By Jason Taormino
The biggest opportunity that we have, at this moment in time, is to embrace a new future rather than have it dictated by outside forces. To start this, we need to empower our city leadership. Our chief executive should have their own vision and deliver messages in positive terms. Someone that adds energy, new ideas and can collaborate with the City Council to make everyone more effective. A leader – not a manager.
We welcome Mike Webb to be our new leader and stand ready to support him to lead us over the next decade towards sustainable prosperity.
We can make this shift of emphasis while expressing gratitude for Dirk Brazil, appreciating the previous hard work of Steve Pinkerton and understanding for the substantial efforts of the past and present City Councils. We also acknowledge that it is simply not a realistic expectation that five people, with full time jobs, can be our chief spokespeople, strategists, land planners, and financial managers in addition to their roles as policy makers.
Let’s allow Mike’s vision, fueled by a deep understanding of Davis, our culture and the historical reasons why we have not been able to achieve the next level of performance, to take hold.
Our view is that there are three main areas we need to grab onto with both hands: city revenue, employee excellence and accepting our growth trajectory.
Today we are missing $10,000,000 in annual revenue and we need to make that up in short order. Twenty years from now, we will be missing $20,000,000 in annual revenue. We need to increase our top
line revenue as goal number one. Cutting staff and maintenance has already been accomplished. There are really only two levers to pull in order to increase top line revenue in the long run – expand the property tax base and increase business revenue. Our current split is 60/40. We need to build new buildings and create high paying jobs. Intel, Genentech, Apple, Amazon and just about every top name logo has chosen to go to an inferior location because they don’t have a spot in the best town in California. We need to change that with a vengeance. Adding a billion dollars worth of real estate and billions of dollars of economic activity is within our grasp.
This is not a story about growth for growth’s sake. It is about new buildings and new jobs to fund our needs and our wants. It is a simple fact that without the drivers associated with responsible new development and growth, new career opportunities suited to the community – yesterday’s hopeful future will be beyond the reach of today’s younger generation. Awareness of our alternative trajectories is essential if we are to have an honest discussion about the future. Only a lack of desire is stopping us.
We have an outstanding leadership team, managers and great employees at the City of Davis. We need to retain and embolden our management and reate an environment where professionals feel appreciated so the best and the brightest don’t leave town. If we lose staff and institutional knowledge we are left in a sea of mediocrity. Let’s start by acknowledging our leadership and appreciating our employees. Let’s thank our policemen and women in town for responding to calls of domestic violence, child abuse, rape and dealing with mundane traffic issues. Not every incidence is dealt with properly but 99% of the time we can appreciate people doing a tough job professionally. We like the idea that we see our fire men and women on emergency calls and then picking up their kids at soccer, at local fundraisers and helping out at the senior center. It is a good thing that our Chief of Police is home grown and raised his kids in Davis. It is a good thing that we swim at the City pool with City employees, coach soccer with City employees and generally share a desire for a better future together. An exclusive community where employees can’t afford or want to live in Davis does not support a healthy and vibrant community.
In 1970 we had about 20,000 residents and 47 years later we have 65,000. That’s about 1,000 people per year. We are going to continue on that trend per our regional commitments and regional funding needs. Never mind that this growth ethic, and the opportunities presented, is what has brought two thirds of us to town. How we add those new buildings, homes and beds to town is critical. We have an unmet need for 10,000 student beds today. We can meet that need in the next five to ten years without changing our lifestyle. Each bed will bring about $1,250 in property taxes each year. That supports our economy, Yolo County, City revenue and solves a social need that is imperative. If we can move the 10,000 students out of single family detached homes and into appropriate dorms and apartments we then free up 2,500 single family homes for families. We reset the property taxes and create a home grown source of students for our local schools. It is the right thing to do and it is clearly in our financial benefit. The one time construction and impact fees generated by those 10,000 beds will solve our short term financial needs and create the long tail of revenue that will lead us toward fiscal vibrancy. Let’s not forget that the students are part of our community whether they live in town or on campus.
We have a clear need to provide housing for the homeless, our growing population of seniors, affordable housing, and we should be planning for the growing population of adults with special needs.
Bottom line – we should give our new chief executive the leeway to lead boldly and take Davis on a journey to a financially stable future.
Jason Taormino is the President of the Davis Chamber and a Real Agent and Developer in Davis.