Council Adopts Weak Disclosure of Financial Interest in General Plan Steering Committee

Early on Wednesday morning, the City Council moved forward on their plan to update the general plan. Each member nominated three regulars and one alternate to a 15 member steering committee that would be charged with overseeing the re-writing and drafting of the general plan.

While I am not going to go through a person-by-person analysis of the people named to that committee, it is noteworthy to mention that many of the council members chose people who were their strongest political supporters and allies rather than people with particular expertise in land use.

Several people have pointed out that there are a few developers named to this group. There are several developers named to this committee including Luke Watkins and Maynard Skinner. Watkins is co-principal for the Neighborhood Partners who have created a number of affordable housing developments in town including the Eleanor Roosevelt Circle project. Maynard Skinner, a former Davis mayor, is an agent for at least two developers holding land on our periphery. This is nothing personal against either Watkins or Skinner, whom I both like. At times they have been very supportive of some our goals not pertaining to land use. However, they are developers and would stand to at least potentially gain financially from some of the policies on whose board they serve.

One issue that arose at the council meeting was the issue of the level of financial interests by steering committee members that needed disclosure. The reason that this is such a concern is that you have people named to a committee responsibile for land use planning into the future that may or may not stand to personally gain financially from the policies that they help to enact.

The city staff recommended the following:

The Steering Committee is established for a temporary, ad hoc purpose to steer a citywide general plan update process and make recommendations to the Planning Commission and City Council at public hearings. Committee members may have significant interests in real property and business entities. This ultimately should not be a problem of conflict in that the Council would make the final policy decisions, not the Steering Committee.

Staff does not recommend such disclosure be used for any purpose such as a criterion in an application or to require members to recuse themselves from discussions. Therefore, the information would only be filed and made available for public information.

I strongly disagree with staff’s assessment.

First, while it is true that council and not the committee members make the final decision–the committee will play a very large role in shaping that final decision.

Second, even if the information would “only be filed and made available for public information” that would be a valuable piece of information for an informed public so that they are fully aware of just who the council has selected to update one of the most important documents for future land use.

To the credit of the city council, they adopted Mayor Sue Greenwald’s substitute motion which basically endorsed an alternative level of disclosure:

Require a simple statement disclosing interests in real property and business entities. Retain as a public record which may be disclosed or released upon request pursuant to the California Public Records Act. Do not require as part of an application process.

This addresses my point No.2 above–that at least now the public can have some information about the property holdings and business entities that the individuals on this committee have.

While this is most definitely better than city staff’s recommendation, Councilmember Lamar Heystek favored a third alternative, a much stronger disclosure. However, he did not push a substitute motion realizing that Mayor Greenwald was in favor of the weaker disclosure.

Require a full “Statement of Economic Interests” (Form 700) used by city commissions and employees, but do not require as part of an application process. Issue guidelines for when members should recuse themselves.

This would have been ideal in my estimation. It is what is required not only for employees but also members of other commissions. It would have provided issue guidelines for when members should recuse themselves. I disagree with staff, people should not be part of deliberative process that they would directly and personally gain from financially. On a general basis it is disturbing but at the specific level in terms of deciding where development should occur in the future, it is even more so.

—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.

Categories:

Land Use/Open Space

32 comments

  1. There is a disturbing pattern of placing these very important items at the tail end of the city council meeting agenda. Few people who follow the council meetings on TV stay up until the early hours of the morning.
    It is then left to The Enterprise
    (read by only about 30% of Davis households) to determine what and how the council decisions are presented to the public. People’s Vanguard of Davis offers a valuable public service in documenting these “stealth” council decisions and offering UTube replays of important council member statements.

  2. There is a disturbing pattern of placing these very important items at the tail end of the city council meeting agenda. Few people who follow the council meetings on TV stay up until the early hours of the morning.
    It is then left to The Enterprise
    (read by only about 30% of Davis households) to determine what and how the council decisions are presented to the public. People’s Vanguard of Davis offers a valuable public service in documenting these “stealth” council decisions and offering UTube replays of important council member statements.

  3. There is a disturbing pattern of placing these very important items at the tail end of the city council meeting agenda. Few people who follow the council meetings on TV stay up until the early hours of the morning.
    It is then left to The Enterprise
    (read by only about 30% of Davis households) to determine what and how the council decisions are presented to the public. People’s Vanguard of Davis offers a valuable public service in documenting these “stealth” council decisions and offering UTube replays of important council member statements.

  4. There is a disturbing pattern of placing these very important items at the tail end of the city council meeting agenda. Few people who follow the council meetings on TV stay up until the early hours of the morning.
    It is then left to The Enterprise
    (read by only about 30% of Davis households) to determine what and how the council decisions are presented to the public. People’s Vanguard of Davis offers a valuable public service in documenting these “stealth” council decisions and offering UTube replays of important council member statements.

  5. Was staff asked directly why their financial disclosure recommendations for this steering committee were significantly less stringent that that for our citizen commissions? Citizen commission disclosure practices are the obvious model since the citizen steering committee and our other citizen commissions are the same(citizens gathering information and making recommendations to the council) and the conflict of interest issues far more important. If so, I sure would like to see and hear it on UTube.

  6. Was staff asked directly why their financial disclosure recommendations for this steering committee were significantly less stringent that that for our citizen commissions? Citizen commission disclosure practices are the obvious model since the citizen steering committee and our other citizen commissions are the same(citizens gathering information and making recommendations to the council) and the conflict of interest issues far more important. If so, I sure would like to see and hear it on UTube.

