Councilmember Wolk Officially Announces He Will Run For Election For First Time

Con-Agra-Wolk-contemplates

It has been just about nine months since Dan Wolk was appointed by the Davis City Council to replace Don Saylor.  He has become a critical third vote on the budget, and the architect of a compromise that might have averted the current water referendum had his colleagues taken the lead.

In press release issued on Sunday, citing the unfinished work ahead and the need for a new generation of leadership, Dan Wolk has decided to run for Davis City Council.

“After careful consideration with my wife Jamima, I’ve decided to toss my hat in the ring,” said Mr. Wolk who works as a deputy county counsel for Solano County. “I’m very humbled by the outpouring of encouragement that I’ve received to run.”

Mr. Wolk, according to his press release, is proud of what he has been able to accomplish in that short time. During this brief tenure, the Davis City Council has taken steps to address long-term structural imbalances in its budget, re-committed itself to securing a sustainable water supply, initiated a number of redevelopment projects, and begun the process of relocating the Davis Teen Center.

According to the release from the Dan Wolk campaign, “When first appointed, Wolk said that every decision he made would be viewed through the prism of his two young daughters, Avery and Layla. And if there’s been a single unifying theme of his service so far and into the future, it is the desire to make sure that the community his daughters grow up in is an even stronger one than the one he grew up in.”

“I believe I represent a new generation of leadership in our community, one that is keenly aware of the challenges that my generation and my children’s generation are being saddled with, be it in the area of growing unfunded liabilities, deteriorating infrastructure, long-term water supply problems, a lack of affordable housing for young and low-income families, a need for greater economic development, and global climate change.”

“We can no longer kick the can down the road. It is the responsibility of my generation and this City Council to address these challenges. I refuse to saddle my children with these problems.”

Dan Wolk joins a crowded field.  Brett Lee announced his running for Davis City Council a few weeks ago.  Sue Greenwald told the Vanguard around the same time that she is running for a fourth term.  Stephen Souza did not respond to a Vanguard inquiry, but it is widely believed he will seek a third term on the Davis City Council.

Councilmember Wolk has already had to make some tough choices, with none tougher than the decision on June 28 to vote to cut $2.5 million in personnel costs in order to insure fiscal stability down the road in Davis.

He called it “an awful decision” but said that it puts money into the things we need, and he would like to see that done.

Mr. Wolk on that night spoke about this being a new era, one in which the olds ways of doing things were no longer viable.

He called it, “An era of shared sacrifice,” and said it is “incumbent upon us as a community to come together to devise a way to ensure the long term fiscal stability of our city.”

In another pivotal moment, Mr. Wolk presented the possibility of compromise on water, that might have averted the referendum showdown.

Councilmember Dan Wolk, with backing from Mayor Pro Tem Rochelle Swanson, would have set a one-time 10% water rate increase for this year, while allowing time to explore various options and approaches.

“I support the project, but have been really disappointed with the process,” he told the Vanguard.

At the September 2011 meeting, he argued, “There are those who do not believe that we need to move away from our sole reliance on groundwater to surface water.  But this is simply untenable.”

He added, however, “But when it comes to how that project is carried out and the recommended rates associated with it, I have some real problems, and here is where those who have championed the issue have failed, for a number of reasons.”

He argued that the process lacked credibility, as within a span of three weeks the proposed rates dropped to 14% – a fact that he argued “Does very little to engender confidence in the process.”

Moreover, he argued, “The process has not been very transparent, partly due to the fact that the project is being guided by a joint powers authority, not the city.”

In an op-ed two weeks later, he tried to split the baby, imploring the community to get the project right while at the same time taking issue with both sides of the debate.

He wrote, “On one side, there are those who do not believe that we need to move away from our sole reliance on groundwater to a surface water supply. But this is simply untenable. Groundwater is environmentally unsustainable. Not only is the supply of quality drinking water shrinking, it’s also high in nitrates, as well as chromium, selenium and other harmful water quality constituents.”

“And although it would be easier to kick the can down the road, this would be a dereliction of my civic duty. My generation – and my children’s generation – is bearing the burden of the lack of long-term planning in unfunded liabilities and crumbling infrastructure. And nowhere is that more evident than with this water project,” he wrote.

“When they grow up, I do not want my children to say that I had an opportunity to make the necessary investment in our future and did not do it,” he wrote.

He wrote, “But when it comes to how the proposed surface water project has been and will be carried out, and the projected rates, I have some real problems. And this is where those championing the water project have failed.”

He argued that the process lacks transparency.  “Consultants and decisions have been too distant from press coverage, the City Council and ultimately the community. This is partly due to the fact that the project is being guided by a joint powers authority, and not directly by the city,” he writes.

Furthermore he argued, “We have not sufficiently sought flexibility on the project’s timeline. We should be trying to do as much as we can to spread out the rate increases, including seeking a variance from the state and engaging our state and federal legislative delegation to assist us.”

Councilmember Wolk noted that it is not clear that we have exhausted all funding opportunities – it appears, in fact, that we have not looked into a whole range of options that may or may not exist.

“We’ve accomplished a great deal in a relatively short amount of time,” said Councilmember Wolk.

But Dan Wolk believes the work has only begun. “No doubt I am proud of what we’ve done. However, I am even more excited about the work we have yet to do.”

A kickooff “Wolktoberfest” celebration will take place on Friday, Oct. 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the old DISC space (2801 Second Street).

—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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10 Comments

  1. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]According to the release from the Dan Wolk campaign, “When first appointed, Wolk said that every decision he made would be viewed through the prism of his two young daughters, Avery and Layla. And if there’s been a single unifying theme of his service so far and into the future, it is the desire to make sure that the community his daughters grow up in is an even stronger one than the one he grew up in.”[/quote]

    It is refreshing to see someone younger running for City Council, to represent those who have families w children, just starting out. It is a perspective that is important to have on the City Council. Good luck Dan!

  2. davisite2

    Councilperson Wolk is an appointed novice on the Council whose positions remain ill-defined. IMO, to date, on controversial issues facing the Council, he has attempted to straddle the center-line. We will see what the next 7 months offers us to further define his candidacy as he goes before the voters for the first time. There is an old political saying that goes something like… those who attempt to straddle the center-line more often than not end up as roadkill.

  3. Rifkin

    Thanks to John Lofland, I bring Vanguard readers a trivia question: [i]Who is the only person ever [b]elected[/b] (not selected) to serve on the Davis City Council who was also a graduate of Davis High School?[/i]

    Note: It is shocking to me that there has only been one DHS grad elected to the Council in the 94 years Davis has been a City. However, the first graduating class of DHS was in 1928, so in fairness we have only had 84 years to elect Davis High grads to the Davis City Council.

    My own class of 1982 had a number of people who would have made excellent members of the Davis City Council. Most of them left Davis long ago and never returned. At the top of that list was Randy Baldwin, whose mother, Mary Ellen Baldwin, was very active in Davis politics. Another excellent choice would have been Brian Washington, who like Dan Wolk, is a Stanford grad and a lawyer. A third boy who was a strong leader was Jeff Pelz, whose father Dave Pelz was the long-time director of public works for the City. We also had a large contingent of excellent girls, including (off the top of my bald head) Robin Biggar, Betty Chow and Renee Dorf.

  4. Matt Williams

    davisite2 said . . .

    [i]”Councilperson Wolk is an appointed novice on the Council whose positions remain ill-defined. IMO, to date, on controversial issues facing the Council, he has attempted to straddle the center-line. We will see what the next 7 months offers us to further define his candidacy as he goes before the voters for the first time.”[/i]

    d2, lets look at our recent electees to Council

    Krovoza (2010) novice (no seasoning) when elected
    Swanson (2010) novice (no seasoning) when elected
    Heystek (2006) novice (no seasoning) when elected
    Saylor (2004) seasoned on School Board when elected
    Souza (2004) novice (no seasoning) when elected
    Asmundson (2002) seasoned on School Board when elected
    Puntillo (2002) some seasoning as Postmaster when elected
    Harrington (2000) novice (no seasoning) when elected
    Greenwald (2000) some seasoning as community activist when elected

    Now compare that to Dan Wolk’s seasoning at his mother’s knee. Dan is no more a novice than the majority of our recent Council members were when they first joined the Council.

  5. Matt Williams

    For the record, in public comment during the selection process, I asked Dan to reconsider his candidacy because he appeared to be the only one of the candidates who looked like he was destined for a career as a “professional politician.” My stated logic was that Dan’s career would have a more appropriate first step in an election rather than in an appointment. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Dan has proven that I was wrong that night in what I said. IMHO, he has been a very solid Council member in his short tenure, and he has earned my support in this first election cycle where he is a candidate for office.

    d2 has said, “There is an old political saying that goes something like… those who attempt to straddle the center-line more often than not end up as roadkill.” The reason that is true is that it takes particular skill and talent to be a centrist in our two-party system. It also takes courage. Dan has shown me skill, talent and courage . . . and he represents the residents of this City well.

  6. Michael Harrington

    Matt: the two issues that I am most interested in this election season are the budget debacle, and the water rate hike.

    On the former, Dan had a good debut ($2.5 million needs cutting), but we are a long way from a substantive vote on this. On the second, he voted for the huge water rate hikes, yet says he thinks, in essence, that the project is a planning and fiscal mess. There is a disconnect on his logic, so I will wait to hear more from him as to how he reconciles these two.

  7. Matt Williams

    Mike, there is a huge disconnect throughout the water discussions between the decision about what needs to be done, of which there are really only three options (see below), and how what is chosen gets done. Your criticism of Dan’s logic also applies to you yourself, specifically in response to your stated strong preference for a “locally controlled solution” I have asked you whether you are willing to pay more for water from such a local solution than water would cost from a joint powers solution . . . and if the answer is “yes” why you are willing to pay more.

    As yet, you have avoided answering my question.

    For the record, the residents of Davis currently have three options for dealing with Water/Wastewater.

    1) We can choose to proceed with the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency (WDCWA) project, and then proceed with a base Wastewater Treatment plant upgrade approach that capitalizes on the significantly reduced levels of certain components that exist in our current well water.

    2) We can choose not to proceed with the WDCWA project, and then proceed with a significantly more expensive Wastewater Treatment plant upgrade approach that must address the significantly elevated levels of certain components that exist in our current well water.

    3) We can choose not to proceed with the WDCWA project, and then proceed with a well head treatment approach that removes the significantly elevated levels of certain components that exist in our current well water at each of the 21 individual wells, and then be able to proceed with the base Wastewater Treatment plant upgrade approach that capitalizes on the well head treatment of our current well water.

  8. Rifkin

    [i]”Souza (2004) novice (no seasoning) when elected; Puntillo (2002) some seasoning as Postmaster when elected; Greenwald (2000) some seasoning as community activist when elected” [/i]

    Matt, that is inaccurate with regard to Souza. He had been serving on commissions for at least 10 years, probably longer, before he won office. I think he had run and lost once before (as Sue had). And Souza was active in a number of campaigns for other candidates and with the local Democratic group.

    So your statement that he had “no seasoning” is off a bit. He surely had more that Ted Puntillo, who you oddly credit for his job as postmaster. I don’t see how that qualifies as seasoning for the City Council.

    The truth is that other than incumbents, no one is really prepared for the job of being on the City Council when they are first elected. They make mistakes, sometimes whoppers. They usually are too trusting of staff; or unable to draw out from staff the information they need to make a solid, independent judgment.

    That said, no one in Davis gets elected to the Council without deep ties within Davis. They all either have connections based on past campaigns or causes or civic activities. For example, I would cite Puntillo’s experience with the Veterans groups and the fire department as his most important seasoning before being elected.

    Most of those elected raise a lot of money in small donations; and those who try to cheat the system by taking it all from a few developers (and their connected donors) or the firefighters (think Vergis) do not succeed. Those who decide to not raise money never win.

    An odd winner was Julie Partansky, who won without raising a lot of money, but enough money. Julie had been a successful activist in Old North Davis and with the Sierra Club before she decided to run. She also had a lot of friends through her association with the Blue Mango. Her activities and activism helped her obtain a lot of supporters who worked to get her message out without money. And Julie was probably a little lucky, running at just the right time when the competition was not so great and the voters wanted someone quirky.

  9. Matt Williams

    Rich, Mike’s flip comment mandated a speedy response. I stand corrected as you have noted.

    My thinking was that Puntillo had day-in, day-out experience from within a governmental entity. Your Veterans and firefighters examples add an appreciation of constituencies (and in the case of the Veterans a second level of direct experience with governmental decision making).

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