Council Emerges From Break with a Lot of Work to Do


One might excuse newly-installed Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis if he feels like he’s on a roller coaster ride. After all, Mr. Davis was elected by the voters on June 3, four weeks later he was thrown into the fire quite literally as the council took up key issues in a marathon two-day meeting and then followed it up with meetings on July 15 and July 17 dealing with huge and weighty issues like the new city manager, innovation parks, and water.

In late June, Mayor Dan Wolk and Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis laid out a six month plan to meet city challenges.  They wrote, “This year the celebration will be tempered by the significant challenges our community is facing. In fact, the very day it is sworn in the City Council will get down to business addressing a number of those challenges.”

On Tuesday, the council meets for the first time in six weeks, and they will nearly immediately be thrown back into the fire.

In the piece by Mr. Wolk and Mr. Davis, they laid out six critical issues that need to be tackled. That list has grown in their absence.

The council agenda will come out later today, but we already have a list of ten city priorities that will need to be tackled fairly quickly.

City Manager: The top priority is to hire a new city manager. Because the process is cloaked in secrecy there is not much we can do to update. We have heard rumors that they may start interviewing their list of finalists this weekend. Given that there has been no notice given, that seems unlikely now.

Yesterday we flagged the city on two issues citing the lack of leadership, that leadership will only come when we have a permanent full-time city manager to run the show. It is hard to see how the city meets critical challenges in the coming months if this drags into the late fall and into January as some fear.

Pools: Six weeks ago, I would not have put this issue on the list. However that was before the disclosure of a 7000-plus gallon leak in Civic Pool. The city needs to figure out if it can fix the leak or if this means that pools will be joining roads on the critical needs list.

Parcel tax/Infrastructure: People continue to be mind-boggled when they hear the numbers the city faces on roads, hundreds of millions perhaps over half a billion if the roads issue is not addressed. We have to continue to hammer the city on the issue of educating the public on just how bad the needs are. The city needs to do outreach and figure out in the next few months when to hold the parcel tax election and whether to shoot for $50, $100, or $150.

Innovation Park/Economic Development: The city will be starting its outreach on Saturday. The community is invited to attend an Information Open House for the Mace Ranch Innovation Center, on Saturday, August 23 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., during the Farmer’s Market, at the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, 303 3rd Street.

The Mace Ranch Innovation Center, located on a 185-acre parcel in the East Davis area along Mace Boulevard, is in the early planning phase by Ramco Enterprises and The Buzz Oates Group of Companies.

“The Innovation Center is envisioned as a central point for established companies to work with and develop around, stimulating growth and sustainability,” said Dan Ramos, Vice President of Ramco Enterprises. “We are very interested in sharing our initial ideas with the Davis community and discussing how we can shape these ideas to reflect Davis’s community values.”

The Nishi/ Gateway developers have been engaging the public, as well. The City of Davis is asking the public to participate in a community-based planning process for the Downtown University Gateway District. From August 1 to September 15, if you join the conversation, you will be entered in a drawing for a $25 Davis Downtown gift card accepted at more than 200 Downtown Davis retailers and restaurants.

We have a lot of discussions surrounding these proposals at Mace, Nishi Gateway, Northwest Quadrant, the Hotel Conference Center, and Davis Ranch. Not to mention we have ongoing discussions about the Davis Downtown.

Police: This is obviously a recent one, however, the revelations about the police military vehicle will compel the community and police to address this issue. The acquisition of the MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle caught the city council off-guard.

Council Lucas Frerichs told the Vanguard, “I was extremely surprised to learn of, (after it’s delivery), this recent acquisition of an armored vehicle, by the Davis Police Department.”

Mayor Wolk added, “I can’t imagine why Davis needs a tank. It’s in a city garage and I hope it stays there.” The community and region have definitely taken notice. Now the question is how and when will the city deal with this issue.

Water rates/Prop 218: While the council may have passed new rates, the ratepayers have the ability to block those rates. We have seen no sign of a Prop 218 coordinated campaign and the September 16 meeting date is approaching.

We know that the city and YRAPUS have entered a confidential settlement conference for their lawsuit, however, leaders from the water protest movement have been signaling to the Vanguard in recent weeks that the fight is not over. What that means, time will only tell.

Homeless/Panhandling: When the Vanguard spoke with new Chamber CEO Matt Yancey, he indicated that the issue of the downtown homeless and panhandling was on his radar. We will see what emerges and there might be a policy piece coming out in the next few days that will clarify the issue and the concerns of the community.

Council meeting changes: Mayor Dan Wolk has indicated he wants to see changes to the meetings to streamline them further, limiting the number of major issued covered as well as putting proclamations and awards into a separate monthly meeting.

Budget: With the focus on the parcel tax and innovation parks, we need to be mindful that budget is an ongoing concern and the MOUs expire at the end of the fiscal year in June 2015. That means at some point during this coming year, we will see goals outlined and rules laid out.

Affordable housing: There have been talks about potentially new models of affordable housing. Meanwhile, Mayor Wolk and Mayor Pro Tem Davis, both of whom are committed to affordable housing, wrote: “Housing remains costly in our community – not just for low-income families, but those in the middle class. And with the demise of redevelopment, our community has lost its primary source of affordable housing funds. The city has initiated a discussion about how to move forward and the City Council will discuss those recommendations later this year.”

That should keep the city council busy for a while – what did we miss?

—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. Tia Will

    My best wishes to all of you on the city council. The job that you have before you is formidable. I truly appreciate all of your efforts ( yes, even the one’s that I adamantly oppose) since I believe that each of you truly does have the best interests of our community, as you view them, at heart.

    Good luck !

  2. Highbeam

    Don, I asked David about that immediately when I started reviewing the article…as he has not responded, but has responded on other things, I take it that it was intended, so I have not changed it.

    1. Highbeam

      Also, there have been times when I have removed hyperbole and David has wanted it back, as he had intended the exaggeration…I know this can definitely be considered more than exaggeration (!), but I thought I should check first

  3. hpierce

    David… please watch your accuracy. Under “budget”, you state that ‘the MOU’s’ expire June 2015. Partially true. General management and PASEA have MOU’s which expire Dec 31, 2015.

    Baseline for Medical costs (Kaiser) for active and retiree members will be flat for 2015 (slight decrease for active, miniscule increase on supplement to Medicare)…

    Engaging the employee groups for changes/terms for future year(s) should start (IMO) by early January, FOR ALL GROUPS, as certain items (medical, cafeteria cashout are examples) do (or should, IMO) cross group lines. In any event, discussions should be well underway prior to firming up the City budget for 2015-16.

    1. Highbeam

      Sorry, hpierce, that I did not know or remember that, and it did not raise a red flag in my mind. My emphasis of course is grammar etc, and for most of content David is way more well-versed than me, and this was not one of the things that caught my attention as needing fact-checking.

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