Measure O: Have We Done Enough?

walletAs most people who have been reading this site know, in the next six months the city of Davis voters face a crucial decision. In June, they will decide whether to support the half-cent sales tax increase and then in November, they will face a still undefined parcel tax.

The sales tax will provide the city with revenue to offset increases to employee pensions and health care costs in the upcoming budgets. The parcel tax, will provide the funding to meet our roads, parks, and other infrastructure needs that have been deferred now for nearly a decade due to the economic collapse and the lack of funding.

Yesterday in commenting on the Chamber of Commerce’s endorsements, we wrote that we were troubled that, while the Chamber came out against Measure P, an easy call for them, they failed to take a position on Measure O. The Chamber has asked a lot from the city in terms of commitment to economic development. The city has for the first time really stepped up, whether it has been the hiring of Rob White, the reestablishment of the Innovation Park Task Force, or the general support for Chamber goals.

The Chamber has asked for fiscal responsibility and the council has delivered with a series of reforms, including the wave of MOUs that set the city on much firmer fiscal ground. After all of that, for the Chamber not to step up and support the sales tax is very disappointing.

Michael Bisch, once on the Chamber PAC would respond, “I don’t know how the Chamber feels about this comment, but I for one am choking and sputtering on it. It’s completely divorced from reality turning the public record on its head. Since the financial meltdown in 07/08, the political leadership has steadfastly refused to take prudent, consequential action to deal with the fiscal tsunami. The political leadership over and over again has refused to implement any serious reform to the way it goes about setting priorities and properly allocating resources to those priorities to ensure they are achieved. The political leadership repeatedly assigns way too many tasks to staff, in an entirely haphazard fashion, so that it’s impossible for staff to complete them. The political leadership to this day agendizes items that, wyile important to certain stakeholders and individuals, does little to further community sustainability in this time of crisis. Interwoven throughout this is the terrible lack of transparency. This all has been brought to the political leadership’s attention over and over again to little or no avail. The response has always been, “We’ve got it covered. We know what we’re doing.””

He continued, “As for economic development, way too little, way too late. Even when projects or policies are pursued, they’re entirely consumed by politics, and again, with zero transparency. Please point me to the thorough, public vetting process for McDonough, the creation of the CIO position, Mace 391, etc., etc. The exact opposite is the case. These were all happening behind closed doors. Nothing against McDonough, but I fail to recall any careful weighing of the best use of these economic development dollars/assets. The same is true of the CIO position and Mace 391 decision. For all I know, these decisions were the best use of these dollars/assets, but if so, it was by pure chance because no analysis was ever done as far as I know.”

He added, “Let’s be clear on what economic development is and what it’s not: “Economic development is the sustained, concerted actions of policy makers and communities that promote the standard of living and economic health of a specific area.” –Wikipedia.”

He concluded, “Does that sound like what is being practiced in Davis? I think not.”

Had Mr. Bisch made this argument in 2010, I would have completely agreed with him. Not only did the Council in 2009-10 fail to gain traction on the much needed structural reforms, but they spun it as progress.

To understand the problem, I can simply pull from a January 13, 2010 column entitled, “Council Majority in Need of a Math Lesson on MOU.”

Four years years ago, I wrote: “Last night the Davis City Council ratified yet another MOU by a 3-2 vote with Councilmember Sue Greenwald and Lamar Heystek dissenting.  The contract with the management group was a small step forward over the firefighters’ contract, however, on the whole it fails to deal with the most serious structural issues in a meaningful and sustainable way.”

I continue: “The discussion on Tuesday was particularly enlightening, as the Council Majority essentially made three points.  First they argued that this contract represents a savings of $744,000.  Second, they argued that, while not as much as they might have liked, this contract marks the first time that the council has decreased the size of contracts.  Finally, they argue that this contract begins to deal with the structural issues.”

The problem was that they were using “phony math” to spin the savings.  In essence, the council factored the savings not using the 2009 budget as the baseline but rather projecting the future MOU into the future and calculating the savings by continuing previous pay increases.

So Councilmember Stephen Souza justified his math as follows: “This is a $744,000 savings over what people are being paid right now.  What they’re being paid in the baseline in salary and all-funds benefits this is a savings of $744,000, that’s the math I was taught in school.  And that’s the math that I see when you add the numbers up.  Calculating what is being paid on an annual cost this year, or salary from last year, if you look at 08-09, it was $8,638,000.  You multiply that times three you end up with $26,414,000.  If you take the contract, all funds, in this MOU, you have $25,670,000.  That is a savings of all funds of $744,000.  I think that’s all funds that we’re talking about, not just salaries.”

As I noted at the time: “The math I learned in school tells me that $8,638,000 multiplied by three is not $26,414,000, rather it is $25,914,000.  You subtract this MOU from that and you end up with $244,000 in real savings over the next three years, not $744,000.”

That council had refused to bring in outside negotiators by a 3-2 vote, with Sue Greenwald and Lamar Heystek dissenting, and the result was a series of MOUs that did not deal with the key planks: PERS, OPEB and cafeteria cash-outs.

The council had to play catch up on this and many other policies including the council’s mechanism for balancing the budget from 2008-2011 which included attrition and failure to fund infrastructure needs.

