Entries categorized "Trustworthiness"

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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Mace Mess

MaceMess1PETITION TO CITY OF DAVIS TO RESTORE MACE BOULEVARD TO TWO LANES (BOTH WAYS)

The “Traffic Calming” project on Mace Boulevard was unnecessary, was not properly presented to the residents of South Davis (especially the current residents), was obsolete and ill-conceived when the plan was completed in 2013, and since its installation has created massive congestion, dangerous traffic issues, more safety issues for the bicyclists and pedestrians it was purported to protect, rampant road rage, and in short has seriously disrupted the lives of all Davis residents and especially South Davis residents, as demonstrated by our daily experiences. 

Despite city planners’ insistence to the contrary, the changes to Mace have resulted in a situation where emergency vehicles will be unable to access neighborhoods and evacuations will be impossible to carry out.  No matter how many lights are flashing and how loudly the sirens wail, there is no place for gridlocked traffic to go to get out of first responders’ way.  When the area is gridlocked, side streets are also blocked, so there are no alternate routes for first responders either.  In some neighborhoods, the “improvements” have created issues for ADA access to vehicles, another safety concern.

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Bob Dunning’s False Equivalency Regarding the Testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh

Ford-kavanaughAlthough Bob Dunning and I agree on one thing (that Dr. Blasey’s testimony was “compelling and believable without holes or hesitation”), I otherwise find much to disagree with in his recent column in the Davis Enterprise, “Truth gets lost in the crossfire.”  In particular, I object to his casting this as a purely political disagreement, where Republicans are taking Brett Kavanaugh’s side and Democrats are taking Christine Blasey Ford’s side, where “reasonable people can disagree over which person they believe,” and where “if everyone in America believed that Judge Kavanaugh had assaulted Dr. Ford, he would not be confirmed.”

Maybe the debate over Kavanaugh’s nomination started out as a purely political disagreement a month ago, but it stopped being that the moment that Dr. Blasey came forward with her testimony of sexual assault – her testimony that, 36 years ago, Brett Kavanaugh laid on top of her, tried to rip off her clothes, covered her mouth so that she couldn’t scream and couldn’t breathe, and then laughed about it.  And that the only thing that saved her was that he and his buddy, Mark Judge, were too drunk to follow through on what they had begun.

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Davisites' attitudes towards Kavanaugh, Thomas, #metoo, #whyIDidntReport

I posted a link to this Davis Media Access video to the Davisite Facebook page a few days ago, but I can't get it out of my head.

In the video, you see men supporting (now Supreme Court justice) Clarence Thomas, and men supporting Professor Anita Hill.  You see women supporting Thomas, and women supporting Hill.  But most of all, you hear exactly the same arguments on both sides that you are hearing in the media today concerning Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who is now facing three separate sexual assault accusations: one from Prof. Christine Blasey Ford, one from Deborah Ramirez, and one from a number of as-yet-unnamed women who lawyer Michael Avenatti is representing.

If DMA were to redo those interviews in Davis today – in the #metoo #WhyIDidntReport #BelieveSurvivors era – would the results be much different?

I'd like to hope that they would be.  But I fear that they wouldn't.


Nishi money spills into tax measures

Pileofmoney-croppedBy Gilbert Coville

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.

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