Attorney Paul Boylan Jumps into Council Race

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Paul Boylan is the fifth announced candidate for city council.
Paul Boylan is the fifth announced candidate for city council.

Paul Boylan, a local attorney who finished runner-up to Dan Wolk for the 2011 City Council appointment, announced to the Vanguard that he will now run for the Davis City Council. Mr. Boylan, perhaps best known for helping the Vanguard to force the long-buried Davis Fire Report into the open, becomes the fifth candidate for city council this year.

Paul Boylan told the Vanguard it is his love for Davis that has pushed him to run for city council. Mr. Boylan said, “I love living here, I’ve lived here for 30 years.” He moved to Davis to go to law school at King Hall in 1985.

“I had every intention of going to law school here and going back to Los Angeles, but part of the reason I stayed here is I felt that Davis would be great place to settle down and raise a family,” he explained. He said he has enjoyed his time here, watching the city grow. “I believe I have what it takes to help maintain that quality of life.”

Mr. Boylan said, “I think it’s time for me to give a little bit back and to throw my hat into the ring.”

For Paul Boylan there was one issue that really convinced him that he needed to run. It was the vote on the soda tax.

He explained this through his view of government and what “government is supposed to do.” The first question, he explained, is “who’s it going to help?” He said, “The more people that it’s going to help, the more likely it is that he will support it.” Then you ask, “Who’s it going to hurt?” And “you have weigh who’s it going to help against who’s it going to hurt.” Finally, “you have to ask yourself how much is it going to cost?”

He said, “Everybody who’s elected has to answer those three questions.” But he added, “I also believe that their primary focus has to be on the commonwealth – what is good for the group? What is good for everyone?”

With regard to the soda tax he noted, “There is no question in anyone’s mind, in any rational mind, that soft drinks are bad for you. We’ve been convinced to drink them through a $1 billion multiyear campaign to persuade us to pay money and drink something and become virtually addicted to something that we don’t need, we don’t really want and ultimately is bad for our health.”

He added, “To me soft drinks are the same as cigarettes.” He said, “I have no problem at all on a tax on something like that, that would end up discouraging the use of that – improving people’s health in the process.”

Paul Boylan explained that he doesn’t understand why the council would vote not to approve what he saw as a “no-brainer.”

For Paul Boylan this issue becomes a microcosm, indicating that “there is room for a new perspective in dealing with the public’s business. I believe that I have the training and perspective allowing me to do that well.”

Paul Boylan studied at UC Davis Law School in the 1980s, where he met his wife. He explained, “The aspect of law that I still like best is that it gives you access to amazing amounts of information that the average individual can’t get for whatever reason.”

“It was my love for access of information,” he continued, “that ultimately led me into the area of law that I do now.” He said his practice is extremely broad, however. “In the last ten years or so, it has focused very sharply on government transparency and advocating on behalf of the public to gain access to government records – for the purpose of scrutinizing government and holding government officials accountable.”

On a number of occasions, Mr. Boylan has represented individuals who have sought records from the city of Davis or the local school district. That includes the Vanguard itself.

“One time that the city decided not to provide me with information required a lawsuit to get it,” he explained. “Ultimately my client prevailed, which was the Davis Vanguard. The information that we were looking for was released.”

In that case, he argued, there is one basic premise of government and that “truth is that transparency is good. Information wants to be free. The free flow of information is something that strengthens democracy.”

He argued that one thing that both the left and the right agree on is “freedom of speech.” But unless people “have the right to know” the freedom of speech is useless, since they don’t know what they’re talking about. Mr. Boylan says, “People have the right to know what their government does, why they do it, and how they do it.”

In 2008, complaints were made to the Yolo County Grand Jury about the Davis Fire Department. “The Grand Jury came out with a report that was critical of the Davis Fire Department and, in particular, the relationship between management and the union,” he explained. As a follow up, the City of Davis commissioned their own investigation, headed by Police Ombudsman Bob Aaronson, to look into it.

The city paid around $30,000 for that investigation, but the city manager “persuaded three members of the city council to not release the report,” he said. Instead, they released a summary of the report that the city manager had prepared – a summary that either omitted or glossed over the most critical aspects of the report.

“The argument was that there was confidential material within the report,” he said. The most important part of this story “was the city council was persuaded to keep the report itself secret even from themselves.” They actually voted “that no member of the city council could receive a copy of it.”

“When I heard this, it just didn’t sound right. Something was wrong,” Paul Boylan explained.

As a result of the lawsuit, the report was finally released and it revealed to the public a lot of information that was very important and of interest to the public about the performance of our public officials.

In 2010, Don Saylor ran unopposed for the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. As a result, he served just six months of his term as Mayor of Davis before vacating his seat. The four remaining councilmembers created an appointment process that ultimately resulted in Dan Wolk being appointed to the Davis City Council.

The runner up to Dan Wolk was Paul Boylan.

Boylan called it a beauty contest, where they met with individual councilmembers, there was a public forum, but ultimately the city council “did a series of votes to basically reduce the field.” Ultimately, “It was down to two, Dan Wolk and myself.”

However, while he found that process “fun” and very “informative,” he believes that this will be a very different experience, as “running is different from being selected.” He explained, “The only people I had to appeal to, to sit on the city council and do the work that I had to do, were the four city councilmembers. Those were the people I had to persuade.”

For Paul Boylan, he believes “the perspective I bring to the city council is not the traditional one.” He is not the kind of person who goes to city council and speaks. He is not a self-described policy wonk. He has not been deeply involved in city politics.

“What I represent is the average individual in Davis who likes living here and is pleased with the way things are going, more or less,” he said. He just “wants to ensure that our quality of life is maintained.”

“The issues that are important to me, the problems I can see are all related to the Davis quality of life,” he said. On issues like walking downtown, safety in Davis, he says, “I feel the most pressing issue in Davis right now is the consequences of our success.”

“Davis has gotten very big, very fast,” he said. Not in the traditional sense of size of the city, “but Davis has become an economic destination. The streets of Davis are more crowded than they’ve ever been, starting Thursday night all the way through Sunday.”

Davis has more bars, restaurants and night clubs “and the most vibrant street life of any small town I’ve ever been in,” he said, noting he has been all over the world. “That is success but it also makes us a destination. People come here to go to Davis. They come from all around to visit Davis.”

He noted that this causes a lot of problems – “traffic, parking, law enforcement, and just the difficulties of handling large groups of human beings.”

Paul Boylan noted, with regard to the downtown, that he likes small businesses, “mom and pop operations.”  That doesn’t mean he wants to kick out national chains, but “what I really like are the small businesses that are associated with no one else that provide something that you can only get in Davis.”

He said it’s very important to promote downtown business “to create the most favorable environment for them to conduct business.”

Paul Boylan said, “What I’m concerned about is what everybody is concerned about, which is ‘how safe is it downtown during our peak business hours in our times of night – how safe is it?’” He said, “I’m getting the feeling that it’s becoming less safe – for whatever reason.”

He believes that the city council should invest in our police department. He believes we need “more police officers on the streets.” At the same time, he said, “I’m not someone who likes increased law enforcement for its own sake.” He specifically said that he likes the Davis Police Department and how they operate, their response to hate crimes, and their relationship with the community.

The key question is not whether we should add police, but whether and how we can afford it.

Another key issue he sees related to the downtown scene is the need for more public bathrooms downtown. “One of the biggest complaints that I receive from average people” when he talks to them “is that on a Friday night that people come out of bars and restaurants” and end up without adequate restroom facilities in the downtown, which results in increased incidents of public urination.

He said if we are going to have Davis as a destination, which means lots of people in the downtown, “we need to have the facilities that will be able to deal with the human consequence of lots of people being around – that means that we need public bathrooms.”

He suggested that other places in the world deal with these problems very well. “No reason why we can’t too,” he said.

Paul Boylan said he will look at issues like growth on a case by case basis. That means he will ask, “Does the growth proposal that comes up – who does it benefit? Who does it hurt? How much does it cost the city? How much does it benefit the city?”

He said, “If those questions are answered positively for me… including the environment (which he said is something we all share), then I would be in favor of that proposal.”

He continued, “I can’t say that I am pro-development or anti-development just as a general statement, because that would be ridiculous because you have to look at each proposal on its own merits.”

