Sunday Commentary: Adversarial Democracy?


I was surprised to see Jim Leonard’s screed in the Enterprise referencing the Vanguard’s article from prior to the election.  In it, he says that a friend had a discussion with a long-time staffer at City Hall, complaining about a guest piece written by a number of local politicians.

(Here is the link to Jim Leonard’s letter which I shall reference but not extensively quote from, and here is the link to the June 6 Guest Commentary that I assume he is referring to).

Mr. Leonard’s friend was upset that the guest commentary “ignored air quality in the argument for the project” and became shocked when the staffer apparently dismissed the complaint by arguing, “Democracy is adversarial.”

At this point Mr. Leonard proclaims that this is “why democracy does not work in Davis.”  And he proceeds to divide democracy into “communicative democracy and adversarial democracy.”

“Communicative democracy encourages all opponents to share whatever truth they have with everyone. When it is determined who has won, everybody celebrates and learning continues. Nobody is bitter. Everybody is energized by the process. And, if a collective mistake was made, the mistake can be easily undone,” he writes.

On the other hand, “Adversarial democracy is all about who gets power and resources. Lying, distorting the truth, withholding information and undermining reputations are acceptable. There are winners and losers. There is no situation within which everyone wins.”

He argues, “Power is the object of this kind of democracy.”

Needless to say, I have a lot of problems with this whole construct.  I believe that democracy is at its core the marketplace of ideas.  Under this construct, the truth emerges from a competition of ideas in a free and transparent manner of public discourse.

In fact that is the raison d’être of the Vanguard.  The idea is that we push ideas out there to the public, competing ideas at times, and the public discusses and debates them.

In my view, the Nishi election, regardless of your preferred outcome, worked reasonably well.  The developer put down the proposal.  The opposition attacked key vulnerable points of that proposal.  The developer attempted to mitigate some of their weaknesses during the course of the campaign.  The opposition was able to criticize those fixes and push forward their own narrative.

The one shortcoming in the process is that it would have been better if this sort of give and take, proposal and counterproposal would have allowed for being able to offer the public different iterations of the project – each of which improved upon each other.  But the structure of an election does not permit that kind of give and take.

Mr. Leonard argues that lying and distorting the truth are acceptable, but, in my view, lies and distortions get exposed and debunked through this deliberative process.

That is certainly what happened here.  The issue of air quality certainly got a lot of play during the election.  In fact, the Vanguard published at least two pieces before the matter was even put on the ballot, highlighting the concerns about air quality as expressed by Thomas Cahill.

During the election, we had a piece that laid out Dr. Cahill’s concerns and the responses from the city and the EIR consultant to his concerns.  Dr. Cahill expressed to me that he felt that the current standards are inadequate, that he would prefer to err on the side of caution, i.e. no housing until we were assured that there were not harmful health effects.

While I respect that position and where Dr. Cahill was coming from, it was not one I shared.

There were also legitimate concerns about traffic on Richards Boulevard that the developer and city council attempted to mitigate and that the opposition believed was inadequate.

Finally, I think the opposition had legitimate concerns about the affordable housing exemption – I did not agree it was illegal, but the optics of it were horrendous and definitely harmed the project at the ballot box.

What I don’t understand is the notion of “why permit adversarial democracy?”  In the case of Nishi, there were two opposing viewpoints on what the future of Davis looked like.  We had a defined process in a defined period of time.  Each side made their case.

I do not see how what Mr. Leonard seems to advocate is possible.  He notes, “Communicative democracy encourages all opponents to share whatever truth they have with everyone.”  That certainly occurred in this process.  The Vanguard, through a system of article submissions and moderated comments, attempts to do exactly that.

Mr. Leonard then offers, “When it is determined who has won, everybody celebrates and learning continues.  Nobody is bitter.”  How do you operationalize that?  A local governance system comes closer to avoiding the struggles of power politics than state or national systems with political parties as power brokers, but even at the local level – there are strongly held views and competing visions.

Mr. Leonard argues that this is the “true democracy.”  I think a more realistic goal is more a hybrid between Mr. Leonard’s two models.  That is our goal at the Vanguard: present different views of preferred policy goals, push for transparency in government, call out public officials when they lack transparency, obfuscate or attempt to game the system, and allow the marketplace of ideas to come out through discourse.

Will there be some winners and some losers in this process?  That is unavoidable.

Mr. Leonard closes by arguing, “I believe communicative democracy is true democracy. In contrast, adversarial democracy is a raid on democracy by anti-democratic forces, democracy with a false face, and undermines true democracy.  I think the staffer revealed how undemocratic our city’s politics are and how hostile the city is to the community it supposedly serves.  This situation needs to be remedied, badly.  The only cure is direct democracy and more honest and open communication among the citizens.”

I am not going to argue that there aren’t problems with the current system.  The Vanguard was founded ten years ago this month to increase transparency and accountability for local elected officials.

But I don’t agree that the system is broken or even hostile to the community – I simply believe that there are competing views about the best way forward for the community.  And to that, I think we need some sort of facilitated visioning process to see if there is a common path forward.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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.

Related posts


  1. quielo

    Hi David,


    I read Mr. Leonard’s letter when published. The Vanguard did an excellent job teasing out the alleged air pollution in detail. I believe Dr. Cahill’s work, which was based on some pretty rough assumptions, resembled Feng Shui more than a scientific analysis. You either believe it or you don’t. When I read the letter it seemed to me that the subtext was agreeing with his opinion was true democracy while disagreeing was fake democracy.

    I will note that this country has provided free healthcare to old people but not to children. Is this because old people are more valuable than young people or because they are able to vote? My truth is my children are more important than Mr. Leonard so I would advocate the feds no longer to pay his medicare and instead pay for my kids. Hopefully he will find this a cause for celebration.

  2. Doby Fleeman


    You seem to recommend “a facilitated visioning process”.

    In your opinion, what does that really look like and how would it work?  What do you hope might result from such a process and why would it be of value to the community?

  3. Frankly

    You’re smart. You’re liberal. You’re well informed. You think conservatives are narrow-minded. You can’t understand why working-class Americans vote Republican. You figure they’re being duped. You’re wrong.

    This isn’t an accusation from the right. It’s a friendly warning from Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who, until 2009, considered himself a partisan liberal. In “The ­Righteous Mind,” Haidt seeks to enrich liberalism, and political discourse generally, with a deeper awareness of human nature. Like other psychologists who have ventured into political coaching, such as George Lakoff and Drew Westen, Haidt argues that people are fundamentally intuitive, not rational. If you want to persuade others, you have to appeal to their sentiments. But Haidt is looking for more than victory. He’s looking for wisdom. That’s what makes “The Righteous Mind” well worth reading. Politics isn’t just about ­manipulating people who disagree with you. It’s about learning from them.

