Commentary: The Choices Ahead For Davis

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New playground at Central Park is the type of amenity we risk if we do not plan economic development.
New playground at Central Park is the type of amenity we risk if we do not plan economic development.

On Saturday, Rob White and I wrote what were really inadvertent companion pieces – even though we had not discussed what each other was writing. My piece, Time to Reengage the Public, focused on the city’s short-term need to pass a parcel tax and attempted to lay out the need for the city to engage the public on the issue of finances.

Rob White’s piece – Striking a Balance – focused on the balance between sustainable land use policies and the need for the city to develop revenue through economic development.

Mr. White argued that conditions have changed over the last decade and “what we didn’t ‘know’ broadly was that our community had gone dramatically out of balance on the fiscal side of the three part equation of sustainability (environmental and social being the other two pieces).”

He wrote, “There has been an ever increasing gap in the city finances that has created a significant (and urgent) need to increase revenues. The reason for this urgency is the growing realization by the community that the infrastructure and facilities that have been the backbone of the quality of life enjoyed in Davis have been deteriorating due to avoidance of needed maintenance and have now reached a point that replacement is the likely outcome for much of these assets.”

He adds, “To David Greenwald’s credit, he recognized some of this several years back, but I would hasten to guess that even he has experienced a little sticker shock over the last few years as the true tally is being figured.”

This has been the point that I have been making for quite some time. The Vanguard in 2008 was warning the public of the coming fiscal crisis, noting that our city compensation system was unsustainable. But in the 2008 city council election, the argument made by Don Saylor and Stephen Souza carried the day – they argued that we had a balanced budget with a 15 percent reserve.

The counter argument was that this balance was – even in the pre-Lehman Brothers collapse days – a mirage. It was built on faulty premises such as unmet infrastructure needs and unfunded liabilities. The economic collapse hastened the crisis, but it didn’t cause the crisis – and therefore economic growth will not get us out of the crisis.

The Vanguard attempted to sound this alarm in the spring of 2008, a year later we attempted to sound the alarm on the roads crisis, but as Rob White correctly pointed out, it was shocking in June of 2013, after five years of cuts, to see a $5 million structural deficit for five years opening up to $8 million by 2018.

It was stunning, after years of pounding the table on roads, to see the price tag soaring to over $100 million and, if nothing is done, upwards of $400 to $600 million just in roads costs.

I laid out these numbers recently to one of the development teams proposing an innovation park and even they were stunned.

Rob White then laid out the point I have been making: “1) Davis has an increasingly poor fiscal position with respect to the City’s budget and the services it delivers; and 2) In the State of California, there are four primary ways a local government can correct that – increases taxes, charge fees, cut budgets or grow the economy.”

The argument that Mr. White ended on is the one I have been arguing as well – Davis is going to change one way or another. The current situation is not sustainable. The question is what change is least disruptive.

This equation has caused me to temporarily come out of my slow growth stance. I believe we can rectify the city’s economic condition, generate new taxes, and maintain most of what we all love about Davis – the small town, college atmosphere. In fact, I will go a step further, I think we can make it better.

Two relatively small innovation parks can serve as extensions to the university and give researchers a place to turn their research into business startups – to give fledgling companies a place to grow and to allow home grown companies like Schilling Robotics and Cedaron Medical and transplanted companies like HR Clause a place to grow and expand.

At the same time, there was a comment on my article that I think gets to the core of the problem here. I think that, while Vanguard readers – and we saw an example of that with the polling done this spring by Davis Downtown – are engaged on these issues, the general public really is not.

My intent was not to point the finger at council so much as a call to action by the city and others.

My argument is that we need to have a parcel tax, and whether we decide to do it this spring (March 2015) or next fall (November 2015) has not been decided, nor has it been determined how much we will ask. But regardless of what we include in the parcel tax, the education effort has to begin. At the start it will be more fiscal analysis than parcel tax.

The commenter responded, “What fiscal analysis? Do you feel people do not understand the roads are in disrepair? Or that our pools are leaking? Or is it that people are of two different minds on whether to support a parcel tax? If the latter, how do you think the city can change the minds of those who are adamantly opposed to a parcel tax, when the city itself has been very much a part of the problem?”

