Vanguard Analysis: Where Does the Council Race Stand?

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It was two years ago, when the ChamberPac made their first round of endorsements, that they created controversy. They made the decision to endorse Dan Wolk, Lucas Frerichs and Stephen Souza.

When the Chamber launched their PAC back in March 2012, they did so with a concern about “significant structural budget deficits.”

They wrote, “Parcel tax measures and fee increases have been implemented with yet more proposals under consideration to fund remaining services.  Deferred maintenance on streets, water, and other vital infrastructure continue to accrue with no clear strategy to address these deficits threatening to further degrade our quality of life.  Yet many community opinion makers insist that we must maintain the status quo and abdicate our collective responsibility to effectively address these challenges to our quality of life.”

As Rich Rifkin wrote on the Vanguard yesterday, “I should say I don’t feel so bad about what the Chamber has done, here. At the very least, it seems like they have matured over the last 2 years. In 2012, none of their endorsements made any sense, in terms of the ‘fiscal responsibility’ they claimed to favor. Their endorsements seemed then to be all about personalities–who Pope and Bisch liked or did not like. This time, their three picks seem to be in line with their point of view on city policies.”

We are 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.

Some have questioned the decision to endorse three rather than two.

The Chamber wrote, “We are confident that each of these 3 candidates will focus on economic development efforts to improve the quality of life in our community, create more high-paying jobs, further cut city expenses and make difficult decisions to get us out of our current city budget crisis, as well as exercising sound judgment in hiring a highly qualified professional leader to become our next city manager.”

At the same time they wrote, “While we commend John Munn and Sheila Allen for their willingness to continue their public service careers, we ultimately decided that they were not the right candidates to lead our community toward the three legs of sustainability during the next four years.”

The Chamber did not state it, but it seems clear that with John Munn they are concerned about his focus on water, away from the stated Chamber position. Perhaps they have noted that Mr. Munn has not been staunchly in favor of economic development to serve their purposes.

In Sheila Allen, perhaps their concern is her stated position that she is opposed to some of the fire reforms, or perhaps they are concerned with her inclination to benefit public employee groups as the economy turns around.

It has been a good week for Robb Davis and Rochelle Swanson, as they have captured two high profile endorsements in very different segments of the community. The Sierra Club and the Chamber of Commerce are not usual allies.

For someone like Robb Davis, striving to separate himself from his competition, these are two tremendous endorsements.

There is of course a long way to go, but Robb Davis has probably done more than any other candidate to put himself into the running for one of the two spots.

We largely agree with Bob Dunning’s analysis of the race. While it’s difficult to measure voter intentions – for instance, we did not anticipate quite the backlash against Sue Greenwald and Stephen Souza in 2012 that swept both incumbents out and seated Brett Lee on the council – we have a sense of the world.

This is a difficult race to handicap. Rochelle Swanson is the only incumbent in the race. Mr. Dunning writes, “Swanson cut across a number of political lines to win her first race for council four years ago and has solid backing from a wide variety of supporters. She’s thoughtful and well-prepared and doesn’t come across as agenda-driven. Many folks in town believe she has earned a second term.”

On the other hand, I think Ms. Swanson has largely alienated (for lack of a better word) some of the progressive elements concerned about her positions on water and her land use policies. Still, she leads because she has solid upsides and fewer downsides than the other candidates.

Bob Dunning puts Robb Davis as second. He writes that “the other viable candidate in this mix, bills himself as a good listener with consensus-building skills.”

While some may cite the Vanguard’s association with Mr. Davis, who served the Vanguard editorial board for over a year and half, as tainting this analysis, we agree with Mr. Dunning that Mr. Davis is in reach of a council seat.

Bob Dunning puts John Munn and Sheila Allen as tied for third, and certainly in the race. John Munn has clearly hitched his ride to his water position. He has a strong and diverse group of supporters. Our criticism of him, aside from a late start, has been his failure to take firm positions on specifics he would tackle, particularly in putting the city’s fiscal house in order.

Sheila Allen was probably our front-runner at the start of this race. Bob Dunning analyzes her position fairly accurately.

He writes that Sheila Allen’s campaign statement touts her “active leadership during nine years as a trustee on the Davis school board,” which he states “would have been an asset prior to the board’s widely criticized role in the Davis High School volleyball fiasco.”

He writes, “Not only did Allen vote to deny Julie Crawford her head coaching position with the DHS boys volleyball team, she then co-authored an ill-advised and condescending letter to the editor telling the town it was ‘time to move on.’”

He adds, “She also seemed unconcerned about the thousands of dollars the district wasted hiring outside counsel to investigate the dismissal of a single volleyball player.”

