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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Enterprise Runs Sheriff Prieto Letter on Prop 6

Just over two weeks ago, we had a story on California's Proposition 6. Part of that story had to do with the fact that a letter to the editor appeared in the Woodland Daily Democrat from Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto.

It turned out that that same letter appeared in numerous newspapers across the state, each having the respective County Sheriff as the author.

Sheriff Prieto writes:
"Whether California faces rosy or gloomy times, we must always make public safety the number one priority. If our streets, parks and schools aren't safe from gang violence and other crimes, then nothing else really matters."
He goes on to argue:
"Democratic members of the Budget Conference Committee have approved deep cuts to public safety programs including the Citizens Option for Public Safety, which provides for front-line law enforcement, and the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act while altogether eliminating several vital programs such as California's Methamphetamine Interdiction Program and the Small and Rural County Sheriffs Grant Program. Combined with a proposed corrections package that puts some offenders back out on the streets without supervision, these cuts will significantly exacerbate the ability of law enforcement to provide essential public safety services. These programs are critical in preventing our most at-risk youths from joining gangs, getting involved in drugs, and entering a lifetime of crime."
What else does this law do according to Sheriff Prieto:
"In addition to protecting important gang prevention and intervention funding, this initiative prohibits bail to illegal aliens who are charged with violent or gang crimes; it creates tougher punishment for gang crimes, drive-by shootings, methamphetamine distribution and victim intimidation; it helps victims who have been intimidated by gang criminals and it funds victim-witness protection programs in our communities."
Finally he gives you the link to a place where you can get more information: .

I point this out once again because there in yesterday's Davis Enterprise was the same letter bearing the signature of Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto.

Now when Woodland Daily Democrat editor Jim Smith found out about this little scheme, he was not that happy.

The Woodland Journal Blog was the first to point this out.

We followed up with an article that detailed the proposition itself along with the Sheriff's comments on August 14, 2008.

On August 15, Jim Smith put a blurb in his editorial.
Last week, The Democrat published a letter to the editor allegedly written by Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto, titled "Our communities suffer the most from public safety cuts."

I write "allegedly" today, because an alert reader noted at the local Woodland Journal blog site that the letter was the same as others sent to newspapers across the state, some of which also published the letter atop the names of county sheriffs.

Some of those sheriffs named were Tom Bosenko of Shasta County, and Dean Wilson of Del Norte County.

First, my congratulations to an alert reader. I urge anyone who spots these letters - which are called "Astroturf" - to let us know.

It turns out the letter was submitted en masse by the "Yes on Prop. 6" Committee to sheriffs throughout the state.

Yolo Sheriff Ed Prieto is listed as a backer of the "Yes on Prop. 6" measure.

I understand very well why some otherwise well-educated people submit letters that have in fact been written by someone else. Sometimes, people have trouble putting their thoughts together to form a cogent explanation about why they feel the way they do on a particular issue. Sometimes, the letter provided is just so much better written. Sometimes, there's too much going on at the time to permit a person time to sit down and put his own thoughts on paper.

In any respect, now that we know Sheriff Prieto is a backer of Prop. 6 and will put his name on something he didn't write, we will be on our guard against future letters from him. It's not that we don't trust our sheriff to submit original commentary, we just don't know when his submissions will be original commentary.
Given the reaction of Jim Smith, it will be interesting to see how Davis Enterprise Editor Debbie Davis reacts.

Law enforcement groups have support proposition 6, but there is a long and growing list of opponents as well.

Some of the opposition to Proposition 6 includes the California Democratic Party, the California Professional Firefighters, the California Labor Federation, former Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks, the California Teachers Association, California National Organization for Women, the Los Angeles City Council, the League of Women Voters, California Church IMPACT and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. [Click here for a full list of opposition]

The ACLU has come out against the proposition as well. They say:
"This dangerous initiative would deepen the budget crisis by diverting billions of dollars annually from schools, hospitals, and violence prevention programs into the criminal justice system. It is a misguided effort to incarcerate more and more people, including youth."
Meanwhile in a stroke of deep irony, one of the major sponsors and backers of Proposition 6, Henry Nicholas III was indicted on 21 charges in June.

This is from an ACLU release:
"Billionaire Henry Nicholas III, who donated millions to get two crime-related initiatives on the November ballot, was arraigned on June 16, 2008, on an 18-page, 21-count indictment that includes charges of supplying prostitutes to big-ticket customers, drug use and trafficking, conspiracy, security fraud and making death threats. Nicholas donated a combined total of $5.9 million of critical seed money to Senator George Runner (R-Antelope Valley) and Assemblymember Todd Spitzer (R-Orange) for their "tough-on-crime" initiatives.

The media storm has forced both campaigns to distance themselves from Nicholas, who has resigned his active role in both campaigns. While Assemblyman Spitzer has committed not to spend any of the remaining $2 million their campaign has raised from Nicholas, it was the crucial seed money donated by Nicholas that helped to put both initiatives on the ballot."
That is what you might call irony, I hope he gets as tough on himself as he wanted to on other criminals.

Stephen Walker, a CEO of a group called Minorities in Law Enforcement wrote this:
"We understand Senator Runner's goal of trying to address the gang issue. Unfortunately, this measure takes a reactionary approach and does not effectively address the root concerns of the problem. The nature of which the bill was written fails to illustrate how it would actually make our neighborhoods safer. However, it does illustrate how to further overwhelm a prison system that is largely occupied with African American and Latino males by imposing sentence enhancements and targeting these particular demographics. This is especially inconsistent when our state's Governor has recently proposed a 22,000 prisoner early release to ease the states massive overcrowding challenges."
According to the California Federation of Teachers:
"The Runner Initiative directs billions of tax dollars to prisons, probation, and police (one billion dollars in the first year, and half a billion per year thereafter; plus additional unfunded mandates that local and county governments will be forced to pay)..."
Congresswoman Barbara Lee:
"The Runner Initiative's name on the November ballot is as misleading as what it proposes to do for our community. The so-called "Safe Neighborhood Act" will not lead to safer streets, less crime or a reduction in drug dealing in our community. While we all want our communities to be free of crime and safer for our families, the Runner Initiative doesn't address the core problems or create real solutions. In light of the current California budget crisis, we cannot afford to irresponsibly spend even more California tax-dollars on a failed policy of only funding prisons and criminalizing youth; we must make investments that prevent crime, in our communities where the impact is the greatest. We should be set our sights on finding creative ways to stabilize the economy, provide our children with educational centers of excellence and insist on equal access to the jobs marketplace."
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums:
"Everyone wants safe communities. Bringing peace to urban America is perhaps the most difficult and profound challenge facing the country today. However, in this time of crisis, the Runner Initiative is the worst kind of public policy. It plays on our deepest emotions but sets us up for failure. The Runner Initiative is an unfunded mandate that will gut California's budget. It won't result in safety and security. Instead it will leave us in more debt with less safety and stability than ever before."
As I wrote on August 14, 2008, this law seems to have much in the way of unintended consequences that will end up costing the state far more than the initial money upfront.

It seems like this imposes a lot of new rules on the criminal justice system that need to be clearly thought out in terms of their consequences. Voters will often vote for these measures because they want to be tough on crime. This one has a chance to fail because of the economic issues, but frankly some of the provisions could have startlingly unintended consequences.

It seems that the Sheriff's want the additional resources and I cannot blame them for that. But if it comes at the expense of beleaguered schools, it seems to me that we will just be feeding into the problem of law enforcement in the future by taking money from present education.

So for that reason alone, I am voting against it. And I am alarmed at a number of the provisions in the law. I am saddened to see the Sheriff, one of the very few Democratic Sheriffs in California joining his Republican colleagues and supporting such a measure just to get additional funding.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Vanguard Coverage of the DNC: Night Four

The Vanguard is primarily a blog that covers local politics and local government issues. However, there is no denying the fact that much of the world will be focused on the Democratic National Convention next week. So we have asked Don Gibson, a UC Davis Student who is President of College Democrats and an elected Hillary Clinton Delegate to the Democratic National Convention to write about his experiences at the Democratic Convention in Denver, Colorado.

by Don Gibson

The reason for the late post, I am still coming down from the moon which Obama's speech. This flight is the first free time today from running around to the airport and the after speech celebrations. Blogging from 20,000 feet in the air is a first for me.

