Commentary: Patience and Understanding Needed If Davis and Woodland Are To Be Partners

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Sacramento-River-stockThe decision by two leaders of Woodland – Mayor Skip Davies and Councilmember Bill Marble – to express their faltering patience with Davis and the water process by putting an op-ed in the Davis newspaper was ill-considered and misguided, much as their decision in December to come to the Davis City Council meeting with five councilmembers and their representative on the County Board of Supervisors.

A few weeks ago I had lunch with the former Mayor of Woodland, and he asked me if Davis was going to burn them.  My answer was I did not know.  However, I told him that, while it is not Woodland’s fault, Woodland is paying the price because of decisions – poor ones – made by the previous Davis City Council, led in part by former Mayor Don Saylor.

We have to recognize that Woodland has the right to be leery at this point.  After all, they did their due diligence.  They had a rate study.  They had significant public outreach.  They had their “WAC.”

At the same time, they need to recognize that the residents of Davis and the current leadership in Davis did not have those things.  Davis was poorly served by leaders like Don Saylor, Stephen Souza and Ruth Asmundson.

The former council was repeatedly warned by myself and others that they were dangerously ahead of where the general public was on this water project.  They needed to find ways to do more significant outreach to bring the public on board.  They needed to have a ramp-up to the rate hikes that they are proposing now.

At the same time, they pushed forward a project that was far larger than it needed to be, extremely expensive, and they continued to push forward without any sort of rate study or the type of public outreach that Woodland already had, and we only got early this year – the WAC.

The result is that Woodland was ready to go and, until last summer, most people in Davis had no idea that this water project was even happening.  This was a failure to communicate and a failure to lead on the part of Davis’ council majority.  It was also a huge failure on the part of the Davis citizenry to pay attention and listen.  They didn’t listen to the Vanguard and they didn’t attend the public outreach meetings.

So, if the leadership in Woodland wants to be frustrated with this process, they need to look first toward their former allies in Davis.

What is now happening is a sincere public inquiry process through the WAC that frankly should have begun five years ago.  Had we put the WAC in place then, we could be addressing many of the concerns that have arisen now without being under the gun.

As Mayor Joe Krovoza told the Vanguard, “Consideration of our water options in Davis are sincere, and with the best of intentions for overall water costs and quality for Davis and hopefully the region as we all look to share and improve services.”

The WAC process has overall been a healthy one.  The members of WAC have spent many long hours trying to tease out the details of a very complex project and trying to find way to make the overall project more affordable.

As Mayor Krovoza puts it, “Whether for the actual project, new water rate structures, or a bid/pricing process, each community must make its decision based on the merits from its perspective.”

It is reasonable that Davis fully explore all of the options on the table.  And it is reasonable that Davis look to Woodland to see if there are more equitable and fair cost-sharing options.

“That doesn’t mean any community will get all that it wishes for; it does mean that a community must be sure there are sound benefits to a prospective partnership before moving forward,” the Mayor said.

Again, the unfortunate part is that we are doing this in 2012 rather than in 2007, as these ideas were being pushed through council.  With even a modest amount of foresight, our council at that time could have avoided most of these problems.

Anyone who believes that these issues were not foreseeable only needs to look back at 2010 when the city put forth its first Prop 218 process – a very modest rate hike that led to about fifty people coming to council chambers to complain.

At that time, I spoke before the old council to warn them that the community was not up to speed on the surface water project and that looking at the fifty people in the audience, the council needed to be aware that the heat will only grow when they put the then-planned 29% rate increase up before the voters.

Councilmember Lamar Heystek at that time had the foresight to recognize that the council was pushing this decision off to a council that most of his colleagues would not be on.  Already he knew that himself, Ruth Asmundson and Don Saylor would not be on the council that had to grapple with the next Prop 218 process.

The decisions by Don Saylor and his colleagues have left the city of Davis and the current leadership on council in an awkward position.  While Woodland made it clear that they had to adhere to the best interests of their citizens, Mayor Joe Krovoza and company would derelict if they did not do the same.

We can fault Mayor Krovoza for failing to foresee these problems last year, but I believe those to be sincere mistakes and that he now understands the problems.

As he told the Vanguard, “Since last December the Davis community, with the great assistance of our WAC, has been going through a community process similar to what Woodland and its water rate advisory group carried out in 2009.”

He added, “For the next few months, it’s critical that everyone in Yolo county trust the intentions and sincerity of those at the heart of their respective processes — and in Davis that’s our WAC, our City Council, and the citizens actively engaged with these groups and our city staff.  I am confident we will find the best path forward for each community.”

While I do not share his optimism, I think, despite the poor decision by the leaders from Woodland to rattle Davis’ cage, that we need to find ways to best work together for all of our mutual best interests.

Still, Woodland would be best advised to tone things done as we need to have the time we have requested to make the best possible decision for Davis.

—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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6 thoughts on “Commentary: Patience and Understanding Needed If Davis and Woodland Are To Be Partners”

  1. Robb Davis

    David – I fail to understand why you would advise Woodland’s leaders to tone things down. They are merely letting Davis citizens know of their interests and concerns. Davis citizens will make the decision that (hopefully) is in our best long-term interests. Your comment suggests that we might be tempted to snub Woodland merely because they are speaking out EVEN IF it would be in our interest to partner with them. That would be an act of “cutting off our nose to spite our face”, and would make no sense.

    Let’s allow Woodland’s leaders to say what they feel they must and then go on and follow through on the reasoned and thorough approach that the WAC has so capably led us through.

  2. Justin Kudo

    As I saw commented by a friend, “We have been working on this project for nearly 19 years now. Patience? LOL!”

    It’s amazing that your brand of obstructionism is so popular still in Davis. Saylor, Souza, and Asmundson finally made a move to invest in the future of Davis that cut through it. Woodland acknowledges the need to move forward. The time to act was there. Once again, it has been pushed aside and blocked. I can’t wait to see how much more this project will cost the city because doubt, politics, and Tea Party-like attitudes towards government and spending have stopped the project in its tracks.

    Then again, I’m no longer a Davis resident, so I have the luxury of looking at it with amusement rather than with crappy water and a poor fiscal outlook.

  3. Dave Hart

    I’m a Davis resident who must feel like a Woodlander on this project. I have been pretty much in support of this project from the first time I heard about it three or four years ago. I’m disgusted by the simple knee-jerk obstruction that typified the critics of the project a year or so ago. There are still high profile personalities trying to claim the crappy groundwater is all we will ever need because they are too cheap to make the investment in the future. It’s that Bob Dunning-like, cynical hubris of “if it’s not my idea or elected leaders thought of it, it’s a bad idea” attitude that poisoned the well early on.

    You can always find someone to blame, but don’t opinion makers have a responsibility for providing vision as well? So much poison was poured on this project that now, as some of the former opposition is beginning to realize, we might actually need this project and so let’s blame former city council members and sidestep our own part in undercutting leadership for it. I worry that they have done too much damage to rescue it.

    The opportunity to get surface water from Lake Berryessa was rejected fifty some years ago and I imagine that cost was the factor then. Looking back, it appears that water project was a no-brainer. In fifty years, I can see our five-year-olds at fifty-five years old wondering why Mom and Dad were so whiny about the cost fifty years ago.

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  5. Michael Harrington

    Thanks David for the interesting article.

    Check out Nancy Price’s article in the Davis Enterprise today about the subject of turning our water supply over to a private corporation whose primary obligation by law is to maximize its profits.

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