A Youth’s Perspective on the Need for Innovation in Davis

Slabaugh-Public-Comment-Nishi
Thomas Slabaugh during public comment talks about his generation and the importance of Nishi

During the Innovation Center and Nishi discussion, a young man who identified himself as Thomas Slabaugh spoke during public comment. He said that, while he was in attendance at the last townhall meeting, he was there “as someone to offer a different perspective” as the youngest person in the room.

He said, “I feel like we get a lot of people who aren’t my age, getting up and voicing their concerns about this when the reality is my age group is going to be the most served by the Nishi-Gateway project.” He said he has been in Davis for the last eight years of his life. “In that time, I have experienced pretty much everything that Davis has to offer. I’ve loved every second of it, Davis is truly my home.”

“Although I have experienced a huge amount of personal growth in the last eight years, the community around me has stayed relatively the same,” he continued. “Albeit a comforting fact of life that one may go away for many years, return and have little change, that is something that in my opinion that has kind of run its course.”

He continued, “I am a product of the Davis public school system. I’m employed by a small business in downtown Davis and through my time in Davis I have participated in many of the city programs that probably people in this room have helped create.”

Mr. Slabaugh said, “The reason I am here today is that I believe that this project will continue to build upon this driving factor and ultimately improve the lives of many people in here.”

The project, he said, will provide 20,000 square feet for retail space and 125,000 square feet for R&D along with 650 multi-family housing units.

He said, “I believe that this Nishi-Gateway project will provide opportunities for small business owners, UC Davis students, and community members alike to grow and expand upon these new opportunities. If we are… which is our duty, that’s why we’re all here, we need to build this or a similar project.”

“For those of us who may doubt, I’m sure there are those of us who have concerns about this project, you’re justified and thank you, they keep us honest. They keep us constantly wanting to improve the existing projects that we have,” he continued.

“But we must have faith in our community and in the future, truly,” he said.

He has full confidence that this will be a successful development because he believes that “small business owners will come to this. I believe that students will take full advantage of the opportunities that are given to them and I believe it is the nature of the people of Davis to come in, take in an outsider and make him or her feel at home,” he said.

In closing, he called upon his fellow Davisites, “We have to get behind this. We have to get truly behind something like this. Because this will create a multiplier effect that’s not just going to be felt by my generation but the generations to follow us. So we need to leave a lasting legacy of positive change and growth.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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27 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    It’s for these young adults who are just getting started that we need to build the innovation parks.  Good jobs are hard to come by and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to deny these kids a future.  Another commenter stated that we can’t supply jobs for all the UCD graduates.  Nobody is saying that, but any jobs that are created is a great accomplishment.

  2. Tia Will

    BP

    Another commenter stated that we can’t supply jobs for all the UCD graduates.”

    I can’t imagine why anyone would want to deny these kids a future.”

    And nobody is saying that either. It would appear that this young man was speaking in favor of Nishi. I would also support a well planned, well connected and automobile limited Nishi. I am also a strong supporter of Davis Roots, JumpStart Davis and Pollinate. I speak to and  mentor young people consider and beginning their careers in medicine on a regular basis.

    I am not against economic development. That fact that I have never been sold ( yet) on the idea that huge peripheral “innovation parks” are the best way for Davis to secure its economic future certainly does not mean that I “wish to deny these kids a future”. I do not believe that this kind of simplistic representation ( whether made by you or me ) does much to move the conversation forward or consider solutions.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      Tia, so where do you support significant new job creation?

      I start with some simple premises you may or may not agree with. I believe we need a good number of quality jobs, not fast food or bartending. This provides revenue from a number of sources.

      If you eliminate “huge peripheral “innovation parks”, what is your suggestion?

      Density with mid-rise development downtown? That would be extremely difficult given costs, lack of available parcels, not to mention parking and transportation issues.

      I guess another option you might suggest is minimal development downtown, and a hefty parcel tax to fund city services.

      Please forgive me if I have not read any previous posts where you may have offered your solution to realistically funding over $100 million in unmet city infrastructure needs. These costs are on top of city pension obligations, ongoing city business, etc.

      1. Davis Progressive

        i’m a stated proponent of an innovation park, but to answer your question you have an underutilized space in the downtown, a potential to expand some of that space plus you have things like pannatoni (sp) who are going to build a business park south of i-80, so there are areas out there.  that said, i think we need the peripheral park.

      2. Miwok

        solution to realistically funding over $100 million in unmet city infrastructure needs. These costs are on top of city pension obligations, ongoing city business, etc.

        Since the traditional mix of property tax and sales tax does not work for Davis, with the tremendous amount of property off the tax rolls, students as a transient population, taking advantage of the many students here is the way to balance budgets, by imposing a permanent sales tax?

        1. Davis Progressive

          the traditional mix as you put is relies on sales tax revenues far more than exists in the city.  we have a very underutilized sales tax system.

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          We just voted to increase the sales tax.

          What are you hinting at? A higher and longer sales tax measure?

          Might not such a measure push out certain businesses, like car dealerships?

        3. Mark West

          ““off the tax rolls” – UCD?”

          UCD does not pay property taxes, so any property in town that is owned by the University does not bring in tax revenue to the City.  In addition, any property that is leased by the University does not pay property taxes on improvements or business equipment associated with that property, as any commercial entity would be required to do.  I don’t know what the percentage of commercial property in town is currently owned or leased by the University, but it is not negligible. The bottom line is that UCD enterprises within the City use City services, but do not help pay for them.

      3. Tia Will

        I believe we need a good number of quality jobs, not fast food or bartending. This provides revenue from a number of sources.”

        I think that it would be nice to talk about how many quality jobs we are talking about. I certainly do not support more fast good jobs. Bartending, well that is a little different as it is actually quite lucrative and can because of the hours can fit well into many students plans once they are old enough.

        I have already stated by support for some version of Nishi.  I have stated my support for the small business incubators downtown as I see these as a better fit for Davis. I was a potential supporter of the plan that has been put on hold because of its non prime land location. I would support more intensive development of downtown. However, I am not of the “grow as fast as we can ” school of thought. I greatly prefer a slower approach with small changes, then reassessments to see what the overall effect of that change has been. Then another step forward with a reassessment after that. I am not in favor of locking in the next 50 years so that our children and theirs have a preset template of our choosing with essentially no way out if they prefer a different option.

        But until we have some realistic number of jobs that we are shooting for, and some realistic projections about the infrastructure needs and what those needs will mean for the remainder of the community, folks are doing not much more than cheerleading for their side while saying that others are being selfish. I know some young people who are in favor of the parks ( or at least Nishi) while others are opposed ( my son for one).

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          I don’t see many of these discussions as “grow as fast as you can”, though that’s what was done to the city budget and pensions in some regards. Do Woodland, Dixon, and West Sac have so many unfunded infrastructure and financial obligations?

          Are the bean counters in Davis city government really that slow? Or are the city manager, mayor, and CC just dragging their feet in laying out the full picture of the city budget for the next 10-20-30 years?

          Your incremental approach may go beyond wishful thinking.

           

  3. Davis Progressive

    another point that’s important to raise is that it is unlikely that an innovation park which will not be voted on for another year, has a build out time horizon of twenty years is a solution for the $100 million (and that’s a very low number of what itreally is) in unmet city infrastructure needs.  we need that money sooner so you are looking at a tax for that. we have to look at the ic’s as a longer-term investment not something that will solve short term needs.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      Good points. Given the recent uptick in unexpected monies, and the considerable drop in paving costs, it makes a lot of sense to fast-track additional street maintenance. On top of this, we are clearly aware that if we repair streets before they get to a “point of no return”, we save massive amounts of money.

      If I were on the city council, I would light a fire under the City Manager and whoever else to bring options to the table ASAP, but being that it’s already June, we may have already missed the boat.

      Per an innovation park, I’m not sure we’ll have to wait 20 years for build out if we do it right, and don’t micro manage the tiniest detail.

    2. Mark West

       “we need that money sooner so you are looking at a tax for that. we have to look at the ic’s as a longer-term investment not something that will solve short term needs.”

      Some of us have been saying from the beginning that we need a comprehensive approach to dealing with our fiscal problems, with a combination of investment through economic development, further reductions in spending, and short-term tax increases.  The critical piece of the three however is the economic development portion because until we have made that investment and have a timeline for when those new revenues will arrive, there is no reason to believe that the investment will in fact ever be made.  As a consequence, without economic development all tax increase will need to be permanent, regardless of how they are sold to the public.  We are already seeing that effect with the staff report ‘assuming’ an extension of the recent sales tax increase.

      There is no doubt that we will need to raise taxes further, the question is will those increases be permanent or temporary.  I for one will not vote for another tax increase unless it is tied to an approved economic development project that can be shown to replace the need for the tax revenues within a reasonable time frame.  Approve the projects first, then raise taxes to fill in the gap while those projects come on line.

