Vanguard Analysis: First Candidates’ Forum, Fact-Checking and Other Observations

Chamber Executive Director Kemble Pope lays down the rules with Steve Greenfield on his left and former County Supervisor Betsy Marchand on his right.
Chamber Executive Director Kemble Pope lays down the rules with Steve Greenfield on his left and former County Supervisor Betsy Marchand on his right.

In 2010, when Choices for Healthy Aging, a group created by the Covell Village developers to lobby for senior housing, sponsored the first candidate’s forum, Jon Li, a candidate that year, called them out.  As he said the next night, “Last night we had a forum that was supposed to be about seniors but it was run by Covell Village.  So the answer to every question was Covell Village.”

The candidates’ forum on Wednesday, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee, kind of felt the same way.   The moderator and Chamber Executive Director Kemble Pope repeatedly asked leading questions, interjected the Chamber’s views both in asking the questions and in responding to answers, and when he didn’t get the answer he wanted, he would ask leading follow-up questions.

The only difference between 2010 and now is that, while there was no Jon Li to push back on the audacity, candidates did hold their ground and at times correct the misinformation.

Early candidate forums offer an early look at the candidates.  Incumbents have a tremendous advantage of knowing the issues and intricacies of council policy, while new challengers face a huge learning curve.  This was at play as well during the nearly two-hour discussion of many key issues facing the community.

There were some notable missteps.  For instance, Daniel Parrella, in responding to a question about his view of CBFR, answered, “That’s really my issue with CBFR is that CBFR takes usage from May to October and that dictates how much you pay for the entire year.”   But one of his fixes, the need for “an appeal process where if you prove you use less than previous occupants, you can get a lower fixed rate” is actually something that is already in place to protect against the very problem he identified, the high turnover of renters in Davis.

John Munn was asked what specific items from the “current 2014-15 city budget do you believe should be adjusted to create more sound economic environment in our community?”  Given that the 2014-15 budget has not been presented in detail yet, that might be a difficult question.

Nevertheless, Mr. Munn still has few in the way of specifics responding, “The problem with that question is asking before there’s a thorough budget analysis to identify what’s going to get cut and that is not the way I would approach the problem.”  He stated that he would approach the problem by taking a hard look at where the revenues are coming from and where the spending is going.  Revenues are not all the same and can’t be used for the same things.  By doing so, we then would assemble a picture of where the monies are going to.  “Once that picture is there, then we can talk about spending,” he said.

The problem is that while John Munn may not have examined the budget in this way, the city has been doing this for a number of years and has presented exactly the analysis he calls for in public documents.

When pressed by Mr. Pope to provide specific items, Mr. Munn cited pension and health care costs.

But as Robb Davis pointed out in his rebuttal, “It’s a difficult question to answer because we just recently completed negotiations with all the employee groups in the city.  We know the major drivers of the fiscal imbalance have to do with pensions, they have to do with other post-employment benefits, they have to do with health care.  We will not be opening those contracts up for another couple of years.”

Given the large percentage of costs associated with employee compensation, really the only way for the city to cut spending at this point in time is through layoffs and outsourcing.  During a later round, John Munn was the only candidate willing to put that option clearly on the table, though later still, the candidates were more equivocal.

Almost every candidate was willing to jump in on the lead provided by Robb Davis, that “we cannot demonize our staff and make them the enemy.”  Daniel Parrella, Rochelle Swanson and Sheila Allen all used their 30-second cards to argue for the non-demonization of employees.

Here the moderator never followed the lead to follow up on exactly what it meant to demonize employees or examples of such a practice.  What is the difference between demonizing employees, and criticizing employee groups that have failed to take concessions and ultimately cost the city millions in additional costs that now will have to come from taxpayer money?

Unspoken, as well, were the actions by firefighters to fight city reform efforts at every turn, including cases where the union official was shown to be dishonest or where public reports were buried that showed favoritism and a hostile work environment.  But none of this was discussed and we ended up with a situation where all of the candidates spoke out against demonization of the employees in the general sense.

Sheila Allen expressed concerns about the expenditure on roads.  She said, “I have concern about the road plan… I’m concerned that there’s a very large apple that we’re trying to swallow the whole thing for roads.  I would like us to look carefully and prioritize and to space those over more time because there’s just not enough in a single year’s budget in order to address that particular topic.”

While she is not wrong on this, the problem that was never pointed out is that delaying road work increases costs exponentially.  First of all, pavement increases in costs at a rate nearly three times that of inflation.  Worse yet is that, as the condition of roads worsen, the costs to repair those roads increases from a somewhat manageable $9 per yard to over $60 per yard if work is delayed.  That means that, by waiting, we increase costs from over $100 million to over $600 million.

In a rebuttal, Robb Davis stated, “If indeed we consider the roads and other means backlogs as unfunded liabilities which I assume we do, then the picture is dire city staff reports say that we can spend $200 million over the next 20 years over that, have the same pavement condition index that we have today and have a greater backlog. “

While Mr. Davis is correct here, the city has generally used the term unmet needs or deferred maintenance to refer to road repairs; the unfunded liabilities are the promises to retired employees in terms of pensions and health care that are not currently funded.

Sheila Allen was asked about her position on the fire service reforms.

First, she stated, “For the three versus four, I’ve talked a lot in the community on this.  I’m concerned that it was implemented as a cost-savings without thinking about the long-term implication of it.  It increases the response time for firefighters to go into a home.  I understand that we don’t have very many fires, but if it’s your house and you that’s in there, you want those firefighters to be in as soon as possible.  So I’m very concerned about that.”

Again there was no follow up.  Ms. Allen clearly expressed one view in the community that going from four on an engine to three will result in longer response times.  However, she never clarified that firefighters can enter a home immediately if they have evidence – time of the day, cars, other – that there are inside inhabitants.

While opinions vary, it is plainly incorrect to state that this was done “without thinking about the long-term implication of it.”  There were multiple roundtable discussions that took place and these issues were very carefully considered.

