Why Won’t David Taormino Participate in Forums or Debates on Measure L – What Is He Afraid of or Hiding?

By Alan Pryor

There is a long history of community forums and debates in Davis on important ballot measures that were hosted by various community groups. Indeed, every major ballot measure for the past 10 years has seen at least two or more such forums or public debates occur leading up to election day.

I myself have participated in a number of these debates on behalf of the City including two supporting passage of Measure D (the Parks Tax Renewal in 2012), six supporting passage of Measure I (the Water Project in 2013), and two supporting passage of Measure O (the Sales Tax Measure in 2014). I also represented the No on Nishi 1.0 campaign in 2016 in five forums or debates.

The campaign committee “No on Measure L – No on West Davis Active Adult Community” has offered to participate in any and all such public forums and debates on Measure L during this election cycle and we were rearranging our work and vacation schedules to make sure we were available to attend such events.

We thought we had a minimum of 2 forum/debates scheduled and were actively working to arrange to participate in others until late last week. Then we were informed that the two planned events sponsored by Civenergy and Rancho Yolo were abruptly canceled and simultaneously the phone lines went dead with prospective sponsors of other potential forums/debates.

The emails below document these cancellations. Apparently, David Taormino, the developer of the West Davis Active Adult Community, had decided to refuse to participate in Measure L public forums and debates with us and notified the organizers that he has canceled his planned appearances with little explanation given to us for such unprecedented, abrupt actions.

Why Won’t David Taormino Defend his Development Project in Public?

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Cancellation #1 – Civenergy Forum

Civenergy is an organization dedicated to civic engagement, to discussion of current community issues and building our community’s social capital. For example, Civenergy allows citizens to discuss and make decisions about local elections and has independently sponsored numerous forums during a number of recent Davis elections.

Civenergy contacted No on Measure L Campaign Treasurer, Alan Pryor, in late August about participating in a forum with the Yes on Measure L sponsors. Mr . Pryor agreed. Two tentative dates were discussed and Bob Fung, Civenergy President was to confirm final dates and details. Time passed and, then on Sept. 8, Mr. Pryor wrote to follow up: : :

On Sep 8, 2018, at 6:31 AM, Alan Pryor wrote:

Bob – I was wondering why you had not gotten back to me about the timing on the Civenergy forum on Measure L.

But I have since been informed that the forum will not happen at all because the Taorminos will not participate if I am the spokesperson for No on Measure L. I was initially a bit taken aback but then scoffed at the notion. That cannot be true, can it?

To make myself clear, I am willing to appear at any time or place Civenergy holds a forum. I had requested a change of the previous date proposed, but if that change is not acceptable to the Taorminos then let’s hold it on the initially proposed date.

Please advise as soon as possible.

Alan Pryor

——————————-

On 9/8/2018 at 6:51 AM, Bob Fung wrote:

Alan,

You heard correctly. I have been trying to work it out. I have talked to Robb Davis about it.  And I brought it up with David [sici.e., refers to David Greenwald, publisher of the Davis Vanguard] and he probably told you he had a conversation with Jason [sici.e., refers to Jason Taormino, son of WDAAC developer, David Taormino] he is optimistic that things will work out.

As an FYI, it is Civenergy’s policy to hold forums only with participation from each side. I made this clear for on the Board of Education online forum we are hosting this cycle.

Bob

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Cancellation #2Rancho Yolo Forum

Rancho Yolo is the Davis senior citizen mobile home park on Pole Line Rd. The Homeowners Association has sponsored political forums for most municipal measures for many years. Their forums are always well-attended by their intelligent, engaged residents.

Pam Nieberg, No on Measure L Campaign Secretary, contacted Nancy Redpath, President of the Rancho Yolo Homeowners Association Board of Directors, in late August about their holding a forum this election for the Measure L ballot. The following email exchange ensued:

On 9/3/2018 at 6:34 PM, Pam Nieberg wrote:

Hi Nancy:

Last I heard from you re our group giving a presentation on No on Measure L, you were going to talk to the “yes” side re both presenting at the same forum at Rancho Yolo.  I have not heard anything back.   Are you still working on that?  We would like to get some dates to work it into our schedule.

Thanks!

Pam Nieberg

——————————-

On Tuesday, September 4, 2018 at 12:01 PM, Nancy Redpath wrote

Hi Pam,

I had to get an email approval from the Board of Directors, and we now have enough affirmative votes to hold this forum. I’ve also spoken to Mary Jo Bryan, and she said that David Taormino agrees to a presentation for the proponents.

The best two dates for us are both Saturdays: October 13 or October 20. Will one of those work for you? I’ll also check with Mary Jo. We’ve found that 10:00 works pretty well for our residents; 1:30 pm. would also be all right. We have a smart TV for a powerpoint presentation (or other), and a small sound system.

We’ll need some help from the presenters to set up chairs and tables, since some of our regular folks are gone. And there will be some ground rules that we’ll go over beforehand. I’m sure we don’t need to tell you that this needs to be an informational meeting with no drama!

I’ll see about reserving the clubhouse as soon as we have some dates selected.

Nancy Redpath, President

————————-

On Sunday, September 9, 2018, Nancy Redpath wrote

Hi Pam,

I talked to Mary Jo last night, and she said that Dave Taormino decided to decline the invitation to a Measure L forum. The board wanted to make sure that it would be a presentation of facts only, and the proponents don’t see that anything positive could come from a setting like this.

I’ve copied Mary Jo, who said she would welcome the chance to talk to you any time you like.

I’m sorry it didn’t work out this time.

Nancy Redpath, President


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33 thoughts on “Why Won’t David Taormino Participate in Forums or Debates on Measure L – What Is He Afraid of or Hiding?”

    1. David Greenwald

      I’ll tell you what I told Alan last night – in 2016, Tim Ruff from Nishi debated Alan Pryor and others the project. Earlier this year, Sandy Whitcombe representing Nishi debated Colin Walsh among others on Nishi. That’s what the community expects. Bite the bullet and have the discussion. It’s not only a mistake for the developer, it’s a disservice to the community – which is too bad, because they’ve to this point done a good job of engaging the community. But this is the next step and it’s important.

    2. Alan Miller

      What’s really interesting is that he is listed in recent comments as replying to this article, and there are two comments listed, but clicking on his comment yields nothing, and only one comment is listed.

      Things that make you go Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . .

      1. David Greenwald

        There’s no real comparison between the two situations. Reisig, a 12 year incumbent, had never once even agreed to sit down and talk off the record. The developers here, have met with me at least half a dozen times over the last two years.

        1. Alan Pryor

          The developers here, have met with me at least half a dozen times over the last two years.

          …and, BTW, paid you thousands and thousands of dollars for premium placement ads!.

          But to your point, are you saying that all Reisig had to do was just sit down and talk with you off-the-record beforehand and then it would have been OK for him to blow off Dean Johansson on all the scheduled forums and debates and you would not have otherwise publicly eviscerated him for those actions like you did. C’mon David, that’s ludicrous on the face of it.

          The fact that Taormino is ducking debates should be equally offensive to you as Reisig’s actions and the fact that you are holding back on the punches over this issue with Taormino is because you are favorable to the project – despite your howls of objectivity and neutrality anytime you are confronted with this challenge.

          Your favorable position is apparent (and has been noted by many readers of this blog) because of all of the disparaging articles you have written about our positions using much the same type of incendiary language you accuse us of using. And then when you claim to be fair to both sides and publish reasons why the project maybe just might not be the possible best land use, all you did was take our arguments and treat them like they were your own but put on kid gloves and sugar-coat them while doing so.

          I find it amusing (but hypocritical) that I am criticised so strongly for writing hard-hitting articles attacking the project. But when hit back by you and Taormino using equally hard-hitting accusatory and inflammatory language, that is supposed to be OK because you are just being “objective”.

          That is a dress that no longer fits you David.

  1. Sharla C.

    I don’t see why this matters.  I don’t attend forums or debates any more, after finding that they offered very little value.   They seemed to be more of a showcase of personalities.  Be outraged that you don’t have this avenue to harangue the developer, if you want, but you really should have put forth these issues in the extensive time leading up to the Council approval and not just wait for the campaign.

    1. Ken A

      Like Sharla I have not been to a forum or debate in a long time, but when I did go it seemed like more often than not there was not a single “undecided voter” in the room that was typically packed full of staff and supporters or individual candidates and/or supporters and people working on the campaigns of specific issues.  I’m wondering if David has ever tried to estimate the percentage of real “undecided voters” at recent Davis forums…

      1. David Greenwald

        ” I’m wondering if David has ever tried to estimate the percentage of real “undecided voters” at recent Davis forums…”

        I have never done a formal estimate, but I agree with you it’s probably exceedingly low. However, between recordings and news coverage, the number of people exposed to such forums is probably somewhat higher.

    2. Alan Pryor

      you really should have put forth these issues in the extensive time leading up to the Council approval and not just wait for the campaign

      Actually I did meet with the developers as long as 2 1/2 years ago and several times in between for long discussions. I also spoke at a number of City Council and Planning Commission meetings early on and attended at least 4 other different Commission meetings on the subject (although I did not always speak at those meetings). My message was always the same – the project had no density or form-based design and disconnected active seniors from the community (but before the howling starts, please note that I have no problem with assisted living facilities that provide specialized care).

      But nothing I said really changed anything much in the proposed project design and features from very early on so it seemed hardly worthwhile for me to continue to make those protests and then probably be accussed (especially in this forum) of repeatedly the same arguments over-and-over again. But it was not until after the project was formally put on the ballot that I realized how badly flawed and how weak and unenforceable was the Development Agreement that I decided to challenge the Project in this election.

      Am I being to harsh stating that the Development Agreement was rushed and is too vague when the Planning Commission themselves refused to recommend approval of the Development Agreement to the Council for that exact same reason?

      Am I being to harsh when challenging the project’s financial impact on the City when at least two of the 6 Finance and Budget Commissioners said they did not believe the numbers prepared by the City’s consultant and offered their own alternative analysis which I have reported. And the F&B Commission specifically asked to review the financial projections again once the Development Agreement was finalized but they never even got the opportunity to do so before the Development Agreement was before the Council for their approval.

      So I think I have been very diligent indeed in expressing my negative views on this project all the way through. The one thing I did not do was stand up at the very last Planning Commission and City Council meetings and throw a hissy fit. Why should I? The deal between the City and the developer was essentially cut in stone at the point and nothing any of the Commissions or public said was going to change that.

  2. Don Shor

    Alan Pryor is the problem. I’m sure the Taorminos would be willing to debate if someone else was representing the opposition. I think the headline of this piece illustrates the issue.

    I like Alan P just fine and am happy to discuss politics privately with him any time. But as you know, Alan, your approach to political debates can be very abrasive and your rhetoric is over the top. I would see little point to encouraging that publicly. A debate would simply become a long process of fact-checking, without sufficient time to do it effectively, and countering your rhetoric. It would not be informative to the public.

    I suspect that any of the other signatories to the No on L ballot arguments would probably be fine with them. Just a suggestion.

    1. Eric Gelber

      I’m sure the Taorminos would be willing to debate if someone else was representing the opposition.

      And should the opposition get to have a say in who represents the proponents?

    2. Alan Pryor

      A debate would simply become a long process of fact-checking, without sufficient time to do it effectively,

      Our website has been up for a month, how much time would you suggest is sufficient to check the facts

  3. Alan Pryor

    But as you know, Alan, your approach to political debates can be very abrasive and your rhetoric is over the top.

    Don – My debate style and approach to politics has been pretty much the same for decades. No one from the political “establishment” in town seemed to mind or complain when I was working tirelessly for months on their behalf to get taxes raised or the water project passed. Of course, the Yolo Taxpayers Ass. and those oppossed to the water project howled to the moon that I was not nice enough or too confrontational or twisted facts.

    I still remember being called a “pathological liar” in Council Chambers before a packed house duriing a water project debate when I questioned some information by the opposition and was practically accosted with a verbal barrage from project opponents as I left that debate . But there was nary a word of protest or complaint from the power elite in town suggesting I tone it down or back off. In fact, everyone on the Council at the time (well, except Sue Greenwald) and their supporters congratulated me for a job well done for confronting the lies advanced by the maniacal opposition. Do you think I was playing paddy-cake then?

    But then the first time I bucked the system and started pushing agendas not deemed beneficial to the City (i.e. Nishi 1.0), then all of a sudden my style was too “abrasive” or my rhetoric is “over the top”. But people oppossed to Nishi 1.0 and WDAAC congratulate me for directly pointing our what they see as major flaws in the proposed projects and misrepresentations by the project supporters.

    Hmmm……funny how that works.

    1. Mark West

      “My debate style and approach to politics has been pretty much the same for decades.”

      Agreed, and I believe the community has become disenchanted with that style and approach. In my opinion, having you as the public face of the opposition has been a godsend for the proponents. Funny how that works.

      1. Ken A

        The low percentage of people in Davis that voted for a candidate that recently ran for (and won) a national election who has a style that is “confrontational” using “twisted (and alternative) facts” shows that the people of Davis are not big fans of the “confrontational” style of people who “bully” others on Twitter or in city meetings (as a local politician with a last name David might find familiar found out not long ago)…

      2. Alan Pryor

        I believe the community has become disenchanted with that style and approach

        I used the same approach as Chair and the face of Nishi 1.0 and we won despite being outspent 30+ to 1.

        1. Mark West

          I think it was the Nishi 1.0 campaign that turned the tide against you and your approach. Yes, you won, but at what cost to the community, to the ideal of rational discourse, or to your own reputation and influence?

        2. Rik Keller

          Mark West: what do the results of the recent election have to say about YOUR “reputation and influence”? What was your final tally: somewhere south of 5%, right?

        3. Mark West

          Rik – Thank you for your feedback. Had I campaigned with the expectation of winning you might have a point. My goal, however, was simply to influence the conversation, so I am quite satisfied with the outcome. Sorry to disappoint you.

        4. Rik Keller

          Ah, the the good ‘ol “I didn’t want to win anyway” play! I’m sure your campaign literature detailed this strategy in advance of the election, right?

          Reality: You tried to differentiate yourself as the “the only candidate against the anti-housing ordinance Measure J/R” [from your campaign Facebook page] and you got less than 5% of the vote.

        5. Mark West

          Rik – Hillarious…so what did I do to you to make you so butt hurt, step on your toes, kick sand in your face? If I had wanted to win I would have followed the advice I was given at the start and never once discussed Measure R, let alone made it a central focus of the campaign. So while you are entertaining us with your snide comments why don’t you ask yourself why it is that I was the only candidate who never had a table at the Farmer’s Market, and who never made any effort to walk neighborhoods, knock on doors, or ask folks to endorse me? I went to the forums, answered the questions, and focused on the topics I thought we’re important. I never tried to win, and those who knew me well realized it and asked who they should vote for instead. As I said earlier, I am very satisfied with the outcome.

          By the way…off topic I know, but I didn’t start this tangent…Measure J/R is one of the stupidest things this community has ever done. Look around…all of the major challenges we face today, insufficient housing and the lack of affordability, the budget deficit and the lack of economic development and revenue growth, are all exacerbated by this one poor decision. I’m sure that Rik, as brilliant as he obviously is, already knows that…

           

           

        6. Rik Keller

          Mark,

          So you thought the best way to get the word out about the issues you cared about was not to have a table and not knock on doors?

          As far as your  “reputation and influence,” the word on the street is that the Chamber of Commerce endorsed you reluctantly: they supported your pro-big money stance, but thought you were personally abrasive and not very likable. I have no idea what would have given them that impression.

        7. Alan Miller

          the word on the street is that the Chamber of Commerce endorsed you reluctantly . . .  thought you were personally abrasive and not very likable. I have no idea what would have given them that impression.

          And readers of the Vanguard comments section have no idea what would give us the impression that the writer of the above comment might themselves be personally abrasive and not very likeable.

          No idea at all.

  4. R Fung

    As Ken A. and Sharla C. point out, it is true I think that for many citizens, forums do not provide sufficient value for the time and effort needed to attend one.  But we at CivEnergy believe they are valuable in providing a nonpartisan framing of the debate for the community.  At our forum in March for the Davis City Council election, we had all 9 candidates participate and had, by one attendee’s count, close to 300 citizens attend.  We cosponsored that forum with Davis Media Access who videoed the forum and made it available for those citizens who didn’t attend the live forum.  We provided an opportunity for citizens to meet and speak to the candidates after the forum.  The forum was covered by the Enterprise and the Vanguard so we feel the reach of the forum was significant.

    In addition, CivEnergy provides online election forums (e.g., 2018 Davis City Council Online Forum)  which require less effort on the part of citizens to get the information they need but has the drawback of less personal interaction.

    We appreciate the Vanguard’s efforts to publicize the debate on Measure L in the absence of any public forums.

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