A few months ago Glen Holstein came into the Human Relations Commission (HRC) meeting where I was a member, and he accused the Davis Downtown Parking Task Force of (1) discrimination against him because he was disabled, (2) violating the Brown Act in denying him as a member of the public the right to speak, and (3) violating the Brown Act through pre-orchestrating a vote outside of public view, among other things.
Glen’s complaint was taken seriously, and the staff liaison to the commission, Deputy City Manager Kelly Stachowicz, and I looked into his complaint. After completing our research, both of us reached the same conclusion: the complaint was baseless.
On Sunday, Mr. Holstein attacked the findings of the task force and renewed the allegations he made to the HRC. Mr. Holstein has every right to his view on the issue of city parking and the task force’s findings; however, he is not entitled to make baseless allegations against the task force and staff.
He writes, “When the Davis Parking Task Force was starting, some members invited me to attend because it lacked parking consumers. At an initial meeting, questions I asked city staff about their commercial core parking reduction were as popular as innocence evidence is to prosecutors after convictions.
“It would have been easy to fix the task force’s lack of parking stakeholders at this early stage by including me, but it didn’t happen. At the very next meeting’s start, a pre-orchestrated vote (likely a Brown Act violation) specifically excluded me from the task force and erased the record of all I’d said at the last meeting. This wasn’t because I’m a disabled senior. The issues I’d raised were so dangerous they were flushed down the Orwellian memory hole.
“A group of “bicycle advocates” could facilitate this vote for staff because they were so over-represented on the task force they could dominate it despite hating cars and parking. Bicycles are a fine way to travel but their task force advocates seemed to value them most as icons of their moral superiority to those of us benighted enough to drive and park cars.”
He then targets his wrath specifically on Robb Davis, a member of the task force and candidate for city council, “Cultural historian D.H. Fischer described how persistent colonial folkways are in the modern secular world. An example is how American higher education carried folkways from its Puritan New England beginnings to college towns across the country like Davis. No doubt task force “bicycle advocate” leader Robb Davis wants to rid Davis of its cars and their drivers as dutifully as old Salem wanted its “witches” gone. If you vote for Robb, don’t say you weren’t warned.”
Brian Abbanat from the City’s Transportation Planning Division, who was staff liaison to the task force, told the Vanguard that some misunderstandings about the formation and purpose of the task force were at the basis of the initial dispute.
He told the Vanguard said that he believed Mr. Holstein was invited to participate in the meeting and that Mr. Holstein misunderstood the structure of the meetings to be a community workshop rather than a formal meeting of a government body, with a format and Roberts Rules of Oder the way commission meetings are conducted.
“At the first meeting he came up, took at a seat at the table that was for the task force members, and essentially participated in that second meeting as if he were a task force member himself. No one really understood who he was or what his reason for being there was, but no one said anything at that meeting.”
Afterwards, however, there was discussion about how the meetings should be conducted and whether it was appropriate for a member of the public who was not a task force member to be participating in the way Mr. Holstein had up to that point.
“At the following meeting, the task force took clarifying steps in order to formalize how public comment would occur at the meetings,” Mr. Abbanat stated. They allowed for multiple points during the meeting for public comment, allowing it to be more open than a council meeting for instance.
Brian Abbanat acknowledged that Mr. Holstein never really understood that. He believed what the task force was doing was simply a means to silence him. In reality, the group was attempting to maintain its ability to be productive. “He had a tendency to interject his opinions at times that weren’t entirely appropriate,” Mr. Abbanat stated.
At the point where the task force explained its Roberts Rules of Order procedures, Mr. Holstein stormed out of the room. Mr. Abbanat felt like at this point that they might have handled this a bit differently. “It wasn’t until afterwards that we realized that maybe he didn’t understand what type of format these meetings were. We didn’t make that clear,” he said. “By that time we had already lost him.” Mr. Holstein has spoken out against the parking task force ever since.
Michael Bisch, a member of the Task Force wrote in a letter to the Enterprise, “Glen Holstein’s opinion piece last Sunday is an insult to the citizen volunteers and staff of the Davis Downtown Parking Task Force. His animosity directed toward the members of the task force in general, and Robb Davis in particular, is entirely misplaced and not based in fact.
“He should take his beef up with the City Council who appointed the individual task force members, not the task force itself. The task force is not to blame for Glen not being appointed.
“His animosity has blinded him not only to the facts, but to simple arithmetic. His claim that bike advocates were overrepresented is incorrect. There were two bike advocates by my count, whereas there were six downtown business and property owners. Even my children recognize that six is greater than two.
“And finally, contrary to his assertion, Robb Davis has no intentions of ridding Davis of cars and drivers. Robb seconded the decisive motion to proceed with the development of a third downtown parking structure and Robb continued to advocate throughout the proceedings for such a structure as part of a comprehensive parking management plan.
“Developing a third structure is a very odd way of ridding Davis of cars and drivers. I’ll leave others to debunk the remainder of his goofy assertions.”
Matt Kowta who chaired the Task Force meetings sent the following statement to the Vanguard:
There is no basis in fact behind Mr. Holstein’s allegation at the HRC. His comment, which you quote from the Enterprise, illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding on his part. He seems to imply that he was a member of the task force, or that he expected to be treated as a member of the task force, and the task force somehow deprived him of that. As you probably know, the City Council appointed the task force members prior to the first task force meeting. Mr. Holstein was never appointed, and the task force itself had no authority to appoint or remove members. The short answer to your question is that Mr. Holstein became upset when I enforced some order in relation to when public comment would be given during the task force meetings.
The issues with Mr. Holstein arose in one of the task force’s earlier meetings, when he insisted on injecting his comments into the task force’s deliberations, rather than limiting his comments to the designated public comment period.
As task force chair, I tolerated a certain amount of those interruptions throughout that meeting, in the spirit of providing for public participation. However, after reviewing the agenda for our February 2013 meeting, and recognizing the volume of background material that the Task Force needed to cover, I placed an item on the agenda for the February 2013 meeting to review protocols for public comment at the meetings. Per that agenda item, the task force had discussion during the February 2013 meeting and decided to increase the opportunities for public comment during our meetings; however, what was understood, and what I believe upset Mr. Holstein, was that the task force was going to limit public comments to the designated time periods, so that the task force could conduct its business in an efficient manner. There was no part of that action whatsoever which “specifically excluded” [Mr. Holstein] “from the task force”.
Prior to taking the vote on the public comment protocol during the February 2013 meeting, the task force addressed an agenda item concerning approval of the minutes from the prior meeting. There was discussion about whether it was necessary to attribute specific public comments to specific individuals and by majority vote, the task force agreed that that was not necessary. My recollection is that no comments were deleted from the minutes. The task force simply agreed that attribution of comments that were included in the minutes to specific individuals was not necessary. That Mr. Holstein seems to think it was an action specifically intended to thwart him is a misunderstanding on his part. I am aware of no activity that could even remotely justify the allegation of a pre-orchestrated vote on that item in violation of the Brown Act. The fact that Mr. Holstein would make that accusation, and that the Enterprise would print it is, frankly, a disservice to the task force members who volunteered their time to serve the city.
Please see my letter to the editor that the Enterprise published on 3/12/13 on the issue, which emphasized that the task force sought public input at all of its meetings, and had in fact taken action to increase the number of points during the task force meetings when public comments would be invited.
The Vanguard asked, in addition, perhaps you can explain if you think the recommendations were made with the idea of getting rid of cars in Davis? And if not, what your view is of the various recommendations?
The assertion that the task force recommendations were made with the goal of getting rid of cars in Davis is absurd. My view of the recommendations is that they balance the needs of all downtown users, but emphasize convenience and ease of parking for downtown customers. To the extent that some may view the recommendation of paid parking in a portion of the downtown area during certain time periods as reflecting a goal of getting rid of cars in Davis, I would simply remind them that the task force’s recommendation on this topic was to use paid parking as a tool to try to achieve 85% occupancy of on-street parking spaces at peak periods.
According to the literature the task force reviewed, 85% is the optimal occupancy level to ensure that somebody who wants to drive his or her car and park downtown will quickly and easily find a space, while maximizing the usage of the available spaces by downtown patrons through the increased turnover that would come about as a result of the spaces not being free. Further, the task force included a recommendation for the City to dedicate resources to analyzing the need and planning for expansion of the downtown parking supply, as necessary to accommodate anticipated community growth. The task force made additional recommendations which intend to make downtown a more hospitable place to walk, ride a bike, or use transit, and those actions would simply make alternative modes more attractive to those who can and wish to use them. The by-product of that is more parking availability and less congestion for people who prefer to, or need to drive downtown. Please see the op-ed piece that the Enterprise published under my name on 10/20/13 for further elaboration.
—David M. Greenwald reporting