My View: If I’m Wrong, I’m Going to Be Really Wrong on WDAAC

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Alan Pryor addresses council on September 25, one of the few opposition voices to speak out in public.

Right before the June election, the campaign folks for Nishi started to get nervous – really nervous.  The students weren’t coming out to vote early.  As a big part of their strategy, student voters were expected to push the student housing project over the top.

As it turned out, students really didn’t vote in high numbers, but it didn’t matter.  Nishi won overwhelmingly and, while people never knew if Davis would actually support a Measure R project, it was hard to imagine – given how close the last election had been and the changes to this project – that it could lose.  But in those last weeks uncertainty crept in.

Flash forward now to Measure L.  We have no past election baseline.  We can’t measure early voting by students as a leading indicator and so there really is no good way to measure this stuff.

One of our commenters wrote this yesterday: “There will be a few seniors who vote for this that are looking to cash out and downsize, there will be 150 low income seniors who are high on the list who will vote for this, other than that I can’t imagine too many more people seeing this as a good project for the needs of Davis.  I stick to my prediction of Measure L losing 57% to 43%.”

There is also the Pancakes and Politics straw poll, 2 for it, 10 against, and 2 undecided.

They conclude: “We weren’t sure if we should be suspicious or not of the developer’s true intentions, so we erred on the side of caution and mostly voted NO – if the developers really want this project to go through, they’ll try again next ballot season. Maybe with less sprawl, no Davis-only requirement and no age discrimination!”

Is that indicative of anything?  Hard to know.  It’s a 12-person, non-random, straw poll.

Every other objective measure I have at my fingertips says that Measure L should pass.  Like I said in the title, if I’m going to be wrong, I might as well be very wrong.

I’ve been wrong before.  I thought Hillary Clinton would be president.  I thought Nishi was going to pass in 2016 (it was really close).  I didn’t expect Gloria Partida or Brett Lee to finish first.  But most of the time, my instincts have been right – even when I didn’t want them to be.  (Don’t ask me about Tuesday if you’re a Democrat, or even about 2020 – not an invitation to talk about national politics, just an aside.)

The truth is – if there is a huge no vote out there, it’s just hanging out there and not passionate about things.

Let’s start with the money.  The $145,000 spent by the developers here is actually not a huge amount by standards set by previous campaigns.  And we expect the developers, with a huge investment and huge stakes, to have the resources to bury the opposition in terms of sheer money.

But what I look at – where is the opposition money coming from?  All but $750 came in the form of loans.  Alan Pryor, Pam Nieberg, Don and Nancy Price.  The rest of the money came from contributions from five individuals: Kathryn Heien, Rodney Robinson, William and Kristine Hornoff and Richard Entriken.

Past campaigns have shown that money spent is not a determining factor, but the narrowness of the contribution base for the No side is still stark.

I then looked at letters to the editor.  That’s free, right.  Just type a letter and email it to the newspaper or the Vanguard.  Since September 1, I hand counted 28 yes, 6 no.  I might have missed a few but that is overwhelming.  I don’t have past figures to compare it, but I can never remember such a lopsided differential.

Social media tells us a similar story.  The Facebook page for Measure L has 309 likes and 329 followers.  Not a great number to be sure.  But the No on WDAAC side has 37 Likes and 42 followers.  Given how many sponsored ads they’ve put out, you would think the page would have more likes.

On the other hand, the No on Nishi folks had 558 Likes and 565 followers.  Granted, I think those were collected over the course of two elections, but it is still pretty stark.

And not much has changed.  In May when the council approved the project, there were many people in favor of WDAAC who came to speak, with very few if any speaking in opposition.

At council meetings, we have seen Alan Pryor and Rik Keller a few times, we saw Nancy Price and Juliette Beck once, but no one else coming to speak out.

I noted that the forum by CivEnergy had moderate attendance, but most of them were in favor of the project.

Could I be misreading all this?  Absolutely.  It could be that there is simply no passion either way and that the default vote will be no except for a few seniors, as the commenter suggested.  But, based on what I see, that’s not how I see this going.

I’ll be happy to come back on Wednesday with a column about how I was wrong.

—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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30 thoughts on “My View: If I’m Wrong, I’m Going to Be Really Wrong on WDAAC”

  1. Keith O

    David states that he doesn’t see much pushback against this project but there’s also not much excitement for this project.  I feel when the voters go to the ballot box they’re going to think about the extra traffic, how hard it already is to find downtown parking, that this project doesn’t fit real Davis needs accept for a small handfall of seniors who may want to downsize and the fact that it’s sprawl on the periphery so they’re going to vote “NO”.

    Anybody’s guess, we’ll see Tuesday.

