Meeting until the late hours of the night, the meeting on June 20, 2006 was long and explosive. Council had a four-hour discussion, marred several times by tension and arguing both between the council majority and then Mayor Pro Tem Sue Greenwald, and also by the council (particularly Mayor Ruth Asmundson) and members of the community.
Supporters of the proposed Target argued that the store would increase shopping options for Davis consumers including providing them with cheap consumer goods and also generating revenue for the city through sales tax. Proponents argued that the Target would produce around $675,00 per year in sales tax revenue.
Opponents such as Mayor Pro Tem Sue Greenwald suggested that the figure compared Target to the revenue of a “vacant field” rather than an alternative development project. Greenwald’s calculation placed the figure at closer to $125,000 per year or $2 per Davis resident.
Moreover, there were strong concerns by residents of the adjacent community that the project would disrupt and disturb their community. Some were concerned about traffic, crime, and noise. There was concern that the project was being built next to a super-fund cite. And finally there was a lot of concern about the effect that the Target would have on downtown business.
The council’s ultimate decision was put the issue on the ballot–a move that Greenwald called “cowardly.”
Dissent erupted between the members of the council and also the council and the public over the issue of public comment.
First, there was debate among council over whether speakers who had commented on the issue at the previous meeting could speak again. Then there was strong opposition when Asmundson ended the public comment period.
Samantha McCarthy would sit down in the middle of the floor in protest. “Refusing to leave had nothing to do with Target. It was a matter for fairness and process.”
The meeting stopped while McCarthy ignored requests that she leave the meeting. Asmundson halted the meeting and four officers and one sergeant (the entire police force on duty at that time) reported to the meeting.
McCarthy: “There was a few minutes more of comments to go and that alone should have triggered a time extension. Ruth has publicly stated that council meetings are for council business and that if people want to talk they can see her during office hours. She has forgotten totally about public comment being for the public and not just for council. That meetings INCLUDING public comment are for all to view and see and that as of yet her office is not included as a public forum.”
McCarthy would eventually leave the room on her own and the meeting resumed at around 9:25 p.m. So the council in trying to save time actually ended up taking up 25 additional minutes diffusing the situation. It seems more reasonable to have just allowed the public to speak and if it takes longer than you want, that’s the price of democracy.
The next week the council would put the HRC on hiatus and McCarthy had an angry outburst, prompting Mayor Asmundson to again threaten to close down the meeting and having Steve Pierce remove McCarthy from the room. Pierce looked at McCarthy and shrugged as though to say, I don’t want any part of this one.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting