Tag Archives: Woodland

Surf Putah Democratic Primary Endorsements

Fellow Californians, today’s the primary, and it’s likely to be a fairly low turnout one, especially on our side, given the lack of a race in the Dem’s gubernatorial primary (cue the DK’s California über alles). Since I bothered to slog through the voter’s guide, I figured I’d toss my own two cents out there, in case anyone’s interested.

For interests of space and focus, I left off all of the uncontested races on the ballot. Some I voted for, some I left blank, some I wrote in candidates, but in any case neither my vote nor recommendation has much effect on the outcome.

Endorsements below the fold…


Senator – Barbara Boxer

This is both a vote for California’s good senator, and a vote against the execrable elephant in donkey’s clothing that is Mickey Kaus.


Governor – no recommendation

I wrote in Van Jones here. I’ll vote Brown in the general, but have not been impressed by him so far. I’m hoping the 1992 populist persona of Brown shows up soon, because right now he does not impress.

Lt. Gov – Gavin Newsom

Not a huge fan of Newsom, admittedly, but there doesn’t seem to be much daylight between him and Hahn on issue positions, and he’s got a good sense for political theatre, which is a big plus for a more of less useless office such as Lt. Governor. Ceteris paribus, I tend to vote for NorCal over SoCal and against whoever is dumb enough to employ Chris Lehane Garry South at the moment [oops, got my slash and burn consultants mixed up]. Finally, getting Gav out of SF opens up space for a more lefty mayor.

Attorney General – Kamala Harris

This is fundamentally a race between Harris and Facebook privacy officer Chris Kelley. Given Harris’ progressive positions on pretty much everything, and the fact that corporate tool Kelley would threaten to do for California what he did to facebook users’ privacy, it’s a no-brainer.

Insurance Commissioner – Dave Jones

This was a hard call because both candidates looked pretty good, and I like de la Torre’s support of single-payer and his adept rhetorical use of his personal experience in our awful health insurance system to drive home the need for reform, but Jones looks to have a better overall grasp on the totality of what Insurance Commissioner can do, not just in terms of Health Insurance. And he’s from Sac, which is bonus points.  

Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tom Torlakson

This may be the most important statewide race on the ballot, other than the initiatives. California education is under assault from a wicked combination of decades of perpetual GOP-forced funding cuts (thanks to Prop. 13’s 2/3 vote threshold in both chambers to pass a budget or raise taxes), and a right-wing privatization movement with a serious animosity towards teachers and a test fetish that (I am sad to say) has the support of Obama’s awful secretary of education. In this race, the three main contenders are all backed by a side in this struggle: Torlakson is backed by the teachers, Aceves by school administrators, and Romero by the right wing privatization group EdVoice, who threw a ton of money and some incredibly nasty flyers at my Democratic assembly primary race two years ago.

How one views the topic of reform in education depends a lot on what you think is wrong with it. Personally, having been a public school student in an era of budget cuts, and a grad student and teaching assistant in an era of rising tuition, I think that if anyone knows what is wrong with our educational system, and what needs to be done to improve it, it is the teachers. I have no love for think tank “experts” who have no experience teaching and don’t have to live with he consequences of their experiments, nor for the grifters who privatize public services to skim off the top while they bust unions. There is nothing wrong with California’s educational system that restoring our per student funding levels, tuition levels and class ratios to the Pat Brown days won’t fix. Of the candidates running, Torlakson is the only one who I trust to stand up for the integrity of public schools, and the only one who values our teachers as a critical part of the process and the solution to its shortcomings. My fear is that anti-union Republican votes will put Romero over the top, so turn out, Democrats!

Prop 13 – Yes

Noone’s campaigning against this one, and the general argument makes a fair amount of sense. Assuming the continued existence of California’s awful Prop 13-based property tax system, it is worth not discouraging businesses and residents to make improvements to their structures ASAP by refraining from dinging them with a higher tax assessment for fixing things up for safety’s sake. Given how many of the structures in the state are in serious danger from major earthquakes, doing whatever is possible to get things strengthened and safer is worth doing. This won’t likely make much difference for Yolo County, what with our overall lack of multistory structures and low earthquake risk.