The answer is that the public may well understand that the roads are in bad condition, but most people, even those engaged in the process, even those on the council, were stunned in February 2013 when the price tag came out.

The fact that our pools are leaking is a new revelation that may change the way many, myself included, view handling the pools.

My view of the education process is that you give people facts. Not everyone reacts to the facts in the same way. There are philosophies and values that will weigh how to respond to the facts. We saw that in the discussion on Saturday and we will continue to see that into the future.

This is not about changing people minds who are adamantly opposed to a parcel tax, this is about engaging the population that falls in the gap between support for the schools parcel tax and support for the city sales tax.

At its widest, perhaps 73% of the population has been willing to vote for a parcel tax while only 58% voted for Measure O. That’s a 15% gap – and those are the people who need to be engaged on the issue of the city parcel tax.

The stakes are very high here – we are talking not only about roads, but parks, pools, and greenbelts. The community needs to understand that the amenities that they take for granted are jeopardized by the city’s current fiscal situation.

We have a long-term strategy to address these problems – continued fiscal prudence combined with economic development. But in the short term there is really no other way to go.

That’s the point that needs to be laid out to the public in a very clear way, and then the public needs to be allowed to make up its mind. It’s the public’s community and the public’s choice.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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61 thoughts on “Commentary: The Choices Ahead For Davis”

  1. BrianRiley429

    Hi David, no one has answered the question that I posed in the comment section under Rob White’s article. UC Davis did go through a very long and arduous process of deciding to create a “research park,” which is the equivalent of an “innovation park” that you mention, in the late 1990s, but when the research park finally came to fruition, it fell flat.

    Am I correct in saying that there is nothing preventing that research park from being used as an innovation park of the type you mention? If so, then why isn’t it being used?

    1. Bill

      BrianRiley429, is the research park on the southside… research park drive? Or somewhere else? I think it’s a good question and one I didn’t think about before.

    2. Mark West

      If it is on University property the City will not receive property taxes from the land, buildings or equipment. The University can do it, but the City will gain little financial benefit beyond the added jobs.

    3. Matt Williams

      Brian, the answer to your question is as simple as a list of the tenants of the individual units of that section of the Research Park … in almost all cases research units of the University itself. There is a difference between research within a university and technology transfer out of a university. The level of UC Davis’ true commitment to technology transfer into the private sector is chronicled by the abysmal historical track history of UC Davis Connect (see http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=4663). The UCD approach in the decade-long period you refer to was worlds away from what is being done now. UCD tried to market itself as effectively a huge intellectual consulting firm to already existing companies outside UCD. The source of the intellectual property in that model was the already in existence companies that chose to approach UCD looking for augmentation of their intellectual efforts. In the current model UCD is seeing its role as the source of the intellectual property, which it is transferring into companies that would not exist if it were not for the intellectual property being transferred.

      But the story doesn’t end there. The 38-acre industrial-research complex known as Davis Research Park, which includes Research Park Drive, was not developed by UCD, but rather by Paul Moller, who still has a 34,500 square foot corporate headquarters of his company, Moller International, there. Moller financed the development of the Research Center from profits from the development of his VTOL flying car. The UCD offices in the Davis Research Park only represent a small portion of the uses, which include South Davis Chevron, auto repair shops, Applebee’s, IHOP, several motels, fast food restaurants, Kaiser Clinic, Moller International, and until recently the Davis campus of Sacramento City College.

          1. BrianRiley429

            What on earth would motivate you to want to waste time with me getting into such a meta-discussion?

          2. BrianRiley429

            Matt, your comment is *immoral*. I already told you *more than once* to cease addressing me in this forum. What do I have to do to get the message across? Now, please STOP. Just stop.

      1. Tia Will

        “The UCD offices in the Davis Research Park only represent a small portion of the uses, which include South Davis Chevron, auto repair shops, Applebee’s, IHOP, several motels, fast food restaurants, Kaiser Clinic, Moller International, and until recently the Davis campus of Sacramento City College.”

