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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Commentary: Painful Times Ahead for DJUSD

This is what we have come to--on Thursday night, the Davis School District, faced with a huge budget cut, put on the table the notion of rolling back teacher salaries by 2 percent. The motion was made by Richard Harris and seconded by Susan Lovenberg.

If the motion had been approved, Mr. Harris would then have asked administrative staff to take a similar temporary pay cut.

The idea purportedly came from one of the PTA presidents, who wondered how many teaching positions could be saved if teachers would agree to forgo their salary increases until after the state budget approval, which is expected to happen sometime in the late summer or early fall.

Richard Harris operated under the belief that up to $1 million would be added to the budget from the state once the agreement is actually reached but by that point it would be too late to do much with the current budget--unless you are dealing with salaries that could be the first thing adjusted once a budget passes.

There is a logic to Richard Harris' proposal, but the rest of the board Tim Taylor, Gina Daleiden, and Sheila had serious doubts.

One problem was that the idea came forward from a board member rather than either the Davis Teachers Association or the California School Employees Association. In fact, the president of DTA, Tim Paulson told the board that a 1 percent salary rollback had been proposed at a recent meeting but failed without so much as a second. CSEA also had problems with a rollback.

Tim Taylor I think clinched it in my mind:
"If we pass this motion, we're saying (to employees) 'Why don't you step up to this 2 percent?' We're not asking this of doctors and lawyers. ... We're asking this of teachers and other staff who we'll all admit are not paid enough already."
Sheila Allen examined whether there was even time to pursue such negotiations, but Kevin French indicated that there was not.

For Sheila Allen it became an issue of timing:
"I don't think we can get the information out to the membership to put the money back into the budget in time so that we can use it. I can't support this motion tonight."
In the end, the correct answer probably came from both Sheila Allen and Gina Daleiden--from a practical standpoint, it is not clear that they could have gained sufficient buy-in from the teachers in the amount of time available to contemplate such a decision.

The choices here are quite horrific, at this point in time, it is really not a realistic option. On a philosophical level, I think I have to side with Tim Taylor, himself a lawyer. Asking people who are not paid enough to begin with, to take a pay cut, does not seem a responsible course of action. But then again, cutting positions is not a comforting action either.

In the meantime, the board also delayed the decision on additional pink slips to classified employees, that decision will be made on April 28, 2008 at the very earliest.

It seems to me that the district has taken a lot of options off the table, but at the same time, it seems pretty clear that they still have to make these deep cuts. None of these cuts are going to painless. They already decided that they could not close a school on this kind of notice, which is probably the right decision but it nevertheless puts another $500,000 in cuts back into play.

Hence we have the proposal to cut classified positions. However, now six elementary school principals warn that serious problems will result if school secretaries' hours are reduced.

Here's what I have come to the conclusion about watching this process. There has been perennial speculation out there that public schools are run inefficiently, that they waste huge amounts of money. And yet, when push comes to shove and they actually have to make deep and real cuts, they are not able to do it painlessly. To me that's an indication that there is not nearly as much waste in a school district as people think.

Perhaps there were too many administrators, but even cutting some did not dent the budget and the amount of work performed by the administration, I think is severely underestimated. The additional workload with reduced staff will have consequences.

On a school site itself, who are you going to cut? Teachers? Secretaries? Principals? Other support staff? Each of those carries with it, vital tasks and duties.

When we are talking about cutting salaries for professionals who -most in society acknowledge- get paid too little to begin with, you suddenly realize that the amount of waste in public schools is not nearly what most think it is. We can cut painlessly perhaps on the margins, but once we get into real cuts, there is nothing but pain to go around and that's why these decisions are so difficult and why the process is taking so long. In the end, we are going to have to make decisions and do things that really hurt--that is the only way to avoid even worse consequences of losing control of the operations of our district.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, April 18, 2008


Workers Applaud University Decision but Lament Delay in Timeline

It was nearly a year ago last year that the Campus Food Workers launched their most recent campaign to become university employees. On May 1, 2007, joined by hundreds of UC Davis students and community members they marched from the MU to the corner of Russell and Anderson. Three weeks later, they marched on Mrak Hall shutting it down. The actions have been consistent. They have received the support of many public leaders--Lamar Heystek, Lois Wolk, Christopher Cabaldon, the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee, former President Bill Clinton, and most recently Davis Mayor Sue Greenwald.

For the University it was an embarrassment--the only institution in the system to outsource their food service workers. For the workers it was at times a life and death fight, trying to get fair wages, affordable health coverage, and job protection. The lack of affordable health coverage literally put lives at risk.

The University finally pledged to study the issue, but no one had any idea what this would mean or where this would go.

We spoke with many workers over this time. One would tell us about her appendectomy that left her with a $47,000 debt that she would never repay. For another it was the inability to buy heart medicine that put his life on the line.

For these workers, help is on the way, but not as fast as some would like or need. Yesterday, UC Davis announced that they are taking a new approach toward the management of the food service program and its employees.

According to a press release:
"Under this new direction, the campus's food service contractor, Sodexho, will continue to manage residential and retail food operations on campus, but an estimated 175 to 200 nonmanagement Sodexho employees will be eligible to transition to University of California employment.

UC Davis' decision follows an extensive, six-month-long review of food service delivery models at college and university campuses across the country that employ best practices.

Campus and Sodexo officials here say they intend to act as soon as possible to complete the process of transitioning the Sodexho employees to UC-employee status and amending the existing contract. However, they anticipate it will take nine to 12 months to finish the job in a prudent manner that fully addresses the complexity of human resource issues that need to be managed."
According to the Chancellor:
"We arrived at this new direction only after an engaged, thoughtful and collaborative process. We consulted with many key constituents, including representatives from student governance groups. Throughout the entire review process this campus was guided by several key principles to ensure that our final decision would allow us to retain the high quality and diversity of our campus food service program without weakening our commitment to access and affordability for all students."
Sodexho's senior vice president for campus services, Bill Lacey:
"Our desire is to offer the best opportunities for our employees and services to the campus. The university's decision allows us to continue our long-term relationship and commitment to our employees with our continued focus on service to the campus."
State Assemblywoman Lois Wolk applauded the announcement:
"This is a win-win solution to a problem that has divided the campus community for too long. It's a win for the workers and students and it's a win for the entire university family and the greater Davis community. It also provides for the university to benefit from the expertise and high quality food service that Sodexo management provides.

"Chancellor Vanderhoef should be praised for listening to the workers, students and many in the Davis community who supported bringing these workers into direct UC employee status."
The workers themselves were a bit more circumspect about providing praise and in their celebration. The gist of their position is that this is a good thing, they are excited, but to a person no one understands the need to wait another 9 to 12 months.

I spoke with Ashok Kumar who has worked for Sodexho for six months as a part-time employee. He earns $8 per hour and has much uncertainty about the future since he does not know how he can support his family on that wage.
"I am excited about the long term situation, but it is tough in the short term."
He believes nine months is a long time to wait. Moreover, he has been trying to become a full-time employee but they gave that job to someone else.

Kevin Cole is a worker I have spoken with before, in fact he is one of the workers that got a chance to meet President Clinton in mid-January.
"I was really happy that it happened. The only thing I really am not happy about is why we have to wait so long for this to take place. I don’t think it makes any sense to wait another year for this to take place.

They are telling us they are going through a process--I don't understand what kind of process would take 10 to 12 months? Unless you are going to have to move across the country or something, but we’re right here."
Chris Beran has been with the company for three years and have been fighting for the union the entire time.
“I’m happy with the outcome, I’m really just discouraged with the time frame and the fact that they are holding back on us.”
According to the University, this arrangement will cost an additional $2 million per year. Some of this will be passed on to students, but the university also intends to mitigate the impact.
"The transitioning of the food service employees to UC-employee status and the anticipated amendment to the Sodexo contract are expected to add additional annual costs of approximately $2 million -- an estimated $1.5 million per year in additional costs to Student Housing and $500,000 per year to the Student Union operating services.

While a portion of these increased costs will be passed on to students, UC Davis intends to moderate the impact by: gradually passing on the increased costs over time; potentially expanding and modifying retail food services at places such as the Silo Union and the Activities and Recreation Center; using some reserve funds from the capital reserves of Student Housing and the student unions; and negotiating with Sodexho for an appropriate level of financial participation in the new approach."
That seems the least they could have done. The lack of creativity in this process has often been appalling. To use that as justification for keeping low income people in poverty wages never made any sense.

In the end, timeline or no timeline this is a tremendous victory for not only the food service workers who will hopefully by January be getting better wages, access to affordable health care, and protection in the workplace, but to the entire community. The Chancellor may have done the right thing in the end, but throughout the process it was clear that this was not his first choice. The community forced him to do the right thing. This is a victory for the workers, the organizers, the students, and indeed the entire community. The individuals, the leaders, and the people who got behind this movement are the ones that made it possible. It was a tough fight, but in the end, justice prevailed.

Those who questioned their methods, never had to walk in their shoes. The May Day Protests may indeed have inconvenienced students who needed to get to class and take exams, but for the food service workers this was a fight that for some of them was for their very lives. It is one thing to have substandard wages, it is another thing to lack affordable health care. It is a sacrifice that those students who were inconvenienced made, albeit unwittingly, that has now allowed hundreds of workers the chance for better wages and to get themselves and their families the health insurance coverage that many of them so desperately need.

Without the May Day Protests and the subsequent march on Mrak Hall is doubtful that the community would have become energized and mobilized to the extent that it was. It is doubtful that their struggle would have caught the attention of so many public leaders. It is doubtful that the university would have felt the pressure to negotiate that they eventually did without that pressure. And so today, the victory was only possible because a public university that is so insulated from public accountability, a public university that is in many ways so insulated that they are responsible to no one, bowed to the pressure of a community that would not relent. Yesterday was not just a victory for workers, it was a victory for our community and indeed in the democratic process.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mayor Greenwald Joins Councilmember Heystek in Support of Sodexho Workers

On Monday April 14, 2008, Davis Mayor Sue Greenwald wrote a letter to UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, making public her “support of Sodexho workers’ requests.”

Greenwald has met with Sodexho workers over the past two years and chose to make her support public now as she and City Councilmember Lamar Heystek have begun taking public actions for a Living Wage City Ordinance.

Mayor Sue Greenwald in a letter to Chancellor Vanderhoef wrote:
“I feel strongly that if the University truly believes in its ‘Principals of Community’ ethic it would treat all of its workers with the respect and equity that they are due.”
She goes on to once again point out that:
“UC Davis is the only UC campus which does not include its food workers as part of its community.”
Mayor Greenwald called on the Chancellor to recognize the Sodexho workers’ requests for the “same benefits and wages as the University food services employees, as well as union representation.”

Meanwhile a Senate Committee on Tuesday approved legislation to ensure that the University of California contracts with responsible businesses and that there is a competitive bidding process every three years. In addition, the University of California (UC) Responsible Contracting Act requires the University to maintain a centralized database of contracts that is available for public review at each campus.

Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) introduced the measure as a result of numerous reports of UC’s deficient and non-transparent contract bidding process. It was recently uncovered that a UC Santa Barbara contractor violated wage and hour laws. For more than a decade, UC Davis has failed to put out to a bid contract for food services. In fact, the same food service company has held the contract for over thirty years.

