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.