To put is simply, it was one of if not the best moment of my life. Being in that stadium, 10 rows away from the next President of the United States, sitting next to the state Democratic leadership, and toping all the energy off with fireworks is hard to even begin to write about.

I was living history. The 80,000 fellow people citizens in the stands and the 4,000 delegates were overcome with a feeling of hope that our nation's problems might be fixed for once in the last decade. The feeling that this man is a true leader came over me and all of my fellow Clinton delegates. We are now in love with Obama. It was everything we expected and more. He helped rally all of us to not only vote but campaign for him this election season.

Obama finally did the bio speech that laid out his upbringing. His family, growing up on government programs such as the GI Bill and food stamps, helped bring him where he is today. He moved to relate his experience with every American. He was packaging himself of those always courted swing voters with his background of strong values and upbringing.

Then he slammed McCain's positions. Telling McCain that he needs to actually go after Osama in Afghanistan as opposed to keeping troops in Iraq; helped alarm voters who think that McCain will keep the people safe. These attacks need to be done and many of us are happy that it is happening. It is scary that a man that actually wants to continue the policies of the Bush Administration has a decent chance of actually winning the White House. The 90% voting record with Bush is what should be in the minds of every undecided voter and ask them whether that judgment is the right leader we need.

Obama staid on message like always while going into policy during the speech which I have though is something he needs to do. Obama will lower taxes for 95% of Americans while McCain will keep Bush's tax cuts which he himself voted against twice. John McCain more of the same and Obama will bring change is the theme of this election. It maybe sticking because John Kerry did not have those slogans everyone knew and he lost.

The standing ovation after Obama's speech had such energy from the floor that I wish they could win an election just by a cheering crowd. Although there weren't any balloons (my only disappointment of the entire convention) the fireworks made everyone go crazy. It even caught Michelle Obama off guard but seeing she jump once the big ones went off. The fireworks were the icing on the cake that made a historical moment end of a bang.

The stadium had acted as if the Broncos were on the goal line, 4th down with 5 seconds left on the clock to score the winning touchdown.

I have yet to hear from a fellow delegate on the floor who was not touched or inspired to work for this man.

Outside after the speech was all over that close to 100,000 people jumped onto the buses and light rail. No one really cared that it took up to three hours in my case to catch a bus. We were in a state of awe and wonder.

Saying that Obama overshadowed all speakers would be true a huge understatement. We had over a dozen retired US Generals come out and tell McCain he has the wrong policy on the war while Obama wants to get the terrorist where they actually are. These people would make for great surrogates. Then the average Americans came out, many of them claiming to be former republicans gave McCain a strong attack that is hard to refute.

The only one who came close to clearing the way was Al Gore's speech. Not allowing our country be destroyed by climate change and owning up to our responsibility for future generations. Thank you Al Gore for speaking to your issue! I want to not have killer heat waves and Napa wine to still be good in 50 years. To think, that he was only 500 votes away from wining the presidency, that amount of campaign work can be done with a few people devoting their weekend to knock on doors or call. The would could have completely changed if my friends and I went out and campaigned. This is why I am in politics. Watching MSNBC or CNN or Fox News all day is fun and all but if you are angry at the current path of our nation, then go and do something about it. I feel bad for the people who say my vote doesn't count. Luckily young people no longer think that. Many of us remember Florida and almost no one my age likes Bush. The young voters, if targeted and reached out by campaigns will not only campaign but vote in a block two-thirds for Democrats.

Being a delegate provides such a status level that I had no clue about it until being there. It does not mean I will change any policy but I did cast one of the votes that was the deciding way in choosing the next nominee for the Democratic Party.

This is why I am proud to be a Democrat. They offer the ability for young activist who can register thousands of voters and change elections, the ability to directly shape the future of our nation. I do not know if the Republicans have 11% of their delegates under the age of 30 but we are representative of all members of the party, not just county chairs.

Thanks to DPD for allowing me to post this even though I may have been out too late parting.

Friday, August 29, 2008

My Thoughts on The Democratic Convention: Where the Democrats Have the Advantage

Don Gibson at some point will come down from the moon and hopefully describe what it was like to be part of history. If there is perhaps an inkling of disappointment in the convention, and really inkling may be too strong a word, it is that the Democrats ran from any notion of race as though it were a hand grenade. Here the first black man stood before this nation and accepted a major party's nomination and there were was hardly a direct reference to it from the dais. Hillary Clinton gave us all chills when she talked about the glass ceiling and the 18 million cracks that were exploded into it. Heck the reference gives me chills while writing it.

The pundits will tell you all about the rift between the Clintons and Obama and how personal it is. What they will forget to mention to you is that the Clintons are professionals first and people at best a distant third. But I do not want to talk about that either. To me the turning point in this convention came before Hillary Clinton ever uttered a word, a it came with some of the early speakers on Tuesday and continued through the keynote address by Mark Warner.

Reviews on Mark Warner's speech were rather mixed, some liked it, some didn't. For me, it was a great speech and it was followed up with an even better one by Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. The Montana Governor presented an image that has been missing from recent conventions--he came looking like a rancher. No airs, nothing complex. And yet there he was with a strong populist message. Here this rancher-looking-guy stood up an talked about economic opportunity, attacked the Bush administration, and talked about energy efficiency. Who'd have guessed it. Both speakers were outstanding, they showed off new blood for the Democrats, and they returned us to the Democratic party's blue collar roots.

Yet in the coming months, I think a key is a theme that has been building on the homefront for a long time with very little discussion at times from official Washington. The notion of energy efficiency and green technology as the wave of the future. This is a theme that could have been right out of the Davis City Council election and yet could be the key to the White House come this fall.

Back to Warner, there was a moment in his speech when he gave me chills. He said:

"in just four months, we will have an administration that actually believes in science. And we can again lead the world in live-saving and life-changing cures."

How true this is. He is of course referencing stem-cell research, but really we could be talking about global warming, evolution, and most profoundly, science education. How can we compete with the rest of the world in science education, teaching our young people, if we have leaders who do not believe in it. Think about how profound that statement is. Bush does not believe in science. He does not believe the scientific data about global warming, does not want science to explore stem cell research, he does not believe in evolution even. What kind of country in this world has leadership who do not accept the basic tenets of science? No wonder we are falling behind the world not only education but in new technologies.

Speaking of which, that leads me to my main theme and the key advantage I think Democrats have in the fall, if they are willing to utilize it. Let us go back to 1994. In and really following 1994, the Republicans were the party of new ideas. They were innovators as they looked for new ways to do things in order to devolve away from a reliance on government. You can disagree with their ultimate solutions but there is no doubt that really from 1994 until 2004, the Republicans in the war of ideas had Democrats on the defense. Democrats were defending and trying to conserve past programs, many of which frankly had failed. And it was a fatal mistake to defend poorly constructed and failing programs. When Democrats did head off impending doom it was by mimicking the Republicans, for example President Clinton's belated support of welfare reform that really didn't so much reform welfare as it made it hard for people to get any sort of public assistance.

However, emerging from the threat of global warming, you see a new innovation on the part of liberals. And I say liberal rather than Democrat here because it is really coming out of local governance the notion of energy efficiency and green technology.

It was great on Tuesday to hear this become a theme of the convention, because one does not hear it enough on the national front. But this is a savior not only for our planet but for liberals and Democrats everywhere. You see, the environment was often a concern for the public, but it was a dangerous issue for Democrats. They could easily be painted as anti-business for pushing strong environmental agendas that were forward thinking to encompass issues like global warming. You can play on people's fears if you can make them believe that regulations means losses in jobs. And sometimes they did mean losses in jobs. Sometimes it was necessary to lose jobs such as cutbacks in the clear cutting of old growth redwood forests in Northwest California.

