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Saturday, April 12, 2008

City Attorney Weighs In: MEASURE J IMPERILED?

According to a legal opinion by City Attorney Harriet Steiner, the next city council will have broad discretion in determining the shape of Measure J.

Measure J is the provision that requires a citizen's vote for any land-use change or annexation of land out of the city's current boundaries. Without Measure J in place, it is likely that the vote on Covell Village would never have occurred. The voters by a 60-40 margin rejected a large development outside of the city that was approved by the city council by a 4-1 vote.

Measure J sunsets on December 31, 2010. The City Council will be required prior to December 31, 2010 to place on the ballot one of four options.

The city attorney writes:
"Measure J was a City Council-initiated ballot measure that was approved by the voters in March 2000. Measure J will remain in effect until December 31, 2010, unless it is extended, amended, or repealed before that date."
"By its own terms, any changes to Measure J, including amendment, extension, or repeal, must be approved by the voters of the City of Davis at an election held in accordance with state law."
Harriet Steiner believes that the city council has four options.
  1. Not extend Measure J
  2. Extend Measure J as is
  3. Extend Measure J with an amendment or amendments
  4. "Place two or more measures on the ballot; one to extend Measure J as is and one or more additional measures to amend Measure J. The measure or measures that would go into effect would depend on how the measures were drafted, and how many votes each received, as explained below.
In addition to the council options, "the voters have the right to proceed with an initiative measure by collecting signatures and submitting an initiative petition to the City Council."

The two measure option would place competing measures on the ballot simultaneously.
"If two competing measures amended the same municipal code sections and both measures were approved by the voters, the one that received the most votes would prevail. If only one measure passed, then the measure that passed would go into effect. If neither passed, then Measure J would expire by its own terms on December 31, 2010.
What is clear from this legal opinion is that the next city council will go a long way towards determining the shape of the next Measure J. The options give the council the discretion to alter Measure J or to even put competing measures on the ballot in an attempt to either confuse the voters or make the process more difficult.

While the citizens retain the right to put their own measure on the ballot, such an endeavor is risky and expensive with strong forces lined up against a successful effort.

The simplest way for the voters of Davis to ensure that Measure J remains part of the vital citizen-controlled process is to elect a city council that will pledge to keep Measure J in place as is and to make it permanent so that we do not face this type of vote every ten years in the future.

Where do the candidates stand on this? Both Sue Greenwald and Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald have come out in favor of making Measure J permanent and maintaining it as it is currently written. Cecilia has talked about it in her literature and on her website and Mayor Greenwald stated her position at the first candidates debate.

Rob Roy on his website vows to:
"Work to make Measure J permanent in 2010. It is important that Davis voters enjoy the direct democracy of choosing if, when, and how the city will expand. With the looming cost of our Wastewater treatment facility reaching its brink Davis cannot afford massive population increases (ie. projects like Covell Village).
Sidney Vergis during the candidates forum suggested that she would keep Measure J but make "non-substantive changes." She has however devoted very little time or space to talking about land use issues. And she is surrounded by those who supported Measure X and opposed Measure J in its original inception.

While Stephen Souza has frequently used Measure J as a reason why we can retain the 1% growth guideline among other things, he does not mention it on his website. Nor does Don Saylor.

Perhaps the most important issue that will face the next city council will be the renewal of Measure J. For those citizens who wish for the residents of Davis to retain their choice of how, when, and where we grow, it is important that we hold our council candidates to the fire on this issue and support those who will retain Measure J in its permanent form and make it permanent. After all, it is the citizens that should have a right to determine the future of their city.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, April 11, 2008

Council Candidates on Choice Voting and Home Rule

In November of 2006, the voters of Davis passed an advisory vote to ask the city to look into creating choice voting. Choice voting, otherwise known as instant runoff asks voters to rank their preferences of candidates and office holders in order to determine the winner.

However, in order for a city in California to enact a choice voting system, the city must go from a general law city to a charter city. A charter gives the city more flexibility to enact any number of laws--depending on what is contained within the charter.

In late February, the Davis City Council by a 4-1 vote directed city staff and the City Attorney Harriet Steiner to complete an analysis of a draft charter and to return to the City Council.

A charter city does not automatically create the choice voting. In fact, the charter committee intentionally chose not to write the choice voting system into directly into the charter.

Moreover, the particular charter is brief and broad. It kept all other laws the same except for the possibility of creating a future choice voting system by vote of the city council.

The purpose of this article is largely to examine the views of the city council candidates with regards to this issue. But in order to do so, I am going to expand subject slightly and talk not only about choice voting, but also about the very concept of home rule itself. The choice voting system is but a very small component of what could be a very progressive and very innovative system of home rule. The charter city gives the city more local authority over municipal affairs in areas that are not considered to be purely statewide matters.

It is on this point of home rule and what it should mean that we begin to see some differentiation of viewpoint from what is a system that really transcends lines. For example, Ruth Asmundson was the only dissenting vote in February on the Charter City. That comes from her opposition to choice voting. In fact, she stated that she would not vote for a charter that specifically allowed choice voting.
"I've never really been a fan of choice voting, and I've never really understood what it's all about. I have some issues about including it."
Don Saylor both in February and at the recent candidates forum is a clear skeptic of the system. Two candidates were asked about Choice Voting by the Chamber of Commerce, Rob Roy came out in favor of choice voting as a means to enhance democracy. But Don Saylor had a very nuanced view.

