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Friday, May 02, 2008

Davis Enterprise to Endorse Saylor, Souza, and... Vergis

The Vanguard has learned that the Davis Enterprise will be making its endorsements in the Davis City Council race this Sunday and will endorse Incumbents Don Saylor, Stephen Souza, and challenger Sydney Vergis.

This is not a particularly surprising development--the Davis Enterprise has a history of supporting the pro-development candidates and issues.

In their recent history here are some of their key endorsements:
  • In November of 2006 they endorsed Yes on Measure K--the approval of Target.

  • In June of 2006 they endorsed Ruth Asmundson and Mike Levy over Lamar Heystek and Stan Forbes for the Davis City Council.

  • In June of 2006 they endorsed District Attorney candidate Jeff Reisig over Pat Lenzi.

  • In November of 2005 they endorsed Yes on Measure X.
The selections of Sydney Vergis and Mike Levy are particularly telling of course, because they are non-incumbents.

Had the Davis Enterprise chosen to endorse all of the current incumbents, they could have done so on experience grounds or at least on non-ideological grounds. They could have argued that during tough times, we need to stick with experience and not change horses in midstream. But they did not. They are simply supporting the pro-development candidates.

The selection of Sydney Vergis over Mayor Sue Greenwald is particularly insulting. The Mayor has been a resident of Davis for over 30 years. She has spent nearly a decade in office which is as long as Vergis has lived in the city of Davis itself.

Sydney Vergis at one of the forums, admitted that she has only recently become active in Davis politics. Her political activism prior to last November consisted largely of activities she participated in as member of a sorority.

During her opening statement at candidate forums she cites her experience as a senior land use planner as a background that has prepared her to be on the city council. However, that experience is less than a year old.

Whether you agree or disagree with her, Sue Greenwald is among the most knowledgeable people in this community on the issue of land use. Her knowledge of the debates and issues in this community goes back decades. There is simply no comparison.

The Davis Enterprise has actually done the progressive movement a great favor. They have made their decision very transparent and very easily for those who have been in the trenches to dismiss. The choice for progressives is very clear and very simple.

While Measure J is indeed an important issue for the coming city council, the key differentiating issue in the past three years is Covell Village.

Sue Greenwald during the initial debate on Measure J was dead on when she wrote:
"Although Measure J is a useful tool for slowing growth, it does not replace the need for City Council members who will vote against excessive peripheral housing developments. This is because spending limits are not allowed in Measure J referenda, and development interests can always outspend citizens groups.

So although Measure J is a useful tool, THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE for Council members that you can trust to vote against approving excessive development in the first place."
In October of 2005, Stephen Souza and Don Saylor wrote an Op-ed in the Davis Enterprise supporting the passage of Covell Village.
"Measure X will decide how Davis will meet its 1 percent housing goals for the next decade, and which plan best meets those goals...

Can't we just use Measure J to vote down proposals like Gidaro's?

Not necessarily. We are required by law to meet our regional housing requirements. That's one reason we passed a 1 percent growth policy. If we don't accept our fair share of growth, we can lose major transportation funding, and it invites developers like Gidaro to do an end run around the City Council — and the voters — to force development right on the edge of town...

By voting yes on Measure X we will support the kind of smart planning that makes Covell Village such a perfect fit for Davis...

This election is about how, when and where we grow. Measure X answers all these questions and ensures that Davis will remain Davis...

We cannot allow our destiny to be controlled by others. The future of our community is too important to leave to the whims of outsiders. We must control our own destiny in a responsible manner. This project is in the best tradition of what Davis is.

It is important to us that we keep Davis Davis. That's what Covell Village will do. We urge you to reject sprawl and vote yes on Measure X..."
By a vote of nearly 60-40, the voters of Davis rejected Covell Village precisely because they saw it as a sprawl development that grew too large without addressing key infrastructure needs.

One could argue of course that perhaps Don Saylor and Stephen Souza learned from their mistakes on Covell Village.

But, at the first candidate's debate Stephen Souza tipped his hand:
"Stephen Souza basically suggested that the community did not understand Measure X. He said this was the first exercise of Measure J and that a project as big as Covell Village takes longer to explain to the community, that it has to come with its impacts mitigated, and that the affordable housing component has to be explainable to the public. Finally we have to totally be engaged in a process that we are expected to vote on."
Stephen Souza's view of the lessons about the rejection of Covell Village by the voters is that they did not understand it. Not that it was too large. Not that they failed to mitigate for its impacts. No it is that the voters did not understand it. That does not sound like a person who will be changing his approach to land use.

The position of the candidates on this issue are very simple.

Sidney Vergis has stated on a number of occasions her support for Covell Village. At the recent Sierra Club forum, she twice supported good "infill" projects like the Nishi property. The Nishi property of course is explicitly written into Measure J as requiring a Measure J vote and rests outside of the city. In addition, while it would appear to be in a prime location, the limited access by way of Olive Drive and traffic problems associated with that location make its development problematic at best.

Sue Greenwald, Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald, and Rob Roy were all opponents of Covell Village. The 1% growth guideline that the Council Majority supports would produce a Covell Village-sized development every five years or so. Covell Village was at least going to phase it in over 10 to 15 years. If you support that rate of growth in Davis, then follow the Davis Enterprise recommendations. If you believe we need slower and more prudent growth then you have an alternative. If you do not think Covell Village is the way to go, then you have candidates that will oppose such developments.

As Sue Greenwald argued nearly a decade ago, we cannot simply rely on Measure J to stop developments we do not like. The developers have the money and resources needed to fight these battles and it is only a matter of time before they start to win these battles. Measure X was so colossal it was relatively easy to defeat. But if these projects start coming rapid fire, eventually the vast grassroots movement is going to wear down. Measure J cannot be a replacement for city council majorities that will oppose such sprawling new subdivisions.

We are not talking about no growth in Davis, we are not talking about ignoring concerns about housing for young families and affordability, we are merely trying to address these issues within the framework of smart and responsible growth within the current borders of Davis.

The Davis Enterprise opposes this vision of Davis and embraces the vision that brought us developments like Covell Village and will bring us future iterations of Covell Village, Nishi, and other peripheral subdivisions should the council majority that currently resides in City Hall be re-elected.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting