Personal Politics or Dialogue About Community Issues? Which Is More Important to You?

Image-31In the comments in Thursday’s article, “The Unanticipated Power of the Mayor in a Weak Mayoral System,” a dialogue took place about the 2011 council vacancy appointment process, with at least a partial focus on the personal politics and/or political calculations that may have gone into the decisions that night.

In answering the question of “who voted for whom?” I brought forward City Clerk Zoe Mirabile’s minutes of the process (see  the Unanticipated Power of the Mayor in a Weak Mayoral System or Minutes of Special Joint Meeting City Council and Public Facilities Financing Authority), which showed clearly what each councilmember’s vote was in each of the five rounds of the process, with the final vote being Sue Greenwald, Joe Krovoza and Rochelle Swanson for the appointment of Dan Wolk, and Steve Souza for the appointment of attorney Paul Boylan.

However, for me, thoughts about political calculations is much less interesting than thoughts about the questions about issues that the councilmembers posed to the ten (10) candidates.  Captured in those questions is a snapshot view of how Davis has changed since February 2011 … or, if you will, has not changed since then.  The questions documented in the minutes are as follows:

  • What would be your options be for addressing the long-term implications of unfunded pension liabilities?
  • Taking into consideration upcoming items on the Long Range Calendar, including but not limited to the budget, please explain how you will prepare referencing at least 3 specific upcoming items. As appropriate, give specific examples of knowledge and qualifications you currently possess and what you would need to learn to prepare.
  • What is your position on additional big box retail and/or large malls within Davis or its planning area?
  • Please share with us your ideas for building stronger connections between our city government and neighborhoods. What would be your main objectives in this area?
  • Setting aside unfunded liabilities and unmet needs for a moment, what two things would you enjoy working on as a member of the Davis City Council?
  • The City Council has endorsed the “Road Diet” concept for the Fifth Street Corridor from A to L Streets. Do you support this concept or do you have another plan to address the safety concerns of this section of Davis’ roadway?
  • Please discuss issues, limitations and ideas for improvement to Olive Drive and the Richards Boulevard undercrossing (also known as Gateway), including impacts on residents and traffic.
  • The City currently has a 1% growth guideline, which equates to 325 houses per year. Would you consider growing at less than 325 units per year?
  • Please share with us your ideas for building stronger connections between our city government and neighborhoods. What would be your main objectives in this area?

Many of these questions resonate just as strongly today as they did four years ago.  Addressing the long-term implications of unfunded pension (and OPEB) liabilities was one of the questions raised by the Finance and Budget Commission on Monday night when they reviewed the proposed Budget and formulated advice for the Council’s Budget Adoption deliberations scheduled for Tuesday, June 30.

Big Box retail was the subject of a very recent Vanguard article The Counter-Narrative on Retail and Big Box Development

The Fifth Street Road Diet referenced in the sixth question has moved from “concept” to “reality” and in the process the amount of community dialogue (and angst) has been reduced to barely a whisper.

The intersection of Olive Drive and Richards Boulevard continues to be an active topic with both the proposed Hotel-Conference Center Plans are Revised and the Nishi Gateway Innovation Center (see Status of Nishi and A Youth’s Perspective on the Need for Innovation

Conspicuous in its absence is any question about The Cannery, although the question about the 1 percent Growth Cap will have interesting traction in the next 36 to 48 months as The Cannery, Grande, Chiles Ranch, Trackside Center, and the 270 unit apartment proposal for the Families First site all vie for their share of the 325 houses per year.  Community Development staff and the council will need to monitor each year’s issued building permits in order to be sure the 325 threshold is not exceeded.

Also conspicuously absent is any question regarding the Deferred Maintenance Backlog for Roads, Buildings & Facilities, Parks, etc.

Noting those differences, it is also interesting to see how the 2011 list of council-posed questions compares to the list of questions posed by Vanguard readers earlier this year.

  • What is the procedure for enrolling children in the summer Parks and Rec programs? Do City of Davis employees, and their friends and family members, still get first choice?
  • When do you anticipate addressing the issue of roads and infrastructure?
  • Do you think the city is economically viable without adding innovation parks, the hotel conference center, and/or Nishi?
  • Since you are concerned with pricing families out of Davis, do you anticipate adding either housing, workforce housing, or affordable housing in the near future?
  • Would you support mixed use at the innovation parks?
  • Do you anticipate raising salaries for employees between now and the end of your term as Mayor?
  • Will you actively support extending the joint management of the Davis and UCD fire departments?
  • Are you concerned about the 0.3 percent apartment vacancy rate, and, if so, what the current council might be doing to address that? Have you and the Chancellor ever talked about this issue during your weekly meetings?
  • I would like our City Council members to take the time to explain their thoughts on the CFD. Especially how providing $12 million to the developer is in the best interest of the city. Looking at our roads I wonder how $12 million might address the condition of our roads?
  • Do our City Council members think that the CFD will impact the new residents of the Cannery project when voting on parcel taxes? Much of what Davis provides to its citizens is included in the parcel taxes.
  • Has the City considered selling the DACHA homes so the State, City and DJUSD would start getting property tax and parcel tax revenue from them (because city, state and UC owned property does not pay property taxes or parcel taxes)

When I combine the nine questions from the council list with the eleven questions from Vanguard readers, I find thinking about and discussing those substantive community issues much more interesting than talking about personal politics and/or political calculations.

About The Author

Matt Williams has been a resident of Davis/El Macero since 1998. Matt is a past member of the City's Utilities Commission, as well as a former Chair of the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC), former member of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee (DPAC), former member of the Broadband Advisory Task Force (BATF), as well as Treasurer of Davis Community Network (DCN). He is a past Treasurer of the Senior Citizens of Davis, and past member of the Finance Committee of the Davis Art Center, the Editorial Board of the Davis Vanguard, Yolo County's South Davis General Plan Citizens Advisory Committee, the Davis School District's 7-11 Committee for Nugget Fields, the Yolo County Health Council and the City of Davis Water Advisory Committee and Natural Resources Commission. His undergraduate degree is from Cornell University and his MBA is from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent over 30 years planning, developing, delivering and leading bottom-line focused strategies in the management of healthcare practice, healthcare finance, and healthcare technology, as well municipal finance.

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