        And here is one example of what I think could “go wrong”. I realize that this is just personal preference but I am at a loss to see how it really helps the city for spaces in what was intended as “an innovation center” or part of turning Davis into an “innovation hub” only to convert those spaces to restaurants, auto repair shops, motels and fast food restaurant, and clinics. This is not what we are being sold, and I am concerned that this is what we may get. Here we have a clear example of exactly this happening in our own town. Is another such build out really what we want and if not, how do we prevent that from happening ?

        1. Don Shor

          I don’t even think of that area as a business park. It’s just an amalgamation of businesses, and really a lost opportunity for the city in terms of how that freeway-accessible space was used. I think, to put it nicely, that the problem in that case was the developer.

        2. Alan Miller

          “And here is one example of what I think could “go wrong” . . . is another such build out really what we want and if not, how do we prevent that from happening?”

          This happened because businesses that intended to move here saw things like the student protests, Toad Tunnel, snoring, and people being uncivil at public meetings and decided to take their multi-billion dollar companies and locate elsewhere. This time, we will clamp down on all the ‘undesireables’ in this town, make sure our video feed from council is cleansed of any talk or acts that do not conform to acceptable eye candy to potential corporate clients, and this new sterile cleansed Davis will attract the corporate big boys and save our town from fiscal disaster.

          Didn’t you know?

        3. Matt Williams

          And here is one example of what I think could “go wrong”. I realize that this is just personal preference but I am at a loss to see how it really helps the city for spaces in what was intended as “an innovation center” or part of turning Davis into an “innovation hub” only to convert those spaces to restaurants, auto repair shops, motels and fast food restaurant, and clinics. This is not what we are being sold, and I am concerned that this is what we may get. Here we have a clear example of exactly this happening in our own town. Is another such build out really what we want and if not, how do we prevent that from happening ?

          Tia, when the Davis Research Park was conceived and developed all it was was a straight-forward generic business park. There was no technology-transfer program at UCD. The wasn’t even the idea of a technology transfer program at UCD in 1980. There probably wasn’t any sense that UCD had any specific pure research and/or applied research “core competencies” that it wanted to leverage into a world-wide academic image. The city’s footprint had (more likely than not) barely intruded south of I-80. Said another way, there was no “mission” or “vision” for the business park. That is far from the case now.

      2. Alan Miller

        ” Moller financed the development of the Research Center from profits from the development of his VTOL flying car.”

        More accurately the “profits” from money from “investors” in the scheme, selling plans and models, and almond butter.

  2. realchangz

    David,

    While I am full agreement with the major points of today’s commentary, I continue to have serious concerns about the potential role to be played by economic development and how that process would be “managed” by the city. While I fully support the need for and the concepts of the Innovation Parks, it does not feel like there is a “community focused” gatekeeper/facilitator overseeing the “process”. Currently, it is proposed as a competition, which a fine means to elicit creative ideas, but what are the contextual framework and what are the ground rules what is the over-arching objective we are trying to achieve for the community – what does it look like?

    If we don’t have that bigger picture/contextual framework, how can we evaluate to what degree these proposals will be moving us constructively forward towards their achievement. It may turn out that all the proposals seem highly desirable (taken in narrow context), but it seems equally important to understand and anticipate the other impacts in order to be able to better manage the outcomes to a conclusion that best ensures a successful outcome for the Davis of tomorrow.

    I want this “process” to succeed, but in order to succeed it seems inevitable that we will need to have the bigger picture framework available in order to understand the community level impacts in context.

    Following is my post from yesterday:

    Now, as for those pesky “community level” impacts and how the additional of say 15,000-20,000 new daytime workforce jobs might impact the fabric of our community by the conclusion of build-out – whom should we expect to be charged with addressing that aspect of the equation and when should we be expecting to hear their reports?

    I refer to the process as visioning. I don’t know if that’s the correct term, but I do know that people in the know will want to know a few more particulars.

    Besides a few more dollars in the kitty, what else does the community have a right to expect/extract/negotiate that can help to further: 1) mitigate any negative consequences, and 2) more importantly, enhance and improve the Davis we know today?

    Who is to be leading that analysis and conversation from the viewpoint of the community?