  7. Was staff asked directly why their financial disclosure recommendations for this steering committee were significantly less stringent that that for our citizen commissions? Citizen commission disclosure practices are the obvious model since the citizen steering committee and our other citizen commissions are the same(citizens gathering information and making recommendations to the council) and the conflict of interest issues far more important. If so, I sure would like to see and hear it on UTube.

  8. Was staff asked directly why their financial disclosure recommendations for this steering committee were significantly less stringent that that for our citizen commissions? Citizen commission disclosure practices are the obvious model since the citizen steering committee and our other citizen commissions are the same(citizens gathering information and making recommendations to the council) and the conflict of interest issues far more important. If so, I sure would like to see and hear it on UTube.

  9. The staff presentation concerning the meaning of the “licencing” issue for EAP and the revelation that they did not really know what they were dealing with should concern the council. Why staff did not recommend Lamar’s position(use the standard disclosure forms for our citizen commissions)is also difficult to understand. There is a disturbing suggestion that less than adequate critical thinking and sloppy decision-making may be infiltrating city staff’s work product and it is the council’s responsibility to tighten its oversight.

  10. The staff presentation concerning the meaning of the “licencing” issue for EAP and the revelation that they did not really know what they were dealing with should concern the council. Why staff did not recommend Lamar’s position(use the standard disclosure forms for our citizen commissions)is also difficult to understand. There is a disturbing suggestion that less than adequate critical thinking and sloppy decision-making may be infiltrating city staff’s work product and it is the council’s responsibility to tighten its oversight.

  11. The staff presentation concerning the meaning of the “licencing” issue for EAP and the revelation that they did not really know what they were dealing with should concern the council. Why staff did not recommend Lamar’s position(use the standard disclosure forms for our citizen commissions)is also difficult to understand. There is a disturbing suggestion that less than adequate critical thinking and sloppy decision-making may be infiltrating city staff’s work product and it is the council’s responsibility to tighten its oversight.

  12. The staff presentation concerning the meaning of the “licencing” issue for EAP and the revelation that they did not really know what they were dealing with should concern the council. Why staff did not recommend Lamar’s position(use the standard disclosure forms for our citizen commissions)is also difficult to understand. There is a disturbing suggestion that less than adequate critical thinking and sloppy decision-making may be infiltrating city staff’s work product and it is the council’s responsibility to tighten its oversight.

  13. “One issue that arose at the council meeting was the issue of the level of financial interests that needed disclosure.”

    It’s interesting that the person who writes this blog, often about the HRC and events with his wife, never discloses that information. So disclosure is good for others, just not good for Mr. Greenwald?

  14. “One issue that arose at the council meeting was the issue of the level of financial interests that needed disclosure.”

    It’s interesting that the person who writes this blog, often about the HRC and events with his wife, never discloses that information. So disclosure is good for others, just not good for Mr. Greenwald?

  15. “One issue that arose at the council meeting was the issue of the level of financial interests that needed disclosure.”

    It’s interesting that the person who writes this blog, often about the HRC and events with his wife, never discloses that information. So disclosure is good for others, just not good for Mr. Greenwald?

  16. “One issue that arose at the council meeting was the issue of the level of financial interests that needed disclosure.”

    It’s interesting that the person who writes this blog, often about the HRC and events with his wife, never discloses that information. So disclosure is good for others, just not good for Mr. Greenwald?

  17. I find it ironic that is an anonymous poster who accuses Mr. Greenwald of a failure to disclose information in his own blog.

    And yes, I too shall remain anonymous… hence expanding the irony.

  18. I find it ironic that is an anonymous poster who accuses Mr. Greenwald of a failure to disclose information in his own blog.

    And yes, I too shall remain anonymous… hence expanding the irony.

  19. I find it ironic that is an anonymous poster who accuses Mr. Greenwald of a failure to disclose information in his own blog.

    And yes, I too shall remain anonymous… hence expanding the irony.

  20. I find it ironic that is an anonymous poster who accuses Mr. Greenwald of a failure to disclose information in his own blog.

    And yes, I too shall remain anonymous… hence expanding the irony.

  21. The personal attacks on the author of this blog and those who choose to be anonymous with their comments is a “red herring” that rarely includes anything “on point” and is used to divert attention from the facts under discussion. As soon as the author of this blog was identified, the comment section is being used for personal attack on him rather than his arguments. This is as clear an example as I can imagine of the value of anonymity. To paraphrase a now classic political strategy maxim of the Clinton years: It’s the IDEAS, stupid!!

  22. The personal attacks on the author of this blog and those who choose to be anonymous with their comments is a “red herring” that rarely includes anything “on point” and is used to divert attention from the facts under discussion. As soon as the author of this blog was identified, the comment section is being used for personal attack on him rather than his arguments. This is as clear an example as I can imagine of the value of anonymity. To paraphrase a now classic political strategy maxim of the Clinton years: It’s the IDEAS, stupid!!

  23. The personal attacks on the author of this blog and those who choose to be anonymous with their comments is a “red herring” that rarely includes anything “on point” and is used to divert attention from the facts under discussion. As soon as the author of this blog was identified, the comment section is being used for personal attack on him rather than his arguments. This is as clear an example as I can imagine of the value of anonymity. To paraphrase a now classic political strategy maxim of the Clinton years: It’s the IDEAS, stupid!!

  24. The personal attacks on the author of this blog and those who choose to be anonymous with their comments is a “red herring” that rarely includes anything “on point” and is used to divert attention from the facts under discussion. As soon as the author of this blog was identified, the comment section is being used for personal attack on him rather than his arguments. This is as clear an example as I can imagine of the value of anonymity. To paraphrase a now classic political strategy maxim of the Clinton years: It’s the IDEAS, stupid!!

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