At the February meeting, Don Saylor was skeptical:
"Why aren't more cities considering charters; are there some drawbacks that we should know about?"
Saylor said that he supported advisory measure on the ballot. He felt like the city hadn't really explored the idea and ramifications very much. Then in a very revealing moment he stated it was a "solution looking for a problem." Most people don’t understand what it is and there will be problems the first time there is change of outcome due to choice voting. Places where Choice Voting has been in place, the process is actually being challenged.

To me that suggests that Don Saylor has not quite come out against Choice Voting, but he is close to doing so and it would not surprise me if he opposed it in future votes once the system itself is enumerated during discussion.

Stephen Souza has been among the leading proponents along with Lamar Heystek for choice voting. Despite this support, the question that many proponents of home rule raise is why have we narrowed the charter merely to choice voting.

Proponents of home rule such as Nancy Price want a broader discussion on what should be in the charter.

Ms. Price writes in a December 17, 2007 Davis Enterprise Op-ed:
"Writing a city charter is a way to implement home rule. It provides a city with a level of greatly enhanced local authority and control over municipal affairs that is not available to general law cities that must operate under more restrictive state control and statutory law.

So, in writing a charter, the City Council's goal could be more than just implementing Measure L. Shouldn't we hold a communitywide discussion about what home rule might entail?"
However, it seems that the council led by Stephen Souza want to limit the charter to a very broader charter--believing that additional details within the charter are limiting.

Stephen Souza at the most reason meeting explained their decision:
"We decided on a very simple, broad charter. We did not want it overburdened in a way that created, right from the get-go, opposition. We tried to get it down to one page, but our city attorney didn't quite let us get there."
Nancy Price on the other hand suggests:
"So, in writing a charter, the City Council's goal could be more than just implementing Measure L. Shouldn't we hold a communitywide discussion about what home rule might entail? For a start, let's remember that the Declaration of Independence declares that people are born with certain unalienable rights and that governments are instituted among people to secure those rights as elaborated in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

We might discuss how as a bitter irony after the Civil War, the Supreme Court in 1886 recognized corporations to be persons under the terms of the 14th Amendment. As a result, corporations have protections and powers under the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments that were intended by the founders to apply only to living people.

We might discuss whether we should rely on government to regulate how much pollution we breathe, how many jobs we lose to free trade, how large the big-box store should be, or how often our elected representatives sell their votes to big time, deep-pocket special interests protected by claims of free speech and First Amendment rights.

Our challenge is how to assert our community's right to define its future and to end both the grip that corporate money has over our elected officials and the corporate harms that result."
Nancy Price goes on to suggest the following:
"As Souza is quoted, a short charter could be put right on the ballot with little problem. Nothing could be simpler, he said.

But, to the contrary, good governance would entail a more robust charter that would provide for choice voting and also grapple with the role of corporations in Davis. A simple charter now will mean real change may evade us, as later amendments would take time and money.

Yet, other communities are having these discussions. Some have passed ordinances that assert the rights of people and communities over the rights of corporations and abolish the illegitimate rights and legal privileges of corporations. This work is highlighted in Communities Take Power, the cover story of Yes! magazine (fall 2007), which may be read online at

Local communities have passed ordinances addressing the storage, use and disposal of toxic materials; public health and environmental pollution; big-box and corporate development that prevents a community from realizing a vision of sustainable land use and local economic development; protection of ground water; factory farming; genetically modified organisms; application of wastewater treatment sludge to land; protection of ecosystems; and a limit on outside corporate money in local elections.

Other communities are writing more inclusive and detailed home rule charters that go beyond the single issue. As Thomas Linzey of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund states, home rule has not been fully tested as a tool to revolutionize local democratic decision-making, but it has the potential to open up a path to real community democracy.

This is the path that residents of Spokane, Wash., a city many times the population of Davis, are following. Starting at the neighborhood level and including many different interest groups, they are embarking on a process to amend the city charter to assert people's rights over corporate rights and create a truly sustainable community and thriving local economy.

What if, here in Davis, we took the opportunity to have this kind of communitywide discussion before the decision is made by a few on the City Council that a short, narrow charter is best for us?"
This is an overall problem--we had a choice voting advisory vote that had no opposition--which means there was limited discussion. We had no public workshops on the possibilities of home rule or what the charter could actually do.

I present this as a possible counterpoint to the viewpoint expressed by Mr. Souza which is in support of choice voting but also in support of very limited change in terms of a charter city.

Sue Greenwald at the meeting in February examined whether having a charter city would enable the city to better control its growth. She was told by the City Attorney that it would not. However, it appears that the City Attorney too was limited in her viewpoint. Home rule and the charter city may not enable the city to control growth better, but as Nancy Price points out there are other features that it would allow the city to do, if the council was so inclined. With better support staff, there is little doubt that the Mayor would be able to see the possibilities of such a document rather than merely the limitations.

I was unable to find a viewpoint for Sydney Vergis on this issue.

Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald spoke up at the February meeting to ensure that any charter proposal would enable workers to be to engage in collective bargaining and not enable the city to impose contracts on city workers outside of the normal state laws. Overall however she supports both the charter city concept and choice voting. And would likely be willing to expand the concept of home rule to more innovative and progressive means.

The possibilities for home rule and a charter city are indeed exciting and worth exploring. From the literature I have seen, we have really limited the possibilities. I have always considered myself somewhat of a skeptic of choice voting, but I think the possibilities for both choice voting and a charter city are well worth exploring. I think we have too narrowed the inquiry at this point. This is an historic chance--why not take it? Stephen Souza fears opposition, but really unless we explore possibilities, we are closing doors.

In addition, I am always concerned about lack of community discussion. Major changes are concerning and sometimes frightening to people. We need to have a full debate. There is some myth that we have to operate without dissent--we may all agree on one aspect of this but why not risk looking at the possibilities and how far we can go? Why do we so fear disagreement on the margins of issues? By doing so, we have too limited the focus of this debate and have failed to bring the community in to really see the possibilities that could add to our already great community.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, April 10, 2008

City Council: Status Quo or Change

I have been reading a number of letters to the editor in the past few days touting the experience of a given city councilmember. Yesterday in particular, a certain letter touted the three incumbents as having a proven record and being independent thinkers.

We all know there is a certain lady that I am kind of fond in this race. For those unclear, it is the one with the really long last name. But let us forget about this for a second. This is not about her, per se, right now. It is a more general question and a more general issue.

At the end of the day, everyone in this city has to make up their mind about whether they like the status quo on the city council or whether they want change.

And for the sake of argument the other woman, who is of no relation to me, but who shares my last name, and for those who do not know, also happens to be the mayor, she is the minority, she is not part of the status quo here. On the big issues, she and Lamar Heystek have lost each time for the most part.

So here is the question--does the current council majority represent your views on where the city should go. Or do you want change?

It is really that simple. Now you can pick a wide range of topic to evaluate the city council on.

For example, did you support Measure X? If you supported Measure X--i.e. Covell Village in 2005, then Stephen Souza and Don Saylor are probably your candidates on that issue. If you thought that Measure X was too large a development, if you believe that it would impact traffic flows on Covell Blvd., if you were concerned about protection of prime agricultural land, etc., then you might want to consider change on the city council to people who opposed such a large development.

To this date, people like Stephen Souza and Ruth Asmundson have publicly stated that the public just did not understand Measure X. Stephen Souza basically stated that the community did not understand Measure X at the first candidates debate. He said this was the first exercise of Measure J and that a project as big as Covell Village takes longer to explain to the community, that it has to come with its impacts mitigated, and that the affordable housing component has to be explainable to the public. Finally we have to totally be engaged in a process that we are expected to vote on. This is basically the Ruth Asmundson answer rehashed, Souza simply does not understand the opposition to Measure X and argues that the public did not properly understand it rather than take from the lesson that the public is not supportive of huge new develops on the Davis periphery.

Then you have the issue of housing and growth. The one percent growth guideline was supported by the council majority which included Stephen Souza and Don Saylor. Don Saylor has talked about filling our internal housing needs and used that as a justification for the one percent growth guideline. For Stephen Souza that means in addition infill development, we need to look at some new peripheral developments.

On the other hand, Sue Greenwald joined Lamar Heystek opposing the one percent growth guideline. She and others have pointed out that one percent growth sounds small but it amounts to a Mace Ranch level development over a period of three years. Sue Greenwald questions what the housing needs really means and wants to find ways to insure that when we develop we are filling our internal housing needs rather than external ones.

What is clear is the RHNA is not requiring a huge amount of new growth over the next six years, this gives council the discretion to determine its own rate of growth.

At a recent debate the two sides disagreed on this point as well.

Don Saylor argued that RHNA was only part of what we needed. He focused on the internal needs assessment and argued that we need to take a look at our own planning regardless of RHNA requirements.

Sue Greenwald on the other hand suggested that the numbers were not interesting to her. She was concerned that if Davis went beyond the SACOG allotment that this would lead to increased SACOG numbers in the future.

One of the biggest issues facing the council in the next two years will be the fate of Measure J--the iniative that allows the public to vote on zoning changes and peripheral development. Where do the candidates stand on Measure J? This will be a huge debate--will Measure J be rescinded in 2010, will it be altered in 2010, or will it be renwed as written. Sue Greenwald has already come out in support of Measure J in its current form. Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald in her literature states that she wants to make it permanent in its current forum. I have not heard the position of either Stephen Souza or Don Saylor on this issue. It will be interesting to see where they stand on Measure J which prevented Covell VIllage from being developed.

Sydney Vergis did come out in favor of Measure J in the debate, although she suggested some non-substantive changes. For the sake of clarity, she is most clearly supported and positioned with the council majority. Her treasurer is the daughter of Ruth Asmundson. Her campaign is largely run by Janice Bridge. Bridge was one of the more outspoken proponents of closing Valley Oak Elementary. She was also an ardent Yes on Covell Village supporter, appearing in their literature at the time. Other key yes on Covell luminaries supporting Vergis are Kevin Wolf and John Whitcombe just to name a few. Janice Bridge has been heard around town touting Sydney Vergis as a pro-development candidate.

