Word To The Wise: Food For Thought

citycat.pngBy E.A. Roberts –

Item 1.  In the Sunday, May 17 Davis Enterprise appears an editorial entitled “Those at the top are easy targets”, defending recent pay raises to the wealthiest public employees.  What is interesting to note is another article “They’ll drink to that” announcing UCD’s plan for its new cutting-edge winery, along with a front page headline screaming “Budget is in hands of angry electorate”.  Apparently no one at the Davis Enterprise put two and two together.  Perhaps the electorate is angry because they see fat cats at the top levels of state government still pigging out at the public trough as per usual, while the state budget takes a nose dive into deep, dark oblivion.
In the past several weeks, the Enterprise has reported on the following:

 

UC recently hired a new president at twice the salary of his predecessor (from $400,000 to a whopping $800,000);

The new UCD Chancellor was just hired at a salary more than twenty percent above the person she is replacing ($315,000 to $400,000);

UCD announced the construction of a new convention center in partnership with a high end hotel chain;

Alumni are toasting UCD’s plans to build a new high tech winery, price tag unspecified.

The above scenario is analogous to a person headed for bankruptcy court, squandering to their heart’s content, before the credit spigot is turned off.  In the case of the UC system, though, the lavish consumption is at taxpayers’ expense.  Ironically the Davis Enterprise emphatically states “Should UCD just go on a spending spree, however?  Of course not.  The campus is also tightening up its budget in some very painful ways.”  Yes, by raising student fees to pay for UCD’s spending binge!

Item 2.  An editorial by Janice Bridge appears in the Davis Enterprise, entitled “Seniors need more housing options”.  In the article she states “The majority of seniors harbor the desire to “age in place” – to live in our current homes successfully until we die.”  This is absolutely true.  An AARP study indicated about 85% of seniors aged 55 or older expressed the desire to remain in their own homes for the rest of their lives.

Yet Ms. Bridge comes to the conclusion by the year 2020 Davis will need 800 senior-appropriate living units.  She notes “We know at some point we will want to live in a smaller, more efficient home…”, in direct contradiction to her previous observation that seniors want to remain in their current residences.  To get around this problem in logic, she concludes “Our desire is to be able to “age in the community” – to have our housing needs fulfilled in Davis.”   The AARP study did not say 85% of seniors wanted to stay in their “current town” – it said they want to remain in their “own home”.

An alternative argument for massive amounts of new senior housing is posited in this editorial.  New housing would “allow seniors to sell homes in established neighborhoods to families with children to fill our schools and utilize our parks”.  But this runs counter to the original premise that seniors want to remain in their own homes. It is also remarkable to observe 800 units for seniors is the magic number suggested by the developers of the former Covell Village site that will supposedly be needed in the coming years.  In fact the current housing market is stagnant, the value of housing plummeting dramatically.

Item 3.  On the agenda for the May 19 City Council meeting is listed “Water/Wastewater Issues”.  If you read further, it reads “Davis-Woodland Water Supply Project…Recommendation: Approve”; “Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Execute Consultant Agreement with West Yost Associates for Wastewater Reclamation Alternative Analysis…Conaway Preservation Group…Recommendation: Approve…”.

In other words, it appears the city is still on a trajectory to do both the wastewater treatment plant upgrade and the water importation project.  This, despite recent consultant alarm warnings that it will not be economically feasible for ratepayers to finance both projects at the same time.  Already the recent increase in sewer rates have caused many to cry out in financial pain.  With the state budget crisis looming, the last thing ratepayers need on their plate is an unpalatable, massive bill for both a water and sewer project.

Lesson to be learned:  Taxpayers are infuriated, and tapped out financially.  If the state and local government do not reign in what is perceived as wasteful spending, the backlash by the electorate may become quite ugly.

Elaine Roberts  Musser is an attorney who concentrates her efforts on elder law and aging issues, especially in regard to consumer affairs.  If you have a comment or particular question or topic you would like to see addressed in this column, please make your observations at the end of this article in the comment section.

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5 thoughts on “Word To The Wise: Food For Thought”

  1. Davis Parent

    We should tie the paychecks of those sitting on the compensation committee, to the paychecks of those that they hire. If you hire a candidate at a lower level of pay (compared to previous person in that position), you get a performance bonus.

    A little tongue-in-cheek… but I suspect the problem at the top would suddenly disappear.

  2. Barbara King

    Let’s stop tripping ourselves up on the false dilemma of housing for families versus housing for the elderly. Houses built on the principles of universal design allow seniors (a group all who do not die young join in time) to age in place and contain features from which ALL of us can benefit.

    I like the lever-style doorknobs and rocker light switches in my home; I can open doors and turn on lights with the whack of an elbow when my hands are full. Building in reinforcements for future installation of grab bars in bathrooms makes not a whit of cosmetic difference in a house but allows for quick, inexpensive installation of grab bars when they become necessary. And what is not to like about electrical outlets mounted high enough to reach without being a yoga expert?

    Contrary to concerns expressed in city council discussions of universal design, a universally accessible house does NOT have to have a big, ugly ramp. Because the great majority of new homes in Davis are built on a slab, not a raised foundation, a gentle, hardly visible incline in walkways approaching entrances provides the accessibility feature of “One entrance without steps and a flat or very low threshold.” And such an entry benefits parents pushing strollers as well as folks using wheelchairs, walkers, Jazzies, and such.

    The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University has excellent, surprisingly short lists of universal design features which could allow seniors to age in place, make new housing accessible, and make life easier for all of us in many ways. (See pages 7, 21 and 22 at http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/pubs_p/docs/residential_remodelinl.pdf )

    The city council should stop dinking around with visitability standards and go straight for universal design standards for the good of all of us.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    “The city council should stop dinking around with visitability standards and go straight for universal design standards for the good of all of us.”

    I absolutely agree with you, as does the entire Senior Citizens Commission, Social Services Commission and the ADA Subcommittee. It is frustrating that Universal Design is not MANDATORY in this city for all new development. You would have to ask City Council members who voted against doing so why they gave it a thumbs down…they were all for encouraging Universal Design for new development, but the majority were against mandating it.

    “We should tie the paychecks of those sitting on the compensation committee, to the paychecks of those that they hire. If you hire a candidate at a lower level of pay (compared to previous person in that position), you get a performance bonus.”

    Now there’s a great idea! Nothing like thinking outside the box!

    “Put the water treatment and supply issues to a vote.”

    There is a bit of optimism on this front. The two new consultants Ed & George (I’ll call them by their first names, bc their last names are too hard to spell) encouraged City Staff to look at more options that could decrease the costs of the sewer plant upgrade – such as other dispersal sites for wastewater besides Conaway Ranch. Also, the two are all for not being so hasty in decisionmaking, advising the City Council/Staff to take its time and explore various options. However, the pair of consultants are insisting the city do the water project first and foremost. No matter which way you slice it, our water/sewer rates are going to be astronomical.

    But I think the City Council/Staff is finally getting the picture that ratepayers just cannot afford two expensive capital improvement projects at the same time. Also, it appears that the new Regional Water Quality Board (I believe that is the correct name)is being more lenient about standards and timeframes than previously. Apparently the RWQB has also begun to recognize the taxpayers’ collective pockets are not bottomless in these tough economic times.

  4. Mike Harrington

    In about 2003, staff recommended against adding the universal standards for new and remodel. The CC majority voted 3/2 to support staff. It was one of the more disappointing items on the CC agenda in my 4 yrs as a member.

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