It is Election Day on Tuesday, which means an end to the torment of the never ending attack ads in the Ami Bera-Doug Ose congressional race, the Tom Torlakson-Marshall Tuck race, and the Prop. 46 campaign. I don’t watch much TV these days, so when I go to the gym in the morning, I’m always stunned to see the number of attack ads on the TVs.
School Board Election
No matter who is elected on Tuesday, I think we’re going to see big changes with the school board. As someone who believes that term limits cause more problems than they solve, I will note that, in the end, nine years was just too long for a school board majority to stay in office.
The school board majority of Tim Taylor, Gina Daleiden, and Sheila Allen will probably be remembered for a few things. First, on the positive side, they worked well with the community to preserve funding for programs. Contrary to popular belief, this did not just entail the passage of parcel taxes, although it is worth noting that they successfully passed parcel taxes in 2007, 2008, 2011 and twice in 2012. That is remarkable.
But they also had help from the community with the Davis Schools Foundation and they had to be tough on budgets, cutting the number of upper administrators as well as holding the line on salaries and compensation. They unfortunately had to cut teaching positions – and did so reluctantly.
Because of all of this, Davis schools continue to prosper during one of the worst economic stretches since the Great Depression.
At the same time, their strength was their weakness. I think that, while the Davis Schools serve the core Davis population well, the population is changing and we now have 42% non-white students and nearly one-quarter are Title I.
We saw the closure of Valley Oak under the guise of financial savings, but with the campus remaining open for Da Vinci and other facilities, it is unclear exactly how much savings we actually got. The situation at Montgomery was allowed to fester. The Achievement Gap remains a problem. And as we expressed on Saturday, we remain concerned about the nutritional quality of breakfasts that go to low income children.
Finally, the school board failed to cut the Nancy Peterson controversy off before it was too late. They had a warning in February 2013, a controversy in the summer of 2013, and then the situation blew up in February 2014 and by the time it had subsided, Nancy Peterson was forced to resign and the district incurred tremendous damage to the community’s trust.
Was that an artifact of the length of time that the core of the board had served with not only the three, but also with Susan Lovenburg on the board since 2007?
She is now the lone holdover. Alan Fernandes was appointed in May and we will have three new board members join in December who, regardless of who they are, will bring a fresh view of the district and hopefully ask a ton of tough questions.
We believe that two of the members elected on Tuesday will be Barbara Archer and Madhavi Sunder. We have no doubt that those two will be asking the tough questions that are needed to change the trajectory of the weak points in the district while retaining its strength.
New City Manager Dirk Brazil
On Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., the Davis City Council will have a reception for new City Manager Dirk Brazil. In the lead up to the hiring, the Vanguard voiced a number of concerns, particularly on the fire issue and the salary front. The city is still looking at a new collective bargaining process, a parcel tax, innovation parks, and, of course, a still-contentious battle on the firefighter union front.
However, in recent weeks we have had many conversations with many people who believe that this will be a good hire.
First, they note that Dirk Brazil, for the first time really since John Meyer, is a local resident. Jim Antonen and Steve Pinkerton were out-of-town hires. And, while Bill Emlen had worked for the city of Davis for years prior to his elevation to city manager, he did not live in Davis.
Dirk Brazil has local ties and has lived in and raised his kids in this community – he has a huge stake in succeeding here.
Second, one of the biggest issues underneath the surface is employee morale. While finances are a huge part of that, there is belief that a city manager can alleviate some of the anxiety and a belief expressed by many that this will be a strength of Dirk Brazil. We already have reports from at least one councilmember that city employees are enthusiastic about the hire.
Third, are there concerns about compensation issues and a resurgence of the firefighters’ union? Absolutely. We will have to see where this goes, but right now there are at least three votes on council to continue on the current course and we will be vigilant in monitoring how things develop.
As we wrote a few weeks ago, Mr. Brazil was hired by the city council, they deemed him to be the best of the dozens of applications that they received, and he deserves the opportunity to succeed or fail. The Vanguard’s job will be to monitor and report to the community as to what happens.
With a parcel tax looming, innovation park discussions and MOUs about to expire, Mr. Brazil will come in with immense challenges and the city will be far better off if he succeeds.
It is a fairly light agenda for the city council’s special meeting this week, on a Wednesday night. One issue of note is on the consent calendar, and it is the renewal of the Sanctuary City Resolution. Not a lot of people know that the city of Davis is a Sanctuary City, or what that means.
Back in 1986, the city council passed a resolution “affirming the support of the city of Davis for efforts to provide sanctuary to refugees fleeing persecution in El Salvador and Guatemala.” In 2007 that was reaffirmed and broadened to include all undocumented residents and denounce “human rights violations occurring during immigration raids.”
The issue reemerged this year with the Davis Human Relations Commission in conjunction with concerns that the immigration status of some of the residents at the Royal Oak mobile home park has made them reluctant to come forward with complaints about the living conditions in the park.
At the July 24 meeting, the HRC discussed the Sanctuary City issue at length and voted to prepare a resolution to reaffirm the city’s existing status. Most undocumented residents are not aware that Davis is already a Sanctuary City.
Last month, the HRC, along with the Davis Phoenix Coalition, had an outreach meeting with the Davis Police Department and interested parties.
According to staff, “The proposed resolution reaffirms what is already on the books and specifies some additional outreach efforts. Specifically, the resolution encourages city staff to provide outreach in the community, requests signage in the community and asks that the resolution be sent to local, state and federal representatives.
“The question of what it means to be a Sanctuary City is frequently asked. Simply stated, it means that our police officers or other city officials, during the course of duty, do not take documented status into account when they encounter individuals in Davis. Documented status is not a factor in interactions or provision of city services/access to city facilities. It is a federal, not a local, issue. Sanctuary City status does not mean that undocumented residents are permitted to break the law or local code without ramifications.
“An individual violating a law or local code would be cited or arrested as the violation dictated but during an interaction with the city an individual would not be required to provide proof of residency. The Sanctuary City policy is only applied within the city limits; it does not apply to the county or to other jurisdictions.”
It should be noted that the commission worked with the police and city attorney in crafting the language to which all were agreeable.
—David M. Greenwald reporting