Guest Commentary: ‘The Other Davis’

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By Matt Williams

For reasons that are wholly unrelated to what I found, I was looking through past Word documents I had written.  In the process I ran into my answer to the Vanguard’s seventh weekly question during the 2016 Council campaign.  I found the question particularly germane considering the current CVRA/Districting controversy and process.  So here is the question and the answer I submitted to the Vanguard.

The Question

Davis is a city that is often associated with a well-educated, upper middle class community that comes to city council meetings, works at UC Davis or in Sacramento, and is well represented at council meetings and other civic events. But there is increasingly another group of people that get hidden – renters, non-participants in civic activities, less affluent and less educated. Davis is no longer the monolithic community it may have been in the past: 46% percent of our school children are now non-white, more than one-fifth are Title I students.

The Vanguard called this “The Other Davis.” Explain your understanding of “The Other Davis” and what policies you would put forward as a councilmember to both engage this population and meet their needs?

One Possible Answer

My understanding of “The Other Davis” is sketchy at best.  Part of that is understanding what the Vanguard means when it uses the term “The Other Davis.”  For example, my son’s wife is Thai.  Their 15-year-old son would be in the 46% if he were going to school here in Davis (they live in Baltimore).  Does that mean they would be part of the Other Davis if they lived here?  How would that Vanguard-applied definition affect either their assimilation into Davis or the menu of services that Davis provides . . . and would those services come from the School District or the City or in the form of simple friendship from the community at large?

With that said, let’s turn to the other part of the question . . . the lack of representation at council meetings and other civic events.  I really don’t see that as an “Other Davis” issue.  The fact that almost 60% of all Davis residents are home renters rather than home owners, produces less sense of “ownership” in Davis. Less sense of ownership has a strong tendency to produce less voter engagement.

Citizen engagement happens when/if the citizens see “value” in such participation. So one possible solution be a focused effort to get a better understanding of what “value” the council meetings and civic events could deliver.  Ironically, last night was a good example.  The people who walked by my booth at the Celebrate Davis event in Community Park demonstrated that the 46% can be engaged . . . and they can have a rousing good time doing it.  Three things that were noticeably absent were (A) a 2-minute timer and (B) a prohibition on clapping and (C) a whole lot of formal language.  The language of the event was to have fun, and the participants, white and non-white saw “value” in having fun.

Other Answers from 2016 and 2014

For the answers of the other three candidates, all of whom are now on the Council, leading us through the current controversy/process, click on this LINK

As it turns out, David had also used a variation on the Other Davis question in the 2014 Council campaign cycle.  Here is a LINK to the 2014 version of the question, as well as the answers of Robb Davis, John Munn, Sheila Allen, Rochelle Swanson and Daniel Parella


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About The Author

Matt Williams has been a resident of Davis/El Macero since 1998. Matt is a member of the City's Utility Commission, as well as a former Chair of the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC), former member of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee (DPAC), former member of the Broadband Advisory Task Force (BATF), as well as Treasurer of Davis Community Network (DCN). He is a past Treasurer of the Senior Citizens of Davis, and past member of the Finance Committee of the Davis Art Center, the Editorial Board of the Davis Vanguard, Yolo County's South Davis General Plan Citizens Advisory Committee, the Davis School District's 7-11 Committee for Nugget Fields, the Yolo County Health Council and the City of Davis Water Advisory Committee and Natural Resources Commission. His undergraduate degree is from Cornell University and his MBA is from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent over 30 years planning, developing, delivering and leading bottom-line focused strategies in the management of healthcare practice, healthcare finance, and healthcare technology, as well municipal finance.

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29 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: ‘The Other Davis’”

  1. Rick Entrikin

    Matt, thanks for sharing your insightful answer from the past; loved the Celebrate Davis observations!

    Actually, though, I was struck most by the Vanguard claim that more than 1/5 of DJUSD students are Title I.  Does that mean over 20% of our K-12 students are from families living in “poverty?”  If so, was that poverty defined on the basis of Davis’s average income, that of CA or the federal definition of “poverty?”  What % of the Title I students are from Davis resident families?  Are the Title I Davis families concentrated in certain areas of the City?  Those data might be useful in defining both DJUSD and City “districts” if they can be correlated with members of protected classes under the CVRA.