    To the question many people ask about politics — Why doesn’t the other side listen to reason? — Haidt replies: We were never designed to listen to reason. When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve decided. The funniest and most painful illustrations are Haidt’s transcripts of interviews about bizarre scenarios. Is it wrong to have sex with a dead chicken? How about with your sister? Is it O.K. to defecate in a urinal? If your dog dies, why not eat it? Under interrogation, most subjects in psychology experiments agree these things are wrong. But none can explain why.

    The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others. Haidt shows, for example, how subjects relentlessly marshal arguments for the incest taboo, no matter how thoroughly an interrogator demolishes these arguments.

    To explain this persistence, Haidt invokes an evolutionary hypothesis: We compete for social status, and the key advantage in this struggle is the ability to influence others.Reason, in this view, evolved to help us spin, not to help us learn. So if you want to change people’s minds, Haidt concludes, don’t appeal to their reason. Appeal to reason’s boss: the underlying moral intuitions whose conclusions reason defends.

    Democracy is always adversarial because most people are not really rational in opinion, or they see the opening for self enrichment.  Representative democracy, assuming there is nothing connecting enrichment of the elected officials, is designed to check and balance that lack of rational decision capability.  Direct democracy is generally fatal.

    1. Michael Harrington

      I like direct democracy

      We reversed 5-0 CC votes that were terrible for the City.  Three reversals in only five years

      Many Davis features people like result from voter revolt against crazy votes of CC majorities led by power elites.

      1. Chamber Fan

        Who is we?  As I recall you, Eileen and Alan were the main actors this time and they were on the other side on your other reversals. I think you better be careful with your use of pronouns.

        1. Michael Harrington

          “We” means thoughtful voters.


          Don Shor:  Lee and Davis convene a discussion ?  They were the dancing show guys trying to sell Nishi.  Let’s get someone neutral.

  4. Roberta Millstein

    David, you refer to Jim Leonard’s piece as a “screed.”  Some of the definitions of that term include: “a long and often angry piece of writing that usually accuses someone of something or complains about something” and “a long discourse or essay, especially a diatribe.”  To my read, Jim’s letter was brief and measured in tone.  Thus, your use of the word “screed” is, ironically, an example of the “adversarial democracy” that Jim was criticizing.

    Indeed, you seem to have completely missed Jim’s point.  When someone leaves out an important element in a discussion (in this case, air quality and Nishi), they are not engaged in a mutual search for the truth.  Rather, they are engaging in adversarial democracy, where the goal is, instead, simply to win.  (Note that I am not saying that the discussion in question should have agreed with Dr. Cahill – I am saying that any piece that failed to mention and address the air quality issue is problematic, because it is simply seeking to win without fully engaging the issues).

    1. Frankly

      When someone leaves out an important element in a discussion

      It wasn’t an important element.  It isn’t an important element.  The real important element is the people that make up crap and then complain when they don’t get free advertising for it.  Sort of like how Trump operates.

      1. Michael Harrington

        Glad to see Frankly back in good spirits.   Want to talk sometime about a better long  range community plan?  Your conference room  or mine?

        1. Frankly

          Check your email Mike.  We need to replace the fence between us.  It is falling down.  No doubt it has been destabilized a bit by the political winds blowing back and forth.

      2. Roberta Millstein

        Frankly, I’d be very interested for you to cite any studies that overturned the findings of the studies that Dr. Cahill cited, or to show the fatal flaws in the studies that he cited.  Until then, your claim that “It wasn’t an important element.  It isn’t an important element” is utterly empty, and your assertion “The real important element is the people that make up crap and then complain when they don’t get free advertising for it” is a fine example of adversarial democracy in action.

        But that’s the point.  Communicative democracy is where we respond to each others points (which is not to say we always agree), rather than dismiss or ignore them.

        1. Frankly

          I don’t waste my time on twaddle.  Only the real, factual and important stuff for me.  Stuff like not enough housing or business property, much too little tax revenue derived from local business activity, crumbling roads, poorly maintained parks, growing city deficits in the hundreds of millions, bad intersections that frustrate drivers and causes safety issues for bikes and pedestrians.

        2. Frankly

          Peer-reviewed?  I doubt it unless you are talking about peers with the same social bias.

          Based on the known severe bias in social science that relies on peer review, scientific peer review is a broken mechanism worthy of suspect and scorn.

        3. hpierce

          As I understand it, Dr Cahill is a competent scientist, measuring levels of pollution, but is not an epidemiologist.  Many folk tried to link the data to health risk… without connecting the dots…

          Guess we should change the laws and ban all cell phones, radios, broadcast TV, and overhead electric transmission lines to avoid the dangers of EMF.

          [BTW, any of you posting, with your computer using a home wi-fi, have even more exposure to EMF risks…]

    2. Chamber Fan

      Roberta: When I saw it in the paper, my impression was angry and not measured.  I also don’t believe that every discussion has to mention every single issue.  We all tend to focus on a few key points most important to us.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        Chamber Fan, the health of residents is not just any issue.  Again, you don’t have to agree that there were health concerns at Nishi, but it ought to be addressed and not simply ignored.

  5. Michael Harrington

    The inner circle of Yes on A leaders knew that the pollution is so bad and estimates of 5% decrease in lung capacity per year of living there  So the City and Nishi were promoting a project they knew had serious issues and could destroy the lungs of other parents’ children …. All for the money, baby.


    Yes, please, go ahead and “Do the David ” and try to flip a few NO voters to YES for Nishi 2.  We are ready …


    1. hpierce

      OK… 5% decrease in lung capacity / year… right… so is everyone living along Olive Drive (residing 10 years or more) on oxygen?  Am thinking not…

      Alan M… given your proximity to both, and number of years you’ve been living in Old East, let me treat you to your next bottle of oxygen…

    2. Tia Will


      The inner circle of Yes on A leaders knew that the pollution is so bad and estimates of 5% decrease in lung capacity per year of living there”

      Well then, they “knew” a lot more than many of the medical specialists, public health experts and epidemiologist “knew”. Just like you seem to be claiming that you know more than the experts. Roberta is honest, if misguided, in my opinion, in her concerns about the medical risks. You with your “toxic soup” and amazing mind reading abilities with regard to the proponents of measure A, I cannot say the same for.

    3. Matt Williams

      Mike, you are hard at work implementing the “throw the spitballs at the wall, and then see what sticks” approach to hyperbolic political argument.  If you are going to engage the air quality issue, take some lessons from Roberta Millstein.  She approaches it from a reasoned and reasonable and balanced perspective . . . and she listens rather than lectures.

      1. Michael Harrington

        I don’t view poisoning innocent children while ripping off their international  parents  with sky high rents  as something I feel very measured about.  And now we have Tia calling me a liar.  Nice.  Tia, ever wonder why Nishi hasn’t done the studies Cahill urges ?

        “Don’t collect the data, don’t get the answers”   Regan gutted data collection at EEOC and EPA in about 1981.  Smart guy.   Smart Ruff and Whitcomb.



        1. Tia Will


          “Poison soup ?” ” Poisoning innocent children ?” Despite the lack of medical and or epidemiological evidence !  Definitive statements about what others do or don’t “know”. Nice ?

          When you are honest in your statements and conclusions, I promise that I will play nice. Until then, I will call it as I see it.

        2. Matt Williams

          Mike, you are channeling Harold Hill.

          First, there will be either no children or very, very close to no children ever living on the Nishi site.

          Second, the $1,500-$1,800 per month rental rate for a 2-bedroom apartment fits in the middle of the current market for 2-bedroom apartment rentals  (ranging from a low of $925 to a high of $2,178 in the 2015 UC Davis Appartment Rental Rate Survey).

          Third, if you paid any attention to Roberta’s discussions, her advocacy for both education and proactive noticing for the parents of any children (if there ever are any) provides “informed consent.”

          Fourth, I could be wrong, but my recollection of the first time that Dr. Cahill spoke about Nishi specifically was quite recently.  Given the very small amount of time (when compared to the elapsed amount of time that such a Cahill study takes) that has elapsed since that first utterance by Dr. Cahill, no one on the planet Earth could have “done” such a study, not even Dr. Cahill himself.

          Fifth, you need to check your math.  The last time I checked losing 5% of an amount each year means the whole amount will be gone in 20 years, and half the amount will be gone in 10 years.  Given your vast medical knowledge, how would you assess the health of a person who has lost 50% of his/her lung capacity?

          Bottom-line, we’ve got trouble right here in Hyperbole City, trouble with a capital  “Hy” and that rhymes with “Y” and that stands for you.

        3. Roberta Millstein

          Matt, just some comments about a few things you wrote… first, I see no reason for the assumption that parents with children would not live at Nishi – recall the glossy photos with families from the developers, clearly a marketing target for them.  Second, I described what would be necessary (a fairly high bar) to provide informed consent, but in no way was that ever anything that was part of the developer agreement, so it’s misleading to say I “provided” for it.  The fact that I described how it could be done doesn’t make it happen.  Third, some studies of the site were in fact done (and are mentioned in the EIR), but they were adjacent and not on the site (due to lack of power on the site), which is why Dr. Cahill called for more and better studies.  Fourth, as I noted in my comment elsewhere on this page, there is a document from Dr. Cahill dated as early as Jan 9, 2015, so it appears that he was involved at least that early.  Remember, he met with the developers in the planning stages, as the developers repeatedly emphasized.  (Note that my numbers don’t correspond to yours).

        4. Matt Williams

          Roberta, first, I understand your skepticism about families and children based on the marketing materials.  I personally found those marketing materials misleading and inconsistent with common sense parenting.

          Second, do you believe that you were not approaching the issue “from a reasoned and reasonable and balanced perspective . . . and listening rather than lecturing” when you put forward your thoughts about compliance using a high bar level of noticing in order to achieve informed consent?   I agree with you that the reasoned, reasonable and balanced way forward that you described in our conversation did not get into the Development Agreement, but that doesn’t in any way compromise the collaborativeness of the approach you took, nor does it change the  comparison to Mike’s confrontational approach.

          Third, as I noted a few minutes ago, thank you for pointing me to that specific information.  We are both in agreement that the tests Dr Cahill suggested were indeed conducted.  When was the supplemental request for additional testing submitted by Dr. Cahill?

          Fourth, we are in agreement, and I copied and pasted that passage of the FEIR to eliminate any confusion over dates.  Thank you again for helping me increase my knowledge.

        5. Roberta Millstein

          Matt, who doesn’t want to be told that they are “approaching the issue from a reasoned and reasonable and balanced perspective . . . and listening rather than lecturing”? Thank you for that – that’s very kind.  I am indeed trying to do those things.

          And as I explained in my comment below, I don’t think that the fuller study that Dr. Cahill called for was ever performed.

        6. Misanthrop

          Oh we got trouble right here in Davis city,

          With a capital T and that rhymes with P

          and that stands for phools.

          With apologies to Harold Hill and Meredith Wilson

        7. Matt Williams

          Roberta, as we have peeled beck the onion it has become pretty clear (for me at least) that the second round of tests has indeed not been done.

          It is unfortunate that Dr. Cahill was not more explicit in his Draft EIR comments that he was calling for the second round of tests, so that what he perceived as the shortcomings of the first (preliminary) tests could and should be remedied.

          In effect he was too “polite” in his comments, which is an ironic outcome in a thread that started by calling for more politeness and collaborativeness in our political dialogue.


    4. quielo

      There are people living next to freeways and train tracks and ports all over CA> I have never heard of anyone losing 5% of lung capacity per year anyway. Do you have any evidence?

    5. Don Shor

      estimates of 5% decrease in lung capacity per year of living there

      You are off by a factor of more than 1300x. That’s assuming a child grows up there (8 year study). And the data applies to any site near a freeway, including most of Olive Drive and, of course, New Harmony.
      Took me about two minutes on Google, Mike.

    6. Robert Canning

      And your evidence for the “5% decrease in lung capacity for living there”?  Have you been monitoring the air on the parcel? Have you compared mortality rates to other parcels in the area?

      Or are you just blowing smoke, shall we say.

  6. Don Shor

    I’m well acquainted with the friend that Jim is channeling when he writes these letters, and I know s/he is perfectly capable of writing letters and essays, so I’m not sure why Jim keeps doing this.

    The premise seems to be that every essay needs to cover every aspect of a topic. That isn’t reasonable or effective. I know as a columnist that you are stretching the limits of the reader’s attention when you go much beyond 800 – 1000 words. You need to be succinct and provide support for your key points. It’s not a matter of fairness. A series of columns is more effective than one big attempt at covering everything, and that’s exactly what the Vanguard did.

  7. Matt Williams

    Reading Jim’s letter, David’s article, Roberta’s comment and the original OpEd, my first instinct was to put them into the context of  a lesson I learned repeatedly during my campaign for a seat on the City Council . . . specifically, word limits are very constraining.

    Jim’s friend’s concern about what was left out of the OpEd would carry a whole lot more weight (with me) if I knew that the Enterprise did not impose any limit on the length of the submission.  In that case the omission would have been (A) a denial of the validity of the issue, (B) a conscious desire to channel the community conversation away from the issue, or (C) ignorance of the issue.

    However, the Enterprise does impose word limits on the submissions they accept for publication, so the authors had to deal with weighing the trade-offs between what they included and what they didn’t include. Given the fact that Op is an abbreviation for Opinion, all I saw that omission as (when I read it for the first time) was that in the opinion of the authors, the air quality issue was more subjective, less objective, and more mitigatable than the other issues that they did actually include in their submission.  Bottom-line, they faced (and subjectively dealt with) trade-offs.

    I actually saw that submission as a whole lot less adversarial than a lot of the other parts of the collective/aggregate Measure A campaign activities.

