroom.

And so financially, VoiceofSan Diego and its peers mimic public broadcasting, not newspapers. They are nonprofit corporations supported by foundations, wealthy donors, audience contributions and a little advertising."
This is a model that the Vanguard is likely to follow in the coming year.
But some experts question whether a large part of the news business can survive on what is essentially charity, and whether it is wise to lean too heavily on the whims of a few moneyed benefactors.

“These are some of the big questions about the future of the business,” said Robert H. Giles, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Nonprofit news online “has to be explored and experimented with, but it has to overcome the hurdle of proving it can support a big news staff. Even the most well-funded of these sites are a far cry in resources from a city newspaper.”

The people who run the local news sites see themselves as one future among many, and they have a complex relationship with traditional media. The say that the deterioration of those media has created an opening for new sources of news, as well as a surplus of unemployed journalists for them to hire.

“No one here welcomes the decline of newspapers,” said Andrew Donohue, one of two executive editors at VoiceofSanDiego. “We can’t be the main news source for this city, not for the foreseeable future. We only have 11 people.”
I think what we will see are more of these kinds of operations. The question is whether these kinds of entities are providing the kind of coverage that people seek.

It is worth reading the full New York Times article from November.

From a local level, one of the things the Vanguard has done in the last year has been to move to more investigative and more watch dog reporting. The local newspaper offers people a better guide to community events, but the Vanguard has the luxury of being able to focus on a single story or two a day and going much further in depth than the local paper. Thus the Vanguard was able to delve deeply into the operations of a Tahir Ahad where the local paper never really covered the story.

Investigative reporting is an issue that many local papers have gone away from. The result is that most stories scratch the surface and rely heavily on official sources. The EPA story from earlier this week represents an interesting case in point. The local activists are concerned about developments on the Superfund Site which will house the new Target. The EPA writes a letter laying out their position that the site does not pose a health risk. However, the local group is skeptical of these claims. The Vanguard actually reports the issue first and takes the side of the local group. The Enterprise reports the next day but takes the side of the EPA. That will likely be the last article you see on this subject by the Enterprise, meanwhile the Vanguard has already written a follow up.

But there is more going on in this story, and probably as soon as next week, we will have further information as the Vanguard continues to dig to get to the bottom of what is going on while the Enterprise has long since moved on and declared there is nothing to see. Perhaps the Vanguard will find something out that changes the course of the story, perhaps it won't. But the fact that the Vanguard keeps looking beyond the official word sets it apart from the rest.

Recently the New York Times had a Q&A with a numbers of their reporters and editors on their internet site. So I asked a question of Walt Bogdanich assistant editor at the New York Times Investigative desk (must be nice to work for a large paper).
In 2008, Mr. Bogdanich won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for the series "A Toxic Pipeline," which tracked how dangerous and poisonous pharmaceutical ingredients from China have flowed into the global market. In 2005, Mr. Bogdanich won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his series "Death on the Tracks," which examined the safety record of the United States railroad industry. And in 1988, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Specialized Reporting, for his articles in The Wall Street Journal on substandard medical laboratories.
So I ask how local papers can continue investigative reporting given their limited budgets.
"There seems to be a vicious circle now in the media. Primarily that investigative reporting is not funded in all but a few papers because of the loss of revenue and profit that newspapers have brought in. But in part that is due to the declining dedication and quality of the product. How can local newspapers re-commit themselves to investigative reporting?"
Unfortunately his response missed the point:
"Yes, many newspapers have less money to spend on investigative reporting. But it is also true that investigative reporting costs less today than 20 years ago because of the Internet. Case in point: while sitting at our desks in New York, reporters were able to analyze the types of pharmaceutical ingredients that Chinese chemical companies were selling on the open market. Having a great cash flow is not a prerequisite for investigative reporting. It helps, of course. But remember, back in the days when newspapers were flush with cash, most of them did very little of it."
The point is that local newspapers are not doing investigative reporting. It may be cheaper than it used to be, but newspapers are cutting back staff.

The future of local newspapers in part will depend on their ability to figure out a way to restructure in a different economic environment. They will need to find a way to make money and provide a service that people want.

The Vanguard on a good day probably has about a quarter of the readers that the Enterprise gets on a daily basis. (The Enterprise itself only gains access into roughly one-third of the households in the city of Davis with its regular circulation.) There is a niche here to be exploited. The Vanguard has been able to do this with hardly any money used to promote itself. There is obviously a yearning in the populace for more than the bare bones news coverage that most local papers offer while at the same time the local papers provide vital information on an array of topics that the Vanguard could never even hope to try to cover.

The bottom line here is that newspapers are going to have to change if they want to survive. So far they seem reluctant to do so.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Friday, December 26, 2008

A look at Deep Throat, Investigative Reporting, and the Role of Deep Throat in Watergate

Given that it is the day after Christmas, I thought we would talk about something a little different from what we usual talk about. As a fan of and a recent practitioner of investigative reporting, the story of Deep Throat and Woodward and Bernstein has been intriguing to me. Woodward and Bernstein's investigative reporting during Watergate started a new era and inspired young journalists in hopes of becoming the next muckraking reporter.

The past week marked the passing of Mark Felt at the age of 95. Mark Felt in 2005 revealed that he was in fact the mysterious Deep Throat, Bob Woodward's deep background source in the early Watergate stories. Much controversy surrounds the actions of Deep Throat, even to this day. To many who considered Watergate an appalling abuse of power and a true threat to the very fabric of democracy, Mark Felt is a hero and a whistle blower who put the country first. Others consider him disloyal for leaking at best secret information available to him at his position as the No.2 man in the FBI.

To make matters more ambiguous, he was an unapologetic supporter of Hoover and Hoover's FBI policies. He helped implement COINTELPRO. He was unabashed about spying on Vietnam protesters, suspected communists, civil rights leaders, etc.

This summer, by happenstance I happened to read Woodward and Bernstein's "All the President's Men," intrigued I followed it up reading Woodward's account of Mark Felt, "The Secret Man," and just for good measure, I read Stanley Kutler's account of Watergate, "The Wars of Watergate," a book some historians consider a definitive account of the controversy.

From reading Woodward and Bernstein it is clear that Mark Felt was always conflicted. On the one hand, appalled at the conduct of the Nixon administration including Nixon himself, he felt obliged to leak information in a roundabout way to the public through Bob Woodward whom describes their original meeting several years prior somewhat as a matter of happenstance.

On the other hand, he was paranoid of being discovered but also conflicted as to whether or not he should leak the information. Events after Watergate as described in "Secret Man" indicate that he and Woodward had a falling out. Felt took considerable heat just as a suspected "Deep Throat" one of many. One thing that remains questionable is whether Felt himself ever made the decision in 2005 to reveal himself. Woodward in "Secret Man" describes a meeting with Felt late in Felt's life. Felt does not even remember Woodward. It is not even clear that Felt remembers Watergate or his role in Watergate fully. Woodward alludes to perhaps John O'Connor pushing Mark Felt to come out in order to push a book he does with Mark Felt.

A Washington Post book reviews describes the resulting book, "A G-Man's Life":
"A G-Man's Life also adds little because it's an odd publishing venture, evidently assembled under trying circumstances: The man whose revelations were supposed to drive the book was unable to recall anything about the revelations he was contracted to reveal. The resulting book is hardly more than an abridgement, lifted word for word, from Felt's 1979 memoir, The FBI Pyramid, in which he stoutly denied being Deep Throat, supplemented by extracts from an unpublished manuscript written with his son sometime after 1983 in which Felt provided more material on his early days in the FBI and, in O'Connor's words, "edged closer to his Deep Throat identity."

Added to the mix, according to O'Connor, are some of Felt's FBI memos and some interviews conducted by Felt's family, his caretaker and O'Connor from early 2002 to late 2005, but Woodward's accounts of his meetings with Felt during that same period establish that Felt could remember next to nothing about his past by then. The new book also contains an introduction and conclusion by O'Connor and a speculative aside (inserted into the Watergate chapter) in which O'Connor guesses at Felt's motives for helping Woodward uncover the Nixon White House's cover-up of its role in the burglary.

Felt's own portions of the book, derived almost entirely from his 1979 memoir and his 1980s reminiscences, have not been adjusted to reflect his "edging" toward admitting that he was Woodward's source, let alone his 2005 admission that "I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat." O'Connor appears to have been scrupulous in ensuring that the words in the Felt sections are actually by Felt, but this makes for some perplexing narration.

You will read Felt musing, "People will debate for a long time whether I did the right thing by helping Woodward" just after Felt has said that his contact with Woodward was limited to "one occasion during the Watergate investigation" -- a statement itself contradicted a few pages later when Felt adds, "I met with Woodward over the next few months, again only confirming or not confirming information he already had collected from other sources." This is as close as this book (in the sections that are supposed to be Felt's) comes to discussing his role as Deep Throat, and it is impossible to tell exactly which words he wrote himself or when he wrote them."
One thing that becomes clear reading all of these books in concert with each other is that popular lore probably overstates the role that Mark Felt and also Woodward and Bernstein played in Watergate.

I argue in fact, the role was overblown by the popularity of the movie, "All The President's Men" starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford.

Mark Felt revealed information to Woodward and Bernstein, but it was first of all the tip of the iceberg. Obviously the information was coming from the FBI who was doing much of the original investigation. It was a rare event when Woodward and Bernstein knew more than the FBI, in fact, there was a scene in the movie where Bernstein was meeting with his source from the FBI, and they noted this. He even made reference to everyone believing that the FBI was tipping off the Washington Post.

Moreover, on the eve of the 1972 election, though the Washington Post had kept the story alive to some extent, it was view by the public who knew about it as a partisan scandal. Many simply believed this was the McGovern campaign's grasp at straws. A poll revealed less than half the public even had heard of Watergate.

The key turning points came not from anything the Washington Post did, indeed the election pretty much marked the end of their influence as a leading publication on Watergate, but rather turned to the Congressional Watergate hearings. The key were figures such as Southern Democratic Senator Sam Ervin who headed up the Senate Select Committee on Watergate.

A key moment came during the confirmation hearings for Pat Gray who had been acting FBI Director following Hoover's death and was nominated to become Hoover's full time successor. But during hearings Gray inadvertently revealed the extent to which White House Council John Dean had involvement in what appeared to be a containment policy.

As Kutler wrote:
"The creation in early February (1973) of the Senate Select Committee investigating the 1972 campaign had caused barely a ripple of public attention... But as John Dean's "containment" policy disintegrated against the backdrop of revelations unveiled in the Gray hearings, "Watergate" rapidly became a meaningful--and loaded--political term that spread across the nation, raising far-reaching political concerns."
Within a month, the President's top men would have to resign from the scandal. While Gray's testimony was not the death knell, it was a game changer to use current parlance. Prior to March of 1973, Watergate was still a largely unknown and considered partisan scandal. After that, it became increasingly clear how much of a role the White House played in the cover up. The impetus was not Deep Throat, but the Senate Select Committee investigations and the carelessness of people like Patrick Gray.

As we all know now, the key in any scandal is not what you do, but whether or not you try to cover it up. Had Nixon simply revealed in 1972 their role in Watergate, or even in December of January of 1973, he probably would have survived. But the Nixon White House feared not so much the Watergate break in, but their pattern of corruption, use of slush funds, the extent to which they wielded their political power to try to disgrace their enemies. Their use of these tactics to bring down more formidable challengers in 1972 such as Ed Muskie and insure someone like George McGovern, a good man clearly far to the left of most of the population would get nominated.

