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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Commentary: On School Funding and Budget Crises--This is About Educating Your Kids

The pace at which events occur in this community is sometimes overwhelming and there are times it is difficult to pause for reflection. When in Sacramento two nights ago covering the Democratic Pre-Endorsement Conference a friend of mine and a fellow blogger who lives up in the foothills made the comment that Davis and Yolo County are interesting places to live where there is a large amount of action.

And sometimes it is simply too much action. There are things that I have wanted to cover that I have simply not had enough time to cover because the pace of events is so rapid.

It was a call last night that got me thinking about something. At the March 6, 2008 school board meeting--packed to the brink with students from DaVinci High School who were trying to save their school--the board was discussing options and mentioned that the deadline for putting another parcel tax on the ballot was March 7, 2008. So that option was not on the table. Their plan is to hope that the Governor's cuts are not quite as deep--a reasonable hope at this point, I'll add. But the Governor's cuts are only 40% of the cuts. Then they are hoping that fundraising will cut into the needed cuts as well and in November 2008 they can put another parcel tax on the ballot.

At the time it made some sense to me, now after another discussion it no longer makes sense to me. The budget problem did not suddenly emerge on March 6, 2008. In fact, it did not seem on our radar at all until early January, but it had to be on someone's mind even at that point.

Clearly by early January when they were talking $4 million in budget cuts, why wasn't one of the items immediately on the table dealing with instead of the spending side, the revenue side?

There is a perception out there by some that school districts in general are bloated masses of bureaucracy that are easy to cut. And yet when it comes down to it, when we actually look at the system in place, it becomes obvious that to cut real money, you have to cut programs that people (especially kids) like. Our system, inefficient as it is, even with a good degree of past fiscal mismanagement still operates in such a way that the only way to cut real money, not talking $10,000 but in the millions, is to close a school, cut music, cut language, cut programs people want and care about.

Fine, I get it. So why not put a contingent parcel tax on the ballot that kicks in given revenue problems? Why not have it as a temporary item, for one year, for two years, to ensure that we don't cut these programs. And then be honest and forthright with the public and tell them that we need this so that we don't have to close Emerson, we don't have to fire three-quarters of the teachers at DaVinci, so that we can still have music, and GATE, and programs that help the disadvantaged, and programs that help the smart kids, and programs that help the kids that don't quite fit in elsewhere...

Why did we not just lay all out on the line and tell people that if they want their great schools that they pay twice as much in property value so their kids can attend, then we all have to pitch in an additional $50 to $100 per year and save them right now?

Instead, I have high school students writing me asking me to come to their high school so I can see all the great programs that they have.

Instead, we have parents and teachers looking for ways to fundraise so that we can put enough money together to land a bit softer.

They have a blog now that is focused on saving Emerson Junior High. They have a rally on Tuesday at 4 PM at Central Park in Davis.

I want to talk about Emerson because I live just two blocks away.

First their message is simple:
"We can not allow the School District to take rushed decisions without an in depth task force study. The proposal to close one Jr. High will have deep negative repercussions across the whole Davis community and the environment! Laying off 20% of our teachers, librarians, psychologists, etc. guts our wonderful schools, reduces our quality of life, lowers our property values and decreases the city's tax revenue."
I agree and I also understand the school district's dilemma. But now I want to talk about the City of Davis' dilemma. You have Valley Oak that is closing down pending a miracle from the County Board of Education. You have a shopping center where there is no longer a grocery store.

Now you have West Davis. West Lake Shopping Center is without its grocery store. Now they are talking about closing down Emerson Junior High.

Huge swaths of Davis are now becoming without grocery store and without school.

Tim Wallace who lives across the street from Emerson in Village Homes writes into the Enterprise:
It's not hard to imagine that the property where Emerson Junior High School is sited being worth tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to real estate developers, even in the current market. Upon visiting the Davis JointUnified School District Web site, I couldn't find anything even remotely resembling a cost-benefit analysis, or any analysis whatsoever justifying what seems to be the foregone conclusion, apparently advanced by the school board, that "Emerson will be closed."
He continues:
The only problem I can see with this plan, if that's what it is, is that it assumes the forbearance and apathy of West Davis parents and homeowners who will lose big in their quality of life and home values if it's enacted. Further, it makes assumptions about our willingness to suffer disproportionately to the rest of Davis , based on no evidence and little to no meaningful public discussion.
While I found it impossible to tell from their Web site whether the closure of Emerson is on the agenda of the next DJUSD board meeting, I believe it's on for March 20. West Davis might think about waking up before it's too late to engage the board in a discussion."

I think this is a good point and I think we have all been asleep for too long on this.

Don't get me wrong, I like most of the board members, I think they are good people who have a real passion for education--even ones that I disagree with on substantive policy issues. I think we hired a good man in James Hammond to be the Superintendent. But I think we got blindsided on this.

Here is my suggestion. Meet with County Clerk Freddie Oakley. Figure out how to get a ballot measure on the ballot before November. Figure out how to cut costs by making it vote by mail only. I do not think we can wait until November to save our schools. And I do not think we can afford to cut what is being proposed. Let's all come together and fix the problem. Maybe that's a crazy idea, but we have to do something for our community and for the kids.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Vanguard Stories

UPDATE: See the side column for PODCASTS of past Vanguard Radio Shows

Cabaldon Wins Pre-Endorsement Pending Vote At CDP Convention

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon yesterday evening won the Democratic Party's Pre-Endorsement. The endorsement now moves to the Democratic Party's Consent Calendar whereby if there are no challenges, Mayor Cabaldon would be formally endorsed by the Democratic Party by a simple majority of the party.

Christopher Cabaldon crossed the 70% threshold with 66 votes to just 25 for his Democratic Primary challenger Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada. Two voters voted for no endorsement.

Given the charges and counter-charges that flew between the camps on Wednesday, there is a good chance there will be a challenge to the pre-endorsement results. The Yamada Campaign alleged that the Cabaldon Campaign artificially inflated the membership in the West Sacramento Democratic Club, which gave them an additional 38 delegates that were eligible to vote on or before the Thursday Pre-Endorsement Conference. The Cabaldon campaign argued that they simply were engaging in party building activities. Meanwhile, fallout continued from inside maneuvering in the Davis Democratic Club where delegates were apparently drawn up by a few insiders with little to no notice to the executive board in the club itself.

According to a Democratic Party official, in order to be removed from the consent calendar--20 percent of the Democratic State Central Committee members could send the State Party a letter wishing to pull a specific race from the consent calendar. This must be done by March 18 at 5 pm. If that were to occur, they would have an endorsing caucus at the Democratic State Convention in San Jose. At that point the winner would need to receive 60% of the vote to then be put on the consent calendar on Sunday, March 30th.

The Democratic Party Official that I spoke with believes almost certainly that this item will get pulled for some reason or another, especially given formal complaints that were filed about the procedure. However, if it does get pulled, and a vote takes place in San Jose, the rules would completely change. There would be no mail-in ballots. The Democratic Clubs, the source of much of this controversy would not have a vote, it would merely be assigned delegates selected either from the County Central Committee, the Assembly District Committee or appointed by elected Democratic Officials that would be able to vote. However, people can use proxies.

Looks like more intrigue in this heated race for the 8th Assembly District Democratic nominee. At stake is the fact that the winner of the Democratic Primary will almost certainly become the next Assembly Member from the heavily Democratic 8th Assembly District currently held by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

All Charges Against Former Yolo County Housing Authority Director David Serena Dismissed

In late-breaking news yesterday, the Vanguard learned that former executive director of the Yolo County Housing Authority, David Serena, had all charges against him dismissed by a Sonoma County Judge who was brought in to work the case due to concerns about partiality in Yolo County.

