My View: Balls Are Being Fumbled All Over the City

Community_PoolDespite some recent criticism, the Davis City Council should be commended for getting the parcel tax discussion underway as soon as they reasonably could, which was immediately after the election with a preliminary discussion, followed up with a solid discussion last week.

The council was clearly divided in terms of what should be placed within the measure, as well as the form of the measure.

The council will have follow-up discussion, but unfortunately the city does not have its act together in time for us to begin analyzing the choices.

Interim City Manager Gene Roger’s agenda item for Tuesday notes, “As was noted at the study session, given the complexity of the subject matter and the expected timeline to receive survey results, the short preparation period between meetings makes it difficult to have the staff report ready by the deadline.”

He continued, “As such, the staff report will be provided upon its completion and posted on the website in advance of the June 24 meeting. It is anticipated that is will be available by close of business Monday, June 23.”

The Vanguard pushed hard for an external pick, but one thing we did not consider is that, with a retired annuitant, the city manager is effectively running on a clock that limits hours, whereas a city employee temporarily elevated to that status would be much like a more traditional city manager.

Rethinking the Pools?

The idea of including a $10 million pool got slammed and slammed hard on the Vanguard this week. I still think it is may be opening a line of attack for the opposition to argue that we are putting non-essentials into the tax.

But a surprising source offered up to me a surprising argument. They noted that the city’s pools, like much of the rest of the infrastructure, has been deteriorating for some time. Including the pool in a mail-in ballot, however, would generate a large base for both supporting the measure and doing the volunteer work.

In this way, it would work similarly to the school parcel tax.

The person told me that next time something breaks in either pool, they are done for good and probably at a much higher ultimate cost just to repair. Pools and parks have been managed even more poorly than roads.

During the hot summer months thousands of people utilize the pools, not just 500.

We will see where the polls take us, but there is a possibility that the general public – rather than the Vanguard readership that has been aware of these problems for five years – is not up to speed on the critical condition of our roads.

People choose to live in cities instead of county unincorporated areas because they want the “nice to have” things that come with living in a city – particularly a city like Davis. That is why we have the most Masters swimmers per capita in the country – and probably the most college scholarships for swimmers per capita in the country.

The belief is that intensity of the swimming community will push the measure over the top.

I am not sure I’m on board, but, given the source, I’m at least going to think more on this point.

Where is the Innovation Park?

You may have noticed that, while the council is doing due diligence on getting a parcel tax, at least in the position where it could be considered in November, we have not heard boo on an innovation park which, if it were to be on the November ballot, would be on the same timeline.

Internally, we have heard rumblings of discontent. The city has laid this out on a platter for someone to jump on board. The community has been primed on the need for a revenue generator for some time.

The discussion around the failed Mace 391 project helped revive support for the findings of the Innovation Parks Task Force. Monday the Innovation Park Task Force will hear presentation from Studio 30, where Jeff Loux and Tim Denham will be recapping the “Davis Innovation Center Report” findings, recommending “Dispersed Innovation Strategy.”

That will be followed up with Prakash Pinto’s Presentation on 21st Century Innovation Centers.

The city sent out an RFEI – Request for Expressions of Interest – for a Davis Innovation Center.

At the same time, the city did not want this to be a top-down, city council driven effort and, instead, wanted to see the developers get out into the community and get the signatures to put it on the ballot.

That has not happened. There is nothing on this week’s city council agenda on a innovation park proposal and time is running short.

It therefore appears extremely unlikely that we will see an initiative on the November ballot that deals with an innovation park. And we need to be very mindful that this is no slam dunk issue – the voters in Davis has been generally opposed in recent years to converting farmland to urban uses.

I am not suggesting it is a losing fight, but it will take a strong strategy of outreach and engagement to win the day.

Which is it, Davis Enterprise?

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 discussing parcel tax options as early as they could, rather than waiting until the last second.

The difficulty they had 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 discussing 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.

—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 adding $10 million for a new pool is good politics in order to push an expensive parcel tax by bringing the swimmers on board why stop there? How about a new senior center or a bike racing track? Just think of all those votes that can be bought by bringing in the senior and biking communities.

      1. Davis Progressive

        it’s not just the people voting for something that matters, it’s also the people willing to do the grunt work and that’s why the swimmers seem like an inviting target for the reasons david lays out through his surrogate this morning.

    1. Frankly

      That is the way politicians roll… hand out goodies to enough people so they vote for your tax and spend measures.

      So, what is Dan going to provide fiscal conservatives?

      Maybe there are not enough of them in Davis to warrant any concern. All those people that claim they are independent and fiscal conservative are really just tax and spend liberals like Dan. And as long as they can get some goodies out of the Measure, they will be sure to vote for it.

  2. Michelle Millet

    During the hot summer months thousands of people utilize the pools, not just 500.

    During three months of the years thousands of people use pools that already exist. (Again Manor complex has 3 pools, Arroyo has 2.)

    Thousands of people will NOT use a 500 meter pool. A 500 meter pool would be used by a very small portion of the population.

    1. wdf1

      M.M.: Thousands of people will NOT use a 500 meter pool. A 500 meter pool would be used by a very small portion of the population.

      Wait a minute. We’re talking about a 50 meter pool, not a 500 meter pool! A 500 meter pool is half a kilometer. A 500 meter pool would take up some serious real estate.

