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By Eric Johnson
Published Nov 13, 2023

Image credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

Fighting & Working for Democracy

I write this as Veterans Day weekend draws to a close, and I want to call your attention to a vets’ organization that is doing important work. The nonprofit We the Veterans and Military Families has set the following goal as its mission: “Strengthening our democracy and ensuring misinformation and polarization don’t continue to tear at the fabric of our union.”

This group of former members of the armed forces, and their spouses and children, have been working in recent years to dispel the false myth that those who serve in the military tend toward extremist views—a myth that grew in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at our nation’s Capitol. They point to a study that shows support for extremist ideologies among veterans is far lower than what is found in representative surveys of the general public.

We the Veterans, which recruits vets to serve as local poll workers, is passionately committed to democracy, and stands ready to defend every American’s right to vote, as its leadership noted in a recent op-ed: “Generations of American servicemen and women, supported by their families at home, have shed their blood on foreign battlefields to defend that fundamental right.”

Learn more about We the Veterans here. I applaud them for their continued service.


A Lot of Politics Is Local

On a visit to Santa Cruz a couple Saturdays ago, I got to participate in a great American democratic tradition—a political fundraiser. This one took place at the home of Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley, and was held on behalf of Robert Rivas (D–Hollister), the speaker of the California Assembly.

I realize that most Californians have not had the opportunity to attend such an event, and that may account for the prevalence of the mistaken view that elected officials are by and large corrupt. Over a career of covering local electeds, I have come to believe that most of the people who choose a life of public service are some of our best.

The individuals who took turns speaking on Fred and Barbara’s porch, addressing a smallish crowd of small-money donors in their front yard, proved that point.

Rivas himself is proud to have been raised by farmworkers, and has been working to help his community since first being elected to the local city council when he was in his twenties. As I have noted here previously, he leads what he accurately refers to as “an assembly that is the most diverse in California’s history, and among the most diverse legislative bodies in the world.”

Fred also introduced two recently elected assembly members, Dawn Addis and Gail Pellerin. Addis is a former longtime schoolteacher, who now represents a district that spans a big chunk of the California coast. Pellerin served as Santa Cruz County Clerk for 27 years—as you may know from recent news out of Georgia and elsewhere, the county clerk is the person responsible for guaranteeing that every citizen’s vote is counted.

Speaking of democracy: Election season 2024 is now officially underway, and my colleague Sharan Street here presents some highlights of what is to come.


One Citizen, One Vote

Voters have many decisions to weigh before March 5.
A year from now we’ll be choosing the next U.S. president. But there are many important decisions to be made before then. Now’s the time to start getting ready for the March 5 primary.

Building Democracy in the Golden State

If you feel in your bones that California is among the most democratic states in the nation, you are correct. I speak here not of the Democratic Party, but of what we wonks call “small ‘d’ democratic” politics—a system that ensures that we are a self-governing state. In this excerpt from our upcoming book, How California Works, Jon Vankin briefly explains how that happy fact came to be.


People Power! What Is Democracy, and How Does It Work in California?

Translated from the Greek, “Democracy” means “people power.” How much power do the people have in California?
Democracy is a 2,500-year-old system of government still looked on today as the best system, because under a democratic system, the people govern themselves. But is that all there is to it? What is democracy? And how does it work in California?


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Big Brother Big Sisters provides children facing adversity with strong, enduring, professionally supported mentorship. The chapter serves Sacramento and Yolo counties, as well as southern Placer County.

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From Our Media Allies

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The Dirt logo Davis Freedges Help Support Neighbors

In 2014, Ernst Oehninger and a group of fellow UC Davis graduate students took on the issue of food insecurity with a simple idea—public refrigerators filled with free food. Or as many call them, freedges.

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Recent Local News

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• West Sacramento Project Aims to House Single-Parent Students

A transformative project in West Sacramento aimed at addressing the needs of single-parent students in California is slated to open its doors by the end of next year.

(11/10/2023) → Daily Democrat

• Meals on Wheels Opens New Senior Nutrition Center in Winters

The 5,300-square-foot facility provides the organization with cooking space, cool storage and a warehouse that will double its production capacity from 800 to 1,700 meals daily in combination with its existing Woodland-based kitchen.

(11/09/2023) → Daily Democrat

• Protein Has Been Identified That Can be ‘Switched’ on to Activate Cancer Cell Death

Researchers from the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center have identified a way to trigger the death of cancer cells. This new advancement could pave the way for the development of more effective cancer treatments.

(11/09/2023) → The California Aggie

• Extracurricular Clubs, Sports Programs Help Young Camp Fire Survivors Heal

Five years ago, the Camp Fire disrupted lives, followed quickly by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving students in Paradise with few options to connect with others outside of the internet.

(11/08/2023) → CapPublicRadio

• Some Camp Fire Survivors Think They Won’t Ever be Paid

Five years ago, the Camp Fire killed 85 people and leveled Paradise, Concow and parts of Magalia. Three years ago, PG&E created the Fire Victim Trust to pay out settlements to survivors—but some say they’ve lost hope they’ll ever get their full payments.