Prop 14 – No

This is a bad idea for several reasons. First, the only reason this is on the ballot is that Republican then-State Senator now-Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado demanded that the State Senate put it on the ballot or else he wouldn’t vote to pass the budget, because he knows he’ll have a hard time making through a GOP primary as a moderate with a Spanish surname. His hostage crisis demands should not be honored with a vote.

Instead of the current party primary system, this initiative lumps everybody from all parties, plus “independent” candidates who choose not to put their party affiliation on the ballot, into one big pool, and then sends the two top vote-getters in that crowded field into the general election, which will only have two choices. By doing so, this strips rank-and-file party voters of their right to choose their own party’s candidates, and allows candidates to drop their party affiliation and feign “independence” when their party is unpopular in a given district, which is what Republicans have done in Washington State where they adopted this system.

Enjoy poring through every “nonpartisan” county race to figure out who is who? You’re going to love sorting through the massive block of names on your ballot under this bill. Expect a lot more rich, self-funded independent candidates staying silent about their policy agendas and mouthing platitudes. Minor parties like the Greens and Libertarians will be effectively shut out of future general elections. Party insiders and behind-the-scenes arm-twisting will have more, not less influence on the process, because the party that manages to clear the field for its chosen candidate will not dilute its vote as much as one which allows lots and lots of candidates to run, and thus have a better shot at getting to the general. In a nutshell, this is in my opinion a false reform, designed to aid the same corporate interests that have already bought the system and driven the state into a ditch.

Prop 15 – Yes

A great idea, especially given the importance that the person who runs the state elections be free from corruption. This voluntary pilot program would allow candidates to get a set amount of public funding if they have enough signatures and small donations to prove viability, without having to spend a ton of time begging corporations, unions and rich interests for money. In exchange for the funding, they cannot fundraise outside of that beyond a given amount. Candidates would get the same amount of funding, leveling the playing field and diverting the whole process from a fundraising race to actually campaigning for votes. Stigmatizing candidates who reject public funding would be a side benefit.

Our current system of financing elections is legalized bribery and corruption, and the sooner we see this system expanded the better. Since the supreme court’s decision that there can be no limits on corporate “speech” in the form of wads of money handed to candidates, the next best thing we can do to clean up our democracy is to get a public funding system going.

Prop 16 – No

Example A for why we need to seriously reform the initiative process. PG&E got tired of spending massive piles of money to block grassroots attempts to vote for public power (Such as Props H and I in Yolo County a few years back) or even buy their energy from someone other than PG&E (like what Marin County has been doing), so they spent a gazillion dollars in one election cycle to buy themselves an initiative slot to make people pass such votes by 2/3 instead of a simple majority. Oh, and by the way, that’s your and my ratepayer dollars financing this overtly antidemocratic campaign.

Prop 17 – No

Example B for why we need to seriously reform the initiative process. Basically, Mercury Insurance is unhappy that a 1988 initiative made it illegal to charge people more for insurance if they switched insurance companies, or had a while where they didn’t pay for insurance because they went to college, or ran out of money and so didn’t drive the car for a while, or lived for a while in a city with decent transit, or went to war and weren’t in a position to be driving a car stateside (one of the reason veteran’s orgs are opposing it). Mercury wants to be able to jack up our rates without restriction, so they funded an initiative to rewrite the law in their favor.

Yolo County:

Public Guardian/Public Administrator – Cass Sylvia


City Council – Joe Krovoza and Sydney Vergis

Measure Q – Yes

Measure R – Yes


City Council – Bobby Harris

Measures S, T, U, V – Yes


Measures W and Y – Yes

originally at surf putah

Central Valley Water News Roundup + Fabian Nuñez haiku

(originally at surf putah – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

One of the upsides to the unusually dry winter and spring that we’ve had this past year in California is that it gives us a bit of much-needed breathing room to try and figure out how we’re going to avoid becoming Katrina West the next time the floodwaters get high enough. My fears back in the fall about the levees not being repaired by the time the rain started falling in earnest thankfully proved wrong. That being said, water control is always an issue in this state, and the scale and complexity of the problems we face pretty much guarantee that it’s always on the table for discussion, somewhere or another. In recent water-related news:

West Sacramento’s levees have seepage problems of the same sort that threaten the houses sitting behind the Natomas levees, and thus might not be as stable as previously assumed. The good news is that those problems were discovered when the city proactively started taking core samples from its levees. Far better to find out in advance than just keep building houses behind them and find out when the levee blows in the middle of the night in some winter storm.

