Davis Mayor Dan Wolk has used the term “Renew Davis” on a range of policy goals and applications. Most recently, he invoked it as a means to resurrect a community sports park concept. However, the initiative brought questions and criticisms from some of his colleagues and questions from the community.
As Mr. Wolk explained in his January column, “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.”
He argued, “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.”
For him, that appears to mean to further economic development, to reinvest in roads, parks and pools, to secure clean energy, to promote healthy families and to be better partners.
From our perspective, while the situation has definitely improved on the ground, we have clear needs. This is what we see as community priorities:
Fiscal sustainability. We have come a long way from the days of 2009 when Councilmember Lamar Heystek created his own alternative budget to illustrate the inadequacy of budget cutting efforts and the 2009 round of MOUs. But we are not out of the woods by any means. We need to create sustainable budgets that allow us to continue to live within our means, and that means limiting or holding the lines on employee compensation and continuing to find ways to deal with unfunded liabilities.
Reinvest in roads and infrastructure. We cannot renew Davis driving on potholed roads, walking on cracked sidewalks and dealing with grooves in bike paths. Before we can invest in new swimming pools and sports parks, we must fix our existing infrastructure problems. That means we need a parcel tax or another similar tax to fund roads first before we get to niceties.
Economic Development. We support the dispersed model of economic development. That means developing our downtown, fostering a startup culture, but also creating space for new companies to move into Davis and existing companies to grow and expand. The city is woefully short on tax revenue needed to pay for the services we have come to expect. We support a peripheral innovation park that fits into the community model we have adapted.
Slow and sustainable growth. Protecting our agricultural lands and heritage. One of the most glaring omissions is the commitment to preserve the small town character and appeal of Davis. Davis has a strong tradition of slow growth and has enacted numerous measures that protect and preserve agricultural land on the Davis periphery. Davis needs to be able to continue to protect the environment from the pressures of sprawl development while being flexible enough to meet the needs of a changing economy and needs.
Environmental Sustainability. The city of Davis has long had a tradition of being on the cutting of edge on environmental issues. In 2015 that means the commitment to renewable energy, carbon reduction, solar, efficient energy and other sustainable features. These should be built into the codes so that all new projects, whether they be infill or peripheral, should be net-zero energy. That also includes the need for clean energy and public power, whether it be Community Choice Energy or a POU.
Social Justice. Another glaring omission. We have a growing underclass in Davis, whether it is 24 percent of students in our schools who are Title One or a growing homeless population. We need to commit to things like health care, education, and other support for low income people, particularly children. Along with social justice comes the need for affordable housing, and not to price working people out of Davis. Given the environmental needs and land use protections, this becomes an intricate and delicate balancing act.
Civil Rights. Davis has a rich legacy of supporting civil rights through its own civil rights act. It gave early recognition of gay rights, anti-discrimination laws and support of same-sex marriage rights. At the same time, many people of color continue to complain about their treatment at the hands of the police, businesses, and others in town. We need to promote a culture of inclusivity that protects the rights of all.
Those are my planks of “Renew Davis” – it really starts with the budget and creating a healthy and sustainable economy and social system. What are you planks? What do you see as important? What would your platform look like?
—David M. Greenwald reporting