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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Now EdVoice Has Gone Too Far With Attacks on Yamada

Earlier this week, we criticized the Yamada campaign and their Independent Expenditure committee surrogates for attacks on Christopher Cabaldon that were minor and nitpicky at best. Their slew of attacks have generated considerable response from EdVoice. Yesterday my mailbox was filled up with eight or nine pieces from the Assembly campaigns and the IEs. Christopher Cabaldon recorded a cable ad to respond to some of the attacks.

Here is the response from Cabaldon up on youtube:

However, this race has now turned ugly with two vicious attacks by EdVoice on Yamada.

This ad has angered advocates for people with disabilities. The program was designed to help people with disabilities get jobs--of course the ad makes no mention of that. The Yamada campaign led by advocates for people with disabilities will have a press conference this morning to refute and denounce the political attack.

The Sacramento Bee's ad watch already roundly criticized the ad:

"$91,000 for coffee service?" reads one flier attacking Yamada, a Yolo County supervisor, for voting to subsidize a coffee cart in a county building. "What was Yamada thinking?"

Turns out it's no ordinary coffee cart – it's designed to provide jobs to people with mental disabilities.

Yolo supervisors voted 3-2 to commit $91,000 to the Turning Point agency for equipment and training. The money stems from a 2005 tax on millionaires that can be spent only for mental-health services.

At the top of the ad, they quote an unnamed Yolo County Supervisor: "When I first read it, I thought it was a mistake. When I heard the explanation, it was worse." Of course what they do not tell you is that that county supervisor was Republican Matt Rexroad. I wonder why they would not name the county supervisor? Nor did they tell you that the program passed with a 3-2 vote with Cabaldon supporters Helen Thomson and Mike McGowan voting for it. The two opposing votes were the two Republicans on the board.

As bad as that ad was, the one that came out yesterday in my opinion was even worse.

The reference here is to the problems faced by the Yolo County Housing Authority. Their former director, David Serena, faced a long inquiry by the Yolo County Grand Jury and the Yolo County District Attorney's Office. This spring, the only legal charges faced by Mr. Serena were dismissed by a visiting Judge.

But what does that have to do with Mariko Yamada? Not a whole lot. She was not involved in this directly. The County Board of Supervisors was criticized for their oversight, but that does not fall on Mariko Yamada alone, it also falls on Cabaldon supporters Helen Thomson and Mike McGowan. To claim that Yamada is responsible for the problems at the Yolo County Housing Authority is pushing it. To then extrapolate to the larger foreclosure problem is blatantly false.

As several people pointed out to me, they criticize Mariko Yamada not because she was responsible for the problems with the Yolo County Housing Authority but rather because she failed to stand behind David Serena when it was clear them that he was the victim of some kind of vendetta and witch hunt. The charges he faced, as we covered earlier this spring, were trumped up and specious. He faced years in prison for a clerical error performed not by him but by an administrator.

To criticize Mariko Yamada for the entire episode is about 90 percent fabrication and 10% truth. This is simply a vicious political attack against Mariko Yamada by Ed Voice. I do not see that the citizens and voters of the 8th Assembly District are well served by these attacks. There is no truthful information in them that would help someone make up their minds.

Mariko Yamada's surrogates are not better than Ed Voice either. The WRONG attack, the booted car, and the Wal Mart attack were all very negative and distorted as well. Something has to be done about these independent expenditure committees. They are out of control and they thoroughly harm the process. People are turned off by these kinds of attacks, and as often as not, they end up saying a pox on both their houses when they cannot figure out the truth.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, May 30, 2008

County Supervisor Hopefuls Meet in League of Women Voters' Candidates Forum

Just a few days before the June 3, 2008 election and for the first time, the three county supervisor candidates met for a candidates forum moderated by Jean Canary of the Davis League of Women Voters. This is the only chance fourth district residents would get a chance to see the candidates square off. There was a decent crowd of mostly the usual suspects in attendance, but the event was televised on Cable Channel 15 throughout the community, a telecast that should be replayed a few times for those who missed it.

Each candidate got four minutes to make an opening statement and answer the three prepared questions.

John Ferrera in his opening statement talked about his commitment to preserving Davis as the special place that it is. He then went on to talk about both his community experience on the library board for six years and his professional experience in Sacramento most recently as Chief of Staff to State Senator Denise Ducheney. He is proud of his endorsements from County Supervisors Helen Thomson and Mike McGowan, Sheriff Ed Prieto, former County Supervisor Betsy Marchand, DA Jeff Reisig, and Davis Councilmember Stephen Souza and Ruth Asmundson. He said that he felt we need leadership in this county, and that is not about waiting to see which way the wind is blowing. He has worked on issues that he will face as a member of the Board of Supervisors in the next four years. He looks to turn problems into opportunities in order to meet challenges.

Jim Provenza talked about how his career was based on the notion that he would go out and help the poor and disenfranchised rather than trying to make a lot of money. As a result, early in his career, he represented victims of housing and employment discrimination. He related a story about how they cut the budget for his job and he went to work for free continuing to help people until the funding was restored. He looked toward maximum jurisprudence--for all wrongs there is a remedy and he has sought through his career to fix the wrongs. He is proud of the four years he served on the school board. He talked about working hard to lift up and represent low achieving students, particularly Hispanic students, and that his work helped to increase scores. This he was particularly proud of. He cited his record as an assistant to the Los Angeles District Attorney's office and his enforcement of environmental laws for other counties that could not afford to fight their own cases. He wants to take the same values to the Board of Supervisors in Yolo County. His vision is to preserve Yolo County as an agricultural county, to build a strong agricultural economy and to be a model for other counties.

Cathy Kennedy talked about herself as being a business woman from the private sector, and having a very different set of attributes from the men to her right. She is a high school drop out from a dysfunctional home. In this election, instead of being ashamed of that background, she has put this to the forefront. She said it takes grit and perseverance to rise up from poverty. She learned that she have to give in order to feel better. She had a teen daughter at 18, and she never married. In 2005, she took an estranged relative's child. She called that child who was 14 and he wanted to know about his other two siblings. When she told him that she could not take on three kids, he offered up his youngest sibling. She eventually took the three kids. From that perspective she saw the county from the side of someone who received services and she said that we are not getting what we think we are getting, the social services program is not what we think it is. These things need to change.

The first question related to the pass-through agreement and whether it was sufficient to protect the county.

Jim Provenza said the pass-through agreement is not simply about the shifting of revenue. Rather it is an agreement through the city and county, to preserve agricultural land. Davis' planning area includes the best farmland in the area. The pass-through agreement gives the county redevelopment funds in exchange for them to not develop in the Davis planning area. During the entire period of the pass-through the amount is roughly $84 million which is not an insignificant total. It preserves our way of life in Yolo County and encourages growth within cities. It discourages sprawl development. We are losing thousands of acres of farmland each year in California--up to a half million acres. Once paved over, that farmland is forever lost. Agriculture is the strength of our economy. We need to fight to keep the pass-through agreement in effect. We can always look to update it, the last update was in 2001. We need to work together between the city and county to make sure we protect agriculture. In fact, he said there are provisions within the agreement to work together and consult when issues arise. City and county need to work together to support development and growth that fits the needs of both jurisdictions while preserving the pass-through agreement.

Cathy Kennedy said that while she agrees with much of what Jim Provenza said, she does not think the pass-through agreement is sufficient. She does not know if the county needs are being served at present by the agreement. While she respects city rights, she said that the county also needs to serve its constituents and act in terms of what the county needs are. And the county is in a budget crisis at present and needs to look toward generating revenue.

John Ferrera cited the pass-through as a tremendous example of cooperation between the city and county. It was first entered into by Betsy Marchand and Dave Rosenberg as a way to preserve services from the county while at the same time allowing Davis a decision on growth on its periphery. Originally this was based on an economic study on the cost to the county for providing services and a method for relieving the pressure on the county to seek housing for revenue. Cooperation is an important thing about this relationship. We need to insure revenue from the pass-through agreement is sufficient to keep the city of Davis from losing services. He thinks this protection is important, but we need a cooperative relationship that includes dialogue, consultation, and cooperation.

Next the candidates were asked about the current budget crisis and which programs were a priority to protect.

Cathy Kennedy said that we need to protect the alcohol, drug, and mental health department. She said this service is essential and needs to be improved. She also cited law enforcement and the Sheriff's Department as a high priority. During a bad economy, we are likely to suffer from more crime. She then shifted focus to longer term issues and said that we need to bring in more business to produce business revenue for the county and create more jobs.

John Ferrera argued that there was not enough money at any level of government. We need to protect direct services to people particularly seniors, children, mentally ill, and people who serve them directly. We need to build a strong reserve during good times to avoid these problems. We must do business differently in this county. Some departments such as public works and economic development have too little resources. He wants to look at ways to combine these two to improve both. He wants to preserve agricultural land by building jobs and revenue. He wants to add value to the agricultural products. We need to do a better job of supporting farmers here so that they do not have to truck their product out of the county and use our roads and consume gas and oil. Finally we need to invest in green technology as a means for both revenue and jobs.

Jim Provenza said that the short term is the most difficult and that we need to protect elderly, low income, and public safety. He said it is important to look at how we got to this point. He cited problems with poor management in some of the county departments like the housing authority and mental health. He said one of the reasons Yolo County is having a problem is that the state balances its budget on the backs of counties, and small counties get hit the hardest. He advocates for a fairer state budget which can enhance revenue to the counties when necessary. He talked about the fact that the state often will make cuts during tough times but not raise it again when revenues increase. He would like to see Yolo County join the rural caucus as a means to work with other rural counties toward harvesting revenues and funds. We also need to look toward longer term development--he emphasizes economic development and particularly environmentally sustainable agriculture. We need to look at which crops will do well in the future. We need to work with the university and regionally. The water supply is a big concern particularly since global climate change may produce less water. Finally we need to get a fair share of state and local revenues.

The third and final prepared question dealt with protecting the environment, meeting housing needs, and urban development in small and rural areas.

John Ferrera talked about the fact that the county has a tradition of growing near urban centers in order to preserve agricultural land. We do have the legal responsibility to take some growth, to do it efficiently in a way that respects farmland and the environment. He has worked with agencies that have done excellent long-term planning. He wants to produce revenue that will enable the preservation of habitat, smart and infill growth around transportation hubs. He wants to protect the environment and to insure that we also protect prime agricultural land. Small communities need to preserve their nature.

Jim Provenza talked about how not to manage growth and discussed communities where the cities have merged together and one cannot tell where one ends and another begins without a sign. He wants to consider growth around cities. He wants growth as infill and in incorporated areas to avoid sprawl. The creation of new communities such as Dunnigan, which is a small area that may become a future city. We need to look at where these developments occur and plan for housing, jobs, and transportation simultaneously so that the people who live there do not automatically have to commute 50 miles to Sacramento in order to go to work. He wants to avoid creating urban islands that are isolated and require transportation and commuting. He has a bias toward allowing the cities to be the ones that develop housing and engage in urban planning. He wants the county to work in cooperation and to be a partner. It must have mutual benefits. He believes that there should be an emphasis on incorporated areas because many unincorporated areas have higher costs in terms of services and are not as well maintained.

Cathy Kennedy believes we should allow unincorporated and small areas to grow. They deserve to have some development so that they might become future incorporated cities of their own. She cautioned about creating hubs around the county. She however is in favor of protecting agricultural land as these places are not replaceable. She said we do not need to sell out to developers. She would be fine with building 10,000 more homes and then stopping.

Then there were a series of short questions and a wrap. I just briefly summarize some key points.

They were asked about raising local property taxes and sales taxes. Cathy Kennedy said she was not in favor of raising taxes in a downturned economy, she would look to shore up inefficiencies first. Jim Provenza cited the difficulty of raising property taxes due to Proposition 13. He said it was a last option but cannot take it off the table. We need to spend money wisely, ensure that we do not waste it, and take care of the people in our community whether they are kids, poor, and the elderly. John Ferrera said that when you do budgets you have to make hard decisions. You need to make sure the county works efficiently. Some programs are good when have lots of funding, but in tough times you have to pick some things like schools over other programs.

In their wrap up John Ferrera said that he is running because he believes in providing for people. He believes we can protect agricultural land and still do all of the other things we want. We can lead the world rather than have the world forced on us. We need to do more long term planning and be proactive. We need to provide for ourselves and not rely on other governments. We should not have to rely on Bay Area growth and other growth to drive our policies.

Jim Provenza talked about not having to make false choices, that we do not have to choose between environmental protection, agriculture and growth. Talked about the improvement with relations with the city when he was on the school board and wants to see the same for the county and the city.

Cathy Kennedy talks about integrity, honor, follow through and dealing even-handedly with everyone as her qualities. She said it is important that she has garnered the support of law enforcement. She cites the DPOA, the Yolo County Deputy Sheriffs, and PORAC as key supporters. Nothing is important unless people are safe. No one wants to be here unless they are safe.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, May 29, 2008

8th AD Race Really Heats Up

Yamada Campaign and EdVoice Go to War Over Pay Increase

Yesterday afternoon I received dueling press releases one from Brian Micek of the Yamada Campaign and the other from Paul Mitchell of EdVoice. The issue was whether or not Mariko Yamada accepted a pay raise during her time as a County Supervisor or whether she lied about it.

At issue was a series of TV ads and fliers from EdVoice attacking Yamada for taking payraises at the same time the county was cutting positions in the face of a county budget crisis.

Here's the press release from EdVoice:
Yamada Caught In Lie About Repeated Pay Increases

Davis, CA – Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada has been caught in a lie about her repeated support for pay increases as a member of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

A commercial running district wide, viewable at [you tube] highlights the raises that Yamada received while on the County Board of Supervisors and the additional raise she voted for which would have increased her pay by 41%.

These pay increases happened while Yolo was cutting county jobs and unemployment in the region was increasing by as much as 20%. Even faced with a county budget crisis, Yamada was persistent in her support for raises, stating “I need to make no apologies.” (12/13/06 Davis Enterprise)

In today’s media release, and a posting on her website, Yamada repeatedly claims that she did not accept a pay increase in 2004. While she did make a publicity stunt about “declining the pay raise” in an election year, public records show that she accepted the pay increase shortly thereafter.

Yamada’s claim to not accept a future pay raise also rings hollow considering that she received a double pay raise in 2007, there is no expected pay raise coming in June and that she is termed out of the Board of Supervisors. A classic politician, Yamada is declining a pay raise that may or may not come, for a job she will not have.

The attached documents and press coverage of the pay increases provides more than ample evidence of the claims in our television commercial. In fact, given the opportunity we would highlight even more absurdities, like the fact that she has received four pay raises, two in one year, that they were paid retroactively. Furthermore, she has told voters that she declined pay increases, only to go back and accept the raises after the public spotlight had faded.
Here's the Yamada Campaign's response:
Yamada Campaign Issues Notice Over Slanderous Attack Ads
Cabaldon Supporter’s Ads Knowingly Misstate Fact and Distort Yamada’s Record

Vacaville – Friends of Yamada 2008 retained attorney Chad Carlock today to issue a notice of slanderous political advertising to Comcast Spotlight over the airing of intentionally malicious political attack ads produced and purchased by the independent expenditure committee “Democrats Against Government Waste Independent Expenditure Committee major funding provided by EdVoice Independent Expenditure Committee” (attached).

Christopher Cabaldon, Yamada opponent in the 8th Assembly District’s Democratic Primary, stepped down as President and CEO of EdVoice just a few months ago in order to orchestrate his run for Assembly. EdVoice has since created multiple independent expenditure committees attacking Yamada and supporting Cabaldon.

Carlock requested that Comcast Spotlight, the advertising arm of Comcast service in both Solano and Yolo counties, pull the ads immediately due to the slanderous content.

The Yamada Campaign is releasing public documents that prove EdVoice’s assertion that Mariko Yamada voted herself two pay raises while on the Board of Supervisors to be false. The pay of Yolo Supervisors is set at a rate of one-third of a Superior Court Judge’s salary by county ordinance. It is the State of California that sets judicial pay each fiscal year. In tough economic times, including 2004 and again this year, Yamada has refused automatic pay raises that come about when the state raises judicial pay as indicated by letters to the Yolo County Administrative Officer and Yolo County Auditor- Controller (attached).

While the Yolo Board of Supervisors did discuss raising the Supervisorial pay formula to 41 percent of a judge’s salary, that discussion was tabled on December 12, 2006 as reflected in the minutes from that day’s Board meeting (attached). The formula has never since been revisited by the Board of Supervisors.

The advertising is part of a $91,000 expenditure by EdVoice in the last week of the campaign, and has been accompanied by a series of similarly misleading “push polls” received by voters on Thursday March 22nd, and Friday March 23rd. Two attack pieces of direct mail have also contained the same false statements about the pay raise.
In Mr. Micek's press release, he sends scanned documents showing Yamada turning down pay increases in both 2004 and 2008.

A few comments. First, I am not sure I could care less any less about this issue than I do. I suppose there is an amusement factor.

Second, Brian Micek is crying foul on this one? After the misleading fliers from his supporters against Cabaldon including the distorted WRONG and the meaningless booted car? Cabaldon and even EdVoice had run a positive campaign until now, but they were not going to stay on the sidelines and take punches forever.

Third, I do not understand the lawyer bit except as a publicity stunt. I mean, if suing for libel was a successful tactic against campaign claims, we would have lawsuits all over the place come election time. This is not the most egregious claim that's even been perpetrated. I do not see the legal avenue the appropriate venue even if Mariko Yamada's record is distorted.

Fourth, on the facts, Yolo County Supervisors have their pay scale tied to that of Yolo County Judges. If the Judges get a pay increase, so do the supervisors. So the idea that Mariko Yamada has control over her pay increases under this system is inaccurate.

However, as long time blog readers will remember in December of 2006, there was a move by the Board of Supervisors to increase their salary beyond that.

In fact, as many will remember, I was a strong proponent of it:
"The current pay for Yolo County supervisors is $49,730. Given that this is a full-time job that pay does not represent a very large salary. The average salary in California for a County Supervisor is $64,515. That's not exactly a rich person's salary either. But that certainly is more livable than the current pay for County Supervisors.

Sacramento County supervisors earn $82,000 while Solano County supervisors make just under $80,000. To live in Yolo County, you'd have to have a second salary to augment the below median salary you are getting for being a County Supervisor.

Given that this is a beyond full-time job it seems rather obvious that unless you are independently wealthy or have a spouse pulling down a strong second income, a lot of people are not going to be able to afford to be a county supervisor. It is the same problem that we mentioned with the compensation for being a Davis City Council member--$500 per month. While it seems like a good idea to have small pay for public servants, the reality is that that severely restricts who can afford to serve."
I remain a strong proponent of the idea that elected Yolo County Supervisors should have comparable pay to adjacent counties and to comparably qualified private sector jobs. Otherwise we are severely restricting who can and who cannot afford to become a County Supervisor.

Mariko Yamada supported that change, but under fire in early January of 2007, the Board voted to table the motion and did not revisit it.

Personally, I think Ed Voice could have picked a better target if they wanted to go after Supervisor Yamada. A targeted piece to Davis on the County General Plan would do just fine.

I have frankly seen very little that these Independent Expenditure Committees have added to this campaign.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Davis Firefighters to Unleash Another Round of Spending

Yesterday, I found more literature from the Davis Firefighters on my door step. In addition to an apparent reissuing of the brochure from earlier this month, it appears they will be using a fire helmet shaped door hanger to spread the word around Davis in the last week before the election.

Last week, they filed paperwork with the city clerk's office to show that they had already spent $6700 on their independent expenditure campaign. This was on top of the over $12,000 they had already spent on direct contributions to their three endorsed candidates. This week, it appears they have thrown in at least another $7000, which would push their expenditure campaign over $25,000 in an effort to secure their highly lucrative contracts.

Davis resident Tim Townsend summed up the city's fiscal situation in a letter to the editor of the Davis Enterprise last week:
"The Bee wrote about it, Rifkin riffed on it, the Davis Vanguard blogged about it and The Enterprise finally covered it. Are Davis voters going to get it? The city of Vallejo, 45 minutes west on Interstate 80, is likely going bankrupt — the largest California city to ever have done so. But why?

One answer, per The Enterprise: "Many officials and residents attribute Vallejo's fiscal troubles to overly generous pay and benefits to the city's police and firefighters."
Davis firefighters and their union have contributed nearly $30,000 to the campaigns of Don Saylor, Steve Souza and Sydney Vergis for City Council. Saylor and Souza have already voted to sweeten our firefighters' retirements to way beyond fair! Only our mayor, Sue Greenwald, had the courage to say "No!" We need candidates who will hold the line against fiscally irresponsible spending, or we may end up in Vallejo's shoes."

The city of Vallejo has made worldwide headlines with their fiscal plight that has led them to file for bankruptcy. Even in the face of bankruptcy, they could not get the public safety unions to back off salary demands.

As the San Jose Mercury news reported on Saturday:
"The Vallejo City Council unanimously agreed to begin bankruptcy filings after months of failed negotiations between city and public employee union negotiators. Several meetings between city and union negotiators after the May 6 vote didn't break the stalemate."
Davis Enterprise Columnist Rich Rifkin deserves much credit in uncovering the current state of contracts for firefighters. Rich Rifkin's research and article from December of 2007 is very informative and instructive.
"Last year (2006-07), the city spent $124,183 more than it took in. This year the deficit is $146,376. And next year the shortfall is projected to be $349,464. Yet during that time, the city's revenues will have increased by more than $2.1 million.

No segment of Davis' labor force is gorging at the trough more voraciously than the Fire Department. Every one of our full-time firefighters in 2006-07 cost us more than $100,000 in salary, benefits and other expenses. The average was $147,488.

For every $100 in regular salary we gave them, we paid out an additional $29 in overtime. And that was not, according to what Davis City Manager Bill Emlen told me in a phone conversation, "unusual. "
He goes on to warn the public that these practices are unsustainable and the worst aspect of it from the standpoint of fiscal responsibility is the retirement age of 50 and 3% at 50 pension.
"When the new contract was signed the following year, Local 3494 agreed to a 36 percent increase in salaries over four years. Their $100 checks paid off. They also got a fat retirement deal, called 3 percent at 50.

What that means is that a firefighter can retire at age 50 and for every year he worked he gets 3 percent of his final salary to start his retirement. A firefighter who puts in 30 years gets 90 percent of his final salary. And because many firefighters finish as battalion chiefs and captains, those final salaries are especially lucrative."
As Rich Rifkin points out, this year's election is particularly important to the fire department because their current contract expires in 2009.

Moreover in his December article, Rich Rifkin gave us the example of firefighter H.
"Added together, the total cash out for this one firefighter was $213,741. Yet that figure is not all-inclusive. The city estimates that H's unfunded liability for his retiree medical benefits will cost the city an additional $7,417. So to pay this one person, the final bill in 2006-07 was $221,158. "
Due to the lucrative overtime, many of these firefighters actually receive more combined money and benefits than the City Manager, Police Chief, and Fire Chief.

As Dave Hart, President of one of the California State Employees Association posted on the Vanguard in response to the May 4, 2008 article on the fire fighters:
"3% at 50 is in my opinion an unsustainable pension benefit. It threatens to undermine the pension system for everyone else in public service."
The fire fighters are now fighting to keep what they have, even as it does damage to the city's fiscal situation.

Now no one doubts the importance of the job the fire fighters do. In fact, no one believes that they should not be paid well for doing it. What many question is the current system which pays heavy overtime to Captains, with pay and benefits pushing their compensation to over $175,000 to $200,000 per year, and the lucrative retirement which pays them as much as 90% of their ending salary which is often artificially pushed up to that of a Battalion Chief.

Davis' fiscal situation is much stronger than that of Vallejo, but Vallejo is still a lesson to be learned. The council majority right now plans to pay for its unmet needs including pensions and health benefits through tax increases. But the system is in danger of becoming more and more top heavy, with more of the resources going to pay for people who often retire at the age of 50. And as we saw in Vallejo, these public safety unions are not willing to step forward even in the face of city bankruptcy. No wonder they are the single largest contributor to the Davis City Council races.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Former President Clinton and Former California Speaker Nunez Stand Behind the UC Workers

In January, Former President Bill Clinton stood at UC Davis with the Sodexho Workers and pledged his support for their efforts to become UC employees. Now, over four months later, the Sodexho Workers are on their way to become UC employees, but their fellow UC employees are about to go on strike.

Both Former President Clinton and Former California Speaker Fabian Nunez have been scheduled to be graduation speakers at UCLA and UC Davis respectively. However, if the UC workers are on strike at that time, both have pledged not to cross the picket line and not speak at graduation.

In a letter from AFSCME president Lakeesha Harrison:
"Former President Bill Clinton and and Speaker Emeritus Núñez, scheduled to speak at UC Graduations at UCLA and UC Davis, have committed not to speak at any UC Campus unless a fair contract settlement is reached."
A month ago, independent state appointed fact finder Carol Vendrillo agreed that UC executives could meet workers contract demands.
“It is not the lack of state funding but the University’s priorities that leaves the service workers’ wages at the bottom of the list... U.C. has demonstrated the ability to increase compensation when it fits with certain priorities without any demonstrable link to a state funding source.”
A stunning statistic that has come forward:
Medical centers are losing experienced patient care staff to other hospitals where pay is dramatically higher, and UC service workers make poverty wages as low as $10 per hour. Other CA hospitals and community colleges pay average of 25% more than UC.

96% of UC service workers are income eligible for public assistance programs including: food stamps, WIC, public housing subsidies, and reduced lunch.
Last week the UC service workers voted by overwhelming margins to strike. This week they have found powerful new allies in the former President and former Speaker of the Assembly.

Unless there is a good faith effort to go back to the bargaining table, the strike will occur on June 4 and June 5. Lakesha Harrison 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."
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

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Schools Across the Region Still Face Budget Problems

We learned a week and a half ago that the Davis Schools had adverted a catastrophe in terms of cutbacks of over a hundred teachers, and draconian cuts to programs and even the closure of schools.

The Davis Joint Unified School Board had achieved that based on the strong work that the Davis' School Foundation had done in raising over $1.7 million in order to buy back teachers. In addition, the May revise to the Governor's budget was far less harsh to education funding.

Nevertheless, there was a big article in Monday's Sacramento Bee that schools have still come up short in the Governor's latest budget.
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's May budget proposal gives more money to schools than he suggested in January, and meets the minimum guarantee schools are owed under state law. And his latest proposal increases school spending next year by $200 million over this year – but it's an amount education advocates say is paltry compared with their needs."
For example, the latest proposal does not take into account inflation--things like the rising cost of gasoline, health care, and teacher raises. As a result schools across the region are having to make cuts.

Reading the Sacramento Bee article, you see some of the same things happening across the region as happened in Davis. Programs are cut. Parents and students protest the cutting of programs. Teachers are put on the block to be cut. Classes are cut back on in an effort not to lay off as many teachers.

For instance Elk Grove:
Elk Grove Unified took another tack. Originally, the district proposed laying off kindergarten and high school teachers and making classes bigger. But after a firestorm of opposition from parents of kindergartners, it is keeping small classes for its youngest students and increasing class size only for high schoolers. The district will lay off 50 teachers at its high schools, for a savings of $1.6 million.

Elk Grove Unified is also getting rid of all teaching coaches, to cut another $1.9 million from its budget. The 28 coaches work with teachers on their classroom techniques. Associate Superintendent Richard Odegaard said the extra training they provide is one reason the district's students are meeting No Child Left Behind's test score targets.

