Carson Acknowledges Lawsuit Was a Mistake, Candidates Discuss Nimbyism

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Dan Carson for the first time publicly acknowledged that his lawsuit was a mistake, when the District 1 and District 4 candidates for Davis City Council met in separate forums on Monday evening at Community Chambers.

Responding to an audience question in the District 1 forum, Carson said, “It was a serious mistake to file that lawsuit.  I was trying to do the right thing for the right reasons, but it didn’t turn out that way.”

He continued, “Some folks have suggested, well, I should have just outsourced the name on that lawsuit. I think that’s the wrong conclusion.”

Carson said, “I think the lawsuit itself was the mistake and that we should have found other ways without going to court to point out the misleading statements that were made in the ballot argument against the project that I supported.”

Kelsey Fortune added, “A piece that we’re missing here is that there was not found to be significant misleading or false information in that ballot statement.”

She added, “I’m glad it can be admitted it was a mistake.  I would not spend my time suing my own constituents over their right to free speech.”

Bapu Vaitla agreed, “I agree, it was inappropriate.”  He said, “It’s not appropriate at all for a lawmaker, elected officials suing their constituents.”

He said, “I appreciate that Dan admitted it was a mistake, but for me, that did cause a lot of damage to our community and hopefully we are able to repair that damage and move forward but trust is the basis for how government works and that was for me a violation of trust.”

Earlier in the evening the moderator had asked a question about NIMBYISM prompting an audience member to loudly complain about the use of a “pejorative term.”

An audience member asked the question about whether the use of the term NIMBY was appropriate.

For Kelsey Fortune, the answer was no.

“I think terms like NIMBY are used to divide whereas I’d like to see us come together,” she said adding, “I really do not believe that there are very many people in Davis who would identify with that term.”

Instead, she argued, “The people who have that term thrown at them are opposing one project for very specific reasons that have nothing to do with not wanting something in your backyard.”

Moderator CJ Watson pushed back, “How can you be sure of them?”

Fortune responded, “I can’t be sure of that, but I see the best in people.  I’ve been in Davis for nine years, and I know many people, including myself, who have had that word, that term thrown at them.  I’m not sure how a low-income person and a renter who is very pro-infill development and pro-housing and infill in Davis, can be called that.”

Bapu Vaitla responded, “Some questions illuminate and some questions obscure for me.”

He said, “It’s a term that hurts people—so stop using it.  Sure.”

But then he said, “What’s more important is that the phenomenon persists.  We exclude people from our community.  That’s the truth.”

He said, “That’s the reality…  We have to take a hard look in the mirror and say that’s what’s happening. And then what are the ideas that we’re going to have to reverse that exclusionary stance that we have to include people.”

He said, “There’s a set of ideas that have been given tonight that others have talked about, but how do we invite low-income folks to live in our community and do so. And by doing so, also reduce our climate emissions and make ourselves a more sustainable community, more diverse community, one that has more creative ideas.”

He said, “Let’s focus on inclusion—the term itself, [NIMBY] if it hurts people, yeah, let’s stop using it.”

Dan Carson added that he “talked about the kinds of language I heard from some folks in our community, disparaging others in our community over that university mall project. And we do need to learn to communicate with each other on a policy basis. It’s okay to disagree, it’s okay to violently disagree, but treating other people with respect is extremely important.”

The Vanguard will over the course of the week have full, wall-to-wall coverage of three city council candidate forums.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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16 Comments

  1. Walter Shwe

    I don’t see how NIMBYISM is a derogatory term. It is absolutely correct to describe people that simply don’t want projects and programs in their neighborhoods. People have a right to live next to others, even felons that have served their sentences. Not everyone agrees with that principle, but that’s my viewpoint.

    As for Carson simply admitting it was a mistake doesn’t go far enough. He failed to issue a public apology. I will still vote for one of his November opponents.

  2. Bill Marshall

    It’s okay to disagree, it’s okay to violently disagree, but treating other people with respect is extremely important.”

    Oxymoron?  Comes close to violence against another is OK if you respect them…

    “A piece that we’re missing here is that there was not found to be significant misleading or false information in that ballot statement.”

    Eye of the beholder… the word “significant” is open to interpretation… in the context of the quote, untruths are OK if you support the goal of the untruth… hence, not “significant”.  Hence, for some, the untruth of “Trump won in a landslide!” is not significant misleading or false information… huh?

    “I’m glad it can be admitted it was a mistake.  I would not spend my time suing my own constituents over their right to free speech.”

    “I think terms like NIMBY are used to divide whereas I’d like to see us come together,” 

    Logically, “free speech”, and, “used to divide” are two sides of the same coin… you can’t have one without the other… I do agree that the ‘purpose of dividing’ is not healthy for society (except for some circumstances… sometimes, division is the healthiest thing for society)… yet, what are the candidates and their surrogates/”supporters” doing?   Physician, heal thyself… guess some folk believe we should be monolithic, if they agree with us…

    We have to take a hard look in the mirror and say that’s what’s happening. And then what are the ideas that we’re going to have to reverse that exclusionary stance that we have to include people.