    I also believe that David overlooks word limits in his criticism of Jim’s letter to the editor.

    With that said, it is ironic that Jim would take to task “adversarial democracy” since he very frequently has put in his two cents of dissent in the comments section of a wealth of Enterprise articles over the past three years.  He was a constant critic of Robb Davis in the 2014 election.  He regularly provides the rebuttal message whenever an article or letter supports “the other side” of whatever election issue he supports.  He and Elaine Roberts Musser and Noreen Mazelis and Coleman Thomas Randall, Jr. have breathed life into the Enterprise Comments section.

    I suspect that when David was writing today’s article it was hard for him to separate Jim’s prior Enterprise comments from today’s letter to the editor.  Because of that suspicion on my part, Roberta’s comment about the use of the word “screed” rings true when applied to just Jim’s letter, but loses some of its power when the totality of Jim’s Enterprise contributions is considered.

    With all the above ruminations shared, I will close with a brief reference to davisite4’s plea last week that we “take a break.”  Why that is germane for me is that when the stakes are high (economically in the case of the Yes on Measure A side, and viscerally in the case of the No on Measure A side) then democracy becomes much more adversarial and much less collaborative than it is when there isn’t a winner takes all vote in process.  When you have to choose between “yes” and “no” it doesn’t leave much room for collaboration.


  8. Jim Leonard

    “I believe that democracy is at its core the marketplace of ideas.  Under this construct, the truth emerges from a competition of ideas in a free and transparent manner of public discourse.”  David: you conflate democracy with capitalism which is confuses the difference between the two,  self serving, and unhelpful. In true democracy, people talk to people to arrive at an evolving sense of the truth. People are respectful and want to be respectful to each other as well in order to make sure all participants continue to pursue the truth. In the conflated (and, in my opinion, phony) version of democracy you advocate for (winners/losers, power more important than truth), participants other than the winners lose their appetites for participation; they also feel shame since their participation actually promotes dishonesty and disrespect. Under “marketplace of ideas” and “competition”, ideas are lost and participants quit. Please stop using the phrase. It is violent and hostile to community. We can do better.

    1. quielo

      We do not have and never had consensus based decision making. The point of the constitution was to provide a defense against the tyranny of the majority. “Truth” is an elusive concept that really has no application to democracy as everybody will claim exclusive ownership of the “truth”. Just like “social justice” has no real meaning as there is not universal standard of justice. It sounds even more that “truth” is whatever you believe.

      1. hpierce

        We do not have and never had consensus based decision making.

        Rarely, with two committed parents, we actually have… but even then rarely…  for a  City of 68k, or a Nation of ~ 320 MM? (census data est.)?

    2. Eric Gelber

      As with most attempts to draw simple dichotomies—the distinction between communicative (or consensual) and adversarial democracy is an oversimplification. In fact, both forms co-exist. One is no more “true democracy” than the other. The former typically occurs within smaller groups, with shared goals and common interests. Small businesses or small towns  may operate on a communicative or consensual model. It becomes more difficult as group size increases—except, on occasion, in instances where the community comes together with common goals, e.g., in times of crisis. Our state Legislature is a hybrid model, with issues initially discussed in committees where issues can, in theory, be discussed and consensus can be reached before voted on by the body as a whole.

      Direct democracy—by initiative or referendum—would appear to be more communicative and less adversarial but it is the opposite. As Matt points out, this form of decision-making leaves no room for communication, compromise, or consensus. It’s an up or down vote.

      (Side note: The Op, in OpEd does not stand for opinion, as Matt suggests. OpEd is short for opposite the editorial page, which is where contributions from outside sources were traditionally placed.)


      1. Matt Williams

        Thanks for that side note clarification Eric.  One of the fun things about the Vanguard is I learn new things here frequently.  Looking at Wikipedia (not a definitive source admittedly), it appears that the expression both/and applies in this case.

        An op-ed (originally short for “opposite the editorial page” though sometimes interpreted as “opinion editorial”) is a written prose piece typically published by a newspaper or magazine which expresses the opinion of a named author usually not affiliated with the publication editorial board

      2. quielo

        I agree with Eric that it is easier to achieve consensus in a smaller venue however the system is designed to produce a decision whether or not there is widespread agreement. I will also note that positions that reflect widespread agreement may  look very much like lack of choice to people with a different opinion.

    3. Matt Williams

      Jim democracy has a number of different forms. Some forms provide better representation and more freedom for their citizens than others.  To name just a few . . .


      Athenian democracy
      Authoritarian democracy
      Classical democracy
      Council democracy
      Direct democracy
      Electoral democracy
      Industrial democracy
      Jacksonian democracy
      Liberal democracy
      Non-partisan democracy
      Parliamentary democracy
      Popular democracy
      Presidential democracy
      Representative democracy
      Soviet democracy
      Totalitarian democracy
      Westminster democracy
      Workplace democracy

      You appear to be saying that only one of these is a true democracy.  Is that correct?  If so, which one?

    4. Misanthrop

      We don’t have a true democracy with Measure R because all those students who live on campus don’t get to vote. Nor do non-citizens who live in town.

      1. The Pugilist

        I don’t agree with that assessment.  Most people who live on campus are freshmen ad will live off-campus by their second year.  There is a rotation of college students, those living on campus probably don’t have the experience in town yet to cast an informed vote while those who are graduating basically are voting on something they’ll never live in.  I think it balances in the long run.

        1. Misanthrop

          But their voting power is diluted. If students who live on campus were allowed to vote we might have a different outcome on Nishi.  You believe 18 year olds aren’t informed enough to vote. So much for upholding the constitution.

          You also think that someone who lives here for only a few years should not have their interests represented at the ballot box. This is such an interesting argument because it in effect argues against a class of people participating because they have interests that are different from another class of people. I wonder what kind of democracy you call that?

        2. hpierce

          By all means, Misanthrope, let’s empower freshman students, living on campus, who have no intention of living in Davis after graduation, and will have no taxes levied on them while freshman, vote for multi-million dollar tax measures than have 20-30-40 year payoff timelines… great idea!

          If UCD on-campus students vote in City elections, they get to vote the FULL ballot, not just selected items…

        3. Misanthrop

          While I would welcome full annexation of the campus I wonder if the renewal of Measure R could be crafted to include the Davis Planning area thus limiting participation to all those who are truly impacted by the decision to annex or not. With the limitations on development imposed on the county by the pass through agreement and direct democracy at the ballot box imposed by Measure R you have this strange situation where people are living outside the city, sometimes only because they are on the wrong side of the street, who are heavily impacted by these policies but have a very limited and diluted voice in those decisions at the ballot box. Its fundamentally undemocratic. You may like the outcomes produced by this situation but it is akin to Jim Crow style democracy because it dilutes the voting power of a class of people.