"Getting rid of the coaches – that's like eating your seed corn," he said. "They're part of the reason we've had success."
Meanwhile Natomas has been more innovative. They have trimmed their budget without laying off any teachers. First they postponed opening their new middle school, saving $1.2 million.

But the more interesting thing they are doing is improving the food they offer in hopes that more kids will buy lunch at school, thus reducing the amount of money needed by the district to keep the cafeteria afloat.
Natomas is also trying to save money on school lunches by improving the food it offers at its high schools. The hope is that with tastier choices, more kids will buy lunch and offset the money the district now spends to keep cafeterias afloat. The district is looking at opening Mexican or Italian food stations at Natomas High.

"More students will simply buy lunch," said Superintendent Steve Farrar. "We're hoping (they) will not bring lunch from home."
Tough times for all, but as we see Davis is not unique in this regard.

Cuts and fundraising work in the short term. Districts like Davis might be able to raise taxes to continue to provide high level of services, but the state really needs to look more closely at means by which they can divorce funding from the ebbs and flows of the economy. And they need to find a way to allow districts more easily to raise local revenues.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

A look at the 4th Supervisorial Race

The Sacramento Bee this morning ran their graphic again, this time for the Yolo County Supervisor races. The three questions they asked did not produce the kind of neat disparity that the Davis City Council election questions did earlier this month.

All three candidates want to protect agricultural land while looking to find businesses that support a farm economy. There is a bit more diversity of opinions on the issue of city-county relations. John Ferrera wants to form a "cooperative long-term plan." Cathy Kennedy wants to form a "commission of representatives" from all cities. Jim Provenza looks first at the right of cities to plan their own growth and development. Finally the issue of water rights comes up. Here Cathy Kennedy has the strongest statement where she wants to enforce the ordinance that forbids exporting ground water out of the county instead of the current proposal for well regulation. Whereas both Ferrera and Provenza talk in more general terms about the need for conservation.

Click here to read the graphic from the Sacramento Bee

Recall last fall the Vanguard was able to interview both Ferrera and Provenza. At that time, Cathy Kennedy was not in the race.

Click here to read Ferrera's interview

Click here to read Provenza's interview

This Thursday, the League of Women Voters is putting on the first candidate's forum, it takes place at 7 PM at the Davis Community Chambers.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, May 26, 2008

Lawn Signs Redux: Supersized Sign Posted by Property Owner

In Friday's Davis Enterprise, it was reported that a group calling itself Delta Breeze had raised $1500 in support of an independent expenditure campaign. The expenditures were for a number of banners and T-shirts such as the one depicted above.

This banner was found at the corner of F and 8th Street in front of an apartment complex.

According to the city's municipal code:
"(1) No sign on residential property including single-family, duplex, multi-family, and apartments shall exceed six (6) square feet."
As one can see from the scale, the sign easily surpasses the legal size limit allowed by city statute.

Tom Cross, owner of Star-Cross Properties and director of Delta Breeze (apparently) sent out an email to all six of the city council candidates in advance of the expenditure.

The Enterprise on Friday reported on the donors to the Independent Expenditure Committee:
"The other committee, called The Delta Breeze, has raised $1,500 and spent $1,300 on T-shirts and banners, according to the filing. The committee received $100 donations from Rochelle Swanson, Alice Belenis, Jim Belenis, Anthony Eggert, Gregg Herrington, Charlie Swanson, Mike Levy, Fast Aid Franchise Corp ($200), Don Fouts, Tom Cross, Randolph Yackzan, Stephanie Cross, Ted Puntillo and Jay Gerber."
Two of the more interesting ones are Anthony Eggert, who is the boyfriend of Sydney Vergis and works on her campaign. Last week he stood in for her at a candidate's debate. Also you have Randy Yackzan, one of the owners of the Northwest Quadrant.

Tom Cross helped spearhead the efforts against the renter's rights ordinance that was eventually passed in January to enable renters to be able to put up political signs of their choice on their rental units. He was trying to delay implementation of the ordinance until after the February 5, 2008 primary election.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Letters to the Editor

The Vanguard is always willing to print letters to the editor. They should be submitted here. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflects those of the Vanguard.
Voter recommendations and NO on Prop 98

Please vote for Mike Thompson for Congress, Lois Wolk for State Senate and Christopher Cabaldon for the Assembly. These are truly people of integrity with a strong record of protecting our environment. We are indeed fortunate that they have chosen public service.

