Interview #100: San Jose, CA Councilmember Dev Davis (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

Dev Davis may be known as the District 6 council member, but she is also the mastermind behind the San Jose council curfew, the originator of the Star Trek meeting costume, and–as you will hear–a skilled actor in medical dramas!

Q: I would like to start with the April 18 council meeting of last year, when you all invited Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak into city hall. What stood out to me was what you were wearing. Would you describe your attire that day?

A: I was wearing a traditional Star Trek female crew member dress.

Q: How did you conceive of that?

A: Well, all Comic Cons are celebrated–at least in the United States–by having many of its attendees wear costumes. I thought it would be in the spirit of celebrating Comic Con for the city council to have costumes.

Q: I see your logic but don’t you think it sets a dangerous precedent to have council members putting on costumes for meetings? I mean, what’s to stop your mayor now from wearing assless chaps during Pride?

A: That would not only be a great homage to Pride but also to Prince, who is one of my favorite artists. But our mayor is quite conservative and would never don assless chaps.

Q: Well, Mayor Liccardo, if you were to make that fashion choice, just know you have two supporters of that right here. We will validate your choice. Dev, let me ask you about a procedural oddity in San Jose: does your council not have ordinances or bills? You have “memos?”

A: We do have ordinances, but we have the Brown Act in California, which means that we can only communicate with a minority of our colleagues prior to voting. So the way that we communicate with everyone is through these formal memoranda that get attached to each agenda item. We can say what our thoughts are and basically what motion we’re going to be making on the floor.

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San Jose, CA Councilmember Dev Davis

Q: There seems to be this dance every few months when your council considers affordable housing at a meeting. Renters say, “we cannot afford to live here and it’s too easy to evict us.” Landlords say, “we need to be able to evict people and raise the rents.” And other people say, “this is all beside the point. We need to build more housing!” Then your council around midnight votes to side with the renters. Do you feel good after those meetings that you’ve accomplished something? Or are you frustrated that, okay, we put a Band-Aid on it. In a couple months, we’ll have another midnight meeting on housing again?

A: I do feel frustrated after those meetings. I feel emotionally drained. The reason that we continue to have these discussions is because it took us decades to get into this mess. It’s not something we can solve in one city council meeting and one year.

Q: Logistically, is there any way to structure these meetings better so that you all are not forced to make a decision very late at night after you’ve been yelled at for four hours, and maybe you’re not in the freshest mindset?

A: The only reason we have a midnight curfew is because Councilmember [Chappie] Jones and I asked to have a midnight curfew. Prior to the curfew last year, there were multiple meetings that went until 2:30 in the morning. As we get more and more tired–whether we want to or not consciously–subconsciously our brain starts shutting down and we don’t make the best decisions.

Q: Have you ever felt that you voted the wrong way because of all those stress factors on your brain when you were going to those extremely late meetings?

A: I’ve never regretted any of my votes, but I’ve often wished we had more time to think about the sausage we were making to get to six votes after a long meeting like that.


Follow Councilmember Dev Davis on Twitter: @DevDavisCA

San José City Council Special UpDiep

This audio episode is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

When I saw that half of the San José city council was wearing Star Trek uniforms at last week’s council meeting, my first thought was, “sounds about right.” My second thought was, “get [Councilmember] Lan [Diep] on the line!”

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Q: Thank you for joining me on the holiest of high holidays: Silicon Valley Comic Con. What do you have planned?

A: I have the Great American Litter Pickup in the morning.

Q: Uh, I’m sorry, the “litter pickup?” Is that from the Marvel Universe or the DC Universe?

A: I think it’s one of the independent ones!

Q: Okay, on April 18 I had some downtime between watching the Milwaukee city council meeting and the Tallahassee city council meeting. So, like usual, I flipped over to San José and I saw you say this:

LD: Thank you, captain. Government: a fickle frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship San José. Its four year mission–possibly extendable to eight–to explore wonderful new policies. To seek out better quality of life…to boldy innovate where no municipality has innovated before!

Q: Uh, okay, “Starfleet Commander,” what was all that about?

A: Prior to that meeting, Councilmember Dev Davis hosted a flag-raising for the Silicon Valley Comic Con. We created our own flag for it. I’m not sure if the city did it or Councilmember Davis did or the Comic Con did. She invited Steve Wozniak and she got the entire city council involved to dress up in Star Trek uniforms. So we were there and Steve Wozniak was there and a bunch of Star Wars and other cosplayers showed up. Fun was had. We presented a commendation to Steve Wozniak for being a great ambassador for the city of San José. Councilmember Davis and myself and a few other people showed up wearing our Star Trek uniforms from the previous event.

Q: I noticed there were some different colors going on. Some people wore gold, others wore red or blue. What was the logic behind that?

A: My understanding is that red are the engineers. They get things done. The blue is the science group and the gold is the command group. A lot of us wore gold–we did not coordinate that!

Q: You and the mayor were both wearing gold. So if a disaster were to befall San José, would you two be on the same team?

A: I mean, everyone assumes that I was trying to be Kirk. But maybe I was just playing a type and being Sulu, the Asian on the Star Trek fleet!

#38: Dover, DE 7/25/16

It’s a beautiful evening at Dover City Hall. The city council is ready to go and boy, what a diverse, good-looking group of–what?

This isn’t the city council? Then who the h*ck are these people?

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Control room, can we get a shot of the city council please?

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THERE they are. Barely.

The first order of business was presenting an oversize, Publishers Clearing House-style check to a senior citizens’ home. The guy in charge accepted the award by embarking on a long, slow stemwinder of a tale. “We have 30 employees. We’re down a couple right now. We hired people from 18 years old–she just left–”

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As the speech meandered, so did the control room–which decided that now was the perfect time for cutaway shots.

“Our average age is 75 years old. If you think about that, 75 is an average age–”

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“We have a wonderful facility. For those of you who have not been out there, I would be glad to give you a tour–”

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“It’s tough out there. For the fire department, you know, when you deal with seniors, there’s a lot of cooking incidents–”

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FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, NO MORE CLOSE-UPS.

At the conclusion, everyone snapped out of their stupor and applauded. Councilman Fred Neil–himself well above the average age in the senior home–shook hands and quipped, “as an 82-year-old, save me a spot!”

The council quickly pivoted to the youthful and chipper city librarian, who was here to brag about Dover Comic Con. “We’re starting on Friday night about 5:30 with the arrival of the Ghostbusters,” she promised.

Councilman David Anderson leaned forward intently. “Will the Tardis be there this year?”

“The Tardis will be there,” confirmed the librarian.

Councilman Neil piped up. “I thought it was marvelous when I went last year! I was greeted like a character, even though I was not in uniform.” (For context, he looks like the guy from “Up.”) “Even though I was one of the old guys, I appreciated what was going on.”

Speaking of goings-on, “Mr. Sudler had a get-together last weekend,” recalled Councilman William Hare. “I have to say that all the hype about Roy’s Ribs was true! There was only one problem with ’em: there wasn’t enough!” The councilmen cackled in response.

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The rib kingpin of central Delaware

Councilman Roy Sudler, Jr., the culinary maestro of city hall, leveled a challenge right back at Hare: “Mt. Zion AME Church, they will be hosting an annual back to school and community fair. They would like to invite you to be this year’s celebrity chef–helping to cook hotdogs and hamburgers.”

Councilman Hare reflected. “Is there a waiver that we’re not held responsible for them eating my cooking?” Ha! Councilman, you and your poisonous gruel! Stick to what you know: order a couple buckets of Roy Sudler’s Ribs and call it a picnic.

Final thoughts: Oh, hey, control room dad!

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