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