By Doby Fleeman
We were talking about the upcoming holiday, when the conversation turned to Thanksgiving Dinner. From the kids: “Can we please do something besides turkey?” Never having had one, but knowing it would be something new and different, I suggested: “How about we try a turkducken?” Surprise, surprise, this got me to thinking about alternatives and innovation – in this case innovation in the kitchen and experimenting with new, non-traditional alternatives.
Heading into the Thanksgiving Holiday, I wanted to share some thoughts on the growing community dialogue surrounding our emerging Innovation culture here in Davis. While the term “innovation” seems to be the buzzword of the day, most of us would probably agree that’s exactly what we’ve always done here in Davis – it’s in our DNA. It’s simply what we do – that is – our willingness to explore new alternatives and new approaches whatever the challenge might be.
Our conversation over the past several years, prompted in large part by the city’s declining finances, has brought more focus on the relationship between UC Davis, the local economy, our mix of employers, and their contributions towards maintaining a sustainable source of municipal revenues to support the many programs and services we all take for granted.
Adding further urgency to this conversation is the growing recognition of an economic recovery which has failed to broadly translate into more middle class jobs – placing growing pressure on movements to raise the minimum wage. The alternative pathway to increased wages, particularly in a community like Davis, can be found in local conversations not only about new jobs, but jobs for the new century, and jobs offering greater value added contributions and commanding the types of salaries appropriate to the degrees coming out of UC Davis. How many communities have this type of potential, either to spontaneously jump start brand new companies, or to attract the world class companies who have recently invested in Davis and which offer industry leading products and research geared to help feed a growing world? In a very real sense, the opportunities available to our community are boundless.
On the financial front, the Finance & Budget Commission, first at the urgings of Mayor Krovoza and continuing with our current City Council, has charted new territory with fresh and innovative approaches to financial oversight – moving the city much closer to full accrual based accounting in which we are now fully matching contributions to our post employment benefit funds – giving us a much more accurate picture of our true operating costs from which to budget. It may sound a stretch to equate changes in our municipal accounting practices with something new and innovative, but the reality has been that municipal accounting models, in general, have traditionally done a miserable job as tools of financial management when accounting for post employment benefits and deferred maintenance obligations. Building on these successes, the commission is hoping for yet more efficient, timely and transparent accounting practices that will afford city staff, commission members and elected leaders better controls for monitoring and managing the city’s true financial burn rate (a term not limited to rocket science).
While we were met with more good news earlier this week, with the announcement that the city’s financial picture is looking decidedly improved over the original projections, I’d ask if we could pause for a few minutes to give credit to our City staff, elected leaders and the dedicated citizens who serve on our many City Commissions and community service groups, upon whom the community relies to help keep our priorities on track and our financial house in order. With the City of Davis, Davis Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Davis, Yolo County Visitors Bureau, all working together as a collaborative force for sustainable economic development – combined with the potential benefits to UC Davis and our partners in the County – we see encouraging prospects for continuing economic growth and increased job opportunities for Davis and the region.
As we gather together to give thanks this season, I encourage everyone to reflect upon our collective good fortune as a community – to have it within our means to address our challenges, discuss our differences and, at the end of the day, to know that we have it within our control to adapt, to change, to chart new pathways to continued prosperity and opportunity in the future.
Doby Fleeman is a co-owner of Davis Ace Hardware. This editorial originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise and was submitted to the Vanguard by its author.