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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Arnold Stumps for McCain and Reisig Opposes Prop 5

At the risk of trying to tie some otherwise disparate pieces of information together into a single blog entry, I will start by arguing that I find it curious the decisions made both by Jeff Reisig in the manner in which he chose to attack Proposition 5 in the Davis Enterprise and the fact that McCain would have decided to use California's Governor for stump help, not in California of course, but in the perhaps pivotal battleground of Ohio.

Let us start with the local angle first. It is no surprise that Jeff Reisig would oppose Proposition 5, just about all of law enforcement and prosecutors have. I know it's not a perfect law but the situation with non-violent drug offenders in prisons is fundamentally unsustainable and the dam will break. And when it does, prosecutors and law enforcement will likely wind up with a far more reactionary and broader law. This would have been a chance to let some of the air out from the pressure building on the system.

This is from the bi-partisan Little Hoover Commission report on California's prisons:
"California’s correctional system is in a tailspin that threatens public safety and raises the risk of fiscal disaster. The failing correctional system is the largest and most immediate crisis facing policy-makers. For decades, governors and lawmakers fearful of appearing soft on crime have failed to muster the political will to address the looming crisis. And now their time has run out."
The real interesting point of focus is that Jeff Reisig, the Yolo County District Attorney, sent the same letter to Davis as he did to Woodland. Why would he do that?

Tying in another loose thread here, the Davis Enterprise reported yesterday an interesting little factoid on local fundraising and the Presidential Election.

Barack Obama has raised $353,258 from Yolo County residents compared with $113,950 for McCain.

The city of Davis raised 85 percent of that--$298,672--compared to just $37,531 for McCain. That's an 8 to 1 advantage.

One other little tidbit is that Woodland raised more than half of McCain's countywide total.

Neither of these facts are particularly surprising. But they do suggest that maybe the good DA might want to re-think sending the same letter to Enterprise as he did to the Daily Democrat.

He writes:
"The first thing voters should know is that the proponents of this so-called 'Non-Violent Offender Rehabilitation Act' include billionaire George Soros and the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance..."
Ah the George Soros boogie man. Now, Mr. Reisig, that might work in say Woodland, but my guess is that most of Davis does not view George Soros as nearly the anti-Christ that the right wingers up in Woodland do. I am not saying everyone is in line with George Soros, but I am guessing to most Davisites, he is not a pariah and to many, they are appreciative of his efforts to remove President Bush in the 2004 election.

The lesson here is target your message. Someone is going to point out to me that he said a lot more than just that in his letter, but see, his decision to attack George Soros distracted me from his ultimate message. That just proves my point.

But for good measure, our district attorney gives us another little strawman argument:
"Prop. 5 is not limited to simple drug possession offenses. Virtually any criminal who claims to have a drug problem would be permitted a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card. "
This is of course completely untrue. The only people eligible for Proposition 5 diversion are for those who are ONLY charged with non-violent drug possession offenses. The law specifically defines “non-violent drug possession offense” as “the unlawful, personal use, possession for personal use, or transportation for personal use or being under the influence of any controlled substance…”

So it appears that District Attorney Reisig was inaccurate on this charge which is a pretty standard distortion thrown out by the law enforcement agencies against this proposition. And he certainly should have used better discretion than to submit the same letter to both the Enterprise and the Daily Democrat, given the differences in the likely responses. But at least I'll give him this: he did appear to write the letter himself, unlike our Sheriff with regards to the pro-Proposition 6 letter.

Arnold Stumps for McCain

That leads me to the Governor of California's appearance in Ohio for John McCain foundering campaign.

And this is more of a mixed view. As commentators point out, the Governor inspired larger than usual crowds for a McCain rally. He clearly excited the crowds in ways that John McCain is just not capable of doing.

But Arnold is a double-edged sword. In California, Arnold has an approval rating not much better than President Bush's nationally. Last month it registered at just 35%. And he is coming off a very bloody period with the budget showdown.

The question is really whether Barack Obama really needs to make an issue of all of this. It may just be that Obama will go about his business knowing that McCain is running out of time and Arnold's appearance will do very little for him.

But there is more. First of all, Arnold decided to poke fun at the physique of Obama.

Then he launched into the tax issue.

As the Sacramento Bee reports:
During his speech, the governor recognized the awkward position of having to tailor his speech to McCain's anti-tax message while having proposed raising taxes this week in his own state to offset an estimated $10 billion revenue shortfall.

"Now just because you want to raise a tax certainly doesn't make you a socialist because in California I have proposed a temporary sales tax increase to address our massive deficit," he said. "But Sen. Obama wants to raise the taxes because of ideology. He wants to raise all kinds of taxes. He wants to raise the taxes on capital gains and dividends."
The phrase "flimsy excuse" comes to mind. For Arnold tax increases are okay because they deal with the deficit, for Obama they are not because it is part of his ideology, rather than looking to fix the tax and revenue system that was put out of whack by Bush's tax policies from the early 90s that led to huge growths in deficits.

Not to mention, McCain's message gets stepped on because he has argued that the last thing we need is a tax increase during these economic times, and yet that is exactly now what Arnold is proposing--and a sales tax puts the burden on the middle class while Obama's proposal shifts the burden to those who can most afford to pay a bit more.

It all seems like mental gymnastics to me and it would be easy enough for Obama to make a big deal out of it, but he probably will not, because he does not need to.

We are now just a few days away from finally ending this never ending campaign. It seems like we have been at this non-stop for two years. Oh, that is because we have.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Friday, October 31, 2008

District Transparency and the Measure Q Oversight Committee

One of the big concerns that has arisen from the public with the issue of Measure W and the extension of the parcel tax to cover an additional $120 per parcel is that of accountability. In order to address that issue, the school board has incorporated into the proposal the creation of an oversight body appointed by school board members.

This has drawn some criticism as well, suggesting that these are just self-selected individuals by the board.

For that reason, I spoke at length to a member of the Measure Q Oversight Board, former school board candidate Bob Schelen. From his description of the process, there is really no reason to believe either that this board is a bunch of "yes" people to the district. Moreover, and as important, the process that Mr. Schelen describes is so open, that members of the public can come to these meetings and participate. If they have questions, they have opportunities to ask them of staff. In other words, any individual who truly is interested in oversight has no legitimate reason to complain about this process--they have every opportunity themselves to be their own watchdog of the district and how it spends money.

The Measure Q oversight board has now had three public meetings. The first meeting was an introductory meeting, followed by a meeting where the board went over material from Bruce Colby, the district Chief Budget Officer and his assistant.

The third meeting went over the calendar and discussed the report that would go to the school board in January.
"We're still working on looking at all the information provided us. I must say that the information provided has been completely transparent and Bruce Colby has been excellent in providing us the information that we need. All of us who are on the committee are extremely happy with the information that we have been provided and the transparency of the process."
Mr. Schelen went on to describe some of the process:
"They're showing us the budget. There are two or three different ways that they are doing it. One is there is a very detailed process of where all of the Measure Q money is going. For instance, in terms of what the Measure had said and where the money was going, there is a document showing which programs that the parcel tax provided for and how much of a percentage was. Because some of the money is percentage-wise of going to for instance the avid program or the counseling program end up at each different school.

So the way that they've done it is that they provide us by the percentage that the parcel tax pays for, both in terms of program personnel and schools. They've also provided us information in terms of the entire budget and how much a percentage of Measure Q is part of the entire budget. And they've developed one document that has all kinds of particular information. We have been looking at that as well as a document with more general process with the information. So where the money goes. The way that they have done it is provide it through the programs, personnel, and schools.

