Council Analysis: Look Out Here Comes Munn

Munn-John-2014A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a former member of the Davis City Council, whose name I will withhold to protect the innocent. I asked him his predictions for the council and he stated, Robb Davis will finish first and Rochelle Swanson will finish second.

I asked, what about John Munn, and he said that he saw John Munn finishing a distant third. I did not agree at that time, I thought it was going to be a close call between John Munn and Rochelle Swanson for second. I now think John Munn is likely to finish second, and I will explain in a moment.

Robb Davis is everyone’s pick for the council. It is always a bit dangerous, given the lack of polling. In 2010, we were able to peg the rise of Rochelle Swanson and the fade of Sydney Vergis; however, in 2012, we sensed the demise of Stephen Souza but not necessarily the rise of Brett Lee and the fall of Sue Greenwald.

When the 2014 race began, we might have predicted Rochelle Swanson and Sheila Allen. Now, if I had to put money on it, we might see neither.

As Bob Dunning writes today about Robb Davis, “That freight train you hear roaring around the bend is the Robb Davis campaign, picking up steam with every passing day. Robb’s rare combination of fiscal prudence and commitment to social justice make him a force to be reckoned with in his first run for elective office.”

While I have long respected the passion and compassion of Mr. Davis, for my money I am more impressed with his ground operation. Ten days ago, the campaign team had walked all but six precincts in all of Davis. Not just dropped literature, but actually knocked on people’s doors and talked to the voters. Even now, the key to winning Davis is knocking and talking to voters rather than mailing pieces.

This makes Robb Davis an easy call for a lot of people. Whether it actually plays out that way, we’ll find out.

When John Munn entered the race, Michael Harrington, the former councilmember, reminded me that in 2000, when Measure J was on the ballot, all of the candidates except one, supported Measure J, which relatively narrowly passed. That candidate was Susie Boyd, who would finish first in the race.

Mr. Harrington predicted that, like Susie Boyd, John Munn would benefit as the only candidate against the water project and for Measure P. He also benefits as the only Republican in a race full of Democrats, an Independent and a Green Party member.

What we are hearing from the ground does not bode well for those supporting Measure O and opposed to Measure P. There is a growing distrust in the voters. They are frustrated and distrustful of city government.

And John Munn has gone all in. He has spent more money in this race than anyone else and has launched a series of ads in the Davis Enterprise.

46% of voters in Davis voted against Measure I, so even if Measure P loses, if most of that dissent also goes John Munn’s way and if a good percentage of those choose to bullet vote, John Munn might be elected to the Davis City Council.

How does that affect Rochelle Swanson? Is she in trouble? We have been concerned for some time. On the one hand, she shows some strength with the most money raised this period, $8800, edging out John Munn and Robb Davis. She’s not in the lead overall for money – Robb Davis raised $5000 in 2013 that somehow has been forgotten.

But if this is a ground war, she is losing the ground war. We are not sure how many precincts she has actually walked, but she has been outworked on the ground by the other four candidates.

She has been on the right side of fiscal issues and a driving force on economic development, but she may get caught up in the anti-incumbency move.

We have been concerned for some time that her campaign has not been visible, that a lot of work she has done has been behind the scenes and she has failed to come up with a strategy to pump that work into the public light, despite the availability of free press like the Vanguard.

Bob Dunning’s evaluation: “… being the only incumbent in a crowded field is a double-edged sword. Rochelle is a hard worker who pays attention and doesn’t seem beholden to any rigid political philosophy. People who like the direction of the council in the last four years are solidly in Rochelle’s camp, especially when it comes to her strong support of the water project. That position, obviously, cuts both ways. The fact that the city is in dire financial straits always works against an incumbent, especially with a strong field of newcomers running hard against you. Rochelle will definitely be in the top three. Whether she can come in first or second remains to be seen, but she is certainly a contender.”

In the last week or so, we see Rochelle Swanson slipping to third. Is it too late to recover?

Sheila Allen we see, at this time, as finishing fourth, which, considering where the campaign began, is remarkable. Perhaps the most telling statistic is that in the last two months, since March 18, she has only raised $3600.

March 18 is remarkably the same date that Sheila Allen and Susan Lovenburg told the community it was time to “move on.” Coincidence? Probably, but an interesting one as well.

Bob Dunning gets the analysis largely correct, “… once considered almost a shoo-in, Sheila’s candidacy took a hard blow when she ended up on the wrong side of the Davis High School volleyball controversy near the end of her long stint on the Davis School Board. It was there that she sided with her former Board colleague Nancy Peterson and agreed to punish Julie Crawford by upholding her dismissal as DHS boys volleyball coach. She followed that with an ill-considered Op-ed in The Davis Enterprise that condescendingly told everyone it was ‘time to move on.’”

