Third Part of the Candidates Forum Including Affordable Housing and POU


The five candidates for Davis City Council met on Wednesday evening for the first time in a candidates forum sponsored by the Davis Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee (ChamberPAC).

The event was moderated by Chamber Executive Director Kemble Pope and held at the Davis Community Chambers.  The format was similar to the forum held in 2012 – each candidate was asked their own specific question and other candidates at times could dive in with rebuttals and questions.

This is the third of three parts.

The first question was on affordable housing.

Robb Davis: My default answers say yes we should do something but I’m only going to answer yes in the context of sitting down with the affordable housing advocates, the affordable housing providers in the county. We need to revision where we’re going with this.  We’re going to have to continue to provide it, we are part of the region and we need to continue provide it but it is re-visioning time for affordable housing.

Rochelle Swanson: I’d agree with Robb that the current model is broken without funding.  But I really want to echo what you said about the dispersed affordable housing that’s part and parcel about what’s made Davis this amazing.  It’s clear the children thrive when they grow and make social economic development throughout a community and everybody benefits from the diversity rather than it being subject to one part of town. I think rather than just look at large “A” affordability we also have to truly talk about small “a” affordability where we can integrate into our current stock and as we move forward in partnering with the people who are doing the development even if it’s remodeling so that we can actually add in components and find ways that we can address it.

John Munn: With all respect Kemble, I think you got it dead wrong that sustainability and affordable housing are separate.  In fact you have to have a sustainable financial situation in order to support affordable housing, so actually they aren’t separate they’re intertwined in it.  Just you can’t take them apart.  Davis has had lots of experience of trying different models of affordable housing and as far as I know – and I’ve always been on the periphery of this – none of them has really work that well. That doesn’t mean we give up, but it does mean that we have to learn from past models and past problems.  Personally what I prefer is the mixed-housing model the Davis has used in the past where you have relatively inexpensive homes intermingled among the larger homes and I think if you look at the west side of town on the other side of 113 you see some of that.  It makes for a very good community and it helps hold some housing at a somewhat cost.

After a quick follow up by Kemble Pope, Mr. Munn added, “I think what I was trying to describe at the end there would be more like the little “a”  that you’re talking about but you don’t have development that is all one type. I like to mix, I think it makes for better communities.”

Sheila Allen: I want to clarify one thing, in New Harmony there was much concern from the Montgomery Elementary School that’s very nearby, that they were going to be inundated with more low-income students. Really they were kids were already in our district, already in Montgomery and now they have some new housing where they could go.  So that was positive for them. I am very much supportive of new neighborhoods where we have all different incomes together and all different ages together and I do have concerns about what happened around Montgomery, that’s where there’s a lot of affordable housing concentrated and then it makes for different feel for the neighborhood

In response to a follow up question, she continued, “That’s on the part of the community’s responsibility. I do think we have need of a community conversation about how big that we need to go.  We need to have conversations with the other levels of government to see if we can draw some of that money to Davis, but it’s just a small amount but do think it’s better to do that the mixed approach then to have separate.”

Daniel Parrella: I think you nailed it on the head when we can’t really afford to continue subsidizing, not in the near future. I mean I think that right now – if we declare bankruptcy it’s because because of the roads not because of the pensions.  And it’s one of those things, we need to establish our priorities. I will say that the little “a,” the idea of small home movement, I think has always meshed well with Davis. I always think that one of our infill projects with a small home movement would be phenomenal. It doesn’t have to be quite as extreme as say the domes but I think the idea of having very small houses, on very small lots that are affordable, not in the government subsidy way but they’re just much cheaper than the average home in Davis.  I think that meshes with Davis and that would be something I would be interested in looking into.

Kemble Pope asked about the ten-day rule for agenda items and a normal time rule where the council meets twice a month and adjourns at a certain time.

Daniel Parrella: I think that our city employees are stressed and overworked right now, there’s  no doubt about it.  I don’t think the city council says no to enough items – those things where we just go everywhere.  The ten-day rule is kind of interesting, I will have to I think on it, however I’d be willing adjourn city council meetings earlier.   However I would say I prefer to just to have weekly city council meetings.  I mean we all know what we’re getting into up here, if time’s an issue we really shouldn’t be running. I think that I much prefer weekly meetings that adjourn say at 10 or 11 that we can look into it.  As for the ten-day rule I have to look more into that.   I understand where you’re coming from but really it just takes discipline on behalf of city councilmembers to decide what we should focus on at this time.

Robb Davis: I would support the ten-day rule.  Look I’ve been on a lot of boards, anytime you come and want to change a cultural thing like that, change the frequency of meetings or noticing, it feels like how can we do it.  We can do it.  We must do it for the reasons you’re talking about.  It’s about transparency, it’s about giving people time to vet the issues and have time.  That is a no-brainer.  Finishing at 11 o’clock, sure great idea, here’s the issue, we have an engaged citizenry.  They want to talk, we need to listen to them, that’s our format.  What we can do is we can make sure as a city council that we set priorities at the beginning of the year and place them first on the agenda.  People want to stay later and talk we will be here to listen, but we need to make sure that the key business items core business items get dealt with first. So if we do that we can still maintain a high-level of citizen engagement which is going to continue but we can also make sure that we get priorities dealt with first. And I would support those kind of changes.