    1. Frankly

      A decision to not do something is still a decision and all decisions have consequences. The city, led by people strongly no-growth, has made many decisions to not grow our local economy… attempting to live off that soft money of the university… even as it became clear that inflows were tremendously inadequate to supported our demanded lifestyles.

      Cities across the state having similar financial problems as Davis beginning with the Great Recession, are already back to budget parity because they have a local economy that brings in revenue 3-4 times per capita than what Davis brings in. Yes some of these cities were hit harder when the recession started, but they are back to balanced budgets as the recovery has kicked in. Davis did not fall so far… but we had been falling in increments over the last 20 years… the full extent of the problem covered by politicians committed to paying of the public employee unions and knowing that full disclosure would kill the gravy train. And we cannot recover because we don’t have the business infrastructure in place to leverage the benefits of the recovery.

      So, now we need to correct for the years of “no” decisions. That is the consequence.

      But the sky is not going to fall. We can focus on smart development and Davis will not only be fine, It will be better. We are both in trouble and lucky. We are in trouble because of the lack of economic development, and we are lucky in that we have the opportunity to remedy the trouble in ways that will add to our designation of a world-class small city admired by many.

      1. realchangz

        Well said, we truly are both in trouble and lucky at the same time. Having that untapped potential to explore new directions is a rarity for many communities.

      2. Alan Miller

        ” … but we had been falling in increments over the last 20 years… the full extent of the problem covered by politicians committed to paying of the public employee unions and knowing that full disclosure would kill the gravy train. And we cannot recover because we don’t have the business infrastructure in place to leverage the benefits of the recovery.”

        In other words Davis best reflects, as a City, the failings of the State of California as a State.

        1. realchangz

          Alan,

          I don’t agree with your analogy, nor do I understand its intended value in the conversation. There are plenty of failings to go around – much of it self-induced by the non-transparent GASB standards upon which public sector enterprise has been allowed to traverse these past several decades.

          Particularly in Davis, we should pat ourselves on the back for having elected leaders willing to acknowledge the problems of the past and with the fortitude to begin exploring new directions in search of new pathways back to a sustainable and prosperous future.

    2. Davis Progressive

      ” I continue to have serious concerns about the potential role to be played by economic development and how that process would be “managed” by the city.”

      why is the economic development going to be managed by the city? the city’s involvement right now appears to be first attracting potential suitors and then opening the doors through land use policies to development.

    3. Davis Progressive

      “but in order to succeed it seems inevitable that we will need to have the bigger picture framework available in order to understand the community level impacts in context.”

      i’m not following you. rob white a few weeks ago laid out how many reasonable offers/ opportunities the city gets on an annual basis. why does this have to be so complicated?

  3. DavisBurns

    Is like to hear how an extra 15,000 to 20,000 new daytime work force jobs will make davis a nicer place to live other than contribute to fixing roads and pools. Other than revenue, what is the up side?

    1. realchangz

      Good question. It would be interesting to hear from the 40,000 residents who have arrived here since 1960, how the job opportunities created at the University and surrounding businesses have made a difference in their lives. It seems to be generally agreed that most everybody should have a job at some time in their life, and over the years UC Davis has done a great job of helping to meet that need. Here we are talking about the “city/community” of Davis and the job it has done in terms of creating desirable, new jobs to meet the rising challenges of the 21st century and beyond.

      Maybe we should also ask the students? Maybe we should ask those individuals how new job creation in Davis has helped to change their lives and helped them to achieve their dreams – think Calgene, Schilling, Agraquest, Marrone, Mori Seiki. Whether it be career aspirations of the individual, contributions of their inventions/products towards the betterment of the planet, or simply the means to afford a home and raise a family in the community they cherish – it seems there are a multitude of reasons to consider the opportunities afforded by new career opportunities.

      How the community manages to plan and plot its course to best employ, deploy and otherwise incorporate such changes for the betterment of the community seems to be the question.

      1. Anon

        As I said yesterday, the developers themselves will offer some fiscal analysis, but they are a biased entity, so I don’t know how much trust one can place in their numbers. So I suspect it is the city that will have to do the heavy lifting as to determining whether an innovation park will be enough of a tax revenue generator for the city to make it worthwhile. At the same time, the city and developers will have to show mitigation of all the negative factors if they ever want the innovation parks to get past a Measure R vote. The city knows this, the developers know this, so I assume they will be working together to address these issues. The Finance and Budget Commission will also take a hard look at the fiscal issues of an innovation park. I would assume various commissions will weigh in on other aspects of an innovation park, especially any negative impacts, e.g. Planning Commission, Transportation Commission, Open Space & Habitat Commission, etc. And of course there will be plenty of opportunities for the public to weigh in with various forums, and public comment during commission and City Council meetings. I have no doubt there will be plenty of check-ins with the City Council.

        1. realchangz

          I get your point about the opportunity for “input”, but as I tried to ask in the earlier post: “Who/what entity – who is to be the honest broker – that is both qualified and empowered to lead and facilitate this conversation and when might we expect that process to begin?”

          1. Anon

            In short, the city, I would assume would be the “honest broker” you are looking for. After all, it is the city’s general fund that stands to gain from an innovation park. If an innovation park fails to raise sufficient tax revenue to offset negative impacts, the city would stand to lose. And by the way, clearly citizens have the final say, in a Measure R vote.

            However, to say “the city” is the honest broker is not really much of an answer in a sense. Because the city would include the City Council, commissions, city staff, and public input to all of these. I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t think it is realistic to think of this process in terms of a single “honest broker”, but rather as a holistic community collaboration.

          2. realchangz

            Anon,

            I understand your concept, but I’m having a hard time imagining what a “holistic community collaboration” might look like.

            Do you honestly think this “process of a community conversation/collaboration” can somehow happen without benefit of a dedicated venue/process overseen and directed by a qualified professional facilitator versed in the process of community visioning?

      1. Tia Will

        Anon

        One problem that I have with the absence of “an honest broker” in the form on an individual who is unbiased on the issue of development was made by you in a previous post on an earlier thread.

        In getting past the obstructions tactics of those who would have blocked the water project ( as well as potentially any other major project) you mentioned that it took ” a large amount of maneuvering behind the scenes”. This to me is the opposite of an open and transparent process that takes all values into account. When anyone maneuvers “behind the scenes” they have decided that their favored outcome is so important that it is worth hiding the means of achieving it. I think that this is a very pernicious attitude for anyone who is presuming that their position is “best ” for the entire community ( whether or not I happen to agree with the position being entirely irrelevant”.

        On city staff, we have a very articulate and devoted champion of the “innovation park” approach in Rob White. What I would like also is the input of someone who has a bit more neutral view of the pros and cons. While I greatly respect Bob’s expertise and ability to express his ideas, I think it is very important to recognize the job that he was hired to do. He was hired on to promote business growth and innovation, not to balance community concerns. I feel that he is doing his job very well. I would like to see an individual in the second role who is as proactive and articulate as is Rob.

        1. realchangz

          Tia,

          I think is the same point I would like to see us explore. If you’ll accede for the moment to the “visioning” term, I just don’t know that there are lot of people out there who would be regarded as expert in this field when it comes to “facilitating the process” by which a community moves towards a collaborative conclusion in talking about a “community’s aspirations”.

          1. Tia Will

            realchangz

            I think that your term “visioning” is as good a term as any for what I perceive as a way to proceed that defines what we want to achieve in terms of the full spectrum of what comprises the health of a community including its economic, environmental and social well being. I would also add how it fits into and contributes to the well being of the region and ultimately the state.

            This is for me definitely a situation in which what you do not know can definitely limit you and possibly hurt you. A local example until Rob Davis brought the concept of
            Restorative Judgment to my awareness, I did not know that this alternative to our system of incarceration existed. It may well be that there are those who have this broad, balanced perspective of community development and I am simply unaware of their existence.

            What the Vanguard is proposing is at least one forum in which the points of view of those across the spectrum of David’s “1”s through “4”s get to present their points of view is as close as I could imagine as a starting point for this discussion. But unfortunately it will necessarily be a presentation of conflicting views rather than a way in which to move forward in a truly collaborative fashion which is what I would see as the ideal.

  4. Chicolini

    “Davis has an increasingly poor fiscal position with respect to the City’s budget and the services it delivers; and 2) In the State of California, there are four primary ways a local government can correct that – increases taxes, charge fees, cut budgets or grow the economy.”

    What are the current ideas, networks, and sites regarding growth economy in Davis (not associated w/ UCD)? I am interested in specific proposals and projects that could be presented to City Council.

  5. Anon

    Davis should not be about “no growth” or “slow growth” or “fast growth”, but “SMART GROWTH”!

    Secondly, how do you engage the public on the issue of budget deficits and the need for a parcel tax? Very few people show up when these things are being discussed at City Council, yet huge numbers will show up for much more unimportant issues relatively speaking. I’ve seen more people show up urging the City Council to pass some statement that has no legal effect than have shown up to express opinions about the budget!

    The Vanguard, it is my understanding, plans to have some forums about infrastructure needs. It will be very interesting to see what the turnout is. My thought is more people may come out if the discussion is framed in terms of the need for a parcel tax and why, since a parcel tax hits people directly in the pocket book. Just having a discussion on the budget deficit just does not draw people out.

  6. DurantFan

    “”…Anon September 1, 2014 at 9:45 am
    Davis should not be about “no growth” or “slow growth” or “fast growth”, but “SMART GROWTH”!

    ” … Very few people show up when these (critical) things are being discussed at City Council, yet huge numbers will show up for much more unimportant issues relatively speaking. I’ve seen more people show up urging the City Council to pass some statement that has no legal effect than have shown up to express opinions about the budget!…”

    An accurate observation. In my opinion, that is because the real “Motto” for our fair City is, “If it is irrelevant, irreverent, or inconsequential, the City of Davis is FOR it!” It is also important to remember that in Davis, “Feelings are Facts!”

  7. Tia Will

    One way that I believe that the City could break this down in ways that might be more meaningful to individuals would be to present it on the neighborhood level or at the actual site of the needed infrastructure repair.

    I can envision that it might be a more powerful message to say the equivalent of ” you know that pothole that you are always having to drive around at the corner of second and L ? (using my neighborhood as an example). It is going to cost X amount of dollars to repair that pothole and we will need funds from a parcel tax which will cost you “Y” amount of dollars to effect that repair and the 200 more just like it located throughout the city. I think that message is more likely to be effective if it is up close and personal.

    Frankly frequently downplays the importance of emotion. However, humans are emotional creatures. I believe that it is our emotional response that brings us out to city council meetings for MRAPs or water fluoridation or toxic waste concerns. I believe that if we truly want to see a parcel tax passed, we are going to need to make this at least a personal if not an emotional issue.

  8. realchangz

    The issue of the university has come up several times on this thread.

    If they haven’t already, it seems that it might be helpful to the conversation if the university would articulate the benefits (separate and apart from Nishi) which they see as accruing to the university and the community in the context of this whole conversation about Innovation Parks located in Davis.

    I think we all understand the regional context of the larger “Sacramento Region” conversation, but it seems the university has been notably absent (apart from Nishi and the projected 1,600-1,800 jobs it would create) from this discussion about the possible benefits of increased employment opportunities in their host community. Someone mentioned UCSD earlier, and its involvement with deployment of technology transfer in both the La Jolla and San Diego regions. Wikipedia makes it clear that Chancellor Atkinson’s administration took a very active role in those discussions during the early years of that collaboration. In fairness, the community and business leadership in the San Diego region at that time was one of the most aggressive in the nation. Success in this regard is clearly a two way street – requiring champions all the way around the table.

  9. Robb Davis

    From the staff report on a recent survey of Davis residents re: perception of the fiscal situation:

    “When asked to indicate their opinion on the City’s current financial situation: 64% answered Fair to Excellent in 2014 as compared to 68.5% in 2007.”

    Just fyi, this “decrease” is not statistically significant at 95% CI

    1. realchangz

      Robb,

      Thanks for keeping track of this critically important conversation.

      IMO at least 50% of those survey results are reflective of the quality and quantity of actionable financial information being shared with our residents. Nobody likes to be the purveyor of negative information if there is any other option. As the result, the less flattering information is generally left in the shadows.

      The other 50% is most likely attributable to the measure of trust we tend to place in our city officials and staff to do the right thing – in keeping our finances in “Fair to Excellent” condition. That’s what we all hope and expect – we are giving the benefit of the doubt.

      So maybe we should ask our outside, independent city auditors the same question. And, I’d bet we’d probably get a similar response. Bottom line, they aren’t paid to question whether there is a better or more useful model of Financial Management Reporting which the city could be using. They are simply being paid to tell the public whether the reporting is being conducted with Generally Accepted Accounting Rules as they are promulgated for public sector entities.

      That said, it really would be interesting to get our auditors take on the options available to deliver more usable financial reporting data on a more timely basis for the purpose of better executing the Financial Management and Oversight responsibilities as well as the fiduciary obligations of both staff and our elected officials.

  10. Robb Davis

    A more nuanced understanding of the same:

    …only 3.5 percent of the respondents rated the current financial situation of the City as “Excellent,” statistically the same response as in 2007. There was, however, a sizeable reduction in the number of respondents who rated the situation as “Good” (25.3% in 2014 vs. 41.2% in 2007). On the other hand, there was a substantial increase in the number of residents who rated it as “Fair” (35.2% in 2014 vs. 21.5% in 2007). For 2014, there was also a sizeable increase in the number of respondents who indicated “Poor” and “Very poor” in response to this question, but there was also a large decline in 2014 in the number of respondents who indicated that they either did not know or had no answer to this question when compared with 2007 results.”

  11. Anon

    To realchanzs: Yes, I can see a collaborative process to move the innovation park forward, that is not necessarily led by any one person or facilitator. The problem with a facilitator is that person may not be the right fit, may antagonize one side, may allow their biases to show through, and any number of other possibilities. As uncomfortable as it sounds, I think the only way to move an innovation park forward is going to be collaboratively, involving many different constituencies in many different forums. In short, it is going to be a bit messy, much as the Cannery was. But the end result of the Cannery, at least from my perspective, was pretty fantastic (and I was initially opposed to the project), altho there are still some who would prefer the Cannery never be built. However, that is as it should be. There is no way to get 100% unanimity on any issue.

    On your other point, the city manager went out into the community, making sure to apprise citizens of how bad the financial picture is for the city. The city has also sent inserts in utility bills out to citizens, with the exact same dire information. Staff is not painting a rosy picture, by any means. But the fact of the matter is our citizens have not yet been that inconvenienced yet. Our parks are still being maintained; the city still offers swim classes and summer camp. 20% of the employees have been laid off, but the rest of city staff have picked up the slack with less personnel. In short, citizens have not really felt the pinch of the city’s budget deficit yet. The only outward signs of deterioration are our roads, which are definitely showing wear and tear. And the aquatics folks are starting to notice the pools are in dilapidated condition.

    To Tia: You are uncomfortable with “behind the scenes maneuvering”, yet it goes on all the time in governance, and has been done by the Vanguard itself. Doesn’t make it right, and ideally everything would take place out in the open for all the public to see. But this is not an ideal world, and pure transparency will never be achieved. For instance, even the Brown Act allows two City Council members to discuss city issues that come before it among themselves in private. That means two City Council members can form a pact in secret, outside the public purview, and hope to get one more vote to go along with them. Journalists will write opinion pieces to convince a City Council to vote a certain way on an issue, claiming they have a source who says this, that or the other, but the journalist refuses to reveal that source. Unfortunately “behind the scenes maneuvering” is very much a part of the political process, as uncomfortable as that is.

    1. Mark West

      Anon: “20% of the employees have been laid off”

      Has anyone been laid off, or did we lose staff through attrition? I know that we have seen a large reduction in staff, but I don’t have any recollection of lay offs as being the mechanism.

        1. Mark West

          Anon:

          Yes, I know that some had been laid off, I was questioning your claim that 20% had been. And it is not ‘just semantics’ Matt, it is inaccurate. Saying that 20% were laid off implies a level of active management on the part of the City, where choices were made about keeping certain employees due to their perceived value, and letting others go as they did not fit the current needs. By all accounts that is not what happened, except in a few limited cases such as the aforementioned tree trimmers.

          1. Matt Williams

            Mark, I respectfully disagree. In order for head count to decrease, the controlling event is the decision *not* to hire replacements when an opening occurs. How that opening happened is a secondary event. Active decisions like firings and lay-offs do not result in any reduction in head count if the resultant open position is filled through a hiring process. On the other hand the active decision not to fill open positions when they occur by definition does result in decreased head count.

    2. realchangz

      Anon:

      Thanks for taking the time to respond with specifics.

      Perhaps we must agree to disagree on the need for a facilitator in this discussion of a visioning process for the community. To me, it seems a bit more complicated and messy than that for the Cannery.

      As regards the messaging conducted by Mr. Pinkerton, I must have missed the part where he explained the necessity of the $100MM in deferred roadway maintenance. I definitely missed the part where he explained that we were losing 1MM gallons a year from Civic Pool. Perhaps those are details in the grand scheme, but somehow, I think an article about either one on the front page of the Enterprise might have generated additional engagement by the community.

      1. Anon

        I know Pinkerton talked at length about the need for road maintenance. Didn’t hear anything about the pool leak tho, a more recent development in the news. Don’t know how long the city has known about the pool leak or its extent.

        And yes, the innovation park process will be considerably more messy than the Cannery, which was bad enough. But democracy by its very nature is messy. Who would you suggest be a facilitator, or would even want to take on such a task? And frankly, with all the constituencies involved, I really don’t see how this could be facilitated by one single person!

        1. realchangz

          I’ve generally been supportive of Ken Hiatt’s previous recommendation to council on this issue. The group recommended by staff in 2012 is the William McDonough Partnership. Here is a link to their website: http://mcdonoughpartners.com/

          It’s what they do – visioning and planning for sustainable (in the broad sense of the term) communities and sustainable development. Bill McDonough, personally, also happens to be a big fan of Davis and UC Davis and its core mission and values.

        2. realchangz

          Here is link to McDonough’s page which describes how they work:

          http://mcdonoughpartners.com/design-approach/

          Design Approach

          Inspiration and innovation

          “We are a collaborative, principles-driven design firm that sees the unique characteristics of each place and project as a source of inspiration and innovation. The foundational principles we bring to each project derive from our vision of the future: a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world—with clean air, soil, water and power—economically, equitably, ecologically, and elegantly enjoyed.”

          Sound familiar?

    3. Tia Will

      Anon

      ” It doesn’t make it right.”
      ” But this is not an ideal world, and pure transparency will never be achieved.”

      We are in complete agreement on your first sentence. I believe that the second is not necessarily true. This is a matter of choice that each of us has. We can choose to be open and transparent, or we can choose to be manipulative and operate covertly. What I do not believe we should do is hide behind the “inevitability” of this kind of behavior. Each of us has the choice in each of our actions as to how we want to be in the world, I would hope that we are steadily working towards openness as our standard,

      1. Anon

        So are you against the Brown Act allowing two City Council members collaborating in secret behind closed doors? Are you against journalists not having to reveal their sources of information? Are you in favor of the Vanguard and everyone on it being completely transparent in their conduct in regard to issues that come before the City Council? If your answer to each question is “yes”, then you need think about re-evaluating your membership on the Vanguard editorial board, and instead work towards changing the law with respect to the Brown Act and journalistic ethics.

  12. Tia Will

    Anon

    “So are you against the Brown Act allowing two City Council members collaborating in secret behind closed doors? ”
    I do not like City Council members acting in secret behind closed doors whether or not the term used is “collaborating or not”.

    ” Are you against journalists not having to reveal their sources of information?”

    I do not believe that journalists should be required to reveal their sources of information. A critical difference is that journalists, unlike city council members, do not have a vote on issues that can significantly impact the functioning of our city.

    “Are you in favor of the Vanguard and everyone on it being completely transparent in their conduct in regard to issues that come before the City Council?”

    Yes, I am in favor of transparency, and I am aware that I am responsible only for my own actions. Each of us has to make our own decisions about degree of transparency, and again, none of us is empowered with a vote.

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