Two physician-entrepreneurs who own a string of urgent care clinics in Bakersfield claim the data they have collected from testing for coronavirus proves that the current “stay-at-home” and physical distancing orders need to end and that COVID-19 is “just like the flu.” Their YouTube video interview from last week has been viewed more than five million times. It has garnered attention from the likes of Elon Musk who tweeted “Docs make good points” and Fox News host Laura Ingraham who played excerpts Monday night. But their claims have sparked wide controversy from experts in academia who say their assumptions are flawed, their sample biased, and their extrapolations “implausible.” The Kern County health office has stated it does not agree with their claims. And yesterday their original video was removed for what YouTube says are violations of its “community guidelines.”
Entries categorized "Trustworthiness"
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.
By Roberta Millstein
The developers of the Mace ARC Business Park are avoiding a full analysis of their project proposal and omitting important project details until after citizens have voted on the project. City staff seems to support them in this, and City Council isn’t asking any questions – even though they had already promised that the proposal would be seen by all of the relevant City commissions.
Without a full public disclosure of the project and proper impartial commission analysis, citizens will not have the information they need to make an informed decision.
For those who don’t know the legal context, this project will require a city wide vote – because the 200 acres proposed for the ARC business park outside Mace Curve is outside the Davis City limits with an agricultural land use designation, it is subject to a Measure R (formerly Measure J, now Davis Municipal Code Chapter 41) vote. One of the provisions requires:
Misinformation persists even after the author and board members are notified
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).
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.
Last minute release questioned
Attorney's for the Massive Mace Business Park dubbed "ARC" provided the City of Davis with a letter and tables in preparation for the EIR scoping yesterday. The City posted these documents to the City Website and emailed them to select individuals. Unfortunately these documents have come under scrutiny for possibly containing misinformation.
The City of Davis did not vet the information before releasing it to the public and injecting it into the EIR process. In the words of City Manager Mike Webb, "These documents were submitted by the applicant and therefore are appropriate to posted to the city web site as such."
When asked if the "City has opened itself up to litigation by sending false and misleading information out in advance of tonight’s meeting," Webb stated, "The City, as you know, does not edit documents that are submitted by the applicant. "
The letter below details some of the problems with the applicant's last minute release:
Comments given to the Davis City Council by Mimi McMahon
Trust is an important element when citizens elect officials to act on their behalf. There is no room for special interests or personal gain. A promise is a contract. The City has squandered the trust of Davis citizens and those affected by the Mace Mess you and your staff have created. You have wasted millions of dollars of our hard-earned taxes.
Broken and Unfulfilled Promises
By Colin Walsh
Paul’s Place homeless shelter was announced on the front page of the Davis Enterprise yesterday noting how the very rapid growth of the Davis homeless population has overtaxed the old H street facility. This 4-story proposal will include 28 units, 4 emergency beds, “program space to connect people with public benefits, housing and employment opportunities and health and human services, as well as the basic services needed on a daily basis by those living outdoors: food, clothing, showers, restrooms and laundry facilities.” (link)
With the increasing local homeless population there is little doubt that solutions need to be found. Paul’s place would replace the existing well-worn Davis Community Meals 12 bed shelter at 1111H St.
One hurdle the new shelter will need to overcome to be built is the size of the proposed new building. At 4 stories tall it would be the tallest commercial or residential building between 5th St. and Covell. It will be the building in a half mile radius and the current zoning does not allow for 4 a story building.
Developers and Council Get Cozy with the Vanguard
By Roberta Millstein, Rik Keller, and Colin Walsh
After having raised concerns about Sunday’s Vanguard fundraiser in a series of articles (most recently here), we thought we should give a quick summary of how it all turned out.
The event was scheduled to begin at 5 PM. The three of us arrived a bit earlier than that. Rik ordered a large pizza, which we munched on throughout the event. We sat just outside of the back area of Lamppost Pizza that had been reserved for the fundraiser.
We watched people trickle in and mingle in the designated area. The event finally got started around 5:30 PM, beginning with David Greenwald speaking. Mayor Brett Lee spoke immediately afterward. There was no amplification of their voices and so we couldn’t hear much of what was being said. According to the Vanguard’s own account, Lee discussed homelessness. At this point, the only other City Council member in attendance was Dan Carson.
The following are comments that Roberta Millstein, Colin Walsh, and Rik Keller provided to City Council on Tuesday evening, May 14, during the open citizen comment period (these may not be verbatim as language could have been modified slightly during presentation or cut short due to time constraints).
It should be noted that after we again criticized the City Council for their involvement with the Vanguard fundraiser, on Wednesday morning in the Vanguard “premium newsletter” David Greenwald attacked Colin Walsh several times after identifying him as a potential City Council candidate – and then proceeded to defend the current Council, which has three incumbents who may be running for re-election, on a separate issue.
By Daniel Urazandi
I wasn't at all surprised when the sitting council voted unanimously to remove the zoning restrictions on the Target mall. But I was astonished by the content of the staff report they based that decision on. It makes claims that are demonstrably false to anyone who has taken even a walk around downtown, and then these are the very statements that have been parroted by the chamber in a support letter and by council in their decision. From the report:
“In 2006, the city was concerned that the shopping center could have a negative impact on the economic viability of the downtown.
Studies were prepared that showed there was little likelihood of urban decay, which has held true.
After 10 years of operation in the city, staff believes it can be empirically deduced that the tenants in the shopping center are not relocating from the downtown area nor are they causing closure and mass vacancy in the downtown area”
“In fact downtown is thriving regardless of the existence of other businesses in Davis”
“there is no evidence that the shopping center has an impact on the downtown area.”
In other words, they are doubling down on the lie they told in 2006 even in the face of plain evidence from the intervening years.
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.”
I 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.
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.
Bob Dunning’s False Equivalency Regarding the Testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh
Although 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.
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.
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.