Sheila Allen: Actually before Gina (Daleiden), Tim (Taylor) and I were elected and I was sitting out in that audience, it would always go way past midnight.  I remember taking notes and I said we’re starting the budget 1:30 AM, nobody’s watching but me.  So once we go on there, we made the rule that we had to vote every fifteen minutes once we got to 11 o’clock as a way to help to reel us in.  Now I’m, it’s really the chair – so the mayor for hear – the school board president works with the administration to look at to see where there’s going to be the public input which is very important and to see what will be a hot topic.  You can never tell what’s going to walk in the door there might be something.  But it’s really the responsibility of the team to make sure that it’s short enough.   So now we fixed that problem.  I’m experienced in that area and its one of the things that I would like to do.  Regarding the two times a month, I think we might be able to do that.   But there is important work that needs to be done so we might have to meet more than two times per month and the staff reports 10 days before, I’m absolutely [ in support].

John Munn: I think we’re talking about a ten-day rule here for agenda items and not letting meetings run later than 10 or 11 o’clock.  Sounds good to me.  I particularly like the early adjournment part now that I’m eligible for Medicare. I remember trying to stay awake in late night school board meetings. I want to agree with Robb about prioritizing the agenda items so that the issues that people are most interested in do come up earlier because I’m not sure that all of the business of the city can be conducted in two meetings a month from 7 to 11. I just don’t know that that can be done. So I wouldn’t commit to that but I like the idea of prioritizing the items.

Rochelle Swanson: I’m in a unique position because I’m in the middle of this. Couple things I’m going to start with.  100 less employees. Part of my consulting business is to work in other jurisdictions and I’ve done the 10-day rule and it’s an excellent idea and to have the two meetings per month.  If we have a ten-day rule we have to think of that Thursday because a week and a half in advance, so staff is constantly preparing for the next meeting. When you have a small amount of items – in budget times it doesn’t work.  When we have a small amount of items on an agenda you can do that.  Robb is right. This is Davis, people are engaged, I do think that we can prioritize. I think we can streamline the way that people come and engage in a public comment a lot of other communities use cards and other pieces.

Kemble Pope went to a yes or no question: do you support the recommendations of the Innovation Parks Task Force?

John Munn: Hasn’t read it all.
Sheila Allen: Yes
Daniel Parrella: Yes
Rochelle Swanson: Yes
Robb Davis: Yes

Kemble Pope next asked about the city going to a POU and whether the city should continue to invest funds into the project.

Robb Davis: I very much agree with the stance that Brett Lee took on this a week or so ago.  Invest.  Invest can mean using more intensively local expertise.  That’s exactly what we have.  We can continue to pursue all options for local control.  We can do it by using people who are in our community to help us understand the full range of options.  This is the future, we need to walk into it, we can use our local resources to get us there.

Kemble Pope followed up.

Robb Davis:  Much reduced city dollars. We can get some volunteerism – it’s already happening.  We can also possibly use local consultants at a much lower rate.  It’s already happening.

Kemble Pope interjected again.

Robb Davis:  (Brett Lee) used a very specific thing which I think is right, which is what is the timeline that’s ahead of us.  What’s the timeline for getting to a POU?  That was his question, give me what other cities have experienced.  But I can tell you, already in this community there are volunteers, they are people involved in the energy industry who are already lifting and saying this is what it’s going to take to get to a dispersed supply and distribution system – because that’s the future.

Kemble Pope pressed again, asking them to put a dollar amount.  Robb Davis said he could not answer that question, but stated it is far under a million.  When pressed on whether it’s $100,000, he responded, “I’m just not going to answer that question right now.  All I’m saying is we have a significant possibility of drawing in volunteers and volunteers here.  Brett’s approach is to take a very careful look at what the process is going to be – I support that.”

Rochelle Swanson: Significant is a spongy word.  1950s Berryessa water rights.  It’s never a good time to invest, it’s always an easy argument.  I stood strong with Brett that we need to slow down and go in a staged approach.  I think it was premature to do the project manager before we hear from a couple more jurisdictions about what their process is.  I do think we need to start thinking about it realistically but just be trapped within the minds of a publicly owned utility but also be able to explore other green renewables.  But it’s never going to be a good time and I agree with Robb, that we have some excellent resources and I think we have to move forward with it.

After a following, she explained that while there are other communities that have tried this, “they are not all like Davis…  We have an incredible brain trust in our community.  We have a commitment to an ethos of renewable energy, so I think comparing doesn’t always work apples to apples.”

Mr. Pope followed up, “Is this the right time to be the innovator?’  Ms. Swanson responded, “I think it is the right time to do the exploration about the resources we have, I do not support just suddenly committing the full 600 ($600,000) and that is why continually we push on the phasing so we have an opportunity if it looks like it is not the right fit.  But I think that it’s short-sided for us to not look now while we have people engaged in the opportunities to actually explore our options.”

Daniel Parrella: I don’t think we should ever stop innovating.  I think that Robb really hit the nail on the head when looking at the housing steering committee, the innovation park task force, the downtown parking task force, the water advisory committee, I was always blown away by how knowledgeable some of the people are in here.  One thing I think the city should do is convene some sort of public utility company commission with the idea of reaching out to Marin County, Sonoma County, SMUD, Roseville, all of the places that have either gone with community choice aggregation or some kind of public utility company and moving ahead from there.

Sheila Allen: Two weeks ago when I was doing my walking, the only thing that people wanted to talk about was the Fifth Street diet.  This weekend people only wanted to talk about public utility.  I could not find anybody who was interested in us spending money right now to do this.  I absolutely agree that we need to move towards more renewables.  I really appreciated any time the city wants to do something that will save me 20 percent on my electrical bill or any other bill, but I think hiring a manager a moving forward with this right now is not the right time.

John Munn: I’m not going to sugar-coat this.  I don’t support pursuing a city-run utility at this time or spending money studying it.  We need to fix our problems first and then my requirements for seriously considering a publicly owned utility at any time are that it be clear from the outset that a city owned utility must be as reliable as what it replaces and must provide electricity at rates that are competitive with PG&E.

Kemble Pope then asked each candidate in ten seconds to get at their formal experience with budget.  He asked, “What is the largest budget (in dollars) per annum which you have been responsible for?”

John Munn: DJUSD, $40 to $50 million, four years.
Sheila Allen: DJUSD, $85 million (it’s gone up since John Munn was on the school board), nine years.
Daniel Parrella, his business, “Won’t go into details about revenue but less than $84 million” and “always dealing with less money than you want to have to deal with.”
Rochelle Swanson, $245 million, City of Davis, four years
Robb Davis, CEO of a non-profit organization, Mennonite Central Committee, annual budget of $45 million, 18 months.

Kemble Pope spoke about the overburdening of taxes.  He said, “We have  120 fewer staff members, we have actually done a good job of cutting, cutting, a lot of that’s through attrition.”  He added, “We had a budget surplus, we did not have a budget deficit six years ago.  Yet the council continues to take on new projects and assign them to city staff.” He asked the candidates to explain if elected, how they would address this imbalance.

John Munn: The way you address it is that you recognize it being a problem and you prioritize what you think the important things (are) that the council needs to get done.  I see doing a budget review process as the most critical action that the council should be involved in.  So my priorities in staff work would be in that are and not having them work on public utility proposals and paid parking proposals and all of these other things that we have been talking about here tonight that really require a balanced budget in order to successfully implement them.”

Sheila Allen:  We’ve experienced this at the school district.  At a certain point you say, you can’t cut your way out of it and you have to look at what are the priorities.  Staff need to give feedback to the council so that that they know when, even if they have an expectation something’s going to get done, it won’t get done because there are just not sufficient time or finances or people to do it.  So I think that there has to be that honest consultation, and each time before the council makes a decision to add either additional something that needs to be funded or needs to have more people, they need to have the conservation with the staff and with the community when something needs to be done.  Because it’s likely not realistic at this time unless you take something off the plate.

Daniel Parrella: Every time an agenda item goes on the city council – I don’t think I’ve ever seen, no we can’t do that right now it’s too much time.  Some issues that we obviously have to move into.  I think even the little ones where you say, why don’t we have staff look into this, why don’t we have staff get back to us next week, I think there comes a time when we have to take some of the little things or even some of the big things and understand as Sheila and John have been going on about priorities, if we can find the ones we really need to deal with, at this time of fiscal crisis, that could help alleviate some of the strain for some of the staff members.

Rochelle Swanson: Six years ago we did not have a real budget surplus.  We probably at that time had a debt of $10 to $50 million if you included all of the unfunded maintenance for our parks and our roads and all of the rest of our infrastructure.  So I challenge that premise.  I think we just had things off the books that we now have on the books.  Projects pay for staff not programs.  We’ve done a lot of project cut backs in our community –every time something is put together, if there’s a building built, if there’s redevelopment happening, those are line item budgets that actually assign people to those to cover that.  So it doesn’t just  come directly out of the general fund.  I think by doing some realignment on what we’re focusing on where we have our staff, we’d be in better alignment.  We also need our community to get engaged in what prioritized.  When costs come forward and fees come forward we often end up in a conflict where people do not want to pay services and yet we have to fund staff.

Robb Davis: I disagree with your conclusion that the city did a good job in cutting by attrition.  All that gives us is less staff.

Kemble Pope interjects, “I didn’t say it was good, I said it happened.” 

Robb Davis responded, “You said they did a good job…  When you cut by attrition… you end up with really bad imbalances, especially attrition at this level.  We need to do an analysis of our staff and see if what we have matches the core services we want to provide.  We got to start that right away because its dishonoring to workers  to be placed in the situation where they’re not doing the job that they were hired to do…  So we need a full analysis.  We also – maybe this is just saying what’s already been said – this is the time now when it sits for the first couple of months, we have to get back to what’s our core business?  That’s a prioritization question.  Core business does  not simply mean safety, etc. , it can also mean amenities.  But we need to have the conversation about what our core business  is and make sure we have the staff to match it.

Daniel Parrella jumped in for his 30 second question: Robb, I have a question for you, I understand that attrition is maybe not the most strategic way of doing it, but realistically it’s the easiest way of doing it.  I look at how the DCAA laid off the nine tree trimmers, without question the ugliest part of the cost-cutting process, we lost a lot of faith of the public employee groups, we lost a lot of faith of the public opinion, how would you have shrunk the work force without attrition?

Robb Davis responded, I don’t know exactly, but any time we face the kind of fiscal challenge that we’re facing now, all cities, all entities, all non-profits, all for-profits, do need to stop and ask the fundamental question about core business.  I don’t think we’ve done that.  Therefore it’s impossible to match what we have with what we need, because we haven’t done that process.  We need to do that right away, that’s the only way we’re going to be able to face it.  I’m not casting aspirations at the current council, we get caught up in the doing, but when we face the serious fiscal challenges we’re facing now, we have to pause.  We have to stop and say, are we achieving even what we say we’re setting out to do.  If we’re not doing that we have to reorient.

John Munn with a thirty second response, I didn’t talk about attrition because I didn’t have time.  But I would like to agree that attrition is an awful way to do staff reorganization, because you end up with holes that are really in the wrong places.  You end up with jobs to do with no one there to do it.  So the city really does need to go through a staff reorganization assessment and figure out the best way to restructure themselves with the resources that are available.

Kemble Pope added, “I want to clarify that the chamber of commerce does agree with that position that attrition is not the best way, from a business perspective I think we all know that attrition is not the best way to cut labor costs.”

Kemble Pope asked one more yes or no question about outsourcing, do you support increased outsourcing as budgeting priority?

Daniel Parrella: Yes
Rochelle Swanson: No for a tool, but yes for service delivery when appropriate
Robb Davis: Yes if there’s good quality control
John Munn:  Yes, we’ve gotta have the tool
Sheila Allen: No, not as a priority or the best way to approach.

Sheila Allen asked everyone a yes/ no as her thirty-second question.  People always ask who are you running against, I never say I am running against everyone, I’m running for a position.  There two positions that are open to the five of us.  Two of us are going to be working together as part of a governance team.  I would to invite all of us to go out for breakfast some time soon because two of us are going to be working together and I want this to be a positive campaign.  That’s my yes/ no question, will you go to breakfast with me.

They said yes.

This concludes our coverage of the ChamberPAC Candidates forum.  The Vanguard will have its own candidates forum on Wednesday, May 15 at 6:30 pm, location TBD.

—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. Davis Progressive

    ” 1950s Berryessa water rights. It’s never a good time to invest, it’s always an easy argument. ”

    i think this is right. it’s never a good time. there’s always an excuse. there always will be an excuse. if it’s the right policy, then now is always the right time.

    1. Frankly

      That is simply not true. It is never a good time when we are at a deficit position. That is true for any investing entity. Do you invest when your finances are upside down?

      Now sometimes it makes sense to invest debt. That is what real estate speculators do… take out low interest mortgages and flip properties. But that is not what we are really talking about here. We are talking about the pursuit of environmental benefits at a significant cost. I am so done with this type of thing at this point in time… we pursue bag bans and bike certification and ???… all these social and environmental justice things… while our city heads towards financial insolvency. It is time to get our heads out of the sand and focus, focus, focus. We need to make money to spend money. We simply do not have it right now.

      I understand that these types of social and environmental justice projects are motivating for our city leaders. I understand that this is Davis and Davis has a history of pursuing and leading in some of these areas. However, we keep hearing about how city staff is overwhelmed and understaffed. How can we expect that they will have the resources and energy to focus on the fiscal issues is we are chasing these other things.

      Again, eat our vegetables first before going for the cake.

      1. Davis Progressive

        we can always argue we don’t have the funding. that’s what happened with berryessa in the 1950s. if pursuing this can save what they think it can save, the pou can become the vehicle to save the city millions of dollars. i think you and people like growth issue are worried because you don’t like the environmental policies that come with it, but those come out of the $4.3 million that is currently being spent by pg&e mostly elsewhere.

        1. Frankly

          “we can always argue we don’t have the funding.”

          That simply does not make any sense. We can’t argue it if we have the funding. If we have a balanced budget and reserves we can and should pursue these types of cake initiatives. I would support them completely.

          1. Davis Progressive

            can we afford $66K a year on this? yes we can, if we save what they think from the enterprise fund. the idea that a fiscal crisis means we stop trying to invest in ways to save money is ludicrous.

          2. Ryan Kelly

            Frankly, this is a pure economic project. I don’t know why you are classifying it as a social justice program. Why pay PG&E cost plus 10% (for the shareholders) for an aging, unmaintained system, when we could pay just for the cost, which could be lowered with investment in local alternative energy generation?

          3. DT Businessman

            Huh? The statement above is economically incorrect. Presumably, by “cost” you mean operating cost. Whether city-owned or privately owned, it’s going to be operating cost plus capital cost. All capital has a cost albeit some sources of capital are cheaper than others. The city’s operating, capital and acquisition costs are at this juncture all unkown.

            -Michael Bisch

          4. Matt Williams

            Whether city-owned or privately owned, it’s going to be operating cost plus capital cost.

            Michael, your statement above fails on two different levels.

            1) For a publicly-owned utility, the cost indeed is operating cost plus capital cost. However, for an investor-owned utility the cost is both those components plus an operating margin of 10% of the combined operating cost and capital cost. Further, investor-owned utilities have significantly less access to low interest subsidized debt instruments, such as tax-exempt bonds.

            2) Current rate schedules mandated by the CPUC allow PG&E to siphon several million dollars each year from the checkbooks of Davis ratepayers to other communities served by PG&E throughout California.

    2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      FWIW, there was never, ever an opportunity for the City of Davis to have one ounce of the water from Lake Berryessa. It was not the case that Davis was asked if it wanted to participate and it said no. Moreover, UC Davis specifically did want to be a part of it, but it was denied over and over. Finally, with a great amount of political involvement at the highest levels of state government, UCD did get a little bit of Berryessa water. But it had really strong ties to the state, being a state institution. The small city of Davis had none.

      More interesting is how Yolo County got 100% of the surface water rights from Clear Lake, while farmers and cities in Lake County got none. In that case, the people in Lake County flat out decided not to participate. It was an active decision on their part. And they seriously regret that now.

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Frankly, perhaps BP just wants to look like a bald 50 year old man with a pale complexion?

            FWIW, after this site went kerplooey for a few days, I could not get back in under my old log-in. I had to make up a new one. Hence, I proudly display my 3rd grade graduation moniker. Then, though, I was better known as Richie Rifkin.

          2. Frankly

            bald is beautiful!

            But you can stand to get a bit more sun I think. Just make sure to use good SPF.

      1. Fremontia

        Can you please post some references to support your assertions about Berryessa water and Davis? I have never heard what you claim. I’m not doubting you out of hand but I would be interested in how you know what you are saying and would be interested to know more about what happened.

        1. Don Shor

          When I was a student in the 1970’s, two of my professors commented about this, stating that the decision had been made to not participate in the development of the Solano water project. My assumption was they meant Davis had chosen not to participate. Perhaps they meant Yolo County. The City of Davis would not logically have participated. John Lofland pursued this topic in 2013 here:

          I conclude from John’s summary that any proposal that Yolo County participate never got past the staff level, if it was seriously considered at all.

        2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          Fremontia–my best reference is the one Don linked to.

          What needs to be understood is that the construction of Monticello Dam by the Bureau of Reclamation and hence the creation of Lake Berryessa was done primarily in order to provide water to farmers in Solano County. That is true of the entire “Solano Project.” A secondary reason the project was built was to provide domestic water for cities in Solano County.

          It’s also important to know that for a half century before Monticello Dam was erected, Yolo County farmers owned the surface water rights to Clear Lake (and later the Indian Valley Reservoir, which has the same source). Because of that, no one in Yolo County was motivated to acquire water rights in the Solano Project.

          Also, keep in mind that in those days Yolo County’s urban population was tiny–Davis had around 3,000 people* in 1950. The urban residents had more shallow ground water than they could extract.

          *The number might be a bit more or less. I don’t have my file handy which gives the Census population number for Davis in 1950.

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            “The number might be a bit more or less. I don’t have my file handy which gives the Census population number for Davis in 1950.”

            I found it. Davis in 1950 had a population of 3,554 people.

            Here is a list of our official census numbers up to then:

            1880 – 441
            1890 – 547
            1900 – ?
            1910 – ?
            1920 – 939
            1930 – 1,243
            1940 -1,672

          2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Woodland, by contrast, was much larger, though still tiny:

            1880 – 2,257
            1890 – 3,069
            1900 – 2,886
            1910 – 3,187
            1920 – 4,147
            1930 – 5,542
            1940 — 6,637
            1950 — 9,386

        3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          I need to add something to the above which I did not know until now. There was another reason the Solano Project was undertaken–military needs in Solano County. I suspect these reasons were bogus, in the same way the Eisenhower era interstate freeway system was done under the auspices of national defense. Nonetheless, I found this from a history of the Solano Project:

          “The initial goals of the approved project were to meet “urgent” demands for water at the nearby national defense establishments (both Mare Island Naval Yard and Benicia Arsenal, as well as Travis Air Force Base), and at nearby industrial sites and municipalities. Also, the Solano Project was to provide irrigation water for farmland in Solano County. The water from the project, it was estimated, would allow 55,930 acres of new farmland to come into production, as well as provide supplemental water to 18,870 acres of current farmland. Other benefits of the project included flood control for the lower stretches of Putah Creek and recreation on the proposed Lake Berryessa.”


  2. Frankly

    There is clear lining up for or against the POU. I am against it at this point. I am against anything that uses any discretionary funds at this point in time until we have at least an innovation park approved and in development, and we have a plan for a balanced budget. The POU is like cake, and we should not be eating cake before we eat our vegetables.

    I am not surprised at how the candidates are lined up for or against this. I think Ms. Allen is probably against anything that directs general funds away from potential employee raises.

    Mr. Munn appears to echo my opinion for this. He also echos my opinion on affordable housing. However, I am very disappointed in his response on the innovation task force. I am concerned that he is connected with the no-growth crowd…. Harrington and others that freak out with every development project (including the surface water project).

    We really need to nail this down… I would like a vision statement from each candidate. I would like them to describe what they want Davis to look like 10 and 20 years from now, and what they want to do to get it there.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i think john munn has not really studied any of this and it out of his depths. sheila is trying to latch onto popular discontent because she was on the wrong side of the volleyball issue.

