The Drivers of a Fiscal Crisis

Analysis: Downtown Survey Gives Us a Guide to Fiscal Crisisby Rob White

There is much dialogue on the Vanguard these days about when the local fiscal issues started, what decisions were made that got us here and who is responsible. And while these are interesting academic questions (and may help policymakers and the community avoid similar crises in the future), it avoids the question that is most pressing: What to do about it now?

Many cities have begun to see revenues return to pre-recession amounts. Most every city in the US had to survive a period where infrastructure maintenance, employee compensation and services to the community were cut. Forget planning for the future, it was survival mode. When I was in Livermore, we had significant layoffs, cut spending dramatically and halted investment in any physical asset that wasn’t mission critical. Livermore returned to pre-recession revenues in 2012. And Sacramento, Roseville and Folsom are reporting similar cases.

But as we start to see some return of economic vitality to many communities, Davis continues to suffer a structural budget deficit. With returning revenues, many cities are beginning to restore community services and invest in infrastructure. While some cities are starting to hire again, we are still talking about having too many employees. And while some cities are beginning to provide pay increases to their public employees, we are talking about the need to continue to cut wages and benefits.

Though a nice distraction, most of the dialogue on Davis’ public employee compensation is not based on data, but primarily on how we as a community feel. And though it is a valid feeling, it doesn’t fix the problem.

As the data would tell us, the primary problem isn’t that the majority of Davis’ public employees are better compensated than everyone else in the region (they aren’t – you can verify this for yourself by looking at the publically available compensation packages for similar jobs at similar sized cities in the region). It’s that our structural deficit continues to cause us to make choices between parks, pools, streets, services and employees’ compensation. And this is a result of purchasing too many amenities during the good times and now being required to pay the bill.

I think it was best framed by one reader (“Bill”) in a post yesterday: “There are, generally stated, two mindsets with which one engages the world. A scarcity mindset and an abundance mindset. Those who live from a scarcity mindset tend to try to save their way to prosperity, while those who live from an abundance mindset see opportunity and hope in what is to come. There’s a whole psychology behind it, research away.”

So let me take an opportunity to framework some of the major drivers in the fiscal discussion of what is causing us to be in a structural imbalance.

  1. Amenities – For a city the size of Davis, we have a larger per capita amount of parks, recreation facilities, off-street bike lanes and open space than many comparable regional neighbors. These are exceptional ‘quality of life’ attributes, but they all cost money to maintain and operate.
  1. Facilities and infrastructure – Many of the City’s facilities (such as City Hall, pools and playgrounds) are of an advanced age and require significant funds to maintain (and replace) them. Think about your house or car as a good analogy – the older it gets, the more it costs to maintain in good working order. It isn’t news that many of our public facilities have structural issues and require significant repairs to bring them to modern standards.
  1. Cost of services – The community has enjoyed many services in the past without paying the true costs. This can be done when there are other revenue sources. As an example of how other communities might accomplish this, if you have significant retail dollars from a shopping mall, you can subsidize after school and recreation programs. We have amazing quality of life programs and services, but the true costs of these has just now been realized and is a driver for the structural imbalance in the budget.
  1. Retail sales tax – This is the one element of the City’s budget probably least understood. Because of the Prop 13 property tax ramifications and the way the State of California has constructed sales tax collection and distribution, we now have what we in public policy call the ‘fiscalization of land use’. That means that public agencies compete for retail sales taxes as a way to supplement revenues for services because property taxes are no longer the primary way that local government collects revenue. Though I am massively oversimplifying this, many states (New York as an example) pay for the majority of their local services using property tax. But in California, many local governments get 30 to 50% of their revenue from sales taxes (and some cities, like Vernon, get far in excess of 50%). What this means is that cities compete with each other to attract each and every taxable dollar. It drives decision-making by local governments to cut deals to build shopping malls, car dealers and other retail outlets. Most policymakers would tell you they are not big fans of the unintended consequences of Prop 13, but it is the system we live in and until the State of California changes the sales tax collection methods and creates a system based on per capita, we will have these drivers in the public decision making process. I am not an advocate for the system, just merely pointing out how this system works.
  1. Property tax – The Vanguard in the past has discussed how the property tax revenues in Davis are not equitable to other cities its size. The reasons include: a) a low percentage of property turnover annually, which means that values do not reset at current values as frequently as other cities; b) a relatively static amount of housing units over the past decade or more, resulting in a somewhat static property tax base; and c) a high percentage of single family houses used as student rentals, resulting again in low turnover rates for property value resetting. Again, there are conditions that are beyond our immediate control at City Hall, but one good starting point might be to advocate for construction considerably more student housing near campus, which in turn would free up some existing single family residences for resale and reinvestment. This is one of the reasons why the Nishi project might have a very considerable positive impact on the City’s property tax revenues.
  1. Employee compensation – Though I wasn’t here over the past decade, I am told that total employee compensation was higher than that of other regional cities. And though that may have been the case, it is no longer factually correct. We experienced this recently with the resetting of the salary range for the city manager’s recruitment. Additionally, many comparable cities in Sacramento offer a higher percentage for CalPERS retirement calculation (2.7% versus the Davis 2.5% for general employees) and higher base salaries. Additionally, we have a lower per capita employee ration for the population than comparable cities. But probably the most telling statement of this area of the fiscal instability is that the employee compensation package for retirement is comparable to what most other similar sized cities did over the last 15 years. Starting in about 1999, many cities started to increase their CalPERS rates and lower the retirement ages. This was primarily due to the fact that CalPERS itself was telling cities and local agencies that they were beating investment goals regularly and that there would be ‘plenty of money’. Davis was not alone in its race to increase the retirement packages, and it currently sits in the middle of the pack for its retirement offerings. Again, the data shows this, so no need to believe me because you can look up the facts.

