by Alan Pryor
Councilmember Dan Carson revealed this week that he intends to go after Davis residents in court again.
In court documents filed late Monday, Carson said he wants the six residents who signed the ballot statement against Measure H to pay his attorney’s fees even though his lawsuit seeking to water down their No on H ballot argument was largely unsuccessful. Carson is demanding fees despite the fact that Dan Ramos, the developer behind the Measure H DiSC project, has already admitted publicly that he footed the bill for Carson’s lawsuit.
The Attorney for the No on Measure H campaign Beverly Grossman Palmer stated, “As I previously indicated, it is very unusual for a sitting councilmember to sue over a ballot argument. To seek fees against his own constituents for defending their right to present their views to the voters would be even more shocking, should Councilmember Carson file this threatened motion for attorney’s fees.”
Roberta Millstein, one of the authors of the ballot statement challenged in Carson’s lawsuit stated, “Carson’s developer-backed lawsuit will have the effect of stifling Davis’s long tradition of engaged citizen participation. Who will want to sign a ballot statement in the future if a developer can fund a punitive lawsuit against them? Carson’s lawsuit sets a terrible precedent.”
Alan Pryor, Principal Officer of the No on H campaign and one of the authors of the ballot statement stated, “Fortunately, Carson’s opposition brief is unlikely to be successful because it is clearly in the public interest for Davis voters to be able to write truthful ballot statements advocating against developments.” A judge is scheduled to hear the arguments from both sides on April 29th at Yolo County Superior Court.
The DiSC project is an outdated freeway offramp project that will put 12,000 additional cars on Mace Blvd. every day and increase greenhouse gas emissions by the City of Davis by 5%. The citizens of Davis already voted down the first iteration of this project less than 2 years ago.
Carson sought to have more than 80 words of the 300-word ballot statement against Measure H stricken. On March 30, 2022 Yolo County Superior Court Judge McGuire overwhelmingly ruled against Carson, making only 2 small changes suggested by the No on H campaign itself. One change simply modified the type of unit used to express the amount of greenhouse gases that would be produced by the project – similar to expressing a value in dollars rather than cents. The other change involved the following paragraph, which Carson had asked to be deleted:
“The Developer has made almost no binding commitments and has no viable ways to improve this traffic mess. Their only promise is to develop a Traffic Demand Management Plan if the project is approved. But figuring this traffic mess out later is not a plan!”
The judge let the first and third sentences of that paragraph stand as they were; the second sentence changed the word only and it now reads, “They promise to develop a Traffic Demand Management Plan if the project is approved” – at best a slight change in meaning from the original.
In dismissing Carson’s claims the judge also found the following arguments against DiSC were neither false or misleading:
“Rejected only 19 months ago by voters, DiSC is back. But it is still an autocentric, freeway-oriented, downtown–threatening project. It still has overwhelming traffic and environmental problems, and it is still non-compliant with the City of Davis General Plan.”
Indeed, during the hearing, Carson’s lawyer admitted that DiSC 2022 would not be compliant with the City of Davis’s General Plan as it exists today.
The judge also let the heading, “Unmitigated Greenhouse Gas Emissions” stand, as well as the statements, “Locally we are reeling from the debilitating impacts of drought and terrifying wildfires caused by dramatically increasing carbon emissions” and “DiSC alone will increase the City’s carbon footprint by almost 5%, completely derailing the City’s ability to meet its carbon-neutral goal by 2040.”
The No on H Campaign believes Councilmember Dan Carson has grossly overstepped his role and blurred the lines between his elected office and his personal advocacy for a development project.