Guest Commentary: To Be or Not to Be – Davis’ So-Called ‘Progressives’

Gloria Partida speaks at a 2020 BLM Rally.

By Darryl Rutherford

I was unanimously appointed to the City’s Planning Commission six years ago, fulfilling my desire to serve this community in hopes of promoting progressive affordable housing as well as homelessness policies that would help make this community more socially and economically equitable for all walks of life. Unfortunately, I soon realized that I was going to have an uphill battle, butting heads with Davisites who call themselves “progressive,” but instead complain about any changes in Davis, lob personal attacks at those actually working to improve our city, and do everything they can to sway the public away from true racial, social, environmental, and economical progress. Lately, one true progressive in town, whose personal and social values align with mine and who broke new ground as the first Latina city councilmember and then the first Latina mayor of Davis, has recently become the central target of an unprecedented political attack, which is nothing more than Trumpian political tactics at its best (or is it worst?).

I’m sorry Councilmember Partida has had to take these hits head-on in such a public forum. I can no longer sit back and let them get away with polluting the political waters of this town I’ve grown to love ever since I moved my young family here almost 20 years ago. Today, I am here to push back at these so-called “progressives.”

Recently, letters to various local publications and public comments from some Davis residents considering themselves “progressives” back District 4 city council candidate Adam Morrill, giving him full-throated support, and attack Councilmember Partida with distorted information, half-truths, and ominous insinuations. These folks have come to me in the past in a full-court press to support their so-called “progressive agenda,” but it didn’t take me long to realize that they were just anti-housing/anti-development advocates rather than actual progressives. They had no interest in furthering strategies that promote racial, economic, and environmental sustainability.

Not only are these folks using Trump-publican campaign tactics in our small town politics, they are promoting a conservative and opposing a genuine progressive. Their candidate refers to unhoused individuals as “violent transients” and essentially advocates for criminalizing homelessness by saying we should move “…people along who are continually problems, people who aren’t interested in services” and then “deeding over the sidewalks [currently public right-of-ways] to the landlords” because then it results in a “…trespassing issue rather than just a camping issue.” Such a policy would ultimately criminalize folks who have no place to call home. This doesn’t seem progressive to me—I’d call it regressive.

I believe true progressives should instead support a candidate who views this issue with a trauma-informed/race equity lens, approaching homelessness and the plight of lower-income Davisites with compassion and understanding. Someone who knows that being unhoused isn’t something that people strive to become, but instead a result of falling on hard times, which often reflects a much larger societal issue. We as a society have tended to ignore this issue for far too long, but this pandemic has brought it into sharper focus with a rise in insecurity that we all feel: we see it in the people sleeping next to us, the neighbor next door, and the business-person struggling to keep their doors open. (Look at the professional athletes and faith-based leaders these days promoting mental health support instead of “pushing through” or just “dealing with it.”). We need to have a different approach than the ones being advocated for by these so-called progressives and supported by Gloria’s opponent.

In the meantime, Gloria Partida is a local progressive leader, a founder of an organization that seeks to create equity and fight racism, an organization that promotes compassion and understanding: love for one another no matter your color, beliefs, or identity. She implements policies and strategies to combat our structures built on inequitable racist policies that have kept people of color and lower-income households away from benefiting all that Davis has to offer.

Keep in mind that these policies have not only excluded people marginalized by race and class, but they have also forced young professional families out of our town. What are we losing when we lose these families? We lose teachers who can’t afford to live in the city where they work. We lose children who could be supporting our schools (which are struggling with maintaining attendance—did you know our school district advertises on NPR so out-of-district children will fill the seats in our classrooms?). We lose customers for our local businesses (have you seen all the closed storefronts and turnover in local business owners, and how many of these new owners are from out of town?). We lose attracting new, innovative businesses to our town whose commercial real estate is becoming outdated (do I really need to say more on this?). These inequitable policies have driven up the cost of housing in many ways, making it far too unaffordable for young professionals to take root here, forcing them to seek housing options in other nearby communities. How can we sustain our way of life if we can’t pave the way for these young families to afford to live here and take ownership here as our population begins to age, and we are no longer able to financially and socially sustain the way of life we have grown to love? Will our children who have gone off to college be able to come back here and live with us, take care of us, raise their children with us? I don’t think so, and I’m worried.