    1. David Greenwald

      This is a fair point.  Something I considered.  There is some excitement about the project – there are a number of seniors, including some who don’t normally support development – enthusiastically supporting the project.  How deep does that go?  I don’t see traffic as a big factor here.  Certainly not the high impact traffic impacts on Richards.  But as you say, we’ll see.

      1. Tia Will

        David

        I wouldn’t have seen much concern about traffic impacts either until yesterday. Partially because of the construction, and partially due to the Cannery, the traffic along Covell has greatly increased. Last night, on our way to Winters, we found the east bound traffic backed up on Covell from F past Catalina. Clearly not as impactful as Richards now, but maybe not negligible especially once both the Cannery and the Measure L project if it passes are fully built out.

         

        1. Howard P

          If you think Davis has queues, due to “traffic”, you appear to be more “I don’t like delays for anything I do, at any time”, than a substantive problem at most times…

          Richards isn’t bad… IF you choose your timing for traversing it.  I do.  I often use Richards as the most convenient and shortest route… but I mentally plan my trips, and avoid the peaks… suggest that to every one who doesn’t think, “it’s all about me”…

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Tia: Bear in mind, that on Fridays the traffic is abysmal. And backs up from freeways to the side streets these days. Not sure why now more than it used.

    2. Howard P

      … when the voters go to the ballot box they’re going to think

      Dare to dream… I keep hoping that, but results don’t necessarily reflect that…

    1. Howard P

      Please share the results, preferably after 48 hours… not sure how many folk are plugged into that, especially on a weekend… I know I’m not… not sure I know anyone who is…

  2. Jeff M

    Every development voted down is another bit of proof that the system is broken with Measure J/R and another step toward the eventual state anti-NIMBY legislation that will be passed.

      1. Eric Gelber

        I don’t necessarily disagree, except in a system where a voter in Wyoming, for example, has 3.6 times the voting power of a voter in California. But we digress.

      2. Tia Will

        Jeff

        I find that assertion highly questionable given that we are currently under a national administration that does not represent the majority view on a number of issues and does not represent “better outcomes” in the view of many. This can also occur on the local level, thus the value of Measure J/R .

        1. Howard P

          So, you believe in the tyranny of those who choose to vote, which often is not representative?  Had it been up to a pure plurality of folk who voted, women would not have the right to vote (only males would have been allowed to vote on the issue… majority of votes is just?) , former slaves would likely not have been declared citizens, etc.

          Guess Roe vs. Wade should be put up for direct vote… that could be interesting… we should disband congress and put everything up to a vote of the people?  Would save a lot of money!

          Yes, Tia, depending on viewpoint, representative democracy just sucks and is inherently corrupt…

          Wonder how a vote of the people would go if the issue was allowing ANY immigration…

          And without representative democracy there probably would have been no Constitution… imagine how many would have felt, “it could be better, and doesn’t conform to my beliefs”…

           

        2. Howard P

          Let’s consider an alternate universe, where Trump got the majority of the popular vote, but Clinton won the election via Electoral College… then we would could well be “under a national administration that does not represent the majority view on a number of issues and does not represent “better outcomes” in the view of many.” Tia, would you feel the same?

          Which issues should we not trust to the local electeds?  Besides annexations, should we not also add budget choices, employee compensation, green waste bins, affordable housing policies, decisions on downtown parking cost, zoning with or without annexations, ‘sugary drink’ taxes, wood burning, building codes, preferential parking zones, etc., etc., etc. etc.

          Just saying, if J/R is such a panacea, shouldn’t we expand the topics subject to ‘a vote of the people’?

          And what about City commission appointments?  Should candidates for those commissions be subject to a vote of the people?  Particularly Planning Commission, where Commissioners can not only recommend, but ‘decide’ things, only subject to appeal to CC… perhaps we should change that system, as well?

          I see no substantive difference between those scenarios, and Measure J/R, which is VERY narrowly focused…

        3. Jeff M

          Brilliant posts Howard.  This exactly how I see it.

          With every decision there are trade-offs.  The design of our representative style democracy is by no means perfect, but no system is.  The evidence is clear though… that it is the best design by far considering the alternatives… it optimizes decisions to serve the greater good.

          And you nailed the examples.  Tyranny of the majority was in fact the biggest fear of the founders outside of tyranny of a ruling class. Ironically those upset about the 2016 election represent both.  The founders would be mortified over the power of this to absolutely corrupt the system, and thankful that they got it right with a design effectively preventing it… except for Measure J/R.

