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…