Paul Boylan was involved in the Paso Fino project. He said, “I watched how the proposal for that project changed and shifted to address the concerns of people around the project.” He called it “a healthy exchange of information.” However, he noted that if he were asked his opinion of the project during this process, his answer would have changed at various points of time, depending on the information and the state of the proposal.

Mr. Boylan stated, “That’s the approach I want to take to almost any issue in Davis.” He acknowledges potential “frustration by people that it means I don’t have a lot positions on issues that are important to them.” However, he believes that he doesn’t know enough information up front to make an informed decision and the issues are often fluid – shifting and changing over time.

Paul Boylan, as stated, is the fifth announced Davis City Council candidate. He joins Lucas Frerichs, Will Arnold, Matt Williams and Brett Lee. The filing period opens next Tuesday, February 16, and the election will be Tuesday, June 7.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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37 thoughts on “Attorney Paul Boylan Jumps into Council Race”

  1. Alan Miller

    “I can’t say that I am pro-development or anti-development just as a general statement, because that would be ridiculous because you have to look at each proposal on its own merits.”

    That mirrors my views exactly.  I met Mr. Boylan a few years ago and I believe he means this.  With many ‘politicians’ a statement like that is a way to avoid taking a stand.  From what he said at the ‘beauty contest’ hearings and talking to him a bit I believe he indeed does take each proposal on its own merits.  I welcome that.

    We disagree on the soda tax, but that isn’t a litmus test issue for me.

    I am happy and relieved to see the race open up a bit.  Welcome to the show, Paul Boylan.

      1. Miwok

        I am interested in the Soft Drink tax, only because the proposal exempts “local” businesses and will set off a flurry of paperwork to comply and still profit from it. When it doesn’t apply to everyone, I have a problem.

        The other thing is a sugar tax only starts with soft drinks, leading to what? – a baking ban or sugary drink ban, and other clever readings of the ordinance? Michelle Obama had already made Cupcakes banned in schools for bake sales. Davis should be way ahead of this farcical crap, and instead be a leader in Nutrition, because everyone will be exempted from it. But not by ordinance.

        1. Paul Nicholas Boylan

          the proposal exempts “local” businesses

          Then it is meaningless.

          The other thing is a sugar tax only starts with soft drinks, leading to what? – a baking ban or sugary drink ban, and other clever readings of the ordinance?

          Ah… the old “slippery slope” fear.  In my experience, it is a valid argument when associated with a valid factual circumstance, but it is often an excuse to do nothing.

          In this case, there is no slope.  The tax won’t make anything slippery.  It will discourage a deadly vice while allowing it for those intent on slow suicide, and it will enrich our public coffers, converting an evil into a good.  End of line.

  2. ryankelly

    While agreeing that he provided a valuable service to the community by forcing the City to release the Fire Department report, Mr. Boylan’s job seems in conflict with being a City Council with his specialty in suing government agencies, including the City of Davis, for Brown Act and the California Public Records act violations.   Would he agree to not represent anyone suing the City during his tenure or for perceived violations that may have occurred while he was on the Council afterwards?

    1. Alan Miller

      Mr. Boylan’s job seems in conflict with being a City Council with his specialty in suing government agencies, including the City of Davis, for Brown Act and the California Public Records act violations.

      Perhaps that makes him the perfect candidate for the job.

    2. Paul Nicholas Boylan

      Ryan, you’re right: I could not both sue the city and sit on the City Council.  That would be a conflict of interest.  If I am elected to serve as a City official, I would be unable to represent anyone who might hire me to represent them against the City in any way.  This isn’t anything I need to agree with.  It is something that is imposed by the Rules of Professional Responsibility that regulates the legal profession in California.  I could be disbarred if I represented two clients who oppose each other.

      And the prohibition would last long after I leave office (if elected in the first place).

      Perhaps that is a selling point to the voters:  if you elect Paul Boylan to the Davis City Council, then he will give up his opportunities to represent people in any legal action against the City.

      What do you think?

  3. oopsididitagain

    While I applaud his legal action Keeping the City accountable to those they serve. I must say you lost me at the soda tax. As I’ve said before and will say again Where is PERSONAL Accountability? I’m so tired of living is a society which looks towards government to take the place of common sense.  Look at ANY DAVIS BLOG and what you see is A) My neighbor wont put there garbage cans up after the pick up day. Who can I call? B) My neighbor cut down a tree on their property which I liked (With permits) How can we stop this in the future? C) There was a raccoon in my yard I’m afraid it will eat my cat Isn’t there something someone can do?

    When will we EVER get a candidate that can see the damage to a society that relies upon the government/police rather than common sense? Guess what when I was growing up and there was a hole WE WALKED AROUND IT.  In my opinion this city NEEDS someone that knows the difference between their job and mine. I don’t need a city ordinance to have my child drink Milk. Thanks but No thanks. I’m a big boy and can do that myself. So tax the soda. But leave the alcohol the same? If I sound frustrated I am. I for one would love to see a candidate/counsel worry about the running of the city NOT MY LIFE.

     

    1. The Pugilist

      The problem I see in your column is it’s all about you.  I, I, me, me, mine.  That’s fine, but not who this stuff is targeted toward. You may be a big boy, but there are kids that need defending and I sure as heck fire don’t see you doing it.  I’m with you on some of this stuff, calling the police over garbage cans, huge mistake by the city to make the police = code enforcement.  But when it comes to low income kids and diet and nutrition, they can’t look out for themselves.  That’s what government is for – defending the defenseless.  Don’t agree?  Well you’ve living in the wrong town at the wrong time.

    2. Matt Williams

      oops, your comment appears to indicate that you haven’t been paying attention to the City Council candidates.  I’ve known Will Arnold for quite a while now and my observations of him are that he is definitely focused on running the city efficiently and effectively, and I haven’t seen him try and run any people’s lives, let alone your life.

    3. Paul Nicholas Boylan

      When will we EVER get a candidate that can see the damage to a society that relies upon the government/police rather than common sense?

      I’m not that candidate.  I have no beef with vices.  Alcohol. Cigarettes. Gambling. Soft drinks.  All the stuff that people have been conned into buying and eating or drinking that poisons them and kills them before their time.  No problem.  You wanna die young?  You want you kids to die young and obese?  Go for it.  Dream big.

      I am all for taxing those behaviors.  Everybody wins.  Those who want to continue doing those things have the freedom to kill themselves slowly.  It is the God given right of every American to make stupid choices.  I don’t want to take that away.  However, when confronted with a higher price for indulging in personal destruction, some do it less.  The Commonwealth receives income for the Greater Good.

      Everybody wins.

      You don’t like it, vote against it.  Try to persuade others to vote against it.  God Bless America. It is the Marketplace of Ideas.  But I am going to get it on the ballot.  I want the the community decide.

      1. Alan Miller

        I have no beef with vices . . . You wanna die young?  You want you kids to die young and obese?  Go for it.  Dream big . . . Those who want to continue doing those things have the freedom to kill themselves slowly.  It is the God given right of every American to make stupid choices . . . However, when confronted with a higher price for indulging in personal destruction, some do it less.  The Commonwealth receives income for the Greater Good.  Everybody wins.

        Holy crap . . . he speaketh my language.  Paul Boylan could — just maybe — convince me to change my mind on the damn soda tax.

        God Bless America, indeed!

        1. Paul Nicholas Boylan

          It is a no-brainer. An obviously good idea.

          Well, at least in conception.  The devil is always in the details and it is very possible, if not likely, that there will be an attempt to manipulate the tax in ways that are politically expedient in the short term but not such a good idea in the long term.

          For example, there may be an attempt to earmark these new tax revenues – i.e., dedicating different percentages to different causes or purposes.  Bad idea.  We learned that this kind of scheme is a bad idea when we impoverished our educational system when we provided a percentage of lottery proceeds to schools.

          The proceeds from this sort of tax should enter the general fund, to be used however they need to be used when a need arises.

        2. Alan Miller

          We learned that this kind of scheme is a bad idea when we impoverished our educational system when we provided a percentage of lottery proceeds to schools.

          ” . . . and our schools win, too!”

  4. Tia Will

    Alan

    Holy crap . . . he speaketh my language.  Paul Boylan could — just maybe — convince me to change my mind on the damn soda tax.”

    Well as I said in public comment…..some people will be touched by evidence, some will be touched by anecdote, and some will resonate with …… well, with whatever chord it was Paul Boylan struck with you. My congratulations to Mr. Boylan for at least getting the door opened to a new perspective.