As the city report from January stated, “The primary benefit of the staffing change was the creation of Rescue Thirty-one (31) as a stand-alone response vehicle. This allowed for the response of Rescue 31 to vehicle accidents in Station 32 and 33’s response areas, while keeping Engine 31 available to cover a simultaneous call. Additionally, it left Rescue 31 available to respond to a simultaneous call in Station 31’s first-in area along with the closest available engine. Review of the travel time data for 32 calls for service from July 8, 2013 through December 3, 2013 revealed that Rescue 31 had a quicker travel time than the outlying Engine. Rescue 31 had a faster travel time by a low of twenty-four seconds to a high of five minutes and forty seconds. On average, Rescue 31 had a faster travel time of two minutes and thirty seconds (2:30) over that of the responding closest engine. The end result is that the travel time clock was stopped sooner than if the outlying engine had been responding by itself.”

She would add, “I’m also concerned that it’s going to increase everybody – homeowners and businesses insurance rates because they look at the response times.  So we need to think about the economics about that.”

The city analyzed this very problem and from the fire Audit concluded: “Over the past fifteen years, advances in the development of fire service analysis tools and changes in how insurance companies set their rates relative to residential and commercial has caused a reassessment of the significance of the ISO PPC [Insurance Services Office Public Protection Classification]. In 2001, State Farm Insurance changed from using the ISO grading schedule to set residential insurance rates to its own zip code based rating system. The Subzone Rating Factor draws on the company’s prior claim experience for many types of insured losses including fire, wind, hail, water damage, theft and liability. State Farm estimates that 70% of claims paid under the homeowner’s program are non-fire losses, so the new rating system will emphasize an all hazards approach to property loss.”

It was on the issue of the Publicly Owned Utility that Kemble Pope interjected several times with both Robb Davis and Rochelle Swanson.  The question was whether this was the right time for the city to continue to invest funds into the budget.  Robb Davis’ response was that he believed, given the base of expertise in the community, that the city could do it for much less than the current projections.

Finally, after Kemble Pope interjected a third time and demanded a specific monetary value, Robb Davis responded, “I’m just not going to answer that question right now.  All I’m saying is we have a significant possibility of drawing in volunteers and volunteers here.  Brett’s approach is to take a very careful look at what the process is going to be – I support that.”

This was a clear case where Mr. Pope did not like the answer and kept pressing.  There is nothing wrong with that approach except that he was very selective in the issues in which he took it and he missed several opportunities earlier to press candidates on vague or inaccurate answers.

Kemble Pope then asked about overburdening of taxes.  He said, “We have  120 fewer staff members, we have actually done a good job of cutting, cutting, a lot of that’s through attrition.”  He added, “We had a budget surplus, we did not have a budget deficit six years ago.  Yet the council continues to take on new projects and assign them to city staff.” He asked the candidates to explain, if elected, how they would address this imbalance.

First of all, he stated that the city had a surplus, not a budget deficit, six years ago.  That is clearly not true and Rochelle Swanson would ultimately call him on it.

She stated, “Six years ago we did not have a real budget surplus.  We probably at that time had a debt of $10 to $50 million if you included all of the unfunded maintenance for our parks and our roads and all of the rest of our infrastructure.  So I challenge that premise.”

While Ms. Swanson was fundamentally correct here, in 2008 (six years ago), while the council majority was touting a balanced budget with a 15 percent reserve, part of the fallacy was that the city moved road maintenance and other infrastructure needs into a non-line item accounting called unmet needs.  There was a deficit there that we could not pay and we will have to pay that now.

The part not mentioned here was the $60 million in unfunded liabilities for retiree health and the $50 million or so in unfunded liabilities for pensions that are driving our current deficit.

Later was the exchange between Robb Davis and Kemble Pope.

Robb Davis said, “I disagree with your conclusion that the city did a good job in cutting by attrition.  All that gives us is less staff.”

Kemble Pope interjected, “I didn’t say it was good, I said it happened.” 

Robb Davis responded, “You said they did a good job…”

Kemble Pope had stated, “We have  120 fewer staff members, we have actually done a good job of cutting, cutting, a lot of that’s through attrition.”  At the end of the exchange, Kemble Pope added, “I want to clarify that the Chamber of Commerce does agree with that position that attrition is not the best way, from a business perspective I think we all know that attrition is not the best way to cut labor costs.”

Throughout the discussion, Kemble Pope as moderator would repeatedly express the Chamber’s views.  This is not just a nit-picky point.

The ChamberPAC endorses candidates and they acknowledged they were using this forum to evaluate the candidates.  By interjecting their own opinion at times before the questions were asked, they actually taint their own evaluation because candidates will tend to attempt to speak to their audience.

While there were clear examples where there were follow-up questions, those examples are inconsistent.  There were factual errors and vague statements that were never followed up on.

Over all, we got a good sense of the candidates and the differences in their viewpoints. It is important to bear in mind, even as we correct facts and criticize the candidates here, that there is a huge learning curve and that the first candidates’ forum is a good barometer for the community and the candidates to take stock in where they are.

However, we caution readers to not take this first exchange too far, but instead watch how the candidates learn and evolve.  From our experience, that will tell you far more than this single moment snap shot provides.

—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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121 thoughts on “Vanguard Analysis: First Candidates’ Forum, Fact-Checking and Other Observations”

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            The strength of the chamber pac forum is that the questions were on relevant and important topics. At past League forums, I have felt like the people asking the questions have not be keeping up with the critical issues. On the other hand, I felt like the forums with the exception of the parcel tax where the opposition was excluded, were fair. In this case, I felt like the Chamber had an agenda from the start, and questions were only followed up when the chamber didn’t get the answer they wanted and I don’t think that’s a good way to hold a candidate’s forum.

        1. Barack Palin

          Exactly Frankly, when the League of Women Voters held a forum on on the Measure A school parcel tax and denied the no side to represent David wrote “How you can have a candidate’s forum, a primary candidates forum or a forum about a parcel tax measure, without opposition, is beyond me. I think this should be the death knell for allowing the League to be a centerpiece and focal point of the forums. Now, whether there is anyone with actual authority that can change things is beyond me.