    2. tribeUSA

      How about a 5,000 meter pool? It can stretch from east Davis to west Davis; helping connect our community and bringing down to earth the observation that we all swim in the same water.

    1. Frankly

      We need to hear from Rob White on this since it is his primary responsibility to make it so.

      And then there was Mace 391.

      Seems reasonable that he is kicking himself for backing the NRCS lie that the YLT would be harmed as cover for the CC to gift their no-growth and open-space zealot supporters.

        1. Frankly

          No shit.

          You mean we are just learning that relying on a land-owner / developer to do exactly what we want is not a good strategy?

          The only thing bigger than our fiscal problems are the egos of the Davis elites thinking they can control the free will of others.

          But ultimately Rob did not speak out against the Mace 391 decision. That might have helped him keep his job by not pissing off Joe, Dan and Lucas… but it also resulted in him being unable to accomplish the goals he was charged with.

          The problem is that there is so much uncertainty in Davis because of Measure J, an unreliable CC, and a population of activists that disregard and disrespect property rights… that no developer wants to put any money into any upfront project.

          Davis is a land of professional critics…. risk averse people that don’t have enough vision or drive to make something, but full of drive and ability to criticize the proactive work of others. It you are a land-owner that wants to develop something you would be wise to force the city to develop a proposal instead of spending thousands of dollars on something they will likely rip apart.

          Better yet, the city should just develop on their own land since they know so much about what they don’t want.

          1. Davis Progressive

            so for you this is really just a rehash of 391. and when 391 went down to its inevitable defeat at the voters, you would have no back up plan.

  3. Michelle Millet

    So the pool people will only help get a parcel tax to pay for roads passed if the get their “luxury” item out of it? How about they step up in the fall to get a smaller parcel tax passed to pay for roads/bike paths/sidewalks/, things everyone in this community uses, then come back in the spring with their tax for a pool.

    So I’m still fairly new to this, is it standard operating procedure for the city council to try and pass a tax parcel to pay for a 10 million dollar project that a small group of people with the time, money, and energy are willing to advocate for, and few will actually benefit from?

    1. tribeUSA

      I am and have been a regular swimmer from May thru September at UCD pools and Manor Pool, and do not support a new 50 meter pool at this time; due mainly to current fiscal problems in city and other priorities that are more urgent, in my view.

      The pools do often get very crowded in the summertime; however in the 17 years I have lived in Davis, I have noted the public swim hours have been reduced. A better use of the money would be to expand the public swim hours for the pool; and maintain/repair the existing pools. For major repair jobs (say over ~$50,000 or so); there should be a competitive bidding process.

    1. Frankly

      And now we know a big reason that Munn lost the election. Connect yourself with absolute no-growthers and you will be seen as myopic and extreme.

      But Mike is basically establishing the line for Davis voters. Either you are willing to keep taxing yourself to satiate your fear of change and/or to fulfill your desire to make sure your property values stay mega high… or you recognize how far off Davis’s business tax revenue is compared to the rest of the world, and vote to grow the economy.

      Grow our individual tax burden, or grow our economy. That is the choice. We know what Mike supports. The question is what do the rest of Davis voters want? Munn got close to winning. But are 2/3 of the voters in favor of Mike’s approach?

      I hope not for Davis’s sake. But then again we have proven that we don’t really care about long-term plans. We seem to be fine continually moving from one fiscal crisis to the next.

      Maybe this is because we are all getting older and our strategy is to die before the final crisis cannot be resolved.

      1. Dorte Jensen

        Hi Mr. Frankly,

        In the post you made just previously, you talked about critics who do not want to do anything. I am a critic and am doing things. I’d like to tell you about them because you seem to be a realistic person. I don’t know how to get in touch with you for a short conversation. What to do?

        1. Frankly

          Hi Dorte,

          I would like to have more time for all sorts of conversations with my fellow citizens. I’m sure I would enjoy talking to you and hearing about the things you are doing. I think the VG is a great forum for that type of thing, and you help move the larger conversation forward.

          My comment was related to economic development. Davis is unique (in a bad way in my opinion) in that we generate about half of the average per capita business tax revenue, and about 25% of what comparable cities generate (Pala Alto, Santa Cruz, Chico, etc.).

          Frankly I think we are experiencing the ills of too much direct democracy. Being intelligent and educated is not any indication of having the talents and skills to build things. Other communities celebrate the people having the vision and drive to develop and change a community. Here, we demonize those people and we all demand a seat at the decision table. It is dysfunctional anarchy. No wonder we are in this predicament where not enough gets done and we move from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis.

          I know the difference in personality types… in private business those afflicted with analysis paralysis, change aversion, the inability to visualize a future state and demanding the “proof” be detailed and specific before they can be made comfortable… these are people that if allowed to lead will cause failure. And then there are those that are reckless… of course they are a hazard also.

          About 10% of the human population is blessed with this ability to create mental pictures for a future state and then design and develop that picture. It is impossible to inject that skill/ability in others lacking it.

          There is that saying “lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.” In Davis that saying is “don’t lead, don’t follow and do everything you can to get in the way.”

          1. Don Shor

            About 10% of the human population is blessed with this ability to create mental pictures for a future state and then design and develop that picture. It is impossible to inject that skill/ability in others lacking it.

