By David M. Greenwald
Yolo Committee for Diverse and Inclusive Elections (YCDIE) on Saturday afternoon held a candidates forum for the City Council candidates and the Supervisor candidates for the Fourth District.
The first question went to all candidates. Later questions were asked to specific groups, with all candidates running for the same office answering the same questions.
What have you done personally or professionally to address racism or inequity in our community?
Board of Supervisor – District 4 Candidates
Linda Deos said that she has been an advocate her entire personal and professional life for racial justice issues. She talked about fighting racial discrimination in employment contracts and helping people to get their jobs back.
She said, “I have found what needs to happen is change from the inside. It can’t be done from the outside. It’s our institutions that need to have systemic change.”
She mentioned that “we see it here in Yolo County where we have three percent of the population African American, Black, and 25 percent of the jail population is African American/Black—that has to change.”
She also argued, “We need to be looking at redefining what public safety means.”
Jim Provenza mentioned his long history of working with the ACLU and marching on Farm Worker issues, even before he became an attorney.
He said, “I handled some complex employment and housing discrimination cases obtaining consent decrees, meaning orders that stopped the discrimination in the future in addition to helping the individual involved.”
When he was on the school board, he said, “I advocated for issues of addressing the achievement gap between students, which is still an important issue at the schools. I made that my priority.”
On the Board of Supervisors, he said, “I sponsored several resolutions dealing with immigration issues in the separation of families. Those resolutions made it very clear that Yolo County stood in favor of immigrants.”
District 2 Candidates
Will Arnold said he has been working on issues of diversity and inclusion for a long time. As an activist he said that he had run several campaigns for women and people of color, trying to make sure that everyone has representation locally.
“As a member of the Davis City Council, I’m incredibly proud of our record of inclusivity and police reform in terms of ensuring that all voices are heard and that we have seats at the table for folks who had previously been left on the sidelines,” he said.
Dillan Horton said this has been a lifetime and long time work for him also, going back to high school. Back in high school his adviser had him serve on a committee to address disparities in education outcomes in high school between students of color and whites.
He worked in college on accessibility issues and barriers to students getting into college and being successful in college.
He said as a member of the community and Davis he worked on campaigns for people seeking to bring access to people of color, such as Dean Johansson who was running for district attorney in the last election cycle.
“I have had the opportunity to be on the police accountability commission for the last two years, really working to not just drive the commission but our whole city government in examining how we can improve our systems to make sure that everyone has a degree of safety and security in the community,” he said.
Colin Walsh said he lived in New York in 2001 and was there on 9/11 and explained that a circle of white men had gathered around an Egyptian-American’s desk. “They were making comments like the Middle East should be turned to glass and they were using racial slurs.” He spoke out and filed a complaint, he said. He believes that led to his being terminated. “I would do this today because I believe you have to be an upstander,” he said.
He explained that today he flies a rainbow flag on his porch because he feels like it’s a good example for his kids as well as the community.
“My kids have a wide range of friends that view gender in a lot of different ways, and I want them all to know that my place is a safe place for them and that I’m an ally for them,” he added.
District 3 Candidates
Lucas Frerichs noted that this is a very expensive community to live in. One big issue for him prior to being on the council was the creation of affordable housing. He was a board member of Yolo Mutual Housing and helped lead that organization.
“During that time I worked on the creation of hundreds of units of permanent affordable housing in Davis,” he said.
He also mentioned working on Dean Johansson’s DA race on the issue of criminal justice reform.
Larry Guenther said that while he was working on the Davis Downtown Plan, many of the members noted that various races were not well represented in the discussion, and so he reached out to people of color and the underrepresented to try to get their views and make sure they were included in the discussion.
He has also tried to be really involved in city issues like trying to reimagine public safety. He said he has personally tried to call out racism in the workplace and in the community.
“Trying explain to people why it’s racist,” he said. “People don’t really get it.” He explained that people really don’t understand where white privilege is coming from.
District 5 Candidates
Josh Chapman said the most important thing that he has done and will continue to do is to acknowledge his privilege as a straight white male. He said he will “work hard to be the best ally that I can be.
“My privilege was never more apparent to me than when I graduated college and I moved into Southeast Washington, DC, to join AmeriCorps and work in the public school system there,” he said.
He explained that he had grown up in rural Maine, one of the whitest areas of the country, and ended up in a public school system that was almost completely black.
“It was at that point that I realized that my experiences were not the same as their experiences were,” he said. “That experience led me to pursue a degree in equity and social justice.”
Kelsey Fortune said the first step when talking about diversity, race and equity is to acknowledge that there’s a need for initiatives, committees and education.
“The next step is to educate yourself and create spaces for diverse voices,” she said. “I’m hopeful that we can see increased diversity in our representative bodies so that we can create these types of spaces.”
She said for her personally this has really come in the form of gender, not race.
“I am finishing my degree in economics, probably the least diverse field that exists,” she explained. “Pretty much white men. So I have to speak up every single day to make sure that we are heard.”
Connor Gorman explained that he has worked with a lot of different organizers in our community to promote diversity and inclusion and anti-oppressive initiatives. He worked for justice for the Picnic Day 5.
Coming out of that process he worked with a number of different organizations to bring a police accountability commission to Davis. “I also helped pressure the Davis City Council when working with the indigenous community to move their banking resources away from Wells Fargo in solidarity with the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline,” he said.
In addition, Connor said that he is working with campus organizations to promote these sorts of equity issues as well—students and campus workers are also a part of our community.
Rochelle Swanson said that she has worked with groups that focus on treating cervical cancer for women of color throughout the world to make sure they have equal access to health care. They have focused on East Africa, Nicaragua, Cambodia and India, as well as Thailand.
Professionally, she said, she works on the digital divide—that impacts, unfortunately, disproportionately children of color, she said.
She also mentioned during her time on the council she supported the Police Accountability Commission’s formation.
In part two we will have the next two questions that were addressed to portions of the panel.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
Follow “Yolo Committee for Diverse and Inclusive Elections” (YCDIE) on Facebook to learn more about their future programs. To watch the full live forums – school board – and – council. YCDIE has also prepared a candidate guide that can be accessed here. Finally, ycdie is appealing to the public for donations to continue their work of ensuring diverse bodies in our local leadership as well as training the next generation into those positions of leadership in the future. To donate via paypal or credit card: To donate using a check, kindly contact firstname.lastname@example.org.