For the next eight weeks, the Vanguard will be sending the Davis City Council candidates weekly questions. They have 250 to 350 words.
Question #7: Davis is a city that is often associated with a well-educated, upper middle class community that comes to city council meetings, works at UC Davis or in Sacramento, and is well represented at council meetings and other civic events. But there is increasingly another group of people that get hidden – renters, non-participants in civic activities, less affluent and less educated. Davis is no longer the monolithic community it may have been in the past: 46% percent of our school children are now non-white, more than one-fifth are Title I students
The Vanguard called this “The Other Davis.” Explain your understanding of “The Other Davis” and what policies you would put forward as a councilmember to both engage this population and meet their needs?
There is no “Other Davis,” there is just Davis.
I say this not to quibble over semantics, nor to undermine the basis of the question. I believe the underlying presumption to be correct, that there is a growing segment of our community that does not fit the “image” some may have of ourselves as “Davisites.” A segment that does not make itself heard in community affairs, and whose needs we may not be adequately addressing.
Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to serve diverse segments of our community, and in doing so, get a glimpse of the so-called “Other Davis.”
As a Davis High School student, I helped lead the “Friendship Day” program. The program stemmed from a violent encounter at DHS. The goal of the program is to foster a welcoming environment for all students. At Friendship Days, students from every social and socioeconomic group come together to get to know one another and break down the stereotypes and “cliques” that otherwise divide them.
Later in life, as a member of the Blue & White Foundation, we began a Student Activity Grant program. Any DHS student may apply for funding to support curricular or extra-curricular activities during their high school years. This often serves kids who, for financial reasons, otherwise would not be able to achieve all they want in their high school years.
Most recently, in my job with Senator Wolk, I am called upon to help address the needs of folks, many from Davis, with which the State may have a role in helping. This includes people facing foreclosure, unemployment, temporary disability, or other financial hardships.
As we make policy for the City, it is imperative that we go beyond simply addressing the specific needs of the “Other Davis,” but that we recognize that our community is not whole without them. We should bolster our community engagement and implement strategies to bring all segments into the public process, so that our community values reflect all of Davis, not just the very engaged.
I think I disagree with the premise of your question. When I was a kid, the “cannery” was a cannery where people worked. Davis was a community that housed the people who worked here at a variety jobs – from bank teller to bank manager. And at that time, it really was a “university” town. With the faculty and staff of UCD living in Davis as well as the lion’s share of students.
As California has progressively become more expensive, so has Davis. As the State of California and the Federal Government have retreated from their previous support of communities on a variety of levels, Davis as a university town has found ways to maintain strong schools, public safety and other amenities.
This has drawn people to Davis who share the desire for a “full service” community. These people are willing to work, volunteer, and help pay for the things that make Davis nice. As a result, Davis is now much more of a bedroom community of Sacramento with people sharing the bond of higher expectations of their community.
The “Other” Davis as you describe it, has always been here. A great many in our community are UCD students. Tuition hikes (huge when you look at the change from 1970 to today in real dollars) and the campus not providing lower priced student housing have meant an increasing financial burden for students. But the non-waged or low-waged students have always been part of our community.
Many staff, students and “regular” people in fact have been priced out of Davis. Some continue to stay: to hang on they have squished 6 into apartments previously used by 3, turned homes previously occupied by a family of 4 into a mini-dorm of 10 students.
The city council has been working on things to address some of these issues. We have been very cautious when it comes to raising taxes, we have focused on keeping our costs under control, and we have sought ways of diversifying our revenue sources – recognizing that high taxes and fees can impact the affordability of our town. And we have sought ways to increase the rental stock in our town.
And specifically, in the next few weeks I believe we will be finalizing a renters’ ordinance to provide protections to renters. Additionally, when we approve the budget, we will again build in subsidies to our fee structures for recreation programs to encourage all families to enroll their kids in the programs.
I have definitely witnessed these changes, especially the socio-economic changes illustrated, over the past 20 years I’ve lived in Davis, and it’s troubling to me. We’re not alone: these issues have increased throughout California, and the US. As the middle class continues to disappear, we’re seeing a movement towards a massive divide between those with means, and those without.
I feel that its imperative for us to work on these issues locally, which is why I’ve been involved in the creation of affordable housing for many years in Davis and Yolo County. I was a long time Board Member for Yolo Mutual Housing Association, which from 1998-2008 built 180 units of permanently affordable rental housing (for approximately 450 extremely low income residents) throughout Davis. People can quibble about the City’s efforts in creating affordable housing over the years, however, since the City first started its mandatory inclusionary housing ordinance in the early 1990’s, approximately 1300 units of affordable housing have been built in the City. Yet, this is clearly not enough…especially as we’re continuing to see the costs rise in Davis for all types of housing.
Another recent endeavor I’ve been intricately involved with is the Davis 1000 Mentors for Youth Challenge. The Challenge is a joint initiative of the DJUSD and the City, partnering with local businesses and community organizations with the goal of engaging volunteers to provide opportunities and support for our local youth.
Research shows that adults from outside the family circle play a critical role in helping children develop their full potential. All youth, regardless of background or family income, need opportunities and experiences that help build the character and skills to be successful in life.
Also, as the City has done for many years, we will continue to fund subsidies to our fee structures for recreation programs to encourage enrollment of low-income children in the community.
Most recently, we’ve been working on a long overdue renters’ ordinance to provide protections to renters and neighbors. We’re the only California college town without such an ordinance offering some protections to tenants and that is a much needed change which I support.
My understanding of “The Other Davis” is sketchy at best. Part of that is understanding what the Vanguard means when it uses the term “The Other Davis.” For example, my son’s wife is Thai. Their 15 year-old son would be in the 46% if he were going to school here in Davis (they live in Baltimore). Does that mean they would be part of the Other Davis if they lived here? How would that Vanguard-applied definition affect either their assimilation into Davis or the menu of services that Davis provides . . . and would those services come from the School District or the City or from in the form of simple friendship from the community at large?
With that said, let’s turn to the other part of the question . . . the lack of representation at council meetings and other civic events. I really don’t see that as an “Other Davis” issue. The fact that almost 60% of all Davis residents are home renters rather than home owners, produces less sense of “ownership” in Davis. Less sense of ownership has a strong tendency to produce less voter engagement.
Citizen engagement happens when/if the citizens see “value” in such participation. So one possible solution be a focused effort to get a better understanding of what “value” the council meetings and civic events could deliver. Ironically, last night was a good example. The people who walked by my booth at the Celebrate Davis event in Community Park demonstrated that the 46% can be engaged . . . and they can have a rousing good time doing it. Three things that were noticeably absent were (A) a 2-minute timer and (B) a prohibition on clapping and (C) a whole lot of formal language. The language of the event was to have fun, and the participants, white and non-white saw “value” in having fun.
Question #2: While the city’s budget picture has improved, the city is still in need of funding for things like roads, parks, greenbelts, pools, buildings, as well as some unfunded retirement needs – what measures would you support to increase city revenue and why?
Question #4: In September a murder at KetMoRee caused the community to reflect on its downtown policies. But Davis overall is changing in terms of crime and types of crime and related challenges. What is your view of policing in Davis? You can discuss issues such as staffing, resource priorities, community outreach, police oversight, and transparency like body worn cameras.
Question #5: In light of the demise of the UC Davis Chancellor it is important to remember that there are critical issues that the city and university need to work together in cooperation. One of the biggest has been housing where UC Davis is planning to add 9,000 staff, students and faculty to its population over the 10-year planning period, and the university will not be able to house them all on campus.
How would you as councilmember take the lead on this issue: explain your plan both in terms of working with the university and in terms of planning for Davis’ future in terms of what portion of this growth, the city is prepared to take on and how?