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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Commentary: Clean Sweep of Support for Developer Candidates by the Enterprise

It would be appalling if it were not so predictable. On Sunday, the Davis Enterprise endorsed the pro-development slate for the Davis City Council. Yesterday, in perhaps an even more shocking move, the Davis Enterprise has endorsed John Ferrera over Jim Provenza for the 4th Supervisorial District.

They admit that Ferrara "is a relative newcomer to Davis." In fact, he's a newcomer to Davis politics. Indeed, they have selected Ferrera over a much more experienced public servant who recently finished a four year stint on the Davis School Board. But there is nary a word on that in the editorial--in fact, Jim Provenza is not mentioned at all in the editorial.

The Enterprise writes:
"Budget challenges will be paramount as California - and, by extension, its 58 counties - learns to live within its means. Ferrera's experience as chief of staff to state Sen. Denise Ducheny, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, gives him keen insight into the challenges Yolo County faces as it tightens its belt to the tune of $12 million."
As school board member Jim Provenza has had to deal with school budgets for the last four years. I certainly do not see anything in their records that would give John Ferrera insight over Jim Provenza.
"He's pledged to help repair interagency relationships, believing Davis and the county can both be better neighbors, and he promises to lead all parties in working together toward well-understood, collective goals."
Because Jim Provenza has not? During Jim Provenza's tenure on the Davis City council the relationship between the city of Davis and the school district improved dramatically. Following the obvious problems with the city following the debacle of King High and the ill-fated Grande deal, Jim Provenza led the way to make changes to district policies.

He brought in a new Superintendent and a new Budget Director. He and his colleagues would work with the city on the planning of both the Grande Property and Nugget Fields to insure cooperation rather than the secretive nature in which King High was planned and demolished without city input. This led to an overlap of the structure onto city property, the surprise discovery of a storm drain, and the destruction of cherished community trees.

As school board member, Jim Provenza became alarmed at the conflict of interests surrounding the operations of CBO Tahir Ahad. In the first two years on the board, he was routinely out-voted 4-1 or 3-2 regarding such issues. However, in the final two years, he helped to draft the language of the conflict of interest code, so that such conflicts would never arise again.

Unfortunately, the Davis Enterprise does not do justice to Jim Provenza's record as a school board member.

But Davis Enterprise columnist Bob Dunning does.

Back in March of 2007 Dunning writes:
"RUN, JIM , RUN … while it's still early and many names are being tossed about as possible candidates, if Jim Provenza decides to run for county supervisor, as expected, the rest of those considering a shot at working in Woodland would be best advised to take a pass … no point in forming an exploratory committee, dipping your big toe in the water or launching a trial balloon … all exercises in futility …

Forget the politics, forget the potential issues, forget what your mama taught you about seizing the day, if Provenza runs, he's a lock … no one else is even close … like Helen Thomson, one of the most revered political figures in this town's history, Provenza has never been a candidate for City Council, which means his reputation remains untarnished … put simply, his solid-citizen, agenda-less work on the Davis school board makes him hard — if not impossible — to beat …"
A few days ago, Dunning reiterate that confidence:
"Provenza is the runaway favorite in a campaign that has attracted little or no media attention to this point … I rest my case … since Jim leads the field in name ID, he probably hopes this remains a low-profile race right to the finish … no matter your politics, Jim 's a hard guy not to like …"
Apparently Mr. Dunning ought to talk to his bosses a bit more.

John Ferrera is a good person, on statewide issues and national and international issues, there is probably very little if anything on which we disagree. However, as this race has gone on, it has become clear to me that he is in the other camp on local land use issues which remain the key hallmark of the County Supervisor race.

Recently, both candidates were asked about land use issues. Jim Provenza was publicly against Covell Village. John Ferrera has recently acknowledged he was for Covell Village, although according to my sources he has also stated his opposition to it.

Second, Jim Provenza strongly supports Measure J. John Ferrera took more of the Don Saylor position, the public likes it, but he was less succinct about his view.

Third, when the county threatened to develop on Davis' periphery, Jim Provenza came to the meeting in July and argued strongly against such development. He referred to the proposed developments along I-80 as the congestion corridor. John Ferrera as far as I can tell was not at that meeting and certainly did not speak at that meeting.

While both candidates promise to handle city-county relations better than they were handled in 2007, only Jim Provenza has flat out supported the pass-through agreement.

When I interview John Ferrera last fall here was his response to a question of would he support the current pass-through agreement:
"The pass-through agreement is twenty years old. It’s only received minor updates and discussions and I think that the changing relationship between the state and the counties and the state and the cities, with the growth of the university, with other things that have happened in our world that have changed over 20 years, that we really need to take a hard look and make sure that it’s doing what it need to do for the county and for the city."
Once again, the Davis Enterprise does the public little service here. They give an endorsement to an individual without much discussion if any of the issues involved in the race. There has been almost no coverage of the race itself. Bob Dunning is absolutely correct that this is an extremely low-profile race. There have been no candidate forums, little newspaper coverage, and almost no way for the public to learn about who these people are.

In fact, the public knows even less about the third candidate for this race, Cathy Kennedy.

However, the Davis Enterprise has at least been consistent on the local races in each case supporting the pro-development candidate, often over more experienced slow-growth candidates.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting