Commentary: Why Do We Continually Miss the Opportunity on Roads?

Pothole-Sky

pot-hole

Those of you who have been long-time readers of the Vanguard know that we have been hammering the city of the issue of the pavement condition since 2009. I can still find articles on the Vanguard from 2009 and 2010 warning of the deferred maintenance crisis coming on roads, which generated zero comments.

In the spring of 2011, then-Mayor Joe Krovoza and Mayor Pro Tem Rochelle Swanson and I sat down for lunch, where I briefed them on the roads crisis about to hit Davis. For the first time, in June of 2011, when the mayor and mayor pro tem were joined by Dan Wolk, the city council by a 3-2 vote passed a budget that would include $1 million for road repairs.

That may not sound like a lot, but it was the first time general fund money had been included for road repairs. It wasn’t until February of 2013, nearly two years after our initial meeting and following an extensive study by outside consultants, that the city would learn that the roads crisis was far worse than any believed – the study found that we were well over $100 million in the hole, a number that could easily rise to close to half a billion without immediate action.

And yet, the public was really in the dark to this crisis prior to that release in 2013. I can’t find an article in the Enterprise prior to 2013 either. By 2014, of course, the city was looking at a way to fund road repairs, first looking at a parcel tax. Not surprisingly, given the lack of focus on the issue, the public was not willing to back a parcel tax at two-thirds threshhold.

Now the city is looking at a utility user tax to fund road repairs. In the meantime, to the credit of the current council, they have managed to carve out $4 million in annual recurring general fund money from roads – a huge improvement over the modest victory of 2011.

The city has the public’s attention now. But they have fumbled an opportunity, in the wake of public outcries about the timing and magnitude of the road repair work, to lay a foundation for additional funding.

The October 16 press release that came out a week ago, mentioned “The City is in the midst of two concurrent construction projects which are impacting traffic across Davis. “ It added, “Both projects have been in the planning and design phase for years. Due to funding, bidding and contracting, and construction delays, the projects unfortunately began construction during the same time frame.  It is rare for the City to experience this much concurrent construction.”

But despite the opportunity to make the case about the road maintenance shortfall and the need for new money – it didn’t mention the 2013 report, the $100 million hole, the fact that roadway conditions in Davis are the worst in the county and are projected to get worse without a huge influx of money.

Mayor Dan Wolk had a statement in that column, but mainly he was apologizing for inconveniencing people and not explaining why we need all of this roadwork.

He said in the press release, “We have a lot of road work going on and I know its inconveniencing people as they try and make it around the city.  Believe me, I’ve heard them loud and clear.  And city staff has heard them too. Right now we are focused on getting the word out about where the construction is happening. How long the work will be going on, etc.  I am sorry for the hassles this work has caused but ask for your patience and to know that in the very near future you will be driving on wonderful new roadways and drinking from a new, sustainable water supply.”

Instead of laying the groundwork for the needed tax that could come as soon as June, he gave a statement that apologized, but offered little of substance.

The mayor does a little better in his column coming out on Sunday. He writes, “The City Council is serious about reinvesting in our aging infrastructure and has begun to spend $12 million over the next two years repairing and rebuilding roads, bike paths, etc.”

While that is good, why not lay down the foundation for the other $100 million plus the city is going to need to finish the job? The map that the city provided shows just how little of the city is getting road repair this round.

Finally, the Davis Enterprise, late to game on the roads crisis, fails to provide the public with the necessary background on roads.

In their “Cheers and Jeers” weekly column, they write, “JEERS to the bad timing that left multiple traffic arteries snarled around town. L Street, Pole Line Road, Fifth Street, Covell Boulevard, Lillard Drive … Davis drivers saw backups at these spots and more just as classes resumed at UC Davis.”

They add, “The work is particularly obnoxious this time of year as a layer of dirt is producing dust clouds over our neighborhoods. Usually, this would be dampened down with water, but with the drought on, the H2O can’t be spared.”

They add, “The city blames delays in contracting and funding for the pileup of pileups, and urges patience (as if we had a choice …). Infrastructure is one of the municipality’s basic responsibilities, and it reflects poorly on City Hall that the various projects couldn’t be coordinated any better.”

No mention that the council is finally addressing the long unaddressed roads crisis in the city. No mention that we have not had major rounds of road repairs since the great recession. No mention that the city needs to act now or the costs will increase exponentially over the next few years.

On February 5, 2013, the Davis City Council received the Pavement Management Report prepared for the city by Nichols Consulting Engineers.  The council needs to bridge “the funding gap between the current baseline budget for pavement maintenance and the budget it would take to halt the steady deterioration of our average pavement conditions and reach a sustainable level acceptable to the community.”

The report found that if the city council did not immediately infuse tens of millions into road maintenance and spend $150 million, they would be facing a $444 million deferred maintenance hole.

Back in May of 2013, the council approved what was already a compromise plan – B-Modified, which still called for the frontloading of payments at $15 million in year 1 and $10 million in year 2. That plan came with a concession that the city would have to reduce its Pavement Condition Index (PCI) goal, normally set at about 70, to 63 on average with higher scores and better pavement on arterials and main thoroughfares, and lower scores on lesser used residential streets.

The B-Modified plan allows the city to set aside the money via a parcel tax needing to generate about $2 million per year in debt services over a 30-year period. However, the plan came at a substantial cost, not just financially but principally, and no longer would the council endeavor to reach a PCI of 70.

The ultimate outcome was to be closer to PCI 63 on average, where key streets of community value are prioritized at a higher level than local streets. We are looking at values of PCI 68 for arterials, 65 for collectors, and the remainder of local streets at 60.

When you put those factors into the context of minor inconvenience or even in some cases lengthier inconvenience, most people have been somewhat understanding.

The city has explained the timing factor – that’s probably a legitimate criticism. But the bigger issue should be the $100 million in deferred maintenance. Sadly, the city had a chance with the entire city frustrated at construction-related roadway delays to get everyone’s attention and no one has bothered to mention it – not the city, not the mayor, and not the local newspaper.

When the tax issue comes up next spring, people are going to be wondering where this came from, having remembered that we just did a lot of roadwork in the fall. And sadly, we’ll have only ourselves to blame for this lost opportunity.

—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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59 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    Since the schools have received a rebound in state money how about we get rid of one of the school parcel taxes which are about to sunset and replace it with a tax for our roads?  People are stretched out financially and that might be a good way get a new tax approved.

    1. David Greenwald

      My understanding is that Davis has really been short-changed in that process. Someone like WDF can probably put the specifics on it, but I don’t think Davis is getting much additional state money – at least that’s my understanding.

      1. Tia Will

        Since the schools have received a rebound in state money”

        My understanding is that Davis has really been short-changed in that process.”

        Sounds like a good topic for a short article from someone knowledgeable in school funding. Any takers ?

        1. Barack Palin

          It doesn’t take an article, just the actual figures of what the schools were getting from the state right before Brown upped the ante and what they’re getting today.  One reason we were hit with additional school parcel taxes was due to the loss of state funds.  If they have been restored in any amount then accordingly I would think the school parcel taxes should be reduced and then we can entertain a road tax to take its place.

      2. Anon

        A few of us warned people that when Redevelopment funding went away, not much would end up in the schools’ coffers, but instead the money would be sucked into the state bureaucracy never to come out.  TYS (told you so)!

  2. PhilColeman

    Local government political leaders are not inclined to be visionary and become instantly deaf when hearing a financial request that contains “. . . in a few years.” The reason is simple, politicos won’t be around when we reap the dividends of  a wise cost investment in preventive maintenance. They don’t get the kudos; their successors do, and the successor may even be from the opposite political spectrum.

    Ambitious politicians instead favor low controversy, quick-fix, sexy issues that attract media attention, even if they contribute virtually nothing to the betterment of the masses. Pot holes have a fatal flaw, they are not glamorous, and thus ignored. But they sure get payback for this shun when we run our vehicle over them.

  3. Tia Will

    Phil

    The reason is simple, politicos won’t be around when we reap the dividends of  a wise cost investment in preventive maintenance”

    While I don’t doubt that many decisions are made, at least in part, on what will garner good short term press, what is missing from your comment is that most of our “politicos” have very deep roots here in our own community and thus have a direct personal investment apart from their public appearance in our community. Just because they may be involved in issues that are not valued by all, does not mean that they do not care deeply about these issues.