Senator Yee said:
“SB 1596 will ensure that the University contracts with responsible entities, workers are protected, and the taxpayers’ and students’ dollars are being wisely spent. It is imperative that UC has a competitive environment where bidding is fair, transparency and accountable to the people of California.”
Senator Yee in his comments singled out UC Davis:
“It is unacceptable that UC Davis has contracted with the same campus food service company for decades without putting the contract out to bid. The cost to taxpayers and students as a result of this policy is immeasurable.”
According to a Press Release from AFSCME 3299:
"Recently, UC Santa Barbara awarded a low-bid contract to provide painting services on campus. Unfortunately, the contractor declared bankruptcy and the employees were unable to cash their paychecks for painting services they had already provided the University. Wages owed to workers included approximately $90,000. SB 1596 is expected to prevent such events from happening in the future."
Lakesha Harrison President of AFSCME 3299 said:
“The passage of SB 1596 is crucial to ensuring the fundamental right of the public to have access to information and providing greater oversight of the University. The bill will ensure that questionable practices, like at UC Davis where Sodexo has had the contract with the university for over 3 decades with no competitive bidding in over 10 years, would be put to an end. The bill will also ensure that contractors are responsible so that Californians receive quality services at the best costs.”
While the bill was passed out of committee, it remains a long way from passage into law.

SB 1596 will also ensure competition by requiring all contracts be limited to three years terms and that upon completion of the term, the University shall solicit bids through a competitive bidding process. The would avoid a repeat of what happened with UC Davis in 2004, when the University announced a six year extension with Sodexho at the same time the university announced a multi-million dollar investment in the campus by the same contractor. This despite growing public scrutiny at that time into the food service contract.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Hundreds of Students March To Save Their Schools

Around 300 people, primarily students from three different schools, gathered at the Community Park yesterday afternoon in Davis and marched down to Central Park and Farmer's Market in support of the Davis Schools Foundation Dollar-a-Day Campaign.

The event was organized by the Blue and White Foundation, an alumni group for Davis High School.

The event brought out a good number of students, some parents, and a few community leaders including four of the school board members, three city council members, and a few candidates.

The Hanlees Auto Group announced they are donating $30,000 as a community challenge match--meaning that the community must raise $30,000 over five days culminating on Sunday, April 20, 2008. If they do that, Hanlees will match the community with a $30,000 donation of their own.

It was also mentioned that an anonymous donor has given the Davis Schools Foundation $100,000. The Davis Schools Foundation is trying to raise up to $3.8 million by mid-May in order to help off-set expected cuts to teachers and programs in the district.

With the recent donations, it seems like that the schools foundation has raised close to, if not exceeding, $300,000 to date. That would be a great sum, but also unfortunately well short of the amount of money needed to make a serious dent into the district's budget deficit.

Joining the rally and leading the students in cheers was Davis Superintendent James Hammond, who expressed his admiration at the way in which the community has rallied in support of the schools.

Two weeks ago the Davis School board made the decision to keep Emerson Junior High School open for another year and to maintain the current configuration for the secondary schools. While that decision was welcome relief for many students and parents in the district, the problem remains as to how to find the cuts necessary to balance the budget.

Unfortunately it appears that the school may stay open at the expense of fifteen additional positions. Last month, the district issued around 112 layoff notices to teachers and administrators. Tonight they may cut fifteen more positions. These layoffs would cut support staff positions that would save the district around $515,000 or roughly the amount of money they would have saved by closing Emerson Junior High.

At this point it appears that the only immediate relief would come from efforts from the Davis Schools Foundation to raise money to offset these cuts. While their efforts are valiant and the community has stepped up, to date the money raised pales in comparison to the budget crisis the district faces.

If you wish to donate to the Davis Schools Foundation, you can do so by logging on to

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wednesday Briefs

Rexroad to Be Guest on Vanguard Radio Show

Tonight's Vanguard Radio show from 6 PM to 7 PM on KDRT 101.5 FM will feature Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad. Callers are welcome to call in at: 792-1648

March for Davis Schools Today at 4 PM

Council Holding Off on Discussions of Measure J Until After Election

During the long range calendar, Councilmember Stephen Souza suggested agendizing a discussion on the legal opinion submitted by City Attorney Harriet Steiner in June which would place it for discussion after the election.

