City Manager Bill Emlen spent most of his time talking about what went right. He did acknowledge problems but they were larger expressed in vague generalities and pushed off for a future meeting in order to address these problems.
The fear of course is that the longer such discussions are put off the less accountability can be held and the more this can be largely swept under the rug.
I think many people have lost sight of why the lack of coordination and communication is a concern. It is not that for most of the residents of Davis this particular event was a large concern or an extremely dangerous situation.
Rather it is concern about the next event that may be far more serious. Furthermore it is out of concern for the most vulnerable residents.
To the credit of the Davis Enterprise, this has not merely been swept under the rug as so many other problems that have occurred in our community.
While Wednesday’s coverage of the council meeting was short on specifics, it did in fact lay out some of the concerns of residents.
The problem of communication is concerning. There was little info provided by PG&E on the status of power. There was also little information provided to residents from the city.
City Manager Bill Emlen said at the meeting:
“When the power is out, communications change a lot. Going through an event like this really crystallized what that means.”
But it is somewhat unclear what the city manager meant by that exactly.
A warming center was established at the downtown teen center. That sounds good in theory, but this occurred on Saturday night. What was done on Friday night when it was clear even from the meager reports from PG&E that there would not be power available until at least late afternoon on Saturday?
The Enterprise ran a story on Atria Covell Gardens and their failure to have a back up generator. Of course, the law does not require a backup generator at assisted living centers. So obviously the facility that is raising rent on seniors is doing fine since they followed minimal requirements. The fact that a number of residents fell and potentially could have been seriously injured not withstanding.
The issue came up at yesterday’s joint meeting between the City Council and Senior Citizens commission.
According to the law, they do not have to have back up generators as long as the common areas were with heat. One again has to wonder why the folks are paying such an exorbitant rent and two large rent increases if they facility is not planning better for emergency situations.
To me following the law is not an excuse, law represents a minimal amount of legal responsibility rather than a ceiling on the obligations of any facility–particularly one charging as much for its residents as Atria.
The city cites the lack of serious injuries as good news, and it is. But perhaps they were more lucky than good in this regard.
The key point that needs to be emphasized over and over again is that the reason people are complaining is that without complaints nothing will change. We can do things better. But we have to take responsibility for what went wrong and then fix it.
Personally I think a lot of people would have done much to attempt to help other residents if they knew where to go and how to help. But there was no planning for this. People did not know where to go to help or if that help was even needed. As a result most people assume the best thing they can do is take care of themselves and stay out of the way.
One of the issues that came up briefly yesterday and also Tuesday night is being personally prepared for an emergency. Having emergency supplies in a kit that one can utilize. The best thing the city can do is help people be ready for the next emergency so we know what to do. We may not know exactly where to go, but once we get there we can know what to expect and where to get information from.
Disappointingly, and this is not to criticize anyone, many of the services that would be helpful during an emergency–i.e. local TV, local radio, even the police–themselves had problems with their generators. That is an area of concern right there.
We all understand that PG&E was extremely busy restoring power, but someone, somewhere could have coordinated their information network so that residents had the best available information. There is nothing worse than being in the dark (literally and figuratively) about such things.
In the end, many of criticize because we expect better. It is my hope that the city will yet have the discussion and raise the tough issues at the next city council meeting but in the meantime one had to be a bit disappointed that the city manager was so eager to praise and so reluctant to talk about where we can improve next time.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting