Late Night Parliamentary Games on the Park Consultant Issue

Two weeks ago we reported that the Davis City Council had voted to take no action on a proposal that would authorize city staff to solicit bids for the purpose of hiring a consultant who would then work to create a survey that gathers community feedback about future needs in order to update the city’s parks. We had opposed such a move as an expensive and unnecessary action.

We reported that Councilmember Don Saylor had joined Greenwald and Heystek in the vote to take no action.

“But Saylor had one more trick up his sleeve and with a shocking move he joined Heystek and Greenwald in support of that motion. Why would he do that? Parliamentary procedure states that in order to reconsider an item, a person who voted with the prevailing side is the only one who can bring it up for discussion again. Saylor could not bring the item back had he voted against taking no action.”

The item was now brought back for reconsideration by Saylor at the last meeting. A discussion ensued late on Tuesday evening’s meeting.

There were several very striking features about this discussion.

First, Mayor Sue Greenwald suggests, “you voted presumably in order that you could bring it back.” Saylor dodges this accurate assessment. It is perfectly within the rules of parliamentary procedure to strategically vote with the majority in order to have the right to ask for reconsideration. However, Saylor never acknowledges this very evident fact when pressed on the matter.

Second, Souza claims:

“This an RFP, it is a request for proposals, it’s not an adoption of a proposal, it’s not the acceptance of a proposal, it was just a request for proposals. So if we consider this, all we’re considering is putting out a request for proposals. I see no harm in putting out a request for proposals. We then would then if we had a proposal come back to us, we would then have to accept the proposal or reject the proposal.”

Now Souza’s claim here is accurate, they would ultimately, as City Manager Bill Emlen noted, accept the amount once bids are received. However, it is misleading to suggest that all this is an approval of requests for proposals. The way this would then work is if the bid comes in under the amount allocated, it would then come back as a consent agenda item. This means that while a councilmember could ask for it to be pulled, the heavy lifting and debate of the proposal comes at this stage rather than at the acceptance of a bid proposal stage. And in essence, approval of the “request for proposals” will amount to an approval of a consultant assuming that they find a suitable bidder.

This is a procedural argumentary tactic designed to diffuse the heavy debate. There is no reason to avoid the debate at the stage of RFP as opposed to acceptance of the bid. Have the debate and then vote. But let’s not make the argument that we should accept this item merely as a means to see what proposals the city receives. That seems disingenuous. You authorize a request for proposal if you believe that we should do the project. And if you do not, as both Greenwald and Heystek have stated, there is no reason to approve the RFP.

Third, councilmember Heystek makes a good point that the vote for reconsideration should be based on new information rather than the presence of a councilmember who was absent at the previous meeting. This is not a parliamentary point. Parliamentary procedure allows anyone voting on the winning side of an issue to bring it back for reconsideration.

Saylor, however, gets very testy on this:

“Let me respond. I’ll be very specific. Earlier this evening we talked about an item that had to do with Employee Assistant Program, one of the councilmembers asked that that item as a courtesy be held over and we agreed with that. I voted to hold that over as a courtesy to a colleague. Two meetings ago we had an item that we were stalemated on, two of us believed that we should proceed, two believed that we should not. I asked that we hold that item over until December 12 so that we would have a full council so that we could consider it. That motion was defeated. Then the motion that we were voting on was, should we take action on that item, and the motion was we should not take action on that item that night. And I think that was the motion… And having voted on that motion in the affirmative I now have the right to request reconsideration by the full council. That’s what I’m doing.”

As Greenwald points out, the issue is not whether or not he should have the right to reconsideration. He does. But she is absolutely correct that before Ruth went on her trip, they granted her a very large courtesy of holding over issues that she had the greatest interest in hearing. Mayor Greenwald and the council granted extreme deference to Asmundson on the issues that she is most interested in considering. The last two meetings in fact were very light, because they chose to keep items that were of interest to Asmundson off of the agenda.

Asmundson did not request the parks consultant item to be held over until she was back in town. Therefore it seems very disingenuous (not procedurally incorrect) on the part of Saylor to then request a courtesy in this case as he granted on another issue.

The fact is that Asmundson received far more courtesy when she was gone than either Greenwald or Heystek would have if they were gone on a similar endeavor.

Saylor distorts the issue by suggesting that they were arguing that he did not have the right to request reconsideration. Rather they are suggesting that the council should not grant reconsideration based on the absence of a member. And this is a very important point because it essentially means that any controversial action taken during the absence of a councilmember faces the prospect of being reconsidered if that member’s vote was pivotal to the outcome.

Moreover, it seems to me that Saylor’s speech about courtesy is a one-way street in this case. They were granted a huge amount of courtesy in the way the agenda was constructed with the interests of Asmundson in mind. That courtesy was not extended back to Greenwald and Heystek on the one issue that proved controversial during Asmundson’s absence.

I have no problem whatsoever disagreeing with people on issues. We can debate the merits and if they win, they win. When elected members of the council start playing games and pretend to be doing something that they are not—that is when I have huge objections. Saylor should have be upfront that he had voted strategically to utilize the parliamentary rules–which he clearly had. It is not a big deal until he dodges the point.

Souza should be upfront and acknowledge that a vote for the RFP is in fact tantamount to approval of the concept of the project. If you are opposed to the project, you should not vote to approve the RFP.

And finally, they should all recognize the extreme deference granted to Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson that they have failed to reciprocate on.

For those who missed it, here is video of that entire debate, it is very revealing and well worth watching.

—Doug Paul Davis 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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24 Comments

  1. davisite

    Again, paralleling the Republican congress that, mercifully, has been discarded by the voters, our own gang of three ” gives no quarter”. Their warm, fuzzy platitudes about civility and inclusiveness are a sham. Sue and Lamar are doing everything that they can as a minority. It is up to Davis voters to get out there and work, talk to our neighbors and do whatever it takes to “clean house” in 2008 as well as hold Saylor and Souza politically accountable when they attempt a run for reelection or higher office.

  2. davisite

    Again, paralleling the Republican congress that, mercifully, has been discarded by the voters, our own gang of three ” gives no quarter”. Their warm, fuzzy platitudes about civility and inclusiveness are a sham. Sue and Lamar are doing everything that they can as a minority. It is up to Davis voters to get out there and work, talk to our neighbors and do whatever it takes to “clean house” in 2008 as well as hold Saylor and Souza politically accountable when they attempt a run for reelection or higher office.

  3. davisite

    Again, paralleling the Republican congress that, mercifully, has been discarded by the voters, our own gang of three ” gives no quarter”. Their warm, fuzzy platitudes about civility and inclusiveness are a sham. Sue and Lamar are doing everything that they can as a minority. It is up to Davis voters to get out there and work, talk to our neighbors and do whatever it takes to “clean house” in 2008 as well as hold Saylor and Souza politically accountable when they attempt a run for reelection or higher office.

  4. davisite

    Again, paralleling the Republican congress that, mercifully, has been discarded by the voters, our own gang of three ” gives no quarter”. Their warm, fuzzy platitudes about civility and inclusiveness are a sham. Sue and Lamar are doing everything that they can as a minority. It is up to Davis voters to get out there and work, talk to our neighbors and do whatever it takes to “clean house” in 2008 as well as hold Saylor and Souza politically accountable when they attempt a run for reelection or higher office.

  5. Doug Paul Davis

    Davisite: I have a very strong dislike for these people for one major reason. I have no problem with disagreement. I like disagreement in fact. As long as it is open and honest.

    What gets me angry and I find myself very angry at several things from the other night is process. And it’s duplicity. And it is blatant and often unnecessary dishonesty.

    I remember several years ago when Trent Lott was still Majority Leader in the Senate, he voted against his position on a bill that was narrowly defeated in order that at a later date he could ask for reconsideration. It was known, he didn’t deny it.

    That is parliamentary process and Saylor had every right to bring this up for reconsideration. But it pussy-footed around the issue. And when pressed on it publicly and privately he became very very defensive. This is not a state secret. That angers me that he would play games on a very transparent manuever.

    It angers me when Souza argues that this about a RFP rather approving the consultant. It’s the same tactic he used on the Senior Citizens Commission. A vote for an RFP leads to the approval of the consultant. A vote against the RFP because one is opposed to that expenditure, prevents the approval of the consultant. It is akin to arguing in a congressional committee hearing that you are only voting to move it to the floor so that it can be debated by the full body. Good grief, we are not stupid Mr. Souza.