        4. Howard P

          Jeff.. how dare you say what the ‘founders’ thought or think!!! (tongue fully planted in the cheek that is just adjacent to the nose… and yeah, didn’t say that, but affirm that)

          Everyone wants the will of the ‘majority’ of the people… unless it differs from what they want… harsh reality is that those who vote are often seen as minions/’their base’… few actually vote (foolishly thinking their vote won’t matter, or are unsure as to the issues), and many of those who do follow party or ‘doctrinal lines’ as they see their lemming-like philosophies.  Scary.  An “inconvenient truth”.

          That’s why folk like me, who eschew parties and “group think” are fairly universally hated/dismissed by the 13-14% of the folk who lie on the uber left, or uber right.  Saw a “fake news” item today indicating nearly 66% of voters are fed up with the extremists… with good reason… can’t get much productivity or progress when the two skunks in a p-match spew their vitriol, and insist it has to be “their way” (both pretending to represent the majority… they both cling on to that falsehood.

          But, it is what it is… I encourage all to vote Tuesday… your vote will definitely not count, if you don’t cast it!

          And, in a rare political moment for me, if you are not the “outliers” (extremes, right/left, conservative/liberal) PLEASE, PLEASE vote!

          We’re (moderates) are making a difference at least in CA… based on party registrations, the Republican party not only lags Democrats, but now lags NPP’s (No Party Preference)… yet, in the primaries, Republicans don’t let NPP’s vote in presidential primaries (the legislature cured the other primaries with the semi-open primary system… top two, regardless of party affiliation)… until they did so, Democrats allowed NPP’s to vote the Democrat ballot, Republicans did not for theirs.  Democrat registration #’s/%-ages are going down too, in CA… Republicans are seeing more of that (their %-age losses greater than the Democrats)… substitute the terms uber-liberal or uber-conservative if you wish… results are the same… ‘gridlock’ serves no one.

          McCain was conservative… but not uber so… Trump was only going to half mast for one day, until pressured, big time… John actually worked across the aisle without compromising his core values… he’s gone… more is the pity… others willing to find middle ground are excoriated regularly by the zealot extremes… several have not sought re-election… the 15% (right and left) are trying to divide this country.  Somewhat successfully, to date.

           

        5. Jim Frame

          Which issues should we not trust to the local electeds?  Besides annexations, should we not also add budget choices, employee compensation, green waste bins, affordable housing policies, decisions on downtown parking cost, zoning with or without annexations, ‘sugary drink’ taxes, wood burning, building codes, preferential parking zones, etc., etc., etc. etc.

          Just saying, if J/R is such a panacea, shouldn’t we expand the topics subject to ‘a vote of the people’?

          First, I’ve not heard anyone suggest that J/R is a panacea.  Second, off the top of my head I can’t think of any other topics that should go to a direct vote.

          The distinction between annexation decisions and just about all of the others that Howard cites is simple:  converting land from ag or open space to urban development is an irreversible decision for all practical purposes.  All that other stuff can be changed by legislative or ministerial action.

          In addition, there are powerful incentives for elected officials to approve development proposals:

          1.  Elected officials like to do big important things (don’t we all?), and land development projects are prime examples.

          2.  Legislative decisions made by those with long-range political aspirations can be influenced by the promise (explicit or implicit, brazen or subtle) of future campaign donations.

          All of which led to the imposition of J/R by a frustrated electorate.  To paraphrase Winston Churchill, J/R is the worst form of land use decision making, except for the form that preceded it.

           

        6. Richard McCann

          Howard P

          Your scenario of Clinton winning with a minority of the popular vote can’t happen under the currently rigged system. That’s the point of the complaints. The electoral college, the Senate, and redistricting are all set up to protect the interests of the entitled and privileged, and to diminish the voting power of the less well off. It’s not what would happen in your alternative universe outcome; it’s why your alternate universe outcome can’t happen which is of interest.

      3. Eric Gelber

        “Better outcomes” is in the eye of the beholder. Measure J/R is actually a hybrid, with representatives getting public input, deliberating, and then putting the final product out for a direct vote of the people.

        The real problems with direct democracy are illustrated with the initiative process, where it’s an up or down vote on a measure that has never gone through a deliberative process and is not subject to compromise or pre-enactment amendment. The result is usually a flawed product, developed and backed by single, moneyed interests.

    1. Howard P

      Eric… by a popular vote, of those who choose to vote, many of whom focus more on “sound bites” and slogans, than an understanding of the issues…

      I am well versed on the issues, and will be voting No… despite the BS rhetoric, red herrings that the “no folk” (and, the ‘yes’ folk) have put out there.  I’m part of “the 5%”… who discount the rhetoric and sound bites and actually look at facts, and vote according to those, tempered by my beliefs. Which do not include any “party”, or labels such as ‘conservative/liberal’ or ‘pro/anti growth’…

      “I hope someday others will join us” (apologies to John Lennon, “Imagine”)… it could be a different world.

