Davis City Council Community Values Forum

Amanda Kimble moderates the Community Values Forum at the Davis Community Church
Amanda Kimble moderates the Community Values Forum at the Davis Community Church

On Monday night, all five Davis City Council candidates met in the Sanctuary of the Davis Community Church at the Community Values Forum where the council candidates were asked a different set of questions.

According to the billing, “This forum was a big success when it was first held, before the last city council election in 2012. It is a unique opportunity to engage with the candidates themselves before our upcoming election. Questions will focus on the candidates’ understanding of the values held by the greater Davis community, as well as the personal characteristics the candidates possess for leading our fair city. Questions will focus less on specific issues and more on underlying values and priorities that guide each candidate’s decision-making. Example topics may include: social justice, conflict management, communication, social ethics and leadership style.”

Question: Please describe for us how your own personal values and/ or spiritual life motivate your professional and how these values translate into actions that set you apart from other candidates?

Sheila Allen: I grew up in a very small town, rural Wisconsin where literally everyone was my family and that is the kind of place where you knew your neighbors and you took care of your neighbors and it was family, even if you actually weren’t related to them. Even though I long left that town as I went off to Madison for undergraduate school, I keep that in my heart that my neighbors are like my family. When I decided to run for city council and I had my kitchen table discussion and brought together some people, I thought what should the theme for my campaign be… A theme in my life is about caring and about neighbors. That’s what my campaign has been about.

Robb Davis: Rather than focus on values in general, if you allow me to focus on a value that I hold very dear, to demonstrate how I’m bringing it into the work of the city council. A value that is very important to me is a fundamental belief that we are all gifted in different ways. And that the gifts that we have, we have for the common good. We have the opportunity to serve and share who we are with the gifts that have been given to us, but it’s imperative that we give them to one another… How that works out in my work around the world and what I hope to achieve on the city council is that if we’re fundamentally all gifted, then when you’re on a team of five, you begin to seek out the gifts of the others to begin to complete your own gifts. You build trust in the reality that they’re going to bring something that you won’t bring, that they’re going to help solve a problem that you don’t have the full answer to.

John Munn: I want to be clear that I’m running for city council to work together for fiscal sustainability. There are people who can’t afford to live here and there is no other hidden agenda. The primary value that I would bring to the city is openness and transparency. So we all know what’s available and what’s needed… My personal values come from my 1950s rural upbringing. They are typical to the point of being a stereotype of that time and that place. Characteristics that I value that I hope to possess include honesty, truthfulness, trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, and the American Way. I share these values with the other candidates I’m sure, I’m not unique… I think a person’s true values are reflected in the way they live and conduct themselves.

Daniel Parrella: My values are a byproduct of this town. It was at this nursery school that I learned the value of this community. To this day it’s still a parent cooperative. Parents come in to help out with arts and crafts and mathematics. It’s a wonderful way of a child being raised by having a whole bunch of people coming together. It was at Fairfield where I learned, we had a garden plot at Fairfield Elementary school and that’s where I had a strong bond with the environment. It was driving down Pole Line road where I first saw solar panels for the first time and my father and I hopped the fence to take a look at it. It’s a big reason why I eventually started my own business in solar industry. It was at the high school when budget cuts were happening and my favorite teachers were being pink-slipped that we went to the school board… protesting the decision made. At the time we really didn’t know what was going on, but it was still powerful for me to realize that a group of people can be more influential than just one person acting by themselves… He said he wanted to influence change in the community, “and if you want to influence change, you have to be willing to step up to the plate and do it yourself.”

Rochelle Swanson: Like all of us, where we come from has a lot to do with what our perspective is. I was raised in Ashland, Oregon. One of the things that really sticks with me is it’s a community that cares about each other really focuses on being non-judgmental and being open to people of all walks of life… It’s not a big leap to understand why I came to Davis to go to school. I looked around at schools and I went down Russell Blvd. and I was hooked because it felt like home. As far as my professional life, being raised that family is incredibly important and learning to give back to your community, I purposely carved out a professional life where I mostly worked out of my home, I telecommuted a lot, that’s been true whether it’s San Francisco, or Washington or any other state. So that I could always be volunteering… It hasn’t always been easy when you have that flexibility, it’s kind of a false sense of flexibility. It means you actually can work 20 hours a day sometimes because you’re not punching a clock.


Question: In the absence of complete information about your constituents’ beliefs and opinions, how do you decide how to vote? And when might you vote against a strong vocal subset of your constituents?

John Munn: I’m going to start again by stating that I’m running for city council to help get the city’s financial house in order. I think it’s also relevant to this question to repeat that I’m not running with a hidden agenda, the voters are going to get what I said and what I appear to be. As an elected official, my votes would first be based on the positions I’ve taken as part of this campaign which voters are relying on to decide how I’m going to vote on. And then on principles that I have expressed that are implicit in the remarks and conduct that I’ve taken on during the campaign. I think what I am and what I stand for is pretty well known in Davis, I’ve been here for a long time. I think my record shows that I’m not dogmatic about solving problems. This makes it less likely that subsets of my constituents are going to think that I actually am voting against them if they know what to expect in the first place.

Daniel Parrella: The first part is the best question of them all, that’s basically when do you vote against the majority… I thought long and hard about that. I always think of myself as the swing vote on the council… it’s two against, two for… it’s one of those issues where you can see both sides of the argument, which way do you vote? I would say that I would be willing to vote against the majority if I believe that fifty years from now my decision would make Davis a better place to be.

Rochelle Swanson: It is true, there is always a vocal – not always opposition, sometimes it’s support – a lot of very well-meaning people. The first part of your question is trying to look at what your decision-making (is) even if you can’t relate. While that’s true, you never know what’s coming before you… It’s completely different when you’re there, so how someone makes a decision is important. You do have to look beyond the people that are the audience… She went on to discuss her decision making process on affordable housing and how it was rooted in her own experience.

Sheila Allen: I have had a number of tough decisions during the time I was on the school board, and I was trying to decide which one I was going to talk about. I’m going to talk a little bit about the closure of Valley Oak. It’s not something that I voted for. I thought it was the wrong school to close because it affected the most vulnerable children in our whole school district. There were some other schools that could potentially be closed, but there was very loud, vocal groups of parents who said not our school. Nobody wants their school closed, it was a very difficult process to go through… It was a 3-2 vote and I was on the losing side and I knew which direction we were going but I knew that in my heart that I had to take a stand for those kids who were going to have a harder time going to school… When making tough decisions, sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t but the most important thing is to really listen carefully to the community and then also listen to your heart, I vote with my mind also but I do listen to my heart, and then if it doesn’t turn out as you would like to have, that it’s the smoothest transition possible for the community that’s affected.

Robb Davis: Making decisions with incomplete information is the way it always is. I don’t think I’ve ever made a major decision where I’ve had absolute clarity and all the evidence I needed. That’s just the way life is. Three things come to mind as to how to deal with this issue. First, the expression of opinions, the expression of positions of very vocal one, the first thing that I by default – this comes from conflict resolution – people hold positions but underlying the positions are needs, are interests, and so the very first step as an elected official is to first attempt to understand, what’s the need underlying this… Second, I will use evidence and I always have used evidence in decision-making – again evidence is always limited. Two recent decisions that I’ve taken heat for in this campaign – the Fifth Street Redesign and the Downtown Parking Task Force, in both cases the way I used evidence was to ask what is the end we’re trying to achieve… The third thing that comes to my mind is that when a decision is made I should be prepared to give the rationale and reason I made the decision. That I commit to do. If we disagree, I will tell you this was the basis of my decision.

Question: The term social-justice generally refers to institutions that enable people to lead a fulfilling life and be active contributors to their community, the relevant institutions can include education, health care, social security, labor rights as well as a broader system of public services, progressive taxation and regulation of markets to ensure fair distribution of wealth, equality of opportunity and lack of gross inequality of outcome, what do you think is the number one social justice issue facing Davis right now?

Rochelle Swanson: I would say social justice, while I respect that you listed a bunch of institutions, it’s really about people to people. We have a lot of fine people in this city, I would wager I’m the only person sitting up here who awoken to have a racial slur in whipping cream in the front yard on the walkway from Margarite Montgomery. A lot of people don’t want to see that’s also part of Davis. It’s a tough part of Davis, we feel good about certain things. People will say one thing during public comment and then pick up the phone and say can we meet for coffee, I’m really disturbed about downtown, disturbed about the homeless. I’m disturbed that we let these people do things. That to me is our number one social justice, it’s about looking towards ourselves, we’re all born with biases, we’re all human.

