Commentary: Which is It?

road-failureSince everyone wanted to focus on other aspects of yesterday’s column, I want to pull this out to highlight a glaring inconsistency.

Last week, much to our chagrin, in a piece that we roundly criticized, the Davis Enterprise attacked the city council for daring to be responsible and discuss parcel tax options as early as they could rather than waiting until the last second.

The difficulty the council had reaching consensus on a potential revenue decision last week only underscores the wisdom of starting early.

But the Enterprise, in their weekly “Cheers and Jeers” feature, had a different idea.

They wrote, “Jeers to the timing of the City Council’s discussion of its next bid to siphon dollars from our wallets. While a parcel tax to fund overdue road repairs may well be needed, the discussion just one week after the approval of Measure O, the half-percent sales tax increase, was like rubbing salt in the wound.

“First, let’s have a wide-ranging, public conversation about ways to boost our city’s revenue stream that don’t involve taxes — specifically, business parks or so-called ‘innovation centers.’

“We have at least two opportunities on the near horizon to add to our business base — the Nishi property and land east of Mace Boulevard — and these must be seized if we’re to dig out of our endless budget problems. High-tech, locally based businesses like Marrone Bio Innovations and FMC Technologies Schilling Robotics want to stay in Davis, but we lack the facilities for them to expand,” they wrote. “Let’s give ourselves a chance at generating more revenue rather than piling additional burdens on Davis residents.”

As we noted last week, those are longer term revenue strategies, a fact that is underscored by our segment above.

However this week, the paper writes, “JEERS to the sidewalk upheaval on numerous streets around our community. The uneven sidewalks pose a danger to residents of all ages. The city owes it to locals to make sure they have a safe and secure passage en route to work, school and shopping, or if they’re just out for a stroll. We urge the City Council to make infrastructure repairs a top priority.”

Which begs the question as to how the Enterprise believes the city will fund sidewalk repairs – the sidewalk fairy? Which is it, Davis Enterprise, is the city of Davis irresponsible and insulting for discussion revenue measures or derelict for not dealing with the sidewalks?

Okay, the two are not mutually exclusive, the city councils of the past certainly bear responsibility for the failure of our streets and sidewalks, but again, I point to the voters who are only now seeming to wake up from a decade-long slumber on a number of critical city issues.

As we noted last week, commenters immediately called them on it. Michelle Millet stated, “I would like to thank the city council for addressing the need of funding for road repairs ‘just one week after the approval of Measure 0.’ Our city has some serious financial decisions to make, delaying them to avoid ‘rubbing salt in our wounds’ seem a fiscally irresponsible one that I’m glad our council did not make.”

An unnamed commenter would add, “If people were paying attention, the City Council’s plan to address the budget deficit was clear: 1) ask for a modest sales tax increase in June; 2) ask for a parcel tax increase in November; 3) aggressively pursue an Innovation Park.”

From our perspective, the Enterprise got this completely wrong. First, as the unnamed poster pointed out, this was not a bait and switch situation where the council waited until the sales tax was approved to pounce with the second tax. From the start they had made it clear that the sales tax was only the first part of addressing revenue needs.

Second, the timing was of necessity. The council would have to act by the end of July to put a parcel tax measure on the ballot. They had a workshop set for next week and the item this past week simply laid out the options.

As we have noted, an innovation park – if one ever happens and, believe me, right now that’s very much in doubt – will not generate immediate revenue to the city.

If the Enterprise wants to see streets, sidewalks and bike paths fixed, then they need to be more supportive of the council holding discussions about ways that they can fix it.

No one likes to see taxes go up – I fought against the notion of revenue increases for six years. I only reluctantly supported the tax renewal in 2010 and I only supported the parks renewal in 2012 because it was such a nominal amount. But it is time in the short term to take our lumps and hope, with the economy improving and efforts underway to improve our revenue catching ability, that this is short term pain.

The alternatives are failing roads, sidewalks and bike paths. We have argued in the past that these are health and safety hazards. So let’s fix them.

—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. Rob White

    DG wrote – “an innovation park – if one ever happens and, believe me, right now that’s very much in doubt…”

    I would have to politely disagree with David on this item. We have a process in place and City staff are working very diligently to bring about a proposal that the community can support. The Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) submittals are due today, and staff are told to expect a submittal for each of the two peripheral sites (Mace and Northwest Quad), as well as potentially a few others for areas within the city boundary. We will be taking these submittals and a summary matrix with very high level comparisons to City Council during the meeting series of July 1/July 2. We will also be providing the Council with options for next steps in the process.

    Additionally, tonight (Monday, July 23rd) the City will be hosting a series of speakers at the Innovation Park Task Force Meeting at 5:30 pm in the Community Chambers at City Hall. The speakers include Jeff Loux from UC Davis’ Studio 30, who will provide a review of the work done by Studio 30 and presented to Council in Nov 2013), and Prakash Pinto from Pinto Partners, who is working with the City on the Downtown/University Gateway District (Nishi) and will provide an overview of characteristics of modern innovation parks.

    Additionally, the representatives from The University Financing Foundation (TUFF) will be in Davis tomorrow and Wednesday talking with potential innovation park proponents, City staff, community leaders and UC Davis reps. And City staff have been meeting (and have meetings this week) with state and federal policymakers and agencies to discuss the options in creating an innovation park for Davis.

    So, though I understand the criticism for how slow a proposal from the landowners is taking to materialize, I can say I would whole-heartedly disagree with the statement that an innovation park is “very much in doubt.” Many people at all levels are working very hard on this effort.

    1. Rob White

      I am not sure if it will be streamed live, but I do know it will be available for video playback in the next day or so. You can try logging in at 5:30 and see if it is live. Sorry to be vague, but the person that I would normally check with is at lunch.

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