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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mayor Flips on Measure N--Comes Out Against

In what may end up being the deathblow for the already beleaguered proposal to create a Charter City in Davis, Mayor Ruth Asmundson who was part of the 4-1 vote to place Measure N on the ballot and one of three Councilmembers to sign the statement in favor of Measure N on the sample ballot, has written a brief but pointed letter coming out against the initiative.

She simply writes without explanation:
"On further consideration, I now believe that Measure N is not in the best interest of Davis voters. Please vote no."
This is the coup de grace for a perilous strategy employed by chief Sponsors Stephen Souza and Lamar Heystek, who made what looked even last week to be a fateful decision to separate the issue of the charter from the issue of choice voting in order to gain Mayor Ruth Asmundson's support in both the 4-1 vote to place the measure on the ballot and her signature on the statement supporting Measure N.

That decision seems questionable when much of the energy behind choice voting from two years ago seemed dissipated by placing a cosmetic and technical measure on the ballot that no one quite seems to understand the implications of nor do they seem enthusiastic about some abstract notion that this measure needs to get approved in order for choice voting to be enacted.

As I felt a few weeks ago, this measure would be much stronger if it had remained attached to the choice voting initiative. However, in order to gain the Mayor's vote they chose to separate the charter from choice voting. This was a mistake two weeks ago. It is a disaster for the measure now.

There has been no stronger proponent of local control than Nancy Price. She is a strong proponent of a charter city, just not this one. Hence she has co-authored editorials against the measure on the Vanguard and also in the California Aggie.

This week in a letter to the Davis Enterprise, she laid out her objections.
"My objection to Measure N is that there has been virtually no communitywide presentation and discussion of what is allowed under a general law city or a charter city. Yet, we are asked to vote on a fundamental change in governance that will have far-reaching consequences."
She continues:
"The point is that now in many communities across the country, people are amending their charters, taking into account fundamental principles of good govern- ance and community.

Those who favor Measure N say they 'anticipate that the charter will evolve to continue reflecting the community's specific interests.' This puts the cart before the horse. I urge a no vote on Measure N to allow a thorough examination of the differences between the two types of city governance that is communicated to the entire community. And, if a charter is thought beneficial, then to create an inclusive, democratic, communitywide process to write a charter that reflects principles of good government we all would endorse. We should expect nothing less in Davis."
There has been an interesting range of people who have come out against this measure ranging from people like Don Saylor to Don Shor to Nancy Price and Pam Nieberg.

Let's face it, when was the last time, the Davis Enterprise, California Aggie, the Vanguard, Bob Dunning, and Don Saylor have agreed on anything? (If you answered Measure W, you get bonus points). In this case, they have all come out against Measure N.

Mayor Asmundson's letter that reverses her previous decision just adds to the growing chorus.

But I think it is more than just that. Her switch symbolizes the problem with the initial strategy of the proponents of the charter. They limited the charter to get broader support and what it actually did was eliminate the support of people who would have supported a choice voting initiative.

It is possible that the measure could still pass, but that seems highly unlikely at this point.

As I said on Monday, In theory, I would be supportive of a city charter that is properly written and narrow, but I think this charter is too broad. It would allow too much power to future city councils. I would like to see this charter get voted down and a committee formed to draft a new one that is much more specific.

---David M. Greenwald reporting