(Editor’s note: this is the second of six candidate surveys of the Davis City Council, Yolo Supervisor, and Woodland Council Candidates).
Yolo People Power 2020 Candidate Survey
Yolo People Power is a county-wide network of residents working toward criminal justice reform. To better understand the level of commitment of current candidates for city councils and the Yolo Board of Supervisors races, Yolo People Power invited all candidates to respond to a six-question survey. These were reviewed and scored independently by reviewers from Winters, West Sacramento, Davis, Woodland and UC Davis.
Yolo People Power appreciates the 14 candidates who thoughtfully responded to our questionnaire. These included the following: Supervisor Jim Provenza and Linda Deos; Woodland Mayor Pro Tempore Tom Stallard and candidates Karen Bayne and Victoria Fernandez; and Davis Vice-Mayor Lucas Frerichs, Councilmember Will Arnold, Josh Chapman, Kelsey Fortune, Connor Gorman, Larry Guenther, Dillan Horton, Rochelle Swanson, and Colin Walsh. Their willingness to put their thoughts to paper and to respond to a community group demonstrates a level of responsiveness to community concerns which we commend.
The high scorers demonstrated complete answers and awareness of impacted populations. They provided examples of previous reform efforts, offered specific ideas they would support going forward and demonstrated a commitment to civic engagement, particularly with the most impacted populations. A perfect score would be a “4”.
Yolo People Power (YPP) founded in January 2017, was originally focused on policing in Davis. The group soon expanded its scope to all of Yolo County and now has active members from all Yolo municipalities. The group supports policies and programs which prevent crime, assist those in crisis, treat all people with dignity and prepare inmates to reintegrate into communities. Hoang-Van Nguyen of the West Sacramento chapter explains “We recognize systemic and institutional racism and call upon our local governments to undertake the difficult work of transforming public safety from a policing and punitive approach to a public safety model.”
To receive a PDF of all the completed answers, please email YoloPeoplePower@gmail.com. To learn more about Yolo People Power, visit https://www.facebook.com/Yolo-People-Power-104100361133412
Q2. Do you believe there is systemic racism in your jurisdiction? Please elaborate.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
Absolutely. It is evident and clear, and one data point that cannot be denied is that Yolo County’s population is 3% black, but our jailed population is 25% black. The DA, in his recently released budget outline, would like you to believe that this disparity does not imply bias as not everyone arrested in Yolo is a resident of Yolo. But as outlined in the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office Blueprint for Change, “Nearly every decision in the criminal justice continuum is subjective and involves the discretion of the decision maker– including which crimes to investigate, who to arrest, what crimes to charge, setting bail or releasing from jail on own recognizance conditions, what plea offer to make, what sentences should be handed down, and what probation or parole supervision will look like.” Only the courts are authorized to act as a check upon these decisions. Currently, the DA’s ambitions appear to encroach upon the role of the courts.
Supervisor Jim Provenza
I believe that there is systemic racism in all jurisdictions. At my request, the county held a workshop this summer disclosing racial disparities in both our criminal justice and child welfare system. The next step is to identify the source or sources of those disparities and develop ongoing solutions. This will be included in our strategic plan discussion on September 15, 2020. I continue to support implicit bias training for all police officers, sheriff’s deputies, deputy district attorneys, and DA investigators in Yolo County. Also, every department should have a citizen’s commission to review bias related issues.
Davis City Council Candidates
Council Member Will Arnold
Systemic racism is embedded in every part of our society, in every institution, including healthcare, education, business, housing and yes, political leadership. But it is our system of policing and criminal justice where the consequences of systemic racism are the most troubling and severe, including people of color avoiding police interaction, living in fear, losing their freedoms, or being killed. It would be naive to suggest that the City of Davis and the Davis Police Department are immune to the realities of systemic
racism. As we know, systemic racism is not about what is in the “heart” of the individuals enacting policies and practices, but what is at the heart of the institutions that they serve. You do not need individuals to have or act on personal racists beliefs for institutional racism to exist.
Yes, there certainly is. As we all know, Davis has historically been primarily a homogenous community. For most of its history, the citizenry has been overwhelmingly white and privileged. That inevitably leads to systemic and institutional racism, even where the citizens have the best intentions. South Davis has a disproportionate number of low income and minority residents. It is one of the things about South Davis
that makes it such a wonderful and vibrant place. The diversity at Marguerite Montgomery Elementary school, and it’s Two Way Bi-Lingual Immersion program, has greatly benefited both of my sons’ educational experience. However, South Davis’s demographics have also led to the interests of many of its residents being ignored in city politics. I support the transition to district voting in large part because my community will finally have a voice and advocate on the City Council.
Yes. Whether or not the data indicate a bias in interactions, arrests, convictions, and sentencing; racism is inherent in any system that has racist roots. Modern policing is inextricably linked to the racist policies that have been historically enforced. Racism casts an unfortunate shadow over many long-standing institutions. We need to address all of these by implementing policies which limit the hold these systems have on our community.
Council Member Lucas Frerichs
Systemic racism exists in Davis, because it exists in the U.S. Systemic racism involves our institutions collectively upholding racist policies: education, health care, housing, etc. It’s a ripple effect from hundreds of years of racist and discriminatory practices that still play out across the country today. To see the impact of systemic racism, just look at the statistics. For example, African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people in America. Although African Americans and Hispanics make up about 32% of the U.S. population, they made up 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015, according to the NAACP. As for health care, in 2017, 10.6% of African Americans were uninsured, compared with 5.9% of non-Hispanic white people, according to the 2017 U.S. census. In 2018, 8.7% of African American adults received mental health services, compared with 18.6% of non-Hispanic white adults, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. I’m aware of my privilege. I believe its important that we all take the time to educate ourselves, recognize our implicit bias, and open our eyes to how we got here.
Definitely. The U.S. was founded and built on racism which is still embedded throughout our society. Davis is no exception. To begin with, despite what some may think, all of the weaknesses in modern policing described above apply to Davis just as much as they do to other jurisdictions. DPD certainly enforces unjust laws and both data and numerous personal accounts spanning decades show that bias exists within the DPD, one of the most egregious and well-known examples being the Picnic Day 5 incident. Along with police violence, housing is another major component of systemic racism in Davis. Because of the high cost of living in Davis, few low-income people (who are disproportionately people of color) can afford to live here. The resulting isolation and wealthy white bubble cause an unfriendly environment and increases the chances of interpersonal discrimination for members of marginalized communities who do live, work, or go to school in Davis. One reason for the relatively low level of police violence in Davis compared to other jurisdictions could simply be a result of demographics and which populations police tend to target, rather than having to do with the police themselves.
Yes. I believe racial, economic, and gender bias are endemic to our culture and our society. There is ample evidence to support this belief, but a quote by Jesse Jackson illustrates it well: “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps… then turn around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” When the Davis PD are called on a ‘suspicious person,’ that is walking their dog in their own neighborhood but happens to be a person of color (actual incident), that shows the racism inherent in our culture. The police are part of our culture, but I believe the effect is amplified in the police department because of society’s view of the role of police, the way police are recruited, and the way they are trained. Khalil Gibran Muhammad’s book The Condemnation of Blackness, poignantly illustrates how the association of color and crime has occurred in our society. Overcoming this false association will be the most difficult thing our community and our nation has ever dealt with.
At first glance a strength of our system of policing is the rhetorical commitment from PD & City leadership to make this system more workable for traditionally underserved populations. This highlights the first glance weakness of the system that it is often unwilling to go beyond rhetorical gestures to develop true public safety for people of color, for those experiencing housing insecurity, those dealing with substance use issues, and those going through a mental health crisis. When people in these populations experience threat or crime their first thought usually isn’t to the police, because there is no expectation of genuine help or support.
Systematic racism exists in nearly every jurisdiction. Even if modern policies in one’s city are racially neutral, the inhabitants and visitors to a community have likely benefited or been harmed by generational structural racism. As an example, Davis had neighborhoods where there were restrictive covenants on who could purchase property. That no longer exists. However, a person of color who has moved here may come from a family where no one has held property and they are the first to attend university. Their classmate could be the fourth generation to own the home. Though they may be sitting side by side equal in measure in people, their monthly expenses, family support and general feeling of acceptance is vastly different. It is not enough to state current policies do not support structural racism. It is important to recognize that we are a product of individual experiences. If one is raised in a community where a neighborhood is patrolled by racist police officers, their interaction with even the best trained, anti-racist police officer will be one of fear. Therefore, it is imperative to foster a culture of seeing people as individuals, not stereotypes.
There is systemic racism in all American communities. It is impossible to separate current situations from a deep history and practices of racism in the US. Police historically often existed as a system for managing and even producing inequality by suppressing social movements and unions, and by tightly managing the movements of poor and non-white people. This may not always directly and fully apply to the Davis PD, but systemic racism also affects housing, homelessness, employment, education, and other aspects of Davis. In the not too distant past, redlining practices in Davis excluded minority home buyers from participation in the post WWII housing boom. We may not exactly have red lines anymore, but bank lending practices have been found to continue to discriminate against communities and people of color. These are complex problems and there is no one solution to any of them. Events that work to change attitudes are important, but in some cases policies themselves need modification. Fortunately, in Davis there has been change over time, but there is a need for ongoing evaluation and systemic change now and into the future.
West Sacramento Candidates
None of the 7 candidates from West Sacramento responded the survey invitation.
Woodland City Council Candidates
Systemic racism exists throughout society, so it’s likely to exist in every law enforcement jurisdiction as well. But to say that all law enforcement officers are racist is simplistic and untrue. In fact, most people would define themselves as “not racist,” but this is myopic and simplistic. It is more accurate to say that we are all products of a society built on racism, and the systems we’ve created contain power dynamics derived from racism. Those dynamics continue to infiltrate all of us, no matter our background. Our responsibility is to create space in those systems for change. It is important that everyone is aware of our history of systemic racism and examine our systems for both overt and covert racism, as well our own running dialogue inside our heads. In Woodland, all voters are constituents, but not all constituents are voters. Many constituents do not vote: the young, the disenfranchised, and non-citizens. If non-voting groups were victims of racially biased policing, they would be unable to impact change through the democratic process. This leaves them especially vulnerable. Therefore, elected officials must be their voice.
I believe systemic racism exists throughout our country, and unfortunately, Woodland is no exception. Although we may want to believe that it does not, we must examine our policies, our hiring practices, our schools, our real estate market, and our daily interactions with others. Every person who lives in Woodland should feel equally valued and respected.
Vice Mayor Tom Stallard
Having taken two courses on implicit bias over four days in the last two years, I realized that systemic racism is a reality in America. Even those of us who do not like to think of ourselves as racist, have unconscious attitudes that form our behavior, particularly our response to certain situations. The way to address this is to understand it, accept it, and seek ways to provide antidotes such as dialogue among diverse groups. Being optimistic, I believe we can do this and that current challenges will lead us to a better place.
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