However, the great thing about the new wave of environmentalism is that if you do it right it creates jobs--good high paying, high tech jobs. Good innovative jobs. And it creates them at a number of levels. Smart building design means jobs for contractors, engineers, and archetects, plus more construction jobs. More fuel efficiency means innovative jobs at developing new technologies. Green technology means research and development, construction, and other sorts of jobs.

The other great linkage was between green technology and American jobs. Linking environmentalism to the movement against the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs overseas. And also against the loss of research and development to other countries. This is crucial because once again you can tie the smart green revolution to populist and blue collar themes. Now environmentalism is not just for liberal college educated elites, it means new manufacturing jobs for the working class.

The best part is that it is difficult to assail the position. One cannot assail the green technology development by arguing that it losses jobs or hurts the economy. It is not a nebulus term like carbon credits that the average voter cannot understand. Instead it is a concrete concept that everyone can understand--the building of new and more efficient cars, homes, and electronics--is something everyone can understand and everyone can support.

How hard can the Democrats push this as a way to create new American jobs that will improve the economy? That is a key question. But a crucial one. Republicans took some of the gas debate away from the Democrats by pushing for the simplistic off-shore drilling as a solution.

I do not think the Democrats argued the point well enough, though it was mentioned. Off-shore drilling is a poor solution. First, it will make zero immediate impact on gas prices. It will take a long time to re-develop the supply from off-shore drilling. It will not add a large amount of new oil into the market and will not do it quickly. Finally from a longterm standpoint, it is the opposite of what we need to do. We need to move away from oil as the chief energy source. In short, Democrats have somewhat ceded a debate on a policy that has no upside in the immediate term view or the long term view.

What the green technology wave shows us is the really for the first time in a well over a decade the innovators, the party with new ideas, are the Democrats. It may take time for Democrats to fully exploit this advantage, but it is a sign of things to come.

How this race plays out is anyone's guess. The Democrats have the issues in this election to win, they ran a very good if not altogether perfect convention, but the McCain campaign seems more nimble and more dogged. Who will win--stay tuned and we will find out.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vanguard Coverage of the DNC: Night Three

And Barack Obama is officially the Democratic nominee for the Democratic Party of the United States of America. Hillary Clinton and the New York delegation proudly asked to nominate Obama by acclamation after half of the states have placed their votes. Today was a great sign that no one in leadership is bitter. Hillary initiated the vote for Obama.

I did vote for Senator Clinton because I was elected by my fellow supporters to vote for her. It was not easy for me to choose. Many other pledged delegates for Clinton ended up voting for Obama. I did not vote in the convention hall but in the registration desk during breakfast.

Behind the scenes there were a few mistakes in the votes. Arkansas which voted for Hillary around 70% placed all of their votes unanimously for Obama. But at least 3 delegates voted for Hillary. California, after the grandiose speech about how great the state is, the party chair, was forced to pass as opposed to voting. Apparently they wanted to get all of the votes in before they placed their mark down.

John Kerry, that boring senator from New England was not there; the candidate that everyone wanted him to be in 2004 came out and tore into John McCain. Kerry's theme was McCain has a reckless foreign policy which will further needlessly harm our troops. If John McCain got elected I am generally fearful that wars with other nations will continue.

Candidate McCain, the new label for McCain, is what is being driven home. With retired generals coming out strong for Obama, it shows that the wanna-be general McCain would lead us down the wrong path. A shocking scene was with Major Duckworth who was shot down in her helicopter gave a powerful and moving speech about Obama's supporting our troops when they are home. It really came full circle when she walked away from the podium showing her two prosthetic legs.

There is no question that party unity is getting done here. Bill Clinton's style of capturing everyone's attention the room and holding it for 20 minutes was at its best that night. He had three minutes of a standing ovation from the crowd as he walked in. This beat Hillary's two minutes of applause. Worries that Bill Clinton's image is tarnished do not seem to hold true because of the delegates going wild when he spoke. He told the arena to "please stop it, please sit down" but all of us would not listen.

Bill Clinton reminded us why we are all in love with him with his speech. With a crowd going crazy, his speech was filled with moments where the crowd would have cheered for minutes straight. He was filled with quotable moments such as "I am here, first, to support Barack Obama" and "the Republicans said I was too young and too inexperienced to be Commander in Chief. Sound familiar?"

Too bad he could not have been elected for a third term.

Biden's cheering entrance helped show that everyone is onboard with this experienced man. Biden as common with most vice presidential candidates is the attack dog and Biden shined at it. He talked pocket book issues that affect every American. The new theme will be "Barack Obama was right, John McCain was wrong" This will resonate with everyone because of the Iraq War and McCain denouncing his legislation that he drafted himself. Democrats will throw back right at McCain changed his policy. It is sad that the "Maverick" has completely changed the policy once that he started running for president. He now votes around 90% of the time with Bush and we all seen where that has taken our nation. Attacks on McCain are beginning to get harsh against him and will ramp up continuously. But we all know that the attacks on Obama will be even harsher because they know that it is one of the few ways that they could win. People maybe are tired of the personal attacks but they have proven to work.

The main stream media did not find the conflict that they were looking for. Out of those PUMA's in the crowd, the media will only interview the one or two in the entire California delegation of 441 delegates who feel that way. I did not see any actions today beyond interviews here and there today. Hillary clearly calmed the radicals down.

On other convention activities, Ariana Huffington spoke to New Democrats Network (NDN) about the new media such as blogs and her online site. I have come to realize through her speech and the way I have been seeing the cameras focus on that 1% that the main stream media has lost its way. It should be about finding the truth not both sides of the story. It is not through the left side of the argument and the right side of the argument that reality is always found in the middle. Sometimes one side is so wrong, they do not even deserve airtime, such as 9-11 conspiracy theorists to one extreme and global warming deniers on the lesser extreme.

Before I forget the California delegation party was at this great museum in Denver where I got to meet CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen !

County Proposes Site Locations for Reentry Facility

In a release yesterday afternoon, Yolo County announced that at a September 9 meeting, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors will consider three potential ites for a secure community reentry facility.

The potential sites include an industrial/commercial park east of the community of Madison (County Road 90 and State Route 16), a proposed industrial/commercial park southeast of the Esparto community (County Road 86a and State Route 16) and a site at the Yolo County Airport in the West Plainfield area (County Road 95).

According to the release:
"On March 18, Yolo County submitted a proposal to the state for funding for expansion of the county’s existing jail which included agreeing to assist the state in siting a reentry facility. Included in the proposal was the offer of a site located next to the jail facility, however this location was rejected as it was deemed by the state to be too small. The county was notified by the Corrections Standards Authority on May 15 that it had received a conditional award of $30 million for jail expansion pending the siting of a reentry facility in Yolo County. Since then, the county has been working with the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation to identify additional potential sites by the state’s deadline of August 15 (which has now been extended to September 16). Using criteria set forth by the state, county staff identified more than 100 parcels throughout the county that could meet the criteria for the reentry facility.

Initially, a number of locations were identified in the northern portion of the county, primarily along County Roads 14 and 85, south of the Dunnigan community. After additional on-site reviews, the state reconsidered the feasibility of these locations and indicated their preference for other sites better suited for the state’s needs. The sites being considered on September 9 appear to meet the state’s criteria and have already been identified for industrial/commercial development. These sites require considerable additional analysis and review before the state makes its final preferred selection.

Inmates in state prison are sent back into the community in which they lived prior to incarceration with $200 and a bus ticket. They are released with little to no job training, substance abuse treatment or any other skills or tools that might prevent new crimes and a quick return to prison. Reentry facilities can provide the critical tools to stop that revolving door. These tools include: job training, life and job-seeking skills, and medical, mental health and addiction treatment prior to release. Secure reentry facilities are key to breaking the cycle of crime and repeating criminal activity in California. Once fully integrated into the corrections system, these programs are expected to increase success on parole, increase public safety by reducing the incidence of new crimes by these individuals, and reduce overcrowding in state prisons. Reentry facilities throughout the state will be built and operated by the state."
While the issue has barely been a blip on the radar for people in Davis, it has created a firestorm up in the Dunnigan and Zamora area where the county has focused its energy.

Supervisor Matt Rexroad at one point recommended to the city of Woodland that they take on the project, however, they did not follow through on his recommendations.

Under the provisions of AB 900, cities like Woodland, Davis, Winters, or West Sacramento have veto power over proposed locations for reentry facilities. That has made rural and unincorporated locations like Dunnigan and Zamora, on the crossroad of I-5 and I-580 inviting and vulnerable targets.

Last week, Supervisor Rexroad suggested that the residents of Davis should step up on some of these projects.
"Most of you folks that read this are from Davis. Some of you are questioning why this project should not be located in Woodland. That is a fair question.

Another fair question is when the people of Davis are going to step up to the plate to provide land use that facilitates social services?"
He continued:
"I hear many of you claiming that you desire social services to be provided -- just not in Davis. That part is left out. Somewhere else in Yolo County would be fine.

The largest piece of industrial zoned property in the unincorporated part of Yolo County is Covell Village. How about that location?

The re-entry facility is something that we are going to work through over the coming weeks and even years.

My question for you is -- what land is Davis going to set aside for some of these things?


It seems funny to me that for all the social programs that the people that read this blog are likely to advocate for -- the use of land in your precious city never seems to be part of the message."
However, the issue has also been one of controversy in his own family. Supervisor Rexroad's father, himself a resident of the Dunnigan and Zamora area, has been outspoken in his opposition to the project.

On August 19, 2008 Jack Rexroad, the father of the Supervisor, wrote a letter to the Davis Enterprise.

In it, he argues that the reentry facility should be placed in an urban area
"because this is where the infrastructure is and where the parolees originated from and where they presumably will have families, lodging and other connections and gravitate to on release. In Yolo County they come primarily from Woodland, Davis and West Sacramento."
He continues:
"If none of these sites of origin will accept responsibility for their citizens, the whole concept of "re-entry" should be dropped. Transferring this unwanted "child" to a rural setting is tantamount to shirking responsibility and abandoning a pet animal in the country. We in the rural areas do not want what you produced and now don't want to deal with."
He concludes suggesting:
"Make no mistake; siting this prison in a rural area will not insulate Woodland, Davis or West Sacramento from the undesirable effects of a future penal colony. After all, where will the prisoner's families and friends live — in a tent city around the prison? My guess is in the cities where almost everyone else lives.

Do you think it's worth the risk? Tell your county supervisors."
From my perspective however, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that the unincorporated areas simply do not have the municipal protections that are afforded cities. However, from the standpoint of fiscal need and receiving $30 million of $42 million it will require to expand the Yolo County Jail--an expansion that will occur regardless. And from the standpoint of the project being a worthwhile endeavor even without the fiscal strings attached, this is a project that we must undertake as a county.

Where that project goes, I think is a secondary point. On that point, I can sympathize with the rural citizens who will have very little say over where such a project goes. On the other hand, from a practical standpoint, there is very little evidence that such a project would harm housing values. In fact, it might even augment them by putting good paying jobs in the area. Moreover, there hardly seems to be a safety issue either.

So while I can sympathize with the rural residents, I hardly think the issue is worth the alarm it is causing. From details of the project, it seems that the plan is for the design to be consistent with an urban industrial land use setting.

Here is the thing that gets me about Zamora and Dunnigan, they have pushed the Board of Supervisors to allow for the expansion of their "city" to within 20 years becoming around a city of a population of 25,000. They have no problem with such expansion of housing. But they do not want to bring in 300 jobs? They do not want to bring in something that would be an anchor for their community as it grows?

To me, these objections, the empowerment issue notwithstanding, really amount to NIMBYISM. They have no problem with development, with growth, with wholesale changes to their community, but they do not want a prison reentry facility in their backyard.

This does not dismiss legitimate issues that may arise here, but at the end of the day, it looks like they are probably going to be stuck with it. Hopefully at some point Jack Rexroad will forgive his son and the people of Dunnigan realize that the real impact will be the construction of 12,000 new housing units.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Burning Issue For Our Community

Programming note: Join the Vanguard tonight on KDRT 101.5 FM from 6 pm to 7 pm, as I host Alan Pryor who is one of the leaders in the fight to ban wood burning. You can call in with questions at 792-1648.

On July 29, 2008, the Davis City Council unanimously voted to recommend to the Natural Resources Commission to draft a resolution that would implement a full ban on wood burning in Davis with an exemption for hardship.

I will say at the onset here, that I am fully in support of that decision, particularly with such an exemption for people of lower income backgrounds who rely on wood burning as a cheaper means by which to heat their homes in the winter.

However, at the time I was concerned about the way in which this issue had been dealt with by the city, the city council, and the local paper--or that is, not dealt. I got up to speak before city council on the night of July 29, 2008, to recommend two things. First, that we need exemptions for people with hardships. And second, that we needed better outreach before this meeting.

On the morning of July 29, I wrote this article in the Vanguard. It essentially lays out my position on the technical aspects of this issue. But I believe that for many in this community, they did not know this issue was even under consideration until that article appeared the Vanguard and subsequently an article in the Davis Enterprise on July 31, 2008.

Following that article, the dam broke loose, and there have been several op-eds in the Enterprise, numerous letters to the editor, and commentary by Bob Dunning.

This is all a healthy part of the democratic process, but this should have happened before the July 29, 2008 meeting. This is an issue that effects so many in our community on both sides of the fence. Large numbers of people have come forward to tell of their health problems that they suffer from wood burning smoke during the winter months. They came before the council on that evening to present their compelling cases, and it is my belief that the council was moved by those testimonies and it enabled them to take tougher action that they were probably prepared to do prior to the meeting.

Unfortunately, there is also a group of people in this community who feel strongly the other way, and their voices were not heard on that night.

In yesterday's Enterprise for example, George Galamba suggests what he terms a more measured approach:
It is too bad that we are unable to see shades of gray in the debate. Yes, burning wood (or gas, oil, coal, etc.) does produce smoke, and smoke is a pollutant. But there is a bit of difference between burning a branch that was blown down a few months ago in an open-hearth fireplace and burning seasoned wood in an EPA-certified stove.

Rather than a draconian ban on burning all wood, why not a measured response to the problem, which is not wood, but rather smoke? I would like to offer a few suggestions:

-- If it is not already the law, ban open-hearth fireplaces in new construction. Why put a fireplace in a house and then tell the new owners that they can't use it?

-- As properties change hands, require that fireplaces be retrofitted with approved appliances or bricked up.

-- Prohibit burning on days when the air is polluted.

-- Issue burning permits that would require attendance at a workshop on how to burn cleanly.
In many ways it was Thomas Cahill editorial on August 5, 2008 that lit the fire.

He writes:
"One of the greatest threats to effective environmental progress is asking the public to bear the cost of environmental actions that later turn out to be unnecessary or unsupported by current science. Such errors erode the political will to do the hard and necessary environmental tasks. Think of the current credibility of the FDA, for example, after it erroneously labeled tomatoes as the salmonella culprit.

Davis is in danger of sliding down this slippery slope in instituting a total ban on wood burning when the science is not supportive of such an action."
He argues that Davis during the winter months has low levels of Wood smoke and even during the severe problems during this summer, there were no notable increases in doctors' visits or hospital admissions.
"There are two problems. One is that the city of Davis' Natural Resources Commission did not have key documents that have actually determined the surprisingly low levels of wood smoke in Davis in winter, a 55-page report submitted to the City Council in March 15, 1995. This work shows that even in the worst stagnation periods, Davis represents a tiny enhancement over the valleywide winter particulate pollution, which is largely caused by diesels and smoking cars.

In addition, for the past month we have been breathing smoke from the much more dangerous wildfires at levels roughly 100 to 200 times what which we saw during our worst stagnation period, the cold, hazy day in Davis on Dec. 23, 1995.

Yet Glennah Trochet, M.D., Sacramento County's health officer, noted no increases in doctors' visits or hospital admissions from the present wood smoke even in the worst period of mid- to late June 2008."
On the other hand, perhaps that should not be the measure of such problems. Many people I know cranked their air conditioning up and simply stayed inside during the horrid smoke and incessant heat of the early portion of this summer.

