Monday Morning Thoughts II: Wrong Time to Discuss Sports Complex, 50-Meter Pool

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A Sports Complex is one of the potential projects listed by the city
A sports complex is one of the potential projects listed by the city

On Sunday, Eileen Samitz in her guest column wrote that a “Sports Complex on Toxic Former City Landfill Site Is a Bad Idea.” While her focus is on environmental impact and land use policies, my bigger concern, in addition to the specifics of the proposal, is the best use of scarce tax money.

This week the Davis City Council will discuss the potential Utility User Tax which could charge utility customers as much as 5.5 percent of their utility bill to generate revenues of $5.3 million. Such tax revenue is much needed in a city where crumbling roads, bike paths and sidewalks figure to top $150 million and probably by a large margin.

However, our concern from the start has been the potential of putting “need to have” projects, such as roads and other infrastructure, with luxury items such as pools and a sports complex.

As Ms. Samitz points out, “Another major concern is that it sounds like there is an implied potential to include this expensive sports complex to be ‘piggy-backed’ onto a possible special tax for repairs of roads and our community pools and possibly other City capital infrastructure repair and maintenance cost shortfalls.”

She writes, “The current estimate of $24 million just to build the sports complex is staggering, and this does not even include long-term maintenance and operational costs.”

Sports groups have long promised that if the city built the facilities, they could maintain them. But several officials have expressed grave doubts about such promises and fear that the city could be left holding the bag when a small group of volunteers see their kids grow up with no one behind them committed to keeping up their bargain.

The bigger problem is that the city is staring down a huge hole just on roads, sidewalks and bike paths. We have seen estimates of up to $150 million, especially given the current rate of replacement of declining pavement conditions.

The city has just now undertaken a study aimed at assessing infrastructure needs and building repairs, parks, and other infrastructure. We do not even know the full costs of critical needs.

And yet, on the list of potential items is the $24 million sports complex and the 50-meter pool, with estimated costs of $9 to $10 million.

That quickly pushes our costs into the range of $200 million. Put it this way – if we continue to take in $5.3 million it would take 37 years to deal with that $200 million in deferred maintenance. The city will perhaps look to bond off that $5.3 million revenue stream, but without looking much further into the financials, what seems like a good chunk of money to address our roads needs combined with the $4 million we have already set aside, will quickly be eaten up by expanding the pool of needs.

The worst part here – as we pointed out over the weekend – is that there are simply no guarantees. The current council could decide to use the Utility User Tax strictly for roads and essential infrastructure. However, once the voters pass the taxes, the voters lose all control over spending options.

A future council could simply decide to move money towards a sports complex or a 50-meter pool and, short of recalling councilmembers or voting to rescind the tax – which is clearly much-needed, the public will have little recourse.

Special interests, of course, have the power to help frame the agenda. 100 people who wish for there to be a new 50-meter pool, or 150 people who clamor for the sports park, can shape a future council’s agenda to move money in those directions.

In other words, council saying no now will have little bearing on whether a future council will say no in a year or two when the money is in place.

City staff has proposed one possible solution for keeping the UUT a general tax but still demonstrating the public’s desire for spending priorities – the advisory tax. The problem with an advisory tax is readily apparent. The council just last year realized its limited utility and impracticality and decided not to go that route – while disappointing, it was probably a good decision.

Besides, there is no guarantee, given the apparent numbers in the community, that the swimming and sports community couldn’t generate sufficient public support for those projects – ignoring what some would consider more critical and pressing needs for maintaining our roadways and existing infrastructure.

From our perspective, the bottom line is that we need to find a way to address our pressing infrastructure needs and put off luxury projects to another day when we have more in the way of resources and less in the way of needs.

And, yes, that day may be far off and that may in fact be the price that we all have to pay for a decade of reckless spending and no public scrutiny.

— 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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61 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts II: Wrong Time to Discuss Sports Complex, 50-Meter Pool”

  1. zaqzaq

    Recent city councils have done a much better job of getting the city’s fiscal house in order than the 2004-2008 bunch.  Hopefully lessons have been learned.  The UUT is a better option than a parcel tax due to the lower threshold needed for passage.

    1. Barack Palin

      Not at $250 to $600 per family.  Now if the council can bring the UUT down to around $100 to $150 per family I could come on board.  I do like the idea of a UUT over a parcel tax because then everyone has some skin in the game, not just the homeowners.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        But the problem is that even at the proposed rate they are only talking about generating around $100 million over 20 years – we need twice that.

  2. Tia Will

    “need to have” projects such as roads and other infrastructure with luxury items such as pools:

    While I am in agreement that the maintenance of our current roads and other infrastructure should take precedence over the development of new recreational facilities, I have a different perspective on what constitutes need vs want.

    At a time when we are facing an obesity epidemic and lack of fitness in our children as measured by recognized standards for age and grade, we should be considering the maintenance of physical play structures and parks as well as existing pools as one of our top priorities. Those who site only the positives of economic development in the form of peripheral “innovation parks” frequently downplay the need for additional roadways and other infrastructure that will be needed to maintain these projects in the future. I would argue that more roads for more private automobiles are part of the problem, not part of the solution if we factor in the health of our citizenry as well as their ability to get from point A to point B in the most convenient, albeit least healthful manner.

    1. Davis Progressive

      from my perspective there is a simple solution to the problem.  a swimming pool serves a select group of people – so have them raise the money privately.

      as for the parks, a few years ago the council decided to go with a straight up park tax renewal when they knew we needed at least twice that.  i think we should have a separate parks tax on the ballot that pays out those costs and people can decide if they are willing to fund it.  you could even attach the pools and sports park to it.

  3. Michelle Millet

    Given the amount of money needed to repair and maintain our current infrastructure, I was disappointed to learn from reading a recent Mayor’s Corner co-written by Mayor Wolk and Council Member Brett Lee that these council members are even contemplating the funding of a pool complex and a eventually a sports park through this tax.

    Placing these “nice to haves” in the same category as “need to haves” IMO delegitimizes the seriousness of our funding needs for basic, already existing, infrastructure, and puts the passage of a tax to fund these needs at risk.

    1. neilruud

      I think it’s a mischaracterization to say that everyone on the council has placed them into the same “category.” Councilmember Lee has been pretty straightforward in his comments:

      “It’s nice to split the need to have versus nice to have. Road and sidewalk – need to have. Swimming pool upgraded facility – that’s a nice to have.”

      And the jointly-penned column explicitly put them into separate categories:

      The council has three major categories of infrastructure to address:

      1) buildings;

      2) roads, traffic signals, sidewalks and bike lanes (for simplicity, “roads”) and

      3) parks, including pools, greenbelts and sports fields (“parks”).

      And I bet other members, when asked, would provide nuanced opinions on the matter of funding priorities as well. This council, while collegial, is not single-minded (take a look at their votes on and discussion around the CFD). The Mayor does not equal the council– even though he did get more votes than any other council candidate in history.

      Of course, being Davis, we love our nice-to-haves and that’s why a lot of people choose Davis as their home. We’re going to have to pay the price of bad bets against the future and I don’t think Davis will consider austerity as an option. I think the council is exploring ways to both maintain our quality of life and do it without breaking the bank. Additional revenue has to be part of that since much of Davis’ infrastructure was built and many other promises were made when economic forecasts were much more optimistic and there was a lot more funding from the state– and those revenue streams could take many forms from the UUT to Innovation Park development.

  4. Frankly

    Too bad we did not consider this for Mace 391.  Why not retain some of that acreage?

    Also, why not include a sports complex within one of the peripheral innovation parks?  In fact, I think a sports park should comply with the Measure O open space requirement.   In fact #2, something like this would help make up for the lie perpetrated on the taxpaying public that the land acquired by Measure O would be accessible to the public and not just serving the needs of the farmland preservation and farmland moat extremists.

    1. Michelle Millet

      Putting a sports park on the periphery of town is a bad idea for many reasons beyond cost. It is suburban sprawl at its worst. If we want to update or sports facilities we should do so in a way that incorporates them into our already existing bike path and park infrastructure.

      1. Frankly

        Wow, I don’t know where to begin…

        A peripheral sports park is sprawl?   I need to look up that definition again, because I did not know that.

        Also, you do know that Davis has grown peripherally since inception and bike paths have been included in that development?

        The landfill is not peripheral?  The landfill is connected with bike paths?

        And then, where would you find this magical, already well-connected, non-sprawl land to build a sports park if not on the periphery?

        1. Michelle Millet

          Given that fact that we have underutilized fields scattered all over this town that are located adjacent to bike paths, I don’t see the need for centralized sports park, especially one that is only accessible by car.  As a community I’m sure we could find much better uses for that $25 million dollars, regardless of who is footing the bill.

        2. Frankly

          Ok.  Thanks for the explanation.  You don’t think there is a need.  It seems to me that there is a need especially with soccer.  Are you familiar with the large temporary fields out in south east Davis?  I also hear that little league struggles to find enough fields for practice and games.

          I agree that it is beneficial to have all the sports parks easily accessible by bike so the kids can get back and forth without needing auto transport.  The points I am making are that you can design connectivity into new peripheral development that provides the same.  If you problem is that the distance becomes a problem, then I have to challenge you on a couple of fronts.  One, for example, if you live in West Davis and the sporting location is in East Davis then isn’t distance already an issue for the people in West Davis?   And how long do you think we can keep denying the need for peripheral expansion with our 72,000 population?  As a medium-sized city by population, is it reasonable to expect that everything your kids need to travel too is going to be close by?

        3. Will Portello

          Actually, there aren’t “underutilized fields scattered all over this town.”  In 1990, as an employee of Parks and Community Services, I spent a significant amount of time measuring various areas of City of Davis open space,  trying to determine where soccer, softball, and baseball fields could be shoehorned into existing locations.  Obviously, that pre-dated Wildhorse and Mace Ranch (and, if I’m not mistaken, was part of seeking alternatives to Playfields).  There simply weren’t spaces available (and I have no doubt that the challenges of working with residents adjacent to greenbelts about putting in a softball field (see: Park, Dog, or Area, Offleash), combined with the expense of scattering lights all over town, makes the expense prohibitive.

          In 1977, when my mighty Trojans played for the City “minors” championship, we played on the same fields used today.  There were three fields then, they’ve shoehorned in four now (all non-standard), but the population of Davis has doubled.  The City owns the property, which would be available for sale and redevelopment.

          At a certain point, we need to re-invest in the infrastructure that has been used for the youth of Davis.  There will always things to spend money on; the costs of  saying “no” to baseball fields, softball fields, soccer fields, and pools are hard to measure… but they’re present.

      2. Frankly

        And don’t make the case about costs because it can be the developer open space mitigation.  In fact, developers would be wise to include a sports park to get some of those NIMBY voters to support the project.

        1. Michelle Millet

          The traffic impacts alone give my shivers. I just back from Walnut Creek where it took my 20 minutes of surface street driving to go 1/4 of mile.

          I like the fact that my kids can ride their bikes to practice, not only does it benefit them by getting more exercise, it benefits those who are driving by keeping one less car off the road.

        2. Frankly

          This last holiday week was a traffic explosion.  The hot weather.  School getting out.  The three day weekend.  I drove back from San Francisco at 9:00 PM on Wednesday and it was bumper to bumper all the way and the toll bridges were backed up 20 minutes.

          The economy seems to be improving and this is also pushing the traffic numbers.

          I have friends that live in Bismarck where there is hardly any traffic.

          By the way, you do realize that your driving to Walnut Creek caused another car to be on the road, right?

        3. Michelle Millet

          By the way, you do realize that your driving to Walnut Creek caused another car to be on the road, right?

          There was very light traffic on 24 on the way out of Walnut Creek Thursday night, until we hit I-80 in Fairfield then it got bad fast. The surface street traffic on the other hand in Walnut Creek was horrible all day, like it is most days I visit my family there. But getting to see my adorable 7 year old niece in a play was worth it!

      3. Gunrocik

        I would be fine with a scaled-down sports park across from Nugget Fields on the Covell Village site.

        I would propose that Cannery funds be used to create a bike path along Covell and Pole Line with a tunnel at the Covell/Pole Line intersection–and possibly at Moore as well.

        That way, it would accessible by bike…and not be the sprawling car-oriented traffic mess you find at most sports parks.

        I would propose that the rest of the funds for capital and operation be raised privately.  Whitcombe and Streng could donate the land — and there is no question they have enough in their checking accounts to pay for all of the improvements if they wanted!  They likely gouge the students in their apartments for more than $20 million every month! (only a slight exaggeration)

        If they ever want Covell Village to be built, this would be a great foot in the door. The city could agree to give them credit for their future park fees in exchange for building the facility now.

        Problem solved, oh and let the swimmers pay for any new pools–they have plenty of cash to pay the private coaches six figure incomes, they can pay for the pool costs as  well.

        1. Gunrocik

          Don:  Check out the Cannery Development Agreement.  There were funds set aside for bikeway improvements, and plenty of dollars contributed to the transportation fee account that could go towards bike paths and underpasses.

    2. Don Shor

      We have a parks tax. Perhaps a sports park could be funded by putting the parks tax on the ballot for early renewal at a new rate high enough to fully fund this proposal.

  5. Topcat

    I was disappointed to learn from reading a recent Mayor’s Corner co-written by Mayor Wolk and Council Member Brett Lee that these council members are even contemplating the funding of a pool complex and a eventually a sports park through this tax.

    Yes, It seems that our Council members do not understand the magnitude of the financial problems we face, nor do they understand the difference between critical infrastructure and “nice to have” amenities.

  6. 2cowherd

    I agree with Michelle.

    I would be willing to vote for a tax to maintain our deteriorating basic infrastructure-but try to tack a sports park and new swimming pools on to that tax and you will lose my vote.

  7. Anon

    City staff has proposed one possible solution for keeping the UUT a general tax but still demonstrating the public’s desire for spending priorities – the advisory tax.”

    What is an “advisory tax”?

    From our perspective, the bottom line is that we need to find a way to address our pressing infrastructure needs and put off luxury projects to another day when we have more in the way of resources and less in the way of needs.

    The bottom line is the city needs well planned innovation parks that generate substantial tax revenue to address long term fiscal sustainability, that could fund basic needs as well as luxury projects.  Perhaps a new sports park could be located on the city’s land within the Mace project and include bike/ped interfacing to achieve connectivity?  There will most likely be a need for a temporary tax to tide the city over until the full innovation parks come on line.

  8. SODA

    I agreed with much if not all of Eileen’s article and was surprised it didn’t get comments. I have not read through these comments but wonder what the financial history of PlayFields Park has been in terms of positive or negative.

    With this talk of new pools and sports complexes I am not willing to take my chances with this CC making the best decisions about utility tax revenue.

  9. Barack Palin

    We keep hearing that we need more playing fields for our kids and our expanding population.  But all I’ve heard since I’ve lived in Davis, since 2001, is that we have an aging population and a declining enrollment of local children in our school system.  So where are all these new kids that we all of a sudden need a new sportsplex and pool for?

    1. Matt Williams

      BP, some data for your question …

      First number is 2000 Census for City of Davis. Second number is 2010 Census for City of Davis. Third number is percent change from 2000 Census to 2010 Census for City of Davis.

      2,772 Under 5 years 2,444 -11.83%
      3,195 5 to 9 years 2,927 -8.39%
      3,306 10 to 14 years 3,337 0.94%
      6,911 15 to 19 years 6,609 -4.37%
      13,698 20 to 24 years 17,200 25.57%

  10. Will Portello

    It appears that the aquatics groups are willing to fund the pool maintenance, and organizations (not individuals-organizations) such as Little League, Davis Softball etc., institutions with a serious track record, are willing to fund the fields maintenance.  Keep in mind that Little League has been taking care of the fields on the city-owned Little League fields for an eternity.  We used to ride bikes to the solar panel site to launch rockets in the 70’s; a bike path is a pretty simple thing.  It’s more bike-friendly for 80% of the population than AYSO having to schedule a soccer game at Walnut Park at 4:00 pm on Saturday, and for anyone north of I-80 to get to.

    The citizens of Davis have enjoyed the pools created in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  The Little League and Softball fields have been around a similar period of time… but pools have lifespans, and Davis doesn’t have a population of 35,000 any more.  We can’t simply continue to shrug, and say “good enough.”  Take a look around communities where sports recreation opportunities are limited for kids, and you’ll see some sad effects.  Kids with financial wherewithal will be able to afford private clubs, and development, and have opportunities; many won’t.

    I applaud the Council for looking at the issue.  The Councils of the 50’s and early 60’s made some choices in terms of use of funds, open space, and facilities, that we continue to reap the benefit of.  There are a lot of people who don’t view those facilities as “amenities,” but rather as “necessities.”  I’m not sure when glass-smooth roads, of the highest level of service, became a “must-have,” instead of a “nice to have” (of course, there are folk around who think we need to pave alleyways).

    We’ve made choices in terms of land use, zoning, industry, and growth that limit the funds available in Davis.  I think that we’ve done a fantastic job of maintaining a town I love.  But all choices have consequences.  In this case, those choices have helped create a municipal financial bind that limits our ability to reinvest in our infrastructure, whether “must have,” or “nice to have.”  So, to keep Davis what we want, and a happy/healthy place for youth, both present and future, (along with their families)  we may need to recognize that those choices require more personal financial contributions than we would have made otherwise.

    I think a consolidated facility, serving soccer, baseball, and softball, at the former landfill, is a very good idea, worth strong consideration.  And in 50 years, I doubt there will be many complaints.

     

  11. Mark West

    If we are going to find a comprehensive solution to our fiscal problems, one that incorporates increasing revenues through economic development, continued reduction in spending particularly through outsourcing of City services (with real reductions in compensation costs) and short-term tax increases to balance the budgets, then I see no reason why we cannot also incorporate new investments to improve the quality of life for citizens now and in the future.  We can actually do all of these at the same time if people are willing to look beyond their own short-sighted positions and feel good propositions.

    Some people will be satisfied with the recent effort to stem the tide of the childhood obesity by telling people what they can drink with their Happy Meals, but is that really the limit of our vision?  The proposed Sports Park and a 5o Meter Pool are both long overdue additions to the City’s infrastructure that will improve the health and well being of many of our youth.  Just think, they could even help improve the health and well being of some of the commentators on the Vanguard if they will just pull themselves away from their computers long enough to take advantage.

    I don’t see this as an argument about what some view as ‘need to have’ and others as ‘nice to have’ but instead I see a challenge from the Mayor to do something profound for our future: To solve our fiscal problems while also investing in our youth.  Instead of whining about all the reasons why it cannot be done, let us instead rise to the challenge and create some real solutions

    1. Robb Davis

      Mark wrote:

      If we are going to find a comprehensive solution to our fiscal problems, one that incorporates increasing revenues through economic development, continued reduction in spending particularly through outsourcing of City services (with real reductions in compensation costs) and short-term tax increases to balance the budgets, then I see no reason why we cannot also incorporate new investments to improve the quality of life for citizens now and in the future. 

      I agree.  Here are 10 new investments that will improve the quality of life for citizens now and in the future, and, in some cases, greatly contribute to economic development (see 1, 5 and 7 in particular) that are not in the staff report (in no particular order):

      1. Fund the start-up of a public/private local utility for broadband to connect every household and business in Davis to true broadband service.

      2. Fund the top five complete street projects coming from last year’s school audits to improve approaches and access to all schools to encourage active transportation options (encouraging walking and biking–healthy activities).

      3. Implement a full social services plan focusing on a permanent detox facility, meth treatment, a Davis-specific housing voucher program, etc. to reduce homelessness, addiction and add to the effective affordable housing stock in a cost effective way.  All programs will be based on best practices/evidence-based approaches.

      4. Identify and fund the most difficult to fund (from a grant perspective) road/street infrastructure projects including a tunnel under the rail at the Depot (linking Olive Drive to downtown and creating an underground access to the second track), a connection from US Route 40 bikeway to the Pole Line Bridge, a tight diamond reconfiguration of the Richards’ interchange with a protected bike lane from South Davis to downtown along the bridge, a new bike tunnel on the east side of the Richards under crossing into downtown, a new bike tunnel under the railroad at H Street to complete a vital east/west connection.

      5. Provide low interest loans/grants to enable energy saving retrofits to Davis’ existing housing stock.

      6. More aggressively re-create drought tolerant landscapes on greenbelts and key park areas to reduce water needs and create a beautiful, adapted landscape.

      7. Invest in wet lab space (perhaps using city property).

      8. Work with the County to create off road “greenways” (bikes, electric bikes and town cars) network between Davis and Woodland and Davis and West Sacramento.

      9. Create a staffed intake center for crisis intervention/public disturbance issues (public drunkenness, mental health crises, etc.) in which the police are the first responders.  The so-called “San Antonio” model puts the police back on patrols more quickly, gets people in contact with services immediately and diverts low level crime from the county judicial system.

      10. Pay down OPEB obligations/Reduce PERS liabilities.

      And…  invest more in Unitrans to expand weekend, night and summer services to make it a truly community transit network; do the same with YTD to expand Yolo Bus to the depot; develop a series of “challenge grants” to fund innovative solutions to a broad array of city challenges (challenge grants solicit and award innovations and early start-up for solutions); create a permanent “University Year” program to define annual research and collaborative efforts between the city and UCD on social, transportation and economic development ideas; hire a permanent City/UCD/DJUSD bike/ped training coordinator to improve cycling behavior, compliance and safer active transportation across the city in an integrated way; provide financial support to the Yolo Conflict Resolution Center, Neighborhood Courts and school-based restorative justice programs to expand efforts at alternative dispute and conflict resolution; create a new “redevelopment” loan fund to spur downtown redevelopment efforts; fully implement the downtown parking plan…

      What am I missing?

      1. Gunrocik

        What are you missing?

        At the moment, you are lacking a Mayor with his singular focus on what is best for the City.

        If Mayor Davis is able to have two and hopefully at least three like-minded Council members next year, I think you have a real shot at getting a lot of this started. Then you need to keep the Council core in place for a while to get it all done. Can’t all happen in your first term in office. Just be sure to keep  a laser focus on the highest priorities and don’t let the issue du-jour get in your way.

      2. Frankly

        You are out of order.  I mean put #10 as #1 and don’t use any temporary tax increase money for anything that results in any increase in long-term expenses/liability, and fund all of this from long-term revenue streams from economic development or permanent tax increases (or debt with debt service covered by long-term revenue streams or permanent tax increases).

        I like most of this list as long as the city isn’t spending on it rather than funding all of our currently unfunded existing liabilities or growing new ones.

      3. Mark West

        A fine list Robb, now use your position to gain the support of the community to get them accomplished.  That would be a great example of leadership.

        Alternatively, you could follow the normal pattern in Davis and simply make an even longer list of ‘priorities’ thereby guaranteeing that nothing gets accomplished.

        What am I missing?

        1. Robb Davis

          Done with my list Mark, I promise.  Of course, as Frankly rightly points out, priority needs to be given to things like Number 10 and other “backlog” (replacement/repair/upgrade) items of things we already have in place that need attention.

        2. Mark West

          Actually Robb, #10 needs to be modified to “Get rid of OPEB for all new employees and City Council Members and also pay down…”

          No reason to continue the gold plated retirement program.

          Funny thing though Robb, I have not seen any of the items on your list discussed by the City Council, or even by you any place other than the comments section of this blog. Yet you all seem to have plenty of time, not to mention Staff resources in preparation, to discuss plastic bags, wood fires and Happy Meals.  Nice priorities.

           

           

        3. Robb Davis

          Mark — Some changes to retiree medical were made in the last round of negotiations but not all groups accepted them (and imposition ensued).  Retiree medical is clearly an area of much change in cities across the state–including Davis.  “Getting rid of it”, frankly, I am not sure.

          You also wrote:

          Funny thing though Robb, I have not seen any of the items on your list discussed by the City Council, or even by you any place other than the comments section of this blog. Yet you all seem to have plenty of time, not to mention Staff resources in preparation, to discuss plastic bags, wood fires and Happy Meals.  Nice priorities.

          I find this comment unfair.  I work on issues every day–including many on the list–that are not ready for a full public debate/decision. For example, we had a summit on homelessness three weeks ago that brought together county and city staff, local non-profits, the police and the DA.  Obviously no final decisions were made but we made progress on issues like de-tox, housing first and drug treatment.  They will come to the Council in due course.  I spent hours with staff preparing for the meeting and helping to lead it.

          If you require it, I could tell you the work I and others have put into other issues on my list to date.  For some, we have barely begun.  For others we have made progress to prepare the table for a decision. For you to suggest that we are not working on these issues is wrong and I have written and spoken about various ones of them here and during Council meetings.  I try to put my time into the things I think are priorities for the City.

        4. Mark West

          I am sorry if you feel I am being unfair to you Robb.  I don’t doubt that you are working overtime to do what you think is best for the City, but you cannot deny that what you and your colleagues choose to discuss at meetings reflects the priorities of the Council. When was the last time that one of the items on your list was on the Council’s agenda? When has the Council given serious consideration to a comprehensive solution to our fiscal problems, or demonstrated an iota of leadership in addressing those problems?

          I’ll give you all the credit you deserve Robb when your public leadership brings about the accomplishment of even one of the items on your list, I’ll even rejoice for you when one of those items is seriously considered by the Council, but I don’t see any reason to venerate your behind the scenes discussions while you and your colleagues continue your collective failure to implement even the most rudimentary efforts for improving economic development or in reducing the City’s total compensation expense.  If you are serious about solving the City’s fiscal crisis, those two items should be at the top of the Council’s priority list, not plastic bags and Happy Meals.

          On the issue of OPEB, the City does not have to offer retiree health care to anyone.  It is not a requirement, you simply do not offer the benefit to employees.  I doubt very much you can change anything for those already vested in the program, but you can stop it for new employees and City Council members.  Not that I expect the Council to have the fortitude to do so.

           

        5. Robb Davis

          “Venerate my behind the scenes efforts?”  What?  I am asking for no “veneration.”  I wrote what I did to point out that change is a multi-step process that begins in a variety of ways.  Most initiatives, most things that get done, go through a process that concludes with public meetings but begins with a series of meetings and discussions behind the scenes.  That’s how it works.

          You write:

          …but I don’t see any reason to venerate your behind the scenes discussions while you and your colleagues continue your collective failure to implement even the most rudimentary efforts for improving economic development or in reducing the City’s total compensation expense.

          Well, over the past six months the economic development efforts have been one of the dominant issues that staff and council (via the subcommittee) have been working on.  We are moving Nishi and the innovation park process forward exactly as the law dictates and reports are coming out this month.  So it is inaccurate to write that there is a “failure” to move economic development efforts forward.  In addition, the CC and the Planning Commission are meeting figure out ways to remove barriers to redevelopment in the core.  These are very much about the economic development efforts.  As far as compensation, I hope people realize that during the last round of negotiations (a process I was not part of) the City reduced the cafeteria cash out, maximized the employee contribution to PERS, changed the retire medical for new employees, imposed a 3% pay cut on firefighters (after their refusal to accept to pay a 3% share of the PERS employer share).  For a single negotiation round this was some pretty heavy lifting.  Is it enough?  The answer is no, given that total compensation is projected to increase by over 11% in the next five years even if there are no COLAs are given.  The issues that arose leading to the imposition of two contracts must also still be dealt with.  Reducing total compensation?  Given what CalPERS is demanding and the continuing increases in medical costs (retiree and current employee) I do not think that is possible.  Holding the line on salary increases?  That is something else.

          Your posts on this issue are a clear signal that you feel this CC is failing in its duties to the community.  I hear that and I realize that the ideas I put forward ring hollow in your ears because of those failures.  I am sorry.  Genuinely.  I can only speak for myself when I say I am working hard, trying to do what is right and not looking for veneration or plaudits of any kind.  I just try to help people understand what the work looks like from my side.  I see that it is not sufficient and will try to do better.  Everything takes 3 votes…  Everything takes far more time than I could have imagined…

        6. Mark West

          “Everything takes 3 votes…”

          And clearly our City Manager believes he has the three votes to not ask for any more concessions from the employees.

          “I hope people realize that during the last round of negotiations (a process I was not part of) the City reduced the cafeteria cash out, maximized the employee contribution to PERS, changed the retire medical for new employees, imposed a 3% pay cut on firefighters (after their refusal to accept to pay a 3% share of the PERS employer share).  For a single negotiation round this was some pretty heavy lifting.”

          We also lost roughly 100 FTE and yet total compensation went up, and if I recall correctly was projected to rise another $3-5 million the next year.  That is the problem.

          “Given what CalPERS is demanding…”

          Stop blaming CalPERS.  The City Council awarded the benefits without creating the revenue stream to support them.  The City Council is responsible for fixing the problem by either cutting benefits and/or cutting people through outsourcing to reign in those increases. The causative issue has absolutely nothing to do with CalPERS.

