Commentary: Sideshows Aside, This Election Is Going to Come Down to Big Issues

City Hall

The 2016 campaign was uneventful from start to finish.  Maybe it was due to the fact that it was never in doubt who would be elected (although the order was perhaps unexpected).  Maybe it was due to the fact that the candidates were not widely separated on the big issues.  But, in a year of turmoil across the country, the Davis City Council was a “stay the course” election.

I think the 2018 council race will be very different.  First of all, the two incumbents are not seeking reelection, which means that there will be some turnover on a council that has been remarkably stable since two incumbents were ousted in 2012.

Second, as I pointed out yesterday, the nature of the field is changing.

They are indications that the political lines that divided this community for years are really gone. There are candidates in this field who will support development, but there are no candidates that would be characterized as developer candidates.

There are candidates that I would call new progressives, but there are none here that would be characterized as no growthers. There are candidates here that have a narrow focus, but there are no candidates that I would characterize as being part of the political machines that for years governed this community, and none that I would consider beholden to the special interests.

Whoever is elected I would expect to do a good job and to serve the needs of the community as they see it.

One of my readers who contacted me wants to know where the candidates come down on Nishi or where they came down on Measure A.  One of the interesting questions is whether Nishi will once again
serve as a dividing line in the community, but not in the city council race.

Nishi went down to about a 690 vote defeat in 2016.  It was a bitterly divided community on the issue.  And yet, it did not touch the council race at all because the four candidates who remained in the race all supported Nishi.

If one of the candidates formed common cause with the No on Nishi folks, they might have an advantage if the field is heavily dominated with supporters of Nishi.  One has to look no further than 2000 when Susie Boyd was the candidate that opposed Measure J.  Measure J ended up passing in a fairly evenly split electorate, but because Ms. Boyd distinguished herself, she finished first.

That of course assumes that Nishi is going to end up being a dividing line in the community.  Given that the developers have attempted to address several of the key issues – in particular, traffic impacts, affordable housing and to a lesser extent air quality exposure by making all of the units rental – it may take some of the divisions away from the electorate.  One possibility is that only the hardcore opposition to Nishi will remain and the average citizen will be relatively satisfied.

There are other big issues coming down the pike.  The council last week talked about putting three revenue measures on the ballot.  A key question is whether they will all be on the ballot in June.  One answer that we got is probably not, but they may have parks and roads on the ballot for June.

The question is then going to be whether these measures impact the electorate.  Will anyone run who opposes the tax?  There is some indication that Luis Rios might be such a candidate.  On the other hand, Jose Granda was never able to translate his opposition to parcel taxes for the school into votes for the school board.  In fact, he usually got fewer votes than the No on the Parcel Tax vote.

There are a number of big ticket issues that might more divide the candidates.

One question will be about housing.  On the one hand there is the student housing issue.  One of the questions will of course be how much the city versus the university should build for student housing.

There will also be affordable housing issues.  A key question will be how the city gets the funding and the locations to build affordable housing.

Rent control could be a large issue in this election.  That is a debate that we really haven’t had to date.

Economic development could return as a big issue.  We don’t know where MRIC (Mace Ranch Innovation Center) sits even though it has had its EIR certified.  If a new proposal emerges, that could take on a life of its own.

How the city generates revenue should be an important issue that several candidates will push and on which there likely won’t be consensus.

Then you have the Core Area Specific Plan.  The Davis Downtown figures to be a huge issue that several candidates are already in the middle of.

Finally, some people said, social justice issues don’t really impact Davis.  Well you have many things including homelessness, which is a huge local issue that will likely occupy more centralized space this go around.  We still have the fallout from the Picnic Day and police oversight to deal with.  Affordable housing will fall into this area.  And also diversity issues, which have been shunted to the sideline at times in Davis, could move forward.

My view is if this becomes a litmus test on Nishi, I will be very disappointed.  I think the future of our community is really at stake in this election and that traverses many issues as laid out above.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Come see the Vanguard Event – “In Search of Gideon” – which highlights some of the key work performed by the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office…

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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37 thoughts on “Commentary: Sideshows Aside, This Election Is Going to Come Down to Big Issues”

  1. Keith O

    I’ll never vote for a candidate that runs on diversity issues in their platform.  We have enough of that devisiveness already being pushed in this town.  One candidate already stands out to me as most likely pushing this issue.

  2. aaahirsch8


    Yes, Social Justice and “distributional justice”  should be a consideration in council decisions.

    But  I suggest the Land Use is the biggest knob the Council can turn….. and the field of Candidate is strikingly void (with one – or two – exceptions I know of) of anyone who either:

    > Has any professional land use development or planning experience

    > Was involved with past Land Use discussions in the City (e.g. MACE & other Innovation centers, the 3 Hotel proposals,  Nishi 1.0, or Measure O & its follow on).

    Remember land use is how we solve our housing, fiscal sustainability..and “Jobs” problem.

    Yes, police conduct is a social justice issue, but only one candidate (as far as I know) has actively worked with police department to fix things (vs just protest). And “fixing” the larger Justice system and social welfare is largely address at county and state level…that is where the money & authority is.

    And Yes Homelessness is a social justice issue, and there a some things the city can do here.   But its just a bandaid what city can do…due to limited money and the options the city has: this is a regional mental health & economic justice problem. I note  even the City of Sacramento has found is needs the county to address the issue. (see page B1 article in Monday’s Bee).  If candidate runs on Social Justice / distributional justice that might be good optics, but it makes me wonder they understand job of city council.



    People who think once on council they can just get city staff to just do their bidding don’t understand how organizations, (government or a business bureaucracys) work.  They particularly don’t understand City Manager style of government== an innovation that professionalized government as contrast with  patronage staffing of governments from back east-think of NYC’s Tammy Hall and City of Chicago.

    Being an inside problem solver (on council or as activist informally with city staff like police department ) is a lot different than being an outsider protesting and critiquing on Vanguard, in letters in Enterprise, or public comment a council.  I will look for examples of candidate real life  experience doing this inside work.    I know of only two candidates who have done this with city,  but look forward to hearing from other if they did this. Voters (and David G) should “listen for silence” if they never mention this in their campaign literature or rhetoric.

    As I’ve stated before social justice/welfare issue are largely addressed at county level. But if candidates want to run on a social justice platform, I look forward to hearing their experience problem solving in this arena by working with County staff, Court System, and Board of Supervisors.

    We have a President who ran for office on rhetoric but with no real experience getting stuff done.. Regardless of whether you like programs Trump promised to do, you have to note his inability to implement his big promises.   I suggest Davisites learn from this and value of experience as much as rhetoric.


    NET: I challenge candidates to prove that being on Davis City Council won’t be “on the job” training for them for in these two critical areas:

    1) Land use Planning (to address issue in housing, open space, economic development for tax $ and jobs).

    2) Real experience working thru and with a Government staff to problem solve.

    Voters should “listen for the silence” if candidates change the subject and fail to address these issues in their rhetoric and campaign literature.






    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “Social Justice and “distributional justice” should be a consideration in council decisions. But I suggest the Land Use is the biggest knob the Council can turn…”

      Are they mutually exclusive necessarily? After all is a person who can’t afford to live in Davis – a social justice problem in addition to a land use problem? Is affordable housing a social justice problem? Are a group of people opposing land development because they are afraid it might attract certain elements a social justice problem?

      Then there are issues within our community like police oversight, the achievement gap (yes I know school issue), the other Davis (reference to a 2014 article), discrimination, racial profiling, etc. these are all issues in the council’s purview that I don’t think get addressed nearly enough within the standard land use conversations.

      1. Howard P

        A fair reading of what David responded to does not justify his pointed questions:

        Are they mutually exclusive necessarily? After all is a person who can’t afford to live in Davis – a social justice problem in addition to a land use problem? Is affordable housing a social justice problem? Are a group of people opposing land development because they are afraid it might attract certain elements a social justice problem?

        Implied in the previous post was the poster would say “no” to the first question… to read it otherwise is a bit contrived.

        The other three, sure look more like accusations/posturing/ranting, than fair questions… looked more like statements put in the form of a question.

        1. David Greenwald

          You’re reading deeper into my questions than was intended. My point though was that land use and local issues often overlap with social justice matters. I think Alan would agree with me here.

        1. Jim Hoch

          One of the less charming ego-eccentricities I have noticed in Davis is the illusion that people everywhere are looking to Davis for leadership in all areas.

          In no place I have ever lived has anyone ever said “what is Davis doing about this?”. Yet at both School Board and the CC people routinely believe that DJU or City of Davis should show “leadership” so ignorant people in other jurisdictions will apparently learn proper behavior from us.

          The city should be run int he best interests of the residents, not with an eye out for getting a mention in the HuffPost.

        2. David Greenwald

          That’s not healthy for the environment or the economy.  It’s why we have 28,000 people commuting into Davis each day to work.  That’s not a good thing.

        3. Keith O

          How many people choose to live elsewhere and work or go to college here?  How many live in Davis and choose to work elsewhere?

          If I want to live in the Menlo-Atherton area should I demand that their councils make it affordable for me?

        4. David Greenwald

          Had a whole article on this a few weeks ago – 28,000 work elsewhere and commute to Davis to work, 21,000 live in Davis and commute out of Davis to work.


        5. Keith O

          Had a whole article on this a few weeks ago – 28,000 work elsewhere and commute to Davis to work, 21,000 live in Davis and commute out of Davis to work.

          Yes but the point is how many of those choose that life?  Not everyone wants to live in Davis.  Those that commute out of Davis do it by choice or else they would live where their jobs are being that Davis is most likely more expensive.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            That’s true – but how many of the people who live elsewhere would like to move to Davis but for supply issues and cost? Is that something we should address. That’s a big issue in my view.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            He said those people don’t vote, well that wasn’t the point of my comment. My comment was definitely blunt, but certainly not a cheap shot.

    2. Tia Will

      Real experience working thru and with a Government staff to problem solve.”

      I would agree with Alan’s point about experience if he were to expand his criteria to real experience working thru a large staff to problem solve. I do not agree that the experience necessarily be in a governmental setting but could equally well be in any large organization. Not a small family business such as 45 controlled.

      1. Howard P

        If they knew how to work with slightly less than 12 key staff, they’d have access to ~ 90% of the staff… by key, I mean those who are committed to the community, and who respect, and have the respect of, their co-workers.

  3. Howard P

    Don’t disagree with aaa (hell, have auto and home insurance with them!)… but, until the fiscal house is fully understood, and being brought into order (significant progress, plan of action, not necessarily full resolution), ‘expenditures’ on the SJ side could be problematic… by expenditures I mean actual new costs and/or diversion of existing staff priorities/workload.

    To paraphrase someone else, we should ‘look at the whole’, and not deepen any existing/create new ‘holes’.

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