Sheila Allen Announces Her Run For Davis City Council

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 Allen-Sheila-AnnouncementTwo-time school board member Sheila Allen announced her run for city council on Saturday at the Davis Farmer’s Market, surrounded by supporters (see video below).  “I am very pleased to announce that I will be seeking a seat on the Davis City Council this June. I love Davis and would like to work together with you to reach a vision of Davis as a caring and livable community,” she said in her release.

During her brief campaign speech, she announced the support of Senator Lois Wolk, Supervisors Don Saylor and Jim Provenza, Former Supervisor Helen Thomson, Councilmembers Lucas Frerichs and Dan Wolk, and her colleagues on the school board, Gina Daleiden and Susan Lovenburg.

“I am running because I would like to bring to the council over 8 years of public service experience on the Davis School Board,” she said in her release. “I also served for 10 years as a First Five Commissioner and as chair of the Yolo County Health Council. I am a public health nurse with experience as a visiting nurse, a professor, a public health administrator and I am currently the Executive Director of the non‐profit, Yolo Healthy Aging Alliance.”

“I bring local experience, understanding and caring across the arc of life to all of my service,” she continued.  “In order to meet our city’s program and service goals our fiscal health needs careful attention. This includes both sides of the equation: spending and revenues. I am proud of our work as school board trustees.”

“During my time on the board we weathered some difficult financial times while mindfully preserving valued programs by all working together toward our common goals and including the board, the staff and importantly the community,” she added.

Sheila Allen sat down with the Vanguard for an interview on Friday morning prior to her Saturday announcement.

“I feel like I have experience to bring to the city, and that the school district went through some difficult financial times.  I had an opportunity to work with the community and the staff to help us through that so I will bring that experience to the city council,” she told the Vanguard.  She said that she really enjoys the public service aspect of the elected office.

If Sheila Allen prevails in June, her seat on the school board, which she was first elected to in 2005, is not up until November.  That would leave about a six-month gap until the new members are seated in January and state law requires an appointment for all vacancies that extend past three months, which means someone would have to be appointed until the November election results are certified.

Sheila Allen listed three themes that are her main campaign planks – the fiscal health of the city, water conservation, and community engagement.

“I would like to look at it and approach it from both sides of the equation,” she explained.  “From an expenditure view… I will look carefully at our budget.”

She said that she has read the city budget from front to back so that she could fully understand it.

“There are some really important programs and services – I personally and I would like our citizens to know what it is that our city does for them,” she said.  She said that she knows that there are concerns with unfunded liabilities and she is “getting a better handle on that.”

She spoke about her experience on the school board with negotiations with unions, explaining that both sides have to have a “clear understanding as to what our goals are.”

“From the revenue side of things, it is my understanding that there will likely be a proposal brought before the voters on a sales tax,” she said.  “That is one way to bring some revenue that spreads the responsibility across the whole city.  I would support a sales tax increase.”

She had just learned about the possibility of a parcel tax.  She joked that from her time on the board, she had a lot of experience with parcel tax and added, “I did think when they had the parcel tax that was related to the parks that it was not a sufficient one for what the needs are.”

“Davis is a city that likes to allow the voters an opportunity to weigh in, so this would be a place where – before cuts are made and we say we just can’t afford this – before we cut and lose services – to give the opportunity to the voters to say here is the gap, here is what’s needed, we won’t ask for more than that and we probably won’t even ask for the whole amount… then let the voters decide,” she said.

Sheila Allen also talked about business expansion.  “I’m really interested in the innovation park,” she said.  “Particularly related to working in collaboration with the university.  I think we can do more to work with our friendly neighbor across Russell.”

She talked about the need for homegrown industries, both in high tech and bio medical.  “I think those are growing areas and we would bring up that area of the equation,” she said, noting that there are two possible locations for an innovation park.  Noting that it would go to the voters, she said, “I would support that because I would like the revenue to come into the city.  We need to have more community conversation about which would be the better location for the city.”

She would also support mitigation measures to prevent further sprawl in conjunction with any peripheral business park development.  “I’m not interested in either jumping or sprawling farther that direction, but since there’s already the infrastructure, from a city cost standpoint we already have the exchange there and it’s right next to the highway.”

“We have a drought, it’s officially declared, I think we need to have that community conversation about that, we’ve been spending a lot of time talking about a long term water project which I agree with, we need to have,” she said.  “For the shorter term, while we have the drought, we haven’t really had any conversation about conservation and about reusing water, recycling water, gray water issues.”

“I’d like us to have that conversation because water is a precious resource,” she said, adding that she doesn’t want to see “the browning of Davis.”

Her third plank is “Engaging the community and having an inclusive and civil discourse.”  “I think that the elected leaders can really show a great deal of leadership in that area and so we will lead by example,” she said, wanting to do that with all levels of government and cooperation between all levels.

The Vanguard asked Ms. Allen to explain her land use philosophy for Davis.

As she explained, “I don’t want to see us become a sprawling metropolitan community.”  In addition to not favoring sprawl, she is “not a fan of (peripheral retail).”  “We need to have our agricultural-urban buffer, and I would be fine with us doing a general plan update and looking at the land use, about really making a good solid line around Davis with the buffer, but allowing for required growth in the future.”

She said she supported the Cannery development, however, she had opposed, in the past, both Covell Village and Target.  She felt that the location for Target was not ideal and she has concerns about traffic along Second Street.  She would have favored a Target along highway 113.

On Nishi, she said, “I’m not a fan of putting housing there, because I do not want to have a repeat of the housing problem we have along Olive Drive in that it’s a little island and they cannot have access to the world safely because of the railroad tracks and the highway.”

She believes Nishi is a better location for businesses rather than housing.  She sees it as potentially a smaller version of a research park.

Sheila Allen is very interested in pursuing a sports park, but does not believe that the current proposed location at Howatt Ranch is appropriate.  “I don’t want to see us leapfrog over empty space because that just calls to be in filled in,” she said.

Originally, she thought about having it near Shriner’s, right up against Wildhorse, but now she believes a good location would be at the old Davis Dump just south of the solar panels along F Street.

Sheila Allen said, with regard to infill and densification, “the general theory is yes, do the infill.  But it’s always interesting that once you start infilling,” neighbors come out in opposition to infilling in their ‘backyard.’  “Careful infill projects are great,” she cited the three-story townhouses along Fourth Street between C and D at the old Pena house as an example of a good infill project.

She spoke of the need for universally designed housing that is downtown for the senior population.

She also spoke of the need to work with neighbors and talked about the second iteration of planning for Grande, which is surplus property owned by the school district.  After initial clashes, they worked with the neighbors and got agreement from the neighbors on a property that they still hold due to the housing crisis, but have gotten entitled by the city.

We moved on to talking about the Davis Downtown.  She said that while people have questions and problems with parking, “I think it’s awesome that when I come here that it’s so busy that I have a hard time finding a place to park.”

She noted other communities that have seen their downtowns decline and Davis has a very vibrant downtown.    Ms. Allen did acknowledge the need to deal with the parking issue and was generally supportive of the parking task force’s seventeen recommendations.

“I don’t know everything about the paid parking issue,” she said.  “I personally don’t mind having some paid parking that gives people the option if they don’t mind paying and they want to zip in and out.”  She also sees it as a potential revenue source and that all but one of the business people she had spoken with believe paid parking would be fine.

She supports the identification of a location for a new parking garage but did not like the E and F street location of the previous proposal.

We moved back to a discussion of the budget and the city’s current fiscal crisis.

Sheila Allen stated that she was “interested in looking at both sides of the coin,” and “I don’t think we can cut our way out of that, so there has to be some revenue enhancements along with it.”  She added, “We need to look at what we’re spending our money on and what are our priorities.”

“I know that there are questions around the benefit packages for at least some units, if not all of them,” she said, acknowledging she needs to look more into this issue.

The Vanguard asked how she proposed balancing the budget in the next year.  “I understand that we can’t spend more than we take in, but like any large budget, there are ways to do short term adjustments so that you don’t go into… we’re not broke,” she said.

“If there’s really severe difficulties, we need to do things like we did in the school district, and make sure we’re providing our core services, but not do some of the other things that you would do preventatively,” Sheila Allen continued.  “For instance there was the proposal  to spend millions on roads over the next couple of years, and if it’s a question between us going broke and closing the city down and doing the preventative maintenance on roads…”

She acknowledged it was “always better to try to spend a dollar now than seven dollars tomorrow, but if we actually aren’t going to make it from one year to another, those are the kinds of things that we’re going to have to look at.”

When pressed on the issue of roads, “I understand he proposed the whole ‘enchilada,’ here’s what needs to be done for all of our roads, but maybe we can’t do all that between this year and next year.”

The Vanguard asked Sheila Allen if she would agree to support limitations on an employee compensation group in exchange for support on the revenue measure.

“I do know that (revenue from a sales tax) can’t be  earmarked but it has to go into general fund, I also know that a decision made today with a certain collection of five souls, will be different even if you change one person down the road, so it’s difficult to put into a measure saying it will go into something or it won’t go into something,” she responded.

“As you go into the out-years, you don’t know what the economy is going to do,” she continued.  “From a voter perspective, voters always like the idea of specificity in tax measures.  From an elected official perspective it’s easier to govern when you have the greatest amount of flexibility as possibility.  There has to be a place in the middle where we have to be.”

She added that the current need needs to be address but “I’m not going to make a campaign statement that if you increase this tax every penny of it will go towards services, but no penny will go to the employees.”

We then turned our intention to the issue of the firefighters and the fire department.  The Vanguard asked Sheila Allen her position on boundary drop, fire staffing cuts, and shared management services.

She clarified that since she is not on the council, she can only come about this from the perspective of an interested citizen.

“Boundary drop I think is a great idea, we are basically two jurisdictions that are basically hugged right next to each other, so working as seamlessly and cooperatively as possible, it just plain makes sense,” she said.

“The change in staffing,” she said, “from where I sit today, I have concerns about the decrease from 4 to 3 at a station for the amount of savings that it revealed.  It is my understanding… that it is a safety standard that you need to have four in a location before you go into a burning building, understanding that burning buildings don’t happen every day, but if you go back to the issue of prevention and about why we have the primary role of the firefighters… but what we’re hoping for is that if there is a fire they will be able to safely and quickly prevent any further damage to property.”

“I think I would have kept it at four,” she stated.  “I don’t think that the cost savings really is sufficient enough to have us not have them do their jobs.”

She said it does not make sense to her to have three firefighters stand and wait for someone else to come.

“Shared management,” she said.  “Well I have some concerns.”

“I again, back to the cooperation, I think they need to work together as carefully and as seamlessly as possible,” Ms. Allen said.  “But I have concerns about giving up the city’s control and not being directly over the whole fire department.”

“They are not a city jurisdiction,” she said.  “And one of the primary core functions of the city is safety.”

She acknowledged that the University is responsible for making sure that “the people over there are safe” but “I think that’s the city’s responsibility and I feel like we are letting them be in charge.”  She acknowledged there would be an MOU and a contract, but stated, “I just have a concern that the fire department should be under the city’s jurisdiction not under the UC’s.”

In terms of campaign financing she stated, “I will not be actively seeking out bundled or organized financing from any group, but I don’t have a problem with receiving funds from one individual.”

She stated, “My influence cannot be purchased.”

She did say she would not have the firefighters deliver fliers or actively campaign on her behalf, but she said, that she is not decided on whether she would take their endorsement.  “I don’t know, I haven’t decided,” she said when asked by the Vanguard.

There are two seats up for election in June.  Joe Krovoza has decided to not seek reelection and is seeking the Assembly seat instead.  Rochelle Swanson announced her reelection bid on January 11.  Robb Davis and Daniel Parrella have also announced their bids.

The Vanguard has scheduled interviews with the other three candidates in the next few weeks.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Video of Sheila Allen’s announcement:

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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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63 thoughts on “Sheila Allen Announces Her Run For Davis City Council”

  1. growth issue

    “She did say she would not have the firefighters deliver fliers or actively campaign on her behalf, but she said, that she is not decided on whether she would take their endorsement. “I don’t know, I haven’t decided,” she said when asked by the Vanguard.”

    LOL, imo that speaks volumes.

      1. growth issue

        Biddlin, excellent! Looking at the podium and her esteemed collection of firefighter supporters standing behind her imo I’m sure she’d like to drink from that well but is aware of the fallout if she does. Just the fact that she’d even consider taking a firefighter endorsement imo tells me where she stands.

  2. SODA

    Did it bother anyone else that for someone who has been an unannounced candidate for a number of weeks, she had quite a few answers like “haven’t decided, don’t know enough yet, haven’t thought about it”? What did she characterize as her specific successes on the School Board. I didn’t see anything clear from the article.

    1. John Baldry

      SODA, yes it did bother me too. I’m not sure which bothered me most, the “don’t know enough” comments or the fact that in order to get through a six minute speech that she has been preparing for for quite a while, she needed to constantly refer to her notes on a huge white sheet of paper that she was constantly waving in everyone’s face. If this is any indication of the amount of preparation that she devotes to an event with only one item on the agenda, a six minute item at that, how well can we expect her to prepare for the typical Council agenda that has six to eight items on the agenda and a duration that is sometimes six hours rather than six minutes.

      Her lack of preparation was appalling.

  3. Davis Progressive

    a few thoughts come to mind:

    “she announced the support of Senator Lois Wolk, Supervisors Don Saylor and Jim Provenza as well as Former Supervisor Helen Thomson; Councilmembers Lucas Frerichs and Dan Wolk, and her colleagues on the school board Gina Daleiden and Susan Lovenburg.”

    She couldn’t more accurately pick from a list of elected officials that included all the people i dislike in davis politics and omit all of the politicians i respect in davis politics with one exception: jim provenza who is a good guy but misguided on the fire issue

    “For instance there was the proposal to spend millions on roads over the next couple of years, and if it’s a question between us going broke and closing the city down and doing the preventative maintenance on roads…”

    She acknowledged it was “always better to try to spend a dollar now than seven dollars tomorrow, but if we actually aren’t going to make it from year to another, those are the kinds of things that we’re going to have to look at.”

    That is the kind of thinking that got us into the mess we are currently in.

    “As you go into the out-years, you don’t know what the economy is going to do,” she continued. “From a voter perspective, voters always like the idea of specificity in tax measures. From an elected official perspective it’s easier to govern when you have the greatest amount of flexibility as possibility. There has to be a place in the middle where we have to be.”
    She added, that the current need needs to be address but “I’m not going to make a campaign statement that if you increase this tax every penny of it will go towards services, but no penny will go to the employees.”

    Translation: Sheila will raise employee compensation when she can

    “The change in staffing,” she said, “from where I sit today, I have concerns about the decrease from 4 to 3 at a station for the amount of savings that it revealed. It is my understanding… that it is a safety standard that you need to have four in a location before you go into a burning building understanding that burning buildings don’t happen every day, but if you go back to the issue of prevention and about why we have the primary role of the firefighters… but what we’re hoping for is that if there is a fire they will be able to safely and quickly prevent any further damage to property.”
    “I think I would have kept it at four,” she stated. “I don’t think that the cost savings really is sufficient enough to have us not have them do their jobs.”
    She said it does not make sense to her to have three firefighters stand and wait for someone else to come.

    That statement could have been written by Bobby Weist himself

    “Shared management,” she said. “Well I have some concerns.”

    “I again, back to the cooperation, I think they need to work together as carefully and as seamlessly as possible,” Ms. Allen said. “But I have concerns about giving up the city’s control and not being directly over the whole fire department.”

    “They are not a city jurisdiction,” she said. “And one of the primary core functions of the city is safety.”

    That assessment of shared management reads like the fire letter from her boss, Jim Provenza and company

    In terms of campaign financing she stated, “I will not be actively seeking out bundled or organized financing from any group, but I don’t have a problem with receiving funds from one individual.”

    She stated, “My influence cannot be purchased.”

    She did say she would not have the firefighters deliver fliers or actively campaign on her behalf, but she said, that she is not decided on whether she would take their endorsement. “I don’t know, I haven’t decided,” she said when asked by the Vanguard.

    And if 36 firefighters just happen to give her $100 each, hey they just happened to give of their own volition. Got it.

    1. Frankly

      Good analysis DP. I am in 100% agreement with you. Sheila Allen is echoing everything about a city council candidate that we know is toxic to our long-term health and well being. She is cloned from the political robots of the past that layered so much damage on the city. Why would we want to return to that?

      Only those ignorant of the extent and source of our fiscal problems, or someone expecting some financial reward from her as a councilmember would support her.

      1. growth issue

        Frankly, so do we want to vote to up our sales tax and pay more parcel taxes when we have new candidates that might return us to the days of taking care of the firefighters and other public employees at the detriment of the city?

        1. Davis Progressive

          i think it’s unlikely we are going to roll back fire staffing or shared services. the council would have to justify added hundreds of thousands in cost to the city at a time when they are asking for new taxes. won’t work. but the fact she opposed those changes has cost her my vote.

    2. John Baldry

      Based on those comments by Ms. Allen it definitely looks like there are going to be some clear choices in this election. Are you for fiscal responsibility and fiscal sustainability? Or are you against them? Ms. Allen appears to be against both of them. Based on what we have heard thus far from the other three declared candidates, each of them supports fiscal responsibility and fiscal sustainability. The choice appears to be pretty clear.

  4. wdf1

    “I think I would have kept it at four,” she stated. “I don’t think that the cost savings really is sufficient enough to have us not have them do their jobs.”
    She said it does not make sense to her to have three firefighters stand and wait for someone else to come.

    What is the policy in other neighboring jurisdictions? 4 or 3?

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          They have stations of 3, 3, 5 and the five is now split into an engine with three and an apparatus with two which can quickly connect with a three person team. Tomorrow, I will have an in detail report on the fire department, the city is doing their update on Tuesday.

          1. wdf1

            I know this has probably been discussed in earlier Vanguard articles, but clearly not every emergency call for the fire dept. is for a fire. I assume that most are not for fires. What justification would the firefighters (or the union) give for having four staff present for non-fire calls?

          2. David Greenwald Post author

            There are generally two: (1) is that there are emergencies when having more personnel is to an advantage and (2) firefighters are that they need to have all personnel and equipment with them to expedite their going from call to call

          3. Phil Coleman

            Regarding Point Two, I’ve heard this many times, that FD response teams must travel as a unit in case they get a second call while out of the station. This is why you always see a full unit and vehicle in any public circumstance. The rationale is that the unit can respond efficiently from the field as an integrated unit should a second call be received.

            Sounds good, but does it really happen that much if at all? A highly detailed data base exists to research the particulars of every Fire Department response for many years past. The question I’ve always wondered about–and has never been asked or answered before–is how many times does it occur where a field unit on assignment is sent to a second EMERGENCY call while still in the field?

            If this is a justification for a 4th team member and all the associated costs, is the assertion supported by past call history? My intuition says it is not.

          4. John Baldry

            Excellent point Mr. Coleman. The Vanguard has published a report like the one you are describing in the past. It sounds like it is time to update that report in a current story.

          5. growth issue

            I was working out at a local gym and someone went flying off the treadmill and hurt their leg. 911 was called and four firefighters show up standing over this one guy with a booboo on his leg. Way way overkill.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Firefighters

      This is from 2009 and West Sacramento now has three on an engine as well. When I did a survey of cities in 2009, more than 85% were 3 and that number is up over 90% now.

  5. iPad Guy

    “She stated, ‘My influence cannot be purchased’.”

    Because it already has been sold to Bobby Weist? And, to the politicians who’ve already endorsed her who still are trying to run our city from their new offices?

    I knew almost nothing about this candidate, but her roll-out impresses only in negative ways except that one needs to admire her willingness to serve the community for so long.

    The fact that she is perpetuating the union’s misinformation about our fire department (claims that already have been discredited over the past year) suggests that she hasn’t been paying attention or, more likely, that she’s supporting the union’s stand to return our fire department to Weist’s control.

    After this start, she’d need to swear she’ll never vote to undo the progress our current council has made in order to get my support. I can’t vote for someone who begins her campaign by threatening to throw us back to the bygone days of Saylor, et al.

    1. iPad Guy

      Because it already has beed sold to Bobby Weist?

      After this start, she’d need to swear….

      —Sorry. Wish it would be easier to read comments BEFORE posting them. Maybe a preview capability or larger type in the comment box?

  6. Tia Will

    While I do not agree with Sheila Allen’s stated position on the firefighters, and have sent her a communication with the reasons for my differences in opinion, I am not a singe issue voter. I do not believe that a position different from mine means that anyone has “sold out” or that their campaign is being run from anyone else’s office.

    I admire Sheila Allen’s dedication to serving our community in a number of different capacities. She has had experience in some very tough decision making in the past . I appreciate the opportunity to have an individual with a strong interest in individual and public health as a candidate for city council. Actually, we are fortunate to have two such candidates this time with both Sheila Allen and Robb Davis seeking seats. I will be very interested to see how this race shapes up as more positions are taken. I would hope that as debate intensifies, all candidates will provide data to support their positions as well as the broad statements and philosophies that necessarily are presented in candidacy statements.

  7. iPad Guy

    “…I am not a singe issue voter. I do not believe that a position different from mine means that anyone has ‘sold out’ or that their campaign is being run from anyone else’s office.”

    I’m not either and agree that a different position doesn’t mean “sold out.” The problems we face (unsustainable staff costs, a mismanaged department, elected leaders beholden to a very supportive interest group, ineffective council oversight and decision making, insubordinate employees, etc.) are not a “single issue.”

    The fact that our fire department operation happens to epitomize so many of the serious issues with which we’re starting to deal may have been misleading–no single matter is the issue.

    That this candidate isn’t following the recent (successful and appreciated) practice of forcefully refusing firefighter union support suggests she’s already on the wrong side of not just one issue, but many issues.

    One council member working to pull us back to the mindset and practices of past councils will assure that we’ll really miss Mayor Joe.

  8. Don Shor

    So if she doesn’t want to build housing on Nishi, where does she want more rental housing built and does she feel the low vacancy rate is an issue or concern?

    1. John Baldry

      Good questions Don. No housing at Nishi sounds an awful lot like a statement that is in support of a rejuvenation of a proposal for housing at Covell Village.

  9. Ryan Kelly

    Wow. Sounds like none of you know Sheila. She’s as independent in her thinking and actions as can be. Grounded and practical. Total lack of “handlers” which probably will irk those that have single issues that drive who they support politically.

  10. Robin Wiener

    Thank you for the interview, David. I have generally been very impressed with Sheila as a school board member, but am now quite concerned about her as a City Council candidate for the reasons stated by others here — not being at all up to speed on important City issues or at all aware of the degree to which the positions she is articulating have been widely discredited over the past few years (and are precisely what got us to the mess we are in, both in terms of deferred maintenance and massive handouts to the firefighters).

    1. Davis Progressive

      what i don’t get is why she would want to run for council. seems as a public health nurse, she’s better served either on the school board or the county board of sups. she’s a good person in my view, but not the right person on the council right now. the school district made ends meet by passing a series of parcel taxes. hey no one wants to lay off teachers, but we can’t have the smae solution for the city.

  11. Rich Rifkin

    I had coffee last week with Sheila. We talked for 2 hours about city issues and her interest in serving.

    One thing which impressed me–and I think will be relevant should she make it to the city council–was hearing her discuss the problems that the Davis school board had with the DTA when the district’s budget had to be cut. Her belief was that instead of laying off 20, 30 or 40 teachers with the least seniority, it would be far better that all teachers take a small cut in pay and every teacher could be retained. Because the Board (when she was on it) agreed to an unaffordable contract with the DTA, and because the DTA cared mostly about protecting its senior members’ interests, the junior most teachers were laid off. I think Sheila’s values were right on this–to spread the pain and foremost consider the interests of children who would suffer from more crowded classrooms. I also think she learned the right lesson from the bad contract–that a governing board should not agree to a contract which locks it into increases in costs without knowing whether it will have the funds to cover those costs.

    A point where Sheila and I differ is with respect to what the responsibility of a city council or school board is when it comes to negotiating a contract. My view is that the governing board is elected to represent and advocate for the interests of the general public and that means negotiating AGAINST the interests of the employees. My belief is that the unions (or employee associations) will always do just the opposite: They will fight for the best interest of their membership. I believe the system works if it is truly adversarial and common ground can be found in between. What I told Sheila was that I think the City, since the late 1990s, has failed to strike sustainable labor agreements because we have been electing people who don’t see their job as adversarial at all. Just the opposite. They have listened to the concerns of the unions and handed them everything possible for as long as possible. So it has been imbalanced. Unions talk about collective bargaining. But with one side represented (labor) and the other side (the public) lacking an advocate, there is no real bargaining at all.

    Sheila told me that her experience with CSEA (the non-teachers in the school district who endorsed her candidacy for re-election) was a positive one and it was not adversarial. She said that the Board told the CSEA that, due to state budget cutbacks, the district would prefer all CSEA people take a small cut in order to save jobs; and that the CSEA agreed, in contrast with the DTA, to do that.

    However, in my opinion, her CSEA story does not demonstrate a real advantage to the Board acting in a non-adversarial manner. The reason that the Davis school board had to ask for a small cutback from CSEA and DTA was because the Board had given away the store in its previous “negotiations” with both groups. The Board locked itself into a bind because it failed to act as strongly as possible on behalf of its client–the general public. When budget cuts were made, the Board took the same tack with both DTA and CSEA. The difference was that the internal politics of the teachers was, “Who cares about the young teachers who will be laid off?” And just the opposite, the CSEA’s internal politics were framed by, “We care about all of our members equally, and so if cuts are made, we all should take cuts, not just a few.”

    I also told Sheila my best analogy as to why a governing board is supposed to fight as hard as it can for its client, the general public. That analogy is with a lawsuit. If you are a defendant, the last thing you want is to have your lawyer trying to strike a deal which is in the best interests of the plaintiff. You want and expect your guy to fight hard for you; and you expect the plaintiff’s attorney to fight as hard as he can for his client.

    It is because these positions are supposed to be adversarial–in order to have a real negotiation–it is loathsome to me to see a candidate ever accept money from a contractor (such as a union or a developer) who does business with the city. I never said this to Sheila–I don’t remember doing so anyhow–but I also think it looks bad to accept the endorsement of a contractor who does business with the city, because that suggests that contractor believes you will not do your best to fight for your client.

    I did say to Sheila, however, that just because someone endorses a candidate–for example, I once endorsed Sheila for the school board*–that does not mean the candidate endorses all the views of the person who endorsed him.
    ———————-
    *The only candidate I have ever endorsed explicitly since I started writing my Enterprise column was Sheila Allen in her first run for school board. That year there were four candidates and three seats being contested. The Enterprise editorial board endorsed everyone but Sheila. I asked why, and got no satisfactory response. Moreover, I had spoken with all four of the candidates that year and I saw no reason why Sheila was not in the top 2. So I endorsed her just to counter The Enterprise position. Yet, I have since regretted that, only because I don’t think an op-ed writer should endorse candidates. I have not done so since.

    1. John Baldry

      Rich, since you appear to understand the contract negotiation process pretty well, perhaps you can clarify what the respective roles of the Council members and the City Manager are in those negotiations. Intuitively, I have always expected that the City manager is the lead negotiator, and the Council members are there as a show of support for the positions the City Manager articulates.

      Is that how it works?

      1. Rich Rifkin

        The process has changed in the past few years. From the late 1990s to about 2010, the City’s negotiators were the City Manager, the Asst. City Manager, and the Human Resources Director. But seeing how poorly that went, the current City Council decided to hire a professional negotiator to talk terms directly with the labor reps (each labor unit is met with separately).

        Important to understand is that the City Council and top staff meet (in closed session, always) and the city manager explains the general nature of the problems he thinks are important to address. The 5 members of the City Council speak to these specific issues and any they want to bring up. Ultimately, the effort (at first) is for the Council to form a consensus (or at least a majority opinion) of what its goals are with respect to the negotiations.

        The members of the Council are not there when the actual negotiating takes place. Instead, the negotiators regularly report back to the Council (in closed session), telling them how things are going and what the other side wants and so on.

        Ultimately, the negotiator strikes a deal with the other side which fits within the parameters that the City Council majority wanted from the start, or no deal is struck. If it is the former, the contract immediately is presented in open session and, most times, every member of the Council votes in favor of it. (The only exception I know of is when Sue Greenwald and Lamar Heystek voted no on one set of contracts, because, clearly, their goals/parameters were not agreed upon by the others, and so the outcome was not agreeable to them.)

        In the latte case, where the negotiator comes back and says the other side would not agree to the terms the City Council laid out–as has happened twice with DCEA and once with the firefighters–the very long process (22 months!!!) plays itself out until the City Council can impose its last, best and final offer.

        The important thing to know about LBFO is that all along the way, the City and Labor make offers. And each new offer has to be the same or better for the other side. So if the City starts out giving away too much, it cannot later go back and offer tougher terms. Its last offer MUST by law be its best offer. And if one is imposed, that will be it.

        Also, keep this in mind about the City Manager: he is hired by the City Council. He can recommend this or that. He can shape the facts as he sees them. But he cannot get ahead of the City Council. If he tries to affect the negotiations in a way that most on the Council don’t prefer, he will lose his job. So he does what the Council wants, whether, as in the case of Emlen, he is negotiating himself, or as in the case of Pinkerton, he is laying out the facts for the Council.

      2. Jim Frame

        ” I have always expected that the City manager is the lead negotiator, and the Council members are there as a show of support for the positions the City Manager articulates. ”

        I believe an outside negotiator is critical to successfully representing a public agency’s needs in the labor talks. Asking staff members to negotiate with other staff members with whom they have to work daily guarantees a lopsided result. The city did it right last time around in this regard — finally.

        1. Rich Rifkin

          They did right, yet the outcome is a disaster. Davis is locked into really bad contracts which (saving the two it imposed) cannot be changed until 12-31-2015, well after the General Fund goes bankrupt.

          And let’s be frank about this: The red numbers that the City Council is now worried about were abundantly clear well before these bad contracts were signed. I have written many times in my column that unless the deals addressed total compensation as a whole, Davis was on its way to bankruptcy. And that is exactly where we are going, short of a massive layoff of critical city employees or a big tax hike on residents who make less money than city workers make, all so city workers can have benefits far beyond those enjoyed by most Davis residents.

        2. John Baldry

          Jim, what you and Rich appear to be saying is that the impact that an individual Council member has on labor negotiations is nowhere near as high in reality as we have been led to believe. Is that right?

          1. Jim Frame

            Staff salaries go up easily, but they don’t come down easily. If a majority of the City Council want to increase the pay of a particular bargaining group, that’ll happen without much resistance from the staff charged with implementation of the raise. But when the Council wants compensation frozen or cut and charges the City Manager with implementation, he and his subordinates are placed in a difficult situation: having to impose an undesirable outcome upon their co-workers. That’s never easy.

            As far as individual council member influence goes, I’ve heard — but have no reliable evidence of — council members who directly hector staff members in pursuit of a particular outcome. That can’t be a pleasant experience for staff, so I can see how they might respond to the squeaky wheel even when the response runs counter to the will of the council majority. Again, I can’t cite any examples, but I’ve heard stories, including some from past elected officials.

          2. Frankly

            Staff salaries go up easily, but they don’t come down easily.

            That is true in all cases. Two reasons:

            1. Lifestyle expectations are impacted by a reduction.

            2. The emotional/motivational impact of feeling like you are taking steps down the prosperity ladder you had previously climbed to.

            And it will impact employee motivation. And this will impact the organizations’ effectiveness and quality of service.

            And all of these things together are why we ABSOLUTELY SHOULD NOT EVER PAY A DIME IN COMPENSATION HIGHER THAN THE LABOR MARKET REQUIRES.

            This is why private companies spend so much on labor market studies/surveys to help optimize compensation levels.

            When I took over in my current role seven years ago, my predecessor was paying annual COLA increases. As is my experience, I paid for a compensation study and confirmed that we were paying 125% – 150% of market for many of our key jobs/roles. So, I stopped the COLA and every year I increased the percentage of funds available in the annual performance bonus pool. That pool is tied to individual, department and company performance metrics. If the company ends up in the red, the bonus pool is depleted. If the company is in the black, a percentage of the profit is injected into the bonus pool.

            Moving a percentage of employee compensation to an at-risk performance bonus has two benefits:

            1. “What gets measured gets done”… employees start caring about the finances of the company. For example, instead of coming to me telling me they are stressed handling the workload and that I need to hire another employee, they are more likely to come to me and tell me how they can improve a process so that we can do more with less.

            2. The company can use the bonus model to roll back compensation in lean years, and better reward employees when times are good. But this is at-risk and variable and employees then know to set their lifestyle expectations accordingly.

  12. Mr. Toad

    “that a governing board should not agree to a contract which locks it into increases in costs without knowing whether it will have the funds to cover those costs.”

    I’m curious about when the contract you are referring to was negotiated? i think it matters because I’m not sure that most people anticipated the depth of the downturn we experienced with the collapse of the housing market.

    Being one of the few who did see it coming I remember when i got my last raise in Woodland after Arnold spent every penny in the state treasury getting re-elected. That included the budget surplus created by Google going public and filling the state coffers with one time capital gain money. I remember telling people that our 2007 raise was the last we would see for a long time because i knew how bad the housing bust was going to be. They all thought I was crazy. I don’t think teachers in WJUSD have had a raise since. I remember Davis negotiated a contract after that and i think it included some small raises. I didn’t think it was smart but my view was an outlier. Most didn’t see it coming so i think you are being a little hard on Sheila.

    For the record there are at least 3 candidates I know and respect running for two seats. Therefore i will not be taking a position in the city council race. Toad hollow is staying out of this one.

    1. Mr. Toad

      Also as I recall it, and I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong, it wasn’t that the money wasn’t there, its that the state had to cut funding that was promised because things were so bad.

    2. Rich Rifkin

      “…. because i knew how bad the housing bust was going to be. They all thought I was crazy.”

      If they read my column when I explained we were in a housing bubble, well before 2007, they would have thought you were smart.

      “Most didn’t see it coming so i think you are being a little hard on Sheila.”

      It was not her fault alone. It was the whole board. And it was a problem mostly because the contract had no flexibility built into it. If the Board was acting on the public’s behalf, and not doing the DTA’s bidding, it would have given them the ability to align future compensation amounts with future revenues. This is somewhat akin to the mistakes the present Davis City Council has made. The difference, though, is that we have known how much pension funding was going to go up by over the next five years for 2 years now, and we have known how much medical benefit expenses have gone up on average (about 10% per year) for the last 10 years. So no one on this Council should be surprised in the least that Davis is now in dire straits with its budget.

  13. Michelle Millet

    After attending 2 campaign events today for Robb Davis, I can say the guy has set a high bar in regards to knowledge of issues facing this city. His understanding of these issues runs deep and his proposed solutions reflect a high level of thoughtfulness and understanding. In this regard I predict he will be a formidable opponent.

    1. Rich Rifkin

      How formidable Robb’s candidacy is depends on what the voters are looking for. I have never known the people of Davis to vote for a candidate because he has a smart take on the fiscal problems of our city and how best to address them. People mostly seem to vote for a name that is familiar to them–often based on things like, “My neighbor said Lucas did a good job with the Co-op Board. So I am going to vote for Lucas.” Or, “My wife had a nice talk with Lois Wolk at Safeway last week. She’s a good lady. So I am going to vote for Dan Wolk.”

      And the result of our voting patterns? Not so good, in my opinion.

      Against Sheila Allen–who is widely known and has been elected twice by the people of Davis–and Rochelle Swanson–who is an incumbent and well known–it will be hard for Robb to win the votes of that vast majority who vote for the name they know. It’s very hard to distinguish your candidacy on the issues to an electorate which is not paying attention to much–other than one or two personal concerns, such as swimmers who want longer hours for swimming or someone upset about doggie do in his park. The exception is if a candidate takes bizarre positions on some issues–say he calls for the annexation of Winters and free marijuana for old people. Then voters will take notice of his issues. And will be sure not to vote for the nut.

      1. Frankly

        I have never known the people of Davis to vote for a candidate because he has a smart take on the fiscal problems of our city and how best to address them.

        I am semi-optimistic that there has been a shift due to the voters’ increase attention to fiscal matters. Davis voters are comprised of a high percentage of people having high levels of personal financial confidence. However, that confidence has been rocked over the last 6 years. More so the last three years as the recession has dragged on.

        The economy does seem to be improving, although unemployment, tax increases and significant healthcare cost are still pounding some Davis families.

        To summarize, I agree with this point from a historical perspective, but I think voter consideration of fiscal matters will be much stronger today and in the future unless the economy really starts humping.

  14. Michelle Millet

    “I have never known the people of Davis to vote for a candidate because he has a smart take on the fiscal problems of our city and how best to address them.”

    Brett Lee

    1. John Baldry

      Excellent example Michelle. It is also worth noting that the two candidates who came in fourth and fifth behind Brett, were both well known names and incumbents to boot.

      1. Michelle Millet

        It is also worth noting that the two candidates who came in fourth and fifth behind Brett, were both well known names and incumbents to boot.

        I believe these incumbents were also beat by another previously unelected official, Lucas Frerichs, no?

        1. Rich Rifkin

          It’s not clear to me that is why Brett won. I think his success was largely due to the field he ran against.

          I think it helped Brett that Sue Greenwald failed to turn out her base voters, and she had (due to some bad publicity) turned off many others.

          Likewise, Stephen Souza lost, I suspect, because he failed to turn out his base and because he had over the years he had been in office given other individuals one reason or another to not want him back. I doubt many of those ant-Souza voters’ “one reason” was fiscal matters. I suspect more were against him over questions of growth and housing that he supported and they did not.

          If the voters of Davis turned to Brett (6,355 votes) for his fiscal wisdom as opposed to simply going for the name they knew and the name they liked personally, why then did they vote more heavily for Dan Wolk (10,212) and Lucas Frerichs (6,850)?

          Keep in mind that I am not in any way against anyone voting for a candidate based on fiscal sanity–I hope everyone we elect from now on makes that his primary message and sincerely believes it. I just don’t think the evidence that it works is there. And for that reason, we are in a terrible fiscal hole right now, and will be for some years to come.

          1. Michelle Millet

            My point is that name recognition or successful electoral history does not always translate into a future electoral victory.

            I do think Robb is an exceptional candidate, the kind, who in my mind, don’t come around very often. He is well versed in a variety of city issues, not just economic ones, and he is a skilled negotiator, facilitator, and communicator.

            The challenge will be getting people to hear his message, but once they do my guess is that most will support him.

  15. Michelle Millet

    “I have never known the people of Davis to vote for a candidate because he has a smart take on the fiscal problems of our city and how best to address them.”

    Brett Lee

    (I’m testing out block quotes…)

  16. Rich Rifkin

    By the way, a better example than Brett would be Jerry Adler, who most of you likely do not remember. Jerry was a fiscal conservative (in Davis terms). And he ran and won on that. However, our fiscal problems back when Jerry was on the Council were so small compared to the mess we are in today, Jerry had to do the normal thing–making himself likable to most people as a name–to win.

    Another in this category was Jim Stevens, back in the 1970s. I think Judge Stevens was more of a backlash candidate. Almost all of his colleagues were far to his left; and so he stood out simply by looking like a straight-laced fellow. Odd then that his judgeship in Yolo County ended in what could be called a very “not straight laced” manner–and due to the huge settlement, not fiscally conservative.

    See: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/HIGH-COST-OF-JUDICIAL-SCANDAL-Harassment-Suit-2993510.php

  17. wdf1

    Baldry: comments or the fact that in order to get through a six minute speech that she has been preparing for for quite a while, she needed to constantly refer to her notes on a huge white sheet of paper that she was constantly waving in everyone’s face.

    If your primary interest is in a polished politician with the speaking presence of a trial attorney, then you really need to look for another candidate. I have followed her on the school board somewhat regularly since 2007. She is as conversational sounding in public like that as she is in person. She is also among the better-prepared school board members at meetings, but is not afraid to say she doesn’t understand something rather than stay silent.

    One of her strengths is that she presents herself as she is, and you don’t get the feeling that there is a public persona that is different from a private persona. But that may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

    As a public official, she has a keen awareness for how arcane and confusing public meeting procedures and discussion can be to a lay person. Frequently when she has the floor, she will summarize discussion in plainer language or will ask school district staff to offer clarifying or clearer explanations. It may annoy some, but I think it makes local democracy more accessible.

    Vanguard: She received the support of her colleagues on the school board Gina Daleiden and Susan Lovenburg.

    Davis Progressive: She couldn’t more accurately pick from a list of elected officials that included all the people i dislike in davis politics and omit all of the politicians i respect in davis politics

    Can’t comment on the other elected officials that I left out, but I think the endorsement of Daleiden and Lovenburg together say a lot about the respect that they have for her. Allen, Daleiden, and Lovenburg are probably the three most engaged members of the board. It would be hard to identify any clear factions to the board. I often see the three disagreeing and agreeing in various combinations. I don’t think they endorsed Allen because they see her as towing a particular line, but because she works hard to reach the best solutions possible.

    1. wdf1

      Baldry: Lovenberg has been conspicuously silent on the firefighter issues.

      Why should Lovenburg have any reason to weigh in publicly on firefighter issues? Were you disappointed that she didn’t state her position on firefighters in her 2012 school board campaign?

      Do you think she is that kind of direct democracy advocate?

      You would have to ask her. She’s in the phonebook and will no doubt be tabling at the Farmers’ Market soon enough.

      She does make it easier to follow school board meetings, however. I suspect it would be in her nature to continue that kind of clarifying dialog at City Council meetings, were she to win.

  18. Don Shor

    “For the shorter term, while we have the drought, we haven’t really had any conversation about conservation and about reusing water, recycling water, gray water issues.”

    “I’d like us to have that conversation because water is a precious resource,” she said, adding that she doesn’t want to see “the browning of Davis.”

    To include this in her candidacy announcement completely perplexes me. Davis residents have conserved, and will continue to conserve water, without any ‘conversation’ about it. If she’s advocating some kind of mandatory conservation, she should probably be more specific. If Davis residents and businesses conserve too much, it will be adverse to our water rates. We don’t actually need to reuse water or recycle water or use gray water.

    I hope she has a more detailed understanding of the Davis water supply than these remarks seem to indicate.

    1. Rich Rifkin

      DON: “We don’t actually need to reuse water or recycle water or use gray water.”

      I know this is off-topic, but I suspect you have an informed opinion (more so than I have on this). What is wrong with gray water plumbing? It seems to me that, if most of the water which goes down the drain in my house, save that in the toilet, instead went into a cistern and from there I used it to irrigate my roses, lawn, other shrubs and trees, I would be better off. (I no longer use a water softener.)

      The main reason I don’t employ gray water is the expense. (I am not sure if the City of Davis regulations allow it, either.) I cannot imagine re-plumbing a house without gray water pipes is worth the cost. However, I would think that for new construction, the extra cost would be minimal, and the savings over time would be substantial.

      Do I have that wrong?

      1. Don Shor

        The main problem is that landscape distribution is based on usage in the house, not what the plants in the landscape need. You can’t store greywater. So it has to go out into the yard when it is generated.

        Some greywater issues:
        Products going into your outflow need to be free of salts, free of chloride.
        Since distribution into the yard is usually frequent and shallow, it’s not ideal for most irrigation of woody plants. IMO it’s best for turf areas, or to water bare soil that’s covered with mulch (the mulch acts as a filter).
        You need a permit, though most people don’t get them. I don’t know what city code is in Davis.
        Don’t allow puddling.
        Don’t allow contact with edible portions of plants.
        Avoid dishwasher water.
        No water from sodium softeners.
        Don’t run it through drip systems.
        Don’t store greywater.

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