Several members of the public then came up to speak on Measure J during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Those who spoke believe that this issue needs full discussion prior to the election.

Gene Borack said:
“I think it is unfortunate that [Stephen Souza] recommended that the discussion begin after the June election.”
Mark Spencer would follow up Dr. Borack's point by stating:
"I would hope that the council would address this prior to the next city council election because I think it goes to a very important fundamental pillar in what has become Davis’ sense of inclusion of the voters in land use which is critical."
They also disagreed with Harriet Steiner's interpretation of the renewal clause on Measure J.

Stated Gene Borack:
“As I read it Counselor Steiner’s opinion is that the next council majority can amend Measure J and she offers no limitations. Most importantly she says that the next council majority is not required to offer the voters the original version of Measure J as an alternative choice on the same ballot. The fate of Measure J rests squarely in the hands of those who will be on the next council in less than eight weeks.”
Mark Spencer is often regarded as the architect of Measure J, he worked extensively in drafting the language of the ordinance.
“Having looked over the city attorney’s opinion on the renewal clause, I find it troubling. I was involved in the drafting of the language of measure J as a member of the planning commission and the open space commission, our intent was pretty clear about each of the provisions that we had hoped to be included in the final measure. And we relied on the city attorney at the time for the clarity of the legal language which would declare our intent and would make our provisions happen in legal language. That’s what makes the opinion of the city attorney so curious—in that it’s the same city attorney. And yet at the time, no one was appraised of the renewal clauses language that is detailed in this several page document that has been given to the city council in the council’s packet."
He went on to say:
"I think that Harriet’s interpretation of the renewal clause is unnecessarily torturous. There are other ways and I think more readily accessible ways to interpret the renewal clause that I think is consistent with the obvious intent that the council had at the time when it approved the final language that was submitted to voters."
Finally Mark Spencer argues:
"Harriet gives a very long and I think torturous interpretation as I read it which breeds cynicism on someone who was involved in and had conversations at the time with the same city attorney about the language we wanted to achieve the intent that we had."
Nancy Price also spoke strongly in favor of renewing Measure J as a means by which to enfranchise the Davis voters to be able to control the city's land use decisions. She also favored a more imminent discussion prior to the next election.
“I was not directly involved but I was behind the scenes very much involved in the discussion of Measure J. I think it’s very important as this measure really relates to the enactment of democracy and the inclusion of citizens in land use decisions, that the council take this up before the election. And I think it’s really important that those of you running for election address this issue prior to the election and make your positions very clear on this matter. I think the citizens need to have a very clear stand from those of you running.”
City Council candidate and wife of this blogger, Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald, spoke strongly in favor of retaining Measure J as currently written and making it permanent.
“The only way to ensure that this [voter control of land use policy] occurs is to put forward a measure that keeps Measure J as it is currently written so that it’s not weakened or watered down. Measure J must be made permanent in its current format so that we do not have to revisit this issue once again in the future.”
Following public comment, Mayor Sue Greenwald asked the council whether they wanted to put this on the agenda prior to the June election.

Councilmember Stephen Souza was adamantly against this suggestion. He was concerned that this would politicize the issue.
"I think it’s clear that for me, I don’t want to politicize it. I would rather leave the politics off the dais and leave it to the forums during the election campaign.”
That sounds good, but given that this measure eventually must go before the voters, I do not see how you can avoid politicizing the issue--it is by definition a political issue. The question is really whether or not Mr. Souza wants to go on record having a viewpoint that the voters can either choose to support or oppose.

The idea that somehow this is not going to be a politicized process at some point along the line is far-fetched at best. If it is to go before the voters in December of 2010, then it inevitably will become a potential issue for the June 2010 elections. When it goes on the ballot, it becomes a political issue then. So the question really is--when would this not be a political process? I do not see that that prospect can be avoided--so why not take it up and let the voters decide now prior to the 2008 election?