“Truly a self-inflicted one-two punch that knocked her campaign completely off its bearings,” he continues. “Overnight her long tenure on the school board went from being an asset to a liability. People who didn’t know Sheila Allen from Woody Allen suddenly sat up and took notice. It’s unfortunate, because Sheila is a hard-working, dedicated public servant who truly loves the town she serves. But that final vote to dismiss Julie Crawford, which stunned even some of her most ardent supporters, appears to be too much to overcome.”

That leaves us with Daniel Parrella. Mr. Parrella is not going to win … this time. But he has put himself into future consideration. It would be a very interesting move to see council appoint him should there be a vacancy in January 2015. He represents a perspective that hasn’t been seen on the council since Bob Black, the perspective of youth, but he has impressed many with his intelligence and work ethic. If he sticks with it, he is positioning himself for a much more successful run in 2016.

—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. Barack Palin

    If you like John Munn just vote for him and withhold your second vote and that will give Munn a better chance of getting on the council. To me this election is all about fiscal responsibility and John Munn is the best candidate to run our city finances.

    1. Davis Progressive

      the problem bp is that you need three votes to make policy. electing munn along doesn’t do it. if sheila allen gets elected she, lucas, dan wolk form a majority that is pro-employee, pro-fire. you have to pick a second candidate.

    2. Matt Williams

      BP, John Munn is certainly very good when it comes to fiscal responsibility. He does have a broad brush stroke plan for achieving fiscal responsibility, but those broad brush strokes only get him to the point of being the second best candidate to run our city finances. While John has stayed at the 50,000 foot level, Robb Davis has taken the time to do much more homework than John has about the specifics of our City’s financial situation. Robb isn’t just informed (and wise) at the 50,000 foot level. He is informed and wise at a much more detailed level as well. While still knowing that he has a whole lot to learn, Robb will hit the ground on Tuesday, July 1st prepared to deal proactively with financial sustainability because he has studied harder and learned more. Robb Davis is the best candidate to run our city finances.

        1. Matt Williams

          LOL. I think my bis was clear as can be, but just in case …

          Fremontia Rule disclaimer: Fremontia has pointed out that I am not unbiased whenever I talk about Robb Davis. I have declared my support for him in many venues. I have formally endorsed him. I have volunteered for him at the Farmer’s Market. I canvass precincts for him on a regular basis. My name is on record at the City Clerk’s office in Robb’s early FPPC filings. I have appreciated Robb’s leadership and character for a long time.

  2. Tia Will

    “To me this election is all about fiscal responsibility and John Munn is the best candidate to run our city finances.”

    I might agree with you if I felt that fiscal responsibility were the only issue facing the city. John Munn has made it clear that this is his only area of interest. Unfortunately, this kind of single minded approach viewing the finances as the only critical business of a city is extremely short sighted. Environmental, health and safety issues and not only as important, but are major contributors to the fiscal well being of the city and John Munn has not even pretended to consider any other aspect of our well being as important for consideration.

    I feel that John Munn is a nice and sincere man without the range of interests and scope of knowledge to be considered for the city council.

  3. Good Government

    Also, despite the Republican rhetoric, being a tea-party, taxpayer association conservative does not mean you are “fiscally responsible”. Were it up to the John Munns of the world, society would never invest in anything and we would all fend for ourselves.

    1. Matt Williams

      Whoa there GG, take another look at that article. Note the date … March 18, 2012. Then note the content, “But first, a few ground rules. What follows are simply the “opening” odds in what will no doubt be a long and bumpy campaign ride for our five candidates and whatever write-ins decide to join them along the way.

      The odds listed here can and will change. That’s the nature of the game. It happened with Obama and Hillary. It’s happening now in the Republican primaries. One day Newt Gingrich is the certain nominee and the next day he’s dead on arrival.”

    2. Matt Williams

      Now if you follow this link you will get to the following story by Rapid Robert.

      The final tally? It’s too close to call
      By Bob Dunning
      From page A2 | June 03, 2012 | 2 Comments

      Today, as our five esteemed City Council candidates take their last shots with bigger-than-life-size newspaper ads, and their campaign volunteers race through neighborhoods, literature in hand, it’s time to look into the crystal ball and accurately forecast what will happen to this city’s power structure come Tuesday night.

      We get to do this exercise in democracy once every two years, but this is the big one, since three of the five City Council seats are up for grabs. Come to think of it, if we all put our heads together, we could elect a voting majority with one fell swoop. The next time we do this, there will be only two seats available.

      Because there are only five candidates running for those three seats, Tuesday will produce more winners than losers, and this town’s shrinks will have their hands full trying to console the two unlucky souls who were not favored by the voters.

      Elections are cruel. You either win or you lose. There is no middle ground. Voters don’t get to add a note to their ballot saying “I really like candidate Bill Blowhard, even though I didn’t vote for him.”

      And even if a candidate wins, he or she may only have finished third when the real goal was to finish first. If all five candidates have their minds set on one day pounding the mayor’s gavel, it’s a dead lock certainty that four of them will have their hearts broken when the final tally is released.

      Local politics produce strange bedfellows, frequently without regard for the issues.

      You might vote for Candidate A because of water, Candidate B because of the budget and Candidate C because you (pick one) attend the same church, play on the same city softball team, hired him to clean your pool, both have daughters in the Jazz Choir, once borrowed his cabin on the Oregon coast.

      While some folks claim they will “bullet” vote for just one candidate, it’s actually very rare. Offered soup, salad and an entree on a fixed-price menu, most of us will take all three, even if we’re not particularly interested in the split-pea soup.
      I always vote for three candidates just to increase my chances of actually picking a winner. One time when we had three open seats on the ballot there were eight candidates and my choices finished sixth, seventh and eighth. This time, however, when I vote for three candidates, I’m guaranteed to hit the jackpot at least once.

      And then if he does something I don’t like, I can wag my finger and say “I helped to put you in office, young man.”

      The final results are coming into focus. I’m confident in saying that you can take these to the bank.

      The final odds for the June 5 election are as follows:

      DAN WOLK (1 to 7) … only three things in life are certain: Death, Taxes and the Election of Dan Wolk. In Reno, this is what they call a “lock.” Frerichs supporters tell me they’re voting for Lucas and Dan. Lee supporters tell me they’re voting for Brett and Dan. Souza supporters tell me they’re voting for Stephen and Dan. And Greenwald supporters tell me they’re voting for Sue and Dan.0

      Whether Dan’s your first choice, second choice or third choice, the votes count all the same. At this point in history, in the City of All Things Right and Relevant, very clearly Dan is the Man. Heck, he should have skipped all the preliminaries and just run for Congress right out of the chute.

      SUE GREENWALD (Even Odds) … that long-ago nasty mailer paid for by out-of-town influences that was meant to kill Sue’s candidacy has instead catapulted her toward the top of the pack. Indeed, it was a much-needed shot in the arm for our Councilwoman for Life. Hers may frequently be a contentious voice, but a lot of seemingly voiceless folks have come to rely on Sue to challenge just about everything that comes down the pike.

      She may not be everyone’s first choice or even second choice, but look for Sue to pick up a ton of third-choice votes. Given that there’s no identifiable “slate” of candidates this time around, this will work well in her favor. In the end, that last-minute lawn sign debacle that cast Sue in a negative light won’t change more than a handful of votes.

      LUCAS FRERICHS (6 to 5) … there are only two council outsiders in this race, Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee, and while I’m certain they both feel they have distinguished themselves from one another during the course of the campaign, in the minds of many voters, they really haven’t. That makes the third spot extremely difficult to call.

      Still, Frerichs has considerable experience in city government, even if his name is not yet a household word. That experience is likely to be enough to put him over the top in his first run for elective office. Then again, this may be one of those races, like Jerry Adler and Mike Corbett from years ago, where fewer than a dozen votes determines who gets a seat on the council and who doesn’t.

      BRETT LEE (8 to 5) … yes, hard-charging Brett is making this race interesting. An engaging and passionate candidate, Brett’s effort in trying to force the water rate debacle to a vote of the people has won him the hearts of those paying close attention to that issue, but it hasn’t been a central issue of his campaign.

      It’s difficult to tell if that position alone will earn him enough votes to pull past Lucas into the third spot. At this point, though, it appears he will fall just short. Win or lose, he’s run a credible campaign and will hopefully remain visible on the local scene for years to come.

      STEPHEN SOUZA (8 to 5) … Steve has, at times, had a difficult second term. He didn’t win himself any friends when he literally begged his council colleagues to name him mayor or mayor pro tem or anything with a title a while back, then completely blew it by adamantly defending the city’s fuzzy math on the proposed new water rates.

      The final blow came when Steve’s name was attached to that ugly pro-union mailer that slammed Sue Greenwald. While it’s clear Steve had nothing to do with the mailer, it sucked the oxygen completely out of his campaign and Steve has simply been unable to regain his footing as the campaign grinds to a conclusion.

      CLINT PARISH (24.6 trillion to 1) … what, you haven’t heard that Clint has pulled out of the race for Yolo County Superior Court judge and is now mounting a last-minute write-in campaign for the Davis City Council, even though he lives in Woodland? Trust me, with this guy, anything’s possible.

  4. Jim Frame

    According to the Enterprise, the Sheet Metal Workers’ Association Local 104 PAC contributed to Munn’s campaign. Given his opposition to spending in general — and to the multi-million-dollar water project specifically — what do they hope to gain from a Munn victory?

  5. Barack Palin

    Is this the kind of policies that we can expect if Robb Davis is elected? Aren’t we already paying high parcel taxes with another one coming our way next year for the roads? Is this how Robb Davis will solve problems, just tax us more?

    “* Pope asked Davis how he would address an increased homeless population in the city. Davis said the homeless population was once largely the business of Yolo County, but with state cuts and lower revenues, the county has pulled back, leaving holes.”

    “How are we plugging the holes? Poorly,” Davis said, adding that methamphetamine addiction is driving the homeless problem and, without a solution, it will get worse. “It’s time for us to have a parcel tax, even if it’s a small amount, for these issues.”

    1. Matt Williams

      Okay. What is your alternative? Continue to let the County’s and State’s abdication of responsibility result in a decrease in Davis property values and decrease in Davis quality of life? In addition, you have quoted him incorrectly. What he actually said was, “It’s time for us to consider a parcel tax, even if it’s a small amount, to address these issues.”

      Just as importantly, what is John Munn’s alternative? Compared to Robb’s direct engagement with the issue, John is still up at 50,000 feet gazing down on issue with Nero-like detachment.

      Fremontia Rule disclaimer: Fremontia has pointed out that I am not unbiased whenever I talk about Robb Davis. I have declared my support for him in many venues. I have formally endorsed him. I have volunteered for him at the Farmer’s Market. I canvass precincts for him on a regular basis. My name is on record at the City Clerk’s office in Robb’s early FPPC filings. I have appreciated Robb’s leadership and character for a long time.

      1. Barack Palin

        “In addition, you have quoted him incorrectly.”

        Not me Matt, I took the quote directly from the Enterprise article.

        The fact that Robb Davis would even consider a parcel tax for the homeless issue is of great bother to me. I originally was going to vote for Davis but learning things like this has made me reconsider.

        1. Matt Williams

          I hear you BP regarding the funding of the Homeless issue(s). The reality of it as it currently exists is that it is costing our community in terms of visitation, in terms of revenues to our community buinesses, and in terms of the quality of life our citizens lead day in/day out. Are you saying that we should simply “suck it up buttercup” and absorb those costs? Or do you have a plan for dealing with those costs?

          Have you talked to Robb about his thoughts about solutions to Davis’ Homeless issues? My suspicions are that you have not. Before you throw a whole lot of baby out with the bath water you might want to do so. You will find that Robb is very committed to accountability. When I spoke to him after the Chamber PAC forum, we talked about his thoughts on this very issue. What he said was that we can do nothing, or we can “bleed” money out of other programs in order to address the issue(s) with essentially no accountability because the funding is both transitory and piecemeal, or we can consider creating specific funding which can produce accountability for specific results. How do those three alternatives fit with you plan for dealing with our Homeless issue?

  6. Adam Smith

    While I have no doubt that Mr. Munn’s intentions of being a fiscal hawk, the fact is that he has not spent the time and effort to understand the budget and where he would make cuts. Mr. Davis, Ms. Swanson and Mr. Parella are just as committed to reining in the budget, but they have spent significant time to understand the budget and where cuts can be made.

    But there is more to balancing our budget than managing expenditures, and it is here that Mr. Munn really falls behind the other candidates. We need economic development to grow revenues while we are cutting costs, and Mr. Munn seemingly has very little interest in learning about or championing economic development as a budget balancing measure.

    In my view, Mr. Munn is the Davis equivalent of a Tea Party candidate – great at saying no to everyone else’s ideas and proposals, but incapable of generating new ideas and policy on his own.

    1. Barack Palin

      “In my view, Mr. Munn is the Davis equivalent of a Tea Party candidate – great at saying no to everyone else’s ideas and proposals, but incapable of generating new ideas and policy on his own.”

      So Adam, we’ve had liberals running our city finances for many years and all they’ve done is taken us to the brink of bankruptcy. Why do you think the current crop of liberal candidates will do any better?

      1. Adam Smith

        BP –
        I didn’t endorse Sheila Allen, the lone liberal with respect to fiscal responsibility.

        With respect to Mr. Munn, I’m impressed with the words that he uses regarding fiscal responsibility, but when he is asked for further detail, there is no substance to back up his comments. I’m convinced that each of the others are Mr Munn’s equals in commitment to fiscal responsibility, but moreover, they have spent the time to understand where they would cut immediately. Plus, as I stated, revenue generation from economic development is critically important, and based on his public comments, Mr. Munn has spent very little time and effort to understand and champion any specific economic development efforts.

        In my view, Mr. Munn is primarily about stopping the water project.

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