The San Bernardino County Transportation Agency’s Business 2 Business Expo held at the Ontario Convention Center on September 29 resulted in a couple of revelations that were quite noteworthy if not outright shocking.
The agency’s executive director, Ray Wolfe, told those assembled during his “State of Transportation” address that not only the San Bernardino County Transportation Agency but the California Department of Transportation are now impoverished, apparently because of rising gas prices and the progressive conversion of vehicles to electric power, which is decreasing gasoline sales in the Golden State, and thus reducing gasoline tax revenue. Continue reading
Coming up on her fourth year in elected office, Redlands City Councilwoman Denise Davis is testing ground only rarely explored in the past and never quite mastered by San Bernardino County’s local politicians.
So far, she has done remarkably well in embracing progressivism, becoming a model of what many other progressives hope might become the model of the region’s new politician. Nevertheless, she faces both inner and out challenges and questions as to whether she can endure in office, and if she holds on to her municipal post, how effectively she lead going forward.
As one of the region’s first openly homosexual officeholders, she has departed from the traditional role reserved for council members looking after the issues pertaining to municipal management, land use and development, infrastructure creation and maintenance, as well as public safety to instead made her appeal on what are essentially ideological principles.
While her lesbianism has allowed her to capture the support of the so-called woke movement locally, there is a significant segment of those embracing hyperliberalism and progressive politics who have raised doubts about just how enlightened and committed she is, pointing out that there is a superficiality to her reformist stance, one that has twice been exposed as she has baldly engaged in power politics to promote not the cause she says she represents but rather her own political standing.
Moreover, by her continued sidestepping of taking a true position in the deepening debate in Redlands over the intensity of ongoing and future development, which has pitted virtually all elements of city government against a vocal and energized contingent of the city’s residents opposed to aggressive building and her support of not just the development industry but her council colleagues who are and were widely perceived to have been inappropriately influenced by money filtered into their campaign coffers or pockets by those developers, Davis is running a risk that a critical mass of the votes she needs to remain in officer will be cast not for her but against her.
Davis has been a creature of Redlands for 16 of the last 20 years. She came here in 2002 when she matriculated at the University of Redlands. With the exception of a year she spent working at the University of Oregon in the immediate aftermath of her graduation, two years studying abroad and year thereafter, she has lived in the city.
Professionally she has been involved almost exclusively in academia. Fresh out of the University of Redlands, the first job she landed was as an assistant complex director at the University of Oregon, supervising a complex of 10 residence halls, housing 826 students. She departed from that position when she obtained a Rotary International scholarship to study for her master’s degree at the London School of Economics.
Two years after she obtained her master’s she returned to Redlands, where she obtained in 2010 a position as the assistant director of the Johnson Center for Integrative Studies, which was where she had obtained her bachelor of arts degree. She remained in that positioon until December 2013. The following moth she moved into the position of Redlands University’s director of Leadership and Involvement. She remeained in that post for two years and six months. In July 2016, she moved to the University of California at Riverside into the position of director of the Women’s Resource Center. She left position after five years and seven moths in January 2022 for her current one, that of the assistant director for university and institutional relations at UCR. In addition, between September 2009 and April of 2020, she was a member of the adjunct faculty at the University of Redlands.
She has described herself, as have others as a semi-academic. As such, Davis is strong on conceptualization and advocacy.
That advocacy has been exclusively for what are considered progressive ideals.
Her one foray into publishing resulted in the academic paper Heterosexual Allies: A Descriptive Profile, co-authored with Susan B. Goldstein and published by the Journal Equity & Excellence in Education in 2010.
The abstract for that treatise describes encapsulates it as “Forty-six heterosexual members of a college-based gay/straight alliance organization were surveyed to investigate characteristics of students who commit to acting as allies in reducing sexual prejudice. Assessment focused on the students’ history of intergroup contact and exposure to sexual prejudice prior to joining the gay/straight alliance, endorsement of positive stereotypes and immutability beliefs, perception of the ally role in terms of the potential for stigma by association, and level of intergroup communication.” apprehension. This study yielded a descriptive profile of heterosexual allies. Discussion addresses implications for recruiting and training members of college gay/straight alliances.
While she was in the role of the director of UCR’s Women’s Resource Center in 2016, she took stock of the need she perceived for women to further enable themselves on a political level to effect the social change she felt is needed across all strata of society. Despite what she has acknowledged was a total lack of sophistication with regard to politics, she founded the Persist Women’s Political Engagement Conference in 2017.
In 2018, Redlands which had once used a by-district electoral system to elect its council members but abandoned that process after the city’s voters in 1993 voted to return to at-large elections, returned to the by-district voting model. Davis, as a resident of Redlands’ District 1, which entails the west side of the city along with the south side of the city north of Fern Avenue, ran for that post.
In keeping with her essential orientation toward the world as a conceptualist, it is worth noting that Davis moved straight into politics in Redlands without any real practical political experience, or prior involvement with the campaigns of others. A political neophyte, her primary boost came through her association with Emerge California, which noted her existence at the time of the Women’s Political Engagement Conference.