      1. Frankly

        I will give Mr. Munn some latitude here… he needs to come up to speed very quickly though. Frankly I think there is nothing more important than the policy and project issues for bringing in more revenue to the city. If a candidate is not up to speed on those related pending policy/project proposals, I lose confidence.

        I don’t trust Ms. Allen at all. She is completely the model of candidate that got us into this huge mess. I have nothing against her personally. I don’t know her… she might be a very nice person for all I know. But between her mishandling of volleyball gate, her history of supporting wage increases for school employees at a time when budgets are still not balanced and maintenance needs are still not being met, and her comments that indicate she would jump on cash flow increases as a justification for city employee pay increases… she proves she is very wrong for this city at this point in time.

        1. Davis Progressive

          some latitude? the man not only cannot name specifics, he fails to understand the system.

          “The problem with that question is asking before there’s a thorough budget analysis to identify what’s going to get cut and that is not the way I would approach the problem.” He stated that he would approach the problem by taking a hard look at where the revenues are coming from and where the spending is going. Revenues are not all the same and can’t be used for the same things. By doing so, we then would assemble a picture of where the monies are going to. “Once that picture is there, then we can talk about spending,” he said.

          that’s all already been done. the city has done these analyses. so why does he have to reinvent the wheel?

          1. Frankly

            I think he is talking about future cuts. And I agree with him on this. There are things that can be cut without impacting valued services. There is also outsourcing.

            But I am still disappointed in his response and pretty sure it confirms his no-growther alignment because he is basically saying he needs to see exactly where the bottom is before he will agree to support increasing inflows. That tells me that he is not a strong supporter of economic development, and maybe he is an adversary of it.

    2. Matt Williams

      I would like a vision statement from each candidate. I would like them to describe what they want Davis to look like 10 and 20 years from now, and what they want to do to get it there.

      Good idea Frankly. Sounds like a very good question for the Vanguard to ask the candidates in the coming weeks.

  3. Barack Palin

    One thing about the POU that is now completely obvious. It’s all about going green to please the environmental fanatics and less about saving any money or having a more reliable system. We can just drop the false facades because the agenda is now out there.

    1. Ryan Kelly

      You have an incorrect perception of the project. Why the push for the City to run our water system, but be happy to pay whatever PG&E wants to benefit their shareholders?

      1. Barack Palin

        With the recent glitches I had to change my name. I’m waiting for my email certification, is that something that you do Matt? I want to download a pic too, so far the site won’t let me, but I guess I have to wait to get certified to do that?

        the former Growth Issue can have their name back. how about it, do you want it back?

  4. Adam Smith

    I think it is very clear that John Munn is up to speed only on the water issue, and he has some history with the school board when there were budget deficits. However, in budget terms, he is focused only on expenses, and seems to have no actual knowledge of what needs to be cut, just that something needs to be cut. There was absolutely no vision for growing revenues through business park or other types of developments.

    Frankly may be right about John Munn’s connection to no growthers, which could be driven by his absolute commitment to destroy the water project. Currently, he seems to couch his opposition to the project in terms of rate structure not being in compliance with prop 218 (the basis of his lawsuit), but he was against the water project before he was against the rate structure. In my view, his view of the rate structure is driven by his desire to destroy the water project.

    1. Frankly

      “The POU is a huge opportunity.”

      Yes, a huge opportunity to spend money that we don’t have to pursue liberal feel-good changes that we don’t currently need.

      1. Ryan Kelly

        It is not a liberal feel-good change to not want to pay 10% over cost so that shareholders will always benefit or want investment and infrastructure in Davis to benefit Davis and not be diverted to other communities. PG&E is not your friend. They answer to the shareholders,not their customers.

        1. Frankly

          The city is not my friend either. It keeps reaching deeper into my pocket to pay for things I don’t want and don’t need. And it keep paying far more than it needs to for the other things.

          I am not against us pursuing this POU project at some point in the future after our fiscal house is in order. But at this point a POU is PEW.

          1. Barack Palin

            “But at this point a POU is PEW.”

            Or as Dunning so aptly puts it, the POU is a DUD.

          2. Davis Progressive

            why would i be jealous of a 70 year old man with five young kids who makes almost no income. my kids are about graduated from college and i get my nice cushy government pension in five years.

          3. Frankly

            Last last point explains a few things about you.

            Actually, I have two kids and wish I had had more. I admire Bob for that. He has a very rich life indeed.

          4. Davis Progressive

            not at all, just that my sense of humor didn’t translate as well as i had hoped.

          5. Don Shor

            of a 70 year old man with five young kids who makes almost no income

            Please avoid these types of comments, whether intended humorously or otherwise.

          6. Tia Will


            “The city is not my friend either. It keeps reaching deeper into my pocket to pay for things I don’t want and don’t need. And it keep paying far more than it needs to for the other things.”

            I find your take on this interesting in view of our discussion on another thread. What I am hearing you say is that you would rather continue to have PG&E take your money to benefit shareholders and or for distribution in ways that may benefit others in other communities more than those of us in Davis than develop what is likely in the long run a less costly means of provision of energy that keeps the control and money local. Perhaps I am not understanding you in either one or the other of these threads since it seems the two views do not mesh well.

