Creating a Positive Image of Davis

Schilling Robotics looms as a critical cog in the innovation park discussion - photo courtesy of DavisWiki
Schilling Robotics looms as a critical cog in the innovation park discussion – photo courtesy of DavisWiki

by Rob White

An article titled “Rancho Cordova Looks Into Innovation Center Idea” ran in the Sacramento Business Journal on August 25th. The author, Ben van der Meer, outlined that officials in Rancho Cordova “are trying to figure out who the [entrepreneurs] are, and the best way to help them.”

This article caught my attention because Davis is also considering several innovation centers and I wondered what our regional neighbors to the east might be up to.

The author goes on to describe that “although early in the process, the city of Rancho Cordova is exploring the concept of establishing an innovation center to give those entrepreneurs a hand up to the next level, either by creating a place they can accelerate their expansion or just providing a forum to get them off the ground.”

From that description, it became clear that Rancho Cordova officials were not ‘exploring’ something akin to what Davis is considering, but it still piqued my interest. They are looking to build a community of entrepreneurs, while Davis has a thriving community of entrepreneurs and is trying to figure out a way to build space to keep their growth activities in Davis.

Amanda Norton, the Rancho Cordova economic development manager stated in the article that “we don’t know if it will be virtual or be brick and mortar. It’s all still to be imagined.’ And to do this, van der Meer describes that Rancho Cordova is holding a public workshop on September 23rd where concepts and ideas will be discussed.

And that is what really inspired me. Rancho Cordova has just the beginning of an idea. They are more than aware of what is going on in the area of innovation in the region, the state and globally and they want to figure out how their city can accommodate some of that activity.

As Norton describes it, entrepreneurs “need for a place where creative types can pursue their idea, and a high-tech component is almost certain to be part of what emerges.”

So this simple article, without a lot of substance other than a long way to announce that Rancho Cordova is trying to figure out how to increase its economic development opportunities with respect to entrepreneurs and is holding a public ‘imagining’ workshop, was really all about creating a positive image in the business community (as this article was posted in the Sacramento Business Journal web feed).

Rancho Cordova leaders wanted to make sure that entrepreneurs, creative types and those involved in the innovation sector were aware that their city was also were interested in being the home to their business. And on a more subliminal level, these leaders were sending the message that they are open to new ideas and that the city wants to attract these innovation businesses and the investments that come with them.

We in Davis have recently experienced what these investments look like… they are the kind of investments that Bayer makes to take a small agtech company in Davis called AgraQuest and invest almost $500 million to make it a new agtech powerhouse. Which in turn will cause the company to seek out about quadruple the amount of square feet that it had in mid-2012 and will lead to a tripling of the workforce.

They are the kind of investments that lead FMC Corporation to make a multi-$100 million investment in Davis-based Schilling Robotics that are now causing that company to also need to quadruple its available space and about triple its workforce in the coming decade.

And they are the kind of investments that lead small agtech startup Marrone Bio Innovations to be the first initial public offering in the Sacramento Region in almost 8 years, leading to a $60 million IPO and a second round of stock netting $40 million just several months later.

But so what? Why should you care?

Well, as voices and leaders in the community, you have a direct impact on the view of these same entrepreneurs, innovators and investors. When the news about Davis is centered on such things as toad tunnels, peaceful student protest gone awry or a controversial city acquisition (such as an armored personnel vehicle), it’s not the object of the controversy that is the issue. It’s most certainly not the right of Davis citizens to voice their opinion that is of issue. And it is not the way that the community requires the utmost transparency in our daily transactions.

But it is the way we handle these things that is very important. Civil discourse, based on facts that seek understanding and common ground, is a tenet of many great societies through history and I think it is a strong (and attractive) tenet of Davis.

When our leaders and voices in this city decide to take that civil discourse into areas of badgering, belittlement and outright lambasting of others in a public forum, we lose credibility as a place of knowledge and civility. And we are better than that… so much so, that we even have a coffee shop named after the high road of civil discourse!

And maybe most importantly, by showing kindness and restraint in our disagreements and creating opportunities for all Davis citizens to have a voice, we can start to achieve the best of all possible situations. Because the world is watching, constantly (and sometimes unforgivingly), and the investment opportunities for our Davis-based startups and business are just as tied to how we act as a citizenry, as we are to them for revenue that funds our pools, parks and public amenities.

Because each of our financial futures is literally tied to how others perceive Davis (businesses, investors and tourists to name a few), my simple request is that we learn to disagree humbly. We don’t need to gloat when we are on the ‘winning side’ of a controversial item, and we most certainly get no value as a community of displaying that lack of humility in a public forum.

So when the next public controversy comes up, I am hopeful that the best parts of Davis are on public display and that we not settle for the low threshold of angry argument and accusations. These are not our best nature and certainly do not display our most valuable asset – community.

Thanks for considering my thoughts. Your reactions and questions are always welcome. My email is rwhite@cityofdavis.org if you choose to email me directly.

