Mr. Saylor Goes to Woodland

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saylor_webAs Saylor is Sworn In, He’s Already Talking About Developing on Davis’ Periphery –

On the local front, the Vanguard watched county officials who were sworn in on Monday morning.  It was a relatively uneventful swearing in.  The most important was Don Saylor being sworn in, finally, as a member of the County Board of Supervisors.  His vacancy now triggers a string of events in the City of Davis.

Buried in the middle of an otherwise standard piece in the Davis Enterprise might be a red flag that Don Saylor intends to look at ways to develop on Davis’ periphery – or at least talk about it from a Yolo County point of view.

Don Saylor was sworn in by his son, Aaron Saylor, who last year ran for a city council position in Iowa.  Six months ago he had Senator Lois Wolk swear him in as Mayor of Davis.

In his brief remarks yesterday he said, “The news in the Sacramento Bee about the further budget cuts our governor is proposing sort of announce many of the things that are going to be coming in county government over the next year or more.”

“We have hard work to do, the only thing we can do is buck up, keep a smile on our face, and join in our hearts,” he continued, “and realize that what we’re doing, we do together, our county is one and all of us will work together to make it be a better place for each of our communities for all of the people who live in it.”

Don Saylor was not the only county official sworn in on Monday, however, he was the only first-time county public official to be sworn in.  He takes his seat, replacing Helen Thomson, a long-term member of the Board of Supervisors, who prior to her most recent two terms on the Board of Supervisors served as an Assemblymember representing Yolo and Solano Counties.

District Attorney Jeff Reisig, who was unopposed in his reelection bid was also sworn in on Monday, and he was the only public official to decline to issue comments.

The Vanguard has focused strongly on the ramifications of Don Saylor’s exit from the Davis City Council.   However, the question is how much impact he will have joining the Board of Supervisors.  He replaces Helen Thomson, a longtime ally.  The likelihood is that he will not vote all that differently from Ms. Thomson.

However, it is foolish to view Don Saylor merely as the sum of his votes.  In his time in Davis politics, we have seen him as a person with tremendous energy, vision, and goals.  He is highly ambitious and a relentless worker.

We acknowledge these strengths of Mr. Saylor, while at the same time recognizing that we have more often than not been on the opposite side of the most important issues of the day.  In part, I will remember his 2008 campaign for re-election to the Davis City Council in which he would place first and become Mayor, something he had narrowly missed out upon back in 2004 when he first ran for council.

During that campaign, he and colleague Stephen Souza were facing, among other people, Sue Greenwald and my wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald.  There were sharp divides on a number of issues including growth, where Don Saylor was an unabashed supporter of more growth.  He talked about declining [school] enrollment as the canary in the coal mine that indicated that we had not built enough residential units to sustain the current school population. 

He strongly and proudly backed the failed Covell Village project, among other developments he supported.

However, my enduring memory was on the issue of the budget, because in the Spring of 2008, Mr. Saylor really never anticipated what would happen in September with the collapse of not only the housing market but also the collapse of the financial markets around this nation.

He argued that the city’s budget was sound, that we had a balanced budget, we had a 15-percent reserve, that the contracts and pension rates that he had supported were fine and fair.  Nevermind that Sue Greenwald and Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald argued that the numbers were misleading, that we had huge amounts of unmet needs that distorted the budget picture, that we had growing unfunded liability with our retirement promises, and that the current 3% at 50 PERS benefits were unsustainable.

History would prove Mr. Saylor not only wrong, but culpable as he unabashedly accepted money from the firefighters to bankroll his campaign not once but twice, and then turned around and gave them a 38% raise in 2005, and backed them on the Grand Jury report, in their MOUs, and backed the battalion chief model in his second term.

That is part of the Don Saylor legacy that is not often told in the mainstream newspaper, certainly not in either of the two laudatory articles over the weekend in the local paper.

In a way it is ironic, because as Mr. Saylor moves to the county, he will face a far more serious fiscal challenge.  He is perhaps better suited to deal with issues of social services than issues of land use, in which he often seemed to lack interest or understanding.  It was often disappointing to see a man who had held the feet of Tahir Ahad and David Murphy to the fire, fail to do the same when it came to fiscal issues with the city and in his dealing with the finance director and city manager.

He told the Enterprise in an article this weekend that his priorities include trying to stave off cuts to personnel positions at the county while finding ways to trim budgets.

He is looking to bring more jobs and money to the county, and particularly to his West Davis district.

However, some of his statements raise some red flags and he suggested that he is willing to “look beyond the city’s border to find land to accommodate business development.”

Specifically mentioned in the article was the land east of Mace Blvd and north of I-80, which was also raised by council.

Jonathan Edwards of the Enterprise writes, “The so-called pass-through agreement is in play. After the county approved the Mace Ranch development on land outside the eastern limits of Davis in the 1980s, the city brokered a deal to prevent development on its edge without council approval.”

He continues, “The county agreed not to build just outside the city in exchange for recouping lost property tax revenues. ‘The agreement, however, can’t stop the county from developing on land just outside the city,’ Saylor said. ‘If the county does so without the city’s approval, it would forfeit money each year.’ “

“‘Still, the county can study possible development locations,” Saylor said. ‘I would foresee over time there would be areas around the city that the county (and the city) will talk about together.’ ”

Mr. Saylor had opposed such moves back in 2007 when the county talked about discussing just these sorts of things, and during the campaign he plainly told me that he had made his position on the pass-through agreement quite clear back in 2007, but now he seems to be backtracking off that point.

This is a concern worth watching, though it is pretty clear that the city has strongly opposed such a move and his colleague from Davis, Jim Provenza has been very adamant against the county directing development discussions on Davis’ border.

Not mentioned is an issue that is crucial to Davis, the issue of annexation of West Village.  As we mentioned this weekend, Don Saylor has been strongly opposed to such a move, but he plays a critical role in whether the county would consent to such an annexation.

What will a Don Saylor term on the Board of Supervisors bring?  It is hard to know.  The key question may be whether this is all just a prelude for an inevitable run for the State Assembly when Mariko Yamada is termed out in 2014.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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12 thoughts on “Mr. Saylor Goes to Woodland”

  1. Dr. Wu

    I think its reasonable to expect Saylor to continue to be pro-development and try and force peripheral development on us in unincorporated areas outside Davis. Of course this makes no sense but it would help Saylor raise funds (from developers) for his next political campaign.

    What distresses me most is that Saylor has managed to succeed politically despite supporting WHR and CV, both of which were overwhelmingly rejected by voters (and don’t think Jo and Ro haven’t noticed this either). As he runs for political office with even larger constituencies, I can’t see how this wouldn’t continue.

  2. E Roberts Musser

    Dr. Wu: ” I can’t see how this wouldn’t continue.”

    How what wouldn’t continue? Supporting more development on Davis periphery, or succeeding politically despite his unpopular stances?

    I think Don Saylor is going to find the County Bd of Sups a whole different ball game than he is used to. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out (pun intended)…

    And if Don Saylor has ideas to run for Assembly, he’d better get in line. Jim Provenza would be an able and probably a far more popular candidate for that office…

  3. Sue Greenwald

    [quote]He continues, “The county agreed not to build just outside the city in exchange for recouping lost property tax revenues. ‘The agreement, however, can’t stop the county from developing on land just outside the city,’ Saylor said. ‘If the county does so without the city’s approval, it would forfeit money each year.’ “[/quote]It is important to note that the county didn’t “lose” tax dollars because of the redevelopment agency. The redevelopment agency returns sufficient extra property tax dollars to allow both the city and the county to realize more tax revenue.

  4. Rifkin

    [i]”The redevelopment agency returns sufficient extra property tax dollars to allow both the city and the county to realize more tax revenue.”[/i]

    Where does the RDA get the money to pass through to the City and to the County?

    And if you have an approximate idea, how much money has the RDA thus far passed to the County? My recollection is that once it surpasses $72 million, the numbers will go up quite a bit more each year.

  5. Rifkin

    One more question about the pass through agreement: There is a provision in there (Section 500 ([url]http://cityofdavis.org/cdd/pdfs/passthrough/attachments/Attachment_06_-_Letter_Regarding_Growth_Rate_Calculation.pdf[/url])) which required Davis to grow at least by 1.78% per year for every 5-year period ending, I think, on June 30, 2011. Per my calculations, Davis has grown from January 1, 1988 to the present almost exactly at 1.78% per year, though obviously not at an even rate of growth. My question is, what happens to our “required growth rate” beginning July 1, this year?

    FWIW, here is what a 1.78% growth rate looks like:

    Friday, January 01, 1988–43,219
    Sunday, January 01, 1989–43,988
    Monday, January 01, 1990–44,771
    Tuesday, January 01, 1991–45,568
    Wednesday, January 01, 1992–46,379
    Friday, January 01, 1993–47,205
    Saturday, January 01, 1994–48,045
    Sunday, January 01, 1995–48,900
    Monday, January 01, 1996–49,771
    Wednesday, January 01, 1997–50,657
    Thursday, January 01, 1998–51,558
    Friday, January 01, 1999–52,476
    Saturday, January 01, 2000–53,410
    Monday, January 01, 2001–54,361
    Tuesday, January 01, 2002–55,329
    Wednesday, January 01, 2003–56,313
    Thursday, January 01, 2004–57,316
    Saturday, January 01, 2005–58,336
    Sunday, January 01, 2006–59,374
    Monday, January 01, 2007–60,431
    Tuesday, January 01, 2008–61,507
    Thursday, January 01, 2009–62,602
    Friday, January 01, 2010–63,716
    Saturday, January 01, 2011–64,850
    Thursday, June 30, 2011–65,427

  6. Sue Greenwald

    Rich,
    1) Where does the RDA get the money? The RDA receives the “tax increment”, which is all of the increase in property tax revenue above the absolute value of the annual property tax in the year that the agency was formed. This includes both the prop 13 annual increases, the increase in tax if the property is sold at a higher price, and the property tax revenue from new construction. The portion of this which would otherwise go to the schools is back-filled by the state (I don’t have the exact figures in front of me).

    2) The growth requirement went away when the pass-through agreement was renegotiated in 2001, the year after I was first elected.

  7. wdf1

    And if Don Saylor has ideas to run for Assembly, he’d better get in line. Jim Provenza would be an able and probably a far more popular candidate for that office…

    Don Saylor’s strengths have been on constituent services, building relationships, and just showing up to almost everything. Those are strengths that can translate to a number of different political arenas. It can allow a voter to like Saylor and his hard work, even if you don’t agree with all of his policies.

    I once lived in a congressional district represented by someone I detested politically. But I called his office when my passport was almost a month late and I was getting desperate. I received my passport a couple of days later by express mail. It still didn’t change my mind about his politics, but it gave me some confidence that he could get government to work for his constituents. It’s reassuring a powerful to know that there is somewhere to turn when you’re getting chewed up by the bureaucracy. That’s also the kind of stuff Don Saylor is good at.

    Voters have varied and sometimes complex reasons for choosing their candidate; it isn’t always because there is a perfect agreement on policy.

  8. E Roberts Musser

    wdf1: “Don Saylor’s strengths have been on constituent services, building relationships, and just showing up to almost everything.”

    I would disagree w your assessment of Saylor here. I have heard and personally experienced his habit of giving lip service to some issue, and then failing to follow through. There seems to be a definite divide here – where some people have experienced Saylor going the extra mile, and others who have been told by Saylor he would do something for them, and then never saw Saylor follow through one iota on a promise (my personal experience).

    Saylor may have built some solid relationships, but has alienated various other citizens. He has had a reputation among many of only developing those relationships that would further his future political aspirations. He has also had a pentient for scolding from the dais those who have spoken up on an issue in opposition to his views (calling any opposers “uncivil”) – not an endearing quality. And Saylor seemed to be aligned w the push to stack the Senior Citizens Commission with CHA members…

  9. Rifkin

    [i]” I have heard and personally experienced his habit of giving lip service to some issue, and then failing to follow through.”[/i]

    My personal experience with Don’s constituent service confirms what [b]wdf1[/b] stated. I mentioned in passing that a certain water fountain on a greenbelt was broken, and I told Don that part of the problem was the fixture they had been replacing was poor quality. I didn’t say this to push Don or staff to fix this problem. I had just mentioned it in the context of our conversation about something else. A couple of weeks later Don contacted me and said, “The problem with that fountain has been fixed.” That was probably 3-4 years ago. Staff did a great job with the repair. It has never not worked since.

    On the other hand, Don was for four years the Council liaison to the Historical Resources Management Commission. He never once attended a full meeting of ours, only showing up one time for about 10 minutes to tell us something (which turned out to be a big mess on the part of city staff, though he had no way of knowing that). By contrast, since Stephen Souza replaced Don, Stephen has been at every HRMC meeting for the entire meeting (save a few minutes when he was attending a different city meeting), and though Stephen does not participate in the discusssions, he has been very helpful in giving us background when asked or laying out process alternatives when a situation is not clear.

  10. wdf1

    I would disagree w your assessment of Saylor here. I have heard and personally experienced his habit of giving lip service to some issue, and then failing to follow through.

    The way you articulate your comment suggests that you refer to policy issues. I don’t refer to that. I refer to stuff like potholes needing fixing, an obscenity written in grafitti on a wall at a park where you take your little kid. Stuff that could be a steady, if low level tangible annoyance. The guy has a habit of holding “office hours” in cafes all over town, you walk in when he happens to be there, and one of the first things on your mind is one of these nagging issues that you wish the city would take care of.

    Yes, I agree that he has the potential to be abrasive in other ways. For one he is notable for not acknowledging the Vanguard, for instance. D. Greenwald could probably speak more to this. No interviews, no comment posts under his name, no guest articles. I personally mentioned the Vanguard to Saylor a couple of years ago, and he was disparaging of it. Said something like it wasn’t real journalism, or the like. The result of such an attitude is that it disses a significant portion of the community that is potentially interested and active in local issues.

    Obviously S. Greenwald regularly interacts, here. And Krovoza, Souza, and Swanson post occasional acknowledging comments, and maybe guest articles.

    By my refering earlier to Saylor being everywhere, I had in mind the more the social/ceremonial type stuff around town. Obviously never showing up to HRMC just doesn’t look good.

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