Sheila Allen: Social justice is about the right service at the right time. I don’t necessarily believe that government is the answer to every individual’s ill-will. But I do believe that it is part of the solution and that really the solution comes from the community. As elected officials we should be community leaders and hopefully are working in tandem with people in the community. But the ability to address whichever social deficit, social need comes before us, I can’t choose a priority but I can tell you homelessness is very important, the shear lack of drug and alcohol treatment in this county is just horrendous. Nationally the deficit for care for the mentally ill, those are the first three that come (to mind) – social services is another thing. We need to grapple with those not necessarily through government only – granted we do have budget issue. I’d just like to point out that a budget is a statement of our values.

Robb Davis: I think fundamentally justice is about the way we don’t use power appropriately. It’s an inappropriate use of power that’s detrimental to the health and well-being of the people. I think as elected officials our power is within the budgeting process. Our power is also about the way we talk about things, challenges in our community and begin to seek solutions together. Whether it’s a strictly state provided solution or whether it’s a state mobilizing resources of volunteers and others to achieve certain ends. To me the greatest injustice we face in this community and many communities that I’ve been in, is the injustice of not valuing the narrative of the most vulnerable in our community. Of not wanting to know the story. Of not wanting to bothered with what we might see. Of being afraid of even staring into our own brokenness when you look into the brokenness of another person. So we push down, we push out, we don’t want to hear the stories.

John Munn: I’m sure we have lots of issues in Davis, I can think of lots of issues in Davis that would qualify as social justice issues. But when I think of how to solve them, what I keep coming back to is once again that I’m running to try to solve the city’s fiscal problems. How does that relate to social justice issues? A simple statement that ties it together is that a state, that’s going broke can’t provide the safety net programs that we need in order to address social justice problems. In my view we need to get our own house in order so that we reach out and help other people.

Daniel Parrella: Most of the time when people think of substance abuse issues and mental health issues, they think of homelessness. I think of students. I think that we have a massive student populace in town that have a lot of the same issues as the homeless population. I view them as the single most pressing social justice issue we have in this town.   The 5000 more that we’ll have by 2021, we don’t really have room for them, we don’t have the resources to deal with their many needs. Similar to the homeless issue, they have very little political influence. For the most part, there’s a large portion of the Davis population that kind of views them as a nuisance – they get drunk a lot, urinate in public, they’re noisy.

Question: I’m sure you’re all aware of the work that local faith communities have done and continue to do in providing for otherwise underserved populations, please tell us about one group of people or animals that you believe is currently in need of an advocate in our community and you propose to address this.

Robb Davis: I think people who have experienced long periods of on and off incarceration, many of them with specific mental health issues and broken relationships that have led them down a path, who may and probably are self-medicating, I think there’s a lot we can do – it’s interesting that you used the word advocate – there are communities around the nation who are using the word advocate in the idea of someone coming along side, not someone defending, not an advocate who waves a flag for them, but someone who comes along side to walk with them. That’s the kind of advocacy I think we’re really on the cusp of being able to develop.

John Munn: The question is I think, what group needs an advocate. If I had to choose, this is mainly because we have talked about this before… is homelessness. That’s a problem that we seem to facing an increasing degree now in Davis which may have things to do with the economy, which may have things to do with the way that the prison population has been shifted from state facilities to local facilities. Whatever the reason, we do seem to be having a growing population of homeless people that are in town and we need to figure out a way to be taken care of… What the city needs to avoid is getting in the way.

Daniel Parrella: The people I would I like to be an advocate for are the people who can longer afford the tuition at UC Davis. I had to take a break from my college education because I couldn’t handle the debt anymore. I didn’t want a minimum wage job so I decided to start my own business… I think with tuition rising, with rent rising, there are thousands of people in Davis who meet a similar description as my own, who can no long afford the tuition at UC Davis and have to try to find a job in a job market that usually depends on a college education in order to find a really good job. The solution for that is to really focus on the jobs ends of things. I really believe there are jobs out there that you do not need a college education for.

Rochelle Swanson: For me it would be mental health and I think the answer is an ombudsman, we have an ombudsman who works with the police department. I think there are a lot of groups that can come together in town, it doesn’t necessarily need to be city funded. I believe in partnerships, I believe there are a lot of great groups in the county and the city that could help to a partnership to cover that… We have a lot of issues that have come down and been left at the local city level and it’s very unfortunate because a lot of these choices that are made at the state and the federal level, fall into our hands and we don’t get enough funding.

Sheila Allen: I have some ideas regarding older adult services that I’m hoping that organizations like the faith community or other ones can help. I’d like to see an adopt-a-grandparent… That helps both young children to see older people and the wise information and the wonderfulness of grandparents. That helps in an isolating time if an older adult is here by themselves… She also mentioned adult-day care and with the older tsunami we need to have another site in Davis.

