Question 1: How can the city of Davis balance the following needs: address the fiscal crisis while continuing to provide core services, maintain the amenities that keep Davis Davis, while keeping the community affordable to all citizens?
Daniel Parrella: In the Short-term, taxes are the only solution to our problem, I would have preferred a 3 quarter cent sales tax in June so we could rip the bandaid off in one fell swoop. As it stands now we will be deferring maintenance on roads a few more months until the parcel tax in November, an absolutely crucial vote that will have dire ramifications if it fails to pass.
The last labor negotiations had a few hiccups but all in all were the biggest step towards solvency our city has ever taken. I think the most important concession we received was having the groups start paying 3% of the employers share of CalPERS. In my mind the city’s share of CalPERS is the single most unsustainable aspect of our fiscal crisis. I have no problem with public employees receiving generous pensions, I just believe they should pay more into their pensions while they are working. The next round of negotiations should have all the bargaining groups match the DPOA 12% contribution and push the employers share even higher to offset rising pension costs.
My long-term vision for the city has always remained the same. In order to provide space for growing companies, create jobs for graduates and generate revenue for the city we should pursue the Innovation Parks Task Force recommendations for business parks. The sales tax that will be passed in June will sunset in 2020 and a goal for our city should be to have enough revenue by then to not have to renew the tax.
QUESTION 2: Davis boasts a world-class university, an excellent K-12 school system, and is centrally located in one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world. How should those core components of Davis’ “character” inform any economic development efforts that the City undertakes?
Daniel Parrella: Proximity to a world-class University is our major economic advantage and the primary reason we were able to beat out Chicago in acquiring Mori Seiki. It is the reason that Expression Systems was willing to uproot from far cheaper rent in Woodland to move to Davis. Economic Developments on the periphery, as recommended by the Innovation Park Task Force, should focus on attracting businesses with an interest in being close to UCD. This interest can be with either a direct relationship through research and grant funding or through an indirect relationship focusing on attracting new graduates.
As a recent byproduct of our K-12 system I can testify that the DJUSD remains one of the premiere educational districts in Northern California. I believe the greatest threat facing our school district is the rapid decline in our 25-44 year old demographic. Relying on close to 550 Inter-District Transfers has prevented the closure of more schools. However, enrollment is expected to decline in the coming years and even Inter-District Transfers wont be enough to stop it. The argument to attract young families has always focused on the affordable housing side of the equation but with the total lack of Redevelopment Funds currently on the table the only remaining option is to focus on high-paying job creation. By attracting companies with jobs capable of supporting a young, growing family we can feed more children into our school district.
It is no secret that I have largely supported the idea of a peripheral business park. On the same token I have always wanted to establish an urban fringe, hopefully one that incorporates community farms where our school children can learn to garden. I view leveraging potential developments as the most likely way in these challenging times to come up with the money necessary to buy land directly adjacent to the city. By asking the developers of a business park to contribute to our Measure O Funds we can exceed our 2:1 agricultural mitigation goals and establish a clear boundary surrounding the city.
Question 3: Recently the Davis City Council voted on the Downtown Parking Task Force Recommendations. The goal of the recommendations was to “help to ensure convenient spaces are easily accessible for shoppers with short-term parking needs, in the area where the greatest concentration of retail and service businesses who depend on this type of parking access exists.”
Daniel Parrella: Even without the paid parking component I believe that the task force recommendations can still make an impact on parking downtown.
For starters, establishing a tiered-fine citation system will encourage repeat offenders out of the core area. Virtually every downtown employee I have talked to has gotten a parking ticket before. Most of them are willing to eat the $43 if it means they can park closer to work. Once they start getting $129 dollar fines behavior will change.
Expanding parking enforcement from 10am to 8pm and including Saturday will also help to push employees out of the core area. Saturday workers currently have no incentive to move out of the core at all and the same holds true for night-shift workers.
Removing the “D” permit option for employees will also help to free up street parking. Considering the fact that the “D” permit is less than a third of the cost of the “X” permit, and is located at the First & F structure, it’s no wonder that we issue twice as many permits as spaces available. Those employees who are unable to find a spot frequently use on-street parking, occupying a potential customer space.
Finally I do believe the parking task force plan, even without paid parking, will still generate revenues which can be used to try and implement some of the other recommendations. The tiered citation system is expected to generate $55,000 in revenue and the streamlined permitting process will generate anywhere from $22,000-$115,000. I will admit I don’t know what the revenue estimate for the streamlined permitting will be without paid parking as an incentive to get employees to buy more permits, but I imagine we will find out soon enough.