These policies and latest political campaigns supported by these so-called progressives have also created environmental hazards and contributed to poor air quality by forcing folks to commute long distances to work here—since they certainly can’t afford to rent or buy here. Who hasn’t been caught in long, drawn-out traffic heading into and/or out of town during commute hours…and even outside those hours these days? How does this contribute to creating environmentally sustainable communities and combat climate change if all we’re doing is forcing people to live in neighboring communities and commute here for work? Communities that are willing to sprawl and fill in open space, greenfields, and agricultural land, which these folks preach about protecting? I’m confused by their approach and agenda—sure doesn’t seem sustainable to me.

How dare people attack a leader of color who is doing her best at creating healthy, equitable communities? Your true colors have come to light, and we all see you now. Please don’t listen to racist fearmongering, but look at folks’ resumes and actions. Don’t let them sway you away from those who have built their career on creating a just, compassionate, healthy, and equitable community!

We need a true progressive on council—one who doesn’t just claim progressive values, but actually puts them into practice; one who doesn’t just automatically oppose new housing options and other developments, but will advocate for smart development that will contribute to a healthy, equitable community. We need to see District 4 continue to support Councilmember Partida—I do, and I hope you will join me!

Darryl Rutherford served on the Davis Planning Commission and headed up the Sacramento Housing Alliance previously.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Ron Glick

    Welcome to my world Darryl. Let me add that a repudiation of the no on everything approach at the polls would be healthy for Davis politically, economically and socially.

  2. Paul Schwartz

    I have sat back and watched, disgusted by this campaign.  I can stay silent no longer.  Darryl nailed it.  These people aren’t progressive.  They are anti-housing.  Thanks for telling the truth.

  3. Dave Hart

    Right on!  I have lived in Davis for 38 years and the names of this group of anti-everything have been around, it seems, ever since I started paying attention to housing.  I have to say that I probably voted their way 20 years ago.  But I’ve come to realize that it is possible to live in a beautiful town and build housing.  Maybe the town changes, even changes a lot, but it is possible.  The crowd going after Gloria (and the person running against her) have zero vision and their influence is driven by fear.

  4. Tom Miller

    Signing SB6 and AB 2011 into law has relieved ‘progressives’ of fighting NIMBY’s at the council level, allowing the ‘invisible hand’ of our developer interests to pencil out projects that suit their bottom line. Throwing the progressive agenda to the ‘free’ market is opportune for Davis, as our ghost developments, such as Research Park, are standing ready for conversion, but don’t think the builders won’t be eyeing more attractive potentials with the Woodland mall. Maybe it’s time to finally say enough(!) to the Reagents of the U of C and build cheaper options than the affordable housing they refuse to provide for their students statewide. These are the kind of discussions the elected council might consider come 2023, and an informed presentation from the planning department as to what this means for Davis zoning is in order. Affordable housing is something we older folk tell our children and grandchildren that we remember…

    1. Colin Walsh

      With Paul Pelosi in the hospital after being attacked in his and Nancy Pelosi’s home after suffering from an actual unprecedented politicly motivated attack inspired by Trump politics this whole attempt to link Trump politics to local elections is in poor taste.

      1. Evan Cragin

        That is such a stretch. He is stating the anti-progression of Davis is adjacent to Trump politics of regression and nothing about advancing violence like the Pelosi attack.

  5. Colin Walsh

    Un-ironically, in complaining about others Rutherford himself launches into a mean spirited attack laced with insults. Calling someone “Trumpian”  is the 2022 equivalent of the Godwin rule and his piece should be vlued as such.

