New Intrigue Emerges: Will Sue Greenwald Run For Supervisor?

Don-SueWhile the Davis political world waits on the final decision for Councilmember Lamar Heystek as to whether he will change his mind and run for re-election, a new intrigue has potentially emerged in the Supervisor’s race.

Up until now, Davis Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor was running unopposed for the seat that Helen Thomson is leaving in her decision to retire from public office and therefore not seek reelection.  However, now a potential opponent has emerge, or shall we say re-emerged.

There was speculation that Councilmember and Former Davis Mayor Sue Greenwald would challenge Don Saylor for the Supervisorial seat.  However, as time went on, that possibility seems less and less likely. 

Ms. Greenwald has time and time again expressed reasons why she did not want to run against Mr. Saylor, but she has also repeatedly cited concerns about his views on development outside of the city’s borders.

Those views were expressed once again yesterday in a Davis Enterprise article where she once again cited time and money as reason not to run, but what she described as “genuine concerns” about Mr. Saylor’s views on development.

She told the Davis Enterprise on Wednesday:

“I’m really not going to definitively decide till the last day.  I just honestly have not completely closed the door.”

If that does not quite sound like commitment, it might be because it will be a daunting task to defeat Mr. Saylor who has garnered the support of just about every public official in Davis and Yolo County including three of potentially future colleagues on the Board, all of the County Officeholders, and all five members of the Davis School Board.  For good measure, he is endorsed by all five members of the Woodland City Council and the West Sacramento City Council.

Mr. Saylor told the Enterprise on Wednesday that he believes the lack of an opponent is in part due to his strong support.  He said that if no opponent surfaces, he will use his fundraising efforts to send money to causes such as the Davis Schools Foundation.

Many have been baffled by the lack of candidates surfacing not only for the Board of Supervisors, but for the City Council.  Most cannot remember an open Supervisor’s seat with a non-incumbent running without a challenger.

Given the poor economy, a $59,000 salary with benefits, a staff, and a part time schedule might be enticing.

My own theory is that it is a combination of factors.  First, Don Saylor seems like a strong opponent.

However, when we crunched the numbers last summer, we discovered that in the Second District only, Mr. Saylor outpolled Sue Greenwald in 2008’s City Council election by only 300 votes, not an insurmountable lead particularly when Ms. Greenwald barely personally campaigned for the City Council.  She admits to only having walked a half a precinct.

Had Sue Greenwald wanted to mount a serious challenge, she needed to step in much sooner, siphon off at least some of Mr. Saylor’s support, and raised at least some money.  Given the size of the district, she could probably walk to each household even at this late date however.

The second reason might be stronger, I spoke personally to a few people early on who could have run and given Mr. Saylor a run for his money.  The situation in the county is daunting however.  If Mr. Saylor wins, he will join a board about to cut county services to the bone through layoffs and program cuts.  The county currently faces a $21 million deficit which is on a top of a deficit from last year of comparable size.

It is simply not going to be a fun job.  While Ms. Greenwald talks about land use decisions, the bulk of the county work is the provision of social services to disadvantaged people and the bulk of the budget will be cutting those programs such as health and mental health services. 

The County does a have say in land use authority, but it seems unlikely given the consequences that anyone would attempt to build on Davis’ periphery in the near future.  There is a solid block of opponents to that plan on the board now as Jim Provenza, Davis’ other representative campaigned against the county developing on Davis’ periphery, Duane Chamberlain is opposed to any development of agricultural land, and Matt Rexroad is against the Board of Supervisors rather than the cities making such land use decisions.  Moreover, Mr. Saylor himself spoke out against the County making such land use decisions in Davis.

The one intrigue here if Sue Greenwald were to step in, the voters of Davis might be deciding which person they want to remain on the City Council as opposed to which person they would want to go serve them on the Board of Supervisors.

Just as in the Davis City Council race, regardless of the candidates, it is our preference that representatives to government be elected to office rather than anointed.  From that standpoint, we would welcome a challenge to Mr. Saylor’s candidacy.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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15 thoughts on “New Intrigue Emerges: Will Sue Greenwald Run For Supervisor?”

