Bapu Vaitla, with a Good Lead, Appears Poised to Become Councilmember

Bapu Vaitla

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – After Election Night tallies, Bapu Vaitla holds a commanding lead in the First City Council District.  While we estimate there could be another 2500 to 3000 votes, it seems likely that Vaitla will be the next councilmember, having topped incumbent Dan Carson and fellow challenger Kelsey Fortune.

The Vanguard caught up with Vaitla on Wednesday morning.

“I’m feeling optimistic. There are more votes to be counted. We have a pretty good lead, but don’t want to presume any things before all the votes get counted and the final results are in.” Vaitla told the Vanguard.

He said he was “cautiously optimistic” but added, “I am also really proud of the campaign we ran and so many people upturned their lives for this campaign. I think I would not have been able to maintain my sanity during the last few months had it not been. We had about 30 volunteers who each gave hours and hours of their time.

“So it was, it’s a moment for us to be just proud in the work, regardless of the outcome. Say we didn’t leave anything on the table and there’s a measure of peace that comes with knowing that you did everything you could to get the message out, win or lose.”

Asked if he was surprised by the initial showing, he said, “It’s hard to tell. Yes and no. I would say yes in the sense that it is hard to know given running a three-way race against an incumbent, it’s really difficult to know how much common space is, how much the message is resonating for the other candidates. So in that sense, it was surprising that we did so well.”

He continued, “But also knocking on doors people were enthusiastic about our message and, given the endorsements, fundraising and especially the kind of reactions we were getting, canvassing and then meet and greets, we felt like we had a good chance.”

Vaitla noted that the campaign especially highlighted issues surrounding affordable housing and climate.

He said, “What we kept hearing again and again, and I think the culture in Davis around affordable housing has changed. People’s kids who grew up here can’t afford to move back and rent, let alone buy.

Vaitla noted, “As the number of homeless goes up on the streets, as we see how many low income units we’re obligated to build that we haven’t made any progress on. I think it’s just people start being open to how do we build affordable, dense housing.

He said, “So we heard that a lot. Just kind of this new openness to what do we do about sensible housing.”

At the same time people are feeling the issue of climate change with greater urgency.

“On climate, people are feeling that we’re truly in this period of emergency and wanting Davis to be a leader in carbon negativity, not even just carbon neutrality.”

Assuming the results hold up, he said that the first thing he would do is look at a strategic vision around both issues.

He explained, “There’s some short term stuff that can be done around having a permanent affordable housing ordinance getting a cost of development calculator up so that we know for every proposed development, what we’re looking at in terms of finances in terms of what will pencil out as far as affordable units.”

He said he is really thinking about “starting with the downtown plan and then working our way really to think about how soon can we do a general plan update. How do we get a 5, 10, 20 year strategic vision for housing development that’s meets our affordable requirements, but also is climate friendly and just is transit link.”

He said, “That’s got to be the strategic vision’s, got to be the priority.”

He added, “And the same thing on climate. We’re in the middle of this CAAP process, and the next step is to think about what are we going to prioritize in year one? What three things are we going to prioritize and what are the financing opportunities for those things? Again, strategic vision and then the sort of implementation details that come once you’ve got the strategic vision in place.”

The next step will be finalizing the vote and determining whether the initial results hold up.

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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  1. Matt Williams

    Bapu has a golden opportunity to show his leadership very early in his term … perhaps even before he actually is sworn in.  He should lead his fellow Council members to deliberation of and passage of an ordinance to return City of Davis elections to at-large rather than by district.  The first such at-large election could be (should be in  my opinion) the special election for the remaining two years of Lucas Frerichs’ term of office.

    All the touted benefits to minority groups and communities of interest that district voting is purported to deliver have been clearly shown in the five district elections thus far to be elusive, if not non-existent, in Davis because of the dispersed demographic residence patterns that predominate in Davis. Further, as the Vanguard has pointed out in past articles, candidates with roots in either minority groups or communities of interest, or both, have a better chance of being elected in a “top two” or “top three” at-large election covering the whole City than they do in a “winner takes all” district election.

    It is likely that legal experts will caution against such a proactive step, fearing the likelihood of a law suit.  However, the situation is very different now than it was when Matt Rexroad did his sabre rattling early in 2019.  First, and most important, is the July 9, 2020 State Appeals Court ruling in favor of Santa Monica

    A State Appeals Court on Thursday ruled that Santa Monica’s at-large election system does not violate the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA), a decision the Latino plaintiffs plan to appeal.

    The ruling by the the 2nd District Court of Appeal overturns a trial court decision that found Santa Monica’s system discriminates against Latinos and ordered the City to hold district elections.

    In its ruling Thursday, the three judge panel wrote that it would “decline (the plaintiffs’) invitation to take the unprecedented and unwise path it urges.”

    “In sum, the City did not act with a racially discriminatory purpose in 1946 or in 1992,” the Court wrote referring to the City’s decisions to reject district elections.

    “The City did not violate the California Voting Rights Act or the California Constitution,” Justice John Shepard Wiley Jr. wrote in the unanimous decision.

    “We do not reach the remedies issue because there was no wrong to remedy,” he wrote.

    The second reason is that the experience with district elections in Davis provides clear evidence that unlike in other jurisdictions, In Davis “there is no wrong to remedy” because of Davis’ disperse demographic distribution.  Arguably, returning to at large elections will increase the chances of successful campaigns for Council election on the part of minority and/or community of interest candidates.  Accomplishing that here in Davis would truly remedy a wrong.

    Because of those two clear reasons, anyone choosing to file a lawsuit challenging Davis’ decision to return to at-large elections will be (in my opinion) fighting a huge uphill battle … and it is hard to imagine who would undertake such a battle.


    1. David Greenwald

      I think any chance to do this just sailed. Had Dan Carson won, their might have been a slim chance, but with two people of color (likely) elected this round, there is likely no chance to do it.

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