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. D.D.

    Daniel, One of my favorite photo’s of my daughter was taken of her standing in the vegetable garden at North Davis Elementary. Her love of fresh, healthy food has continued into adulthood.

    1. Davis Progressive

      okay after ripping sheila, i have to say she was right on the valley oak issue. fiscally responsible to close a school, but why that school? easy, it’s the school with all of the hispanic kids and while they raised a fuss, in the end, they could get away with it. on the other hand, emerson, different story.

  2. DavisVoter

    Parrella’s pretty good. I wish people would get past the “he’s a kid” thing and evaluate him on the merits. The timeline article seems to indicate that the “kid” Lamar Heystek was one of the more realistic councilmembers of his time.

    1. D.D.

      I hope the college students who are eligible to vote are registered. Many of them keep their old registration active in their hometowns, and they do not voter in Davis, in the community where they live. I wish they would. They are a vital part of Davis.

    2. South of Davis

      DavisVoter wrote:

      > Parrella’s pretty good. I wish people would get past the “he’s a kid”
      > thing and evaluate him on the merits. The timeline article seems to
      > indicate that the “kid” Lamar Heystek was one of the more realistic
      > councilmembers of his time.

      Keep in mind that Lamar was not only ~4 years older than Daniel when he got elected (on his second try) but he had been real involved with Davis looking in to (and writing about) many events in town for ~4 years before he had a seat on the council. It is not Daniel’s “age” that gives me a problem but his lack of experience/information about how things work. He seems like a super nice guy and if he stays involved he might get my vote “next time”…

      1. David Greenwald

        Lamar Heystek I believe was 25 when he first ran, 27 when he ran the second time and won, so I don’t see a huge difference if Daniel runs a second time.

    3. Tia Will


      It is not his age that makes me feel that Daniel is not yet ready for the city council It is what I see as a lack of maturity. The majority of his comments are, appropriately centered around his demographic. This is quite normal for a man of his age. I would prefer a council member who has a broader view of the complexity involved in thinking about all demographics within a community. I hope that Daniel will remain involved, develop that maturity and put himself forward again with greater depth of knowledge and appreciation for the needs of all of our citizens.

      1. Don Shor

        The majority of his comments are, appropriately centered around his demographic.

        That statement could definitely be made about every other city council member and candidate as well. I remember when Dan and Rochelle signaled their support for housing at Cannery because it would bring homes for young families. Guess what demographic Dan and Rochelle represent?
        If ever there is a demographic that is seriously underrepresented to the point of being almost criminally neglected in Davis, it is that of the young adults. Davis Enterprise article just the other day: apartment vacancy rate 1.9%. Healthy vacancy rate would be 5%. It has NEVER been 5% in Davis since records have been kept. Never. Usually it’s less than 3%, often less than 2%. We have NEVER had a council that gave even lip service to the need for more rental housing for young adults.

        1. Tia Will


          “Dan and Rochelle signaled their support for housing at Cannery because it would bring homes for young families. Guess what demographic Dan and Rochelle represen”

          And I didn’t think that was optimal for them either. If you recall, I have negatively commented on Dan’s justifying his stand on Davis Diamond due to his wife’s and daughter’s interest in gymnastics on several occasions. If Robb, or Sheila, of John got up and said that they were primarily going to look our for the interests of the seniors, I would be making the same criticism. I do think that folks with a bit more living behind them have an easier time relating to the needs of varying groups since they have experienced more stages of life and presumably have acquired different insights from the different stages.

          John Munn has said repeatedly that he is a one issue candidate. His concern begins and ends with the fiscal well being of the city per his own statements.
          I do not think that caring about a single demographic, or a single issue, or a single neighborhood is reflective of what would represent the bests interests of the whole city and that is the scope of representation in our current electoral system.

      2. Davis4life

        As with South of Davis’ comments from above, it really surprises me to hear such youth-bashing in a town so renowned for being progressive and accepting. Mr. Shor points out the obvious that a person’s natural inclination is to start with thinking of those most similar to themselves, and then work from there out. Because this is also the case with Daniel makes him neither biased nor unqualified, simply human. I have personally spoken with Mr. Parrella about the changing demographics within our beloved city and he was more than aware of the homeless influx as well as the so-called “Greying of Davis.” He strikes me as a (tragically) rare instance of a mature “millenial” and I can’t help but be frustrated by people so repulsed by his age. After all, how many 23 year olds do you all know that could run a competitive City Council campaign basically all by themselves?

        1. Tia Will


          I really don’t see how you get “youth bashing” out of the concept that someone perhaps doesn’t have the maturity yet for the position they are seeking.

          I stopped doing labor and delivery several years ago because at 60, because I no longer felt I was able to keep up with the demands of our very high risk unit. This does not constitute “elder bashing”. It is a recognition that as one moves through one’s life there will be times when a certain role is entirely appropriate and there are times when it is best to recognize one’s limitations.

          My comments have applied to my assessment of Mr. Parrella based on his presentations in public forums, his written responses to questions and private conversation. I hardly think it is youth bashing to say I believe that he has great
          potential but it is not quite yet his time. Would you consider it “youth bashing” if
          my assessment of a young doctor was that they had not quite yet achieved the skills set to operate on their own , but that I felt they would eventually be a great surgeon ? Or would you prefer I just let them start operating on you ?

  3. Don Shor

    She also mentioned adult-day care and with the older tsunami we need to have another site in Davis.

    Obviously you’re paraphrasing, but what was she getting at here? We need another senior residence facility?

      1. South of Davis

        David wrote:

        > she wanted another adult-day facility, there is currently one in Woodland.

        The path we are on where the (shrinking) number of people still working are being forced to pay to take care of (and feed) the kids of the people that don’t want to do it is bad enough. If we have to take care of (and feed) the parents of the people that don’t want to do it we are just moving the date we file BK a little closer (remember we can’t even afford to fund our pensions and maintain our roads)…

        1. D.D.

          I’d rather take care of an old person than have a perfectly paved road. I’ll walk or ride my bike through pot holes before I let an old person lose their dignity.

  4. Davis Progressive

    okay my thoughts…

    rochelle: i thought she was easily the most compassionate and engaging here. she showed surprising breadth. i don’t think a lot of people understand her background both as a disadvantaged student, a single mother, and a mother of bi-racial kids.

    robb: a close second.

    daniel: this was the first time in a while his age is showing. i get that students are being hamstrung, but there are a lot of social justice issues beyond students that daniel needs to show connection with.

    sheila: disappointed in most of her answers. it’s interesting that she chose to focus on adult-day rather than title one kids for advocacy.

    john munn: dud. i get that the republican talking social justice is awkward, but at least pretend you give a shit.

  5. D.D.

    Davis “Progressive”
    Why don’t you leave Rochelle’s kids out of this conversation. They are not running for office, and they deserve their precious privacy. Focus on her.

    1. David Greenwald

      I think you missed the point of DP’s comment which was the Rochelle Swanson’s background gives her a perspective on issues that do not get addressed nearly enough in the community.

      1. South of Davis

        David wrote:

        > I think you missed the point of DP’s comment which was the
        > Rochelle Swanson’s background

        My wife recently commented that it is strange how so many people in Davis feel the need to work in to the conversation that they have minority, mixed-race or gay friends (when we were living in San Francisco people would just talk about their “friend” Tom, not their “gay friend” Tom, or “co-worker” Bill, not their “African American co-worker” Bill).

  6. Tia Will


    I agree with David that Rochelle’s background including her family provide her with a broader range of life experience and a perspective that is unique and valuable on the City Council. Nothing was said that was in any way derogatory or demeaning as has been the case in a recent controversy posted on extensively in a different thread.
    It is the totality of Rochelle’s life experiences that make her the effective council woman that she has been.
    And I say this as someone who frequently is on the opposite side of issues from her.

  7. D.D.

    I disagree. Good comments or bad, give the kids their precious privacy and leave them out of the conversation. They aren’t running for office.

    1. David Greenwald

      She brought them into the conversation and I know that she believes that is a very important conversation to have because I’ve talked to her about many times.

    2. Tia Will


      Agree that they are not running for office. I have not seen your criticism of Dan featuring his daughters in campaign mailings, or the same for Joe previously, or Robb’s pictures with his grandchildren. Family is a very important factor in shaping who we are as people and how we view the world. I simply do not see this as an invasion of privacy or in any way mean spirited or inappropriate.

      Guess it’s just one of those agree to disagree items.

  8. D.D.

    I do remember some of the campaign advertisement you describe and I bit my tongue, or my keyboard, in the past. One aspect of the Clintons that I admired was that most folks never heard Chelsea’s voice before she was an adult. We did see photo’s of their only daughter, bur she was shielded from the campaigning as much as possible.
    I guess we’ll just agree to disagree on the issue of relatives’ precious privacy.

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