2008 Vanguard City Council Scorecard

Here is the Vanguard’s 2008 City Council Scorecard. For the first time, the Vanguard has gone through 20 of the most important votes of the year and rated each council member on the basis of how they voted.

(click on top right to view full document)
Davis City Council Scorecard


No one got a perfect score this year. Councilmembers Sue Greenwald and Lamar Heystek both got a 95% score however, their only blemish was voting to put the charter on the ballot. The Vanguard ended up coming out against the charter based on its overly broad construction that allowed the potential for too much power by the council down the line.

The most interesting development of the year dovetails the article that ran two weeks ago, Power Shift on the Council: Souza Emerges As Power Center, where we see Councilmember Stephen Souza clearly emerge as the middle ground on the council with an even 50% voter rating. Indeed this is only the tip of the iceberg.

On 15 of the 17 non-unanimous votes, Souza votes for the winning side. The only two exceptions were both abstentions. Both were pivotal abstentions. The first, he and Don Saylor abstained on LAFCO allowing for the motion to exclude a number of properties from LAFCO to pass by a very unusual 2-1-2 vote. Later, his abstention on the issue of the Ogrydziak re-design of a B street property meant that the project would be denied for a year, a decision that earned a strong rebuke from his colleague and often-ally Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor.

Councilmember Souza’s shift on the council came rather suddenly as evidenced by this voting chart. Up until September, Councilmember Souza voted for the Vanguard’s preferred position just three times, and two of those occasions that was part of a unanimous vote. In his last eight votes, all since September 1, he voted with the Vanguard 7 of 9 times, one of those was a key abstention on the Ogrydziak property, which may as well have been a vote with the Vanguard. The only exception was casting the deciding vote to go ahead with the value engineering consultant on the water issue while at the same time pushing the council to look for alternative solutions to the water issue.

On the far end of the spectrum, both Mayor Asmundson and Mayor Pro Tem Saylor scored a 25% and a 21% respectively. Three of those votes came on unanimous votes. Mayor Asmundson joined her colleagues in 4-1 votes against Saylor on the issue of the New Harmony CEQA which referred staff to examine the health issue more and on Lewis Properties which authorized an equal EIR. Mayor Pro Tem Saylor’s lone non-unanimous vote with the Vanguard came in his opposition to the Charter City Proposal.

The scorecard however, shows that the council has shifted. The Vanguard was on the winning side of 11 of the 20 votes. In the last eight votes, the Vanguard was on the winning side of seven of them. There has been a very strong shift toward the middle for the council and that has clearly been led by Councilmember Souza.


Part of the tricky aspect of grading the council is that a large percentage of their votes come on non-controversial issues. Thus to some degree, these scorecards understate the amount of agreement between the Vanguard and members of the council on the general agenda.

However, we were primarily interested in how councilmembers voted on the big issues facing Davis. We did not select out unanimous votes completely however. We chose three on big issues: political sign ordinance, woodburning, and the Grande Property. Each of these have either been a long time coming in the case of the first and the last, or an issue that will end up being a hotly debated issue down the line in the case of woodburning.

For the most part, we did not select intermediary votes on issues. Thus in general, we graded on the final vote rather than substitute votes. This helps increase for instance Councilmember Stephen Souza’s score because he sought out compromises that were not completely the preferred position of the Vanguard, but were far better than the alternative.

Finally, abstentions were counted as though they were absent, no vote either way taken out of the total. So Mayor Pro Tem’s votes were averaged out of 19 and Councilmember Souza’s out of 18.

—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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26 thoughts on “2008 Vanguard City Council Scorecard”

  1. East Davis resident

    Cool new features David.Good point Don. BTW, I noticed West Sacramento has almost a 20% vacancy rate, their apartments are in the high 500s and low 600s in cost.

  2. No lip service

    It’s interesting to see a review of how the city council has voted on important issues facing our city and ultimately our pocketbooks. Some council members give lip service and claim to be fiscally wise with our tax dollars yet when you look at their voting record, namely Don Saylor, they are clearly voting to increase costs to taxpayers.

  3. David M. Greenwald

    Others will see it differently from how I (with the consultation of numerous others) saw it, hence the full description of each issue up for vote. Just like when other interest groups give their scorecards, it reflects the bias of their groups as well.

  4. Another View

    …Of course, this is a scorecard based on how One Guy With A Computer thinks they should have voted. Others might see the votes in the opposite way as you did….Absolutely. My view is certainly different. I am not particularly impressed with Souza’s …turnaround…, nor am I impressed with Lamar’s performance. Lamar needs a bit more pragmatism than idealism. Sue Greenwald probably comes the closest to may way of thinking, but not entirely. She doesn’t push commercial development enough, just pet projects. No one on the City Council would get more than a C+ from me!

