Divide and Conquer is a Risky Strategy for the Council

One of the first lessons that my political mentor taught me a long time ago when I first got involved in politics was to avoid too many polarizing issues. He drew it out for me on a chalkboard quite clearly. You may take the majority position on each issue, but you will anger a different constituency as well. You may win on each issue, but at the end of the day those constituencies may add up to over 50%.

When the council took on the HRC and the police issue, it seemed that a majority of people were on their side. But these were very contentious issues and they angered a number of constituents who may have been with them on growth and development issues. Likewise the Target issue did not just anger the progressives who normally oppose the Council majority, but also it angered small business owners, particularly in the downtown. So while they might have had the barest of majorities support Measure K, they may have mobilized a powerful new constituency against them who will join forces with the progressives to work to oust them in 2008.

That brings me to yet another constituency that may be in the process of being mobilized against the council. The issue of the merger of the Senior Citizen Commission has angered many seniors. We’ve covered this issue a few times as it has developed. Overall the community seems indifferent to the issue of the merger of the Senior Citizen Commission with the Social Services Commission. However, one group that is angry is a group that has not generally asserted itself in Davis nor have they generally sided with the progressives. The council may once again have the majority that can get this through the council, but they may in turn mobilize another group against them.

The chair of the Senior Citizens commission Elaine Roberts Musser writes:

If council members are concerned about the tone of the conversation in the community, it is comments such as those aforementioned that get seniors’ blood boiling. They know full well when they are being had… A total of 138 outraged seniors want their commission to be left alone to do its business — advancing the interests of Davis seniors.

That may not seem like a large number, but it probably speaks for a larger group. Small numbers of voters who change their loyalties in an evenly divided town could be pivotal in swinging an election.

As we wrote a few weeks ago, we were unimpressed with the reasoning behind the move. Musser was not either.

Councilman Stephen Souza claims, “By combining the power of both bodies, you wind up with a more powerful body and focus …” What you really end up with is shortchanging constituencies of both the Senior Citizens Commission and the Social Services Commission, focusing away from seniors in particular.

Further she takes exception to the notion of making the Senior Citizens a subcommittee, since many are not able to drive at night and would not be able to attend the new commissions meetings which occur after dark.

I was also very troubled by a comment Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson made at the Oct. 24 City Council meeting. There was an indication that if seniors were not able to meet in the evening, then they could join a standing subcommittee. Why should seniors be relegated to subcommittee status, just because they cannot drive at night?

The Council majority may once again have the support both on the council itself and in the community to prevail on this issue. But at some point they will have polarized so many people, that they may have polarized themselves right out of power.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    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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City Council

24 comments

  1. The gang of three has not demonstrated the political savy necessary to function effectively in our community. Ruth Asmundson was barely reelected with the uncritical support of her lifelong friendships in Davis. Souza and Saylor have yet to be tested for reelection. Based upon their decisions, it is quite likely that they have ALREADY abandoned their Davis constituents in favor of the Yolo county political “movers and shakers” as they pursue higher office in two years.

  2. The gang of three has not demonstrated the political savy necessary to function effectively in our community. Ruth Asmundson was barely reelected with the uncritical support of her lifelong friendships in Davis. Souza and Saylor have yet to be tested for reelection. Based upon their decisions, it is quite likely that they have ALREADY abandoned their Davis constituents in favor of the Yolo county political “movers and shakers” as they pursue higher office in two years.

  3. The gang of three has not demonstrated the political savy necessary to function effectively in our community. Ruth Asmundson was barely reelected with the uncritical support of her lifelong friendships in Davis. Souza and Saylor have yet to be tested for reelection. Based upon their decisions, it is quite likely that they have ALREADY abandoned their Davis constituents in favor of the Yolo county political “movers and shakers” as they pursue higher office in two years.

  4. The gang of three has not demonstrated the political savy necessary to function effectively in our community. Ruth Asmundson was barely reelected with the uncritical support of her lifelong friendships in Davis. Souza and Saylor have yet to be tested for reelection. Based upon their decisions, it is quite likely that they have ALREADY abandoned their Davis constituents in favor of the Yolo county political “movers and shakers” as they pursue higher office in two years.

  5. “The issue of the merger of the Senior Citizen Commission has angered many seniors.”

    Doug,

    Many? How many is many?

    You’re reaching, here. The seniors of Davis don’t care about this. I’m sure most don’t even know about it. And it looks, at this point, like the merger will not take place.

    Even if it were to take place, and even if a few seniors were actually upset with the merger, the vast majority wouldn’t care unless it resulted in a negative impact on seniors in general or on their lives in particular. And it’s not at all obvious that such a merger would negatively impact anyone, other than the few on the current senior commission who want to maintain their positions.

    I do, nonetheless, agree with your view that a party in power can ultimately create a majority of opposition by upsetting a wide variety of different minorities in their domain. That is, those minorities might not agree on much, but after a while they will agree that it is time for the majority party to be voted out of office.

    That phenomenon is in no way unique to this council majority or to Davis. It happens in all democracies. In fact, I think it explains in part why the Democrats were thrown out after the 1994 election, and why Republicans were ousted last week.

    At some point not too long from now, the Greenwald-Heystek party will form a majority bloc on the city council. Enough people in Davis will be unhappy with enough decisions of the majority that they will look for a new direction.

    And for what it’s worth, I don’t think the Asmundson-Saylor-Souza party is really a majority in Davis. I don’t think we have a majority. I think there is a substantial left bloc (maybe 40%), a substantial center-right bloc (maybe 40%), and the rest that votes more on the basis of personalities and familiarity with the candidates.

  6. “The issue of the merger of the Senior Citizen Commission has angered many seniors.”

    Doug,

    Many? How many is many?

    You’re reaching, here. The seniors of Davis don’t care about this. I’m sure most don’t even know about it. And it looks, at this point, like the merger will not take place.

    Even if it were to take place, and even if a few seniors were actually upset with the merger, the vast majority wouldn’t care unless it resulted in a negative impact on seniors in general or on their lives in particular. And it’s not at all obvious that such a merger would negatively impact anyone, other than the few on the current senior commission who want to maintain their positions.

    I do, nonetheless, agree with your view that a party in power can ultimately create a majority of opposition by upsetting a wide variety of different minorities in their domain. That is, those minorities might not agree on much, but after a while they will agree that it is time for the majority party to be voted out of office.

    That phenomenon is in no way unique to this council majority or to Davis. It happens in all democracies. In fact, I think it explains in part why the Democrats were thrown out after the 1994 election, and why Republicans were ousted last week.

    At some point not too long from now, the Greenwald-Heystek party will form a majority bloc on the city council. Enough people in Davis will be unhappy with enough decisions of the majority that they will look for a new direction.

    And for what it’s worth, I don’t think the Asmundson-Saylor-Souza party is really a majority in Davis. I don’t think we have a majority. I think there is a substantial left bloc (maybe 40%), a substantial center-right bloc (maybe 40%), and the rest that votes more on the basis of personalities and familiarity with the candidates.

  7. “The issue of the merger of the Senior Citizen Commission has angered many seniors.”

    Doug,

    Many? How many is many?

    You’re reaching, here. The seniors of Davis don’t care about this. I’m sure most don’t even know about it. And it looks, at this point, like the merger will not take place.

    Even if it were to take place, and even if a few seniors were actually upset with the merger, the vast majority wouldn’t care unless it resulted in a negative impact on seniors in general or on their lives in particular. And it’s not at all obvious that such a merger would negatively impact anyone, other than the few on the current senior commission who want to maintain their positions.

    I do, nonetheless, agree with your view that a party in power can ultimately create a majority of opposition by upsetting a wide variety of different minorities in their domain. That is, those minorities might not agree on much, but after a while they will agree that it is time for the majority party to be voted out of office.

    That phenomenon is in no way unique to this council majority or to Davis. It happens in all democracies. In fact, I think it explains in part why the Democrats were thrown out after the 1994 election, and why Republicans were ousted last week.

    At some point not too long from now, the Greenwald-Heystek party will form a majority bloc on the city council. Enough people in Davis will be unhappy with enough decisions of the majority that they will look for a new direction.

    And for what it’s worth, I don’t think the Asmundson-Saylor-Souza party is really a majority in Davis. I don’t think we have a majority. I think there is a substantial left bloc (maybe 40%), a substantial center-right bloc (maybe 40%), and the rest that votes more on the basis of personalities and familiarity with the candidates.

  8. “The issue of the merger of the Senior Citizen Commission has angered many seniors.”

    Doug,

    Many? How many is many?

    You’re reaching, here. The seniors of Davis don’t care about this. I’m sure most don’t even know about it. And it looks, at this point, like the merger will not take place.

    Even if it were to take place, and even if a few seniors were actually upset with the merger, the vast majority wouldn’t care unless it resulted in a negative impact on seniors in general or on their lives in particular. And it’s not at all obvious that such a merger would negatively impact anyone, other than the few on the current senior commission who want to maintain their positions.

    I do, nonetheless, agree with your view that a party in power can ultimately create a majority of opposition by upsetting a wide variety of different minorities in their domain. That is, those minorities might not agree on much, but after a while they will agree that it is time for the majority party to be voted out of office.

    That phenomenon is in no way unique to this council majority or to Davis. It happens in all democracies. In fact, I think it explains in part why the Democrats were thrown out after the 1994 election, and why Republicans were ousted last week.

    At some point not too long from now, the Greenwald-Heystek party will form a majority bloc on the city council. Enough people in Davis will be unhappy with enough decisions of the majority that they will look for a new direction.

    And for what it’s worth, I don’t think the Asmundson-Saylor-Souza party is really a majority in Davis. I don’t think we have a majority. I think there is a substantial left bloc (maybe 40%), a substantial center-right bloc (maybe 40%), and the rest that votes more on the basis of personalities and familiarity with the candidates.

  9. that sounds about right for the city, 40-20-40, although i’d hesitate to use left and right for what ends up primarily a discussion about development and growth arguments more often than not. and the blocs could very well be more in the low 30s in terms of all citizens, if not the regular voters who turn out for city council races.

    personal connections are a huge part of it, though. i remain convinced that measure x would have passed if more people in town had actually known who mike corbett was. i saw the no on x soapboxers at the co-op actually try to talk mike into getting a sign opposing x, with no idea that he was a) a former progressive mayor of davis, b) the guy who developed village homes, or c) the guy in charge of measure x.

  10. that sounds about right for the city, 40-20-40, although i’d hesitate to use left and right for what ends up primarily a discussion about development and growth arguments more often than not. and the blocs could very well be more in the low 30s in terms of all citizens, if not the regular voters who turn out for city council races.

    personal connections are a huge part of it, though. i remain convinced that measure x would have passed if more people in town had actually known who mike corbett was. i saw the no on x soapboxers at the co-op actually try to talk mike into getting a sign opposing x, with no idea that he was a) a former progressive mayor of davis, b) the guy who developed village homes, or c) the guy in charge of measure x.

  11. that sounds about right for the city, 40-20-40, although i’d hesitate to use left and right for what ends up primarily a discussion about development and growth arguments more often than not. and the blocs could very well be more in the low 30s in terms of all citizens, if not the regular voters who turn out for city council races.

    personal connections are a huge part of it, though. i remain convinced that measure x would have passed if more people in town had actually known who mike corbett was. i saw the no on x soapboxers at the co-op actually try to talk mike into getting a sign opposing x, with no idea that he was a) a former progressive mayor of davis, b) the guy who developed village homes, or c) the guy in charge of measure x.

