Bob Dunning’s column this weekend lights into Matt Rexroad. It’s not that we necessarily blame him for this, but the problem is his analysis is incomplete and seems to assume this is about a paycheck. It may well be for Matt Rexroad, the problem is that the analysis is incomplete precisely since it stops with Mr. Rexroad.
Bob Dunning writes: “Now that born-again voting rights advocate Matt Rexroad has bullied, threatened, intimidated and ultimately conned the Davis City Council into switching to district elections, I guess we’re all just supposed to grin and bear it.”
He continues: “After all, the decision has been made and it was unanimous, though not a single councilmember seemed happy about bowing to Rexroad’s demands.”
The problem, however, is here: “Still, just to be sure I was clear on exactly why our council succumbed to the pressure, I went back and read Rexroad’s almost comical ‘Notice of Violation of California Voting Rights Act’ letter to the council that started this ball rolling early last month.”
The problem, of course, is that the reason the council succumbed to the pressure is that the cost of fighting it is prohibitive for the council when the threshold for establishing RPV (racially polarized voting) is extremely low and no one has prevailed – even cities with deep pockets like Santa Monica which spent millions fighting it.
But my main problem with Mr. Dunning’s article is that he assumes Mr. Rexroad is the one behind this, rather than being the messenger. Even without the identity of those behind it, that’s a problematic suggestion.
He assumes this is about money for Mr. Rexroad, writing, “The California Voting Rights Act is a cash cow for attorneys who successfully bring suit.”
He concludes: “Then again, these tactics clearly work. Rexroad is the winner here. The only winner.”
But wait a second, Matt Rexroad is the attorney, not the plaintiff here. Maybe Mr. Rexroad’s motivation is the $30,000 payoff he gets for representing his clients, but, then again, maybe that is simply an added bonus.
This is why I think it was important for us ten days ago to report on just who was behind the lawsuit. I was disappointed that none of the folks I contacted responded to my inquiry. Mr. Rexroad simply indicated that his clients were not comfortable coming forward in this environment – but never disputed that JB Martinez and Karan Brar were, in fact, the plaintiffs here.
I emailed the two young men clearly behind the suit and never received a response.
There was never a correction. And, really, the evidence was overwhelming.
Mr. Martinez and Mr. Brar were photographed at the council meeting. According to a well-placed source, they were highly engaged during the staff presentation taking notes and photos of the slides.
In addition, another College Republican Board member, Jenna DiCarlo, the Communications Director of the College Republicans, wrote a letter to the editor. And leading up to the meeting three College Republicans: Janel Magee, Ryan Gardiner, and the aforementioned Michael Gofman wrote emails to council.
Mr. Dunning may or may not be right to insinuate that Matt Rexroad’s motivation is monetary, but the problem is, the College Republicans get no cash reward for their efforts. The $30,000 is simply attorney fees and would in fact, according to my sources, be illegal for Mr. Rexroad to share with his clients.
I highly doubt that six College Republicans (at least) set out to initiate a lawsuit against the city of Davis in order to line the pockets of Mr. Rexroad.
But by cutting off the criticism and analysis at Mr. Rexroad, we are missing a big piece of this picture. I get it – they don’t want to talk. It is a corny excuse that they are fearful to come forward in this environment. There is no environment. Very few people came to the council meeting. Those who did were largely “usual suspects” and those who spoke were very analytical.
This community is not raging with pitchforks ready to tar and feather these young men. On the contrary, though a number of notable people privately emailed me thanking the Vanguard for our work and agreeing with our analysis, there was no outcry of anger directed against any of these students.
My concern here with Mr. Dunning’s column is that, first of all, it falsely insinuates money as the prime mover here, when clearly the College Republican involvement notes there is something else, another angle here that is being missed by assuming that Mr. Rexroad is the mover rather than the messenger.
Second, Mr. Dunning continues to downplay the dilemma that the city faced.
He pointed out Mayor Brett Lee’s comments: “Personally, I found the demand letter fairly offensive and I don’t think it was really coming from a place of sincere desire to improve governance of Davis or improve the representation of traditionally underrepresented groups in Davis.”
He could have pointed out Dan Carson’s comments as well: “I think it’s inappropriate for a former city councilmember and County Supervisor who resides in Woodland, who after he retires from public office, turns around and hits the city with a demand letter that says, if you don’t do what I say right away, I’m going to take away millions of hard-earned tax dollars that belong to your city. That’s really wrong.”
The bottom line – all five councilmembers had problems with this process. I join them. But none of them voted to do anything other than suck it up and make the best of it. There is a reason for that – and for reasons I don’t really understand, Mr. Dunning continues to deny that.
But we have only scratched the surface here – we don’t know the full extent of the game and that bothers me because we are not playing with our own deck.
We need to look past the lawyer here to the clients to see the game for what it is – whatever that may be. The problem is, Mr. Rexroad isn’t the only winner here and we don’t know why.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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