  5. Andrew

    On 8 of the 20 issues you looked at, the real question was growth: more housing or less housing. Except for Grande, where the council was unanimous, you were rigidly against more housing on every vote.You were on the less or no housing side on (2) Simmons, (4) Wildhorse Ranch, (5) Mace Gateway, (6) Growth Cap, (9) LAFCO, (11) Vernona and (16) Lewis. Nothing wrong with being rigid in your views. But it is fairly obvious that is the strong bias you bring in to the picture on every growth question.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    I could tell, slow growth is practically my raison d’etre.I look at two factors–preservation of agricultural land and maintaining the character of neighborhood, which is why I supported Grande–the neighbors helped to create that development plan whereas both Verona and Simmons the neighbors wanted less density.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    I’m probably weird by your standards, but I did mean with regards to this blog. Probably slow growth and transparency of government are the two crucial planks.

  8. Andrew

    Slow growth may improve the quality of life for wealthy homeowners. The problem with slow growth is that it hurts the poor students the most. The more housing constructed, the better off students are. I moved here from Ames, IA where you can rent a nice 1-bedroom apartment for $200/month. In Davis, a lower quality apartment costs 5 times as much. The difference isn’t that Ames is poor. The incomes there are the same as in Davis, higher in many cases. The difference is that Davis’ slow growth policies have caused the vacancy rates to shrivel to nothing, so landlords charge incredibly high rents.There was a story on this today in the Woodland paper.http://www.dailydemocrat.com/ci_11294552?source=most_viewed

  9. Andrew

    This is a quote from the newspaper article:…The apartment vacancy rate in the city of Davis increased slightly to 0.8 percent this fall, and rental rates rose by an average of 4.36 percent, according to a survey by UC Davis. The Office of Student Housing conducts the annual vacancy and rental-rate survey, now in its 33rd year, to provide the campus and the city of Davis with information for future planning. Last year, the apartment vacancy rate was 0.7 percent, and the average rental-rate increase was 4.18 percent. Economists and urban planners consider a vacancy rate of 5 percent to be the ideal balance between the interests of landlord and tenant….

  10. David M. Greenwald

    Andrew:I am in agreement with you. One of the things we are looking at are ways to supply better housing to students.Ran an article on this a few weeks ago.One of the problems is that UCD has not taken on its fairshare of student housing. It has the lowest percentage of on-campus housing of an UC.Here’s one of the ideas that put forward:On campus housing proposalYou’ll note a link to the Woodland article on the sidebar, one of our newer features. Probably have some commentary on that coming up as well.


    Go Andrew,Boy them college kids is smart.Reads this blog twice and figures you out. Gets the whole supply and demand thing from the Daily Democrat and a comparison with Iowa college town. Maybe Andrew should run for city council instead of your wife. His positions got more votes than her’s and yours did in the last election.

  12. Don Shor

    Welcome to California, Andrew. Just for comparison, the vacancy rate at UC San Diego runs 3.5 – 4%, and I guarantee there are no one-bedroom apartments there for $200.When I was a student here in the 1970’s, Davis had a vacancy rate closer to the healthy 5% rate. As it dropped in the 1980’s, ultimately to a rate below 1%, a lot of housing was built. Apartments in south, east, and north Davis were added. An entire subdivision was built in east Davis. The rental rates didn’t go down, for the reason that David has mentioned: the growth rate of UC Davis is high, and the campus houses a relatively low proportion of the student body. The campus is adding a lot of housing over the next few years, but that will only account for about 60% of the expected increase in students projected for UCD. So the vacancy rate is low, and people renting to students compete with young homebuyers for the lower-priced houses. It all adds up to a shortage of student housing and affordable housing. Davis needs to build more apartments, but I haven’t seen significant amounts of student housing proposed in any of the development projects that have come forward over the last several years. And I wouldn’t hold your breath about any more soon.

  13. Anonymous

    …I moved here from Ames, IA where you can rent a nice 1-bedroom apartment for $200/month….I graduated from Iowa State three years ago. I shared a two-bedroom apartment in Campustown with two other girls. It cost $585/mo. plus utilities. I don’t think you can get a decent one-bedroom for $200 anywhere near campus, but on the outskirts you probably can. A two-bedroom for $450-$650 is the norm in Ames now, depending on the amenities and the size. (By the way, Campustown is the section of Ames where students mostly live off-campus.)

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