Rob Roy on the other hand, steadfastly belongs on the progressive or opposition side of the fence. In a comment on the blog he said this about Covell Village:
"I was against Measure X because it wasn’t green enough. The design wasn’t revolutionary. It was just another huge subdivision (that happened to have some solar panels) sprawled out onto farmland. If the land-use design were more revolutionary, like Village Homes, (as a political strategist) I’ll say that maybe it would have passed. The difference between Stephen and I is that he voted for the project that went to the voters and he promoted it as well."
Thus if your issue is housing and growth there are clear differences between the current council majority and what a majority led by Lamar Heystek, Sue Greenwald, and Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald might bring.

The growth issue is but one example of the differences between the current council majority, i.e. the status quo, and what a new council majority might bring. At the end of the day, the public has to decide what growth policy best represents them. As the council race continues to progress, we will continue to draw out differences between the two candidates that will allow the public to make a determination as to whether they prefer the status quo or if it is time to change the direction of city council.

DISCLAIMER: Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald is a candidate for city council. Doug Paul Davis' real name is David Greenwald. They are married. David Greenwald and Sue Greenwald are not related. Neither is Stephen Souza and Don Saylor.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Labor Backs Mariko Yamada

While large numbers of Democratic activists and elected officials have backed Christopher Cabaldon, one group remains for the most part steadfastly behind Mariko Yamada--organized labor.

Mariko Yamada has picked up endorsements from both the Sacramento and the Napa-Solano Central Labor Councils. In addition, Yamada has garnered the support of the Davis Firefighters Local 3494.

According to a press release from the Yamada Campaign:
"The set of endorsements clearly solidify Yamada’s position as the candidate that best represents the interests of working people and their families in the heavily Democratic district.

These organizations join the International Union of Operating Engineers, Stationary Local No. 39 and the California Nurses Association who were early endorsers of Yamada’s candidacy, creating a formidable coalition of organized labor with strong support and membership throughout the district."
Mariko Yamada in her press release is quoted as saying:
“The choice in this race is clear... We’re bringing together the voices of the working families that are the heart of the Democratic Party and who are struggling just to make ends meet. I’m proud to have labor on my team because I know how hard it is to earn their support.”
Support from labor may help to offset what is developing into a tremendous resource advantage for Christopher Cabaldon. Not only has Cabaldon generated a huge number of endorsements including the Democratic Party and his three predecessors in the legislature from this district, but he raised over $500,000 for the race overall. Yamada has raised a formidable $200,000.

The big advantage for Cabaldon at this point is that he has over $300,000 cash on hand to just $43,000 for Yamada.

However, the labor endorsements mean precinct walkers, printing materials, campaign volunteers, in addition to money. Will this influx of labor support keep Yamada afloat? We will have to see.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Rick Gore completes Testimony on Gang Injunction

It was likely not the kind of testimony that those seeking to avoid a temporary gang injunction were looking for. Under very strict guidance from Judge Kathy White, Rick Gore completed his testimony yesterday about an affidavit he signed in support of the gang injunction.

The gist of what we learned from this is that in late 2004 Rick Gore was working in conjunction with West Sacramento Detective Villanueva. While he was not working specifically on the anti-gang unit, as there was no such unit until Jeff Reisig became District Attorney in 2007, he nevertheless was familiar with the situation in West Sacramento and worked on a number of gang cases.

In late 2004 until sometime prior to 2007 he worked on this and sent forth an affidavit in 2004 attesting to his support for the gang injunction. Last year the gang injunction was thrown out. In May of 2007, he was asked to sign the same gang affidavit that he signed in 2004, but he refused citing the fact that he did not believe in it. He told them that he would not sign it again until ordered. He was given the order by District Attorney Jeff Reisig through Deputy District Attorney Linden to sign it.

He had language removed from the affidavit that he did not agree with before signing the document under the penalty of perjury. By the time he signed the document it was simply a statement of some facts from prior to 2004, there was no opinion expressed on support for the gang injunction.

Throughout the entire hearing, there was a question as to whether or not this was relevant to their proceedings. Rick Gore testified that everything that he signed in the original affidavit was accurate as was everything he eventually signed in 2007.

In his letter from March 5, 2008 which was discussed but not entered into evidence during the course of this hearing, Gore stated:

"I think this injunction is being used for your political benefit and not for what it was intended. It is no longer a tool for law enforcement and public safety."

When asked about whether he believed this as of May 2007 when he signed the affidavit, Rick Gore said repeatedly he was unsure of what he thought at that time. His reason for not wanting to sign it was that he was not involved in the process and did not therefore have direct knowledge of the situation.

He had two reasons for not wanting to sign it, the first was that he was no longer involved in the process. The second was based on his experience with the first gang injunction, he felt that Jeff Reisig had turned it into a political benchmark. And his dealings with DA Jeff Reisig over the past year led him to be skeptical about the process. He therefore did not want to be involved in signing anything unless ordered to do so by DA Jeff Reisig.

He also described this as an unusual request. Deputy District Attorney Ann Hurd went to great lengths to show that signing documents under the penalty of perjury was part of his job descriptions, but under cross examination, Rick Gore suggested that this was really not part of his job descriptions. The process of being asked to sign an affidavit in support of a policy was neither usual nor part of his job description.

At the end of the day, it is not clear that any of this matters for the gang injunction. As the Deputy DA Hurd demonstrated, the actual affidavit is devoid of personal opinion, it is not clear that Gore had opposition to the Gang Injunction back in May of 2007 and even if he did, it was based largely on his opinion rather than his expertise.

From a political standpoint, the testimony is a bit more interesting, however, because of the narrow parameters laid out by Judge White--intentionally to avoid the political aspect that transcends the courtroom--very little of this came out.

Rick Gore wrote in his letter:
"As for the current and past Gang Injunction, when gathering intelligence, contacting active members and working with Detective Villanueva, I fully supported these efforts. However, after seeing this become your political benchmark, I have watched this injunction grow into something I did not want to be associated with or a part of, since I felt it had lost its original intent and purpose. As a Peace Officer and a public servant, I feel I should be doing the right thing and standing up against dishonest behavior. You make this very difficult."
What became clear yesterday is that this is an opinion that has evolved over time and was not necessary one that was held in 2007. Moreover, as Gore suggested in his own testimony, he had not intended the letter to be a legal document.

In the end, the county investigators will have to tease apart what did and did not happen. From the standpoint of the political system outside of the courtroom, it was interesting because Gore did put under oath some of what was written in the letter.

The most interesting facet of the letter remains the intent to conceal discoverable evidence about a material witness in the Halloween Homicide case.

As an aside, there was an interesting piece of information that came out of the proceedings is that there was no gang unit prior to Jeff Reisig becoming District Attorney. At which time, Reisig got a grant for gang money which carries with it enough money to hire individual investigators who are specifically assigned to prosecuting gangs. How much money is it? Enough to hire additional people and also for law enforcement in local jurisdictions as well. There are few avenues for additional money going to a prosecutor's office and gangs are one of them. It would seem in their best interest to have a concerted effort to crack down on gangs and to make it look like there is a bigger gang problem perhaps than actually exists.

The Vanguard will continue to follow this matter and report on any updates.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen Comes to UC Davis to Discuss Voting

Last night, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen made a last minute appearance at UC Davis in an event sponsored by the Davis College Democrats. Between 50 and 70 students showed up for the event--although the size of the lecture hall made it look like a very sparse crowd.

The Secretary of State spoke about a number of issues involving voting, registration, ballots, and security of voting equipment and systems.

One of the first things she discussed was the creation of a secure electronic voting system. One of the problems with such a system is the security. She said during the course of the debate, "the people most alarmed were those who knew the most about such system." That created a very uneasy feeling for those involved.

They hired the University of California to test their system and had people assigned to try to hack into the security. One of the big problems is that the physical security was problematic. For instance they had a security seal on the machines that let people know if the machine had been opened, but one could simply take a screwdriver and open the screws on the other side of the machine, open it, and close it without disturbing the security system.

Moreover, the equipment was not physically secured, it would often be left out in various location prior to an election. All of these problems led them to stop using the touchscreen voting machines last summer except for the disabled. Unfortunately there are problems with these machines for the disabled as well, including the ability to reach the top portions of the machine from a wheel chair. This led the Secretary of State to declare that we have "done a horrifying job of making polling places accessible to people with disabilities."

California has now gone to the optical scan system which has problems of its own. One of the problems is a calibration problem, similar to problems that they have had scoring standardized tests. However, to add reliability to the system California has implemented an audit requirement to be kicked in at certain thresholds. This means that if the results are within a given percentage, they must do a random sample by a hand count.

Security and voter fraud is not a new issue. What may have changed is that there may be ways to systematically change the results, however, she discussed old methods of putting pencil lead in the calibration to prevent a certain percentage of votes to be counted.

She said that we must remain vigilant, this vigilence "requires us to constantly look at what went wrong and what went right and to learn from our mistakes." And they are not just our mistakes either.

Her goal is to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote registers to vote, everyone who registers to vote casts their ballot, and everyone who casts their ballot has it counted.

Her favorite voting story came from Chicago. People were casting their ballots and told to mark them with certain pens. But the pens apparently did not work. When the poll workers were asked this they told the voters it was invisible ink. Roughly twenty people proceeded to vote believing they were using invisible ink markers to vote with. Finally the twenty-first person was incredulous and said there is no such thing as invisible ink. He called the authorities and they put a stop to that and then had to spend the rest of the day trying to track down the 20 people who voted with invisible ink.

Secretary of State Bowen talked about the advantages and disadvantages to consolidating elections. The problem with local elections is that you get very low turnout at times. On the other hand, you end up having national forces drive turnout for local elections in consolidated elections. There is also the problem in counties like Los Angeles, where you simply have so much on the ballot it is difficult to fit it all.

During question and answer period she indicated that she supports Tuesday voting. The problem with weekend voting is that you have various religions with the Sabbath on a given day. If you make it two day voting, you have problems with securing the equipment and the ballot overnight. She also pointed out that marketers introduce new products on Tuesdays and that people are most engaged and most on the job from Tuesday through Thursday. Hence Tuesday is the best day.

Davis Councilmember Lamar Heystek asked about a choice voting and instant runoff system. Debra Bowen said that in 2006 she carried a bill in the legislature that would have allowed non-charter cities to implement choice voting. At that time she could not even get it out of committee. The next time it got out of committee, passed the legislature, but was vetoed by the governor. That is an example of how much awareness and support for choice voting has changed in a very short period of time. She thinks a uniform system would be better to avoid localities having to reinvent the wheel. She talked about the advantages of this rather than current primary rules at the local level that would force a runoff in a race like Yolo County Supervisor if the winner only managed 49.7% of the vote--that is incredibly costly and she cited an example where it happened despite a huge lead by the individual ahead in the race. She also cited the need for the software to be certified by the state and felt it would be easier with uniform instant runoff systems.

