Wednesday, April 16, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Why Davis Democrats are cowards

RichRifkinW

By
From page A6 | August 29, 2012 | 18 Comments

Since I first began writing this column in January 2004, I’ve never used it to endorse a candidate for public office. I won’t break that tradition, now.

However, I am starting something new, today. I am calling on the elected Democrats of Davis to repudiate our member of the Assembly, Mariko Yamada, and requesting that the leaders of the Davis Democratic Club publicly favor John Munn for Yamada’s seat in the California Assembly.

As Sen. John F. Kennedy famously wrote in his 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage,” it takes guts to cross party lines, to stand up for what is right, even when that means bucking friends in your own political party.

Do I expect the Democrats who sit on our City Council to have the courage to stand up to Yamada and to endorse her opponent, Munn, who himself is a Davis resident and former elected member of the Davis Board of Education? No.

Do I think the leaders of the Davis Democratic Club — President Arun Sen, Vice President Michael Syvanen and Treasure Betty Weir — will side with our city and county in the face of an attack on them by their political party? No.

But let this challenge be so recorded as a measure of pusillanimity by those who lack the fortitude to fight for what is right.

As with her efforts to pass a corrupt municipal bankruptcy law designed to maintain lucrative firefighter contracts — it was written by the California Professional Firefighters and Yamada was listed as a co-author — Yamada is at it again.

She endorsed and voted yes this session on AB 2451, another bill written by Yamada’s financial backers, the firefighters. (Our state senator, Lois Wolk, at least had the good sense, if not courage, to miss the vote when it passed on party lines in her chamber last week. When Wolk last bucked the firefighters, over Yamada’s bankruptcy bill, they had Wolk removed from all of her important committee assignments.)

According to the official analysis written for the legislators, the dependents of California firefighters and peace officers (including prison and jail guards) would get a new death benefit worth in excess of $300,000 each. This is money that will go to people whose retirement packages (pension plus medical plans) are worth millions of dollars each.

As the firefighters designed AB 2451, if a Davis fire captain retires in 2015 at age 50 with his $100,000 annual pension (which inflates automatically every year) and his lifetime free medical (which also covers his wife for life and his son up to age 26) and then he dies of a heart attack or cancer or AIDS or a variety of other maladies when he is age 95 in 2060, it will automatically be presumed that his death was work-related, and therefore those who were his dependents in 2015 will receive a massive death claim from workers compensation.

If he has no dependents, the benefit will be paid to a state fund.

This bill is an unfunded mandate. It won’t come out of Yamada’s $95,291 salary or her medical plan or her state pension.

The city of Davis will be liable to pay out this award for each of our cops and firefighters. And Yolo County, which is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, will be liable for the employees of the Sheriff’s Department and the jail guards.

Assemblywoman Yamada’s payoff to her campaign donors will add a back-breaking amount of debt to every local government agency; it might cripple the state, as well.

A few years ago, when the Democrats first passed this bill and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it, the legislation only applied to firefighters. In order to entice Gov. Jerry Brown to sign this prodigal plan, the firefighters included cops and prison guards in this year’s version. But make no mistake: This is the firefighter unions at work.

They began purchasing Yamada’s vote last year. On Feb. 23, 2011, the California Professional Firefighters handed her a $1,000 check. Two and a half months later, they gave Yamada another $1,500. On Feb. 20, 2012, the firefighters donated $1,000 to our member of the Assembly. And on March 29 they gave another $2,253.30.

In addition to the thousands of dollars the firefighters give to every elected Democrat willing to dirty his hands, they have spent millions of dollars over the years buying their party. During this two-year election cycle, firefighter unions have given $550,738 directly to the Democratic State Central Committee.

When Jerry Brown was mayor of Oakland (1999-2007), he earned a reputation as an honest politician. He stood up to the municipal employees, including the cops and firefighters, when what they wanted conflicted with what was best for his city. He even fought battles against the teachers’ union in Oakland, a struggle he admits he lost.

Unfortunately, when Brown ran for governor in 2010, he did so with the financial backing of the public employees and the trade unions. And thus, as governor, Brown has failed to show any backbone against those big-money donors.

If he signs AB 2451, hundreds of local agencies in our state, which might have avoided insolvency, will be unable to do so.

The real losers of this profile in cowardice will not only be the taxpayers expected to pick up the bill. It will be the poor children, the disabled, the mentally ill, the undernourished and the helpless elderly whose programs and funds will be cut, just so the gluttonous firefighters can further expand their waistlines and Mariko Yamada can perpetuate her power.

— Rich Rifkin is a Davis resident; his column is published every other week. Reach him at Lxartist@yahoo.com

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 18 comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • John TroidlAugust 28, 2012 - 8:10 am

    Rifkin writes powerful columns notable for their tight prose, seeming command of the facts, and aggressive name calling. And it is good of the Enterprise to include his point of view as a columnist in our little town, especially since Davis has the highest percentage of registered Democrats in the entire Sacramento region. Heck, having Rifkin published here is like having our own Grover Norquist in our midst! However, like many Republican pundits and apologists, Rifkin is full of JUNK (just uncorroborated nonsense and kindling). I mean, just look at his first two paragraphs... total inconsistent nonsense. And then he goes on to describe Lois Wolk's so called punishment for supposedly not supporting the firefighters... Rifkin's assertion that "they had Wolk removed from all of her important committee assignments" is simply untrue. The last time I checked (which was a few minutes ago), Lois was one of just a handful of Senators who is a member of the Senate Health Committee, one of the most important committees in the entire legislature. And she is knowledgeable about the subject matter.... we discussed some health care legislation just a few days ago. And I know Yamada to be a tireless advocate for the aged and their families. I do not know about the rest of his assertions. I WILL check them out, but really... the rest of the "JUNK" that he puts in his column just makes me wonder what else he has twisted, distorted, or just plain gotten wrong here.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich RifkinAugust 28, 2012 - 9:21 am

    Hi John, thank you for your comments. ... "Rifkin writes powerful columns notable for their tight prose, seeming command of the facts ..." I am grateful that you appreciate the quality of my prose. ... "He goes on to describe Lois Wolk's so called punishment for supposedly not supporting the firefighters... Rifkin's assertion that 'they had Wolk removed from all of her important committee assignments" is simply untrue.'" ... Alas, John, it is completely true. The bankruptcy bill that Yamada co-authored (really written by the firefighters) died because in the Senate Local Government Committee, where Sen. Wolk was the Chairwoman and one of three Democrats, Lois and the two Republicans voted no, while the firefighters' Democrats voted yes. Without getting out of that committee, the bill could not make it to the full Senate for a vote. Their only hope was to get Lois, who had a very strong local government background in Davis and in Yolo County, off of that committee. And that is exactly what they did. She was not just removed as chairwoman. She was taken off of that committee and other vital committees but one (Natural Resources & Water). Senator Steinberg's office then secretly put out a cover story: They said Lois was being punished for her vote against the water bill favored by Steinberg. But I was told by an insider (still a full-time employee of the state Senate) that was a big lie. It made no sense anyhow, because the one big committee Steinberg (acting for the firefighters) kept Lois on was the one (Natural Resources) where she supposedly had upset him with her vote. Your noticing that she now has new committee assignments is after the fact. A compromise was reached on municipal bankruptcy (with Lois gone) and she reconciled with Sen. Steinberg. She was then given seats on Agriculture, Budget, Health and Government Finance. But make no mistake: The firefighters were the ones who pushed Sen. Steinberg to punish her for killing their municipal bankruptcy bill. ... If you would like to read The Sacramento Bee's version of her 'punishment,' here is a link which was written a day or two after Steinberg slammed her: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2010/01/wolk-loses-big.html ... however, keep in mind, the Bee gets the story wrong. They bought the lie that this was about a water vote. It had nothing to do with that bill, which passed without Lois's vote anyhow. It was all about the firefighters' bankruptcy bill, which was designed to make sure that no bankruptcy judges could re-write the labor contracts which enrich firefighters.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MartinAugust 29, 2012 - 2:46 pm

    To begin with Kennedy's authorship of "Profiles in Courage" has been seriously challenged over the years, with much of the credit being given to his alter ego Ted Sorensen. That being said, I find it a bit over the top to question the courage of those who might simply disagree with you, for there is no veritable truth or axiom that you put forward in this column that warrants such a stance. And I take umbrage with your assigning unsubstantiated motives to Lois Wolk's not voting on an issue. Did you contact her and ask her if this was her intention? I missed the quote. So, now onto your purpose, which is to bring the seemingly unbalanced approach of compensation for firefighters under some type of control. Understandable. Simply state your concerns, lose the hyperbole, and make your case without embellishments.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich RifkinAugust 29, 2012 - 3:09 pm

    "I find it a bit over the top to question the courage of those who might simply disagree with you, for there is no veritable truth (sic) or axiom that you put forward in this column that warrants such a stance." ... Martin, the truth is that AB 2451 will cost the City of Davis millions of dollars that we don't have. It will do the same to Yolo County, which is in even worse fiscal shape than our City is. No prominent Democrats who live in Davis have yet shown the courage to stand up to Mariko Yamada and to deplore her votes against the interests of our City and our County. If they don't speak up, they either don't care about our City and our County, or they lack guts ... AB 2451 brings no benefit to the City or the County. It won't result in better fire protection or a better guarded jail. No one disputes the facts, Martin. The California League of Cities has come out forcefully against this giveaway to the firefighters. Same with the California State Association of Counties. The Sacramento Bee has editorialized twice in opposition, citing the fact that cities and counties will be felled by the millions of dollars in new annual costs. LA County has estimated it will cost them $60 million per year! That is the truth, Martin. That is what Mariko Yamada has done to Davis and to Yolo County and to other cities and counties on behalf of her veritable donors. ... If you want to see what CSAC has written about this new bill, see http://blob.capitoltrack.com/11blobs/ab13cabc-5754-4cf2-8753-619f7406a266 ... Again, as I note in my column, I don't expect any elected Democrats in Davis to condemn Yamada. That would take too much courage.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MartinAugust 29, 2012 - 3:35 pm

    To disagree with you does not establish a lack of courage. Those who you call upon to act in accordance with your beliefs may simply hold different ones. Also, to attribute motives to another's actions without verification is problematic. I might agree with your premise, I just wish it was presented in a more straightforward manner. The issues you bring forward warrant such an approach. Also, unfortunately I was not able to get link to work; I am interested in it. The point you made about the absurd extent of the benefits for a deceased firefighter are inflammatory enough. They do not need to be couched in the vague claims of cowardly accusations. This issue deserves more than a school yard rant.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich RifkinAugust 29, 2012 - 4:29 pm

    "To disagree with you does not establish a lack of courage." ... The lack of courage comes when Davis Democrats refuse to stand up for the City of Davis. They are afraid to cross party lines. It has nothing to do with me.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich RifkinAugust 29, 2012 - 3:18 pm

    Re: Ted Sorenson's authorship of Profiles in Courage. I know there is some dispute. But it really does not matter if Sorenson helped Sen. Kennedy, since JFK was a prominent public figure at the time (a US Senator), while Sorenson was a private citizen, and JFK signed his name to the book and (FWIW) won the Pulitzer Prize for that book. It's much like a presidential speech in that respect. JFK may have also had Sorenson's help writing his Berlin Wall speech, but in the end it was his speech, since he gave it and the sentiments were all his and he was the one who had the sanction of his being the president of the United States.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich RifkinAugust 29, 2012 - 3:21 pm

    In case a liberal Democratic newspaper like The Sacramento Bee has more credibility with you than I have, here is a link to one of their editorials regarding AB 2451: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/12/v-print/4715327/summer-giveaway-must-be-stopped.html

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MartinAugust 29, 2012 - 3:50 pm

    I accept Sorensen's role in presidential speeches, but I cannot do anything but attribute authorship of Pulitzer winning book written before his presidency to him. Mike Wallace found himself at the center of a lawsuit when he challenged that very thing. I will check out Sacramento Bee, though never thought it much of a liberal Democratic newspaper.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • ScottAugust 29, 2012 - 5:01 pm

    Just curious, using the criteria you used to describe the Sac Bee as a liberal Democratic paper, how do you describe the Davis Enterprise?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • John TroidlAugust 29, 2012 - 5:24 pm

    Probably a "wanton harlot of liberalism". (The rest of us know it is a moderate paper....:)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich RifkinAugust 30, 2012 - 12:06 pm

    My judgment of the Bee's politics regards its editorial endorsements of candidates for president, the US Senate, the US House, statewide offices, including governor and for seats in the legislature. I cannot recall the Bee, in any hotly contested race ever not going for the Democrat in the race. ... As to The Enterprise, I don't know if The Enterprise (which, by the way, pays me but is not my "employer") endorses for the president, Congress, governor, etc. I know that The Enterprise endorses for City Council and Board of Supervisors and the School Board. I sometimes agree with their views, sometimes not. But those are non-partisan contests. So I have no basis to judge The Enterprise's political partisanship, the way I can with The Bee.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • John TroidlAugust 30, 2012 - 12:12 pm