On the west side of Yolo County, I agree with County Supe Matt Rexroad that having a flood control expert on hand is a good thing for Yolo County and the city of Woodland, even if we might not necessarily agree on the best means to solve the problem. Woodland got pretty close to flooding last year, it’s a good idea to have a full-time expert working on it.

Moving south towards the delta,  the Chronicle reported a couple of days ago that Judge Frank Roesch has ordered that the pumps in Tracy that send water to East Bay and SoCal communities and farms either find a way to operate them without killing endangered species or shut down. This is on top of the ongoing discussions of how to come up with a framework to deal with the gordian knot of delta levees, water exports and floodplain development that Cal Fed hasn’t been able to solve.

Going east towards the foothills, Bayne of Blog recently blogged about Sacramento Congressman Dan Lungren moving towards calling for to be drained and restored. Usually a cause of environmentalist groups going back to ur-naturalist John Muir himself, the conservative Republican congressman seems to honestly be interested in the possibility of restoring the scenic valley in his district. While San Francisco officials oppose the move, UCD science blog Egghead reports that a recent Masters Thesis by UCD Geology grad student Sarah Null argues that the same water flow could be maintained without the dam.

While it’s not actually Central Valley levees under discussion, meterology blogger Jeff Masters over at Weather Underground has a couple of posts up (1, 2)reviewing what went wrong with New Orleans’ levee system that are worth a read. The Army Corps of Engineers do not come out looking very good, to say the least. Always worth a read.

Finally (ok, this last bit’s a bit of a stretch, but the rice is grown with irrigation, so it kind of relates), Hank Shaw from the Stockton Record has coverage of the pre-match trash-haiku’ing between Mike Villines and Fabian Nuñez about the upcoming Great Sushi Roll-off. Nuñez’s haiku?

Sushi challenge on
The public very happy
We aren’t naked chefs

Land-locked Clovis man
Makes worst Republican Rice
Since Condoleeza

Núñez sushi wins
Feral cats at Capitol
Reject Villines’ swill

Who knew Fabian was a poet?

And It Begins – Cabaldon Announces for the 8th Assembly District

(This is better than the quick diary that I wrote. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Well, it’s not exactly a surprise, but the entry of Chris Cabaldon – West Sacramento five-time mayor and runner-up to current Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (D-Davis) in 2002 – into the race officially begins the campaign to succeed Wolk in 2008, who is term limited and will be running for State Senate to replace Mike Machado (D-Linden) in the fifth district. Ah, you gotta love the term limits-induced merry-go-round in Sacramento.

The 8th district includes most of Yolo and Solano Counties, minus the city of Vallejo and the rural parts of Yolo County north of Woodland; in a nutshell, the I-80 corridor. The district is strongly Democratic, ad the winner of the Democratic primary will be heavily, possibly prohibitively favored to win the general.

Cabaldon’s announcement, interestingly enough, was in Davis in front of the train station, not West Sacramento, and he was flanked by Democratic officeholders from all over Yolo County – from Davis, County Supervisor and former Assemblywoman Helen Thompson, City Councilman Don Saylor, and Mayor pro tem Ruth Asmundson; From Woodland, County Sheriff and mayor Dave Flory, Vice Mayor Skip Davies, and City Councilman Jeff Monroe; From West Sacramento, County Supervisor Mike McGowan, Vice Mayor Oscar Villegas and City Councilmen Wes Beers and Mark Johannessen. One notable absence was outgoing Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, who has not yet announced who she is endorsing, if any, in the race to replace her. Republican County Supervisor Matt Rexroad, while not endorsing anybody in the race (claiming that his endorsement would be “the kiss of death” anyways), looks to me to be endorsing Cabaldon between the lines in this post (which is currently down; I’ll re-link it when his site gets back up and running). Clearly, Cabaldon is trying to get himself out there early as the Yolo County candidate, before anyone else announces.

Cabaldon’s supporters and detractors tend to cite the same thing – building in West Sacramento – to support their opinions. Supporters tend to point to his bringing Ikea to West Sac and contruction of condo housing as part of the recent revitalization of the port city; detractors tend to view him as excessively pro-corporate and pro-sprawl, and Cabaldon’s current campaigning on the issue of controlling urban sprawl to be hypocritical. Not really ever having set foot in West Sacramento before or after Cabaldon’s tenure, I can’t really say one way or the other whether it helped or hurt the city, but that’s the discussion. I don’t suspect that Cabaldon’s having come out last year as gay will affect the race much either way, since the district and most of his competitors are pretty socially liberal.

Those rumored to be considering a run are Steve Hardy (D-Vacaville), a City Councilman from Vacaville who came in 3rd in the 2002 primary, and Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), who was involved with the short-lived Davis DFA meetup and is generally considered to be the progressive candidate in the race. Having gotten to know Mariko a bit during the Dean campaign (over before it began, sadly), I hope she runs.

For those interested, there are a couple good discussions simmering on over at The Davis Vanguard on Cabaldon (here and here), as well as potential challengers here.

If the California presidential primary is moved to February, the state races will be the second in a series of three elections in ’08, and will likely end up with pretty low turnout. Who this helps is anybody’s guess this far out.At any rate, it should be fun to watch, and if the rumored Wolk-Garamendi, jr. race in the 5th State Senate district also pans out, 2008 could be a very exciting year for Yolo politics.

related websites:

Christopher Cabaldon for Assembly
Mariko Yamada’s County Supervisor page
Steve Hardy’s City Council page (scroll down)


originally at surf putah

A “Far-Left” Manifesto for Yolo County

(Surf Putah, which you will find in the California friends of our blogroll, is a great site for Yolo Cty. politics. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Well, I’ve made the cut, having been linked in the “Yolo Blogs” category over at Republican Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad’s new website (which looks quite nice, really). Along with the link (a good web resource for Yolo County in its own right), Rexroad gave this site this little introduction:

If you want to know what the people at the far end of the spectrum in Davis are doing….surf Putah.  I really can’t explain this stuff. Generally, if you find an opinion expressed here Matt Rexroad will be on the other side.

Since I’ve been identified as the far end of the spectrum, I figure that it’s as good a time as any to lay out what us inexplicable far-out Davisites are thinking about Yolo County. Ironically enough, I find myself to the center, or at least in a slightly different direction, from many self-defined “progressives” here in Davis, especially on the issue of development, the axis which city politics seems, rightly or wrongly, to revolve around. Mostly, though, I find that the perpetual battle over political labels to be a fairly useless one, since it assumes a coherent binary political debate, when in fact things tend to be far more complex in real life. I believe that governments ought to balance their budgets responsibly, instead of borrowing and spending with bond measures; am I a conservative? I believe that people generally ought to mind their own business, and that government and religious beliefs are best kept separate where neither can mess the other up; am I a liberal? I believe that all people are created equal, and ought to be treated as such; am I a progressive?