So in 2011, the council would attempt to deal with roads, OPEB, and pension cost increases by cutting $2.5 million from employee compensation. They passed that by a 3-2 vote with 150 employees in the audience in a room that must have been at least 90 degrees. Ultimately, those cuts would never be implemented.

In 2012-13, the council got the agreement of five bargaining units on a cuts package that included measures that the city finally able to pass that it really needed to do three years earlier.  They addressed the issues of retirement benefits, created a second tier for new employees, reduced the cafeteria cash-out from $1500 per month as a maximum down to $500 per month, reduced the costs of retiree medical benefits, and increased the employee contribution for pensions.

In 2013, the council finally got a comprehensive roads report and had to deal with the reality of the city’s roads.

“We knew at the time it was a very difficult vote to basically move $1 million into the roads and $200,000 into the bike paths,” Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk said at the time.  “That was a difficult vote and we knew at the time… that that really wasn’t going to solve the problem by any means.”

“But seeing this report shows you how really a drop in the bucket it really is,” he said.  “It’s very daunting and sobering to realize and think about where we’re going to find this $150 million.”

Then there was Councilmember Brett Lee said in response to the roads report in 2013, “I must admit I was surprised and also saddened by it.  We come to this job and we know we have to make hard decisions and I was thinking we would get the labor in order, we’re going to do certain things and then it’s the nice time when we get to make the parks nice and keep the pools open longer and this is like a bucket of cold water.”

Could the city have gone further on cuts this last round of MOUs? Perhaps, but the reality is that with what they asked for, two bargaining units held out and had to have terms and conditions imposed. Would seven bargaining units holding out have been politically feasible?



The cuts are ugly without the tax measure. The Chamber PAC is supporting incumbent Rochelle Swanson, and challengers Robb Davis and Daniel Parrella for the two seats. Each of them have supported Measure O. Is it fair for the Chamber to support candidates and make their first official action be draconian cuts that strafe city services?

Mr. Bisch argues that the city has not done enough for Economic Development. That is a reasonable point. But in recent years, the city has upped its game. The hire of a Chief Innovation Officer, the re-commitment to economic development, and putting itself on the map last year at Cap to Cap have pushed efforts forward.


Mr. Bisch cites the procedural failures that doomed Mace 391 as proof-positive that the city’s economic development program is not ready for prime time.

Our view is more nuanced. Even if the council had approved Mace 391, it was still looking at a Measure R and with an organized interest pushing back for a conservation easement that would have made Mace 391 dicey.

However, the discussion on Mace 391 galvanized community discussion and put subsequent projects on the radar that could gain voter approval. The door is open to a business park on Mace 200, work is proceeding on a Hotel Conference center that could add half a million in revenue, Nishi and the Gateway project open the doors potentially to other economic development.

It is understandable that the Chamber lacks patience, but the city also has to deal with a population base that is reluctant to support peripheral growth. Changing the mindset will take time.

In the meantime, it seems odd that the Chamber would want to sabotage the city’s current efforts to both make the budget sustainable short and long term by forcing cuts that would strafe city services and bring economic development efforts to a halt.

From that perspective it seems that the Chamber’s failure to support Measure O may be akin to cutting off its own nose to spite its face.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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. Mark West

    We need a comprehensive solution that includes more budget cuts (beyond where we are now), economic development (not just talking about it) and higher taxes. We need all three, plus an improved economy, if we hope to dig ourselves out of the current hole. Taxes alone will not be sufficient to stave of insolvency.

    So far the only thing the City Council has done to implement a solution has been to try to raise taxes. Nothing has been done to either further reduce compensation costs, or to spur economic development. The Council has punted on both of these issues.

    Passing the tax measure without implementing the other reforms is just a repeat of the same tax and spend nonsense that brought us to where we are today. The Chamber PAC clearly understands the history here, and not supporting the tax measure is the rational choice for them to make.

    The current City Council has failed the citizens of Davis in their handling of this fiscal mess. Please remember, they still don’t know the true extent of the deferred maintenance on our infrastructure, so they cannot even say how big a fiscal hole we are in. Until the Council starts acting rationally with a comprehensive approach, there is no reason to give them more money to spend.

    1. David Greenwald

      “So far the only thing the City Council has done to implement a solution has been to try to raise taxes. Nothing has been done to either further reduce compensation costs, or to spur economic development. The Council has punted on both of these issues. ”

      This is untrue. The council first implemented a series of cuts on pensions, on retiree health, on cafeteria cash outs. Did they go far enough? NO. But part of that is they were hamstrung by the 2009 MOUs.

      What can they do further in the interim? Well for one thing they are cutting another $1.41 million for the budget this year regardless of whether the tax passes.

      The second front is economic development – you really want to say nothing? Maybe too little, not enough, not nothing. But if the council gets the Hotel Conference, Mace 200, and Nishi – is that enough for the short term?

      The question then comes to timing. Do you want to implement either the 12.5% or 25% cuts rather than a six year tax? Really?

      So to say they have only implemented a solution to raise taxes is false.

      1. Mark West


        You keep going back to the last round of MOUs as justification…Yes, it could have been much worse, but they still failed to control the growth of compensation. Those contracts are an example of a failure, not a success.

        Since then, all the Council has done is try to raise taxes. We need to cut the budget, and the biggest part of the budget is compensation. We cannot renegotiate the contract, but we can further reduce the number of employees through outsourcing and prioritizing services.