(11/08/2023) → CapPublicRadio

• People for Bikes Ranks Davis No. 1 for Bikeability

People for Bikes, a cycling coalition founded in 1999, ranked the city of Davis as No. 1 in the Pacific Region, No. 1 in California and No. 7 in the US for bikeability.

(11/08/2023) → The California Aggie
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Recent Statewide News

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• It's About to Get Easier for California College Students to Study in Their Own Language

Assembly Bill 1096, taking effect Jan. 1, will let community colleges in the state provide courses in non-English languages, regardless if a student is also taking ESL. Previously, a student had to sign up for the latter to qualify for the former.

(11/13/2023) → KQED

• Barbara Lee’s Lagging Senate Bid Doesn’t Equal Another House Term

Longtime Rep. Barbara Lee trails fellow representative Katie Porter and former Rep. Adam Schiff in their race for U.S. Senate. Lee still expressed determination to not seek a 14th term in the House, saying she’s running for Senate.

(11/13/2023) → Sacramento Bee

• Community College Enrollment Rebounding Post-Pandemic, and Students Over 50 Are a Big Reason Why

California’s community colleges are seeing enrollment gains for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Older students—those over 50—are some of the first to return.

(11/12/2023) → CalMatters

• Tree Climbers Are Helping Replant California’s Forests

More than 1.5 million acres of forest have been burned or scarred in California. Climbers go high in trees to grab pine cones that could help in reforestation.

(11/09/2023) → Sacramento Bee

• A California Ranch Gets Nearly as Much Water as the Arizona City of Scottsdale

The Elmore Desert Ranch gets 22.5 billion gallons of water from the Colorado River, almost as much as is cleared for Scottsdale, Ariz. And that’s just a fraction of the 386.5 billion gallons from the river going to 19 other families in Imperial Valley.

(11/09/2023) → ProPublica

• That Wasn’t Aurora Borealis in the California Skies, But Something Else Unusual

A photographer captured a Stable Aurora Red, or SAR arc light display, on Nov. 5 in California. These displays are generally imperceptible to the human eye.

(11/08/2023) → SFGate

• UCLA Report: Young California Workers Face Challenges

A new report by the UCLA Labor Center finds that young workers in California face a variety of challenges. These include pay barely above minimum wage, discrimination, and high rents.

(11/08/2023) → LAist

• California’s Young Workers Are Essential to the Economy. Why are They Stuck in Low Wage Jobs?

Young people are stuck earning low wages, working long hours—often while going to school—and often without benefits or work protections. Their hardships may hamper the state’s economy for years to come, researchers say.

(11/08/2023) → CalMatters

• Capitol Gets its First Monument to California’s Indigenous Population

A statue of Miwok elder William J. Franklin has been installed on California State Capitol grounds. The monument replaces a statue of Father Junípero Serra, which protestors toppled in 2020.

(11/07/2023) → Sacramento Bee

• Nearly One-Third of California Prisons Provide Inadequate Medical Care

An evaluation of 34 adult prisons in California by the Office of the Inspector General found that 11 provided inadequate medical care and 23 provided adequate care. None were deemed proficient, the top designation.

(11/07/2023) → Sacramento Bee

• UC Irvine-Led Science Team Shows How to Eat Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

In a study published in Nature Sustainability, scientists assessed the potential for wide-scale synthetic production of dietary fats. The raw materials are the same as those used by plants: hydrogen in water and carbon dioxide in the air.

(11/06/2023) → YubaNet

• A Proposed Development Might Threaten California’s Oldest Tree

A shrubby Palmer oak tree in Riverside County is around 13,000 years old, making it California’s oldest tree and one of the longest-lived organisms on earth. Some people are concerned that a proposed development could threaten the tree.

(11/06/2023) → Los Angeles Times
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Government Announcements

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Image of City of Woodland seal. City of Woodland   (11/09/2023)

Community Services Inviting Proposals for Landscape Maintenance

The City of Woodland Community Services Department is inviting proposals for Landscape Maintenance opportunities in Woodland.
Image of City of Davis seal. City of Davis   (11/08/2023)

Sycamore Park Path Paving Set for Two Phases Starting Nov. 18

Image of City of Davis seal. City of Davis   (11/08/2023)

Howat Ranch Prescribed Burn Scheduled for Nov. 13

Image of City of Davis seal. City of Davis   (11/06/2023)

City Hosts Candlelight Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony on November 30

Image of City of Woodland seal. City of Woodland   (11/03/2023)

Rainy Season on the Way; Sandbags Available

The City will offer sand at three locations throughout town
Image of City of Davis seal. City of Davis   (11/03/2023)

Annual Pavement Improvement Project Multi-Use Path Work Week of Nov. 6

Image of City of Davis seal. City of Davis   (11/02/2023)

Scene Newsletter

Image of City of Davis seal. City of Davis   (11/02/2023)

City Launches G Street Community Survey

Image of City of Davis seal. City of Davis   (11/01/2023)

Mace Greenbelt Paths Paving Starts Nov. 8

Image of City of Davis seal. City of Davis   (10/27/2023)

Mace Redesign Update 10.27.23