          I have nothing against Ms. Allen or Ms. Eastin, they are great ladies who are deserving of respect in our community, but we needed to have a debate with both sides of the issue fairly and equally represented. And that did not happen. And once again, this will come back to harm the very cause that the League was hoping to promote.”

  1. Fremontia

    “Daniel Parrella, Rochelle Swanson and Sheila Allen all used their 30 second cards to argue for the non-demonization of employees.”

    Too bad Sheila Allen didn’t use her authority as President of the school board to gavel down Nancy Peterson when Peterson demonized Julie Crawford from the dais while hiding behind confidentiality. Nor did Allen protect Julie Crawford from the demonizing and trumped up allegations in the $22,000 dollar report and instead threw her under the bus to protect her superintendent and her school board from charges of incompetence and being wasteful spendthrifts with taxpayer money that is intended to be used to educate our kids.

    1. hpierce

      Clearly, based on your previous posts, you have a pent up amount of venom you need to expel from your system. It is what it is, as for your well-being, I believe it is better to expel it than to keep it inside and fester. please understand I highly discount the content of your recent posts.

    1. Matt Williams

      Fremontia, Robb did indeed sit on the Vanguard Editorial Board, but if you could have witnessed the recent very heated e-mai exchange between two Vanguard Editorial Board members, you would have very tangible evidence that membership on the Board doesn’t produce default agreement between the Board members. Rob and I had divergent views on Mace 391. Although he is not an Editorial Board member, but rather the Vanguard’s Moderator, that hasn’t prevented Don Shor from explicitly telling me here on the Vanguard that he will no longer be talking to me on any and all subjects either here on the Vanguard or any other location that the two of us might by happenstance run into one another.

      Political campaigns can cause interesting mixing of strange bedfellows, and a common interest in the “dialogue spaces” that the Vanguard creates does not mean the content of the dialogue in the spaces will be homogenous.

      1. Fremontia

        So what Matt? He was on the board of the Vanguard so a simple disclaimer is appropriate despite whatever obfuscations you want to throw up about internal dissension. Vanguard dissension is like a debate among cannibals arguing whether its okay to eat people at every meal or only once in a while.

        By the way where do you get off evaluating Robb’s performance in a debate as demonstrating leadership while clearly being involved with his campaign. Shouldn’t you disclose your relationship in such a post?

        1. Matt Williams

          Regarding the point you make in your second paragraph, I formally and officially removed myself from Robb’s campaign approximately four weeks ago. I filed all the appropriate/relevant paperwork with both the City Clerk and the Secretary of State. I informed each of the other candidates of said resignation at the time. When John Munn made his water bills projection error in his announcement on March 5th, it became very clear to me that I couldn’t provide him with objective data analysis if I was the Interim Treasurer of Robb’s campaign, and it was clear that he did need some objective data analysis … and he acknowledged my input when he issued his corrected calculations.

          Regarding the point you make in your first paragraph, what is past is past, especially since Robb received absolutely no financial remuneration for his volunteer service on the Vanguard Editorial Board. If Don Shor ran for City Council in Dixon, would you want either david or Don to issue a disclaimer about Don’s volunteer, unpaid role as Moderator on the Vanguard?

          1. Fremontia

            Yes, if Don ran and someone associated with the Vanguard wrote an article they should definitely add a disclaimer.

            As for you not being involved with Robb’s campaign don’t you have a moral obligation to disclose your previous association with his campaign while praising his performance in a debate? While you may have met the letter of the law regarding your obligations in removing yourself from Robb’s campaign aren’t you still working towards getting him elected? Isn’t your post in and of itself advocacy that suggests you should attach a disclaimer? And finally and most importantly, I ask Robb Davis, if such conduct acceptable to Robb Davis to your campaign?

            By the way, and just for the record, I have never had any respect for George Will, who, in 1980, advised Ronald Reagan’s campaign and then as a post debate commentator on ABC praised his performance without disclosing his relationship with the Reagan campaign. Will’s career has been successful even to this day and I’m sure when Robb is elected you will have more clout with the council but such duplicitous behavior calls into question the integrity of his campaign and the people, past and present, who are associated with it.

          2. Matt Williams

            Duplicitous? You’ve lost me on that? Since all my comments here on the Vanguard are speaking as an individual and not for either the Vanguard or the Vanguard Editorial Board, I’m not sure what I would be disclaiming myself from. The only difference between me and thee is that I post using my given name and you (for very appropriate reasons) post under a pseudonym. When the Vanguard Editorial Board chooses to speak, we have a specific screen name “Vanguard Editorial Board” for that purpose and post any collective messages using that Login ID.

            Your George Will story is interesting on a lot of levels. Was he getting paid by the Reagan campaign for his advice?

          3. Fremontia

            Duplicitous because you volunteered for his campaign and then sought to differentiate him as a superior candidate without disclosing that you were and it seems still are, but correct me if I’m wrong, actively trying to get him elected but failed to disclose your association with him or his campaign.

          4. Matt Williams

            Actually, I have formally and legally disclosed my association with him on the January 31, 2014 Form 460 filing with the FPPC, which recognized my $100 contribution to his campaign. Further, I am very clearly and openly and transparently listed in his list of endorsements. Are you saying that every individual who supports a candidate should begin their statement of support by saying, “For the record, I support Candidate X, and …”

            For the record, you will find me on Dan Wolk’s endorsement list. You will also find me on Joe Krovoza’s endorsement list. The top two candidates in the June Primary move on to the November General Election. I hope those top two vote getters are Dan and Joe. How would you like me to disclaim any statements I make about Assembly candidates?

          5. Fremontia

            I think its different when you served as someone campaign treasurer. i think you have a moral obligation to disclose.

          6. Fremontia

            Look at how David Plouffe is introduced when he is on TV commenting on the President. He is ALWAYS introduced as having run Obama’s campaign so that the viewer understands where he is coming from. I wonder if not disclosing is okay with Robb Davis?

          7. Matt Williams

            I have disclosed … openly, publicly, officially and transparently. That disclosure is on file in City Hall. That disclosure is on file with the California Secretary of State. My name is one of over 115 such names. I am in good company.

          8. Fremontia

            As for George Will I don’t recall if he got paid. Legally it may make a difference but morally, in my opinion, it does not.

          9. Fremontia

            “Regarding the point you make in your first paragraph, what is past is past, ”

            Your beginning to sound like Sheila Allen. No its not yet time to move on Matt.

          10. Matt Williams

            The reason that it is past, Fremontia, is that all my comments here on the Vanguard for the past month have been as an individual. Is my individual opinion somehow subject to a different set of rules that other people’s individual opinion. I’m not speaking for the Vanguard. I can’t speak for the Davis campaign. I’m unclear as to what the issue is. there was, in my personal opinion, a reason for me to take unilateral, proactive steps to eliminate any confusion on the part of any of the five candidates. I took those unilateral, proactive, formal and official steps. You appear to be wanting me to repeat those steps again.

          11. Fremontia

            No I simply want you to state you volunteered on his campaign when you are evaluating his performance so that unsuspecting readers will know that you are not some unbiased casual observer. Its amazing to me that you either don’t get it or are playing dumb.

            I wonder what position Robb takes on your conduct?

          12. Matt Williams

            There isn’t a single Vanguard reader who thinks I am a casual observer on anything. You, of all people know that. When you bash Sheila Allen, as you have regularly done here in the Vanguard, do you disclose your past associations. There are approximately 500 people who have volunteered either time, or their endorsement to the Robb Davis campaign. Do you expect each of them to start every sentence with, “First I would like to say that I am a Robb Davis volunteer/endorser/contributor.”

            There are times and places where such a disclaimer is appropriate. Both Rochelle’s Treasurer, Brian Horsley and I attend the Chamber Government Relations Committee (GRC) meetings. Each meeting both of us have formally announced our role for the record. At the last meeting I informed the GRC members of my changed status vis-a-vis Robb’s campaign.

          13. Fremontia

            I think its different when you once served as an officer of someone’s campaign or when a candidate once served on your editorial board.

            Further its not like I’m asking for something unreasonable that David state Robb was on the Vanguard Board and that you state you served in an official capacity on his campaign but for some reason you guys don’t want or feel obligated to do so. That is on you and David, your own reputations and the integrity of the Vanguard trying to be something more than what we used to call a rag. But for the voters I wonder if Robb is comfortable with your failure and David’s failure to disclose his relationships? After all, its one thing for me to ask you to disclose its another for Robb Davis to ask you to disclose.

          14. Matt Williams

            What is it about Form 460 disclosure under the FPPC that you don’t understand. I have disclosed openly, publicly, officially and transparently. That disclosure is on file in City Hall. That disclosure is on file with the California Secretary of State.

            When I am acting in a formal capacity for the Vanguard, such as when writing an article about a Water Advisory Committee meeting, I start each article with a disclaimer like, “Let me start by saying that the opinions and perspectives presented here in this article are those of the author and not the opinions and perspectives of the Water Advisory Committee (“WAC”).” If I were writing an article about the campaign, I would do something similar. If I’m writing an article, I’m acting on behalf of the Vanguard.

            With that said, I haven’t written an article about this campaign to date. All I have done is do the exact same thing you have done, submit personal comments in response to things others have said.

          15. Fremontia

            Then why not disclose Matt? Perhaps because doing so would have undermined the point you were making.

          16. Matt Williams

            I have disclosed … openly, publicly, officially and transparently. That disclosure is on file in City Hall. That disclosure is on file with the California Secretary of State. My name is one of over 115 such names. I am in good company.

          1. Mark West

            Unless Google Maps are wrong, you live in Solano County, and your property is closer to Dixon than Davis. Is that information incorrect?

          2. Don Shor

            I do not live in Dixon, and still don’t understand why you and others on the Vanguard are so obsessed with where I live. Moreover, it is completely off topic to this thread.

          3. Matt Williams

            You lost me Don. Are you saying that Fremontia’s observation about disclosure is off topic from the thread?

          4. Matt Williams

            Mark, I think the point that Don was making is that just as I can’t be a candidate for the Davis City Council, he can’t be a candidate for the Dixon City Council. We both live outside our respective City Limits.

  2. Tia Will

    As David pointed out, there is a long way to go before the election and many issues to be considered. I agree that it will be interesting to see how the candidates evolve in their presentation and perspectives over time.
    What I think the forums provide, more than a factual discussion of issues ( more suited to the small group formats such as neighborhood coffees and written articles and question responses by candidates) is a sense of how the candidates interact and communicate on their feet.

    A key forum issue for me given the nature of the city council is how does a candidate respond both to the questioner and his/her fellow candidates under pressure ? Is a candidate able to remain focused, civil , concise and clear in their formulation and means of conveying ideas ? How persuasive are they ? Do they demonstrate both the ability to be persuasive in presentation of their own ideas while respectfully considering the ideas of others ? For me weighing the totality of these traits is the major value of the forums, not consideration of action on a single issue with which I may or may not agree.

    1. hpierce

      Your criteria, I pretty much agree with… I’d add “will you trust staff (or will you try to work eliminate un-trustworthy staff)” or, “will you micromanage to get your particular agenda”.

  3. Biddlin

    Rochelle continues to demonstrate her calm, engaged approach. Unsurprisingly, Robb is sharp, too.
    Munn seems even less attuned than usual. Just my take on your, so far, very civilsed council campaign.

  4. hpierce

    Is it just me, or is it mildly funny that one candidate used “road” and “apple” in quick succession? Have a feeling we will be seeing a lot of “road apples” between now and June.

  5. hpierce

    Dunning likes to ‘handicap’ the races…. think I’ll give it a try:

    1st: Robb Davis… articulate, knowledgeable, ‘outsider’ to most, and seems like a likable individual.

    2nd: Rochelle Swanson… articulate, knowledgeable, incumbent, and seems to be a likable individual.

    3rd: Sheila Allen… pretty articulate, knowledgeable about public office (if not specifics of some City issues, but a quick learner), and is a likable individual.
    I leave predictions of 4th & 5th to others… combination of lack of experience, and/or “baggage”.

    These are predictions, and do NOT reflect how I’m leaning to vote. There would be another ‘rank order’ for that.

      1. hpierce

        So, if the vote results in a 25%, 24%, and 23% vote, the 23% candidate should be excluded from serious (or ANY based on your post) consideration, big time, and we should go with the determination of the two new electeds. and the two (or 3) remaining CC members? I, respectfully, disagree.

        1. Fremontia

          As a nation we settled this after the election of Jefferson in 1800 by having the President and Vice-President run as a ticket. If you come in out of the money you lose, your ideas were not elected, you should not be appointed to the body that you were rejected for by the voters.

          1. hpierce

            Yeah… and you obviously have no sense of California history (hope you are not a teacher!) where in the vast majority of elections in the 1900’s and early 2000’s, California voters have elected Governors and Lt Governors of different parties. Just because they screwed things up in the early 1800’s does not mean we should take it as “gospel”.

            And what is the “we” (fecal matter) saying we have already ‘established’ this? Ban on abortion was a “settled” matter in the early 1900’s. Women not being allowed to vote was a ‘settled’ matter until the 1920’s. Blacks being slaves was a ‘settled’ matter until ~ 1863. How is anything ‘settled’, if we learn and evolve?

          2. hpierce

            BTW, Fremontia, your venom towards Robb Davis and Sheila Allen have convinced me to contribute to their campaigns. Haven’t decided how I will vote, but it will be for Davis, Allen and/or Swanson.

  6. DT Businessman

    It seems to me the whole point of a campaign is to inform the voters, so that they cast informed votes. However, we cannot rely on the candidates themselves to do so because they only wish to share the info that they think will please the voters and hide the info they think will displease the voters. Forums are an opportunity to take some of the control of the info sharing away from the candidates so that the voters can gain greater insight into the candidates’ positions on a number of issues as well as insight into their character and leadership attributes.

    The PAC forum was imperfect. Time is probably the greatest limiting factor. Another challenge is probing for info without arguing. That’s not an easy balance to strike. All in all, I thought the PAC forum was valuable for the voters should they care to view it. There were some very challenging questions which generated a lot of info. It is now up to pundits, analysts, the individual campaigns to drill down and analyze the individual answers. Some of the answers clearly show lack of knowledge on the subject, differences in opinion between individual candidates and the majority of voters, inconsistencies between previous public statements, refusal to answer the questions, and outright whoppers. Plenty of material has now been added to the public recorded, which was the point of the exercise. Hopefully the forthcoming forums will produce as much info if not more. Again, the point of the exercise is to inform the voters.

    -Michael Bisch

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “The PAC forum was imperfect. Time is probably the greatest limiting factor. Another challenge is probing for info without arguing. That’s not an easy balance to strike. All in all, I thought the PAC forum was valuable for the voters should they care to view it. ”

      I didn’t see the limiting factor as time so much as inconsistency. So Kemble had no problem asking five follow ups on the POU issue, but didn’t ask follow ups at several crucial points where answers were actually inaccurate.

      1. Fremontia

        You are being critical of the chamber exec for his bias but you don’t reveal your connection to Robb Davis. I don’t really have a dog in this fight beyond my first vote which is going to Rochelle. I just think that people who are on the record and offering opinions on the candidates should disclose their connections to candidates. It would not be hard to insert once into each opinion piece that Robb Davis was on your Board.

        As for the anticipated point that I am not providing my name I think anonymous posters limit their influence simply because they chose not to be on the record.

      2. DT Businessman

        “Several crucial points where answers were actually inaccurate”? There were many, not several such points. The forum ended within a minute of the scheduled time. Had the moderator followed-up with probing questions on each such point, he would have gone way beyond the scheduled time. I have no idea why the moderator chose to follow-up on the POU instead of paid parking, water, budget, etc. Furthermore, there were only 3 probing questions in the first round. Without the severe time constraints, many more such questions could have been asked. It is not clear to me why you refuse to acknowledge that time was an extremely limiting factor especially given the complex subject being covered. The CC spends a couple hours on each one in multiple meetings for example. It’s also not clear to me why you fixate on the moderator instead of focusing on the responses of the candidates. The moderator is not running for office. What you’re doing is distracting from the point of the effort: informing the voters.

        -Michael Bisch

        1. DT Businessman

          I’d also like to point out that your forum and moderator bashing today is at odds with your reporting of the past few days. If the forum was so terribly CHA-like, then why are you posting thousands of words of forum content on the Vanguard? Any impartial observer can see that there is a lot of substance in the content that the voters can sift through and weigh. Anyone that attended the forum can judge for themselves whether the PAC provided a service to the community. For those that were unable to attend, I urge you to ignore David’s bashing and watch the video once it’s posted. I’d be surprised if you didn’t find it very informative.

          -Michael Bisch

          1. Matt Williams

            Michael, there is an interesting dynamic at work here.

            If we start with the forum itself, then fast forward to David’s comments in this article, and finally fast forward to your comment above, there is a common theme that runs throughout all three of those layers.

            In the first of those layers, Kemble fell into the trap of (at times) making the forum more about the Chamber PAC than the candidates. In the second of those layers, David actually falls into the same trap by (at times) making this article more about Kemble than the candidates. In the third of thiose layers, you actually fall into the very same trap by making your comment above more about David than the candidates.

            With the above said, I am wholly confident that the Vanguard’s readers will separate the wheat from the chaff and focus on the candidates and gloss over the non-candidate commentary.

            Finally, I agree with David that the forum did miss some follow-up opportunities that would have been interesting listening if they had been explored. I’m not sure that I would raise his commentary to the level of “bashing,” but as noted above, he could have focused more on the candidates themselves and their answers. That was where the real story was/is.

          2. Mark West


            The ‘bashing’ label is justified considering the history of posts that David has made directed against Kemble Pope personally. It is unfortunate that David seems to be unable to differentiate between the Chamber of Commerce (the organization) and Kemble Pope (the individual), but that really is as it may.

            The forum was a success in demonstrating clear differences between the candidates. Isn’t that exactly what it we would hope it would do? Whether or not the moderator could have done a better job isn’t all that important if the end results meets the goal of identifying differences between the candidates.

            David, for better or worse, has a ‘bone to pick’ with Kemble. I don’t know what that conflict is, but David has made it clear, multiple times, that the conflict exists. I really don’t think however that the differences between David and Kemble in any way affect the quality of the forum, only the reporting of the same on the Vanguard.

          3. Matt Williams

            I agree with you 95% Mark … and the last 5% isn’t really a difference of opinion with you, but rather with Michael, who made it pretty clear in his post that David was bashing both Kemble as an individual and the Chamber PAC as an organization. Regarding the former, I accept Michael’s criticism. Regarding the latter, not so much. I agree with you that the forum was a success. I too believe it demonstrated clear differences between the candidates. I look forward to the next one.

          4. Mark West

            I agree that David did not ‘bash’ the Chamber PAC in this particular post, which would make this instance somewhat unique with regards to his accumulated discussions about the Chamber, Chamber PAC, and Kemble Pope. In my opinion his typical approach is to openly attack all three.

          5. Davis Progressive

            are the words “bash” “critique” and “criticize” all synonyms to you?

          6. Matt Williams

            Then we are making progress. The Chamber PAC should be congratulated for putting together an event that was a significant addition to the community dialogue.

            Following the dictates of the Fremontia Rule, I should disclose that I am an individual member of the Chamber, and attend the monthly meetings of the Chamber Government Relations Committee as a guest of that Committee.

  7. Daniel Parrella

    Hello Vanguard,

    Thank you David for pointing out my mistake. The CBFR does apparently have an outlined appeals process for renters; however I was not able to find any information about this during my research on the subject. I am meeting with Matt Williams so he can show me the error of my ways and I will be better informed next time. I hope you all enjoyed Wednesday’s debate as much as I did! See you at the next one!

    Daniel Parrella


  8. David Greenwald Post author

    Mark, Michael, Fremontia, Matt, others:

    Sorry I had to take most of yesterday off and am only now reading the remainder of the comments.

    Let me ask you this, I see a lot of reference in the abstract to bashing, bias, and such, but I see no one arguing against any specific point I made, so my question is: were my observations here wrong and if so, which ones and why?

    1. Mark West

      “were my observations here wrong and if so, which ones and why?”

      I have not yet seen the video of the forum, so I cannot directly comment on the validity of your observations. My comment had to do with the tone and direction of your comments in light of your past writings about the Chamber, Chamber PAC and Kemble Pope. My reading of many of those past writings indicates that you have a strong bias against both organizations and the individual, and I read your comments above as being an extension of this ongoing conflict. In short, regardless of how well the forum was run, I believe you would find reason to find fault, not because of the actual event, but due to the color of the glasses you were wearing at the time you observed the event.

      1. Davis Progressive

        so you’re admitting that you don’t have enough info to know if david made factual errors, but you have essentially called him out based on your perceptions based on his history of disliking kemble pope. is that about the size of it?

        1. Mark West

          No, I discounted his complaints as being nothing more than an expression of his well known bias.

          Kemble was acting as an employee representing the position of the Forum sponsor (and his employer). I don’t know why anyone would think that he should be unbiased in his approach to the questioning.

          David will get his chance to run a forum later on, and I don’t know why anyone would expect him to be unbiased when representing his employer’s point of view either.

          1. Davis Progressive

            ” I don’t know why anyone would think that he should be unbiased in his approach to the questioning.”

            probably because that’s our expectation of a candidates forum. i’m sure david has a preference in the judge race, but can you tell who it is from watching the debate?

          2. Mark West

            The Vanguard, as a non-profit ‘news’ organization has a legal responsibility to at least appear to not have a preference. Neither the Chamber, or the League of Women Voters for that matter, has that same obligation.

    2. DT Businessman

      This is the specific point I’m arguing against:

      “In 2010, when Choices for Healthy Aging, a group created by the Covell Village developers to lobby for senior housing, sponsored the first candidate’s forum, Jon Li, a candidate that year, called them out. As he said the next night, “Last night we had a forum that was supposed to be about seniors but it was run by Covell Village. So the answer to every question was Covell Village.”
      The candidates’ forum on Wednesday, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee, kind of felt the same way.”

      Subsequently, you posted, “…I felt like the Chamber had an agenda from the start…”

      This has been a long standing issue with the Vanguard, assigning hidden motivations without any evidence. Enlighten us, David, what was the hidden agenda?

      -Michael Bisch

      1. Davis Progressive

        my take is that the moderator of the forum pushed the chamber’s perspective on most questions, followed up when the participants disagreed with that perspective, and ignore clear-cut cases where the participant either didn’t answer the question or were factually wrong. and much of the time, no one really called him on it.

    3. Matt Williams

      David, as I said in my initial response to Michael, the observations made by Kemble, by Michael, by you, and now Fremontia and me, each in our own ways, are distractions from the primary focus of both the event and the post-event dialogue … the five candidates, and their positions and answers.

  9. Fremontia

    I don’t know David. My point is about the journalistic integrity of the Vanguard, yourself and members of its board and whether Robb Davis is okay with the lack of disclosure about Matt Williams post debate comment evaluating Robb’s debate performance without pointing out that he had served as campaign treasurer for Robb. Matt has now fully disclosed but refuses to acknowledge any error or oversight of judgement repeatedly returning to the letter of the law in his defense but failing to recognized his moral obligation to disclose when spinning for Robb.

    In your case I think you should have a tag line in any article about Robb stating that he served on your editorial board. Its pretty simple to do and you know how to do it. The Vanguard is what it is. The question is does the unsuspecting reader know what the Vanguard is and is Robb Davis okay with that or is he more interested in winning than transparency.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      We disclosed the issue up front when Robb Davis first announced for the council and resigned from our board. We are not going to post further disclaimers. Robb Davis has no current legal, financial, or fiduciary ties to the Vanguard. Matt Williams is not a member of Robb Davis’ campaign team. The Vanguard is taking no stand on the election.

      1. Fremontia

        That leaves Robb Davis to respond. The fact that you are willing to let the unsuspecting reader down by not including a tag line is on you guys. The more important question is whether Robb Davis is comfortable with your lack or if you prefer level of transparency.

        1. Davis Progressive

          in my opinion you’re making way too much out of this. unsuspecting reader is being misled by what exactly? it’s not like david greenwald is being paid by robb davis. so what exactly do you believe there is to disclose? does everyone on here have to disclose who they are voting for in order to express an opinion? do you believe that kemble pope needed to disclose kari fry’s relationship with rochelle swanson and sheila allen in order to moderate the forum on wednesday? what exactly are you getting at here?

          1. Fremontia

            Is Kari Fry or has she acted as treasurer of one of those campaigns? If so she should disclose that when moderating a debate or when comparing the debate performance of the various candidates.

          2. Davis Progressive

            is kari fry a treasurer? no she’s not. is she on at least rochelle’s campaign team? yes she is. does she co-own centaur group with kemble pope? yes she does. is centaur group involved with rochelle’s campaign directly? i don’t know.

          3. Fremontia

            In my opinion she probably should have disclosed her relationship with Rochelle’s campaign when moderating a candidate debate. Did she?

            I know we are a small town but shouldn’t there be some separation or disclosure when people work on campaigns and then act in roles as moderators of debates. Are people really comfortable with that?

          4. Fremontia

            Are you sure Robb Davis hasn’t made substantial donations to the Vanguard when he was a board member. Isn’t it common for board members of non-profits to contribute? That is exactly why a simple disclosure tag line is in order.

    2. Matt Williams

      whether Robb Davis is okay with the lack of disclosure about Matt Williams post debate comment evaluating Robb’s debate performance without pointing out that he had served as campaign treasurer for Robb.

      If you go back and read the comment, you will see that it was an observation about the actions/statements of the other four candidates. His peers evaluated Robb’s debate performance. I just joined their party.

  10. Fremontia

    Matt Williams asked “Your George Will story is interesting on a lot of levels. Was he getting paid by the Reagan campaign for his advice?”

    As we saw in the case of Nancy Peterson there is a legal and financial definition of conflict of interest and then there is an ethical ideal too. If you want to be treated, in the court of public opinion, only by the legal definition, and most importantly if that is the standard that Robb Davis finds acceptable by not repudiating your post debate comment then we know the ethical standards we can expect to be governed under should Robb or Sheila be elected.

    1. Matt Williams

      Let me understnd you clearly. What you are saying is that every comment that I make here in the Vanguard comment streams should be prefaced by a support disclaimer. How would you like that support disclaimer to be worded?

      1. Fremontia

        Not really Matt. I think you made a mistake on one post where you evaluated the performance of the candidates without disclosing you had served on the campaign. What I would like to see is an admission of an error and an effort to not repeat it.

        As for the Vanguard I think there should be a simple disclosure in each article akin to what you hear on CNBC when they mention General Electric where they add a line like “General Electric the parent company of CNBC.” In this case it would be something as simple as Robb Davis who once served on the Vanguard Editorial Board. Just as most people who watch CNBC know that General Electric owns CNBC regular readers here understand Robb’s history with the Vanguard. CNBC does it anyway just in case some consumer of media is not aware and so should the Vanguard.

        Of course you guys can do what you want but I’m most interested if Robb is going to weigh in or let his previous remark stand without clarification.

        1. Davis Progressive

          the difference is that there is a financial relationship between ge and cnbc, there is not one between davis and the vanguard. that’s where you are failing to differentiate the fact that just because robb davis volunteered for the vanguard does not mean there is any sort of conflict.

          1. Fremontia

            I haven’t used the word conflict I used the word transparency. They are different issues.

          2. Don Shor

            With respect to transparency, do you have multiple log-in names on the Vanguard? And if so, what other name do you post under?

          3. Biddlin

            Know more than you’re telling, Don? In the spirit of transparency and from one non-resident to another, spill!

          4. Barack Palin

            LOL, there are many posters on here that have or have had multiple aliases. So if you’re going to point fingers I suggest that you might want to look in house too.

          5. Matt Williams

            Don has no idea what you are talking about. To the best of my knowledge only you and I have any sense of the nuances associated with practical.

        2. Matt Williams

          Here is the comment you are referring to, which was in response to the first forum article …

          Separate from any individual question answers, there was a very interesting leadership pattern on display last night. Specifically, all four of the other candidates followed Robb Davis’ lead.

          It started with Daniel Parrella’s use of his first 30 second card stating, “I agree with Robb …” The issues of agreement were many and varied, but each of the candidates (some of them multiple times) clearly began their comment(s) with the words, “I agree with Robb …”

          That was leadership in action, and it wasn’t a coincidence that that leadership was coming from Robb Davis from the Council dais.

          That wasn’t evaluating the performance of the candidates, but rather observing a pattern within the candidates’ responses. The candidates themselves evaluated Robb’s performance prior to concurring with him from the dais. However, the point you are making has enough intellectual merit that I have added a final paragraph to the comment and it now reads as follows:

          Separate from any individual question answers, there was a very interesting leadership pattern on display last night. Specifically, all four of the other candidates followed Robb Davis’ lead.

          It started with Daniel Parrella’s use of his first 30 second card stating, “I agree with Robb …” The issues of agreement were many and varied, but each of the candidates (some of them multiple times) clearly began their comment(s) with the words, “I agree with Robb …”

          That was leadership in action, and it wasn’t a coincidence that that leadership was coming from Robb Davis from the Council dais.

          Lets be clear about my perception of Robb Davis as a leader. Fremontia has pointed out that I am not unbiased whenever I talk about Robb. I have declared my support for him in many venues. I have formally endorsed him. I volunteer for him at the Farmer’s Market every Saturday. My name is on record at the City Clerk’s office in Robb’s FPPC filings. I have appreciated Robb’s leadership and character for a long time. It was good to see the other four candidates overtly demonstrate similar appreciation at the forum.

          You have said that there is something in that comment that you believe should be repudiated. Can you elaborate on what it is that you want Robb to repudiate?

          1. Fremontia

            Thank You Matt. Yes, now that it has the disclaimer attached there is nothing wrong with it. I hope you go back to the original and add the disclaimer as an additional remark. I do wish you had used different font to differentiate the original. Perhaps Robb would like to also clarify his previous remarks now that we have discussed this in such great detail that even you are grudgingly recognizing my concern as having merit.

            Without the disclaimer I think you should be able to see the problem.

          2. Matt Williams

            Fremontia, you keep referring to previous remarks by Robb. In Part One of the forum article series there are 14 comments (including my amended comment) and none are by Robb. In Part Two of the forum article series there are 24 comments and none are by Robb. In Part Three of the forum article series there are 75 comments and none are by Robb. In this thread, which we can call Part Four of the forum article series there are 107 comments and none are by Robb. Have I missed something, where is the previous comment made by Robb Davis?

          3. Fremontia

            Here is a copy of Robb’s post on the matter:

            “Robb Davis
            April 5, 2014 at 7:21 am
            Matt Williams was never my campaign manager. He acted temporarily as Treasurer until I was able to find a permanent one. He, like many others, has done volunteer work for me. He posts here under his own name and has made no secret of his support for me.”

          4. Matt Williams

            Where is that post? It isn’t in any of the four forum threads. Your commentary about my commentary was in the forum threads, and about the forum threads. My responses to you were in the forum threads, about the forum threads, Are you creating this post out of thin air?

            With that said, this imaginary forum comment of his that you are quoting appears to be both self explanatory, factual, transparent and complete.

          5. Fremontia

            I thought you would have enough info with the time and date to find it. Its under the “Candidate Question 2” story on 4-4-2014.

            Yes I agree that Robb must either be unavailable or feel that his answer is complete. Sadly, if that is the case, it will cost him at least one vote since it was written before you added the disclaimer to the post in question. His failure to recognize and question the duplicity of your spinning his debate performance while failing to add any disclaimer about your past or present associations with his campaign coupled with his silence over whether he thinks a regular disclaimer should be included in Vanguard articles gives me too great a pause as to what other ethical lapses he would tolerate if elected.

  11. Fremontia

    “The Vanguard is taking no stand on the election.”

    Again we see a disclaimer but now its one that meets the standard of your IRS tax exempt status rather than one that seeks to educate the voters with complete transparency. Why are you guys so concerned about the letter of the law yet so willing to play fast and loose with your ethical obligations? Or put another way David are you okay with Matt spinning Robb’s debate performance without disclosing his relationships with Robb or his campaign? Further is it appropriate for members of the Vanguard editorial board to post comments in such a manner on the Vanguard while the Vanguard claims it is not taking a stand on the election. Too many vague lines are involved here. What do you say about it Robb?

  12. Fremontia

    Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the post in question. You can find it under the first article on the Chamber debate at April 3, 2014 at 10:29 am. You may think its off topic and perhaps it is but this article is about personal biases of people engaged in the campaign so I find it relevant if people who have served on campaigns should be spinning debate performance without disclosure of their associations with a campaign. I think asking for Robb’s response is a fair question as it goes to his character as a potential leader of the community and I look forward to his answer and have no doubt that he is quite capable of offering the electorate a reasoned response.

    1. Mark West

      I find it more than a bit humorous that the person whining about full disclosure does so while hiding in the shadows. I find it to be even more humorous that you would question Robb Davis’ character while you continue your cowardly attempts to assassinate the same.

    2. Frankly

      Don’t most newspapers endorse candidates and tell us what measures and initiative they support? I have a problem with news and media bias too. The Enterprise keeps publishing bits from that leftist poor excuse for a real economist Paul Krugman… who pulls for Obama and liberal Democrats all the time without filling out disclosure forms. I would prefer that all “news” media sources just publish the facts and keep their opinion out of it. But nothing seems to work that way, so why the fuss here?

        1. Frankly

          In principle, but not in practice. There is much more editorial-ism in reporting these days. The headlines, the story placement, the stories selected to run or not to run, the “but” reporting (as in “this is certainly true, but…”)… these are all subtle what

          Is the VG a news reporting blog, or an editorial blog? Frankly, all electronic “news” media has some ideological tilt.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            For the most part these days, our material is original, so I’m not sure it’s a blog anymore. I try these days to make the news articles pretty straight news and leave editorializing for commentary and analysis.

  13. Fremontia

    Guilty of everything as charged but surely Robb Davis as a candidate for public office instead of a private citizen should easily be able to defend himself without intermediaries. In fact he already did once and simply is being asked to confirm or clarify his previous post on the matter. Perhaps when he next sees the Vanguard he will be able to respond. I look forward to his response.

  14. Biddlin

    As I have observed before, Davisites seem a most distrusting lot, perhaps with good reasons. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve had enough trouble getting logged on with one account, lately, but must admit to some awe of anyone with the patience to set up sock puppet accounts, too. Aiming at the topic, if Robb were not in the race, would Daniel be more attractive to the voters?

  15. DT Businessman

    Jesus! Hidden PAC agendas, never mind the failure to state what the supposed hidden agenda is, followed up by a debate over who, what, when to declare who is supporting which candidate (of course the standard apparently applies to only one candidate). And it all started with David.

    Look, I support Robb’s candidacy and I support the Chamber’s mission as well as the PAC’s effort to further the Chamber’s mission. My positions are not mutually exclusive. It’s all about fostering a sustainable community (environmental, social and economic). Unfortunately, we have many stakeholders who appear to care only about one or the other of the 3 components and as a consequence, the functioning of the city, in particular how it sets and funds priorities is completely out of whack.

    Would I have asked different follow-up questions than the PAC moderator? Yes. But so, what? Does a good referee get every call right? No. As long as the referred doesn’t blow the game, what does it matter? The moderator definitely did not blow the game. So what if the moderator bored in on Robb about the POU? It afforded Robb the opportunity to explain his position. Now all the voters know that Robb supports council member Lee’s position. Swanson said she also supports Lee’s position. Munn said he doesn’t support it. I’m pretty sure Allen said she doesn’t support it. And I forgot what Parella said. Where’s the problem?

    The candidates are of course all free to jump in if I misrepresented their POU positions, but that’s what I recall from the CHA-like, hidden agenda, PAC forum.

    -Michael Bisch

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