        The Council had a chance last week to move forward with economic development. It was such a high priority item that the discussion started too late at night and was tabled yet again. Yep, working hard. None of the projects that you are calling out as accomplishments have been approved. Nishi, Hotel Conference Center, Mace 200? When do we break ground on any of those? Nothing has been done except more talk. We don’t even have a plan to discuss on Mace 200. Nothing has been implemented.

        One easy change on the economic development front is to remove impediments for redevelopment of downtown properties. The CC made this a priority last year, yet nothing has been done. Why? Because the same CC kept piling on so many other projects that there is insufficient staff time to do the work. Prioritization is probably the most important thing that the CC can do, and yet they continue to fail completely.

        The only thing this council has implemented to address our current fiscal crisis is to raise taxes. When they start implementing further cost cutting and real economic development, I will support the tax increases.

        1. David Greenwald

          “You keep going back to the last round of MOUs as justification…”

          You have to go back to the last round, because the last round bounds what you can do in the subsequent rounds. It’s a sequential game theoretical diagram, each decision node is contingent on the previous decisions.

      2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        “This is untrue. The council first implemented a series of cuts on pensions, on retiree health, on cafeteria cash outs. Did they go far enough?”

        David, you are asking the wrong question. It’s not whether they went far enough or not. The question which needs to be asked is ‘did they implement reforms which would no longer allow the growth in hourly labor costs to exceed the growth in revenues?’ The answer, unfortunately, is they did not. Hourly labor costs keep going up 2-3 times faster than new revenues are coming in.

        Once you understand the question, the obvious answer is to cap the growth of hourly labor compensation. (Note: I am not saying freeze wages or any such thing. I am saying put a cap on how much total hourly labor compensation costs can go up.)

        Beyond the obvious, Davis can do a few other things to get improved city services (in the next round of imposed contracts). One is we can require city workers to work more hours per year. When we pay them not to show up at work as much as 8-10 weeks per year while they are getting full pay, we are guaranteeing a relatively low rate of productivity per hour over the course of a year. Perhaps instead of giving them 3 weeks off for paid holidays, 1 week would be sufficient. Perhaps instead of 5 weeks off for paid vacations, 3 weeks of vacation would suffice. Perhaps instead of 2 weeks of paid time off for management leave, we axed that benefit entirely.

        A second approach which could marginally help improve public services would be to outsource more than we do now. We have been successful with the outsourcing of waste collection, half of parks maintenance and tree trimming to private contractors, who give us as good or better service at lower cost. We should be looking at a whole lot more areas, including vehicle maintenance, swimming pool administration, janitorial services, etc.

        A third area which we clearly need to work on is the revenue side, by attracting more manufacturers and perhaps more retailers and car dealerships. The point, of course, is that if we have a larger tax base–property and sales taxes–hourly revenues to the city would go up and that would allow us to sustainably pay higher hourly total compensation to our workers.

        1. David Greenwald

          “The question which needs to be asked is ‘did they implement reforms which would no longer allow the growth in hourly labor costs to exceed the growth in revenues?’ The answer, unfortunately, is they did not. Hourly labor costs keep going up 2-3 times faster than new revenues are coming in.”

          Maybe that’s the question. The other question is could they have achieved that politically?

          We still have the problem that the cost of provision of benefits has increased while the actual benefit has either remained the same or declined.

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            “The other question is could they have achieved that politically?”

            If there’s a will, there’s a way. If three members of this group wanted to fix the problem, they would have fixed it. Unfortunately, I don’t think intellectually any of them (save maybe Joe Krovoza) really understand what they are doing.

            They seemed to think they made a difference dickering around the edges, without ever looking at total comp. Additionally, none of them really asked city staff the hard questions in the period leading up to the last round of contract talks. I don’t know what was said in closed session. But, publicly, outside of Joe, the others showed no leadership. They seemed to think that city staff was going to solve this problem for them.

          2. Davis Progressive

            i think the whole point is that there isn’t a will. the council isn’t going to try to take on 7 impasses. the community wouldn’t back them. so while i personally think you have a good point on capping total comp, i think we need multiple steps to get there.

          3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            One irony of all this is that the 2009 fire contract did cap the growth of total comp. AFAIK, that’s the only labor deal in the history of Davis which ever even considered total compensation, as opposed to considering parts of it separately.

          4. hpierce

            You are correct. Their strategy was to protect pensions, and post-retirement benefits, figuring that as long as highest year compensation was ‘locked-in’, they would eventually ‘catch-up’ in salary. We will have to wait a bit until we see how well that strategy works..

  2. DT Businessman

    “Had Mr. Bisch made this argument in 2010, I would have completely agreed with him.” -David Greenwald

    Actually, I did make the argument in 2010 and well before then as well. And no you did not agree with me. Not at all.

    -Michael Bisch

  3. DT Businessman

    David, your article is a discombobulated mess with shifting arguments. You cite me opining on the lack of transparency, inability to focus on priorities, poor resource allocation, and general poor governance, then you appear to argue that none of this has been the case since 2010. Do you stand by your argument?

    -Michael Bisch

    1. David Greenwald

      I’m arguing that things have markedly improved since 2010 and I believe that declining the sales tax would be throwing away the baby with the bath water.