So for the benefit of both Rexroad and those who might follow his link to my site I’ll toss out where this inexplicable far-left blogger would like to see Yolo County headed:

1. Making it possible for Yolo farmers and ranchers to make a decent living, so that they can grow crops instead of subdivisions. The reasons why it is getting harder and harder for small farmers and ranchers to get by are complex, and the roots of the problem more often than not lie well outside of Yolo County. And yet, preserving a healthy and locally-rooted agricultural industry is something that should be central to any vision of a future Yolo County. Protecting farmland from development by easements, or buyouts is one way to help curb development pressure on productive ag land, but it is perhaps more important to ease the market pressures of falling agricultural commodity prices and rising fuel and other operating costs. Encouraging fuel-intensive or alternate fuel usage, aided by ag research over at UC Davis, might help to insulate Yolo agriculture from rising gas prices. Requiring school lunches to preference local farmers and ranchers might help to provide more demand for those products. Teaching gardening in elementary school, as they do at Fairfield Elementary school out in the county, might help to diminish the urban-rural split as well, and give our kids more appreciation for the folks who grow their food.Encouraging new agricultural industries in the county to replace the loss of all those closed tomato canneries in the past decade would help too.

Ultimately, reversing the decades-long national policy of free trade deals that flood domestic markets with foreign imports, and national policies that encourage overproduction are the real key to saving the family farm. Food is one thing, like military technology, that is a bad idea to rely on foreign imports for. We shouldn’t be flying walnuts in all the way from China when we can grow them out perfectly well in Winters.

2. Keeping development off the floodplain, and strengthening the flood control measures where we have already built close to rivers. The Yolo Bypass is a sound approach to the long-term pressures of river systems and seasonal flooding, and Yolo County has been smarter than many counties in this regard. Woodland desperately needs some way of guarding against winter flooding on Cache Creek, and hopefully some hydraulically sound solution will be found in the next couple of years, whether it be stronger levees or some bypass channel upstream of town. While the pressure for more housing is and will continue to be acute because of population growth (more on that below), we need to be steadfast about avoiding Natomas-style floodplain sprawl, because the moment any houses are built there we will collectively be liable for paying for their protection, indefinitely. In places such as West Sacramento, where flooding will always be a problem, we need to make sure that their levees are hardened to withstand severe flooding.

3. Providing adequate housing so that the children of Yolo residents can afford to actually live in their hometowns. This is one area where I part ways with many Davis progressives, in that I do not believe that a no growth or even slow growth model is either smart or just. When a town limits its housing stock like Davis has done, it might preserve the population size of ther town, but the nature of the community cannot but change with the skyrocketing housing prices. As long as people continue to have children, as long as the university increases its student and professorial population (which it will, since it is tied to state demographic growth), and as long as people want to move into this county of ours, we are going to have to have reasonable housing options. Yolo County has both one of the higher rates of growth in the state as well as one of the higher birthrates. All those people are going to have to find somewhere to live.

My sense is that we’d be better off encouraging the cities of Yolo county to start urbanizing in their downtown cores, close to the highways and train stations, to at bare minimum a level of density that our cities reached at the turn of the 19th century (the tallest buildings in most Yolo towns are perversely often the oldest ones). Build up a couple stories, get some people in those downtowns, and then get the downtowns built up along walkable, new urbanist lines, so that people don’t have to drive everywhere just to go about everyday life. This will allow more housing to be efficiently defended by floodwalls where floods threaten, and it should make room for many Yoloites who are currently priced out of even renting here anymore, let alone own houses. Additionally, when suburban housing is built, aim for smaller lots and smaller two story houses the way you used to see in the 20s and 30s, instead of the spread-out ranch tract housing that uses land as if it’s still cheap. Land is expensive, and denser housing makes better and more economical use of that land. And enough already with the huge luxury mcmansion developments for out of towners.

4. Support more small businesses to fulfill city needs, avoid big box megastores. As I wrote during the Measure K debate last November, there is a need for more and better retail in Yolo County, especially here in luxury boutique-saturated downtown Davis, but that we ought to be encouraging small and locally owned businesses to fulfill those needs rather than inviting big box retailers in to suck up the whole market, and siphon that revenue out of the county to some out of state corporate headquarters. Far too often it is posed as a false choice between the status quo and big box megastores, when in fact a third way is possible. One of the problems is that commercial rent is far too high in Davis, but as best as can be done, the city governments and county government should work to ease whatever barriers to starting businesses exist for small local businesses.