The revenue generated won’t be enough to fund all of the other task force recommendations. Once the council gets a revised estimate of incoming revenues they should choose the recommendations they believe make the most direct impact. Looking at the decline of citations issued over the past decade my money would be on upgrading parking enforcement technologies.
Question 4: The City of Davis faces massive, unfunded liabilities and structural, long-term budgetary challenges with respect to deferred maintenance of streets, buildings and structures, parks, storm sewers and fleet. What would you do to address these unfunded liability and deferred maintenance balances?
Daniel Parrella: For starters it is important to understand just how much the balance actually is. Roads are predictable enough and we seem to finally have that maintenance backlog mapped out in its entirety. CalPERS, OPEB and current Retiree Health are an inexact science looking forward but at least we understand costs will be going up and the structural deficit takes into accounts these rising costs.
My issue is the recently updated $4.99 million dollar deficit is in many ways a made up number. It does not take into account even the full liabilities for roads, it just adds $2.5 million for repairs. When it comes to unfunded liabilities what you dont know can hurt you. Previous city councils ignored the road problem until the backlog became an incredibly expensive issue that we will be dealing with for decades.
My concern lies with city buildings, parks, pools and fleets. While the deficit includes $110,000 for Fleet Replacement I still have heard no estimate for what the entire fleet will cost, and have heard absolutely no estimates for the other three. I understand calculating those costs will cost money but at the very least we could use a placeholder number guesstimated looking at other mid-sized cities. I suspect that just like with roads, a dollar in reserves now could save us 10 dollars in the future.
When it comes to controlling costs and increasing revenues at this point I feel most vanguard readers know where each of the candidates stand at this point.
I support the sales tax in June as well as the 1.16 million in cuts proposed for the next budget year. I will likely support a parcel tax in November. That will buy us time until the next labor negotiations begin. Long-term I support the findings of the innovation park task force. Expanding our tax base seems like the only way to sustain the services that the people of Davis have come to expect.
Question 5: There are some in this community who believe that Measure J/ Measure R were really intended to give residents the ability to determine whether residential and housing developments could go forward. Should we exempt business and innovation parks from required Measure R votes? And would you support amendments to Measure R to exempt the peripheral development of business and innovation parks at Nishi, Northwest Quadrant and Mace 200 from required votes?
Daniel Parrella: No, I think the people of Davis should have the final say on any kind of development and I would not support amendments for a business park. I believe that measure J is the most powerful tool we have to force concessions out of a developer.
Davis has seen a radical shift in its politics. After the defeat of covell village running a “no-growth” campaign was all the rage to get elected. As of right now all five city council members and all four new candidates support some version of a business park. The community is not quite as unanimous, but I am confident that if the city presents the appropriate arguments we can push one or two business parks through.
I have been conducting my own poll as I walk precincts and the idea of a business park is far more popular than residential developments. No one wants to keep losing homegrown companies. Everyone wants local jobs for graduates. The most compelling argument of all is the idea of generating revenue through means other than taxation.
Honestly if we cant convince the people of Davis to support a business park it will largely be do to the cities ineptitude when it comes to PR. The city’s rollout of public power was absolutely FUBAR. Despite making significant strides towards solvency the public has very little trust when it comes approving Measure O or another parcel tax. The business park will be a crucial test for the city when it comes to listening to the community and assuaging concerns.
Question 6: On Tuesday Beverly Hills became the first city to pass a fracking ban. In past years Davis was very often the environmental innovation thought leader amongst California cities; however, in recent years Davis has been less of a leader, trailing other towns on single-use bag ordinances, wood smoke, and other environmental innovations. Does this trouble you, and if so, how can Davis move to reclaim its reputation as a leader in environmental innovation?
Daniel Parrella: It does trouble me, what troubles me more than anything is we have had ample opportunity to take a leadership role on issues but we seem content passing the mantle to someone else.
One that pops into mind is water conservation. Sacramento has decreased its water consumption by 12% in one year. The entire state of California has asked urban districts to decrease 20% by 2020. Our city council followed the grain and asked the city to conserve water by 20% by 2018. I see no reason why we could not at the very least exceed state guidelines. I think we could shoot to use the least amount of water per capita as any city in northern California and be known as the most water conscious city in the region.