  4. Adam Smith

    Voting no on the sales tax increase is a difficult decision, but 5 years from now, I think the city will be better off because the citizens and city council will recognize how desperately we still need to deal with the post employment benefits side of the equation for municipal employees. Also, citizens and municipal employees will recognize the need for revenue generating economic development. The “temporary” tax measure (which will prove not to be temporary) is nothing but a band aid will delay recognition and subsequent action of the severity of the issues. In 5 years, we should have the municipal employment agreements at a sustainable level and some innovation park development completed, with lower taxes. In the meantime, the citizens of Davis will have to weather a bit of storm in order to end up in a better place.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        David, you should know better than to make that bogus argument over roads. The $3 million sales tax increase is not going to fix the roads. The sales tax increase is going to cover the general fund deficit, almost all of which is increased labor and retiree costs plus $400,000 more for water.

        The fact is that if the city wants to address its roads maintenance situation, that will require a second tax increase, which (unfortunately) looks like it will be a parcel tax hike on all properties. The best idea would be a fuels tax hike, but that cannot be done. The next best idea would be a bonded ad valorem tax on property. But that is currently not being considered. So they look like they will charge the same amount to all property owners, whether you own a $300,000 cottage or a $1.5 million mansion.

        1. Davis Progressive

          he’s not making the argument that the sales tax is going to impact roads.

          from the article:

          “The sales tax will provide the city with revenue to offset increases to employee pensions and health care costs in the upcoming budgets. The parcel tax, will provide the funding to meet our roads, parks, and other infrastructure needs that have been deferred now for nearly a decade due to the economic collapse and the lack of funding.”

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            DP, in his argument against “Adam Smith’s” decision to vote no on the sales tax increase and Adam Smith’s belief that in five years “we should have the municipal employment agreements at a sustainable level,” David Greenwald wrote, “By that point our road costs alone with be well over the $600 million estimate.”

            That is a false flag on Greenwald’s part. It may be true. But it has nothing whatsoever to do with Measure O.

          2. Davis Progressive

            the argument is clearly that if we don’t get measure o, we won’t get the parcel tax.

          3. Mark West

            That is your argument.

            The parcel tax is a separate issue and a new CC will have a few months in which to prove that they are able to implement of a comprehensive solution. In addition, with the parcel tax the CC has the option of restricting the use of the funds, for the repair of the roads for instance, something that cannot be done with a sales tax.

            I believe that a parcel tax that is restricted to payment of infrastructure maintenance and repair will pass overwhelmingly. One that has a lot of ‘candy’ added to sweeten the pot (purchase of Nugget Fields, new swimming pool construction, unrestricted uses) will fail miserably.

            As long as the CC continues to sit on their hands with regards to budget cuts and economic development however, there is no reason to pass either tax.

          4. Davis Progressive

            that’s speculation on your part. schools at times barely passed a parcel tax and that was for schools.

          5. Adam Smith

            For the roads, I am in favor of borrowing funds needed to repair the roads over 5 years, and repaying the bonds through a parcel tax that is specifically on only for repaying the bonds that funded the road repair. It may be difficult to pass, but properly explained, I think it has a chance.

          6. Adam Smith

            Well, this is an interesting thought – are you saying that passing the sales tax increases the chance of passing the parcel tax for roads? One tax is a prerequisite for the other in the minds of voters?

          7. Davis Progressive

            i’m saying that if the sales tax fails, the city will have to make cuts and then try again to pass the sales tax.

        2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          Even though some of the fault with our badly deteriorating roads lies with past Davis City Councils–mostly by failing to control the growth of labor costs and secondarily by failing to develop our commercial tax base–I think most of the fault is not ours. I did not realize this until the last few months, but I now think most of the fault for our bad roads in Davis, in Yolo County and elsewhere in municipalities across our state lies with the California Teachers Association and its ERAF.

          ERAF is taking about $8 billion from local governments this year. Since the teachers started stealing this local property tax money and giving to themselves, ERAF has impoverished local governments by about $120 billion. Not all of that money would have gone into road maintenance. But a lot of it would have. Cities and counties, before ERAF, were able to keep up with this expense. Since ERAF, they have not.

          I had thought, before I started looking into ERAF, that the real reason so many cities and counties stopped repairing their roads was the massive increase in labor costs. I still think that is a part of it. However, it just seems logical to me that if cities and counties now need about $8 billion per year to repair their roads, and that amount is being stolen from them by the CTA for ERAF, then most of the roads crisis must be a consequence of ERAF. And further, the great reduction in budgets for road repairs in our region began in the mid-1990s, just after ERAF came in, and well before the explosion in costs for OPEB, enhanced pensions and medical coverage.

          1. Davis Progressive

            you undermine your point when you use terms like “stealing.”

            so in 1992, California was in a serious deficit and in order to meet its obligations to fund under Prop 98, it enacted legislation that shifted
            partial financial responsibility for funding education to local government. they did this by creating “educational revenue augmentation funds” ERAFs that direct money to schools out of local agency property taxes.

            most of the shift has come from counties however, not cities. so it’s not clear that davis would have been able to fund roads without the eraf.

            moreover eraf is a budgetary priority and the state has prioritized education over cities and counties. maybe that’s the wrong move, maybe it’s the right move. it’s not stealing though.

          2. Davis Progressive

            the state legislature passed a law. the voters vote for the legislature. that is not theft. i understand you believe taxation is theft, but that again puts you in the realm of the crazy.

          3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            It’s not a theft from the voters. It’s a theft from the local governments which passed the property taxes and counted on the revenues they generated to pay for road repairs and other things.

            If the state had asked the local governments, and permission was granted, it would not be a theft. But in this case, it was simply one level higher of government taking away money, without asking, from a lower level of government.

            Compounding that is that the state law forbids local governments from raising a fuels tax, which could be done to pay for roads. Bottom line: the state just does not care how much it damages cities and counties.

          4. hpierce

            Correct again, and the State and the Fed have pretty much eliminated ‘pass-throughs’ of gas tax funds, which historically paid for City and County road maintenance.

          5. Tia Will


            “the state law forbids local governments from raising a fuels tax,”
            Do you know the history of how this came to pass ?

        3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          I should clarify that the reason for making those ERAF comments is to say I do not oppose a tax hike to pay for roads maintenance. I would prefer ERAF were eliminated. But since the CTA owns our legislature–“Rich, it’s much worse than you think,” one state legislator from Davis told me of CTA’s power at the Capitol not long ago–that will not happen.

          I have not made up my mind yet on Measure O. However, I would endorse it if I believed it was likely that those pushing it favored sustainable labor contracts from here on out. I will vote no on O if I think they are just endlessly asking for more money without understanding how to solve the long-term crisis. At this point, no one on the Pro-O side has made the case for sustainability. But the difference between a general fund tax hike and one for roads is that the former problem is of our own making, the latter is mostly not.

    1. Frankly

      I agree.

      Largely absent from this discussion is the point about economic development and the revenue increases derived from it.

      It is clear to me that there are too many people in this town with their head still stuck in the sand thinking that Davis should never grow and that it will be just fine. And/or there are too many people completely ignorant of the dire fiscal circumstances and what it means to them personally.

      So how do we correct for those two groups still preventing us from moving forward with a level of needed economic development and the increased revenue it provides?

      Crisis. Shock therapy. Feeling the pain.

      I wish this was not required. I wish people could deal with financial facts and figures and understand the simple points of government inflows and outflows. But unfortunately it has been made clear to me that too many remain in denial or ignorant, and the city council is only paying lip service to economic development… probably because of the former.

      What is clear to me… approving another tax increase does nothing to solve our structural budget problems… it will only delay the inevitable crash while exacerbating the problems we face. For example, if Sheila Allen is elected, she has made it clear that she will steer more city revenue to employee compensation. With a tax measure passed the budget pressure will be temporarily relieved and suddenly we will stop talking about the shortfalls.

      Passing any more tax increases at this point will just be more can-kicking down the road for a much bigger problem for our children to have to deal with.

      It is time to put on our adult big-boy pants and accept the consequences for what we have done over-compensating city employees and allowing them to legally lock it in. Now we have no choice but to cut services… close a fire station, close parks, close senior and childcare services, stop spending money on POUs and bike certifications. Let’s get it done.

      Or let’s start immediately and rigorously growing our economy so that more revenue flows into our city coffers to pay for these things.

      Once Davis is brining in revenue per capita commensurate with other comparable cities, then and only then should we talk about tax increases.

        1. Frankly

          Yes. Due to the fact that the city council, with their actions and lack of actions, have confirmed what I suspected when I originally supported the sales tax increase and possibly a parcel tax increase as a temporary method to fill the gap until we could replace the revenue from economic development.

          And related to this, the fact that there are too many active and vocal Davis voters still demanding that Davis never grow and holding this irrational view that we can somehow cut more spending without impacting anything services they care about.

          1. Don Shor

            I have had two different people say to me (paraphrasing) that they would support the sales tax measure if they knew who was going to win the council election.

          2. Davis Progressive

            in other words they are not going to count on a majority of Frerichs-Wolk-Allen to hold the line.

          3. Davis Progressive

            you’re not being very realistically. you’re not going to radically move people in your direction and a crisis will cause them to revert to core beliefs. it just means a tax passes six months later that’s twice as big.

          4. Frankly

            Maybe, but then there are the ignorant… those that are not paying attention. How might them feeling the pain of eliminated services motivate them to come to the table to combat those entrenched no-growth zealots?

            You paint me as destructoman… but it really these no-growth zealots. All we need is for more of our silent majority to wake up and put a stop to it.

          5. Davis Progressive

            my view is that you have a segment of old guard no growth voters, you have a larger segment of people who are commuting to sacramento and sleeping here at night, and a segment of parents too busy running around with their kids to pay attention to anything other than the extreme news.

          6. Tia Will


            “You paint me as destructoman… but it really these no-growth zealots’

            No Frankly, when you call for destruction, it really is you calling for destruction. You have taken this position previously with the schools and you are taking it now with regard to the city. Each individual is responsible for the consequences of their own positions and actions, you included.

          7. Frankly

            Each individual is responsible for the consequences of their own positions and actions, you included.

            Agreed. So the no growth zealots are responsible for the lack of revenue to the city, and the protect-education-status-quo are responsible for the crappy outcomes of public schools, and the hyper inflation of higher learning.

            But when the voting public does not understand these things mostly because the media puts all its time and effort into sensationalizing a story about the LA Clippers owner instead of reporting on these more important issues… and because the people are otherwise busy and sleepy… what choice exists other than to see Rome burn?