    1. PhilColeman

      Indeed, Tia, they may care. But our roads continue to deteriorate. That’s where the rubber meets the road, and where caring is to be measured. My “missing part” was missing because I can’ find instances where it was manifested.

      1. Tia Will

        Phil

        But our roads continue to deteriorate. That’s where the rubber meets the road, and where caring is to be measured.”

        I understand that this is an issue that matters to you deeply and it is where you make your “measurement”. Please try to understand that as a health care provider, what matters more to me than the roads, is the health of our citizens. This is what I see as the larger threat to our community, and where I make my “measurement”.

        Now some have said that this is an issue for the county. Since I sit on three of the county’s boards and commissions for health and wellness, I know that the county relies on the actions of the local communities as well as its own efforts to promote health and wellness. The percentages of our children who do not meet basic fitness criteria should be at least as large an issue for us as the size of our potholes. But we choose to frame the former as “grandstanding” while the latter is a “crisis”.  What “measurement” one uses will determine how effective we see any particular politician or any particular stance as being. This is far from objective. It is a matter of one’s priorities and values.

         

        1. Davis Progressive

          i think you’re missing the point in that the roads were mismanaged and now we are in the process of fixing that.  dan wolk has a chance to explain that to the public that doesn’t pay close attention and missed the chance.

        2. David Greenwald

          Last year, my daughter tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and got scraped up. I pointed it out to several councilmembers. That crack in the sidewalk is still there. There’s an example of the nexus between children’s safety and pavement maintenance.

        3. Barack Palin

          I think you have drifted way off topic here.  You should write a column on this, and not hijack a piece on roads to talk about children’s health.  IMO.

          I was thinking the same thing.

        4. Frankly

          Last year, my daughter tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and got scraped up. I pointed it out to several councilmembers. That crack in the sidewalk is still there. There’s an example of the nexus between children’s safety and pavement maintenance.

          Weak.  Very weak.  Tying two disparate subjects together with a line of smoke… IMO.

  4. zaqzaq

    Why would you expect anything of substance from our mayor?  He is a shallow opportunist politician running on his mother’s name.  A Wolkless city council will be an improvement.  The best scenario would have him losing and being out of politics.

  5. zaqzaq

    Did the city get any cost savings doing these projects all at once.  It would seem to be more economical for the contractor to get in and get out quickly with all of the equipment.

    1. David Greenwald

      There is a narrow window to let the contracts and have the work done. If you push the projects to the next year, there are several huge additional costs (inflation and further deterioration), so in a very real sense, there was a huge cost savings for doing those projects all this year.

      1. ryankelly

        I’m fine with the road construction and inconvenience if it means that I will be able to ride my bike across town and not get injured when I hit a pothole.  I don’t know what people are whining about.  It is a temporary inconvenience.  Sort of like remodeling a bathroom and the whole family having to use one bathroom/shower.

        1. Barack Palin

          Sort of like remodeling a bathroom and the whole family having to use one bathroom/shower.

          I don’t know,  the other day I was downtown, hit construction at L, backtracked to G ST. just to run into it again on 8th then again backed up at Poleline and Covell.  Took 40 minutes to get home.

          I think a better analogy would be it’s like remodeling both of your bathrooms at the same time and having to use your neighbor’s to shower.

  6. Frankly

    The crappy condition of our roads is a specific consequence of two compounding historical mistakes that are still ongoing.

    1. Millionaire pension benefits paid to city employees.

    2. Lack of city tax revenue derived from local economic activity.

    Until and unless those two mistakes are remedied, I don’t see any new parcel tax to fund what should be standard and customary municipal responsibilities as having a chance in hell to be passed.

    And when CalPERS comes back with their new more realistic annual-rate-of-return estimates (less than the current 7.5%) the City will get hit with a much larger bill for continuing to fund those million dollar city employee retirement benefits.

    And lastly… we WILL have another recession.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      1. And then it gets ugly?

      I know of a family that just sold a plain, 3 bedroom house in the outer Bay Area in a non-descript BART-served city for $625,000, where 4 bedroom homes go for $725,000 – 750,000… and they only stay on the market 1-3 weeks.

      2. Another housing bubble?

  7. aaahirsch8

    Dave wrote: “And sadly, we’ll have only ourselves to blame for this lost opportunity.”

    I don’t understand this–are citizens are responsible for not doing what, exactly?

    Or it is public works, city management and council’s lack of leadership and prioritizing problems.

    With city facing a potentially tremendous growth — and related traffic– yet we don’t seem to be able to maintain our current round infrastructure these developments will leverage off.

    Alan

     

     

    1. Davis Progressive

      i’m not reading the article as blaming the citizens other than perhaps their inattention to the plight of municipal financing.

      the city management and council is failing to lead right now and use the traffic delays as a teaching moment.

      also i don’t see the city facing potentially tremendous growth.  that happened in the 80s and 90s with multiple huge subdivisions that were built.  nothing being proposed is on par with mace ranch, wild horse, and the like.

      1. Robb Davis

        DP “the city management and council is failing to lead right now”

        This is simply ridiculous and I reject it.

        In a time in which federal and state funding for roads is very difficult to obtain this CC is putting GF money into the problem and strategizing ways to obtain more resources–including using mitigation funds to leverage limited federal money.  We are moving two major projects that have the potential to provide revenue forward.  We are discussing revenue measures but initial feedback (ask anyone who was at last week’s Finance and Budget Commission meeting) suggests there is reticence around a general tax (lack of accountability) for some while others doubt a special tax (with uses specified) will pass due to 2/3 vote requirements.  The path forward is difficult to discern but we have committed over $3.5 million per year to roads and are not waiting.  Indeed, cost containment is a huge challenge but based on meetings Brett and I attended at the League of CA Cities a few weeks back EVERY city in the state is struggling in this domain.  No excuses but solutions are incremental at best. In the coming months we will implement a recently-developed financial assessment tool to gain a clear picture of areas in our city finances that require immediate attention.

        The point is, we are nearly done analyzing the full array of city need infrastructure needs (long-term capital and ongoing maintenance), assessing areas of stress, putting resources towards too-long-neglected needs and trying to figure out ways to diversify our local economy to create greater resilience. But, yeah, no leadership here…

        Tell me EXACTLY where the lack of leadership is?  What exactly do you want?  What does leadership mean to you and what does it mean to provide it?

        1. Davis Progressive

          i think david laid it out well this morning.  you have everyone’s attention on the issue of roads right now and instead of someone laying out what we need and why, we get apologies from stacey winton and dan wolk without context or explanation.  that’s not on you personally, but it’s a lost opportunity.  has anyone from the city – council or staff – laid out the roads issue and that we are going to need additional funding to fix the rest of the city?  has anyone laid out why we are here?  why not?

  8. Anon

    I think the point of this article is a good one – proper messaging.  It is going to be critical for the city/City Council to get the messaging right if there is any hope of passing a utility user tax.  Thus far, there has been a huge amount of mixed messaging coming from both the city staff and City Council.  I won’t go into specific examples – just suffice it to say the city/City Council needs to do a much better job of its messaging to its citizens.  Citizens can become very easily confused if the message is not crystal clear.

  9. Tia Will

    I think you have drifted way off topic here.”

    No hijacking for an agenda intended. My point was limited to a response to Phil’s comment in which he identified the roads as his major concern. How we spend our money as a community depends very much on how we prioritize our needs. In no way intended as a debate over needs assessment.

    1. Frankly

      Thanks for the explanation.  I see how you were connecting the dots now.  Still off topic, but not hijacking.

      I tend to see infrastructure as the priority because no private individual nor private entity can do that work.

      However, private people and private entities can and do help deal with childhood health and well-being.  And I would prefer that we push as much as this care as possible to the private side.

      Because as your favorite President of all times said: “Government is not a loving institution.”

      We don’t need to love our roads to care for em’… just get it done.

      However, caring for our children adequately requires copious love.

      1. Tia Will

        Frankly

        However, private people and private entities can and do help deal with childhood health and well-being.  And I would prefer that we push as much as this care as possible to the private side.”

        I know you would. And when every child’s health and well being has been adequately taken care of by “the private side” then I will stand with you. At the time when “private efforts” have provided all the “love” necessary to fully care for every child, then I will join with you in this sentiment. Until that day, I will continue to place the well being of our children over the well being of our roads as a societal priority.

         

  10. Tia Will

    Oh for heaven’s sake. I could not agree more with Robb on the actions of the city council and staff.

    If we are in the middle of such a roads “crisis” as is being claimed, then certainly there is no need for extensive “messaging” as surely, if indeed it is a “crisis” then the citizens can see for themselves just what dire straits that we are in and should appreciate the fact that it is underway. I have no sympathy for anyone ( including myself)who complains about this.  When I realized that I had not left enough time and was going to be late to work because of my own lack of planning ahead, yes, I was grumpy and put out…..but the fault was mine, not the city’s. If we want the work done, then we can hardly complain unless we plan to do the scheduling ourselves.

    So let’s take another look at what this City Council and staff are actually doing.

    They have to deal with our ongoing budgetary issues.

    They have taken major steps towards addressing the issue of road repairs.

    The are attempting to work collaboratively with the University on a number of issues.

    They are working collaboratively with the police, business owners, students and near downtown residents to try to mitigate some of the adverse consequences of the nightlife scene downtown.

    They are working with the schools, private providers, parents on the issue of teen drug and alcohol abuse.

    They have positions to fill on various city commissions.

    They have had, and will continue to have a number of highly controversial issues dealing with development.

    And these are just the issues of which I have first hand knowledge. It does not being to touch on issues of which I am not aware.

    I simply do not believe that because they perhaps are not taking every issue in the exact order that some would like, and that not every decision goes the way others might like, that this is indicative of a lack of leadership. No leader has the obligation to prioritize the same as every citizen, and no leader has the obligation to make the decisions that we elected them to make in accordance with our personal preference. I would be much more likely to question the actual “leadership” if every decision was in accordance with any one individuals preferences.

     

     

    1. Frankly

      City employee expenses have gone up.

      There are new labor contract negotiations coming up and certain members have painted rosy pictures of city finances in advance of this, even though:

      – We had discovered that we are $150-400 million behind on road and infrastructure maintenance.

      – The sales tax increase will sunset.

      – CalPERS will likely change their earnings projects and force us to pay more for city employee benefits.

      – Our budget trajectory is still heading toward insolvency, and when including the projected unfunded city employee retirement benefits liability… it is heading there in a very big way.

      Yes, there is a dearth of leadership on the TRUE financial situation and need of the community.

      Despite these other accomplishments.

      1. Robb Davis

        Frankly you know for a FACT that these issues are being raised.  They have been stated from the dais and in various commission and community meetings.  Yet  you continue to say that the true financial situation has not been disclosed or discussed.  It is simply not true and I really wish you would stop.  EVERY single thing you note (though your road numbers do not jibe with what I know), has been raised.  Please stop with this narrative.  It is erroneous.

        You are also wrong to suggest that the unfunded retirement benefits liabilities have not been accounted for.  You were at the meeting when the actuary demonstrated that we ARE addressing our OPEB obligations.  Shame on you for distorting these facts so you can bash City leadership.

        I will ask you the same thing I asked DP: What exactly do you mean when you say “dearth of leadership?” What do you expect?

        1. Mark West

          RD: “Frankly you know for a FACT that these issues are being raised.  They have been stated from the dais and in various commission and community meetings.  Yet  you continue to say that the true financial situation has not been disclosed or discussed.  It is simply not true and I really wish you would stop.  EVERY single thing you note…has been raised.  Please stop with this narrative.  It is erroneous..”

           

          There is a distinct difference between ‘raising’ an issue, and ‘leading’ a group of people through solving that issue.  I agree with you Robb that these issues are being raised, some by the CC and Staff, and some by citizens, but I also agree with Frankly that there is a dearth of overt ‘leadership’ from the CC in getting the public involved in solving them.

          The public discourse that most citizens see is what is presented by the press, not what is stated from the CC dais, at commission meetings or in staff reports, and what has been reported in the press cannot even remotely be described as problem solving leadership. The Mayor’s musings in particular are more accurately described as ‘sunshine pumping booster-ism.’

          “You are also wrong to suggest that the unfunded retirement benefits liabilities have not been accounted for.  You were at the meeting when the actuary demonstrated that we ARE addressing our OPEB obligations.  Shame on you for distorting these facts so you can bash City leadership.”

          OPEB is but one portion of the retirement benefits granted to employees (and CC members) and yes, you are finally on course to addressing the OPEB unfunded liabilities over the next several years.  That does not however address the issue of why we continue to provide a level of retiree benefits that we obviously can no longer afford (let alone why we did so in the first place). It only requires competence to properly account and budget for these obligations, and it is nice that we finally have reached that level of performance, but it requires leadership to reduce these obligations to a level that is fiscally sustainable. Nothing this CC has done to date indicates a willingness to address these unsustainable benefits.

          “I will ask you the same thing I asked DP: What exactly do you mean when you say “dearth of leadership?” What do you expect?”

          We are living through challenging times, with many tough decisions yet to come. It is wonderful that we finally have a core group on the CC who can manage to competently address these issues, and who are prepared to make the tough decisions.  What we need however is someone who will engage the many disparate factions in town to first convince them of the need to change course, and second, to get them to join together to reach a solution.  What we need are leaders with a clear vision for the future, and who are able and willing to do the work to convince others to follow that vision. That is what I believe is required to bring the City to fiscal sustainability, and something that I have yet to see from the current CC and Senior Staff.

           

        2. Frankly

          Robb – Mark responds expertly to your challenges.  I could not have done any better.

          We had a block party with the neighbors a couple of weeks ago.  These are all well-educated working people.  Most don’t read the VG… in fact, I would say few even know it existed.

          We talked a bit about the KetMoRee stabbing and the road work that was starting.

          We talked about a few other things.

          However, nobody there really had a good sense of the city’s true financial picture.   The common perspective was that the city was doing well again.  That we were out of the woods after the Great Recession.  Most troubling to me was the typical and repeated opposition to any and all growth, including commercial growth… and a complete lack of understanding of how this attitude has contributed so well to our lack of tax revenue and other problems we face.

          And they also do not know the full extent of our long term liabilities… both the history of unfunded road and infrastructure maintenance and our unfunded city working pension liabilities.

          There is a minority of people in this town that are plugged into the details and data, but the word is not getting out to the majority.

          So, I agree with Mark.  It is the messaging on this that is deficient.  The town knows about plastic bag bans, and MRAP bans and the KetMoRee stabbing, but very little about the financial realities we face.

          Who or whom is responsible for that message?

          1. Don Shor

            Four pages of hits at the Enterprise looking for ‘budget’ yields this total coverage of city budget issues. There was far more coverage of school district budget issues.

            City budget outlook brightens May 12, 2015 …

            The Mayor’s Corner: Give thanks for better budget news Nov 30, 2014 …

            Grim city budget looks rosier Nov 16, 2014 …

            More tax revenues alone will not solve our city’s budget troubles — Rich Rifkin, Apr 15, 2015 …

          2. David Greenwald

            This is part of my complaint in the column from Friday, that the Enterprise didn’t even cover the roads issue or the budget issue until 2013. I don’t think Bob Dunning has ever even written about unfunded liabilities or deferred maintenance. And yet, he has run how many columns talking about the soda issue?

          1. David Greenwald

            It wouldn’t take much for Stacey to send out a more detailed explanation of the road conditions and financing.

        3. Mark West

          “By the way, you guys want world peace too?”

          I recall sitting in a meeting recently where it was argued that the City needed to hire a CFO, in part because (to paraphrase)  – competent bookkeeping wasn’t enough. We needed a finance person with vision. – Perhaps I just misheard the comment.

          It is a sad situation when competency from our CC members and Staff is something to be trumpeted rather than a baseline requirement, and when voters expectations for something more are equated with flights of fancy.

          Fiscal sustainability should be job #1 for our CC, not just good bookkeeping and honest budgeting.

        4. Frankly

          By the way, you guys want world peace too?

          LOL.  I don’t think these budget leadership expectations are out of line.

          My thinking is that it would be good to have the budget and finance commission more plugged in to the financial realities of the city and reporting on it to the citizens.  Unfortunately the one member that frequently reports seems to be motivated by his own rose colored glasses.  I have a feeling that if the F&B commission tweaked their mission to be more citizen-advocacy leaning instead of being constrained by politics, there would be more turn-over in the group because of unhappy politicians.  In fact, I think a percentage of that body are friends of politicians and are beholden to the desires of those politicians… and also possibly not willing to criticize staff.

          And related to staff, it is clear that the City lacks financial management strength on staff.  And the city accounting system is old and inflexible.  There is limited reporting capability.  It is next to impossible to get data out of that system in any useful format to do drill-down analysis.

          Looking at this function from a business perspective, I would have fired many of the people working there and completely revamped the system and process for robust transparency and high-quality decision-support information.  It is a mess… and this then contributes to the lack of leadership keeping the public informed on our true financial situation.

  11. dlemongello

    I already know essentially no one agrees with me but this notion that the roads have to always be resurfaced is a ridiculous waste when filling pot holes would go a long way. And I can not imagine what was so terrible with the bike path approaching the Covell Overcrossing from Community Park that the entire thing needed to be bulldozed, regraded, built and repaved anew. The notion that we can’t watch where we are stepping or need perfect surfaces to drive on simply is not in my realm. Cracks and potholes can be filled for a small fraction of the costs we are talking about here. WHEN the road starts to crumble then it is worth putting on a whole new layer, not before.  The world has gone mad with high standards for some things and lower standards for things that are so much more valuable, like health, like not having wars, like education, like healthy food for more people, etc.

    1. Anon

      Basic maintenance of roads requires more than just patching potholes.  Otherwise the deterioration becomes so bad, the cost of fixes becomes astronomical.  Check out the following document: http://cityofdavis.org/home/showdocument?id=1015

      A direct quote from that document: “Figure 3 below demonstrates that pavement maintenance follows the old colloquial saying of “pay me now, or pay me more later.” History has shown that it costs much less to maintain streets in good condition than to repair streets that have failed. By allowing pavements to deteriorate, streets that once cost $4/sy to slurry seal may soon cost $14-$27/sy to overlay and $61-$81/sy to reconstruct. In other words, delays in repairs can result in costs increasing as much as 20-fold.

      1. dlemongello

        So which of the above is what is being done on 8th St. right now where they roughed up (understatement) the top layer(s) but did not remove them and will now put on what I would consider a new layer?  What criteria indicates it being too far gone for the “slurry seal”?

  12. hpierce

    Re:  Mark West’s 10:22 post…  let’s see, Pinkerton hired Quiring and White.  They’re all gone, and two reaped the retiree medical that Frankly and others abhor.  Fine.  Yet, at this time, do we not have a Finance Director, which I assume the “CFO” refers to?  honest question, do not know…

    1. Mark West

      hpierce:   ‘Yet, at this time, do we not have a Finance Director, which I assume the “CFO” refers to?  honest question, do not know…’

      The argument was not mine, but the connection was that we needed someone with the experience and vision to move beyond sound accounting. I believe the same is true for the CC.

      1. Matt Williams

        Mark, we need both. Staff is operating with both of its hands tied behind its back when it comes to executing the nuts and bolts of sound accounting. That isn’t because they are not accomplished and knowledgeable, but re=ather because the tools that they are having to use are from the last Century. The 1980’s vintage of those accounting tools means that it takes 8-9 months to create a Budget, and that Budget creation process is so cumbersome that it takes up the bulk of Staff’s time. That leaves 3-4 months each year for Staff to actually do any non-Budget work.

        With that said, the kind of vision you are looking for from a Financial leader would have bee extremely valuable during the Cannery CFD process. A Financial Leader would have been able to engage the questions that Robb Davis and Brett Lee were asking from the dais, and provide them answers about the specifics of the value the City was getting in return for the $10 million in value that the City was giving away ($8 million to New Home Company and $2 million to issue and service the CFD bonds). Absent that kind of financial evidence, the Council made its decision on the CFD based on political calculation.

  13. Davis Progressive

    kind of stunning that we can move forward with no finance director and a city manager who doesn’t understand or have a background in municipal finances.

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