Debra Bowen's presentation was very informative, a lot of these issues are simply things that we do not think about involving voting. We tend to see problems with the systems when things go wrong, but do not see the large amount of work that goes into getting things correct. Our system despite its flaws has worked well for a considerable amount of time.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

UC Davis College Democrats Win Award and Sponsoring Debra Bowen Event Tonight

Debra Bowen Event TONIGHT

Dear Vanguard Readers,

The Davis College Democrats would like to present to you California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Speaking Tonight @ 7pm in Wellman 2.

Secretary Bowen has been a strong advocate for open government and clean elections where every vote is counted. Prior to the February 5th Presidential Primary, she de-certified several counties' voting machines during a top-to-bottom review of the states voting system, in an effort to ensure the existence of a paper trail and require every vote to be counted.

Additionally, Debra Bowen has fought to make the government codes accessible to the public and posted them online, in an effort to increase transparency in the system.

Off campus visitors can park for $6 in the North Entry Parking Structure or Visitor Parking Lot 15, which can be located at the following link.

Thank you for your time, and See you Tonight!

Democratically Yours,

Max Mikalonis
Davis College Democrats

UC Davis College Democrats Win Award from State Party

Last Wednesday, I came to the College Democrats club meeting for the first time. I walked into the room and there were at least forty college Democrats there at 8 pm on a Wednesday evening gearing up for the coming June Elections. It was a great site to see so many young activists ready to participate in the Democratic Process.

Students are largely written off as non-participants, but it seems likely that this year will be different. This chapter of the College Democrats is exemplary. The weekend before they were named the California College Democrats Outstanding Chapter of the Year Award
at the California Democratic Party Convention. In a press release sent to the Vanguard, they enumerated on their work over the past year.

Their hard works over the course of the academic year have included campaigning for recent propositions, increasing chapter membership by four-hundred percent, holding their first annual fundraiser at which they raised approximately $4,000, and hosting the highly-attended Hillary Clinton for President Rally featuring former President Bill Clinton. In a 24 hour period, the club was able to mobilize volunteers to promote and staff the event whose attendance topped 10,000 students and community members.

The President Clinton event was especially remarkable because the Hillary Clinton campaign had hoped they could get a couple of hundred people to come out for the former President at the last meeting. Instead, they got over 10,000. So many in fact, that people had to be turned away from the event.

Vice President of Membership Don Gibson remarked,
“It’s a symbol of the work that the club as a whole put in. Club meetings are five times as large as last year and our delegations to events in Lake Tahoe, Anaheim, Berkeley, and San Jose have been among the largest in the state.”
President Max Mikalonis praised his members,
“There’s no way we could have accomplished this alone. It was the hard work and dedication of our club officers and members that earned us this award. These leaders are primed to do great things for the future of the club, and will carry this experience onto their professional lives.”
According to the press release:
"The Davis College Democrats will also play a role in the upcoming city council elections through endorsements and grassroots campaigning-- having a significant impact on the City of Davis."
Indeed at the meeting I attended, they were hard at work on a city council candidates questionnaire that focused largely on issues of concern to students but also on broader issues.

It was a refreshing thing to see from this old veteran, who remembers five or six people turning at his undergraduate school for College Democrats.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Where is the race for County Supervisor Going?

A year ago, Jim Provenza was President of the Davis School Board, John Ferrera was a largely unknown chief of Staff for State Senator Denise Ducheney, and Cathy Kennedy, if it is possible was even less known. At that point it looked like Jim Provenza was odds on favorite to win the seat.

But something has happened since then. And actually it largely has happened since January 1, 2008.

Mr. Ferrera has opened up an $18,000 financial lead over his closest rival--$73,000 to $55,000.

The difference has occurred largely since January 1 where Ferrera has added $34,000 to just $12,500 by Mr. Provenza.

Given the relatively large advantage that Jim Provenza still enjoys in name recognition it is not the most alarming factor that his opponent has out raised him. Although the magnitude of the recent money has to be concerning.

The most alarming factor is probably that a lot of the large contributions to John Ferrera have come from organized labor--a group that one would have suspected that Jim Provenza would have held his own. In fact there is no apparent reason why labor should be picking John Ferrera over Jim Provenza--both men have strong ties to Sacramento, although Ferrera is Chief of Staff to the budget chair. Provenza has been regarded by many to be a strong advocate for labor, but some suspect the purse strings attached to the Chair of the Budget Committee maybe influencing the movement towards Ferrera. Moreover, many of those endorsing are building trades who are supporting the candidate widely seen as more in favor of development.

John Ferrera also received a contribution from a Texas oil company--Conoco which would seem like an odd contribution for a County Supervisor campaign.

Meanwhile, Jim Provenza received the unanimous endorsement from the Davis Democratic Club.

At this point, Cathy Kennedy appears to be little more than a spoiler who figures to push this race into November.

That said, she has amassed several interesting endorsements. We have previously reported on the Davis Police Officers Association and Supervisor Matt Rexroad. Now add to those, Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig, the Yolo County Sheriff's Officers Association, Supervisor Duane Chamberlain, and Woodland City Councilman Jeff Monroe, who is himself a Sheriff's Deputy.

Of those, I am perhaps a bit surprised to see Duane Chamberlain on there, Chamberlain has been one of the most consistent voices for farmland protection in the county. And while Ms. Kennedy has vowed to uphold the pass-through agreement on residential development, she has suggested she would support county imposed-peripheral development for commercial ventures.

The Vanguard had Jim Provenza on its radio show on KDRT last week. <Listen to it here>. We are working to get John Ferrera and Cathy Kennedy on as well.

At this point, it seems that this race is destined for a November runoff, the question is who will have the advantage at that point.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, April 07, 2008

Vanguard Candidates Forum

The Vanguard is proposing an on-line, reader's choice candidates forum for the city council candidates. The readers of the Vanguard are invited to post their questions to the candidates in the comment section of this blog entry. The Vanguard will then select from those questions and send them to the candidates. The candidates will be given a certain amount of time to respond to the questions and the answers will be posted verbatim on the Vanguard at a future point in time.

So please post your questions. You will have until midnight Friday night to do so.

Commentary: Serena Case Continues to Illustrate Problems with Yolo County Justice System

This past weekend Former Yolo County Housing Authority Director David Serena was back in Yolo County, this time to join with friends and supporters in celebration after having 19 felony charges of theft and fraud dismissed last month in Yolo County.

It was just the latest blow to the Yolo County District Attorney's Office. Tomorrow, the Gang Injunction Hearings resume and Rick Gore is expected to take the stand yet again, almost a month to the date after he fired off an angry letter. Since that point, case after case has come to our attention. During the course of this week, the Vanguard may report on several of the more disturbing ones to reach our radar. There is little doubt that the Yolo County District Attorney's Office has literally ruined people's lives over what should have been minor incidents or even cases where the individual was innocent completely.

Fortunately for David Serena he had the resources and the legal team to fight the charges. He is now planning a lawsuit against the grand jury for harassment.

A good article came out in the Monterey Herald a few weeks ago on the Serena Case.
"David Serena, a long-time Salinas activist and former Hartnell College trustee, used the 1987 book "Gringo Justice" by Alfredo Mirandé when he taught Chicano studies at Cal-State Northridge. In the book, Mirandé explores a theory called "mobilization of bias," which he describes as an orchestration by politicians, the courts, the media, and the police to present a negative image of Chicanos, resulting in a double standard of justice.

So when Serena was charged with 19 felony counts of fraud and theft — charges he was recently cleared of — he said he felt subject to the same phenomenon Mirandé described.

"I never thought I would be in that position," Serena said Monday. "I was publicly lynched, found guilty without a trial. You know you didn't do anything wrong, that this is absurd, ludicrous; and you also know that in the history of Chicanos, a lot of them were unjustly accused for political retaliation. And you realize it can happen to you."
The charges in fact all stemmed from the claim that David Serena had illegally added his live-in girlfriend's two children to his medical insurance.
The district attorney said Serena had included his girlfriend in his health insurance even though he wasn't married. His assistant later declared under oath that she'd been the one to check the "married" box, based on a false assumption. Because his girlfriend's two children lived in his household, Serena said insurance rules allowed him to include them in his coverage.

After two days of testimony at a preliminary hearing earlier this year, Judge Richard Kossow wrote on March 15 that he found no evidence that Serena was not entitled to add the children to his employee dental and health insurance.

"The court does not find reasonable cause to believe the defendant did anything false to induce the governmental agencies and business entities to provide that coverage," Kossow wrote. "
Serena claims in the Monterey Herald article and he claimed to me on the phone when I spoke to him a month ago that the charges stemmed for a protest involving the death of Juan Nieto who died after a police chase in 1999.
Serena's troubles began in 1999, when he took a job as head of Yolo County's housing authority. A few months into his tenure, a 23-year-old man died while in custody of Woodland police. Juan Nieto, 23, had been chased down by officers who wanted to arrest him for buying alcohol for two underage police decoys, and he died in a motel courtyard on Dec. 3, 1999, according to news reports.

Serena, who lived in Monterey County for decades, had been involved in the Chicano movement and was a key figure in high-profile political cases. He was a plaintiff in the lawsuit that forced district elections of judges in Monterey County, bringing Latinos to the bench for the first time.

In Yolo County, Serena said, community members asked him to help organize a rally after Nieto's death. He put together a 3-mile march that grew to about 500 people outside the Woodland Police Department's headquarters, he said, demanding an investigation.

The district attorney refused to investigate the matter, so Serena called on other agencies. Eventually, the incident was investigated at the federal level, and in 2002, the family settled for almost $300,000 for Nieto's death.

Serena believes that incident sparked a political persecution that lasted until he resigned from the Housing Authority in 2006.
According to Serena, soon after the Nieto case, the grand jury began to receive allegations of mismanagement and wrongdoing.
"Soon after his involvement in Nieto's case, the county's civil grand jury began receiving allegations of mismanagement and wrongdoing at the housing authority, prompting a six-year investigation lasting through six grand juries — until most of the charges were dismissed by a visiting judge in the 2006-07 report.