The first thing they have done, there have been a number of questions throughout our three meetings especially when we looked at the one document with all of the particular numbers, and there were a number of questions, and Bruce Colby and his assistant answered the question there but they also offered to allow members of the committee to meet with them individually and go through the book as well. Every question has been answered, there has not been one thing that has been asked that they've said we'll get back to you or that isn't an appropriate question for this group to ask--even if they've asked questions that might go beyond the budgeting of just the parcel tax, but the budgeting of the entire school district."
One of the major criticisms that has arose at least on this blog is the complaint that this is simply a handpicked group. Bob Schelen agrees that it is a handpicked group, but also believes that the group is fairly diverse and not a group of "yes" people or sycophants to the board.
"The people that have been picked have been people representative of the community. And not the only the school community but the entire community. I don't believe any of them are sycophants of the particular board members who picked them."
He points out his differences of opinion with some of the board members.
"I ran for school board against Richard [Harris] and Susan [Lovenburg] and am a part of the process. So I wouldn't necessarily say that I agree with everything that they think. As you know, I was a Valley Oak supporter, and neither one of them were."
Also on the board is former board member BJ Kline, who at times was a strong critic of the district's financing practices.
"Other people on the committee include BJ Kline, former school board member who had been somewhat critical of the way that school financing had been done in the past."
He believes this to be a strong and knowledgeable group of people.
"So I think that the people who are on the committee are people who will not be yes people to the school district. They're people who know school financing to the extent possible in California. And are people who are asking pertinent and sharp questions and answers are being provided."
One of the strengths of a diverse group is that even one dissenting individual can lead to a thorough questioning of particular concerns. I asked Bob Schelen whether this process has been primarily a consensus process that would allow individual input and questioning to come out or whether it has operated by majority rule which might quell the minority voice.
"So far it's been a consensus process for the very reason that the transparency of the school district has been something that has pleased all of us. When one person has a question, it is answered in such an open fashion that all of us get the answer, understand it, and are comfortable with it. So I would say so far it has been a consensus process, but that's only because we haven't had any strong disagreements yet--if we do."
Moreover just because there are ten board members does not mean that further opinions still cannot enter into the meetings. These are regular public meetings that operate under Brown Act principles of open government.

The public is encouraged to participate.
"We haven't had a lot of people come. We've urged and encouraged people to come to the meetings and not a whole lot of people have yet. In terms of any questions that they might have my understand from what we have said and what I have seen at the meetings, is that the financial part of the district is very open to answering questions from anybody. "
Unlike school board meetings, the public has ample opportunity to weigh in, especially if public attendance remains low.
"There is a public comment section. It's an agendized public board meeting. There are situations for public comment. Since we haven't had a large amount of people, at least at the one meeting where there were public people there, they were just sort of incorporated into the process of the committee and it was informal questioning of the materials that were provided by the district."
What Bob Schelen describes here is in many ways, interested members of the public can really weigh in and question process much like a board member could.
"That's the way that right now we're running the meeting. I can't be sure that's how we would run it if there say fifty members of the public coming to the meetings. But right now if there are a small amount of people then there's no question that that's what can and will happen."
In other words, after speaking with Bob Schelen, any individual concerned about accountability or whether this constitutes true oversight has a choice. If they are really concerned about how money is spent in the district, they can come to these meetings and get involved.

My concern with some of the complaints I hear is that these complaints come from individuals who seem to be looking for excuses not to vote for Measure W rather than truly concerned about issues and finding out information about the district's financing.

School finance is extremely complicated, but I have found people like Bruce Colby extremely accommodating to members of the public. This is an opportunity for those who claim they are concerned with accountability to actually get off the pot and do something about it.

The district's budget problems are very real and the district in my view has gone the extra mile really to make their process more transparent and make themselves more accountable to the public. This is a far cry from what happened four years ago. The days of quasi-closed door meetings that were of questionable legality are gone. The lengths that the previous administration and board had gone to keep things out of the public light was extraordinary. But so too is the extent to which the school district and board have gone in the other direction. Most of the complaints about this current board's fiscal policies are unfounded and based either on lack of understanding about school financing or frankly lack of interest by individual members of the public to learn about it.

The Measure Q oversight committee is a good way for the public to get more involved in the process and I strongly encourage members to go to these meetings. I intend to publicize the next meeting and attend it myself and report back on it.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Tenants Complain About Landlords Removing Political Signs from Rental Units

Early this year, the Davis City Council passed an ordinance that allowed tenants of rental units in the City of Davis to post political signs in their rental units. The ordinance was to supersede any rental agreement between the property owner and the tenant.

However, the Vanguard has learned that numerous complaints have been lodged from a variety of different occupants of a variety of different apartment complexes throughout the city that this ordinance is not being adhered to. And in some cases, the landlords and property managers are misrepresenting the law to unsuspecting residents.

The Vanguard spoke with Katie Lewis, a renter in the Aggie Square Apartments. She told us that her manager sent a notice to all the tenants saying that the Aggie Square does not allow you to put up signs.
"Dear Residents, we wanted to put out a reminder regarding displaying of signs and other material in your apartment windows. This includes but is not limited to, cartoon characters, political affiliations, music or move paraphernalia. Please refer to the following in your house rules and regulations."
They then quote the lease:
"our lease does state no foil, signs, advertisements, posters or similar displays shall be displayed or affixed to any door, window or exterior wall.

So I do realize that yes that was in the lease and I signed onto it, but they did not say anything specifically about political affiliations in the lease."
When she called to complain, she was told that the ordinance did not apply.
"I brought up the city council ordinance I had heard of, I think Lamar Heystek, he came to a students for Barack Obama meeting a month ago, and he gave a rousing speech, and he's like guys, if your apartment complexes give you trouble about putting up political signs, email me, it's wrong, you're allowed to do it no matter what."
She was told that she could email a formal complaint, but instead of doing that she went to the Democratic Headquarters where she interns.

She went to Brian Micek, the supervisor, and showed him the lease. He makes some calls including one to Aggie Squares.

Brian Micek told the Vanguard:
"When I called the manager's office the person answering the phone told me that their House Rules and Regulations document was above and beyond a standard lease and therefore their residents had all agreed to this policy of not hanging political signs."
But in fact that is not the case.

The city code was written very clearly Section 8 of the 12.01.120 Political campaign signs section of the Municipal code reads:
"Not withstanding any lease to the contrary, no landlord or lessor shall prohibit a tenant lawfully in possession from posting political signs. Political signs may be posted or displayed in the window, on the balcony, or on the door of the premises leased by the tenant in a multifamily dwelling, or from the yard, window, door, balcony, or outside wall of the premises leased by a tenant of a single family dwelling."
Ms. Lewis was concerned more about the principle of the matter than the fact that she was not being allowed to post her Obama sign:
"I don't think it's a big deal, I don't care if an Obama is up in my window or not, I just felt like they were trying to like impede my freedom of speech. I felt it was more like the principle of the matter."
Unfortunately, Katie Lewis was not the only student victimized by properties managers who either were claiming to be unaware of the new ordinance (which doesn't seem plausible) or ignoring the ordinance in hopes that students would not call them on it.

Zusy Clarin of the Suntree Apartments on F Street had a similar problem.
"I called to report the manager to have something fixed in my apartment, she told me that one of their men did a walk-through of my apartment and took out our lawn signs because she said it was the owner's right to have a political sign taken out."
She too believed that it was her right to do so, but did not immediately know about the law.
"I asked her, she seemed to say it was in our contract. I told her that I heard something that it was legal for us to do that. She said no, it was their right to remove signs because they don't want any political signs on their property."
However, like Katie Lewis, she's an intern with Yolo United.
"I'm an intern at the Democratic campaign headquarters, Yolo United, and one of my friends over there, she was at Aggie Square and she that she got a letter from the management saying that she had to take her Obama sign out.

My supervisor Brian Micek said that it was actually legal for us to do that, to post political signs. He read to me the city ordinance."
I have heard several stories from other complexes as well. It seems to be a rather widespread problem despite the clarity of the new city ordinance.

Councilmember Heystek has received a number of complaints. Another was from residents in the Fountain Circle Apartments, who received a notice on Wednesday asking them to take down their signs.

On Facebook, I got a response from someone else who said the same thing was happening at Da Vinci court. The individual was told that despite the ordinance it was in her lease, however, she knew that the ordinance supersedes the lease. But was afraid many others in the complex probably did not know.

City Attorney Harriet Steiner told the California Aggie that the new ordinance supersedes any lease that would prohibit tenants from posting signs.
"The purpose of that ordinance was to permit tenants to put [political] signage in their windows and yards … and to prevent landlords from prohibiting tenants to put signage up."
Councilmember Heystek said:
"The practice of some landlords of curbing the presence of political signs went unchecked until just recently, so the new law will take some getting used to. We certainly need to do a better job of informing tenants, property owners and management companies of the law so that everyone can be in compliance."
Any student who believes there are violations of the ordinance can call the city's code compliance at 757-5646 or the city manager's office at 757-5602.

UPDATE: The city of Davis has sent a letter to Davisville Properties which runs both Aggie Square and Fountain Circle (among others.
---David M. Greenwald reporting

Thursday, October 30, 2008

California Aggie Covers Issue of Agraquest; Yolo County Health Discounts Health Concerns

This morning, there is an article in the California Aggie about Agraquest and former Employee Davis Bell.

Of particular interest is a response from Jeff Pinnow, supervising hazardous material specialist for Yolo County Environmental Health.

According to him, claims about the possibility of harmful microbes in local soil are unfounded.
"Jeff Pinnow, supervising hazardous materials specialist for Yolo County Environmental Health, said that the complaint did not come into Yolo County until 2007, even though Bell began experiencing symptoms a few months after he started at the company in 1998. Bell's mother, Sandi Trend, took it to the Yolo County District Attorney's Office and was mainly approaching it from the standpoint of worker's compensation issues, said Pinnow.

When Pinnow looked at the complaint he said that most of it dealt with worker's health and safety as well as soil importation into the country.

"If we thought it was a threat we would have initiated some type of investigation or we would have found some other agency to do it," Pinnow said. "[Any loose microbes] have been out getting rained on and open to elements for 10 years and I have one repeated case of illness. The likelihood of that being a public health threat - it doesn't even rise to that level."
Pinnow said that if the information had been reported in 1998 or 1999, there would have been more urgency."
There have been two concerns raised here. One is that materials were dumped onto the soil. A question that arises from that is whether people were exposed to this even ten years ago. As many who have followed the history of such problems are well aware of, symptoms tend to show up only years down the line.

The second issue that arises is the question of the building itself that used to house AgraQuest. The building owner suggests that the building has been refurbished at least three times since AgraQuest was there.

However, Doug Haney who has been researching molds, fungi, and microbes for over 20 years remains concerned that the building may not have been properly and thoroughly cleansed.

In an interview with the Vanguard last week, Mr. Haney suggested that without such specific procedures, the ventilation system in the building could still remain a threat.

It is interesting that Mr. Pinnow is willing to write off the threat without an sort of physical examination. And yet someone who has worked with molds and toxins for a number of years remains very concerned about the possibility of airborne exposure. The fact remains, no one really knows what was actually dumped on that spot.

Mr. Haney has worked in Sacramento on a number of health threats from sick building syndrome.

The Yolo County Health Department is clearly trying to calm any concerns here, but to date, no one has looked at that building or the area around it to see if it represents a health threat.

One final note, yesterday in one of the old articles, it was suggested that this has been a very one-sided story in the Vanguard. However, Pam Marrone did not return an email requesting an interview from the Vanguard and declined to comment on the News and Review story. Both Pam Marrone and AgraQuest are welcome to have full and equal time to tell their side of the story.

The Vanguard will continue to follow this issue as new developments come forth.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Down the Homestretch for Measure W: Multiple Views on the Ballot Measure

If Measure W passes, the good news is that Vanguard readers will have plenty of other things to read about and this blogger who sometimes acts as a reporter will not have to stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning to watch school board meetings.

Yesterday someone in the comment section asked me how much I was getting paid by the district, implying that I was a shill for them. I can understand how someone would feel that way. I have spent many many hours in the last year working on this blog and elsewhere to get Measure W passed.

Granted I have been talking about a parcel tax for far longer, but the first mention of Measure W was August 3, 2008 on this blog. Since then this will be the 17th article I have done mentioning Measure W.

Tomorrow, we will have a very special report on the Measure Q oversight committee. I encourage everyone skeptical of that process to read what Bob Schelen has to say.

Today, we are going to take a look at what a number of people and others are saying about Measure W.

The Davis Enterprise has letters from four of the five school board members supporting Measure W. I am not certain if Susan Lovenburg has already submitted a letter, but if she has not, do not read anything into it. She was out at the MU on Monday working hard trying to tell students about Measure W.

Board President Sheila Allen actually posted this on the Vanguard as well, yesterday.

I am going to post her entire post here for those who do not read the comment section.

She directed people to note that she is a strong supporter of neighborhood schools:
"Note especially the last paragraph. I am a firm supporter of neighborhood schools for many reasons that I have publicly presented during School Board meetings for the Valley Oak and the Emerson discussions. Please show your support by Voting Yes on W."
Here's the body of her letter:
"We moved to Davis because of the great schools. This is true for our family. I have received many emails from concerned citizens that begin with that very sentence. But, because of an on-going decline in state funding for public education the ability to continue our great programs is at stake.

This year the district cut $1.1 million dollars from the budget and still faced the specter of cutting an additional $2 million in program. With a budget that is over 80% direct student-related personnel, these dollars mean teacher jobs. Last spring hundreds of students, teachers, parents and community members lined up to ask that their program or position would not be cut. Luckily, the Davis Schools Foundation was able to rally the community to temporarily fill the gap for this school year only. Measure W will mean the teachers and our programs will continue for the next 3 years. Measure W means the Davis public schools will continue to be a great place to learn for all of our students.

On November 4 you have the opportunity to provide a solution. Coming to protest in March will not be a solution. The solution to save the teachers and program is now--and it is Measure W! Please vote yes on W."
Then Gina Daleiden and Tim Taylor:
"Clear and straightforward, if you support science, math, English, foreign language, music, social studies, librarians, athletics, debate, journalism and the teachers who enliven the minds of our next generation, then you support Measure W. The choice is clear.

We are all too aware of the state budget crisis and the impact that has on school funding. Local dollars are needed to maintain our quality programs here in Davis - among the best in the state - because state dollars simply do not.

You may find yourself asking, is the school district running leaner in these trying economic times? Absolutely. DJUSD spends more than 80 percent of our discretionary budget on expenses directly related to classroom instruction - teachers, counselors, principals and para-educators. Of the remaining percentage, we've cut $1.1 million, including eliminating one of the top three administrative positions, squeezing site budgets to levels difficult to sustain, and cutting operating costs. Our administrative budget falls in the lowest tier in the state, lower than most school districts, and even lower than many nonprofit organizations.

Despite all of this, the shortfall in funding is over $2 million annually. It is simply not possible to cut these funds without severely impacting the classroom and our kids. Vital programs and teachers will be lost. Our school system, our community and, most importantly, our children will lose."
Boardmember Richard Harris makes a plea that they need a two-thirds vote:
"To succeed, we need two votes in favor of Measure W for every one vote against it. Unlike the presidential race, where a candidate can win without gaining the most votes nationwide, or the local bond measure for community college facilities that can pass with only 55 percent of the vote, we need a super-majority of two-thirds support to pass Measure W. A simple majority will not be enough to save our schools.

Measure W is a true test of this community's willingness to take local responsibility in these uncertain economic times for key education programs like science, math, music and libraries.

We've reached out to voters during this campaign and we know a majority of voters, and overwhelmingly parents, support investing $10 a month in their community. A clear majority of voters definitely agrees with The Enterprise, the Chamber of Commerce and the Yolo County Taxpayers Association that Measure W is good for the schools and the community.

But there are many more potential voters in households without students attending Davis schools than households with children in the schools.

So parents, now is the time to get out of your comfort zone and go talk to your neighbors who don't have school-age kids. Tell them about Measure W, emphasize that strong Davis schools make our community strong and Davis a better place to live. Earn their support and then make sure they vote."
Do not take the word just for the elected members of the school board. A few weeks ago, the Sacramento Bee Endorsed a Yes on Measure W vote, citing: "APPROVING PARCEL TAX WILL PRESERVE A TRADITION OF GOOD SCHOOLS"

They write:
"Voters approved the last four-year parcel tax in November 2007, for $200 per parcel.

Since that 2007 parcel tax passed, however, the state's budget situation has worsened, and with it the situation in local school districts. The Davis school district faced $2.8 million in cuts this last year. A one-time fundraising effort by the Davis Schools Foundation staved off $1.77 million in cuts, but the district still had to chop $1 million out of the budget.

So now the Davis school board is back, asking voters to add $120 a year to the 2007 parcel tax to avoid program cuts. Measure W would raise $2.4 million a year for the next three years."
They continue:
"The additional $2.4 million a year would allow the Davis schools to preserve elementary science and music programs; preserve librarians at elementary and secondary schools; preserve class-size reductions for ninth- and 10th-grade English and math; preserve class periods for foreign language, music and physical education; and preserve extracurricular drama, debate, journalism and sports programs.

Measure W does not fund new programs.

If voters do not pass the parcel tax, the school district will have to cut $2.4 million from its budget."
They discuss a criticism of the parcel tax:
"The main criticism of parcel taxes in general is that because they are a flat fee on every parcel, lower-income households bear a disproportionate share of the burden. Davis mitigates that by making the parcel tax lower on apartments ($50, instead of $120 in Measure W) and by exempting property owners age 65 and older, who fill out a form and return it to the school district."
"Davis residents have a long history of extraordinary support for their schools, and every school in the district performs above state goals on the Academic Performance Index. To continue the tradition of excellence, Davis voters should vote "yes" on Measure W."
Here are a couple of fliers, in case you have not seen them. The first, is a flier sent out by the Davis Teachers' Association and I'm not sure where the other one comes from.

---David Greenwald reporting

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mike Machado Opens His Mouth and Inserts His Foot

It seems that Joe Biden is not the only Democrat with a propensity to shoot his mouth off and say the exact wrong thing.

A few weeks ago we castigated the Stockton Record for thinking so parochially in the State Senate Race. They argued that voters should support Republican Greg Aghazarian primarily because he is from Stockton and Stockton needs representation in Sacramento. Yolo and Solano Counties, be darned. Public policy issues and the fact that Aghazarian would be in the minority party and have considerably less power to enact legislation to help the district also did not seem to weigh into their minds.

However, it is one thing for a newspaper to say it. It is another thing for the outgoing state senator to say it.

But that is exactly what Senator Mike Machado said in the Stockton Record yesterday.

It appears that Lois Wolk is in pretty good shape to win the State Senate Seat. But fellow Democrat Alyson Huber who is battling for an open Assembly Seat in a district that oddly includes Amador County, Sacramento County, and San Joaquin County, certainly did not need that kind of help.

Here is what the Record writes:
"The race to fill the seat of Linden Democrat Michael Machado, who leaves the California Senate this year because of term limits, is pivotal. Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, R-Stockton, are vying to replace him.

Lodi Republican Alan Nakanishi is another victim of term limits. A race for his 10th District Assembly seat between Democrat Alyson Huber of El Dorado Hills and Lodi Republican Jack Sieglock is hotly contested.

If the Democrats take these two seats, local residents will end up with no representatives in Sacramento who live in the county."
However, then Mike Machado had to open his mouth.
Machado said that outcome would leave the county at a disadvantage.

"It's going to be a challenge for this area to have a voice," he said. "There are a lot of issues unique to the area that aren't necessarily in sync with the rest of the districts."
This is just a baffling statement considering that Senator Machado has endorsed both Wolk and Huber in their respective races.

As I said, Wolk is probably safe in the now Democratic-tilting Fifth Senate District. But Huber is locked in a tough battle. She was born and raised in San Joaquin County, in Lodi. Still has family in Lodi. She is not exactly going to sell out the interests of Stockton while in Sacramento. Neither for that matter is Lois Wolk.

As Democrats, in the majority in their respective branches of the legislature, they will actually be more likely to be able to enact legislation to help all parts of the district, not just the Stockton fiefdom that seems so vital to those in the Southern half of their respective districts.

Senator Mike Machado owes both of these women an apology.

Thanks to fellow activist and blogger Randy Bayne for the tip on this story, he covered it in his own blog.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Rumors About Emerson Continue, Irrational as They May Be

No, it is not just on this blog. I hear and get asked about whether Emerson is going to close wherever I go. There is a persistent rumor that the closure of Emerson is fait accompli regardless of the outcome of Measure W.

As I have argued this is completely illogical. I will break down that illogic shortly. I would submit to the readers of this, that if you want Emerson to close, then you should vote against Measure W, because voting against Measure W will almost surely lead to the closure of the school. If you want to strongly increase the likelihood of Emerson remaining open, and these are the words of Superintendent James Hammond whom I will quote fully below, then you should vote for the Parcel Tax.

I will get to those words of the Superintendent in a moment. First we need to logic through this argument.

Why Emerson Closes if Measure W Fails

The school district last spring estimated that the closure of Measure W would save the district roughly $600,000 in site specific operating expenses. That is largely without the lay off of teachers.

That is the biggest single chunk of money that can be saved with terminating or eliminating teacher positions. In fact, that represents around a quarter of the money that they would need to cut if Measure W fails.

If given the choice between teachers and a facility, they are going to pick the facility every time. (I will get to why they eliminated Emerson for this list last spring below).

The problem that you face when you have a number like $2.4 million is that you really cannot nickel and dime your way to budget cuts. They have already trimmed two major positions from the district's administration including an Assistant Superintendent whose contract was not renewed and whose position was not replaced.

The good news for the district is that 82% of the district's discretionary general fund budget goes directly to the classroom, but the bad news is the same. It means to get meaningful cuts, you have to cut from the classroom. Of the remaining 18% of the budget that does not directly go to the classroom, 9% of the budget goes to ground operations such as custodians and only 7% of the budget goes to administration.

That means you are either cutting teachers or you cutting facilities. Again, that means if you have to cut $2.4 million and can get a quarter of that without laying off a single teacher, guess what they do?

So by all means, if you want to have Emerson close, vote no on W. The illogic of people who say because they won't guarantee Emerson stays open if W passes, they will therefore vote against W and ensure that Emerson closes, is mindboggling.

Why Emerson Stays Open if Measure W Passes

There are issues of the facility that will prevent the guarantee of Emerson staying open. But, most available rationale indicates that it most likely has to stay open if the general fund is not in deficit.

People try to link Emerson and Valley Oak. But Emerson has advantages (many of them) that Valley Oak never had.

As Superintendent James Hammond said on the Vanguard Radio show in mid-October:
"It's not like the closure of an elementary school where you have eight or nine sites, you have three junior high sites spread across town, so you have logistical concerns to evaluate."
This is not a defense of closing Valley Oak, but when they had to close Valley Oak, you have at least three schools within close proximity to Valley Oak. North Davis Elementary and Birch Lane are both within nine-tenths of a mile and Korematsu is just one and a half miles. That means that you are generally redirecting students within a relative close proximity. Now as we know from the Valley Oak issue that arose last year, you are still putting a burden on parents and making it more difficult for young children to walk and bike to school. Nevertheless, it is not a logistical nightmare for the district.

On the other hand, the Junior High scenario is much more tricky. You have Holmes Junior High a full 3.3 miles from Emerson. That is a logistical nightmare in a school district that does not have district busing transportation. That reason alone is why the district held off on closing Emerson as a possibility last spring and why it will likely not close it in the future if there are funds.

And remember they cannot simply move all of the Emerson students to Holmes, they would have to move a good portion of Holmes students to Harper, another two miles away.

So unlike having a simple situation where a few relatively close elementary schools can absorb additional students, you have a tough scenario where you are moving a large amount of students a good distance away.

These logistical problems relegate Emerson to a worst-case scenario closure rather than a likely closure if the general fund is in relatively good condition.

I pressed Superintendent Hammond on this issue during the October 15 radio show. Here's what he told me.
"The status on Emerson, to be quite honest, right now there is no decision. I mean we are status quo. There has been no formal discussion about Emerson between the staff and the board since last spring... Emerson has challenges but it doesn't mean there's an imminent closure waiting for it. There's facility concerns. It's not like the closure of an elementary school where you have eight or nine sites, you have three junior high sites spread across town, so you have logistical concerns to evaluate, facility concerns to evaluate. But by no means is there any type of hidden agenda to close the school. I think that that is one of the things even after passing the budget that we still deal with today."
Thus he completely denies that there is any kind of hidden agenda. On the other hand he cannot make promises.
"I can't make any promises as a superintendent particularly when it comes to the instability of the state budget and the inadequacy of how schools are funded."
He lays it out pretty clearly here, he believes that if we get the funding, the "likelihood" of Emerson staying open increases. And if we do not get the funding, the "likelihood" of closure increases.
"I would like to think, and what I say with my own words without representing anyone else, that with additional revenue in this case from Measure W, probably increases, and I use this word intentionally, the likelihood, the likelihood of things staying status quo, the lack of funds that we get if we're not successful with the parcel tax or we have to re-run a parcel in '09 at a lesser amount and we get a very bad January revise like we're expecting, the likelihood of being back where we were last spring increases. And as you know David, everything is back on the table and being evaluated and discussed. And that is my fear, that being in a place early in our school year where our fiscal indicates that we have to make some cuts and that's where I don't want to be."
Again, Measure W's passage will not guarantee that Emerson stays open. It will not. What Measure W does is take all of the position that Measure W funds, all of the teaching positions and it guarantees them for the next three years. Those positions by law cannot be eliminated. That frees up other money to go to keep Emerson open.

If the district does not have that money from Measure W then they have a choice, they can either terminate the positions that W would have funded or they can try to save money by closing schools. My guess is that they are going to close at least one school if they do not get Measure W or if they have to pass a smaller parcel tax in the spring.

Again, if you want to insure that Emerson closes, vote against the parcel tax. Because if the parcel tax fails and they have to come with a smaller amount in the spring, Emerson is likely gone. If you want Emerson to have a possibility to remain open, you have to vote for Measure W.

With $2.4 million, you are not going to nickel and dime your way to a balanced budget. If it were $0.24 million you might have a chance to. But with it at $2.4 million you have to cut from that 82% of the budget, and that is classroom money.

Again, the illogic of the position, they won't guarantee Emerson so I'll vote against Measure W is breathtaking. The reverse is most likely true.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Davis Lags in Mail in Ballot Returns; Early Voting Begins at UC Davis

Davis Lags behind rest of county in percentage of vote-by-mail returns

As of Monday, October 27, 2008, the city of Davis lagged behind the rest of the county in terms of Vote by Mail ballot returns. While at first glance the percentage returned by the city of Davis does not seem altogether that much lower than the rest of the county. Remember, that Davis also in general votes at a much higher rate than other cities in Yolo County.

Early Voting Begins at UC Davis

Last year only a handful of UC Davis students voted at the polling place at the Memorial Union. The scene was altogether different yesterday, as a long line of students formed waiting to cast their ballots in the 2008 general election. Sources tell the Vanguard that as of noon, 117 UC Davis students had already cast their ballots. That number is greater than five times the amount that voted in the entire 2007 general election that only had two local ballot measures.

UC Davis Early Voting Rally

Finally, Davis City Councilmember Lamar Heystek and Yolo County Clerk Freddie Oakley led a rally of students encouraging the students to vote early. Councilmember Heystek led a chant for Presidential Candidate Barack Obama. The Yolo County Clerk encouraged students to come out and vote. She then took off her county clerk hat and encouraged the students to vote against Proposition 8, the proposition that would ban gay marriage. This has long been an important issue for Freddie Oakley. The last two Valentine's Days, she has protested laws that prevent her from marrying same-sex couples. She then became among the first clerk's in the state to marry same-sex couples after a spring court ruling that overturned state laws.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Bizarre Robo-call Attacks Congressman Thompson

Given the dynamics of this year, it would take a lot for us to have to cover to Congressional Race at all. Congressman Mike Thompson is a well-known and respected member of Congress in a safe district that extends from Yolo County through Napa County to the coast and all the way up to the Oregon Border.

His opponent is a 27-year old graduate of UC Davis.

This story is just simply bizarre. A robo-call that went out to voters across the district heard a "breathy woman intone" that "Mike Thompson's been a bad boy."

As the Capitol Alert describes:
"With a seductive voice more suited to an escort service than political outreach, the woman suggestively urges listeners to "vote 'yesssss' for Zane," the Republican challenger to Thompson, a Democratic congressman."
Zane Starkewolf, the 27-year old Republican nominee and a graduate of UC Davis, apologized in an interview with the Sacramento Bee for the message and said he "took full responsibility" for the calls, which he said went out to 100,000 phone numbers across the district.
"Starkewolf said he provided the text and the idea (He wanted "something to be impactful," he said), but an unpaid staffer recorded the message and "she took a little liberty with how she interpreted the text."

Still, in the interview and in a statement on his Web site, Starkewolf defended the call.

"I believe it is good to get enthusiasm back into politics," he wrote on his site. "...And if a message needs to go out that is "appalling" in a sense in order to get the discussion going, then I believe it is a worthy cause."


Starkwolf said voters should be more appalled with Thompson's vote for the bailout than his call.

"They have to pay $3,000 (per person) for this bailout and they are more worried about this phone call," he said in frustration.

As for parents worried about children answering his robo-call, Starkewolf said they were "not looking at the financial costs their children will have to deal with" due to the bailout Congress passed."
There are probably better ways to get across a message of concern about the bailout. The story is now not about his message but about his methods. The first rule in politics is not to step on your message.

On the other hand, we would not be talking about this race at all except for the bizarreness of this story. So he's probably in a no-win situation, a catch-22.

Just yesterday he had a typical bio-article run in the California Aggie. He is a UCD alumnus and currently a graduate student in chemistry. He describes himself as a "green Republican" and pushes a variety of green issues although overall he is more of a libertarian.

Just another day in the People's Republic of Davis I suppose except this one is a Republican.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vanguard Radio This Week: Election Preview Edition

Wednesday evening from 6 to 7 on KDRT, 95.7 FM, join us for our 2008 Election Preview Addition.

Guest will Yolo County Democratic Central Committee Vice Chair Bob Schelen.

Also we'll have a special call in from a Political Science Professor from Case Western University in Ohio to talk about Ohio and other battleground states.

Join us either on the radio at 95.7 FM or live streaming

Vanguard Ballot Initiative Recommendations

While the Vanguard does not endorse candidates, we do make recommendations on issues. Many of these you can of course glean simply by reading the articles on this site. But since I have had a number of calls and emails over the last wee asking how I would vote and a number of issues, I thought I would put this in one place.

I also attach a sheet at the bottom with a link to the Courage Campaign who have compiled a list of 10 progressive organizations and how they are voting. Although other than on Prop 11 there are no disputes on which way to vote, some groups do not recommend on some of the propositions.

I will start with the local measures and then deal with the statewide issues.


MEASURE N: CHARTER CITY: NO. This measure would determine whether or not Davis would have a charter city enacted. In theory, I would be supportive of such a concept, but I think this charter is too broad. It would allow too much power to future city councils. I would like to see this charter get voted down and a committee formed to draft a new one that is much more specific.

MEASURE W: DJUSD PARCEL TAX: YES. For $120 per parcel voters of the city of Davis can ensure that core programs and teachers remain in tact. We are talking about elementary science, music, some HS athletic programs, as well as keeping class size down. If this does not pass, the district faces a $2.4 million deficit which means that teachers and programs get cut.


PROP 1A: HIGH SPEED RAIL: YES. This would begin construction of a train that connects San Francisco to Los Angeles via San Jose and Fresno. This is a project I have been wanting for at least 15 years. Create a fast and convenient alternative transportation system to get people out of their cars. This is the most important project that we can fund this year.

PROP 2: STOP ANIMAL CRUELTY: YES. Goes without saying humane treatment for farm animals. We're not talking a lot--enough space for animals to beable to move around, stand up and sit down. This seems like a no brainer to me and the arguments against about costs and competitiveness do not make a whole lot of sense.

PROP 3: CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL BONDS: YES. I see no reason not to expand children's hospital facilities around the state.

PROP 4: PARENTAL CONSENT FOR ABORTION: NO. Proponents argue that this will get teens to talk their parents about sex. I do not believe that you mandate parent-teen communications. I think it places teens at risk who fear the response of their parents more than they fear other things. It is just not a good idea. One thing I never see in these proposals is how big a problem this actually is. If it is a problem, I think there are other approaches that would be more effective and starting well before pregnancy and abortion issues arise.

PROP 5: NONVIOLENT OFFENDER REHABILITATION: YES. I am a strong proponet of alternative forms of punishment. I think we put way too much emphasis on incarceration and our prisons are being overwhelmed with non-violent sex offenders. The program has the possibility of saving the state between $1 billion and $2.5 billion per year.

PROP 6: SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS ACT: NO. This basically does the opposite of Prop 5--it extends and expands mandatory sentencing and it also takes money from the rest of the state's beleagured budget and puts it into more prisons and correction spending. This may be the worst initiative on the ballot in my opinion and that includes 4 and 8.

PROP 7: RENEWABLE POWER STANDARD: NO. This bill may be well intentioned putting more resources to solar and wind projects by mandating that we get 50% of our power from renwable sources by 2025. The problem is that opponents believe that the measure is poorly written and would cause more harm than good. When the opponents include Sierra Club and Conservation league, then I tend to believe that statement.

PROP 8: ELIMINATES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: NO. I believe that consenting adults should have the right to marry the person that they love regardless of gender. To me this is a no-brainer and almost every argument against it is based on fear. For those who suggest that same-sex marriage is a threat to traditional marriage, look at the divorce rate, it seems that marriage is under fire much more by people who do not respect marriage rather than people who desperately want to wed.

PROP 9: Victims' Rights and Protection Act of 2008: NO. Some of these provisions are not bad including notification and participation of victims in criminal justice proceedings. However, opponents argue that these are already in law. They also believe that these provisions would end up costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions. I am not nearly as opposed to this one as the Prop 6, but it does not seem the type of reform we really need.

Prop 10: California Alternative Fuels Act: NO. This is another one of those bills that look good until you realize who is supporting it and what it would actually do. One the plus side: The funding it provides will allow the generation of electricity from renewable sources, and provide consumer rebates for the purchase or lease of "clean alternative fuel vehicles". Th bill is sponsored by Boone Pickens, many have derided Pickens and Clean Energy Fuels for sponsoring this initiative because it may set up the company and Pickens for a financial windfall. Again, League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club support it. This would take $10 billion out of the state's general fund over 30 years. The proposition was initiated by one person/interest group and as such lacks the vetting that would have come had it gained input from a wider variety of sources.

PROP 11: REDISTRICTING: NO. This sets up an appointed bipartisan commission to handle state redistricting. We already have a bipartisan commission that handles redistricting, it's called the state legislature, they are elected by the voters in California. From what I have seen, voting reforms generally create more harm than good. The system we have now has been in place for over 100 years.

PROP 12: VETERANS' HOMES BOND: YES. Basically renews a home loan program for veterans that dates back to 1922. The bond must be periodically renewed--this would be the 12th renewal. Enables veterans of current wars to get affordable loans and the bonds are repaid by the veterans themselves. Do not see a downside to this one.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Guest Commentary: Opposing View on Same-Sex Marriage

Steven Ostrowski

This November, Proposition 8 will be decided by the voters of California. It will decide whether same-sex marriage stays or goes in the state of California. In the year 2000, Proposition 22 wrote into our family law that marriage was between a man and a woman. This passed overwhelmingly with 61% of the vote. A few months ago, this law was struck down by a divided California Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision. Now we are given a choice to reaffirm the Court’s ruling or change the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriage in the state. According to most legal sources, all same-sex marriages made prior to the passing of Proposition 8 would become invalid.

The first argument made by the opposition is that same-sex marriage is a right that should not be taken away. It is thus implied that the passing of Proposition 8 would strip same-sex couples of their right to marriage. When it comes to the word “rights” there are two sources people come to as to where these rights come from. The framers of the US Constitution believed that our rights came from our Creator. Others believe that our rights come from the state.

If our rights come from our Creator, then the argument become theologically and speculative as to whether our Creator deems it a right to grant same-sex marriage. The framers of the Constitution under a liberal version of Protestantism believed that the Creator desired that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property). At the time, this was quite a radical document as it was in great contrast to Divine Rule of Kings. The “No on Proposition 8” campaign has not used the Creator as a source for their right for same-sex marriage. It has never been mentioned in this campaign and it probably won’t. So I will assume that the opposition believes that their rights come from the state.

If that is the case, the opposition must concede that their rights are determined based on the people, democratic processes, and the Courts. If the state, through the people, strip same-sex couples of their so called right to marriage it must be conceded as totally legitimate. How can there be moral outrage if the people can give and take away? Unless of course, the opposition is relying completely on the Courts for their protection. In which case, even the Courts are answerable to democratic processes.

But is same-sex marriage even a right? I do not believe so. It is no different than a driver’s license, hunting license, fishing license, boat license, airplane license, etc. It requires qualifications and permission from the state. Anything the state grants as a privilege cannot be considered a right. Indeed, a county clerk could decide not to let anyone marry. This has occurred in at least two counties in California in recent months.

Under the Equal Protection of Law clause, I believe that this has already been completed in California. Civil Unions have the same exact benefits as marriage benefits. The only difference is the title in which it is called. The argument that a civil union is considered inferior to same-sex marriage cannot be determined. It can’t be determined because it is a qualitative analysis based on individual persons. Furthermore, we have not yet seen the results of the people’s acceptance to the term civil union as opposed to same-sex marriage. It could be argued that many people would consider same-sex marriage to be a less legitimate term than civil union. In any case, the Court was not given enough information to make a proper decision on the matter and thus we have a 4-3 split decision. But even if civil unions were considered inferior to same-sex marriage, it wouldn’t matter because the Court should not be making values on what is inferior or superior to what.

For those of us who wish to preserve democratic freedom, we should be appalled by the Court’s decision even if we agree with it. As stated before, the voters approved Proposition 22 by 61%. Imagine if a proposition you voted for became overruled on the whim of a court despite a state-wide consensus. For many, it is not legitimate for the Court to overrule the people on any particular proposition regardless of whether it’s trivial or mundane. A great many others are displeased that instead of going through the proper democratic processes, members of the gay community have sued to institute their view. This gives myself and many others, the impression that the gay community is simply using the Courts to get their way because they are hopelessly outnumbered by the general population. This will not create mutual understanding and reconciliation between the gay and straight community. Instead it will breed discontent, accusations, and hurt feelings.

An argument against Proposition 8 is that we should not impose our values on the state. However, it is quite the opposite. The opposition is imposing an unwanted definition on the institution of marriage. It must be conceded that both sides wish to “impose.” To not concede this, is to not understand the power of the democratic process. We all impose our values on everyone when we vote. Failure to do so is simply apathy. Even a moderate view is an imposing view point. Either same-sex marriages equal heterosexual marriages or they do not.

This brings up the point of religion. The opposition has accused the yes campaign of using religion to impose their values on the state. Although both sides wish to impose, religion is seemingly a more negative form a persuasion than secular reasoning. I find this to be most intolerant of the opposition to keep religion out of the democratic process while tolerating more secular arguments. What difference does it make why people vote a certain way? What difference does it make whether a priest declares a message versus a civil servant? Indeed, there are many pro-gay churches who preach the exact opposite and yet the opposition does not consider this to be threatening.

This leads into the more negative expressions, I have experienced from the opposition. I have been told that I must be bigoted, intolerant, extremist, and hateful to support Proposition 8. So, is 8 hate? I find it rather presumptive for the opposition to imply such a thing. There is nothing in the ballot description, which was edited by Jerry Brown, to suggest hate. Some supporters of 8 have shown hate in their emotions, but this is also true with the opposition. There are lesser beings on both sides, but Proposition 8 is not in it of itself hate. In fact, if we were to take this hate value to its logical conclusion it would require us to take a rather unfavorable view of our country.

Eighteen states have banned gay marriage in their constitution and all other same-sex unions. An additional eight has gay marriage as just banned in their state constitutions. Seventeen more states have banned gay marriage as a statute in their laws. So, a total of 43 states have banned gay marriage as compared to three states that explicitly allow gay marriage. So, there must be a lot of hate going around. And especially so in California as we can see the polls are almost even on this proposition. The opposition should not consider Proposition 8 as hate due to very plausible chance that it could pass. But perhaps opposition is just making a moral judgment on this issue, in which case I would humbly request the source of this moral outrage.

So, what is at stake here? The definition of marriage has the precedence of thousands of years as being only between one man and one woman. Homosexual relationships simply do not qualify for this term. Marriage, as supporters would say, is for the procreation of children and a social foundation for the creation of families. This obviously excludes a lot of individuals, but that is the point.

Marriage only holds value if it procreates children and is monogamous. Marriage loses value through divorce, series of divorces, adultery, open relationships, and couples willingly refusing to have children. Instead marriage has become a mere contract with no real special or profound characteristics. It’s a social and economical contract with the state and nothing more. This change in definition from a family creating unit to a mere sexual relationship has destroyed the value of marriage.

The value of marriage or a same-sex marriage is always going to be subjective, but this is a subjective debate. But why should the supporters care if the value of marriage goes down with the emergence of gay marriage? Marriage in a lot of ways is like stock. If you devalue an institution, everyone’s stocks become worthless. Then people bail out of institution all together. We will become like Sweden where marriage is scarce and often ridiculed. The creation of gay marriage cements the philosophical view that marriage is not a family creating unit, but a mere social contract with the state. For religious individuals, who believe their marriage is sanctified by God, and more secular individuals this is rather troubling.

The collapse of marriage will affect everyone across the country. Divorces cause enormous strain on the economy when it comes to commercial spending, housing, and the raising of children. Not one politician in the nation actively supports people getting divorces. When people live by themselves and do not combine their economical assets it hurts the economy or changes it in such a way that it may hurt us personally. When children are raised with only one parent, it has a profound impact on our economy and social services. It must be conceded that marriage is a good thing for society.

That is why the value of marriage must be preserved. A clear example is the movie Chuck and Larry where two males, who have no romantic intentions, become married for the sole purpose of getting benefits from the government. That marriage is just as valid as the marriage between two heterosexual individuals who have been married for 50 years and have many children and grandchildren. For those of us, who value their own marriage or potential marriage that is an unsettling thought. Now, it can be easily argued that a scenario like this already exists with Las Vegas weddings. This is true, but pointing out other bad behavior doesn’t make other bad behavior good.

And so what about infertile couples, those who do not wish to have children, and the elderly? Should we prevent them marriage licenses? I would say no, because infertile couples through time may be cured of their illness or problem through medical science. There have been many Biblical accounts of infertile couples who were also old that gave birth. Culturally, the Christian cannot refuse to marry these individuals. Also, those who refuse to have children may change their mind in the future. In addition, the process to find out these answers would violate privacy and self incrimination principles. So, the government must side on the side of caution and give all heterosexuals marriage licenses. Same-sex marriages are obviously different and can be detected as such through physical appearance and record keeping. Same-sex couples under no biological circumstance can they produce children through both partners. Artificial impregnation does not create a natural family, because the father or the mother of the child is absent, and the other spouse involved did not donate in the creation of the child.

Furthermore, those who value free speech and religious tolerance should consider the ramifications of what this country will be like under a more secular culture. Priests and pastors are being sued, fined, and jailed for speaking out against homosexuality in their own churches. Americans are not immune to this; hate crime legislation is encroaching steadily on what one can say and cannot say. Indeed, our confidence in the 1st Amendment is based on the US Supreme Court and the government. If both side against you, for whatever reason, you lose your voice regardless of what the US Constitution says. Churches may be stripped of their non-profit status if they do not hold gay weddings or if they speak out against them. Public schools will inevitably be taught gay marriage, as it is already being taught in Massachusetts, with or without the permission of parents. Without access to vouchers or alternatives, parents may have to compete with schools on what their child learns. Gay students may become segregated in special schools as is the case in Chicago. The slippery slope is not very inviting to supporters, all movements in history start out small.

So, the solution to increasing the value of marriage is to not making it easier to obtain but harder. It would go a long way, if couples had pre-marriage counseling, divorce counseling, heavier divorce penalties, as well as government incentives to keeping people together through the use of tax credits and/or social programs. Small reforms can be made to prevent the Las Vegas weddings that are harming the image and value of marriage in this country. Gay marriage is not the answer; it detracts from the philosophical view of what marriage is supposed to be. We will never be able to fix these problems if marriage becomes a right with no responsibility or accountability.

So, I hope there is some understanding as to the concerns supporters have if Proposition 8 does not pass. I have not preached to you Biblical verses or the writings of Popes and saints. I am having a conversation here that can be easily understood by all regardless of culture or religion.

Preserve the value and philosophy of true marriage by voting Yes on Prop 8.

Steven Ostrowski

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Guest Commentary: In Support of Measure N

by Stephen Souza and Lamar Heystek

We wish to rebut a recent e-mail in which Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor outlines his argument against Measure N.

Mr. Saylor argues that few cities in California have charters, and the cities that do have charters have more specific ones than what Measure N proposes.

However, the recent trend is that steadily, more and more general law cities are turning to a charter (currently, 112 cities have charters), and in the history of California, no charter city has sought to revert to general law status. Furthermore, charters naturally become more specific with time as the people of charter cities desire to exercise local control more and more fully. Measure N presents a document that asks whether or not the people of Davis wish to have the broader policy latitude that charter city status confers. If their answer is yes, we anticipate that charter will evolve to continue reflecting the community’s specific interests.

Mr. Saylor alleges that Measure N seeks to solve a problem that does not exist.

However, there are problems that exist now, and there will be unforeseen problems in the future, stemming from the state’s stifling of the city of Davis’ power to act in the public’s interest. Measure N provides options for solving current problems such as the unnecessarily excessive cost of upcoming public works projects, including the City’s wastewater treatment plan upgrade. As currently conceived, the upgrade is projected to cost taxpayers over a fifth of a billion dollars. Because the city of Davis lacks a charter, it is precluded from utilizing “design-build delivery,” a streamlined method of planning and construction where the architect and contractor work as a single team.

In the traditional “design-bid-build” model, a project is broken into phases: the city first hires an architect to draft plans, then it selects a construction contractor through the bidding process. In design-build construction, a single group of professionals handles all phases of design and construction under a single contract, potentially speeding up the process, reducing the city’s liability for planning errors and compressing the construction timeline, which in turn saves the people of Davis millions of dollars in water and sewer rates. Failing to recognize the often unnecessary costliness of delivering city services does the taxpayers of Davis a disservice.

Mr. Saylor is wrong about the charter amendment process. Under Measure N, no charter amendment would be implemented without a vote of the people.

We disagree with Mr. Saylor’s assumption that the people of Davis will abuse the charter amendment process – Davisites have historically displayed judiciousness in exercising their current powers of referendum, recall and initiative.

Mr. Saylor ascribes shifting motivations to supporters of a charter.

However, four members of the City Council made clear that in placing Measure N on the ballot, a charter would provide the people of Davis options on issues ranging from local public power financing to local elections to the protection of our local ordinances. A consistent desire to have local control over these issues does not constitute shifting motivations.

Mr. Saylor implies that the charter does not recognize the people’s right to decide on issues such as choice voting.

However, the charter recognizes the people’s purview over all issues. We recognize that the method of electing councilmembers is fundamental matter that the electors – the people of Davis – should decide on. Should they decide to implement choice voting, they may also decide to encode this in the charter.

Let it be clear that Measure N does not automatically establish choice voting. It merely permits choice voting as an option to be considered further, in keeping with the voters’ will on Measure L back in 2006.

Mr. Saylor cites the passage of Assembly Bill 811 as an example of the continued narrowing of the differences between general law cities and charter cities. He argues AB 811 would allow general law cities to implement the same sort of solar assessment district under development by the city of Berkeley. However, Mr. Saylor fails to cite another important piece of legislation in this area: AB 1709, which permits charter cities to pursue the financing of renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements for new development through the establishment of a Community Facilities District. The CFD law, AB 1709, has proven to be a more flexible financing tool than the much older AB 811 – the difference will be important as local agencies, public finance professionals and the lending community begin to explore the rapidly-changing area of renewable energy financing. AB 1709 may be less problematic with respect to existing home mortgages than AB 811, which levies the entire principal amount of the assessment at the time the contractual assessment is established. In short, there remain substantive differences between the options we have under a charter and those we have under general law.

Mr. Saylor implies that Measure N attempts to circumvent existing tax laws that otherwise supersede a charter.

This is untrue. Measure N does not propose any new taxes, nor does it lower the threshold for the passage of taxes. Measure N does not make any recommendations about future taxes. In fact, if passed, the charter can be amended to preclude the city from considering certain types of taxes which the state can allow general law cities to consider in the future.

Mr. Saylor opines that state government has no intention of encroaching on such matters as local land use, agricultural preservation and inclusionary housing.

However, history shows that the state has allowed cities to have less and less power, not more. What Mr. Saylor fails to understand that a charter provides a meaningful legal mechanism for preserving a city’s purview over municipal affairs. We agree that a general law city cannot protect itself from the state’s expansion of matters of statewide concern because, by definition, it is at the mercy of the state’s interpretation of municipal affairs. However, a charter does provide a city a more tenable legal avenue – in a court of law – to protect what the people define as municipal affairs. The city of Davis must be prepared to do all it can to preserve its jurisdiction over such matters as local growth control. Since the charter is a more durable document, codifying voter-approved measures in perpetuity in a charter would further reinforce the people’s prerogative with regards to municipal affairs.

Mr. Saylor argues further that there has been no thoughtful or inclusive process by which the city’s governance structure has been considered.

However, the 1994-6 Governance Committee and the 2004-5 Governance Task Force, composed of Davis citizens appointed by two City Councils, both deliberated in public meetings on the issue of a charter and ultimately recommended the type of charter that Measure N proposes.

Finally, Mr. Saylor implies that “Hancock, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and the rest” would have argued for something other than Measure N.

No one, not even Mr. Saylor, really knows for sure what they would say. However, they probably would agree that localities have a right and a duty to consider their relationship with higher levels of government, because doing so provides a check and balance on power at all levels. In our opinion, Measure N is a useful step in providing that check.

Thank you for considering our points. We hope this helps you understand our support for Measure N.

State Backs Off: Pulls DJUSD Off Wednesday's Agenda [Updated]

Board President Sheila Allen informed the Vanguard on Friday evening that an item that would have requested DJUSD to return $4.5 million that had been allocated to the district upon appeal has been pulled off the State Allocation Board's Agenda for next Wednesday.

Last Wednesday, the Davis Enterprise reported that the Davis school district could be asked to return the $4.5 million it received just last year from the state in matching funds for the construction of Montgomery Elementary.
"That's apparently the gist of a new legal opinion from the state Attorney General's Office, directed to members of the State Allocation Board. The school district's appeal will be heard at a SAB meeting next Wednesday in Sacramento.

If the Davis district is asked to return the money, it will effectively reverse the SAB's decision in August 2007 to award the $4.5 million to the Davis district, following a lengthy appeal of an earlier decision by the Office of Public School Construction to deny the funds."
Board President Sheila Allen told the Vanguard in a written statement via email:
"More than a year ago, the DJUSD Board, with support from respected local leaders, were successful in regaining $4.5 million in school construction funds from the State Allocation Board, based in large part on the strong administrative and financial competencies of our new District staff.

The DJUSD board is very thankful to Assembly Member Lois Wolk and her staff and to Assembly and State Allocation Board member Kevin De Leon for requesting the removal of this item. Since we were legally awarded the funds and have had it in our possession since December 2007, the board has been confident that Davis will rightfully retain the funds. "
It was a move that never made any sense. First, the decision happened over a year ago.

Second, the district was already given the money and presumably spent it to pay off the bonds it took out when the district found itself short of money on the King High project in part because they had backfilled the spending for Montgomery with money that was allocated for King High construction.

The point is, the district had every reason to believe that that was their money and they had no reason not to spend it to pay off those bonds.

It would be one thing if the district had not received the $4.5 million, however, a year after the fact to make the school district pay the money back to the state seems irresponsible. That would have created a huge burden on the district to come up with $4.5 million in the facilities fund. It just would not have been very reasonable--not that that would have stopped the state.

The burden it would place on the students would have been tremendous. So while we do not know what happened to change their minds, perhaps cooler and wiser heads prevailed in this. Perhaps our state legislators imparted to the state that this would be a long and prolonged battle and they would use every resource they had at their disposal to fight this. I would like to think they just realize it was the wrong thing to do.

Regardless, it appears that the district will be able to keep the money and hopefully we will get more details in the next few days on why and how this happened in the first place.

Now the voters need to pass Measure W so that we do not have to see a repeat of last spring when the district issued dozens of pink slips only to narrowly avert disaster thanks to a more generous May revise to the state budget and the yeoman work of the Davis Schools Foundation.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Measure W Campaign Ad

Check it out, the thirty second spot airing on Comcast Cable in Davis.