About The Author

Rob White is the Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Davis and was selected as a 2012 White House Champion of Change for Local Innovation. He serves as an ex-officio Board Member for techDAVIS (a local tech entrepreneur industry group), as an executive Board Member for the Innovate North State iHub, and as a Board Member for Hacker Lab and the California Network for Manufacturing Innovation. He is a candidate for the Doctorate in Policy, Planning and Development from the University of Southern California and has a Masters from USC in Planning and Development and a Bachelors of Science in Geology from Chico State.

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44 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    Rob

    As always, I appreciate your thoughtful perspective on our city issues. A couple of additional points.

    “Because each of our financial futures is literally tied to how others perceive Davis (businesses, investors and tourists to name a few), my simple request is that we learn to disagree humbly. We don’t need to gloat when we are on the ‘winning side’ of a controversial item, and we most certainly get no value as a community of displaying that lack of humility in a public forum.

    I agree and would like to expand on this comment. Not only are our financial futures tied to how others perceive Davis, so are our futures as a healthy, environmentally sound, and peaceful community tied to the perceptions of others and our perceptions of ourselves. I agree that civility is important in all of our communications. I also feel that all assumptions should be open for respectful challenging and conversation including assumptions about the optimal size and composition of our community.

    I personally would favor moving away from the “sales pitch” for each proposal towards an honest engagement about the pros and cons of any route chosen. What I saw at the one presentation I have attended so far ( the Ramos proposal at the Bike Museum) was a listing of positives. There was no presentation at all of potential downsides.

    That is ok, I came equipped with my own ; ), but I recognize that developers , planners and entrepreneurs are very smart people. They know that no change comes without some downsides. I would find it much more compelling and refreshing to have them put these considerations up front as part of the conversation rather than pretending that their proposal is all good and only reactively admitting that there may be some costs to the community as well. I am much more likely to be persuaded by a prospective balancing of pros and cons than I am by a polished sales pitch.

    To their credit, the presenters were very respectful of my concerns about the presentation and were welcoming of my different perspective. I hope that all of our conversations about these major changes for our community can be conducted in such a respectful manner.

  2. realchangz

    Rob & Tia,

    Appreciate both the article and your comments. Particularly Rob’s observations about Rancho Cordova’s strategy in opening a pathway to dialogue caused me to wonder.

    What is our community key message to the region? I have heard it said that “We are open for business.” – positive, yes, but fairly benign and not really indicating where we are headed or what we are seeking.

    In this context, I recently read with interest an Dale Kasler’s interview with Mark Friedman in which he quoted as saying:

    “…we live in the middle of the most productive agriculture region in the world. Further, our region has a unique set of assets that will allow us to combine the green-tech and med-tech industries in ways that other communities cannot. We have great hospitals, a growing medical device industry and tying it all together is UC Davis – the top American university in agricultural science, ecology and environmental studies. Their research is actively connecting what we eat to personal health.

    We have competitive advantages that no one else can match. This gives us an opportunity to create something that is great, something that belongs in Sacramento and nowhere else.”

    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/16/6629977/a-look-ahead-sacramentos-five.html#storylink=cpy

    While Mr. Friedman’s comments were framed in context of a regional discussion, he was clearly identifying Sacramento as the hub for that potential opportunity. As with Rancho Cordova’s recent announcement, it sends a signal, its catches one’s attention, it causes one to take a closer look.

    I think that part of Rob’s question, or the question behind his observations, is: What is Davis’ message to the region and the World.

    Put more succinctly: “What is Davis strategic value proposition to the region and beyond?” Or, using Mr. Friedman’s words: What is Davis’ “competitive advantages that no one else can match.”

    Seems like a subject worthy of discussion. Whether its a good thing or not, we live in a competitive environment and a competitive economy – and in that context every community really needs an effective strategy if they seek a truly sustainable and secure economic future.

    Is the community OK with the notion of messaging the idea that we are the HOME of UC Davis, that we embrace that relationship and that we welcome new companies and new employers who share our values?

    While not ideal as a means of explaining or exploring this potential nexus between new innovation jobs and a long term strategy for a healthy Davis economy, the Innovation Park discussion can serve as the basis for a more holistic discussion of the potential benefits (and associated drawbacks). It will be up to the community and its leadership to insure that this conversation proceeds in forum/s that faithfully includes the concerns of our residents.

  3. Frankly

    Some residents will never change their stripes wanting Davis to stay a bedroom and retirement village. To them that is a positive image. Other’s see Davis as a quirky, artsy, older, hippy hangout… much like it was in the 60s and 70s. Still other people see Davis as a liberal-progressive academic center always reliable left of center in social, environmental and economic issues.

    So “positive image” is relative.

    The challenge with all image preferences is simply economic sustainability. An image change to a large local economy is necessary because our city expenses far exceed our demanded services and amenities.

    So, what I suggest is for all people holding certain positive image preferences to get onboard the train to develop an positive sub-image of economic sustainability. It is not someone else’s problem if you want an opinion and voice for what the image of Davis should be… it is your problem.