He went on to argue that this will be addressed in various candidate forums.
"For me that’s how I’m going to address [in candidates forums], I’m going to address it very clearly."
No one doubts that point, but there is a large difference between what you say during a candidate's debate and what you actually do when you have to make a decision that is before you. And frankly this should be a no-brainer in terms of the course of action that needs to be taken.

Finally, I found most troubling this statement:
"Any action that we take up here in regards to it can always be superseded by the action of the public through initiative."
According to Harriet's opinion, as I read it, the citizens can put a measure on the ballot--that in itself requires a tremendous amount of time and energy. It would also have to go up against the council's own initiative. That puts the citizens at a great disadvantage. He seems to be using this clause as a means by which to diffuse the gravity of the council's decision without regards to the amount of energy and resources it would take to mount such a citizen's drive. It would be far simpler to have a council majority that passes the measure that the citizens want and having the council support that measure.

I agree fully with the comments of Dr. Gene Borack:
"The fate of Measure J rests squarely in the hands of those who will be on the next council in less than eight weeks."
I do not see anyway that the council can avoid it. I understand in principle the point that Councilmember Souza is making with regards to the politicization of the process, the problem is that in this case, there is no avoiding that. Why not put yourself on record and have a full public debate on what is one of the most important issues facing the electorate?

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Yamada Campaign Boots The Mayor's Parking Story

By now, many of you will have heard the story about West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon's car getting booted due to a large number of unpaid parking tickets. For most of us, it is a funny human interest story. Some of us who shall remain nameless can relate to the story. So he pays his fine and gets his car back big deal.

The Mayor did not try to make excuses for himself either. Basically he admitted he had made a mistake. He would take the tickets, put them on his kitchen table, and forgot about them. Those tickets caught up to him yesterday in the form of the notorious parking boot. He learned his lesson and apologized.

For most of us a $567 lesson is a slap on the wrist and a reminder that we might want to pay those tickets or even avoid them in the first place, although I'm probably the last person in the world to make such claims.

That should have been the end of the story except for the fact that driving by and witnessing the booting of the Mayor's car was none other than Mariko Yamada's campaign manager Brian Micek. Yamada of course is running against Cabaldon for the 8th Assembly district.

Mr. Micek was quoted in the Sacramento Bee saying "he couldn't believe his luck."
"I said you gotta be kidding me. No way."
The unbelievable aspect of this--or perhaps very believable depending on your perspective--is the fact that the Yamada campaign is trying to make political hay out of this.

To the Yamada Campaign and Brian Micek this was a political opportunity.
"This is evidence that Mr. Cabaldon feels he doesn't have to play by the same rules the rest of us do."
Which is interesting because the reaction of Channel 13 News last night was the opposite, they basically said it was refreshing that the Mayor owned up to it and didn't try to make excuses.

So there it was late yesterday afternoon and I received a press release from the Yamada campaign on this issue. My reaction was--are you kidding me? They are trying to get political points off this?
Monday, April 14, 2008
Contact: Brian Micek
(916) 801-4257

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon Gets the Boot
Unpaid Parking Tickets Result in Boot-Lock on Politician’s Sports Car

SACRAMENTO – Sacramento parking officials today booted the car of West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon for a history of unpaid parking citations.

For a car to be eligible for the boot, the owner must have at least five parking tickets unpaid for 45 days or more.

Cabaldon’s black Nissan Z, littered with plastic water bottles, Starbuck’s cups and “Cabaldon for Assembly” campaign literature, was parked at the corner of 10th and J Streets in downtown Sacramento. Cabaldon is running for State Assembly District 8 in the June Primary against Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada.

The goal of Sacramento's Vehicle Immobilization Program is to collect payment from the city’s worst offenders -- those drivers with the highest number of delinquent and unpaid parking tickets. The City of Sacramento is facing a $55 million budget shortfall and is expected to cut the city work force by 10 percent.