        4. hpierce

          You do realize that full annexation of UCD would set up other ‘stresses’ as to land use/sovereignty?  UCD pays no fees/taxes… thus neither do those residing on campus… but, I guess if you believe other folk with little or no ‘skin-in -the game’ would vote your way, they should be fully enfranchised… I understand that motivation… perhaps we should enfranchise my close relatives in San Diego, Colorado, PA, MA, who technically (as beneficiaries) may have more ‘skin-in-the-game’ than any freshman living on-campus…

        5. Misanthrop

          I think students who live a short distance outside the city and are looking at being here for several more years do have an interest in what goes on in the city especially as it relates to pocket book issues like paying rent or finding a place to live. I have no idea how many vote in their parents districts and I’m not concerned whether they would agree with me or not. I’m interested in empowering them to participate and do what they think is in their own best interest as any voter does.

          I do find  interesting  all the push back against the simple concept of allowing thousands of people who live in an area and are effected by Measure R to participate in a process that is supposed to be about direct democracy. I guess Davis is a place where all are equal but some are more equal.

  9. Robb Davis

    I have now read Jim’s article 4 times today.  Each time I am increasingly troubled at the accusation he seems to be making against “the City” (which, I assume, means City Council and City staff).  I feel like I am fundamentally missing something.  I feel like I am living in a different town than the one Jim describes.  I feel like I don’t know what to do to remedy what he views as a terribly egregious situation.  A few things are swirling in my mind.

    1. He writes: “I think the staffer revealed how undemocratic our city’s politics are and how hostile the city is to the community it supposedly serves.”

    One staffer’s view on how democracy works here does not equate to any kind of official policy or affirmation.  I don’t understand why Jim views “the City” as hostile.  Yesterday I stood at the market for 2 hours meeting people face to face, listening to concerns, responding to questions.  In the past 6 months I have done this 10 times.  I have been joined by staff and colleagues there.  We listen to concerns and rectify problems as quickly as we can.

    I receive emails and phone calls requesting meetings to discuss all manner of City issues by citizens.  To date, in the two years I have served on City Council I have never refused a request to meet.  Ever.  I am not talking about general “we should get together” statements, but actual requests to meet.  I believe my colleagues are the same.  Ask to meet with us and we meet–neighborhood groups, interest groups, individuals–including students.  We are available to listen and receive input.

    I attend 4-6 Commission or Committee meetings every month.  Most last 2-3 hours and require preparation.  We do not lead these meetings, we listen to citizens who have offered their time to serve.  Policy recommendations, input, decisions and public education on various matters flow from these meetings.  We do not always accept every recommendation but we often do and we always give consideration to what is discussed.  My colleagues spend the same amount of time at meetings as I do.

    I attend 2-3 community forums per month put on by the City, Cool Davis, activists working on various projects (like stopping oil trains just yesterday) or the police or school district.  I am sometimes asked to bring a word of welcome but more often simply asked to come and participate as a community member.  I listen, learn and lend support as I can.

    I use all of these meetings–individual, group, commission–to both help form and inform my decisions.  I have learned that it is impossible to make a decision that fully gives what all groups/individuals in this City say they want or need.  I do not believe that in a city as large as ours, with as diverse a set of opinions and needs I will ever be able to do so.  But I am constantly engaging to listen and learn and try to account for various needs.

    2. Jim writes that in adversarial democracy: “Representatives rule based upon what best serves their power interests, not upon what best serves the quest for truth and mutual respect.”  I think that power is a very deceptive thing.  I spent the second half of this past week attending a conference on the writing and thinking of the late French jurist/sociologist/theologian Jacques Ellul who wrote cogently about the power of the state and statespeople.  He wrote of power, powerlessness and non-power and the choices all leaders make in relation to wielding power.

    I was forced to consider how often I have used my office to engage in self-aggrandizement, consolidation of power that will narrowly benefit me, and what it means to lead from a place of non-power (yielding power to a collaborative process).  I can acknowledge that the temptation to misuse power is ever-present.  The seeking after self-aggrandizement is a temptation that lurks at my door.  Like anyone, I want recognition for a job well done.  I want to believe that my actions make a difference.  I enjoy praise.

    But I also engage in regular “formative practices” that challenge my hunger for adulation and praise.  I regularly confess to others I have wronged.  I admit mistakes and try not to repeat them.  Have I never sought power for myself in these two years?  No.  Have I learned to identify its temptations and seek to turn away from it so I can serve the interests of the broader community?  I believe I have.  It is and will continue to be a constant struggle.  Is that shocking to anyone?

    During the Nishi discussions several people accused me and my colleagues of selling out the City.  But I have defended my behavior by reminding people that we did what we did in a series of public meetings–via commissions, public forums and in Chambers.  I also encouraged Tim Ruff to meet with groups of citizens who had specific ideas about various project issues.  Tim did that and some of the citizens he met with ended up supporting the project.  Others did not.  The point is, I used my position (my power) to try to engage in and promote a broad consideration of the issues.  Just over half of the voters of the town disagreed with our decision to support the project.  Nearly half agreed.  I wonder, where, exactly, was the failing in that process?  I still am not sure if I know–but perhaps that merely suggests I am “tone deaf” and don’t know how I am failing.  I hope others will point out to me how I failed because I do not view the process as a failure.

    The point of this long reflection is that I am terribly pained by Jim’s letter.  I am pained that he and his friend feel excluded.  I am pained that there is a sense that democracy is not working in Davis.  I am pained because I don’t feel I have a master plan to rectify the situation.  My plan, for the next two years is to keep meeting people, keep going to the market, keep attending Commission meetings, keep going to forums, keep learning, keep listening, and keep making decisions that I believe are in the best interests of the City.  I believe my colleagues will do the same.

    I would beg those who feel that this is not enough to tell me what more I and my colleagues need to do to address community concerns.


    1. Matt Williams

      Robb, my take on Jim’s letter is a bit different.  What I hear from him is an amalgam of (A) “hangover” from the contentious and confrontational Election just completed, and (B) a more overriding frustration with the socio/economic/political structure of our Nation.  My sense from his many postings in the Enterprise and the Vanguard is that he wants our Representative Democracy to come to an end and be replaced by Direct Democratic rule.

      All of the steps you describe in section 1. of your comment are rooted in the principles of Representative Democracy, so if I am correct in my assumption described above, they by definition they fall short of the desired end.

      You didn’t fail.  You simply acted as best as you could within a system that for Jim appears to be (if I am correct in my assumption) fatally flawed because it is representative rather than direct.

      Of course, all the above is only my opinion, and as such is only worth the paper it is written on.

  10. Michael Harrington

    Robb, how do you explain that the voters have stone-cold reversed 3 big CC votes in 5 years?  And if the CC had put the MRIC on the ballot as it was last described, the voters most likely would have rejected it?

    You know that the Nishi team refused to talk to us, over and over?  And even now, we have offered to talk with them, and they have refused.  The latest direct “go to heck” was last week.

    The CC is the same, unfortunately.

    I know you guys are angry, and you hate to be challenged, but meeting and talking is the only way to solve problems.

    Nishi is clearly working on Version 2, with the nips and tucks that David Greenwald advocated just after June 7 to get a few NOs to switch to YES.   Nishi is clearly doing this with staff and CC member support, or they would not take the hard positions they have been taking.  I know how it goes;  been there and served up on that dais.  If I were on the CC, I would tell Nishi to go pound sand unless they talked to the community first, rather than the staff, business, and CC elites that they think are the keys to the riches they seek.

    And what about leading with some government restructuring, and some budget cuts, and get a plan together that involves realistic new taxes, and business development?  The community would be so grateful if you would only do this, and take a break from the crazy external projects that have been the nearly sole focus of Planning and the CC for nearly 5 years.

    We are ready to meet and talk, anytime.

    I deeply want your Mayorship to be successful, but you are being handed a city government with almost nothing going on that the voters endorse or like or will accept.

    Example: why is planning being partially managed by a former high level planning official of New Homes? Nuts. And the optics are terrible for the City.




    1. Matt Williams

      Mike, each of those three citizen votes were markedly different. June 2016 Measure A was/is nothing like June 2014 Measure P, which was/is nothing like November 2009 Measure P.

      The issues that drove those three vote majorities (51.5% in 2016, 51.0% in 2014 and 74.7% in 2009) were markedly different, and the makeup of those three City Councils was/is very different.

      You are trying to paint very different situations with a very broad brush.  Further, in the case of 2014’s Measure P, the citizen expressed issues of confusion and unfairness to renters were addressed within 30 days of Election Day and the Prop 218 for the subsequent rates sailed through with less than 0.2% protests filed.  Measure P never tried to remedy the issues, and no one other than Nishi’s owners knows whether they will adjust the proposal to address the citizen expressed issues and try again.

      Time will tell whether there is anything going on that the voters endorse or like or will accept.

      In closing, your comment above appears to be substantially in alignment with Jim Leonard’s concerns.  It is markedly adversarial.

  11. Michael Harrington

    Robb:  the air and soil studies that Dr. Cahill wants cost less than $25,000.  Why didn’t you and your colleagues on the CC insist that those studies be done FIRST, before the completion of the EIR?   Why didn’t the CC error on the side of caution, and demand that the developer collect the data before putting the project on the ballot?  If the studies show no issues with air quality, then fantastic!  Full steam ahead.  If there is a problem, which we strongly believe is the case, then no housing over there.  That answer is not what staff or Nishi wanted to hear, so they refused to collect the data.



    1. Chamber Fan

      Perhaps because the existing research didn’t support the need to delay the project by another two to four years.  The added risk associated with exposure is less than the overall cancer risk.  You guys are shooting in the wind and hoping something sticks.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        Matt, included in the FEIR, p. 2-93, there is a document labelled Appendix B, a document that is dated Jan 9, 2015 and seems to have been included as an Appendix to materials given to the Planning Commission in October 16, 2015.  There may have been other times when Dr. Cahill made this recommendation (I seem to recall reading it elsewhere), but based on these documents, the answer to your question seems clearly to be “before the completion of the EIR”.

        1. Matt Williams

          Thank you for that very clear answer about the timing of Dr. Cahill’s requests Roberta. His air quality monitoring study requests very clearly predate the completion of the Final EIR, the completion of the Draft EIR, and even the commencement of the Draft EIR.

          With that said, reading Dr. Cahill’s submission, which begins on page 2-79 of the Final EIR document (see LINK) and ends on page 2-111, and then the City’s response to the 16 individual points therein, which runs from page 2-112 to 2-116, I’m left with a question for Mike Harrington.  Specifically, given the fact that the City’s response (copied and pasted below with bolding added by me for clarity) clearly states that the air quality monitoring tests were conducted, what are the tests that haven’t been done, and when were those tests requested by Dr. Cahill?


          This letter echoes comments made by Dr. Cahill in January 2015 on both the NOP and as part of a coordination meeting with the City on January 27, 2015. Based on the information provided by Dr. Cahill at that time, the City requested that air quality monitoring be conducted by UC Davis using their monitoring equipment on the Nishi site to characterize air quality conditions on the site.  Per Dr. Cahill’s suggestion, concentrations of various sizes of particulate matter were monitored and measured, including UFP, which is defined as particles with an aerodynamic diameter of 0.1 microns or smaller. Additionally, per Dr. Cahill’s suggestion, the monitoring collected the elemental signature of these particles to understand whether the particulates were from diesel exhaust and/or brake wear and tire wear emissions. In addition, the City began evaluating mitigation measures suggested by Dr. Cahill at the meeting on January 27, 2015, including positive pressure air filtration systems in buildings, vegetative barriers along I – 80, and a tree canopy throughout the project site.  All of the mitigation suggestions provided by Dr. Cahill in January 2 015 were incorporated into the Draft EIR.


        2. ryankelly

          Thank you, Matt.  I doubt that Roberta will change her mind as she has stated in prior comments her opinion that the presence of any particulate matter at all is an unacceptable risk and mitigation, even mitigation suggested by Cahill, is insufficient. However, this seems to indicate that Harrington never read the report and seem to be winging it with accusations and demands.

        3. Roberta Millstein

          Matt writes:

          Specifically, given the fact that the City’s response (copied and pasted below with bolding added by me for clarity) clearly states that the air quality monitoring tests were conducted, what are the tests that haven’t been done, and when were those tests requested by Dr. Cahill?

          Matt, I believe that the City is referring to the study that Dr. Cahill describes on p. 2-90 of the FEIR.  As you can see, the measurements were taken at a location adjacent to Nishi (due to lack of power at the Nishi site) and were only performed for 10 days (Feb 3-13, 2015).  What Dr. Cahill has called for, and what has not been done, are measurements taken at the Nishi site and over the course of a year (so as to obtain measurements from conditions in different seasons – the models show varying impacts with varying seasons).  So, the study was, as Dr. Barnes says (as quoted by Dr. Cahill ), “preliminary.”

          Still, even as a preliminary study, it gave reason for concern.  There were high concentrations of fine metals, even with mitigating factors (the freeway is at-grade at that location, there is a screen of trees, and the winds were not from the area where the braking was occurring).  In other words, the study that was done is highly suggestive of potential health problems.  Those who would challenge the preliminary results ought to be pushing for the additional studies that Dr. Cahill has called for in order to show that the pollutant concentration at Nishi is not as bad as what that preliminary study would suggest.

        4. Roberta Millstein

          ryankelly writes:

          I doubt that Roberta will change her mind as she has stated in prior comments her opinion that the presence of any particulate matter at all is an unacceptable risk and mitigation, even mitigation suggested by Cahill, is insufficient.

