Vanguard Council Appointee Interview: Part Three

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This was supposed to be the last of three articles highlighting responses from the applicants for the Davis City Council Vacancy.  However, at this point we still do not have responses from Steve Williams, so that would appear to be a separate article if we get them.

We do have the full responses from Linda Parfitt.  We are still waiting on the last five responses for Kerry Daane Loux.  So the plan at this point is to have a fourth article with the rest of the responses plus links for the other candidates.

Part One appeared on MondayPart Two appeared on Tuesday.

As we mentioned previously, the Vanguard asked each candidate 12 questions and asked them to limit their response to 100 words (some went over 100 words, but we decided not to edit).  Given the complexity of the questions, that is not completely fair and their answers should be judged accordingly.  However, breaking the questions into three groups of four, and having a full ten candidates respond, would produce a 4000 story at minimum, which is a lot for people to absorb.

So, we have done our best under the circumstances to provide the public with some information about these candidates, one of whom will become the fifth councilmember within the next month.

Here are the last four questions:

9. Would you be more inclined to cut city services or raise revenues through taxes or other means as a way to balance the budget?
10. How do you plan to deal with Davis’ road conditions given current economic realities?
11. What is your view of the proposed annexation of West Village into the City of Davis?
12. How would you deal with student rental issues?

Boylan-PaulPaul Boylan

9. I am inclined to agree to both service cuts and increased taxes so long as it is combined with an effort to reduce costs through greater efficiency and other cost cutting options that would not reduce services.

10. In my view, maintaining, if not improving, infrastructure should be a priority in any budgetary triage scenario.  Roads are a big part of the infrastructure that need maintenance and/or improvement.  There are striking possibilities using new methods and new technologies for doing more with less.

11. I am told studies indicate that non-annexation would result in a revenue surplus for the City, whereas annexation – even to break even – would depend on extensive negotiations between City, County and UCD to convince them to bear some of the burdens associated with servicing the community. Until and unless I learn differently, it sounds like a bad idea that will put the City further in the red.

12. Students are a big part of our social and economic life. However, I am not sure there is a solution to the high rent situation beyond enacting some sort of rent control that would favor students as opposed to non students – and if that is the case, it probably wouldn’t be viable due to landlord protest. However, I am open to hear any ideas anyone might have.

Walter BunterBunter-Walt

9. I would be inclined to try raising fees first and reduce city services second to try and balance the budget.  If we needed to raise revenues through taxes, that measure should be voted on by our residents.

10. I understand that the Public Works Dept maintains an inventory of road conditions and has developed a schedule for when they will receive treatment based on the current budget.  We need to let residents know early in the FY when their street is scheduled. Potholes should be treated early and take precedence. 
We should be certain that the specified street treatment will produce a good surface. The street treatment applied on Layton Drive, Grinnell Drive, and several other streets last year produced unacceptable results and should not be used again.
One of my visions is to seek improvements to the railroad crossing at 8th Street with the help of the Public Works Department and the Safety and Parking Advisory Commission to make the crossing bike friendly and minimize wear and tear on vehicles.  Make it more like the 5th Street crossing. This effort would involve the cooperation of the California Northern Railroad which is owned by RailAmerica, Inc. based in Jacksonville, Florida.

11. We should continue to pursue efforts to forge an annexation like agreement with the University and the County regarding the West Village development. 

Our efforts to reach a cooperative agreement with UC Davis regarding police and fire protection will help. 

12. I would expect the City/UCD Student Liaison Commission to address any student rental issues and make recommendations to the City Council.

According to the annual survey report released by the UCD Office of Student Housing last December, the apartment vacancy rate was 3.4 percent.  That helped keep the rental rate increase for a two-bedroom unfurnished unit to just $11 for an average of $1,237 per month. The rental situation will be helped even more when the new West Village opens 315 apartments with 850 beds next fall.

Fry-KariKari Fry

9.  I am not opposed to looking at raising revenues through taxes as a part of a comprehensive solution to budgetary issues, but I would never start problem solving with taxation. I think the first step is to find efficiencies and creative solutions within the current city services structure. Our city services are a vital part of our community and I support preserving them. It is a balancing act, but it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

10.  I think that the city has a responsible and efficient management plan for the upkeep of our roads that is responsive to our budgetary restraints.