Cabaldon paid the tickets and fines and parking enforcement officers removed the boot. When they left, his meter had again expired.

And he sent pictures of it!

I hate to break it to the Yamada Campaign--this is not the political gold that you think it is. Yes, you caught the Mayor in an embarrassing moment, but the Mayor comes across okay in this. He was humble and apologetic. It is a funny story more than anything else. But no one is going to look at this story and believe that the Mayor thinks he is above the law or that he does not have to play by the same rules the rest of us do.

Now if the Mayor barged into Heather Fargo's office and demanded that she take care of the tickets or tried to use his position to get off from the consequences of the unpaid parking tickets--you would have a point. But him having to go in and pay a fine to get his car out of a boot is actually playing by the exact same rules as the rest of us--if you do not pay your tickets, your car gets booted. Lesson learned.

If anything having this story on the news last night probably helps the Mayor, as I said, he looked pretty good and honest on TV. Meanwhile it seems my mailbox has already had a few Cabaldon pieces in it, I am still waiting for my Mariko piece and waiting to see the Mariko signs pop up across town like the Cabaldon signs already have.

Meanwhile let us get back to the issues that mean something to us. Tell us how you are going to solve our education problem in this state or how you are going to protect the environment or fix our transportation system.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, April 14, 2008

Commentary: Measure J is in the Hands Largely of the Next Council

While the voters will have to approve what the council does, the council will have a large say over the shape and scope of the next Measure J vote, at least according to the opinion written by Harriet Steiner first reported by the Vanguard on Saturday morning.

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."

For clarification purposes, options 1 through 4 require a public vote--that means the council does not unilaterally get to repeal the Measure, but they could put before the voters a measure that would repeal Measure J.

Some have suggested that the public can simply organize and put the requisite number of signatures on the ballot in 2010. That is certainly true and likely what would occur should the council decide on 1 or 3. However, as I read the opinion, if there are competing measures, the one with the most votes win. The more confusion caused by competing measures, the less likely it is for Measure J to pass as currently written. One need only see the competing propositions by the auto industry on the ballot in 1990 to understand the possibilities.

The safest route for those who continue to support the citizen's right to choose would be to elect a new majority that has pledged to support Measure J in its current form and make it a permanent measure.

What is interesting to me is that people equate Measure J as an anti-growth measure. You can see the theme in some of the more colorful comments. Perhaps part of that is that the only Measure J vote went down to horrific defeat. But that was a proposal for nearly 2000 units. The next Measure J vote is likely to be considerably smaller in size and figures to fare far better at the polls.

The question is really twofold: does a development draw organized opposition and will that opposition resonate with the public as a whole. The last two growth measures was Measure X and Measure K (Target). Both drew strong organized opposition, but Measure K while not a Measure J mandated vote, passed.

Wildhorse was also not a Measure J vote, but it was able to obtain support from the community. Why? Because the developers and promoters worked with key neighbors and members of the community and were able to forge a coalition. Yes, there was organized opposition but they were able to overcome it.

The point is, that Measure J compels a vote, but that in itself does not doom a project. Ideally it would make the project better. It would force promoters and developers to work with a broad subsection of the public to make the project better. That is really what Measure J is about and exactly what the Covell Village partners did not do. The Covell Village partners would not have been able to sell the public on that specific project, but with better outreach and communication might have been able to develop a project that would have gained majority support.

Measure J is not about putting a wall around Davis or digging a moat. It is about giving the public a choice in how, when, and how much we develop. It is about forcing the developers to work with the public to create a project that the majority will support. But it puts the ultimate say with the public. It is for that reason that we need to work so hard to protect it.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Political Facelift For Don Saylor

I was not going to write about this, but I was just reading one of Bob Dunning's columns this morning as I was waking up. Someone named Liz may or may not have written to Bob Dunning and he was responding. For those wondering, this column is not about Bob Dunning, but rather about this statement:

"'Yet someone like Don Saylor, who appears to be sane, thoughtful, pragmatic, courteous and fair, rarely gets mentioned. Is that because he is boring or you don't like him?'"