          I have never said that any particulate matter at all is an unacceptable risk.  You frequently misrepresent what I say; please do not do that.

          Dr. Cahill does not think that the mitigation proposed was sufficient.

        5. Matt Williams

          ryan, the purpose of my comment was not to change Roberta’s mind on the issue.  She has raised some very important issues in her comments over the trajectory of the dialogue about this issue.  She has also proposed some actions that I agree with her would be important positive steps toward protecting the health of anyone who lives at Nishi, regardless of age.

          Further, her response (and her additional responses this morning) convey the kind of tone that Jim Leonard was looking for in his letter . . . which was the catalyst for this article and its string of comments.


        6. hpierce

          Matt… consider not pandering to another poster [you know who]… if the ‘science’ is there, the issue is not Nishi as to air quality/morbidity… we should focus on Olive Drive, portions of ‘Old East’… a ‘clear and present danger’ if certain folk are correct…

          The excuse that Nishi was not properly studied due to a ‘lack of power’ @ Nishi is either untrue or LAME… there are things called ‘generators’, if a direct electrical drop is no longer available.

          Much of Olive Drive residents are closer to both I-80 and UPRR than any potential residents of Nishi… portions of Old East, sameo-sameo… there is power readily available to both area, w/o generators…

          But, Mr H and others seem to want to avoid those inconvenient truths, but will probably raise them with the Lincoln40 project, probably at the last minute… another opportunity for a lawsuit by two or more of our “frequent fliers”

        7. The Pugilist

          I think you’re misreading what Matt is doing.  It seems to me he prefers the approach of Roberta to that of Michael and is attempting to play up that fact.

        8. Matt Williams

          Roberta Millstein said . . . What Dr. Cahill has called for, and what has not been done, are measurements taken at the Nishi site and over the course of a year (so as to obtain measurements from conditions in different seasons – the models show varying impacts with varying seasons).  So, the study was, as Dr. Barnes says (as quoted by Dr. Cahill ), “preliminary.”

          Thanks again Roberta.  Dr. Cahill’s comment on the February 2015 tests begins on page 2-90 and concludes on 2-92. The City labeled that comment L3-14 and responded as follows:


          This comment confirms the importance of the actual measurements conducted near the Nishi project site by Dr. David Barnes of the UC Davis Department of Physics — the full monitoring report by Dr. Barnes is provided in Appendix D of the Draft EIR. The comment states, “the UC Davis Barnes study confirms in detail the threats to the Nishi property from both diesels and ultra-fine ‘wear’ aerosols from braking, despite a location far from the area of predicted greatest impact nearer the [I-80] overcrossing.”
          This comment presents expository information consistent with information presented in the Draft EIR and does not address the adequacy of the analysis of the Draft EIR. No further response is necessary.

          This comment has been forwarded to the Davis Planning Commission and City Council for their consideration during review/consideration of the project.

          It is worth noting that half of the 16 responses by the City contain the language in paragraphs 2 and 3 of the quoted response. What I interpret them to be saying is that Dr. Cahill was being descriptive rather than prescriptive.  After reading their response I went back and reread comment L3-14 and nowhere in that comment do I find Dr. Cahill calling for a second round of measurements taken at the Nishi site and over the course of a year (so as to obtain measurements from conditions in different seasons – the models show varying impacts with varying seasons).   He also does not call out or accentuate Dr. Barnes’ self-labeling of the study as preliminary.

          With that said, I am assuming that Dr. Cahill followed up the publishing of the Final EIR with a formal request for the second round of measurements taken at the Nishi site and over the course of a year.  Do you know when that formal request was made?


        9. ryankelly

          I have never said that any particulate matter at all is an unacceptable risk.

          Roberta, You are correct.  In a conversation with Tia you did admit that where you place the bar for risk is lower than where Tia would place it, but you never said how low that bar is for you.  I am relying on memory, as I don’t have time to go back and find your comments.  It was my impression from your conversations about alleged autism risk that even a small percentage of increased risk would be unacceptable for you.  It looks like there were conversations with Cahill, where he made suggestions to mitigate the risks and these were incorporated into the design, but you say that Cahill then stated (and you seem to agree with him) that the mitigation may not be sufficient.  It is not clear what would have to be done to reassure you, so I assumed that any presence of particulate matter is unacceptable to you, regardless of steps incorporated in the design to improve the air quality.  Maybe you can clarify where you stand on this.

        10. Roberta Millstein

          Matt, if you look at l3-4, p. 2-83 and l3-15, p. 2-93, it seems pretty clear that Dr. Cahill was calling for a longer term study at the Nishi site itself.  To saying that those were not comments on the DEIR itself, as the responses in the FEIR do, seems to me to be quibbling.

          It is also my understanding that Dr. Cahill emailed additional materials to the City Council in June 2016; he sent them to me also at my request (he offered, in an ad in the Enterprise, to send them to anyone who requested).  The following is from that document:

          1.     For this reason, I supported a research and innovation center with ultra filtration to protect the workers but with the absolute minimum of on site housing. I stated that if there were to be any very limited housing, it must follow a protocol…(Appendix A)..
          i.               Far away from the freeway.
          ii.              Establish the nature of the threats including > 1 yr of data,
          iii.            Independent review of the studies and the project
          iv.            Apartment proposal with pressurized ultra filtration,
          v.              Evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation efforts
          vi.            Publish the results in the peer reviewed literature the success, partial success, or failure of this effort.
                       I presented the information to the developer and Council in January, 2015, but items i, ii, and iii were not done. Since then there have been major changes that have greatly increased my concerns, as we are putting young unsuspecting young residents into serious risk:
          1.     The Nishi proposal was morphed into a village with thousands of residents, parks, retail, amenities, student housing, and apartments for both rent and sale.
          2.     Davis completed its Environmental Impact Report showing “…significant and unavoidable” (4.3-33) …” air quality impacts based on existing state and federal air quality regulations. This result was supported by measurements of diesel soot.
          3.     My analysis of the freeway impact has been completed, and the Nishi health threat is roughly 10 times the average California freeway. (see Atm. Env, April, 2016)
          4.     New health data have become available including the almost doubling of the rate of having an autistic child if conceived with 1020 feet of a freeway.

          In other words, Dr. Cahill did reiterate the need for further study after the FEIR, but the main point he wanted to urge was that there should not be housing at the Nishi site.

        11. Roberta Millstein

          ryankelly, as I have said before, the risk of autism was only one of the health risks that concerns me; I am also concerned about the cancer risk, the heart attack risk, the asthma risk, and the loss of lung function risk, all of which are supported by peer-reviewed studies.  (You and Tia were the ones who focused on the autism risk especially, not me).  As the risks of these different potential health impacts varies, I don’t know how to put a single number on them in order to answer your question (it’s something I am hoping to think about further soon), but maybe you do – at what point would you say that the health risks are too severe for there to be housing built there?  Where is your bar?

