Entries categorized "Ethics"

Show Your Support for Black Churches Damaged by Fire

Since the news that three historically black churches in Landry County, LA were burned over the two-week period between March 26th and April 2, the Celebration of Abraham has wrestled with how to respond in a way that says to our black community, we will walk along side of you. Today we learned of a way to show that we care about our Christian brothers and sisters at these black churches. Specifically, our community can help repair the damage done to these important religious communities by donating to the GO FUND ME campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/f/church-fires-st-landry-parishmacedonia-ministry (or type “gofundme seventh district” in your search engine) organized by the Seventh District Baptist Association, a 149 year old non-profit religious organization.

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Betting on a crash – confronting those speculating on our future

The dark side of capitalism is that disruption, change and scarcity all provide avenues of profit for those willing to speculate on its consequences.

Paradise-on-fire
Paradise on fire

By Nick Buxton

It is hard to imagine reading the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and feeling energised and excited. After all, the report, published in October 2018, warned that we are on a path to catastrophic climate change, way beyond the maximum 1.5 degrees temperature increase goal made three years ago at the United Nations climate conference in Paris. It leaves me with a sinking feeling of dread. Yet, strange as it may seem, some who read the IPCC report may well have reacted with joy. Yes, at the chance to make money. The dark side of capitalism is that disruption, change and scarcity all provide avenues of profit for those willing to speculate on its consequences.

The seemingly shameless capacity of some people to seek profits in the most desperate of situations was brought starkly home recently when I read about a financial investor in Dallas who as Hurricane Harvey approached the US east coast realised that investing in short-term housing in Houston and South Florida would be profitable as people fled their homes and looked for anywhere to stay. “We saw occupancy go to 100 percent in a lot of those hotels,” says the Dallas investor. “We didn’t crush it. But we made 25 percent, 30 percent, pretty quick.”

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Vanguard and City Council Ethical Challenges Persist

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 7.38.01 PMFour (or Five?) Times the Impropriety, Plus Potential Brown Act Violations

By Roberta Millstein and Colin Walsh

On Thursday, the Davisite published an article, “Mayor Brett Lee’s Fundraising for the Davis Vanguard Crosses a Line.”  Since then, the Vanguard has changed the format of its fundraising event to include four of the five members of the Davis City Council.  But this doesn’t make the event better.  The new format makes it worse – at least four times worse.  Plus, with four City Council members in attendance it will be nearly impossible to avoid Brown Act violations. 

First, let’s consider the changes in format and advertising of the Vanguard fundraiser.  The main change, of course, is from one councilmember attending the fundraiser (Brett Lee) to four councilmembers (Lee together with Gloria Partida, Lucas Frerichs, and Dan Carson) attending.  But the Facebook event page was also changed from saying that Lee would “host” the fundraiser to saying that the fundraiser will “feature” the four councilmembers, with Will Arnold (who is pictured in the photo associated with the event; see above) “unable to attend” while “there in spirit.”  It also states that “Each of the speakers will speak briefly and then take questions.”

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Mayor Brett Lee’s Fundraising for the Davis Vanguard Crosses a Line

BrettLeeVanguardFundraiserI like Mayor Brett Lee.  I donated to his campaign.  I endorsed him and put his lawn sign on my lawn.  I voted for him. I haven’t always agreed with his votes on Council, but that’s normal. But now Mayor Lee plans on hosting a fundraiser for the Davis Vanguard next month. This is an ethical breach that is different from a disagreement about policy or process.  Elected officials – especially those who may be running for re-election soon – should not be raising money for purported news outlets, as Mayor Lee is planning on doing for the Vanguard.

It doesn’t help that the Vanguard’s track record is none too clean.  David Greenwald, founder of and primary writer on the Vanguard, has exhibited a lack of journalistic ethics.  The Davis Vanguard is alleged to have participated in a political campaign in violation of its non-profit status; an IRS complaint was filed along with substantiating evidence.  It has developed a reputation for hostile attacks against commenters, forcing repeated changes to its comment policy (most recently to disallow anonymous commenters, although it’s not clear that this change in policy has helped improve the climate for commenters).  And it has failed to follow the Institute for Non-Profit News’s ethical guidelines by failing to be fully transparent about the funding of its news operations, particularly with respect to advertisements from local developers, calling into question its “editorial independence from all revenue sources to ensure news judgments are made in the interest of the communities they serve as journalists.”

Indeed, those very same ethical guidelines for non-profit newsrooms recommend avoiding “accepting donations from government entities, political parties, elected officials or candidates actively seeking public office.”

It’s surprising that Mayor Lee would want to associate himself with the Vanguard given all that improper behavior.  But that’s not the main issue.

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UC Workers Strike on April 10: How to Show Your Solidarity

AFSCME3299
By Connor Gorman

Solidarity forever! The UC still hasn't agreed to provide basic rights and dignity to many of its workers (much less what they truly deserve) while simultaneously intimidating, threatening, and retaliating against workers for their participation in labor activities. Because of this, AFSCME 3299 (which covers service and patient care workers) filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against the UC and will be striking next Wednesday (April 10) along with UPTE-CWA 9119 (which covers technical and professional employees).

There are a variety of ways that students, workers (who aren't part of AFSCME 3299 or UPTE-CWA 9119), and community members can support the strike and demand an end to the UC's blatant violation of workers' rights along with demanding that the UC provide all of its workers with a living wage while maintaining and expanding essential benefits and protections like good, affordable healthcare; a dignified retirement plan; and job security. The main way that anyone can show their support is by joining the picket line for any period of time that they're able to between 7am and 5pm on the corner of College Park and Russell Blvd., while prioritizing attendance at the 12pm rally if possible (or if you're in Sacramento there will be another picket line at the Medical Center). You can even study or grade at the picket line.

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Local Sierra Club and Audubon Groups Raise Concerns about Burrowing Owls at Mace 25

Burrowing-owls
Buow picture taken by R. Millstein, 8/2017

Davisites may recall the large proposed business park, the Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC), which would be sited on the farmland outside of the Mace curve to the east of Davis, subject to a Measure R vote.  The project proposal was withdrawn in 2016, but the commission on which I serve, the Open Space and Habitat Commission, has been told informally that the project may be re-proposed again in some form.  In its original form, the proposal included 25 acres of land purchased with funds from the City’s Open Space program, widely referred to as the “Mace 25.”  (See my op-ed in the Davis Enterprise, “How 25 acres of open space got into the MRIC proposal” for the history of how that occurred).

In response to the widespread belief that the MRIC proposal will back in front of the City, two local environmental groups have raised concerns about the presence of burrowing owls on the Mace 25: the local chapters of the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society. Note that burrowing owls have been designated as a “species of special concern” in California, and their numbers have been declining precipitously in recent years.

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Valley Clean Energy Board Meeting to Be Held on April 11

VCE(From Press Release) The Valley Clean Energy board of directors will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11, in the Community Chambers at Davis City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd. in Davis. The meeting is open to the public.

The board — which includes members of the Davis and Woodland city councils and the Yolo County Board of Supervisors — is expected to discuss strategies for increasing the amount of renewable power that VCE will offer, with a focus on local renewable resources.

VCE, the local electricity provider, launched last June and provides cleaner energy at competitive rates to 55,000 local customers. For more information, visit https://valleycleanenergy.org. To receive agendas by email, sign up at https://valleycleanenergy.org/get-in-touch/.

 


Update on Pesticide Use in the City of Davis

Central ParkFollowing is a copy of a letter sent by Alan Pryor, a Natural Resources Commission member, concerning pesticide use in Davis and the qualifications required for consideration for the IPM Specialist position for which the City is now seeking a replacement. The letter was sent to Stan Gryzco (Public Works Assistant Director), Richard Tsai (Environmental Resources Manager), and John McNearny (Wildlife Resource Specialist) as the top 3 City officials overseeing the as-yet-to-be-replaced Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Specialist.

Readers may recall that the previous beloved IPM Specialist, Martin Guerena left the position under unusual circumstances and was subsequently awarded the City's Environmental Recognition Award last year in the Individual Category for his decade of service to the City.

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Cool Cuisine Burger Battle Brings Magnificent Medley of Flavors

BurgerbattleWith just a little over a week left of the March Cool Cuisine vegan Burger Battle, I thought now would be a good time to share the burgers that I’ve tried so far.  I hope to try at least one or two more before the end of the month.  (Full disclosure: I’m not actually vegan, more like a flexitarian).

My partner and I have tried four of the entries, focusing not on the burgers-trying-to-be-like-meat, but rather on the more unusual offerings.  Our burgers have come from the Davis Food Co-op, Yeti Restaurant, Redrum, and Zumapoke & Lush Ice (with the Upper Crust Bakery providing vegan buns for the Co-op and Zumapoke).  All were creative, flavorful, and, most importantly, delicious.  Of the four, the one from the Co-op is probably my favorite… but not by much.  Each was outstanding in its own way.

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Bob Dunning Doesn’t Understand that the City’s Declaration of a Climate Emergency Is No Laughing Matter

ClimateChangeComicWe are indeed in a climate emergency, and I am glad that the City Council has officially recognized it; big kudos also to the citizen activists who urged them to. I look forward to seeing the concrete actions that will be made in light of the recent Declaration.

Yet apparently not everyone feels this way.  In a pair of recent columns (here and here), Bob Dunning made fun of the Declaration with a series of obviously ridiculous proposals that, he suggests (tongue firmly in cheek) the City could implement.

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Students and Workers United Will Never be Defeated!

The following letter was sent by UAW 2865 Davis Unit.  See previous article for more context.

 

Davis

Dear members,

Solidarity forever! On Wednesday, March 20th, thousands of campus workers will go on strike across the UC system to demand a living wage while maintaining and expanding essential benefits and protections like good, affordable healthcare; a dignified retirement plan; and job security. Despite the university’s attempts to trick students and workers into blaming each other for our hardships, we know that our interests are intrinsically connected while the real blame falls on the university’s (and the state’s) priorities.

We recognize that March 20 is the middle of finals week when many students are busy but there are a variety of ways you can support the strike which vary in their level of commitment. First, we’d like to remind you that the contract between UAW 2865 and the UC guarantees Academic Student Employees (ASEs; TAs, AIs, Readers, and Paid Tutors) the right to not cross picket lines. If any ASE chooses to exercise this right and not work on March 20 due to the strike, the UC isn't allowed to impose any consequences on them beyond docking their pay for the hours that they otherwise would have worked. Let us know if you face any sort of retaliation for acting in solidarity with fellow UC workers.

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UC Davis workers on strike, Wednesday, March 20

UpteUPTE will strike on March 20th. Pickets will run at College Park and Russell Blvd (Davis campus) and 2315 Stockton Blvd (Sacramento medical center) from 7 AM to 6 PM on Wednesday March 20th. All UPTE members will be on strike for 24 hours, beginning at 4am on March 20th. UPTE Research and Technical (RX/TX) members are striking for a fair contract and Healthcare (HX) members will be striking in solidarity.

UTPE (University Professional and Technical Employees), CWA 9119, is the union of technical and professional employees at the University of California. It includes Staff Research Associates, Computer Resource Specialists,  Clinical Lab Techs, Editors, Student Affairs Officers, Social Workers, Writers, Museum Scientists, Lab Assistants, and many other titles.

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Is JUMP bike’s minimum age limit a violation of Federal law?

JUMP image smallThe following is a modified version of a letter I sent on February 11 to Ryan Rzepecki, CEO/Founder of JUMP, the electric bike share brand owned by Uber that is the sole provider of bike share in Davis (as well as Sacramento, UC Davis and West Sacramento). I have not yet received a reply.

The Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission (BTSSC) holds its next monthly meeting this Thursday, March 14, at 5:30 pm at the Davis Senior Center, A St. entrance. An evaluation of Sacramento JUMP is on the agenda. I have created a series of “Commissioner’s Reports” which address the age limits, weight limits, speed limit settings, parking capabilities and other aspects of the system.  This is available here as a Google Doc or as a PDF at the agenda link for this meeting.

In my view Jump’s minimum age limit of 18 and maximum weight limit of 210 lbs and the City and/or region’s required  speed assistance limit of 15 mph of the bike and restriction on parking flexibility are contrary to our city’s culture, goals and traditions, and do not respect the balance of safety and convenience created in State law. They reduce the capability of the JUMP bike in general and minimize the advantages of a moderate electric boost. While addressing these issues, I will do something more specific: I will make a motion to ask Council to determine if the minimum age limit may be against Federal law -- it is the age issue which I focus on in this letter… - T. Edelman

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On Open Access and the UC severing its relationship with the publisher Elsevier

Open-access-no-elsevierThe University of California recently announced that it was terminating its relationship with the publisher Elsevier because Elsevier would not meet its terms for open access.  According to the UCSF library, Elsevier publishes the highest number of peer-reviewed journals worldwide and is the largest publisher of UC-authored journal articles. Thus, UC’s termination of its relationship with Elsevier is a dramatic step that may end up having equally dramatic, and hopefully positive, effects on journal publishing, paving the way for more open access.

But what is open access, and why is the UC’s decision important?  As a 20+ year academic and a co-editor of an open access journal, Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology, I thought I’d give an explanation geared toward the layperson to help provide some context for this decision.

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Chefs Feeling Competitive and Creative for the COOL Cuisine Burger Battle

Bistro 33 Impossible burger at dinner_crop
Bistro 33 Impossible burger at dinner

By Linnea Patterson

Plant-based eating is growing faster than ever in 2019. For this we can thank the many creative chefs whose innovations allow more and more people to become comfortable with meat alternatives.

The COOL Cuisine Burger Battle is a month-long contest where chefs compete for diners’ taste buds. Diners get to taste and rate each burger they try among 17 different eateries. Many of the participating chefs are just as excited, if not more so, than the diners. You can find a list of contenders at coolcuisine.net.

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Why we need a Green New Deal and Why Garamendi and Feinstein should cosponsor it

Paradise-on-fire
Paradise on fire

I just dug up my lecture notes from a class on “Science, Technology, and Values” from Spring 1998, my first year of teaching, more than 20 years ago.  At that time, the Sierra Club warned that global warming would lead to heat waves, disease, vanishing habitat, and extreme weather.  They urged:

  1. The Clinton administration should be negotiating a strong, enforceable and legally binding global warming treaty that protects our children's future by cutting global warming pollution 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2005.
  2. The president should raise miles-per-gallon (CAFE) standards to from 27.5 mpg to 45 mpg for cars and from 20.7 mpg to 34 mpg for light trucks, as the majority of the commission he appointed recommended.
  3. Increase research and investment into clean car technology like hydrogen fuel cells and improved batteries.
  4. Cut subsidies for oil and coal development. Increase funding for clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power.
  5. Raise energy efficiency standards for home appliances and electronics. Create incentives for homeowners and businesses to become more efficient.
  6. Require that any energy industry restructuring encourage energy efficiency and the use of clean, renewable technology, and that dirty, coal-fired power plants switch to cleaner natural gas.

Of the above recommendations, either they have not been done or they were done insufficiently. 

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Laundered Campaign Contributions Appear to Have Been Made to the Yes on Measure L Campaign by West Davis Active Adult Community

Money-launderingby Alan Pryor, Treasurer and Principal Officer of No on Measure L

INTRODUCTION

In previous articles pertaining to the financial disclosures of the Yes on Measure L/West Davis Active Adult Community campaign on the November 2018 ballot in Davis, I provided evidence showing:

  1. About $70,000 of campaign expenditures that were made by the Yes on Measure L campaign for attorney’s fees were probably illegal under FPPC campaign finance regulations as set forth in the FPPC Disclosure Manuals that provide guidance and requirements for such campaign expenditures.
  2. The Davis Vanguard ran daily ads from the inception of the campaign until voting day and for a substantial period beforehand. The payment for these ads is not disclosed on any financial statements filed by the Yes on Measure L campaign which may be a violation of FPPC regulations.
  3. A disclosed financial filing expenditure of $3,000 was made to "Froggy's" for food service for a Vanguard fundraising event. This is probably not an allowable campaign expense for the Yes on Measure L campaign under FPPC guidelines.
  4. Over $64,000 of non-monetary contributions to the Yes on Measure L campaign for “salaries” have been disclosed in campaign filings but the recipients of these salaries have been kept secret. Further, it is not known if these payments were for personal gain, which is prohibited by FPPC regulations, or may be otherwise disallowed under FPPC guidelines.

This information is more fully disclosed in the BACKGROUND section attached to the end of this article and referenced in previous articles I have written as disclosed therein.

In this article I report how the primary financial contributor to the Yes on Measure L campaign is the West Davis Active Adult Community entity itself, totaling $164,500. In 2017, West Davis Active Adult Community was formed as a Fictitious Business Name business under the charter of Doug Arnold Real Estate Inc. Doug Arnold Real Estate Inc was a California Domestic Stock Corporation whose Agent for Service of Process was David Taormino. However, Doug Arnold Real Estate Inc was dissolved in 2018, thus apparently rendering West Davis Active Adult Community as an orphan company without legal status in California.

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Requesting investigation into WDAAC and Yes on L allegations

Justice2The following was emailed to CityCouncilMembers@cityofdavis.org this morning

Dear Members of the Davis City Council,

I am writing to request formally that the Davis City Council send a letter to the Yolo County District Attorney and California Fair Political Practices Committee (FPPC) requesting investigations into the allegations against the West Davis Active Adult Community (WDAAC) and the Yes on L campaign, as described in the following article by Alan Pryor:

https://www.davisite.org/2019/02/yes-on-measure-l-campaign-violates-fppc-disclosure-laws-by-failing-to-report-davis-vanguard-ad-expen.html

(Or please click here if that link wraps).

Specifically, the article alleges:

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UC Davis study shows grain-free and other “boutique” diets associated with heart disease in dogs

Petco-displayOne of the benefits of living in Davis is having a world-class veterinary research center right down the road, one that produces research like the work highlighted in the article “Dogs Fed Some Popular Diets Could Be at Risk of Heart Disease.”  Yet the more that I learn about this research, the more I realize how resistant people are to the message.

The rough idea is this: researchers have found a relatively recent increase in the number of dogs diagnosed with Taurine-Deficient Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).  DCM is a disease of the heart muscle that leads to reduced heart pumping function and increased heart size, and it can result in severe consequences such as congestive heart failure or sudden cardiac death.  Researchers are still trying to isolate the exact cause, but it has been associated with grain-free diets, raw diets, and foods that contain exotic ingredients like peas and lentils.  It is not yet known why these foods would lead to low taurine and DCM, but adding taurine (an amino acid) to the dog’s diet does not seem to help.  (More details here).

So, the cautious approach would seem to be to avoid feeding dogs these boutique and grain-free foods until researchers figure things out further.  What should dogs eat, then?  A Facebook group which is facilitating the gathering of data and exchange of information among researchers is currently recommending Purina Pro Plan, Hills Science Diet, Royal Canin, Eukanuba, and Iams.

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Davis Chefs Battle to Create the Best Planet-Friendly, Plant-Based Burger, March 1-31

Graphic logo and participanThere’s no easier way to do something good for the planet (and your health) than to sit down and bite into a juicy, flavor-packed plant-based burger with friends or family. And thanks to COOL Cuisine, a partner of Cool Davis, seventeen eateries in Davis will be offering plant-based burgers or sandwiches on their menus throughout March as part of a fun contest involving all diners as judges.

Beef is a very resource-intensive product. The Burger Battle will offer a wide range of alternatives that are taste sensations, filling, and that diners can feel good about ordering. A beef burger can use more than twice the acreage and emit 10 times the greenhouse gasses than a meal made from plants. To produce one beef burger is takes the same amount of water as 33 showers or washing your car 15 times. In the last year many Silicon Valley companies rolled out patties that mimic the mouth-feel, juiciness, look, and flavor of a beef burger. All competing burgers, whether made from scratch or using commercial patties, and side dishes offered will contain no animal products.

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