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Responding to Lee-Carson OpEd on BrightNight Solar Deal

Brightnight-greatdealBy Matt Williams

The commentary by Mayor Lee and Councilmember Carson in the Sunday Enterprise really does not address the core concerns that have consistently been raised by the community. In summary, those concerns are that the city used a non-competitive process which resulted in a low-offer and thus left money on the table while failing to go through a full public process that might have identified deficiencies in the offer by BrightNight.

After reading the Lee-Carson OpEd, I (and I'm sure many others) now have one additional major concern ... that it does not appear that the Council Majority has actually listened to the Public Comment voicemails, or actually read the Public Comment e-mails they have received.

As part of our Utilities Commission deliberations, I requested copies of all the e-mails sent to councilmembers@cityofdavis.org, and when they arrived on Thursday I read them all, and listened to all the recorded public comments from the ZOOM meetings, and read the letters to the editor in the Enterprise, as well as the comments on the Vanguard and here in the Davisite. There are more than 84 separate public comments from at least 54 different Davisites. The comments break down into the following major themes:

  • "Transparency was Hauled Off into backroom" (14)

  • "Democracy hijacked by Flawed Process" (28)

  • "City leadership has seriously lost its way"(10)

  • "Haste Makes Waste / Deal Not Vetted" (26)

  • Lack of Due Diligence (32)

  • Bad Faith Negotiations (18)

  • Sole Source Contracting / No Competitive Bid Process (17)

  • City went to the Negotiations Without Subject Matter Expertise (11)

  • Failure to provide the community with clean energy through VCE (19)

  • Alternatives Uses were Not Considered (10)

  • Frerichs was Right (7)

  • The Contract Term is too long (8)

  • Here is a possible Way Forward (50)

  • Risks and Liabilities for the City (7)

  • Benefits to the City (3)

  • "Everything that Lorenzo said" (3)

  • Consider Alternative sites (1)

  • Looks a lot like the MRAP decision (1)

In fairness there was one positive comment on 3/25 from a person in Davis, and there were two positive comments by Martin Hermann and Ron Kiecana, both with BrightNight

Also in fairness, it is possible that the Council could have missed the seven comments that pointed out the risks and liabilities for the City in the deal, but it takes a special kind of reading to miss the 28 comments that focused on how Democracy has been Hijacked by the Flawed Process or the 32 comments that focused on the lack of due diligence.

If you go through the Lee-Carson OpEd and the City's Q&A document one thing is crystal clear ... the Council Majority are talking to themselves, not to the public commenters and not to the taxpayers/residents/citizens.


Robert Canning

Thank you Matt (and Rich McCann in the Enterprise) for responding forthrightly and directly to this.

The Orwellian language of the Op-Ed is striking. The Mayor and Councilmember seem to include the word “option” to make it seem like it’s just another choice the city can make. Seems to me, based on what the city attorney stated, we are locked into this agreement for the foreseeable future.

Lee and Carson state in the Op-Ed that “The City Council discussed the negotiation of the option agreement in closed session, as state law allows, so that we could maximize the fiscal and environmental benefits of the option agreement for our citizens.” If that’s not a piece of newspeak I don’t know what is.

They couch the deal in terms of the climate emergency and attempt to distract us from the poor decision-making with fears of more fires and foul air. They even go as far as to mention the Audubon Society as if that has anything to do with the failed city process in this deal.

They claim due diligence but state that they had to do the deal quickly because of the developer’s timeline, rather than a desire for an open and transparent process.

This whole process has really stunk. And the Op-Ed does nothing but reinforce distrust of this city council’s ability to work in the best interest of the city. It comes across as disingenuous and smarmy. A second-class attempt to rationalize a set of bad decisions that none of the four council members are willing to take any responsibility for.

Let's see, it's been almost a month and this is the first public comment by councilmembers about the deal. (Except for the FAQ put out by the city.) I don't know who wrote this or chose the timing, but, IMO, it sure doesn't help much. Obviously they are going to just stonewall this.

I'm sure I am not the only person who has emailed the four 'yes' voters. I never got an acknowledgment of my concern. Anyone else gotten a response back?

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