Perhaps the Davis Enterprise on Sunday buried their lead – leading with tier praise for the city council which by a narrow 3-2 vote, placed “the Davis and UC Davis fire departments under the joint command of a single chief” which they argue “pointed the city toward a more efficient delivery of public safety services and, perhaps, took steps toward getting the city’s financial affairs in order.”
However, perhaps the most crucial aspect of the piece was that they called out those who pushed back against the agreement – naming the union, two councilmembers, and a letter from elected officials as part of that push back.
“Naturally and lamentably, there has been pushback,” they write. “The union, already at odds with the city over its contract and citywide staffing protocols, and worried about being shut out of those division chief positions, was dead-set against the agreement.”
Meanwhile, they add, “Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk, who voted to move forward with the agreement in October, changed his mind and joined Councilman Lucas Frerichs as a nay vote on Tuesday.”
Most critically they write, “Most troubling, a group of Davis-linked political figures — state Sen. Lois Wolk, Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, Yolo County Supervisors Jim Provenza and Don Saylor, and former Assemblywoman and Supervisor Helen Thomson — wrote a letter to urge the council to reconsider sharing management of fire services with the university.”
As we have noted, that is not even the half of that as they wrote the letter without so much as meeting with the city or university to understand the specifics. And the opposition held even after the council took steps to address some of the more realistic and critical concerns.
The paper would also praise the council majority on this issue noting that “Fortunately, the council majority — Mayor Joe Krovoza and Council members Brett Lee and Rochelle Swanson — put the needs of their constituents first.”
They argue, “This agreement is that rarest of political commodities: a win-win deal for both sides that manages to improve services and lower costs. If only all our crises could end so happily.”
The two entities – Davis and UC Davis “have worked toward cooperation on fire services since 1993, most notably by dropping the boundary between the two jurisdictions earlier this year, allowing crews from the closest station available to respond to a call.”
“Last week’s move, though maintaining each department’s autonomy, will enable them to coordinate training and operations, making the public and the firefighters themselves safer,” the paper writes.
As the paper notes, “UCD Fire Chief Nate Trauernicht will oversee both both departments, and report to Davis City Manager Steve Pinkerton and John Meyer, UCD vice chancellor of administrative and resource management, each of whom will retain administrative authority over their respective fire departments.”
This was of course part of the pushback, with the union and even elected officials who know better arguing that this agreement was tantamount to a takeover of the department by the unelected UC Board of Regents.
On the contrary, the deal specifically safeguards not only autonomy but accountability.
Much has been made of the fiscal implications. The reason the savings are modest are that the departments are hiring additional managers – deputies chiefs to insure the smooth and efficient running of the department. Moreover, the discrepancy in compensation between Davis and UC Davis has precluded a full merger.
Still as the Enterprise points out, “UCD expects to save $7,500 annually. Pinkerton believes the move will save the city $88,000 a year, and up to $230,000 if the three new division chiefs can be shifted onto UCD’s compensation package.”
They add, “Facing a long-term financial crunch and unable to get the firefighters’ union to agree to the kinds of concessions other city employees have negotiated, the city needs to get the most bang for its buck wherever possible.”
This should have been a no-brainer and a win-win for both sides, but firefighters threatened with losing their influence fought this move every step of the way. Sadly a number of Davis’ most esteemed elected officials jumped on board.
—David M. Greenwald reporting