    1. Alan Miller

      Those data might be useful in defining both DJUSD and City “districts” if they can be correlated with members of protected classes under the CVRA.

      Yes, it is very important that we draw district lines around all the bubbles of “Other Davis” and “non-Whiteness”, right down to the individual apartment, so that we get at least one district of “Other Davisites”.  (Use of a piece of the term that shall not be spoken used purposefully to offend).

      The result will be a district map that looks like a violently shaken Sprite right after the lid is blown.

    2. Robb Davis

      State level data
      Updated May 2018

      The number of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals
      All Yolo_______Yolo Minus Davis______Davis
      15,754____________13,866___________1,888

      The percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals K-12
      52.4%_____________64.7%___________21.9%

      Median Percent Eligible
      61.4%_____________69.0%___________20.0%

      Minimum Percent Eligible >100 enrolled
      11.8%_____________21.8%___________11.8%

      Maximum Percent Eligible and Enrolled
      95.3%_____________95.3%___________56.3%

  2. Alan Miller

    Regarding the 1/2-Thai Issue:

    Vanguard’s Other Davis = Not White?

    And where do Jews fit into the definition?  And don’t forget when answering that ” . . . to understand the assimilation of American Jews into American Whiteness.  The portion that was not assimilationist into Whiteness still did not focus on Jews of color, African/Black Jews, Asian Jews, etc., and definitely did not re-center Jewish Studies as a people of color, decolonial project.”  Very important to consider when classifying people into race categories. If your head didn’t twist off.

    Seems the obsessive need to classify people into races was also very important to the regime of a certain German dude in the 1930’s and 40’s.

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      Alan… history often ‘conveniently’ ignores/co-ops religion/culture to get to race, and vice versa…

      Wonder how many of a certain elected’s “base” equates those from Mexico/Central/South America with being Catholic?  Happened in the US re:  Jews (no matter country of origin/ethnicity), Catholics (Irish, Italian, Puerto Rican), Lantinx (no matter what religion), Blacks (regardless of religion), Asians (regardless of religions), etc.

      Jews, and others noted, fit into the category “not like US“… therefore, not ‘human’… Tom Lehrer had a great song about that… “National Brotherhood Week”… timeless… in exposing prejudice… across the board…

      Am agreeing with you questions, Alan… they need to be asked, along with others…

    2. Matt Williams Post author

      Alan I will answer your question with a question.  When did Jewish become a racial designation?  It never has been in my 72 years of life.  I don’t expect it will ever so become.

      1. Alan Miller

        Alan I will answer your question with a question.  When did Jewish become a racial designation?  It never has been in my 72 years of life.

        I am Jewish, Matt.  It’s my identity, and it’s a race — to me.  That’s all that matters.  If you want to deny my identity, go right ahead.  Your loss, not mine.

        1. Matt Williams Post author

          Not trying to deny your heritage at all Alan.  The challenge, which you have pointed out many times, is that a one size fits all label … in this case “Race” does not actually “fit all.”

        2. Alan Miller

          In addition, I will tell a story from my childhood:

          I am a mutt, Matt.  A good six ancestries.  One day in elementary school, the teacher asked all the students to list their ancestry(s).  Most had one or two that they knew, a few didn’t know.  I listed my six, including my mom’s side:  Jewish.

          Mrs. Miles said that’s not an ancestry.  I said it was.  She asked where my ancestors actually came from.  I said an area that has sometimes been Poland and is now in Russia (both my mom’s parents were from an area that is now in Belarus, Ashkenazi Jewish territory).  So she wrote “Russian” on the chalkboard.  Never in my life had I been called or considered myself “Russian”.

          I went home and told my mom what happened in class.  The next morning Mrs. Miles had a new arsehole, torn for her by my mother’s furious phone call.  This was not the first time I had been “marginalized” in class (to use the modern term) in the highly white and Christian Bay Area suburb I grew up in.  Everyone just sort of assumed you flew with the Christian God and knew the stories of the New Testament.

          In addition, Matt, there are Ashkenazi genetic diseases (that ethnic Russians and Poles don’t share).  Pretty hard to accomplish that if you aren’t a “race”.

          1. Don Shor

            One day in elementary school, the teacher asked all the students to list their ancestry(s).

            Yes, those were always interesting exercises for me as well. And my kids.

            She asked where my ancestors actually came from.

            Exact conversation one time:
            “Well, where did your ancestors immigrate from?”
            “Some of them from Austria.”
            “Oh, then you’re Austrian!”
            “Oh, nooo, definitely not.”

            Approximately one in every 27 Jews in the United States is a carrier of the Tay-Sachs disease gene. They don’t have to be observant or even culturally Jewish to be carriers.

        3. Alan Miller

          And by the way, Matt, I am not offended so don’t sweat that — I just don’t agree.

          . . . and a lot of Jews don’t agree, or don’t want to use the term “race”. But there’s no denying that most Jews share common genetic traits.

        4. Matt Williams Post author

          Alan, again you are using “race” as an equivalent term for “heritage” or “genetic differentiation.”

          I’m old enough to have been taught that there are three races, Negroid, Mongoloid and Caucasoid.  I realize that kind of biological determinism is considered obsolete, but the people around the World who self identify as Jewish include all the groups you have described plus the Lemba Jews from Southern Africa, the Igbo Jews from Western Africa, the Cochin Jews from India, et. al.

           

  3. Rick Entrikin

    The preceding, brilliant remarks by two Vanguard “regulars” are excellent examples of why so many well-meaning people avoid exposing their views on the Vanguard.  My thoughtful questions didn’t elicit helpful, or even relevant, answers but, rather, sophomoric ridicule by two of the Vanguards’ best and brightest contributors.

    To reiterate, my questions focused on (1) the surprising (to me) claim by the Vanguard that over 1/5 of DJUSD students qualify as “Title I” and (2) whether such individuals in Davis are “clustered” or scattered among various parts of town.  My comment about those data in reference to district elections was based on the CVRA definitions of ‘”protected classes” and their use in forcing DJUSD and the City of Davis to implement district elections.

    1. David Greenwald

      Hi Rick – I was trying to find the source of the data, but it’s basically the data on free and reduced lunch eligibility which you can find here: https://www.djusd.net/UserFiles/Servers/Server_117089/File/Elig.%20Englis.pdf

      The individuals are clustered, they were clustered around the former Valley Oak, they are clustered around Montgomery and they are clustered around Olive Drive and also Royal Oak (though those students are not residents of Davis, but they attend Montgomery).

      Montgomery is the school with the highest percentage of Title I students in the district.

      Let me know if you require more info.

    2. Mark West

      “the surprising (to me) claim by the Vanguard that over 1/5 of DJUSD students qualify as “Title I” and (2) whether such individuals in Davis are “clustered” or scattered among various parts of town.”

      I don’t have current data or experience, but from my past work on the Site Council at Valley Oak in the mid-’90’s, I do not find the numbers surprising. Valley Oak had a high percentage of Title 1 kids at the time, coming from both the immediate neighborhood and from the Graduate Student Housing on Campus.  Birch Lane also had a fairly large number of Title 1 kids from its neighborhood, as did Chavez with the Spanish Immersion program. Replace Valley Oak with Montgomery and I would expect a similar situation today.

      One of the interesting characteristics of VO at the time was that the student population represented greater than twenty native languages with at least one Staff or Faculty member able to communicate at some level in each of them. VO was also the home of the GATE program, which led to one of the more memorable anecdotes relayed by the Principal, where she had a GATE parent from south Davis complaining about her child being ‘forced’ to go to school ‘in the slums of Davis.’

    3. Alan Miller

      My thoughtful questions didn’t elicit helpful, or even relevant, answers but, rather, sophomoric ridicule by two of the Vanguards’ best and brightest contributors.

      Thank you.

  4. Craig Ross

    It’s not a really good answer by Matt.  IMO, he does a good job analyzing fiscal shortfalls with the city, but a poor job of understanding the inequities within the community.  Davis is a wealthy community, but there are increasing parts of it that suffer from the same disconnectivity from local government as the rest of the world.

    Who comes to council?  Small percentage.

    Who speaks at public comment?  Smaller percentage.

    How many of those people who come to council and speak, have their kids receive free and reduced lunches?

    Is the community as a whole even aware of pockets of poverty and disadvantaged people in Davis?