    So, are we to exclude folk who don’t support ‘inclusion’ (a term that is squishy, depending on views)?  Like saying ” I hate people who are intolerant”, or ‘if you don’t “celebrate” folk of a different view, you are a [pick your own epithet]’…

    Wish all candidates would focus on how they will SERVE.  Nah, that would be “a fool’s errand”…  yet, I still hold that as a ‘hope’…

     

  3. Keith Y Echols

    Carson said, “I think the lawsuit itself was the mistake and that we should have found other ways without going to court to point out the misleading statements that were made in the ballot argument against the project that I supported.”

    Ya think?  While Carson and the YES Campaign were well with in their right to challenge the voter doc statements of the NO Campaign, it wasn’t a smart political decision.  The YES Campaign could have spent the legal fees on blanketing the community in cards/flyers with statements they felt were true that corrected the NO Campaign statements.  Heck maybe even a billboard.  It is nearly politically unforgivable to then go on and sue the No Campaign for legal fees.   I think Carson understands the city’s need for economic growth.   It’s poor political self awareness that makes me question if Carson can be an effective leader.  His hindsight at least reflects he’s now aware of his mistake; hopefully he doesn’t make anymore like that.  But he’s not in my District.

    Kelsey Fortune added, “A piece that we’re missing here is that there was not found to be significant misleading or false information in that ballot statement.”

    She added, “I’m glad it can be admitted it was a mistake.  I would not spend my time suing my own constituents over their right to free speech.”

    God I hope Fortune isn’t elected (not that I fully support Carson either).  For multiple reasons.  But in this case it’s for framing the issue about an attack on Free Speech.  If you say something that some deem is untruthful and want it corrected; you go through the legal system.  Free speech doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want as facts (ask Alex Jones).  Carson and the Yes team disagreed with what the NO statements.  They sought to challenge it; that’s the system!

    Bapu Vaitla agreed, “I agree, it was inappropriate.”  He said, “It’s not appropriate at all for a lawmaker, elected officials suing their constituents.”

    He said, “I appreciate that Dan admitted it was a mistake, but for me, that did cause a lot of damage to our community and hopefully we are able to repair that damage and move forward but trust is the basis for how government works and that was for me a violation of trust.”

    Again! That’s the system.  What is the YES Campaign supposed to do?  Just roll over and let the opponent say what they want?  As I said earlier, not smart politically but a legal challenge was certainly within their right.  What damage to the community?  This is a case of hating the player and not the game.

    Earlier in the evening the moderator had asked a question about NIMBYISM prompting an audience member to loudly complain about the use of a “pejorative term.”

    Oh god.  What has happened to our society?  Someone needs to go back to their safe space if they’re offended by a silly term like “NIMBY”.

    “I think terms like NIMBY are used to divide whereas I’d like to see us come together,” she said adding, “I really do not believe that there are very many people in Davis who would identify with that term.”

    What is wrong with being divided on an issue?  That’s kind of the point of politics and elections?  Talk it out, work it out.  I think people in Davis aren’t against new growth in general.  But they are against added traffic, community social problems (that some low income housing/shelters sometimes produce), the fiscal impact on the community that new housing brings, tall building next to their single family homes….etc…..everybody has their conditions that they’re okay with new residential growth and the lines they feel are necessary so that it doesn’t impact them too much personally.  That by definition makes them NIMBYs even if they don’t in general oppose new residential growth.

    He said, “It’s a term that hurts people—so stop using it.  Sure.”

    Holy…Q#$%.  It hurts people?  Bapu should be embarrassed by that statement.

    Dan Carson added “It’s okay to disagree, it’s okay to violently disagree, but treating other people with respect is extremely important.”

    I don’t think he meant it’s okay to “violently” disagree.  I’m guessing he meant strongly and even actively disagree.

    But then he said, “What’s more important is that the phenomenon persists. We exclude people from our community. That’s the truth.”

    As a community we should decide if and how we want to grow. Growth should benefit the existing community. Or at least not harm it by denigrating the existing standard of living (traffic, crowds, parking, city fiscal, services available, having big buildings next to you….).

     

    1. David Greenwald

      Agree with a lot of these comments.

      Carson made a political blunder, he knows it, he’s fortunate that he has two opponents, not one and we’ll see if he survives. Doing a mea culpa was a wise political move.

      The No on H side tried to spin the legal action into an attack on free speech. Kelsey is riffing that line. As you point out, it’s not an attack on free speech, it’s the legal avenue to question the avenue of the speech. She also pointed out that the court ruled on the side of the No on H without noting the standard of proof that tilted that ruling in their favor.

      I think what Bapu was saying is if people are hurt by the NIMBY label, fine, let’s not use it, but we need to focus on the core issue rather than the side issue. Maybe could have said it more artfully, but that was my take.

      As I wrote this morning in the newsletter, if you are running for office, you have to in general terms be above the fray. As a commentator, I don’t have to run for office, so I call a spade a spade and argue that a lot of what we see in Davis is a form of NIMBYISM – not literally our backyard, but our community. People against housing projects argue not this, not here, not now. Even as most of them (with some exceptions) acknowledge we need housing. They would prefer farmland paved over in Woodland rather than Davis. That’s NIMBYISM. Are we really going to get offended when we call out the attitude?

      1. Bill Marshall

        we’ll see if he survives

        Really?  Like losing an election might be a “death sentence”?

        C’mon… let’s get real… words, and their nuances, HAVE MEANING…

        Progressives (uber-liberals) have problems with ‘language’ (words others use)… same with the uber-conservatives… yet both use words (‘language’) to vilify, degrade, those who differ with their ‘world views’ (subjective, to say the least)… and they have no problem attacking a person, verbally…

        Get real… oh, forgot Poli Sci is a true science and the truth… mea culpa… my error in challenging someone’s “god”… What did Marshall McLuhan say… something about the media (inc. Poli Sci folk) is the message?  My message, in this media, is “get real”… actually think for yourself… act accordingly…

        As to District 1, “I have no dog in this fight”… but I expect dogs to behave… sometimes I wonder “who let the dogs out?”

        I hope that the candidates in both districts facing a vote, will focus on how ‘they’ will serve their districts and the ENTIRE community…  silly me… a quixotic thought, at best…

      2. Keith Y Echols

        As I wrote this morning in the newsletter, if you are running for office, you have to in general terms be above the fray. As a commentator, I don’t have to run for office, so I call a spade a spade

        If I ran for office or were in office, I would have lots of really great community ideas and plans.  But I’d probably say 6 politically incorrect things before breakfast everyday.  

        Mayor Quimby : Demand? Who are you to demand anything? I run this town. You’re just a bunch of low income nobodies-
        Aide : whispers urgently in Quimby’s ear Election in November! Election in November!
        Mayor Quimby : What? Again? This stupid country…
        ———

        Mayor Quimby : “You Can’t Seriously Want To Ban Alcohol. It Tastes Great, Makes Women Appear More Attractive, And Makes A Person Virtually Invulnerable To Criticism.”

        ——————–

        Even as most of them (with some exceptions) acknowledge we need housing. They would prefer farmland paved over in Woodland rather than Davis.

        WHY do we NEED housing?  I mean there’s the RHNA.  But other than that?  I still don’t buy the school district reasoning.  There’s some really bad financial planning going on there.  You either have a growth or reduction target for fiscal equilibrium but I haven’t heard a plan…just grow, grow, grow.  We need affordable housing to a degree.  I’m open for that discussion.  As for farmland paved over in Davis or Woodland?  Let the fiscal obligation of serving those homes be someone else’s responsibility if they want to accept it.  Again, it all boils down to if any proposed growth is in the best interests of the EXISTING community?

      3. Ron Oertel

        They would prefer farmland paved over in Woodland rather than Davis. That’s NIMBYISM. 

        I don’t prefer either one, so I guess I’m not a NIMBY.  Woodland is kind of a lost cause, though it does have a voter-approved urban growth boundary.  As such, it’s not going to spread Southward beyond Spring Lake and the “technology park” (with its 1,600 planned housing units) very easily. And they still have quite a bit more space to build within Spring Lake itself.

        Not so sure, regarding other directions (e.g., along I-5, toward Sacramento).  It apparently depends upon whether or not they can get taxpayers to foot the bill to strengthen the levees.

        Woodland approved the Spring Lake Specific Plan back in 2001, so it’s unlikely that subsequent approvals of sprawl in Davis would have stopped it.

        So if Davis (for example) had approved Covell Village, Davis would be dealing with traffic from BOTH of the developments (Spring Lake AND Covell Village).  In reference to a much earlier article, it would truly take Gloria “forever” to make a left turn onto Road 102, had that occurred.  Though truth be told, they’d just put in more traffic controls (thereby creating a less-efficient, more environmentally damaging “commute”). Nothing quite spews greenhouse gasses as well as stop-and-go traffic controls (and backed-up traffic, itself).

        But hey, at least Covell Village would have provided some nice homes for Bay Area transplants – as The Cannery did. And as Shriner’s property will, if it’s approved. Perhaps the “100% Housing DISC” proposal, as well.