            It is entirely possible that those who disagree with your policies simply have a different mental picture of what they want Davis to be.

          2. Frankly

            It is entirely possible that those who disagree with your policies simply have a different mental picture of what they want Davis to be.

            A few points:

            1. I already thought of that… long ago.

            2. I ask but then there is nothing but the broadest and most nebulous of explanations… a lot of “what I don’t want”, and there is nothing that I would count as a commitment.

            3. There is the problem of sustainability. A vision is worthless if it is not remotely achievable.

            I welcome competing visions to debate. But I think what happens is that those stubborn in their demand that Davis stays the way it is but lacking solutions for sustainability to support their desires just melt into the dark background only to pop up to block the attempts of others to fix our problems. They do not lead. They do not follow. They only get in the way.

          3. Don Shor

            I’ll just guess here. Maybe Tia can give more detail.
            I think most people want an attractive city with trees and greenbelts and parks. They want a vibrant, active downtown. They like that Davis is bike- and pedestrian-friendly. They want convenient neighborhood shopping options for groceries and convenience items. They don’t want traffic or parking gridlock. They like the small town ‘feel’, the agricultural heritage, and the ambience that comes from having a university with all of its youthful energy, arts and culture, and prestige. They like that Davis is different, funky, environmentally hip, and politically liberal.

          4. Davis Progressive

            sustainability is a subjective concept. we can sustain the community with a higher level of taxation or a lower level of service or a lower level of compensation.

          5. Tia Will


            “I ask but then there is nothing but the broadest and most nebulous of explanations”

            I have a very different view of how our interactions have gone when specifics have been asked for. I actually see myself as the one who has been willing to be more specific and your frequently more nebulous. I will give a few examples.

            1)Your asked me specifically about my preferred population for Davis once, and I answered quite specifically that I would have preferred that the Davis population had maxed at 50,000. Given that we have already exceeded my preference, I would prefer that the population growth be as slow as possible. You on the other hand never responded to my requests for you to numerically answer the same question.

            2) You asked me specifically what types of businesses I would prefer to see in Davis. I responded that I would prefer small local businesses to big box stores, especially those that duplicate those in our surrounding communities. I was also specific about why. I prefer to support the economic success of my neighbors rather than some corporation such as WalMart. Another example. I buy my coffee from the Pepper Peddler rather than from Starbucks or Peets. I also believe that because of changing demographics and use of the internet, that big box stores are not innovative and in several instances have gone out of business due to changing business models. We have discussed this issue both on line and in person and I have been highly specific on both occasions.

            3) You and I have communicated on the DV about our preferences for automobile policies in town. I have been very specific about my preference for increased public transit, peripheral rather than central parking, policies that favor the use of alternatives to the private automobile ( not because I consider it evil, but because I consider it unhealthful both for the person using it and for the entire community),
            and a downtown “outside mall” or alternatively streets that are shared equally in their entirety by cars, bikes and pedestrians ( examples have been posted on the DV previously.)

            4. You and I have very differing visions of how a city can be proactive in supporting not only the financial but also the medical well being of its population. I strongly support public health measures and efforts to promote a more healthful environment for all citizens. You seem to view this from the stereotypical “nanny state” point of view. Again I have been very specific in actions that I would like to see the city take and as with most things have “won a few and lost a few”. But I have never been vague or nebulous in what I would like to see happen.

            If you have current questions about my preferences, I will be happy to be as specific as I can. There are many, many changes that I would like to see for our city. It seems to me that it is only because we do not have the same goals and vision that your preferred comment is that I am against everything.

          6. Dorte Jensen

            Hi Mr. Frankly,

            Thanks for responding. I guess I wanted to talk with you privately so that I would not have to go into specifics in front of everyone. It’s not to protect myself, by the way, but to stop challenging the Council publicly on the following two decisions:

            1) Saving all trees on the Lake Boulevard Bike Path. (The original City plan was to use federal stimulus money to repair the path by removing three trees–out of a dozen or so–which were doing the worst damage. When nearby citizens opposed taking out any trees, the Council put the plan on hold, met with citizens for three years, and chose a temporary solution which opened the path but did not correct other infrastructure damage, including that to storm drains. The problem , among other things, is the time and money wasted in this case and in others like it around the City. Now the City probably wants a parcel tax to fund major street repairs, so it is imperative that the practice of saving trees at all costs be discontinued. Therefore, I spoke at public comment last Tuesday urging the Council to let the Urban Forest Manager make the decision about which trees should stay and which should go.)

            2) The City Council Raise. (The Council had not had a raise for 14 years, so last September it decided to approve the full amount legally allowable, which was 5% per year, non-compounded. This came out to a raise of 70%, i.e., 5% X 14. However, before this raise various City employee groups had been cut hard in their compensation packages, and after the raise two groups had compensation cuts imposed which were even more drastic. I’m not disputing that cuts to other employees groups needed to be made–if the City can’t pay, then it must change contract terms–but I am disputing that the Council should have given the next Council the maximum raise. A better approach, in my opinion, would have been for the Council to tell the public how much it was on average in the red each year/month as a result of its official duties and then to approve a raise for that. That would have seemed fair, at least to me, and probably would not have inflamed passions as much among City employees who were on the losing end. In this case, I effected change by discussing the issue with all Council candidates and writing a letter to the editor of the Davis Enterprise and the Vanguard which appeared the Friday before the election. In this letter, I urged citizens who cared about this issue to ask the candidates about it, since the raise takes effect in July. As far as I know, none of the members in the incoming Council will decline the raise, but at least one promised me that going forward cuts, if necessary, would be made to all employee groups, including the Council. Now the problem is that the Woodland Council is considering increasing its salary, since Davis did it. On July 1 I will speak at their public comment to urge them to do so differently than was done in Davis.)

            For me, acting on specific issues in specific ways is most effective in improving City government. I’m just a beginner, though, so I’m sure I have much to learn.

          7. Frankly

            sustainability is a subjective concept. we can sustain the community with a higher level of taxation or a lower level of service or a lower level of compensation.

            I agree.

            Or we can develop the economy not raise taxes and provide greater services.

            In any case we need to reach a lower level of total compensation for city employees. We need defined contribution retirement to start.

            The problem is that there are few people preaching for a comprehensive solution.

          8. Frankly

            Dorte – Those are two examples of leading action being taken. The first is a good example of the “analysis paralysis” caused by too many decision influencers. The direct democracy malady. Citizens come out of the woodwork (pun intended) to save a tree and a tree pruner, but when it comes to advocating for fiscal sustainability or its parents: expense cuts and economic growth they scurry back in to their basements or cellars.

            On the issue of the council raise… again that is an example of leadership and action. Bravo!

            The main issue I was ranting about was development. In most fine cities across the US and the world, there are generally a few people having the vision and resources to develop some great things. Davis has had a few of these… Tom Corbin and Village Homes come to mind. However, for a city our size and education level, we have a significant deficit of these people… or else they are shut down by the direct democracy problem. I think it is the latter.

            I don’t know what the solution is because now these people are feel entitled to their role as professional critic and blocker. The CC does not have the nuts to fight them and do the right things. They snap like little trees in a tornado of windy protest.

            And the developers know this. They know the CC cannot be relied on. They know the citizenry is always one step away from blowing up in vitriolic opposition.

            And then we wonder why they don’t come kneeling down in front of all of us kings and queens of control and ask what we want and give it to us.

            We don’t know what we want. We don’t know how to cooperate. We want a seat at the table of decision-making for this thing we call “progress” and too many of us are not wired to be effective at it.

            When I talk to residents in other cities noting a new development, they are either resigned to the fact that other people do those things and they have to accept it, or they are exited and positive about the new stuff coming. They are good followers. They respect and support the leaders.

            I wish we would do the same.

          9. Don Shor

            By all means, tell us your vision for Davis. What population? How far to the east, south, north, and west should the city develop? What do you think downtown should be like? I know Mr. Toad would be ok with Davis at 150,000 or more. How about you?

          10. wdf1

            Frankly: Davis has had a few of these… Tom Corbin and Village Homes come to mind.

            It’s Mike Corbett.

          11. Michelle Millet

            The Council had not had a raise for 14 years, so last September it decided to approve the full amount legally allowable, which was 5% per year, non-compounded. This came out to a raise of 70%.

            Dorte you have a very important piece here, the actual numbers. I don’t know them off my head down to the dollar but I believe council members are going from approximately $650/month to $1000/month.

            I also wonder if you have a good sense the amount of work that goes along with being a council member, if you did its hard for me to understand why you are not apologizing to them for the little amount of money they are being compensated and thanking them for their service instead of harassing them for a raise the amounts to about $350 a month.

    1. Ryan Kelly

      Ha ha ha. You have to be kidding, right? If it is a necessity, build a pool in your back yard. Davis has 3 public pools. Woodland has one – if they reopen theirs as planned. Get a grip.

      1. Tia Will


        I have no specific feelings about the 50 m pool idea. I do feel strongly about the maintenance of our public pools.

        Having said that what your comment is missing is any concern for the public good to be derived from having adequate public pool facilities.
        Public pools are critical to communities in the following ways which “building your own”
        will not address:
        1) Teaching water safety to children at a young age – saves lives
        2) Provides a facility where many can exercise, gain skills, socialize at the same time – unlike golf in which a course accommodates many fewer at a time, and unless you mandate that no golf carts are allowed does not provide consistent exercise
        3) Provides facilities for competitive individual and team sports – something that appears to be highly valued by our community
        4) Provides an exercise venue for those of limited mobility such as the elderly and folks with a number of musculoskeletal or neurologic impairments.

        Minimizing the importance of public pools reminds me very much of those who minimize any kind of public health preventative measure. Just because an individual may not see the immediate benefit of a pool ( just as one may only appreciate the sting, and not the preventive value of an immunization), does not mean that the community as a whole is not
        receiving benefit ( or put more crudely, it’s money’s worth ).

        1. Michelle Millet

          Tia- When I first heard the pool maintenance was one of the issues being considered for the parcel tax I wasn’t totally against the idea. When I heard that “pool maintenance” meant spending 10 million to build a 50 meter pool my thought was, yeah right, good luck with anyone taking that idea seriously given the current fiscal situation the city is in.

          I guess I was wrong.

          1. Davis Progressive

            i seemed to have changed my position? what post suggests that? i’ve always said it was good political strategy but that i wouldn’t support it. look at my exchange with michelle the other day.

          2. Davis Progressive

            i just read through all the posts on this topic that i made today, nowhere do i state support for the position. i do think your snide comment to frankly was off base because the key component to the swimmer is not votes but man power. but if you look back to wednesday and thursday, i made the exact same comment.

    2. Michelle Millet

      Michelle: pools are not a luxury. Swimming is the best all around exercise program this is available to general public.

      Again, not talking about no pools. I’m talking about spending 10 million of tax payer money on a 50 meter pool that relatively few members of the community will actually use and benefit from.

      If voters want to do that fine, let them vote on that separately.

  4. Ryan Kelly

    If one of the crisis School taxes were allowed to expire, I would be inclined to support investing in City infrastructure beyond the roads and bike paths. Riding a bike around town is treacherous in some places – accidents waiting to happen.

  5. Don Shor

    we have not heard boo on an innovation park which, if it were to be on the November ballot, would be on the same timeline.

    I had personally not assumed there would be a proposal for Mace 200 on the November ballot. Nishi is far enough along in the planning process that I have felt that could be before the voters soon, perhaps in November. But the Ramos/Bruner site needs much more detail, staff has to work up the outlines of a development agreement, and it all has to be presented to the city council in a public venue with opportunity for public input. it is likely that one or two commissions would be asked to review it as well. So I don’t know why there would be an expectation of a public vote in November 2014 on an east-side peripheral annexation.

    It would be nice to see the Innovation Task Force moving more quickly. Missed meetings and lack of quorum are really council failings, not staff, IMO. And now, looking at the agenda for the next meeting, it seems they’re going to be going over old ground rather than moving forward. Elections take time and energy away from getting the city’s business done, it seems.

  6. Michael Harrington

    Don; agree with your last 2-3 posts above. My political colleagues and I just have a different mental picture of Davis than, say some other posters here. I call it the Susie Boyd view of Davis at 150,000 population. Most of the richer local developers see the same. I don’t. No one is more right than others, just different. It comes down to political power.

  7. Frankly

    June 21, 2014 at 8:37 pm
    Frankly: Davis has had a few of these… Tom Corbin and Village Homes come to mind.

    wdf1: It’s Mike Corbett.

    Well that was a brain burp on my part. Thanks for the correction. Of course it is Mike Corbett.

    1. Tia Will


      I find it interesting that you chose to site Village Homes as your model for residential innovation. I completely agree. And I would not have opposed the Cannery had it included innovations comparable to those of Village Homes at the time it was built. But that is not what the developer offered. We are faced with a community that is not innovative, does not meet the cities low cost housing needs, does not have optimal connectivity with the rest of the city and is not environmentally friendly ( removal of old trees, traffic and air quality implications ). This is not a matter of opposing “everything”. It is a matter of opposing certain proposals that while matching the developers needs, do not meet the goals established by the city.

    2. Dorte Jensen

      Hi Mr. Frankly,

      I get the sense that you think that the situation in Davis is somewhat hopeless. For insight, consider the following dilemma (as quoted in Wikipedia):

      “A woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to produce. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $1,000, which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, ‘No, I discovered the drug and I’m going to make money from it.’ So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife.

      Should Heinz have broken into the laboratory to steal the drug for his wife? Why or why not?”

      Answer the dilemma for yourself, and then go to and look up “Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development.” In the text just after this dilemma you will find sample answers, one of which will probably match up to yours. Then you will know which stage of moral development you are in, which will give you a better appreciation for how you see the world. Repeat the procedure with people you know. (I’ve done what I’m asking you to do but won’t spoil the fun by telling you what I learned.)

      It’s kind of a big-picture thing!

  8. Frankly

    “By all means, tell us your vision for Davis. What population? How far to the east, south, north, and west should the city develop? What do you think downtown should be like? I know Mr. Toad would be ok with Davis at 150,000 or more. How about you?”

    My 10-year vision for Davis is as follows:

    – Resident population of 76,500 (1.5% per year population growth).

    – 1000 acres of peripheral development including 600 for business parks and 400 for retail.

    – 500 acres of new community-accessible open space.

    – New peripheral development increases the size of the city from 9.5 square miles to 12 square miles… still less that half the size and twice the population density of Palo Alto… even though the populations are the same.

    – New development is all SMART designed. More restaurants and retail options… housing and business and parks and bike paths… all incorporated.

    – Redevelopment of downtown. Focus on entertainment and boutique. Think “old town Davis”. Convert a couple blocks of down town into a pedestrian promenade with outside dinning space and more entertainment.

    – Business sales tax increase from $12 million a year to $25 million.

    – Business property tax adds another $25 million

    – Other revenue from expanded economy adds another $12 million.

    – That is $50 million more to the general fund.

    – City employees converted to defined contribution retirement and have their retirement dates pushed back to private sector averages. Total compensation reset to labor market over 10 year adjustment period. Then total compensation increases linked to inflation.

    Need me to go on?

    1. Don Shor

      We can discuss some of your other points, many of which have merit, but your very first one

      Resident population of 76,500 (1.5% per year population growth).

      is rather startling. You want to add 10,000 more people to Davis?

      1. Frankly

        10,000 people in 10 years. The university will contribute about 2500 of that I think. The Cannery is going to add some. 1.5% growth per year is not extreme. Business development will put pressure on housing. We should be building some housing to support some of the population of new workers.

        I envision a city with a more active and vibrant retail economy. We don’t have to be Vacaville or Folsom. We have a lot we can do to maintain our charm while also expanding our retail and other business.

        I would like us to have more young families and more young professionals. Having all those good jobs is the first step.

        No please consider that I generally like Davis the way it is. I have lived her for 36 years so obviously I like it. The problem is that we have fallen behind. Measure J was a giant mistake… there were positive aspects to it, but the consequences have been extreme tilt toward the no-growth and land preservation activists. No we are like a body with too small a heart and too small a circulatory system. We need robust and rigorous exercise to develop the body back to a sustainable shape. And in doing so, we will be a better city.

        1. Don Shor

          Well, two things. We need to accommodate 6000 higher UCD enrollment by 2020. You have not believed that number in the past, but since the chancellor announced it they’ve added 600 students per year. So that housing issue is paramount, a need far exceeding anything that might get built for “young families and more young professionals.” And while that new enrollment level will tilt toward older students, we are still running an apartment vacancy rate at less than 2%. Given the propensities of Davis voters, we will be lucky to find places to shoehorn in the student enrollment increase, much less annex any land to build houses for young families and young professionals. And Woodland has plans for massive population increase (way higher than what you’ve proposed). If Davis grows as you wish, and Woodland grows as they plan, the cities will simply merge.
          The way to get a more vibrant retail economy is to move forward on something like the PG&E lot conversion. Anything peripheral is simply obsolete planning now. Just look at Woodland. If the planning commission up there approves the request by more of the Woodland Mall stores to move out to the new Gateway site, that mall will be at 40%+ vacancy. Essentially bankrupt, causing blight. That model is dead, dead, dead. So if you envision a vibrant downtown, it won’t happen by building on the periphery. It will happen by building downtown.
          Just for the record, I think that 1.5% growth rate IS extreme.

          Business development will put pressure on housing.

          You might want to not repeat that, ever again.

          1. Frankly

            1.5% growth is not extreme. As you point out UCD is forecasting about the same.

            There are plenty of communities that support peripheral retail and business development and retain vibrant downtowns. Woodland is not Davis.

            And I am only being honest. Peripheral business development AND UCD growth will put pressure on the need for more housing. And all those people concerned about their property values do not need to worry because the demand will ALWAYS be greater than the supply.

            Saying 1.5% growth is extreme is extreme.

          2. Don Shor

            Nishi will give you 1200 units, and Cannery will give you 550. So there’s 3500 – 4500 more population right there, within 2 – 4 years, plus whatever additional is still in the works on campus. That’s probably about as much as Davis can absorb readily in the short run. My point is that the growth will be happening, just not in the housing categories that you want. And I don’t see annexation of farmland (other than Nishi) for housing happening any time in the next decade locally.
            Redevelop PG&E, you’ll get your retail. You won’t get significant retail any other way.

          3. Frankly

            I don’t think UCD will add 6000 undergrad students unless they can attract more wealthy foreign students. But I think there will be growth in their graduate programs. But many of those will be in Sacramento. I estimate 2,500 more Davis UCD students in 10 years.

          4. Don Shor

            Your estimate does not jibe with Chancellor Katehi’s (I don’t think she ever said ‘undergrad’). She is in a position to make her estimate happen, and is doing so. They’re adding 600 students a year, at least three years straight so far. Look at the enrollment figures. That will also explain, in part, what is happening to the housing market in Davis. I estimate that they will add 6000 more Davis UCD students 2010 – 2020, because they say they will do so and they are doing it.
            2011 — 27596
            2012 — 28208
            2013 — 29046
            2014 — 29978
            29978 – 27596 = 2382 four-year increase.

    2. tribeUSA

      Frankly–1.5% per year population growth (compounded) comes out to a 4-fold increase in population per century. So your great-grandchildren can look forward to a Davis that has about 240,000 residents, and their great grandchildren can look forward to a Davis of about 1,000,000. If the world population were to keep pace, we would move from a population of slightly over 7 billion now to about 30 billion in a hundred years (about the likely lifespan for a child born today in a developed country; assuming civilization is still around). You can imagine each city growing about 4-fold in population (LA area to about 60,000,000) or 4 times as many towns and cities as there are currently.

      So I think any reasonable person can agree that there are limits to growth; the big question is just where do those limits lay? Unless a fundamental new energy source that is inexpensive and otherwise nonproblematic (e.g. practical nuclear fusion) is discovered and developed; there is a consensus among ecologists that the earth has already reached its carrying capacity for homo sapiens sapiens (we might want to leave one sapiens out) to live in what is currently considered a decent material lifestyle (think lower middle-class USA material usage). Talk about your hippy fantasy pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking that an easy energy solution will appear just because we need it economically (try telling that to the ghosts of past civilizations who hoped for some kind of a breakthru in agriculture, etc. to keep their civilization going).

      I’m one of those who says enough; that we need to transition into a world with a sustainable population and sustainable economy; and the sooner we do so the less will be the suffering that we pass on to future generations thru resource squandering and degradation thru pollution (e.g. groundwater), erosion of soils and desertification of land, etc.. I would like to see UCD and the City of Davis take a leading role in developing ways to achieve sustainable populations and economies.
      I would agree to have a chance of success, the transition would need to be gradual.

      Furthermore, is there something about towns that grow their populations at that rate of about 1.5% per year that make them more desirable places to live? Are most such towns more desirable places to live than Davis? Many towns that are growing in population faster than Davis have comparable or more serious fiscal problems (which I would contend are less attributable to slow growth and more attributable to past contracts for retirement of city workers; allowing people to retire much too early and at much higher compensation rates than is sustainable in the long term; ironically sold to politicos by marketeers who presented fantasies of high rates of national/state/local economic growth into perpetuity).

      1. Frankly

        This is the typical over-inflated environmental sustainability platform. Yours is a projection…. a largely manufactued “crisis in coming”. So what are you going to do about the actual real crisis of unsustainable government budgets and insufficient economic opporrtunity for people?

        The related problem is that the remedies to your projected problems create bigger problems with respect to government budgets and individual prosperity.

      2. Frankly

        In re-reading your post I was too harsh.

        Don Shor has posted some pretty interesting information about population rates falling with industrialism and education.

        I think that is the missing like of cooperation between the sky is falling environmentalist and the sky is falling economist (or the lefty and righty).

        Higher birth rates add more people and those people put pressure on the environment. However, more industrialized countries end up with birth rates less than sustainable.

        So if you really want to see population growth slow or stop, then support economic development.

  9. Michael Harrington

    Frankly: I have the idea . I want you know I respect you a lot for putting it out there. Some of our political leaders agree with you and will never say it because it would be their death knell if they did. You are not using your real name but you do have your long time screen name so now we know your idea for Davis. Thank you.

    1. Tia Will


      I think that you bring up an important point about public leadership, at least for our elected leaders.
      These folks, as I am sure that you know, have roles that are sometimes in conflict. Their personal point of view may not always be in accord with the majority of those they are elected to represent posing the obvious dilemma.
      Is their obligation to uphold their personal preference, or to uphold the preference of the majority ?
      Good question whether seen from the moral or the political expediency point of view.

      1. Dorte Jensen

        Hi Tia and Michelle,

        You (the former) ask a question about morality, and you (the latter) question my morality, so I’ll take the occasion to answer both of you in the same comment.

        Michelle, here’s my response to you point by point:

        –The Council’s monthly salary is increasing from $669 to $1,138, a difference of $469. I didn’t include this information because my argument is based on principle, how people treat each other, not on money per se.

        –I realize that Council members do a lot of work for which they get generous benefits packages. For details, see Rich Rifkin’s comments regarding my Letter to the Editor:

        –I am sorry that the job does not pay more, but that is what the job pays in general (see my Letter to the Editor, link above).

        –I do thank the Council for its service (in general), but I don’t thank them for this decision (in particular), since it has hurt the feelings of many of their fellow City employees. Instead of staying silent, I respect Council members enough to treat them like adults and tell them how I view their actions. If they respected me enough to listen, they would hear the following message: Money is tight. If one group gets more, another group gets less. The Council is in charge of making monetary decisions, of looking out for everybody, and it made this decision. The Council must think that this is a positive one, since it approved it 4-1-0, but I think that it is a negative one, and I am not alone in thinking this. (Even if I were alone, that would not mean that I was incorrect.)

        –I am not harassing Council members. My comment is not directed to them but to fellow Vanguard readers. The topic of how to improve City government is always germane, and the particular topic of the raise is coming up again, since the Woodland Council is thinking of following the lead of the Davis Council. I feel compelled to counsel the former not to make the mistake of the latter.

        –You seem to respect people in authority. Do you respect everyone else as much? Take a look at my post on this same page (to Mr. Frankly, June 22 at 1:56 a.m.) concerning a moral dilemma. Follow the instructions there (answer the dilemma yourself, look up in Wikipedia where you fall on the scale of moral development, etc.) Are there any levels above you? People there see things differently from you. Think of it this way: It’s as if they are looking through a microscope, and they see that a person (the physical body) is composed of millions (or however many) of tiny parts (cells). However, you aren’t looking through that microscope, so you don’t believe that. Using that example as a metaphor, can you see that all of us are part of one body containing vast numbers of people? In Davis, in the City government, Council members may be neurons (part of the brain), but they shouldn’t treat other employees (body cells perhaps) badly. That would make no sense and would be destructive. Do you see?

        Now for you, Tia:

        You asked how Council members should make decisions if there is an apparent conflict of interest. If you do the exercise I asked Michelle to do (regarding the moral dilemma) you will get your answer.

        Thanks everybody. I’m enjoying your posts.

        1. Tia Will

          Hi Dorte

          I did the recommended exercise and have come to a different conclusion regarding the applicability to the vote of the City Council to increase their compensation.
          I do not see their action in increasing their compensation as either unreasonable or as disrespectful or inconsiderate of other groups. This is because I believe that they are grossly under compensated for the amount of work that they do and because of the disparate impact of their job on the entire community as compared with city workers in other areas. The decisions that the City Council makes have impacts on our entire community. Thus, in my opinion, it is to the benefit of all that they be appropriately compensated for several reasons. First, what we have is essentially a stipend, not a livable salary thus limiting both the amount of time able to be dedicated and who would be able to participate as a council member.
          I would see it as an injustice if they were already being compensated at many times the rate of workers lower on the economic scale as is true in many private corporations, but not at their current rate of compensation.

