The city has thus far refused to acknowledge this publicly, but the Vanguard has it on two very good sources that the civic pool has a substantial leak – 7500 gallons per day. The Vanguard has held the position that the city of Davis should focus on roads and critical infrastructure first.
At the same time, the Vanguard has pushed forward an ideal, behind the innovation parks, which seeks for more than just maintaining bare-necessity city services. The argument we have posed there is that Davis has three paths – we can continue to cut staff and services and lose the vital city services and amenities that make Davis what it is; we can continue to ramp up taxes; or we can bring in new revenue through innovation parks.
In the longer term, through the substantial construction fees and the ongoing tax revenue, we may be able to maintain city services, but we have argued all along that those revenues are five to ten years off.
Look no further than the Mace Innovation Park’s layout plan where they hope to get to a Measure J vote by the end of next year, get the project on line by 2016 and allow Schilling Robotics to move in 2017. That’s three years, just for a retention of Schilling.
Rob White has argued that we can expect perhaps a 250,000 square foot per year build out. We are still talking a decade before we see that full $4 to $7 million.
I thought Ken Petruzzelli of the Davis Aquatic Masters laid it out pretty well this week in his guest Vanguard piece. He wrote, “Framing discussion of Davis pools in terms of necessities versus luxuries creates a false dichotomy. Amenities such as pools are central to creating and maintaining community. Amenities make a city an attractive and enjoyable place to live. Given that people typically want to live where they work, civic amenities have never played a greater role in attracting businesses to a city and attracting talent to businesses.”
Do we want to live in a community that has to cut corners to survive? The B-modified street, sidewalk, bike path plan calls for us to ramp up spending to the point where we have an average PCI of about 63. In schoolyard terms, that means Davis’ roads would rate a D.
That does not include what it would take to repair our pools, maintain our parks, and fix our city buildings.
As Mr. Petruzzelli writes, “In the coming months, as Davis again discusses how to invest money in its civic infrastructure, we hope the public will consider how pools and other amenities enrich our community.”
That has to be part of our discussion, because right now, a $50 parcel tax would probably pass and a $100 or $150 parcel tax would likely fail. Right now, the polling shows a $100 parcel tax fails to get to two-thirds, clocking in with 58% support, the same of the sales tax measure, while a $150 parcel tax fails to even get a majority.
One of my biggest criticisms of the city recently was that they ran a bare bones campaign for Measure O. We got it passed – which is crucial. But a strong and robust campaign could have laid the groundwork for a parcel tax this fall. Absent that, we are spinning our wheels.
What we need to do is lay out a community discussion – and we need to do this not only for the parcel tax but also for the innovation parks.
First, we need to lay out the facts of the city’s fiscal situation. The fiscal situation is unbelievably bleak, particularly in an economic environment that is finally seeing headway on real estate market growth, reduction of employment, and the creation of new jobs.
But with more than a $1 billion coming in from UC Davis in research money, we can do better here and we need to sell the public on the notion that economic development will lead to a decreased need for tax revenue measures in the future.
Second, we need to be honest with the public. Too many people say we do not need to lament about the past, we need to talk about the future. For me, at least talking about the past means we come clean about our mistakes and lay out a road map for fixing them.
The public needs to understand that the sales tax merely dealt with the immediate structural deficit. That structural deficit was caused primarily by increased costs of providing services for city employees.
People need to understand that employee compensation is the vast majority of our general budget, they need to understand that for years we balanced the budget by deferring maintenance and that the parcel tax is needed to upgrade and repair critical citizen infrastructure.
Third we need to have a frank and open discussion – what do you want Davis to look like in five, ten and twenty years. That needs to include the level of service and amenities that we want. Do we want to continue to have lush, green parks, greenbelts, community pools, community recreation and other amenities of this sort? What are we willing to pay to provide them short term? And are we willing to vote for peripheral innovation parks to fund them long term?
This discussion has to start happening now. The clock is ticking on a possible parcel tax for the spring and innovation park Measure R votes starting in November 2015. We need to make the case to the public about why we need this, why the city can be trusted, and how this will help the community retain its vital elements.
Can we get to $100 or $150 on a parcel tax? I think, if we lay out this case to the public, we have a chance. But it is going to take a campaign-level effort to get there, and I don’t see the commitment yet from city officials and the council to do that.
—David M. Greenwald reporting