Anna and I grew up in families that were really active in our communities when we were growing up. We learned that participating in things is the best way to get what you need and the best way to help other people. I think we’ve been that way ourselves. We’ve both worked in public service. It’s just been a natural progression for me wanting to take a little more responsibility. I feel like I’m at a place in my career and our family is at a place in our lives where we can give back a little more directly and this seems like the best opportunity to do that.
Can you describe your experience both in government and in the community and explain why you believe those experiences prepare you to serve on the county board of supervisors?
I have like I said worked in public service for 20 years, on the hill for working for a couple of different members, mostly working on transportation and economy policy, infrastructure policy and land use and environmental policy. I think all of those things are really important for how we set up the county and our community for the next 20 years. Here in California I’ve worked for two governors and two members of the legislature. Right now I’m working for the Senate Budget chair and I think all of those experiences from a professional level have helped me to bring people together and bring divergent interests together to help solve problems. Collaboration is a huge theme in what I want to do and working between levels of government and between government and the private sector and advocacy groups is a really important tool we used to be successful in government to provide what everybody needs.
In the community, we’ve been very active in each and every campaign and election since I got here. I walked precincts with the kids and with Anna every single time, against the recall, against the special election, I was actually the spokesperson on the televised debate for the Democratic Club for the recall debate. And then we’re active in the school, Pioneer Elementary is where our kids have gone. Jake, my son, is now in Harper Middle School and we’re really active in the schools. Coached in little league.
And then on the county level, Supervisor Rosenberg appointed me to the library advisory board so that we could work on getting services in South Davis to supplement the main branch. Supervisor Yamada reappointed me and Measure P is a great opportunity for South Davis actually to finally get some resources to get services to South Davis, so I’m proud of that.
What accomplishment in your adult life do you feel most proud of?
When I started with the Davis administration, we had a booming year because of the dot.com economy and we had some extra money in the state budget to spend. I was the leading person at the Business, Transportation, and Housing committee for Governor Davis and put together a $15 billion transportation plan. The reason why I’m so proud of that is not just the huge amount of dollars that we spent on infrastructure that we badly need in this state, but we did a great deal of work on alternative transportation, on transit, I worked with now Supervisor, but then Assemblywoman Thomson to make sure that Sacramento RT and Yolobus got its fair share of funding for clean air buses. So we changed out a lot of the fleet to cleaner burning buses which is great for the environment and also helped her on her work on the bike lanes in and around Davis, 113 being one and the pedestrian overpass for Raley Field. So having a direct impact on people when you have your job is really gratifying and I’m really proud of that work.
People have consistently asked me about you, my response is that you seem like a very nice person, you have a nice wife, but I know very little about what you’d do if elected. So right now tell us a bit about what you believe, philosophically—i.e. what are your core values? What is the primary role of government and who do you believe is government’s primary responsibility to serve?
I think government’s primary responsibility is to facilitate what people need, what human beings need, whether that’s our small business or our farmers, to help them succeed so that they can have money in the county coffers or the city coffers, to provide for people who can’t provide for themselves. Whether it’s health and human services which is 50 percent of the budget or whether it’s law enforcement and public safety, if we don’t help as a government to facilitate what people do for a living to be prosperous in ways that are environmentally friendly and serve the public, then we won’t have the resources to provide for the people who most need it.
What are your primary goals on the board of supervisors if elected?
One of my primary goals… I would say I have two primary goals and I have a lot of goals. The overreaching goal I have is a long-term vision and a creative vision for the future. We in government tend to look at the problem we face today or the opportunity that we face today and don’t do a good enough job sometimes of looking out on how our decisions are made today are impacting the future. That is a broad theme of mine. Another goal I have is to work as collaboratively as I possibly can, and I’ve really developed an ability to do that over 20 years in public service, to bring people together and facilitate conversations and collaboration that will help us solve our problems, and reach the opportunities that we have.
Specifically a big goal of mine is to help Yolo County deal with being in the middle of two huge growth areas-the Bay Area grows east and Sacramento is booming, even with the slowed economy and when the economy picks back up again, we’re going to face that pressure again. We need to work very very closely with SACOG who has the responsibility of distributing our housing share for instance. And make sure that Yolo County is only getting what its fair share is, so that we’re not forced to overgrow. It’s very very important that we not overgrow because we’ve been given a greater responsibility than is fair from SACOG.
And another is being able to grow the economy to help take advantage of our strengths here in Yolo, so that we can provide for those people who need our help. Elder Care is a huge issue for me. We are working with Anna’s mother who has an illness that challenges her advancing age. There are services that are available that aren’t even public services that we can do a better job of facilitating people being aware of and taking advantage of. Yolo Hospice is a terrific example of that. A non-profit organization, wonderful people, who do a good job of helping others and we need to make sure that our citizens are aware of that.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the county?
As I said we are in the middle of two huge growth areas. I think growth is a huge issue and I think resources and revenue are a huge issue. Solano County announced plans to grow from 430,000 to 860,000 people. That’s not for Yolo County. And if we don’t look into the future, and take a broad and creative and long term look, to protecting our open space and agricultural land, and working with the cities in the county, not just from a county perspective, but with all of our partners, the tribe, the university, then solutions will be chosen for us instead of our being proactive and creative and making sure that we protect what we love about Yolo.
How would you have approached the general plan discussion differently from how it was approached by the current board (if at all)?
I think the current board has done a pretty good job. I respect the people on the board, I’ve worked with them. As you know, Supervisor Thomson has endorsed me and I find that really gratifying because I know that she’ll still be there and that means she still wants to work with me as the General Plan process spills over to 2009, which is what the staff has said. And implementation will be a huge issue. I think that even the board has recognized that there needed to be some better communication with the county’s partners on growth around the periphery. Davis, the Dunnigan Hills Agricultural District issue, sometimes people react to bad proposals, but sometimes people react badly to a lack of information and I think that a lot of the issues that have been raised in an emotional way before the board during the general plan process have to do with the fact that as the board recognized they needed to do a better job of communicating with their partners.
Who ought to determine whether the City of Davis needs to grow and develop on its periphery?
That is a joint decision between the city and the board of supervisors. I am a firm believer in collaboration, I am a believer of inter-governmental relations. That’s why I’ll keep going back to our relationships with the tribe, with the university and with our partners in the cities. I love Davis. I wanted to raise my children here. There are people who are born and raised here, people who have moved here, move here for what Davis is and that’s a great town, an intellectual town, with great resources for people and for children and we need to make those decisions collaboratively and I wouldn’t ever be making those decision unilaterally.
Do you support the current pass-through agreement? If so, how would you seek to protect it?
I think that the current pass-through agreement is a great example of how partners can work together as a voluntary agreement and it was an important step at a point in our history, twenty years ago, it’s a great tool to memorialize what our agreements are, that we’re respecting each other’s roles and respecting how Davis and the county are going to interact with each other. That being said, the pass-through agreement is twenty years old. It’s only received minor updates and discussions and I think that the changing relationship between the state and the counties and the state and the cities, with the growth of the university, with other things that have happened in our world that have changed over 20 years, that we really need to take a hard look and make sure that it’s doing what it need to do for the county and for the city.
In the article on you in the Daily Democrat, you regretted that the stem cell facility proposal was dismissed out of hand. You suggested that you did not support the housing, but the plan called for the use of revenue generated from housing to fund the stem cell research facility. Can you explain your thoughts on this and how such a facility could be supported without the housing revenue?
My perspective on that David is simply that as a supervisor, I want to do everything that I can to learn about the opportunities that we might have. One of our strengths, I talked about economy here and Yolo County, one of our strengths in Yolo County is our intellectual capacity, the university is a great participant in that. Doing things that push the envelope on stem cell and health research and alternative fuels will take advantage of huge strengths that we have in Yolo County. I think that we need to have as much conversation as we possibly can with somebody who comes with a proposal like the stem cell research center and find out whether or not it can work for the county. If the only way that it can work for the county is to build 7500 homes in a floodplain, then eventually we would have to say no. But not having the conversation about how otherwise it might be provided for, where revenue might come from, or if there’s another package that could be put together that mutually benefited the cities and the county and the proponents of the project, then why not have the conversation and try to find out the most we can about how we can take advantage of that opportunity and not just dismiss it as some people in our community did.
Do you believe that development is a way to address some of the county revenue problems?
Development as an economic development tool is just a short-term fix. The reason for seeking to provide affordable and workforce housing is not an economic bump. The reason to provide housing is twofold. One, we have a state legal responsibility to provide for the housing that’s distributed through the RHNA process. The other is that we have a human responsibility to provide for a very very basic need for our people. And if we don’t make Yolo a livable place and try our best to make it an affordable place for our workforce to live, it’s going to be all the harder to protect our environment because people that work for us or with us here are going to be traveling greater distances and for our economy because workers will seek to work closer to where they live and if they can’t live in Yolo County that’s going to make it awfully difficult for us to grow our economy.
As far as the budget and the economy is concerned, like I said, we have tremendous strengths here in Yolo County. Agricultural economy is enormous, it’s great, and the fourth district is the second largest agricultural district in the county. We have crops that we grow that are sometimes unique in their quality like the Clarksburg appellation of grapes. But we don’t have the infrastructure or the processing facilities or the storage facilities and so there are hundreds of tons of grapes sitting on the vine that may never be used in Clarksburg because we don’t have storage or processing facilities. The same is true of other crops. Tomato processing has gone out of the county, there are other crops that we could take advantage of and have the value here in Yolo County and that increases the revenue to the county and allows us to provide the services that we need to provide for the people who need us. Alternative energy is another huge area, again we have an agricultural economy and technology is catching up and providing us with ways to turn agricultural waste to energy in really an environmentally friendly way. If we can help with the research on that and with doing a better job with biomass and landfill gas to take advantage of those energy opportunities, then that is a great way to go for Yolo County to generate resources as well.
How much should Yolo County grow in the next 20 years (annual rate)?
We have 190,000 people, it’s impossible to put a percentage, I think, on how much we’re going to grow. I think that there is no end of proposals for growth, some of them are bad and some of them are good. We need to take a really progressive standpoint and do our research and ask the really important questions about whether we are providing enough affordable housing as part of development proposals, whether we are providing alternative means of transportation so that we’re just not throwing people onto the roads, whether we have jobs-housing balance so that we don’t create more transportation and more gridlock in the county. I can’t tell you what a percentage is and I really don’t think it would be responsible for me to try to guess over 20 years x-percent. But I do want you to know that I am not somebody who thinks that grow for growth’s sake is beneficial to the county or will help us protect what we have in Yolo that we love.
You are endorsed by Supervisor Helen Thomson, in what ways would you support her policies and in what ways would you be different from her?
Supervisor Thomson has an incredible record of public service here in Davis and in Yolo County and actually in the 8th Assembly District. I think that she is a fantastic leader. I think she is the kind of leader that I would like to be. Somebody who seeks to bring people together to resolve any differences we might have, work cooperatively, to finding solutions to the challenges that we have. I think that she, like me, is disappointed in the breakdown of the dialogue in our county and in our nation, I think that we’ve lost some of our ability to communicate productively and to respect each other’s point of view and learn from each other and gain the most information that we can while we’re making our decisions. I can’t think of a specific example of something that she has done or a decision that she has made that I would have opposed, but as a leader, I think that she is a great example of someone that I would like to emulate.
As County Supervisor, who do you believe you represent first, your constituents or the county as a whole?
That’s an interesting question because it seems to come from a perspective, and I’m not accusing you of this, but the question itself seems to come from the perspective that those interests are mutually exclusive or in conflict. I think people are tired of conflict and people are tired of the lack of respect of other people’s views. I am very active in the community as is Anna, we are everywhere around, we talk to the people who would be my constituents all the time and our community is what I would represent on the board and that’s very very important to me, but I think that the goals of Davis and the Davis community and El Macero, WiIllowbank, and the unincorporated areas and all of that ag land in the Yolo basin are consistent with what we need to do in the county as well.
How can you help the city and county work together rather than against each other on future policy decisions?
Again David, I’ve spent 20 years in public service, working in places that fortunately or unfortunately have put me in between various interests, sometimes interests in tremendous conflict, and I think I’ve developed a professional expertise for bringing those people together, facilitating communications, finding solutions, and moving forward. I would hope and I would expect that I will have a good relationship with my colleagues on the city council, and I do, I have two endorsements from the city council, one from Ruth and one from Stephen Souza and my first goal in any relationship is always to work collaboratively and that’s what I want to bring to the board. I want to be reaching out and treating my colleagues on the city level, in the tribe, in the university, in other cities, and on the board as colleagues and work collaboratively with them.
How can the county work better with the University?
The university is part of a constitutional entity. The county and the city have little authority over many of the decisions that are made at the university. This is why it’s absolutely critical that we work well with the University of California. God knows we’re not going to agree with the decisions, all of the decisions that they’ve made or are going to make, but you work much better when you’re collaborating with somebody and you have a productive relationship and open communication then you do when you are at odds. And it’s very very important that the city and the county work closely with the university so that we have that kind of relationship so that the university feels bought into consulting us on decisions they make that affect the county and the city, and that’s absolutely critical.
What do you think about moving the BOS meetings to evenings?
I am willing to consider something like that, especially if there are issues that have a lot of community interest. My concern would be there is in a county where we don’t have a lot of resources and where we want to make sure that we guard them jealously, what the impact would be on the county budget opening at night and having county employees on call that really should be serving our constituents during the daytime. So I would have to balance evening meetings against those concerns.
Do you plan to use blog and other technology during your campaign or as a Supervisor?
I’ll have a website up soon. I’m not a blogger. Actually, and I don’t want to seem like I’m pandering to you, David, but you’re doing a fine job at the Vanguard, I think, objective and thoughtful research and reporting on issues that people may not have the time to research on their own, God knows, it’s hard enough for the average people to keep up with the city council and the board meetings, let alone all of the commissions and committees that they have and all of the input that they get on that level. I would commit myself to learning as much as I can, to being fully briefed on what we’re facing on the board, and leave the blogging to folks like you.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting