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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Strike Authorized by UC Workers

Yesterday, by an overwhelming majority, UC patient care and service staff voted to strike. The vote which took place between May 17, 2008 and May 22, 2008 showed upwards of 97% vote to authorize a strike. The workers gave UC Executives notice that a strike could begin as soon as June 4th for the 20,000 workers at the University's five hospital/ten campus system. However, the workers, who have been negotiating in good faith since August, still hold hope that a strike can be averted.

Lakesha Harrison, Licensed Vocational Nurse & President of AFSCME 3299 said:
"No one wants to strike, but UC Executives need to make a shift and prioritize providing enough to protect quality patient care and support our families. No one wants to get rich, we just want equal pay for equal work. UC is losing quality staff that we train to those other institutions that pay 25% higher, and many of us are living in poverty."
CA State-appointed neutral Factfinder Carol Vendrillo, who independently evaluated the viability of a service workers' labor agreement, said:
"U.C. has demonstrated the ability to increase compensation when it fits with certain priorities without any demonstrable link to a state funding source. It is time for UC to take a broader view of its priorities by honoring the important contribution that service workers make to the U.C. community and compensating them with wages that are in line with the competitive market rate."
According to a release issued on Friday, the central issue is wages. Wages have fallen behind other hospitals including California's community colleges, where workers are paid around 25% on average than UC employees for the same work.
"At UC, patient workers are concerned that lack of competitive pay is contributing to high-turnover, staffing shortages, and over-reliance on temps, compromising patient care as extra time is needed to train the constant flow of new staff. For service workers, wages are as low as $10 an hour, forcing many to work 2-3 jobs or rely on public assistance to meet their families basic needs."
Some have questioned a strike during a time of budget crisis and UC-wide cutbacks. However, those arguments miss a key point on the revenue sources. State funds comprise less than 10 percent of the funding for the 20,000 patient care and service workers. The majority of the funding is immune to economic downturn and budget crisis. It comes from the UC hospitals. The UC hospitals posted profits of over $350 million last year.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Preliminary Gang Injunction Granted

The Sacramento Bee reports this morning that Judge Kathleen White has allowed the preliminary gang injunction to go forward.
"In her six-page ruling, White said prosecutors had shown "by clear and convincing evidence" that they probably would prevail at trial on whether broad and long-lasting restrictions were needed to combat gang crime in the Broderick and Bryte neighborhoods.

The potential harm to the defendants – including two dozen alleged gang members named by prosecutors and up to 400 unnamed individuals – was outweighed by the harm to the community if the injunction had not been issued, White wrote."
On the other hand there were some limitations to the injunction:
"But White also said the criteria proposed by prosecutors for identifying gang members were overly broad and "would likely result in the curtailment of the rights" of residents who had little or no connection with gangs.

She limited the injunction to active gang members, including those who admitted to being Broderick Boys or were named by reliable informants as gang members.

Included under the judge's order are those who have tattoos associated with the Broderick Boys."
Civil rights attorney Joshua Kaizuka believes that the police still have very broad discretion in identifying who a Broderick Boy is and to curtail their civil rights.

Now that the preliminary injunction is in place, there will be a trial to determine if a permanent court order should be issued.


I remain concerned as Mr. Kaizuka does, that the police have very broad discretion in identifying who a Broderick Boy is. There have been numerous complaints by citizens that this injunction has led to the curtailment of the rights of residents who are not affiliated with gangs. This is reinforced by comments made by the Judge here.

The criteria put forward by the Judge remain overly broad. Those who admit to being Broderick Boys--does that mean under some formalized process or could they simply be compelled to sign a waiver as a condition of release from prison on a minor charge? This has been an accusation put forward by opponents of the injunction. Those named by "reliable" informants seems even more broad and more subject to problems.

Is there some kind of procedure where a person affected by the injunction can appeal that? Since this is a civil penalty, they are not entitled to court appointed representation. As a result, top caliber lawyers such as Mark Merin, Joshua Kaizuka and others have volunteered their time. Future defendants likely would not have access to top notch representation if at all.

My final problem remains with the process--it turns the justice system on its head by removing the due process of law requirement for loss of liberty while at the same time making it a civil procedure rather than a criminal one, meaning there is no right to an attorney.

I simply cannot get passed these waiving of cherished constitutional principles. People have repeatedly in response to these arguments suggested that gang members are bad people and questioned whether I have witnessed their wrath first hand. I have no doubt in the world that some of these gang members are bad people, but I believe even really bad people are entitled to due process. I also believe as Judge White seems to that this net will catch not only really bad people but people who really are not bad at all. That troubles me greatly. I would think there could be procedures put in place to allow the bad people to be prevented from associating with gangs while at the same time give the good people a chance not to get caught up in the net. It is hard to believe that this is a radical notion, but for some it seems to be.

Judge White spoke repeatedly about trying to avoid allowing the political to get into the courtroom--an admirable stance. However, at the end of the day, it is the legal and the constitutional aspects of this that remain most troubling to this non-lawyer.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, May 23, 2008

Gore and Lenzi Respond to District Attorney's Office

Earlier this week, the human resource officials investigating the complaints by the District Attorney's Senior Investigator Rick Gore, dismissed all charges for lack of evidence.
"Every material allegation made by Rick Gore was not substantiated. It was not substantiated that Jeff Reisig was or is engaging in unethical practices. There is no indication that Rick Gore was subjected to a hostile work environment, that he was retaliated against for exercising his rights, and/or that he was discriminated against on the basis of a legally protected category."
In response District Attorney Jeff Reisig issued a lengthy statement claiming vindication.
"I am grateful that this matter is now closed and that all of the individuals who were wrongfully targeted have been vindicated and now afforded an opportunity to respond... I am looking forward to getting back to work for the citizens of Yolo County."
At the same time, both Reisig and his employees continued to make allegations against former Deputy DA Pat Lenzi.

As reported in the Woodland Daily Democrat on Wednesday:
"In that same statement, officials at the DA's Office reiterated their belief that Gore's public accusations were in part orchestrated by former deputy DA Patricia Lenzi.

Lenzi ran an unsuccessful and, at times, bitterly worded campaign against Reisig in 2004.

DA investigator Peter Martin said in a prepared statement that Lenzi called him the evening before the allegations were made public to "discuss" Gore's letter, which he characterized as an effort to "undermine" and "embarrass" the District Attorney's Office, which employs nearly 120 people and handles around 8,000 cases annually.

"I was quite shocked to discover that Pat Lenzi was actively involved with Mr. Gore in pursuing these accusations," Martin said in the statement. "I thought she had moved on with her life after losing the election and resigning from the District Attorney's Office in 2006."
The Daily Democrat reported as well, "Neither Gore or Lenzi could be reached for comment as of Tuesday evening."

In fact it became clear that the Daily Democrat did not have current contact information for either.

Both Lenzi and Gore have now issued responses to report and to the DA's office response. These responses are reprinted here in full and without editorial comment.

Response by Rick Gore

I received a copy of the same report provided to the media that was prepared by Yolo County. I am disappointed with their report, lack of findings and continue to stand by my letter. It is not surprising that a Yolo County directed and controlled investigation would not find any allegations against their Department Head substantiated. After all, if they admitted to wrongdoings of Mr. Reisig, they would be accepting and admitting liability for his actions. Financially and legally, that would not be prudent. From my first dealings with County Counsel on this matter, it has been clear that they were adversarial with me about my letter. I would describe County Counsel has being as helpful as a rattlesnake in a dark room, on this matter. To put this investigation in perspective, if I were allowed to hire an attorney to conduct this same investigation, keep my investigation secret and then get the media to release my report of my findings, does anyone have any doubt that my report would be very different from the county’s report.

As for Mr. Reisig’s comments about his staff being accused only displays his unique way of deflecting my letter by trying to make it about other employees and politics with a former Deputy District Attorney. My letter was about Mr. Reisig and is consistent efforts to undermine checks and balances of the system, to grab more power from other law enforcement agencies and to enhance his political career, by whatever bully means he deems necessary. He makes it difficult for anyone to stand up for what they think is right or anything against his political agenda.

The comments posted by some employees are very “company line” responses, which I am sure, were reviewed and approved by Mr. Reisig. Since a few of these people are “at will” employees and serve at the behest of Mr. Reisig, I would not expect them to say anything negative about the person who could release them from their job without cause. Which is exactly the reason that Mr. Reisig had many positions changed to “at will” shortly after his taking over the office.

It is unfortunate that so many other people have had to have their names mentioned and dragged into this. This has never been about accusing other employees of anything, this is about Jeff Reisig. I am confident that anyone that was mentioned in my original letter or may done things that were questionable, were acting on direction or orders from Mr. Reisig. Although Mr. Reisig is a good young lawyer and an exceptional politician, I have never accused him of being unwise. The only complaints that the county substantiated were the ones where I had copies of emails from Mr. Reisig, so it would be hard for them to deny those. Mr. Reisig is smart enough to know that in order to survive his unethical practices he must not put things in writing, limit his witnesses to his behavior and he has to keep himself isolated with others so he can claim “plausible deniability” or “have someone else to blame.” Since most of my complaints happened between Mr. Reisig and me with no other witnesses, it is easy for him to say it never happened. So, many of the “not substantiated” findings were because these things happened between Mr. Reisig and me in a private setting. I might add that these private meetings were by Mr. Reisig’s design and not by accident. The angst of all these issues are with Mr. Reisig not anyone else.

I do wish the media would give a more balanced view of this investigation. I think it should be noted that no one in this investigation was questioned under oath, asked to sign a statement under penalty of perjury or sworn under penalty of perjury. I was the only one required to talk about my letter, under oath in open court. For me to testify under oath that I was ordered by Mr. Reisig, via DDA Linden, and then for the county to make a grand finding, in this extended and complete investigation, that this was “not substantiated” seems suspiciously odd. For the people out there that want to critically think and evaluate this, Mr. Linden nor Mr. Reisig took the stand and challenged my testimony. We call this a clue in law enforcement.

The County also found that Mr. Reisig did not order or direct me to only serve one person in the first Gang Injunction. If anyone would care to pull the record of Mr. Reisig’s testimony, in front of the California Appellant Court, I am sure they would find that Mr. Reisig told the court that he did in fact only serve one person since that is all he was required to do by law. The court disagreed and overturned his injunction. I am sure this is just another small oversight of the county’s complete investigation. Another shameful finding of the county is that Dave Henderson did in fact have to order Mr. Reisig to discover the gun flash test during the Halloween Homicide trial. Then the county made the finding that the test was not discovered because of my objections. In all my years, I have never had to go to the District Attorney because a Deputy DA was trying to withhold evidence from the court and the defense. The fact that this incident had to be elevated to the District Attorney, Dave Henderson, and he had to order Mr. Reisig to turn it over, is pretty good proof that this evidence was being concealed and was not going to be discovered without my objections. This appears to be another missed opportunity in the county’s investigation. I could go on with each of the county’s findings, but as the county said, it would moot, they found what they wanted to find.

Another fact about press releases that most people are not aware of is that all press releases from the DA’s office are written and or approved by Mr. Reisig. Therefore, everyone who reads the Jeff Reisig prepared press releases should analyze those articles as a political tool for Mr. Reisig to get “his” message out, the way he wants it perceived. I would again ask the people of Yolo County to critically evaluate press releases and understand they were written by Mr. Reisig and simply reprinted by the local news media. I would challenge anyone out there to find an article about the DA’s Office where Mr. Reisig admitted a mistake or accepted some responsibility for doing something wrong. You will not find it since it would not be in Mr. Reisig’s political interest to release one of those and the media normally only prints what Mr. Reisig gives them.

Lastly, the finding about Mr. Reisig’s speech did not impact the investigation seems minor and probably unclear to most. So people understand what this was about and what kind of man Mr. Reisig is, I would like to explain it a bit. When the county’s investigation started, I was ordered not to discuss the investigation and was told everyone else would be ordered not to discuss it. After I received this notice, the next day, Mr. Reisig had a mandatory meeting with every DA employee. In this meeting, he called me ignorant and made other disparaging comments about me to every employee in the office. In these comments, he accused me of interfering with and impacting the CHP murder trial and tried to connect me to the grief of the wife of the slain officer. Anyone could see that this was a warning and a message that if anyone else spoke out against Mr. Reisig, this is what they could expect. I contacted county counsel and HR and expressed what a cowardly and despicable act I thought this was by Mr. Reisig. People want to talk about dirty politics; it does not get much lower than that. The county’s response to me was Mr. Reisig has the right to do what he did. Of course, the county did not see this "public bashing" as retaliation for my letter. Since I know the county’s position on this matter, I would like to ask the people that elected Mr. Reisig to ask themselves a question. You have read, in the recent press releases from Mr. Reisig, all the grand accolades about Mr. Reisig and his ethics. For a man to use his position and power to compel his entire staff to a mandatory meeting, in a county building, where county employees are compelled to be there and then use this meeting to publicly make disparaging comments about me and my letter and infer that I am to blame for the grief of a slain CHP officer and doing this while knowing that an investigation is about to be initiated appears disgraceful at best. His actions to use a death of an officer and the grief of his spouse, for his political benefit shows a real lack of character. I ask the voter’s is this behavior really the actions of a honorable man, who is ethical, trustworthy and who has nothing to hide? I think not, but I would ask everyone to make his or her own conclusion.

My advice to anyone else who sees or knows of inappropriate conduct in Yolo County is to embrace the conduct, support it and be a good “team player”. If anyone expects honest support from Yolo County, I believe they will be sadly mistaken. This would explain the sudden loss of many senior people that have left the office since Mr. Reisig took office.

Response from Former Deputy District Attorney Pat Lenzi
Dear Mr. Reisig:

You have recently issued press releases, and you and your staff have given statements to the press regarding Rick Gore that have included false allegations about me. These pronouncements by you and your office have been published by several local media outlets including, but not limited to, the Davis Enterprise, Woodland Daily Democrat, and the Sacramento Bee.

I requested that you immediately issue a retraction of the false allegations against me that you, your office and/or staff have issued in the matter pertaining to Rick Gore. I demand that you cease and desist from any further attempts to defame me and malign my character.

In order to provide you with accurate information such that you may base your retraction on facts, I offer the following:

- I did not write Gore's letter.

- I did not call the D.A.'s office regarding Gore or his letter

- I did not speak to Pete Martin regarding Gore or his letter. In fact, I have not spoken to Investigator Martin since shortly before I left the D.A's office nearly two years ago.

- I did not call anyone at, or associated with, the Yolo County D.A.'s office to "plead Gore's case."

- I did not go to the Attorney General's office with Rick Gore, or on his behalf.

Furthermore, I have no record of any calls or any contact of any sort from any reporters prior to the most recent news stories in the paper surrounding Rick Gore. I find statements to that effect objectionable.

Finally, I am not a candidate for office. I am a private citizen now. Those who continue to force my name into press releases and publications, using false statements about me that are libelous and are defamatory to me show a reckless disregard for the truth. This must cease immediately.

In addition to you issuing a retraction, I would appreciate an apology as well.

Pat Lenzi
---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Yolo County Judge Race Gets Down and Dirty

I have not covered much on the race election race for judge. It is interesting to see signs and election brochures in a judge's race. Most judges think of themselves not as politicians but as a member of the bench. Frankly that's a good thing for the most part.

But from the start, the race for judge in Yolo County has been different. This is more like a political race than a battle of two judges.

In the Sacramento Bee on Tuesday morning, Deputy District Attorney James Walker actually started taking shots at Judge Fall.
"Walker claims that for years, Fall has been known as a judge who humiliates lawyers, jurors and witnesses in his courtroom and abuses his judicial authority.

"He has a history of berating attorneys for not being prepared or on time," Walker said.

Most lawyers won't criticize a judge openly because they fear retaliation, Walker said.

"But if people told the truth, they would tell you what a terrible judge he is," the prosecutor contended."
James Walker continues:
"Walker said he set his sights on Fall's seat after the judge ruled against him in a murder trial, leading to a manslaughter conviction and a lighter sentence for a West Sacramento shotgun killer.

"That's when I decided I was going to run against him," Walker said."
James Walker argues that it is the fact that Judge Fall hands down "light sentences" that has him seeking his spot on the bench.

Judge Fall has for the most part tried to avoid the mudslingling and has run on his record for the most part.
"Fall, meanwhile, said he's appalled at Walker's mudslinging and is unwilling to trade insults because of his judicial office.

Instead, Fall said, he has tried to run on his record."
He did respond to Mr. Walker's charges of leniency in the murder trial:
"As for the ruling against Walker in the murder case, Fall said he threw out the confession of the young defendant because it had serious problems, as an appellate court had noted in a previous ruling.

"If Mr. Walker disagreed with me, he could have taken me up on appeal," Fall said. "He didn't. The fact that he let my ruling stand without challenging it says a lot about who was right and who was wrong in that case."
The race for Judge has been surprisingly interesting. Both men are Republicans. However, Tim fall seems to be more moderate than James Walker. Walker is a product of the Yolo County District Attorney's Office and a career prosecutor. Tim Fall went to King Hall at UC Davis for law school while James Walker went to McGeorge law.

It is also interesting to see Judge Fall in pictures with fellow Judge Dave Rosenberg. You just do not see Judge's in campaign brochures very often. This race bares watching as it heads into the final days.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Woodland Daily Democrat Endorses Kennedy or Provenza for Yolo County Supervisor

The Woodland Daily Democrat came out with their endorsements for County Supervisor yesterday. Not surprisingly they endorsed incumbent Supervisor Duane Chamberlain for a second term. Duane Chamberlain is someone we rarely talk about, but there is no stronger defender of farmers and agricultural land on the board than Mr. Chamberlain. He is a man of integrity whether you agree with him on a current issue or you disagree with him. Chamberlain is running against the largely unknown Mel Smith. This does not figure to be much of a race.

The more surprising endorsement was in the 4th Supervisorial race where the seat is open and the race is wide open. There are three candidates vying for that seat--Jim Provenza, Cathy Kennedy, and John Ferrera.

Jim Provenza has locked down the endorsement of the Sacramento Bee. John Ferrera has the endorsement of the Davis Enterprise. And Cathy Kennedy who is largely unknown has secured some impressive endorsements including Duane Chamberlain. She also has the Davis Police Officer's Association, District Attorney Jeff Reisig, and the Yolo County Sheriff's Deputy Association.

In this race the Woodland Daily Democrat surprisingly chose both Jim Provenza and Cathy Kennedy.
"In this Davis district, the choices are difficult. Both Provenza and Kennedy are the more appealing candidates in our opinion. Provenza has experience on the Davis School Board, a difficult job in and of itself.

Kennedy, however, is a single mother who grew up in poverty, worked her way through school, and has become successful in the business world. In many ways it would be good to have such a representative from Davis.

We think either Provenza or Kennedy would be a good fit on the Board of Supervisors. Both are experienced in their own right."
I am not certain I like their rationale for endorsing Ms. Kennedy especially the part where they said, "In many ways it would be good to have such a representative from Davis" referring either to her business background or the fact that she is a former single mother. I will say however, that she is much more impressive than I expected her to be. And while at this point she still rates as a long shot, I hope that she decides to stay involved in government and the community because she does offer a very different perspective from others in this race.

The Daily Democrat endorsement is probably not going to have a huge impact on this race. The most interesting aspect of it was the fact that they endorsed either Provenza or Kennedy in the race. That leaves John Ferrera. I am not sure if I am more surprised that John Ferrera is the odd person out or that they endorsed Jim Provenza.

This is one where it might be interesting to hear. After all, the conservative Woodland paper not choosing the chief of staff to the chairman of the state Senate budget committee might not be all that shocking except for the fact that Provenza's job is not all that different in the eyes of the Democrat--a lobbyist for the Los Angeles district attorney. Then again, Provenza has experience on the Davis School Board and a strong record there which may overshadow his profession in their eyes.

This is one where it might be curious to know what the thinking was.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Campaign View: Mariko Yamada Mail the Good and the Bad

As the campaign winds down, we will be looking periodically at some of the mail campaigns of the various candidates and more interestingly the independent expenditure campaigns.

Yesterday, I received two pieces in my mailbox in support of Mariko Yamada.

The first piece is an attack piece sent by the California Teacher's Association. I do not know who decided that the parking ticket issue was a winning issue, but this is reprehensible for the CTA to stoop to these levels. These kinds of brochures are simply going to anger people and turn them off. The initial reaction to the story was most people at that time felt it was a non-issue and many were critical that the Yamada campaign was trying to make political points based on an issue of this sort. And yet here we are, we have seen several references to this issue and now a piece devoted to it.

It is ashame because the other piece in the mailbox was an outstanding piece--one of the best I have seen, also from the CTA. This is the kind of piece we would expect from the CTA and the kind of piece that would be extremely effective.

This is the inside of the piece, due to the size of the brochure I had to scan it in separately so it not continuous, but it is basically a group shot of ten local respected teachers. Each one has given a testimonial about why Mariko Yamada is their choice. This is a well done piece. It has familiar faces, so it is extremely powerful. This is the type of ad that the CTA should run. The other is beneath them.

For a candidate that pledged to run a clean race, the Yamada campaign and their surrogates have been extremely nasty. As I said the other day, run on your issues, your strengths, and allow the voters to decide. Most people I know are not going to base their decisions on whether or not Christopher Cabaldon had a large amount of parking tickets in Sacramento.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Greenwald and Escamilla-Greenwald Receive "A" Grades from the Sierra Club

In a press release dated May 16, 2008, the Sierra Club Yolano Group issued grades of the Davis City Council candidates.
"Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald and Sue Greenwald rated an “A” grade based on answers to the three questions. Rob Roy, Don Saylor, Steven Souza and Sydney Vergis all received “B” grades."
On April 30, 2008 the Sierra Club Yolano Group and the Davis Neighborhood Coalition submitted 10 questions to Davis City Council candidates. In addition to the candidate forum, each candidate submitted written answers.
"The Management Committee “graded” the candidates based on their responses to the questions that related to the environment. The Sierra Club Yolano Group spent much time deliberating regarding the relative grading of the candidates for this 2008 City of Davis City Council election cycle. In general, the management committee believes that the educational value of the candidates’ answers to the questions - both for the voters and for the candidates is the most valuable portion of this process.

The three main issues discussed in the grading process were: Measure J, Wastewater and Surface Water Capitol Projects, and the future of wood burning in the City of

Each candidate received the range of grades available and the final grades that we are presenting are the average of the management committee's votes - not a unanimous grade. This is not a Sierra Club endorsement of any of the candidates."
Vanguard coverage of the candidates forum can be found by clicking here.

You can find excerpts of the answers on both water and Measure J there.

On the issue of residential wood burning, an issue that has not been discussed much on this blog but is becoming an increasing concern in the city due to its impact on air quality, here are some of the highlights of the candidate's answers.

Sue Greenwald:
"I am in favor of looking into an ordinance for banning wood burning."
Cecilia-Escamilla Greenwald:
"As councilmember, I would like to look toward alternative means by which to heat homes—including Natural gas fireplaces rather than real wood or ideally, more energy efficient building designs to better utilize the winter sun, better keep heat (or cool temperatures in the summer) in the home, and solar power as an alternative means by which to heat one’s home or augment other available energy sources.

I would consider a possible ban or limitation of wood burning pending further study by the city and other experts."
Rob Roy:
"We already have the voluntary “Don’t Light Tonight" program in Yolo-Solano air quality management district. We must inform our fellow citizens about the program so they may now when air levels are at unhealthy levels. Expand the conscious of our citizens be more aware of any negative environmental impact is a good thing.

Collecting a voluntary city-wide email list serve to convey this type of information would be a good thing start on."
Don Saylor:
"While I want to withhold judgment until hearing from the NRC, I think we will probably see a combination of further restrictions on burning using specific appliances, incentives and rebates for purchases of cleaner EPA appliances, and more awareness of the issues pertaining to wood burning and the environmental effects."
Stephen Souza:
"There are already restrictions in place on new construction and new installation of fire-places or wood burning appliances. The Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District's Rule 2.40 requires the use of pellet fueled heater or EPA certified heaters. We should also require that at the time of sale, remodel or a certain date that all fireplaces that do not meet Rule 2.40 be replaced or rendered inoperable.

We can also promote a self-imposed program of “Don’t Light Tonight” whereby residents do not use their fire-places or woodstoves when air pollution is approaching unhealthy conditions."
Sydney Vergis:
"The Model Fireplace Ordinance include two primary components- Voluntary curtailment of wood-burning on low quality air days, and a mandatory upgrade to EPA Phase II Fireplace inserts or fireplace removal upon house sale or remodel.

I acknowledge that the voluntary components of the model ordinance or a Spare-the-Air day will not result in full compliance- I am hopeful that good outreach and coordination between the City, local organizations (Yolano!), and the Natural Resources Commission can pay dividends."
While the Sierra Club did not make endorsements in the city council race, the grades provided are a good guide as to which candidates were stronger on specific environmental positions than others. The Sierra Club did make endorsements in both the County Supervisor and the State Assembly race. (See here for full story). Jim Provenza obtained the endorsement in the 4th District County Supervisor Race and Christopher Cabaldon received the endorsement in the State Assembly Race.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Commentary: Signs, Signs, Everywhere are Signs

Last week, Rich Rifkin wrote a piece on political signs. It was an interesting piece that covered a key aspect--the visibility and effectiveness of signs. And while it misses out on a key point about brand identification, the issue of readability and clarity of signs is an important one.

However, for my money, the key issue is where signs are located--on whose property and who are these people. That tells us who and what types of interests are backing the various candidates.

An interesting tidbit is that if you drive around Davis, you will find many Judge Fall signs, but very few if any James Walker for Judge signs. Judge Tim Fall is an incumbent who is being challenged by James Walker for the Judgeship. While the Judge is a Republican, he is viewed as more moderate that James Walker. If you leave Davis and go up north towards Woodland, you see an increasing number of James Walker signs. What looks like a landslide from the aspect of Davis, look much closer as you head to the north.

Speaking of telling signs, as you head out of Davis on Lake and toward County Road 99, you see a big huge Mariko Yamada sign on the corner of County Road 99 and County Road 31 (Covell Blvd). There is another one near the hospital.

What is telling about these sign locations, is who owns that land. Because that is the Northwest Quadrant. The Northwest Quadrant including Oeste Ranch were the subject of a political battle last year as the county, led by County Supervisor Mariko Yamada, pushed for development in the Northwest Quadrant. The owners of some of that land are now backing Mariko Yamada in her race for State Assembly. That cannot be a coincidence, can it?

More locally, as you go around town you see on virtually every apartment complex signs for Souza, Saylor, and Vergis. Stephen Souza probably has the most on these properties, but Don Saylor and Sydney Vergis are right on his heels. Many of these properties are owned by Tandem Properties, the property management company owned by John Whitcombe of the Covell Village fame. But it is not just Tandem Properties that is backing the developer trio. All the major property owners are. Not that there is anything wrong with that, right?

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, May 19, 2008

Council Candidates Differ on City Budget and Fiscal Situation

To their credit the Davis Enterprise is running a series of questions and answers from the city council candidates. They limit the responses to 100 words each but print the responses verbatim. This is a good way for the public to get a sense about where the candidates sit on seven topics.

Aside from the issue of growth, one of the more interesting points of divide is on the budget.

The claim made by Stephen Souza, Don Saylor, and Sydney Vergis is largely that the budget is balanced, we have a 15% reserve. We have unmet needs though in the future that will require additional taxes. They would also like to expand the economic base of the city.

The claim raised by Sue Greenwald, Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald (my wife) and Rob Roy is that unmet needs constitute part of the budget deficit.

Sue Greenwald raised the point that the problem is more on the expenditure side than the revenue side.
"Our revenues have increased a healthy 60 percent in seven years. Our problem is that expenditures have risen faster."
For her the solution is:
"We should emphasize controlling expenses by phasing in certain large capital improvement projects and controlling salary/benefit costs of management and highest-paid employees."
Cecilia is also concerned about placing much of the burden on the tax and ratepayers of Davis.
"Davis residents face several new taxes in the future on top of large rate hikes for water. The voters just approved new parcel taxes for the library and the schools. With the schools facing a budget crisis, voters may have to approve another parcel tax. We need to look toward other ways to balance our budget."
Everyone would like to see additional revenues. It is not even clear that six candidates differ that much on the type of revenue. For example, although Don Saylor supported Target, he has said at candidate's forums that he thinks that is sufficient to meet the retail needs of the city.

On the other hand, and more problematically, Mr. Saylor has suggested that there are "long-term labor contracts in place." In fact, nearly all of the labor contracts expire next year including the fire contract. His statement is simply untrue.

At the recent meeting as cited in the Davis Enterprise:
"Labor negotiations will reopen during the 2009-10 fiscal year, [City Budget Director Paul]Navazio said"
Conversations during the budget meeting last week, underscore the very tenuous nature of the "balanced" budget claims.
"The city funded benefits under a pay-as-you-go method until last fiscal year, when it added an extra $500,000 to the payment. To fully fund the program, which would save millions in the long run, the city would have to pay in about $4 million per year, Navazio said.

