Davis City Council Candidates Question 2


Editor’s Note: Every week on Friday the Vanguard will send all five of the candidates a question that they will be asked to respond to by the end of the day on Thursday for a Friday publication. The answers are posted in the order that they were received.

We are now limiting our answers to 350 words.

QUESTION 2: Davis boasts a world-class university, an excellent K-12 school system, and is centrally located in one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world.  How should those core components of Davis’ “character” inform any economic development efforts that the City undertakes?


Munn-John-2014John Munn

I am assuming that this question is about how attributes of the City and nearby areas affect or contribute to economic development opportunities.  Starting with K-12 education, the good reputation of Davis schools is a magnet for families and contributes to economic development as selling point for recruiting businesses owners and employees with children.  The quality of Davis schools, however, is something that the City benefits from but is not responsible for.  As a former member of the Davis School board, I interacted primarily with parents and was elected to maintain and improve the quality of schools.  There are however, benefits to schools from cooperation between DJUSD and the City, such as use of facilities, as at the Veterans Center, and cooperative use of open space.

UC Davis is the largest employer in our area and a place where new ideas and concepts for implementing technologies are born.  This presents great opportunities for the city to provide sites for development and manufacture related to technologies emerging from UCD and from proximity to the originating faculty.  The City also should recognize that the University has independent authorities to develop land to meet its needs, including housing and other infrastructure, and that this authority may extend to adjoining properties through joint agreements.  Therefore, the City of Davis must cooperate with UC Davis to ensure that requirements of both the University and the City for business space, housing, transportation and the revenue to support these needs can be advanced.

It is true that Davis is situated in a very productive agricultural area and agriculture greatly benefits from University research.  Management of private farming businesses is not controlled by the City.  However, the City can contribute to ongoing success of nearby farms by not jumping out from its boundaries and occupying or cutting off adjacent farmlands, by following farming friendly policies at its boundaries, and by promoting agricultural uses of properties purchased with open space funds.  In return, economic development in the City benefits from areas available for testing agricultural technologies and a nearby rural countryside that promotes living in Davis.


Davis-RobbRobb Davis

These community resources position Davis to attract and keep companies engaged in research and development as well as a diverse community of people.  This creates an economically and socially healthy city.

However they must be developed sustainably if we are to create and maintain a resilient community.

So, while it is clear that businesses will pay a premium to locate near the University, we must more proactively engage UCD to define ways to achieve a mutually beneficial relationship.  We must name both the benefits and negative externalities to our city from UCD and work together to maximize the benefits and minimize the negatives.

We must develop a “ladder” of partnership with the UCD—creating collaboration at many levels—providing a home for University start-ups; developing shared services (as appropriate); and using the vast human resources of faculty and students on critical city projects.

We are “twin cities” with separate organizational realities and needs.  Davis is a representative democracy while the University is part of a broader confederation whose goals and needs extend beyond the community we share. This represents just one “cultural” difference that we must actively work through to maximize the unique resources we each possess.

It is no accident that one of the world’s leading agricultural universities is situated here.  Our land is a planetary resource; the source of an amazing variety of food and, increasingly, the source of seeds used around the globe.  Protecting this resource is the responsibility of our City and our entire region.

In LifePlace, Professor Emeritus Rob Thayer provides a model for thinking about these and other resources in our region.  His writing reminds us “there is no community without economy.” Thus, nurturing our relationship with the University, and the innovative businesses that seek to locate near it, is critical to developing a thriving community.  But there is also no community without “place”—the understanding that the land, water and air in this physical location must used in sustainable ways.

As a leader, I must analyze the tradeoffs involved in developing these resources to assure their sustainable use.


Council-Debate-3Sheila Allen

I am very interested in economic development through a research/innovation park.  The University of Wisconsin and the City of Madison have a great partnership that the City of Davis and UC Davis are poised to replicate (additional information can be found here: http://universityresearchpark.org/about) . The beauty of such a partnership is that it brings revenue to the city through point of sale and parcel tax expansion and it provides good paying jobs in fields that are in line with our Davis character including high tech, agriculture and biological applied science.  An innovation/research park provides an opportunity for faculty and researchers to partner with business and investors to launch academic ideas into real life solutions.

The City of Davis Innovation Park Task Force under the leadership of Chief Innovation Office, Rob White, has developed sound criteria and initial steps in identifying appropriate sites for an Innovation Park.  I support moving forward with evaluation of the 3 identified sites and having conversations that include the community of the benefit to the citizens of expanding the city (a required Measure K vote) in order to encompass the new area and reap the tax benefits and address concerns in a timely fashion.  We need to foster an innovation ecosystem and grow our economic base to right the city of Davis budget and provide long term sustainability.

I am also interested in partnering with the K-12 schools and the local businesses and institutions, including the university, to provide internship opportunities for real life experience.  In order to have the job market match the education that our students are receiving at the pre-K to 12 and university level, the city could help to facilitate these connections so as businesses grow they have a workforce that is educated and prepared.

Davis is a city that supports and appreciates education.  We now need to take the next steps to apply this education to solving real world issues and launch ideas out of the university to close the economic loop and bring stability and jobs to our city.


Swanson-2014-headshotRochelle Swanson

We need to move beyond the mindset that Davis “hosts” the university and forge a true dynamic partnership in which UC Davis drives a regional innovation economy with the City of Davis as its center of gravity.

When focusing my efforts the last few years, I have worked to prioritize the venues where Davis is the most natural fit for success. UC Davis, our outstanding school system, and the wonderful agricultural assets surrounding the city are all major competitive advantages that will help us with this effort.  We can’t be a “leader in the region” if we do not get beyond our city limits and engage.

As Next Economy was getting off the ground, I made sure myself, key staff and community partners participated in the forums that chose the focus areas and then made sure we were included in the core conversations about the focus areas naturally attuned to our assets – namely home to the top ranked research agricultural university in the world. Trips to D.C. with UCD and local partners focus on agencies and elected leaders in agriculture and innovation.

Thanks to efforts last year, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy knows Davis is striving to be the national example of public/private collaboration. We have seed research going on throughout our county right now. Two of the parcels identified in the Innovation Park Task Force recommendations can include fertile borders of prime Ag land to put the research into application.

 A robust k-12 school system is one of the essential assets to retain and recruit the entrepreneurs and companies that are necessary to pursue our fiscal sustainability strategy. I would like to see the perfect trifecta of our assets on the Davis High School campus – a three story STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art (& design) + mathematics) building funded with a public private partnership of innovative companies, host faculty from UCD and other major universities, coupled with leaders in the world of agriculture to support a new generation of farmers, foodies and activists that want to feed and inspire the world through sustainable practices.


Parrella-DanielDaniel Parrella

Proximity to a world-class University is our major economic advantage and the primary reason we were able to beat out Chicago in acquiring Mori Seiki. It is the reason that Expression Systems was willing to uproot from far cheaper rent in Woodland to move to Davis. Economic Developments on the periphery, as recommended by the Innovation Park Task Force, should focus on attracting businesses with an interest in being close to UCD. This interest can be with either a direct relationship through research and grant funding or through an indirect relationship focusing on attracting new graduates.

As a recent byproduct of our K-12 system I can testify that the DJUSD remains one of the premiere educational districts in Northern California. I believe the greatest threat facing our school district is the rapid decline in our 25-44 year old demographic. Relying on close to 550 Inter-District Transfers has prevented the closure of more schools. However, enrollment is expected to decline in the coming years and even Inter-District Transfers wont be enough to stop it. The argument to attract young families has always focused on the affordable housing side of the equation but with the total lack of Redevelopment Funds currently on the table the only remaining option is to focus on high-paying job creation. By attracting companies with jobs capable of supporting a young, growing family we can feed more children into our school district.

It is no secret that I have largely supported the idea of a peripheral business park. On the same token I have always wanted to establish an urban fringe, hopefully one that incorporates community farms where our school children can learn to garden. I view leveraging potential developments as the most likely way in these challenging times to come up with the money necessary to buy land directly adjacent to the city. By asking the developers of a business park to contribute to our Measure O Funds we can exceed our 2:1 agricultural mitigation goals and establish a clear boundary surrounding the city.

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. Fremontia

    How do you know its a typo and that she simply is not up to speed on the issues? I think we have seen a number of instances where she has simply not been up to speed on the issues. Measure J and R have been in the lexicon of people attuned and engaged in civic issues for more than a decade. Why cut her slack?

  2. Fremontia

    By the way I think we see the same thing with Munn who dodges numerous questions because he is unprepared due to his lack of engagement over the long term due to his focus on right wing politics of taxes and water and little else.

    1. Davis Progressive

      to me anyway, munn just hasn’t done his home work, but neither have a lot of the candidates. they are suggesting we do things that in many cases we are already doing.

  3. Fremontia

    And Parella is right about 25-44 year olds declining but bringing in high paying jobs won’t solve it without adding supply. So at least I’m fair and don’t like any of them. In Rob’s case I simply fear he is going to try to make us all give up driving by implementing car exclusion policies. Its simply a terrible field.

    1. SODA

      I do not think it is ‘a terrible field’ at all. Some interesting people with interesting backgrounds and experience. I do not see Robb as being so bike focused that he would not consider other viewpoints or realities while advocating for less car transportation. Between the chamber event and David’s weekly question, I am getting a better sense of each candidate’s preparedness and ability to communicate….both important!

  4. Davis Progressive

    i know there are tight space limitations, but most of the candidates really did not address the core of the question which to me asked people to address the assets of davis within a protective land use context.

  5. Tia Will


    I actually see the core question being asked as not being primarily about a protective land use context, but rather a broader question about whether protective land use or some other economic/ developmental direction is best for the city. I feel that each of the candidates did touch upon protective land use some more directly some more obliquely which I feel is actually quite telling about their overall vision for the city. I do not believe that there were any surprises here.

    How I see it by order of response:

    1. John Munn seems to have laid out the clearest concept of the strengths, but also the appropriate limitations of “public private partnership” which seems to be the current buzz word for a concept that is used by many as a kind of rallying cry for “growth and change” without considering both the pros and cons of any action taken. I give him kudos for the recognition of and placing in appropriate context the appropriate roles of the different levels of government as we are currently structured.

    2. Rob Davis in his statement “Our land is a planetary resource; the source of an amazing variety of food and, increasingly, the source of seeds used around the globe. Protecting this resource is the responsibility of our City and our entire region.” and comments about place and community seems to have articulated best the unique nature of the strengths and potentials for Davis as a world leader in the particular area of agriculture. I feel that this is a perspective that is too often given lip service, while not being fully appreciated in policy development.

    3. Sheila Allen as might be expected as a longstanding member of the school board took the question in a different direction focusing on partnering for improved integration of education and local job opportunities. She also focused on her support for the concept of an innovation park and as such did not choose to specifically address in this question the opportunities that are unique to Davis because of location, geographic and environmentally unique factors. I do not believe this means she does not see these as important but rather than she did not see them as the core of this question.

    4. Rochelle Swanson again predictably and perhaps wisely chose to emphasize her advantage as the incumbent touting her Cap to Cap activities and other business focused activities. I do think close attention should be paid to one particular statement she made in the response to this question, ” We can’t be a “leader in the region” if we do not get beyond our city limits and engage.” If what she meant is that we cannot prosper and lead in isolation, I would agree. If what she meant is what I believe she implied in a statement she made when announcing her candidacy that “We should grow as much as we can”, I am in firm opposition to the concept that “growth is essential for or synonymous with leadership”. Rochelle Swanson’s and votes lead me to believe that she holds this view of Davis.

    5. Daniel Parella as is appropriate given his age and limited experience with system constraints shows a lively, constructive, but in my eyes not necessarily realistic view of the benevolence of all to the well being of the community and community goals. “By asking the developers of a business park to contribute to our Measure O Funds we can exceed our 2:1 agricultural mitigation goals and establish a clear boundary surrounding the city. The optimism expressed here does not seem to have been matched recently by developers in the recent Cannery controversy in which the “asks” of the citizens and council were sub optimally met by the developers who although working with the community, gave as little as they could, and not one bit more to win approval as highlighted by their last minute (literally) bargaining with specific limited interests within the community to win their support rather than taking the broader previously established community goals into consideration.

  6. Tia Will

    A much shorter observation. So far, most of the blog conversation has been about the individuals running.
    I think there is another point of view that I would also like to see addressed. That is the issue of overall council composition. Do we want to select a council based on promotion of our own limited point of view in order to steer the community in a predetermined direction ? Would we prefer to have a broader scope of interests represented on the council with the thought that a broader individual and group perspective might better serve all of the members of our community ? Just questions about which I am interested in your perspectives.

  7. Fremontia

    Compare this field to two years ago. Two years ago nobody was saying that the non-incumbents, Lucas and Brett, didn’t know the issues. This crop’s lack of understanding would be comic if it wasn’t that there are more seats than good candidates and we are going to get stuck with at least one whose vision or understanding of the issues are unacceptable.

    1. Matt Williams

      More seats than good candidates? I don’t find that to be the case at all. Where was the “voice of the future” in the last election? Almost totally absent. Two years ago we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We had four candidates who were “connected” plus Brett. As a result many voters applied tried and true criteria in deciding who to vote for. The questions we were asking the candidates (and ourselves) were softballs when compared to the hardball issues that dominate our thoughts today. As I said … we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

      1. Tia Will

        I whole heartedly agree with Matt on this. I really don’t understand how anyone could consider this a “weak field”. There is a broad range of folks who have been deeply involved in community activities for many years representing a full range of ideologic perspectives from which to choose.

        We have John Munn a conservative with years of experience on the school board. He probably has the narrowest range of interests of the group, but while he may not have the in depth knowledge of all the current issues, he is a long time involved resident.

        We have Sheila Allen, again deeply involved in the community in a number of different roles through the years and currently on the school board. Whether one happens to agree with her specific actions or not, it is impossible to deny that she has long term experience on the school board as an elected official and as a contributing member of our community for many years.

        We have Daniel Parella who I highly commend for his interest in public service. He because of his age, and necessarily limited life experience may not have the depth and breadth of knowledge of some of the other candidates, was unexpectedly and refreshingly up on the issues from my point of view. I suspect that this may not be Mr. Parella’s time, but I have high hopes for his contribution to the community in the long run and would certainly urge him to remain involved.

        We have Rochelle Swanson with whom I have many differences in point of view, but whom has served the city diligently and certainly demonstrates a knowledge of the issues and an experience based knowledge of how to achieve her goals within the structure of our city government.

        We have Robb Davis , also deeply engaged in a number of different services to our community over many years. Robb, perhaps more than anyone I have ever met truly lives what he believes. His volunteer activities alone provide him with insight into our community which few others have. He has a broader perspective on social, public health and community well being from his many years in public health than any of the other candidates.

        So given the wealth of perspective, differing viewpoints, expertise, community involvement, how exactly could one consider this a “weak field”. I would specifically ask anyone who considers this to be the case…..what exactly are you looking for in a candidate that you cannot find in this group?

        1. Fremontia

          To clarify Matt Williams, aren’t you Robb Davis’ campaign manager? Shouldn’t you disclose this or post a disclaimer when you evaluate your candidate’s debate performance? Does his campaign and Robb Davis specifically condone such behavior?

          Sort of reminds me of George Will in 80, helping Reagan prep for debate and then commenting about what a good job he did without disclosing his role in the campaign.

          1. Fremontia

            Just to be even clearer this is a copy of the post from the previous debate thread I find bothersome that I believe fails in adequate disclosure.

            “I find in need of some sort of disclosure Separate from any individual question answers, there was a very interesting leadership pattern on display last night. Specifically, all four of the other candidates followed Robb Davis’ lead.”

            “It started with Daniel Parrella’s use of his first 30 second card stating, ‘I agree with Robb …” The issues of agreement were many and varied, but each of the candidates (some of them multiple times) clearly began their comment(s) with the words, “I agree with Robb …’ ”

            “That was leadership in action, and it wasn’t a coincidence that that leadership was coming from Robb Davis from the Council dais.”

          2. David Greenwald

            As far as I know, Matt Williams has never been Robb Davis’ campaign manager and does not work on his campaign.

        2. Tia Will


          ” Aren’t you Robb’s campaign manager” ?
          If that question was directed to me, the answer is an emphatic “no” accompanied by a chuckle. I am not now, nor will I ever be anyone’s campaign manager.
          I am a vocal supporter of Robb, but am not in the inner circle of his campaign team.

      2. Fremontia

        Two years ago the issues were much the same as they are today. The difference is that nobody was talking about candidates who were not ready for prime time.

    1. Tia Will


      “Somebody I can vote for instead of somebody I find to be least offensive with my second vote.”

      So what is it that you are looking for that you would feel would earn your sincere rather than default vote ?

  8. Robb Davis

    Matt Williams was never my campaign manager. He acted temporarily as Treasurer until I was able to find a permanent one. He, like many others, has done volunteer work for me. He posts here under his own name and has made no secret of his support for me.

  9. Fremontia

    So do you think its appropriate for someone who has been an officer of your campaign to evaluate your performance in such a biased way without disclosing that he has served on your campaign?

      1. Fremontia

        Yes, I think it does because he is actively involved in a campaign and then writes a post evaluating the candidates performance as if he is unbiased without revealing his connection to the candidate. But really I’m interested in the response of the candidate, Robb Davis himself as to how he feels about what Matt did with the post in question? So far I find his response inadequate but I’m willing to wait to see if there is a follow up.

    1. Tia Will

      Whew, I am very glad that was directed at Matt and not me. Sorry for the distraction , but I have been asked verbally about conflict of interest with regard to this campaign and wanted my position to be clear.

      1. Matt Williams

        It is interesting to see all this activity about the forum in a non-forum thread. It shows I should be less selective about what I read and what I don’t read.

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