I appreciate this Davisite article and completely agree with its response to the defensive Enterprise article by Tanya Perez. However, the problem with the Enterprise goes far beyond the few mentioned. The Enterprise needs to become more even-handed and print the comments and concerns of the wide variety of community members, instead of focusing on and reflecting personal opinions of its new editor Sebastian Oñate so often on its Forum page.
Further, it is inexcusable that the Enterprise's publishers would tolerate the condescending comments posted by its new editor, Sebastian Oñate (on Twitter) ridiculing Davis community members and their submitted writings to the Enterprise. His predecessor, Debbie Davis, was a professional who respected all opinions, regardless of whether she agreed with them or not, and would never have behaved so unprofessionally and disrespectfully towards the community.
Lamenting the loss of eagle-eyed editor Debbie Davis, AP news stories, and the like, Perez writes:
The Enterprise aims to give you the information you cannot get elsewhere. We know you have Google, so you can look up the recipe sections we no longer carry. You can Google comic strips you miss, or AP News stories or national headlines.
We are trying to give you context for local issues. And we are working to tell you what people in our immediate area want to know. That is our core mission [emphasis added].
Right on. This is certainly why I subscribe to the Enterprise – why I subscribed as soon as I moved here and why I continue to subscribe. I am always a little baffled when people say they don’t read the local paper. I think it’s important to know what is going on around us, even more so than what is going in the state or nation.
Where I think she misses one of the core missions of a local paper, however, is where she writes:
At its November 7, 2017 meeting, the City Council voted to change its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) policy, as well as ban the use of neonicotinoids (implicated in colony collapse disorder in bees) and a phase-out of glyphosate (often sold as Roundup, listed by the State of California as a probable human carcinogen). The decision was a mixed bag, containing some good elements and some bad. This article describes some of the events that led up to that decision. I write now because, with a new Council just seated, I hope that some of the bad process chronicled here can be avoided for future decisions.
This piece will of necessity be a bit lengthy. And that is part of my point. It took far too long for this issue to come to the City Council for a vote. At every turn certain staff members sought to delay and subvert the will of commissioners, of citizens, and even of City Council members. As Jon Li says, sometimes one has to ask, “who is in charge in Davis?”
Last Tuesday, the subject of public comment procedures was on the City Council’s agenda. Incoming Mayor Brett Lee had proposed some potential changes such as limiting general public comment to 45 minutes, with remaining speakers coming back at the end of the meeting, and shortening individual public comment from three minutes to two and a half minutes.
The intention of the changes was potentially to try to expedite the meetings in the spirit of greater efficiency. However, there were a number of citizens’ emails sent to Council objecting to the proposed changes and around a dozen citizens testified, urging the Council not to make these changes. It was clear that there was a Council majority who wanted to try alternative methods to the proposed changes to manage public comment. These alternative methods, including use of the 1-,2-,3- minute method for public comment when there are many speakers (that is, encouraging commenters to speak for only one or two minutes, instead of the full three allowed, and giving those speakers priority in the queue), served as a great relief to many people whom expressed concern about the original proposals. But it was helpful for the issue to be discussed with the public, explaining the unintended consequences that would result from forcing people to return at the end of the Council meeting to testify, particularly when an item they wanted to comment on likely would have already been voted on.
If you want to preserve your right to speak in general public comment at City Council meetings, come to the City Council meeting today (Tuesday, July 10) at 7:15 PM and express your concerns about the proposal to shunt some of general public comment to the very end of the meeting. Maybe you’ve never spoken at a Council meeting. Maybe you don’t think you would. But it’s exactly when our concerns are the greatest that we find ourselves doing things that we didn’t expect we’d do and when we most need to preserve our right to speak.
Although I’ve spoken at Council meetings a number of times, I don’t believe I’ve ever spoken at general public comment at the beginning of the meeting (exception: my first time when I didn’t understand how things worked). But I have heard others give general public comment. They speak of issues that the Council might not yet know about or has yet to take up and place on the agenda. Or they speak to items that are on the agenda, but for which they cannot stay to speak. They speak with passion and conviction. Maybe the issues aren’t important to me. But they are important to the speaker. In a democracy, all voices should be heard, even those we disagree with or those who speak about things that we ourselves do not care about, because when it’s our turn, we will want to be heard.
We are pleased to see our new city surveillance ordinance being implemented. Last Thursday night we saw the first staff reports on surveillance technologies being used in the city. As our first attempt as a city to lead the way in public disclosure of use of surveillance technologies, we want all parties to contribute to fully meeting the spirit and requirements of the ordinance. To that end, we offer both questions and suggestions regarding the Police Department staff reports.
Will the new City Council listen to its commissions and its citizens?
This morning, I learned of a new proposed Mace Ranch business park from a Facebook post from Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, a post that tagged the soon-to-be other four members of the Davis City Council (among other people). The proposal seems reasonable to me on its face in terms of its size, purpose, and location, although I reserve judgement until I have heard more about it. What shocked me, however, was Councilmember Frerichs’s proclamation that the project was “Coming soon!!” with “approval expected,” as captured in the screenshot at the beginning of this post.
I find this shocking because the proposal hasn’t even gone to the Planning Commission yet (as Councilmember Frerichs notes), nor has the City Council had an opportunity to hear from citizens. Will any concerns be raised that make the City Council think twice about the proposal? It would seem that Councilmember Frerichs, at least, does not think so.
I want to thank Jon Li for his thoughtful response to my earlier article, an article that objected to the recent proposal to limit the time for general public comment at the beginning of Council meetings, shunting the rest of general public comment to the end of the meetings. His remarks provide the opportunity for me to reflect more on the nature of democracy as it pertains to our humble town.
Jon asks us to think about the real purpose of public comment and about the nature of a representative democracy, and rightly so. It is my view that recent events, both regionally and nationally, have shown us that just showing up to the polls and voting during elections is not enough. Citizens can and should be more engaged than that. Of course, ultimately we do rely on our elected representatives to make decisions. But it is incumbent on us to let them know where we stand on issues, to raise concerns that they may not have thought of, to give them the information that they need in order to be able to properly represent us.
The Mayor Pro Tem is proposing that city council meeting public comment be limited to a half hour at the beginning of the meeting, and time given at the end of the meeting for public comment. That is the way it is done at most city councils around the country.
The Davis community activists have demanded the right to longer time for public comment. I believe that recent city council meeting experience is that a few activists have tried to take over the agenda of the meeting during public comment, and on many occasions attempted to derail the council from its meeting agenda purpose.
What is public comment for? Roberta Millstein claimed "Let's recall what general public comment is for: 1) it's for members of the community who want to speak to items on the agenda, but can't stay late, and 2) it's for members of the community to speak to items that are not on the agenda. "
I think you forgot what the purpose of public comment is. Then we can talk about what it is for, and then we can talk about the more effective approaches to setting ground rules to achieve identified goals.
One suggestion was to limit general public comment at the beginning of the meeting — requiring that it end at a specific time — and continuing it for those who still wish to speak after all other agenda items have been dealt with.
The reason for the possible change?
“The idea is that as we start with a new council in July, that we find a way to make the meetings more accessible for the public and make them function more smoothly,” [Brett] Lee said.
So, meetings will be more accessible for the public if we force some members of the public to wait until the very end of the meeting to make general comments? No. That would make meetings less accessible.
Having taken a day off to reflect, here are some of my thoughts about the election just completed.
First and foremost, let me assure everyone that the Davisite will continue! Some have speculated that this blog was created just to promote Nishi. That was never the case and time will show that to be true. If there have been a lot of articles about Nishi, that was because many of our current authors (myself included) were very engaged in that issue. The Davisite was always intended to be a blog by and for Davisites, which means that our content will always reflect our authors.
So, now is a good time to reissue a call for authors: send us your thoughts, be they political or not, artistic or not, funny or not. You can be a regular author, or send us something from time to time, or maybe just once – long or short, it doesn't matter. (But remember that on the Internet, most people don't want to read things that are very long!). The sidebar contains our contact info and comment policy, the latter of which serves as guidelines for authors as well.
Frankly, it still boggles my mind that the Nishi developers refused to allow air quality testing at their proposed development site. They had about all the benefits you can imagine, an ideal situation in that a famous UC Davis professor with the right equipment to do air quality monitoring offered to do the testing in a fair and systematic way (you can call it "scientific") in order to determine the unique patterns of air quality at a site that is below grade, adjacent to a very busy highway and wedged in by the railroad tracks. BUT THE DEVELOPERS SAID "NO!!!!".
WOW! A big "NO!!!!" to scientific testing.
Had they asked the Yolo County Epidemiologist like I did whether or not this kind of testing was advisable from a public health perspective, here is what they would have heard (communication from Dr. Dabritz:
As if 12 years of Reisig in the D.A.'s office isn't enough of a reason for a change in leadership. (hasn't anyone ever heard of the good idea of term limits?) But it's his latest campaign flyer that I received in the mail (4th one!) that compels me to write. Instead of promoting the supposed merits of the Reisig reign, it is mostly devoted to maligning the character of the man running against him: Dean Johansson! I'd say that kind of below-the-belt tactic maligns Reisig's character. It reminds me of the tactics of someone we all know who lives in the current White House.
Thus, if I had an overly simple rhyming campaign slogan, it might be, "Reisig is mean, so vote for Dean"! (maybe "overly aggressive" would be kinder but it doesn't rhyme). Fact: (not fake news, folks): Jeff Reisig, our Yolo County DA, brings more cases to jury trial per capita than any other DA in the state! That means that Reisig's office conducts more felony trials than counties that have a much higher population than ours. Yolo cannot be that much more crime ridden! This fact alone is a co$tly (for taxpayers) and valid reason for a change in D.A. leadership.
By Cara Bradley, Thomas Cahill, Gilbert Coville, Pam Gunnell, Marilee Hanson, Michael Harrington, David Kupfer, Robert Milbrodt, Roberta Millstein, Don Price, Nancy Price, Rodney Robinson, Johannes Troost, Dean Vogel, Colin Walsh, and Michael Yackey
Two years after Davis voters rejected the Nishi project at the polls, it’s back on the ballot as Measure J with the same pollution hazards from the adjacent I-80 freeway and railroad, but without the commercial component that was supposed to deliver significant revenue to the City.
Last night John Whitcombe and the Yes on J campaign gave away free hot dogs at the Anderson Place Apartments in an attempt to convince voters to approve Nishi 2.0. The Anderson Place Apartments complex, located on the corner of Hanover Place and Covell, is one of the 14 apartment complexes around Davis owned by Whitcombe and Tandem properties. I was not in attendance myself, so the following report and photographs are based on information that was given to me by individuals who prefer to remain anonymous.
Holding rallies like this where freebies are given away is legal so long as there is no quid pro quo. An example of quid pro quo would be if someone says, “I will give you a hot dog if you vote for my development.” There is no evidence that there was quid pro quo at this event; however, it is eerily similar to some of Whitcombe’s past practices that resulted in a major Davis scandal.
As we all know, it’s illegal to give money to an elected official in exchange for a favorable vote. However, monied interests get around this by contributing to elected officials’ pet projects if a vote goes their way.
This doesn’t happen in Davis. Or does it?
On Feb 6, our city council voted to advance the Nishi 2.0 student housing project to a Measure R vote. They were clearly not as excited about this project as they were with the previous Nishi proposal (just search on YouTube: “Davis council lukewarm”). However, they advanced the project to the ballot anyway; it is now Measure J. The Council continues to promote the project, with the mayor as the de facto spokesperson for Yes on Measure J.
The Council also is promoting two local tax measures, H and I, to help fund local park and road maintenance. Two Council members are officers of the committee promoting these measures, and Council members have been staffing its table at the Farmers Market.
One is that since the article was published, the amount contributed by the developer to sell Measure J to voters has gone from over $170,000 to over $250,000 (a quarter of a million dollars). This is eight times the cost of what one air quality test would have cost.
Second, according to the article "Whitcome says there were some issues found at the site, but 'nothing of any real consequence.'" That's not an accurate statement because the site has not actually been studied, just an adjacent site. And here is what they found at the adjacent site (from Barnes 2015, the study used in the EIR):
Matt: Nishi 2018 has no dollars for deferred maintenance of capital infrastructure. Robb: See previous point. We don’t need it because the developer is responsible. Matt: That is the same short-sighted, politically-driven thinking that created the current dilapidated state of our roads and the $8 million annual shortfall in the City Budget. Robb: That is an editorial comment to which I will not respond.
The interchange above is at the heart of the City’s current unsustainable fiscal situation. Past Councils for well over a decade have ignored the advice of Staff regarding the maintenance of the City’s capital infrastructure. The year-by-year individual circumstances have differed, but the behavior pattern was the same. Over and over again, the Council chose to avoid a public dialogue about the fact that our City’s appetite for spending exceeded its annual income.
Matt: Nishi's cash contribution to City has shrunk 90% from $1.4 million down to $143,000.
Robb: Non-sequiter. Two very different projects, one with revenue from commercial activity, unsecured property tax, sales tax. I am not sure the point of this statement. It is less. It is a housing-only project.
Robb is correct that the revenues mix is different, with no unsecured property tax in this project The final EPS financial assessment of Nishi 2016 projected the unsecured property tax revenue at full-buildout at $9,000, which was one-half of one percent of the annual revenues … a rather minuscule difference.
The annual Sales Tax projection at full-buildout for Nishi 2016 was $286,000 as opposed to $198,000 for Nishi 2018, a difference of $88,000.
After taking time off for a movie and dinner date with a group of Davis friends and the Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I have put together this point-by-point response to the first of Robb's comments. This is the first of a series of articles in which I will respond to all of Robb's points. I believe that covering them one-by-one will produce a more focused and fruitful dialogue.
Matt: Nishi 2.0 Will Cost Davis Taxpayers between $350,000 and $750,000 per year
Robb: FBC findings on Nishi, January 8, 2018 (the only action they took in relation to Nishi)
We also generally concur with the estimate that annual ongoing revenues and costs for the city from the project would be modestly net positive over time.
We note, however, that the estimate does not reflect additional revenues that could result if Davis voters approve an increase in parcel taxes. Also, the estimate does not include revenues from Proposition C cannabis taxes or possible community enhancement funds that could result from the negotiation of a development agreement. Also, the EIR adopted for the original, larger, version of the Nishi project suggests that police and fire costs for serving the new residents could be nominal. (A new environmental review is now being conducted for the revised project.) Thus, in some respects, the net fiscal benefit of the project could be greater than estimated.
Robb made that same point in the May 6th Civenergy Forum, which is that the Council prefers to cover its eyes and ears and proactively ignore everything other than the formal written words they received from the Finance and Budget Commission. What they are doing is using the specifics of one facet of a multi-faceted process to hear no evil and see no evil.