        12. Roberta Millstein

          Matt, an addendum to my previous comment: Note that in his article on the Vanguard, Dr. Cahill stated, “Considering these threats, the lack of adequate measurements at Nishi are by itself a barrier to any approval.”  That’s a clear indicator that the studies mentioned in the FEIR were not considered by him to be adequate.  Also, recall that Rob White’s infamous hit piece on Dr. Cahill also highlighted (and castigated) Dr. Cahill’s call for additional studies, so clearly those related to the project knew that what had been done was not what Dr. Cahill had originally asked for.

  12. Frankly

    I listened to this press conference this morning.   Dallas Chief David Brown makes a perfect point about cops being asked to do too much.  Politicians, BLM activists, social justice crusaders and frankly most people ignore this point.  I have made the case before.  The collapse of social capital in these communities is not the fault of the the police, yet they are being tasked with trying to clean up the mess while also being blamed for the mess.

    I can see this clearly… my Belmont friends on the left are painted into a corner of difficulty defending their politicians and their views in light of the decline in social capital.  So they desperately search for scapegoats: Bush, corporations, CEOs, cops, racism, whites, etc.

    But since the cops are on the ground dealing with humanity every day, they are feeling most of the impact from the growing disappointment of Fishtown… the standard minority-filled low-income, high-crime, urban community.

    We need real solutions.  And all we get is a demand that cops take on even more.  It is irrational.

    1. wdf1

      Frankly:  The collapse of social capital in these communities is not the fault of the the police, yet they are being tasked with trying to clean up the mess while also being blamed for the mess.

      I can see this clearly… my Belmont friends on the left are painted into a corner of difficulty defending their politicians and their views in light of the decline in social capital.  So they desperately search for scapegoats: Bush, corporations, CEOs, cops, racism, whites, etc.

      You, on the other hand, are above reproach as you scapegoat teachers, unions, Obama, and liberals for these problems?

      1. South of Davis

        wdf1 wrote:

        > You, on the other hand, are above reproach as you

        > scapegoat teachers, unions, Obama, and liberals

        > for these problems?

        It is hard to blame Frankly (or Bush) for the problems in inner city schools where the kids have never met their fathers, can’t read and kill each other.

        I’m not going to bash Obama, unions and liberals as much as Frankly, but eventually someone needs to realize that system liberal union members have in place where only about half the kids in urban school districts graduate is not working…


        1. wdf1

          SoD:  It is hard to blame Frankly (or Bush) for the problems in inner city schools where the kids have never met their fathers, can’t read and kill each other.
          I’m not going to bash Obama, unions and liberals as much as Frankly, but eventually someone needs to realize that system liberal union members have in place where only about half the kids in urban school districts graduate is not working…

          Your comment is coming off of Police Chief Brown’s comments about asking police officers to do too much:

          “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” Brown said at a briefing Monday. “We are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem; let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”

          …and yet you, like Frankly, are completely comfortable bashing teachers unions for “failing schools”  and communities.  The thing that you’re missing is that the common factor in discussing some of these issues is that there are broken communities to start with.  They are broken in significant part because of a lack of social capital, a point that I do agree with Frankly about, and an idea that was inspired by a book I recommended to him about a year ago, Charles Murray’s Coming Apart.

          When it comes to lower income communities with higher crime rates, police officers and teachers typically will not live in the same communities where they serve.  When they live elsewhere, then their profession starts becoming more confined to work shift hours in significant ways.  You will not see the community members you serve after hours at the grocery store, or standing in line at the polling precinct on election day, or at your house of worship on weekends.  There is less effort at helping neighbors in need.  Other signs of failing social infrastructure are a lack of supermarkets/grocery stores, which results in ‘food deserts.’  Also a lack of accessible medical services and staff.  Such communities need more resources than can be addressed just by well-intentioned teachers or police officers.

      2. Frankly

        Seriously wdf1?  What do you want our racist ancestors, Bush, corporations, CEOs, and cops to do?  How do you expect anything said by our supreme leader, BLM and social justice crusaders to improve a damn thing.  Talk is cheap.  Where are the actions?

        If we agree that things are broke, what should we do to repair them?

        Which actors are in the best position to lead and change?

        Really, what do we want cops to do… be segregate fathers to all those fatherless boys instead of officers sworn to uphold the law and protect the innocent from the law breakers?

        Like here in Davis.  You know that Intel in Folsom contributes a great deal to the Folsom schools.  But Davis rejects development and big companies because they are bad actors in their liberal book of all things right and relevant.

        All symbolism and nothing tangible, practical and actionable.

        You want corporations and CEOs to do more in those poor communities?  Well then look in the mirror for who you vote for and what policies you demand and what social and political songs you sing… because over the last almost eight years they all have been hostile to corporations and CEOs.   Take one look at the hostile environment and instead of starting and growing business that shares the wealth with many, seek early retirement.

        The political left in this country has gorged themselves on the blame-game exploitation from news about negative social and environmental outcomes.  They do this for political benefit and have absolutely no skin in the game for actually working to solve these big problems.

        Schools are crappy?  Yes, so exploit that to demand more money for the teachers’ unions and to make a case to overturn Prop-13.  Fight reforms at all costs unless the unions can add more members with it.

        Global temp rising?  Yes, so exploit that with climate change alarmism to kill industrialism and the energy industry and other industry… and kill off private money that poses a threat to opposing political power that is looted with public money.

        Working-class neighborhoods and black neighborhoods falling apart?  Yes, so blame the cops and whites for racism and protect the black Democrat vote.

        Governments going broke?  Yes, so blame the one percenters for “hording” all the money to gain support for even more tax increases.

        You are damn right that I blame the education system, unions, Obama and liberals.  They hold most of the cards.  They control the agenda.  They have the media in their pocket and control of the social and political narrative.   And yet all they do with these advantages is wage war with their political opponents instead of working on change that would really help.

        1. wdf1

          Frankly:  You are damn right that I blame the education system, unions, Obama and liberals.

          And you are part of the problem.  You are not comfortable moving forward and discussing ideas until you’ve established appropriate blame in a dichotomous ‘us and them’ fashion.  Anyone who disagrees with you is defined as ‘them’.

          You do not really want to discuss solutions.  You want to discuss blame on others more than solutions.

        2. Frankly

          I have listed my recommended solutions several times.  Generally there are crickets following them.  So, do I need to post them for you again?

  13. Misanthrop

    I think Jim confuses adversarial democracy with our adversarial justice system. As usual Jim is talking about nonsense. Usually I think Jim’s ideas aren’t  worth much thought or worth responding too with any effort. Just a few examples, he thinks the co-op isn’t a co-op, thinks we don’t need jobs in Davis, can’t find housing for his friend but doesn’t think more housing is the solution to the  shortage that stymied this friend’s search,  complains about air pollution at Nishi but drives an old polluting diesel Mercedes and laments that the town no longer resembles the Davis of his youth.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for