In the end, I would argue that Mark Felt is more an intriguing footnote on history than the man who brought down Nixon. It is perhaps true, that without the Washington Post to keep the scandal alive in the minds of Washington insiders, that these later events could not have unfolded, but nothing that the Washington Post revealed was unknown by the FBI.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

The Vanguard will return with a new article tomorrow. Have a good and safe holiday.

Happy Hanukkah all.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

WHITEWASHED: Davis Enterprise Downplays TCP Story at Target Site

On Monday, the Vanguard ran an article reporting on a new discovery of TCP, at a level well over the reporting limit. The local group, Frontier Fertilizer Superfund Oversight Group (FFSOG) is concerned enough that they want to see additional testing.

Now the Enterprise runs a story with the same facts available to them that the Vanguard has, however, they completely bury the concerns of FFSOG and its president, longtime community activist Pam Nieberg, and place complete faith in the EPA and its spokesperson Bonnie Arthur.

The headline itself displays the full bias of the article: "Toxics won't impede Target: New contaminant deemed low-risk."

Claire St. John of the Enterprise writes:
The discovery of the pesticide isn't surprising. It was first detected at the Superfund cleanup site west of where the new Target will be built. TCP was first discovered in 1983, after the Environmental Protection Agency began cleaning up a site where the former Frontier Fertilizer company dumped pesticides in unlined pits along Second Street.

'It's not a new discovery of contamination,' said Bonnie Arthur, project supervisor for the EPA's Superfund Division. 'It's a slightly different area than what we've seen before. It's a little bit further to the east. It's not unexpected in terms of what we know about how this chemical moves around in the subsurface.'


'We'll probably have to install some additional monitoring wells just to investigate it further,' Arthur said. 'But it's not something that's a showstopper to us in terms of the Target development.'

'We have an enforceable agreement with them, so if we had to, we'd drill through their slab,' Arthur said. 'We've done it before. We're not going to ignore it, but we don't think there's any health risk. Nobody's drinking the water.'"
FFSOG and Pam Nieberg Disagree with Arthur here

In a letter to EPA Project Manager Bonnie Arthur, Pam Nieberg wrote:
"I am concerned that Target is planning to move ahead with construction prior to further evaluation of the extent of the TCP contamination. I expressed these concerns to the FFSOG Board and community members in attendance and they believe that further sampling should occur to determine the extent and source of the TCP contamination prior to further construction at the Target site."
She continued:
"You stated in your November 24th response that EPA can require Target to investigate the TCP contamination if you determine at a later date that the plume does not come from the Frontier site. However, once the foundation and parking lot are built, sampling will be much more difficult if not impossible in the case of the store concrete slab. Moreover, if the TCP originated from the source area, it changes the nature and scope of the Frontier site clean up and investigation. Specifically, this detection may indicate that the contamination has moved further that previously thought thus requiring reassessment of the pump and treat system and the extent of the groundwater contamination. Therefore, in addition to assessing the extent of the contamination, it is also essential to ascertain its source to the extent possible."
She concludes:
"The issue is not just whether or not Target mitigates for possible TCP intrusion into the store as is currently planned. It is an issue of determining the extent and probable source of the TCP contamination, possible health impacts in the neighborhood and how to remediate if necessary. This is to request that the EPA take immediate action to further investigate the source, extent and movement of the TCP in the groundwater in the vicinity of the planned Target store and adjacent homes. Time of the essence as Target plans to move ahead very soon to build the store foundation."
People may not be drinking the water, but it may be getting into the neighborhood.

Enterprise Sides with the Bush EPA

One of the common practices of journalism is to place heavy emphasis and a large amount of weight on the testimony of experts and official sources. However, in general, when there are conflicting points of view, you present a more balanced picture. It is one thing for a blog such as the Vanguard to take one side of the story, it is another for the newspaper.

The question comes down to the credibility of the source, and recent events suggest that maybe a representative from the EPA, even a civil servant such as Bonnie Arthur, might want to have a much higher degree of skepticism that Clair St. John and the Enterprise exhibited.

Indeed in 2002, the same Bonnie Arthur was involved in a case in Nevada and acknowledged changes in the Bush administration's policies over the previous Clinton administration's policies.
"Bonnie Arthur, EPA project manager, said her agency is overseeing the state effort but Nevada is the lead enforcement regulator at the mine.

In the waning months of the Clinton administration, the agency announced it was considering the Superfund listing after determining the mine posed a significant threat to residents' drinking water.

Under President Bush, the push is to let states oversee cleanups as much as possible, Arthur said.

But if the state fails to follow through on site investigations and cleanup, the EPA would consider pursuing a Superfund listing or federal enforcement order, she said.

"We're trying to make sure the state follows through out there," Arthur said. "The political reality is we have to give the state a chance.""
It took six years, but finally in July 2008, the EPA ordered the owner of that mine to finish their study.

As we learned this week, that's not the only change that the Bush administration has done with regards to environmental regulation.

Citizens' groups had to take the administration and the EPA to court in order to enforce parts of the clean air act--and they won.
"Citizens' groups succeeded in closing a gaping air pollution loophole with a win in federal court today.

The groups, represented by the public interest law firm Earthjustice, were fighting a regulation adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that has allowed refineries, chemical plants, and other industrial facilities to ignore pollution limits whenever equipment malfunctions, and whenever they start up or shut down operations. During these periods, toxic emissions can skyrocket, severely degrading air quality. And some facilities evade clean air protections by claiming that they are in startup, shutdown, or malfunction mode during much of their operating time."
The article posted on Yubanet continues:
The plaintiffs in the case were Environmental Integrity Project along with Sierra Club, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Coalition for a Safe Environment, and Friends of Hudson -- groups in affected communities in the Gulf Coast, southern California, and upstate New York.
And the defendants, the people on the bad side of this environmental issue, you guessed it the EPA under the Bush Administration's leadership. The same EPA that the Enterprise is placing its entire stock in.
"For more than a decade polluters have relied on this loophole at the expense of neighboring communities," said Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew. "Today's victory is a big win for the people in these communities, who can now breathe easier."

Excess emissions occur routinely at industrial facilities throughout the country, according to a comprehensive report by the Environmental Integrity Project titled "Gaming the System: How the Off-the-Books Industrial Upset Emissions Cheat the Public Out of Clear Air."

"Under this notorious EPA exemption, industrial facilities have been allowed to operate like a fleet of junk cars parked in neighborhoods while spewing blue smoke, misfiring, backfiring, stalling, and chugging," said Marti Sinclair, Chair of Sierra Club's Clean Air Team. "This court ruling provides a ray of hope for those neighborhood who have been rendered helpless as dark angry clouds of uncontrolled toxic pollution have rolled over their homes from poorly maintained and poorly operated facilities."
Here's a telling quote from Sierra Club Senior Attorney David Bookbinder:
"This is just the latest example of a court striking down yet another attempt by the Bush EPA to gut the Clean Air Act. It's a good thing that inauguration is right around the corner, because we're beginning to lose track of the number of such decisions."
Local activists are thinking the exact same thing. There is a reason why Target wants to pour that slab on January 5, it is just over two weeks before the Obama administration takes over. The new head of the EPA will be Lisa Jackson who has a reputation pushing and enforcing environmental regulations.

This week, California's Senator Barbara Boxer sent a very pointed letter to the US Attorney General Michael Mukasey dated December 22, 2008, castigating Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson charging that "he has run amok and will waste taxpayer dollars in his most recent action to avoid controlling global warming pollution in Clean Air Act permits."

Senator Boxer said:
"This illegal document issued by Stephen Johnson makes it clear that he has become a renegade Administrator. He defies the clear language of our environmental laws and acts without legal authority. Mr. Johnson's latest action is intended to make the job of combating global warming more difficult and will add to the millions of taxpayer dollars he has wasted in defending his illegal decisions. The Attorney General has an obligation to intervene when the actions of the Administration are so clearly outside the law."
These are just two examples from this week that show the pattern over the last eight years that the EPA has taken steps to intentionally avoid implementing and enforcing existing US environmental law.

However, when it comes to a local issue in the city of Davis that may well affect the existing residents in that neighborhood and perhaps the workers and customers of a new Target store, the Enterprise swallows the line of the Bush administration EPA hook, line, and sinker.

Ms. Arthur may indeed be a civil servant, but she as she admitted in 2002, is operating under the orders of the Bush Administration. She may say it does not pose a threat, but the research that FFSOG contradicts her assessment.

Unfortunately it seems that the remedy here is going to have to be a legal remedy. Someone, probably FFSOG itself, needs to sue Target getting a court order to stop the laying off the slab until testing can be done or at the very least until the Obama Administration comes in with new orders.

The EPA may be right, but until someone does a test to figure out exactly what is down there right now, should we not err on the side of caution? What is a month or two in the process of building Target? They are scheduled to open the store in October, it certainly can be done in far less time than nine months. Let us just be sure before we make unalterable decisions.

And to the Davis Enterprise, I have seen biased reporting in the past from this paper, this may be the most egregious example. Any inkling that the local group objected to the EPA's decision was buried well off the front page and the headline itself belied the newspaper's slant. This type of reporting does not serve our community well.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 Vanguard City Council Scorecard

Here is the Vanguard's 2008 City Council Scorecard. For the first time, the Vanguard has gone through 20 of the most important votes of the year and rated each council member on the basis of how they voted.

(click on top right to view full document)
Davis City Council Scorecard


No one got a perfect score this year. Councilmembers Sue Greenwald and Lamar Heystek both got a 95% score however, their only blemish was voting to put the charter on the ballot. The Vanguard ended up coming out against the charter based on its overly broad construction that allowed the potential for too much power by the council down the line.

The most interesting development of the year dovetails the article that ran two weeks ago, Power Shift on the Council: Souza Emerges As Power Center, where we see Councilmember Stephen Souza clearly emerge as the middle ground on the council with an even 50% voter rating. Indeed this is only the tip of the iceberg.

On 15 of the 17 non-unanimous votes, Souza votes for the winning side. The only two exceptions were both abstentions. Both were pivotal abstentions. The first, he and Don Saylor abstained on LAFCO allowing for the motion to exclude a number of properties from LAFCO to pass by a very unusual 2-1-2 vote. Later, his abstention on the issue of the Ogrydziak re-design of a B street property meant that the project would be denied for a year, a decision that earned a strong rebuke from his colleague and often-ally Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor.

Councilmember Souza's shift on the council came rather suddenly as evidenced by this voting chart. Up until September, Councilmember Souza voted for the Vanguard's preferred position just three times, and two of those occasions that was part of a unanimous vote. In his last eight votes, all since September 1, he voted with the Vanguard 7 of 9 times, one of those was a key abstention on the Ogrydziak property, which may as well have been a vote with the Vanguard. The only exception was casting the deciding vote to go ahead with the value engineering consultant on the water issue while at the same time pushing the council to look for alternative solutions to the water issue.

On the far end of the spectrum, both Mayor Asmundson and Mayor Pro Tem Saylor scored a 25% and a 21% respectively. Three of those votes came on unanimous votes. Mayor Asmundson joined her colleagues in 4-1 votes against Saylor on the issue of the New Harmony CEQA which referred staff to examine the health issue more and on Lewis Properties which authorized an equal EIR. Mayor Pro Tem Saylor's lone non-unanimous vote with the Vanguard came in his opposition to the Charter City Proposal.

