By David M. Greenwald
This probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway—the 2020 election has already been the oddest one in memory, and we are probably only scratching the surface. District elections locally, a pandemic, and a presidential election that even before the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg was sucking a lot of local oxygen out of the room.
At least at the city council level, district elections have failed to generate more people of color (just one) or even women (just two—both in the same district). But they have made for more contentious elections.
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday has electrified even an already electric national election. We have a pandemic. We have had a serious of protests, and riots and looting in some areas. Now we may see a scorched earth policy in the Senate amid speculation and perhaps rumors that, even on Election Day, someone may not be declared a winner and it may come down to the courts—or worse.
Against all that chaos, an election that we would normally expect to be the most contentious locally just hasn’t been. That is the battle over Measure B, DISC (Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus). Under normal conditions, I would be inclined to argue that the measure will pass, but I just don’t know.
Remember, we are two weeks away from ballots dropping. Since everyone is voting by mail, and no one knows what to expect with regards to the Postal Service, our expectation is that a lot of people who would normally vote at the polls or hold their ballot until the end, will probably vote in two weeks.
So where does DISC stand? It’s hard to know.
When the matter came before council, there was a lot of ground to cover to get it to the point where the council was comfortable putting it on the ballot. But they managed to reach agreements on most of the issues. In terms of public comments, the positive comments were heavily outweighing the negative ones.
Yes, some were students—at the time, it wasn’t clear that there would be many students in town. But that’s not the case. It is not a full contingent for sure, but there are a lot more students than I think we expected at that time. Students may well vote in much higher numbers than usual because of the Presidential Election and that could once again weigh heavily on the outcome.
But, as we know from 2018 and Nishi, students didn’t vote in high numbers despite huge concerns over student housing—and the measure still won.
In terms of the campaign, it’s hard to know what is exactly happening on the ground because most campaigns are not running ground campaigns—and for those which have been, we’ve been hearing some complaints.
We are just not seeing a lot of engagement on this issue like we would normally expect with a land use issue in Davis.
There are 14 letters to the editor showing on the front page of the Enterprise site. Only two relate to Measure B—one yes, one no.
Drive around town and you don’t see a lot of No on B signs—at least where I have been driving. The Yes on B campaign had over 700 endorsements as of two weeks ago, and they might be pushing 1000 now.
Elite opinion seems a bit more mixed. The council is supporting Measure B, but it appears that both candidates running for supervisor—while not officially endorsing a position—have considerable concerns.
It’s not clear how meaningful that all is. Two years ago, a host of people that normally support Measure J projects, and in fact oppose Measure J itself, were opposed to the West Davis Active Adult Community. And yet, the measure passed rather easily.
This is different. Two years ago when Nishi and WDAAC passed—each by at least ten points—there was nevertheless a pretty bitter and ugly struggle. This year, it has been quiet. Too quiet.
Does that mean it will simply pass easily?
There are reasons to believe it could. Affordable housing and the housing crisis are still among the top concerns among the voters—that not only comes from previous polling but also from the few people in the field.
But how does DISC fit into that? It does have a large affordable housing site and it does provide jobs and revenue to the city.
Of course, the critics can and have argued that the benefits are overstated, the housing does not even accommodate all of the generated need, and the project creates huge traffic congestion and runs in opposition to stated climate goals.
And so, as always, we are stuck trying to read the tea leaves, because we lack the polling. The one thing I can tell is that right now DISC is quiet—too quiet.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9