Join the Sierra Club, Audubon California, senior groups, League of California Cities, Western Growers Association, American Farmland Trust, Senators Feinstein and Boxer, Governor Schwarzenegger and many others and vote NO on Proposition 98. This is another disguised special interest agenda to circumvent laws that protect our environment. For complete information on this special interest power grab look at

Bob Schneider
Davis, CA

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Commentary: Outsider Money Throws Wrench in 8th Assembly Race

A month ago, if you would have asked me, it was a simple calculation as to who would win the 8th Assembly District. West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon had more money, more endorsements, a bigger campaign team, and had been saturating the district for weeks with literature both from himself and his surrogates. But that simple calculation has been turned on its head the last month.

The Sacramento Bee reports this morning that independent groups have raised nearly $1.2 million for Cabaldon and Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada. And contrary to previous reportings, the amount of money between the two sides is becoming more and more equitable. $640,000 in IEs for Cabaldon while Yamada has attracted $540,000. Compared to previous numbers or to direct contributions and that is almost even.

Both sides have drawn criticism. The Cabaldon campaign has been criticized for a carpet bombing campaign. The Yamada campaign for going overly negative on seemingly minor issues such as parking tickets.

Yamada defenders have suggested that this is her only recourse, since they are nearly identical on the issues. However, Yamada is well known in Davis circles having serving five years as County Supervisor, for most of the rest of the district, she is just now introducing herself. While these are IEs, each attack initiated with the campaign itself.

For instance the day that Cabaldon's car was booted, the Yamada campaign sent out a press release. The picture of the booted car on front of campaign brochures was taken by Campaign Manager Brian Micek himself.

At the time, Mr. Micek told the press that he "couldn't believe his luck."

He went further:
"This is evidence that Mr. Cabaldon feels he doesn't have to play by the same rules the rest of us do."
The Bee covers the issue this morning:
"The campaign took an odd twist with disclosures that Cabaldon's car had been booted for failure to pay $567 in parking tickets and that he was eight months late in paying a $195 boat tax.

"Let's just say I believe it's important for leaders to follow the rules, as long as the rules are equally applied and are fair," Yamada said.

Cabaldon dismissed the delinquencies as gaffes made during a hectic time when he was juggling a full-time job, a campaign and West Sacramento city business.

Cabaldon said campaigns should be more than "gotcha games over issues that make no difference whatsoever in our fulfillment of the public trust.""
Last year, the candidates met for a debate sponsored by the Northern Solano Democratic Club, at that time Mariko Yamada pledge to run a clean race without attacks. A year later at the same venue, Yamada was bringing up these "character" issues.

Are these candidates close on the issues? Yes and no. A mere examination of who is backing whom reveals that there is a big difference in emphasis.

The Bee writes:
"But they don't always agree:

• Exit exam: Cabaldon supports it, while Yamada wants other yardsticks also to be used in awarding high school diplomas.

• Budget vote: Both support dropping the requirement that state budgets be passed by a two-thirds vote of each legislative house. Cabaldon supports a simple majority, Yamada a threshold of 55 percent to 60 percent.

• Peripheral canal: Cabaldon opposes it, while Yamada said more study is needed on Delta, water and other issues."
However, the bigger story lies below it:
"The California Teachers Association opposes Cabaldon because of his ties to EdVoice, a big supporter of charter schools. Cabaldon has butted heads with labor groups in years past on community college issues, by opposing a proposed West Sacramento casino, and by supporting a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Wal-Mart's founding family has been a major EdVoice donor."
However at the end of the day, should we not be more interested in the following:
"Cabaldon's priorities include regional transportation, including improvements on the congested Interstate 80 corridor, hourly train service, revival of the Benicia ferry and completion of a regional bikeway from Sacramento to Solano County.

Yamada supports more social workers in schools, wider use of camera technology to deter crime, improved food labeling, long-range planning for a health pandemic, and better integration of health, mental health, housing and other services."
That is really what these candidates are--Cabaldon a strong supporter of a variety of regional issues, Yamada a strong advocate of social issues.

Then there is the issue of growth which was inserted back into the race by the Working Families for Progressive Leadership group on behalf of Yamada.

They quote former Fairfield Mayor and purported "slow growth leader."
"I'm supporting Mariko Yamada for State Assembly. Mariko is someone I trust to stand with you and me against big developers' interests. On issues I care deeply about--more open space and smart growth--Mariko will fight to preserve the quality of life that residents of Yolo and Solano counties currently enjoy. I feel confident Mariko has the integrity to do the best job."
This comes less than a year after Yamada was carrying the water of not one but three peripheral projects on the edge of Davis. Projects led by the definition of "big developers'." Projects so big even people like Don Saylor opposed them.

It is an appalling misrepresentation of the course of recent history where Mariko Yamada and her colleagues proposed projects on Davis' city edge and people in Davis were talking recall.

Regardless of the facts at hand however, the dynamics of this race has shifted dramatically in the last few weeks, muddying the waters severely. I still think Cabaldon has an edge, but he is no longer a foregone conclusion.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting