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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Proposed Lewis-Cannery Project on Vanguard Radio

On Wednesday, Vanguard Radio had Ken Topper and Jeanne Jones from Lewis Planned Communities on as guests, talking about their mixed=use proposal for Cannery Park.

Change We Can Believe In

I am sure this will get me into a lot of hot water with those on the left. But so far so good with Barack Obama. I am not going to argue he's not going to make a good deal of mistakes along the way. What I am going to say is I like his governing philosophy so far. He is bringing in high profile people, who he doesn't necessarily agree with on everything, people with stature, experience, people who can challenge his assumptions. The biggest flaw of the Bush administration is that Bush never allowed his core assumptions to be challenged.

I will grant anyone that on paper his foreign policy team should have been able to do that--Powell, Rumsfeld, and Rice should have been formidable. However, Powell was marginalized from the beginning, and everyone fell into dangerous group-think. Under other conditions, Rice might have been more effective. So naming a strong team on paper is no guarantee. However, that's where the mentality of the leader comes into play. Bush never had a day of intellectual curiosity or philosophical doubt in his life. Obama from all accounts likes to be challenged, likes to consider opposing viewpoints, and I think that mindset will serve him well as long as he remains true to it.

We can talk about the Hillary Clinton pick all day, and go back and forth on it. To me it is a high risk-high reward endeavor. It hearkens back I think to the popular punditry prior to the democratic convention. The question was whether the Clintons could bury the personal hatchet with Obama and support him. I really was not concerned about that because the Clintons are political professionals first and foremost. For the same reason, Hillary is not going to go off on her own as a Secretary of State because that would undermine her own self-interest. She needs to succeed in this job if she wants a future. That's a powerful agent and motivation for checking herself.

In the meantime she brings a number of positives to the Obama team. She is well-regarded through out the world. She is smart and tough. I think the tough part appeals to Obama. A lot of people suggested that John Kerry would have been a good pick, but Kerry has a strong wimp side to him. He has strong principles and he's smart, but he could just as easily cave on things. One thing you know about Hillary is that she will not back down. What she lacks in pure experience in diplomacy and international relations, she makes up for in a lot of other ways.

The downside here is the Clinton drama factor and her own ego, but I think self-interest will check those problems. It was a powerful statement for Obama. The media has overplayed the team of rivals theme, what Obama has really done here is suggest that he is self-confident and not a person threatened by the stature and success of others in administration.

Let's face it, we have as tough a task ahead on the foreign policy stage as we do with the economy. Since 2003, I think the Bush administration has not paid a single bit of attention to the foreign stage other than Iraq. We have allowed our relationships with our allies to become strained and weakened with the one exception of Britain. We have allowed our relationships with friendly and somewhat unfriendly rivals to become distanced--I am thinking Russian and China as prime examples. We have lost a lot of standing with the conduct of the Iraq war, with Guantanimo, our acceptance of less than stellar human rights policy, our scorn of international institutions and diplomacy, and the perception around the world of arrogance and a cowboy mentality.

The irony is that on September 11, 2001, we really had the sympathy of the world and a strong mandate to do real change and in most real ways we squandered it, regardless of whether or not we might succeed in Iraq, which I think despite security gains is still very dicey at best. Meanwhile Afghanistan has backslid quite a ways, Pakistan is vulnerable at best, the rest of the Middle East is perilously close to far worse.

Shifting gears though, I want to talk about Lieberman. The internet-left as some are going it has universally deplored the stay of execution granted to Lieberman. For me it was the right move for a lot of reasons.

Let me start by suggesting that there are few who dislike Lieberman more than me. And few who have disliked him longer than I have. My dislike goes back to the mid-1990s when I worked for People for the American Way. One of my projects was to help save the National Endowment for the Arts. At that time, Republicans were trying to cut as many government programs as possible and the NEA went on the chopping block.

At issue were a few examples of federal funding going to objectionable materials. However, research done by myself and others, showed much of the objectionable material was quite dated by 1997 and there were already guidelines in place to prevent that type of material from being funded. Even if a few objectionable art materials had been funded, it was a tiny percentage of the overall budget. But the hard right seized on these examples to attempt to kill the NEA.

The heroes of this story were a couple of New England moderate to liberal Republican Senators--Jim Jeffords who would eventually become an independent before he retired and John Chaffee. One of the villains in the story was another New England moderate Joe Lieberman, who supported the stripping of the program. Long before Senator Lieberman was a hawk supporting Iraq and an independent supporting McCain and Senator Norm Coleman, he was a crusading moralist opposing questionable rock lyrics, violence in movies and television, and an opponent of questionable art.

In the end, the NEA won the day and Lieberman lost. My glowing moment coming in the fall of 1997 when I was back in Davis, there was Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa reading my research into the Congressional Record, essentially debunking the Republican arguments about objectionable art. The NEA was re-authorized and still exists today.

So yes, I have long disliked Senator Lieberman to the point it was difficult for me to accept him as the Vice Presidential candidate in 2000. His outspoken support for Iraq was unconscionable in my view. His attacking Barack Obama was repugnant. Frankly, I think he could be forgiven for a lot of things including supporting his longtime friend John McCain and even speaking at the convention (though it gets dicey there), but attacking Obama, giving aid and comfort to the socialist charge, and supporting Norm Coleman were the final death knells for him.

Or were they?

For some reason, I think back to the movie Schindler's List. There was an exchange between the hero Oskar Schindler and the Nazi Concentration Camp Commander Amos Goeth. They were having a discussion about power. Schindler was trying to manipulate Goeth who was power hungry and maniacal.

He argued that true power was actually mercy. "Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don't." In the movie at least, it works for about half a second as Goeth pardons the first person he encounters when he has the opportunity to kill, but then resumes his murderous and barbaric rampage.

But Schindler was right. True power really is the power of mercy. Execution is actually the demonstration of force, rather than power. A subtle but real distinction. But mercy not only demonstrates power more effectively, it also elevates he or she who provides mercy.

The Democrats had every right and every authority to strip Lieberman of his position as chair. But to what end? Governance in the Senate requires compromise. It requires going across the aisle and getting on controversial matters, 60 Senators to go along with something. The Democrats even if they got to 60 votes (which would have to include Lieberman) would still need to convince more moderate Senators to go along with them. They cannot afford to alienate a potential ally. They cannot afford to drive Lieberman into the Republican camp.

They have put Lieberman on notice that he could lose his chairmanship down the line if he bucks them. That may be the most control over him they can exercise. Leading the way to give mercy was Barack Obama, the subject of the attack. He was able to show magnanimity and above all mercy. Revenge and retribution are empty gestures that show weakness rather than strength. Obama has elevated himself above pettiness, above revenge, and has bestowed mercy on a former adversary.

Let us not dismiss the gravity of disloyalty. If we are going to be philosophic, it is instructive to note that in Dante's depiction of hell, the lowest of the low, the worst spot in hell was reserved for Judas Iscariot, whose crime was betraying God. Of all the sins to be punished, the crime of betrayal was viewed by the ancients as the worst.

Obama and Senate Democrats did the right thing here by not exacting retribution against Lieberman for disloyalty. Lieberman may believe he is a maverick, but disloyalty is one of the gravest indiscretions you can commit. He forgot that. He is very fortunate not to have been stripped of his chair, but he also has to recognize that next time, the Democrats may not be as forgiving.

This was a step Obama had to take if he is serious about moving beyond simple and petty partisanship. It would have been difficult to argue that he was going to change the tone of the Washington discourse if he proceeded to watch over the execution of Lieberman for his crime of being a traitor.

At this point, Obama has been held up so high by so many. It is difficult to imagine he can fulfill expectations. And let us not discount how daunting the task really is. The United States has really had no political leadership for four years. In most ways, the Bush administration checked out after being reelected. If we look back, what is the major accomplishment of the second Bush term? Perhaps the surge--I cannot think of anything else.

Here we are in economic crisis and Bush has almost completely abdicated his authority. The bailout has become a fiasco, moving sideways. It is clear that there were not enough safeguards put into place. Any bailout of the auto industry will be done with the leadership of Congress, not President Bush. It is hard to imagine a more irresponsible administration. The only thing that may redeem Bush's Presidency would be success in Iraq, which is fragile at best and perhaps worse than that at this point. To many it looks more like a house of cards than a solid foundation.

To many in this country, the next sixty days cannot pay fast enough.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Friday, November 21, 2008

Congressman Mike Thompson for Secretary of Interior?

The Associated Press is reporting that two California Democratic Congressional leaders, George Miller and Anna Eshoo, sent a letter to President-elect Obama urging them to consider Congressman Mike Thompson for the Secretary of Interior.

Miller's chief of staff, Danny Weiss said:
"They believe that he would make an excellent secretary, has a broad base of support and knows the issues very well, both from the environmental side and the natural resources side, and they encouraged the transition team to consider him strongly."
According to the Associated Press:
"Nearly three dozen sportsmen's groups, including Ducks Unlimited and Wildlife Forever, also sent a letter to President-elect Barack Obama's transition team supporting Thompson.

Thompson backers are heartened by comments Obama made in an interview with Field & Stream magazine in September. He said his Interior secretary probably would be a sportsman or sportswoman.

"I think that having a head of the Department of Interior who doesn't understand hunting and fishing would be a problem," the magazine quoted Obama as saying."
It continues:
Thompson, 57, won re-election in November and will start his sixth term in January. He serves on the Ways and Means and Intelligence committees, and co-founded the Wine Caucus when he arrived in Congress in 1999.

He is an avid hunter and has pushed legislation and disaster relief on behalf of salmon fishermen in Northern California.

In a statement Thursday, Thompson said, "It's an honor to be recognized by the many groups I've worked with over the years, but no one associated with President-elect Obama has contacted me."
This has opened the speculation already on places such as Matt Rexroad's blog, as to who possible replacements would be in a district that includes seven counties stretch from Yolo in the Southeast each through Napa and Sonoma all the way to Humboldt and Del Norte counties up at the Oregon border.

Some possibilities include former State Senator Wes Chesbro, current State Senator Pat Wiggins, both of whom serve(d) the 2nd Senate District which covers the northern coastal portion of the 1st Congressional District.

Among locals names such as Senator-elect Lois Wolk, Supervisors Helen Thomson and Mike McGowan, Assemblywoman-elect Mariko Yamada, and West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

As Rexroad points out, Yolo County does have more people and more Democrats in the 1st Congressional District than any other county. On the other hand, it is in the southeastern extreme portion of the county and there are members of the legislature better situation. Both Yamada and Wolk were just now elected. I think this is Chesbro or Wiggins' to lose if they want it, but of course, Mike Thompson would have to be offered and accept the job.

Mike Thompson somewhat fits the profile, although usually you see a Western Senator or Governor get the offer. The Democrats find themselves with a number of pretty good candidates with some of the more populist western governorships they now hold. Of course, do they want to give up those positions? Already, we have seen Obama offer Arizona Governor Napolitano the Secretary of Homeland Security, a position she has reportedly accepted. Would he dip into that well for a Brian Schweitzer (Governor of Montana) or a Bill Ritter (Governor of Colorado)? Thompson has the advantage of being from a safe seat which is nearly three-quarters Democrat.

This pick does give a bit of local intrigue to the race for the second time this week, as UC Davis law professor emeritus and former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso was named as part of a search team.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Thursday, November 20, 2008

City of Davis Global Warming and Carbon Goals

I continue to be somewhat perplexed by the entire push for carbon neutrality at the city level. I watched the council meeting on Tuesday, and it is obvious that the city has put in a lot of staff hours looking into this. I have not yet attending a Climate Action Team meeting, and I suspect I will not do so. It is not really that I think the issue is unimportant--I think it is one of the top 5 issues facing the new Obama administration along with the economy, health care, human rights, and re-orientating our role in the world.

There is a lot to critique and comment on, so I will pick just a few things to discuss. I really would like to see the comments actually of what people in this community think about these efforts and what they believe we should do.

One of the interesting assumptions that the city makes here is that the existing houses will last until at least 2050. In fact, we do not attempt to get to carbon neutrality until that point. Depending who we talk to about the state of the climate, that may be too late. But we need to leave that issue aside. If there is an aspect of this that I most strongly supportive of it is the idea of new energy efficiency in home design. This plan almost cedes that issue. I am sure we can retrofit homes with photovoltaic cells, but frankly that is the beginning of energy efficiency, not the end. There are whole host of passive features for homes that can make us more efficient. Start with good insulation to keep the heat in during winter months and the heat out during summer months. Making use of the position of the sun to gain maximum sun exposure during the winter and minimizing direct sunlight during peak heat hours in the summer can help. Orienting cross-ventilation can enable people to utilize nature's cooling device--the delta breeze during evening hours in the summer to reduce air conditioning usage. But if we are conceding that these changes will not be implemented for 42 years, where are we?

The next issue is both a local land use issue and a global issue--transportation. We can have the best designed houses in the world, but if you have to drive to work, it helps us none. Last night on the Vanguard Radio show, representatives of Lewis Planned Communities talked about the prospect of people biking to Amtrak and taking the Capitol Corridor train to work. That would certainly be a start. But unless we are going to get serious about a transportation system at the regional level, those people are going to be exceptions, not the rule. The prospect of smart urban design is to put housing where the jobs are. There is little doubt that is a smart principle, but it involves us figuring out what our true internal needs are and then determining a way to provide housing for those needs. There are pitfalls to that strategy as well, as you end up attracting people more to places like Davis with new residential growth which contributes to the problem of commuting. Until we change that mindset, transportation is going to remain a problem. We seem to be as a society sitting back, waiting for new technology to save us here. But will it be too late?

The third prong to this is obviously going to be business development. I hate to keep coming back to Target, but it is a glaring contradiction. If we are serious about global warming and reducing our carbon footprint, then we cannot continue to practice unsustainable consumer practices. I will be frank--as a society, we do not want to sacrifice. We want to innovate our way out of this problem as we have innovated our way out of many problems in the past. I am unsure we can do that. I think to some extent we are going to have to change the way we live. Housing and transportation are only part of that equation. The other part is our wasteful consumer habits. Target is the perfect model for what is wrong with that approach. The great irony is that we have put Target in the LEED-certified building. We might as well put a HUMMER car lot in a LEED-certified building for all the good this does us.

There are so many problems with the Target model, but let's go over a few. Cheap disposable goods that end up taking large amount of energy to produce and they end up in the landfill. Production is off-sight. The goods are transported from a long way from here to centralized locations where they are then transported here. There are harmful economic impacts as well, but in terms of an environmental model, it is the worst possible model. Where are most of the product manufactured? Oversees in factories that are environmental hazards on a large number of levels. The products themselves are generally not environmentally friendly. You have wasteful packaging that ends up in landfills unless they are recycled. The products themselves are inexpensive, which means they have a limited life, and one needs to purchase more. In short, it is not a sustainable business model for an environment such as ours.

And yet, with all of our time and energy and planning that has gone into the CAT and mitigating global warming, I have seen no consideration of the impact of Target and places like Target on global warming. Unless we are willing to change the way we live and consume products, it is going to be difficult to combat global warming. I see us willing to have bells and whistles and to pay for those bells and whistles, but I do not see us willing to sacrifice.

It is on this point, that I illustrate a further problem. For new development involving housing, the city is moving toward developing greenhouse gas reduction guidelines. Sounds reasonable.

However, now you have at the meeting on Tuesday, a developer who happens to be a member of CAT warning of the danger of putting too many restrictions on developers. To be honest at one level I can understand his concern--this is the person's livelihood, who can blame him for being concerned. But on another level, it is yet another example of the unwillingness to sacrifice. Moreover, I have seen the efforts of a few of the more recent proposed developments who have put almost of this into their proposals already. Why? Because, they have to sell their projects to the community and this is what most people in the community want. So I think largely these fears are unfounded.

The developer suggested that we were the verge of actually shutting down new residential development in this community and that the city will not be able to achieve any of its goals related to housing. I do not buy it. Has anyone seen any indication that the pressure to develop will stop? There is too much money to be made. Developers are more likely to do this voluntarily in order to get their projects approved.

The bottom line here is that this illustrates the peril of such goals. We need to start coming into the mindset at some point that we need to sacrifice. I think there are new technologies and that green technologies and innovations are a driving economic force in the future. There are other jurisdictions with some pretty innovative plans already on the books. But at the core and in the final hour, we need to acknowledge that we are going to have to give some things up. Maybe for the developers it is a bit of the profit margin. Maybe for the city it is a bit of our plans. Maybe the consumers it is some of our cheap and convenient consumer goals. Perhaps it is the luxury of huge gas-guzzling SUVs. Perhaps in Alaska, it is the acknowledgment that drill-baby-drill is in fact incompatible with global warming reductions rather than its cure. I don't know, but it seems to me that we have a lot of tough choices ahead if we want to try to head off the potential fall-out from global warming.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vanguard Radio Tonight: Lewis-Cannery Project

Tonight from 6 pm to 7 pm on Vanguard Radio. KDRT 95.7 FM.

Guests will include Ken Topper and Jeanne Jones from Lewis Planned Communities.

Topic of discussion will be the mixed-use project proposed for the site of the former Cannery.

Guests can call in at 530.792.1648

Live streaming:

School District Considers Shifting Elections to Even Years

In light of the very low turnout of the 2007 off-year elections, there were a number of proposals to both increase voter turnout and save money. One idea that Freddie Oakley put out there was to go to either a heavily mail-in election, where there would only be a very small number of polling stations available and the majority of voters would simply mail-in their ballots.

While this was not a bad idea, the idea that I favored is one that I had seen areas like San Luis Obispo go to, which was to consolidate all of their elections onto the even year.

There are of course both positives and negatives to that. On the one hand, you are assured of having a reasonable turnout. On the other hand, it is possible that school board elections and other lower ballot races would get lost in the mad shuffle of Presidential, Senatorial, Congressional, Gubernatorial, and other large elections. This is of course a risk, but then again only a small number of people pay attention to the school board elections during the odd-year anyway.

The key is that this would be a way for the school district and the county to save money. And the cost factor is considerable. According to Freddie Oakley, off-year elections cost between $200,000 and $300,000. This is due to the small number of races across very few jurisdictions. However, if the school district were to hold its elections during the general, that cost would be shared, and the cost to the school district would be $60,000 to $80,000. Savings of a substantial amount of money in dry years.

Cost is perhaps not the only consideration here however. The turnout two weeks ago was a staggering 79.5% compared to the paltry 32.8% in 2007.

Unspoken in this consideration is that the district often chosen these off-year elections with low turnout for the parcel taxes, believing that the people who turned out would be more inclined to support schools since they were likely people who had a stake in schools having turned out for an election almost exclusively for the school board. However, the overwhelming success of Measure W may (stress on the may since this is all speculation) have changed that calculus. The community as a whole seems very supportive of education and educational funding.

To me this makes perfect sense and was actually the approach I advocated over a year ago. Put the elections together and make decisions when the majority of the people vote rather than 67.2% of the electorate stay home.

Now there is one downside or it could be an upside depending on how you view the current school board. If the board makes this change, it would mean they stay on for another year. This happened in San Luis Obispo as well. However, in San Luis Obispo the issue was put on the ballot. In fact, I believe it was the first election I ever voted in. There are bound to be some questions about extending their own terms by a year. But I hope the public looks past that and views it as a way to save between $120,000 or even $220,000 of taxpayer money and increase voter participation in very important school board elections. In other words, I think this is the right thing to do from both a fiscal standpoint and a democratic participation standpoint.

If you have questions for the school district, click here to participate in our virtual townhall meeting set for December 2, 2008.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Former California Supreme Court Court Justice Cruz Reynoso Named to Obama Agency Review Team

According to a release from UC Davis, Cruz Reynoso, professor emeritus of law at the University of California, Davis, has been appointed to President-elect Barack Obama's Justice and Civil Rights Agency Review Team. Reynoso will help lead a review of key federal departments, agencies and commissions, as well as the White House. The review will provide the Obama-Biden Transition Team with information needed to make policy, budgetary and personnel decisions prior to Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration.

Reynoso is an internationally known civil rights leader, the first Latino to sit on the California Supreme Court, and a 2000 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. He has served as associate general counsel to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, as a member of the Select Commission on Immigration and Human Rights, and as vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He joined the faculty at UC Davis in 2001.

I first encountered Cruz Reynoso a few years ago when he spoke at the 2006 Davis Cesar Chavez day celebration.

Reynoso told the crowd that day, that he was not sure sure that farm workers were better off that day as before Chavez.

The Davis Enterprise reported at the time:
Reynoso knew Chávez before the organizer became involved with the plight of farm workers. He said Chávez's early vision was of a self-help group for farm workers, not a union. But when he realized that nothing could be achieved without economic power, Chávez united his farm workers by organizing strikes and picketing. He also adopted tactics favored by another activist of the day, Martin Luther King Jr.

"But don't think of them (King and Chávez) as teddy bears," Reynoso warned. "César Chávez was often called a trouble-maker and an outsider."
Reynoso was suggesting at the time that people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez have been made safe by the passage of time. We think of King, in particular, as a non-violent activist, someone both sides of the fence admire, someone who almost seems safe and comfortable like a teddy bear. But during their time King along with Chavez were considered radicals.

The great thing about winning the Presidency from my perspective is that people on our side of the struggle, that many of us know and admire get picked to positions of influence and appointments of honor. And so men like Cruz Reynoso get their due honor rather than some of the more shady and despicable characters of the Bush administration.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Davis Media Access and the Davis Vanguard Present: Virtual Townhall Meeting for Davis School District

Davis Media Access (DMA) and the Vanguard will host a Virtual Townhall Meeting on Tuesday, December 2, 2008 with the Davis Joint Unified School District.

The event features:
  • Superintendent James Hammond
  • Chief Budget Officer Bruce Colby
  • School Board President Sheila Allen
  • Vanguard Publisher/ Founder David Greenwald as the moderator
The event will be a MULTIMEDIA production.
  • The audio will air on KDRT 95.7 FM during the ordinary Vanguard time slot, Wednesday December 3, 2008 from 6 pm to 7 pm.

  • The video will be broadcast on Cable Channel 15 around that time as well, the exact time will be announced at a later date.

  • The Vanguard will post the streaming video of the broadcast on its blog located at when it becomes available.

Members of the public will post questions in the comment section below. Those questions will be reviewed and the best questions will be used during the hour program. The guests from the school district and school board will answer the questions as posed by the moderator.

Questions can also be submitted by email.

In order for this to be a successful event, we need lots of good questions and tough questions. So please, post them below. Also pass this on to anyone who might be interested in participating. This is your chance to ask questions about the Davis School District.

Councilmember Heystek's Purchase of Affordable Housing Done Properly

At the request of one of the councilmembers, the city of Davis investigated the purchase of a home by Councilmember Lamar Heystek. After review of the documentation, the city was satisfied that the Councilmember's home was purchased through the standard processing steps.

A September 9, 2008, an item appeared in the consent calendar pertaining to the purchase of Councilmember Lamar Heystek's home in the redevelopment area of the city.
"When a City Councilmember and/or Board Member on the Agency Board purchases a property within the City’s Redevelopment Area, law requires that it be disclosed publicly. Additionally, the Agency is required to certify that the property being purchased is in a habitable condition. Habitability of the unit is to ensure that the buyer does not take advantage of an opportunity to benefit financially from the Redevelopment Agency’s projects and/or improvements within the
Redevelopment Area."
In the agenda item, Councilmember Heystek wrote:
"On July 25, 2008, I purchased a unit at Southfield Park as my personal residence. The address is 1126 Greene Terrace, Davis, CA 95618. This property is in the Redevelopment Project Area. The purchase of the memorandum is to inform you of this purchase and for this disclosure to be entered in to the minutes of the Redevelopment Agency Board of Directors. This disclosure is being made pursuant to the State of California Health and Safety Code sections 33130 and 33130.5."
However, this disclosure was not enough for one member of the Davis City Council. And so, Danielle Foster, the Housing and Human Services Superintendent of the city of Davis conducted an investigation into Mr. Heystek's purchase of an affordable housing ownership unit to determine if the proper processes were used or if Mr. Heystek had used undue influence to obtain the unit.

Upon investigation, Ms. Foster cleared Heystek of any implication of wrongdoing:
"After review of their annual reporting documentation and receipt of the attached letter describing the process used in processing and qualifying Councilmember Heystek for the affordable ownership unit at 1126 Greene Terrace, staff has verified that the standard program processing steps were used in the qualifying of Councilmember Heystek for an affordable housing unit at Southfield Park/ Greene Terrace."
The memo continues:
"Consistent with the program, he went through the following steps:
  1. Submittal of a project pre-application to get onto the general waiting list for Southfield Park/ Greene Terrace
  2. Submittal of necessary income documentation, homebuyer education certification, and pre-approval documentation of a home loan from the buyer’s chosen lender
  3. Submittal of lender’s approval of deed restrictions on affordable housing unit (not all lenders will lend on these units), asset documentation, copy of loan application, 3 recent check stubs and documentation of any other income
  4. Once all documentation has been collected by CHOC and the buyer(s) has been qualified, the buyer(s) is added to the Income-Qualified/Mortgage Ready list chronologically and wait for either a two-bedroom unit or three-bedroom unit
  5. Buyers on the Income-Qualified/Mortgage Ready list are shown units as they become available and are offered the opportunity to purchase based on their list ranking"
It continues:
"Councilmember Heystek completed the necessary steps between the period of December 14, 2007 and June 2008. He was third on the two bedroom list when 1126 Greene Terrace became available. The two Income-Qualified/Mortgage Ready buyers ahead of him were not able to purchase 1126 Greene Terrace (one was leaving Davis for a job promotion elsewhere and the other buyer opted to wait for a later unit based on timing needs), so Councilmember Heystek was offered the unit and accepted the opportunity to purchase it."
Finally, it was requested that the city determine if Mr. Heystek had any conflicts of interest as the result of this purchase. The City Attorney's Office determined that Mr. Heystek would have the same conflicts of interest of any property owner--thus he could not take actions on items that were located within 500 feet of his property.

However, they found it unlikely he would have a conflict with future CHOC items:
" The City Attorney's Office is researching further whether Councilmember Heystek will be conflicted on future items related to the city's Right of First Refusal Contract with CHOC. At this point, it's unlikely since he does not have a financial interest in CHOC’s role running the program. Future changes to the city’s affordable housing program would not be retroactive to his unit and would not likely present a conflict. No other potential conflicts have been identified by the City Attorney's Office at this time."
The Vanguard fully appreciates transparency in government. It is necessary for full trust in the operations of government and the conduct of public officials.

While we applaud this transparency, it should also be mentioned that this document and investigation were produced at the request of one of Mr. Heystek's colleagues on the city council and it was done unbeknownst to him at the time. We find that implication somewhat troubling as though this were done in a manner to uncover improprieties on the part of the councilmember rather than to ensure transparency.

It has been our experience with Mr. Heystek that he has always taken steps to operate above the board in all respects. In fact, he told the Vanguard that he went out of his way to follow all due process in the purchase of his home. The air of suspicion cast by a member of his own council toward him casts a chilling impact that threatens the civility by which Mr. Heystek generally operates on the council. In short, it appears that Councilmember Heystek would have happily divulged the full process by which he acquired him home had he been asked and would have himself submitted to the council the investigation that proceeded behind his back.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Monday, November 17, 2008

Davis Police Officer Arrested In Sacramento

Davis Police Officer Antoine Feher, 26, was arrested on the evening of Friday, September 12, 2008, outside the Park Ultra Lounge Night Club in Sacramento for a violation of California Penal Code 647(F), public intoxication.

The officer on the scene described Feher in a police report as having slurred speech, being unsteady and belligerent, while having a "strong odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath."

Officer Feher was asked numerous times to leave the premises by security guards and officers, but he refused. He remained belligerent and argumentative and was taken into custody for public intoxication.

In his police report, Officer Hanks of the Sacramento Police Department described the incident. He and Sgt. Lau observed Officer Feher "arguing and being belligerent with three security guards that work for the bar."

The security staff had asked Officer Feher to leave but he "refused to leave and stated that he wanted to talk to the police. We advised Feher that the security at the bar no longer wanted him there and that he had to leave."

Officer Feher then purportedly told the police officers, "So this is how your (sic) are going to treat another cop."

Officer Hanks responded "that it didn't matter if he was a cop or not, if you are asked to leave the bar by security you have to leave."

Sgt. Lau reportly asked Officer Feher what agency he worked for. His first response was YONET. He was asked again and responded, "BNE."
"Feher identified himself as working for YONET. I recognized this as Yolo Narcotics Enforcement Team. I asked Feher which agency he worked for. Feher again stated, "YONET.” I said that I understood that but that YONET was a task force and which agency he actually was employed by. Feher stated that he worked for BNE (Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, Ca DOJ)."

"It wasn't until after S-Feher was placed under arrest that we found out that S-Feher actually worked for Davis Police Department. A Davis Police Department Identification was located in his wallet."
A security guard for the night club also spoke to the arresting police.

The security guard reported that, "As I was walking around my post, I was grabbed by a customer who stated that there was an altercation in the patio near the entrance of Mason's bar. I responded to the area and saw [Feher] arguing with about 5 different customers."

He continued, "As I approached the group, all the patrons around Feher told me that he was harassing the girls in the group and would not leave them alone."
"I asked Feher to leave. He refused and became argumentative. I was concerned that Feher may become physically violent and called for additional security staff via my radio to assist. We had about five of our interior staff escort him out. He remained argumentative and belligerent. He would refuse to leave then slowly walk toward the exit then stop and argue again."
According to a female witness at the bar, who was there with several companions, Feher repeatedly attempted to talk to one of her companions and refused to leave her alone when requested to do so.

The witness then stated, "One of [Officer Feher's] friends tried to get him to leave and he shoved his friend and became aggressive towards him. He tried again to talk to [her companion] and I got afraid and pushed him away from me. He pushed me back and a bunch of people stepped in. I didn't throw a drink on him. The drink got on him when everybody stepped in. He is really drunk."

When Officer Feher was arrested, Feher demanded that the above witness be arrested as well. The Sacramento Police reluctantly arrested her after Officer Feher filled out a citizen's arrest.

He told the arresting officers:
"Well if that's the game you want to play and take sides with the bar then I want to press charges... I want to press charges for 242 pc. The girl in the bar pushed me. I want her arrested."
In his statement to the police Officer Feher said:
"I was inside the club trying to talk to girls when that girl pushed me with both hands in my chest area then threw a beer on me. I demand that she be arrested for 242PC. If you are going to make me leave, I want her arrested and you'll be creating paper for yourself. I work for BNE. I'm a cop and I want her arrested. I work on YONET.

I can't believe you guys are going to take sides with the security here over another cop. If you refuse to take my arrest, you'll be making a big mistake. You will be talking to my superiors. I'll be in contact with my watch commander. Are you going to arrest her or not? I can't believe you guys aren't arresting her. So this is how Sac PD does it huh? I will sign a citizen's arrest against her for assaulting me. You wait till you're in my jurisdiction because this type of treatment goes both ways."
According to the records from booking, Officer Feher was told that "as long as he remained calm and cooperative he would be brought in discreetly in the back door." They were concerned for his safety as a police officer and so they attempted to conduct the arrest and booking as discreetly as possible.

Officer Feher remained highly uncooperative as he was transported to the Sacramento County Jail by Officers Duink and Suehowicz.

He complained to Sacramento County Jail booking supervisor, Sgt. Vagt, that this was "bull****" and said "that this was no way to treat a brother officer."

Sgt. Vagt told Officer Feher, "I don't know if it's the alcohol you have had tonight, but you are not cooperating like I asked you."

Feher then apologized and said, "I don't have a problem with you guys it's Sac PD. However, the Sgt then described: "He then looked over at myself and [Officer] Suehowicz and began giving us "hard, challenging" stares. He looked at me and said words to the effect of
"you ain't ****, Sac PD ain't ****, I work narcotics."

Officer Feher then is purported to have said:

"You think you are the ****, you ain't man. I would love to meet you out somewhere and..."

The Sgt said: "And what?"

The reports says, "He smiled and looked hard and said "talk."

According to reports, once inside, Feher again became mildly uncooperative with sheriff's deputies by being "slow to follow instructions and making condescending comments."

At one point when he was taking off his socks, he "tossed it towards the deputy and looked at him in a challenging manner. The deputy had to step back and allow another deputy to continue the booking search."

The Vanguard spoke to Davis Police Chief Landy Black via phone last week. Due to this being a personnel matter, Chief Black could not directly respond to the specifics of the incident. However, he confirmed that an investigation is in progress and when it is completed a decision will be made that takes into account all factors. Chief Black pointed out that he has access to additional information in addition to the police report and that that will be weighed into any decision that the department makes.

Chief Black did very adamantly stress to the public that he believes that the Davis Police Department has the public interest at heart in all matters. He stressed that they will weigh the situation accordingly and do what they believe is right for all of the community and all involved and he promised to make sure that his department would always do right by the public. Having the public's confidence is one of his top priorities and one of the reasons that he decided to take this job.

Councilmember Lamar Heystek told the Vanguard:
"The solemn oath to enforce the law comes with the equally solemn obligation to obey the law. The people of all communities deserve to feel confident in those with whom they entrust their quality of life, from day-to-day city employees to members of the City Council."
Officer Feher remains on administrative leave pending the outcome of the Davis Police Department's internal investigation.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Soaking the Ratepayers on Water Already

I was just reading Bob Dunning's most recent column in the Davis Enterprise. He writes about a man named "Glen" who is having trouble absorbing his new city utility bill. We have covered this issue before, but it bears another examination. What the city did with a simple change of methodology is unconscionable.

The Vanguard discussed this issue back in September, but the human cost here is extraordinary. What has happened is that the city has gone to water usage as a means by which to gauge sewer rates. If one proceeds carefully and cautiously, that is probably a decent approximation of sewer usage. Even then there are some problems that develop from such a methodology. For instance, it will over-estimate sewer usage for people with large gardens who use a lot of water to water their plants--water that does not then go into the sewer.

The real problem was insufficient city notification to the public as to what was going to happen, how it was going to happen, and what that would mean.

Let me be clear, I understand the city sent out notices to the public on this. Notices do not work. We get too many notices. Notices blend in with everything else the city and everyone else decides to dump into our mailbox.

What would have worked is for a year to have an additional line on a person's sewer bill which basically read: "your bill under 2008 methodology." It should then have instructed an individual who thinks that bill is too high to contact the city. That would have gotten people's attention and it would have avoided this particular problem.

However, the city did not do that and people during one of the worst economic times in memory are having to deal with huge increases to their water bills until such time as they can bring it down. Where is the city's responsibility here to bridging that gap? Who is stepping up to make sure the public is not getting crippled at a time when the economy is in the tank? The answer is no one.

But in a lot of ways, the situation is worse than that. People who read this blog have a fairly good idea that worse is coming down the pike. But the general public does not know what is in store for them. The city is on the verge of approving two massive new projects involving our water--a new wastewater treatment plant and a new water supply diversion system.

The cost of these two projects unless something dramatically changes is going to be half a billion dollars. And really, I think that's just the tip of the iceberg. I think the cost is really going to be higher than the current estimates.

People with the change in methodology have gotten just a taste of what is really coming towards them. I have said this before, people wondered how I could support a $120 per year increase for Measure W. Frankly that's about $10 a month and the money goes for education. When these changes come down you are likely looking at no less than that increase PER MONTH to your water bill and the proceeds go to pay for city and private engineers to construct these two massive public works projects.

If you were worried about your finances with Measure W, that's nothing and it's a good investment into the future of our community. This is simply frightening.

What concerns me most is the lack of consideration of alternatives. Every time that a certain councilmember has raised these questions, it seems she is cut off.

Here is what we have been told:

1. The outflow water does not meet current standards.

Assuming that is true, what is the impact of a high selenium content on the environment and is that impact really worth the costs of a new wastewater treatment plant and a new water supply project.

2. The only solution is to find a new water source

Are there possible alternatives? Part of my concern here is that the same people who are advising the city and are experts on water are those who would stand to profit from a new water supply project.

3. If we do not act now on Sacramento River water, we will lose our place in line

This line has continually moved the project forward for the past decade with very little actual decision-making. We have basically created trajectory with no policy. But this is actually the crucial question.

Does the Sacramento River Water reduce the pollutant problem or does it merely shift it? Will the river be a reliable supply of water during drought years? Will we even get river water during the dry season of drought years?

There have been suggestions that they only open the spigot when the river is over a certain level and that the time of year when we are most likely to get water would be during winter months. Is this really the solution to our problems? Or are we kind of deluding ourselves?

We are going to invest a lot of money into this system, is it really going to give us water and is it water that we can afford? In other words, is this really the change that we need or should we not go to the drawing board and figure out possibly if there is another way?

I do not know the answers to these. What I would like to do though is to talk to people who are not financially invested in our decision. I do not think that is really too much to ask.

Do people like "Glen" know this is even under consideration? How would they respond? Are we going to end up pricing people right out of this city with the high utility bills and increasing tax burden, not to mention the cost of housing and everything else.

I hear people complain all the time about the cost of housing and attribute it to lack of growth in the last ten years, which is not necessarily borne out by data, but those same people seem unmoved by the potential 800-pound gorilla sitting in the back of the room. We need leadership and innovation on this issue. I don't want to hear industry buzzwords about "value engineering" and "cost reduction." I want to see real tough decision-making and thinking outside of the box that the consultants have already placed us into.

---David M. Greenwald reporting