Emerge California is a collective of Democratic women that was chartered with the purpose of empowering self-identified women leaders within the Democratic Party in successfully running for elected office.
Davis acknowledges that when she embarked on her run for the city council, she had no command whatsoever of the mechanics of political campaigning.
“I knew virtually nothing about running a field campaign,” Davis said.
Emerge California not only tutored her on the ins and outs of both grass roots and standard campaigning, it provided her with volunteers, committed to the same progressive causes she embraced, ones she did not have the wherewithal on her own to recruit, to do the truly heavy lifting that put her over the top. Those included as many as 30 canvassers armed with her campaign fliers walking right up to the doorsteps of the district’s high-propensity voters on the Saturdays in the weeks ahead of the election and ringing doorbells to put in a good word for her and encourage those they spoke with to consider Davis’s qualifications before casting their votes.
“That was probably the most challenging part of all of this, but it’s what really helped me win the election — going door to door and being strategic about which neighborhoods we were canvassing in, and how many times to go to those neighborhoods and when,” Davis said of the advice and the boots on the ground provided to her my Emerge California’s political operatives.
Davis, touting her liberalism as did her supporters, won decisively, capturing 2,058 or 51.62 percent of the 3,987 votes cast, despite competing within a traditionally conservative milieu. A post election analysis showed that she was not only the top vote-getter overall, but that she had won in every precinct in the First District.
Upon being installed in office, her representation of her constituents remained consistent with her stated life and political philosophy and did not go much beyond it.
She succeeded in being the first Redlands city official and perhaps the first politician in San Bernardino County to sponsor and induce her colleagues to gay pride month, transgender day, non-binary day and sexual assault awareness month proclamations and declarations.
She was also a prime mover in the city’s acceptance of plans to paint a rainbow crosswalk mural that celebrated inclusiveness onto Vine Street near City Hall, one which included a reference to the LGBTQ community. The rainbow mural crosswalk stands as perhaps Davis’s major accomplishment. The vote to allow the artists to proceed with it passed by a bare majority 3-to-2. That victory let everyone know of her firm belief that everyone should be included in public life and should have the opportunity to participate in the political process. A continuation of her passion in this regard was the city’s acceptance and sponsorship of the Redlands Youth Council Leadership Academy, in which she has taken a central role, an eight-month program which offers seminars held every month at City Hall that involves students from Redlands, Mentone, Banning and Loma Linda learning how they can prepare to be civically involved and shape local government, with the particular goal of of “diversifying the dais,” that is, wresting control of government from the enclave of heterosexual white men who have traditionally dominated government.
Along the way, she was front and center with the city council in those places where it took action on what are considered to be those elements of the social welfare element of government, including obtaining a $30 million Homekey grant through the California Department of Housing to convert the Good Nite Inn located at 1675 Industrial Park Avenue into a full-dimensional shelter for the community’s chronically homeless that is to feature 98 permanent supportive housing units, each with a kitchenette. She also was a key supporter of the city’s unique utility bill assistance program.
Davis had become a political player but there was an entire dimension of the political world in which she had not involved herself, the rules and dynamics of which were as unfamiliar and unreal to her as a men’s locker room. In her purposeful focus on the woke issues that were native to her as a lesbian and advocate of the new social awakening, she had avoided entirely the very real and oftentimes quite brutal elements of gross financial interest that move politics not only at the international, national and state level, but the local level as well. Politics at whatever tier involves clashes of, and the superimposition of will, that of one people or set of people over another, ideally wrapped, usually, in a veneer of civility and surrounded by a conception, or at least hope, of fairness and justice, an ideal which is too often not achieved, as those clashes of will are usually settled based upon the relative financial power of those competing or sheer numbers or brute force. Whereas internationally, the hard-nosed tussles between nations states involve military power, the relative size of standing armies and naval and air forces, the sophistication and deadliness of weaponry, the politics of hegemony and the relative advantages of geography, technology and available resources available to one entity over the other, at the national level, individual states evince political differences with one another over prestige, offering corporations a base of operations that have advantages other states do not in the form of land upon which to function, a better educated and trained labor force, less onerous taxing and regulatory regimes and a ready access to consumers primed to purchase their goods and services, as well as access to basic resources, technology and quality infrastructure. Within the State of California and its 58 counties and vast and various regions, cities distinguish themselves from one another by emphasizing different features of communal life, stressing comfort, graciousness and opulence of residency, a cornucopia of commercial venues and shopping opportunities, industrial districts with their offerings of employment and manufactured goods or a combination thereof. It is a matter of taste and preference as to which of the state’s municipalities, which range from mere to thriving metropolises with millions of residents, represents the superior living environment.
Unaccounted for in Davis’s philosophy and her political approach was a key element of the traditional function of local government: land use policy. She made no allowance whatsoever for how ruthless is the battle for position and primacy in being able to convert bare, blighted or otherwise dormant or static real estate into all of the permutations of civilization: factories or foundries or stores or offices or shopping malls or houses or apartment buildings. Davis, who had grown up in Las Vegas, moved to Redlands in 2002 to attend college and thereafter steeped herself in the ivory towers of academia, oblivious to the struggles over land use and land use policy that had taken place in Redlands before she arrived and were yet ongoing once she got here and which were yet raging when she embarked on her political career.
Redlands, which was incorporated in 1888, has long been considered San Bernardino County’s most refined city, what was in the heyday of Southern California’s era as a citrus-growing wonderland, considered by many an idyllic blending of upscale homes and orange groves. With the gradual and eventual wholesale destruction of the citrus industry that began regionally in the 1950s and accelerated in the decades thereafter, Redlands residents more than those of other local cities pushed back against the urbanization trend, passing a series of controlled-growth initiatives, the first of which, Proposition R in 1978, was put in place before Davis was born. That was followed by Measure N in 1987 and Measure U in 1997. All of those initiatives were intended to reduce growth in Redlands to manageable levels and were passed with solid resident support.
Despite that sentiment among a sizable contingent of the populace and the force of law the measures provided in limiting development, members of the city council have over the last generation proven determined to clear the way for landowners and the builders they work with to construct projects that will more than double, triple and quadruple the density of residential and commercial land use, while compacting these improvements in smaller and smaller spaces. In particular, in recent years the city’s staff members have embraced the concept of intensified development in particular in and around the city’s downtown core.
This is at least partially a function of theories and strategies that have evolved in recent decades among futurists and urban planners who consider it imperative that Americans, indeed, the residents and citizens of the world and inhabitants of the planet, end their dependence on individual motor vehicles. Such urban planning enthusiasts envision constructing cities and communities where larger and larger numbers of the population, in particular that element consisting of unmarried recent high school graduates or college graduates who are entering the workforce or married couples without children, cluster in domiciles close to commuting centers such as railroad stations, subway or bus terminals and the like, and use public transportation to commute to work and elsewhere. In Redlands this concept manifested and has been promoted by city officials in recent years by means of what is called the Transit Villages concept. That approach calls for the city to encourage the development of four heavily populated districts within the city, all of which are located within walking distance of the commuter stations along the yet-to-be-fully-realized-and-actuated regional rail system urban planners are seeking to create on the existing train line running from Los Angeles and to Palm Springs. The transit villages envisioned for Redlands would come into existence near Redlands University, one downtown surrounding the city’s historic train depot, one on New York Street and another near Alabama Avenue. The transit districts will entail a series of high-rise apartments to house individuals who travel most often not by car, but use public transportation. There is some debate as to whether these residents will be families or mostly unmarried individuals or couples without children. Though urban planners say these downtown denizens will not often use their own personal vehicles, the city yet plans to make places for their cars, which will generally be parked in structures which will be subterranean or as high as six and seven stories.
There has been substantial citizen resistance to this plan, but so far those proposing projects in keeping with this vision in Redlands have been warmly received by the city council, the planning commission, city administration and the city’s planning division.
The ensuing controversy has been multi-fold, based on a number objections, contentions, realities and projections. A primary objection was that the plan called for a substantial increase in the city’s population, which in and of itself was anathema to many residents. Moreover, that population increase was to be made without any significant uprating, increase, enhancement or refurbishing of the city’s infrastructure. The multi-story residential structures – tenements in plain terms – are to be a radical departure from the character of the city and would very likely within a generation deteriorate into slums, opponents of the plan have maintained. More pointedly, it was widely recognized that members of the council were being heavily influenced by money provided to them by developmental interests in the form of campaign contributions and it was suspected that at least some of the members of the council were being influenced by illicit under-the-table payments. Opponents of the Transit Villages concept had grave concerns that the increasingly pro-development council was using the plan as a means by which the intensified density standards it contained to justify allowing [intensified] development to proceed. Many of the city’s controlled growth advocates were convinced that once the council crossed the threshold of allowing development approaching 100 units per acre downtown and in the transit villages, it would then move to exploit that precedent as a ploy to allow for increasing density in other sectors of the city, including within neighborhoods that were traditionally composed of single family homes.
Well into Davis’s first year on the city council, in 2019, a battle for the soul of Redlands erupted when the city council used its authority to place a voter intitiative, designated as Measure G, on the March 2020 Primary Election ballot. Measure G called for, in one fell swoop, dispensing with the provisions of the slow-growth/controlled growth provisions of 1978’s Proposition R , 1987’s Measure N and 1997’s Measure U, essentially undoing several generations of bulwarks against overdevelopment that have been built into the City of Redlands’ mode of governance. Measure G, if passed, would have allowed developers to construct up to 27 housing units per acre, eliminate height limits on buildings in the city, relieve developers of the requirement that in completing their projects they have to provide infrastructure to maintain traffic-bearing capacity on the city’s streets equal to what was available prior to the development taking place, permit residential land use designations to be placed into the city’s general plan that did not previously exist and abolish the requirement that developers carry out socioeconomic‐cost/benefit studies for the projects they are proposing, among other things.
In the midst of this cultural war, Davis was blithely unaware, or so it seemed, of the stakes involved and the intensity of the passion that a significant number of Redlands residents had relating to development and the threat they perceived that aggressive development posed to both therir way of life and quality of life.
Upon her election to the council, Davis had evinced virtually no interest or concern whatsoever with land use issues, which are a central component of the city council’s area of authority and responsibility. The subject of planning and community development held no interest for her and she made no effort whatsoever in familiarizing herself with, let alone mastering, the nuts and bolts of the planning and development approval processes. Rather, very early on in her tenure on the council, Davis essentially deferred to then-Mayor Paul Foster with regard to all matters pertaining to land use. He was mentoring her, she said, in what was for her the arcane world of community development over which the city council had ultimate authority. Foster was an old hand at such things, she said, and she indicated she trusted his judgment in such things implicitly and explicitly. So, though the voters of Redlands District 1 had put her in office as a their representative who was supposed t be an independent voice, the decision-making process over the development and land use issues that would impact their living environment for decades to come had been handed off, essentially, to Foster.
When the concept of undercutting the vast wave of resident sentiment against [intensive] development in Redlands materialized in the form of the initiative proposal that became Measure G came before the city council in 2019, Davis, like the rest of her council colleagues gave no serious contemplation to the [ploy] or consideration that Measure G, if passed, would run counter to the principles, values and sentiments of the Redlands community as had been expressed in the democratic process time and again. She simply went along with what Foster directed her to do.
In March 2020 election, the city’s residents soundly rejected Measure G, with 93,21 votes or 64.88 percent opposing it and 5.052 or 35.12 percent in favor of it.
Developers and city officials appear undaunted by the intense resident resistance to high intensity, high-density development as expressed in the vote rejecting Measure G. Throughout the remainder of 2020 and into 2021 they again and again sought to press forward with one proposal after another for the development of property near the city’s core. Within the footprint of the residential development component of each of one such project was a density of 100 units to the acre, 78 units to the acre in another and 60.87 units to the acre in another. Simultaneously, the city council and its planning commission were entertaining – and giving approval to – other projects outside the downtown area that involved densities and land use criteria that many residents found alarming.
In the summer of 2021, what had once been whisperings and rumor which had gradually loudened into speculation and suggestions had reached a nearly deafening crescendo of accusations and pronouncements to the effect that Foster was out-and-out on the take. Prior to his 2010 election to the city council, Foster had himself been a low-growth advocate, a stance which he had parlayed into community support which resulted in his November 2010 victory, by which he displaced long-serving Councilwoman Pat Gilbreath. Very quickly after he was in office, Foster transitioned from a limited-growth activist to what was arguably the major pro-development force within City Hall. Previously he had asserted that even though the city could not ban development from occurring, it could apply the strictest standards and the law, statutes and existing codes to limit that growth to what was permissible and ensure that it was beneficial to the community rather than a drag on its infrastructure, resources and finances, such that the development community should defray the costs its projects imposed on the city. Seemingly overnight, Foster had become convinced that his past positions were in error and that both landowners and developers had rights which needed to be honored. Whereas he previously had maintained that the city was under no obligation to grant zone changes and approve or agree to variances or the granting of conditional use permits simply because those seeking approval for their project’s requested them, Foster grew willing to accommodate virtually any application that came before the city from a real estate speculator or project proponent. During his last eight years in office, Foster, quite willingly, assumed the role of mentor to the several members of the council who came into their posts after he was elected, including Davis. With seemingly no exceptions when it came to land use policy in Redlands, as Foster voted, so voted the rest of the city council, such that the development proposals that have come before the city in recent years have found enthusiastic accommodation, despite virtually all of those aggressive development projects being out of favor with a large and vocal segment of the Redlands community. In 2021, with suspicions that Foster had tainted Redlands’ official governmental and land use processes and that he had served as a zerk in the distribution of political grease to his council colleagues and underlings at City Hall, amid reports that both state and federal authorities were looking into such accusations, Foster in September of that year announced that he was leaving the city council as of the first council meeting in January 2022 and moving to Camino Island in Washington State.
This year, in the aftermath of Foster’s departure and the widespread perception that his involvement in the corruption of the city’s land use decision-making process had something to do with it, Davis is seeking reelection. There is evidence to suggest that after three years of deferring to Foster on all questions or policies with regard to development in the city, Davis has come to recognize both how problematic that was and the optics it presents. Questions have been openly asked as to why she so readily went along with Foster, following his lead on practically every project proposal that the council considered while they were together on the dais.
While many assume that Davis merely accepted the political status quo with regard to planning and community development issues so that she could concentrate on what she considered to be her forte, issues of social change, acceptance of a widening definition of gender identification, the empowerment of women, and promoting diversity and inclusion, there are yet activists on her side of the ideological spectrum who dispute that she is as faithful to her stated progressive philosophy as she and others celebrate her as being. Instead, they have suggested, her progressivism is not as principled as it would appear. She has embraced liberalism and the concept of social reform and made them central to her platform political and ascent. Certain of her actions, however, would suggest that her political ambition outruns her dedication to the progressive principles she espouses.
The first of those actions took place shortly after her 2018 electoral victory. The runner up in that year’s District 1 contest was Priya Vedula, who in multiple respects resembles Davis. An academic, Vedula has a bachelor of science degree in biology from the University of Michigan, a master of public health degree from Columbia University and she is currently a medical student at the Loma Linda Medical University. She is an active member of the Democratic Party and party and a committed advocate of what are termed liberal causes. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan, where she majored in biology. She attained a Master of Public Health degree from Columbia University where she specialized in health policy analysis. Both ran in many of the same progressive activism circles in Redlands and Inland Empire region and were involved with at least two of the same feminine support groups.
Though Vedula had placed second in the November 2018 Redland District 1 race, she was well off the pace set by Davis. Davis had prevailed with a convincing 2,058, or 51.62 percent of 3,987 total votes cast. Vedula claimed 676 votes or 16.96 percent, which outdistanced Andy Hoder, the third-place finisher with 628 votes or 15.75 percent, followed by Renea Wickman and Eric Whedbee who managed 438 votes or 10.99 percent and 187 votes or 4.69 percent, respectively.
Shortly after the election, Vedula, who yet had political aspirations and was contemplating running for state legislative office, texted congratulations to Davis on her council election.
In December, Davis was sworn in as District 1 Councilwoman.
On January 7, 2019, Vedula requested a meeting with then-Mayor Foster, intending to discuss the prospects for her future in politics and how she might best remain involved in politics after her electoral loss. Councilwoman Davis, having learned of the intended meeting between Vedula and the mayor, contacted Vedula via Facebook Messenger, inviting herself to the meeting with the mayor. The following day, Vedula emailed Davis, telling her that she intended her meeting with Foster to be a one-on-one encounter, but signaling she was willing to meet with her separately.
Vedula met with Foster privately.
Davis and those in her immediate circle at that point grew wary of Vedula, and there was discussion among them about what they considered to be Vedula’s intention of ultimately displacing Davis on the council in the next election cycle or otherwise thwarting Davis’s political ambition for higher office. Communications between those in Davis’s [entourage] dwelt on speculation that Vedula was seeking out a hairdresser so that here longish hair could be shorn to match Davis’s trademark shorter locks, that Vedula was going to cease wearing skirts and dresses and instead match the pantsuits that Davis favored, that during the 2018 campaign Vedula was “seemingly magically” showing up at the same places that Davis had been and that Vedula was texting Davis too much.
On January 17, 2019, Davis, who ten days earlier had sought to sit in on a meeting between Vedula and Mayor Foster but had been spurned in that request, spoke with Redlands Police Chief Chris Catren and Assistant Police Chief Travis Martinez, expressing concern that Vedula was shadowing or stalking her.
On Saturday, January 19, 2019, the so-called Women’s March involving a number or women’s empowerment and activist groups was held in Riverside. Among the featured speakers were Davis and Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes, who both spoke from the podium at the top of the stairs at the Riverside Courthouse. Vedula attended the event along with several of her friends. Esmeralda Vazquez, who was active as a leader and coordinator in many of the same progressive and women’s empowerment efforts as Davis and Vedula, was among Gomez Reyes’ entourage. Vazquez, who had spotted Vedula in the crowd, texted her to come to the roped-off VIP area near the speaker’s platform to be introduced to Assemblywoman Gomez Reyes. When Davis saw Vedula coming toward her near the top of the stairs, she had security stop and remove Vedula from the VIP area.
After the event, Vedula and Davis both went to the Riverside Food Lab, a short walk from the event. Vedula was there with several other progressive political activists, including Bhavin Jindal, who would successfully vie for the Loma Linda City Council in 2020. Vedula greeted Davis when both were inside the food lab.
That afternoon, Davis contacted the Redlands police department, making a verbal complaint to the effect that Vedula was “stalking” her. She also dashed off an email to then-City Attorney Dan McHugh, Mayor Foster, Redlands Police Chief Chris Catren and Assistant Redlands Police Chief Martinez, citing her encounters with Vedula that day, noting that Vedula had touched her on the elbow when she greeted her in the food lab and stating, “I’m very disturbed by her persistence, and her apparent stalking my various locations.”
This prompted a return email from Police Chief Catren in which he stated, “As we discussed Thursday, none of Ms. Vedula’s actions described (including today’s events) constitute criminal behavior, but we are happy to discuss your concerns with her.”
Later that day, Martinez reached Vedula, who offered the assistant police chief her assurance that she had no ill-will toward Davis, meant her no harm and did not mean to alarm her. She explained that she had a desire to remain involved in Redlands politics and it was for that reason that she and Davis had attended so many of the same events. Martinez, while stating that neither he, the department nor Davis had the authority to order her to do so at that point, told Vedula it would be advisable for her to discontinue and further attempts at communicating with Davis by text, email and through social media and that she avoid any interaction with her.