"I've looked at 20 or 30 reports, and it's outrageous that grand jury reports would have these kinds of factual mistakes," said Matt Gonzalez, former San Francisco county supervisor and Serena's attorney."
The repeated harassment by the grand jury led to a lawsuit against the grand jury at the time for discriminatory seating practices.
Each year his agency was investigated, Serena was asked about his qualifications and experience, because one of the claims was he was not qualified for the job. At some point, he said, he felt harassed. He began to question why there were very few minorities on the grand jury. The county is 30 percent Latino.

Then, in 2006, only a few days after he filed suit against the grand jury for not seating enough minorities, Serena was charged with the 19 felony counts. "

Although a federal judge threw out Serena's lawsuit against the Yolo County grand jury, Gonzalez calls it a partial victory.

"His lawsuit changed how they select the grand jury" in Yolo County, he said. "There's never going to be a disproportionate representation of Latinos again. Ultimately, we showed very disturbing patterns of lack of racial diversity."
After I published my initial account of David Serena's vindication, I received a series of emails and comments highlighting problems that Serena had in the YCHA. I would argue that to the extent that there were problems these should have been handled administratively not legally. To the extent that the Grand Jury and District Attorney's office sought legal redress, it seems odd that they were only able to find one aspect of his tenure that they could charge criminally, and that was based on particularly weak evidence. There is just little evidence that the insurance claims filed by a clerk erroneous should have been charged criminally. The DA was clearly looking for something to pin on him, but they also clearly did not have anything.

Sadly this happens all the time in Yolo County, few have the resources to hire a Gonzalez-Leigh to defend them.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Commentary: Wake Up Davis

There is a lesson to be learned from the budget crisis at the schools level and it is a lesson that this blogger probably understands better than anyone. I do not say this to be bragging but I do have a finger on a pulse that most do not. There is no magic formula for blogging. The key is that you must provide content that people want to read. When there is an interesting story on a given day, readership goes up. When there is less interesting news, readership goes down. The day-to-day variability is amazing, although over the course of a month, it all tends to even out.

Last fall we had school board elections and yet people had no interest in them. When I talked about the school board race, readership went down. When I talked about other issues--city issues, county issues, readership went up. There was simply no interest in the school board election.

The blog was not an aberration either folks--only 30% of the public came out to vote in the school board election.

Now flash forward to the first three months of 2008, the opposite has occurred. When I write about city council issues or the election, readership goes down. When I talk about the school board and budget crises readership goes up.

This is a large problem--people were not paying attention to the schools until it was almost too late. It is very interesting when I got out into the community, I still receive feedback from the series on Tahir Ahad. People who do not ordinarily read this blog have read that story. The Vanguard has tremendous readership, but this story transcends even that. It has become the embodiment of the problems facing the school district.

And if that is rightly or wrongly the embodiment of what went wrong, then the enemy is amongst us--and it is complacency. The public may have been uninformed about the extent of the problem but enough people knew what was going on at the time that it should have come to the public's attention. And while we may blame the messenger (i.e. the local newspaper) for failing to sound the warning alarm, we may also blame the school board first for aiding and abetting and second for not shouting loudly enough. But at the end of the day, the problem is us.

We took for granted the fact that the schools in Davis are great and the backbone of this great community. We did not pay attention to what was going on at school board meetings. We did not heed the warnings coming down the pike. And now suddenly we have the wake up call and are wondering what is going on in the world.

The question is now how do we respond--and there have been a mix of responses. I do not mean here, how do we cut $4 million from the budget, that is the job of the school board to determine. I mean, how do we as a community respond.

Davis is an amazing place because we cannot sit by and allow this to happen. So people have banded together and formed private donations. And it is a wonderful thing, but it will not solve the problems that we face, it probably will not even be a full band-aid on the problem.

People have focused in on declining enrollment and there is no doubt that declining enrollment has played a part here, but it's still only a partial portion of the problem. Enrollment is going to level out according to the projections. I certainly hope that we will not have a wave of growth in this community because we think it is going to benefit the schools--because there is very little evidence that it will. Do not get me wrong, I think there are things we can do to put housing in that will benefit young families and we can do that without adding major sprawl, but the last thing we need to do in the face of this, is to start randomly approving a bunch of new housing developments, because that will likely make the problems worse and not better over time.

However, the big response that we need and have not gotten is attentiveness to all aspects of government because they all require our attention. There is a lesson that transcends local politics and that is if we are complacent, if we are inattentive to the world, then we lose. We became complacent as a nation to the problem of terrorism but also the problem with how the world responds to this nation and we paid for that with 9/11. To compound the problems, we became complacent as an electorate and elected a leader who instead of attacking the terrorists, invades another country that had very little do with the people who actually attacked us.

We are in the same danger as a community. Schools are important, this crisis is real, but there is much that is going on at other levels of government that requires our attention. The city council elections are vital to the future of this community. We learned last summer the importance of the county board of supervisors--do we want to elect someone to that position who will support Davis' right to determine its own future or will we support someone who will vote to determine our future for us? Although there is not an election coming up, people, innocent people's lives are being ruined by the policies of the District Attorney's office. There will be more on this in the coming week. And new areas of concern will arise this week. We cannot ignore them. We cannot assume they will not impact us.

That is the lesson that we need to take away from the budget crisis in the schools, but I fear that we are not learning from it at all.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting