Chamber PAC Sets Out Vision For Council Candidates

Council-2012-Davis-signBy Michael Bisch, Tom Cross, Steve Greenfield, Rosalie Paine and Shane Tucker

Through long years of hard and thoughtful work, many generations of Davisites have created a community of which we can all be proud. Our significant commitment to our schools, environmental issues and bicycling make our community unique and attractive.

Regrettably, some of this hard work has been eroded through a number of fundamentally ill-considered financial decisions by former city councils, as well as a tendency to kick difficult financial decisions down the road.

The 2012 Davis City Council election provided an opportunity to make a break from the past and Davisites took a step forward by electing Brett Lee, Dan Wolk and Lucas Frerichs. Our reward has been a council willing to meet community challenges head-on, while resisting the temptation to kick the can down the road.

Although the current council has worked hard to bend our fiscal crisis around, the foreseeable future remains extremely challenging. City Manager Steve Pinkerton is saying the city will run out of money this year unless local taxes are increased and/or city programs and services, such as pools and parks, are cut or closed. Furthermore, he is projecting accumulated annual deficits totaling $32 million over the next five years.

As bleak a picture as the city manager portrays, the reality is far worse. The measures currently proposed by Pinkerton do not fundamentally solve the underlying problems, they merely slow down the slide into the fiscal abyss. Even if we are able to fix the $32 million deficit, funds to cover deferred maintenance on our roads and bike paths still will be severely lacking. Significantly greater action is required to increase revenue and/or cut costs to stop the slide, let alone actually dig us out of the fiscal hole that’s been created.

To help frame the debate for the June 3 City Council race, we’d like to share our thoughts on desired candidate attributes that we believe will help keep the council focused on our pressing fiscal challenges.

It is commonly accepted that a healthy community is socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. For many years, our city has focused primarily on social and environmental sustainability without ensuring a strong economic base to support these efforts. Therefore, the 2014 election should be “laser-focused” on addressing the fiscal challenges preventing us from achieving a sustainable community.

Generating a city budget deficit year after year as our roads, bike paths, sidewalks, parks, etc., continue to erode is clearly not sustainable. Job No. 1 for this next council is to get us back on a fiscally sustainable path. That will not be possible without a sustained effort to control costs while increasing economic activity.

Yeah, yeah, we know: Boring! Some may want this election to be about constructing more community amenities and enhanced city services, but it just isn’t feasible to do so until we stabilize our financial condition. What family plans a new backyard swimming pool, while they’re three months behind on the mortgage? We need to get the mortgage current before we start thinking about new amenities and enhanced services.
What attributes should we be seeking in a new council member to fulfill the goal of fiscal stability? We suggest the following:

* Leadership. This next council term is going to be all about making some very hard choices and the council will have to bring the community along with them, not kicking and screaming, but willingly, as part of a community effort. To do so, council members must have the ability to make compelling arguments and have the wherewithal to sell them.

* Focus. This next council will have to remain focused on closing the budget deficit. If it’s not about growing revenue via economic development or containing costs, it simply shouldn’t be on a council meeting agenda! The council needs to rapidly develop a plan to get us back on track and then will have to execute, execute, execute.

* Transparency. Our community has no end of ideas on how to meet our fiscal challenges, but our resources are limited. This next council must have the ability to encourage transparent and vigorous debate of competing projects and policies to ensure the best rise to the top.

* Professional temperament and rational judgment. Council members are typically not financial experts and such expertise is generally not required in a council member. Although this next council will not be composed of accountants and financial analysts, it must be made up of individuals with the temperament and judgment to listen to competing arguments, sift through the details and then exercise sound judgment.

* Independence and absence of future political aspirations. There has never been a time when a technocrat was more needed on the council. This is not the time for ideologues or career politicians. To meet our challenges, we require council members with well-developed problem-solving skills. We need individuals who have a broad view, resisting the temptation to focus on narrow interests and future political aspirations. Council members who focus on this job and not the next are essential.

We look forward to a vigorous election campaign to determine which of the City Council candidates truly possess these attributes.