    Are they even aware how their black and brown residents are treated when they walk down the street, drive a car, or walk into a restaurant or store?

    1. Don Shor

      Davis is a wealthy community, but there are increasing parts of it that suffer from the same disconnectivity from local government as the rest of the world.

      They only become aware of it when their streets get torn up.
      Reality check: I’ve now spoken to five different people who are completely unaware of the decision to go to district elections or any of the discussion of it. Folks are going to be real surprised when the next election comes around. In fact, I think forums like those listed in Matt’s article will be pretty pointless, since a candidate doesn’t need to differentiate from all the others running — just from those in their district.

      For anyone interested in the racial/ethnic makeup of the neighborhoods in Davis, there is an interactive map here:
      http://www.city-data.com/races/races-Davis-California.html
      If the goal is to enhance participation by and representation of Hispanic voters, I really see no practical way to draw the boundaries for that purpose.

      1. Craig Ross

        You raise a good point.  Now that we know the college Republicans are behind this move, what is the goal?  Also, it’s clear that the law was poorly written, for whatever that’s worth.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Also, it’s clear that the law was poorly written, for whatever that’s worth.

          Adding my two cents… that law is an ‘ass’ (or A-‘orifice’), but it is still the law, until we can reform it… so, agreeing with you and Alan M…

          Thinking about a quote, nearly 100 years old… “you don’t want to know how laws or sausages are made”…

      2. Alan Miller

        I’ve now spoken to five different people who are completely unaware of the decision to go to district elections or any of the discussion of it.

        Me, too.  Not five exactly — but the general summer unawareness.  Spooky, eh?

    2. Alan Miller

      Are they even aware how their black and brown residents are treated when they walk down the street, drive a car, or walk into a restaurant or store?

      Do tell us, oh wise one.

    3. Matt Williams Post author

      I understand the inequities very well Craig.  Understanding is the easy part. Addressing them is the hard part.

      Recently at one of the three League of Women Voters (LWV) rebirth meetings, one of the attendees strongly urged organizers to reach out to minorities in Davis to expand participation by the people you describe as suffering from inequities in the community.

      The four LWV rebirth leaders (I’m one of them) all felt it was/is important to respond to that challenge, both effectively and quickly.  We agreed that the first step toward doing that, was to reach out to leaders of several minority communities, and with their guidance put together a plan for making that Reach Out happen.

      Unfortunately, we have yet to get any responses to our outreach, so we are going to Plan B, to achieve our goal of identifying and implementing the most convenient way to take the necessary steps to make that expanded participation happen. Collaboration is sometimes elusive.

       

  5. Alan Miller

    We agreed that the first step toward doing that, was to reach out to leaders of several minority communities, and with their guidance put together a plan for making that Reach Out happen. Unfortunately, we have yet to get any responses to our outreach

    Maybe “they” “don’t want to”.

    1. Matt Williams Post author

      That is a definite possibility Alan.  However, since one of the people we reached out to was the person who threw down the gauntlet at the first meeting, it is hard to imagine that that individual didn’t want to.  With that said, life is full of competing wants, needs and desires and sometimes that competition makes sharing a thought very different from putting the thought into action … which is a concept that Craig appaears to have overlooked in throwing out his gratuitous swipe at my level of “understanding.”

       

      1. Alan Miller

        Reminds me of when a friend told me yoga was racist, specifically against black people.  I said I’d seen black people in yoga (though true, not a high percentage), and I’d never heard of anyone being discriminatory towards keeping any race away from yoga class.  My friend says black people don’t feel comfortable coming to yoga — why? because it’s so white.  I said I don’t think going to yoga the first time is probably comfortable for anyone — how is that a race thing?  And even if it somehow is, I said it’s up to the individual person, no matter their race or fears, to get over their fears and go to yoga — no one is keeping them away.  That wasn’t good enough for my friend.  Racism doesn’t have to be active, it’s ingrained — or something.  I can’t really even explain their argument, because it’s so far from my world view it makes no sense.

        Maybe CR can explain that better.

        But even if it can be explained, if one is totally not keeping people away and holds no ill will, what more can one do? Are white yoga people supposed to go to black people’s homes, get down on one knee, and beg them to go to yoga? This enters the realm of the ridiculous.

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