    Now, Rich, just because the Bee consistently endorses Democratic candidates for statewide office does NOT mean that they are being political, biased, etc.... an equally valid interpretation is that they are merely endorsing the best candidates!! :)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich RifkinAugust 30, 2012 - 12:25 pm

    Fair enough, John. But if I were to describe the editorial position of the San Diego Union-Tribune (which I read when I was doing my graduate work at UCSD), I would say it is a conservative, Republican paper. My basis for saying that would be its editorial endorsements and the general slant of its editorials. ... I have no problem with a newspaper having an editorial bias. Hopefully, though, that bias is not reflected in its news coverage. I think, for the most part, American newspapers are quite fair in their news coverage. I don't think, for example, that The Bee's news coverage of state politics is biased against Republicans or in favor of Democrats. ... On the other hand, I am less sanguine about the objectivity of the news coverage on MSNBC and Fox. Yet I don't think their viewers are being misled. If you watch Fox, you know where its bias is going in.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • John TroidlAugust 30, 2012 - 12:28 pm

    OK, I am agreeing with everything you are saying in this last note and that's scary! :) PS You do know that us Demos have our "dander up" right now d/t all the speechifying at the Republican Convention, right? Although I do agree with some of the comments your rebutters have said, it is surely the case that some of our energy is because we are "coming into season".

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MartinAugust 29, 2012 - 6:52 pm

    "'To disagree with you does not establish a lack of courage.'... The lack of courage comes when Davis Democrats refuse to stand up for the City of Davis. They are afraid to cross party lines. It has nothing to do with me." You write a column that accuses elected Democrats in Davis of lacking courage for not taking up yet your stated cause, for not backing a Republican who echoes your cause, and yet you say that "it has nothing to do with me". Amazing attempt at a Houdini maneuver. If you are going to lash out against a poltical sector with such vehemence and vitrol only to disclaim any involvement, then why write what you wrote? I read the Sacramento Bee piece. It was balanced and straightforward.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich RifkinAugust 30, 2012 - 12:11 pm

    In case no one reading this thread of comments has noticed the obvious, I will point it out: Not one of my critics has defended AB 2451. Not one of them has said that AB 2451 serves the public interest. Not one has said that AB 2451 will not bring harm to the City of Davis or to Yolo County. Not one of them has said that the harm brought to local government will not result in further harm to people without means who depend on public services (esp. at the County level). And not one of them has suggested that Mariko Yamada's votes in favor of the firefighters are not influenced by the money she and her political party get from the firefighters. .... It's fine to rip me to shreds. It says a lot more when you cannot defend what Mariko has done to Davis and to Yolo County.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Alan MillerAugust 31, 2012 - 9:06 pm

    Mr. Rifkin, You have convinced me. At least to not vote Yamada again. It would be nice to know that Munn is a man of integrity, not just "not Yamada". Please provide some reasons to vote Munn, otherwise it's another Rob Roy write-in for me.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

News

 
‘Eco-Heroes’ help get us from here to there

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Home building up in March after frigid winter

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Davis elder-abuse case wraps up

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

Alleged serial killings highlight GPS limits

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
CHP seeks owner of lost cash

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

Family fiction in miniature showcased at bookstore event

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Local professor subdues unruly man on flight

By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

Rotarians, students, teachers, parents collaborate on planter boxes

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Yolo Crisis Nursery is in crisis; please help

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Meditation, Buddhism classes offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Seniors can get tips for getting around town

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

School has garden plots for rent

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Sugar overload, on ‘Davisville’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Check out the night sky

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Hop to it: Easter Bunny meets Davis history tour

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Garden doctor: Veggie gardening available year-round

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Animal expert explains dogs’ thinking

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Central Park Gardens to host Volunteer Orientation Day

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
 
.

Forum

Still supporting this guy

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
Urban forest under siege

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

Drought care for our trees

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

.

Sports

UCD staff allows 19 hits in Causeway rout

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
DHS softball struggles in nonleague outing

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils open Boras Classic by splitting games

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
 
JV/frosh roundup: DHS sweeps a trio of baseball games

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Baseball roundup: River Cats get by Grizzlies at Raley

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Giants beat L.A. in 12

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Sports briefs: Stanford sends Aggies home with a lacrosse loss

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

 
.

Arts

Red Union Blue inks record deal

By Landon Christensen | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Craft Center exhibit explores ‘Possibilities’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

RootStock to host wine themed plein aire exhibit

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
The California Honeydrops to bring danceable groove to The Palms

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

See Flower Power exhibit at Gallery 625

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6