            Alternatively, could it be that you so favor the private sector, that even if it is more costly and not of direct local benefit, you would still prefer to see your money go to a private entity ?

          7. DT Businessman

            The private sector is rarely more costly. Delivery of goods and services is generally more expensive under public sector control. Things get all screwed-up though, when government instead of ensuring a competitive market place, is granting monopolies, licenses and other actions to limit competition.

            -Michael Bisch

          8. Tia Will

            “Things get all screwed-up though, when government instead of ensuring a competitive market place”

            If the private market place is so much more efficient, why exactly is the government necessary to “ensure a competitive market place ?”
            Shouldn’t the government just “get out of the way” and let the always superior market place just function on its own ?

        2. Matt Williams

          The private sector is rarely more costly. Delivery of goods and services is generally more expensive under public sector control. Things get all screwed-up though, when government instead of ensuring a competitive market place, is granting monopolies, licenses and other actions to limit competition.

          -Michael Bisch

          For the most part I agree with you Michael, but the delivery of electrical power in Davis has been openly and transparently shown to be one of the situations where that is not the case. The following numbers are from the analysis of Measure H in 2006.

          SMUD vs. PG&E: SAMPLE ELECTRIC BILLS: September 2006
          ____________________ (700 kWh) _________ (2000 kWh) ________ (250,000 kWh)
          Utility ____________ Residential __________ Business __________ Supermarket

          PG&E ________________ $90 _______________ $375 _________________ $31,824
          SMUD _______________ $65 _______________ $217 _________________ $27,055
          Savings with SMUD _ $25/month _______ $158/month__________ $ 4,768/month
          Savings with SMUD _ 27.8% _______________ 42.1% ________________ 15.2%

        1. Barack Palin

          I think many of us can conclude that if the city takes over the POU and goes to a green agenda you can kiss that pie-in-the-sky 10-20% savings goodbye. Just ask Germany and England who are way ahead of us on going green but have seen their electric costs go way up.

          1. Davis Progressive

            that’s because you fundamentally don’t understand the different cost components at play. the “green agenda” you are worried about comes out of the $4.3 in community assets that are currently going to pg&e. that has NOTHING to do with costs for electricity.

          1. Davis Progressive

            you i expect to be a bit brighter in terms of the $4.3 million versus the costs of electricity.

          2. Frankly

            I don’t have confidence in this resulting in real savings. Even if it did, the fact that the city owns and operates it would cause the green fanatics to hijack it for their agenda.

            Just look at the city giving away a $100,000,000.00 asset for $500,000 les that we paid for it only to appease the open space fanatics.

  5. Frankly

    Sheila Allen says no outsourcing. This is another clear indication of her connection with the public employee groups and unions, and her corresponding lack of support for fiscal sustainability as a priority. Outsourcing should always be on the table as an option. It should be used strategically where it make sense. Has our tree trimming service suffered from outsourcing that function? I don’t think so.

    On the point of cuts through attrition, I agree that this is not the best way to cut. But not because it of itself is a bad approach. Effective resource planning is a management chess game. When times are tough you certainly should curtail new hiring and downsize by attrition. But this assumes you can maintain enough of your needed chess pieces so you can still play the game correctly. It also assumes that you have done the work to actually know what pieces you need and how they can be played.

    Now, this gets me to one of my fundamental problems with unionized labor. And it is a problem that includes direct costs to our city due to the lack of labor-role flexibility. Basically, unionized labor is much less elastic than is non-unionized labor. With roles locked into labor contracts, a manager cannot effectively move pieces on the labor chess board to optimize the game.

    Case in point… My business is down 30% this year from last (so much for the recovering CA economy) and so I am not doing any new hiring and I have canceled at least one planned new hire for this year that was to replace en employee that left last year.

    But since we are down, we need to invest in activities to grab more market share and grow. We are also getting hit with more regulatory requirements that require more labor.

    So, I have reassigned employees to cover different roles… shedding some less important tasks and focusing my critical and constrained resources on the most important work.

    It is not easy to do this. Employees, especially more experienced ones, don’t like to change roles (unless it is a promotion and/or more money). But with communication and transparency about our business situation, good employees will always rise to the occasion… primarily because good employees are more motivated to help and make a difference, but also because they know they don’t have a choice.

    In our public sector a role cannot easily be changed, or it cannot be changed at all. Even the duties of a role are somewhat locked down by the union collective bargaining process and the labor agreement.

    So, city management is severely constrained in how they can optimize the labor resource chess board.

    I don’t disagree with the council candidates that say we need to analyze our resources and make good strategic decisions about what to cut, but I think they are overly optimistic that we actually can surgically cut… because we cannot easily reassign roles and rewrite job descriptions.

    So, attrition and broad cuts become our necessary approach.

    1. Tia Will

      Or maybe it is because they do not consider the city employees to be chess pieces that can be moved around the board by their hubristically designated “chess master” but rather as fellow human beings each with their unique blend of of skills, strengths and weakness and not merely pawns in the game.

      1. Matt Williams

        Tia, yor analogy to chess is very apt. Because the 22% staff reductions over the past 5 years have been almost completely as the result of attrition we have a City Staff that looks much like a chess board does after the players have played a substantial portion of their match. The deployed resources still on the board have significant holes due to the removed pieces. In chess the play of the game adapts to the ever decreasing resources; however, in doing the business of the City, providing services to its residents and taxpayers, the pieces removed from the board do not mean that the work of those pieces is no longer part of the game. That work still needs to be done. The question is how to do it? Do we add the same pieces back to the board? Do we redeploy pieces that are still on the board? Do we add different pieces?

        Of course there is another option … we can decide that we don’t value that work as highly as we once did, and choose to stop doing that work (providing that service) altogether.

  6. Ryan Kelly

    “Now, this gets me to one of my fundamental problems with unionized labor.”

    Unions helped create the quality of life that we all expect. This is a very telling statement about your political views and how you view your employees.

        1. Frankly

          The topic of labor and labor management.

          And in terms of my political views, there is a very narrow band of consideration that he could derive from my comments about unions and the difficulty they cause for optimization of resources.

          1. Frankly

            The Democrat Party in this country and state and city is controlled by liberals. The unions fund the Democrat campaigns. The pay and benefits going to those unions are bankrupting cities, states and the country.

            There is no ideology here. Only honesty and problem solving.

            The ideological bias is clear in those that continue to deny, deflect and demand more of the same behavior that is the source of the problems.

          2. Davis Progressive

            the democractic party is controlled by center-left statists. liberals left the party long ago.

    1. Frankly

      “Unions helped create the quality of life that we all expect.”

      This is a fallacy. Unions effectively organize to extort current wages and benefits at the expense of the long-term financial difficulty of their employer. They only mask reality for a while before they cause a crash.

      It is in fact the epitome of greed to take more than is justified. And unions take more than the labor market would otherwise justify.

      We have some challenges in the world with respect to labor.

      1. The world has grown more flat… global markets have developed and are here to stay. Labor is now a global commodity in a lot of industries. US labor is too costly and so companies go elsewhere.

      2. The world has grown more automated. What “How Its Made” on the Science Channel. This is one of my favorite programs and you can see how much product production is automated these days.

      So labor is complaining. The union solution is to force greater wages. The business response is more automation and more outsourcing.

      The REAL solutions is as follows:

      1. Economic policy that encourages more business/economic growth so there are more domestic jobs.

      2. Much better education so that the US ups its game in labor skills.

      Unions are causing us to spiral downward in unsustainable labor costs. This is essentially kicking the can down the road for our children to have to deal with.

      1. Ryan Kelly

        I don’t see how Unions are responsible for globalization or that they get in the way of business growth. I find your allegations of extortion by employee unions struggling to maintain a middle class living in an ever more expensive world to be misinformed and wonder if you are getting all of your information from FOX.

        1. Frankly

          Also from Heritage:

          What do unions do? The AFL-CIO argues that unions offer a pathway to higher wages and prosperity for the middle class. Critics point to the collapse of many highly unionized domestic industries and argue that unions harm the economy. To whom should policymakers listen? What unions do has been studied extensively by economists, and a broad survey of academic studies shows that while unions can sometimes achieve benefits for their members, they harm the overall economy.

          Unions function as labor cartels. A labor cartel restricts the number of workers in a company or industry to drive up the remaining workers’ wages, just as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) attempts to cut the supply of oil to raise its price. Companies pass on those higher wages to consumers through higher prices, and often they also earn lower profits. Economic research finds that unions benefit their members but hurt consumers generally, and especially workers who are denied job opportunities.

          The average union member earns more than the average non-union worker. However, that does not mean that expanding union membership will raise wages: Few workers who join a union today get a pay raise. What explains these apparently contradictory findings? The economy has become more competitive over the past generation. Companies have less power to pass price increases on to consumers without going out of business. Consequently, unions do not negotiate higher wages for many newly organized workers. These days, unions win higher wages for employees only at companies with competitive advantages that allow them to pay higher wages, such as successful research and development (R&D) projects or capital investments.

          Unions effectively tax these investments by negotiating higher wages for their members, thus lowering profits. Unionized companies respond to this union tax by reducing investment. Less investment makes unionized companies less competitive.

          This, along with the fact that unions function as labor cartels that seek to reduce job opportunities, causes unionized companies to lose jobs. Economists consistently find that unions decrease the number of jobs available in the economy. The vast majority of manufacturing jobs lost over the past three decades have been among union members–non-union manufacturing employment has risen. Research also shows that widespread unionization delays recovery from economic downturns.

          Some unions win higher wages for their members, though many do not. But with these higher wages, unions bring less investment, fewer jobs, higher prices, and smaller 401(k) plans for everyone else. On balance, labor cartels harm the economy, and enacting policies designed to force workers into unions will only prolong the recession.

        1. Frankly

          I wasn’t trying to hide that was I?

          I quoted it because it covered the facts as I know them based on all the economic reports I have read. Please, go ahead and dispute what the Heritage report said. I am always open to learning something… but it needs to be facts based.

          1. Don Shor

            Please, go ahead and dispute what the Heritage report said.

            But, perhaps, on a thread that is actually about labor unions. Not here. End of union debate, please.

  7. hpierce

    Test … if you can read this barackpalin, you CAN get your old screen name back… took me a password change, and several weeks of frustration before I found the secret incantation. Now I’m not sure how I got it to work.

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