      1. Barack Palin

         

        I for one will not vote for another tax increase unless it is tied to an approved economic development project that can be shown to replace the need for the tax revenues within a reasonable time frame.  Approve the projects first, then raise taxes to fill in the gap while those projects come on line.

        There you have it, I’m on board.  Maybe this is the message that needs to be conveyed to our city council.  Build it and we will come (approve temporary gap taxes).

        1. Davis Progressive

          the only thing you might be able to do here is withhold your vote for a tax increase until they pass economic development, i don’t believe you can legally tie the two on a ballot measure.

        2. Mark West

           “i don’t believe you can legally tie the two on a ballot measure.”

           

          Of course you cannot, nor can you trust a politician with the money since they will always find a way to spend it as soon as it is available.  What we can do however is insist they make the long-term investment first so at least that part is in place before giving them access to any more monies to spend.

  4. Robb Davis

    Can I get some clarification here.  DP wrote:

    withhold your vote for a tax increase until they pass economic development

    Mark wrote:

    insist they make the long-term investment first 

    What does it mean to “pass economic development?”  What does it mean to “make the long term investment?”

    These are honest questions.  The City Council can vote to send one or both of the current innovation centers to the ballot (I am counting Nishi as an innovation center though some do not).  Is that what you mean?  I ask because that is what we have the ability to do but only the people of Davis can determine whether they would accept the City Council’s recommendation if we were to do that. What else counts as the “long-term investment” or “passing economic development?”

    1. Mark West

      If you insist on being so specific….

      Yes, the CC is limited in what they alone can do, but frankly that doesn’t matter.  If you want to raise taxes you need to make a concomitant investment in economic development (ie. approve a project that will increase revenues to the City in a definable way) that is projected to bring in sufficient revenues to completely replace the new tax, allowing said tax to be rescinded.  The project isn’t approved until the citizens so vote, so don’t ask for the tax until the final votes are tallied.  Seems to me to be a simple idea but I am happy to try again if I have failed to make my position clear.

      1. Robb Davis

        I appreciate it Mark.  Like I said, it is an honest question.  I get the timing question and, believe it or not, the input is useful.  I honestly did not know what you meant and what the expectations were.  That is why I asked you to be specific.  Logically, your approach would mean no tax measure on the ballot before November 2016, assuming one or both of the projects were placed on the ballot in June (the earliest possible date at this time).

        1. Frankly

          This works for me.  It was a suggestion last year when Dan and Brett hosted some meetings that I attended with other local business leaders. The other suggestion (or demand) was to get it righ the first time with tax increases and stop comming back over and over and over again.

          I call out the BS on the CC for the nuance and complexity.  Great quote from Bill Gates: “If you are waiting for enough information to make a decision, you are likely too late.”

          We have two types of CC memebers: one – every decision is primarily based on politics.  Two – every decision has to be analyzed to death.

          These two types tend to support each other in a race to mediocrity.

          There is no conviction on a bold vision.  There is no real leading… only manipualtion of circumstances.

          I see this city is a fight for its life and there is really nobody willing to fight… other than those fighting to block, prevent, disrupt and at least slow the decions… these are the people that are basic enemies of change.

          Just came back from Napa.  Napa is kicking Davis’s ass.

          Napa is the new power in the region and is creating a downtown that makes Davis look like a sleepy, stupid backwater of old babyboomer hippies and drunk college students.

          I know, I know… the response will be “then why don’t you move to Napa Frankly?”  I decided this week that it will likely occur.

          But after 40 years in Davis I care about this community and don’t like to see it turn to crap and become the laughing stock of the region.

          CC get off your butts and put more energy into promoting the innovation parks.  We know why Rob White was cut, and we know that the West Davis Innovation park pulled out because there had not been enough political support.  We know that some CC members up for re-election are worried about their support of the innovation parks impacting their said relection and their future political careers, and are pushing it to the backburner and focusing on “safe” accomplishments.  We know that Don Saylor is pulling puppet strings in the void of leadership.  We know that there are hurt egos over the ownership of economic development in this city and those people are manuvering as blockers in retrobution… at the cost to the city that needs the changes.

          Davis does not have the critical mass of alternative private-side business leadership to combat the enemies of change.  The rest of the population can be pursuaded… but only by our politicians.  If Mayor Dan or any other CC member put half as much time and effort into promoting true economic development as they do spouting the rosy state of the city revenue (absent any honest desicussion of the city’s massive growing pile of unfunded long-term liabilities) we could move the needle on economic development.