          1. South of Davis

            Tia wrote:

            > First, what we have is essentially a stipend, not a livable
            > salary thus limiting both the amount of time able to be
            > dedicated and who would be able to participate as a
            > council member.

            The council members do not run the city day to day and act like a board of directors for the city. Almost anyone that wants to run can do it.

            > I would see it as an injustice if they were already
            > being compensated at many times the rate of
            > workers lower on the economic scale

            On a “per hour” basis the council is “currently being compensated at many times the rate of workers lower on the economic scale”…

            P.S. I know many many people that serve on charity boards that work more hours than most of the Davis city council (in addition to their full time jobs and other volunteer commitments) and don’t get paid a dime (or get health care cash out, or a pension)…

          2. Dorte Jensen

            Hi Tia and South of Davis,

            Thanks to both of you for discussing this issue.

            First, Tia: I think that your view rests mostly on the assertion that the Council members’ role is more important than that of other City employees. I understand why you might say this, but I think that fundamentally nobody is more important than anybody else.

            It’s hard to explain, so take as an example the fight or flight response in a person. The eyes focus on the danger, and the ears relay sensory information, and so on. The brain assembles the information and sends a (hormonal) message, which makes the heart beat faster, the skeletal muscles tense, and the body ready for extreme physical exertion. Is the brain the most important thing here? It may be central, but it relies on all other body parts to preserve itself, and it regards them as part of itself. For example, the person fights or runs away not to preserve his/her brain but to preserve his/her body as a whole.

            If a person can see himself/herself as composed of many parts, why can’t people in a group see themselves as part of the whole? Using the previous example of a crisis, the relations are as follows: The whole is the City of Davis; the Council is the brain; and City employees are the muscles. The Council should not divert unnecessary resources to itself, since those resources belong elsewhere. However, that is what the Council did on the grounds that it would make the whole better. However, it made the whole worse, since the whole depends on the well-being of all of its parts.

            Now for you, South of Davis: Your comments support my point that Council members were pretty much thinking of themselves when they gave the next Council a raise. Otherwise, they would have taken less than the maximum amount (probably only what was needed to break even), and they would have established a fund to supplement Council salary for members with special needs. In doing so, they would have identified with their fellow employees instead of sending them the message, “We are more important than you are.”

          3. Dorte Jensen

            Hi Tia and South of Davis,

            In re-reading my post, I realize that my analogy is not perfect (late at night, brain shutting down, not a great thinker to begin with). I guess I said that City employees are the muscles, since that’s where the chunk of blood/oxygen/energy will go in the fight or flight response. However, I really mean that City employees are the rest of the body, as opposed to the brain.

            Of course, taking distinctions too seriously (brain/body, more/less, self/other) is a symptom of the real problem, which is a lack of love. That’s why the Council raise hurt employees so much, and that’s why all of this matters.

  10. Ryan Kelly

    Tia – we have 3 public pools in Davis, plus groups using 2 more (civic center and community park.). Then add in pools at 3 private gyms that are available via a membership. Then look at the substantial number of pools at apartments and home owner associations. Then add up the number of private backyard pools. I think that Davis is in pretty good shape here.

    Now, ride your bike around town.

    Now try to tell me that you honestly think that pool maintenance is as high a priority as repair of our roads and bike paths.

  11. Tia Will


    My point was not what I consider to be the higher priority. My point was that not everyone prioritizes in the same way. I have been made aware of the actual number of pools available to the various groups.
    What you are not choosing to consider is how impacted the public pools are by the groups that do not have access to the private pools ( namely any of those in back yards and apartment complexes) and or the groups that are using the pools for competitive purposes.

    My personal priorities would be, first, the sidewalks and greenbelts ( because I would like to continue to encourage the use of these over the use of roads by private automobiles ), then the roads, and then the pools. I am sure that everyone else could draw up their own list based on their priorities. I was merely pointing out that people can legitimately differ on those priorities without this being a cause for public branding or attempts at political name calling.

    1. Dorte Jensen

      Hi Tia,

      I wrote a post to you and Michelle in the comments to this article (June 22, 10:53 a.m.). I don’t know if you saw it, since it is buried among others. In any case, it might give you insight into the question of priorities.

  12. TrueBlueDevil

    Is the City of Davis giving us more proof that liberals / progressives have severe problems governing?

    Look at what has happened to California since the Progressives have gotten more and more control. Look at our national debt. The examples are all around.

    It seems like Davis did a better job when there were more common sense leaders, and when the Department of Letters and Science was small / less influential (L&S bringing in the more liberal element to town, as the College of Ag has been traditionally more conservative / moderate / common sense / practical).

    I don’t recall the earlier town leaders having multi-year discussions on how to pay for crumbling roads while simultaneously talking about building a 50-meter competition swimming pool.

      1. Frankly

        But dominated by liberals and lacking conservatives.

        TBD has a good point.

        And there is precedent here. Liberals in control tend to cause fiscal unsustainability.

  13. David Greenwald

    My view is that the Great Recession will give rise to a new generation of liberals who are more fiscally responsible. We’ve seen that in much of the next wave of leadership in Davis.

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