He therefore writes, “Prior to the volleyball controversy, Allen had broad support and might even have been the No. 1 vote-getter. How much her role in disciplining the popular Crawford has hurt her chances remains to be seen, but it was definitely a blow to her candidacy.”

The secondary issue that Mr. Dunning does not touch on relates to the likely reason the Chamber did not endorse her. How will her perceived positions on fiscal issues like employee compensation play in this electorate? We should by no means assume that they play negatively.  Just as John Munn has hitched his ride to the anti-water people folks, Sheila Allen has hitched hers to what she would call a more balanced approached to the city’s fiscal crisis.

That leaves us with Daniel Parrella. There will be those who look at his age, 23, and write him off. We increasingly lean against that view. We still do not see him as viable in this race, but as the ChamberPAC endorsement proves – he is young, he is smart, and, from accounts in the field, he is outworking all other candidates.

He may not win this race, this year, but he has established himself as someone that the voters and this community should take seriously.

This is now our fifth election cycle that we have observed closely. From our view, April is the month that starts to frame the race, but May is the month where the chips fall where they may.

—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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48 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    “While some may cite the Vanguard’s association with Mr. Davis who served the Vanguard editorial board for over a year and half as tainting this analysis, ”

    I think more than just “some”.

        1. Alan Miller

          Your suggestion is that a web blog not state its opinion on a candidate because they know him well . . . ? Are blogs supposed to be strictly “objective”? Really?

          1. Matt Williams

            David is complying with the Fremontia Rule, which is designed to throw oil on troubled waters … but rarely succeeds in accomplishing its intent.

  2. Barack Palin

    David, when you refer to the Vanguard many times you’ll say “we”. Is the “we” you’re referring to you and the Vanguard editorial board?

      1. David Greenwald

        It’s not that interesting. I have been in meetings most of the morning and only now checking comments. I wrote the article under my byline in the capacity of publisher and editor of the Vanguard.

          1. Barack Palin

            I’ve asked David this question before and he stated (if I remember right) that there were more than just himself to the “we” and he made reference to the editorial staff. I don’t have time right now to look up that post. David full well knows where I’m going with this. Alan, stick around, you might learn something.

          2. Michelle Millet

            he made reference to the editorial staff.

            Staff? Is someone getting paid around here? If you so I haven’t gotten my paycheck.

  3. Adam Smith

    In my view, John Munn has established himself as Davis’ version of a Tea Party candidate – he’s the “No on Everything” candidate in this race. He has introduced very few specific ideas about anything….he answers almost every question with “We need more analysis about….”. He has not put in the time or work that other candidates have to prepare themselves for this job. His singular focus on destroying the water project that Davis citizens have approved is indicative that he lacks the ability to listen and make wise judgements necessary for a city council member.

    Sheila Allen’s school board history is now a significant negative for voters who are concerned about good governance practices. Her continued insistence on providing increased municipal employee compensation “as soon as we can afford it”, together with her outspoken support of the firefighters (include the Uncle Vito’s fiasco) render her impossible to support for any voter who is seriously concerned about fiscal responsibility.

    I will not be voting for Daniel Parella, although I believe he may have a bright political career. He is clearly smart, hard working and thoughtful. However, without significantly more information about his life experiences and an understanding of how he makes decisions, a vote for Daniel feels like a “hope that it works out” — a gamble I’m not willing to risk.

    1. Davis Progressive

      john munn will get every republican in town. math will be interesting to see. but don’t discount him.

      sheila allen was once an officeholder i respected. she held her guns on valley oak. she came out against covell. she supported people like lamar for council. now suddenly she seems to have turned to the darkside, closer to saylor than the voices trying to free this city from the harm done by the firefighters. nevertheless, she’s the only endorsed candidate of the democratic party and that represents a true danger, she has name recognition, do not sell her short.

      1. Adam Smith

        Agree that John should not be counted out, as he will get every “no on the water project” vote in town and some of the Republican vote. However, I think it is a significant overstatement to say that he will get every Republican vote. John’s stance on economic development is very vague and his absolute determination to kill the water project should persuade more than a few Republicans not to vote for him.

        1. Barack Palin

          I’m sure there are more than a few Democrats that are against the water project or rates that will also vote for John Munn. I also think that if John Munn is elected he will stay away from the social engineering of things like plastic bag bans and fireplace smoke that I’m sure many in town are tired of our council undertaking. That will also draw him in votes.