The former executive director was charged with 19 felony counts in 2006 including grand theft, insurance fraud and making false insurance claims.

David Serena filed suit against the Yolo County grand jury challenging the recruitment and selection process as being discriminatory against Latinos. However in January of 2007, the lawsuit was thrown out by US District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr.

Serena and his legal team that included James Hammer and Whitney Leigh, produced statistics that showed a 13.5 percent discrepancy between expected and actual Latino composition.

U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. ruled that the three year time period was not long enough to demonstrate substantial underrepresentation of Latinos. Moreover, they did not have direct evidence of intent to discriminate.

Over the past 10 years, Latinos have only been underrepresented by 6.5 percent which would be equivalent of around one juror on average. This was not enough to demonstrate a violation under the Constitution's equal protection clause.

However, Judge Damrell did say that while he could not consider solely the last three years, he did find the higher disparity in the last three years to be troubling. The Sacramento Bee quotes him as saying "Unaddressed or ignored, this continuing disparity is likely to provide future evidence of systemic underrepresentation of a constitutional dimension."

In a week when the Yolo County District Attorney's office has been under fire for alleged ethics violations from one of its top investigators, the dismissal of this high profile case seems to be another stain against the department.

Due to the late nature of this ruling, the Vanguard has not been able to obtain comments from either David Serena or his attorneys, Matt Gonzales and Whitney Leigh from the San Francisco based law firm. Matt Gonzales has recently been named as Ralph Nader's Vice Presidential candidate; however, he was reportedly in court for this case.

Our opinion has long been that this case should have been handled administratively, not criminally. The Yolo County Board of Supervisors had already dealt with this matter when the Yolo County District Attorney's Office and Grand Jury stepped in. This ruling would seem to vindicate that view.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hate Crimes Workshop Last Night in Davis: All Crimes Are Not Hate Crimes

In December of 2007, there were two hate crime incidents. One involved the spray painting of two sets of residents. The other involved the vandalism of Holmes Junior High. As it turned out, the second incident involved students of color seeking to either deflect blame or rile up the adults. However, that makes it no less insidious or hurtful to the broader community.

Last night, Jann Murray-Garcia put together a program called: "Arent's All Crimes Hate Crimes? No." The goal is to prevent student hate crimes in Davis. She brought together a broad and diverse group of people to get the message out including Lt. Darren Pytel in the Davis Police Department and Director of Student Services Pam Mari. Also in attendance was Superintendent James Hammond who did the introduction, two school board members President Sheila Allen and Board Member Susan Lovenberg; Climate Coordinator Mel Lewis; Lt. Tom Walz of the Davis Police Department; Supervisor Mariko Yamada; Ombudsman Bob Aaronson. Conspicuously absent was anyone from the District Attorney's Office and anyone either from the City or the City Council.

Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia discussed at length a history of hate crimes in Davis, definitions of hate crimes, means to prevent hate crimes, and what hate crimes mean for a community like Davis.

The presentation was recorded by the folks at Davis Community Television for rebroadcast on Channel 17. I strongly encourage people to watch this presentation it is very informative and deals with a number of myths and misperceptions.

In what follows, I will discussion some of the things that are of most interest that came up during the presentation.

First is the myth that hate crimes or what is sometimes referred to as "bias-related crimes" are aimed at certain "protected" groups with a special status under the law.

According to author David Neiwert writes, “Every citizen, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference, is protected equally. Indeed, the most significant test case for hate crimes laws - Wisconsin v. Mitchell, a unanimous 1993 Supreme Court ruling - involved a white victim and a black perpetrator….” (p. 131). According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, approximately 20% of hate crimes victims are White.

In a hate crime, the victim is not merely the individual but rather "entire groups of people who share the same characteristic." Moreover, "controlling for type of crime, they leave victims more chronically traumatized."

According to the presentation:
"A 2006 U.S. Department of Justice study reports that there are more than 7,000 hate crimes or bias-related crimes across the country per year.

In an average year, watchdog agencies like Southern Poverty Law Center receive a dozen or so reports of noose incidents from across the country."
Dr. Murray-Garcia also showed in her slides a January 21, 2003 letter to the editor from a Fairfield High School basketball player (see below in the slides and pictures section).
"In 2002, Fairfield High School basketball player, Ian Blair, wrote a letter to the editor of the Davis Enterprise, shocked at the behavior of Davis High School students. By his report, confirmed later at a Davis High student forum, “cheering” students shouted some of the following slurs when Ian came down to their side of the court:


“Who’s your baby’s momma?”

“Food stamps don’t buy a Hummer!” (apparently in reference to then high school star Lebron James, who purchased a Hummer automobile prior to signing with the NBA.)

“Who’s your fifth baby?”

“We go to college; you go to jail!”

Students were reprimanded only for “negative cheering” and “poor sportsmanship,” given what was reported to DHS administrators. Less than two weeks later, the spray painting of the N-word in West Davis occurred."
Dr. Murray-Garcia then went on to describe a series of recent hate crimes perpetrated by Davis Students.
Winter 2002: A white Davis High (DHS) student serially harassed an African American DHS student, ultimately featuring the Black student on a sophisticated web site, frequented by several DHS students, graphically detailing the physical harm he would like to do to this student (whom he named).

February 2003: a White DHS student spray-painted the N-word in red on the cul-de-sac where a high school party had been held the evening before.

October 2003: Four young people, including at least one DHS student, tagged with graffiti and threw more than several dozen eggs at the car of an openly gay Davis man who lived in Central Davis. The victim had a gay pride flag hanging on the door of his townhouse.

December 2004: The newest constructed building of DHS (the P-building) was vandalized with racist and sexually explicit graffiti, targeting an African American staff member by name (with the N-word) and a White female vice principal.

February 2005: During the night, two Davis students vandalized Fairfield Elementary School and Holmes Junior High School (both in Davis) and two Davis churches. They went from rural West Davis to East Davis, causing almost $30,000 worth of damage. They used swastikas, satanist language, and phrases including, “Kill the Jews! Kill the N_g_ers!”

December 2007: The garages of two East Davis homes were vandalized with horribly vulgar hate graffiti. In the house least affected, the writing read, “KKK. F__k N_g_ers.” Two DHS students were arrested. Though the incident was allegedly sparked by a conflict between longstanding friends, the intensity, sophistication and volume of the hate graffiti are particularly disturbing.

December 2007: Five days following the incident above in east Davis, a “large” amount of racist graffiti targeting African Americans and Asians was found on the Holmes Junior High School buildings. Five students were involved and were arrested for felony vandalism. The “ring leader” was allegedly angry with one of the school’s administrators.
Who are those most likely to commit hate crimes? Not surprisingly, not those who are on a "life mission" to commit acts of hate like members of the KKK. Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia cites David Neiwert:
“The reality is that…”local kids’ are in fact the most common perpetrators of bias crimes. Numerous studies have demonstrated that only a small percentage of hate crimes are committed by people with any connection to or background involving organized “hate groups”…What these studies have found instead is that the majority of bias crimes are committed by seemingly normal, mostly law-abiding young people who often see nothing wrong with their behavior. Bias crime offenders are predominantly young white males, typically from working-class or middle class backgrounds. And though ties to hate groups are rare, the perpetrators are clearly inspired by these groups’ rhetoric, shouting their well known slogans, parroting their political rhetoric, and displaying such symbols of white supremacism as the swastika or the Confederate flag." (p.46)
Instead most are committed by what they term as "thrill seekers." This means the hatred behind these crimes is superficial. The offenders are not "profoundly convinced of the legitimate of their criminal acts." They can be more easily dissuaded from repeating them. And the threat of criminal sanctions may be enough to convince a group of "bored young men" to do another activity.

This makes it important to apprehend and deal with hate crime perpetrators at this point in time. It takes a concerted community effort however to do so before they graduate from property crimes to crimes that involve physical injury.

When these crimes are not taken seriously however, the perpetrators become more violent, it tends to be an affront to the offended community. We need to assume that any such crime is the tip of the iceberg until and unless proven otherwise. Moreover, we miss a teachable moment, such as this, for the community and its young people.

Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia repeatedly has found that students are more aware of the hate crime problem than adults.

These are quotes from in-depth interviews that were done with former Davis High School Youth In Focus Student Research Scholars from the academic year 2003-2004. "The students express disappointment with the lack of adult leadership and guidance regarding troublesome issues of race relations in Davis, including the incidence of hate crimes."
"[T]here is a problem and like students know it is a problem more than I think adults do. Students are more aware that there is racial tension and racial inequality in Davis more than adults do.

[T]wo years ago, I mean someone spray painted the, you know, n_g_er on this guy’s lawn pretty much and I look back at my family and no one talked about it at all…It was never talked about…no one would of ever really known about it if this group of African Americans hadn’t, you know, said what the hell is going on…

[W]hat really happened in Davis, um, most of it is swept under the rug and they do a very good job of just keeping things under wraps."
Lt. Darren Pytel of the Davis Police Department discussed a number of crime related issues. One point of particular interest was the difference between hate crimes and a hate incident. A hate crime is an act of bias crime perpetrated against a specific individual. A hate incident is an act that involves the same sorts of features but is not directed against an individual. For instance, if someone spray paints an racial epithet on the home of an African-American that would be a hate crime. But if they spray painted the same thing on a park bench with no clear target, that would be a hate incident.

Pam Mari spent a good deal of time talking about cyber-crimes including cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying. These types of crimes are on the increase as students become more technologically sophisticated.

This was a good start for a community discussion, the one real draw-back was the limited number of people actually from the community.

In what follows is a serious of slide from the presentation that were of most interest. The reader should be warned in advanced that some of these images may be disturbing. However, I think the community needs to see some of these things and the blog is a better vehicle than the newspaper which is governed with strict laws about what they can and cannot publish.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wednesday Vanguard Stories

Programming Reminder: Tune into KDRT 101.5 FM Tonight from 6 PM to 7 PM for the People's Vanguard of Davis on Radio Show.

County Vows Full and Thorough Investigation


The Vanguard spoke briefly yesterday with both Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson and Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad regarding Senior Investigator to the District Attorney Rick Gore's letter. Neither could speak about this matter as it is a personnel matter. However, I was able to confirm that there would be a thorough independent investigation into the accusations of wrongdoing leveled at District Attorney Jeff Reisig. Supervisor Rexroad would only state that they will "fully and completely investigate it."

The news coverage of this has so far focused on charges and counter-charges. The District Attorney and his office has tossed aside these allegations and spun them onto former candidate for DA and former Deputy DA Pat Lenzi.

District Attorney Jeff Reisig in his statement to the Davis Enterprise called the allegations "false and reckless." He also vowed to be fully cooperative.
"On March 6, 2008, the Yolo County District Attorney's office received notice that former candidate for the office of District Attorney, Patricia Lenzi, and current District Attorney Investigator, Rick Gore, have accused several currently employed prosecutors and investigators, including the District Attorney, of committing unethical acts.

'On behalf of the entire office, including the prosecutors and investigators targeted by these accusations, I deny these false and reckless allegations. I have requested an independent investigation, will be fully cooperative and look forward to the results."
There has been very little talk about the substance of these allegations. Of particular note is history that suggests at least the plausibility of at least one of the charges.

Rick Gore in his letter, accused the District Attorney of attempting to "hide and conceal discoverable evidence about a material witness."

He writes:
"One major disagreement you and I had was when you tried to hide and conceal discoverable evidence about a material witness and refused to discover evidence during an on-going murder trial.


Bruce Naliboff told me, in front of you, to "put a muzzle" on Randy Skaggs for talking about this discovery issue. You and I had extensive email discussion about this. Lt. Skaggs was in the office when Dave Henderson had to order you to comply with the law and therefore discover the evidence. I am sure the date of the gun test and the date of discovery of the report will show the long delay in providing this evidence, shooting and gun test, to the defense."
While District Attorney Reisig denies these allegations as "reckless" and "false," he has had a conviction reversed in part previously for failure to turn over exculpatory evidence.

In early 2007, the Vanguard received court documents about a 1999 case where Reisig had a verdict overturned for failure to disclose exculpatory evidence.

The following is excerpted from the January 17, 2007 Vanguard article:

In 1999, a jury found a Woodland man guilty of using a firearm in the commission of an a threat to commit great bodily harm. The man was sentenced to five years in prison but had that sentence suspended and was placed on probation under a variety of conditions including that he serve 250 days in the county jail.

However, the defendant challenged that sentence on the basis that the prosecution knowingly withheld material exculpatory evidence. Mr. Reisig's defense was that this was inadvertent.

The basic problem was that in this case, the victim never saw a gun when the defendant threatened to shoot her and yet the prosecutors sought a firearm enhancement charge. The jury during the court proceedings twice sent notes to the court concerning the question as to whether the object was actually a firearm (a necessary conditions of this enhancement is that the object actually be a firearm).

One of the key questions that arose after the trial by the jury was whether or not a vehicle had been searched for the gun in question. This only surfaced after the trial in an inadvertent conversation between a juror and Mr Reisig. The juror asked him if the car had ever been searched and Mr. Reisig said that he believed so. The defense attorney came out about the same time and heard that the car had been searched and no gun had been found.

It turns out that the vehicle had indeed been searched and that no gun was found. This information never made it to the jury during the trial. Nor was it given to the defense.

Based on this new evidence, the defense requested a new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence and prosecutorial misconduct--the withholding of exculpatory evidence. The trial judge denied this motion arguing that there was no probability that the jury would have come to a different result "even if this additional information had been presented."

This decision was appealed and the appellate court overturned the ruling and the conviction.

According to the law, the prosecution must disclose evidence favorable to the accused regardless of whether or not the defendant specially requests the evidence.

Moreover, the evidence must specifically be material to case--in the sense that its suppression potentially changes the outcome of the trial. In this case, the victim never saw a gun but only an object and at least one of the jurors questioned whether even the current evidence was sufficient to prove to prove that the defendant actually possessed a gun (a necessary condition for the enhancement).

The judge ruled that "the duty to disclose this evidence was the exclusive responsibility of the prosecution..., whose failure to do so violated defendant's right to due process of law."

"In sum, the prosecutor violated defendant's right to due process by failing to disclose to the defense the existence of material exculpatory evidence pertaining to the issue of whether defendant used a firearm while threatening to shoot the victim."

The judge ordered that the firearm enhancement was to be reversed and a new trial. The prosecution then dropped the firearm charge at the subsequent trial and the defendant was given probation.

This case also came up in a May 31, 2006 Davis Enterprise article following accusations against Pat Lenzi:
"Woodland attorney Larry Cobb described Lenzi as "up front and candid." He said that was not his experience with Reisig several years ago, during a trial in which the defendant was accused of threatening a nightclub bouncer while holding a gun.

According to Cobb, the jury began its deliberations believing police had not searched the defendant's car for gun. The jury convicted the defendant, and while speaking with the jury afterward, Cobb said he overheard Reisig tell jurors there was a vehicle search during which no gun was found. Cobb says he believes Reisig knew that information, potentially favorable toward his client, before the jury received the case.