    Finally, I think the Mayor was too nice on several parts of this issue. She and Heystek allowed them to defer issues, the assumption was that they would be able to have votes on the issues that they heard. Obviously it actually meant that as long as the votes passed in the way that the council majority wanted they could do business in the absence of Asmundson. In the future, I think there should be no such defence given to an absent council member. I feel that this process and this courtesy was abused by the council majority when they decided to bring an issue back up merely because they now had a third vote.

    If you vote against how I see fit, I’ll still be critical, but it’s a lot easier to swallow when they are open and honest about what they are doing.

  6. Doug Paul Davis

    Davisite: I have a very strong dislike for these people for one major reason. I have no problem with disagreement. I like disagreement in fact. As long as it is open and honest.

    What gets me angry and I find myself very angry at several things from the other night is process. And it’s duplicity. And it is blatant and often unnecessary dishonesty.

    I remember several years ago when Trent Lott was still Majority Leader in the Senate, he voted against his position on a bill that was narrowly defeated in order that at a later date he could ask for reconsideration. It was known, he didn’t deny it.

    That is parliamentary process and Saylor had every right to bring this up for reconsideration. But it pussy-footed around the issue. And when pressed on it publicly and privately he became very very defensive. This is not a state secret. That angers me that he would play games on a very transparent manuever.

    It angers me when Souza argues that this about a RFP rather approving the consultant. It’s the same tactic he used on the Senior Citizens Commission. A vote for an RFP leads to the approval of the consultant. A vote against the RFP because one is opposed to that expenditure, prevents the approval of the consultant. It is akin to arguing in a congressional committee hearing that you are only voting to move it to the floor so that it can be debated by the full body. Good grief, we are not stupid Mr. Souza.

    Finally, I think the Mayor was too nice on several parts of this issue. She and Heystek allowed them to defer issues, the assumption was that they would be able to have votes on the issues that they heard. Obviously it actually meant that as long as the votes passed in the way that the council majority wanted they could do business in the absence of Asmundson. In the future, I think there should be no such defence given to an absent council member. I feel that this process and this courtesy was abused by the council majority when they decided to bring an issue back up merely because they now had a third vote.

    If you vote against how I see fit, I’ll still be critical, but it’s a lot easier to swallow when they are open and honest about what they are doing.

  7. Doug Paul Davis

    Davisite: I have a very strong dislike for these people for one major reason. I have no problem with disagreement. I like disagreement in fact. As long as it is open and honest.

    What gets me angry and I find myself very angry at several things from the other night is process. And it’s duplicity. And it is blatant and often unnecessary dishonesty.

    I remember several years ago when Trent Lott was still Majority Leader in the Senate, he voted against his position on a bill that was narrowly defeated in order that at a later date he could ask for reconsideration. It was known, he didn’t deny it.

    That is parliamentary process and Saylor had every right to bring this up for reconsideration. But it pussy-footed around the issue. And when pressed on it publicly and privately he became very very defensive. This is not a state secret. That angers me that he would play games on a very transparent manuever.

    It angers me when Souza argues that this about a RFP rather approving the consultant. It’s the same tactic he used on the Senior Citizens Commission. A vote for an RFP leads to the approval of the consultant. A vote against the RFP because one is opposed to that expenditure, prevents the approval of the consultant. It is akin to arguing in a congressional committee hearing that you are only voting to move it to the floor so that it can be debated by the full body. Good grief, we are not stupid Mr. Souza.

    Finally, I think the Mayor was too nice on several parts of this issue. She and Heystek allowed them to defer issues, the assumption was that they would be able to have votes on the issues that they heard. Obviously it actually meant that as long as the votes passed in the way that the council majority wanted they could do business in the absence of Asmundson. In the future, I think there should be no such defence given to an absent council member. I feel that this process and this courtesy was abused by the council majority when they decided to bring an issue back up merely because they now had a third vote.

    If you vote against how I see fit, I’ll still be critical, but it’s a lot easier to swallow when they are open and honest about what they are doing.

  8. Doug Paul Davis

    Davisite: I have a very strong dislike for these people for one major reason. I have no problem with disagreement. I like disagreement in fact. As long as it is open and honest.

    What gets me angry and I find myself very angry at several things from the other night is process. And it’s duplicity. And it is blatant and often unnecessary dishonesty.

    I remember several years ago when Trent Lott was still Majority Leader in the Senate, he voted against his position on a bill that was narrowly defeated in order that at a later date he could ask for reconsideration. It was known, he didn’t deny it.

    That is parliamentary process and Saylor had every right to bring this up for reconsideration. But it pussy-footed around the issue. And when pressed on it publicly and privately he became very very defensive. This is not a state secret. That angers me that he would play games on a very transparent manuever.

    It angers me when Souza argues that this about a RFP rather approving the consultant. It’s the same tactic he used on the Senior Citizens Commission. A vote for an RFP leads to the approval of the consultant. A vote against the RFP because one is opposed to that expenditure, prevents the approval of the consultant. It is akin to arguing in a congressional committee hearing that you are only voting to move it to the floor so that it can be debated by the full body. Good grief, we are not stupid Mr. Souza.

    Finally, I think the Mayor was too nice on several parts of this issue. She and Heystek allowed them to defer issues, the assumption was that they would be able to have votes on the issues that they heard. Obviously it actually meant that as long as the votes passed in the way that the council majority wanted they could do business in the absence of Asmundson. In the future, I think there should be no such defence given to an absent council member. I feel that this process and this courtesy was abused by the council majority when they decided to bring an issue back up merely because they now had a third vote.

    If you vote against how I see fit, I’ll still be critical, but it’s a lot easier to swallow when they are open and honest about what they are doing.

  9. Rich Rifkin

    “I remember several years ago when Trent Lott was still Majority Leader in the Senate, he voted against his position on a bill that was narrowly defeated in order that at a later date he could ask for reconsideration.”

    A couple of years ago I learned an interesting thing, somewhat parallel to this, about how the Supreme Court works. If the chief justice is on the winning side of any vote, he can write the majority opinion himself. As such, when his philosophical side is losing a vote — the chief votes last — he can join the majority and write the opinion.

    That is a powerful maneuver, in that a chief could write a very watered down opinion, which will then serve as precedent in future cases. And if a similar case came up later, and there had been new justices added to the court, the chief could easily switch back to his philosophical side of the vote and kill the original decision altogether.

    I’m not sure how often chief justices use that power. But I understand that William Rehnquist did it a number of times in what amounted to 6-3 losses for the conservative side of his court. That is, he could not convince Sandra Day O’Connor to join with him, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas, so he voted with O’Conner and the liberals so that Rehnquist could write the “majority” opinion, which would influence how lower courts interpreted the law.

  10. Rich Rifkin

    “I remember several years ago when Trent Lott was still Majority Leader in the Senate, he voted against his position on a bill that was narrowly defeated in order that at a later date he could ask for reconsideration.”

    A couple of years ago I learned an interesting thing, somewhat parallel to this, about how the Supreme Court works. If the chief justice is on the winning side of any vote, he can write the majority opinion himself. As such, when his philosophical side is losing a vote — the chief votes last — he can join the majority and write the opinion.

    That is a powerful maneuver, in that a chief could write a very watered down opinion, which will then serve as precedent in future cases. And if a similar case came up later, and there had been new justices added to the court, the chief could easily switch back to his philosophical side of the vote and kill the original decision altogether.

    I’m not sure how often chief justices use that power. But I understand that William Rehnquist did it a number of times in what amounted to 6-3 losses for the conservative side of his court. That is, he could not convince Sandra Day O’Connor to join with him, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas, so he voted with O’Conner and the liberals so that Rehnquist could write the “majority” opinion, which would influence how lower courts interpreted the law.

  11. Rich Rifkin

    “I remember several years ago when Trent Lott was still Majority Leader in the Senate, he voted against his position on a bill that was narrowly defeated in order that at a later date he could ask for reconsideration.”

    A couple of years ago I learned an interesting thing, somewhat parallel to this, about how the Supreme Court works. If the chief justice is on the winning side of any vote, he can write the majority opinion himself. As such, when his philosophical side is losing a vote — the chief votes last — he can join the majority and write the opinion.

    That is a powerful maneuver, in that a chief could write a very watered down opinion, which will then serve as precedent in future cases. And if a similar case came up later, and there had been new justices added to the court, the chief could easily switch back to his philosophical side of the vote and kill the original decision altogether.

    I’m not sure how often chief justices use that power. But I understand that William Rehnquist did it a number of times in what amounted to 6-3 losses for the conservative side of his court. That is, he could not convince Sandra Day O’Connor to join with him, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas, so he voted with O’Conner and the liberals so that Rehnquist could write the “majority” opinion, which would influence how lower courts interpreted the law.

  12. Rich Rifkin

    “I remember several years ago when Trent Lott was still Majority Leader in the Senate, he voted against his position on a bill that was narrowly defeated in order that at a later date he could ask for reconsideration.”

    A couple of years ago I learned an interesting thing, somewhat parallel to this, about how the Supreme Court works. If the chief justice is on the winning side of any vote, he can write the majority opinion himself. As such, when his philosophical side is losing a vote — the chief votes last — he can join the majority and write the opinion.

    That is a powerful maneuver, in that a chief could write a very watered down opinion, which will then serve as precedent in future cases. And if a similar case came up later, and there had been new justices added to the court, the chief could easily switch back to his philosophical side of the vote and kill the original decision altogether.

    I’m not sure how often chief justices use that power. But I understand that William Rehnquist did it a number of times in what amounted to 6-3 losses for the conservative side of his court. That is, he could not convince Sandra Day O’Connor to join with him, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas, so he voted with O’Conner and the liberals so that Rehnquist could write the “majority” opinion, which would influence how lower courts interpreted the law.

  13. Michelle

    Quite frankly it’s insulting to constituents. We deserve better.

    I don’t agree with Rexroad AT ALL, but I do appreciate that fact that he is up front about his positions on issues. Same with Puntillo when he was on council.

    The voters need to wake up and realize what’s going on.

    NO DINOs (Democrats in namee Only)!
    It’s time to get A.S.S off council.

    Michelle

  14. Michelle

    Quite frankly it’s insulting to constituents. We deserve better.

    I don’t agree with Rexroad AT ALL, but I do appreciate that fact that he is up front about his positions on issues. Same with Puntillo when he was on council.

    The voters need to wake up and realize what’s going on.

    NO DINOs (Democrats in namee Only)!
    It’s time to get A.S.S off council.

    Michelle

  15. Michelle

    Quite frankly it’s insulting to constituents. We deserve better.

    I don’t agree with Rexroad AT ALL, but I do appreciate that fact that he is up front about his positions on issues. Same with Puntillo when he was on council.

    The voters need to wake up and realize what’s going on.

    NO DINOs (Democrats in namee Only)!
    It’s time to get A.S.S off council.

    Michelle

  16. Michelle

    Quite frankly it’s insulting to constituents. We deserve better.

    I don’t agree with Rexroad AT ALL, but I do appreciate that fact that he is up front about his positions on issues. Same with Puntillo when he was on council.

    The voters need to wake up and realize what’s going on.

    NO DINOs (Democrats in namee Only)!
    It’s time to get A.S.S off council.

    Michelle

  17. davisite

    Yes… they are duplicitous.. They try to appear to represent the Davis voter’s interests which often are in conflict with those who will finance their campaigns for Supervisor or the Assembly. Some of these “annointed” Davis politicians are more skillful at this than others. Dave Rosenberg was the master. Continuous public exposure(this blog being a new and potent addition) to make them pay the ultimate political price for betraying their constituents is the only way for the Davis voter to protect their community’s interests.

  18. davisite

    Yes… they are duplicitous.. They try to appear to represent the Davis voter’s interests which often are in conflict with those who will finance their campaigns for Supervisor or the Assembly. Some of these “annointed” Davis politicians are more skillful at this than others. Dave Rosenberg was the master. Continuous public exposure(this blog being a new and potent addition) to make them pay the ultimate political price for betraying their constituents is the only way for the Davis voter to protect their community’s interests.

  19. davisite

    Yes… they are duplicitous.. They try to appear to represent the Davis voter’s interests which often are in conflict with those who will finance their campaigns for Supervisor or the Assembly. Some of these “annointed” Davis politicians are more skillful at this than others. Dave Rosenberg was the master. Continuous public exposure(this blog being a new and potent addition) to make them pay the ultimate political price for betraying their constituents is the only way for the Davis voter to protect their community’s interests.

  20. davisite

    Yes… they are duplicitous.. They try to appear to represent the Davis voter’s interests which often are in conflict with those who will finance their campaigns for Supervisor or the Assembly. Some of these “annointed” Davis politicians are more skillful at this than others. Dave Rosenberg was the master. Continuous public exposure(this blog being a new and potent addition) to make them pay the ultimate political price for betraying their constituents is the only way for the Davis voter to protect their community’s interests.

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