My father is the chair of entomology at UCD and has been asking me to bring up the rapid decline of our honeybee populations on the campaign trail. Outside the Sierra Club questionnaire, this seems like a golden opportunity. Something as quirky as “Most bee-friendly city” would suit Davis just fine. As we rip up lawns to conserve water we could focus on bee-friendly native plants that can support native populations. It would bring attention to a troubling issue while reaffirming Davis as a forward thinking environmental innovator.
If we are going to reclaim our reputation as a leader of environmental innovation we need to come up with an area to focus on, and have a steady, unyielding plan to achieve our goals.
I view San Francisco as a true environmental innovator in Northern California. San Francisco wants to become the first major metropolitan area to achieve zero waste. They had a step by step plan that included single-use bag ordinances, food service waste reduction, construction debris recovery ordinance, zero-waste events, and finally, mandatory recycling and composting.
The past few years the city of Davis seems to just be making the motions. We passed a zero waste resolution but even the plastic bag ban seemed to be a piecemeal ordinance rather than a part of a grander plan.
Question 7: Davis is a city that stands out as very unique in many respects. However, our growth control policies that make for such a unique character have come with some challenges. When compared to other like-sized college towns, Davis has far fewer firms and a much smaller retail economy. The city faces significant budget challenges beginning next year. Without increased revenue that comes from growth and economic development, Davis will have to cut city services and raise taxes.
With respect to the city’s fiscal situation, the budget, economic and peripheral development, what is your desired vision for Davis over the coming 10 and 20 years?
Daniel Parrella: For the budget I would like to see some transparency. I think the school board has done far more than the city when it comes to bringing the budget to the people. www.DistrictDollars.org is a great example of a simplified explanation for school financing. Every year people who participate in the dollar-a-day program for our schools receive a line by line explanation for where their money went. Within 10 years I would like to see three things for the city budget.
1. A breakdown of where all parcel tax/sales tax money goes for each taxpayer in Davis.
2. A line by line budget that shows where every dollar is spent. Work is already being done on this by a group of citizens in Davis.
3. Implementing some form of new budgeting system whether its zero-based budgeting, participatory budgeting or program budgeting.
For economic development I want a city that is capable of supporting a business through all stages of its life cycle. As of right now businesses like FMC Schilling that are nearing 300 employees are unable to stay in Davis due to lack of room. I envision a city that is capable of supporting dorm-room startups all the way to the IPO stage of their lifestyle.
In 15 years this is what I would like to see for our fiscal situation.
1. Let at least one of the city’s taxes sunset without being renewed.
2. Have all of our unfunded liabilities mapped out in their entirety.
3. Successfully match costs with revenues through a combination of expanding the tax base and several rounds of labor negotiations.
Question 8: Davis is a city that is often associated with a well-educated, upper middle class community that comes to city council meetings, works at UC Davis or in Sacramento, and is well represented at council meetings and other civic events. But there is increasingly another group of people that get hidden – renters, non-participants in civic activities, less affluent and less educated. Davis is no longer the monolithic community it may have been in the past: 42% percent of our school children are now non-white, more than one-fifth are Title I students.
In December 2012, the Vanguard called this “The Other Davis.” Explain your understanding of “The Other Davis” and what policies you would put forward as a councilmember to both engage this population and meet their needs?
Daniel Parrella: For starters I don’t think we should be calling it “The Other Davis,” we should be calling it “The Real World.” The real world that happens to be encroaching upon the closely guarded bubble that is the city of Davis.
I had an interview with the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee not too long ago and they asked me about district elections. At the time I did not think they were a good idea. Now I think it is something we should seriously consider.
The advice I was given when I decided to run for city council illustrates the problem with at-large elections when it comes to representing “The Other Davis.” I was told to ignore students, renters and focus on people who have voted in the past 3 city council elections. For precinct walking I was told to focus on peripheral neighborhoods where at least 2/3 of the houses meet the criteria of a frequent voter. I will admit it was good advice. Many of the east/central Davis districts (from a win-the-election perspective) were a complete waste of my time. This weekend I will begin repeating peripheral precincts rather than finish the few precincts I have remaining in central Davis.
At-large elections HIGHLY encourage candidates to ignore lower propensity voters. I suspect it will get worse before it gets better. Woodland has a nearly 50% Hispanic population but is represented by 5 older, republican, male Caucasians.
District Elections in Davis might give “The Other Davis” a better chance of winning a council seat and having some representation. Rather than having to appeal to close to 65,000 people, candidates would focus on 13,000. With a district that size I could reach out to almost every adult in the district and be a better candidate because of it.