On January 22, Vedula by email informed Martinez that she was seeking to comply with his advice and had blocked and further communications with Davis via social media.
Davis contemplated seeking a restraining order against Vedula, but ultimately did not do so.
In seeking to make contact with members of the city council other than Davis in the months and weeks thereafter, Vedula found herself stymied as the council members had been instructed by City Attorney McHugh to avoid any entanglement in the matter involving herself and Davis, although Foster told Vedula it would be best for her “to stay out of Denise’s path.”
Later in 2019, Vedula applied for appointment to the City of Redlands Human Relations Commission, but on further consideration withdrew her application because Davis was the city council representative on that panel. Davis told members of the group, Redlands For Progressive Change, variously known as Redlands 4 Progressive Change, that she had effectively blocked Vedula from serving on any city commissions or committees.
Despite Davis’s contention that Vedula had been “stalking” her, a handful of times in 2019 and 2020, Davis seemed to be trailing Vedula.
One activity which Vedula had previously been heavily involved were the “Solidarity Sunday” events which brought those involved in liberal political causes and progressive activism, primarily Democrats, together. She continued to attend those meetings, which were often held at activist Lisa Olson’s home. On two occasions, Davis showed up, despite her recognition that Vedula would be there.
On August 21, 2019, Vedula was scheduled to speak at the Redlands Pub Talks event, one which had been publicized. Davis showed up and insisted on moving to the front of the assembled crowd, immediately in front of the stage, as Vedula gave her presentation.
Vedula, while yet harboring political aspirations, had resolved that it would be best for her to seek office in a venue where she would not need to compete with Davis. Recognizing she had to refine her approach and improve upon her campaigning technique and reach, and above all begin early, she approached Emerge California for guidance in determining what elected positions she might vie for in 2020 or 2022 where she would have a fighting chance of succeeding and what help might be provided her if she were to make such a run.
When Davis learned of that, she acted to persuade those in Emerge California that promoting Verdula as a candidate was not a good idea.
The Sentinel has obtained communications between Davis and other progressive issue activists which trashed Verdula.
The Sentinel is in possession of text messages [between DC Lozano and] from Davis in which she says of Vedula, “[M]y experiences with her show here to be an opportunist at best & a political plant at worst. She’s done many, many questionable things that I’ll keep to myself. I just want to ask you & others to be careful in promoting a candidate who is extremely conservative & who endorses values that are very far from those we hold dear. Shining too many positive lights on her would be detrimental to all of us. She’s not what she seems & I think it’s dangerous to allow someone who is not a progressive in any way, who is not honest about many things, be a part of any of it.”
Her experience with Davis ultimately led Vedula to abandon her resolve to run for elected office, although it has not dissuaded her from being politically active altogether.
Vedula said the use of the term “character assassination” in describing what Davis did to her was not too strong of a term. There was, Vedula said of Davis, “malevolent intent on her part.” It was clear, Vedula said, that Davis was seeking to destroy “any future opportunities I had.”
In an interview with Mark Parker of the Redlands City Journal, which was recorded and posted to the internet as a podcast, Vedula said Davis had abused her status as a councilwoman to use city resources, in this case the Redlands Police Department to not only intimidate her but damage her reputation in a way calculated to end her political viability.
“I don’t think it was fair,” Vedula told Parker. “I don’t think they understand what that did to me.” She said bringing the police in to investigate her on what were “false pretenses, completely made-up pretenses” left her uncertain about whether she might be arrested for engaging in activity she had freely engaged in previously as an activist and as a candidate. It chilled her willingness to participate in civic affairs, she told the Redlands City Journal.“ I wasn’t sure where I could be in public. I wasn’t sure of what I could do and where I could go and couldn’t go.”
She initially restrained herself, but gradually re-immersed herself in public affairs, she told Parker, after her friends assured her they would accompany her whenever she went out to ensure that she would have witnesses if any further false allegations were lodged against her.
Ultimately, Vedula said, she learned that the police had concluded that Davis’s accusations against her had no validity but that Davis engaged in a “perpetuation of the lie, the perpetuation of the allegations which were already told to her are not true.”
He perspective now, Vedula said, was that Davis “saw me as a political threat but couched it as a physical threat. She should stop saying that I stalked her because it’s so wrong to continue that lie.”
Vedula said there was a “surreal” element to what she was experiencing in that she was being accused by Davis with being obsessed and stalking her when it was actually Davis who was constantly bird-dogging her.
Davis was monitoring her activities and when she learned Vedula was seeking to participate in the “Emerge California program, she interrupted it. She called the program and told them not to take me.” This drove her to ask, Vedula told the Redlands City Journal, “Why is she keeping tabs on me? There were multiple other times where I felt she was cornering me in small areas for a lot of Democratic events, just coming into areas where I was and she knew I wasn’t going to say anything.”
Vedula told Parker that Davis’s attacks on her were damaging to the progressive ideals she thought they both embraced.
“We’re in a group,” Vedula said. “I’m not sure how what I’m doing could be a threat to anybody else. We’re all just fighting for the same cause.”
As a consequence, Vedula told the Redlands City Journal, she is through with entering the political fray herself as a candidate.
“I’m not looking to run,” she said. “I’m not that threat. I think we are all hurt and are harmed when we treat people like this. It’s traumatizing to have to talk about and relive it. It’s also embarrassing in a way. If this is politics, I don’t what anything to do with it. I don’t want to ever partake in running for office, especially against her ever again.”
Vedula indicated that she felt Davis had political potential but there was something Nixonian about her in that her desire to obtain and hold onto power overran her commitment to principle.
“She abused her power and she needs to see that,” Vedula told Parker. “She needs to acknowledge that. She could be a great leader someday but what she did showed me she may not be ready for that yet.”
In 2020, Councilman Eddie Tejeda, who had first been elected to the council at-large in 2016, ran for election in District 2 unopposed and was returned to the council. Jenna Guzman-Lowery captured the District 4 post over three other candidates.
In Redlands, the mayor is selected from among the council by the council every two years, generally in the month following the election, along with the mayor pro tem or vice mayor. Among San Bernardino County’s 24 municipalities, 13 cities hold direct mayoral elections and 11 elevate a member of the council to wield the mayoral gavel. Generally, the cities that appoint the mayor from among the council do so on a rotational basis, selecting the member of the council with the most seniority who has not yet been mayor, with the caveat that the person chosen has the time and/or freedom/leisure/lack of other professional commitments to attend ceremonial functions during weekdays such as ribbon cuttings, groundbreakings and so forth. In Redlands, Foster had served as mayor for three two-year terms running since 2014 because his retirement status allowed him to attend the festivities held Monday through Friday and because the two members of the council who during that span would have logically otherwise served in that capacity – Paul Barich, who was first elected in 2014, and Toni Momberger, who was appointed to the council in 2017 after the death of Councilwoman Pat Gilbreath and then was elected in 2018 to fill the remaining two years of Gilbreath’s term, demurred because their professional commitments would have prevented them from attending many of the weekday events the mayor was called upon to take part in. In 2018, after her maiden election, the city council had chosen Davis to serve in the mayor pro tem position, an uncommon but not unheard of early honorific.
As Foster was nearing the end of his sixth year as mayor, he was looking forward to seeing the mayoral duties passed along to one of his colleagues. Barich, who had two more years’ experience on the council than Tejeda, was the logical choice to succeed Foster. Barich, however, owns and runs an insurance company in Redlands, and he was reluctant to take on the burden of being mayor. It thus appeared, and most of those with an eye on City Hall expected, that Tejeda would be entrusted with the mayoral gavel in December 2018. At the meeting where the selection was scheduled to be made and the transition anticipated, however, Davis had asked for the council to consider her proposal for a mayoral selection process, one which called for not two-year mayoral and mayoral pro tem terms but rather one-year terms. Additionally, she proposed that the system include an assignment schedule and sequencing of responsibility by which the mayor’s slot would be filled by the individual who had most recently served as mayor pro tem. In making the pitch for the system she was proposing, Davis was essentially seeking to propel herself into the mayoral position. The council, which had been primed to follow what was essentially tradition and most likely elevate Tejeda to the mayoral post, was caught flatfooted by Davis’s proposal, and agreed to defer the mayoral appointment while it contemplated the scope and merit of the procedure Davis had articulated, consulted with city residents about their perspective and take up the consideration of who should mayor in January 2019.
Davis poured on the coal in an effort to put an unbearable heat beneath the remainder of the council – in particular the three male members of the council who made up a majority of the panel. Redlands’ history was replete with “backroom conversations” which inevitably led to “backroom deals” by which “rich White men” had “perpetuated the status quo” to “marginalize… women and minorities” while “suppress[ing] minority votes” to “prevent” anyone other than themselves “from assuming leadership roles.”
Her proposal, she said, would “guarantee minority representation and diverse leadership… rooted in equity.” She saluted the shift to by-district elections in 2018, which she said was long overdue since it meant that each of the city’s five “representatives are elected equally. Therefore, each should have an equal chance to serve as mayor and mayor pro tem.” She said her proposal, with its one-year mayoral and mayoral pro tem terms instead of the current two-year terms would double the degree of diversity and fair distribution of the city’s leadership.
She pointed out that in all of Redlands history there had only been three women mayors, but failed to note that the city had only had a single Latino mayor and that her proposal as she was framing it would in all likelihood, if it were to achieve the goal she was apparently setting for the city, result in keeping the Hispanic Tejeda from taking up the mayoral gavel as he was about to just before she intervened with her mayoral succession proposal.
