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W. Nile forum fray is faulted

An informational meeting about mosquito spraying in Davis that was hijacked Tuesday night by spraying opponents was described a day later by some officials as a lost opportunity for citizens to have their concerns addressed.

David Brown, manager of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, lamented a missed chance to give Davis residents answers about possible ground spraying to kill mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus.

"It was very disappointing to have had the same people who say we're not providing information in an adequate manner deny the city of Davis an opportunity to hear from a panel of experts," Brown said.

"I am frustrated."

The district has been using both planes and trucks to spray pesticides in various areas of Sacramento County.

District officials said high winds prevented spraying in south Sacramento again Wednesday night and a switch to ground spraying will be considered.

Ground spraying in the Galt area Wednesday night was called successful.

The mosquito-control district has scheduled a public meeting at 2 p.m. today at its Elk Grove headquarters, 8631 Bond Road, to discuss ways of improving public outreach and communication.

In Davis, Mayor Ruth Asmundson said there were no plans for future informational sessions.

"I'm just overwhelmed and not thinking about it," she said.

The disrupted meeting Tuesday had left her feeling "embarrassed and disillusioned and frustrated," Asmundson said.

Tuesday's Davis meeting had been organized by officials to ease anxieties over possible ground spraying to kill mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus in populated areas of Yolo County, including Davis and Woodland.

At the packed meeting Tuesday of about 150 residents in Davis City Hall, Brown was able to get through his 20-minute presentation on what he called the safety and effectiveness of mosquito spraying.

But a question-and-answer session with panelists had barely gotten under way, when spraying opponents disrupted the meeting and caused it to fall apart.

Some opponents were outraged by the strict format of the meeting in which only written questions were allowed.

They became even more agitated when they saw the questions were being selected and read by Asmundson and Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson.

Also outrageous to some was the panel of government officials and experts who were there to respond to the questions about the safety of spraying a fog of pesticides along city streets.

One critic called it a "stacked deck."

The meeting began to unravel when some members of the audience began to shout out questions and comments despite the ground rules.

Asmundson, who said she wouldn't be shouted at, called an end to the session and told the panelists to leave the dais.

After the official meeting disintegrated, however, opponents resumed voicing concerns among themselves, with Asmundson and Thomson listening in.

The remaining audience members - about half of the original group - raised numerous questions among themselves about the need for spraying and the safety of the pesticides being used.

One woman who had grown up in India said the pesticide DDT had been used there after it was banned in much of the world.

The Indian government had also assured citizens it was effective and harmless and had even run advertisements suggesting parents could spray it on their babies, said Kavita Karighattam, 35, of Davis.

"Is this going to be the same thing?" she asked.

Asmundson said it was too bad that because opponents broke up the meeting concerns like Karighattam's weren't allowed to be addressed.

"They had questions," the mayor said, "but it was unfortunate because the experts were gone."

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