  1. davisite2

    What is really critical is to elect Council members this June who will be independent, truly represent the interests of the Davis voter and resist the behind-the-scenes direction, “suggestions” and blandishments of any Yolo Supervisor. Councilperson Greenwald’s leadership in raising the issue of a recall election for Supervisor Thomson and Yamada stymied their plan to abandon the interests of the Davis voters that they represented. This was critical in stopping the County from going forward with “gutting” Davis’ peripheral land development control under the Pass-Thru-Agreement. I doubt that this recent political expression of Davis voter outrage will be lost on any future Supervisor in their plans and decisions, at least publicly.

  2. Rich Rifkin

    I don’t buy the notion that it makes that much difference having Don Saylor on the BoS. Will his votes on critical matters be any different from Helen Thomson’s votes?

    I admire Helen very much, as she has been a great leader in advocating sensible treatment for the severely mentally ill. (Helen authored Laura’s Law in the legislature, which is a great idea, but one which has never been funded.) Don likely will have different priorities, based on his different background. But for the major decisions made by the County of Yolo, can anyone explain to me where they think Don will be a real departure from Helen?

    Also, ask yourself this question: What decisions made by the Board of Supervisors in the last 10 years have greatly affected your quality of life in Davis? I can’t think of any. Exactly what the Board does has little effect on most people in Davis. As such, who is a supervisor is just not that important to most Davis residents*.

    I realize that the Board could make some land-use decisions on our periphery. However, that is very unusual and very unlikely. Since the Mace Ranch fiasco of nearly 30 years ago, that has never happened. It’s worth noting that a Board with Rexroad, Chamberlain and Provenza is not going to approve the urbanization of our peripheral farmland against the wishes of Davis.

    If the people of Davis, Woodland, Winters and West Sac want still greater control of the inincorporated land on their borders, they can join together and pass a countywide measure which gives the cities a veto over any zoning changes in their spheres. (That is what I favor.)

    *I think the people most directly affected by the decisions of the Board (save County employees) are the poor, who depend on various health and welfare programs run or funded by the County. Farmers, to some extent, rely on the County, as well. Yet I am quite sure that Don will vote the same as Helen votes on these critical matters; and I think Sue Greenwald would vote the same on health and welfare issues, as Don or Helen would.

  3. rusty49

    Why put another pro-growther who wants to build in Davis on the Board?
    I don’t care if he’ll vote like Helen, I want someone on the Board who’ll align more with the 75% of Davisites who don’t want peripheral growth.

  4. Rich Rifkin

    I respect your view, Rusty. But I think you would be buying insurance against a flood which is not coming. And the price of that insurance is very high (from my perspective) if Don thereby remains on the DCC and Sue leaves.

    No one has been a greater advocate for fiscal sanity on the City Council than Sue has. No one is irreplaceable, but I think she comes close. Sue is not just an advocate for her point of view on questions of public works* and labor contracts, but she has built up a wealth of knowledge about a wide variety of city issues which cannot be replaced by a newcomer for a long time.

    *I don’t think anyone else could have been as effective (to parrot Kuperberg’s dogma) on the issue of restraining the costs of the water bills against some members of the city staff who seem to have had no regard for increasing costs to ratepayers than Sue. It doesn’t just matter what you believe. It also helps to have a fount of knowledge and doggedness to persist in finding better alternatives.

  5. rusty49

    Rich, I didn’t think of the fact that if Sue gets Supv then we’re stuck with Don on the coucil. I have to agree with you, would rather have Sue locally.

  6. Sue Greenwald

    I would like to lay out my reasons why I think that our Yolo County Supervisors seats are critical to the concerns of the majority of Davis citizens.

    The county has the legal right to approve growth on our boundaries and in the Davis planning area. There are a lot of deep-pocket developers who own land in the county around Davis and who want to develop it, including the massive tracks owned by the mega-political donor Tsakopoulos which lie between Davis and the by-pass, the Ramos land to the east of Davis on the North side of the freeway, and most of the land abutting Davis in all directions.

    In general, I think it is safer for us in Davis to elect local city and county officials who do not want to run for higher office. While I appreciate the need for good people to run for higher office, and I am certainly grateful for the excellent people who are serving us in higher office and who want to run, I also appreciate the fact that in our dysfunctional electoral system, they need to amass campaign contributions of around $1 million even to run for assembly (if you count the PAC expenditures). This money usually comes from special interests. In our region, this usually means developer money and union money.

    Don Saylor has already announced that he plans to run for assembly. Don has been very, very good to the firefighters union, and I am sure he can count on a lot of support from that quarter. But I am concerned that he might also feel that he needs developer money as well.

    In the past, we have in fact had growth forced upon us by the county, as when the county threatened to approve Mace Ranch unless we did. (See my links and excerpts below). What has kept that from happening in recent years is the pass-through agreement, by which the county would lose a lot of money if they were to approve development in our planning area.

    But the pass-through agreement gives the county less and less money over time, and a large enough development will eventually bring in more than the pass-through agreement would cost, especially since the county usually allows very large, expensive houses and provides little in the way of services, and could approve large-scale commercial development. (see link and excerpts below).

    Don has already attempted to have the council explore allowing Ramos to develop the land to the east of Davis adjacent to Mace Ranch.

    Don Saylor told the Enterprise reporter yesterday that he will leave the decision of growth the Davis city council, and I am happy to see him commit to that.

    But much happens behind the scenes. In a district election system, a member can quietly allow the non-Davis members to vote for growth in Davis, while either not fighting it or tacitly encouraging it. Also, Don has represented the city on SACOG, which sets the growth requirements for the city and the county, and will, I suspect, continue to have influence at SACOG. An elected official who wants to force growth on the city could also be in a position to encourage HCD to go after Davis (most cities are out of compliance with the requirements, but only a few are legally pursued).

    It is very, very important to have county supervisors that you trust to actively advocate for you when it comes to the land use issues, if the land issue is important to you as a Davis citizen.

  7. Sue Greenwald

    Below is an excerpt from an article in the California Planning and Development Report, which describes the history of Mace Ranch and the pass-through agreement, and here is the link:
    [quote]The story behind the Davis-Yolo agreement is a classic tale of California growth politics. During the mid-1980s, developer Frank Ramos approached the city with a proposal for an 800-unit housing project just beyond the city’s eastern boundary, as well as a new interchange on Interstate 80. The Davis City Council, which considered itself advocates of very slow growth at the time, opposed Ramos’s project. So the developer began talking with county officials. Although Ramos never filed an application with the county, word spread that the county was interested in the project and would approve it if given the chance.

    After lining up support at the county level, Ramos returned to the city, where it became clear that the City Council would do almost anything to prevent such a project from going forward under the county’s authority. With this leverage in hand, the developer roughly doubled the size of his Mace Ranch project to 1,500 units and dropped the interchange. Finding itself backed into a corner, the City Council had little choice but to approve a project that was nearly twice as big as the rejected original plan — and a project with greater traffic impacts. [/quote]

  8. Sue Greenwald

    Below is a statement by the county from the same article essentially explaining that they might not honor the agreement in the future:[quote]If the county wanted to get into the development business, it could cancel the pass-through agreement and start approving projects that would bring in more revenue. That has not happened, but, Morrison {David Morrison Yolo County Planning Department}, currently warned, the local economy has changed dramatically during the last five years.[/quote]

  9. Sue Greenwald

    Finally, I should add that while city decisions can reversed by referenda or Measure J votes, it would be virtually impossible to win a county-wide referendum on an issue that affects only Davis.

  10. davisite2

    Sue…. following the rationale of your postings here, it sounds like you taking a shot at Supervisor could very well be in the best interest of Davis. If you are not successful, you would still have your Council seat. If you win, I guess that we(Davis voters) would be still be able to thwart any undesirable initiatives ,launched by Mayor Saylor’s Council, with our measure J powers, if necessary.

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