            I am familiar with the principle of thirds… 1/3 of people will get it and support the solution. 1/3 will be against it. and the remaining 1/3 will be ignorant and inactive. Progress comes from neutralizing the 1/3 against it by activating the 1/3 that is ignorant and inactive. And they are activated by the pain of the real consequences of the thing OR propaganda.

            But since the engines of propaganda (our media and schools) are controlled by the 1/3 against… there is no choice but to support Armageddon as a possible savior.

          8. hpierce

            Yes… “shock therapy”… the best and brightest will retire or move on, many to the private sector, where their experience and skills are actually valued. At least in the professional classes.

            Guess who are left?

            By all means, go for the nuclear option. In this economy, you can always still find MIT [Manila Institute of Technology] grads to backfill the professional positions.

            The more we lose current employees, more savings, and replacements (if any) can be compensated at lower rates, lower pensions, etc. Sounds financially sound.

          9. Frankly

            Note that the “nuclear option” is simply showing the real result earlier. Basically making the extent of the problems transparent… and killing the ability of politicians to keep hiding the truth.

            And I recognize that the result of this could very well be greater support for tax increases rather than demands for sufficient economic development. But then we would know.

      1. Davis Progressive

        “close a fire station”

        how the hell are you going to close a firestation and what difference does it make unless you layoff 12 firefighters to go along with it? that’s just crazy talk.

        1. Frankly

          No, it is not crazy talk. Close a fire station and force the merger with the UCD firefighters. We would lay off some of the 12 if not all. Davis would be fine.

          I all comes down to what we can afford.

          1. Davis Progressive

            the analysis does not bare that out. merging with ucd firefighters doesn’t compensate for the loss of 12 firefighters because we are already using the on-duty firefighters in our local calls for service.

            you may be recommending that uc davis then hire 12 firefighters at uc rates, that may be workable, but it is not what you said. you still have the problem of deployment, even trauernicht couldn’t justify closing the central firestation because of the distribution of calls for service.

            so yes, crazy talk. or at least not well thought through.

          2. Frankly

            Davis would be well enough supported with two fire stations with changes to how they respond to medical emergencies.

            I am not the only one “thinking this through”. There is at least one city council member thinking the same.

          3. Davis Progressive

            i understand but the most reform oriented fire chiefs we have had, kenley and trauernicht do not agree.

          4. Frankly

            That is like asking the zoo keeper if he agrees that we should eliminate some of the animals and their pens.

            Sticking with my animal metaphor, it is a bit like the fox-chief guarding all the hen houses.

  5. Davis Progressive

    sheila allen was quoted as saying she doesn’t read the vanguard anymore. the problem here is that she is ignoring a sizable portion of the population who are not only more aggressive on this issue than she is, but are more aggressive than the vanguard. how is she going to hold the line against that.

    1. Frankly

      Another example of why she makes for a terrible choice for city council. If she does not read the Vanguard it is indicative of someone unwilling or unable to face up to critics.

        1. South of Davis

          Everyone I’ve ever known that says they “don’t read” what the press writes about them “ALWAYS reads” what the press writes about them (Hi Shelia)…

  6. Michelle Millet

    And related to this, the fact that there are too many active and vocal Davis voters still demanding that Davis never grow and holding this irrational view that we can somehow cut more spending without impacting anything services they care about.

    I don’t think this is an accurate representation of most voters. My assessment is that most reasonable people have no problem with controlled growth. They may not be the loudest, but that is most likely due to the fact that they are busy worrying about running their daily lives. The vocal anti-growth extremist may be loud, but my guess is that their numbers are proportionally lower then you are giving them credit for.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i think that’s a more accurate view than frankly’s. i think he listened too hard to some of the voting that happened during the recession and forgot it was during a recession. so let’s look more objectively – the voters allowed wildhorse to go forward, it allowed nugget, it voted against covell (for good reasons), it voted for target, and it voted against p. that’s not zero growth. and if anything i think the population has become less “progressive” based and more cosmopolitan. the next generation looks less like julie and sue and more like brett and robb. it’s not a huge difference, but it is a difference.

    2. South of Davis

      Michelle wrote:

      > My assessment is that most reasonable people have no problem with controlled growth.

      Not that long ago almost 75% (aka “most”) of Davis said NO to building less than 200 “green” homes next to Wildhorse.

      About the only people that want more development in Davis is people that own or work at business in Davis (since more customers mean more money), renters (since more homes mean lower rents) and people that want to buy a home (since more homes mean lower prices).

      The far left hate to spoil “mother earth” with anything (but their homes and vacation homes) and always vote against growth. The far right and middle (that already own homes) know that high demand (due to a safe city with good schools) and low supply means their homes will keep going up in value and/or will drop less (see Elk Grove an example) if/when the market crashes again…

      1. Frankly

        I tend to agree with SOD here. We can see it in the opinions of people like Don Shor and Tia Will, and also council candidate Munn with his Harrington-group connection.

        There are these two groups and they are very vocal and active. They get together to kill an opportunity like Mace 391… something that any comparable city would have clawed and scratched to get so they could leverage it for the financial benefits to the city.

        But I agree that there is a silent majority too busy and too sleepy to pay attention to all these budget and development policy issues. If we pass a sales tax they will go back to sleep. If we don’t and cut the summer youth program that they were counting on to put their kids in so they can get some sleep… then they might wake up enough to start understanding the dire financial situation. And if they understand they might join in opposition to those previous two groups that have dominated Davis politics for decades.

        1. Michelle Millet

          Do any of the people you mention oppose development on any of the 3 sites specified by the Innovation Task force?

          Give people good information and they will vote in a reasonable way. I have a lot of friend who opposed Covell Village who would support a business park on one of these 3 sites.

          1. Michelle Millet

            When I was canvassing I talked to someone who was VERY opposed to peripheral development. So opposed she ripped up the candidates card when she heard he might support such an idea. When I explained to the location of the potential sites she ended up agreeing to put said candidates sign in her yard.

            Give people a chance to be reasonable by presenting reasonable options.

        2. Don Shor

          I tend to agree with SOD here. We can see it in the opinions of people like Don Shor and Tia Will, and also council candidate Munn with his Harrington-group connection.

          Excuse me? In what regard are my positions on growth anything like the others in your list?

        3. Tia Will


          “They get together to kill an opportunity like Mace 391…”

          Please, even one comment that I made against Mace 391. This is a typical tactic for you. Instead of considering what I actually have said, its just so much easier to pretend to know what I would say.

          1. Frankly

            Seriously? The two of you want to go on record as supporting Mace 391?

            Are you bluffing, or do you really want me to dig up your posts on that topic?

          2. Don Shor

            Do you think I’m stupid? Of course I opposed it. Vigorously, with lots of reasons. I also support any number of possible growth options. I’m not a “no-growth zealot.” I’ve made my positions on growth quite clear. For some reason, you haven’t ever changed your tune on what I believe, preferring instead to continue to distort my positions and use characterizations that are inaccurate. I don’t know why you do it. But you do.
            I do not know what Harrington or Munn’s positions were on Mace 391, or Tia’s for that matter. I do know that Mike Harrington supported Wildhorse Ranch, which I opposed. I felt the Cannery should be a business park or higher-density housing. I support various other… oh, forget it. You’ll just lie about it again next time.

          3. Frankly

            I consider you no-growth because of your position on Mace 391 combined with many posts where you debate that you prefer Davis preserve ag land and that you want it to maintain its ag legacy. You make these point in general opposition to other points in support of peripheral growth.

            Frankly, many things you post conflict with your insistence that you support the recommendations of the innovation task force. My sense is that you support them because you doubt they will every get done.

            Again, I have this sense because of general contradictions in things you write.

          4. Don Shor

            many things you post conflict with your insistence that you support the recommendations of the innovation task force.

            March 20, 2014 at 9:50 am (Edit)

Same challenge [to you and Mark West]: find an instance where I have contradicted myself on economic development issues. Otherwise withdraw the accusation.

            Still waiting, Frankly.

          5. Don Shor

            My sense is that you support them because you doubt they will every get done.

            My expectation, based on comments by Rob White and others, is that there will be proposals before the voters within the year for Nishi and Ramos/Bruner, and probably shortly thereafter for some property near the hospital. Your “sense” is wrong.
            I don’t write “contradictions.” Preserving agricultural land does not preclude development. It just affects the decision-making process as to where to grow. In other areas with other types of resources, similar consideration is given to natural lands, wildlife habitat, open space — things that the people there value as contributing to the quality of life. Lands of lesser quality, and those which don’t increase development pressure on nearby parcels, are given priority. Those things are codified in the General Plan of a region, which is the guiding document and carries some force of law. The planning process includes all of that, not just where one particular landowner wants to build something.
            As I’ve said before, I believe the General Plans for Davis and for Yolo County reflect the will of the public much more than the vision you have put forward. In keeping with those principles, growth should be directed to poorer soils and sites which won’t increase development pressures onto better soils. An urban limit line can help with that process, and conservation easements are one tool in implementing that. Woodland has an urban limit line, and Davis should as well — unless we all want Davis and Woodland to simply merge.
            So the ITF is looking at sites that I believe have potential for development and that apparently have willing landowners. Those sites, along with property inside Mace Curve, could add up to several hundred acres for business/innovation/tech park development. That is in keeping with the dispersed development model advocated in the final report of the ITF before it was re-established.
            None of what I am describing could reasonably be described as a “no-growth” position of a “zealot.”

      2. Davis Progressive

        “Not that long ago almost 75% (aka “most”) of Davis said NO to building less than 200 “green” homes next to Wildhorse.”

        not long ago being four and a half years ago at the low point of the housing market during the worst recession since the great depression, is that really a realistic baseline?

  7. Michelle Millet

    Not that long ago almost 75% (aka “most”) of Davis said NO to building less than 200 “green” homes next to Wildhorse.

    I thought we were talking about economic development, not housing developments, which I believe in the long run end up costing the city money.

    1. South of Davis

      Michelle wrote:

      > I thought we were talking about economic development, not housing
      > developments, which I believe in the long run end up costing the city money.

      People that hate housing come up with studies that show ALL new housing development cost a city money (while ALL developers will have studies that show the housing will provide positive cash flow).

      In real life “some” cost money, but most (All in areas where the people always vote for parcel taxes like in Davis and the SF Peninsula) end up providing positive cash flow.

        1. South of Davis

          Michelle wrote:

          > It is my understanding that the Cannery will start costing the city
          > money in 10 years.

          Since no one has any idea what tax revenue or city expenses are going to be 8-10 years from now any “study” will just end up supporting the result the person that paid for the study wants.

