From the start we need to be clear, there are legitimate arguments against the city’s sales tax. Some of those arguments have been relatively articulately expressed by commenters on the Vanguard. It is by no means assured that Measure O will pass in June.
What we are about to say really has no bearing on the merits of the No on Measure O position and everything to do with the demerits of its self-appointed champion, Jose Granda. There are good performances and bad performances in debates on ballot measures, but Jose Granda’s had to rank as one of the most nonsensical, counterproductive and ultimately time-wasting as any I have ever seen.
We can make plausible arguments that council has simply not been trustworthy when it comes to fiscal finances. We can talk about massive unfunded liabilities and failure for the council to fund critical infrastructure. We can argue that council did not cut enough, that it failed to credibly plan for economic development.
All of these other people might disagree with, but they would be reasonable and valid criticisms. Instead, we got Jose Granda’s argument. Mr. Granda filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing that the city’s ballot language that describes the tax as a half-cent rather than a half-percent was false and misleading.
Never mind that hundreds of jurisdictions, including the state attorney general’s office itself, use that terminology, but Mr. Granda represented himself and failed to file his suit against the proper parties – the county clerk and the city council.
Instead, Mr. Granda brought up a lawsuit filed by Lucas Frerichs as an example of why he didn’t need to file the suit against the city council. Judge Reed addressed the issue in his court and explained why it was not the same issue. Mr. Granda either ignored the judge or simply failed to understand.
Jose Granda started his talk discussing the city’s $248 million budget. Naturally, that is the all-funds budget, which he clearly did not understand, and the city is focusing on the much smaller general fund.
“Let’s talk about the language on the ballot,” he said highlighting what would be the primary focus of his talk. “This was the issue that we brought up in a court case and we wanted to clarify this. We wanted to do the city a favor, do the citizens of Davis a favor by clarifying the language on the ballot. The language on the ballot says clearly here that this is a half-cent sales tax.”
“An additional sales tax for a total of a cent. One penny means one cent,” he said. “The city seems to have some problem with arithmetic because one penny is not the same as one percent.”
“The problem that the city has is they prevented this issue from the court making a decision by saying that technically our lawsuit needed the names of the (city council),” he said.
The city didn’t prevent the issue from getting to the court, the city argued that the lawsuit was improperly filed and Mr. Granda seems to have forgotten that the judge agreed with the city.
He continues, “However, they themselves filed a lawsuit – I have it right here – in which Lucas Frerichs is the plaintiff and Freddie Oakley and the City Clerk are the defendants to correct the argument of Measure O, totally under the radar of the press and under the radar of the public because they put in their argument the website O.net which was a Korean Dating Service.”
“Nobody knows this in the city, and yet this is part of Measure O,” he continued. “He went to court to fix it, and I agree with him.” He complained that they were not able to correct “half-percent” for “half-cent” but Lucas Frerichs was able to correct the website with the help of attorney Alan Fernandes.
Lucas Frerichs would explain to the Vanguard that they had the wrong website listed in the ballot statement on Measure O. The only way to get it off the ballot before it was mailed to the voters was to file a motion to remove it.
Lucas Frerichs and Joe Krovoza paid for this out of their own pockets. They tracked down an attorney to assist them, who happened to be Alan Fernandes, and they got it removed.
What does this have to do with whether the voters should approve or oppose Measure O? Absolutely nothing.
“In summary, we’re opposing the measure because there is no need for this. We are not an ATM machine. We are preparing to vote against the parcel tax, which would be the fifth parcel tax in three years between the city council and the school board. Cannot have the citizens of Davis increasing their mortgage payments just because they cannot manage their money,” he stated. “Therefore I urge the citizens of Davis to intelligently analyze the language, see that the language is false and misleading and vote no on this.”
False and misleading is a bit tricky to prove – even if he had gotten a court to rule on the merits, he would have had to explain how language on the books for a decade in Davis in over 200 jurisdictions across California can be false and misleading.
But instead of providing evidence to back up his comments, he focused on completely inconsequential factors that he completely failed to understand.
Perhaps he would make his case more clearly during the five-minute rebuttal.
“Mr. Frerichs seems to emphasize the scare-tactics, the potholes will not be fixed, the sky is going to fall,” he said. “What does it make you think that with $3.5 million that they are going to fix this when they have a budget of $248 million. If they have not been able to do it with $248 million, how does it make them think they can do it with $3.5 million?”
“I have lived in Davis for 35 years and have not seen this kind of pressure on the voters to say the city is going to change if you don’t do this,” he said. He did manage to bring up that in 2004, instead of fixing the potholes, “they gave a 36% raise to a group of city employees.”
“The record speaks for itself, they have not done, they do not deserve, they have not explained why they need,” he said.
The problem is that both at the city council level and in the mailer, they explained exactly what that money goes to and why they need it. There is no mystery here. There are questions about how best to do this, but to say they have not explained why they need it is itself, in fact, false and misleading.
But instead of staying with this tactic, he went back to the irrelevancy, “Mr. Frerichs did not address the lawsuit.”
Does Mr. Granda really believe that scores of voters are going to be swayed by these arguments?
Over and over again, Mr. Granda failed to do his homework before opening his mouth and was factually wrong. For example, he would lament the impact on business in Davis for the tax increase. But then he stated, “If you buy a car in Davis, that’s when you really would notice because saving $300, $400 would make you go buy someplace else.”
As many are aware, under state law, you pay the sales tax of your zip code rather than the sales tax of the location of the purchase. Davis would roughly have the same sales tax of most other places, but for vehicle purchases it’s irrelevant – a Davis resident pays the same sales tax if they purchase the car in Davis as they would in Vacaville with a slightly lower sales tax.
All of this is unfortunate because Davis does need to have a discussion on this issue. Voters should have concerns about past practices that unfortunately Mr. Granda seems incapable of bringing to light in a credible and thorough manner.
We do need this debate and discussion, but Mr. Granda seems more concerned with dealing with petty side issues than attacking the city’s budgetary practices for much of the last decade. Indeed, he seems to have little comprehension at all about how city budgets work and how the money is allocated.
That might not be a problem for some races, but in this case, a thorough discussion is needed. There are many citizens who, on the Vanguard and elsewhere, have spent far more time than Mr. Granda discussing and debating those issues. Everyone is shortchanged by the banality of the points raised on Wednesday night.
It is ironic that Mr. Granda is lamenting the fact that his suit could not go forward. The city did him a favor cutting him off at the pass. Had he persisted, real costs would have mounted for the city and might have been translated to Mr. Granda himself.
Last night, he threatened to waste more time by threatening to file another lawsuit after the election. Perhaps this time he will file it correctly and lose on the merits, incurring tens of thousands of legal expenses for himself.
Davis can only hope.
—David M. Greenwald reporting