Honesty, Integrity & Civil Society – The “Yes on L” Team’s View on Forums

By Jason Taormino

Let there be no doubt, we welcome the opportunity to participate in a public forum on the merits of the West Davis Active Adult/ Measure L ballot item.

In the past few years Civenergy and the Davis Enterprise, among others, have done an admirable job of tackling issues and local elections with a fair and balanced approach designed to help inform the community. These organizations and these types of events are a credit to Davis and the time our voters take to understand the issues.

Along these lines, we were recently approached by Civenergy, and asked if our team would be interested in participating in a public forum. We welcome the opportunity to participate in this aspect of a civil society and share the benefits of WDAAC. We strongly believe that taking care of seniors is a worthy endeavor; this informs every aspect of the proposed West Davis Active Adult Community. So any opportunity to share our facts-based message is always welcomed.

That said, after reviewing recent guest articles to the Vanguard authored by the scheduled debate opponent, which relied so heavily on falsehoods and distortions, mixed among some subjective differences of opinions, we were frankly skeptical of how much honest engagement about the project would be forthcoming. After all, neighborhood planning discussions ought to be based on facts and analysis, not on mischaracterizations and hyperbole.

Our desire for a forum still stands, but it includes one simple caveat: we want it to benefit the voter rather than mislead. We believe that the public would be best served if forum sponsors will create a forum designed to inform the voters, by focusing on a defined set of critical issues and limited to facts and, when appropriate, subjective opinion. Public discourse should serve to raise awareness, not be a platform to spread untruths.

We look forward to an open, honest and respectful community discussion.


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20 thoughts on “Honesty, Integrity & Civil Society – The “Yes on L” Team’s View on Forums”

  1. Keith O

    We believe that the public would be best served if forum sponsors will create a forum designed to inform the voters, by focusing on a defined set of critical issues and limited to facts and, when appropriate, subjective opinion.

    “subjective opinion”, isn’t that part of what Alan Pryor is putting forward?  I mean is everything cut and dry, are all the issues decided by facts or are there some gray areas that are subject to both Alan Pryor’s and the WDAAC’s subjective opinions?

    1. David Greenwald

      My issue has not been with the subjective views – I expect differences of opinions – but rather some factual inaccuracies that I think are also a source of frustration to the developers. However, I maintain, they should participate. I spoke directly to a member of their team yesterday and conveyed that to them.

        1. David Greenwald

          Maybe. If the format allows it. The one problem with the debate format is that time is limited and responses are structured. That said, I still tend to agree. They can always put out a piece afterwards and correct the misstatements.

          1. Don Shor

            They can always put out a piece afterwards and correct the misstatements.

            But if the debate is recorded and televised, the corrections won’t be included in that and DMA will be running factual misstatements on the local channel.

        2. Alan Miller

          But if the debate is recorded and televised, the corrections won’t be included in that and DMA will be running factual misstatements on the local channel.

          Factual misstatements in a political debate?  Oh, the horror!  I do believe I am getting the vapors.  Shut it down!  Shut it down!  We can only have the truth or nothing at all.

        3. Rik Keller

          David (Greenwald) already attempted to talk about the what he characterized as factual inaccuracies in the No On WDAAC materials, but he had to do things like selectively quote and take things out of context by characterizing arguments to do so [see https://www.davisvanguard.org/2018/09/view-need-better-discussion-measure-l-part-one/]. Then he followed that the next day by mirroring many of the No On WDAAC arguments point-by-point, agreeing with them [see https://www.davisvanguard.org/2018/09/sunday-commentary-need-better-discussion-measure-l-part-two/]

          The No On WDAAC campaign has been quite transparent, and you can read very detailed factual analysis on multiple topics here: http://www.noonwdaac.org/

          1. Don Shor

            The No On WDAAC campaign has been quite transparent, and you can read very detailed factual analysis on multiple topics here….

            Who is the No on WDAAC campaign? Maybe there’s someone else that could debate.

    2. Rik Keller

      This article talks about “honesty” and “integrity” and “civil society”  yet it makes unsubstantiated accusations about “falsehoods and distortions.” Jason Taormino, let’s be very clear: you and your brother have already turned down one opportunity to substantiate and back up your accusations and this article makes it the second time in less than a week that you have refused to step up to the plate; as David Greenwald wrote on 9/9/2018; “…the response from David Taormino yesterday was not particularly helpful either.  Mr. Taormino claims, “Their first article contained 23 misleading, distorted and exaggerated statements.”… It would have been more helpful for Mr. Taormino to simply correct the record by sampling a list of what he viewed as inaccurate statements and then correcting them on an objective basis.”