I am sure there are other large items that you can think of that could be brought to the conversation, but let me instead now focus on how we might go from scarcity to abundance.

In today’s world of local government finance, there are really only three ways to balance a budget: 1) cut local expenditures for services and infrastructure; 2) raise local revenue through self-taxation; or 3) create and diversify revenue streams.

Cutting expenditures doesn’t take a lot of explanation. It’s really no different than your household budget. You prioritize the needs against the wants and balance that with your income. You are likely to feed the family prior to getting a new car. And you are likely not to pay for internet service if you can’t put three meals in front of your kids. But how many of us put away money for painting the exterior of the house? Or tires for our car? And so it goes with city finances… the immediate needs of feeding and clothing the family take precedence over long term maintenance. The issues with this way of budgeting becomes apparent when there is a recession or revenues are dramatically reduced.

And taxation doesn’t really require much explanation either. But I would like to add a nuance to the discussion. What the dialogue on the Vanguard hasn’t done is delve deep in to this area by creating a table of true taxation be (sales tax, parcel tax, utility taxes, et al) if the community decided to forego any more growth and remain the size it is… or as one reader puts it, “it’s just my point of view that I like Davis the size it is, and I don’t want to see it much larger or urban development gobble up our open land around the city.” This is a very valid statement, but just as anyone advocating for economic growth to increase revenue is required to make their case, shouldn’t it be equally important that those with sentiments like the one above make a fiscal case as to how that a steady state can be achieved without economic development? In other words, provide a real world budget that meets the competing needs of the citizenry for services (pools, parks, bikeways, recreation, et al), provides for an adequate-sized and qualified city administration, and has ample amount to repair and replace infrastructure.

As a valid starting point, take in to account all of the current parcel taxes, the increased sales tax and the continuing budget gap. Then add in required funding for repair and replacement for roadways, public facilities and other public infrastructure. Then take in to account just the previously promised obligation of employee compensation (and just for sake of argument, assume you could stop all costs going forward by outsourcing all city staff). As someone who works with the budget regularly, I can tell you that this task is onerous and not very uplifting. By asking those that advocate for a Davis that is of the size it is today with similar services and amenities to provide fiscal solutions based on cutting and taxing can only deepen the conversation and make apparent the difficult situation in which the community finds itself.

Create and or diversify the revenue streams is also pretty self-explanatory. Except Davis adds the constraints that include an aversion for large retail centers, slow-growth desirability and a difficult planning and project execution environment. Though not something we should necessarily change, it is reasonable to recognize that the conditions that are self-imposed do make economic development difficult at best.

In summary, I am not an advocate for any one solution. And the local policymakers have asked staff to work with all of these aspects to try and reach a sustainable pathway for our fiscal future. I just thought it was important to point out that there are a variety of reasons why we find ourselves in the situation we are in… some happened to us, some we have created, and some are due to the conditions that all cities found themselves in over the last 15 years.

And because this is a complex system with many issues, it will not be corrected by any one fix or magic bullet. It most certainly requires creative thinking, fact-based analysis, a derision for hyperbole and scare tactics, and a lot of collaboration and patience.

Davis is up to this challenge. We ARE innovative. This community was a founding organizer in the discussion around sustainability, even when that concept was chided by the establishment and detractors would try to make it sound like something only salesmen and “Hollywood-types’ would buy into. But now Davis knows that it did the right thing 30, 40 and even 50+ years ago in supporting sustainability concepts and principles.

And like the sustainability movement, Davis is again at the forefront of the global innovation economy and can provide leadership. It doesn’t mean that we approve an innovation (or research) park… it means that we claim the future of what we have built due to the decades of support for the university and its research. If the community doesn’t want a research park, that is its choice. There are consequences to every decision, good and bad. But the dialogue of what an innovation park might do for the local economy should be equally compared with the outcomes from cutting of services and increased taxes. And those advocating for those methods should equally present their case to the community… because just saying we can hold our breath and get through this doesn’t seem to fit the fact pattern of what we see all around us.

Thanks for considering my thoughts. Your reactions and questions are always welcome. My email is 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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  1. South of Davis

    Rob wrote:

    > Most every city in the US had to survive a period where infrastructure
    > maintenance, employee compensation and services to the community
    > were cut.

    I don’t think a single city employee in the US is making less (had an actual “cut” in total pay and benefits) today than before the 2008 financial crisis (yet MILLIONS in the private sector have had real “cuts” and are making less).

    The problem that Davis (and almost all other cities) needs to realize is that exponential growth is easy for a while but it always ends (few people know that if you agree to double a penny every day this month you will have $10 MILLION on August 31st).

    Davis had 30 years of doubling (100%+ growth every 10 years) then 30 years of 25% growth (~100% growth in 35 years). In the last decade we have had less than 10% growth.

    Just like getting one more big investor might have helped Charles Ponzi or Bernie Madoff last a little longer it would not fix the cash flow problem that needed “exponential growth” to keep going. With that said getting one more business park, a 0.5% sales tax or a couple hundred homes will just give us more time to face the “problem” (that like SF and NY we will soon be paying more to “retired” employees than the people working every day and due to a long list of issues it costs more to “fix” 50 feet of sewer line today than it cost to install miles of it years ago (just like it cost over $6 BILLION and 25 years to build HALF a bridge that cost ~$30 million over three years in the 1930s).

    The site below talks about the “big lie” (that we will have plenty of money for pensions without exponential growth) almost every week.

    There is no easy way (since we can’t just bring back 100% or even 25% growth) to solve the fiscal crisis and it is going to impact everyone. Like the roads the longer we promise huge number of employees (almost every manager, cop and fireman) about $10K a MONTH for LIFE after they retire we are in big trouble.

    P.S. The front page of the Enterprise had an article on a 100 year old lady yesterday. With more and more people living to 100 every year I just plugged the $128K/year we currently pay to former fire chief Rose Conroy growing it by 2% (less than the average COLA in the past) If she makes it to 100 she will get more than $8 MILLION (when you realize that in the Bay Area that is growing even slower than Davis I’ve got “retired” public safety friends making more than Rose that are younger than her is should (but it’s not) be easy for people to understand that this is not a “political” problem, it is a “math” problem…

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      Good article, and I thank SoD for his input.

      A rock-solid CFO / City Manager should put the hard, cold facts on the table. Mr. White compared city employees to city employees – what he didn’t do was talk about the cost savings if some or many jobs were outsourced. My understanding is that the pensions are one giant problem, so what impact would adjusting them have? If city pensions were reduced to say 2.0%, would that even help? Some leaders have long advocated moving from a “defined benefit” system to a “defined contribution” system, i.e. a 401K type of system.