The case went before the 3rd District Court of Appeal, which Cobb said ordered a new trial on the gun enhancement. The charge was never refiled.

Reisig disputes Cobb's version of events, calling it "outrageous." He said the jury never received information about a vehicle search, though a police officer mentioned while the jury was deliberating the case that police had searched a car and the area around it, but found no weapon.

The appellate court ruling, Reisig said, reflected the court's opinion that the jury was entitled to hear information about the car search in case it would have affected the verdict. He added that there was no finding of intentional misconduct or hiding of evidence, and he declined to refile the gun charge because the defendant was performing well on probation.

"It wasn't the best use of resources to proceed with a new trial for the use of the gun," he said."
While this prior case does not prove that Reisig acted wrongly in the incident referenced in Rick Gore's letter, it does suggest that we need to further scrutinize these allegations because Mr. Reisig does have a history here.

Again, it is our hope that this is investigated fairly and equitably.

In the meantime, Rick Gore would seemingly be protected by California's Whistleblower Protection Laws.

The pertinent California Labor Code Section is 1102.5 where the employer cannot make rules preventing the disclosure of information nor can they retaliate against an employee for disclosing such information.

Section 1103 of the code states, "Any employer who violates this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor ..." Furthermore, Mr. Reisig would be the responsible party here. "The employer is responsible for the acts of his managers, officers, agents, and employees" (Section 1104). Finally, Section 1106 extends the definition of employee to include among other things, county employees.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

8th Assembly District Battles Causes Waves For Pre-Endorsement Conference to the Democratic Party

On Thursday March 13, 2008 the local area of the Democratic Party will hold its Pre-Endorsement Conference for recommendation of candidates for State Democratic Party endorsement. Those candidates who achieve the necessary amount of votes from Designated Representatives or Eligible Voters (delegates) will have their names placed on the Consent Calendar at the Democratic State Convention which convenes at the end of the month in San Jose.

At stake primarily is the endorsement battle for the contested primary in the 8th Assembly District between West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada.

According to a party official, the delegate process is somewhat complex, much like that of the national party. There are elected delegates from each County Central Committees and the Assembly District Committee. There are also delegates who are only able to vote in the Pre-Endorsement portion of the endorsement process but not during the convention. These delegates come from local clubs such as the Davis Democratic Club, the West Sacramento Democratic club and the Northern Solano Democratic Club.

A candidate that receives 70% of the Pre-Endorsement Conference vote goes to the Consent Calendar for approval by the Convention Delegates. It can be pulled from that Consent Calendar and debated under certain circumstances. If a candidate receives between 50% and 70% of the vote at the Pre-Endorsement caucus, their nomination must go to the floor of the Democratic State Convention for approval there. Finally, if no one gets over 50% of the vote, there is no endorsement.

It is these delegates produced from the local Democratic Clubs that have led to a source for both dispute and manipulation from the campaigns for the 8th Assembly District.

As recently as last summer, the Democratic Club in West Sacramento was small in membership numbers.

Complaints from the Yamada Campaign drew my attention to the fact that almost overnight the West Sacramento Club has 760 members and therefore is eligible for 38 delegates.

According to Mariko Yamada's Campaign Manager Brian Micek:
"We received a list of certified delegates from the California Democratic Party. It shows 38 delegates from the West Sacramento Democratic Club, meaning they have an active roster of 760 ¬ making it, in theory, by far the strongest Club in the region. According to these numbers, West Sacramento has surpassed Davis as the engine of Democratic politics in the region."
The Davis Democratic Club has long been one of the premier clubs in the region, but now in terms of membership it has been surpassed by the West Sacramento Club.

How did this happen? We asked Christopher Cabaldon's Campaign Manager Robbie Abelon.

According to Mr. Abelon:
"The week before and leading up to the February 5th Presidential Primary, the West Sacramento Democratic Club did a large phone bank every weekday to high propensity Democratic voters asking them if they will be voting in the Presidential Primary. If they said yes, the caller would thank them for their participation in the Democratic party and asked if they'd like to continue their activism by joining their local club. If they said no, we asked them to consider voting because the November 2008 election is very important and asked if they wanted to do their part in helping the Democratic party by joining their local club.

For every time they explicitly said yes, we marked them down and filled out a membership form for them. Also, when we were walking for Christopher in West Sacramento, we asked the high propensity Democrats to join the club as well after we made the regular campaign pitch."
Robbie Abelon further informed me that the phonebanking was not done using Christopher Cabaldon's name. However, once an individual agreed to be a member of the club, the payment for that membership was made from Christopher Cabaldon's mayoral campaign account.

There have been suggestions that the Mariko Yamada campaign was likewise practicing similar tactics.

One such question focused on the Northern Solano Democratic Club, most of whose officers are supporting Supervisor Yamada. One of that club's members, Jeniffer Green-Hawkins received a $5000 check from the Yamada campaign as reported in the campaign's December 31, 2007 FPPC financial filings, and this payment drew questions.

According to Brian Micek:
"Jeniffer Green-Hawkins has a monthly retainer and is a regular staff member of this campaign. She is responsible for coordinating outreach events and volunteers. She also did our opposition research (a public records search that included voting and attendance records, as well as statements of economic interest) ¬ she is a bargain compared to the professional firms we received bids from, one of whom declined to talk to us because it was already working for the Cabaldon campaign. We have never asked Jeniffer to do a membership drive for the NSDC, however she is an active member of the club. That is how Mariko got to know her and her interest in working on Mariko’s Assembly campaign."
According to Mr. Micek and independently verified by a Democratic Party Official and a roster that we received of the delegates, the Northern Solano Democratic Club has but two delegates. Certainly not a number that would draw suspicions.

Of greater concern is our own Davis Democratic Club. The Vanguard spoke with Club President Arun Sen and he confirmed that he was unaware of the delegate process until he received a call from Mariko Yamada inquiring into the delegation.

According to Mr. Sen, this was the first he was aware of it. The call occurred in early February and was just before the deadline to submit the names of the delegates to represent the club.

In the past, the delegates have come from the leadership of the club. Not this time. Arun Sen tells the Vanguard that he and fellow club member Bob Bockwinkel selected the 12 delegates. According to Brian Micek these delegates were selected in consultation with the Yamada Campaign.

The fact that not all officers of the club nor its executive board were informed of these decisions is concerning in terms of an open and transparent process. These twelve members selected by Mr. Sen and Mr. Bockwinkel all appear to be Mariko Yamada supporters: Sheila Allen, Shelly Bailes, Corky Brown, Rick Gonzales, Tony and Rhonda Gruska, Teresa Kaneko, Ellen Pontac, Jim Provenza, Julia Sanchez, Arun Sen, and Richard Yamagata.

All of these are good Democrats, fine individuals, and most of them are even personal friends. However, the process in which they were selected is opposite of a fair, open, and transparent process that we should expect from the Democratic Party and any of it's affiliated organizations including clubs. Not on the list were a number of Davis Democratic Club officers and board members who are not Mariko Yamada supporters.

Arun Sen told me that unfortunately he did not have a lot of time to make a decision. That is understood, but since the club is not bound by the Brown Act, the President has more latitude with regards to serial meetings than the Central Committee Chair would have. Mr. Sen could have easily emailed or phoned the entire Davis Democratic Club Board of Directors to inform them of the Pre-Endorsement Conference and gain their consent to allow him and Mr. Bockwinkel the authority to appoint the club's delegates. He instead chose to work solely with Mr. Bockwinkel and the Yamada Campaign in selecting who would represent the Club without informing the entire elected board.

According to the Democratic Party Official that I spoke with, complaints have been lodged with the party and a decision will be forthcoming in the next few days as to what action if any will be taken.

The Vanguard will monitor this situation and will provide updates as they become available.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Both the Davis Enterprise and Woodland Daily Democrat have cited the People's Vanguard of Davis in their reporting on the DA's case

Rumors Swirl Following Letter Accusing District Attorney Reisig of Ethical Breaches

When the Vanguard received and published sections of a letter from Senior County Investigator, Rick Gore on Friday afternoon, little did we realize the political firestorm that would develop as a result of the article.

The Yolo County District Attorney's Office has responded by denying the charges, calling them "reckless allegations," and accusing Mr. Gore of acting on behalf of former District Attorney candidate Pat Lenzi, who previously was a Deputy District Attorney in the office.

The District Attorney's response seems calculated to divert attention away from the REAL story: Are these allegations true? What is the proper course for an investigation of this type of allegation? Who is investigating the allegations?

The Woodland Daily Democrat published a prepared statement from District Attorney Jeff Reisig.
"On behalf of the entire office, including the prosecutors and investigators targeted by these accusations, I deny these false and reckless allegations. I have requested an independent investigation, will be fully cooperative, and look forward to the results of the investigation. Since this is a personnel matter and there is a pending investigation, I cannot comment further."
Accusations tending to divert the course of the investigation, however come from "sources close to the DA's office."
"Sources close to the DA's Office have said, however, that Gore's letter campaign is nothing more than dirty politics engineered behind the scenes by Reisig's former political rival, Patricia Lenzi."
The Woodland Daily Democrat then goes from reporting about the allegations made by Mr. Gore and responded to by Mr. Reisig to another part of their story, much of it based on unidentified sources, rumor and an accusation by Yolo County DA Chief Investigator Pete Martin some of this involving the Vanguard:
"The letter first came to light Friday on a blogsite, The People's Vanguard of Davis, by it's host, David Greenwald.

Greenwald said Gore's letter was sent to him by its author, a 10-year investigator for the Yolo County District Attorney's Office. "
Furthermore, the timing has been linked to the political event my wife, Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald, a candidate for the Davis City Council had at the home of Pat Lenzi. According to rumors desperately being floated by the "sources close to the DA's office" and lacking any truth whatsoever, the release of the letter was specifically timed to coincide with the event on Saturday. Why anyone would do that, is simply beyond me.

The Woodland Daily Democrat however proceeds to print:
"Lenzi recently hosted a coming-out party for Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald to announce her candidacy for the Davis City Council.

Escamilla-Greenwald is wife to the same David Greenwald who first made public the letter on his blogsite."
There are two inaccuracies in the Daily Democrat's article.

First, "Gore is presently on paid administrative leave and could not be reached for comment late Monday."

Gore is in fact on medical leave for stress relating to his present job situation.

Second, "DA Chief Investigator Pete Martin also said Lenzi called the DA's office Friday on "behalf" of Gore promoting his cause."

In fact, Pat Lenzi made no such call to the District Attorney's office.

These allegations coming from the District Attorney's office are largely a political smokescreen designed to distract from the grave allegations against Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig contained in a letter written to him last week by his own Investigator Rick Gore.

Rumors linking Gore's letter to Pat Lenzi and a political fundraiser held at her house are irrelevant at best. The rumors include claims that Lenzi wrote the Gore letter and accompanied Rick Gore to the State Attorney General's Office to make his accusations there.

To check the rumors I contacted Ms. Lenzi directly and here's what I learned:
1) Lenzi committed to the political fundraiser in November 2007;
2) the date of March 8 for the fundraiser was chosen the week of January 12;
3) Lenzi secured Assemblymember Dave Jones' commitment as keynote speaker for the event on January 12;
4) Lenzi had surgery February 29 and was in bed up to the day of the political fundraiser for which she made her home available;
5) Rick Gore called Lenzi last week about the letter he had written and she referred him to lawyers qualified to advise him on the matter; and,
6) Lenzi says she did not write the letter nor did she accompany Gore to the State Attorney General's Office.
7) Lenzi never called the DA's office on Friday, March 7.
Rick Gore sent his letter Wednesday, March 5, 2008, to Reisig, the State Attorney General, the California State Bar Association, the Yolo County Human Resources Department, Yolo County Counsel, Yolo County Supervisors, Yolo County Public Defender's Office, and I trust they will all be compelled to investigate Gore's allegations against Reisig.

Rumors, smokescreens, diversions - including questioning authorship - aside...District Attorney Jeff Reisig has some explaining to do and he'll have to respond to investigations of his alleged misconduct.

Attempting to reduce this situation to rumors and gossip and charges of political motivation are a smokescreen for the real story - serious charges of misconduct by an elected Yolo County official.

The logic here seems lacking to begin with. Rick Gore is an employee with a spotless record, he is the senior investigator in the office, he has spent his entire career in law enforcement, he is just two years away from retirement, so why would he risk such consequences for a political vendetta of another individual? That makes no sense.

Furthermore, Rick Gore supported Mr. Reisig in his election with Ms. Lenzi.

My objection to the news media in general and local news in particular is that far too often they are easily diverted from the crux of an issue.

It would be fairly simple for the news media or investigators to verify claims in this letter. Yet they simply take at face value the claims of the District Attorney.

I do not know to the extent that the allegations are true. However, I become suspicious when instead of clean denials, I see political accusations and subterfuge. Hopefully the proper authorities will thoroughly investigate the matter and we can be confident in the veracity of their findings.

I hope that Yolo County will ask an outside and independent source to head up the investigation, so that it will not be tainted by either politics or agency loyalty.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sacramento Mayor's Race is Full of Intrigue

The Vanguard does not venture much across the Causeway let alone across the Sacramento River, however the Sacramento Mayor's race is full of intrigue.

Hey let's be honest, I watched Kevin Johnson play basketball when I was growing up. For those of you who are not sports fans, bear with me for just a second. There is some interesting irony here because Kevin Johnson went to the NBA Finals in 1993 with the Phoenix Suns playing alongside Charles Barkley. They would lose to Michael Jordan's Bulls.

But that Suns team was often tied to Conservative Commentator Rush Limbaugh. Charles Barkley often said he would run for Alabama Governor as a Republican. Now Barkley is a Democrat and a supporter of Barack Obama for President.

It is Kevin Johnson however who has emerged as a possible rising star in the Democratic Party. And in fact it was at an Obama Rally back in January, ahead of the California Democratic Party, that Kevin Johnson had his coming out party so to speak.

Last week, Mr. Johnson announced that he would challenge Sacramento's two-term incumbent Mayor Heather Fargo.

Mayor Fargo is considered vulnerable. The Sacramento Bee cited a poll last week that showed Fargo with an approval rating of just 36% with Johnson holding a statistically insignificant 29-28 lead with 41% undecided.

That sets up a potentially knock-down and drag-out fight between the long-time politician Heather Fargo and the NBA star turned Charter School Director Kevin Johnson.

The Sacramento Bee compared this race to another one that people locally and nationally may be more familiar with:
Sacramento's mayoral confrontation may remind voters of another campaign under way in the country's presidential race, pitting a charismatic newcomer against an entrenched veteran.

"It's really kind of interesting and weird," Nichols said. "It's like Sacramento is a microcosm of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. She campaigns on her experience and he is the young, fresh one with star quality."

