Vanguard Question: Will Candidates Take Support From Public Employee Groups?

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Every Friday between now and the election, the candidates for Davis City Council will be asked to respond to one hard-hitting Vanguard question on the issues that matter to Davis, or at least to the Vanguard.

Last week the council candidates were given a question on Monday and asked to respond by midnight this morning. For next week, they were given the question this morning, by request of one of the candidates who preferred to have the weekend to work on the answer.

Answers are limited to 250 words, which is a logistical decision and completely unfair based on the complexity of the question.

This turned out to be a much more pertinent question than we knew going in, given what happened this week.

Question: One of the key issues before the city is the budget and one of the key events that is underway now and may continue past the elections is collective bargaining with employee labor groups.  As such one question people may ask is whether those elected will have the independence to be able to represent the city.  As such, will you seek, and if offered will you accept, the endorsement or contribution of any public employee group?  This includes use of their facilities and/or manpower to print and/or distribute your campaign’s materials.  Briefly explain why or why not.

Greenwald-campaign-hs.jpgSue Greenwald

No, I won’t because they won’t offer it to me because I have argued in the past that we have to bring benefits down to those  the State, University and school district public employees and because I voted against the rank and pay increase of 11 of our existing employees in a very highly paid bargaining group.

It probably would not be wise accept such help or contributions so at this point in time anyway because we have to negotiate some tough changes and could make it uncomfortable for us to do so if these folks have given us extra help.

Wolk-Dan.jpgDan Wolk

I haven’t sought (nor received) any contribution or assistance from Davis city employee groups during this campaign, nor do I intend to, because we are in the midst of collective bargaining negotiations.  However, I support their right to participate in the political process, as I do everyone’s, and I would welcome their endorsement should it be given and certainly value their viewpoint.

I think I have already demonstrated my independence and willingness to cast difficult votes that were not supported by our public employees, just as I have cast votes on other issues that not all my supporters agreed with.  I listen to everyone, whether they support me or not, and make the best decision I can.

BrettLeeR.jpgBrett Lee

I have not received an endorsement from any employee group.  In addition, I have not received or plan to accept any monetary contributions or campaign help from any employee group.

If a member of an employee group, as an individual would like to help with the campaign, I am open to that.  But so far, none has volunteered to help.

I did contact the police officers association and met with a couple members about a month ago.  I hoped to get a better understanding of the issues that they feel are important.  I also wanted to talk about my ideas for reducing the speed of cars on our streets.

When asked, I was candid and told them that I thought the city employees’ compensation package was unsustainable and that there would need to be cuts.  I think they appreciated my honesty.  I hope to speak at their membership meeting.

I do not think it is appropriate for council members or candidates to receive money from employee groups or developers that have business before the city.  It can give the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Souza-campaign-hs.jpgStephen Souza

We have very serious issues as a city. Labor is at the center of our collective debate.

We as a city cannot function without our city staff and safety workers. I have sought endorsements from every facet of our community. That includes our local labor groups. I have sought the endorsement of both the Firefighters and Police officers Associations.

Currently, I have received the endorsement of the Firefighters Association-I have not been informed regarding the Police Officers Association yet.

Whoever is elected to serve for the next four years will have difficult issues to resolve. We have to find a balance between our unfunded liabilities and doing right by the people who serve our city every day.

They will be difficult negotiations. It will be important to have respected and trusted leadership in place to guide that process.

I have received no local financial compensation from any labor union, and further in all my conversations I have been very frank about my fiduciary duty to our citizens.

When it comes to the people of Davis’ money I will be fair. When it comes to employee compensation, we also need to be fair and reasonable.

The way to an agreement which meets the needs of our citizens and our city and safety workers is through good faith negotiations.  That happens with open dialogue and trust.

I am honored to have the trust of many citizens and organizations throughout this campaign. I am honored that our Firefighters are amongst them.

Frerichs-Lucas-665.jpgLucas Frerichs

I have not accepted the endorsement or contributions (monetary or otherwise) from public employee groups.

My campaign has used union print shops for printing a mailer, walk piece, and lawn signs.  In addition to the union print shops, my campaign has also used Davis businesses- Buttons & Bears, Oh My!, The Printer and Copyland for printing and some campaign materials.

This campaign has attempted to spend money according to my beliefs that we should support local businesses in the Davis/Yolo economy.  As such, we have purchased from many local vendors (in addition to those above), including: Davis Food Co-op, Berryessa Brewing, musicians Misner and Smith, Yolo Bulb Flowers, Good Humus and Nevermore Farms, PDQ, The Party Store, Office Max, and occasionally, Costco.

Although a $100 contribution would never sway my vote- for or against any project-  my eight-year public track record on both the Planning Commission and Social Services Commission demonstrate that I will do what is best for the citizens of Davis.

Additionally, I stand by my statement to both The Vanguard and Davis Enterprise regarding the recent negative mailer, “…(this mailer) totally takes the campaigning – which has been a pretty quiet, mellow City Council race so far – to a new low.  I think it’s reprehensible. I think it’s disgusting. Running for City Council should be based on the merits of the candidates.”

—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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23 Comments

  1. Rifkin

    [i]”As such, will you seek, and if offered will you accept, the endorsement or contribution of any public employee group?”[/i]

    It is clear to me that accepting campaign donations from one of the City’s labor associations* is corrupt. The biggest single job of a member of the City Council is to represent all of the residents of Davis in labor negotiations against the city employees. The vast majority of the money the City spends is on its workforce. By accepting money from organized employees**, a member of the City Council violates the trust of the residents that he is acting in their best interest.

    It is less clear that there would be a problem if a candidate merely accepts a verbal endorsement. Generally speaking, my view is that endorsements of that kind are a one-way street: If I endorse Candidate X, I am saying I favor him for the job; he is not saying he agrees with any or all of my positions.

    It is fairly uncommon for a candidate to repudiate an individual or group which has endorsed him. The only times I ever hear about that is if some racist group like the Klan endorses a conservative. I could imagine the same thing if some radical left group endorsed a liberal, but I don’t ever recall a repudiation in a case like that.

    The question voters should ask themselves is this: Why would a certain labor association or union prefer Candidate J over Candidate K? In the case of the police officers association, it may be they think J has a better record or holds better views on police officer safety or gun control or is tougher on crime or some such general societal standard. However, for the most part, labor associations and unions exist for one primary purpose: To get higher wages, benefits, pensions and so on for their members.

    So if a City union or association endorses a candidate, I think voters in Davis should be thinking to themselves: They want Candidate Q because he cares more about enriching the City’s workforce than he does solving our long-term budget crisis which was caused by recklessly giving in to the demands of the labor groups in the past.

    *The fire union never gave to candidates [i]as a union***.[/i] They all just “happened” to give [i]as individuals.[/i] A retired Davis firefighter (who does not live in Davis) told me that half or more of the firefighters would do anything Bobbie Weist wanted them to do and when he told them whom to give to and how much, they willingly obliged. However, the same person told me Weist figuratively twisted the arms of those who were reluctant to give. In the end, they all gave the max amounts Weist told them to.

    **If an individual city employee (other than a few of the most senior employees) who is a resident of Davis gives a donation to a candidate for whatever reason, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Most residents who give to one candidate or another do so because they have some personal connection with the candidate, such as a neighbor or kids are friends or something like that. That is not corrupt.

    ***As a union, Local 3494 gave to candidates in other ways, including independent expenditures on their behalf and walking door-to-door for them.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    “It is fairly uncommon for a candidate to repudiate an individual or group which has endorsed him.”

    My understanding is that at least one of the candidates this time and two of the candidates in 2010 did exactly that – not repudiate, but decline the endorsement of the firefighters.

  3. hpierce

    [quote]If an individual city employee (other than [b]a few of the most senior[/b] employees) who is a resident of Davis [b]gives a donation[/b] to a candidate for whatever reason, [b]I don’t think there is anything wrong with that[/b].[/quote]I see why it would be weird to have the City Manager make a direct contribution… how about their spouse? Does your concern go ‘lower’ than Department Heads? All ‘management’? Most “senior” city folks I’ve known over the years avoided making direct contributions, but sometimes their spouse would contribute/endorse candidates they knew socially. From your quote, are you saying that the ‘offer’ to contribute/endorse is wrong, or just that the candidate be circumspect re: ‘accepting’?

  4. hpierce

    Maybe a “side bar”… based on past practice, Don Saylor (had he not gone to be a supervisor) would be the current mayor, and effective July, the highest vote-getter in the previous election would be Mayor (Joe). The highest vote-getter in June would become mayor pro-tem (guessing that will be Wolk), who by past practice, would become mayor in 2014. Am I missing something, or will Mr Krovosa still be mayor for another 2 years?

  5. Rifkin

    [i]”I see why it would be weird to have the City Manager make a direct contribution … how about their spouse?”[/i]

    That’s a good question. My general feeling is that in the world we live in today, where most couples both work outside the house and to that extent have independence from each other, the wife or husband or domestic partner of the City Manager or someone else whose giving to a candidate creates some kind of conflict should be viewed as an independent adult and thus that giving should be okay. (At least okay as far as I am concerned. I understand others may have different views, and none of this is about “the law” but about perceptions of right and wrong.)