          1. Davis Progressive

            my problem with munn is not necessarily philosophical.

            here is an example of answer he had, “I need more information about current restrictions on building height and mechanisms for making exceptions to give a specific answer to this question.”

            why does it matter? well i don’t particularly care about his position on building height, but the city’s code is all on the internet. he had several days to respond to these questions. why couldn’t he educate himself on it and then given an intelligent answer?

            if this were the only such case, i’d shrug and say big deal, but he’s done it over and over again. he’s lazy. he fails to do his homework. i don’t want someone on the council like that.

          2. Barack Palin

            I also think that the community knows that John Munn will be a much better steward of our tax dollars than past council members, that will also attract many votes.

        1. Don Shor

          If ever there was a case of “politics makes strange bedfellows,” it is the alliance between John Munn and the Sue Greenwald/Harrington/Nieberg group.

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Re: Don’s strange bedfellows:

            A similar “marriage” took place when Stan Forbes joined with the Julie Partanskyites in order to win election. That pairing lasted for a couple of years. But they “divorced” when Stan decided to vote in favor of The Nugget at Oak Tree Plaza, while the Partanskyites believed (correctly) that it would result in the closure of the supermarket (Ralph’s) at Davis Manor*. The vitriol was not only directed at Stan for providing the third vote. Those people spewed a lot of hatred at the Stille family during the process.

            I suspect there are still a handful of Davis Manor area residents who think The Nugget project was a bad idea. But I am certain that nearly everyone else in Davis believes that it is a great asset to our city in general and to northeast Davis in particular. Inside and out, the building is attractive. And, though its prices are high for some things, the quality of their food and the level of service provided is as good as it gets in Davis.
            ________________________
            *I think the overpass from Pole Line to Cowell Blvd also doomed the smaller neighborhood supermarket at Davis Manor. With easy access to the nicer S. Davis Safeway, Davis Manor residents voted with their dollars for Safeway.

          2. South of Davis

            Rich wrote:

            > I am certain that nearly everyone else in Davis believes
            > that it is a great asset to our city in general and to northeast
            > Davis in particular. Inside and out, the building is attractive.
            > And, though its prices are high for some things

            I keep track of prices of quite a few things and despite the nice building and friendly workers Nugget almost always has cheaper prices than the Davis Save Mart or Safeway for the exact same brands (not as cheap as Wal Mart, but it does not make since to drive to Dixon or Woodland every time we shop).

            P.S. Is it just me or does just about every Nugget employee seem happy while just about every Save Mart employee seem bummed to be there?

          3. Matt Williams

            I agree with you SoD. Nugget is consistently the lowest price supermarket in Davis. I’m not sure what items Rich shops for that are lower priced at Safeway, Savemart or Raley’s/Bel Air.

        2. Adam Smith

          Yes, we need more than a steward. We need someone who is engaged and committed to smart economic growth. John admitted in the Chamber Pac Forum that he was not familiar with the Innovation Park Task Force report and couldn’t answer a question about whether he supported the findings of the report. Our two new council members must have fiscal discipline, but Davis needs much more than a Council Member who is only committed to “No”.

          1. Adam Smith

            Actually, I should be more clear. He said that he had not read all of it, and was not prepared to state whether he supported the findings of the report.

  4. Davis Progressive

    “We are 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.”

    well said. where is the chamnber’s leadership on measure o – yay or nay???

  5. DT Businessman

    “We are 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.”

    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.”

    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 NcDonough, 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.

    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

    Does that sound like what is being practiced in Davis? I think not.

    -Michael Bisch

    1. Davis Progressive

      “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. “

      why direct you comment back to 2007-08 when no one on the city council was aboard. this council was completely hamstrung by the deals made in 2009 by saylor-souza-asmundson. and yet in 2012, you – yes you michael – endorsed souza. talk about divorced from reality, i have yet to see anyone on the chamberpac call out souza, saylor, asmundson for the mess they made of the budget.

    2. Davis Progressive

      “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.”

      so that’s why you and lucas and saylor helped to completely undermine it? the enemy of the good is the perfect and you sandbagged it because it wasn’t perfect.

      1. DT Businessman

        Yep, Frerichs, Saylor and I are tight. Blood brothers. We have no need to meet, telephone, or email one another; it’s all telepathic. And my public and private appeals, including an Enterprise op ed, to hit the pause button on the 391 conservation easement were a double bluff to sandbag it.

        -Michael Bisch

  6. Davis Progressive

    “A holistic budget approach that focuses not just on cuts but on revenues from things like an innovation business park that would bring high-tech jobs and new tax revenue. Moreover, give the impression that Davis wants new business, not the other way around.”

    this just seems like a buzzword for more taxes and employee compensation increases. everyone is talking about business parks and high-tech jobs, what has she done about those in nine years?

  7. DT Businessman

    I posted the following comment on February 28, 2012 in response to an economic development article David had written. What has changed?

    “The cruise ship Davis has run aground and is taking on water. The lookout had called out a warning, the State had fouled the rudder and propellers, but the ship’s officers were too busy glad-handing with the passengers up on deck to take corrective action. 4 officers have now abandoned ship, 1 new officer has been helicoptered on board, the remaining officers realize there’s a serious problem, but the passengers scarcely noticed the deck chairs lurch as the ship ran up on the reef. The officers are intermittently fighting among themselves, glad-handing with the passengers on deck, calling may day, or studying the charts to set a course not realizing they can’t sail anywhere since the propellers and rudder are fouled and they’re taking on water. Some of the crew are taking effective action, but quite a few are off-duty and asleep in their bunks, or recreating. Meanwhile, no one has noticed that at least half the bilge pumps are not even functioning, which is why the ship is still taking on water. What needs to happen is for the officers to get their act together, immediately order the repair of the bilge pumps no matter what it takes, seal the hull, send divers overboard to clear the rudder and the propellers, get off the reef, and set a new course to reach their destination.

    It reminds me quite a bit of the Deepwater Horizon where the platform is on fire, the superstructure is being shredded by explosions, the captain and some of the crew are in a lifeboat with the throttle wide open, wondering why they’re not making any headway, all the while the lifeboat is still tethered to the platform.”

    -Michael Bisch

    1. Don Shor

      In 2012 the ChamberPAC was part of the problem. In 2014 they are arguably part of the solution. Your Feb. 2012 prose seems a little odd, given the endorsements that year. So perhaps a little recognition of how the problems came about with support from across the political spectrum might be in order.

  8. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    I think it’s fair to say that this race for the City Council began with two candidates, Rochelle and Sheila, with more name recognition/voter familiarity than the others*, and as a consequence those two probably began as the favorites.

    Bob Dunning, now, and perhaps David Greenwald, too, seem to think that as the campaign has played out, Robb Davis’s hopes have moved up and Sheila Allen’s have moved down, mostly due to the volleyball/school board scandal, but also because of the impressive performance of Robb, especially in terms of his skills in building a coalition and mastering the most important facts of the issues facing our City.

    Yet, I still am unsure that Sheila has really moved down in any respect. I buy the fact that Robb may have moved up. I know that there are a number of people who think the volleyball situation redounded bad on her and the entire school board. But without any polling data, I don’t know if it is the case that individuals who once supported Sheila for the City Council no longer do, now.

    I think the fact that Sheila has a strong core of support–largely the same group which helped Don Saylor, Ruth Asmundson, Stephen Souza and others win office the last 20 years–has not changed. I think those core supporters will likely influence their friends and neighbors to support Sheila.

    I also think that a majority of voters in Davis are entirely uninformed on what I think is the most important issues–the City’s unsustainable budget; its deteriorating roads and other infrastructure; and its massive OPEB and pension debts–and that large segment will decide its votes on other things, perhaps one or two issues unique to their values or point of view or just a personal like or dislike of a candidate.

    What would sway me–up to the point we actually cast votes–that Sheila really has declined is to hear from people, by name, that they were going to vote for Sheila but now will not. I tend to think that most of the people who are so upset with the school board situation, now, will not vote for Sheila, but they likely were never in her camp.
    ______________________

    *John Munn also probably has substantial name recognition, as a consequence of his term on the school board, his run for the Assembly in 2012 and his activism opposing the water rates. However, for two reasons I don’t think he was ever a favorite: one, he started very late and appears to not be up to speed on many of the issues before the Council; and two, a large share of liberals in Davis (who are undoubtedly a majority) dislike the Republican Party and as a consequence would never consider voting for Mr. Munn.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “This is now our fifth election cycle that we have observed closely. From our view, April is the month that starts to frame the race, but May is the month where the chips fall where they may.”

      david’s clearly saying that the campaign is only beginning.

      i can site two people who have dropped – freddie oakley pulled her endorsement, mr. toad, presumably too, assuming he’s a real person.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        I did not know about Freddie Oakley. On Sheila Allen’s website, Mrs. Oakley is currently listed as one of Sheila’s endorsers. If Freddie has in fact jumped ship, that’s big news. It’s more (to my mind) than a handful of people who most Davis residents have never heard of moving away from Allen, because (I think) Oakley is a respected and informed community leader and someone who others will likely follow.

          1. David Greenwald

            Freddie posted it on Facebook a few months ago and personally told me shortly thereafter.

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