      He also didn’t compare salary and benefits costs versus the private sector. Public benefits are legendary, and have exploded the past few decades.

      Parents used to tell their children: “If someone else jumps off a cliff, you don’t have to jump off a cliff.” I see no reason why we need to pay firefighters or police officers based upon the needed high compensation in some urban areas (high cost of living, crime, high risk situations), and allow them to retire with multi-million-dollarretirement plans. How many significant fires does Davis have in a typical year? If needed, consider significant personnel cuts along with a volunteer fire staff, aided by paramedics.

      As Dan Walters wrote in the Bee: “Ever since Stockton filed for bankruptcy two years ago, Judge Christopher Klein has strongly hinted that he’s willing – perhaps even eager – to declare that city employee pension obligations are debts that could be trimmed along with those of more conventional creditors.”

      Read more here:

      While Davis may earn the description of “innovative”, it also talks about building a $10 Million swimming pond while on the right side it’s roads crumble, and on the left side it gives away city-owned property worth $50-100 Million. All while the budget is a disaster.

    2. Davis Progressive

      “I don’t think a single city employee in the US is making less (had an actual “cut” in total pay and benefits) today than before the 2008 financial crisis (yet MILLIONS in the private sector have had real “cuts” and are making less).”

      how do you measure? first, despite the downturn, costs of living have gone up. so making the same is making less. second, the cafeteria cash out cuts alone mean that people are making thousands less per year than they were before. third, employees are paying more to access the same level of benefits – pensions, health care, retiree health. so their take home pay is less.

  2. Frankly

    As usual, a well-done article by Mr. White.

    The only thing I take some exception to is the point about employee compensation being reasonable and not currently a contributing factor to our budget problems. Even after the cuts made, when calculating the true value-cost of the benefits package for any city employee… including the value of the amount of paid time off, health-care, pensions, retirement age, and other post-retirement benefits… the simple fact is that we are paying much more than we need to. I say 35-40% more.

    It is ironic that Davis prides itself ignoring regional trends and taking an individual stand on policy issues like becoming a nuclear free zone and a plastic bag free zone, but with respect to city employee compensation we hear the argument that we have to be just like every other city.

    No disrespect to Rob White, but he is a city employee and hence has a vested interest in keeping city employee compensation as high as possible. And therein lies the problem. City Council get life-time healthcare coverage after two years in service… and I’m not sure, but I think there is some pension also. City management negotiates with the employee labor unions to set labor contracts that establishes compensation levels. This is a whole lot of fox guarding the hen house, and when we add the connection with the Democrat Party campaign (hate to get partisan again here, but it demands attention), it is clear why the municipal budget problems have rippled through and across the state.

    So let’s not blame Prop-13 for this problem. Certainly a shift to having to rely more on taxation of economic activity is a result of capping the income potential of property tax. But without this we would give even more power to the no-growth people up and down the state, and hence we would be looking at even more anemic economic growth throughout the state, and more people without work and opportunity to prosper.

    I think our tax system is not any part of the problem. As designed it provides us plenty of opportunity to live within our means. The problem is that we are paying 35-40% more than we should for employee compensation, and we probably can cut 10-20% more of staff by implementing efficiencies including outsourcing.

    And for anyone taking that idea to an emotional level, sure I have empathy for the employees that would be displaced by a leveling of real compensation and staffing need… but this stuff goes on all the time in the private sector. Why would I shed more tears for the public sector worker. They are not some victim class entitled to greater worker consideration. If I am wrong about this, please explain.

    We need to broaden our business tax revenue inflows simply because we need it to pay our bills and our demanded amenities, and we are so far out of whack with the standard deviation of comparable cities.

    And we need to address this fox guarding the hen house problem with respect to establishing city employee pay and benefits. I suggest the city establish a commission and hire an outside expert to to a mark-to-market study for the entire job market (not just what other cities are paying) and come back with a new compensation plan that becomes the new standard for Davis. Davis should lead the way on this. Other cities will follow.

  3. Anon

    Perfect framing of the issues. Three main points are crucial for me:

    1) In the past, repairs to roads and infrastructure were placed in an “unmet need” category and the budget declared “balanced”. This was creative bookkeeping at its worst, and was very dishonest. Consequently the current city council has been left to clean up the mess, and is trying its best under difficult circumstances/competing interests/constant criticism. Hence the need for a modest increase in the sales tax and the need for a parcel tax, to address the immediate need of road repairs and structural maintenance. An innovation park could take up to 10 years or more to come on line and in the meantime we have infrastructure needs that must be addresses, else the cost will be much worse later down the road (pun intended!).
    2) Those who are opposed to an innovation park need to explain how Davis is to balance its budget and repair its infrastructure. It is easy to say cut employee benefits and salaries, fire employees, cut services, but my question is how exactly do opponents of an innovation park propose to do this? Give specifics to justify that position. Because ultimately to balance the budget through austerity measures will require service cuts that will severely degrade the “character” of this town. In other words, Davis will no longer be Davis, it will change for the worse.
    3) SACOG requires Davis to grow 1% per year in housing units, and the City Council has adopted the 1% as its ceiling. So opponents who insist an innovation park will cause extreme residential growth (a figure of 150,000 population growth was mentioned) need to explain how this is possible under the current City requirements?

    1. South of Davis

      Anon wrote:

      > In the past, repairs to roads and infrastructure were placed in an “unmet need”
      > category and the budget declared “balanced”. This was creative bookkeeping at
      > its worst, and was very dishonest.

      Everyone knows that things wear out but reserving for capital needs is almost non-existent in the private sector (this should be criminal accounting fraud like it is in the private sector) since in the past it has always been easy to pass a bond to get the cash. SF got over a BILLION in school bond cash in recent years (the ads said “help the kids” not “help the criminals that have blown the money”).

      > SACOG requires Davis to grow 1% per year in housing units, and the
      > City Council has adopted the 1% as its ceiling.

      I don’t think that SACOG can “require” Davis to grow and even with the Cannery built out in 2020 Davis growth from 2000 to 2020 will probably be far less than 1% per year…

      1. Anon

        To South of Davis: Yes, I worded my comment inarticulately. It is my understanding that SACOG requires the 1% per year in housing units if the city wants to be considered competitively for SACOG grants, e.g. for transpiration projects. However, the city decided 1% was a ceiling, not a requirement, so I would agree with you that Davis is not likely to necessarily hit 1% per year.

        Just for context I looked up a 2007 City of Davis document called “Land Use and Growth Mgt”. It was estimated that Davis at 65,000 citizens had 24,400 individual homes. That is approximately 2.6 people per household on average. 1% of 24,400 is 244 homes per year, or 666 persons per year. By my calculations, to reach a population of 100,000 would require building 250 homes every year for 52 years, and that is a worst case scenario, assuming the 1% is met every year for each of those 52 years in the aggregate.

      1. Mr. Toad

        Not if they live on campus which is not annexed into the city. Whether the campus should be included in the calculation has been a political football with the growth people wanting the campus included which would drive the need for home construction down in the city. Pro growth advocates have refused to include the campus in the figures.

        Sadly the result has been that students on the campus, with some of the states brightest students, are not allowed to participate in the civic life of the city.

        Its a sad commentary on the state of our local politics that the politics of home construction are so controversial that they over shadow basic democratic principles of voter participation.

    2. Davis Progressive

      “SACOG requires Davis to grow 1% per year in housing units, and the City Council has adopted the 1% as its ceiling.”

      you’re conflating a lot of things. first it is rhna not sacog. second the 1% comes from the general plan. third, the 1% is a cap not a target. fourth, the city is well ahead of it’s rhna figure. so this is a non-issue.

      1. Anon

        To DP: I said the 1% is a ceiling (cap) for our city – meaning it is what our City Council decided on as part of the General Plan. SACOG uses RHNA in determining whether cities obtain grant funding is my understanding of the process. I agree the city is ahead of its RHNA. However, some on this blog and elsewhere in the city have argued that bringing an innovation park here will drive up the size of Davis to as much as 150,000 people because it will cause a severe uptick in residential development to house employees. All I was trying to do is show that is not likely – as you say it is a non-issue.

  4. Sam

    I don’t think that you can state that the city employees are not overcompensated just by comparing them to another overcompensated group of people. So if an accountant costs a private company $80,000 a year to employ, the City of Davis $125,000/yr. to employ and the City of Roseville $135,000/yr. by your math Davis is underpaying this person?

    1. Barack Palin

      Just like our own home budgets, you have to pay and buy WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD. I don’t care if your neighbor has a BMW, you still have to buy a Ford Focus if that’s all you can afford.

      1. South of Davis

        BP wrote:

        > Just like our own home budgets, you have to pay and buy WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD.
        > I don’t care if your neighbor has a BMW, you still have to buy a Ford Focus if that’s
        > all you can afford.

        I’m not mad at the people that ask for more than what we can afford since the “system” is set up to give them more than we can afford. I don’t have a BMW since I make less than my firefighters friends (three really do have BMWs and had more time off than me and stayed in Monterey for the BMW CCA Oktoberfest that started after the Monterey Historic Races last year when I drove back to Davis to get back to work). The current “system” of Unions negotiating with people who don’t have to actually pay is like a kid who wants a BMW “negotiating” with a grandparent who could force the parents to pay for one even when they just wanted to buy a Focus (or a 1990’s Civic)…

  5. Ryan Kelly

    Frankly: “City Council get life-time healthcare coverage after two years in service…”

    I don’t think it is true that City Council members get lifetime healthcare after 2 years. I think they need 5 years of service, so it is after two TERMS in office (or 8 years). I don’t believe there is a pension.

  6. Ryan Kelly

    Like the School District, the public doesn’t really grasp the cost of running the City (the 6 items you list.) I’m sure that the City Manager and maybe the City Council understand all of the income/expenses and which services are being subsidized, etc. I don’t know how it could be possible to relay this information in a way that wouldn’t make the average Davis citizen’s eyes roll back into their heads. An perfect example is Harrington’s lawsuit over how the cost of water for our parks and greenbelts is being accounted. Another is the demand to keep and maintain a little U shaped buffer in Wildhorse and reduce the number of homes that could generate much needed income. There is a real disconnect between a demand for services and the impact it has on the overall City budget.

    I appreciate Rob White’s attempts to help us understand all the parts at play here. I encourage him to keep going on this.

  7. DavisVoter

    Could the city reduce pension accumulation in a collective bargaining agreement? I.e., change from 2.75% to 2.5%? Or is pension accumulation an individual right that can be impaired only with the individual employee’s consent? The city could effectively reduce pensions by reducing salaries in a CBA, but can pensions be cut directly?

      1. Davis Progressive

        it’s worse than that. they can be reduced for future employees by consent, but they cannot be reduced for current employees at all. that’s why the litigation in stockton.

        1. Anon

          DP: I don’t think that is correct. A contract can be changed by mutual agreement. If the employees would agree to less pension and the city agreed, current employees would receive less pension. For future employees, the city can unilaterally decrease pension contributions, go to 401k type pension plans or whatever the law allows.

    1. DavisVoter

      Anon — Just to clarify, by “consent,” you mean “individual consent,” not “collective consent through a CBA”?

      I believe it is individual, but wanted to see what others on here thought.

  8. Davis Progressive

    everyone is focused on the employee compensation part but i think the point is that davis doesn’t pay its employee more than other communities. the problem with arguing private sector is that it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. the city is not competing with the private sector, it’s competing with other cities. and if other cities pay more then we might get second rate city employees and our good employees – rob white being one of them – may leave.

    1. Sam

      So DP what you are saying is the City grass takes a different skill to cut than the grass in front of my house? The lifeguards watching kids at Manor pool need a different skill set than the ones at the Stonegate pool? The accountant depositing and recording checks needs a different skill set than the one working for Target? Can you explain the difference and why we need someone with prior City experience to fill Davis jobs at a higher than market rate when there are comparable jobs in the private sector?

      1. South of Davis

        DP wrote:

        > the city is not competing with the private sector, it’s competing with other cities.

        There are not many job openings at other cities (and many cities in CA have over 1,000 people with a fire science degree show up for a SINGLE firefighter position) so it is not like everyone with a job in Davis will get a job at another city if they don’t get a big raise.