As might have been anticipated, Tejeda, who under the existing and traditional system stood next in line to be mayor, objected to the imposition of her selection strategy with its implied favoritism toward distaff members at the exclusion of its agnate members as part of a deliberate strategy to undo what she implied were generations of inequity and a lack of diversity, one which would thus logically lead to her immediate selection as mayor and Tejeda’s immediate exclusion from that municipal leadership role. Tejeda’s reaction provoked from her the observation that he “obviously had ambitions to be in a leadership role himself.” In this way, she seemed to impute malevolence to Tejeda’s ambition, while making no such association with her own ambition.
Ultimately, in January 2019, when the council took up her proposed succession procedure and the mayoral succession question, the council failed to adopt her suggestions as with regard to an automatically rotating one-year duration mayoral term. When Councilwoman Guzman-Lowery nominated Davis for mayor, Davis seconded the nomination, but her selection failed on a 2-to-3 vote, with Barich and Tejeda opposed. Tejeda nominated Barich, which Foster seconded. Barich was then elected mayor, by a 4-to-1 vote, with Guzman-Lowery dissenting.
To read the rest of this article, find a hard copy of the San Bernardino County Sentinel, available at 657 distribution locations around 20,105-square mile San Bernardino County.
A homicidal maniac’s rampage that began in Fontana and remanifested a day later in Barstow to continue across a swathe of the High Desert put local law enforcement agencies into a no-win position on Monday and Tuesday, ending in the gunman’s death and creating a situation in which his 16-year-old daughter was extinguished in the violent miasma that consumed her mother and father.
The entire incident involved, both as it was ongoing and in its aftermath, confusion as to fact and circumstance, an element that lent itself to the fatal outcome.
Some salient and reliable facts can be plucked from the uncertain narrative that has shifted multiple times since the first reports of mayhem that 45-year-old Anthony John Graziano perpetrated in Fontana, where as recently as three months ago he was living with his wife, Tracy Martinez, 45, and the couple’s 15-year-old daughter, Savannah, and their 11-year-old son. Continue reading
While it is doubtful that the comprehensive mix of water users who fall under the aegis of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority will meet the goal of reducing water drafting in the region by all entities to 7,650 acre-feet by 2040, projects being undertaken by the joint powers authority will bring the area much closer to the idealized balance of water use envisaged by the state.
In 2015, in the aftermath of a four-year running drought and a determination by the California Department of Water Resources that the Indian Wells Valley is one of the 21 basins throughout the State of California in critical overdraft, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority was formed, pursuant to a joint exercise of powers agreement involving Kern County, San Bernardino County, Inyo County, the City of Ridgecrest and the Indian Wells Valley Water District as general members and the United States Navy and the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management as associate members.
Previously, in 2014, then-California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, mandating water-saving measures throughout the state and requiring local agencies to draft plans to bring groundwater aquifers into balanced levels of pumping and recharge through the adoption of a groundwater sustainability plan. Continue reading
During the forum held on Tuesday, September 27 for the five competing candidates for Upland City Council in the upcoming November 8 election, four of those sought to outdo each other only by seeing who could render himself or herself indistinguishable from his or her opponents. One cut, or sought to cut, an independent path.
This year, District 3 Councilman Carlos Garcia drew no opponent. Rudy Zuniga, the incumbent in District 4, is being opposed by Darwin Cruz and Chris Seward. District 2 Councilwoman Janice Elliott is being challenged by James Breitling.
Elliott is the dean of the council, having first been elected at-large in 2016. She astutely ran to represent District 2 when the city moved to district elections in 2018, rather than serving out her original term, as it would have ended in 2020, at which point it would have been mid-term for the District 2 representative, and she would have been obliged to leave office, with her only option of remaining politically viable in Upland being to run in that year’s mayoral race. Continue reading
The heirs of Bill Brehm have sold the four newspapers he and his wife, Mona, acquired in San Bernardino County to Gold Mountain News Media, which runs newspapers in the United States and Canada.
Gold Mountain California News Media has picked up the Hi-Desert Star Newspaper in Yucca Valley, the Desert Trail Newspaper in Twentynine Palms, the Big Bear Grizzly in Big Bear Lake and the Mountain News in Lake Arrowhead. All four are weeklies printed out of the Brehm Communications Inc. printing plant in Yucca Valley.
All told, Mountain California News Media Inc. is acquiring 11 newspapers in total from Brehm Communications. In addition to the Hi-Desert Star, the Desert Trail, the Grizzly and the Mountain News, the company will purchase the Desert Mobile Home News, which serves the Coachella Valley, along with the Auburn Journal, the Folsom Telegraph, the Roseville Press-Tribune, the Placer Herald, the Loomis News and the Lincoln News Messenger in Northern California. Continue reading
A homicidal maniac’s rampage that began in Fontana and remanifested a day later in Barstow to continue across a swathe of the High Desert put local law enforcement agencies into a no-win position on Monday and Tuesday, ending in the gunman’s death and creating a situation in which his 16-year-old daughter was extinguished in the violent miasma that consumed her mother and father.
The entire incident involved both as it was ongoing and in its aftermath, confusion as to fact and circumstance, an element that lent itself to the fatal outcome.