Johnson even made a reference to the presidential race when loud applause and cheers greeted him. Said Johnson: "It's like there's some Barack Obama mania going on."
Kevin Johnson has his share of enemies and scandals as well. Critics point out to code violations, back taxes owed, liens on his property, and of course the teacher's union, Sac City Unified Teachers and with them, other unions are steadfastly against him based on practices at his charter school.

However, this is 2008 and this year people are looking it seems for more than politics as usual which is why a person like Kevin Johnson has a chance.

As Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton wrote:
The truest words Johnson spoke Wednesday: "Sacramento seems like a city that is against everything and for nothing."

He's right. We grow many things in this rich valley except a bounty of people with a dream to make things better.

The political pros may sneer, but there is a yearning out there for something more. When he was introduced Wednesday by the daughter of the late Joe Serna Jr. – Sacramento's last activist mayor – Johnson was attempting to inherit that mantle.

"We need to stand up for a greater Sacramento," he said. "We need to create a city that works for everyone."
On the other hand, with a dose of reality:
The thing is: The world has changed since Serna died of cancer while in office in 1999. The political discourse has grown more coarse and the political operative who ran Serna's campaigns is now paid by Mayor Heather Fargo.
Where this all ends up is unclear. One thing for sure, this figures to be interesting, interesting enough that those of us on the other side of the Sacramento River, even on the other side of the Causeway should pay attention, because it is possible that what has been sweeping the country in terms of Barack Obama and the hope of change, may sweep our cities and local politics as well.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, March 10, 2008

Vanguard Investigation Part III: The Grande Property Agreement

The Vanguard continues its multipart series of former DJUSD Deputy Superintendent Tahir Ahad, Total School Solutions, and fiscal mismanagement of the Davis Joint Unified Business Office during Tahir Ahad’s tenure from 1999 to 2006 as CBO of DJUSD.

The first segment of this series which ran on Sunday, February 24, 2008 examined the inherent problems involved in a conflict of interest. The conflict of interest we examined involved a series of disturbing findings of how Mr. Ahad used his position as Chief Budget Officer (CBO) with the Davis Joint Unified School District as a means by which to start up his own private company for his own private gain. In short, he used public resources for private gain, a serious breach in the public trust.

The second portion of the series ran on March 3, 2008 and focused specifically upon the facilities planning and management beginning with the lost state matching funds for Montgomery Elementary, problems with Korematsu and eventually the King High debacle which led to the new school board finding out exactly what had been going on with the district’s facilities construction money. Basically money was shifted from later projects to make up for lost matching funds for Montgomery, lower than expected matching funds for Korematsu, and other cost overruns. Instead of acknowledging the depths of the problems, Mr. Ahad asked the school board in 2005 to pass a COP (Certificate of Participation), a form of debt financing, to pay for King High and some other projects. In 2006, the board learned that they only had half the money they needed to fund King High, and they realized that money had been shuffled, but only after an extensive investigation and the temporary halting of construction activities at King High.

This segment will continue to look at the facilities funding problems and other fiscal management issues. We examine the property exchange deal involving the Grande Property, which was a highly secretive and unusual process that we will argue violated a number of the California Education Code’s provisions for the sale of public surplus property.

Next week, we will also examine the FCMAT report and Consultant Terri Ryland’s findings. Future segments will include the efforts by the school district to rectify the problems that existed under Tahir Ahad and former DJUSD Superintendent David Murphy; some of which have already been discussed in previous issues. We are also following up on several different reports from other school districts about similar problems with Total School Solutions and Tahir Ahad. Last week in the Modesto Bee, a story was written about the Waterford School District. We will be looking further into that situation.

Grande Property

In 1971, the Davis Joint Unified School District purchased the Grande Property, which is located in North Davis, for the use of an elementary school in anticipation that Davis would continue to grow in a northern direction. They paid just under $60,000 at the time for that property; however, nothing was ever built and growth patterns in Davis have not continued north of the city.

With the growth in the real estate market during the past decades and inflation of housing and property values, the property is worth at least 100 times the value it was purchased, if not more.

The district realizing that it would likely not use the property for a future school began in the late 1990s to look into selling or exchanging the property. Those efforts moved into high gear in 2005.

Complicating any sale of school property is the Naylor Act or Education Code Section 17485 which governs the sale of certain land owned by a school district.

According to the City of Davis’ attorney, Harriet Steiner, the Naylor Act applies if the property meets three specific conditions. First the land must be used at least in part for “outdoor recreational purposes and is open space land particularly suited for recreational purposes.” Second, the land must have been used for those purposes for at least eight years. Third, there can be no other publicly owned land in the area of the site that is adequate for meeting “the existing or foreseeable needs of the community for recreational and open space purposes, as determined by the public agency proposing to purchase the land.”

If the Naylor Act applies:
Before selling or leasing the land, the district’s governing board must first offer it for sale or lease to the city within which the land is situated. § 17489. If offered for sale to the city, the city must notify the district of its intention to purchase the land within 60 days. § 17489. If the city chooses not to acquire the property, the district must then offer it to park districts, if any exist, and then to the county. Id. The selling price must be not less than 25% of the fair market value and not less than the school’s cost of acquisition, as adjusted for increase in the area cost of living3 and any improvements made by the school. § 17491.
There was a good deal of debate at that time and really even now as to whether or not the Naylor Act even applied given the third provision. There is also a good degree of speculation as to whether or not the city council at that time would have invoked the Naylor Act. Many claim that the city was not interested in the land, although those on the other side mention that at least one councilmember was interested in the use of the Naylor Act. However, the fear was that the school district could lose the property and gain just 25 percent of its worth should the city council choose to invoke the Naylor Act.

As a result, the school district went to great efforts under the leadership of Superintendent Murphy and Tahir Ahad to avoid an open sale that would risk a potential invocation of the Naylor Act. These tactics raise serious ethical and perhaps legal concerns.

From the start, the district met in closed door sessions and in secret during discussions involving the sale of the Grande Property. Instead of noticing the public via the public notice section of the newspaper as is generally required for such sales of public land, the notice was buried in the classified section of the Davis Enterprise where few would be looking for such a public notice.

The arrangement that Superintendent David Murphy and Tahir Ahad had employed by October of 2005 was a land swap that involved a UC Davis property that was the home of Fairfield Elementary School. This piece of property that the university had not wanted was offered to Davis Joint Unified for at least three years prior to this land exchange. The university had been willing to simply give DJUSD the Fairfield School property at no cost.

Instead, the school district would enter into an agreement with BP Equities in which BP Equities would pay the school district $4.5 million in exchange for helping the school district to acquire the 10-acre site west of Davis. In essence, Davis Joint Unified would trade BP Equities the Grande Property in exchange for $4.5 million and the Fairfield School.

Coincidentally, this $4.5 million happened to be the same monetary amount that the district lost out on matching funds from the state when they missed the Montgomery Elementary school deadline. Questions have arisen as to whether the speed, urgency, and also secrecy of this deal had something to do with that lost funding.

The land exchange generated a large amount of controversy in the community. Under pressure for the seemingly sub-market value sale price, the offer was raised on November 22, 2005 to $5.5 million and the deal was locked in.

Nevertheless, controversy continued to rain down on this deal. First, even the revised sales figure seemed too low. According to the best information the Vanguard has uncovered, even given a semi-secretive, non-open process, there were at least three other offers that the district had at the time of the sale that were considerably higher. One of these was from a West Sacramento developer who eventually threatened to sue the district. Another was from John Whitcombe who had proposed a trade of 160 acres for Grande. A third proposal offered anywhere from $7.5 million to $10.5 million and offered to front the development costs.

