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?
Sheila Allen: A balanced approach to the city budget is needed to address the budget deficit. The school district had to address a similar problem over the last 7 years and I am proud of the work the school board did in conjunction with staff and the community to now be on stable ground.
I would like to propose a similar balanced approach for the city budget: strategic and fair cuts and multifaceted revenue enhancements. The city has already cut over 100 positions and decreased staff and services.
I will work with staff to identify any additional areas that can be reduced without loss of core programs. I support the ongoing, difficult but fair decreases to compensation and benefits and look forward to fair increases when finances are improved.
With regards to revenue enhancements, I support the ½ cent sales tax increase as a means to increase revenue while spreading the burden. I am most hopeful for long term solutions by improving our business climate and economic development.
I support a peripheral research/innovation park that will bring and/or keep high paying jobs and increased revenue to the city. I am particularly interested in working with UC Davis to help launch ideas out of the university and into the market to provide jobs for our graduates and finances for our general fund.
With improved economic development, a broader tax base and a balanced approach to the city budget we can maintain core programs and create a healthy and livable community for Davis.
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?
Sheila Allen: I am very interested in economic development through a research/innovation park. The University of Wisconsin and the City of Madison have a great partnership that the City of Davis and UC Davis are poised to replicate (additional information can be found here: http://universityresearchpark.org/about) . The beauty of such a partnership is that it brings revenue to the city through point of sale and parcel tax expansion and it provides good paying jobs in fields that are in line with our Davis character including high tech, agriculture and biological applied science. An innovation/research park provides an opportunity for faculty and researchers to partner with business and investors to launch academic ideas into real life solutions.
The City of Davis Innovation Park Task Force under the leadership of Chief Innovation Office, Rob White, has developed sound criteria and initial steps in identifying appropriate sites for an Innovation Park. I support moving forward with evaluation of the 3 identified sites and having conversations that include the community of the benefit to the citizens of expanding the city (a required Measure K vote) in order to encompass the new area and reap the tax benefits and address concerns in a timely fashion. We need to foster an innovation ecosystem and grow our economic base to right the city of Davis budget and provide long term sustainability.
I am also interested in partnering with the K-12 schools and the local businesses and institutions, including the university, to provide internship opportunities for real life experience. In order to have the job market match the education that our students are receiving at the pre-K to 12 and university level, the city could help to facilitate these connections so as businesses grow they have a workforce that is educated and prepared.
Davis is a city that supports and appreciates education. We now need to take the next steps to apply this education to solving real world issues and launch ideas out of the university to close the economic loop and bring stability and jobs to our 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.”
Part of that plan involved creating paid parking to incentivize employees and other long-term users going to parking garages rather than street parking. Moreover, the task force saw this as a package deal that would not work with parts segmented out.
Given that the council voted to exclude paid parking from the plan, at least for the time being, how will the parking task force plan that was passed work to free up street parking for short-term users in the near future without the paid parking component to act as the incentive stick?
Sheila Allen: I support the vote and current direction of the city council. I generally agreed with the proposal for paid parking in a limited area as suggested by the Parking Task Force, but I cannot support moving forward at this time without a clear financial plan. I support the work of the Task Force and would like to see the other recommendations put in place and look forward to the report within a year to asses if the incremental changes helped to alleviate peak parking time problems.
Two recommendations need to be implemented immediately: signage to help visitors find existing, underutilized parking garages/spaces and educating downtown business owners on the existence of employee parking passes for employees. Business owners should want to maximize the customer experience by increasing parking availability and minimize disruptions in the work day by workers leaving to move their cars. In the long term, we need to work with downtown building owners to encourage a more diverse mix of retail, restaurant, residential and office space. If we have an optimal business-type mix, the high parking demand at meal time would be decreased, and it will have the added advantage of varied tax income.
With the loss of RDA monies, a parking structure will need a different funding source. Potential sources could include bonding when fiscally prudent (not now) and as a part of a larger planned transportation hub in conjunction with the Richards underpass, the conference center and the Nishi project.
For location of a multilevel parking structure, I prefer the current Amtrak lot site, which is almost always full. I am interested in a resident pass to recoup some funds from people parking from out of town. This structure would also be a more ideal location for employee parking in the impacted area. It would be safer for late night workers as it is closer and better lit than distant neighborhood parking pass locations.
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?
Sheila Allen: We need planned and phased infrastructure upgrades for our roads, sidewalks and bicycle paths through a system that prioritizes the most urgent needs and outlines ongoing maintenance while adhering to a clearly defined funding structure. There are urgent needs, but until we have our fiscal house in order, we may not be able to address all needs at once.
I would prioritize high traffic areas and focus on safety. That being said, I do not support the narrowing of 5th Street. I understand that the majority of the funds are from SACOG, but it would have been my desire to apply for these funds for a higher need area. As I walk neighborhoods, I hear many citizens concerned about what this change will mean for their ability to get to the downtown by car.
I support safe routes for bicycles and pedestrians, but I would have a more balanced approach for what is a primary route to our downtown for vehicles.
We need to budget for and identify a funding source for ongoing and regular city maintenance for the future since some of the prior funding mechanisms or either no longer available (RDA) or are insufficient (gas tax).
I am very interested in having a forward-thinking community conversation about our waste water treatment facility. We have an opportunity as we upgrade to create a system that is more green and may be an asset to local farmers. I would like to explore using gray or partially treated water to sell to farmers as a funding source for the city and another water source for agriculture.
Our storm drain system should be a source of water for wildlife if we work to educate the community on the importance of keeping the water going down the gutter clean. The City of Davis could be a leader in decreasing pesticides and herbicides to help improve storm water quality.
In summary, I would prioritize city road projects, invest in the infrastructure with the funds we now have available, and look to identify an ongoing funding source so we can proactively approach our maintenance needs.
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?
Sheila Allen: I do not believe the public thought that business and innovation parks would be exempt from a Measure R vote. I support the community weighing in on an annexation questions. This process gives the city and the developer the opportunity to articulate the intended use of the land and the potential costs and benefits to Davis and its citizens.
With an innovation/business park it will important to inform the voters that such a use will bring immediate and long term, sustainable funding for the city. I support the work of Rob White and the Innovation Task Force and hope that the first park queues up in the near future as a part of the solution for our city’s financial challenges.
I would like to look at the Measure R process to assure that developer, council and voter decisions move along at a sufficient pace so we do not lose opportunities e.g.: some current businesses are interested in expanding now and would like to grow in the proposed innovation park. I would like to move the Measure R vote forward when there is sufficient understanding of the proposed project, but not so late in the process that large sums of money are invested before a clear green light is given by the council and the community.
I am not prepared at this time to support a broad reaching amendment to Measure R to exempt business and innovation parks but I would be willing to have that public discussion in the future.
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?
Sheila Allen: Yes, it is troubling that Davis is losing its edge as a leader in environmental innovation. I support the plastic bag ban and I would support a resolution banning fracking. For some of these issues, such as fracking, the resolution would be symbolic.
To my knowledge there is no plan to propose fracking within the city limits of Davis. I would also be careful not to spend a lot of the limited staff time or city resources on symbolic gestures but I believe it is important for us as a community to occasionally take a pro-active position on an environmental or social issue. This process also provides an opportunity for the community to have a conversation on an important topic.
The proposed innovation park could provide an opportunity to introduce cutting edge technology and products that could put Davis on the map as an environmental leader.
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?
Sheila Allen: “Growth control policies” for residential development are an asset because (1) housing usually doesn’t pay for the services they generate (2) urban sprawl generates infrastructure costs that saddle the public with debt service and maintenance costs, versus smart infill growth, which I support.
Not zoning land to allow big-box and large-scale retail likely have held down the city’s tax base but to the detriment of our special downtown. I would not change this direction.
We would also be better off fiscally with sizable tracts within the city available for manufacturing, which generates significant sales tax from purchase of equipment. Another part of the problem is that the city’s largest employer, UC Davis, a state entity, does not contribute to our property tax rolls.
Long term, there are sensible strategies to address these concerns.
Sales tax revenues for the city have been improving and will increase even more if Measure O passes (vote YES on O) the city could seek out retail opportunities that are consistent with the community’s values that would not undermine downtown. Other sectors with low sales-tax generation (business-to-business firms) that don’t compete with downtown Davis could be targeted. Infill development near and in downtown could be a mix of retail, commercial and housing, to bolster downtown. The hotel/conference center could boost hotel tax revenues and downtown spending. The innovation parks could improve the city’s fiscal situation if they pay off in sales tax revenues or possibly even some specific special assessments that benefit the city at large.
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?
Sheila Allen: I am acutely aware of “The Other Davis.” I consider their needs when making decisions on the school board for 9 years, First Five for ten years, President of Valley Oak PTA for 4 years, chair of Davis Community Church Nursery School co-op for 4 years. I have also made efforts to directly engage these families and assure appropriate services are available.
For example, when I joined the School Board after the First Five Commission I had a deep knowledge of the difference the early years have on educational and social outcomes. I was appalled to learn that Davis did not have Head Start, a proven program that directly impacts the Achievement Gap by closing or decreasing it before a child launches into the K-12 system. When I inquired I was told there was not a “significant need’ in Davis for such a program. I worked with district and county staff to successfully bring Head Start to Davis.
I am a strong supporter of The Bridge Program, an after-school tutoring and support program for Davis Latino/a students. As PTA president, I supported the expansion to Valley Oak. As a school board member I recognized that the essential work of this non-profit was the district’s duties and supported the move to bring Bridge under district responsibility. We also added a high school Academic Center to continue the support of these students. I was so very proud to hand diplomas to the kids over the last couple years that started out in the Bridge Program at Valley Oak.
I am surprised that I am the only city council candidate to pay the additional $900 to have my campaign statement in Spanish in the voter pamphlet. I am very interested in reaching as many voters and citizens as possible as a city council member.
As a city council member I will continue to remember “The Other Davis.” I will continue to work with all levels of government, non-profits, businesses and the faith community to assure that Davis residents receive the right service at the right time.