  5. Alan Miller

    and some will resonate with …… well, with whatever chord it was Paul Boylan struck with you.

    Answer:  “It is the God given right of every American to make stupid choices”.

    Isn’t that the “Davis Way”?

    1. Tia Will

      Alan,

      “It is the God given right of every American to make stupid choices”.

      Isn’t that the “Davis Way”?”

      Perhaps only for those of us to whom God does not speak directly.

      1. Paul Nicholas Boylan

        Tia, despite my Irish last name,  I am Greek Orthodox, a condition I have always blamed for my esoteric, byzantine spiritual views. I am not interested in discussing such matters here, but your last comment is so very interesting I cannot resist exploring it a bit.

        I travel quite a bit.  Virtually ever non American I get to know on a personal level eventually expresses confusion over what they view as a uniquely American cultural trait – i.e., the veneration of ignorance and stupidity. We have elevated ignorance and stupidity into a fundamental right, an expression of our liberty. This is something unique to the United States. It is possible only in the United States for the stupid and ignorant to take pride in their condition.

        There are lots of apparent reasons for this, primarily political expediency.  But I’ve always felt that the true root of the phenomenon is the concept of “free will.”  If the Semitic (Judaism/Christianity/Islam/etc.) concept of “God” is correct, and humans ultimately are free to choose between right and wrong, then it seems to naturally follow that, even with direct communication with the Almighty, people are free to choose to be ignorant and stupid.

        It is a fairly stupid argument, but that only enhances it with a bit of irony.

        1. Misanthrop

          “We have elevated ignorance and stupidity into a fundamental right, an expression of our liberty.”

          A liberty expressed daily by many commenters right here.

          P.N.B. You sound like a libertarian.

           

           

        2. Tia Will

          Hi Paul,

          You have earned my first Vanguard induced smile of the day award. I love the fact that you responded thoughtfully to a completely flip and inconsequential follow up to a comment of Alan’s on another thread asserting that he knew something with certainty because God told him so. It was not meant to be either substantive nor thought provoking.

      2. Paul Nicholas Boylan

        P.N.B. You sound like a libertarian.

        In addition to being raise Greek Orthodox, another thing that tends to isolate me from my peers is my degree in Political Philosophy.  Yeah, a useless degree, even in the early 1980’s, and from a State university, too (Cal State Northridge).  But it provided the education that shaped who I am today.

        I know what Libertarianism is.  Like any political philosophy, it has some interesting ideas that, when taken to their logical conclusion, become nothing less than a joke. I adore Karl Marx’s analysis of Capitalism.  I’ve been to his grave in Highgate Cemetery outside of London, England (I went there specifically to pay my respects to Douglas Adams and Michael Faraday, but that is besides the point).  But his ideas about communism are nothing less than comical, an unworkable Utopian fantasy.

        Modern American Libertarianism is a lot like that: interesting in concept, but unworkable – if not destructive – in practice.

        If I sound like a Libertarian it because some Libertairian ideas are fairly decent.  Even Plato got a few things right (but only a few).

    2. Miwok

      I agree, except Davis has a fetish for “protecting the helpless”, “for the kids”, etc. In my comment above I should clarify that I can see your way of thinking, and agree with it only if you tax everyone.

      What I like on this is that maybe this candidate, like Matt Williams, has an open mind, and looks at more than his next election. If he is against hiding reports and other public documents, and uses the Brown Act as a guide to open meeting and govern effectively, I like it.

      The only thing the article fails to mention is how many open seats are the five candidates running for?

      1. Paul Nicholas Boylan

        In my comment above I should clarify that I can see your way of thinking, and agree with it only if you tax everyone.

        As a general concept I agree, but I cannot reject arguments for a targeted tax without hearing how they apply to to a specific proposal in its specific context.

        In my experience, every general rule should be subject to reasonable exceptions. If not, then rational thought and pragmatic decision making can’t exist.

      2. Tia Will

        Miwok

        I agree, except Davis has a fetish for “protecting the helpless”, “for the kids””

        I am confused. What groups would you prefer to protect than those who cannot help themselves ? We certainly see across this country and even locally those who prefer to help their already affluent friends and colleagues, through business deals, rezoning, financial manipulations and the like. Why is it that we are very willing to help those who need no help, but resent helping those in need ?

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