      1. Howard P

        Will own up to the notion I had to spite the NO ‘trolls’, spewing their stuff, and vote YES… some of the No folk, like me, abhor and condemn the “no” leadership spew. And much of the “yes” dissembling…

        How much was Merin paid to raise the spurious/political CR claim? Don’t expect a truthful answer…

      2. Eric Gelber

        … by a popular vote, of those who choose to vote, many of whom focus more on “sound bites” and slogans, than an understanding of the issues…

        Of course “of those who choose to vote.” Non-voters choose not to have a say.

        Do you think most elected representatives have a real understanding of the issues and don’t also rely on sound bites and slogans (or what party leaders tell them to do)? How many members of Congress do you think really understand the ACA or the recent tax cut legislation? Democracy is flawed, whether direct or representative. As Churchill said (although he wasn’t the first), however, “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time …”

        1. Eric Gelber

          Jim – That’s very true.  In the most recent two-year session, there were more than 5,600 bills introduced in the California Legislature. Many died early in the process; but, still, …

        2. Howard P

          Do you think most elected representatives have a real understanding of the issues and don’t also rely on sound bites and slogans (or what party leaders tell them to do)?

          Let’s take this in two parts… first part… most equals 50% + 1… yes I do believe most understand the legislation.

          Second part, are many legislators (50%-1) ‘toadies’ or ‘whores’ to their perceived base, or their party?  To stay in office with their perks?  Yes, many are… that’s why I believe many folk have disenfranchised themselves from voting… have no stats/cites, but I see/hear evidence of that… do you have facts/cites to the contrary?

          Those phenomenons are why I went NPP about 30 years ago.

          The stakes for local electeds are much less, except for the other factor, EGO.  CC members get a pretty small stipend.  Too much (slightly), in my opinion.  They are not or should not be) in office to gain wealth, get health/retirement benefits, prestige for higher office, nor to feed their egos… they are there to serve, IMO.  Yeah I’m that despicable form of life, a moderate idealist, who is realist enough to understand that at the state and national levels, the legislators tend to be opportunists, leeches, egoists, and whores.  Sometimes those trait show up at the more local levels, too…

          It is what it is… for now…

          Liked the Churchill quote… but the context was “representative democracy” not “pure” democracy… England never had the latter, as I recall.

          Measure J/R purports to eschew representative democracy, in favor of direct democracy, with all the manipulation and tyranny it may hold.

          You conveniently ignore whether you support or oppose,

          Which issues should we not trust to the local electeds?  Besides annexations, should we not also add budget choices, employee compensation, green waste bins, affordable housing policies, decisions on downtown parking cost, zoning with or without annexations, ‘sugary drink’ taxes, wood burning, building codes, preferential parking zones, etc., etc., etc. etc.

          If you believe in direct democracy, methinks you should support all those pleblisites…

          I guess by “not voting” on those, you agree with my position…

           

  3. Moderator

    Pulled these this morning but in retrospect feel that they belong here.

    Rik Keller 6:36 am: Davis Blog Publisher Predicts Election Win For His Biggest Advertiser.

    Matt Williams 7:27 am: Rik, I do not believe you do the No on Measure L campaign any favors with your comment above. It falls into the category of an Ad Hominem fallacy … attacking the messenger rather than engaging the message. That is unfortunate on many levels.

    Rik Keller 9:18 a.m.: Matt: you are not engaging with my message.

    < ![endif]-->

    The lack of any sort of editorial/advertising firewall and other standard ethical journalistic practices makes any pronouncements from the publisher of this blog on this election issue highly suspect.

     

  4. Rik Keller

    Thanks! Reinstated and it feels so gooood! 😉

    The charge of an “ad hominem” fallacy does not apply to statements where the “attack”/argument about the person’s point of view is relevant to the issue at hand. And I think this is very relevant in a consider-the-source-and-their-motivation sense. There are clear professional guidelines that exist in the journalistic world for this very reason: to avoid even the mere appearance of impropriety.

    Here is but one sample of the types of guidelines out there and the principles behind them. I think it would be very instructive to look at those versus  the practices on this site. From the Institute for Nonprofit News: https://inn.org/for-members/ethics/

     

     

    1. Craig Ross

      Matt is right, you’re wrong.  Why?  Because instead of the argument, you’re focusing on the individual.  That suggests to the average reader, you don’t have a comeback.  Second, you’re deflecting because a prediction is not an endorsement.  If he was offering an opinion about who to vote for, you might have a point.  But he’s not.  He’s arguing that one side will win.  Well, as we saw with Hillary 2016, just because one predicts it, doesn’t mean it will happen.  It seems to the average reader then, you have no argument, you’re simply throwing mud at the messenger.

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