Off-Topic Column – Redevelopment Fall Out, UC Davis Impact, Death Qualification, And Burger King Robbery


Redevelopment Fallout

The first of many takes on redevelopment comes from the Sacramento Bee, one of the few entities critical of the existing system.  They argue the Supreme Court “delivered a complete rebuke to cities and redevelopment agencies, deservedly so.”

Unlike many, who see the graveyard for urban renewal, the Bee sees this as an opportunity for Governor Jerry Brown – “an opportunity to restore the worthwhile aspects of redevelopment and, perhaps, use the opportunity to take a new look at how tax money is distributed.”

Writes the Bee, “The governor and Legislature were right to abolish 400 redevelopment agencies as part of their effort to reduce a $25 billion budget deficit. The state expects to save $1.7 billion by ending these agencies.”

They argue, “Too often, cities ignored the original intent of redevelopment, which was to revitalize city cores, and instead used the money to encourage developers to build sales tax revenue-generating big-box stores and auto malls.”

In fact, this is exactly what the City of Davis has done.  Putting redevelopment into the parking garage at E and F, which is not blighted, and tearing down an existing and thriving business in Caffe Italia in order to put a much more revenue-generating hotel conference center goes against the intent of redevelopment.

Not that any of Davis’ city leaders, who will quickly hide behind legal precedent that has distorted the purpose and watered down the benefit of such redevelopment, will admit this.

“Many cities hoarded sales and property tax money generated by those projects, to the detriment of neighboring cities and public schools,” the Bee writes.

The Bee is also critical of the League of California Cities and the California Redevelopment Association, whom they cite for failing to compromise and instead pushing for “initiatives to protect their turf, perpetrating the lie that the money was ‘theirs.’ “

Instead, the Bee argues, “They sued the state to have the 2011 legislation overturned, and had their comeuppance on Thursday when the high court ruled against them.”

“Now that cities and redevelopment agencies have been humbled, the Legislature should consider recreating sensible alternatives,” the Bee suggests.

They add: “More broadly, the demise of redevelopment and its potential re-emergence offers legislators an opportunity to review how sales and property tax revenue is spread across jurisdictions. They should seize this opportunity, and Gov. Brown should welcome it, not frown on it.”

This is one of the biggest problems facing local communities – the inequality of the distribution of property tax revenue.  Davis is severely disadvantaged by this.

Sadly, the demise of redevelopment will likely just induce Sacramento to take the money and run, rather than fix the overall system.  But then again, we should neither be surprised nor expect anything less.

UC Davis Touts Its Impact on the Local Economy Which Tops $6.9 Billion

This week, UC Davis released a press release touting its status as “a powerful economic engine for Northern California, generating $6.9 billion in annual economic activity and accounting for 69,000 jobs.”

An economic analysis “found that for every two jobs at UC Davis, an additional 1.2 jobs were created in other sectors of the region’s economy in 2009-10, the year studied. And for every dollar of goods and services the university generated, Northern California benefited from an additional $1.10 to $1.40 in secondary economic activity.”

Overall, the report found that UC Davis’ two campuses – in Davis and Sacramento – constitute the second-largest individual employer in the Sacramento region, behind only the State of California.

“UC Davis is a significant catalyst for economic activity throughout our region and across the state,” said Chancellor Linda Katehi. “It is gratifying to see that the investments made in the university will pay off not only in the long term – with a highly educated workforce and the discoveries and innovations that will help us to address the globe’s most pressing problems. These investments also have an immediate, positive and profound impact on the economic prosperity of California.”

There are two immediate and contrasting takeaways from this.  The first is the notion of a University as an economic engine.  The message of the student protesters and the message of the Occupy movement can be seen in what is clearly becoming not just the privatization of the University of California, but the corporatization of it.

Despite all of the economic clout that UC Davis now possesses, it is the students upon whom the burden still falls, as they see their tuitions soar and the prospects of an affordable education for middle class Californians dim.

At the same time, it should be noted that the private-public partnership can be a source of economic development.  Money for UC Davis comes from a mixture of sources – public money from the legislature, public money from government research grants, private money from donations, private money from tuition, and private money from those who utilize the UC Davis medical center.

So, while students feel aggrieved in this process, the burden has been shifted to tuition. Much in the way of resources goes to line the pockets of the wealthy upper administrators, both on campus and in the UC System. At the same time, from an economic development perspective, the private-public partnership has been not only quite profitable, but it has been a strong engine for economic development.

Challenging the Death-Qualification Process

This year, Yolo County got an up close and front row seat at a death penalty trial.  As we have discussed throughout the year, one of the more curious aspects of a death penalty trial is the death-qualification process, that excludes those who oppose the death penalty from sitting on a jury.

As Natasha Minsker, Death Penalty Policy Director for the Northern California ACLU, wrote in a piece for the Vanguard: “When it comes to death penalty cases, the most gravely important in our justice system, we don’t use juries that actually represent a cross-section of the community. Instead, the law explicitly forbids a large group of community members from serving on the jury: anyone who does not support the death penalty.”

As Yolo County witnessed, one of the jurors apparently had reservations about the death penalty and was ultimately dismissed from the Topete jury.

The result is that juries for death penalty cases are seen as much more likely to convict in the guilt phase.

As Ms. Minsker wrote: “Research shows that our prejudiced ‘qualification’ process produces juries that are more likely to convict. Prospective jurors who make the cut to serve are more likely to believe prosecution witnesses and less likely to ask probing questions.”

She adds, “Jurors who are pre-selected in this way are also more likely to sentence someone to death. That is after all the point of the current qualification system.”

But, argues Natasha Minsker there is more to the problem than just this.  The death penalty is based on the consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors.

She writes, “The prospective jurors left after death qualification are more likely to view evidence as ‘aggravating,’ meaning it supports sentencing the person to death, and less likely to view the same evidence as ‘mitigating,’ meaning it supports imposing a sentence of life without possibility of parole instead.”

“Death qualified jurors view the facts and the evidence differently than do the jurors excluded from serving, differently in a way that favors the prosecution across the board,” she argues.

She is not alone.  Researchers, in the early 1980’s, discovered that death-qualified jurors are not representative of the general population. Death-qualified juries tend to be less representative with respect to gender and race, because women and African-Americans are more opposed to the death penalty than white men.

One study found that, while about 15 percent of whites were excluded from the jury, nearly 25 percent of blacks were.

Another researcher found that the very act of questioning the jury about punishment before the trial may bias the jurors, based on the implied implication of guilt.

Still another study found that death-qualified juries deliberate less thoroughly and possibly less accurately than in juries that better represent the whole population.

Now a group based in Louisiana called I Want to Serve has emerged to “oppose[s] the government’s intrusion on one’s right to express religious beliefs on capital juries.”

According to information from the Death Penalty Information Center, “The group notes that the process of excluding jurors who oppose the death penalty from capital cases — known as death qualification — eliminates a large proportion of the otherwise-qualified jurors.”

The coalition points to research we just discussed which finds that death-qualified juries tend “to be demographically skewed, more prone to conviction, and more likely to make factual errors than non-death-qualified juries.”

In its statement, the group objects to people being denied a fundamental right of citizenship because of their religious beliefs: “Jury service is a fundamental right of citizens and empowers us to keep a check on state power. . . .The voice of all those who do not think the death penalty is an appropriate punishment are removed from that determination.”

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens also expressed concerns about death-qualification in his 2008 concurrence in Baze v. Rees: “[T]he process of obtaining a ‘death qualified jury’ is really a procedure that has the purpose and effect of obtaining a jury that is biased in favor of conviction. The prosecutorial concern that death verdicts would rarely be returned by 12 randomly selected jurors should be viewed as objective evidence supporting the conclusion that the penalty is excessive.”

Robbery At Burger King Drive-Through

Perhaps it is just the slow time of the year, but the story about the robbery at the Burger King in South Davis caught my attention.

Here is description of the event at 12:05 am on December 29 from the Davis Police Department: “The victim (a 48-year-old Davis male) pulled into the Burger King drive-through to order some food. The victim had three passengers in his car (a 47-year-old female, an 11-year-old female, and a 19-year -ld male). Two male suspects approached the victim’s vehicle. The suspects displayed guns and demanded money. The victim gave the suspects an undisclosed amount of cash out of his wallet. The suspects took the money, and fled from the area in a car that was parked in the parking lot adjacent to the restaurant. The victim and his passengers were not injured.”

The press release goes to report that the suspects were headed westbound on I-80 and then gives an extremely vague description of both suspects and their vehicle.

“They were driving a four door, dark color sport utility vehicle (no further description available at this time). The suspects were described in the following manner:

1. African American male, approximately 16 to 17 years old, approximately 5-10 in height with a thin build, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, short hair and gold teeth. This suspect was armed with a rifle.
2. African American male, approximately 20 to 22 years old, 5-10 in height with a thin build and a goatee. This suspect was armed with a black color handgun.”

That should limit it down as they head onto the I-80 westbound.  Good luck catching these guys.  Fortunately, no one was hurt and that is the most important thing.  The moral of this story, do not take your eleven-year-old daughter to a drive-through at midnight, even in Davis.  Or perhaps that’s just me.

—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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  1. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Sadly, the demise of redevelopment will likely just induce Sacramento to take the money and run, rather than fix the overall system. But then again, we should neither be surprised nor expect anything less.[/quote]

    This is my fear and always has been about the demise of redevelopment agencies…

    [quote]This week, UC Davis released a press release touting its status as “a powerful economic engine for Northern California, generating $6.9 billion in annual economic activity and accounting for 69,000 jobs.”[/quote]

    Then why is that all that economic activity generated by UCD not boomeranging back to the advantage of UCD students (THE reason why UCD exists) to help reduce the steep increases in tuition?

    [quote] The moral of this story, do not take your eleven-year-old daughter to a drive-through at midnight, even in Davis.[/quote]

    I would say the moral of the story is not to take yourself or anyone else to a drive-through at midnight or thereafter, even in Davis…

  2. Joe Krovoza

    When Redevelopment was established, the reasons were sound, and they remain so: create incentives for cities to address their blighted areas by granting them use incremental tax revenue from a defined redevelopment area. But like any policy, attention to the core intent requires vigilance. And any revenue stream that gets large attracts suitors. The voters approved Prop 22 to protect local revenue; that still wasn’t strong enough to protect against those interested in capturing the Redevelopment funds.

    What Davis has done with its Redevelopment funds is sound. Ken Hiatt’s presentation in the spring on the use of our funds left most agape as we were all reminded of projects in the core and benefitting South Davis that have kept Davis a livable university town. A good amount of our dollars helped fund the bike and transit connections across I-80, ensuring the viability of South Davis.

    Use of Redevelopment funds depends on state policy and local decision-making. Our council has chosen not to proceed with the 3/4/E/F parking structure. We do view Richards between I-80 and the underpass as blighted, and the proposed hotel conference center as a clear city need. So two great goals get advanced if the project moves forward.

    As the Bee states, this is a great time for reform. Let’s go. David’s last statement is spot on: this is Sacramento looking for money anywhere. Redevelopment is a long-running cornerstone around which over 400 California cities have built the structure of their budgets. The Legislature and courts will change this in a year.

    The silver lining here is that the combination of the court’s two rulings are even more draconian than the Legislature intended. This produces an opportunity for the Legislature (and hopefully the Governor as well), to step in, provide a softer landing for cities, and hopefully some solid reform and incentives for good urban planning moving forward.

    Happy New Year, all.

  3. David M. Greenwald

    “Then why is that all that economic activity generated by UCD not boomeranging back to the advantage of UCD students (THE reason why UCD exists) to help reduce the steep increases in tuition? “


    Don: Davis takes far less local revenue from property taxes than other areas. Yolo County is one of the most heavily disadvantaged in the state. Joe or Sue can probably explain the mechanism better than I can but it’s part of the prop 13 phenomena.

  4. Don Shor

    I am aware of Yolo County’s problem, which is the very high percentage of property that is ag zoned. I don’t know why Davis in particular would be disadvantaged compared to the other cities in Yolo County, or compared to other cities elsewhere, with respect to property tax revenues. I’m guessing Davis has the highest valuation of property, compared to Woodland, Vacaville, Dixon, or other nearby cities, regardless of county. So maybe I’m missing your point.

  5. Rifkin

    DAVE: [i]”… the story about the robbery at the Burger King in South Davis caught my attention.”[/i]

    This was not, by a long shot, the most interesting recent crime story at the Burger King at the corner of Mace Blvd. and Chiles Road. A couple of months ago, Lauren Keene reported this in The Davis Enterprise: [quote]It started at about 12:25 p.m. from a Burger King employee, who reported that a man was threatening a woman inside the Chiles Road restaurant. …
    The suspect was gone by the time police arrived. The woman, 22, reported that he was an acquaintance who had kidnapped her at gunpoint after she got into his car in south Sacramento earlier in the day, Davis police Lt. Paul Doroshov said. … Officers set up a perimeter in the area and searched for [b]the suspect, described as an African-American male in his early 40s, standing just over 7 feet tall and having a muscular build.[/b][/quote] I have been on the lookout for Duane Causwell ever since.

  6. Frankly

    With respect to RDA, this is another example of how we continue to dig ourselves deeper into a fiscal chasm with short sighted economic policy. Economic development and economic growth, combined with spending reform, should be the long-term strategy. We are doing far too little of both. Instead we chip away at programs that support renenue growing business development only to maintain and expand the gross rewards given to the public employee unions by their political benefactors.

    We simply cannot increase taxes in the state without causing more long term pain on the revenue side. We compete with other states for the privilage of private business that provides the jobs, and upper income residents… the entities that fill tax coffers. California also competes on the global stage for these things. Denial of this will perteptuate us to the looming great Greek fiscal tragedy.

    We need MORE creative programs like RDAs to spur more economic development. We need a much smaller and leaner state government that focuses on keeping the private state economy as strong as possible.

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