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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Enterprise Opposes Measure N Due to Lack of Information

I was originally going to write about the Enterprise Endorsement and then cover the Op-Ed by Councilmembers Stephen Souza and Lamar Heystek and a letter to the editor by former Councilmember Jerry Adler all in Support of Measure N. However, I will hold off on the latter until later in the week as it deserves its own story.

This morning's Davis Enterprise has come out against Measure N. And for a very simple reason:
"Davis doesn't have enough information to decide in favor of Measure N."
Furthermore, they suggest:
"Could there be any worse time for Measure N than the Nov. 4 ballot?

Our attention is being pulled in myriad - and important - different ways, by a riveting presidential campaign, a plethora of statewide ballot measures, a handful of key local races and a critical school parcel tax."
This has been one of my concerns about both Measure N and Measure W. The voters have been swamped on the ballot. The main focus of most voters has been the Presidential Election. However, at least with Measure W, the public has seen a slew of articles and op-eds over the last few months. Moreover, last spring, everyone was aware of the condition of our schools.

While I agree with both points, and I certainly agree that the public has had its attention pulled in a number of different and important directions. And yet, if the Davis Enterprise wants to argue that the public does not have enough information about Measure N, are they not themselves partly to blame here?

How many articles has the Davis Enterprise run on Measure N? One on the measure itself on October 14--that was this week if you are keeping score at home.

Prior to that there was a single letter on October 8 to the Editor on Measure entitled: "We need more info; vote no on N." Peggy Epstein writes:
"The Davis voting public ought to be better informed about the wide implications of becoming a charter city before we vote to become one. In the meantime, I recommend a no vote on Measure N."
Prior to the October 14, 2008 article in the Enterprise, the last article on the charter was July 16, when the councilmembers voted to put it on the ballot. There was also an article on June 25, 2008.

So in the last almost six months, the Davis Enterprise has had exactly three articles on the issue. So maybe if the public is uninformed about the charter, they ought to put at least some of the blame on their themselves for failing to inform the public.

Why did the Enterprise spend so little time on this issue? Back in July, I was concerned with some of the possible consequences of the charter city proposal and implored a reporter for the Enterprise to cover it a bit more. The thought back then was that there was a lack of interest in the issue itself.

However, our story on the ballot language in mid-August drew 45 comments and some heated debates. Even more so in late August with Councilmember Lamar Heystek's op-ed. Still the Enterprise did not cover the issue despite clear interest at least by those who read this blog.

All of this said, one cannot put all of the criticism for the lack of information on the Davis Enterprise, though clearly there was not nearly enough coverage on an issue that has the potential to fundamentally change this city.

I also put the onus on the sponsors.

I mentioned this issue earlier this week, and I repeat it now. The decision to divorce the charter city proposal from the choice voting proposal was an error in my view. Why? In 2006, there was Measure L, an advisory vote about choice voting on the ballot. It drew a groundswell of support and had a large grassroots organization behind it.

Now as one of the sponsors of Measure N recently told me, many of those people were UC Davis students who have since moved on. And I appreciate that. Nevertheless the energy came from that issue and when the charter city issue was separated it seemed to sap the young energy for this change. Subsequently, I do not see the movement afoot.

This decision was made in part to gain the support of Mayor Ruth Asmundson who was willing to support a charter on the ballot but not choice voting. That gained council a 4-1 vote, but one has to wonder at least whether the measure would be stronger and have more energy with choice voting attached to it.

Second problem, this measure seems like a rushed job to get it on the ballot. Now let me explain because as the sponsors will rightly counter this measure is two years in the making. However, I would have liked to have seen a bunch of higher profile outreach meetings back in the spring with the likely ballot initiative that could have been explained fully to the public. There did not seem to be enough community discussion on this measure.

Furthermore, where is the Measure N campaign itself. I have received to this point in time no literature on Measure N. No phone calls. No door-to-door people. I even have the luxury of having both a permanent absentee voter and a vote on election day voter in my household so we get the early literature and the late literature. Nothing.

The bottom line here is that the public is not informed on this issue, the Davis Enterprise is correct about that and they are correct that that is a reason why this measure should not pass. Not the only reason as we have discussed earlier this week. However, if that is the indictment, I would like to see the Davis Enterprise take responsibility for failing to do their part to educate the public on this issue. One article since July 16 (over three months ago) is not acceptable.

And yes they have a lot to cover, but they never seem to have a problem printing their fluff pieces, err human interest stories.

---David M. Greenwald reporting