'Given the level of benefits and the cost of benefits, we need to be setting aside 6 percent of our employee salaries, and that percentage is pretty high compared to other cities,' Navazio said. 'That's also a reflection of the city's benefits, which are pretty high, and how that's packaged.'

'We have got to find the means to fund that,' Councilman Stephen Souza said.

'We are fully intending to deal with it, we're just not dealing with it fully in this fiscal year,' Navazio said."
We have balanced the budget on paper. However, the amount of unmet needs faced by this city is growing. We are talking about things that really need to be done. We simply lack the revenue to do them. Moreover, the employee benefit system looks like a train wreck waiting to happen.

As Sue Greenwald remarked at the meeting the other night:
"We're not in better shape than we've been in years. That's just not true. We are locked into a 3% at 50 retirement for the next 70 years for public safety employees and now 2.5% at 55, early retirement for all miscellaneous employees. That's got to affect our longterm budget situation. We have a $42 million post-retirement, unfunded employee retiree health liability. That's huge. That's coming due in only 15 or 20 years..."
And once again, the number of taxes and fees that the citizens of Davis will be asked to pick up in the next few years is actually rather staggering.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Money Flying Around in the 8th AD Race

It is definitely not safe to open your mailbox these days.

Anyone opening their mailbox is likely to receive a slew of campaign fliers. A large number of them are not even from the campaigns themselves. Rather they are IEs (Independent Expenditures).

According to an article from the Fairfield Daily Republic, reprinted in the Davis Enterprise this morning, the candidates themselves have raised large amount of money from the primary. The number they report for West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon seems a bit low at over $500,000 while Mariko Yamada, Yolo County Supervisor has raised just over half that.

However, the real battle is with the IEs. Undoubtedly anyone with a pulse has seen the EdVoice ads.
"In February, the education advocacy group EdVoice earmarked $350,000 to use on behalf of Cabaldon, who was president of the group until resigning in January.

Since then, a group representing real estate agents and firms has spent about $50,000 on Cabaldon's behalf, a trade organization representing apartment and rental housing owners has spent $15,000 and a group called the Cooperative of American Physicians has spent more than $40,000. "
Meanwhile, Mariko Yamada has received commitments over more than $300,000 from a variety of unions including CTA, SEIU, and $12,000 from the California Professional Firefighters.

In the last few days, the ads sent for Mariko Yamada by these groups have been particularly vicious.

One ad featured the Acronym "WRONG" and ranged from attacking Cabaldon for once again not paying his parking tickets to supporting Republicans and Wal Mart. Like so many ads, it is filled with half-truths, distortions, and trivial matters. Yesterday, was a more blunt attack, using the West Sacramento Wal-Mart as as a wedge issue.

For a campaign that had pledged to keep it clean, I have seen much in the way of attacks both coming from the IEs (which in fairness, the campaigns supposedly have no connection to nor control of) but also from the Yamada camp itself. It is one thing to criticize the West Sacramento Mayor of bringing Wal Mart to West Sacramento. We can decide whether than was justified and what that means for him. It is another to use parking tickets and the car boot as some kind of personal attack.

The Yamada campaign's most recent communication to its supporters and volunteers is promoting a big precinct walk in Solano County next weekend.

At the end it writes:
"It is important that we make a major statement about the importance of grass-roots, volunteer-based politics, and send a message to the big-money interests who seek to buy this election for their own purposes. Stand up and make a difference!"
The Yamada campaign has been outspent by the Cabaldon campaign. To date, the Cabaldon campaign's supporters have sent out more mail. But if Mariko Yamada really is receiving $300,000 from a variety of groups and they continue to send out attack pieces in the mail, they are just as guilty of allowing "big-money" interests play a role in this election.

Attack politics do not serve the people well. Criticizing someone over parking tickets does not tell us who would be a better Assemblymember or who will represent the needs of this district the best. What happened to campaigning on ideas and experience?

I want to read Mariko Yamada tell us why her five years as Yolo County Supervisor, her experience as a social worker and an activist qualify her to be Assemblywoman. I want to read about her ideas for the future of this district. I want to hear about how they differ from her opponent. As much as I think Cabaldon (or more accurately his IEs) has done too much in the way of mail, at least he has laid out that vision clearly. Let's let the voters decide which vision and whose record they want representing them.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting