Commentary: The True Mixed Legacy of Paul Navazio

Share:

budget-public-1.jpg

On the surface it seemed like a strange move.  One that many did not see coming.  Woodland hiring Davis’ finance director, who only six months previously had been the interim City Manager for Davis, and was passed over for promotion by the city council’s hiring of former Manteca City Manager Steve Pinkerton.

Put into the all-important sports analogy terms, it would be like the Dodgers not hiring their pitching coach who had served as interim manager, and then after the season ended, the Giants going ahead and hiring that pitching coach to manage their club.

But sports analogies do not get us all the way, either.  Paul Navazio is complicated person and a great intellect, but ultimately, in my opinion, not a great fit to be city manager in Davis, which practices public immolation of its public servants for sport.

Still, it was only an hour before the announcement that he was dodging a Vanguard question, in a two-by-two with the Chamber of Commerce.  At that point he gave no hint that just 15 minutes after the completion of that meeting he would send a message to the Council, the City Clerk’s Office, the City Manager and the City Attorney, announcing that he had accepted the City Manager position in Woodland effective, April 23rd.

Supervisor Matt Rexroad was immediately skeptical, but Davis residents responding on his Facebook account were overwhelmingly positive.

While I would prefer not to bash Mr. Navazio’s going out of town, I have obviously had very different experiences with him than others have had.

On a positive side, he is very capable, he knows his stuff and he is probably the smartest city employee. But while he has a pleasant and calming demeanor, my chief irk with him was that he would say one thing in private but the exact opposite in public.

He put forth budgets that he knew were overly-rosy because he was being political and mindful about undermining the position of the council majority.

In short, without the dutiful work of Paul Navazio, it would have been difficult for the council majority to have ignored the train wreck that he himself knew was coming.

It was May 31, 2011, that he finally would publicly admit that his budget assumptions were too rosy.

Of course, we knew this earlier.  In 2009, Lamar Heystek took on Paul Navazio by developing an alternative budget framework that took more conservative growth assumptions, and asked for deeper cuts.

Mr. Navazio’s revenue assumptions called for a modest but immediate increase in revenue.

Mayor Pro Tem Saylor would later criticize Councilmember Heystek, saying he preferred to use Mr. Navazio’s “real numbers” rather than “making them up.”  He would later deride his colleague, calling his maneuver a stunt.

The reality is that, despite that criticism, Mr. Heystek’s numbers proved to be more correct than the city’s finance director’s numbers.

With a new council in place, Mr. Navazio would pull out virtually the same tactics he had used previously, but this time council was not going to buy it.

Mayor Pro Tem Rochelle Swanson last year said that ” ‘pessimistic’ needs to rule the day.  We need to be pessimistic now, rather than sorry later.”

Paul Navazio in his discussion talked about the need for incremental funding increases throughout the five-year period for road maintenance, but he did not budget them.  He admitted that the city is not allocating nearly enough for road re-pavement.  But he still showed a positive revenue balance in the out years.

As Councilmember Sue Greenwald put it, the current assumptions did not assume any kind of cost-of-living adjustment, and the pension increases assumed estimates that PERS had given under current assumptions.

This is only part of the problem.  One of our big problems for years was that the city’s deferred maintenance and other unmet needs was not counted against the budget, but rather put into a separate “unmet” needs category.

In 2008 for instance, this enabled the council to boast that they had a balanced budget with 15 percent reserve, while it was clear one of the reasons that they achieved this “feat” was due entirely to deferring costs of infrastructure, road repairs, and other needs to a future date – costs that were nontrivial, amounting to perhaps $13 million, depending on what was included in that category.

“A number of years ago, I pointed out that we were essentially balancing the budget by calling our deficit ‘unmet needs,’ ” Councilmember Sue Greenwald said.  “As we’ve mentioned, they’ve accumulated and we’ve said that… we wanted to know what services we could restore.  I don’t think that’s a very accurate way to describe it.  We are not restoring services, we are trying to catch up with unmet maintenance needs that are getting really severe.”

The critical question came back to how to fund local infrastructure and how to account for it in the budget.

“We’re evading the big issue,” Councilmember Greenwald warned. “The budget is not a realistic budget.  We’re still saying that the budget is on its way to being balanced by having this enormous category of unmet needs.”

“In the end we’re going to have to spend money on our roads, on our sidewalks, our bike paths and we have to start putting it in the budget and we have to start spending it,” she stated.  “We need to start being more realistic because what I’ve heard tonight is more kicking the can down the road.”

Councilmember Greenwald then moved to direct staff to come up with a budget that reflects the true deficit, which includes a concept of the city’s unmet needs.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton said, “You want a budget that reflects our physical needs, both ongoing and the deficit.”

Councilmember Greenwald said that we need the budget to reflect both unfunded liabilities and unfunded needs and a way to pay them down, just as the city has a plan to deal with unfunded health liabilities

As Councilmember Greenwald put it, it was disingenuous to have these mounting costs and suggest at the same time our budget was balanced.

How this will work, of course, remains to be seen.

At the same time that Councilmember Sue Greenwald was critical of these policies, she was oddly supportive of Paul Navazio, making arguments for him to be named as full-time city manager.

She also would defend the failure of Mr. Navazio to meet the council-directed $2.5 million in cuts this year.

Councilmember Sue Greenwald, during September’s discussion on the budget, defended the finance director: “Paul [Navazio] did prepare the specific reductions we asked for…  Paul said he prepared a list that did exactly what we asked for… to basically cut $2.5 million from the general fund and a list of positions to be reduced.”

“So he did do what we asked for, but he just didn’t think it was wise – obviously it would have a profound effect on employee morale if we didn’t want to just do the layoffs.  I can understand that, since Paul has the job of both presenting these figures and keeping people working.”

“If we wanted it, he could do it.  I don’t think it’s the right idea now,” she said.

“I think presenting to the council to sort the various options we’ve evaluated is the necessary next step,” Paul Navazio told the council in September.  “I think what we were struggling with internally…is kind of that [the] next level is the implementation and implication for actually implementing those.  What might be easier to implement in terms of short term savings, might not necessarily be where the council ends up wanting to be in terms of organizational structure.”

Mayor Joe Krovoza was more critical about the lack of apparent progress in the three-month time frame that the council gave Mr. Navazio.

The mayor said, “While we don’t have $2.5 million in cuts here, we don’t have two, we don’t have 1.5, we don’t have one, we don’t have 500.”

“We have spent three months,” he said, pointing out, as well, that even the Finance and Budget Commission had the better part of two months to look into recommendations for cutting $2.5 million from the budget, “to at least start to bring us some movement on this issue.”

On a personal level, I like Paul Navazio, as he is professional, he works hard, and in a lot of ways he is sincere and had some very good ideas for re-shaping the city.  But too often he was never able to rise above the background noise to implement those changes that he knew needed to occur.

At the same time, there has always been the nagging feeling in the pit of the stomach about Mr. Navazio.  From the very start, he appeared to be a guy that would say what the person in the room wanted to hear.  I had heard this from others, but saw it myself, as well.

His budgets were always overly-rosy, as we noted, with the example from Councilmember Heystek’s alternative budget.

The bigger problem is that I have long suspected that Mr. Navazio is hiding numbers on the real impact that pensions and the unfunded liability will have on the budget. 

It is very tempting to try to excuse some of Mr. Navazio’s budget projects by arguing that he was essentially forced by those in power, namely Bill Emlen and Don Saylor, to paint an optimistic picture of the budget.  I think that is where the sympathy from people like Sue Greenwald comes from, knowing that, at least in private, Mr. Navazio was someone who would give her the truth.

However, we can forgive him for his rosy budgets under Bill Emlen and Don Saylor, but it is difficult to forget his initial 2011 budget or the fact that little to no progress had been made on the budget passed by the council in June 2011.

The city’s roads and the amount of deferred maintenance are now at critical levels, the city fumbled the impasse with DCEA and the city’s fire merger has collapsed. While some of these are not the fault of the finance director, they do illustrate the need for the city to have acted more concertedly on those $2.5 million in cuts.

Despite all of this, I think Woodland will be a much better fit for Paul Navazio than Davis was.  They operate with far more consensus, less public scrutiny and far less acrimony than the Davis community.

Moreover, he will get a chance to advance his career, while keeping his kids in the same schools and his family intact – something that was always important to him.

I will watch with interest how he operates in Woodland.  I will also watch with interest what Davis does for a finance director.  I am again inclined to hire from outside the city, as a way to continue changing the culture.  Even if that costs more, that is the right thing to do.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Share:

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.

Related posts

28 thoughts on “Commentary: The True Mixed Legacy of Paul Navazio”

  1. hpierce

    [quote]Still it was only an hour before that he was dodging a Vanguard question in a two-by-two with the Chamber of Commerce.[/quote]What question did the Vanguard pose, that you believe Mr Navazio was dodging? Please, “be transparent”.

  2. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]He put forth budgets that he knew were overly rosy because he was political and mindful about undermining the position of the council majority.[/quote]

    And bc he was taking direction from former City Manager Bill Emlen?

    [quote]This is only part of the problem. One of our big problems for years was that the city’s deferred maintenance and other unmet needs was not counted against the budget but rather put into a separate “unmet” needs category.[/quote]

    And the idea of an “unmet needs” category was created on former City Manager Bill Emlen’s watch.

    [quote]At a personal level I like Paul Navazio, as he is professional, he works hard, and in a lot of ways he is sincere and had some very good ideas for re-shaping the city. But too often he was never able to rise above the background noise to implement those changes that he knew needed to occur.[/quote]

    Perhaps bc Paul wasn’t running the show but former City Manager Bill Emlen was?

    [quote]The city’s roads and the amount of deferred maintenance are now at critical levels, the city fumbled the impasse with DCEA, the city’s fire merger has collapsed, some of these are not the fault of the Finance Director, but they do illustrate the need for the city to have acted more concertedly on those $2.5 million in cuts.[/quote]

    With the collapse of the city’s fire merger, which IMO was the lynchpin of budget reform, how do we get to the $2.5 million in cuts? Even CM Pinkerton seems to think the only way to do it now is through the next round of labor negotiations. You never say how you would implement the $2.5 million in cuts in light of the problems with the failure of the fire merger…

  3. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Despite all of this, I think Woodland will be a much better fit for Paul Navazio than Davis wa. They operate with far more consensus, less public scrutiny, and far less acrimony than people in Davis.[/quote]

    If Paul can assist Woodland to get back on track with their budget, it will be to the benefit of Davis, as Matt Williams noted yesterday.

  4. Problem Is

    But won’t life be much easier as a city manager in Woodland for Mr. Navazio with all that big box and car dealer sales tax revenue that Woodland offers him…

    Life is Easier with Abundant Sales Tax Revenue
    So what’s a little suburban sprawl and a gutted down town and core area when it comes to a consistent revenue stream to work with. After all, Mr. Navazio does not have to live in Woodland… Just commute there for work. He can still enjoy the discipline and commitment to non sprawl growth and a vibrant down town in his residential life, with out the shackles Davis imposed on is working life…

    Woodland: The Incredible Non Walkable County Seat
    In Woodland you have to hop in the car to get or do anything and everything. Quite the planning vision of sprawl. Woodland has more vacant lots and buildings within its city limits due to its peripheral sprawl than… Davis has buildings…

    There is a cost to responsibility. We choose to pay that cost by living and working here. Mr. Navazio has removed the burden of responsible city planning and growth from his working life. Good luck to him in his future endeavours.

  5. hpierce

    [quote]Mr. Navazio has removed [quote]the [b]burden of responsible city planning and growth[/b][/quote] from his working life.[/quote]Would have thought that would have been the primary charge of the CD&S Department, Economic Development, CM, or CC. I could be wrong, but sounds kinda’ like a ‘cheap shot’.

  6. davisite2

    I would guess that the Woodland City Manager’s salary is also more than he would be getting when demoted back to Finance Director. Ranting impatiently and throwing a fit over the pace that Davis is moving to restore its fiscal health is, IMO, rather infantile. One cannot “turn the ship of state” around on a dime without the danger of very serious unforeseen consequences.

  7. hpierce

    davisite2… what indicates to you that he would have been ‘demoted’ to Finance Director? That isn’t in the “record” so far. He remains FD/ACM, and I’ve not heard anything publicly nor privately that there was any proposed change in that had he chosen to remain. Interesting rumor.

  8. Michael Harrington

    Woodland is nearly bankrupt from the destruction of its downtown and rampant sprawl casued by poor city planning. The surface water project is yet another nail in the Woodland fiscal coffin. Mr. Navazio has his work cut out for him.

    My understanding is that Mr. Navazio was intimently involved, with a rates consultant, with setting the rates that were blocked by the water referendum.

    His departure gives the new majority on the Davis CC and our new City Manager a chance to change the fiscal course of Davis.

  9. medwoman

    David

    “Still, it was only an hour before the announcement that he was dodging a Vanguard question, in a two-by-two with the Chamber of Commerce.  At that point he gave no hint that just 15 minutes after the completion of that meeting he would send a message to the Council, the City Clerk’s Office, the City Manager and the City Attorney, announcing that he had accepted the City Manager position in Woodland effective, April 23rd.”

    Perhaps I am reading too much into this paragraph. Surely you would not have expected him to “give a hint” of his acceptance prior to officially announcing it to the appropriate officials would you ? And you would equally not expect him to not attend pre scheduled meetings in order to first make his announcement, would you ? So is there any other message here other than the assertion that he dodged a Vanguard question, which depending on the question, seems as though it might have been the most prudent course of action given his planned departure.

  10. David M. Greenwald

    “What question did the Vanguard pose, that you believe Mr Navazio was dodging? Please, “be transparent”.”

    It’s not consequential to this article.

  11. David M. Greenwald

    “Perhaps bc Paul wasn’t running the show but former City Manager Bill Emlen was?”

    That’s why 2011 budget was so important because he was running the show and did the same thing he did previously. That tells me it was not just Bill but Paul.

    “With the collapse of the city’s fire merger, which IMO was the lynchpin of budget reform, how do we get to the $2.5 million in cuts? Even CM Pinkerton seems to think the only way to do it now is through the next round of labor negotiations. You never say how you would implement the $2.5 million in cuts in light of the problems with the failure of the fire merger…”

    The merger was not the lynchpin to budget reform. In fact, it might not have saved the city much more than $1 million today. It will have little impact on this budget year because the city has not filled the vacant positions at the fire department and apparently is not planning to.

    It still comes down to reduction of fire from four to three on an engine, and that has NOTHING to do with the merger. And a pay decrease for management and department heads. Do those two things, and you end up at the $2.5 million.

  12. David M. Greenwald

    “If Paul can assist Woodland to get back on track with their budget, it will be to the benefit of Davis, as Matt Williams noted yesterday.”

    I understand he said that yesterday, but I don’t understand why Matt believes Paul can do that – he had not here.

  13. David M. Greenwald


    Perhaps I am reading too much into this paragraph. Surely you would not have expected him to “give a hint” of his acceptance prior to officially announcing it to the appropriate officials would you ? And you would equally not expect him to not attend pre scheduled meetings in order to first make his announcement, would you ? So is there any other message here other than the assertion that he dodged a Vanguard question, which depending on the question, seems as though it might have been the most prudent course of action given his planned departure.”

    I think you guys are getting too caught up in the narrative. I’m telling a story here more than making a statement as a lead in to the more meaty portion of the article.

  14. David M. Greenwald

    “David… isn’t that for us to judge, since you brought it up? Maybe you could respond to medwoman’s post.”

    I was pressing him on a 30 day window for review of the labor contracts similar to what was brought forth but rejected back in 2009, and his response was depends on when the contracts are completed.

  15. hpierce

    Thank you… I think it was somewhat salient, in that he & Pinkerton have been advising the CC & the negotiator(s) for that process… depending on timing of progress before he leaves, there may be a potential loss of some continuity in ‘costing out’ the budget implications of proposals/counter-proposals. I believe that may cause some delays, but probably not significant ones. Assuming that contracts are in administrative final draft (pick your term) in May, he probably knew that even if he WAS authorized to commit to that (I suspect he wasn’t) he would not be a part of the final decision on a ‘window period’ that the CM & CC might propose, if any.

  16. Matt Williams

    Michael Harrington said . . .

    [i]”My understanding is that Mr. Navazio was intimently involved, with a rates consultant, with setting the rates that were blocked by the water referendum.”[/i]

    Interesting comment Michael. Do you have any factual basis for your “understanding”? What rates consultant was part of that involvement? When did the involvement take place?

    Inquiring minds want to know. Looking forward to your answer.

  17. Matt Williams

    David M. Greenwald said . . .

    [i]”That’s why 2011 budget was so important because he was running the show and did the same thing he did previously. That tells me it was not just Bill but Paul.”[/i]

    David, the very “interimness” of Paul’s position during the 2011 budget process makes this reader feel that “running the show” is only part of the story. I’d be surprised if Paul didn’t either know or have significant suspicions that he was a placeholder between permanent City Managers . . . and that the new City Manager when hired would be his boss. A bit of caution in that kind of situation is prudent in most cases.

    JMHO

  18. Matt Williams

    David M. Greenwald said . . .

    [i]”I understand [Matt] said [if Paul can assist Woodland to get back on track with their budget, it will be to the benefit of Davis] yesterday, but I don’t understand why Matt believes Paul can do that – he had not here.”[/i]

    David, the answer is pretty straightforward. He will have his hands on the tiller, not be looking over someone’s shoulder at the tiller.

  19. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]It still comes down to reduction of fire from four to three on an engine, and that has NOTHING to do with the merger.[/quote]

    But wouldn’t a merger result in the reduction of personnel?

  20. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]David, the very “interimness” of Paul’s position during the 2011 budget process makes this reader feel that “running the show” is only part of the story. I’d be surprised if Paul didn’t either know or have significant suspicions that he was a placeholder between permanent City Managers . . . and that the new City Manager when hired would be his boss. A bit of caution in that kind of situation is prudent in most cases. [/quote]

    [quote]David, the answer is pretty straightforward. He will have his hands on the tiller, not be looking over someone’s shoulder at the tiller. [/quote]

    I couldn’t have said it better!

  21. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Perhaps I am reading too much into this paragraph. Surely you would not have expected him to “give a hint” of his acceptance prior to officially announcing it to the appropriate officials would you ? And you would equally not expect him to not attend pre scheduled meetings in order to first make his announcement, would you ? So is there any other message here other than the assertion that he dodged a Vanguard question, which depending on the question, seems as though it might have been the most prudent course of action given his planned departure.[/quote]

    Well said!

  22. David M. Greenwald

    “But wouldn’t a merger result in the reduction of personnel?”

    That’s a far more complicated question than it at first seems. They were sharing the cost of a chief. There was an assistant position at UC that was held open that they are now advertising for. But the City of Davis, if you noticed the consent item last week, are still holding those positions open. So right now, the cost of a non-merger is half a chief position. That’s something, but not you know revolutionary or anything like that.

  23. David M. Greenwald

    Matt: I really disagree with you here. First of all, his job in March 2011 was to produce a budget that the new council would support. They gave him and he did not follow it. You cannot escape that problem. Moreover, as I understand it, one reason that Paul might not have ended up with that job was that budget that he put forward.

  24. Matt Williams

    I understand where you are coming from David and won’t argue with your point.

    With that said, I think Paul was pretty much resigned to the fact that he was only a placeholder between City Managers, and that he wasn’t being considered as a permanent City Manager.

    JMHO Lets simply agree to disagree. We’ve done so before, and we’ll do so again in the future.

  25. David M. Greenwald

    Matt: I’m happy to agree to disagree, though I can’t resist adding he did go through the lengthy hiring process and was among the finalists for the permanent position, so it’s a little hard to figure how he knew this in March of 2011.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for