          For a more accurate idea of the REAL cost we should look at actual (over 10 year old) neighborhoods in Davis and see what the actual revenue and expenses are (I don’t think anyone can show real numbers that prove that Lake Alhambra started “costing the city money” after 10 years)…

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Part of the problem with some peripheral developments in Davis is that the share of local property taxes going to the City of Davis, per some prior agreement, is especially low.

            Another issue with housing developments is the high share of low-income housing required. Were everything market-rate, this would be much less of an issue. But the way rent-restricted properties are taxed, the city almost gets nothing from them, and, at least in some cases, they bring on a high use of public safety calls.

            But ultimately, the real problem with judging the long-term tax positives or negatives with housing–the point which South of Davis I think is getting at–is how much you pay your police and fire, and if there are new public green spaces, how much you pay to maintain those. If you assume city employee costs will just keep going up 8-10% per year, while revenues grow at 2-3% per year, it won’t be long before costs outstrip income from a project. However, if you control labor costs appropriately–even make them lower year over year if you wanted to–you won’t likely run into much of a revenue-cost problem. But it’s hard to expect Davis to be run so well.

        2. Tia Will

          I think that dividing people arbitrarily into “growth” and “no growth” except at the absolute extremes is far too simplistic.

          I can only speak for myself, however, I realize that even though I prefer a smaller size, some growth is inevitable. I do not oppose all growth. I do believe that what is needed in Davis are more apartments, and more reasonably priced homes. I do not believe that we need more homes in the 400,000 to 600,000 dollar range which will not provide the kinds of homes that Daniel Parrella and other like minded young people are saying they need. This and the fact that I do not believe it to be innovative nor demonstrate adequate connectivity were my reasons for opposing the Cannery in the case of population growth.

          With regard to economic growth, I am in favor of an innovation park in theory. But just like with any business proposal, I want to see the plan before I would just write a blank check using our currently open space. At this point in time I do not know enough about the pros and cons of all the sites, but tend to favor the north western area on the basis of what I understand to the the soil quality there.

          I do not favor local big box and peripheral retail which I see as redundant and a rapidly aging business model.

        3. Tia Will


          “It is my understanding that the Cannery will start costing the city money in 10 years.”

          This point was not disputed by the Cannery development representative at one of the public information sessions.

          1. Mark West

            The analysis assumed that the rate of compensation growth would continue at unsustainable levels. All we will need to do is control the rate of compensation growth, and the project will be net positive.

  8. Don Shor

    What he believed six weeks ago:
    “I support the sales tax increase… not strongly… but I support it nonetheless.
    Here is why…
    First – I think the mistakes made by previous council were at a different time where many Davis voters had their head happily in the sand either denying that we had any serious fiscal problems, or overly optimistic that the economy and wealth would keep growing so that we could put it off to another day. Think the numbers of voters still holding these views has dwindled quite a bit.
    Second – More of us know the true financial picture and it is much bleaker than we every knew.
    Third – Although Davis is a significant liberal town, it has always had a core of strong fiscal conservatism… a core that previously never reared up in support or opposition to spending and revenue policies because of the previous.
    Four – When organizations start having financial difficulty that causes significant job security concerns, it is the best employees that tend to leave. Just like in the general economy, certainty is a very important consideration for economic decision making. If the sales tax measure fails, we will likely see some good people quit out of concern, and the less good people sticking around to fill the void.
    Five – Related to the previous, I am never in favor of using a bomb to effect needed change unless a bomb is needed. A failed sale tax increase would be like a fiscal bomb into the city budget and it would require some immediate cutting. I am reasonably comfortable at this point that our city council will do all the right things to use a scalpel to cut strategically after the sale tax measure is passed.
    Now, here is my final “kicker” to all of this…
    If Ms. Allen is elected to the city council, then I am going to by absolutely 100% against the sales tax increase and any subsequent parcel tax increase. Because if she is elected it destroys my opinion that Davis is filled with fiscal conservatives and people that no longer have their head in the sand. And because of that, I shift to being in favor of the fiscal bomb approach.
    But how will I know if Ms. Allen is elected in time to help me make my decision on the sales tax initiative?
    First, I will pay attention to the general predictions of experts on this as to what her chances may be… including how much campaign money she gets and who endorses her (and at this point it is not trending well for my support of the sales tax), and I will wait until the last minute to vote hoping to see some precinct results.”

    Submitted on 2014/03/12 at 12:33 pm

    1. Frankly

      Nothing out of synch here except for my more current recognition that some of the city council members were only paying lip service to their commitment to urgent economic development. You don’t put off an important economic developing agenda item for 4 weeks if you are committed to urgent economic development. I sense when I and others are being played. The problem is that there is too much history supporting my sense. Any council at this point would have to go over a bit to assure us that they are honest in their commitment to support economic development. Instead we have had bag bans, platinum bike certifications and POUs… and ceremonial crap… and then the delay of a critical ED presentation. And Mace 391 still glares as a completely fiscally irresponsible decision.

      So I think I would be quite stupid to support the tax increase considering my position and recent events.

          1. Michelle Millet

            Here is a link to where you can watch them online either live, or at your leisure. Decisions, who is making them, and how they are making them, are more nuanced then reporting allows for. (of course sometimes without some background information you can’t always tell why some decisions are made, I believe Michael Bisch refers to this as the 2+2=5 phenomenon)


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