About The Author

Rob White is the Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Davis and was selected as a 2012 White House Champion of Change for Local Innovation. He serves as an ex-officio Board Member for techDAVIS (a local tech entrepreneur industry group), as an executive Board Member for the Innovate North State iHub, and as a Board Member for Hacker Lab and the California Network for Manufacturing Innovation. He is a candidate for the Doctorate in Policy, Planning and Development from the University of Southern California and has a Masters from USC in Planning and Development and a Bachelors of Science in Geology from Chico State.

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11 thoughts on “If You’re Not Part of the Solution…”

  1. Davis Progressive

    rob – i always considered the expression trite. after all, being part of the solution or the problem is subjective, not objective. to use an unfortunate analogy, we may have to destroy the village in order to save it.

    reading david’s piece makes me wonder if community engagement can work when council is liable to listen to the loudest voice in the room.

    the numbers in the budget are ugly. but maybe we need to shut down people’s parks, greenbelts, and pools in order to get their attention. because right now, i don’t think a parcel tax passes.

    1. Frankly

      the numbers in the budget are ugly. but maybe we need to shut down people’s parks, greenbelts, and pools in order to get their attention. because right now, the city is headed toward bankruptcy without urgent and robust economic development.

  2. Tia Will


    I hope that you are wrong and that the parcel tax will pass. What ever else may be true, we, as voters will most assuredly get the city that we deserve.

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      FWIW, a parcel tax is needlessly unfair. An ad valorem bonded property tax increase, while still not ideal, is many times more equitable than a parcel tax.

      1. Robb Davis

        I have been pondering this Rich… Do we know for sure that is true (more equitable)? I say this because an ad valorem tax is imposed per $X assessed value so those who have been in their homes for many years benefit (ceteris paribus) because of the lower assessment. I am not saying I disagree but is it unambiguously more equitable? It would be interesting (and useful) to assess this empirically across all Davis properties.

        1. Matt Williams

          Robb, the ceteris paribus issue you illustrate here also applies in water rates in California. The component of the Fixed Fee in any water rate structure that covers Fire Readiness realistically provides value to each rate payer as fire insurance. As such, it would make a lot of sense to use the assessed value of a property as the basis for the “insurance premium” for the Fire Readiness component of water rates. Unfortunately, because of Prop 13, assessed values in California do not correlate to current reality, only to historical reality.

        2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          Robb, it is fairly close to equitable. But due to Prop 13, it is somewhat unfair, all else held equal, to Neighbor A, who bought his house in 2007 and Neighbor B, who bought his identical house in 1983. Neighbor A’s house is assessed much higher and he will pay a higher ad valorem tax.

          Yet, it is still far more equitable than requiring the person with the small cottage in Old East Davis, for example, to pay the same parcel tax as the guy who owns a McMansion on Montgomery Ave. or a McEstate near Lake Alhambra.

          Presumably, better roads and other public infrastructure raises everyone’s property values by some X%. So if Property X is worth twice as much as Property Z, X will benefit twice as much as Z if the streets are in good repair. I would think, then, that X should pay twice as much as Z.

  3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    As you know, a parcel tax charges a fixed amount–say $200–to every property owner, regardless of the size or value of his property. An ad valorem tax is based on the assessed rate.

    Yes, our assessed rates are not totally fair, because of under Prop 13. Nonetheless, in most cases, an ad valorem tax costs twice as much if your property is worth twice as much.

    For example, under an ad valorem tax a house in Lake Alhambra Estates which is assessed at $1.2 million would pay twice as much as a house assessed at $600,000 in Mace Ranch, and a small cottage downtown worth $300,000 would pay one-fourth as much as the Lake Alhambra property. Likewise, with commercial properties, a small business in a converted house would owe much less than a major manufacturer like Mori Seiki with an ad valorem tax.

    The reason I mention a bonded property tax is because, under Prop 13, you cannot raise property taxes above (our current) 1% of assessed value, unless the tax is used to pay off a bond. So what is being suggested–this was not my idea; it was something the City offered for consideration in January–is to float a long-term bond (say 25 years) which produces say $2 million in revenue every year. The ad valorem tax would then be imposed in order to pay the principal and interest on the bond every year for the 25 years.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      It sounds like someone is trying to come up with a fancy way to get around Prop 13’s limitations. But Davis leaders and citizens created much of this problem.

      1. By saying no to numerous businesses over the years for multiple reasons.

      2. By adding numerous added services, benefits, and amenities that many communities don’t have.

      Will this newfangled bond approach be used to pay off the $1 Million used for a fancy utility study, to pay for deteriorating roads, and any other desire of the day?

  4. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    “It sounds like someone is trying to come up with a fancy way to get around Prop 13′s limitations.”

    That is false. If you read Prop 13, the bonded ad valorem tax is written into the proposition’s language. It is in one of the first couple paragraphs.

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