Seven Early Stories for Davis in ‘007

At the end of 2006, we covered the top 10 stories in Davis for 2006. In today’s blog entry, we will look ahead to some of the stories brewing as the largest for the first part of 2007. As always, new stories will undoubtedly arise at a seconds notice, but the People’s Vanguard of Davis already has a full plate. These are just some of the stories we plan to be covering in the ‘007.

Open Seat in the 8th Assembly District

Outgoing Incumbent Lois Wolk’s (D-Davis) third and final term as Assemblywoman for the 8th Assembly District of California has barely begun and the speculation for her replacement has already started. In a district that is heavily tilted toward the Democrats, the primary winner will for all practical purposes determine who becomes the next Assemblymember for the 8th Assembly District.

The gauntlet has been thrown down by Woodland Daily Democrat Editor Jim Smith in his blog:

Posturing is taking place right now between supervisors Mariko Yamada and Mike McGowan and West Sacramento Mayor Chris Cabaldan. The word from Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez is that it’s “Chris’ turn” for the 8th District seat. McGowan, an attorney who represents West Sacramento, may be given a judgeship to keep him from seeking higher office. Yamada, if she stays true to the Democratic Party, could have her chance by 2014.

It seems that Nunez has jumped the gun a bit here. Yamada would be an extremely formidable candidate if (and that’s still a big if) she chooses to run. Cabaldon is not without baggage of his own. He is unpopular with the unions for bringing Wal-Mart to West Sacramento and for supporting anti-union positions on a variety of issues. He has upset a lot of Democrats for supporting development interests rather than neighborhood and constituent interests.

The race for 8th Assembly District is far from over and the race will be decided on the west side of the Sacramento River, not the East Side.

Continuation of Law suits against the Davis Police Department and Yolo County District Attorney’s Office

At least two major lawsuits have gone forward against the District Attorney’s Office in November 2006.

Last week, we reported about Khalid Berny, a farmer from Clarksburg who is suing both the Yolo County and the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department and Animal Control. This is an amazing case that stems from allegations that Mr. Berny intentionally allowed his goats to run at large. For this horrendous crime, Berny faced 170 misdemeanor charges which carried a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison. Mr. Berny’s case was dismissed after a last minute recusal by Yolo County Judge Timothy Fall brought retired Judge Bill Lebov into the case who then oversaw the dismissal of all charges against Mr. Berny. Through a civil lawsuit, Mr. Berny now charges Animal Control and the Sheriff’s Office with discriminatory enforcement of the law based on the severity of the punishment inflicted on him in comparison with others for similar offenses. In addition, Berny is charging the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office with malicious and discriminatory prosecution. Prior to the dismissal of charges in Judge Lebov’s court, Yolo County Deputy DA Deanna Hayes had offered to drop the charges in exchange for Mr. Berny dropping his suit against the county–an offer that Berny refused.

Along similar lines, one of the top stories from last year, is the case of then 16-year-old Halema Buzayan who was arrested for an alleged bumper bender in a Davis supermarket parking lot in 2005. Ms. Buzayan, who is now a freshman at UC Davis, and her family are suing the Davis Police Department including former Chief Jim Hyde, Former Internal Affairs Sgt. Gina Anderson, and Officer Pheng Ly for a variety of offenses. In addition, they are suing the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office and the Davis Enterprise newspaper.

Some of the most troubling aspects of the case are: Internal Affairs Sgt. Gina Anderson during her interview of Halema Buzayan (while supposedly conducting an internal review of the actions of Officer Pheng Ly), allegedly threatened her mother with jail if Ms. Buzayan did not confess to the crime. The Yolo County District Attorney’s office after the case was dismissed, illegally leaked the arrest tapes to the Davis Enterprise, thus violating juvenile confidentiality laws. The Davis Enterprise not only published the story on the tapes, but posted the tapes on their website, in the process releasing confidential and private information about the Buzayan family but also the victim, Ms. Adriene Wonhof. The District Attorney’s office then continued their smear campaign against the Buzayans into May, with Deputy District Attorneys Tim Wallace and Clinton Parish claiming that the Buzayan family paid off Ms. Wonhof to keep her from testifying. Finally, Bob Dunning, a Davis Enterprise columnist got into the act with a long interchange with the ACLU and attorney Bill Kopper. For more on the Buzayan case, please view the video from KGO ABC News 7 in San Francisco.

Ironically both Mr. Berny and the Buzayans filed their court cases in early November and will be proceeding during the course of the year.

Anti-Gay Harassment of the Junior High School Student

Last November, the People’s Vanguard of Davis broke the story of a thirteen-year-old Harper Junior High School Student was being harassed because he has two Gay fathers. For good background see the following video clips: Father Speaks at City Council Meeting, Father Speaks at School Board Meeting, and the ABC News 10 in Sacramento report.

There are new revelations coming out tomorrow on this case. Check out the People’s Vanguard of Davis first thing tomorrow.

Closing Down of the Valley Oak Elementary School

On Saturday we reported that the Davis Joint Unified enrollment projections were not looking good in terms of the issue of school closure. Neighbors seeking to keep Valley Oak Elementary School open cited possible future development projects as a possible source for future students. This argument was dismissed by the school board, claiming that they should not take into account development plans that are not yet approved. On the other hand, Baki Tezcan pointed out it is “ironic that after counting [the expected population growth] for [the unapproved] Covell Village [development] in building Korematsu, now they [the school district] say they cannot count for something that does not exist even though it will not require a city-wide vote and will probably happen in due course and produce new students in need of a school to go.” The decision on the closure has not been made, but parents are concerned about the loss of a neighborhood school in one of the lesser affluent neighborhoods. This figures to remain a very hot issue for 2007.

Writing of the new general plan

In December 2006, the council moved forward with a plan that would create a steering committee to help draft an update to the city of Davis’ general plan. This drew a strong and contentious debate between the council majority faction and the progressives Mayor Sue Greenwald and Councilmember Lamar Heystek. And this was just over a procedural issue that would create a 15-member committee comprised of three appointees per council member. The moment of absurdity occurred when Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson complained about the use of the world “surrogate” being used to describe the members of the proposed commission. Our crack team of lexicon experts however, surmised that this was a correct usage of the term and it did not have a pejorative connotation at all.

One of the issues that the Vanguard figures to follow is one of affordable housing. This comes amid a report that the average family in Yolo County must earn around $17.50 per hour to afford the average two-bedroom apartment. We have also been told that the Eleanor Roosevelt project which was supposed to be provide affordable housing to seniors, has laid mostly vacant due to some rather severe restrictions.

Continued Harassment of Area Minorities by the Police

In May of 2006, 150-200 UC Davis Students Marched on the Davis Police Department complaining of racial profiling and harassment by certain members of the Davis police department. Racial profiling and police oversight were among the large problems of 2006, and the year of 2006 ended the way it begun. We have a video clip of an African American resident getting harassed once again by the Davis Police, this one was caught on tape.The basic problem that faces Davis is a practice of “phishing” by the Davis Police whereby they spot a vehicle that does not appear to “belong.” It might be old or poorly maintained. The police officer then looks for a pretense to pull the person over–sometimes it is real as in the case of the video above, other times it may be suspect. In any case, they are looking for people they believe might be gang members, wanted criminals, or on probation. They are using these minor stops as a pretense to see if they can make a big arrest.

Davis hired an Ombudsman in 2006, but that will not put this problem to a rest. Policies must be changed and that will be a large part of the focus in 2007.

New District Attorney for Yolo County

Today, Monday January 8, 2007, the new District Attorney of Yolo County will be sworn in. As we wrote last week, Jeff Reisig faces a formidable task with a department heavily under investigation, many of whom are facing actions in law suits. Reisig faces his own questions with regards to the gang injunction in West Sacramento. That case comes up for appeal in April. Moreover, the Buzayan and Berny cases cast a lot of scrutiny on the actions of the previous District Attorney David Henderson as well as a number of people who currently work as Deputy District Attorneys including a large number of strong supporters of Jeff Reisig. On KDVS, Ron Glick was arguing that we should wait and see how the new DA does, but he has a tough task ahead of him and that will be a large focus of the first part of ‘007.

Look forward to further coverage in ‘007 of these stories and much more, here on the People’s Vanguard of Davis.

—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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