        1. Davis Progressive

          i don’t have first hand information, but i was told by someone i trust that davis is going to lose a lot of its senior staff – and not the ones everyone wants to lose. we always complain about the quality of staff here and then we get those who say, hey we can’t afford a bmw, so let’s buy something we can afford. that works if it’s a car, but this is our community.

          1. Frankly

            Great… they quit and we can hire qualified new people that we can pay a reasonable amount.

            In the end it is a simple thing. A job, skills, tasks and pay. Let’s not make it into a social justice play… please.

      2. Davis Progressive

        no, i’m not really talking about the low-level employees here. i’m more referring to the mid-to-upper management. unfortunately, you’ll see that paying the city manager more will have down ticket inflationary potential.

        1. Sam

          I’m talking about all employees. It starts at the bottom and works up. When you start an accountant and is costs the City over $100K and you give that new accountant 25 vacation days, 12 sick days their first year, that new accountant’s supervisor is going to need to be paid more and get more time off. It is just going to go up from there. All the while in the private sector that same job costs a company $70K and 10 days of vacation. Why should I as a taxpayer want to overpay for any City position like that?

  9. Davis Progressive

    the bigger problem is rob’s analysis of costs and i think this puts the onus on the no-growthers, what david called category 4 people and perhaps category 3 people to explain how the city balances its budget and keeps its service level up if we do not generate more revenue.

        1. Frankly

          Oh, but they have. I think they are nattering nabobs of negativism lacking solutions of their own. And they go dark when we demand that they come to the table with some alternatives.

          And that is frustrating to the nth degree, because professional critics are a dime a dozen. Complaining about others’ solutions is easy and not worthy of much.

          1. Don Shor

            To whom are you referring? Mike Harrington has said that we should cut the budget more. I’m not sure which other ‘no-growthers’ you have in mind.

          2. Anon

            Mike Harrington has said that we should cut the budget more, but doesn’t say where or how. So to advocate a solution without being willing to explain is not much of a solution.

        1. Frankly

          It is a euphemism for people going quiet when they don’t have anything reasonable to say in support of their position. If they don’t have anything reasonable to say in support of their position, they just go quiet and all we can hear is the sound of crickets.

  10. Tia Will

    ““There are, generally stated, two mindsets with which one engages the world. A scarcity mindset and an abundance mindset. Those who live from a scarcity mindset tend to try to save their way to prosperity, while those who live from an abundance mindset see opportunity and hope in what is to come. There’s a whole psychology behind it, research away.”

    I agree that one can certainly see the world from this point of view. One issue that I see that it really not being discussed is the concept of abundance. It would seem to me that we are focused almost exclusively upon material abundance. Understandable since that is what can be measured, however, in my opinion this is reflective of a not very attractive characteristic of our society. We are a consumption based society. We are constantly bombarded by messages that bigger and more is better. But what if we could take pride in and enjoyment from what we have ( both material and non materially speaking) and what we contribute to our society as opposed to what we own and what we control. Would this not also represent abundance ?

  11. TrueBlueDevil

    How about if Davis use all of the open space to grow marijuana, which is both a lucrative and “green” business … sell all types… organic, high quality, you name it … and direct the revenues to paying for road work and employee pensions? No plastic bags will be used, but it will require quite a bit of water.

    I think these could be innovative green “parks” that contribute little traffic, need for housing or zoning or buffer zones. No need even for new bike lanes. These new parks would also help fight “Global Warming”.

    UCD could also join the party… I mean the innovation parks. Every new parking garage could have a basement built for 24 / 7 marijuana growing. Electricity could be provided by giant solar panels on top of the garages, making these Net Zero energy usage. Ten percent of the grow could be skimmed off the top as a surtax, used to experiment with at the UCD Medical Center. Strict rules would be enforced, as we have read the recent Ivy League research which shows that even casual pot usage harms the brains of teenagers in three areas, so the city could make marijuana a 25-and-older proposition. Being that this pot will be organic, green, and locally sourced, we can tax the heck out of it. Besides, city council meetings will be much more mellow with our new economy.

    Problems solved.

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