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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 Vanguard City Council Scorecard

Here is the Vanguard's 2008 City Council Scorecard. For the first time, the Vanguard has gone through 20 of the most important votes of the year and rated each council member on the basis of how they voted.

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Davis City Council Scorecard


No one got a perfect score this year. Councilmembers Sue Greenwald and Lamar Heystek both got a 95% score however, their only blemish was voting to put the charter on the ballot. The Vanguard ended up coming out against the charter based on its overly broad construction that allowed the potential for too much power by the council down the line.

The most interesting development of the year dovetails the article that ran two weeks ago, Power Shift on the Council: Souza Emerges As Power Center, where we see Councilmember Stephen Souza clearly emerge as the middle ground on the council with an even 50% voter rating. Indeed this is only the tip of the iceberg.

On 15 of the 17 non-unanimous votes, Souza votes for the winning side. The only two exceptions were both abstentions. Both were pivotal abstentions. The first, he and Don Saylor abstained on LAFCO allowing for the motion to exclude a number of properties from LAFCO to pass by a very unusual 2-1-2 vote. Later, his abstention on the issue of the Ogrydziak re-design of a B street property meant that the project would be denied for a year, a decision that earned a strong rebuke from his colleague and often-ally Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor.

Councilmember Souza's shift on the council came rather suddenly as evidenced by this voting chart. Up until September, Councilmember Souza voted for the Vanguard's preferred position just three times, and two of those occasions that was part of a unanimous vote. In his last eight votes, all since September 1, he voted with the Vanguard 7 of 9 times, one of those was a key abstention on the Ogrydziak property, which may as well have been a vote with the Vanguard. The only exception was casting the deciding vote to go ahead with the value engineering consultant on the water issue while at the same time pushing the council to look for alternative solutions to the water issue.

On the far end of the spectrum, both Mayor Asmundson and Mayor Pro Tem Saylor scored a 25% and a 21% respectively. Three of those votes came on unanimous votes. Mayor Asmundson joined her colleagues in 4-1 votes against Saylor on the issue of the New Harmony CEQA which referred staff to examine the health issue more and on Lewis Properties which authorized an equal EIR. Mayor Pro Tem Saylor's lone non-unanimous vote with the Vanguard came in his opposition to the Charter City Proposal.

The scorecard however, shows that the council has shifted. The Vanguard was on the winning side of 11 of the 20 votes. In the last eight votes, the Vanguard was on the winning side of seven of them. There has been a very strong shift toward the middle for the council and that has clearly been led by Councilmember Souza.


Part of the tricky aspect of grading the council is that a large percentage of their votes come on non-controversial issues. Thus to some degree, these scorecards understate the amount of agreement between the Vanguard and members of the council on the general agenda.

However, we were primarily interested in how councilmembers voted on the big issues facing Davis. We did not select out unanimous votes completely however. We chose three on big issues: political sign ordinance, woodburning, and the Grande Property. Each of these have either been a long time coming in the case of the first and the last, or an issue that will end up being a hotly debated issue down the line in the case of woodburning.

For the most part, we did not select intermediary votes on issues. Thus in general, we graded on the final vote rather than substitute votes. This helps increase for instance Councilmember Stephen Souza's score because he sought out compromises that were not completely the preferred position of the Vanguard, but were far better than the alternative.

Finally, abstentions were counted as though they were absent, no vote either way taken out of the total. So Mayor Pro Tem's votes were averaged out of 19 and Councilmember Souza's out of 18.

---David M. Greenwald reporting