That led me to wonder when Don Saylor's perception became "sane, thoughtful, pragmatic, courteous and fair?"

This is a man whose reputation in this town was the exact opposite. It was nearly a year ago to the date that I first wrote the column: "Who is Saylor to Lecture US on Civility in Public Discourse?"

I wonder has this man so thoroughly been able to re-write his image that in people's minds, he has become all of those above qualities? Gone now is the Don Saylor of old who was mean, nasty, and vindictive? Who would blow up at people on the street, berate people in that cool, measured voice? Do people really have no memories in political life or is it strictly a matter that no one is paying attention?

I am not going to regurgitate that whole column, but I do encourage people to read it, because it provides a lot of background into a variety of occurrences in Don Saylor's political life prior to him re-inventing himself as Mr. Civility in April of last year ahead of his reelection campaign.

Ask numerous people in this community including former elected officials and you will get a very different version of Don Saylor.

There are many examples I could go into, but most of them I have heard either off the record or second hand. However, there is one that stands out to me more than any other. It was May 23, 2006, the last city council campaign was wrapping up and Julie Saylor wrote a letter to the Davis Enterprise. Now, far be it from me to attack an office holder's spouse, but let us just say there is no reasonable way that this letter was written by anyone other than Don Saylor. And even if it was, there is no way that Julie sent this without at least Don's permission or Don's knowledge but I suspect that he had far more involvement than that.

Anyway many of you who were around back then will undoubtedly remember this letter. It was vicious, it was unfair, and it was taken out of context. Anyone who knows Lamar Heystek knows that this young man has no misogynist bone in his body. And anyone who questions his maturity on the Davis City Council has not been watching--if anything he has been too mature. I reprint it in its entirety so that people might have the full effect and not accuse me of distorting the position of the Saylors.
"Shared values? I don't think so

Is it a brand-new sexist day in Davis? Stop reading Lamar Heystek 's campaign literature and read his own words in his weekly column in the UC Davis Aggie newspaper, (search: Lamar Heystek ).

Two choice quotes are: "Women like to be treated like dirt. The worse you treat them, the more they want you" (Jan. 24, 2006). And, " I'd enjoy a strategically placed hickey. Hell, I'd even settle for a cigarette burn near my groin. I'll take anything that could be construed as evidence of having 'been' with a girl" (Jan. 31, 2006).

Read his columns completely. These quotes are not more palatable in context and the entire body of work is short on wit and long on references to virginity and feminine products.

Lamar is a lecturer in linguistics at UC Davis. He should have a good grasp of the meaning and power of language, so don't let him spin his writing as "just kidding." Would you want to be taught and evaluated by a teacher who thought it was acceptable to write this in the student newspaper? I certainly don't want my son and daughter to think this is the behavior for a role model.

More important now for Davis voters, would you like a City Councilman who displays such lack of judgment and maturity? I have been bringing home the Tuesday edition of The Aggie for months, marveling each week that a council candidate is so foolish as to write this unacceptable misogynistic drivel week after week. But he does. And he does it even as he asks voters to elect him because of his commitment to social justice. This man running for council says "Trust me. We have shared values." I don't think so.

I recommend that Lamar Heystek get a decade or two distant from his Aggie column before anyone consider him a viable candidate for council. This is not a comment about chronological age. We need to choose candidates with the emotional maturity, balance, perspective and experience to serve our whole community.

Julie Saylor"
And if people want to argue that this happened during the heat of the battle, that's fine. You can make up your own mind about it or the people behind it. I'm just suggesting it is difficult for me to think of this man as "courteous" and "fair." There are several other examples that I enumerate in the other blog post from April 11, 2007, but this is the most graphic and the most blatant example.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting