Analysis: It’s No Wonder Why People Are Confused…

Dunning-personalI recall a discussion back in college about the “big lie,” which is an interesting propaganda tactic where the concept was that no one could believe that someone could have the audacity to distort the truth so infamously. For me, the bigger problem isn’t the big lie in the modern age, though it still exists – it is the half-truth.

The problem with the half-truth that makes it so pernicious is that there is an underlying element of accuracy that prevents it from being fully debunked.

In the past few weeks, the Vanguard has been working on some critical outreach to the community, both on these pages and behind the scenes. Among the biggest obstacles we have in this community is to overcome the wave of half-truths and misperceptions on the part of the public.

That task becomes more challenging when a prominent columnist continues to pump them out at an alarming rate.

So let us address some of these.

“… by 2019, when water rates reach a whopping five bucks per ccf, Davis is likely to look more like a town in the Mojave Desert than a once-green town that cherished its beautiful lawns and mature trees … there is justifiable concern that those rates will drive some folks out of business, or at least out of town … safe to say, had the Davis City Council had the courage to put those specific rates on the ballot along with the surface water project in March of 2013, both the rates and the project would have failed …”

If there is an element of truth to this, it lies with the conflation of multiple problems into one. The water rates are going up. But the bigger driver may be the state drought and water shortage. We have had droughts in California in the past, but this one might be different. The Center for Investigative Reporting yesterday wrote, “By this spring, California had experienced its driest three-year stretch since 1895. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Fresno logged their driest year ever recorded in 2013.”

They continue: “California’s climate varies tremendously, from temperate rainforests on the North Coast to the extreme aridity of Death Valley. Conditions now are so dry that all of the state is considered to be in a drought. More than 80 percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought, according to the United States Drought Monitor.”

Fear-mongering over water rates certainly is not going to help this, but if the city moves toward different sorts of ground cover, the drought and not water rates will be the primary driver. In San Luis Obispo, a seven-year drought in the late 1980s and early 1990s changed the way a lot of people went about ground cover, but while the planting patterns of individual properties changed, it did not destroy the beauty of that community.

“… when I headed down the street to Grocery Outlet to check for myself, I discovered the asking price for these thick plastic bags was 15 cents … how that sits with the Bag Police remains to be seen, given that these bags are, after all, made of plastic …”

An easy Google search reveals the following from the city’s webpage on the Carryout Bag Ordinance: “Thicker plastic bags may still be available at some stores if the bags meet the statewide standard of ‘reusable bags.’ As with all bags offered at checkout though, stores will be charging a minimum of 10 cents per bag. “

——-

“For the mathematically challenged, that 6 percent of the project’s output means UC Davis actually will be receiving 15 percent of Davis’ portion of that coveted river water we will all be paying so dearly for … given that there’s supposedly a severe shortage of water out there, it’s hard to understand why city officials are so positively giddy about the prospect of allowing UC Davis to take 1.8 million gallons of water a day while dropping the city of Davis’ allotment to 10.2 million gallons a day …”

The Enterprise, in its cheers and jeers section, offers a different take: “CHEERS to UC Davis’ decision to join the Woodland-Davis surface water project, investing $20 million in exchange for 6 percent of the total water that will be drawn from the Sacramento River, treated and piped to the two communities.

“Having the university share the costs for the project and the pipelines will reduce Davis’ share of the cost by $11 million and Woodland’s by $1.2 million. Those savings eventually will make their way to water customers.”

——-

“As I understand it, Davis will receive around $11 million of the money UC Davis is paying for water rights. When will we, the ratepayers, see a reduction on our bills?”

Now that the city is in the business of selling water, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen to all those millions of dollars sailing our way. Safe to say, though, the city isn’t talking about canceling a parcel tax vote anytime soon.

It is safe to say that the $11 million will have no impact on whether or not the city puts a parcel tax forward. There is a belief in city hall that, with the savings from UC Davis’ entry and the much larger savings if the city gets SRF low interest loans, the savings will be passed on to the ratepayers.

However, none of that has anything to do with the need for a parcel tax to repair the roads. Water rate money cannot be used for those purposes and even if it could, $11 million is just a drop in the bucket compared to the total needs.

——-

“It appears that those submitting applications for the job cannot budget living in our fair city on $188,000/year. Wonder how many citizens are having the same tough time figuring such out.”

While I have heard of a few of my less fortunate East Davis neighbors scraping by on less than $188,000 a year, they generally have only one vehicle and their children are invariably shabbily dressed. The City Council is concerned that if the new city manager’s pay is not increased to a range well in excess of $200,000, he or she may be forced to live in Woodland or West Sacramento, and probably will be eligible for public assistance as well. That would certainly not be in keeping with our national reputation.”

The Sacramento Business Journal reported yesterday that Davis got “no takers for $188K city manager pay.”

More importantly, here is what other cities are paying for city managers…

  • Davis, with a population of 66,565 people, pays its manager $188,000.
  • Rocklin, population 59,672, pays its manager $206,999.
  • Brentwood, population 54,741, pays its manager $259,779.
  • Lincoln, population 45,206, pays its manager $231,029.
  • Rancho Cordova, population 67,839, pays its manager $258,914.
  • Folsom, population 74,014, pays its manager $228,140.

——-

“Over the weekend my husband and I decided to shop in Woodland to see if they were as insane as Davis is. I felt like I had been blasted back into history. Target bagged my items in the despicable plastic bags and didn’t charge me. The grocery store did the same.”

Meanwhile I traveled to the East Bay and South Bay recently and none of those communities have plastic bags. Does Davis aspire to be more like Woodland or more like the rest of the state?

——-

“I went on vacation for a week in July. I asked that The Davis Enterprise hold my papers for that week. I requested that they save the ones that I missed so I could catch up on all the great news in Davis while I was gone. Much to my surprise, I returned to find the bundles left in my mailbox were wrapped in a forbidden plastic bag. Gotta love it.”

Our litigation-wary City Council, fearful of violating the freedom of the press provisions of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, wisely exempted The Davis Enterprise from the plastic bag ban ordinance. If it ever rains again, look for plastic bags brimming with local news landing on driveways all over town.”

Humor is great, but how about pointing out that the city ordinance only covers single-use plastic grocery bags and not other forms of bags. Also it might be nice to note that bags are not illegal in the city of Davis, the ordinance only speaks to their distribution by retail and restaurants, not possession.

——-

“Now that we have to bring our own cloth bags, I won’t be able to wash my soiled bags very frequently, since this would cause my water bill to go up steeply.”

So you can’t throw your bags into the wash with the rest of your clothes?

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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71 thoughts on “Analysis: It’s No Wonder Why People Are Confused…”

  1. D.D.

    This article gave me quite a chuckle.
    I’m no fan of the Enterprise.
    (Arrested? Page 3. Not guilty? Not newsworthy.)

    One of my DACHA co-members told me years ago about the Vanguard. I had not heard of it. After I logged on for the first time, I never paid for another Enterprise. If I wanted a copy of the Picnic Days schedule, there were free used copies in Cindy’s restaurant.

    Several of my friends in Davis also stopped buying the Enterprise when they discovered more truthful and in depth news provided by the Vanguard. Keep up the good work, David.

  2. Barack Palin

    You talk about half truths:

    David writes “Does Davis aspire to be more like Woodland or more like the rest of the state?”

    There are approx. 400 cities in our state that don’t have a plastic bag ban while approx. 100 do.

    David writes “So you can’t throw your bags into the wash with the rest of your clothes?”

    Reusable bags take up space in your washer just like socks, shirts and other articles do. That would be like saying someone’s shirts don’t use any water to wash because all you have to do is throw them in with the rest of the wash.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      They take up space, but it’s not like you’re generally going to have to throw them in their own separate load, so the marginal additional water that they take up is minimal. When you don’t want a policy, it’s easy to find reasons to oppose it. This month I have managed to use three paper bags and save approximately 36 plastic bags.

      1. Barack Palin

        “When you don’t want a policy, it’s easy to find reasons to oppose it.”

        And when you want a policy it’s easy to find ways to defend it.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          Unless you fill every load to the very top, you’re probably not going to use a lot more water throwing your grocery bags in the wash every few weeks.

          1. Matt Williams

            Filling wash loads to the top is very inefficient. The clothes don’t agitate through the water and as a result never get clean. You may save a little bit of water, but you will wear out your washing machine much sooner because it experiences so much more resistance from the clothes that don’t want to slide through the water. In the end the early replacement costs for your washer are just as much as the water costs that you avoided by doing fewer loads.

            That was a lesson I learned in my 1965 Home Economics class in Junior High School … right after my Health class, and just before Lunch Recess.

          2. DavisBurns

            Actually, if you have a new front loading water miser washing machine, the machine uses water according to the size of the load. You no longer have to choose small , medium or large so it takes some water to wash the bags but it doesn’t mattered whether you wash them alone in a small load or make a big load bigger– it takes about the same amount of water.

          3. David Greenwald Post author

            But you’re talking about a marginal difference in the amount of water you use.

          1. Matt Williams

            So, what I hear you saying Barak is that by definition all policy is bad. Am I hearing that correctly?

          2. Barack Palin

            No, you obviously missed the point too. I’ll explain it to you, David wrote “When you don’t want a policy, it’s easy to find reasons to oppose it.” I responded that “And when you want a policy it’s easy to find ways to defend it.” It works both ways, people will find good or bad about anything because of their biases.

          3. Matt Williams

            Indeed, I did miss the point … badly. I did not make the connection to the line in David’s comment that immediately preceded yours. I thought you were making a blanket statement. My bad. Thanks for clarifying.

          4. David Greenwald Post author

            And BP, everything went sideways yesterday, but I agree with you that it works both ways.

    2. D.D.

      Re: bags taking up the space of a shirt: Reusable canvas type grocery bags do not have to be laundered as often as a shirt.
      Re: sideways – David, I don’t mind about it being “sideways”, if you’re referring to the very brief period the website wasn’t working. If it is up and running again, it doesn’t matter that it was briefly down, IMHO.

  3. Barack Palin

    “For the mathematically challenged, that 6 percent of the project’s output means UC Davis actually will be receiving 15 percent of Davis’ portion of that coveted river water we will all be paying so dearly for … given that there’s supposedly a severe shortage of water out there, it’s hard to understand why city officials are so positively giddy about the prospect of allowing UC Davis to take 1.8 million gallons of water a day while dropping the city of Davis’ allotment to 10.2 million gallons a day …”

    “The Enterprise in its cheers and jeers section offers a different take: “CHEERS to UC Davis’ decision to join the Woodland-Davis surface water project, investing $20 million in exchange for 6 percent of the total water that will be drawn from the Sacramento River, treated and piped to the two communities.
    Having the university share the costs for the project and the pipelines will reduce Davis’ share of the cost by $11 million and Woodland’s by $1.2 million. Those savings eventually will make their way to water customers.”

    So who is right? Or are both right being that Davis is getting 40% of the project’s water and is the UCD portion coming out of Davis’s share which would equal 15% of our city’s share as Dunning wrote?

      1. Davis Progressive

        it looks like the ucd portion comes out of davis’ share which is why most of the reimbursement goes to davis not woodland. not sure what woodland is getting paid anything for.

        1. Barack Palin

          So DP, if UCD’s portion comes out of the Davis share that wouldn’t that make Dunning’s statement that UCD is getting 15% of Davis water correct?

      2. D.D.

        And I’m still waiting for B.P. to site your stats re: the United Kingdom having the HIGHEST crime rate in the WORLD. It was your statement. Still waiting, B.P……..

  4. Barack Palin

    “In the past few weeks, the Vanguard has been working on some critical outreach to the community both on these pages and behind the scenes.”

    Behind the scenes? Care to enlighten us?

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      The first part has come out, we’ve brought in the Economic Development Director to speak at our event next week. The other stuff is not ready for release, but should be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

  5. D.D.

    Several years ago there was a fire in a field near Albany Circle. Residents were evacuated by the wonderful Davis Fire Dept. The Enterprise even botched that simple story. I realized it was probably because they don’t use the 5 w’s of good journalism. My high school journalism class taught those. The Enterprise is lazy; it uses 3 w’s instead. If they can’t find info using www then they rarely bother.

    Another example of Enterprise “journalism”: I was interviewed for their man on the street article years ago. The young lady interviewing me was flirting with the cameraman! I guessed she was not listening to my reply, & almost told her I changed my mind about giving permission for the quote. Sure enough, when the article was printed, she totally messed up my two sentences!

    The Enterprise has very low standards of “journalism”.

  6. Topcat

    Bob Dunning’s column is supposed to be humorous. Most people in Davis understand that and they understand that he frequently uses exaggeration and silly comparisons for emphasis.

    Let’s all lighten up and have a good chuckle at some of the “First World Problems” that we get so caught up in.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      It’s all fun and games until you have to explain to people the policy implications are based on erroneous information. One of the candidates told me when walking precincts there were people who literally quoted Bob Dunning verbatim using it as their basis of understand city policy.

      1. Topcat

        David wrote: “One of the candidates told me when walking precincts there were people who literally quoted Bob Dunning verbatim using it as their basis of understand city policy.”

        Yes, That is the nature of the world we live in. There are some people that get their view of the world from Fox News. Others get their ideas entirely from MSNBC or Comedy Central.

        I do think that most people in Davis are smart enough to understand the difference between satirical humor and hard factual news. If people have erroneous ideas about things, that’s just part of living in a society that tolerates different opinions.

        1. Davis Progressive

          i’m sorry i just don’t buy it. look at harrington’s comment below. you see enough people who believe it because it sounds catchy and no one is willing to fact check him.

    2. D.D.

      Dunning’s jokes about the bird streets and his Aggie football observations were funny.
      But he also used to be rather snarky.
      Years ago, I saw him pushing a baby stroller downtown; he looked very happy that morning. It made me smile. His comments about his family were warm and loving.
      Since I stopped buying the Enterprise, I don’t know much about his current articles, unless David refers to them.
      I wish he’d stick to his satire & not make statements that some readers confuse with the truth.

  7. Michael Harrington

    Bob got it right with the surface water project and rates. From January 2013 on, he hammered the CBFR look back, and the sky high summer rate differential. He also got it right in the fall 2011 water referendum’s demand to vote on the rates.

  8. TrueBlueDevil

    The Enterprise announced yesterday that they are changing their comments section, requiring a Facebook account and a real name. I think when the Bee did this, the comments section dried up. Comments often provide much needed information and context. I think the DV will benefit from this.

    1. D.D.

      Re: The Enterprise wanting your personal facebook profile, etc.
      The editor doesn’t want rational feedback. I tried to speak with her on the phone & when I disagreed with her, she hung up on me. And I was being polite.

  9. Michael Harrington

    Posters should use their real names. Want to say something? Stand behind it. I’ve gone around and around with Kelly, Boone, Shor, and others, and those posters use their name and it makes for a better exchange of ideas.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Jeff is a good example as to why we don’t have that rule. There are times when there are consequences – harm to work, risk of job, risk of government contract, and the like associated with posting. The Vanguard was created to allow community comment without fear of retribution. We have worked hard over the years to find the right balance and tone things down.

      1. South of Davis

        David wrote:

        > Jeff is a good example as to why we don’t have that rule.
        > There are times when there are consequences – harm to work

        The guy below probably added a lot to the Sac Bee comments section, but getting caught posting almost 5,000 comments while getting paid by taxpayers was probably not great for his career…

        “A California Department of Education employee posted approximately 4,900 comments on The Sacramento Bee’s website between December 2010 and December 2011, according to a state report released this morning”

        http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_state_worker/2012/12/state-employee-posts-nearly-5000-online-comments-while-at-work.html

      2. Frankly

        Frankly agrees. It would be wonderful if we could say exactly what we think without fear of damage to ourselves, or families and our places of work. That is not the world we live in despite what we would hope and what our founders had desired and designed.

        Bravo for the Vanguard taking the high road on this.

        1. D.D.

          From Wikipedia, reL freedom of speech: In her biography on Voltaire, Hall wrote the phrase: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (which is often misattributed to Voltaire himself) as an illustration of Voltaire’s beliefs.[3] Hall’s quotation is often cited to describe the principle of freedom of speech.

    2. tj

      I usually agree with you, but on using real names, it’s fine for an attorney but the rest of us have to be more careful. Some people will sue just to harass, to silence negative publicity. Less information will be available here if real names are required.

  10. hpierce

    It’s quite simple… Woodland, Davis, and now UCD share the river intake and the water treatment plant. Therefore, Woodland gets a proportional share from UCD for the “buy-in” to those facilities. Davis pays for the transmission and distribution facilities downstream of the plant. UCD then pays a proportionate share of those facilities directly to the City of Davis.

  11. Michael Harrington

    Posting without your real name is like walking into the public market with a paper bag on your head for privacy, and saying things that you would not say publically. It’s rude, and devalues the comments, and just plain weird.

    Jeff definitely goes after me on occasion, probably deserved, but it helps know who he is, and he puts his name behind his statements.

    My comments on Bob’s positions are accurate, and no, I dont need to go cite to a date and column on these water issues. I KNOW what he said, and his long term views on these subjects. I know many of you have to go research and pull cites, but generally, I know the history and issues and personalities, and I dont need to. I dont claim to do scientific research to publish anyway. When I write a letter to the Editor, I write it a little more carefully. When I write a full op ed piece (almost always with others), you had better believe I and the co-authors double check all of it.

    Bob is usually right on the law, the facts, and the moral side of the railroad tracks that bisect Davis.

    1. Mark West

      “Bob is usually right on the law”

      I seem to recall that there is a local Judge who would disagree with this statement…

      Bob is a neighbor and friend, but I would not go to him looking for legal advice.

    2. Barack Palin

      “Jeff definitely goes after me on occasion, probably deserved, but it helps know who he is, and he puts his name behind his statements.”

      LOL, except for the fact that Jeff posts under an alias.

    3. D.D.

      Maybe you were a public figure so you don’t mind being in the public eye? I was quoted on the front page of a Sunday edition of the Sacramento Bee and I got flak from a few people. Since then I do not usually give out my name. I am a private person. My friends will figure out who I am from my anecdotes. But others don’t really need to know me. It’s like the private gay person who explains they will out themselves to the people they trust. Not every person in the general public has a right to know my full name. Then they will be able to locate my private home, or my children’s homes. We are not in the public eye, but we can still exercise our freedom of speech.

  12. Michael Harrington

    Mark: we were going to appeal that water rates decision, but now it’s moot. So we will never know if Bob was legally and conclusively right.

    1. Mark West

      Sorry Michael, that’s not how our legal system works. If you plead guilty to a lessor charge you didn’t commit in order to avoid defending against a more serious one, you can no longer claim to be innocent as you made the declaration of guilt. Similarly, if you fail to appeal a decision against you in civil court you have chosen to accept the verdict and can no longer claim to be right. You lost, and Bob’s legal opinion was shown to be incorrect. He is still a nice guy, just not a very good lawyer.

      1. D.D.

        “If you plead guilty to a lessor charge you didn’t commit in order to avoid defending against a more serious one, you can no longer claim to be innocent as you made the declaration of guilt.”

        Not necessarily in every situation.

          1. Matt Williams

            If you are pleading guilty to a lesser charge, how is that not an admission of guilt under the provisions of the lesser charge?

          2. Barack Palin

            But if the accused was pleading guilty to a conservative Republican judge who had Tea Party opinions then all bets are off.

          3. La pace sia con voi.

            The person being wrongfully charged and God are the only ones who know if a person is guilty or innocent. You have apparently never been in a position where the DA has more lawyers and money to harass you, so you go along with their bogus charges to stay out of state prison. You are a very, very fortunate man to never be in the position of being wrongfully accused. Count your blessings and stop equating plea bargains with the truth. Unless you have been in a plea bargain nightmare yourself.

  13. Michael Harrington

    Oh yeah, how could I forget Mark … he’s got years of practice commenting on my comments. Sorry I left you off the list of posters who use their names.

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