          It is probably already too late.  I suspect we will have a business park in Woodland down 113, and another on university land in Solano County.  Then Davis will be hit with the traffic impacts without any revenue benefits and without any input into the design of these parks.

          I probably will not be living here by then.  I will live in one of those places where wise people get together and shake their heads and say “Davis did it again.”   But in this case it will be a positive thing for me, because my new community will reap the benefits of what Davis rejected yet again.

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          Why was White let go? Did he threaten the Saylor / Wolk machine?

          What common sense changes could be made to revive the neighborhood shopping centers, remove the req. for an anchor grocery store?

          If they want to keep the town small, fine, they whack salaries, eliminate positions, and consider things like a partial volunteer fire department. Pay the economic development director $60,000 a year, not $120,000.

          Is there a real chance that the City of Davis may one day be unable to pay all of its bills?

          Frankly, would you ever run for Mayor or city council?

        3. Frankly

          Why was White let go? Did he threaten the Saylor / Wolk machine?

          Honestly, I dont really know.

          Here is what I suspect.

          Previously, there had been some mauvering by Saylor and some of his frinends in Davis to start some county-wide EDC.  I think the model included Davis pitching in some cash.  The city of Davis instead did the CIO thing.  There is some hurt feelings that Saylor and his friends did not get their way.

          Then enter Dan and Lucas and Nishi and elections… and all the planets seem to align with getting rid of Pinkerton, hire the Saylor and Wolk-friendly CM, get rid of Rob White, and then bring on a new Saylor-connected ED Director.

          I honestly think that the West Davis innovation center pulled out learning that Rob White was going to be cut.

          I think Saylor and Dan and Lucas and ??? believe they will all be better served politically to either stop or delay the peripheral innovation parks.

          And I suspect that Woodland will be the new location… and then UCD will also build on its land in Solano County.

          And thanks for asking if I would run for CC (can’t run for Mayor in this city).  Not at this time.  I think I am more effective helping the city supporting the right candidate(s).  We are lacking one or two at this point.

  5. Ron

    So, the city is in some kind of financial mess, and is now selling the idea of an innovation park as a solution.  How did they get into that mess in the first place?  How do we know that they won’t continue to over-spend, if an innovation park is built?

    Regarding jobs, I’ve never counted on Davis to supply employment for myself.  Sacramento is just over the causeway, with excellent bus service available.

    Development is always presented/sold as a way to create jobs.  This is a possible side-effect, but is not the motivating goal for developers.

    When, exactly, are we going to set goals for a sustainable population?  (Not just in Davis, but everywhere?)  Oh – right:  never!

     

    1. Frankly

      The city got in the mess by under-developing its local economy while feeding of that soft money of UCD.  Now we are bedroom community where 70 percent of the people living here don’t work here.  And we paid for all those amenities we love using the money that should have otherwise been saved for city worker pensions, road maintenance and infrastructure repair.  You see, we wanted those things but we didn’t have the tax revenue to pay for them.  So your city leaders raided the too little city treasury to make people happy so they would re-elect.

      And so you mention setting goals for a sustainable population and say that Sacramento is just over the causeway and it can shoulder the responsibility of having enough jobs for Davis residents.

      I think sir, you are talking out of both sides of your mouth in this point.

      1. Tia Will

        Frankly

        You see, we wanted those things but we didn’t have the tax revenue to pay for them.”

        I would rephrase your sentence to read “you see, we wanted those things but we weren’t willing to tax ourselves enough to pay for them”.

        This sentence correctly attributes the unwillingness to pay for our amenities to those who are receiving them. Not to some greedy politician, or some greedy businessman or developer, but to those of us who scream “no taxes” thereby expecting someone else ( a new businessman in town or our own children ) to pay for our choices.

        I believe very strongly in personal responsibility. I believe in pay as you go, not defer payment nor hope to “grow our way out of trouble” conveniently forgetting that the business cycle has downswings as well as upswings. Conveniently forgetting that the next generation just may have aspirations of their own that are not perfectly aligned with ours. Where will their choices lie if we decide the next 50 years for them in advance ?

  6. TrueBlueDevil

    Frankly, thank you for your reply. Can you weigh in on two other questions?

    What common sense changes could be made to revive the neighborhood shopping centers, remove the req. for an anchor grocery store?
    Is there a real chance that the City of Davis may one day be unable to pay all of its bills?

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