    1. realchangz

      And, on a related point, as the school continues its juggernaut of student enrollment (a good thing) it will continue to increase of our population of student residents (already a very high percentage even for a college town) – who by and large do not enjoy the same discretionary earnings/income as would a similar population of new, arriving tech employees. Point being, from a standpoint of economic activity or per capita spending, the continued growth of our student population (while a clear boon to our restaurants and entertainment venues) does little to contribute towards an overall increase in per capita spending and associated revenues to support municipal services.

      Absent permanent new sources of economic activity, the inevitable result will be an ever-increasing need for additional new taxes. So, if that is to be the will of the community, it would nice to see visible local leadership promoting the virtues of increased parcel taxes – rather than lamenting and blocking such requests – for indeed that is the alternative strategy to insure a sound and secure municipal government and the amenities it affords.

  4. Anon

    I agree with the author of this article that it is extremely important that Davis citizens put on their best behavior, if they want businesses to come here and locate. Even though I did not agree with most of the positions expressed about the MRAP at the City Council meeting, nevertheless it was a very civil discussion except for one audience member who felt it necessary to “cat call” twice from his seat. Everyone else was quite respectful, even of those 3 who expressed an opposing view. What I don’t know is if that is because it was clear there already were 3 City Council votes in favor of scrapping the MRAP (which was clear from the way questions were asked by City Council members to Police Chief Landy Black), so those in opposition to the MRAP knew they had won before they even approached the podium. My hope is the atmosphere of civility is a harbinger of things to come – that there will be more of this sort of good behavior from the public. Some of the vitriol from the public recently at City Council and Commission meetings has been absolutely unacceptable, and would most certainly discourage new business from locating here.

  5. Alan Miller

    “I agree with the author of this article it is extremely important that Davis citizens put on their best behavior, if they want businesses to come here and locate.”

    What a load of crap. What makes business decide to come here or not isn’t based on a couple of people’s perception as to how other people in this town “behave”. It is based on economic incentives, profit margin comparison of moving here versus other locations, availability of proper work force, etc. — i.e. economic incentives.

    Cease in this passive-aggressive, innuendo based need to control others. You can’t, and you never will. This may give you pleasure in sitting back and pointing fingers and going “that’s why I can’t get any businesses to come here, because so and so did XXX and ruined Davis’ reputation.

    Oh, PU-LEEEEEEEZ.

    1. Alan Miller

      Oh, I’m sorry, was I being uncivil using the word “crap” in the comments section of a Davis blog that could be associated with Davis. OOOOOOHHHHHH! My most sarcastic and insincere apologies!

    2. Davis Progressive

      yeah having some crazy person in a purple hat genuflecting and screaming at council doesn’t convey an image at all in the eyes of the world – especially when the news covers it.

    3. Rob White

      Alan – though I completely agree that you have a right to pretty much say whatever you want, you must also recognize that you and you alone are responsible for your actions… and to that degree, you are primarily responsible for what your fellow human experiences when they come in contact with you. You get to choose. But you are not correct when you say your actions have no bearing on others… if I am not mistaken, you proved this point when you directly tied current US events to the discussion regarding the MRAP, thereby invoking perception of others circumstances and their situation on a context here in Davis.

      So yes, perception matters. Check social and popular media if you disagree. You can choose to ignore it, but that doesn’t waive the facts.

      On the point of what makes businesses decide where to locate, I am interested in your direct experience. Can you please provide me (and the rest of the Vanguard community) with a link to your CV or a brief bio of your experience with economic development? Again, unless I have missed something, your catalogue of experience is not very deep or broad in this subject so it would be highly inaccurate for you to present your opinion as fact.

      And for the record, any experienced economic development person will tell you that the number one reason (far and away) that business owners chose a location is based on quality of life – for them, their employees and their families. And quality of life is a subjective measure based on… yup, perception.

      I welcome your comments, though I do wish you would keep your derogatory comments aimed at me and others at a minimum. I am City staff… but that does not mean I am required to accept your personal attacks or demeaning comments. I have continued to present my professional experience as the backdrop for my thoughts, and I will continue to let this community judge what they think of my ideas based on the facts I present. But I am not required to be part of the Vanguard community and as such am not mandated to take written (or other) abuse. I would prefer that you deliver to me the same respect that you expect in your interactions with the city.

      Thank you in advance.

      1. Don Shor

        And for the record, any experienced economic development person will tell you that the number one reason (far and away) that business owners chose a location is based on quality of life – for them, their employees and their families. And quality of life is a subjective measure based on… yup, perception.

        I would love to see this topic explored in more detail. When we discuss growth issues, folks who prefer slow growth often mention ‘quality of life’ issues, and others like Frankly want more specificity as to what they feel would be lost in that regard if development occurs too quickly (or at all).

        It is subjective. So from your experience, what are the attributes that Davis has in quality of life that attract potential business owners, and what do they feel is lacking?

        I just had the pleasant experience of escorting a friend and his 17-year-old daughter around Davis and the campus, as she is trying to choose her college in the field of animal sciences. On their own they explored the downtown; they took the official guided campus tour, and we strolled through the arboretum. I can tell you that, to that metropolitan young adult from Seattle, Davis compares well in many regards with SLO, Pomona, and may have just edged out Fort Collins.

        They liked how compact the downtown was, how walkable everything was. They were pleasantly surprised that cars aren’t allowed on campus. They liked the look of Davis: the trees, the farms, the surroundings.

        So perhaps you can expand on the quality of life attributes you hear about as you interact with business leaders — both pro and con.

      2. Frankly

        I agree with Rob here. Profit is certainly important, but businesses are owned by individual decision-makers. And those people pursue quality of live attribute just like everyone else.

        If profit was the only motivation we would have every company locating to the Midwest were property is cheap and labor is cheap and people have a tremendous work ethic.

        But then who wants to live in Kansas?

        http://www.cobaltboats.com/our_company/who_we_are.html (note… it happens sometimes)

        But there is another thing about business owners. Most of them have worked their asses off to get where they are. They tend to be exceptional people in the areas that served them in their success. And they have expectations to be valued for their hard work, exceptional-ism related to their success. They don’t think they are better than anyone else… if they did, they would not succeed, because business success requires attracting and retaining the best and brightest employees… and egomaniacs will actually repel the best and brightest. But they do expect consideration for the returns their success will provide a community they chose to locate in.

        And 99.9% of communities would go out of their way to welcome these people and their businesses.

        If Davis gives off the message that we don’t appreciate them… don’t appreciate the benefits that the community would realize… then that will have a tremendous negative influence and repel rather than attract them.

        We do have things they want… basically an offer of a great quality of life and proximity to the university. But ultimately they have more of what we need that we have what they need. And if we are rude and dismissive and overly-critical… they will drop Davis from their list of 100s of options.

      3. TrueBlueDevil

        I have to politely disagree with both Rob White and Frankly. I would argue that there is no one sole reason for why a business locates anywhere, so I am a bit surprised by Mr. White’s definitive declaration as a city representative. Upfront I will say I have no fancy degree or CV at hand, but I’ve got years in business outside of the confines of an insular college town. I may be wrong. But I think my real-world examples will be illustrative.

        I would argue that the likelihood of success is extremely important. I know several entrepreneurs who love San Francisco and it’s “quality of life”, but they know that the likelihood of success (for their business) is reduced due to endless red tape, high costs, high rents, high labor costs, and low employee loyalty. Not to mention parking.

        Likewise, I know several individuals who love California, who dream of coming back to California after they have “made it”, but they relocated to Texas or Florida for lower business costs and less onerous state regulations. They also prefer no state taxes, and I’m told lower taxes across the board. And cheaper energy. And no snow.

        When Whole Foods installs a new store, rehabbing an existing supermarket location, their typical time to remodel and open is one to two years, but I know of cases in our state that took three years. Three years due to city inspectors, state regulations, etc. I’m not talking about a coal power plant, it’s updating an existing grocery store! A small business person would go under unless they had massive capital in such a scenario. I knew a small restaurant owner in the bay area who went from one small town to another. She had to remodel a kitchen that already had an extensive remodel done 2 years prior. One change in the plumbing code, one change … cost her $75,000. This was ten years ago. When she told me this, I knew why my salmon entree was $5 more than her previous location; and I knew she would fail. How many entrees would she have to sell to make up for that one minor, most likely unneeded code change?

        Companies like Bank of America relocated to Concord for dramatically lower rent, and in order to get their employees closer to where they could buy a home – Concord, Antioch, and Brentwood. Many other large corporate businesses in California have relocated to Arizona, Texas, Florida, China, and Mexico the past few decades due to costs often created by government regulations, and taxes. Austin, Texas is an OK place, but it’s not San Diego or Palo Alto, but businesses are flooding in.

        I spoke with a serial entrepreneur recently who referred to Davis as “The Peoples Republic of Davis”. He now lives in the East Bay, but his goal is to get back to Palo Alto, an area that provides high caliber talent, energy, ideas, entrepreneurship, and venture capital money.

        Wine businesses locate in Napa or Sonoma for dirt, talent, exposure, and weather, but many of their workers can’t afford it, it’s tough for newer families, and there is a growing gang problem.

        I guess this alludes to a conceptual problem, who defines “quality of life”.

        I disagree with Frankly (who I often agree with) in that there are numerous issues business owners take into account, and cost is only one. A wine company would fail in Kansas, but a boutique cheese merchant might choose to manufacture their cheeses there; just as the new hockey company might locate in Canada or the upper northeast.

        I understand that Mr. White may be pushing “quality of life” as that is what we have to sell, but there are numerous other factors at play. Profit, chance of success, talent / labor pool, applicable knowledge, taxes, regulations, tax breaks (Ireland, the Celtic Tiger), costs, bottom line projections, quality of life, weather, crime, commute time for employees, insurance costs, available land, demand, capital, and more.

        Now, let me find my CV…

        1. realchangz

          I’m not exactly sure where you disagree Rob’s commentary. I’m guessing that you enjoy your “quality of life” in Davis otherwise you might have made other choices. And maybe that’s not true, I’d have no way of knowing. But your series of examples (above) of various owners and employees moving to an area for strategic/career (which are also key components on quality of life index) reasons would seem to dovetail with the increasing awareness of UC Davis as one of the top destinations for professionals interested in sustainable agriculture and advanced bio-technology solutions for a growing world.

      4. Alan Miller

        “ . . . though I completely agree that you have a right to pretty much say whatever you want”

        I think most Americans do. There is that pesky fire in a crowded building thing . . .

        “you must also recognize that you and you alone are responsible for your actions… “

        True. Are you referring to any action in particular?

        “and to that degree, you are primarily responsible for what your fellow human experiences when they come in contact with you. “

        I’m starting to feel like I’m getting a lecture from Dr. Laura.

        “You get to choose.”

        Well, free-will people would say that. Fatalists would say it’s all pre-determined, and we’re just playing out the scripts that were written for us.

        “But you are not correct when you say your actions have no bearing on others…”

        I’m trying to find that quote from myself . . . still looking . . . still looking . . .

        “if I am not mistaken,”

        Actually you are mistaken (see below).

        “you proved this point”

        Not sure what you mean by ‘this point’, unless you mean the statement that my actions have no bearing on others, which I didn’t say . . . (see above).

        “when you directly tied current US events to the discussion regarding the MRAP,”

        Actually I said when I heard about the MRAP I didn’t think of Ferguson, I thought of 11-18-2011. I tied it to local circumstances.

        “ . . . thereby invoking perception of others circumstances and their situation on a context here in Davis.”

        Except I didn’t do that (see above).

        “So yes, perception matters.”

        Yes, perception matters; and I perceive that you misperceived my post.

        “Check social and popular media if you disagree.”

        But I agree!

        “You can choose to ignore it, but that doesn’t waive the facts.”

        I’m not ignoring it! Wait, what is the antecedent to “it” at this point?

        “On the point of what makes businesses decide where to locate, I am interested in your direct experience.”

        So am I!

        “Can you please provide me (and the rest of the Vanguard community) with a link to your CV or a brief bio of your experience with economic development?”

        No, and I’m not taking the bait on the ‘I’m the expert and you’re not and therefore your opinion isn’t worth as much as mine” debating tactic.

        “Again, unless I have missed something,”

        You been researching my credentials? I am honored . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .and a little creeped out.

        “your catalogue of experience is not very deep or broad in this subject.”

        Well, it is deep but not broad . . . . . . . or was that broad but not deep?

        “so it would be highly inaccurate for you to present your opinion as fact.”

        I believe I presented my opinions as opinions . . . but if I presented them so well you considered them as fact than I sure was effective.

        “And for the record, any experienced economic development person will tell you that the number one reason (far and away) that business owners chose a location is based on quality of life – for them, their employees and their families.”

        I agree with the above paragraph . . . to the degree my lack of knowledge of economic development allows.

        “And quality of life is a subjective measure based on… yup, perception.”

        Yup.

        “I welcome your comments, though”

        That is abundantly clear.

        “I do wish you would keep your derogatory comments aimed at me and others at a minimum.”

        Oh, so you only welcome some of my comments.

        “I am City staff…”

        I am Alan C. Miller.

        “but that does not mean I am required to accept your personal attacks or demeaning comments.”

        Are you required to accept my sarcastic retorts?

        “I have continued to present my professional experience as the backdrop for my thoughts,”

        I just wing it.

        “and I will continue to let this community judge what they think of my ideas.”

        . . . and judge those ideas I will.

        “based on the facts I present.”

        . . . AND the opinions you present . . . oh, that’s right, you are an expert so you only present facts. My bad.

        “But I am not required to be part of the Vanguard community”

        (that one is too easy . . . audience?)

        “and as such am not mandated to take written (or other) abuse.”

        Y’know, if you didn’t write anything, you wouldn’t get any feedback. Just sayin’.

        “I would prefer that you deliver to me the same respect that you expect in your interactions with the city.”

        I give respect where it is deserved.

        “Thank you in advance.”

        For WHAT?!?!?

  6. DavisVoter

    One might even speculate that greater civility on this site could avoid repelling people we want to attract – a category that includes, but is not limited to, business owners. Lame partisan/ideological sniping is one thing – I assume Internet users are accustomed to that – but in my experience racially offensive speech really turns off a lot of successful, accomplished people, including those who consider themselves “conservative” on many issues.

    1. Frankly

      Blogs are not the place for the hypersensitive. They will always gravitate to conversation that does not upset them. They should just keep reading the NYTs and watching MSNBC.

      I am not being dismissive here. It is a fact.

      Check every blog that has severe rules to keep the conversation sanitized, and you will see much lower participation.

      1. Don Shor

        [moderator]

        Blogs are not the place for the hypersensitive.

        Nor are they the place for the totally insensitive. Civil discourse involves self-restraint as well as removal of specific types of comments. That is why the Vanguard does not allow insults or hate speech, requests that racially offensive, sexist, and homophobic comments be avoided, and that generic insults are strongly discouraged.
        That is not hypersensitivity. We ask all Vanguard participants to respect and adhere to the Vanguard Comments Policy.

          1. Tia Will

            Frankly

            “the natural march is toward the hypersensitive.”

            As is often the case, I see this from a very different perspective. If no one ever chose to engage in these kinds of negative and disruptive behavior, there would be no need for moderation at all. Looking at the world around us, I would say that the natural tendency is towards those who would engage in uncivil behavior if not incentivized adequately or socially sanctioned in some way, or just plain taught to “play nice” by their parents.

      2. wdf1

        Frankly: Blogs are not the place for the hypersensitive. They will always gravitate to conversation that does not upset them.

        Really? I’m more likely to respond when I see a comment that I disagree with. When you criticize education systems and policies and I disagree with those criticisms, for instance. I respond not because it necessarily upsets me, but because I’m looking for a solidly supported argument to examine rather than some assumed truism (such as you saying, “we have a crappy education today”).

        I don’t know if I always succeed, but I try to keep my comments confined to attacking and criticizing ideas and not people.

        They should just keep reading the NYTs and watching MSNBC.

        I am not being dismissive here. It is a fact.

        The NY Times op-ed page generally expresses a point of view about education — in favor of being very loose in expanding charter schools and and that standardized test scores are an appropriate measure to rely on heavily to determine quality of education — which I disagree with, on both counts. Those are both points of view which Mayor Bloomberg supported. I think you would actually agree more with the NYT op-ed page on many educational issues discussed.

        MSNBC has been mostly silent about issues of education reform in the U.S. today.

    2. DavisVoter

      The point is that some of those “hypersensitive” people who “should just keep reading the NYTs and watching MSNBC” if they want to avoid exposure to racially offensive speech just might be people Rob White wants to attract, or Frankly wants to attract, or I want to attract, to this community. And those people might find this site.

      Given that Frankly says s/he “agree[s] with Rob here” and Rob says “When … voices in this city decide to take that civil discourse into areas of badgering, belittlement and outright lambasting of others in a public forum, we lose credibility as a place of knowledge and civility,” it’s difficult to see how Frankly can take issue with the point I am making here.

      1. Frankly

        Think about it DavisVoter. We went from stamping out outright material harm done to people because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or religious orientation… and now we are talking constantly about offensive speech. Look to Europe for what “progress” looks like with respect to stamping out offensive speech. It is freakin’ Orwellian.

        What offends me is a much smaller list than what offends someone else. Who gets to decide what is offensive and what is not offensive? Frankly, (because I am), I think many hypersensitive people cannot even effectively rationalize why they develop bad feelings about something written or something said. I think they often conflate a fact that they are losing an argument or that there are points that mess with their worldview… with an unjustified claim of insensitivity.

        The point is that a blog is supposed to be a more safe place to passionately communicate without fear of personal attack, or without censorship to protect the hypersensitive from getting their feelings hurt. There is a line of course… there is always a line. But push that line too far to protect the hypersensitive and the VG will absolutely shrink in participation.

        And related to what might attract or repel a business owner or young professional to Davis… a city with a vibrant community blog would tend to add more to the attraction than to the repel.

        But what absolutely repels is moral demonization. Business is bad. Business pollutes the environment. Business owners only want profit. Business destroys the town. Etc., etc., etc., And Measure J/R is also something that repels. Outside of Davis the general sense is that Davis people are a bit whacked in their opposition to growth. And the extreme side of this is that Davis people have moved beyond just being engaged in their city politics and plans, but they are actually a bit on the side of anarchy and subject to fits of protest that the city leadership responds and routinely punish developers and business owners.

  7. Anon

    To Alan Miller: Too much theater turns off a lot of people, and certainly might make businesses think twice about locating here. After all, businesses themselves don’t want to end up in the spotlight on the national news being yelled at should they make some perceived misstep. Think about it.

  8. Tia Will

    Anon

    There is more than one way to think about it. Perhaps those business owners that would have this concern need to take Frankly’s advice a develop a “thicker skin”. Or perhaps we might start prioritizing things a little differently and start counting how people feel as highly as we value the monetary value of our actions. We see the value of feelings as very important within our own families, but somehow don’t seem to extend this to others within our community.

  9. realchangz

    We could always look at this conversation in a slightly different light – from the perspective of the recent college graduate or young professional.

    What are your options if enjoy living in Davis after your five years of college? Or, what if you are a highly motivated and aspiring tech something currently working in Downtown San Francisco and longing for a lifestyle with a more laid-back vibe and a slower pace, but still offering upward mobility in your career evolution. What does Davis have to offer in terms of employment opportunities?

    Should these questions be part of the conversation?

  10. Tia Will

    realchangz

    I think these questions should absolutely be part of the conversation ? And I think they are questions that should be looked at regionally rather than just through the lens of Davis.

    I attended the information session on the Davis Innovation Center last night. I found this to be a very interesting exchange of ideas and would strongly urge everyone to attend these sessions if possible. One point in particular struck a chord with me. One of the developers gave as an example an area of our state which had previously been in his words “covered with orchards” and which we now refer to as Silicon Valley. I think perhaps realizing that this would not be seen as an unmitigated positive by everyone there, he was next quick to say “not or course that that is what we are planning here”.

    So let’s look at this from the point of that young tech person who wants a “lifestyle with a more laid-back vibe and a slower pace” such as my own son who just came back from the Bay area for precisely this reason. How long do you think that they will be enjoying a “more laid back pace” if we insist on turning Davis into the :next major innovation hub” which is definitely being discussed as a goal at these meetings. If you do not believe this, please go to these meetings and hear what is being proposed in terms of hundreds of acres and thousands of individuals each. This may be the direction that the majority wants to head and if so, that is what we should pursue. But to pretend that these kinds of developments will not come at the cost of the essential nature of Davis as a slower paced, more laid back environment is naive at best and duplicitous at worst.

  11. Tia Will

    My preference would not be for a total lack of development, but for consideration of the well being of the region as opposed to just focusing on Davis. We have surrounding communities such as Woodland, West Sacramento, Sacramento and Vacaville that already have chosen a less rurally oriented approach than has Davis. These communities are in close proximity to Davis with accessibility by train to Sacramento and the ability to enhance our public transportation to the other communities. I would prefer focusing on a regional development model in which we considered enhancing small start ups and midsize firms compatible with new grads and innovators just coming out of the university to settle here, while recognizing that Davis may not be the best regional fit for expansion into very large firms which might be more appropriately located in an area that already has space designated for this kind of development.

    During the Ramos presentation, a representative of the developer and I had a moment of understanding when discussing the evolution of my hometown from a fishing /farming community 50 years ago, to its current status as a tourist destination and home for millionaires who have converted a previously rich agricultural area into a hillside for their mansions. It was this consultant who pointed out something that I did not realize. His statement was that from Tacoma where he has relatives, you used to be able to look across the sound to Gig Harbor at night and see darkness. What you now see are the lights from the mansions which have replaced the farms and grazing land. It was his observation that perhaps it might have been better planning to upgrade the blighted areas of Tacoma than to strip the hillsides of Gig Harbor to provide a playground for the rich. While the City of Gig Harbor now is much better off financially than it was previously, let’s not pretend that this kind of change does not come at a very real material cost.

    Might it not be better rather than trying to convert the nature of Davis into “a major innovation hub” to perhaps develop here on a smaller scale, while still contributing to the well being of the region in a collaborative manner with other cities in our region ?

    1. realchangz

      Tia,

      Good for you. As usual, you go right to the heart of the matter. That’s a big help for everyone.

      Is it possible for Davis to evolve to host community featuring a world class research university WITH a robust technology employment center – and if so, what might that look like?

      You see to dwell heavily on the issue of McMansions Expansion as a major concern for communities who seek to diversity their economies. Presumably that subject could be adequately addressed by a coordination of city/county zoning.

      With respect to the challenges of “managing the future buildout” of a community with a larger number of technology employers, that to me, seems like an exciting challenge for our community planners and an excellent subject for a community visioning exercise. How can we make Davis even better while not changing its essential character and nature and while holding true to those values the community holds most dear?

      At some point we need to face the fact that things will change. Part of what we are seeing today, with the multitude of fiscal challenges facing the community, is an example of that change. When the community voted to cease homebuilding in the early 2000s – that action alone resulted in a significantt decline in municipal revenues that had become a fixture of our economic model over the preceding three decades. Similarly, the underlying costs of maintaining our extensive network of bikepaths and greenbelts (largely paid for with development fees) began to take a larger and larger chunk of our operating budget. No surprise there, but we had not looked down the road to figure out who or how we would be managing to pay for those amenities. Bottom line, our proxy for “economic activity” for the decades of the 70s, 80s, and 90s was the “homebuilding industry”.

      We then went into the 21st Century with a strong commitment to throttle back that “industry sector” but we had nothing in mind to replace the “economic activity and economic vitality” which accompanied it – i.e. construction jobs, sales of construction materials, project revenues and fees for municipal services, expansion of neighborhood shopping centers, increased local purchasing with the arrival of new residents and families. Together, these activities served to generate a tremendous amount of “economic activity” as well as “personal wealth creation” for very large segments of our community.

      I’ll be the first to admit that I would like to see the entire process of Community Visioning as a precursor to this evolutionary discussion. Personally, I believe that it is possible for Davis to imagine a version 2.0 which emerges as a renewed and strengthened, improved and more sustainable version of the Davis we know today.

      If you think you have doubts about that, or the process whereby we might explore those future pathways, then it is much better that those concerns be articulated (as you have begun) and get those issues out on the table so they might be addressed rather than having them fester.

      I have offered and recommended the William McDonough Partnership as an example of the type of company which I believe shares the same values as the Davis community and which has the track record and professional experience to lead a community visioning process.

      So, based on what you have seen and heard, where do you suggest we go from here?

      1. Tia Will

        My recommended future steps:

        1. More meetings held at times that allow working members of our community to attend such as Ramos and the Davis Innovation Center have already begun. This is a great way to learn about what is actual on the minds of others.

        2. The Davis Vanguard will be holding another community conversation about innovations centers. I would like to see as many different points of view represented all the way from the “Ones” as David has used to describe the “develop at all costs group” all the way through the “fours” his designation for the “no growth, no how, no way ” group.

        3. Everyone who has any interest at all should in the meantime be doing as much independent research into the sustainability of communities as they are able to do.

        4. Once we have determined what all of the concerns are, it will be much easier to attempt to forge some kind of consensus rather than just assuming that we know what the other side is thinking.

        1. realchangz

          Thanks for more specifics and the additional background on planned meetings.

          I think the value of having a better handle on “what the community is thinking – both in terms of its aspirations and its fears” – the easier it will be for the proposers to craft proposals that are responsive in both directions.

          Asking developers to craft a plan for a community that has not yet articulated a clear vision of a preferred future has got to be pretty challenging.

          Providing them with a more workable framework from which to approach the task would seem to be a more efficient and cost-effective approach. I think this point is particularly true when it comes to assessing “community wide” impacts of the physical changes being proposed. How would that “future Davis” look at full buildout with three parks positioned around the periphery? How might these projects contribute to improved jobs-to-housing balance and reduced outbound commutes? What kinds of new amenities might the community anticipate with the arrival of these new employers and the facilities they require? Is it possible that one of the parks might house a new community recreation facility?

          My real question is who/what entity is charged with bringing the whole story together and presenting it from the perspective of the community rather than the perspective of a developer?

  12. realchangz

    I’m not convinced that Davis is not already “a major hub of innovation” and that such an evolution to a co-equal technology employment base is anything other than a natural transition as has occurred in virtually every community serving as host to a world class research university.

  13. Tia Will

    realchangz

    I think that you are doubtless right about Davis already being a hub of innovation. I do not think that this means that we need to follow anyone else’s path forward even if that has been a common approach. What I most want is for us to move forward in a thoughtful manner than respects all concerns and points of view and not be stampeded by the visions of a few developers, nor driven by economic judgement mistakes of the past.

    I actually see the current “flurry of activity” as quite analogous to the pressured mistakes made by previous city councils in conceding to much to the unions which is a large part of what got us into this situation in the first place. Having seen how undo pressure brought to bear can turn out, do we really feel that sufficient pressure from developers and entrepreneurs could not possibly lead to similarly unbalanced results again ?

    1. realchangz

      Tia,

      I think we are on the same page with respect to process. As mentioned, I have previous suggested the need for a highly qualified “honest broker” intermediary to insure that all voices are heard. In July of 2012, before his departure to Woodland, Ken Hiatt had presented the concept of a Community Visioning process to City Council. That staff report included a recommendation to “to enter into a consulting services contract
      with William McDonough + Partners to develop a visioning process to establish shared principles, goals, and an implementation strategy for long-term economic vitality consistent with the community’s values.”

      I would be most supportive of a reconsideration of that recommendation.

  14. Alan Miller

    “yeah having some crazy person in a purple hat genuflecting and screaming at council doesn’t convey an image at all in the eyes of the world – especially when the news covers it.”

    Thank you.

    I control the media. I control the Council. I have the power to keep companies out of Davis.

    Amazing the power some people are giving me. Maybe I should run for City Council.

    I love the word “genuflecting”.

  15. Alan Miller

    “Too much theater turns off a lot of people, and certainly might make businesses think twice about locating here.”

    Theatrics at a City meeting turns off businesses from locating in Davis. Yeah, right.

  16. BrianRiley429

    Hey Alan, the “beating the fist on the podium while shouting or cursing” thing is a high school gimmick. Literally, this is what a high school classmate of mine did during a speech in public speaking class. Let’s try to be a little bit more clever, shall we?

    1. BrianRiley429

      Alright. Touché…. but I still think you need a new playbook on the theatrics.

      PS I wasn’t trying to be belittling, but rather just trying to apply a modicum of social ostracism. I have no beef with you or problem with what you’re doing, except I think you need to be a little more creative.

  17. Alan Miller

    . . . . . except I think you need to be a little more creative.

    Y’know, I would of let it go, but you just had to twist the knife another 1/4-turn, didn’t ya?

    1. BrianRiley429

      No, no! I’m just trying to be honest and tell you what my motives were. If you’re going to do it, then do it right! Don’t ever say “ass” at a public meeting or allude to physical or bodily violence. That’s just way to crass. No one — and I mean NO ONE, is going to take you seriously if you say stuff like that.

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