  12. that sounds about right for the city, 40-20-40, although i’d hesitate to use left and right for what ends up primarily a discussion about development and growth arguments more often than not. and the blocs could very well be more in the low 30s in terms of all citizens, if not the regular voters who turn out for city council races.

    personal connections are a huge part of it, though. i remain convinced that measure x would have passed if more people in town had actually known who mike corbett was. i saw the no on x soapboxers at the co-op actually try to talk mike into getting a sign opposing x, with no idea that he was a) a former progressive mayor of davis, b) the guy who developed village homes, or c) the guy in charge of measure x.

  13. “personal connections are a huge part of it, though. i remain convinced that measure x would have passed if more people in town had actually known who mike corbett was.”

    That may be so. I know Mike — I went to high school with his daughter, Lisa — and I’m a big fan of Village Homes. I believed him when he said he took the lessons of Village Homes and greatly improved upon them for Covell Village.

    However, I don’t think the lack of familiarity with Corbett — who actually was not one of the partners in the Covell Village Partners — was the overriding factor. I think there were two big considerations that doomed the project:

    1) timing. Davis grew a lot over the previous 10 years, and a majority in Davis felt we don’t need to grow any more, at least not now; and

    2) size. Covell Village was a huge project, and I think a majority in town was not comfortable with the inevitably big impacts from such a big project. People who drive on Covell Blvd know that it is often choked with cars. They couldn’t support even more traffic on that corridor.

    There were a lot of other smaller reasons why voters turned down Measure X. But I think its size and its timing are the two big factors which differentiated its outcome from the previous vote we had on Wildhorse (which obviously passed).

  14. “personal connections are a huge part of it, though. i remain convinced that measure x would have passed if more people in town had actually known who mike corbett was.”

    That may be so. I know Mike — I went to high school with his daughter, Lisa — and I’m a big fan of Village Homes. I believed him when he said he took the lessons of Village Homes and greatly improved upon them for Covell Village.

    However, I don’t think the lack of familiarity with Corbett — who actually was not one of the partners in the Covell Village Partners — was the overriding factor. I think there were two big considerations that doomed the project:

    1) timing. Davis grew a lot over the previous 10 years, and a majority in Davis felt we don’t need to grow any more, at least not now; and

    2) size. Covell Village was a huge project, and I think a majority in town was not comfortable with the inevitably big impacts from such a big project. People who drive on Covell Blvd know that it is often choked with cars. They couldn’t support even more traffic on that corridor.

    There were a lot of other smaller reasons why voters turned down Measure X. But I think its size and its timing are the two big factors which differentiated its outcome from the previous vote we had on Wildhorse (which obviously passed).

  15. “personal connections are a huge part of it, though. i remain convinced that measure x would have passed if more people in town had actually known who mike corbett was.”

    That may be so. I know Mike — I went to high school with his daughter, Lisa — and I’m a big fan of Village Homes. I believed him when he said he took the lessons of Village Homes and greatly improved upon them for Covell Village.

    However, I don’t think the lack of familiarity with Corbett — who actually was not one of the partners in the Covell Village Partners — was the overriding factor. I think there were two big considerations that doomed the project:

    1) timing. Davis grew a lot over the previous 10 years, and a majority in Davis felt we don’t need to grow any more, at least not now; and

    2) size. Covell Village was a huge project, and I think a majority in town was not comfortable with the inevitably big impacts from such a big project. People who drive on Covell Blvd know that it is often choked with cars. They couldn’t support even more traffic on that corridor.

    There were a lot of other smaller reasons why voters turned down Measure X. But I think its size and its timing are the two big factors which differentiated its outcome from the previous vote we had on Wildhorse (which obviously passed).

  16. “personal connections are a huge part of it, though. i remain convinced that measure x would have passed if more people in town had actually known who mike corbett was.”

    That may be so. I know Mike — I went to high school with his daughter, Lisa — and I’m a big fan of Village Homes. I believed him when he said he took the lessons of Village Homes and greatly improved upon them for Covell Village.

    However, I don’t think the lack of familiarity with Corbett — who actually was not one of the partners in the Covell Village Partners — was the overriding factor. I think there were two big considerations that doomed the project:

    1) timing. Davis grew a lot over the previous 10 years, and a majority in Davis felt we don’t need to grow any more, at least not now; and

    2) size. Covell Village was a huge project, and I think a majority in town was not comfortable with the inevitably big impacts from such a big project. People who drive on Covell Blvd know that it is often choked with cars. They couldn’t support even more traffic on that corridor.

    There were a lot of other smaller reasons why voters turned down Measure X. But I think its size and its timing are the two big factors which differentiated its outcome from the previous vote we had on Wildhorse (which obviously passed).

  17. For those who were not around for the Wildhorse development controversy, a little history is valuable. The referendum to void the Wildhorse development agreement did not succeed. Then Mayor Lois Wolk, now Assembyperson Wolk( she was then the “annointed one” by the Yolo developer/landowner interests, much as Don Saylor is today),publicly claimed that voiding the developemt agreement would give the developers a free hand to do whatever they wanted with the Wildhorse developemt. This misinformation was dumped on the electorate just a week before the election. It turned out not to be true but probably frightened the Davis voters enough to get a win for the Wildhorse development.This type of terror tactic whas tried again at the end of the Measure X campaign with The Helen Thomsen Letter. It was launched too soon and the No on X campaign had enough time to respond.

  18. For those who were not around for the Wildhorse development controversy, a little history is valuable. The referendum to void the Wildhorse development agreement did not succeed. Then Mayor Lois Wolk, now Assembyperson Wolk( she was then the “annointed one” by the Yolo developer/landowner interests, much as Don Saylor is today),publicly claimed that voiding the developemt agreement would give the developers a free hand to do whatever they wanted with the Wildhorse developemt. This misinformation was dumped on the electorate just a week before the election. It turned out not to be true but probably frightened the Davis voters enough to get a win for the Wildhorse development.This type of terror tactic whas tried again at the end of the Measure X campaign with The Helen Thomsen Letter. It was launched too soon and the No on X campaign had enough time to respond.

  19. For those who were not around for the Wildhorse development controversy, a little history is valuable. The referendum to void the Wildhorse development agreement did not succeed. Then Mayor Lois Wolk, now Assembyperson Wolk( she was then the “annointed one” by the Yolo developer/landowner interests, much as Don Saylor is today),publicly claimed that voiding the developemt agreement would give the developers a free hand to do whatever they wanted with the Wildhorse developemt. This misinformation was dumped on the electorate just a week before the election. It turned out not to be true but probably frightened the Davis voters enough to get a win for the Wildhorse development.This type of terror tactic whas tried again at the end of the Measure X campaign with The Helen Thomsen Letter. It was launched too soon and the No on X campaign had enough time to respond.

  20. For those who were not around for the Wildhorse development controversy, a little history is valuable. The referendum to void the Wildhorse development agreement did not succeed. Then Mayor Lois Wolk, now Assembyperson Wolk( she was then the “annointed one” by the Yolo developer/landowner interests, much as Don Saylor is today),publicly claimed that voiding the developemt agreement would give the developers a free hand to do whatever they wanted with the Wildhorse developemt. This misinformation was dumped on the electorate just a week before the election. It turned out not to be true but probably frightened the Davis voters enough to get a win for the Wildhorse development.This type of terror tactic whas tried again at the end of the Measure X campaign with The Helen Thomsen Letter. It was launched too soon and the No on X campaign had enough time to respond.

  21. Ah yes, the Craig Reynolds tactic.

    Rich: You asked how many is many, so far 183 seniors have signed the petition, that enough to potentially swing an election the way things have gone lately.

  22. Ah yes, the Craig Reynolds tactic.

    Rich: You asked how many is many, so far 183 seniors have signed the petition, that enough to potentially swing an election the way things have gone lately.

  23. Ah yes, the Craig Reynolds tactic.

    Rich: You asked how many is many, so far 183 seniors have signed the petition, that enough to potentially swing an election the way things have gone lately.

  24. Ah yes, the Craig Reynolds tactic.

    Rich: You asked how many is many, so far 183 seniors have signed the petition, that enough to potentially swing an election the way things have gone lately.

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