      It is abundantly clear at this point that you have no intention of actually responding to these fact-based arguments against your project and are hoping to game the system. You tried to weasel out of the debates to avoid any direct contradiction to your set of “facts” and having to defend them in a public forum, and it wasn’t until Alan Pryor called you out publicly that you decided to engage with this heavily-asterisked, non-binding, semi-commitment to debate as long as you get the questions/topics beforehand and some ill-defined process to the police the “facts” (presumably according to your subjective definition of them).

      In terms of some of your project “facts” and statements that you have made. let’s look at a few in terms of the standards of “honesty” and “integrity” that you have put forth. There is a FAQ document on the City website for the project authored by you (as helpfully noted in the MS Word document properties) [https://cityofdavis.org/home/showdocument?id=8285]. I have three questions about some of the statements and I am challenging you to respond to them:

      Density

      J. Taormino: “#7.     Is this a low-density neighborhood? This is a combination of high density and medium density housing.  The affordable apartments are high density, the University Retirement Community area will be medium density, the single family detached homes will be medium density and the attached/condos/stacked flat areas will be medium density.”

      D. Greenwald 9/9/2018: “The first problem with this proposal is that it is basically a classic low-density, peripheral housing project….Without the Davis-Based Buyer’s Program, this is basically Cannery all over again.  Market rate, single-family homes, some of which may serve the purpose as outlined by the developers – but we have no way of really knowing. ”

      No On WDAAC [website]: “WDAAC is a sprawling, unsustainable Development, in the wrong location for a senior development, and opens up the entire northwest quadrant without any planning….It does not meet any of the Sacramento Council of Governments’ (SACOG) Seven Principles for Smart Growth and clearly needs more density, different and diverse building types, and good transportation infrastructure…The far edge of town is exactly the wrong location for a senior development and this project has exceedingly poor connectivity for seniors.”

      Question #1: So, what are the “facts”? Low-density peripheral sprawl as The Davis Vanguard/No On WDAAC state, or a combo of high-density/medium-density as you state?

      Legality

      J. Taormino: “#10. Will you restrict the homes to only those that currently live in Davis?
      Our goal is to provide housing for the larger Davis community.  We know from many conversations that a lot of us have aging parents that we’d like to bring to Davis but there are limited options to do so, which is part of the current community need.  However, we all recognize that the legality of discriminating based upon zip code is questionable.  Nevertheless, we think that there is a large number of current Davis residents that will be interested in right sizing to a single level home with solar, universal design and energy efficiency, without doing an intensive out of community marketing effort.  The need for this neighborhood is homegrown.”

      D. Greenwald 9/9/2018: “But the other problem is there is no way to know that this is going to pass legal muster.  As noted at the council meeting, these restrictions are not tied into the Project Baseline Features or even the Developer’s Agreement.  So, the developers are in no way bound to adhere to it.

      No On WDAAC [website]: “These types of locational preferences for housing—especially in a community with a history of housing practices that have favored white people and excluded minorities—are highly problematic in terms of fair housing law.

      Question #2: everyone agrees that the legality of the the project and the included Davis Based Buyer’s Program is highly questionable at minimum, so how has your description of the project legality changed? Which of your versions of the “facts” has the most “honesty” and integrity?

      Process

      J. Taormino: “14.   Are you avoiding entering into a development agreement?  No. We have heard from the Community that they wanted to participate in the development agreement deal points.  Development agreements are mostly boilerplate language mitigating risks, defining payment options and a few specific deal points.  We expect all the significant deal points that are normally in a development agreement to be in the Baseline Features & Requirements so that they are evident to the voters.  The citizens then have a direct contract with the developer that is only changeable with a new vote.
       
      D. Greenwald 9/9/2018: “As noted at the council meeting, these restrictions are not tied into the Project Baseline Features or even the Developer’s Agreement.  So, the developers are in no way bound to adhere to it.
       
      No On WDAAC [website]: “It is critically important to note that the number of each different type and size of units to be built is not guaranteed in the Baseline Features or in the Development Agreement. It is entirely possible that the number of smaller cottages, bungalows, and condos will be severely reduced or even eliminated, and, alarmingly, this would still be consistent with the Baseline Features and Development Agreement…In fact, the Council has already agreed with the developer that any changes they might make in the Development Agreement in the future will automatically be considered to be compliant with the Measure R Baseline Features because those Baseline Features are so poorly written….the City is legally precluded from imposing any more specific conditions on the sizes or designs or other amenities and features selected by the developer because in the Development Agreement the City agreed not to do so as follows:

      “C. Subsequent Discretionary Approvals. The Developers’ vested right to develop pursuant to this Agreement may be subject to subsequent discretionary approvals for portions of the Project. In reviewing and acting upon these subsequent discretionary approvals, and except as set forth in this Agreement, the City shall not impose any conditions that preclude the development of the Project for the uses or the density and intensity of use set forth in this Agreement.

      In other words, because unenforceable and arbitrary standards are not more specific and are unresolved in the Baseline Features and Development Agreement, the developer can functionally do anything he wants and the City can do little about it. This is no way to entitle a massive project of this size and it sets a very bad precedent for any future development.”

      Question #3: you pledged that all “significant deal points” would be in the Baseline Features & Requirement. However, this is clearly not the case. All of your promotional material for the project includes the “Taking Care of Our Own” tagline for the Davis-Based Buyers Program, yet it isn’t even a part of the Baseline Features of the project. Nor are the affordable housing measures. Additionally, the Development Agreement itself is so weak and toothless that the vague guidelines set forth within can be easily maneuvered out of. The “direct contract with the voters” that you have pledged is nothing more than an empty promise. Is the the example of “integrity” and “honesty” that you are talking about?  ;

      1. Ken A

        I’ll let Alan and others make the TLDNR comments but I am dying to know the name of the mysterious Taormino brother Rik is talking about when he says “Jason Taormino, let’s be very clear: you and your brother have already turned down one opportunity” …

        1. Rik Keller

          Ken A: we all know that you don’t bother to back up your arguments with any evidence, so it’s not a surprise to hear you admit that you don’t bother to read to learn about an issue before commenting either.

        2. Ken A

          As I mentioned this week (when I provided a link showing that most homeless in Davis are white) I post more backup links than anyone else to the Vanguard (and have never posted a lie about someone having a brother when they don’t)…

          P.S. Even some anti-development friends who are voting against the project have mentioned that they with other anti-development people in town had more “honesty and integrity”…

  2. Todd Edelman

    forum sponsors will create a forum designed to inform the voters, by focusing on a defined set of critical issues and limited to facts and, when appropriate, subjective opinion. Public discourse should serve to raise awareness, not be a platform to spread untruths.

    Am I missing something here? This seems to be a recommendation for the forum sponsors, i.e. Civenergy, right?

    In summary does the posting say that the No on L supporters are lying about specific things which we won’t name, they have have subjectivity, and Yes on L people welcome a debate but Civenergy is not capable (see pull quote, above) of sponsoring this?

    I am trying to read this another way, but cannot.

    I am part of the No on L team and signed a ballot argument against WDAAC.

     

    1. Sharla C.

      Again, I don’t go to debates, because I haven’t found them to be valuable.  I am very suspicious of astroturfing in campaigns of any kind.  This isn’t an campaign for an elective office and we don’t need to interview the candidates.  It is a housing development.   Accusations of wrongdoing are meant to sew seeds of distrust,  so why not do the work to address those first and if there is anything left to debate or discuss, then hold a forum.  (And have the community agree to cease to accept the accusations that are proven to be false.)   I’m not sure a debate with these accusations flying around would be valuable for the voter.  Maybe CivEnergy could have a different type of public meeting – have someone fairly neutral describe the project and also go over the pros and cons and fact check statements regarding the project – a “Teach In.”

      1. Alan Miller

        Maybe CivEnergy could have a different type of public meeting – have someone fairly neutral describe the project and also go over the pros and cons and fact check statements regarding the project – a “Teach In.”

        You sound deluded into believing there is only one truth and CivEnergy, which a host not a perfect, all-knowing, neutral party, could uncover this one perfect truth.  Nope.

  3. R Fung

    CivEnergy had a successful forum for Measures H, I and J for the June 2018 election in the traditional format where a moderator asks each side to discuss important issues.  Our initial proposal to the “Yes on Measure L” and “No on Measure L” campaigns was this traditional format.   CivEnergy is open to working out a different/modified forum format that is mutually agreeable to the “Yes on L” and the “No on L” campaigns.  We have contacted Mr. Taormino by email to start the discussion.

     

     

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