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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.