Creating and fostering a socially, environmentally  and economically sustainable community is a challenging endeavor. The Davis Chamber Political Action Committee and the entire business community are ready, willing and able to work collaboratively with all stakeholder groups to effectively and efficiently solve today’s challenges while planning for a bright future for our unique community.

We will soon be scheduling a council candidates debate where you can come and judge for yourself which two candidates exude the right attributes to help achieve the goal of a truly sustainable community. We welcome your feedback, involvement and support.

— Michael Bisch, Tom Cross, Steve Greenfield, Rosalie Paine and Shane Tucker are members of the Davis Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee.

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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  1. Davis Progressive

    “Davisites took a step forward by electing Brett Lee, Dan Wolk and Lucas Frerichs.”

    despite the chamber pac who wanted us to take a step back with stephen souza. thank goodness they failed.

    “absence of future political aspirations. ”

    anyone else find this ironic, though perhaps a hidden shot at wolk and sheila allen? so let’s get this straight, two of the guys they are praising above clearly have future political aspirations and the one guy who clearly does not, brett lee, the chamber pac didn’t support.

    there is not a lot of substance here, i think it would have been better had they laid out their vision rather than some watered down comments.

    1. Rich Rifkin

      The Chamber PAC endorsed the three candidates who were the least interested in reforming labor contracts and creating a sustainable budget: Sousa, Wolk and Frerichs. The two the Chamber would not endorse, Lee and Greenwald, were the two whose positions (and now records) were very strong in this regard.

      The reality is that the Chamber of Commerce soiled itself in the last election. And it did so because issues including the fiscal health of the City of Davis did not matter at all to the supposed group of businessmen and women. All that seemed to matter was that the members of the Council would approve the kinds of developments that active members of the Chamber wanted approved, and also it clearly mattered that the candidates had personalities which were amenable to the leaders of the Chamber PAC.

      So on those grounds the Chamber did harm to our City; and now we face a tax increase which could have been avoided had we had a smarter person on the Council like Sue Greenwald. It’s hard for me to see how business in Davis will be better with higher taxes on everything and everyone. But at least the PAC’s leadership can be happy they got rid of a personality they did not like.

  2. Nancy Price

    I am not willing to accept general blanket statements by Pinkerton or City Council members or candidates or Chamber of Commerce members that the city will run out of money at some date certain in the near future. What I and most Davis residents want and what is very long overdue is a public, transparent and comprehensive financial statement that shows income and expenses. Furthermore, there needs to be a clear statement on how the tax monies will be allocated and spent

    Until such documents are presented to us and in a timely manner, then I don’t see how the City and City Council can expect Davis residents to support any tax increases.

    Such a public accounting in long overdue!

    1. David Greenwald

      “I am not willing to accept general blanket statements by Pinkerton or City Council members or candidates or Chamber of Commerce members that the city will run out of money at some date certain in the near future.”

      The city is not going to run out of money. The city may reach a point where it has to close parks, green belts, rec programs, because it doesn’t have the money to keep them open.

      1. Mark West

        The only reason we have not ‘run out of money’ is because we stopped maintaining our infrastructure and have ignored the unfunded obligations to our current and retired staff. Just because the CC and Staff are good at hiding the ball with accounting tricks doesn’t change the fact that we do not have enough money to pay our obligations. We are out of money, we just are not willing to admit it.

        “If it’s not about growing revenue via economic development or containing costs, it simply shouldn’t be on a council meeting agenda!”

        This policy should have been implemented in 2009 when the depth of the recession became obvious to all. The fact that we are still spending money as if we were printing it, on speculative ventures that will expand our payroll (POU) and contemplating buying more parks and pools, indicates that the CC and Staff still have not recognized the seriousness of the situation. We spend more time and effort making people ‘feel’ good, and worrying who might get their nose bent out of shape if certain options are considered, then we do actually working to solve our problems.

  3. Frankly

    Well I am in general agreement with this piece, and like it’s tone and message.

    There are more things we can cut. The question is what do Davis residents want in terms of amenities, and how much are they willing to give up?