The existence of these higher offers caused former Davis Mayor Maynard Skinner, who was in attendance at the November 22, 2005 meeting, to proclaim angrily that the district had just “kissed” away $2.5 million.

The problems with the Grande deal were not merely fiscal in nature. There were also severe procedural problems with the manner in which this deal came down. From all appearances the District simply did not follow the procedures that were outlined in the Education Code for the sale of surplus school property.

Education Code Section 17466 specifies that ordering the sale or lease of any property must be done in open session at a regular open meeting. However, this by all accounts did not occur.
“Before ordering the sale or lease of any property the governing board, in a regular open meeting, by a two-thirds vote of all its members, shall adopt a resolution, declaring its intention to sell or lease the property, as the case may be. The resolution shall describe the property proposed to be sold or leased in such manner as to identify it and shall specify the minimum price or rental and the terms upon which it will be sold or leased and the commission, or rate thereof, if any, which the board will pay to a licensed real estate broker out of the minimum price or rental. The resolution shall fix a time not less than three weeks thereafter for a public meeting of the governing board to be held at its regular place of meeting, at which sealed proposals to purchase or lease will be received and considered.”
Section 17232 requires that the process must be open and remain open for no less than 60 days. The provision includes for the transfer of property in addition to outright sale.
“A school district's offer to sell or transfer the land shall be made to all park districts, cities, and counties in which the school district is wholly or partially situated pursuant to this article and shall remain open for not less than 60 days. The sale or transfer shall be made to whichever public entity first accepts the offer, or whichever public entity can negotiate satisfactorily for the purchase or transfer of the surplus land.”
Furthermore, the education guidelines stipulate that “a request to waive the bidding process for a lease or sale of surplus real property” must assure a number of things including that “no other state code section or another agency’s jurisdiction will be nullified in order for the request to become effective.” Furthermore, “waiver requests generally indicate that districts have complied with the Education Code requirements but have been unsuccessful in selling or leasing the property…” Education Code Section 33050.

In fact, the district did not request any such waiver. It certainly did not go through the normal process and failed to get a viable offer. No effort was ever made to go through a public, open bid process as the stipulation for waiver would seemingly require.

Furthermore even if granted the waiver, the district still must go through an open public process at a “regular open meeting” and “the governing board will announce, at a public meeting, the applicants deemed to be qualified.”

Education Code Section 17387 specifies:
“It is the intent of the Legislature to have the community involved before decisions are made about school closure or the use of surplus space, thus avoiding community conflict and assuring building use that is compatible with the community's needs and desires.”
Furthermore per Education Code Section 17388:
“The governing board of any school district may, and the governing board of each school district, prior to the sale, lease, or rental of any excess real property, except rentals not exceeding 30 days, shall, appoint a district advisory committee to advise the governing board in the development of districtwide policies and procedures governing the use or disposition of school buildings or space in school buildings which is not needed for school purposes.”
One of the requirements per Education Code Section 17389 is the appointment of a “school district advisory committee made up of no less than seven members and no more than 11 members. The term that those who have followed this process the last few years might be familiar with is the 7/11 Committee—so-called for the membership requirement. But in 2005, this was body was not formed.

Basically the Davis School District did not follow Education Code in the original Grande Property agreement with BP Equities. It was a secretive, closed door process that appears, to this non-lawyer, to have violated each of these provisions of Ed Code.

With a new board in place in the fall of 2005 and Board Members Gina Daleiden, Sheila Allen, and Tim Taylor on the board, the concerns of many in the community led the school board to re-examine the issue on March 16, 2006.

Davis City Manager Bill Emlen effectively took the Naylor Act option off the table during this meeting. According to the minutes from the meeting, “Mr. Emlen noted the city’s interest right now is on the best project for that neighborhood.”

Bill Emlen told the board, “The Naylor Act although relevant probably isn’t a defining factor in this case.”

Maynard Skinner speaking as a member of the public said, “In my opinion, the previous school board was in violation of the Brown Act, if not de jure, then de facto…”

Brian Purcell, the President of BP Equities was asked by then School Board Member Jim Provenza if there had been an appraisal on the Grande Property done prior to the agreement. Mr. Purcell told the board that there was not.

Jim Provenza would move to withdraw from the agreement. Tim Taylor seconded that motion.

School Board Member Keltie Jones told the board that she had serious concerns about withdrawing from the agreement.
“I have serious ethical concerns about withdrawing from this agreement; I think it was entered into in good faith. I think it was entered into with the understanding that this was an agreement that we would follow through with.”
She argued that she did not believe that property values in Davis were increasing and that the district could end up with less money.

Jim Provenza then issued forth a lengthy statement on the Grande Agreement from the dais.
“I have an ethical concern about going forward because I feel that the process from the beginning was flawed. And it’s not because of anything that Mr. Purcell did, he was negotiating with Tahir Ahad in good faith, but our process I believe was flawed from the beginning. To begin with it was not actively marketed. An ad was placed in the paper the Friday before the weekend with proposals due on Wednesday. A lot of people didn’t even hear about it until it was too late. Another ad was placed in a trade journal. I spoke to several realtors and developers who felt they were not wanted in the process. That a particular result or particular developer was desired from the beginning of the process. Whether that’s true or not that’s the perception that’s out there. But we did not have the type of active marketing to find everybody out there that might have been interested in the property, and getting bids.

Those bids that we did receive we received one as high as $9 million. We were told, well don’t pursue that one because we were told you have to exclusively negotiate. But we ended up negotiating with a single developer for what was initially a $4.5 million offer. There was no appraisal done before we entered into this agreement until the very day that we voted the first time. That was the first appraisal that we received that was done that week, although I had requested one several times. The response and I’m sure it was in good faith, was it doesn’t make sense to do appraisals, they always come out too low or they always come out lower than the amount being offered. On the night that we voted for $4.5 million, we had an appraisal that said it was worth $6.3 million. Remarkably, we went ahead anyway, but with an escape clause.

We sought two other appraisals. But prior to those two other appraisals we had a letter from the city making Naylor Act claims which was forwarded to those appraisers. I believe that that letter affected those appraisers and I think it affected the amounts of the appraisals. I can’t say for sure that’s it, but it makes me really question the process.

What I heard from one of the appraisers was that he was feeling pressured to come up with a lower amount. That made me question the process. We proceeded with an agreement that had various escape clauses. BP equity has the right to walk out of this deal for no money today—that’s what was written into the agreement. This district has the right to withdraw from the agreement.

If I felt that this process was fair and open to everyone, I would feel comfortable going forward. One of the things I found when looking for an example at one of the Public Record Act requests about documents concerning this, is that there was confusion even as to information as to how the deal was going to work. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault, I don’t think it was intentional, but I think the process was flawed. I think that the prior board wanted to conclude this agreement before the new board was seated. I think that we were, as a board, giving away this property at a fire sale price. I can’t prove that, but that’s my impression. And I feel as if I have a fiduciary duty on behalf of the taxpayers and on behalf of the students of this district, to make sure that we are getting the most for this property.”
Jim Provenza’s statement confirms a number of aspects of this process that we have mentioned. To begin with the property was not actively marketed. That raises questions about the sale price that was obtained. There was a reluctance to get an appraisal for the property. When Mr. Provenza requested an appraisal, a number of excuses were furnished in an attempt to avoid such as appraisal that would show the reality of the deal that the district was getting.

By far the most important implication is that one of the appraisers was “feeling pressured to come up with a lower amount.” While the appraiser would not go on the record about this incident, he did confirm the accuracy of Jim Provenza’s public statement. It appears that the district, and specifically Superintendent Murphy, apparently in trying to justify the low price for Grande, is alleged to have attempted to obtain a lower assessed price for the property. That is the opposite of what one would expect from a district that was badly in need of funds.

To this day, there remains no good answer as to why the Superintendent and CBO did this. One can only speculate on the rationale.

Current Board President Sheila Allen told the Vanguard during our interview was asked about reversing the decision to sell Grande:
“My recollection of why we reversed the decision—I think it was in my first meeting—is because I didn’t think it was the best deal for the taxpayers and the students of the district. I thought that we could do much better financially with an open process for the community. I had a problem with the process and with the amount of money and so I wanted us to have an opportunity to come in and start over. I truly believe—we’ll have to see what get for the sale price of it and subtract off because we have had some consultant work on it—but I can’t to see exactly what it is in the end that will have done a better service for the students.”
Current Board Vice President Gina Daleiden:
“In all of my conversations, before I was elected and after I was elected, in reports to the board, so my conversations with people who talked to me individually and also who did reports to the board who were professionals in land use/design/development field, the consensus was that Grande would be much more valuable sold as entitled property instead of as raw land which was what the first sale/ exchange was to be. Particularly if the school district as a public entity could find a way to work cooperatively with the city as a public entity to help us along with the entitling of that property we would really increase the value to the developer who would eventually buy the entitled land.”
Why was this agreement rushed through? Was it an effort to cover up for the loss of Montgomery? Was there another financial relationship between members of the district and BP Equities? That is not clear. Jim Provenza would not speak on the record beyond what he said at the public meeting in March of 2006. And those currently seated on the board were not in a position to know.

The district working with the city and developers is working on an entitlement process at present that is likely to bring in a far more lucrative sale from the property.

Current Board Vice President Gina Daleiden would explain the current process.
“The board has had a subcommittee of me and Tim Taylor, along with two members of the city council Don Saylor and Steve Souza. Katherine Hess from planning is staff for the city and Tom Lombrazo, who is a professional in land use and design is our staff person on this. We’ve been meeting including the neighbors in public—they are public to the extent that anybody is welcome to come, often the Grande neighbors are the only ones who choose to come. Usually reporters come in and out and I think just one other community came, maybe we’ve had two.

We can work cooperatively with the neighborhood association and have an open process. We have an MOU/MOA signed by the full board and the full city council… It basically says we’re going to work cooperatively together and try to maximize the value for the school district as well as fit the existing neighborhood and be a positive project for the town. We’re actually getting pretty close to being able to go back to the full board to get a decision on something to take to the city to their planning department… We’re going to put a tentative map on the property that shows how many lots and then we will sell those. The board will decide when to sell those and how.”
In their November 18, 2007 Op-Ed in the Davis Enterprise, Marty West and Joan Sallee argued:
“When we left the school board in December 2005, the finances of the school district were in good shape. Any financial mismanagement that has occurred has been on the 2006 and 2007 school board's watch. In early 2006, the board majority rescinded the $5.5 million contract we had signed to sell the Grande Avenue site, thus jeopardizing funding for building a student commons at the high school and modernizing Emerson Junior High School.”
In fact, what more likely would have happened is that $5.5 million would have simply vanished into the facilities problems that we discussed last week. However, instead of taking out a COP to pay for King High in 2006, the sale of the Grande would have covered it. It seems fairly clear that the Superintendent and CBO would then have been able to have avoided the discovery of the missing King High money the following year.

Summary and conclusions:

The Davis Enterprise on January 10, 2008 reported that a consensus, at least a conceptual agreement between the School District, the Neighborhood Association, and the City.
“The new school board formed a 7/11 Surplus Property Committee — so named because state law specifies the committee should have between seven and 11 members — that recommended the district sell the property. The money from the sale be used only for school facilities, not salaries.

The committee, along with city and school staff, and members of the Grande Neighborhood Association, reached consensus on a plan that features 39 lots, a workable traffic pattern, and greenbelts flanking the west and north edges of the site.”
Several things have changed with the school district, including unprecedented cooperation between the city of Davis and Davis Joint Unified to ensure that the process benefits both the city and the schools.

One of the common denominators during both King High and Grande under Tahir Ahad and David Murphy, was the lack of communication and the almost combative and adversarial relationship with the city.

It is important to note that the sale of Grande will not alleviate the current fiscal crisis in the school district. The money from any sale could only go to facilities and not to the general fund.

However it is pretty clear from the public record and a cursory examination of the law, that the original Grande Property sale made little fiscal sense and it certainly pushed up against the laws of public meetings and the Education Code.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Escamilla-Greenwald Kicks Off Campaign for Council with Assemblyman Dave Jones

by Simon Efrein

Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald formally announced her candidacy for Davis City Council last night, at a birthday bash in her honor hosted by Former District Attorney Candidate Pat Lenzi and Assemblyman Dave Jones. In a speech in front of many supporters, Cecilia highlighted her desire to serve as a strong voice for the character and citizens that make Davis such a unique and wonderful town.

Assemblyman Dave Jones, introduced Cecilia, by pointing out her record as an advocate for affordable housing and her advocacy against the biolab at UC Davis. He cited work with her going back a decade and strongly endorsed her candidacy. Jones, who has served Sacramento for the last four years as Assemblyman, also sent along well wishes from Senator Darrell Steinberg, who has also endorsed Cecilia.

Over 115 people packed into Lenzi's home. Other attendees included Davis City Councilmember Lamar Heystek, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada, Former Davis Mayors Julie Partansky and Maynard Skinner, Former Davis City Councilmember Mike Harrington, Former Davis School Board Member Jim Provenza, and Davis Democratic Club President Arun Sen.

Cecilia addressed the audience. "Ever since I attended UC Davis, I have thought of Davis as my home. I have been so proud to be a member of what is really a wonderful and unique community," she said. "I have met many wonderful people here, and have seen such amazing displays of leadership and community involvement and activism. All of you here have inspired me."

“Davis is a very special town, and the qualities that make Davis such a special place need to be protected.” Cecilia said, “As your city councilmember I will work to protect open space and agricultural land. I will strive to maintain a strong level of public safety. I will promote transparency in government. And finally, working in concert with my colleagues I will seek to develop a green city to make Davis a place that will be the environmental standard that the rest of the nation turns to once again.”

Cecilia continued her speech by asserting her commitment to maintaining the quality of life and character of Davis. “I pledge to maintain Davis’ commitment to Measure J by keeping the citizen’s right to determine our city’s future,” she said. “I will work with my colleagues to forge a new path to maintain a strong and vital downtown core while preserving our parks and open space.”

In addition to those in attendance, Cecilia has been endorsed by School Board President Sheila Allen, School Board member Tim Taylor, past Davis Mayors Ken Wagstaff and Bill Kopper; past Davis City Councilmembers Stan Forbes, Jerry Kaneko, and Dick Holdstock; Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad; Yolo County Assessor Joel Butler; UC Davis Police Chief Emeritus Calvin Handy; Woodland City Councilmembers Artemio Pimentel and Jeff Monroe; West Sacramento City Councilmember William Kristoff; Past Yolo County Assessor Dick Fischer and past Yolo County Clerk Tony Bernhardt, among many others.

In attendance as well was Rob Roy who filed his papers on Friday afternoon to run for the Davis City Council, he also endorsed Cecilia early on. Other Davis City Council candidates include Mayor Sue Greenwald, Councilmembers Don Saylor and Stephen Souza, and Sydney Vergis. There are three seats available on the council.

Disclaimer: Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald is the wife of Doug Paul Davis (aka David Greenwald) who runs the Vanguard. Simon Efrein and others will be covering the Davis City Council Election.