Alan Pryor, who will be my guest tonight on KDRT, had a response Op-Ed on August 14, 2008.

Mr. Pryor argues that:
"Cahill made three claims that are unfortunately not substantiated by the older data he presented nor accepted by the larger scientific community."
He then refutes Mr. Cahill's objections.
"Firstly, Cahill implies that wood smoke is not as harmful as suspected or represented... In that article, a county health officer said they had not yet observed a local jump in hospital emergency admissions due to respiratory difficulties during the recent weeks of wildfire- induced wood smoke pollution. There was no data to support that observation and that was the only item in that article that could be possibly be construed to minimize the hazards of wood smoke pollution.

In fact, the actual thrust of that article was to warn people how dangerous were the then-current levels of wood smoke pollution levels and. Both Kent Pinkerton, a UC Davis professor and expert on the health effects of air pollutants, and Larry Greene, executive officer of the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, are extensively quoted in the same article, pointing out the severe adverse health effects of wood smoke. "
"Secondly, Cahill further claims his own research shows wood smoke concentrations are at "surprisingly low levels" in Davis and thus do not constitute a major pollution or health problem. This observation was based solely on a one-time measurement of air quality taken at only two different points in Davis on a single winter day about 13 years ago... The Yolo-Solano AQMD now estimates that, on average, about one-third of current wintertime particulate pollution in Davis is due to residential wood smoke. In Sacramento, the percentage of particulate air pollution due to residential wood - burning in winter is closer to 50 percent. "
"Cahill also claims we can solve any "residual" wood smoke problems that might exist simply by heeding the "more stringent" "Spare the Air" restrictions on wood - burning that are periodically issued by the Sacramento Air Quality Management District. Well, that certainly sounds like a reasonable idea.

Unfortunately, the Sacramento AQMD issued only eight mandatory alerts last winter for restricting open-hearth fireplaces and no alerts at all restricting the use of EPA Phase II stoves. That means that during the unrestricted 112 days of the 120-day burn season (from Nov. 1 through Feb. 28), anyone in Davis could still burn an open-hearth fireplace as long as they wanted, at any time and anywhere — even next to a school, hospital, senior center or the home of an asthmatic child or senior. Similarly, an EPA Phase II stove actually could operate without any restriction whatsoever."
The debate is interesting, informative, and necessary. I encourage people to read the full op-eds from August 5 and August 14, in addition to the feature article from Claire St. John that appeared last Thursday in the Davis Enterprise.

However, again, I want to go back a step. This debate should have occurred before the July 29, 2008 City Council meeting. That is not to say the ordinance that will emerge from the NRC will be a done deal any time soon. There will be plenty of time to debate, but it would have been helpful to have a full debate prior to the direction to the NRC.

It is easy for a city like Davis to meet the basic Brown Act requirements for open meetings. Posting notices with able lee-time are sufficient for those requirements. But as I said at the July 29 meeting, the Brown Act should be considered the bare minimum standard for public notification, not the extent to which they go to inform the public on issues that they know will generate public debate. And this was clearly an issue that would. The debate that has emerged in the last month bears out my concerns at that time.

The city, in my estimation, does not make use of its considerable power of the bully-pulpit. It is easy to sit back and rely on reporters to report on the City Council meetings. However, in fairness to the Enterprise, at best one receives the agenda on Thursday late afternoon, that leaves Friday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday to report on anything that has to do with the council's agenda. That is not a lot of time to warn the public and to have any sort of public debate. And so, we often see debates develop after the fact.

Fact of the matter is that the city can write its own story and submit it to the newspaper whenever it wants and the the newspaper is pretty accommodating. Heck, they could submit it to the Vanguard and nine times out of ten, I would probably run it as well.

I think it would have been helpful had the George Galamba's and the Thomas Cahill's of Davis had been able to weigh in on the meeting on July 29, perhaps the council would have given the same recommendation, perhaps not. But at least they would have had their say.

I know they will get their say later on in this process, that is the justification that you will hear for the way this has unfolded, but as I have discovered, the further down the field they run with the ball, the harder it is to stop forward progress. Once they get the ball in field goal range, it is all a matter of damage control.

The debate on this issue will fortunately go on, the public will learn much more about this issue before the final vote is taken, it seems likely that the final vote will be considerably weaker than the direction given in late July. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that this is a serious health issue.

In last week's Davis Enterprise article, Jennifer Anderson of Ace Hardware was quote, among other things she suggested that the city of Davis stay out of the issue.
"Anderson said the YSAQMD should be responsible for regulating wood burning.

'It would be my dream to just leave it to the Yolo Solano Air Quality realm and not bring it into local politics, because that's what they're there for,' she said."
As I understand the issue however, the YSAQMD sets emission standards, it does not regulate wood burning or set policy for the city. The local jurisdictions are in charge of setting such policies.

I point this out because these are issues that must be fully vetted in public and explained. What are the emissions requirements that the city has no control over and what policies are needed in order to meet those standards.

The next question is whether those standards are tough enough. Just like the Brown Act, emissions standards can be minimum requirements rather than limitations on regulations. They are often based as much on political expediency as they are on scientific premises. We need to sort through and determine whether we need to simply adhere to these standards or whether we as the city of Davis, need to set our own in order to meet the health needs of the population.

Regardless, these questions still need to be sorted out and the city has a duty to educate the public on this issue. If the city believes that wood burning represents a health threat, then they should use the power of the bully-pulpit to communicate that, rather than sit back and let those who like the comfort of burning dictate the terms of this debate.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Vanguard Coverage of the DNC: Night One and Night Two

The Vanguard is primarily a blog that covers local politics and local government issues. However, there is no denying the fact that much of the world will be focused on the Democratic National Convention next week. So we have asked Don Gibson, a UC Davis Student who is President of College Democrats and an elected Hillary Clinton Delegate to the Democratic National Convention to write about his experiences at the Democratic Convention in Denver, Colorado.

Please note: due to technical problems, we were unable to post yesterday's entry, so today we have Monday and Tuesday Night's coverage

Monday Night

Michelle Obama gave one of the best speeches I have ever seen. Her speech about her husband's values was an incredibly honest description of who is he. The best thing about the speech was her style of presenting it. She spoke in a perfect mixture of calmness shielding powerful emotion. The most fun part was when Obama came in over the television link and his kids came out. I am still in a state of amazement on how great that speech was. The only way I could compare it to my universe was like seeing the Oakland Raiders win the Super Bowl in person.

Yesterday's speeches were all about getting to know who Obama is. It is working and I have been learning so much about this man.

The tribute to Edward Kennedy was a historic speech. It is likely to be Kennedy's last convention speech and a powerful statement from him now and his past. Giving every American health care is a passion and Obama is the person who could lead the way in actually doing that. His words wring strong in his passion for public service and his great legislative successes.

Media from all over was at the Pepsi Center and Al Jazera was under a seat of my friend.

The significance of being a delegate is becoming clear to me now and why people spend thousands of dollars for this experience. Sitting next to the states biggest leaders while waving signs all united for a common cause is a powerful feeling. There are only 441 delegates from the biggest state with nearing 40 million people. The rate is near 1 in 100,000 people living in the state. The green floor pass that was given to us is practically a magical ticket that lets you get into all but the most exclusive parts. We are able to avoid security for the Denver Convention Center. It is so important that people do not lose their passes because they are very strict about not replacing lost passes. These passes just look like the run of the mill tickets but they have little sensors within them that are actively scanned when people go into the Pepsi Center. On the rumor mill, they are actively tracking the delegates and where they go, I personally doubt that they are doing that because of the cost and lack of need.

The convention has almost 3 levels of security. The first one is getting onto the charter bus with the police officer. Then after the 45 minute to hour ride, delegates need to go through metal detectors, then before walking in the door of there is a final check before walking in the Pepsi Center. The final is before which section of the stands you go to, you need to show the pass again. There is more then one person I know who is trying to sneak into the good seats but it does not look easy for them.

The protesters are well hidden. At least the ones who want to do marches, I have only seen them once. I heard the police shut down the street my hotel was on because of a intense protest where tear gas was shot but since I rarely can access the internet or watch TV to double check this. The bus ride took along time to get to the Pepsi Center and my assumption is that they wanted us to avoid the protesters outside of the center. They have kept us very isolated between the protesters up until today.

That brings me to PUMA (Party Unity My Ass). There was little visible tension, just one or two unorganized people standing on a corner is what I have been used to seeing. Today at the state delegation breakfast Gloria Allred, who won election to be a delegate, is the person who started trouble.

It first was with people walking into the hall where speeches and breakfast is served. When people were taking the tickets a few of the PUMAs were passing out white ribbon for people to tie around their wrists. It was first told to some people that it was to show support for woman's suffrage but it was really for Gloria's media grab. Out of the 441 delegates there maybe only three that is actively undermining the normal activities. A smart delegate took the literature and tore it up right in front of one of the PUMA! And then a person next to them did the same. Their stunt is saying that they are "gagged" and not giving Hillary a voice even though her name will be on the ballot. The bad thing about this is that as I have been saying all along, the vast majority of activists are on board while only a few people hog all the media which loves controversy.

On the better side of things Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi has been reaching out to the Young Delegates at the convention. He sat down with 25 of us for an hour to talk about what our issues are. He is the only person, that I know of, offering to sit down with all of us while we are at convention.

Tuesday Night

Hillary Clinton just proved today why she inspired millions of Americans. The grand speech she gave reaffirmed the support that she garnered from her years of public service. Before she started speaking today, she had 2 minutes of a standing ovation to her. Her speech would not have brought in every PUMA supporter but it effectually convinced all of the iffy supporters to vote and campaign for Obama. My Mom who supported Obama in the primaries was cheering and clapping watching her rally the crowd. All of the hardcore Clintonites that I personally know were more then wooed over. These people were not only reaffirmed their love for Senator Clinton but were moved beyond the bitterness of the primary. The beauty of it was that she played to her reasons of her supporters while taking in those unsure of the support.

My friend and die hard Clinton supporter John Vigna said "So tonight, Hillary elected Barack Obama". He is right. I do not have any more significant qualms about voting for Senator Obama.

The two other speakers that really stood out to me were Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Dennis Kucinich has the spirit of the flaming liberal in all of the delegates there. He speaks to that part of our mind that wants to get out and do huge social change and reform. It is not a view that would win an election across the country but is something that all progressive's have. It helps keep that liberal side of the Democratic Party true to their roots by having a presidential candidate represent that 20% to 30% of the party that wants huge change. It helps keeps the Democrats in touch with their hardcore base. It was by far the most impassioned speech I have seen by the representative from Ohio with emotion and passion flaring through. Governor Schweitzer has the populist style that shined in the crowd of cheering supporters. He by far outshined the keynoter Former Gov. Warner from Virginia. The speech that Schweitzer gave spoke to true American values that resonate in America. He walked all around the podium which helped show his great emotion and passionate speech. In my book, he should have been the keynoter.

Today I was a whip for the California Democratic Delegation. If you noticed in any of the shots, we were the ones in the neon vests. We had the pleasure of directing traffic and telling elected officials that they need to keep moving in the hallway. There was more then one time that I wanted to tell someone that they needed to move but I thought, he or she represents over 600,000 people, I am just going to let everyone else figure it out.

There were over six different sign changes. For the whips on the floor, it hell to figure out what goes when and where. Because of the rapid fire succession of the changes in the signs with the moderate democrats, such as Governor Sebelius of Kansas and Senator Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, we had to have the right signs waving at the right moments. It did not run smoothly. Many of us were picked up at the last few hours before the start of ceremonies. I had the pleasure of doing whatever needed to be done at the moment such as clearing out the hallway or passing out the latest sign. The whips are what ensure that the choreographed event goes off like it should. I knew what I was supposed to be doing at the convention hall but not the people attending.

There were far too many people who were not elected delegates that snuck in with their spouse or other they of pass. It was also my job to tell them that they should not be doing that. It was tough telling someone "I am sorry that you and your husband have been sitting together for the last 2 hours but elected delegates worked very hard to get here and you are taking their spot." Being a bouncer is not on a career path right now.

Tomorrow Bill Clinton, I have seen him speak 2 times before and have always been awestruck. Then VP candidate Biden will also be speaking. I am looking forward to jokes by him about McCain in the same fashion of Hillary's. Tomorrow I hope all of the PUMA's sleep in and do not cause a ruckus at the roll call vote which may of us are not sure how it will work. I was elected to vote for Hillary and that is what I plan on doing. I do not see anything that will change my vote as of now. Hillary had her light in the sun and the American people listened. Obama may have just won the election because of this amazing woman.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Did Fire Mascot "Sparky" Receive Overtime Pay from City Taxpayers?

The City Apparently Does Not Know the Answer

A few weeks ago in response to the initial wave of reports on city finances, the Vanguard received a tip that as part of the Davis Fire Department Public Education Program, the fire fighter who dressed as "Sparky" received overtime pay.

A phone conversation at that time with Davis City Manager Bill Emlen confirmed that this was indeed a distinct possibility. Thus the Vanguard fired off a public records request to find out in exact terms, what the fire mascot received in terms of overtime pay. Even by the standards of this city, the Vanguard is shocked and stunned by what it found.

The Public Education program, according to the city:
"is contained within the Fire Prevention Division of the Davis Fire Department budget. The Fire Prevention Division includes fire safety inspections, fire investigations, plan review, public education, weed abatement, youth fire diversion, water supply and permits. The scope of the Public Education program emphasizes citizen education regarding fire safety, to reduce the chance of fires in places of assembly, residences and in the business community."
Some of the activities include:
• Annual Fire Department open house in October
• Fire safety presentations
• Disaster preparedness presentations
• Pre-school presentations
• Third grade class presentations
• Career days at local junior and senior high schools
• Fire extinguisher operation presentations and drills
• Station tours
• Fraternity and Sorority fire safety talks
• Neighborhood Night Out
• Special events (approximately 20 annually)
However, when asked for budget items related to the funding of the Public Education Program, the Vanguard was stunned to find out that the city does not separately account for the program. Rather it contains the Public Education Program within the budget for the Fire Prevention Division, a grouping that also contains fire investigations, weed abatement, and the youth fire diversion.

Last year, the city spent $371,238 on such programs, a not so modest budget including $229,505 in salaries and another $19,491 in overtime.

When asked for the city to itemize "expenditures to the firefighter for work performed as the mascot 'Sparky,'" again the city had no answer.
"The Fire Department does not have any records responsive to your request because expenditures to a Firefighter for work performed as the Mascot “Sparky” are not recorded as working as “Sparky,” but as a public education event."
However, the city was able to tell the Vanguard:
"The mascot “Sparky” is typically used approximately 3-5 times a year. The events are: Farmers market twice a year (February and October) four hours each; Open House in October four hours; and possibly one or two additional City events for two to four hours."
This led to the conclusion that "Sparky" probably involved in about 20 hours of work.

The Vanguard asked if these payments constitute overtime pay. The response was illusive at best.
"Again, the Fire Department does not have any records responsive to your request because such time is recorded as public education time. That said, the Fire Department tries to limit overtime pay when feasible for public education events. Firefighters on overtime are only used when no one else is available."
When asked over the phone, Bill Emlen seemed fairly sure that the firefighter who dressed up as "Sparky" was given overtime pay. And even if "Sparky" was not directly given overtime pay, it seems likely that a firefighter who worked these extra shifts would eventually be given overtime pay because of the additional hours.

The Vanguard can approximate the amount of money the city might be paying the firefighter to dress up as "Sparky" in public events.

We know the average firefighter received $88,555.01 in base salary. Averaging that over a 40 hour work week gives us an approximate total of $42.57 per hour. That means that overtime pay at a time and a half would be roughly $63.86 per hour for a total over 20 hours of $1277.24 of cost to the Davis taxpayers. That is not over $1200 of money going to help fight fires, it is money going to a man dressed up in a dog suit.

You might ask why a fire department volunteer could not perform that task for no cost? Are you telling me that they could not get an individual to volunteer for a few hours at a time to dress up as "Sparky"? It seems inconceivable to me that there is a possibility that the city paid a firefighter overtime wages to dress up as "Sparky"--whether those are direct overtime wages or those hours would eventually push their regular duty into overtime is appalling to me.

But frankly I am not sure what is more appalling--the use of taxpayer money or the fact that the city cannot directly account for that use of taxpayer money?

This public records request was not a very complicated request. The city was not able to itemize those expenditures. They have no idea how much the fire department is spending on public education as opposed to some of the other fire prevention programs. They have no idea how much overtime they are paying for these support programs. That is appalling and it is completely irresponsible.

The people who run this city have very little idea how the taxpayers money is being spent and amazingly they have admitted as much in their response to the Vanguard's public records request.

The only reasonable explanation I can think of is that the city does not want to know specifically how this money is being spent because then they have plausible deniability. They cannot be held accountable for what they do not know--and they know money is being misspent.

Any responsible agency should be embarrassed that they cannot breakdown exactly how taxpayer money is being spent by departments under their control. This definitely makes one wonder how many other times this is the case as well, in how many other city departments.

I implore the city council to hold the city manager's office and the city finance department responsible for the amount of money that the city spends on various programs so that the city council and the public can no exactly where the city's tax money goes and whether or not it is being spent wisely.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, August 25, 2008

Commentary: Why I Strongly Support Measure W--The Parcel Tax

I have been thinking about writing this commentary for several days now, ever since I put the work into the two articles last week on the parcel tax. As I was putting together those articles, I questioned myself. Why was I going through all this effort in support of this measure? This is not generally what the Vanguard does. The Vanguard covers the dark underbelly of Davis, exposes malfeasance in government, protects people from the excesses of governmental power, shines light on subjects not often covered enough. Why this issue?

As I was pondering this question, the answer of course was right in front of my face. The answer actually came to me last week during my interview with Jann Murray-Garcia.

Some people have used the closing of Valley Oak as an excuse to vote against the parcel tax. However, I think they have it backwards. You see, no one supported keeping Valley Oak open more than I did. I will match my 70 articles on or about Valley Oak, the late night meetings, the special coverage, against anyone's passion. Unless you sat on Davis OPEN itself, you will not win. And even then, I'll take it to a tie unless you are a certain dragon and the lovely lady who stands inside there come rain, heat, or fog.

No folks, if you believe in Valley Oak and the Valley Oaks of the world, you need to support the parcel tax. If you are worried about the achievement gap, then you need to support the parcel tax. If you do not want future parents to anguish over what school their kids will go to, then you need to support the parcel tax.

You see, unfortunately, and I am not casting aspersions at anyone, it's just the way things are right now, but when the economy goes south, when funding gets tight, the first things that go are funding to special programs and unfortunately by special programs I mean minority schools in Davis.

When I first saw the budget cuts list last winter, one of the things that drew my attention was cutting the climate coordinator position. I have been critical of the climate coordinator. But I also know how hard and how long people struggled to get that position created in the first place. The Human Relations Commission had a townhall meeting with former Superintendent David Murphy on the issue of bullying and racism, hundreds of parents came, students came forward with horror stories, it took a lot of work. Superintendent Murphy was at times intransigent. But in the end, the HRC and the community won out.

And now it was going to be gone in one fell swoop. It is not because the position is not important, it is not because the school board was against having the position, it is simply that when you have a choice because cutting elementary school science and the climate coordinator, it is not really much of a debate. And yet I know full well why that position was created in the first place and it will hurt a lot of kids if it is canceled.

I remember the meeting in 2007 when they were discussing the report from the Achievement Gap Task force and their recommendations, and how Tansey Thomas stood up and pointed out a very similar report from 1990 that was put on the shelf as soon as passions cooled and times got tough. I remember that in 2007, every single candidate running for the board brought up that as one of their goals--to help close the achievement gap. I do not know if I have heard the word uttered in 2008 and you know why? Because they are fighting to keep from firing 100 teachers.

At the end of the day, I believe in my heart of hearts that when budget times get tough, the first people to suffer are those who can least afford to suffer. Those who are the most vulnerable. It happens in all walks of life. The people who suffer the most are the most recent ones hired, those at the bottom end of the totem pole, those who are least able to create a safety net.

In Davis, I believe that the children of affluent middle class backgrounds will thrive regardless of whether or not the parcel tax passes. Are they better off with better schools with more challenging programs? Of course. However, they will prosper regardless. It is the children of those who are less fortunate who will not prosper under more difficult times with programs cut. These are the most vulnerable kids. These will be the ones to suffer the most. The children who go to the Valley Oaks of the world who had a school where they were thriving only to see it closed due to budget considerations. And yes, I am convinced that there are other schools that are very good in this district, but I do not believe you can replace that sense of empowerment and sense of community that was at work at Valley Oak Elementary School.

And though Valley Oak is now closed until further notice, there is still much to fight to protect, which is why I cannot in good conscience punish other children for mistakes made by the school board.

People have talked about fiscal mismanagement as a reason to vote against the parcel tax. I know something about fiscal mismanagement in this district as I spent a good four or five months researching what had happened in the district under Superintendent David Murphy and Budget Officer Tahir Ahad.

A few things about that I want to share. The first thing is that I did this investigation with full and complete cooperation from the school district and several of the board members. This investigation would not have been possible without their assistance. Moreover, the district went above and beyond the call of duty in assisting me. They absolutely wanted the public to know exactly what had happened under the previous administration. Two of the board members went on the record to discuss it with me.

The second thing is that the new school board, elected in 2005, cleaned up most of the problems that had occurred under the previous administration. Tahir Ahad left the district and eventually was replaced by Bruce Colby as the new chief budget officer. David Murphy left the district and eventually was replaced by James Hammond as the new superintendent. Frankly, James Hammond alone is reason to vote for this parcel tax, I cannot think of a better person to do this job than Dr. Hammond. I talked to him the day after the board decided not to support him on the charter school and all he could talk about was how sorry he was that he did not have another week to convince them to take the chance on it. He was genuine about that loss. No blame, no political posturing, just sincere compassion for those students.

The fiscal problems in this district are not the result of the actions of the current board. Not one single member of this board was around when the decision was made to put the facilities bond on the ballot. Not one single member of this board was there when the decision was made to hire Tahir Ahad or David Murphy for that matter. And not one single member of this board was there when the deadline was missed for matching funds to Montgomery.

But the majority of this board was in place when every single one of the FCMAT recommendations were carried out, when a new CBO and Superintendent were hired, when the Montgomery funding was rescued by a concerted and joint effort of the board and the interim Superintendent, when the fiscal ship of this district was righted. This board deserves the trust of the voters in handling the taxpayers money and giving the board the resources to continue to make this district one of the best in the state.

Finally folks, people are complaining about raising taxes again, one year after the previous parcel tax was passed. People are complaining that the number is $120 rather than $80 which would have been more likely to pass. I can appreciate both of those concerns.

However as far as the $120 goes, the district is asking for the amount of money that they believe they need in order to continue to fund the programs that have been listed here.

I have been critical of the city's overindulgence of certain public employee salaries and t he risk of raising more taxes to pay for their fiscal irresponsibility. Moreover, the amount of money people will pay in water rate hikes will dwarf the meager $120 annual tax increase. We are talking about up to $200 per month for water rate hikes compared with $120 per year for the parcel tax. This is on top of other fees, taxes, and possible rate hikes. There is really no comparison. Moreover, if I am going to pay out more money, I would choose to give money to help children be educated and help teachers earn a better living. Those are my priorities.

My biggest fear in all of this is that people may use the wrong reasons to not support education in Davis. It is not the children's fault that the previous administration made a series of very serious errors. It is not their fault that you may feel overburdened in your taxes, overwhelmed by a poor economy, a bad housing market, high fuel prices, etc. I understand all of that. But at the end of the day once again, we only get one shot at educating the youth in this community, they get only one shot at childhood, and for some kids, they need all the help they can get.

I hope for their sake and theirs alone you will consider supporting this tax as a modest investment into the future of these children, this community and this country.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Vanguard Coverage of the DNC: Day Four in Denver

The Vanguard is primarily a blog that covers local politics and local government issues. However, there is no denying the fact that much of the world will be focused on the Democratic National Convention next week. So we have asked Don Gibson, a UC Davis Student who is President of College Democrats and an elected Hillary Clinton Delegate to the Democratic National Convention to write about his experiences at the Democratic Convention in Denver, Colorado. Here is his fourth report.


The convention activities have just begun today. I moved into the Sheraton where its lobby has all of the important people in California and New York walking through. I bumped into Mayor Gavin Newsome, vice chair of the California Democratic Party Alex Rooker, and campaign adviser Bob Mulholland. This is the place where all of the action is happening. Even though the Pepsi Center is what everyone envisions as the epicenter, the Sheraton has such a large amount of energy that the media does not seem to cover. The press is setting up to find the thoughts of delegates here at this hotel.

The media is trying to find controversy. I had two television interviews today, one for KCRA 3 in Sacramento and another for ABC 7 in Los Angeles. Both of the reporters looked for controversy between Clinton and Obama supporters where I had to talk about how to unite the party. They tried to ask leading questions to have me or other delegates to say something like "I want Clinton to be the nominee" or "Obama is unfit to lead". The views of the vast majority of activist are that those are flat wrong. I did learn something about the media today; political talking points don't work for them when you are on TV as a young delegate.

Sponsoring the delegates has become a tradition. An experienced democratic activist told me to bring a spare bag for all of the junk that I will be getting for free. He is right! I got two full conventions bags as I registered to be a delegate. I have received over 50 labeled really random things from different corporations, lobbying groups, and people campaigning for office. There was so much stuff that it covered my entire bed as you can see in the photos. The best thing I got was the wine glass from Lt. Governor John Garamendi. The oddest thing has to be the bobblehead for Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The most useful thing is the USB drive from California Treasure Bill Lockyer. The coolest things to find will be the Obama-Biden buttons and signs but they have yet to be given to us.

Denver's atmosphere is completely changed from just a day ago. The police are not only out in force but they have assault rifles and squads of horse troopers are set up to stop anything from happening.

The protesters are finally out. Two people in pig costumes riding around in a coverable were waving signs saying "Tax Meat!" Other groups were not as light. Hardcore pro-lifers held out signs with pictures of abortions. Not fun to say the least. When I was walking out of subway on the 16th St. mall I was able to see the anarchists march down the outdoor mall. The best thing was that 20 officers walked behind the marchers in full riot gear. People may be afraid that the police are taking too extreme of an approach but they not stopping anyone from expressing their views (that I know of).

There does not seem to be tension between the city's residents and the delegates. People would rant to me or other activists on the light rail but not in a combative fashion. The city tends to have people who want to speak up .

I went to my first totally delegate exclusive event. The Gulf States hosted a reception for the host committee, with great gumbo and live New Orleans musicians to celebrate the revival of New Orleans. They had "Obama Beer" exclusively for the event. It was the first drink to run of all of the bars. It was hosted by Chairman Dean to bring in the thousands of delegates and the open bar kept all of them happy.

Tomorrow young democratic activists and I will be sitting down with John Garamendi to talk policy for an hour. Then have the first event at the Pepsi Center will be fun seeing the first big speakers. I just got offered to be a whip for the floor and I may take up this opportunity to help control the delegation.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Guest Commentary: The case for home rule for Davis

by Lamar Heystek

In Davis, the power of the people is real, and anyone who seeks to tamper with it is playing with fire. The campaign to defeat Measure X, the 2005 Covell Village proposal, is the perfect example of that. In the face of a six-figure developer-driven effort, a grassroots campaign of dedicated Davisites managed to beat the odds and garner a resounding rejection of the largest development proposal in the history of Davis. I am proud to have been part of that campaign.

Now, as a member of the Davis City Council, I believe the people of Davis will be able to exercise their power and assert their municipal rights more fully under Measure N, the proposed city charter which provides home rule for Davis.

When the City Council unanimously passed a resolution last year supporting Assembly Bill 1294, which would have allowed general law cities like ours to decide for themselves whether to adopt choice voting for Council elections, I wrote to Governor Schwarzenegger on City letterhead asking for 10 minutes of his time to explain why the City of Davis deserved this right. Through an official letter of his own, my offer to meet with the Governor was curtly turned down.

As others, including Councilmember Greenwald, have pointed out, all other University of California host cities are charter cities. This reinforces the fact that home rule encourage cities to pursue innovation, not promote the status quo. For example, several charter cities across the state provide for public electrical utilities, which Davis citizens supported when they voted overwhelmingly in favor of Measures H and I in 2006. The prospect of providing electricity through the financing of solar infrastructure makes public power an especially attractive possibility under charter city status.

Examples of our innovation to date include our agricultural mitigation, inclusionary housing and green building ordinances. However, as a general law city, the state may decide to legislate that general law cities like Davis cannot establish such high standards, rendering the benchmarks we have set for ourselves meaningless. Measure N would allow Davis, under the power to govern its own municipal affairs, to codify and protect these laws in the charter if necessary. This protection would also be afforded to Measure J, which establishes the right for the people to vote on the development of peripheral ag land. In fact, Measure N by design alludes to Measure J, stating that:
“[M]anaging and limiting growth… are essential elements of local control and therefore are municipal affairs. The intent of this Charter is to allow the City Council and the voters to exercise the maximum degree of control over land use matters within the city of Davis.”
However, the issue really isn’t whether you support public electrical power (or choice voting or other ideas), but whether you support the notion that the city of Davis shouldn’t have to ask a bunch of people in Sacramento (including Governor Schwarzenegger) permission to adopt such ideas. The latter issue, not the former, should be the primary focus of Measure N as much as possible.

Some argue that the true beneficiary of power under a broadly drafted Measure N is the City Council, not the people at large. After all, on a weekly basis, the City Council makes most of the decisions on behalf of the people. I certainly appreciate that argument because my election to the City Council, to some degree, resulted of people’s disenchantment with the decisions of a majority of the Council. Thus, I understand people’s skepticism about what they consider the prospect of handing more powers to a City Council they (or I, for that matter!) don’t agree with most of the time. However, just as the people of Davis have shown they possess the strength to override the Council and defeat a billion-dollar development, they definitely have the strength to change the balance of power on the City Council every two years (or more frequently, through the power of recall, which, along with the power of referendum, remains intact under a charter). Let’s not pretend that this is beyond the people’s reach.

In fact, nothing prevents the people of Davis, either through their elected representatives or through the power of initiative, from actually downsizing and restricting municipal powers that would otherwise be granted through a charter. Take the proposed charter, for instance: as a municipal agency, the City of Davis would still negotiate with its employees under meet-and-confer. Upon the suggestion of Councilmember Greenwald, Measure N bars the Council from adopting binding arbitration, which has financially crippled city agencies such as San Luis Obispo. This is a fine example of how the city can limit its own powers.

Speaking of finances, don’t forget that any new tax measure under the charter would still be subject to the people, per Proposition 218. Personally, my support for the charter does not come from a desire to impose taxes that we do not levy now. In fact, I am skeptical about renewing the taxes we currently levy in the absence of a more responsible fiscal policy. I have strongly questioned, and will continue to question, the presentation of new tax measures (including the extension of existing ones) unless we truly begin to exercise control of our skyrocketing personnel costs, for example. Under general law, the City of Davis already has the power to levy a utility user’s tax and increase its business license tax (but hasn’t), so for me, potential new revenue streams don’t play into my support for Measure N.

I am proud to join councilmembers Sue Greenwald and Stephen Souza and Mayor Ruth Asmundson in supporting a charter because the people of Davis clearly deserve home rule. Davisites have proven that they are willing and capable of governing their affairs. My hope is that the people will keep an open mind about Measure N in the coming weeks and months. I will do my part to gain more information and share it with as many Davisites as possible before Election Day. I hope the people of Davis continue the discussion by providing their insights, whether those insights support or oppose the charter. Ultimately, the power is in their hands.

Lamar Heystek is a Davis City Councilmember. He is Co-Chair of the Yes on Measure N Committee and a longtime supporter of Choice Voting.