The Vanguard has discovered that Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor, has accepted campaign contributions from a firm that has a contract to do business with the city of Davis on the highly expensive and volatile issue of water.
The city is in the process of examining a new wastewater treatment system and creating a diversion from the Sacramento River to supply the city with water. Both of these projects at this point in time would cost at least $150 million each or in other words over $300 million and likely those costs will only grow.
For a full discussion of the history of this issue please see this article, Tracing the recent history of the water supply project.
During the course of the last five years, the city has slowly moved away from a joint project with West Sacramento with water augmented from deep well aquifers, to a new water bypass, a project now in the works in conjunction with the city of Woodland and UC Davis.
Just five years ago, that plan had been dismissed as the most expensive and prohibitive financially.
But the council majority has since taken the view that this project is necessary to insure quality water to Davis and also has suggested that our stake in the project necessitates us moving forward at this time for fear of losing our place in line if we delay.
On Tuesday, the city of Davis will vote on whether or not to certify the EIR. Each step in this process moves the project closer to a fait accompli even though there has to date not been a straight up or down vote on even whether this is the strategy that the city ought to pursue.
The stakes here are enormous however. The cost of the two projects being completed at the same time would mean an extremely large increase to the residents of Davis in their water rates.
Mayor Sue Greenwald has maintained that while it is clear that we need to implement the wastewater treatment facility in order to insure that our water discharge meets state and federal standards, the timing of the water supply project could be delayed in order to protect thepocketbooks and wallets of ratepayers in the city.
On the other side of the coin has been Councilmembers such as Don Saylor who have led the way in cheerleading and supporting this project.
City Councilman Don Saylor said the river water project would “improve the water quality and it will give our city and the future generations of people who live here a more reliable source, both in terms of supply and quality.
“It will lessen the cost of the treatment needed for wastewater disposal,” he said, “and it will ensure an ongoing supply of water.
“I think this is a key set of decisions for our community at this point in time in our history,” he said, “because we must ensure a reliable, reasonable-quality water source for future generations. I think this is beyond politics. It is a matter of being responsible stewards of our community’s future interest.”
The Enterprise article is surprisingly balanced quoting from two experts from UC Davis, Professors Jay Lund and Ed Schroeder, both of whom questioned the urgency and necessity of the project.
However, the key supporter of this project is Councilmember Don Saylor.
Councilmember Saylor’s support however draws attention to a couple of his key financial and other campaign supporters.
West Yost and Associates has served as the chief consultants for the city on the water project. In May of 2004, the city added to an existing consultant agreement with West Yost and Associates for the Water Supply Feasibility Study. On July 15, 2005, the council approved an MOU to complete a Project EIR report and authorizing West Yost and Associates to provide engineering services in support of the Project environmental process.
In addition to attending his party, Jeff Peltz is listed as a $100 to Don Saylor’s reelection campaign as is the firm he works for West Yost and Associates itself.
So now you have a major consulting firm that is in charge of doing work on one of the most expensive projects in the city’s history has been contributing to the reelection of their chief supporter on the city council.
To me this appears to be a conflict of interest. Don Saylor has accepted money for his campaign from a company that has a contract with the city. For the sake of ethics and propriety it would seem like Don Saylor should to recuse himself from deliberating on this issue. That is the only way that the citizens of Davis can insure that their leaders are not accepting quid pro quo campaign contributions from vendors who seek in exchange favorable public policy decisions for themselves and their firms. Employees and their firms who do business with the city of Davis should not be solicited by or contributing to the financial campaign coffers of city councilmembers who have the final say as to whether these firms are awarded contracts with the city. This is a clear eithical and financial conflict of interest.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting