City Council Candidate Question 8: The Big Problem Facing Davis

Candidates Forum on March 12/ Photo by Eunah Cho of Davis Media Access
Candidates Forum on March 12/ Photo by Eunah Cho of Davis Media Access

For the last eight weeks, the Vanguard has been sending the Davis City Council candidates weekly questions.  They have 250 to 350 words.  This is the final question.

Question #8: Pick a big problem facing the community and explain how you plan to address it in the next four years – if elected to council.

Frerichs-Announce-2016-5Lucas Frerichs:

One of the most pressing issues facing our community in the coming years is the need for faster and more reliable broadband. It is a vital element of Yolo and Davis’ economic sustainability that will keep our community competitive locally, and globally. Broadband is a driving force behind the competitiveness and productivity of our businesses and fostering innovation.

The primary broadband providers in our community, AT&T and Comcast, have spent little money upgrading their infrastructure over time. Davis’ situation isn’t unique. Communities throughout the country are facing the same future. Many of them, including those in the Sacramento region, are asking the Federal and State governments for assistance in solving this challenge.

In Davis, we’ve actually had several companies either leave town or decide not to come here due to the inadequate speeds and high costs of broadband services. Superior Farms (with 39 employees) recently left Davis for another nearby community due to these exact issues.

Many communities, including Davis, have realized that they will need to act locally to fix this issue in order to retain their quality of life and competitive advantage.

In Davis, we’re fortunate to have various efforts underway. First, we have an active group of citizens that have formed DavisGig. Second, the City Council just formed the Broadband Advisory Task Force, and it will advise Council on possible next steps (likely by end of summer 2016)

Next, we need to invest in a feasibility study to determine what type of path forward is the right one- possibilities include: creation of a municipal broadband utility, a public-private partnership with hybrid ownership and operation, or a broadband cooperative with members across the cities in Yolo County.

While the feasibility study is finished, we can identify various financing mechanisms- bonding, private & public capital, etc. I’m confident that within the next 18 months we can get through these steps, and be ready to start putting an upgraded network in place in two years from now.
None of this will be possible without strong partnerships, and this is one area where Davis always excels: we bring smart people together to solve our biggest challenges.

Lee-Brett-HSBrett Lee:

60% of Davis residents are renters.  Over 30% of single family homes are rentals.  We have an apartment vacancy rate of under 0.3%

Around 8 years ago, the Oeste Manor Neighborhood Association began work on putting together a proposal for a rental ordinance.  They were motivated to do this because of several problem rental houses in our neighborhood.  Remember the “pirate house” – yep, in our neighborhood.  Parties, live music, trash, etc. week after week after week.

After many many complaints to the city and the police, nothing seemed to provide any relief from the ongoing problems of the mini dorms / party houses.

As the neighbors looked into what other university towns had done to address this issue of problem rentals, we discovered something along the way – the tenants weren’t necessarily doing that well either.

We heard from renters who had been living with broken appliances that were not fixed in a timely manner to houses with serious mold issues.  We heard from multiple people describing how they had hired professional cleaners to clean their units upon moving out, but never received their cleaning deposits back.

So what started as neighbors worried about nuisance houses grew in scope to address some renters’ rights issues.  In addition, the increase in mini-dorms with illegally converted interiors also became an issue.

Fast forward to 3 weeks ago.  The council passed on a 5-0 vote direction to staff to come back with a rental ordinance with inspection provisions.

We will be working on the specifics of the municipal code language over the next few months.  The trick will be to balance the needs of the neighbors and tenants while not creating an oversized bureaucracy that penalizes the good landlords and owners and creates unnecessary expense that is passed along ultimately to the renter.

This is an important issue to get right.  This is an issue that I will be working on to get a reasonable program enacted.  Over time, the program will need to be fine-tuned so that the good actors are rewarded and the bad actors improve or leave.

WillArnold2016Will Arnold:

We’re driving through a foreign land with an outdated map. The road we are on did not exist when the map was drawn. We barely know where we are, let alone where we are going and what is around the bend.

We tend to stay on the same road, no matter where it goes. The fear of a wrong turn leads to no turns at all, though what lies ahead on this road is no better known.

By not having an updated General Plan, we are at the whim of planning by exception. In the best case, we have an opportunity to embrace something that honors our community. At worst, it leads to division, supposition and acrimony.

We need a community where everyone is welcome to participate, and cannot afford to backslide to the days of uncivil discourse and unproductive belligerence.

Beginning in the goal setting session of Fall 2016, I will propose a comprehensive course for a new General Plan. Not an update. Not an amendment.

I will propose that we broaden our engagement beyond the small group of activists and volunteers to which all reading this belong. For a new General Plan to be relied upon, it must reflect the needs of all who rely upon it.

With timely action, achievable metrics, and focused participants, this can be addressed with the immediacy it demands. A lengthy process a itself a disincentive to participate.

Our goal is to create a new map, reflective of current realities, which does not simply protects us from pitfalls, but leads us somewhere we want to be.

IMG-23Matt Williams:

The biggest challenge facing Davis is building a sustainable, resilient Davis 2030 – 2040 – 2050.

As I have said before, Davis is currently at a crossroad, and what Davis looks like in the years to come depends on which direction we choose to take.  If you were ever inclined to “vote your pocketbook,” now is the time to do so.

The decision we make in this Council election will chart our future … stay the course toward bankruptcy or take a new road toward long-term sustainability.  Our journey is all about choices of how and where we spend our money.

In the short run, we need to address the over $655 million of unfunded liabilities we currently have over the next 30 years.

Instead of spending money that we don’t have on new “toys,” we need to practice fiscal responsibility. Here are a few steps I would take:

•    We are currently paying 7.25% annual interest on the $14.65 million net unfunded balance of Retiree Medical (OPEB).  Pay that down to $0, saving us $1 million per year … every year.

•    Complete the Full Staffing Analysis and Business Process Reengineering projects to permanently reduce costs, and at the same time redefine the relationships with the employee bargaining units based on the new business model. That should save another $1 million per year … every year

•    Pay off the $69 million of high interest rate bonds (averaging 5.66% interest rate), reducing our annual debt service costs $6.1 million … every year.

•    Then redirect that $8.1 million annual savings into maintenance/repair of our sadly neglected capital infrastructure (roads, parks, buildings, etc.).

Previous Questions

Question #1: Do you support Measure A (Nishi) – why or why not?

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 #3: What is your reaction to MRIC being paused and as a council member what would you do to move us forward on economic development?

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?

Question #6: Describe in 250-350 words, your vision for what Davis looks like in 20 years.

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?

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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    1. Barack Palin

      Excellent observation.  Who would’ve thought that should be a question asked of a small town city council candidate?  While they are at it and since we found that the council can strike at any minute we should be questioning the candidates on a whole slew of national and international issues.

      1. Matt Williams

        My answer to that question would be straight-forward and simple . . . we need more evidence-based decision-making, and less political calculation.

  1. Sam

    Did someone really answer that one of the biggest problems in Davis is the internet connection? So lets not worry about unfunded pension liability, unfunded OPEB, the unbalance budget in a few years, roads are falling apart, broken pools, lack of rental housing, lack of low income housing, lack of diverse professional jobs in Davis, expensive cost of living, high property taxes, high sales taxes, homeless population, violent crime downtown or property crime increasing. Let’s focus on the internet? Next time I am at the Davis library I will ask the homeless guy on his cell phone using the free Wi-Fi what he thinks about reliable broadband.

    1. The Pugilist

      On the one hand, great point.  On the other hand, however, isn’t one of the concerns that we have substandard internet connectivity to make our high tech dream work?

  2. Marina Kalugin

    Matt again highlights why he is truly a most thoughtful and articulate candidate, and with proper priorities, and who is sorely needed on the council.  (not that some of the other answers were not good also….)

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