Joe Krovoza took over as mayor in January 2011 and served one of the longest consecutive tenures as mayor in the history of Davis. Tonight he will step down after a single, but eventful term on the council. He hands the gavel over to Dan Wolk and his seat over to Robb Davis, who will be sworn in as mayor pro tem.
What follows is a string of personal vignettes about my experiences with Joe Krovoza. I will argue that, love him or hate him, Joe Krovoza played a tremendous role in transforming this community, mostly in the positive.
I have often told this story on here. In the fall of 2009, the contentious Wildhorse Ranch election had just taken place and Lamar Heystek had just announced he would not run for reelection. I get this email from Joe Krovoza. I vaguely recognize his name, but I didn’t know him and we had never met.
We meet over at Black Bear Diner and he tells me about his candidacy for city council. I remember leaving with the distant belief that this guy had no chance in Hades of winning a seat on the Davis City Council and I prepare to go about my life building the Vanguard. Little did I realize that I not only had greatly underestimated Joe Krovoza, but he would become a pivotal part of the Vanguard and my life for the next four years.
If the Vanguard paved the way for fiscal responsibility and breaking of the power of the firefighters’ union, Joe Krovoza would play an instrumental role at several very critical moments each step of the way.
The first of those moments came when he made the fateful decision that he would not accept money from any city employees or, in fact, anyone doing business with the city, which included developers, consultants, and the like. Because this was a public declaration, it was soon used to push Rochelle Swanson into committing to at least not taking money from city employees.
Once Rochelle Swanson followed suit, Sydney Vergis, who entered 2010 as a front runner, made the decision not to accept money from the firefighters either – or that decision was made by the firefighters themselves. In any case, Ms. Vergis, who had received $4000 in 2008 from the firefighters in direct bundled contributions and another $8000 in an independent expenditure campaign, was cut off from a major source of expected campaign money and ended up finishing a relatively distant third.
Joe Krovoza’s crucial leadership at that point became the catalyst for the first step in breaking the firefighters’ hold on the Davis City Council, and with it came the prospects of real fiscal change.
By spring 2011, with Dan Wolk replacing Don Saylor, there was only one councilmember left on the council who had been endorsed by the firefighters. But it was becoming evident that city staff was dragging their feet on fiscal reforms.
In the early spring, Interim City Manager Paul Navazio put out a budget that was more appropriate for the previous council. It contained no reforms for pensions, OPEB or structural benefits for city employees.
I would meet with Mayor Joe Krovoza and Mayor Pro Tem Rochelle Swanson at the Graduate for lunch. It was at that point where I really laid out not only the pension and OPEB issue, but the issue of the roads and unmet needs. Up until that point there had been at least three presentations before council and two or three articles in the Vanguard on the declining PCI, but no traction from either the public or the city council.
What emerged out of that meeting was Joe Krovoza’s proposal where there would be $2.5 million in cuts to employee compensation. $1 million would go to roads, $1 million to accelerate the transition to fully fund OPEB, and another half million to brace against the expected fee increase for PERS.
Contrary to popular belief at that time, I played no part in developing that proposal. That was all Joe Krovoza and Rochelle Swanson and I was just as caught off guard as anyone else when they pushed it forward.
At that meeting where this was discussed, it was well over 100 degrees outside, the AC was not working in council chambers, and 150 people were packed into a very hot and uncomfortable room. While Sue Greenwald and Stephen Souza blinked, Joe Krovoza, Rochelle Swanson and Dan Wolk (who ended up the swing vote) held strong and pushed through these critical reforms.
Some have argued that this vote ended up meaningless, but they are, quite frankly, completely wrong. Interim City Manager Paul Navazio dragged his feet. He was directed to implement these changes and come back to council in September with the changes. However, that never happened.
Steve Pinkerton, upon his arrival as city manager, recognized that he lacked the time to properly implement the $2.5 million in personnel cuts in the fall of 2011, but the basic structure of the reforms became the backbone for the 2012 MOUs where the city was able to enact major reforms with cafeteria cash outs, employees taking on a larger percentage of their PERS obligations, reforms to OPEB, and the creation of a second tier for pension, among other key changes.
In 2013, we saw the council enact major reforms to the fire department, including reduction of personnel on a shift and the shared management that has finally brought the city a full-time fire chief for the first time since 2010.
We also had the council, for the first time in 2012 and 2013, take seriously the road conditions, finally putting money from the general fund into road repairs, hiring a consultant to evaluate the pavement conditions, and implementing a plan to address roads funding.
Joe Krovoza, of course, was not perfect. One of his early mistakes was on the issue of water. On September 6, 2011, the first meeting for Steve Pinkerton, Mayor Krovoza pushed through the water rate plans and then looked on as citizens scrambled to petition a referendum.
Joe Krovoza acknowledged to me that he had erred in pushing so far past where the public was on the issue. He said that he had been in meetings with the JPA and felt he understood the issue and the reasons why we needed to go to surface water, but he failed to appreciate the extent to which the public was not on board with this move.
The council, following the qualification of the referendum, pulled back, ultimately creating the Water Advisory Commission which resulted in a smaller project, Measure I which put the project on the ballot, and the process that we saw play out throughout the year in 2012 and 2013.
Some will undoubtedly criticize Joe Krovoza for casting the deciding vote against Mace 391 in June 2013 and for opposing efforts to re-open discussion. At the same time, the ensuing discussion led to the re-opening of the Innovation Park Task Force and ultimately the RFEI process that has allowed the possibility for two or three business park proposals to come forward.
Finally, many have criticized Joe Krovoza for running for State Assembly against Dan Wolk, which some believe split the Yolo County vote and paved the way for the more moderate Bill Dodd to become the Democratic nominee for the heavily Democratic district.
Joe Krovoza would raise over $300,000 from a wide range of donors and, while he was largely non-competitive outside of Yolo County, he finished second in Yolo County and actually beat Dan Wolk on their home turf.
They will remember that all three of their colleagues endorsed Dan Wolk for Assembly over Joe Krovoza, though the reasoning for those decisions varied greatly.
However, we do not believe that should be what people remember Joe Krovoza for. He could be forceful on the dais, as he was last week in castigating a city staffer for stonewalling Matt Williams and Donna Lemongello on having their water rates proposal fully analyzed. But his endearing legacy is helping to break the lock that the firefighters had on city council and, in doing so, paving the way for the fiscal reforms that have already been implemented and that will be implemented in the next round of negotiations.
On a whole host of issues, Joe Krovoza leaves behind a legacy that sees a city hall much stronger and on much better footing than the one he entered four years ago.
—David M. Greenwald reporting