The scorecard however, shows that the council has shifted. The Vanguard was on the winning side of 11 of the 20 votes. In the last eight votes, the Vanguard was on the winning side of seven of them. There has been a very strong shift toward the middle for the council and that has clearly been led by Councilmember Souza.


Part of the tricky aspect of grading the council is that a large percentage of their votes come on non-controversial issues. Thus to some degree, these scorecards understate the amount of agreement between the Vanguard and members of the council on the general agenda.

However, we were primarily interested in how councilmembers voted on the big issues facing Davis. We did not select out unanimous votes completely however. We chose three on big issues: political sign ordinance, woodburning, and the Grande Property. Each of these have either been a long time coming in the case of the first and the last, or an issue that will end up being a hotly debated issue down the line in the case of woodburning.

For the most part, we did not select intermediary votes on issues. Thus in general, we graded on the final vote rather than substitute votes. This helps increase for instance Councilmember Stephen Souza's score because he sought out compromises that were not completely the preferred position of the Vanguard, but were far better than the alternative.

Finally, abstentions were counted as though they were absent, no vote either way taken out of the total. So Mayor Pro Tem's votes were averaged out of 19 and Councilmember Souza's out of 18.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Monday, December 22, 2008

New Contaminant Found at Target Superfund Site

Target Cuts Deal with EPA to Proceed with Project on January 5, 2009

The Vanguard has learned that a group that monitors the Superfund site at the new Target location has discovered potentially a new source of contamination. This source was discovered at testing wells on the Target site.

According to the group, Frontier Fertilizer Superfund Oversight Group (FFSOG), EPA and Target have known that Trichloropropane (TCP) was detected in a sample taken just northeast of where the store would be. TCP is listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organization) as "probably carcinogenic to humans." While TCP has been detected before at the Frontier Fertilizer site, this location is outside the current treatment area.

The level at which TCP was found was approximately 3000 times the level at which it would trigger action.

According to the group:
"The general movement of the groundwater is generally northeast from the detection site: toward existing homes. The EPA needs to determine whether this contamination is part of the current plume or a new source of contamination on the Target site. In order for that determination to be made, more sampling at different locations within the store footprint must be done, requiring a halt to construction until the testing is complete."
Those who remember the Target campaign will recall of one of the concerns about the 2nd street location had to do with its proximity to the Target site. During the course of the campaign, controversy arose when the Yes on Measure K campaign purported that the EPA was in support of building a Target at this location.

According to FFSOG's website:
From 1972 until 1983, Frontier Fertilizer personnel dumped residual pesticides from drums and tanker trucks onto the ground and into unlined pits on the property. These pesticides leaked into the groundwater and now form a contaminated plume lying between 30 and 130 feet below ground surface and reaching over 800 feet north of the original disposal basin. Soil on the site in the vicinity of the disposal basin is also highly contaminated.
The public became aware of the site in 1983 when a dog fell into a pit on the property and died from pesticide poisoning.
In 1994, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed the Frontier Fertilizer site on the National Priorities List (NPL) and declared it a Federal Superfund Site. Since 1994, EPA has studied the site and repaired, upgraded and expanded an existing contaminant monitoring and removal system put in place by the State. EPA is currently in the process of developing and implementing a final remedy for treatment of the groundwater and soil contamination.
Target has to move several of EPA's monitoring wells that are located under what will be the footprint for the store.

According to the President of FFSOG, Pam Nieberg:
"The wells that were to be replaced were important wells that were monitoring just beyond the eastern extent of the groundwater plume of contamination. They were there to tell us if the plume was still moving in that direction--not being adequately contained by the pump and treat system extraction system."
There has been considerable discussion between members of FFSOG, the EPA, and Target as to whether Target needs to do more sampling to determine where the TCP is coming from.

Target is arguing that they need to stick to their schedule which has them pouring a slab for the store January 5. The TCP they believe is a fluke as it has not been detected in other samplings. They do not have the funding to do more sampling.

Other members of the group however argue that sampling is imperative and they do not buy that Target lacks funding for sampling.

According to Ms. Nieberg:
"One issue was that if it came from the source area and was part of the plume that EPA has been cleaning up, then it would be EPA's job to investigate it and capture it in the P and T system. However, if it was not from the source area, it was a new contaminant site on Target's property and Target would have to investigate it and clean it up. Also, if it was from the source area, which is southeast of the Target footprint, then that would indicate that there might be a plume or finger of contamination running under the Target footprint. "
The issue here was that if there was a plume of TCP under the footprint, because TCP is volatile, it could enter the building through the cement slab and pose a risk to workers in the store. Target proposed engineering controls. A layer of gravel covered by a membrane vapor barrier under the slab. Piping would run from the gravel layer up through the walls of the store and vent to the outside.

EPA management and attorneys met with Target representatives and reached an agreement to allow Target to move ahead but they would have to institute the engineering controls.

However, members of FFSOG strongly argued that sampling should be done prior to the pouring of the slab to determine the extent of the problem.

In a letter to EPA Project Manager Bonnie Arthur, Pam Nieberg wrote:
"I am concerned that Target is planning to move ahead with construction prior to further evaluation of the extent of the TCP contamination. I expressed these concerns to the FFSOG Board and community members in attendance and they believe that further sampling should occur to determine the extent and source of the TCP contamination prior to further construction at the Target site."
She continued:
"You stated in your November 24th response that EPA can require Target to investigate the TCP contamination if you determine at a later date that the plume does not come from the Frontier site. However, once the foundation and parking lot are built, sampling will be much more difficult if not impossible in the case of the store concrete slab. Moreover, if the TCP originated from the source area, it changes the nature and scope of the Frontier site clean up and investigation. Specifically, this detection may indicate that the contamination has moved further that previously thought thus requiring reassessment of the pump and treat system and the extent of the groundwater contamination. Therefore, in addition to assessing the extent of the contamination, it is also essential to ascertain its source to the extent possible."
She concludes:
"The issue is not just whether or not Target mitigates for possible TCP intrusion into the store as is currently planned. It is an issue of determining the extent and probable source of the TCP contamination, possible health impacts in the neighborhood and how to remediate if necessary. This is to request that the EPA take immediate action to further investigate the source, extent and movement of the TCP in the groundwater in the vicinity of the planned Target store and adjacent homes. Time of the essence as Target plans to move ahead very soon to build the store foundation."
This is a very concerning situation as the EPA for whatever reason has decided to strike a deal with Target rather than require simple testing to determine the extent of the problem. The question arises, as Target proposes to build on a Superfund cleanup site, how much of a health threat if any, this poses to workers and customers of a new Target.

At this point, this is not a question of preventing Target from going into this location, it is now a question of mitigating whatever environmental and health impacts this choice of sites has. Target won ballot confirmation based on the notion that this would be a new and green Target. They pointed to the fact that this would be the first LEED-certified building. And yet, they seem wholly unconcerned about possible health and environmental impacts are now faced by the community based on decisions made by previous stewards of this property.

Some will argue that if the EPA has little problem with Target going forward neither should we. My concern is of course, the EPA under the Bush administration does not have a stellar record and has consistently sided with industry and commercial interests over environmental protection. As such, it would be interesting to see what a new EPA under an Obama administration would bring. It seems suspicious that the the date certain for beginning the project is January 5 just two weeks and a day before Obama officially and formally becomes President.

As the extent of this health problem is unknown at this time, Davis should demand answers BEFORE work goes forward. If there are no health threats, then Target can by all means, proceed as planned. Why not take the extra time to be sure? Unless of course they know something that we do not.

---David M. Greenwald reporting