      1. Dave Bakay

        Yes, such as lumping all who oppose Gloria together and saying don’t listen to the “racist fearmongering”.  Anyone who doesn’t support her is a “so-called progressive”.  And implying that Adam called ALL homeless “violent transients”. Some are. So, is any criticism an “attack”? A “true progressive” wouldn’t have sat on her hands while a fellow councilmember sued citizens of Davis, let alone endorse him.

      2. Keith Y Echols

        es, such as lumping all who oppose Gloria together and saying don’t listen to the “racist fearmongering”.  Anyone who doesn’t support her is a “so-called progressive

        Good lord, I can’t believe the lack of intelligence in some of the posts here.  I don’t care two bits about Gloria Partida or any of this.  But any halfway intelligent reading of the article would tell you that it’s not the opposition of Partida or the opposition of her stances on the issues that is “Trumpian”.  It’s the tactics used against Partida that are “Trumpian”.  A hot button word in a town that thinks it’s as Blue as the deep blue sea.  But whatever…as I tell both sides…get over it or go to your safe spaces if the words hurt you so much.

    1. Darryl Rutherford

      Not going to get into a debate here. I stand by what I wrote – just a point of clarification – I called the “unprecedented political attack” being used in this campaign “Trumpian political attacks” and folks’ “campaign tactics in our small town” as “Trump-publican campaign tactics”.

    2. Walter Shwe

      This piece in no way was mean spirited and full of insults. Darryl Rutherford spoke the truth. I am more qualified to serve on the City Council than Adam Morrill. Many so called progressives appear to be disgraceful Republicans in sheep’s clothing.

  6. Richard_McCann


    How true. I saw this a quarter century ago when the the “so-called progressives” pushed for control of the City Council and through up the moat around Davis to keep out any one who wasn’t a “true Davisite.” The joke became whether you had resided here long enough to be entitled to a real voice in community decision making rather than being a “newbie.” I called these people “regressives” then because they wanted to cling to a mythological Davis of yesteryear. They were all for social justice “out there” just so long as they didn’t need to make sacrifices themselves here. This attitude pretty much led to the end of innovation in environmental sustainability here as well. We can witness this now in the opposition to the relatively mild measures being proposed in the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan despite the climate emergency that most of us acknowledge is here. I cringe every time the self-designated heirs of that earlier generation call themselves “progressives.” The title does not fit.

  7. Evan Cragin

    Absolutely nailed it, Darryl. It is so sad to see the “othering” of anyone who has not lived here long enough for a bunch of pseudo-progressive older people to consider “real” Davisites. The new ideas, new people, and yes — the progression of the City’s housing/infrastructure/innovation itself is a part of that — leads Davis to be the wonderful place it is. So many try to gatekeep that to only wealthier homeowners who got here first and are now trying to pull the ladder up behind them. Not to mention a bunch of these “progressive” anti-housing residents are showing their true selves with their full-throated endorsement of a Republican running against someone who I consider an example of the best of the Davis community — Councilmember Partida.

  8. Ron Oertel

    Personally, I’ve never cared how long someone lived (or doesn’t live) in a given locale – as long as they’re against sprawl. Concerns regarding political labels are a complete and total joke, to me. I can’t imagine anyone actually being concerned about that.

    Probably the reason that I cheer-on communities in which I’ll never live (and have no connection to), as well.  (No, I’m not speaking about Davis.) And yes, that includes communities in which I have no realistic chance of moving to, due to high housing prices. (At least, in regard to purchasing a reasonable single-family home.)

    For that matter, even hellholes like Natomas and Elk Grove have at least some activists trying to maintain at least some open space, habitat and farmland in perpetuity. Of course, Natomas might ultimately have no choice anyway, when the next flood occurs. At which point we’ll be hearing about “Natomas Strong”, while taxpayers are forced to literally bail them out.

    The “place” itself is more important than I am.  Any development that occurs on farmland/open space is permanently-changed, well-beyond my lifetime.

    Ultimately, land preservation is for future generations (people, animals, plants).  I salute those who had the foresight to preserve it in various forms. And I’m sorry that some who so proudly call themselves “progressives” don’t appreciate it, as well. (If that’s what a progressive is, count me out.)

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