Are We Doubling Down on Economic Development?

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DMG-MoriOne of the most frequently asked questions we get both privately and publicly is what is happening with the economic development in the city of Davis and, most specifically, where does the new City Manager stand with respect to it?

A month ago, former City Manager John Meyer’s report discussed not only the importance of continuing the city’s economic development program but also “doubling down” on it. Since then, we’ve attempted to assess what that means precisely and, while we have gotten some vague answers, it still remains unclear.

The budget, as the most concrete statement of our values, figured to clarify some of this – but even that remains a bit murky.

While the City Manager has reorganized the rest of the city to be under the direction of one of two Assistant City Managers – Kelly Stachowicz and Mike Webb – economic development answers directly to the city manager (the CIO, Chief Innovation Officer position, by contract answers directly to the city manager).

The city continues to list a Chief Innovation Officer position at 1 FTE and a Deputy Innovation Officer position at 1 FTE. Economic Development is budgeted at $468,532. That includes $396,424 for salaries (for presumably the two positions), $50,000 in operations and maintenance and $21,000 in inter-department charges.

The Office of Innovation and Economic Vitality has a healthy list of 2014-15 accomplishments:

  • Lead agency for a $171,000 US Economic Development Administration grant, awarded to the multi-agency Yolo Rail Realignment working group for reuse and economic impact assessment.
  • Utilized a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) process to attract two Innovation Center Proposals, each totaling about 200 acres and a combined construction and infrastructure investment of about $1.5 billion over 20 years.
  • Assisted Community Development and Sustainability Department with planning review and public outreach for Innovation Centers.
  • Coordinated activities for development of Objectives and Tasks for each Council Goal area.
  • Completed an assessment of local broadband infrastructure, in coordination with the multi-agency Yolo Broadband Strategy.
  • As part of regional leadership, co-chaired Innovation & Economic Development policy team for the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s Cap to Cap legislative trip to Washington DC.
  • Developed the Innovation & Economic Vitality Work Program and Action Plan, which outlines objectives, tasks and actions specific to economic development.
  • Assisted Community Development and Sustainability Department with planning review and public outreach for Innovation Centers.
  • Conducted Council Goals and Strategy Retreat and developed Objectives and Tasks for each Goal area.
  • Completed an assessment of local broadband infrastructure, in coordination with the multi-agency Yolo Broadband Strategy
  • As part of regional leadership, co-chaired Innovation & Economic Development policy team for the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s Cap to Cap legislative trip to Washington DC.
  • Developed the Innovation & Economic Vitality Work Program and Action Plan, which outlines objectives, tasks and actions specific to economic development.
  • Co-hosted West Coast Startup Summit innovation conference at DMG Mori with Innovate North State in June 2015.
  • Chief Innovation Officer awarded Civic Innovator of the Year by Innovate North State.
  • City of Davis innovation activities highlighted regularly by the media, including print and online news articles, radio interviews and broadcast TV interviews.
  • Staffed the Innovation Park Task Force.
  • Conducted regular business outreach and communications, including Davis startups, makerspace and other City and UC Davis entrepreneurial groups.
  • Continued to work proactively to find tenants for vacant commercial and retail space.
  • Assisted businesses looking to relocate or expand in Davis.
  • Participated in regional initiatives from partner organizations, including SARTA TechCon, Valley Vision’s Next Economy Initiative, UC Davis’ Seed/Food Central.
  • Working with JumpStart Davis, Davis Roots and Hackerlab to grow the number of new startups in Davis..
  • Participated in working group that established Yolo County as a State-approved Recycling Market Development Zone.

Goals for 2015-16 Include:

  • Develop community engagement and outreach to define project parameters and desired outcomes for Davis-specific potion of Yolo Rail Realignment based on reuse and economic impact assessment.
  • Coordinate multi-agency request for $5 million federal grant for project engineering and environmental assessment as a next step for Yolo Rail Realignment effort.
  • Continue to provide support for community engagement and outreach on Innovation Centers, leading to a public vote in spring 2016.
  • Provide support to multi-agency partners in development of the Zero Waste Innovation Park proposal at the Yolo County landfill.
  • Develop a Davis working group to conduct community engagement and outreach for broadband, with intent to develop a set of suggested activities to address community need.
  • Support Community Development and Sustainability Department in outreach and community engagement for the downtown.
  • Assist Community Development and Sustainability Department in assessing opportunities for updating and streamlining of zoning for office and light industrial lands.
  • Continue to work with entrepreneur and technology business organizations like Davis Roots, JumpStart Davis and Hacker Lab to develop business incubators and shared workspace facilities in downtown and throughout Davis.
  • Support development of a downtown-area hotel/conference center.
  • Develop strong leadership and branding of Davis as the regional leader for innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship.

While it is not clear from this budget what “doubling down” would mean, at the very least the City Manager’s budget suggests that economic development will stay the course. The two innovation officer positions appear to have adequate funding.

The key goals remain including coordinating the Yolo rail realignment effort, providing support for community engagement on the Innovation Center (now down to just one) leading to a public vote in spring 2016, and providing the support for programs like Davis Roots, JumpStart Davis and the Hacker Lab, along with the development of the hotel conference center.

—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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48 thoughts on “Are We Doubling Down on Economic Development?”

  1. SODA

    While I am NOT in opposition to the ‘double down’ effort described in the article and NOT critical of the Innovation Officers (tho the salary figure is daunting), I would comment on the verbs that are used in the 15/16 goals. They are not very proactive. I think you can tell much about the planning and energy of a project by the verbs that are attached to goals. “continue to”, “support”, “assist”, “coordinate” are not strong verbs. Develop is mentioned a number of times-that is stronger but still pretty vague.

    I would think that if we were really doubling down, the goals would be stated in more robust terms to give us a sense of the doubling.  Interested in comments.

  2. Topcat

    The discussion that has been missing all along has been any talk of cost cutting and economizing in the City budget.  I’d like to see some serious talk about doubling down on cost cutting and economizing.  Some of the discussions on the Vanguard have pointed out some of the bloated compensation that some City employees enjoy.  Can’t the Council take a serious look at getting some of these costs under control?

    I know that the objection is going to be that many costs are already committed (retirement benefits for example) and cannot be cut.  I understand this, but there are a lot of areas that should be looked at.

  3. davisite4

    I am still waiting for the Vanguard to say something about the layoffs at Schilling.  Accommodating Schilling, and other growing tech businesses, was supposed to be a primary driver behind the peripheral business parks.  Remember Rochelle’s remarks back during the discussion of Mace 391?  She bemoaned the terrible loss to the city if Schilling and businesses like Schilling left.  But if it turns out that these businesses are volatile, do we still count on a large peripheral business park to pull us out of our troubles?  Is that part of the doubling down?  Or do we recognize that this is at best a risky strategy with negative side effects?

    Why is it that Schilling’s layoffs, and their implications for the large peripheral business park at Mace, are not getting discussed?  Is a business tied to the oil industry consistent with a robust future?  (not to mention Davis’s values)

    1. Frankly

      Do you understand the term “diversification” in a financial and business context?  There is no doubt that Schilling managers are today pursuing strategies to diversify their products and the markets they serve so as to not face wild shifts in energy commodities.

      The reason to develop innovation parks is exactly this.  With multiple companies selling different products and services in a variety of markets, we would tend to mitigate the impact of large swings in one company or one market.

      Also, if you want to wring some hands over the challenge of diversification, consider that Davis’s demographic is increasingly very old and very young… losing more and more of the professional and family class that tends to spend the most and add economic creativity and vitality to the city.  You can see the impacts of this already, for example, with the closing of Tucos.  Cash-strapped, student-loan-debt-challenged college students don’t tend to frequent higher end sit down restaurants, and neither do penny-pinching seniors.

      1. Jim Frame

        There is no doubt that Schilling managers are today pursuing strategies to diversify their products and the markets they serve so as to not face wild shifts in energy commodities.

        Not disagreeing with the concept of diversification, but in this instance it’s worth noting that Friday’s Enterprise story states that Schilling’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Peter MacInnes, indicated that the company “has no plans to shift its robotics products away from the sub-sea drilling operations in which it specializes.” (Quoting the Enterprise, not MacInnes.)  This suggests that, in their view, the resource exploration industries will return to growth mode soon enough, and that they’re content to put most of their eggs in that particular basket.

         

      2. davisite4

        Sure, diversification is great.  But, as Jim Frame pointed out, the Enterprise reports that Schilling has no plans to diversify.  And this is the first I have heard that we would aim for a diversified set of businesses in the peripheral business parks.  I found this “vision” document online:

        http://city-council.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/Innovation-Park-Task-Force-Committee/Documents/achieving-the-vision-2014-2016-workplan-draft-2014-02-11.pdf

        It suggests that having a business park would diversify the local economy (given the businesses we have now), but the emphasis is on high tech businesses, not on a diversity of businesses.

        Moreover, even if we wanted diversified businesses in our business park, there’s no way of assuring that that is what we’d get.

        Why do I increasingly get the feeling that, for some (not all), the peripheral business park is a predetermined outcome for which any justification will be sought?  First Schilling, now not Schilling (apparently), then tech, now diversity.

    2. DavisBurns

      Wasn’t Shilling saying they needed to expand last year? I want Some of our taxpayer money to be spent on studying andpublicizing the downside of growth.  Let’s be fair and balanced cause right now it’s all one sided.

  4. Tia Will

    TopCat

    there are a lot of areas that should be looked at”

    What areas specifically do you believe should be, and have not been to date, looked at ?  I ask because it is my understanding that a comprehensive assessment of city costs has been in process. Could someone more knowledgeable than I weigh in ?

    1. Topcat

      What areas specifically do you believe should be, and have not been to date, looked at ?

      How about looking at this area:

      The city continues to list a Chief Innovation Officer position at 1 FTE and a Deputy Innovation Officer position at 1 FTE. Economic Development is budgeted at $468,532. That includes $396,424 for salaries (for presumably the two positions), $50,000 in operations and maintenance and $21,000 in inter-department charges.

      1. Tia Will

        TopCat

        I believe that this area has been “looked at” and deemed cost effective. This leads me to think that what you really mean by “looked at” is “looked at from your perspective”. This is not a slap at you but rather a realization that I should have better framed my question.

        What I should have asked is, “in what specific areas do you see us as over budgeted, and how much would you recommend that we devote to that position or process” ?  I am sorry for the vague nature of my previous question since looking at something is clearly not the same as either valuing or comparing relative value with that of other needs.

        1. Topcat

          This leads me to think that what you really mean by “looked at” is “looked at from your perspective”.

          Yes, I do realize that I’m looking at things from my perspective.  I believe it is a view shared by many in Davis, perhaps including yourself?  Do you really think that the city should be employing what are essentially high paid lobbyists for the developers?

        2. Frankly

          Davis has far fewer city employees that work in the economic development function than do any other comparable cities.  After the governor raided the RDA cookie jar to give more tax money to the teachers union, what little Davis had was reassigned.   If you really want to cut unneeded positions, then look to all the folks working on social and environmental do-gooder causes, and those working on the farmland moat.  We have about twice the number of city employees than we really need doing those things.

          1. Don Shor

            If you really want to cut unneeded positions, then look to all the folks working on social and environmental do-gooder causes, and those working on the farmland moat.

            In each of those instances, staff is implementing council policy or voter-approved initiatives. Measure O funds need to be spent and that requires staff to negotiate conservation easements and land purchases. “Social and environmental do-gooder causes” are usually things that council has told them to do, like draw up ordinances about bags and things. Your “twice the number of city employees than we really need” is a statistic with no basis.

        3. Topcat

          If you really want to cut unneeded positions, then look to all the folks working on social and environmental do-gooder causes, and those working on the farmland moat.  We have about twice the number of city employees than we really need doing those things.

          Yes, I agree that those are areas that come under the category of “nice to have” rather than necessities.  Can we identify some specific positions that come under these categories?  And yes, I know that there will be howls of protest from the supporters of these functions.

        4. hpierce

          Re:  Topcat’s 10:53 post… consider also asking the question another way… even if certain expertises are needed, could they be filled at a 50%/75% level?  Open Space Coordinator, Property Manager, Water quality specialist, Recycling, etc., are some of the areas (some positions have been re-named to guard against elimination), that might be looked at…

          1. Matt Williams

            I agree wholeheartedly hpierce. Anne Brunette, who retired last year, was a perfect example of an efficient and effective city employee who wore many of the part-time position hats. She was nimble and knowledgeable and (at the risk of repeating myself) efficient and effective. We need more Anne Brunettes.

  5. Tia Will

    SODA

    I think you can tell much about the planning and energy of a project by the verbs that are attached to goals. “continue to”, “support”, “assist”, “coordinate” are not strong verbs. Develop is mentioned a number of times-that is stronger but still pretty vague.”

    I agree that much can be told about projects by the verbs used to describe processes. I would add that this is equally true about what I see as hyperbolic terms such as “double down” or “grow as fast as we can”. Both are long on implication or sales of ideas, but short on substance and detail.

    I confess that when I read the “double down” quote, I had absolutely no idea what this might mean in the real world. Did he mean that we should double down on the speed of development ? Did he mean that we should be fully supportive of the current proposals ( both downtown and peripheral) ? Did he mean that we should be more proactive in recruiting more business, and if so, of which types ? As you all know, one aspect of the “innovation parks” of which I have been critical is the “picking and choosing” of winners by type of industry with this concept of high tech as what we want to attract for the next 30-50 years without any consideration that this might not be the first choice of our children and might be an obsolete construct within that amount of time given the current rapid pace of change in knowledge and knowledge sharing that we are seeing.

    So just exactly what are we “doubling down on “?  I must admit that I prefer concrete statements of goal and strategy for obtaining it over generalization whether relatively weak or full speed ahead in nature. If you don’t know where you are going, or don’t like the destination, it doesn’t really matter how fast you are traveling.

    1. Doby Fleeman

      Tia wrote:

      If you don’t know where you are going, or don’t like the destination, it doesn’t really matter how fast you are traveling.

      Funny, but that’s exactly the sentiments underlying my piece in today’s Enterprise.

      1. Tia Will

        Doby

        I read and appreciated you article in the Enterprise. And I agree that in the limited area of my quote, we do appear to be in agreement. However, you did not mention , or at least downplayed another difference between a sport ( where everyone is in agreement on how “winning” is defined, and the city where all citizens clearly do not agree on the definition of a “win”. The last paragraph of your article seemed to imply that if a certain view of “winning” ( let’s say for example getting more economic growth through the innovation parks ) were to be explained well enough by the proponents, that enough people would agree to get the “win” for their development. This evades the point that it may not be that more education and explaining will result in agreement. It may be that there is a sufficient group of people who do not believe that these parks are the best way to secure the long term economic stability of Davis and therefore do not perceive the parks ( as so far presented). I tend to fall into this group although I remain a three not a four if what I perceived as a great, forward looking and non exclusive proposal were to be put forward.

        I see the parks as one potential path to economic sustainability. I do not see them as the only path, and indeed, if we are willing to accept the concept that more does not always equal better, then I would assert that there are a number of other and less destructive paths that might get us to a sustainable, if not Palo Alto like future.

      2. DavisBurns

        Mr. Fleeman, read your article in the Enterprise. What I took away was anyone who disagrees with development is ignorant and needs to have it explained over and over until we get it. You’re correct that some of us just don’t see the point of the game and frankly, don’t want to play.  I mean, if it’s all positive why does it take so much effort to sell it? Really, you think Davis residents are ignorant? You don’t think we know our quality of life here is the result of hard fought efforts to control growth?

        1. Doby Fleeman

          Davis Burns,

          Sorry about that. No doubt, in large part due to my limited writing skills.

          Let me try again, this time from a slightly different perspective:

          The main purpose of this article is to highlight the role and importance of civic leaders in exploring and explaining the basic necessity of economic development for those interested in perpetuation of the current Davis model that so many have fought so hard to protect.

          As we are asked to look at the next thirty years, the process currently unfolding in context of the Innovation Center proposals, perpetuation of the current infrastructure and amenities is only part of the equation.    From all I hear and read, we are far behind in catching up with unfunded liabilities related to earlier lapses in our ability to pay.  Combine those challenges with deferred maintenance on our roads, bikepaths, community buildings, schools and parks.   After all that, then let’s turn to “facing future” – what are next generation of public service challenges we can expect here in Davis?   The list is long and the costs significant.   We haven’t even yet seen the full impacts of new water, sewer and wastewater rates and their effects on our city and household budgets.  Next up is the reality of an aging community and the large and growing population of residents who are heading into their senior years – with the special challenges and expenses those years present.

          Bottom line, to my knowledge, this community hasn’t yet begun to think of what a city budget might look like in 2025, much less 2035 and beyond.   Why not?  Why not think about planning for the future?  Is ten or twenty years ahead too far out for most to consider?

          More to the point, how can we even begin to consider whether Innovation Parks and their potential to create a meaningful number of well-paying technology jobs would be something desirable for Davis of 2035 or beyond – if we haven’t even given any thought to what this community will need in those future decades?

          At times, the fundamental need for this important discussion seems so far removed from some of your concerns about developers getting rich and the town getting overrun with Tesla drivers – that it hardly seems worth responding.

          How many of you realize that Davis doesn’t even have its own budget for public transportation?  All of our budget comes either from the regional transportation agencies, state or the university.   How real is that – for a community that prides itself on sustainable solutions?  But, what?  We can’t even afford to invest in our public transit system?

          Or, how about our discussions of being a more welcoming place for the homeless and those down on their luck?   Then too, there are the regional discussions of new programs to implement new alternatives to prisoner incarceration with improved mental health services and restorative justice programs.   How is all of this supposed to happen?  How are these programs to be funded – when today we can’t even find the money to keep our roadways paved?

          Does any of you have any idea why we have so many beautiful greenbelts around the city?   Do you know how these projects were built and how they are being repaid?    You just witnessed another such project being approved last year with the Cannery.   All of these things, whether you like them or not, have been paid for out of developer fees and new assessments on the new developments that have brought all the new residents to Davis over the past half century.  Some people would call that economic development.   What do you call it?  Would you rather not have your home, your park, your school?

          OK, I get it that lots of residents don’t want any more housing and any more traffic.  That’s not too difficult to understand.  But now, I ask, what are your proposals to get back on track with maintaining our roads?  Funding to rebuild the multi-purpose room at our one and only high school.  Funding to rebuild the swimming complex at Community  Park?

          What will be your proposals to seek additional funding to accommodate the growing need for transportation solutions and senior care as the aging baby boomers decide to stay put in Davis?  I don’t know where you think all the money is going to come from?

          Basically, it is against the backdrop of this conversation that I am suggesting the need for important civic leadership in helping our community wrestle through these issues – if we are to be serious about maintaining, much less improving, this community for the decades ahead.

    2. Topcat

      I must admit that I prefer concrete statements of goal and strategy for obtaining it over generalization…

      Politicians often prefer generalizations because the listeners can interpret things in ways that fit their notions of how thing should be.  When things are stated as specific actions, goals and strategies, there is much more room for disagreement and opposition.

      1. Biddlin

        A very well written piece, sir.

        “Coaching in Davis is admittedly a risky business, what with all the parents who know what is best for their kids. But truth be told, most parents still expect our teams to win every time their kids walk out onto the field.

        Leading the charge for economic development in Davis isn’t very different — except for two things that make it much more difficult: Many folks here don’t seem to understand that economic development is a competitive affair, and fewer still will acknowledge that positive outcomes are possible.”

        “its one thing to have a coach, but a coach can only do so much when the fans haven’t yet decided if they are even interested in the game. Cheerleaders may be helpful, but until the fans understand this is a game in a league worth winning, there is absolutely no point in having a coach, or in trying to recruit franchise-winning teams.

        Tia and other Drear-leaders dispute that any positive outcomes are possible, if it involves population or housing growth. Despite their utterances to the contrary, they are convinced that Davis is utopia and will lie on the tracks to prevent the “progress” train from pulling into the station. I cannot foresee any time in the next 25 years when there will be sufficient popular support to move forward with projects of any meaningful size and scope in Davis.

        ;>)/

        1. Tia Will

          fewer still will acknowledge that positive outcomes are possible.”

          Tia and other Drear-leaders dispute that any positive outcomes are possible”

          I take very strong exceptions to both of these statements. The first makes it appear that only one side of the growth issue has its deniers. I favor a much more balanced view that there are some who will not acknowledge that positive outcomes are possible and there are the equally committed on the other side of the issue who will not acknowledge that there may also be negative consequences.

          As for the characterization of “drear-leaders”, I think this is an erroneous point of view on many levels. First, I do not see it as dreary to have a particular fondness for Davis as it currently exists. I also do not see it as “dreary” to favor a particular type of development and change over another form. I have stated my preference for a “pilot” type project of a car limited development at the Nishi location. I have also stated my preference for the type of enterprises coming out of the Davis Roots, JumpsStart Davis, Pollinate projects as being much more appropriate for our community than the huge peripheral developments. I say this having absolutely no financial stake in the outcome which I believe makes me as objective as many of the posters here.

          Just because I do not favor the huge businesses parks with their limitations of what type of industry will be supported located on our periphery does not mean that my goals are in any way “dreary” although they may represent a “wet blanket” for your preferred projects, just as the denigration of my ideas does to mine.

           

  6. Tia Will

    TopCat

    Do you really think that the city should be employing what are essentially high paid lobbyists for the developers?”

    Absolutely not. The difficulty is whether or not one agrees that this is what those positions are. I certainly see these positions as lobbyists for development. However, I am not sure that I see them as lobbyists for the developers, and these two points of view are quite different and could lead one to differing opinions about their value to the city.

    When things are stated as specific actions, goals and strategies, there is much more room for disagreement and opposition.’

    Unlike some politicians and some private sector posters here, I see this as a good thing, not a negative. Most, perhaps all of us, have biases that leave us blinded to the very valid points that others, of a different point of view or with different values may be making. Some, who are very certain of the “rightness” of their position will just stoop listening entirely and will deride the ideas of others. This is very dangerous, as some of these ideas may have real merit, maybe not in their initial form but with full consideration and implementation of practical solutions which will often include elements from both sides.

    My current department leader is highly effective. Her strategy is to present a problem or process for evaluation. She asks all of her administrative team to think about the issue from their own perspective after having reviewed the issue with all the stakeholders at their own facility or subgroup. We then sit down with a timed agenda to hear everyone’s thoughts. Thinking outside the box is highly encouraged. Then we have a full discussion in which all are allowed to full present their point of view ( we have learned to be concise), to discuss the pros and cons of each others points of view and then vote on the issue. There is however, one final kicker in the process. Each voting member has the ability to “black ball” the proposal. This came out of the very painfully learned lesson that if even one of our 7 member voting team can absolutely not get behind the idea and “sell” it and fully implement it, then we are simply not ready to move forward. This came out of the very hard realization that sometimes the only way to lead, and thereby to prevent a serious foreseeable problem is to obstruct before the error is made. We use it rarely, but it has proven highly effective in the prevention of errors which is often as important as the advancement of an idea.

    1. Don Shor

      I will be very surprised if Rob White doesn’t leave after his three-year contract is up a few months from now. But I want to say that he has, as far as I can see, made every effort to avoid being a ‘cheerleader for development’. He had a pretty specific portfolio of shepherding the city to the RFP’s, and presumably continues with reviewing the materials the development teams are or were submitting. Although it is clear to me that he favors economic development in principle, he has been very circumspect about comments about specific sites or proposals. He is a professional who knows what his job’s duties and limits are.

      1. Matt Williams

        Well said Don. My sense to is that Rob is a professional rather than a politician. He has worked hard to promote/increase transparency, objectivity and open dialogue in the economic development process.

    2. hpierce

      “Each voting member has the ability to “black ball” the proposal.”  Explains about all the development review process, ending, sometimes, in a Measure J/R vote. Give all power to obstructionist/Luddites/those who don’t completely get their ‘own way’.  The ultimate in ‘true’ “conservative”, the antithesis of ‘true’ “progressive”.  And the antithesis of democracy.

      1. Tia Will

        hpierce

        “and the antithesis of democracy”

        That would be true. But is totally beside the point that I was attempting to make. Departments within medical systems, like businesses are not democracies, nor was I attempting to make such a comparison. My point was simply that there are many forms of leadership. One form can be to do what is within your power to stop a serious mistake from occurring. Not so long ago I gave an example of when a scrub nurse stopped me from making a serious mistake by grabbing my arm before I was able to make an incision on a not yet fully anesthetized patient. Sometimes the only option is to obstruct. That took real courage and yes, leadership, and I was very grateful. I meant nothing more, and nothing less with my comment.

        1. hpierce

          Yet, it appeared (perhaps I misunderstood) you made your comment/analogy in the context of approving development proposals.  If I misunderstood, I apologize.

  7. Tia Will

    Biddlin

    this characterization of Rob White is another indication of just how entrenched the anti-growth crowd is.”

    What you seem to have missed is the lack of unanimity in how even this very small sampling of what “the anti-growth crowd” thinks about Rob White’s position. Which I regard as a separate issue from how we regard Rob White as an individual. My view of the position was not the same as that of TopCat.

    Our point of agreement was that this position was designed to focus on economic development. Do you or anyone else dispute that point ?  Now whether or not it was exclusively designed to benefit particular developers is up for greater debate. Certainly the initial means of funding of the position would have suggested that. But the funding changed to an entirely city paid position. Over the course of time and multiple conversations and email exchanges with Rob White, I came to the conclusion that while his outlook and mine frequently varied, he is fair minded, willing to consider other points of view, and not locked in to one model of thought for what is best to the exclusion of all else. All are good traits for anyone in a leadership position which I see as much more than a “high paid lobbyist for the developers”. So your premise would seem to be undermined before it even gets off the ground.

  8. Alan Miller

    Develop community engagement and outreach to define project parameters and desired outcomes for Davis-specific potion of Yolo Rail Realignment based on reuse and economic impact assessment.

    Coordinate multi-agency request for $5 million federal grant for project engineering and environmental assessment as a next step for Yolo Rail Realignment effort.

    Question:  Why in the F— is Davis “coordinating” this?

    Davis should break away from the rest of Yolo County and back away from this north-of-$100 million project.  The $5 million is just for a pile of paper and lining the pockets of a connected consulting firm!  That’s no dirt turned, or any idea that this cluster-F can be funded.  Back off Davis!!!  Back off!!!  Have the courage to say “hell no” to the rest of the county, or be dragged down with them.

    How about laying out the truth about this project and getting the community to weigh if we even want to be part of this, rather than listen to lying consultant cheerleader reports and speeches? This is a hugely expensive project, even if it is mass quantities of “some else’s” money.
     

    1. hpierce

      Why indeed, Alan.

      Instead of coordinating/espousing the plan, I’m convinced we need a much larger than “ten-foot pole”, and even then I’d want to use a respirator with charcoal filter to handle the ‘stench’.  A few bucks and some time to vet it and to show what a lousy idea it is, that I can stomach, but sinking significantly more money into “investigations” that could lead to the the argument that cites all of the ‘sunk costs’ that need to be defended… that is reprehensible.  Don’t see much “skin in the game” by the private interests that would reap the windfall at the public expense.

    2. Adam Smith

      Alan –

      I understand your concerns for how much this feasibility study might cost, but what is bad for Davis residents about relocating the rail further east?     Seems that the benefits are numerous….but I’d like to understand the negative impacts of moving the rail (excepting costs, which may not be borne by Davis residents)

      Thanks

      1. Alan Miller

        Mr. Smith,

        what is bad for Davis residents about relocating the rail further east?

        Perhaps nothing.   What is bad for Davis residents about digging a hole in the ground and filling it in?  Perhaps we could coordinate a grant application to spend $5 million to study digging a hole in the ground and filling it in.  Then apply for federal flood control dollars that would help pay for most of the cost of digging a hole in the ground and filling it in — but not all of the cost.

        I exaggerate, for there would be some “benefits” that digging a hole and filling it in would not reap.  But the bottom line is — is this where we should focus (any) city staff time (read: money) for such a massive and unlikely-to-be-built-in-our-lifetimes project, and what should we actually be putting time (money) into that we really need, that is much, much cheaper.  And as well, what is the REAL motivation and REAL beneficiary of this push by our (#ahem#) honorable (#ahem#) Mr. Garamendi and the City of West Sacramento?

        The real clue here is why is there this need to omit (lie) about actual benefits and costs?  I have repeatedly given the glaring example of how two reports on the feasibility of the #ahem# “project” say how the cost of maintaining X number of grade crossings in the cities will be saved, while omitting both the massive cost of constructing at least a dozen NEW at-grade or grade-separated crossings on the new rail line, as well as the maintenance cost for all those new crossings  Why is this omitted from mention?  All this is conveniently missing from the cheer-leading documents, paid for by taxpayers, that THEY try to pass off as an objective report.

        As well, safety is pointed out to be a prime reason for going ahead with the project.  Yet, the N-W line Davis-Woodland and the E-W line out of Woodland have extremely low traffic volumes and extremely low accident rates.  The Arboretum Crossing behind Whole Foods and the Swingle Crossing east of Mace both have had numerous deaths at those locations, the Swingle Crossing having been called “Suicide Crossing” since at least the 1920’s.  The staff time and effort to receive grant money for rail safety in Yolo County should be focused 100% on grade-separating those two dangerous crossings that are NOT part of the proposed, so-called rail relocation.  City Council members should insist on these safety projects instead of being lead by their leashes by Woodland, West Sacramento, Yolo County Supervisors and John Garamendi to squander our precious City staff time (money) on the so-called rail relocation.

        REBEL, Davis City Council, REBEL !!!     @#$%-ing REBEL!

        If that isn’t enough regarding safety, coming oil trains will add to the danger.  How?  A train struck a car at Swingle Crossing in the early 1990’s that derailed the train and caused a fireball from the exploding auto gasoline tank that set fire to front of the locomotive.  Were that to happen with an oil train and an oil tank car were ruptured, the resulting fire-ball would engulf Highway 80 and, depending on the time of day, result in dozens of fatalities (read:  burned to death).  Unlikely?  Perhaps, but hardly impossible.  Removing that crossing would remove yet one-more way that an oil train could be derailed in Davis.  (The most likely way being an overspeed “ooops” incident at the 10-mph mainline crossover near downtown by a train engineer not paying full attention, such as I witnessed in both 2006 and 2009).

        As well, the initial report by a West Sacramento consultant already underestimated the cost of the project by a least double, but probably much more than that.  No one seems to care, or point out the MASSIVELY growing-over-time estimated cost (I smell a Bay Bridge in the works, suckers of Yolo).  The initial estimate was so low as to be laughable by all rail professionals I showed the estimate to, yet the so-called “professional” apparently was hired to low-ball the cost and cheer-lead the project, not give an objective report.  On taxpayer dime.

        And when I see this I ask . . . and all of you should ask . . . WHY ARE THEY LYING TO US ?!!!???!!!

        And they continue to lie, even as I point this out at numerous City Council meetings.

        the negative impacts of moving the rail (excepting costs, which may not be borne by Davis residents)

        This project WILL BE Yolo County’s own, personal Bay Bridge.  You say the cost may not be borne by Davis residents.  The majority of costs won’t be, but the feds never pay all of the costs of any such project, and this is such a massive project that there will be huge amounts of staff time and a small percentage / large cost still borne by Davis.  Reno worked on their rail relocation (into a trench) for over 50 years before they finally got it due to a fortuitous corporate merger in the early 90’s — but despite federal and private money the trench still required an assessment district that haunts Reno’s budget to this day.  Was it worth it?  Hard to say, as Reno is quite a different economy with major challenges (Indian casinos), but downtown Reno looks as dumpy today as it did pre-trench.

        Further on the subject of Davis not paying for (most) of it as well, this is an area I am more conservative than even Frank Lee.  The fact is, both Frank Lee and ALL POLITICIANS (read: most) cannot turn down tax dollars that are someone else’s (read: from a higher level up in government).  Frank Lee is comfortable with state redevelopment funds going to cities, and with fraudulent federal flood control dollars being used for a so-called rail relocation that just happens to (wishfully) open up so-called “opportunities”.  ALL POLITICIANS see both state and federal tax dollars as INCOME, when in fact, the higher you go in government level for taxation and return to the project, the more money is skimmed off first.  Everyone-as-a-whole gives more, everyone-as-a-whole gets less.  But the selfish see this as income if Peter got robbed and the recipient’s name happens to be Paul.

        Therefore, it is, in my view CRIMINAL to seek such such a massive infusion of high-level government funds for a project that ISN’T NEEDED.  Allow me to explain.  EVEN IF — and I will concede this MAY be true as I am not a floodplain hydrologist — you need to remove the Fremont trestle to help flood control, you DO NOT need the so-called Yolo County rail relocation, which will cost far north of $100 million YES I SAID FAR NORTH OF ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS in order to remove the trestle.  A simple rail connection costing just a few million dollars will allow for the removal of the trestle.  There are at least seven different routes that I have mapped out that would allow this connection, some costing more than others, but still a fraction of the cost of the so-called Yolo rail relocation.

        Why isn’t this little fact ever mentioned?  Probably because building this connection would not allow for the LIE that the so-called rail relocation is “necessary” for the trestle removal, and therefore if the TRUTH came out in an OBJECTIVE REPORT instead of the CHEER-LEADING REPORTS PAID FOR BY OUR TAX DOLLARS which don’t mention the cheap solution, there would be no justification for STEALING for north of ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS from federal taxpayers for the the benefit of CONSULTANTS, CONTRACTORS, POLITICIANS AND MASS DEVELOPERS, such as a certain Sacramento Greek.

        So again I ask . . . and all of you should ask . . . WHY ARE THEY LYING TO US ?!!!???!!!

        1. Jim Frame

          Alan, you’ve repeatedly sounded the alarm about this project, but the problem for many of us is that we lack the knowledge required to objectively analyze it.  When that happens, we necessarily rely on those with more expertise on the subject to guide our opinions.  And when there’s controversy among those with claimed or acknowledged expertise, we start looking for other indications as to which camp better represents the truth.  Those indications often include reputation and motivation, but since opposing camps frequently impugn the reputation and/or motivation of the other camp, we sometimes have to rely on critical mass.

          Right now critical mass favors the rail relocation effort.  That doesn’t mean that they’re right and you’re wrong, it simply means that if I were forced to make a decision on the matter today, I’d probably go along with the plurality opinion.  I might not be happy about it, but that’s beside the point.

          I’m reminded of the former city councilperson who steadfastly maintained that Davis was not eligible for a low-interest SRF loan in support of the water project.  The argument was credible on its face, backed up by seemingly authoritative references, and was made by someone very familiar with the project.  But in the end she was wrong — by dint of misunderstanding on her part or political chicanery by others, I can’t say — and we got the SRF loan.

          I see plenty of room for boondoggle in the rail relocation project, but I also see space for significant local benefit, so if your claims are true I hope that other experts will come forward to back them up in the public interest.

           

          1. Matt Williams

            Well said Jim. Alan has consistently looked at the project through a lens darkly. He has also chosen to select only the transportation lens for his viewings. If the actuarial risk of flood damage as calculated by FEMA were not in excess of 5 billion dollars, and if the rail relocation were not capable of reducing the freeboard on the Natomas Levee by in excess of three feet in peak flood conditions, thereby significantly reducing that citizen-borne actuarial risk, then I would be more receptive to Alan’s rants.

            In fairness to his rants, the project does not have enough fiscal strength as a transportation project alone, but in concert with its flood protection value, there is more than enough interesting fiscal opportunity to warrant further investigation of that potential fiscal benefit.

            In closing, Alan’s passion for the nuts and bolts of transportation serves him well. However, indiscriminately thrown personal attacks negate any good that his passion for nuts and bolts may create.

        2. Alan Miller

          Jim,

          Are you reading what I am saying?

          Of course there is perceived local benefit.  I am fighting against the potential of upwards of a hundred million dollars being pumped into the local economy.  I am saying this is a project of misguided priorities based on a very big lie.  My concern is that this is very unlikely to happen due to the complexity and cost, and if it does happen one of the central tenants is that it is based on developing the linear corridor in central Davis rather than setting it aside as a transportation corridor, which is beyond foolish.

        3. Alan Miller

          Well said Jim. Alan has consistently looked at the project through a lens darkly.

          Yes I have.  Reality is often dark.  I have a picture of good friend protesting at the groundbreaking of the Bay Bridge; he was claiming the politicians were lying about the true cost of the project, which is still topping an order of magnitude above original estimates and counting.  Perhaps at the time you would have said he was looking at the project “darkly”; I say the project was DARK and he was right, and he was correct that the POLITICIANS WERE LYING.

          He has also chosen to select only the transportation lens for his viewings.

          Transportation is my thing, man.

          If the actuarial risk of flood damage as calculated by FEMA were not in excess of 5 billion dollars, and if the rail relocation were not capable of reducing the freeboard on the Natomas Levee by in excess of three feet in peak flood conditions, thereby significantly reducing that citizen-borne actuarial risk, then I would be more receptive to Alan’s rants.

          As I explained above, it is possible removal of the trestle would decrease flood risk, and I am stating trestle removal as a given.  You link the so-called rail relocation as being necessary for trestle removal, which it is not.  Thus you perpetuate the very house-of-cards lie that the cheerleaders of this project have built.  Simply building a low-cost rail connection would allow for trestle removal and save upwards of a hundred million dollars with the same result: trestle removal and flood protection.  End of story.  The cheerleaders have never refuted this, because they CAN’T.  I have exposed their lie, and they can’t refute it, because it would further expose their lie, and undercut their argument for the federal grant and the so-called need for their rail-relocation plan, which is actually only for the benefit of those pushing the plan.  They think by linking enough chains together they can cover up the lie, but they can’t.

          In fairness to his rants, the project does not have enough fiscal strength as a transportation project alone,

          True dat.

          As well, dollars and resources (staff time and money) are very limited.  Yolo should concentrate on rail safety by reducing risk of possible upcoming oil trains (the bomb) and removing the Arboretum and Swingle crossings, both of which have claimed many lives.

          but in concert with its flood protection value, there is more than enough interesting fiscal opportunity to warrant further investigation of that potential fiscal benefit.

          No Matt, not gonna let you get away with that.  Trestle removal, not the so-called rail relocation, may offer flood benefits.  The rail relocation is linked to flood control by project cheerleaders only because it offers a way to get free federal money to open up land for development.

          In closing, Alan’s passion for the nuts and bolts of transportation serves him well.

          Thank you very much.

          However, indiscriminately thrown personal attacks negate any good that his passion for nuts and bolts may create.

          Accusing me of indiscriminately throwing out “personal attacks” is itself a personal attack, completely lacking in logic, and therefore a lie.  My nuts & bolts stand alone and are not negated by any criticism I have of anyone involved in cheer-leading the project.

          Who do you consider that I am “personally” attacking?  John Garamendi? — I’ll stand by the criticism, and I think as a well-known political figure he can take it.  The consultant who wrote the first report?  It’s a cheerleading piece of crap — I’d say it to his face — is that a personal attack?  If so, I’ll stand by it.  The City Council? — I didn’t attack anyone personally and I consider some of them friends, but as a whole they are going along with this fraud and my goal is to wake the City up to the truth.  Is that a personal attack?  As for criticism of a certain Sacramento developer who has claimed he is giving land free to Yolo out of the goodness of his heart for the rail relocation — Google the family name if you want criticism that eclipses mine like the sun swallowing the moon.   Yes, I am saying there are a lot of lies going on about this project; lies of omission, lies of underestimation, lies of true need, lies of true motivation.  I stand by all my claims, and all my criticisms.Should you continue choose to use illogical rhetoric in an attempt to discredit my claims, that is on you.

          1. Don Shor

            it offers a way to get free federal money to open up land for development.

            Which land? Where? Owned by whom?

  9. Tia Will

    Doby

    Your list of items that we should be considering is a start at a rational look at overall costs. I believe that this is why Council member Davis has called for a complete review of all our deferred and ongoing costs so that a true fiscal picture will be clear. It is one thing to decide a priori because one feels that there has been years of “stagnation” that we must build. I think that a complete assessment of where we are now and projects for any project into the future would be needed to decide whether or not any particular project was likely to pull its anticipated economic weight. I do not remember specific numbers, but it seems to me that the Target did not come close to its initially projected ( namely prior to the vote) income for the city. Of course, those who wanted the Target for the convenience, are I am sure, enjoying the presence of the Target, but as an addition to the overall community, I don’t believe that we can say that it lived up to its pre vote sales pitch. And this pitch was part of the reason that it squeaked through with such a narrow margin.

    I do not favor a boom and bust approach to economics. If we have indeed have 10 “stagnant years” as paraphrased by me, perhaps that is because of push back to the the previous rapid growth era as David put forth in a previous article. What I would prefer would be not the swings that are typical of our boom and bust pattern, but rather slow gradual change over time leaving some of these decisions to the millennials rather than buttoning down all the choices for the next 50 years however profitable that may be for those in business now.

    1. Doby Fleeman

      Tia,

      Let’s be honest, the millenials are now”stuck” with “our” Baby Boomer debt.

      And I’m not seeing a lot of Boomers with their arms raised and volunteering to tax themselves to catch up for the overspending and lousy accounting durig our watch.

      Sure, maybe I just know the selfish ones, but what about AARP – where are they as an organization?  Do you see them encouraging their members to be volunteering to pay more for the lousy roads we have?  Do you see them asking to be taxed more to help restore fiscal balance to Medicare?

      Don’t you see that this discussion about Innovation Centers is all about jobs for today’s Millenials?
      I’m just trying to understand how this future is shaping up for America ‘s youth.

      Mayor Pro Tem Davis’ concern for addressing deferred and ongoing costs is to be applauded.  By the same token, I am suggesting we look out over the horizon and consider how we will be addressing tomorrows need and tomorrows costs and what we can do to help pave the way towards a more prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.

  10. Tia Will

    Doby

    Don’t you see that this discussion about Innovation Centers is all about jobs for today’s Millenials?”

    I certainly do see that jobs for today’s Millenials is part of the conversation. I also see that we are having this conversation in the same, “It’s all about us and our conception of how things should be” way that the Boomers have always had. You are right, I do not see many groups stepping up and saying we should be paying our own way. This is classic “Boomer think” and that has not served us well in the past. So why would thinking within the same “Boomer Box” serve us any better now. Blaming large groups while it may be accurate, does not mean that we could not choose another route locally.

    We could think regionally instead of always comparing ourselves to and competing with our neighboring cities. We could choose to live more lightly, use less resources, pay our own bills rather than always expecting someone else to bail us our for our choices. We could choose not to buy into the “more is better” mantra that has plagued the Boomers who do not seem to be able to see past the superficial consumption based society that we have developed.

    I am very traditional in one way. I was taught that if I could not afford a “want” as opposed to a “need”, then I simply could not have it. You say that you  are not” seeing a lot of Boomers with their arms raised and volunteering to tax themselves to catch up for the overspending and lousy accounting durig our watch.” Well you know of at least one who is if it were to apply to all who can pay…… Me. So my question is, to all of us Boomers , “where is your arm “? 

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