by Dan Wolk
For this month’s “Mayor’s Corner,” I wanted to share with you what I discussed at my talk to the Davis Chamber of Commerce recently regarding the “state of the city” and my vision for “renewing” Davis.
As Frank Sinatra crooned, “it was a very good year” in Davis in 2014. Among many things, the year saw:
* A markedly improved budget;
* Great progress on the surface water project;
* Breaking ground on the forward-thinking Cannery housing project;
* Making strides in the area of economic development by processing the two innovation center proposals, as well as Nishi; and
* Hiring an excellent new city manager in Dirk Brazil.
But we’re only just getting started. And in 2015 I am asking the community to join together in an effort I’m calling “Renew Davis.”
To paraphrase Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., we in Davis drink deeply from wells that we did not dig. That is to say, everything we have in this community — from the university to our downtown to our roads to our parks and pools — is due to the efforts of previous generations of Davisites.
We’ve been resting a bit on our laurels. We need to challenge ourselves to think bigger and to renew our commitment to what makes Davis Davis and to ensure that we leave our children and grandchildren with a stronger Davis than the one we inherited.
To do so, I suggest we:
* Further economic development — a University Farm for the 21st century. More than a century ago, our forebears brought UCD — the “University Farm” — here. But we’ve grown dependent on the university as a university for our economic and employment base.
It’s time we take things to the next level by harnessing the power of the university to spin out high-tech companies that are founded here, incubated here and ultimately remain here. And that’s what the innovation centers and Nishi are all about. We need to continue processing those applications and move toward a vote on one or more of those projects in early 2016.
* Reinvest in roads, parks and pools. The recent revelation that our Civic Center Pool, built in the 1940s, had been leaking thousands of gallons of water per day was a shock. And although the pool has since been fixed, the larger issue of the state of our community assets remains of great concern.
We have the worst roads in Yolo County, according to a recent study; aging public buildings like the Veterans’ Memorial Center and City Hall; and park facilities in disrepair (look at the shuttered Rainbow City). It is incumbent on our community to come up with a long-term plan this year on how we plan to reverse this disinvestment — and a potential revenue measure in 2016 needs to be part of the equation.
* Secure clean energy. With our groundbreaking bike lanes and Village Homes, Davis has been on the vanguard of environmentalism. I urge the community to renew our commitment to environmentalism by focusing on the defining issue of our generation: global warming. We need to seriously explore along with our Yolo County partners the creation of a Community Choice Energy mechanism — not a publicly owned utility — to source our power from renewable resources.
* Promote healthy families. From child nutrition to senior housing, from the homeless to tobacco use, there is more our community can do to address critical public health matters. In a previous column, I’ve raised some areas to work on, including safe routes to schools for children and addressing soda in kids’ meals. The city, our schools, the county and nonprofits need to come together and address such challenges.
* Be better partners. To paraphrase the poet John Donne, no city is an island. In an era where interconnectedness is key, we need to forge stronger partnerships with the university, the county and the region. It only benefits us.
We are a team
You may not agree with every tenet of this vision and you may have others you would like to add. I’m all ears (we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, as the saying goes). But I think we can all agree that we would benefit from a recommitment to the ideas that built this town.
No matter what, we need to rise above our own narrow interests, view ourselves as part of something bigger than ourselves, and commit to building a better present and future for generations to come.