        I tend to think of NIMBYism in regard to concerns regarding dense infill within existing lower-density neighborhoods, which consistently creates problems for existing residents.  Attempts to preserve farmland don’t have much to do with that, though it does cause some of the same type of problems (e.g., increased traffic, etc.).

  4. Ron Oertel

    The “problem” with the word NIMBY is that it implies hypocrisy.

    In other words, “not in my backyard, but maybe in your backyard”.

    Which I don’t believe actually applies to most people fighting development proposals.  Though certainly if it’s in your “backyard” (figuratively), it will impact you on a personal/direct level.

    Ultimately, all animals (including humans) have a protective instinct regarding their own homes.  Ask any cat (or dog) – who also don’t necessarily limit their “concerns” to the legal boundaries of their “owners'” property.  This is consistent throughout the animal world.  Humans are not separate from that world.

    Not too long ago, I saw (in the shadows of the night) one cat chasing another for about a block or so.  No doubt, a territorial concern.

    It’s not an “evil” thing, in-and-of itself.

    But getting back to NIMBYism, I don’t see this as anyone stating that (XX proposal) should be built in “your” backyard, instead of “mine”.

    Though people seem to forget that there’s plenty of communities that almost always say, “yes, please – build here instead”. (With no real opposition.) In my opinion, those communities generally suck.

    Ultimately, this shows a need for neighbors to support each other, as occurred during some of the battles against development proposals (e.g., Trackside, University Mall, etc.).  As one person involved in that told me, “no one gets thrown under the (development) bus”.

  5. Tim Keller

    Kelsey Fortune added, “A piece that we’re missing here is that there was not found to be significant misleading or false information in that ballot statement.

     

    Thats pretty much a dis-qualifying statement in my opinion.   It is one thing to note that the lawsuit was tactically the wrong approach, it is another level of crazy to pretend that the ballot statements were actually accurate.   The judge clearly stated that several statements were “deliberately misleading”, even as he refused to require changes be made on the basis of free speech.    To deny this fact is disingenuous.

    As for the term Nimby… I have used it, and the more I have had detailed conversations with people, the less I’m inclined to use it… because its the kind of term that is easy to paint a wide stroke with, and it is easy to mis-apply… but I don’t think its pejorative.

    I would parallel it with the word racist.   Is racist a pejorative term?  Im sure racists would say so.

    But if someone is acting in a racist way, is it wrong to call out that behavior as racist?  Even if it hurts their feelings?  I dont think so.   In fact, I think it can help people understand themselves better if they are forced to confront racist attitudes or assumptions that they may not realize are such.

    The same is the way i would treat the use of the term Nimby.    During measure H, people, even on this forum made EXACTLY the argument that we shouldn’t have commercial development at the DiSC site because “it would be better elsewhere like woodland or west sac”  etc… sorry… that is blatant textbook nimbyism, and we should not feel like we cant call it out for being such, just as we shouldn’t be afraid to call out racism where it exists.

    1. Ron Oertel

      As far as the ballot arguments, the “yes” side’s statements weren’t even challenged – due to a lack of funds (and probably not even considering that option in the first place). The “no” side certainly would not have had the funds to pay for the “yes” side’s legal fees, had they been ordered to do so (as Carson’s side was). They barely had enough funds to run a campaign at all – without incurring legal fees.

      “NIMBY” is definitely a pejorative term, as it implies that it’s o.k. to wreck someone else’s “backyard”.  In other words, it’s an allegation of hypocrisy.

      As far as DISC was concerned, there was some limited discussion regarding the fact that it would have created more commuting to the site, compared to situating something similar elsewhere.  However, this was not a primary campaign argument.  No one was advocating for it to be located elsewhere.

      Places like Woodland and West Sacramento are pursuing this type of development regardless, and there’s nothing that Davis (or even residents in those communities) can do to stop it.  This would include what’s left of the “Davis Innovation Center” proposal, which added 1,600 housing units during their “move” up Highway 113.  (To a site that was apparently/previously intended for a commercial-only development.)

       

       

    2. David Greenwald

      The No on H side really spun the ballot argument ruling. If you read what the Judge actually said, it was MUCH more equivocal – it’s just that the burden to strike language was exceedingly high.

      1. Ron Oertel

        it’s just that the burden to strike language was exceedingly high.

        And, this is a “surprise” regarding this type of legal challenge?

        Again, the “yes” side’s statements weren’t even challenged.  Had they been challenged, the result would likely be similar. With the only difference being that the no side did not have the funds to pay the other side’s legal fees – when they largely lose. Let alone the ability to pay their own legal fees to initiate something like that.

        There isn’t much “spin” going on, when you look at what was actually stricken (and “who” had to pay the other side’s legal fees). Again, that’s what the case was about – legality, not political arguments.

        I guess it’s fortunate that the “yes” side’s advertisements (e.g., regarding the person on the paddleboard) weren’t challengeable. (Laughable, but not challengeable.)

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