          “Everything takes far more time than I could have imagined…”

          Yes, and everything that is important for the City’s future requires leadership. I voted for you so you might become that leader and not just another politician.

        7. Robb Davis

          I voted for you so you might become that leader and not just another politician.

          I am sincerely open to hearing ideas about how I can achieve the former and avoid the latter.  I mean it.

          In the meantime I will try to: stop blaming others (PERS), stop making excuses, stop whining, stop justifying, stop equivocating, stop trying to walk the razor’s edge, stop having nuanced views, stop talking about what I am doing behind the scenes, stop defending the hard work of staff, stop trying to point out what is working in the city, stop talking about the hard work Council members put in…

          And we can put this to rest by simply acknowledging, together, that you made a mistake in voting for me.  I am fine with that. You are not the first.  You won’t be the last.

        8. Mark West

          “And we can put this to rest by simply acknowledging, together, that you made a mistake in voting for me.”

          Here is where you are completely wrong.  I voted for the right person, I’m just challenging you to be the leader you set out to be, nuance and all.

           

        1. Don Shor

          I guess since you talk as a hard-line fiscal conservative most of the time, but want a couple of hundred of my dollars a year to fund a sports park for your kids, I kind of want to know what your terms are.

        2. Will Portello

          Those of us with kids recognize that the pool and the sports park won’t be built until our kids are grown and gone.

          We can say the same thing about so many expenditures- why should my hard-earned dollars go to pay for aadditional  bike underpasses to benefit others?  Why should I pay a few hundred dollars a year to upgrade streets that I will never drive on? Why should I pay for drug treatment for the homeless?  The list goes on and on.

          As the vital amenities shut down, due to decay, and children can’t sign up for softball because there’s insufficient space for the teams (and yes, that’s happening), Davis becomes a sadder place.  With the exception of Playfields (which is largely adult softball), Nugget Fields (soccer), and Walnut Park, (soccer), we have the same facilities we did 40 years ago, when the city was half the size.

          If we don’t commit to making these things happen now, the opportunities for kids to experience  many team sports will continue to decrease, even as sports like lacrosse make inroads, and will require still more space.  Once today’s kids move on, there will be next year’s  cohort, and the next, and the next.  I think our community owes it to those kids to provide the opportunity to have the same experiences we did, (or for parents whose kids graduated 10 or more years  ago, what their kids had) and not not look at it as unworthy because we have to pay for something that benefits someone else.

        3. Mark West

          I don’t want any of your money Don.  I want the City to get serious about creating jobs and improving the local economy so that we can rescind the extra sales tax that you advocated for your customers to have to pay.  I would even be happy to remove the tax we all pay to fund your preferred farmland moat around the City.  So don’t talk to me about how I want your money for the benefit of my kids.

          For the record, I do have two daughters who play softball and two sons who play baseball.  None of them are likely to benefit from the new sports park as currently proposed for the simple reason that it won’t be completed in time.  Mitigation of the old dump site will be a multi-year process and will need to be completed before the new park may be built.  I still think it is a long overdue improvement that the City should invest in, but only as an addition to a comprehensive solution to our fiscal problems.

          1. Don Shor

            Excellent. So you only support the sports park if there is no net increase in cost to the city. You advocate removing the sales tax increase and reducing our parcel taxes, and funding the sports park only from increased revenues from economic development.
            Be sure to pass that position along to the others who support the sports park.
            I’m more than willing to pay some amount to fund other peoples’ activities. I prefer that it be a relatively small amount — much like the parcel taxes we pay to help fund the libraries, for example, or parks or open space. And I very much prefer that it be a consistent amount, not some variable tax that is proportional to something completely unrelated like my use of utilities and city services. So to me, the utility tax would be very undesirable, but a small addition to my property tax bill would be acceptable. I do think the voters should pass judgment on the sports park tax directly.

        4. Frankly

          funding the sports park only from increased revenues from economic development.

          That is my position too; although I concede that there might be a majority or 2/3 of voters that would vote to tax themselves to pay for a sports park or other amenities.  But ALL funding needs to match the term of the expense.  So, no paying for things that cause long-term payment liabilities without the revenue stream being long-term.  No giving city employees a raise with our temporary sales tax increase.  No funding the construction and maintenance of a new sports park with a temporary parcel tax.

          The city has a severely insolvent balance sheet.  Our long-term liabilities far exceeds our current and long-term assets.  While we are in this position we absolutely cannot afford new amenities. Unless we come up with the appropriate funding source.

          If we care about balance… then we have to agree that we are already highly taxed, and that we are far undeserved in tax receipts derived from local economic activity.  Logically we should support much more aggressive economic development… especially given the huge opportunity in our laps from UCD’s technology transfer strategy and need… and the corresponding business attraction.

          Why don’t we take advantage of this opportunity?  It is because there are extremist activist types in the city, and other more moderate slow-growers, demanding we either grow too slow to matter or else don’t grow at all.

          If these people get their way, and it appears that they are, we would have no choice but to look to tax measures to fund a sports park.

          Municipal bond financing is still a bargain these days.  Rates have never been lower.  The CC can put up a ballot measure for a new tax-backed bond that pays for as many new amenities that they can think of, and also include money to catch up the road maintenance.  The catch is the 2/3 voter approval, but with roads as bad as they are, and with the attraction of new amenities funded it might have a chance to pass.

          But there is still a glaring problem with unfunded city employee retirement benefits.  How are we going to balance the balance sheet for this if not growing our local economy to increase our tax revenue?

          Mark West makes the case for eliminating OPEB for existing employees.   I think this is a good place to start.  Because if the alternative is new permanent taxes, you can kiss your sports parks and other amenities good by because there is no way in hell the people of Davis are going to vote to tax themselves for both.  And don’t even think about another tax for education.  And consider that renewals of existing education-related supplemental parcel taxes are going to be put at risk if we get hit with a new tax for new amenities or to shore up our long-term unfunded liabilities.

          Frankly, (because I am), what a mess has been created by politicians and their public-sector union buddies.  I hope we really feel good about all the 50-something city retirees and their millionaire-valued pensions and OPEB benefits.   Because that good feeling is going to have to supplement all the pain we experience as a consequence.

        5. Mark West

          “So you only support the sports park if there is no net increase in cost to the city.”

           

          Stick to your own opinions Don and don’t tell me what I believe or support. 

          My words do not require your interpretation so there is absolutely no reason for you to restate them from your own skewed point of view.      

          1. Don Shor

            I can say whatever I like, Mark. Why don’t you not tell me what to do?
            There’s a perfectly good reason for me to interpret your statements: you support a sports park, but talk like a fiscal conservative. The sports park will cost all of us money. I am curious what your conditions are for supporting it. You, of course, are free to keep your actual opinions to yourself and just stick to generalities (“How many times do I have to say ‘comprehensive solution?”). My question had to do with how your comprehensive solution might affect your actual position on a cost proposal. I guess you choose not to reveal that.
            If I’ve misinterpreted your comments, you are welcome to tell me how I’ve done so. Or not. I took your statements and led them to the logical conclusion.

        6. Mark West

          Frankly:  “Mark West makes the case for eliminating OPEB for existing employees.”

          If you reread my posts, I made the case for eliminating retiree health care for all new employees and City Council members.  I don’t believe we can do anything about the ‘paid medical insurance for life’ benefit that has already been awarded to current City employees and City Council members.

        7. Mark West

          “I can say whatever I like, Mark. Why don’t you not tell me what to do?”

          Quote me all you like Don, and if you want, add follow up with your own interpretation of what I ‘really mean,’ but don’t make apparent statements of fact about what I do or do not support based on your own skewed opinions.

          I seem to recall there is a posting guideline here that follows along those general lines Don, but I may be wrong.

  12. TrueBlueDevil

    My shorthand take on articles I have skimmed recently.

    1. The politicians have no stomach or aptitude for more cuts

    2. They will kick the can down the road.

    3. We still don’t have even a ballpark summary of how the numbers fit together the next 5-10 years.

    4. Personal politics trump the good for the city (see ouster of the well-respected CIO who wasn’t a golf buddy with the City Manager).

    5. They want more goodies.

    Do I have it right?

  13. Adam Smith

    If the sports park was such a need, why didn’t our astute city council require it be put in the Cannery development … could have been connected to the rest of the city and the existing LL fields  via a  bike underpass.    Also would have driven the prices of the lots surrounding the park down, creating more affordable housing.  Missed opportunity, and now they are suggesting higher taxes to pay for a much worse location.

  14. Gunrocik

    As a recovering Tiger parent, I have to ask the most obvious question:  Why do we need a Sports Park?

    I’ve had kids participate in every single sport in this town and at every facility, not to mention just about every other venue in northern California.

    No kid is going to lose out on a college scholarship because of our facilities–in fact, we crank out way more than our share of full rides every year.  We seem to be able to dominate in most sports with the status quo.

    And as most parents know, if you are on a scholarship track–your kid is going to be travelling all over the state most of the time anyway–no matter the quality of our facilities.

    I love the setup we have in Davis where I wasn’t counting the days until my kids could drive–since they could always get to practice on their bike.  And for the 95% of our kids who won’t be on the varsity at DHS–our little league, softball, tennis, soccer, lacrosse and basketball facilities are just fine and incredibly accessible.  It is one of the things that makes this a great place to live.

    The volunteers clamoring for new, shiny things spend too many weekends seeing the new shiny things in Roseville, Ripon, Reno and a hundred other places.  Those new shiny things aren’t that much better and they cost a lot to build and even more to maintain.  And they only serve the elite few for the most part.

    Most of our little league teams are at the youngest levels–they could care less whether they have a newer snack bar or better lighting or a massive parking lot!

    Let’s focus on making sure we have money for the facilities we already have and make sure the bike paths to get to those facilities stay accessible as well.

     

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