    In a different respect, this question of the activities of a spouse came up in a conversation I was having the other day. Ann Evans, who was once on the Davis City Council (1982-90) and served two years as Mayor, is married to David Thompson, the owner of Twin Pines Cooperative and Neighborhood Parters. Those two organizations are in litigation with the City of Davis over a huge amount of money. Ann Evans is not an owner of those companies, as far as I know. She has, however, spoken out publicly on behalf of her husband’s position on the issue of DACHA and so on.

    Ann Evans is also very closely tied right now to the campaign of Lucas Frerichs ([url]http://www.lucasforcitycouncil.org/neighborhood-gathering-ann-evans-house[/url]). She is raising money for him and supporting him and so on. Ann is doing the same thing for Brett Lee ([url]http://brettfordavis.com/meet-brett-at-event-hosted-by-ann-evans-this-thursday/[/url]). And she was one of the first endorsers of Dan Wolk’s campaign for City Council.

    The question this raises is this: If any of the people Ms. Evans has endorsed and contributed money to win a seat on the City Council, will their ties to Ms. Evans put them in a conflicted position when the City Council must fight against Neighborhood Partners and Twin Pines in their lawsuits? Might one of them have too much sympathy for Evans–and by extension Thompson–because she played a role in their campaigns?

    Ultimately, my view on that is “no.” I think it is unfair to Ann Evans to equate her with her husband. Not only does she have an independent record as a former public office holder in Davis, but she is an independent adult and should not be judged by her husband’s lawsuit, even if she is (and I assume she is) in full accord with him on that issue.

    [i]”Does your concern go ‘lower’ than Department Heads?”[/i]

    I think the list of people who, by dint of their “political” positions with the City of Davis, should not be giving money to candidates for City Council* is pretty small:

    The City Manager, Assistant CM, Director of Finance, Human Resources Director, City Clerk, Police Chief, Asst. Police Chief, Fire Chief, Director of Public Works, and the head of the Planning Dept (Sustainability?).

    Again, in my opinion, other city employees are just citizens, as long as they are acting on their own and giving to someone whom they have a personal relationship with or their kids have that or some such thing.

    *I would make an exception for anyone who is a relative of a candidate.

  6. Dr. Wu

    [quote]It is clear to me that accepting campaign donations from one of the City’s labor associations* is corrupt.[/quote]

    I agree. It may be legal but it is unethical and corrupt.

  7. medwoman

    Rich

    “Ultimately, my view on that is “no.” I think it is unfair to Ann Evans to equate her with her husband. Not only does she have an independent record as a former public office holder in Davis, but she is an independent adult and should not be judged by her husband’s lawsuit, even if she is (and I assume she is) in full accord with him on that issue. “

    This is an interesting question and I have mixed feelings about your interpretation, especially when I read you last statement that you would make an exception “for anyone who is a relative of a candidate.” We can be fairly certain
    of Ann’s position of support for her husband based on her writings about this matter. So “equating her with her husband” is not a matter of speculation. She has made her position clear publicly. Why should we then make an exception for a ” relative” ( degree of separation not specified by you) whose positions we do not know. Many familiy members do not share the same opinions on public issues. My sister is quite conservative for example while I obviously am not. The fact that we are siblings should in no way “equate” us politically.

  8. Rifkin

    [b]Rich:[/b] [i]”I think the list of people who, by dint of their “political” positions with the City of Davis, should not be giving money to candidates for City Council* is pretty small: *I would make an exception for anyone who is a relative of a candidate.”[/i]

    [b]Dr. Quinn, Medwoman:[/b] [i]”Why should we then make an exception for a ‘relative’?”[/i]

    I was only talkng about this exemption for campaign contributions by a high level City employee where, say, the brother of the Finance Director was running for City Council. I would have no problem with the Finance Director giving her brother $100 for his campaign. But, as I noted above, I can understand where others might. To repeat my comment above, none of this is about “the law” but about perceptions of right and wrong.

    [b]Dr. Quinn, Medwoman:[/b] [i]”My sister is quite conservative for example while I obviously am not.”[/i]

    What caused your divergence of philosophy? I hope it was not over the DACHA scam.

  9. Phil Coleman

    Being reminded of the adage about being, “Caesar’s wife,” there is only way for a public to avoid any suspicion of bias or favoritism. Neither give or accept any favor or financial support, and give no political endorsement to anybody.

    By complying with this edict, a public servant is denied any participation in the political process. True enough, but that is the price of public service without being accused of something. Even that, may not be enough.

  10. Mr.Toad

    Instead of insinuating something fishy related to Dacha and contributions from the wife and former mayor of one of the plaintiffs why not ask the candidates about their positions on the litigation and the contributions thus getting them on the record. Actually having their answer is much better to work with than speculation.

  11. hpierce

    [quote]… why not ask the candidates about their positions on the litigation and the contributions… ?[/quote]I’m thinking that would be problematic for the three incumbents, due to their direct participation in closed session meetings in regard to the litigation.

  12. Rifkin

    HP makes a good point. And with the other two, it’s hard to have an informed position on pending litigation, because no one on the outside is privvy to what is being discussed behind closed doors, what the city attorney has told the members of the city council and so on. But I do think Toad’s suggestion of asking the candidates their views on accepting contributions from other people (beyond the labor associations), such as top city employees or the spouses of people who are suing the City is worthy. One aside from this is that, while I am not sure everyone weighs these things the same, but most candidates in Davis have never rejected donations from developers whose fortunes ride on decisions of the city council. I think asking about those kinds of contributions is more interesting and probably more relevant to more people than whether the finance director gives $100 to her brother. In fact, I don’t even think she has a brother.

  13. JustSaying

    Let’s remember, we’re talking about $100 here. And there are much more effective ways to buy our politicians than with a publicly reported campaign contribution.

    All these contortions about which individuals should be allowed to support a political candidate (when everyone has the right) suggests it’s better to focus on keeping an eye on what officials do after they’re elected and to assure that our decision-making processes are open. I think this need is reinforced by the far greater impact that groups have on our elections and on the decisions that get made after the voting is over.

  14. hpierce

    [quote]HP makes a good point. [/quote]Scary… may mean the end of time. Rifkin’s response to my questions were “spot on”. His other points re: contributions are also what I believe… Developers are like any other property owner… they have the right to try to ‘improve their lot’ (pun intended)… if they are not currently ‘entitled’, the CC &/or citizens have the right to say NO. Or, yes.

  15. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]All these contortions about which individuals should be allowed to support a political candidate (when everyone has the right) suggests it’s better to focus on keeping an eye on what officials do after they’re elected and to assure that our decision-making processes are open. I think this need is reinforced by the far greater impact that groups have on our elections and on the decisions that get made after the voting is over. [/quote]

    Well said!

  16. Rifkin

    [i]”… it’s better to focus on keeping an eye on what officials do after they’re elected and to assure that our decision-making processes are open.”[/i]

    The labor negotiating process has always been done behind closed doors. Many years ago–maybe 10 years ago, before I knew her very well–Sue Greenwald told me she thought the public would be better served to have the negotiations* done in open session; and when he got on the City Council, Lamar Heystek called for this as well.

    *I am not really sure what “negotiations” means in this context. I suspect the intent is that whereas today, when the Council and the City Mgr. and the HR Director discuss labor contracts in closed session, they are not meeting with the labor representatives, but are instead discussing what terms they favor or do not favor. These closed door meetings then give direction to our negotiator(s), who meets directly with the labor rep(s). It seems to me fine if the latter meeting is private. But I cannot see why it would be unworkable to have the Council meetings, where they discuss the terms they want or don’t want, open. I also think it would help the Council to have members of the public–particularly informed members like the Budget & Finance Commissioners–give them advice during such sessions.

  17. medwoman

    “All these contortions about which individuals should be allowed to support a political candidate (when everyone has the right) suggests it’s better to focus on keeping an eye on what officials do after they’re elected and to assure that our decision-making processes are open. I think this need is reinforced by the far greater impact that groups have on our elections and on the decisions that get made after the voting is over.”

    On the surface, this seems reasonable. But at what point does one draw the line? There are on many posts here criticisms of the public employees unions for contributing to campaigns and the effect that this may have had on city council impact on labor negotiations. One can say the unions are composed of individuals, each of whom may see it as in their own best interest to support a candidate who will promote their best interest. I am not sure this is so different from the individual who supports a candidate because they see it as in their economic best interest, or the business or group of businesses that does the same. Some of the same folks who have been critical of union activities seem quite willing to accept business group political activity. I am not sure I see such a difference.

  18. eagle eye

    With respect to Ann Evans, we can assume that income generated by her
    husband David Thompson’s business activities is community property – she has a direct financial interest, one way or another, in DACHA and his lawsuits against the city, Twin Pines, etc.
    While Ann’s name is on fundraisers, it’s also David’s house too.
    Lucas Frerichs has, according to David Thompson, used his commission
    appointments for many years to give David an advantage with his co-op
    businesses.
    Brett Lee is getting a lot of help from Evans/Thompson at the same time Thompson has been giving Lee his sales pitch on co-operatives. Hopefully, Brett Lee won’t feel so obligated to Evans/Thompson, if he wins, that he can’t make independent decisions about DACHA and related issues.

  19. hpierce

    [quote]But at what point does one draw the line? [/quote]Good question… I suggest you answer it in your way, and I in mine. Don’t even think about telling me where I should draw the line.

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