Frerichs Launches Reelection Bid to a Good Crowd at Odd Fellows Hall

Frerichs-Announce-2016-5
Lucas Frerichs announces his campaign for reelection to the Davis City Council in speech on Saturday at Davis Odd Fellows Hall

It was a large gathering, well exceeding 100 people. In the audience were some of the top elected officials in the area, from Senator Lois Wolk and Assemblymember Bill Dodd, to both of Davis’ Yolo County Supervisors Jim Provenza and Don Saylor, three of Frerichs’ colleagues on council and four members of the Davis School Board. For Lucas Frerichs, after four years on the council, it was a strong showing.

He said in his speech, “It really is humbling for you all to be here.”

Lucas Frerichs told the audience that this marks the 20th year he has lived in Davis, having moved here for his senior year in high school in 1996. He said that, after twenty years, he and his wife “continue to be more inspired to participate in the community, making that what makes Davis such a wonderful place to live.”

He said, “Over the last four years, I along with my colleagues on the city council have been hard at work, leading our city by serving on the city council that continues to be laser-focused on getting things done and taking care of business. So much has been accomplished in that time, but much more needs to be done, which is why I’m running for reelection to the Davis City Council.”

Of the many things that the city council has accomplished in the last four years, the biggest, he said, “was to get our fiscal house in order.” He added, “During the depths of the great recession, it was quite a daunting task to balance all the competing priorities that the city has.

“We rose to that challenge and we helped fix that situation,” he said. He noted that the city had to lay off 103 positions from its city workforce, and it held the line on spending, restructured employee contracts, cut major programs across the board and adjusted city budgets accordingly. “Those were painful yet critical decisions for our community, but frankly our actions assured that our city remain fiscally solvent.”

He sees reason to be cautiously optimistic about the city’s fiscal condition in 2016. Lost services are being restored and revenue is beginning to uptick. At the same time, they are preparing for the next rainy day, getting prepared “for when and not if the city faces its next similar circumstance.”

Lucas Frerichs with wife Stacey
Lucas Frerichs with wife Stacie

Following the formal announcement, Lucas Frerichs sat down in the Vanguard office to discussion his candidacy and his vision for the future of Davis.

Mr. Frerichs told the Vanguard, “I’m running again because there is a lot more work to do.” He added, “I feel like we have a great group of city councilmembers currently and we all work very well together, we’ve been focused on getting things done and yet here we are in 2016 and there’s a lot more to do in the next couple of years – major critical issues facing the city of Davis.”

As he cited in his speech, he saw some of the major infrastructure issues – the surface water project “is going to be something that really helps to set our community now and for the future generations. Most other communities in California rely on more than one source of water and so for Davis to, for so many years, have relied on one single source of water that is ultimately not sustainable – so there is a need to diversify and have multiple options for something as essential as groundwater.”

The upgrading of our wastewater treatment plant was also cited as a major accomplishment that didn’t get as much attention as the surface water project.

“I’m excited in particular on the work we’ve been doing on economic development,” he said. In his speech he cited the impact that DMG Mori Seiki has had on the community, with 150 high quality jobs on Second Street. He said these were $70,000 to $80,000 a year jobs, on average.

Davis Roots is another key factor. He cited this as an example of the city looking to partner with and encourage startups. The arts scene downtown he sees as another great innovation that has occurred during his time on the council. Finally, he cited the work on Measure O and the preservation of open space.

Lucas Frerichs said, “Fiscal sustainability for the city is paramount.” He sees the need to diversify revenue as something that encompasses all of these other issues. “You can’t do a lot of these other issues, these lofty type goals, if you don’t have fiscal sustainability in the city,” he said.

This issue is more complex than the simple question of “whether our employees deserve a three percent COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) or not,” he explained. “It’s not just a black and white issue.”

Lucas Frerichs talks with colleague, Davis Mayor Dan Wolk
Lucas Frerichs talks with colleague, Davis Mayor Dan Wolk

However, there are loftier issues that he supports. One of these, he said, “is an updated General Plan. I think that the General Plan currently, there are aspects to it that are very strong and there are several elements within the General Plan, the transportation element, the housing element, that have (been) updated within just the last year or so… but overall the General Plan really serves as the blueprint for how the community wants to grow, or where it should grow, or if it should grow… I think it’s time for it to be updated.”

Among the current issues, the council is going to have to weigh in on the question of revenue in the next few weeks. Lucas Frerichs pointed out that, while raising taxes is one means to approach the issue of revenue, it is not exclusively a tax issue. “There are a variety of mechanisms out there that we’re having staff explore,” he explained.

One idea is a parks tax increase. Right now we have a $49 per parcel tax that was passed in 2012. He said, “At the time, there was not the willingness to increase that parks parcel tax…even though the council at the time in 2012 knew that the $49 per parcel tax only covered about 25 or 30 percent of the parks’ needs. It passed as a renewal with 84 percent of the vote.”

Lucas Frerichs in hindsight sees that as a mistake. “That was a lost opportunity,” he said. “It should have been increased.”

On the other revenue measures, he sees the TOT (transient occupancy tax) as a no-brainer. He said, if all the hoteliers are on board, the citizens don’t pay for the tax, so the $300,000 it would generate would be relatively easy to get passed, in his view.

But the bigger issue from his standpoint is that future hotels will generate more money. He argued, “The city has way less hotel rooms than it currently (needs). With the Embassy Suites likely coming on line at some point, there are several other hotel proposals coming forward…there’s an ability to get additional revenue from existing hotels but also from future sales.”

A parcel tax is what Lucas Frerichs says he is most interested in. He sees that raising the parks tax to $99 would bring in about $2 million in additional revenue, specifically dedicated to parks. “That allows the ability to free up that otherwise reserved money from the general fund to be spent on infrastructure needs,” he explained.

There are those who will say they do not trust city council to spend this money as promised, he acknowledged. He responded, “I think you’ve seen from this current city council that we are interested in taking care of some of the essential infrastructure needs, particularly the roads and bike paths.” He said they will be seeking out ways to fund those particular infrastructure needs.

The discussion shifted to economic development. Lucas Frerichs noted that, in addition to discussions on Nishi and MRIC (Mace Ranch Innovation Center), “there is a very strong startup culture developing in Davis.” He said, “There’s a real need for us as a community to help try to promote some of the ingenuity and resources that are coming out of the university.” He added, “Davis Roots is a good example.”

One example he cited is Barobo, Inc., an education and science for kids robotics company. They have partnered with the UC Davis C-STEM (computing, science, engineering and mathematics education) center to offer approved Linkbot (modular robot) courses, for example.

As Lucas Frerichs explained, they started at Davis Roots as a one to two person company. Now they have moved out of Davis Roots into their own space. They have 15 to 20 employees and do over $1 million in sales each year. He wants to focus on keeping companies like that in Davis, keep them growing and in town, “but we need space for that.”

It could be something over at Mace that has to be annexed into the city on a Measure J or R vote. Or it could be the ability to do some of the infill sites that still exist around town. Those remain open questions at this point.

Senator Lois Wolk with husband Bruce Wolk (center) talks with Councilmember Frerichs
Senator Lois Wolk, with husband Bruce Wolk (center), talks with Councilmember Frerichs

On Nishi, he said, “From our conversations from the last two council meetings it seems like a lot of the details of Nishi are being worked out and resolved.” He said that people have brought forward legitimate concerns like access, traffic and fiscal issues. Lucas Frerichs feels like both the council and applicant have been responsive to a lot of the issues that have been raised by the community.

He explained that he thinks it has been a good process to date. The idea of Nishi has been around for at least two decades, but the current project really got momentum about three years ago. It has been an iterative and collaborative process, going through numerous commissions with even broader public feedback to date.

Mr. Frerichs explained, “It ultimately ends up with a vote by the citizenry. So for people who maybe do not think that the process up to this point is satisfactory, regardless of whether it’s June or November, or some future date, they will get a chance to have a final say.”

Lucas Frerichs said he opposes housing on the Mace Ranch Innovation Center site. Having said that, he noted, “I feel somewhat conflicted on that.” He cited that smart growth principles suggest “mixed use is the way to go.” But he said, “This proposal was brought forward as a strictly commercial R&D proposal without housing.” He added, “I think that housing at that site will actually really hurt its chances for approval.”

He added, “There is definitely a need for housing in Davis and definitely a need for affordable housing, but I’m not sure intermixing it in that site is the way to go.” He added, “It really harms its chances of success.”

In general, Lucas Frerichs said he was a supporter of infill – “appropriately growing up is the preferred way to go” is how he put it. He doesn’t see zero growth “as a real viable option. There are both needs for people who live here currently.” He cited the 25 to 44-year-old range as the fastest declining demographic in the city, and doesn’t believe that we will have a vibrant town with only students and seniors.

Easily said – but given Measure R and the general reluctance for people to accept new infill projects, how do we get there?

He said, “Infill can be done right. It can be done successfully. It has to be done well.” He noted some that have come forward, simply have not been appropriate, but he sees the need to have those conversations. He noted some have been approved but have not yet been built. He named Willowcreek, Grande, and others. “I don’t think there’s any magic bullet solution that we’re going to come up with,” he said.

He would add, “The quality of life is so good (in Davis) in large part due to the quality of the schools, and the reality is, if we get to a place where we do not have the ability to fill our schools with children here in Davis, that is going to be a real shame.”

Lucas Frerichs, in discussing costs, called it a “very delicate balance” between meeting the needs of employees and being able to have a sustainable budget. Likewise, he said “there’s no sort of magic solution there.”

He said he is very mindful “of trying to keep costs steady.” He noted that, prior to the COLA in the fall, “the last time the employees had an increase was 2009.” He said, “The majority felt this time that a small cost of living adjustment particularly for those employees (was appropriate).”

Mr. Frerichs added, “We are really trying to be mindful of the fiscal situation that the city’s in. We’re not unlike other communities – most communities in are in a similar situation. They may have a better ability to raise revenue but that’s why I think that the economic development side of things is also vital.”

Right now there are four candidates – Frerichs, fellow incumbent Brett Lee, and challengers Will Arnold and Matt Williams. Dan Wolk has announced he is not seeking a second term and instead is running for Assembly. The vote will be on June 7. The Vanguard will have continuing coverage of this race.

—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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28 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    “This proposal was brought forward as a strictly commercial R&D proposal without housing.” 

    Thank you, it’s nice to see a council member owning up to that.  Now stick to it and the project will get approval.

  2. Michelle Millet

    I have a lot of respect for the level of commitment Lucas brings to his work as a council member and his dedication to the Davis community. While we don’t always agree on policy issues, Lucas is always available to talk, listen, and help when he can. I’m grateful he is willing to continue his service to the community, and I am looking forward to supporting his campaign.

  3. hpierce

    David… did Lucas actually say there have been 103 “layoffs”?  That is a patently untrue statement, BIG time. The vast majority of the reductions in workforce (90-95%) came from retirements or other normal, voluntary, separations.   If Lucas does not recognize that, and that this resulted in the loss of some key positions (that were not filled), and that the RIF disproportionately affected some departments, he shouldn’t get another term.

    There is a significant difference between “down-sizing” vs. “right-sizing”.

        1. Matt Williams

          And the City’s annual costs for Total Compensation of the 352 employees left is now $53,249,205, which is $4,563,460 higher than it was in 2008.  Drastically fewer employees and higher employee compensation costs.

          To put that into compensation costs per employee terms, it was $104,925 in 2007-08 and it is $151, 276 in 2015-16 . . . up almost 50%.

           

           

           

           

  4. Frankly

    I like Lucas as a person, and I agree with much of what he says above, but…

    This

    A parcel tax is what Lucas Frerichs says he is most interested in. He sees that raising the parks tax to $99 would bring in about $2 million in additional revenue, specifically dedicated to parks. “That allows the ability to free up that otherwise reserved money from the general fund to be spent on infrastructure needs,” he explained.

    And this

    This issue is more complex than the simple question of “whether our employees deserve a three percent COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) or not,” he explained. “It’s not just a black and white issue.”

    … are more than enough to disqualify him from my support.

    Because…

    The raises will cost the city an additional $537,000 for fiscal year 2015-16 and $1.129 million for fiscal year 2016-17, according to a city staff report.

    So he is supporting yet ANOTHER parcel tax increase for $2 million a year in additional money to maintain our parks after just having spent more than half of this on city employee raises.

    Since 2007 before the Great Recession our per employee costs were about $100,000 per year per employee.   Today, after having trimmed about 22% of city staff through attrition and cutting allocated but not yet hired positions, that number has exploded to $150,000 per year per employee.

    And yet we are told that we just don’t understand and the employees deserved a raise.

    Let’s assume for the moment that the employees absolutely did deserve a raise.  Lucas, oh Lucas… the problem that you and the other three colleagues of your on the City Council don’t seem to be able to understand, or maybe the math is too difficult, is that the City did not have the money to be able to justify the raises.

    And now you are going to come asking for us to accept yet another tax increase over the fear that our parks will decline unless we pony up.

    Nope.

    Fool me once shame on you.  Fool me twice shame on me.

     

    1. Mark West

      The single greatest impediment to the City’s fiscal sustainability is the runaway rate of cost inflation, which is directly attributable to employee total compensation. Until we stop the rate of growth in costs, it will not matter how much new revenue we bring in as it will not be sufficient.

      I like Lucas.  He is a dedicated and hard working individual. Unfortunately, based on his comments and actions over the past four years it is clear that he does not appreciate the overriding importance of cost containment.

      1. Frankly

        I am beginning to wonder if cost containment is just not understood by some people.  If so, it would seem prudent to not elect those that demonstrate this lack of understanding.

      2. Matt Williams

        Frankly, I think people understand cost containment.  Virtually everyone has had to actively deal with personal cost containment in order to get through the recent Great Recession.  The problem isn’t understanding.  The problem is that the City isn’t honest when it prepares the  annual City Budget.  The Budget is created with an “out of sight, out of mind” perspective.

        Our leaders have touted the level of our General Fund reserve, while at the same time not acknowledging the massive number of dollars that have accumulated outside the boundaries of the formal budget document. That causes a situation where the people are forced to try and understand cost containment with only part of the story.

        The City of Davis needs to Pay Its Bills just like every individual Davis household does. We need to live within our means. We can’t continue to hide our deferred maintenance costs off the books. Hiding from our financial obligations doesn’t work in our personal lives. Pretending it works in our city government is both foolish and wrong.

        1. Frankly

          I used this analogy with someone recently.

          Say you are maxing out your retirement savings and living paycheck to paycheck.  Then at some point in your life you start making enough to save more.  You have children that will need help with college, you have a home that is in disrepair, your yard is overgrown with weeds… but instead of spending on those things you eat out more, you take move expensive vacations and with what is left you put it in your already healthy retirement so can retire early and live high on the hog.

          And you keep trumpeting how well off you are while secretly expecting someone else to find a way to help you pay for all those other unfunded liabilities down the road.

          Irresponsible does not even come close for what this is.  It is abusive.

    2. Biddlin

      Why haven’t you filed? Are your business ventures running so hot and heavy that you don’t have the time to contribute your fiscal expertise and cultural wisdom to steering the community into more sustainable waters? Or are you all hat, no cattle?

      1. Frankly

        Would you be my campaign manager?  I can envision some Clinton-esk events where you can I could hire a back-up band and play some Thin Lizzy dual guitar solos while singing “The Boys Are Back In Town”.

        1. Biddlin

          I’m already engaged in two campaigns, one local one otherwise, and, frankly,  sabotage would be unbearably tempting. If you truly believe any of the tripe you post, though, your reticence to act on your “beliefs” would seem indicative of a lack of personal initiative and commitment.

        2. Frankly

          I am more than comfortable with my initiative and commitment doing work to help our community and the state and a couple of others.  In fact, it is the primary reason that I would not consider any political pursuit at this time.

          But of course I was just kidding about you working on any campaign of mine.  I would be guilty of self-sabotage allowing that to happen.  However, the playing of music… now there is an idea you might get behind.

    3. hpierce

      Frankly, the rules changed in the period cited.  If you would be honest about the accounting changes needed to play “catch-up” for decisions made prior to 2008, it would be helpful.  But, got to cut you some (actually, a lot of) slack on this… if you look at aggregate #’s, you are correct… not convinced as to individuals… the “catch-up” #’s for PERS and retiree medical might not have been segregated by the City… kinda’ like the deferred maintenance on infrastructure… which has been a definite problem.  “Obligations made, or implied”, yet not funded in real time.

      1. Frankly

        Well yes, but then there have been decisions made by this Council that I find even more horrendously irresponsible given what is clearly known about the state of our city finances.

  5. Misanthrop

    “He noted that the city had to lay off 103 positions from its city workforce, …”

    Perhaps a bad choice of words but if you want to split hairs about how he said it but he did say positions instead of  people. The reductions were done by attrition and positions that were not filled so I guess it could be considered a layoff of the position. Not the best way to describe it but not the worst mistake anyone ever made either. Yawn.

    1. hpierce

      Wasn’t there, but don’t think I’m “splitting hairs”… you completely ignored my point that the reductions were not by City “action”, and were disproportional, and may not have been in the City’s best interests… but, since you apparently were there, gotta’ assume you are, as David seems to be, a Lucas supporter, and will spin anything said (words ARE important) to deflect criticism, and/or discredit it.  Admit I don’t know what was said… I asked an honest question, and opined how I felt if the words were intentional… “yawn” back…

  6. skeptical

     
    Perhaps you should have a follow up interview that asks Lucas more meaty questions.  For starters… Isn’t the time for a general plan update before approving additional and significant amendments to the general plan?  Why did he approve the CFD for the Cannery?  What was he “thinking” in approving increased employee compensation?  How does he propose paying for this give away?  How does he propose funding repairs to City infrastructure?  Where does he place responsibility for such mismanagement, and what does he propose to do about it?  Does he think it appropriate for a council member to privately pressure staff decisions?  How does he explain his conflict of interest over the Trackside project?   
     

    1. sisterhood

      Suggestion- send him an email with your questions, or ask him to his face at one of his appearances around town. I recall he used to go to the farmers market on Saturday mornings before the upcoming elections.

  7. tj

    Well said, Skeptical —

    Lucas’ main point, of course, is that he wants to be re-elected.   And so he says whatever he thinks will help make that happen whether completely truthful or not.

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