    Where I disagree with this piece a bit is the “social, environmental and economic sustainability” comment. While I understand and agree with the premise, these three things are not in the same class. Economic sustainability should always be superior because without it we likely cannot afford to pursuit the other two.

    And social and environmental sustainability are nebulous and subjective concepts. We can, should and will debate these ad nauseam.

    However, fiscal sustainability is just math. We can all see the numbers and run the numbers and the numbers do not lie. Of course people will lie about the numbers… and that is a topic for another day. But assuming we have factual numbers we will know what we need to be fiscally sustainable.

    So, I agree that we need to put fiscal sustainability at the top of the list. But I disagree that it should ever leave the top of the list.

  4. Tia Will


    I could hardly disagree more. How can you have a healthy economy without a healthy and thus productive population ? How can a strong economy be sustained without a healthy environment?

    There is nothing nebulous about the loss of school time or work hours lost to pollution associated asthma?

    There is nothing vague about the loss of agricultural land in Orange County.

    I feel that a “laser like focus” is not productive. One could say that what a “laser like focus” produces is tunnel vision and the inability to see the broader picture. I would hope that our City Council would never lose sight of all of the aspects needed for a strong, healthy community.

    1. Frankly

      Let’s use some medical metaphors. The economy is the circulatory system. Economic activity is the beating heart. Money is the blood. Unless you transform the US to a different pysiological existance, it will die without a healthy enough circulatory system.

      I don’t know why this is so hard for you to understand. Even those oft trumpeted models of liberal excellence – Finland, Norway and Germany – are all very focused on economic health as a primary requirement for everyting else.

      Yes we need balance.

      And no I am not discounting social and environmental pusuits.

      But you will not succeed advancing a progressive agenda for these things without a robust economic circulatory system.

      I wonder sometimes if you appreciate the root source contributing to your good life. All those caring people and servicing that helped you become a successful doctor had to get their funding from somewhere. All those patients that pay for medical treatment had to get the money from somewhere. Without that money what would you be doing today? That is where we are today… without enough money to do all those great social and environmental things.

      1. Tia Will


        You have illustrated my point very well. Money, or at least some medium of exchange is necessary. However, it is not the “root” as you say. People have and can exist without our current financial system. Our current financial system however cannot exist without the efforts of millions and millions of people. People who need first their health, and a sustaining environment in which to live. Your argument that the financial system is primary makes the unfortunate, and in my mind erroneous assumption that the existence of a healthy population and a healthy environment are guaranteed. I do not believe that is true, and I believe that the unbalanced and relentless pursuit of wealth ( always placing the financial sector at the top of the list) can imperil the other two.

        So back to your medical analogy. Yes, one has to consider the circulatory system. But not at the expense of the brain, or the means of acquiring nutrition, the GI system. To have a healthy organism all must be continuously monitored and maintained. Putting any component at the “top of the list” and leaving it there indefinitely is indeed “laser focused” and tunnel visioned and ignores the necessity for balance.

        1. Frankly

          People have and can exist without our current financial system.

          No they cannot. Someone has to pay for their existence.


          If we did not have a market economy, they would have to gather, hunt or farm to get food and other necessities… or they would have to make things of value to trade for those other things.

          Otherwise they can be beggars and moochers. But even then someone else is still paying for their existence.

          Today we have a common currency that we use for exchanging these things of value. It is the blood of that circulatory system.

          Look at what happens in Africa when this circulatory system is not healthy. People trash the environment and society degrades because so many put those things as a second priority to the effort of surviving and growing prosperity.

          We do not live as a tribe in communal hemp huts where everyone sings Kumbaya and shares their Jambalaya. And any romanticism of this type of existence is misplaced as there is scant historical evidence of this type of society being anything but harsh and tragic.

          A democratic capitalist system levels the human playing field and is much more egalitarian than any other. You have no birth-right to power. You can do anything and be anything you want. But you still have to make enough money to buy the necessities of life. And if the economic system is not healthy, you will have a more difficult time and many will not be able to make enough. They social and environmental pursuits take a lower priority.

          So, if you are so interested in a pristine environment and a perfect society, then you should demand that we make our economy healthy as a first priority.

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