On Tuesday night when I expressed concern to a councilmember about the fact that the MOU issue was not pulled off the consent calendar, it was expressed to me that if they hadn’t read the Vanguard, they would not know this was an issue for anyone in the community. They didn’t receive any emails on it.
I have heard through others that the perception is that this is an issue for the ten people who post regularly on the Vanguard, but not for the rest of the community.
Against that backdrop is the fact that posters who rarely agree on anything shared various levels of concern for both the vote itself and the fact that the council did not pull it off consent. And some of the councilmembers now acknowledge that they erred in not doing so.
However many people you think are actually reading the Vanguard, part of the problem is that there was a perfect storm for this issue being downplayed. I don’t think it was an intentional conspiracy to hide the ball here – but there was no mention in the long-range calendar that the issue was coming up.
That meant that the first anyone would have known about it was last Wednesday when the agenda was posted – the day before Thanksgiving. I was already on the road to my parents’ house in San Luis Obispo. Thanksgiving is the only stretch of the year where I take four days completely off.
I found out about the MOU on Thursday or Friday from a text message and I considered a special commentary on Sunday, but I didn’t even have a laptop with me and I ultimately decided to run something on Monday.
We ran a special commentary on Monday morning that was heavily commented upon and read. The Enterprise didn’t run an article on it until Tuesday and its headline was “City Ready to Review Contracts with 4 of its Unions.”
This is, by the way, a completely misleading title – the city wasn’t ready to review its contracts, it had agreed to new contracts already and not one of the bargaining units were “unions.” The Davis Police Officer’s Association is the closest to a “union,” but it’s an “association” which is separate and distinct (and actually files under a different section of the IRS code). The others are not even officially organized and are simply considered bargaining units for negotiation purposes.
That digression aside, the bulk of the Enterprise readership would not have seen the article until they opened the afternoon paper when they got home from work, perhaps less than an hour before the council meeting began. No wonder the council received no email – the only people who really knew about it in advance were Vanguard readers who had already expressed their views on the Vanguard itself.
The Enterprise never ran a full story on the MOU issue post-meeting. They ran a story in their Thursday paper on the update to the roads issue and at the end of that short article there were two paragraphs mentioning the contracts.
The bottom line is that, if the council wants to know why they didn’t get a lot of email, it is because the issue didn’t get a lot of coverage. It was a perfect storm of people being out of town when the agenda came out, lack of coverage by the Enterprise, and lack of awareness by the public.
Does that mean people wouldn’t be angry about this if they knew about it? What is interesting is I have received a lot of angry emails and text messages this week from people who prefer not to post on the Vanguard but want to know what can be done about it.
One thing we are going to do is hold a special panel discussion. We will have the official announcement on Monday, but on Saturday, December 12 (a week from today), at 11 am at the library of the Davis Community Church, the Vanguard and Civenergy are holding a panel discussion featuring: Councilmember Brett Lee, Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, and Finance and Budget Chair Jeff Miller discussing the issue of the MOUs and the city budget.
It is a free event and open to the public. By the end of that, three of the four councilmembers who supported the MOU will have had a chance to address the issue on the record.
All of this begs the question: what was the rush? The MOUs were put on consent two days after the Thanksgiving holiday and yet they do not take effect until January. So what was the rush? Why not put them on the regular agenda at the December 15 meeting? That would have been plenty of time for the council to act and the contracts to go into effect for January 1.
Finally, one of our readers suggested that the Vanguard, if it wanted the issue pulled, should have requested it be pulled and discussed.
I have a lot of concern about that suggestion. First of all, I think that missed the point. My concern was that no one on council felt that an important and longstanding issue in the community should be discussed and explained on the record.
Second, I do not believe that it is the Vanguard’s job to request items to be pulled. Can you imagine Debbie Davis of the Enterprise coming down to council to ask an item on consent be pulled? I know people view the Vanguard and myself in a different light, but the notion is absurd. If the Enterprise ran their Sunday editorial criticizing the council, would people object that the Enterprise didn’t come down to demand that the item would be pulled? They wouldn’t.
Third, even if I had personally spoken and asked that the item would be pulled, that does not guarantee that the council would have done anything other than pull the item to take consent. But this does raise the issue that the council’s handling of consent items and public comment – a point I directly raised with the mayor some months ago – is inadequate and that does need to be addressed. Perhaps that issue I will raise at the retreat on Tuesday.
Fourth, I really don’t want to get into this, but I was actually not in a position to request the item be pulled. My wife had come down to public comment on Tuesday to raise concerns about the speed of traffic on our street and she brought the little kids with her. I had to take Jeremiah outside to keep him from disrupting the meeting, so I wasn’t even inside when public comment was occurring.
Finally, and this is a point many other readers made, I made the mistake (in retrospect) of assuming it would be pulled off consent. I was actually stunned when I looked up the numbers of the items pulled off consent to see that the MOU issue wasn’t one of them and that Robb Davis had simply registered a no vote. Again, I think this speaks to the inadequacy of the public process to allow the public to request items be pulled off consent, but, in the future, the Vanguard simply might have to, on a weekly basis, request items be pulled off consent. Again, I don’t think that should be our place and I don’t agree that the burden should be on us to do it.
Hopefully, this is an issue that can be addressed on Tuesday by the council and hopefully they can find a better way to do it.
—David M. Greenwald reporting