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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Commentary: A look into the 4th Supervisorial Distrct Race

On Friday, it was announced that Jim Provenza had won the 4th Supervisorial district race outright garnering 54 votes over the needed 50 percent in order to avoid a November runoff election. Mr. Provenza received 4,065 votes or 50.7 percent, easily outdistancing John Ferrera's 2,739. Cathy Kennedy finished third with 15.2% or 1,217 votes. He will replace the likely Assemblywoman from this district, Mariko Yamada who won the Democratic Nomination on Tuesday in a district that is heavily Democratic.

The first time I really got to know Jim Provenza was in January of 2007. I met with him in his office in Sacramento to convey to him my concerns about the District's handling of the harassment of a junior high school student due to the fact that the student had two male parents.

Jim Provenza at that time acknowledged shortcoming in the district's response while at the same time not directly commenting on the matter due in part to it being a matter dealing with personnel and in part it being a mater that dealt with a juvenile. What he did do is lay out proposed changes in the discipline code.

In short, he told me everything I wanted to hear. But as many people also know, many politicians will tell you everything you want to hear and then fall flat when it comes to follow through.

But when the meeting in question came forward, not only did Jim Provenza do everything that he said he would do, he went above and beyond that.

There came a point when then-Superintendent David Murphy seemed to be hedging, dragging his feet, and attempting to water down the new language. In response, Jim Provenza pressed him, and forcefully got him to put the language into the new discipline code that would have actual teeth and be unequivocal.

It was watching Jim Provenza operate at that meeting that earned my respect.

Last summer, the county Board of Supervisors and the city of Davis nearly came to blows over proposed development on Davis' City edge. Over 100 Davis residents packed a mid-July meeting. Jim Provenza was there as well, criticizing the plans to build along the I-80 corridor, renaming the proposed "innovation corridor" the "congestion corridor."

While that meeting turned heated, Jim Provenza actually has a pretty good record of turning such relations around. The city of Davis and the School District had very tense relations for a number of years.

As we discussed earlier this year, the King High and Grande problems in part resulted from lack of trust and lack of cooperation. At King High, the city and district disputed over what to do with three large trees. Ultimately, the district accidentally (or so they claim) severed the root structure. Moreover, the district was surprised to learn of a storm drain in the middle of the King High site, something that Bill Emlen politely remarked at the time would have been evident had the district consulted with the city planners. Finally, the footprint of the school encroached on city property, something else that would have been noted had there been some sort of dialogue between the two bodies.

Grande was much the same situation. The district embarked upon a highly secretive sale of the site that involved a land swap and an under-valued sale price due to misplaced concerns about the city imposing the Naylor Act and taking the land for below market value. Jim Provenza and a new board led the way to stopping that sale and exploring other options. Since then the city and district have worked extensively to help subdivide the land and sell it as fully entitled property. They also worked with the neighbors to ensure that their concerns were dealt with. As a result, the district will make more money on the sale and they will do so knowing that they do not have to worry about the city imposing the Naylor Act on them.

What we have seen since 2006 is unprecedented cooperation between the city and the school district, to their mutual benefit. It is this type of relationship and background that the city and county need. In many ways, it will be very possible given the dynamics of the current board of supervisors.

When the Davis Enterprise surprisingly endorsed John Ferrera over Jim Provenza one of the thing they cited was that Ferrera
"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."
It is an interesting point because John Ferrera had no track record, but Jim Provenza had actually succeeded in doing that with the city and school district.

He also helped the school district get on firmer ground fiscally. He led the way in helping to get rid of Tahir Ahad whose risky strategies and poor management, not to mention his blatant conflicts of interest, put the district in grave jeopardy. Meanwhile Former Superintendent David Murphy allowed much of this to happen under his watch, not only failing to intercede in the district's better interest, but he continued to support both Tahir Ahad and his policies. To this day, he calls Ahad the finest CBO he has worked with.

With Ahad and Murphy gone, the district with the help of Jim Provenza and others was able to recoup the lost funding for Montgomery. They then embarked upon hiring a new superintendent, who they found in James Hammond--a young and energetic leader for the school district.

Provenza's legacy on the board did produce some notable enemies. Marty West, who now works for Ahad, has been a harsh critic of Provenza, writing a scathing letter that circulated in part of the community. The former Superintendent David Murphy was reportedly walking Precincts for John Ferrera.

This was unfortunate. John Ferrera had little to do with the school issues and yet his campaign was dragged into some of it. At least part of this has to fall on Mr. Ferrera's shoulders, he was made aware of this baggage some time ago, and yet continued to allow himself to be surrounded with people whose agenda was less to help Ferrera than to hurt Jim Provenza.

While I did not formally endorse Jim Provenza, nor do I live in his district, I think his policies are a better fit for the fourth district and I also think the board of supervisors as a whole will benefit from his expertise.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting