Analysis: Flip-Flop Attack on Wolk Misses Mark

Wolk-Assembly-AnnounceThere are plenty of real criticisms to make about Dan Wolk, but the attacks put forth by FairPAC, backed by right-wing groups, are farcical and have virtually no bearing in reality.

The attack line goes: “Flip flops are perfect… for the beach.” “But flip flops are bad for public policy… because flip floppers can’t be trusted.” The punch line: “Assembly candidate Dan Wolk has flip flopped on every major issue he’s voted on.”

The Vanguard has had a front row seat for just about every vote that Mr. Wolk has made in his three years on the Davis City Council. He has flip-flopped on one major issue. In October of 2013, he voted to support the shared-management services for fire. Two months later, after letters from public officials including his mother, he cast a “no” vote on the final vote for the JPA.

However, that is not one of the lines of attack included in the brochure.



CLAIM: The PAC attacks him for promising “not to raise water rates without community support.” They say, he “voted to raise to water rates by 300% and ignored the community.”

Leaving aside the sloppy typo,

The truth: The truth is that Dan Wolk on September 6, 2011, voted to implement the surface water project and the approved Prop 218 rates. However, the public signed a petition to put the rates on the ballot and so on December 1, 2011, he and Rochelle Swanson announced they were pulling back.

As Councilmember Wolk told the Vanguard, “For a number of reasons, I don’t believe putting the ordinance on the ballot is wise.  Instead, we need to work together to forge a better path forward on this issue.”

He said that was his intent on September 6 and “we need to try again at this one.”

So Dan Wolk helped to implement a long community-based process that includes a year-long study by the Water Advisory Committee, put the surface Water Project on the ballot in March 2013, and the rates to a Prop 218 process in April 2013.

He didn’t ignore the community, he followed community concern in pulling back and the community then approved the project in March 2013.


CLAIM: PAC writes, “Promised support for the new plan to strengthen fire safety services.” Dan Wolk “voted against fire safety at a late-night meeting when voters wouldn’t notice.”

The truth: It is not actually clear what the PAC is referring to. There was no plan to “strengthen fire safety services.” There were a series of reforms that were implemented last year: boundary drop, longer response times, fire staffing cuts, and shared management services.

Dan Wolk supported the first two, he never said he was in favor of fire staffing cuts, and as we indicated above, he did change his vote on shared management services, but none of these resemble the claim and none of the votes occurred late at night when voters wouldn’t notice. Moreover, each of the reforms were passed, and Mr. Wolk was on the losing side on the last two.

VERDICT: Mostly False

CLAIM: “Championed a program to reduce waste.” Dan Wolk “voted to increase garbage rates without including waste reduction program.

The truth: It is again unclear what this attack refers to. The city did move to implement variable rates on waste containers. They have also moved to implement reforms to reduce waste reduction through greenwaste containerization, variable rates, food scrap and other innovations. In March, Dan Wolk among others “expressed concern that the city would not be able to renew its storm water quality permit if it continued with a exclusive loose in the street collection method.” There is no indication that Dan Wolk opposed the waste reduction program.


CLAIM: “Refused to ban plastic bags.” Dan Wolk “voted in favor of the plastic bag ban.”

The truth: Ironically, Dan Wolk was being hit here for a stance that he was most consistent on, of any stances he ultimately took. As we reported back in February 2011, Dan Wolk stated that this was one issue where he differed from his mother who put forth legislation opposing a plastic bag ban. Using almost the same language in September 2013, Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk remarked, “I agree with Janis (Lott) about how great our Senator is; but this is an issue where we don’t see eye-to-eye.”

VERDICT: Dan Wolk has been completely consistent on this issue

Summary: The FAIRPAC has completely distorted the public record in terms of the issues at hand, the positions that Dan Wolk has taken, and his votes. In most cases, their claims do not bear any resemblance to the facts.

The most ironic thing is that, in criticizing him for flip-flopping on the plastic bag ban, they hit on the area he was probably most consistent on.

—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. SODA

    Could it be that these out of town PACs are so intent on getting the negative word out on their ‘hit’ candidates, that they don’t do the necessary homework or involve someone local who would know the facts?
    or… they just not care?

  2. Tia Will

    Unfortunately SODA, I don’t think that it makes any difference. As humans we have a tendency to weigh
    statements of the negative more strongly than statements of the positive. While this may have served us well by making us more cautious in the distant past ( not good to be eaten by a predatory or to eat a poisonous plant)
    I think it serves us very poorly today. I believe that negative campaigners full appreciate just how much impact their negative comments can have and simply don’t care that much about the details.

  3. Frankly

    They got the plastic bag ban right.

    And I think you are splitting hairs on the water rate increase point. He did vote to increase water rates.

    But I am disgusted and always have been disgusted with negative smear attack ads. Don Shor posted a link to a story of a similar thing done by a PAC in a small Midwest town election… and it backfired. The people in the town were also disgusted and blamed the opposition candidate.

    This then gets back to Tia’s comment about focus on the negative. There is a cultural shift that I see in areas of the US that have grown more politically left where general nastiness and sensationalistic fatalism, negatism and cynicism have risen to replace pragmatism and general civility. Part of this is just a function of higher population density where people are on top of each other and generally irritated all the time. Part of this is forced multi-culturalism where people see themselves less and less part of a bound community and more and more isolated into their cultural group. Part of this is Democrat Party politics that has perfected the divide and conquer methods that serve them so well at the polls. Republicans have taken note and are also reading Rules for Radicals.

    At a very time when we needed leadership to mend and unite Americans we elected a President that kicked down hard on the wedges that inflamed and divided us more.

    When we voters support any means to justify our ends of political power, we voters are fully to blame for the degradation in the political process.

    1. Don Shor

      The father of this kind of campaigning is Lee Atwater, and his acolyte is Karl Rove. But because it worked for them, it’s been adopted across the political spectrum. I seriously doubt you could prove any correlation with population density or liberalism or “forced multi-culturalism” or Democrats in particular.
      The key is to blow it back at the perpetrators, regardless of who they are. Call them on it. Send examples to David and Bob Dunning and Rich Rifkin and anyone else in the media who might wish to expose it for what it is.

  4. wdf1

    Don Shor: The father of this kind of campaigning is Lee Atwater, and his acolyte is Karl Rove.

    Atwater and Rove may have made effective use of certain kinds of negative campaigning, but I think the history of dubious negative campaigning extends back well before those two. Nixon and LBJ each had their own style of negative campaigning, for instance. I think Atwater found inspiration from Nixon’s operatives. And a cursory research into any other political era will find instances of negative campaigning.

  5. Tia Will


    “The key is to blow it back at the perpetrators, regardless of who they are. Call them on it. Send examples to David and Bob Dunning and Rich Rifkin and anyone else in the media who might wish to expose it for what it is.”

    This is perfectly expressed. No one group has a monopoly on the use of the negative. All should be called out.

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