11.  There is not enough public information to take a formal view of this very complex issue. As I understand it, the issues include access to municipal services, impact on existing city infrastructure, tax flows, voter representation, and integration into our community.

Sherelene HarrisonHarrison-Sherelene

9. Balancing budgets require line item analysis and how each item is relevant to overall fiscal stability.  Only after increasing/decreasing each item can a determination be made as to either cutting services or raising taxes.  Unless tax revenue increases from current and new businesses, developers, and retail sales, residents could be faced with tax increases.  Analysis of similar city budgets to Davis could provide insight to what percentage of income should realistically be allocated to taxes.  Safety services and education should be cut last.  If the only way to balance the budget means reducing fire/police/emergency units, those cuts should be a per capita percentage. 

10. Road conditions are two part:  traffic conditions and road rehabilitation.  The Federal Stimulus fund provides money for road rehabilitation.  As funds become available, a review of existing needs should be completed by council with city staff input.  Traffic conditions on Fifth Street and Downtown remain a problem.  How to mesh vehicle traffic with bicycle traffic and minimize change requires open discussion by council members and residents.  Recommended trial changes are a viable option (ie:  a bike only street, one way streets in downtown) and can provide data on how to merge economic and safety issues. 

11. Annexing West Village to Davis is an excellent opportunity for growth, increased tax revenue, and a unified bond between the City of Davis and UCD.  Davis is not only a city for residents, but also as a destination for visitors.  UCD is a university touting Davis as a primary reason to live, work, study, and play here.  Annexation would bring the best of both entities together.  Combining police/fire departments is an added benefit.  The perception of spending tax dollars out of city limits would be removed.  A strong, unified City of Davis and the University of California of  Davis, not at, works for everyone.    

12. Rental vacancy rates in Davis are approximately 3%; national average 5%.  When enrollment increases at UCD, so does the need for student housing.  Complicating the lack of student housing is city’s low growth policy.  Supply and demand is the basis of our country; without supply, owners can demand high rents.  Rentals exist in established neighborhoods, not just at apartment sites.  Open discussion on allowing rental properties to build up and add bedroom space is needed.  Now is the time for this discussion.  Growth is inevitable; UCD will continue to increase enrollment.  Davis needs to find a way to provide needed housing.

parfitt-lindaLinda Parfitt

9. Half of the solution needs to include budget cuts, and the other half of the solution is taxes that the voters would need to approve or vote down. If the voters do not approve taxes they need to understand the consequences. Some emergency priority services (police and fire) may require short term borrowing from reserves. If reserves do not exist, then more cuts are inevitable. Fire and police response times are a high priority for all citizens and the citizens must accept the fact taxes are needed to support basic city services.

10. I think the condition of the roads are fine, obviously they need to be maintained and re-surfaced, a section of the city at a time depending on how much funding is available for this purpose.

11. If this area is annexed the residents and the developer(s) need to pay their fair share of city services—police, fire, parks, schools, lighting, roads, installation of traffic signals, utility installation, sewer, water, and other development fees.

12. The current Davis noise ordinance is useful if the student parties turn into rave events. I have had very few problems with student rental issues.
If students are planning a party it is a common courtesy to inform their neighbors.

Robert Smithsmith-robert

9. I would propose a balance of raising revenues by additional taxes on property owners and business, and cutting city services. 

10.  I would ask the city employees who drive the streets every day to take note of the worst of the potholes and bumps, and tackle them first. 

11. I view the annexation of West Village as a non-issue, since it is on UCDavis property.  I view it as an expansion of UCDavis housing on campus, and it should be kept that way. 

12.  I have driven and ridden my bicycle around most of Davis, and I have seen many apartments available signs, so I don’t see any issue here.

Wolk-DanDan Wolk

9. As I said above, everything should be on the table as we navigate these difficult fiscal times.  When city staff presents its upcoming mid-year budget review to the Council, we should have a better idea of our budget situation.  At that point, and as the Council begins to craft a budget for FY 2011/12, we will need to thoroughly explore what kind of cuts and/or revenue increases, if any, are needed.  As part of this, we will want to make sure we are getting the best value for the money spent and to explore new approaches, such as sharing services with other jurisdictions.  And since I firmly believe that good process makes good policy, we should hold multiple workshops on the city’s budget to solicit ideas from the public on how best to address these challenges.

10. Like many communities in this state, Davis’ transportation infrastructure, from its bike paths to its roads, is suffering.  In his State of the Union Address, President Obama made infrastructure a top priority of his administration – and so should we.  As an initial matter, the city should establish the cost of maintaining roads at a safe, basic condition.  At a minimum, we should be providing that funding.  The city should then explore ways of obtaining more funds.  It’s my understanding that City staff is planning to bring this issue before the Council in the next few weeks and I look forward to that discussion.

11. The annexation of West Village is certainly a worthy goal.  Having such a large community abutting West Davis not fully integrated into our community would be unfortunate.  It should be part of the social fabric of this university town.  Yet, there are significant challenges to doing so, most notably financial and political.  We should continue to look closely at the issue and work with the university and the county to see if a viable plan for annexation can be achieved.

12. Although the most recent rental survey by the UCD Office of Student Housing showed that vacancy and rental rates remained mostly flat last year, we should be concerned about the rental market for students.  The vacancy rate stands at a low 3.4 percent and enrollment at UCD rose to a record level last fall.  The city, in collaboration with the university, should work on ensuring sufficient rental housing for students.  This discussion should be a part of the larger discussion about affordable housing in the community I mentioned earlier.

Vince Wyattwyatt-vincent

9. I would choose the second of these options.  Cutting services is viewed by many officials as a quick and easy fix -but cutting city services and social programs has been shown in the past to only exacerbate the original problem.  In addition, its always The Weak, and The Meek, and The Poor who are usually targeted for these kinds of cutbacks. Raising peoples’ taxes isn’t a very desirable alternative, either.  But, the money needed to address this ever-worsening crisis has to come from somewhere.  If people want the problem to get get better, they are going to have to make the sacrifice(s) necessary with which to make it happen.

10. Let’s me see… better road conditions, -or enough food for me and my children to eat: gas for my car to get back and forth to work/school with every day: and no eviction/foreclosure notices tacked on my front door at the end of the month?  My decision isn’t difficult to make at all: the roads can wait.

11. I am not in support of the City’s annexation of West Village. On the other hand, I’m not opposed to it, either.  It was (is) just one of those “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” kinds of arrangements  between the City of Davis and it’s doppleganger on the other side of “A” street, the University of California, Davis.  I question though, how many  poor and/or unsheltered homeless people will ever have the privilege of occupying any of the 850-plus living units to be made available in West Village.

12. The University bigwigs need to reduce the rent that it charges UC Davis students for all university-owned apartment complexes.  This cost reduction would stand as a verifiable means of compensating for the drastic increases in tuition (40 %) that the UC System has forced upon struggling students in the very recent past.  For its part, the City of Davis needs to do more -much more- to increase the number of vacant apartments around town that are available to students of UC Davis as well as everyday, non-student, working people.  For a long time, the apartment-vacancy rate in Davis has been hovering from between 1percent to 3 percent; this figure represents a housing botttleneck; one for which there is no excuse in a city of over 70,000 citizens.

—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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13 thoughts on “Vanguard Council Appointee Interview: Part Three”

  1. Rifkin

    [i]”9. Would you be more inclined to cut city services or raise revenues through taxes or other means as a way to balance the budget?”[/i]

    A very sad, disappointing group of answers by all of your respondents. The first point to make is this is not necessarily the choice at hand. (You gave them the “other means” possibility and not one took it.)

    The right answer in my opinion–is to maintain services by reducing the ongoing costs of those services. For the most part, this means reducing–or at least not increasing–the total comp we are paying in labor costs. [i]Not one of your respondents thought of that?[/i]

    Another way of doing the same is outsourcing some services now done by city employees. My take is that in the long run–once the service providers develop political power–this can be a flawed solution. But in the short to medium run it is a viable way to provide the same level of service for much less money. The City of San Carlos (in the Bay Area) is now looking at outsourcing everything from parks maintenance to police and fire services, all of which they have found can be done by others (private and public) for less money.

    In Davis, we outsource half of our parks maintenance to two private contractors, GP Landscape and Coast Landscape. However, these are by no means “low-bid” contracts. In fact, the City Council set up rules such that we save nothing by having GP and Coast maintain half of our parks and greenbelts and so on. I don’t know when those contracts expire, but if our Council wanted to save money, they could get a low-bid contractor to do what Coast and GP and our city workers are doing for about one-third the cost. That would free up money to fill-in the various police positions which have been cut, for example. Or it would help us afford the rising costs of pensions for all other city workers.

    The second problem with this group of candidates is they seem to lack any context when it comes to raising taxes. Davis has very high taxes already. We have a steep library tax and very high schools taxes which don’t go to the City. We have a substantial public safety tax, a parks tax, an open space tax, an enhanced sales tax, very high fees for garbage, sewer, water, storm run-off and various other fees (such as business licenses) which are all on the high end. On top of what we have now, we know that our water rates are going to double in the next few years. And on top of all that we are already paying the state’s high sales tax, state and federal income tax, property tax and for many in Davis Mello-Roos tax.

    The other context for our tax situation is that most people in Davis are making less money now than they did a few years ago and our unemployment rate is up. The University, our primary employer, has less money and so do most of its employees. The State government is another major employer for Davis residents–some directly, others indirectly–and it too is cutting back. Likewise, many other Davis residents are employed by the schools, the city, the county and other government entities, and their take home pay is going to be flat or declining for years to come. Moreover, given the state of our economy, local businesses which employ most of the rest of our residents are not increasing wages, as their customers (the residents of Davis) have less money.

    So where in the world do these candidates think the taxpayers are going to come up with the higher taxes they propose?

    [i]”I am inclined to agree to … increased taxes.” “I would be inclined to try raising fees first …” “I am not opposed to looking at raising revenues through taxes …” “the other half of the solution is taxes that the voters would need to approve or vote down.” “I would propose a balance of raising revenues by additional taxes on property owners and business …” “I would choose the second of these options (raising taxes).”[/i]

    Only one respondent was unclear on the notion of increasing taxes: [i]”Safety services and education should be cut last.”[/i] Is she running for school board? Also, when it comes to cutting “safety services,” does she think eliminating cops on the beat is equal to reducing our fire staffing from 4 on a truck to 3 on a truck?

  2. Don Shor

    Boylan: “However, I am not sure there is a solution to the high rent situation beyond enacting some sort of rent control…”
    Nope.

    Harrison: “Open discussion on allowing rental properties to build up and add bedroom space is needed.”
    Interesting idea, though I don’t know to what extent a problem exists regarding remodels for rental purposes, or how many rental units could likely be created this way.

    Wyatt: “For its part, the City of Davis needs to do more -much more- to increase the number of vacant apartments around town that are available to students of UC Davis as well as everyday, non-student, working people.”
    Bingo!

  3. Dr. Wu

    [quote]The right answer in my opinion–is to maintain services by reducing the ongoing costs of those services. For the most part, this means reducing–or at least not increasing–the total comp we are paying in labor costs. Not one of your respondents thought of that? [/quote]

    Or one or two (I can guess which) thought of it and kept their mouth shut. Either these candidates are not very informed or they are good politicians (who don’t want to get into controversial issues) or both.

    Rich is right that these answers do not inspire confidence, but lets cross our fingers and our CC will choose someone who can grow in the job.

  4. Rifkin

    [i]”11. What is your view of the proposed annexation of West Village into the City of Davis?”[/i]

    My two cents on this issue: It seems to me that those who are pushing for annexation presume that is what the residents of that development would want. I doubt it.*

    I think we should wait until West Village is built out and full of residents. At that point, let the WV residents vote on whether they prefer annexation or not.

    If a majority does, a deal will have to be worked out between UCD, Davis and Yolo County. It seems likely to me that a deal which satisfies all the government entities is possible. But I’m unsure why we should annex West Village–which will be cut off from all road traffic to Russell Blvd–if its residents don’t want to be City of Davis residents.

    *Why do I doubt it? Well, we have a handful of other developments on our periphery–El Macero, Willowbank, Royal Oak, Binning Tract, Davis Muni Golf Course and the Patwin Road neighborhood. How many of them have requested annexation?

  5. Rifkin

    Don, you and I tend to agree on growing the supply of for-rent apartments. However, one answer you did not quote which I think is smart on this question–at least for the next few years–was that given by Walter Buner: [i]”The rental situation will be helped even more when the new West Village opens 315 apartments with 850 beds next fall.”[/i]

    Vince: [i]”12. The University bigwigs need to reduce the rent that it charges UC Davis students for all university-owned apartment complexes.”[/i]

    I wonder if UCD could reduce the rents proportionally for students from lower income backgrounds?

    Even though school itself was very cheap when I was a UC student, my greatest problem (and surely that of others who came from no money) was the cost of food and housing while going to school. I know that poorer kids qualify for various financial aid programs to help pay reg fees and other direct school costs. What I don’t know is if, when they live in UC owned buildings, they can get a lower rent?

    FWIW, when I lived in graduate student housing at UCSD (in University Village) and when I lived in the dorms on campus at UCSB and the off-campus dorms at UCLA I don’t recall there ever being reduced rates available if you were poor. But it does seem to me a good idea. It seems like the kind of thing the university could raise a fund for (from donors), and draw the interest from it to help lower-income students pay a portion of their rent.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    Rich: You make a good point. There are seems of discontentment that are arising from the school parcel tax.

    I agree there is a bit of lack of understanding of the real problems facing this city.

    In fairness, these individuals have a tremendous learning curve. I look at where someone like Joe Krovoza is today is his understanding of the issues compared to when I first met with him in November of 2009. But he had seven months to prepare for an election, and these guys get a month.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    “Or one or two (I can guess which) thought of it and kept their mouth shut. Either these candidates are not very informed or they are good politicians (who don’t want to get into controversial issues) or both. “

    Dr. Wu, I’ll defend them temporarily because I remember where Joe and Rochelle were when I first met them on this issue and how far they came, but they had a lot more time than this group of individuals. It’s a steep learning curve.

  8. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    You Vanguardians are a tough crowd. David at least recognizes that, for the most part, every single applicant is a political neophyte. The only polished applicant is Dan Wolk, and that isn’t a criticism, it is an observation. Even our current president said, did and honestly believed some naive things prior to election, then learned what was really going on when he began working the job. The same thing will happen here.

    If you seek perfection, especially in this context, you will never be content. Please try to keep in mind that this is a selection from among ordinary citizens for a temporary position – which is surely why so many decided to throw their hats into the ring.

  9. greatlizardking

    So, Paul Boylan said that Dan Wolk is the only “polished” candidate in the field of ten people currently vying for an appointment to a seat on the Davis City Council. We think Mr. Boylan is using a pretty wide brush indeed, to paint such an exclusionary portrait of the situation.

  10. Rifkin

    [i]”We think Mr. Boylan is using a pretty wide brush indeed, to paint such an exclusionary portrait of the situation.”[/i]

    I did not know that Lizard King’s ([url]http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~jt8j-mtok/images/0684818663.jpg[/url]) were permitted to use the royal “we”.

    [img]http://herve.sors.free.fr/images/Elisabeth.II.jeune.portant.la.couronne.Anglaise.jpg[/img]

  11. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    Generally – I think I like this place. Win or lose, I will be looking in regularly.

    greatlizardking – First, let me make it very, very clear that I believe sincerely and adamantly that Dan Wolk would make a superb interim City Council Member. His father, Bruce Wolk, was dean of the law school I attended. Dean Wolk is legendary. When I get together with my classmates we still tell “Professor Wolk” stories. His mother’s accomplishments are apparent. They raised an incredibly fine young man that any parent would be proud of. Win or lose here, we will be hearing from him, and he will make us proud that he is a Davisite.

    And he IS the only polished applicant. He approaches this competition as if it is a general election and not an interim appointment. I mean, come on, he brought a photographer with him when he handed in his application (see: https://davisvanguard.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4032:wolk-becomes-fifth-candidate-for-city-council&Itemid=80). Which other candidate did that? None other than Dan. That’s what I call “polished” and I admire it. He is exactly the kind of person I want representing me in the legislature.

    Rifkin – I’ve known my share of lizard royalty (google “Blarkon” “Boylan” and see what I mean). The royal “we” is not just appropriate, it is necessary to affect the persona.

  12. greatlizardking

    Some of the comments posted are here are profound. And some of them are just plain quirky. We here at The Castle can’t decide which ones pique our interest the most.

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