5. While this might be seen by some as working at cross-purposes to #4, we really need a living wage for the county, to say nothing of the über-expensive city of Davis as well. People who work in town ought to be able to afford to live in the same communities, or failing that, in the county. While the statewide minimum wage hike of $7.50 goes partway, a hike to a living wage of $10 or higher would help a great deal, and lessen the class segregation that we get when rents get so rediculously high. Living wage ordinances in other towns have shown that they don’t destroy the local economy as predicted, and that the recipients of those wages tend to plough most of that money back into the local economy, creating a virtuous economic cycle. Finally, a living wage is simply the right thing to do, since anybody who works hard every day at a job, any job, deserves the dignity of being able to make ends meet.

6. Along with this, since the National and State governments seem incapable of getting universal health insurance passed, we need to find some way of at least covering children, from prenatal through delivery and child medical care. A significant number of the working poor in Yolo County either are children or have children, and helping to cover the often exorbitant costs of child healthcare would not only go a long way towards lessening that burden on those families (in effect, a net wage raise), it would also help to guarantee that those children got adequate health care, immunizations and so on. This in turn helps to limit problems for the county down the road dealing with epidemics and overtaxed emergency rooms. Disease does not recognize any difference between rich or poor, insured or uninsured, citizen or immigrant; we’ve all seen how quickly a cold or flu can move through an elementary school or a daycare.

Anyone who claims to be in favor of family values ought to be willing to help make sure that people don’t get bankrupted by the costs of giving birth, let alone raising a kid. It is in our best interest personally as well as as a societally to make sure that these kids are covered, at least until the state and federal government get their acts together and get something funded. Since Yolo is a fairly poor county government-wise, this will have to be a fairly bare bones plan without accompanying state funding, not unlike any serious levee solutions. Assemblywoman Wolk, we’re counting on you to help talk some sense into the Governor.

7. More state parks. We have in this county both beautiful hiking up in the hills to the west of us, as well as a beautiful river to the east. Why there aren’t more state parks or recreational infrastructure helping people to get to them is beyond me.

8. The reestablishment of the old interurban train network in the Central Valley. The Capitol Corridor has been a great success since its inception a decade ago, but relatively little work has been done to apply the same logic to the Valley itself, and try and link the cities and towns of the Sacramento Valley together like they once were abnout a century ago, before the rise of auto-fueled sprawl. The old train lines are still there, connecting most cities up and down the valley to Sacramento, and yet they sit virtually unused for commuter traffic. Fixing them up a bit and running basic commuter lines on them would help to take traffic pressure off the highway system, and help us to accomodate what population growth the region will see in the decades to come. It also uses a lot more fuel, which brings us to the next point:

9. Countywide efforts at conservation and alternative energy. As our populations grow, and global warming gives us hotter, dryer summers, we will see increased stresses on our water and electric usage. As peak oil runs hard into increasing global demands for fuel, gasoline and natural gas are going to persistantly rise in price, hurting commuters, farmers and businesses alike. We should be getting ahead of the curve by working to lower our communities’ water and energy footprints, and thus our exposure to price increases and shortages. Having UCD’s stellar environmental engineering research at the ready is a huge advantage; let’s take advantage of it.

10. A justice system that treats all Yolo residents as equal members of their communities, that serves and protects Black and Latino citizens as well as White citizens. Doug Paul Davis over at the Davis Vanguard has done such great reporting on this issue that I won’t try to duplicate it, but rest assured our police forces and justice system need serious revamping on the issues of racial profiling and how we combat crime in general. While gang violence is real, criminalizing an entire neighborhood, as was done in West Sacramento, seems to me to violate the rights of the very citizens that our justice system is ostensibly supposed to protect. Likewise, while out of towners commit crimes in town, treating huge swathes of our community as perpetual suspects does real and lasting harm to the community as a whole. We can do better.


So there you have it, one Yoloite’s “far-left” take on things. While I expect that Matt and I disagree on several of these issues, i’m not sure that he and I are diametrically opposed on all of them. Statewide and nationally, however, I suspect that our political differences are clearer and less common ground possible to reach. I leave the question of whether the above opinions are way off the end of the spectrum up to the reader.

(originally posted at surf putah