Entries categorized "Ethics"

Request for Reconsideration of Solar Lease Option Agreement and Term Sheet with BrightNight


The following letter was sent to members of the Davis City Council today.

We respectfully request that the Mayor and Council place an item on tonight’s or a future council meeting agenda to reconsider its approval of Item 9 of the March 24, 2020 Solar Lease decision. In its reconsideration we believe Council should (1) direct staff to research the fiscal, legal and business issues identified in this letter, and (2) pending the results of that research, rescind Council’s approval of the Item 9 resolution to allow the City Manager to execute the Lease Option Agreement and Term Sheet (collectively, the “Agreement”) with BrightNight that will “give the solar energy company an Option to Lease up to 235 acres of city-owned land near the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant on County Road 28H for a Commercial Solar Farm and Solar Energy Testing Facility.”

Our review of the Agreement to date has uncovered serious concerns which we believe have not been fully considered by the City, and that the resolution and lease, as written, establish a legal arrangement that is harmful and disadvantageous to the City and residents in several respects. We, individually and collectively, stand ready to work with staff to facilitate their research of these issues. We are preparing a detailed document fleshing out each issue, which will be available shortly on request.

In summary, the issues are as follows:

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Support the Yolo Food Bank

VCE(From press release) As the COVID-19 pandemic ramps up in the Yolo County region, many of us are wrestling with the hardship of confinement and with other, more tangible, constraints. That’s precisely why it’s more important than ever to be our best selves during these times.

Businesses have closed, countless workers have been laid off, and everyone has been asked to shelter in place. Many who have lost their jobs may not be able to pay rent or buy food for their families.

The Yolo Food Bank — always an important resource in our communities — steps in during these times to provide food for those in need. Food Bank representatives say the number of requests for help is on the rise and is expected to increase dramatically in the coming weeks.

Valley Clean Energy, which is focused on the health and well-being of the communities it serves, has donated $2,500 to the Yolo Food Bank in the hope that others might also contribute during this pandemic.

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Rate discounts for VCE customers through PG&E

VCE(From press release) No one expected to see days quite like this. And for some of us, it’s beginning to feel as though we’ll have a tough time keeping our heads above water as our economies and paychecks adjust to this pandemic.

That’s why Valley Clean Energy representatives want to be sure that local residents are aware of the discounted electricity programs PG&E offers to income-qualified customers, even those who are Valley Clean Energy customers.

For example, the Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) discount from PG&E is open to all eligible customers of VCE. Those who qualify to enroll in the FERA program could end up paying much less to stay warm through a chilly spring and cool this summer.

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Valley Clean Energy Offers Covid-19 Update

VCE(From press release) As Yolo County residents join others throughout California in sheltering in place, Valley Clean Energy (VCE) is working to assure that customers receive a safe, reliable electricity supply throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Electricity has truly become the lifeblood of our lives as we self-isolate in our homes,” said Don Saylor, a Yolo County supervisor who chairs the VCE board of directors. “The cleaner electricity we buy for you will remain unchanged during this time.

“We want to assure our customers that the Valley Clean Energy team is working to ensure that lights will stay on; computers, phones and data centers will be powered; food and medicine will be refrigerated; and homes and water will be heated.”

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Valley Clean Energy now enrolling solar customers

VCEBy Don Saylor

(From press release) Valley Clean Energy (VCE) is our local community choice energy program serving electricity customers in the communities of Woodland, Davis and unincorporated Yolo County. The purpose of VCE is to provide customers with higher levels of renewable electricity, encourage energy efficiency and local generation, and offer rates that are competitive with PG&E, the region’s investor-owned electricity provider.

Decisions on rates, energy resources, programs and finances are made locally, in public, by a local board composed of people elected by the residents of our communities.

Most electricity customers in our area have been receiving their electricity from VCE since June 2018. Their monthly bills display VCE’s electric generation charges and PG&E’s electricity delivery charges.

Based on changes to state regulations, the VCE board decided to delay until 2020 the enrollment of solar customers who had installed solar panels on their homes or businesses before we launched in June 2018. In 2020, these energy-conservation pioneers will begin receiving their electric power from our local agency.

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What’s wrong with City staff’s new burrowing owl policy

A response to Ash Feeney

Feeney-with-owlsBy Roberta Millstein

A few days ago I learned of a new policy from City staff concerning the 25 acres outside of Mace curve, aka Mace 25, prime farmland that was purchased with citizen tax dollars from the open space fund.  According to this new policy, the City will not be mowing areas in which burrowing owls are already nesting, instead allowing the owls to be “naturally displaced from the site… by allowing tall dense vegetation to grow along the western edge.”  By not mowing, the City will be “doing what it can to prevent the owls from using the site.” Burrowing owls prefer short grasses (e.g., native short prairie grass or grass that is kept short through mowing) so that they can see their predators coming, and they will leave an area if the grasses aren’t short.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, I along with a number of other citizens attended to protest this new policy and to ask the City Council to direct staff to promote burrowing owl habitat at that site.  Burrowing owls, it should be noted, have been designated as a Species of Special Concern by the State of California, and their numbers have been declining dramatically over the past 10 years in the Davis area.  No action was taken at the meeting, although I have since learned that at least one Councilmember is in favor of taking up this issue at a future meeting.

What did happen at the meeting was that Assistant City Manager Ash Feeney defended the new policy.  He has apparently issued a statement summarizing his views, published on the Davis Vanguard (staff could not confirm this by the end of yesterday’s business day).  Unfortunately, this response contains false and problematic statements.

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UCD Grade Strike Starts Thursday

Screen shot 2020-02-26 at 4.35.10 PM(from press release) Dear Davis community,

Tonight at our General Assembly, we agreed to move forward in solidarity with the wildcats in Santa Cruz and see through our demands for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). On Thursday, February 27, Davis graduate students will begin a grade strike for the Winter quarter to demand a COLA and to call on the University of California to rescind its threats of retaliation against wildcat strikers at UC Santa Cruz.

A grading strike is the withholding of grades by Teaching Assistants (TAs) designed to disrupt the everyday functioning of the University.

We will be releasing more information, resources, and FAQs in the coming days. Please check out our website and follow our social media for all of that.

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Valley Clean Energy Makes Major Solar-Power Purchase

VCE(From press release) The Valley Clean Energy Alliance has announced that its board of directors voted Thursday, Feb. 13, to purchase 50 megawatts of renewable power from a new solar park in Kings County.

The power from the park will replace current short-term power contracts allowing VCE to deliver higher levels of renewable power at competitive prices.

VCE’s 15-year contract with Aquamarine Westside, LLC, CIM Group’s solar project, will begin when the project enters commercial operation, anticipated in 2021. The Aquamarine project is in Westlands Solar Park, a 21,000-acre, master-planned clean energy park with more than 2 gigawatts of solar production potential.

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Valley Clean Energy Makes Key New Hire

VCE(From press release) Valley Clean Energy is pleased to announce the hiring of Gordon A. Samuel Jr. as its new assistant general manager and power services director. In this position, he will be responsible for acquiring a diverse supply of clean renewable resources.

Samuel brings more than 27 years of experience in the electric utility industry to his new position, having served most recently as power procurement manager for Marin Clean Energy, California’s first community choice aggregation (CCA) program.

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Protect UC LGBTQ+ and Reproductive Care

Screen shot 2020-02-19 at 4.34.47 PMThe following was forwarded to me in an email, and I was asked to forward it further.  Everyone is welcome to submit a comment, whether affiliated with the University of California or not. --Roberta Millstein

Dear UC Students, Faculty, Staff, and Community Members, 

Three weeks ago, the University of California (UC) released a report with request for public comments (sample text below) that considers whether UC Health should affiliate with religious hospitals, which prohibit basic reproductive health services for women and LGBTQ+ people.

The report describes OPTION 1, supported by UC Health, in which UC would expand affiliations with restrictive religious hospitals. We endorse OPTION 2, which prohibits UC Health from affiliating with entities that discriminate against women and LGBTQ+ people by prohibiting contraception, abortion, assisted reproductive technology (e.g., IVF), and gender-affirming care for non-binary and transgender people. More details are outlined in this LA Times article and this letter to UC President Janet Napolitano. Also consider UCI Law Prof. Goodwin’s assertion that it is illegal for UC Health to restrict care based on religious directives.

The UC Regents will take up this matter in May, but first they need to hear from you! Please post a public comment by February 21 (sample text below) to tell the Regents that you support OPTION 2. UC doctors, nurses, and patients must not be subject to religious restrictions that deny women and LGBTQ+ people essential care. Share your story and why this issue is important to you.

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Affordable Housing & Community Space: A Renter Forum

For-renter-forumYolo County Supervisor candidate David Abramson will be hosting a ‘Renters Forum’ on Saturday, February 15 from 5:00-7:00PM. It will be held at Davis Coworking’s new downstairs event space, right next to Fluffly's Donuts and Subway.

It will be an opportunity for renters to share their stories and to get together to develop a vision for affordable, healthful, and climate-positive housing in Davis and Yolo County.

We will also envision how we can move forward in creating affordable and accessible cultural spaces to facilitate arts, music, and healthy activities in Yolo County.

All who are interested (renters and homeowners alike) are welcome to join. Light refreshments provided.

Max capacity 40. Please register in advance to ensure your seat! https://www.facebook.com/events/122783449070392/

Vanguard Publishes Demonstrably False Information

Misinformation persists even after the author and board members are notified

VanguardBy Colin Walsh

On Monday February 3rd the Davis Vanguard published a story titled “Monday Morning Thoughts: Strange Decision on Commissioner Punctuates a Strange Night for Council” by David Greenwald (link). This is not a big groundbreaking story; it mostly focuses on the Council’s decision to suspend a Commissioner for two meetings and takes the opportunity to make fun of people who spoke at public comment. Sadly, it also had the effect of again dragging a hard-working City of Davis volunteer Commissioner’s name through the mud. What is most notable about the Vanguard article is that it has specific false information that distorts what actually happened.

The third paragraph of Greenwald’s article about the January 28th City Council meeting states,

The council then attempted to split the baby so to speak – instead of ousting Mr. Edelman, they suspended him for two meetings, February and March, with some sort of conflict resolution process.  That was not enough for the three commissioners who all resigned, leaving the commission short of a quorum.

The second sentence is demonstrably false. This sentence clearly states that three commissioners resigned after the January 28th Council meeting, but the January 9, 2020, BTSSC agenda had already announced the departure of Commissioners Andrews and Gudz (link). If it was on the January 9 agenda, then the announcement was made at least several days before, possibly as far back as the December BTSSC meeting (link).

Jan 9 BTSSC agenda_highlighting

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Gun Violence is the Focus of February Programs at Davis Methodist

Moms Demand Action, a grassroots movement for gun safety, estimates that, by early February, more people will be killed by guns in America than are killed by guns in other high-income countries during the entire year.  Yet, despite wide-spread demands for sensible gun reform, the number of deaths by firearms continues to grow.  Davis United Methodist Church is offering two programs on gun violence on Sunday mornings, February 9, and 23, from 9:45 to 10:50 at the church, which is located at 1620 Anderson Road in Davis.

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Concern Regarding Moderating Practices on the Davis Vanguard

Vanguard-policyNote: Prior to giving permission to the Davisite to post this, the author sent this piece to the Vanguard yesterday, saying "If you have any particular concerns, please let me know before 8:00 a.m., tomorrow. (Alternatively, if you'd like more time to respond, please let me know that as well.)". He did not receive a response.

By Ron O.

I am writing this article in regard to my personal experience, as well as what I’ve witnessed regarding ongoing problems with the Davis Vanguard’s policies and practices in reference to moderating of comments (as well as the general commenting environment).  These problems are interfering with the Vanguard’s mission to operate in an “open and transparent manner”, and are contributing to a rather hostile commenting environment in which to challenge and discuss the issues presented.

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Downward spiral of Davis discourse

Misrepresenting the facts

Note: The following letter was sent to the Davis Enterprise on December 20, 2019, but so far they have chosen not to publish it.

Prt_220x220_1389426708By Roberta Millstein

After my previous letter to the editor concerning unprofessional and rude behavior at the City Council was published, I had hoped to say nothing further about the matter, especially after seeing Anne Ternus-Bellamy’s excellent December 6 summary of events. Unfortunately, Brian Horsfield responded by mispresenting what had happened and accusing me of lying. Eric Gudz likewise misrepresented the facts and accused me of “smearing” Councilmember Will Arnold.

So, I feel the facts need to be set straight. I refer the reader to Ternus-Bellamy’s article, but to reiterate: On three separate occasions, several Davisites and I took our personal evening time to go to Council meetings, pointing out vague and conflicting project descriptions, the absence of information on City websites, the dearth of opportunity for citizen input into projects, and more. (See, e.g., here and here).

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Why dropping SAT/ACT admission requirements isn’t a “dumbing down”

The tests do, in fact, discriminate against low-income students

Bubble-sheetBy Roberta Millstein

A recent letter to the editor in the Davis Enterprise decried the move to drop the SAT and ACT as part of the college application process.  The letter writer states that to get rid of these standardized tests would be to “dumb down” the educational process, suggesting that people need to accept that not everyone’s abilities are the same and that some students just need to work harder.  The letter writer rejects out of hand the suggestion that the tests “discriminate against minorities and the poor.”

Letters like this remind me that there are a number of facts about these standardized tests that are not well known.  So, in the interests of education (yes, a double meaning here), I thought it would be helpful to rehearse some of them.  I will focus on the SAT because that is the test I am more familiar with.

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Bats Ignored in Environmental Review for Mace Business Park

2019-12-23_17-43-09Will new ARC SEIR do better?

This letter was sent to Assistant City Manager Ash Feeney on December 23, 2019.

Dear Mr. Feeney,

I am writing to draw your attention to a significant omission in the Mace Ranch Innovation Center Project Final Environmental Impact Report dated January 2016. At no place in the FEIR is there any consideration for Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis), or for Hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus).

Just over 2 miles from the MRIC/ARC site is “One of the largest seasonal Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) colonies in California. An estimated 250,000 individuals strong.” (https://baynature.org/2013/07/25/yolo-bats/). This colony roosts under the Yolo Causeway bridge and has been well documented in the Davis Enterprise and the Sacramento Bee (https://www.davisenterprise.com/community/see-bats-at-the-causeway/, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/environment/article31141712.html).

I have personally observed bats flying over the MRIC/ARC site during summer months, but there is no mention of bats in the FEIR, or any of the underlying documentation.

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Reflecting back on VCE's year

What a year it's been!

VCEBy Tom Stallard

The end of each calendar year offers an opportunity to sit back and reflect on the goals reached over the past 12 months and to look forward to a new year of possibilities and challenges.

At Valley Clean Energy — your local not-for-profit electricity provider— we’re working hard to fulfill our mission to deliver clean electricity, energy product choice and greenhouse gas emission reductions, all with local control at competitive prices.

Since June 2018, we’ve been serving 55,000 customers in the cities of Woodland and Davis plus the unincorporated area of Yolo County. That number will grow when customers in Winters are enrolled after the city became an official member of VCE this month.

Thanks to the creativity and dedication of our professional staff, and the visionary leadership of my colleagues on the board, the past year has been jam-packed with accomplishments. Here’s a brief review:

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Valley Clean Energy Welcomes Legacy Solar Customers

VCEThe Valley Clean Energy board of directors has adopted a policy governing how legacy solar customers — those who installed solar systems prior to VCE’s launch in June 2018 — are enrolled with the local electricity service provider.

“We’re thrilled to begin enrolling solar customers, also known as Net Energy Metered customers, beginning in January,” said Tom Stallard, VCE board chair and a member of the Woodland City Council.

“Solar customers have already demonstrated a financial commitment to renewable energy, and it will be great to have them in the fold, helping all of us take a big leap toward a more sustainable future for our communities.”

Beginning in January and continuing through December 2020, PG&E solar customers will be automatically enrolled in VCE service during their existing PG&E true-up month. As with all VCE customers, these solar customers will have the choice to opt out and stay with PG&E.

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ARC Project Recommended Sustainability Features

Recommended Project Alternatives for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Report

Rough-ARCmap-corrected-sustainabilityThe following comments were submitted to the City by The Aggie Research Center Working Group, an ad hoc committee of interested Davis environmentalists with experience in evaluating land use and planning issues in Davis, on December 7. The Group has collaboratively developed this set of recommended sustainability features for the project and submitted them to the developer in November, 2019. With his knowledge, these recommendations are now formally submitted as scoping comments to the supplemental EIR for the purposes of evaluating desirable sustainability alternatives for the project

Others who wish to submit their own written scoping comments can do so via the City of Davis Community Development and Sustainability Department, 23 Russell Boulevard, Suite 2 Davis, CA 95616 Attn: Sherri Metzker, Principal Planner or via electronic mail to smetzker@cityofdavis.org up until Monday, December 9, 2019 at 5:00 PM.



Functional Goal: Develop and implement a comprehensive Sustainability Plan and ensure sustainability commitments made in the Plan are embodied in the subsequent Development Agreement and implemented and maintained for life of project.

  1. Mandatory, measurable and enforceable.

  2. Equivalent in scope and detail to Nishi.

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