Commentary: Have We Really Come Full Circle on Fiscal Matters?

Pothole-Sky

It is interesting to me to see the pushback from a few on the city’s fiscal crisis.  The argument is, “Davis is not alone in having acute fiscal problems, by a very long way, due to unfunded pension obligations.”

They continued, “Likewise Davis is no more alone when it comes to having a deficit when it comes to infrastructure maintenance and improvements such as roads et al.  Moreover, it might be noted critics, or fiscal hawks, rarely point out that Davis, unlike many other cities and towns has new, even state of the art, water and sewage treatment facilities, which residents see abundantly reflected in their city bills.”

The charge shows the failure to contextualize Davis’ fiscal crisis.

I think the bottom line, however, was this response: “Anyone who thinks the state is going to bail local agencies out of their pension, OPEB and infrastructure backlogs must have slept through the Great Recession.”

And this: “I think it’s time for a reality check on what the state can do for municipalities. Past contracts can’t be voided. CalPERS probably won’t achieve the rosy investment goals they’ve cited for years. The state isn’t going to back-fill pension costs. Road funds may come in from the state, but not enough to cover the backlog.

“Counting on funds from the federal government would be pretty foolish right now. So in my opinion looking for outside help to resolve fiscal problems of the city’s own making is actually irresponsible. Certainly worth pursuing reforms and grants wherever possible. But when that part of the discussion becomes a deflection from the real road conditions and pension costs, it’s a diversion from the choices that really have to be made.”

As they point out: “A realistic solution to the current problem involves a three-pronged strategy of increased revenues, managed costs, and economic development.”

Exactly.

The irony here is that it seems like the debate has come in full circle and the biggest irony is that back in 2007 and 2008, the person pushing for more fiscal discipline was Sue Greenwald.

Back in 2008, Sue Greenwald was running for a third term against Don Saylor and Stephen Souza, both running for a second term.  Don Saylor and Stephen Souza ran for reelection on the basis that the budget was balanced with a 15 percent reserve.

Sue Greenwald countered and nailed it.

“Our revenues have increased a healthy 60 percent in seven years. Our problem is that expenditures have risen faster.” She added, “We’re not in better shape than we’ve been in years. That’s just not true. We are locked into a 3% at 50 retirement for the next 70 years for public safety employees and now 2.5% at 55, early retirement for all miscellaneous employees. That’s got to affect our long-term budget situation. We have a $42 million post-retirement, unfunded employee retiree health liability. That’s huge. That’s coming due in only 15 or 20 years…”

Her argument lost the day, as she finished third in the race, but history would prove her right.

A few years ago, I was asked to put a timeline together on how we got to the point where we did.  At that point, there was a tendency to blame the national economy – now it seems to be a blame of the state problems.

But as I argued then, and maintain now – that view misses the key context that, in 2007 and 2008, before the collapse of the economy, there was an active debate over whether benefit levels, especially PERS (Public Employees’ Retirement System) and OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits), were sustainable.  As one observer noted at the time, “3% at 50 is in my opinion an unsustainable pension benefit. It threatens to undermine the pension system for everyone else in public service.”

That warning would prove to be true.  The collapse of the national economy should not be seen as the cause, but rather the catalyst for the city crisis.

What follows is a comprehensive look at critical dates and decisions that either contributed to the crisis or sought to extricate the city from that crisis.

The time here stops in February 12, 2014, but we could continue it with a series of actions that include the decisions in June 2014, November 2014, and February 2016 not to put revenue measures on the ballot.  The loss of both the Davis and Mace Ranch Innovation Centers and the November 2015 decision to increase total compensation.   The declaration by Mayor Wolk about the Davis Renaissance and the counter disclosures by Mayor Robb Davis in subsequent years.

But this gives you a very comprehensive view of 1999 to 2014.

May 22, 1999 – City Implements Four on an Engine

Julie Partansky, Stan Forbes, Ken Wagstaff, Susie Boyd, and Sheryl Freeman voted unanimously to hire six additional firefighters and put four firefighters on every engine.

November 15, 2000 – Council Votes to Implement 3% at 50

The city council, comprised of Susie Boyd, Sheryl Freeman, Sue Greenwald, Michael Harrington and Mayor Ken Wagstaff, and led by Interim City Manager Jeanie Hippler, who took over from John Meyer, would approve a contract amendment to grant the firefighters 3 percent at 50 pension compensation.

March 2004 – Voters Approve Measure P, Half-Cent Sales Tax

According to the staff report, the tax would generate $2.9 million in annual revenues, which represented around 8 percent of the city’s overall General Fund Revenues. Supervisor Helen Thomson and Mayor Susie Boyd argued, ““The City faces increasing costs.  We will face higher expenditures if we are to provide the additional police protection and meet park and recreation and open space commitments we have made to our citizens.” They added, “Without Measure P revenue, given the uncertain state support to the General Fund, we would be faced with very deep service cuts in police, fire, and parks.”

2005-2006 – Council Gives Bargaining Groups Large Salary Increases

The firefighters in 2005 agreed to a four-year MOU that would give them salary increases starting on June 20, 2005 of: 10% in 2005, 8% in 2006, 8% in 2007, and 6% in 2008 before expiring June 30, 2009. All told, their salaries increased 36% over a four-year period. Police received smaller increases starting in 2006-07 fiscal year of 6%, 3%, 4% and 3% for a total of 16% pay increase. Other bargaining units received between a 15 and 20 percent pay increase a year after council put the tax measure on the ballot.

2008 – Council Election

Don Saylor and Stephen Souza ran for reelection on the basis that the budget was balanced with a 15 percent reserve. Sue Greenwald countered, “Our revenues have increased a healthy 60 percent in seven years. Our problem is that expenditures have risen faster.” She added, “We’re not in better shape than we’ve been in years. That’s just not true. We are locked into a 3% at 50 retirement for the next 70 years for public safety employees and now 2.5% at 55, early retirement for all miscellaneous employees. That’s got to affect our long-term budget situation. We have a $42 million post-retirement, unfunded employee retiree health liability. That’s huge. That’s coming due in only 15 or 20 years…” As one observer noted at the time, “3% at 50 is in my opinion an unsustainable pension benefit. It threatens to undermine the pension system for everyone else in public service.” Don Saylor and Stephen Souza backed by the firefighters along won reelection with Sue Greenwald.

June 30, 2008 – Grand Jury Report on the Firefighters

The Grand Jury found the following after an extensive two-year investigation: “Misuse of a DFD facility; inappropriate relationships between the Union’s Board of Directors and DFD management; and inconsistencies in promotional opportunities.” The most explosive of these complaints were that firefighters were getting drunk in downtown Davis and sleeping it off at the fire station. By July 14, 2008, the city would name Police Ombudsman Bob Aaronson as Independent Investigator.

September 15, 2008 – Lehman Brothers File for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

The filing remains the largest bankruptcy filing in US history, the entire western financial system nearly collapsed and the US moved into its deepest and longest lasting recession since the Great Depression.

November 11, 2008 – City Manager Memo Warns that City Projects Revenue Shortfall

City Manager Bill Emlen in his first memo established five cost control measures for the remainder of 2008-09 fiscal year: hiring freeze, monitoring overtime use, controls on travel reimbursement, all services not currently under contract to be approved by city manager, and limitations on non-essential discretionary spending.

December 9, 2008 – City Reports a $1.2 Million Budget Deficit

The economic crisis deepened and Davis faced a $1.2 million budget deficit for 2008-09 and a $3 million budget deficit for the following year. Paul Navazio, the city’s finance director, believed time cost savings could save up to $900,000 which would require the city to eat up to $330,000 from their reserves.

December 10, 2008 – Council “Votes” 3-2 Not to Read the Full Independent Report on Fire Department

Both councilmembers Sue Greenwald and Lamar Heystek were adamant about seeing the full version. Councilmember Greenwald: “I’d like to get a council consensus that we have access to all the information. The way our form of government works is that we’re responsible when we’re elected. Whereas on the phone you told me that we’re not responsible for personnel, we are ultimately, the buck stops with us. We’re responsible through you, but we can’t evaluate how well you’re doing your job with personnel if we don’t have access to all the information.” She continued: “I just think we should as a matter of principle, as a matter of procedure. It’s a matter of accountability in government.” Councilmember Heystek requested of City Attorney Harriet Steiner that she explain any legal grounds for withholding of information from the council in writing. “I do agree with Councilmember Greenwald, it is important for us to see the work product of the Ombudsman, this is the first major test of our Ombudsman and we’ve paid over $35,000 I believe for this work product, and I believe I deserve to see as a councilmember the contents. No one is wanting to pry or to be nosy, I think we want to know the quality of the report. It is important that we have the fullest context possible to be able to make decisions or give direction. I’m equally interested in hearing what the city manager’s interpretation of the findings are. But if there is some legal grounds by which we cannot view this information or not be privy to the report that was prepared at our behest, I would like to see a justification of that in writing. I really believe that as a councilmember I need to know why it is that information is being withheld from me and in writing.” However, both Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor and Councilmember Stephen Souza disagreed. “I think that it’s reasonable to make another point of view known here. That is to the degree that materials and information comes to the City Manager that is personnel related, we don’t look at the personnel files of every employee in the city.” Councilmember Stephen Souza agreed. “I don’t need all fifty pages, I just don’t.”

January 13, 2009 – City Faces Crisis of Unmet Needs

City staff: “While the growing list of unmet needs – both one-time and recurring – remains a significant concern, current economic and budgetary realities suggest that emphasis should be placed on securing existing revenues over seeking new revenue sources that could, potentially, jeopardize revenues relied upon to provide existing City services.”

January 14, 2009 – City Manager and Investigator Disagree on Substance and Tone of Findings

The Davis City Council very late on Tuesday night and early on Wednesday morning finally got to ask key questions of investigator Bob Aaronson, who was charged with the duty of conducting an independent investigation into a series of findings by the Yolo County Grand Jury that was released in June. The hearing did not begin until 12:30 am. Bob Aaronson disagreed with the findings in a nuanced way upon questioning, which meant that the city council was left reading a redacted report and the public was left to read only the city manager’s summary of the issue. As Mr. Aaronson put it at the onset: “Bill is sort of a glass half full sort of guy when it comes to city operations, it’s my impression, and I tend to a glass half empty sort of guy.” It would not be until four and a half years later that the public got to read the report.

March 10, 2009 – Street Maintenance Report to Council

In a budget report, street maintenance was currently being funded at a traditional $800,000 baseline level.  Finance Director Paul Navazio stated, “The current funding level is insufficient and it leads to the deterioration of street conditions.”  The funding to address the current backlog would require an increase to $2.8 million per year, and full funding to maintain the desired pavement index is in excess of $3 million per year.

June 9, 2009 – Councilmember Lamar Heystek Proposes an Alternative Budget

During the Davis City Council meeting, Councilmember Lamar Heystek, instead of merely opposing the current proposals laid out by finance director Paul Navazio, boldly proposed his own alternative. There are two key planks to the alternative budget as laid forth by Mr. Heystek.  First, the belief that the current $850,000 reduction in salary compensation, which represented perhaps a little over 3 percent of their total budget, was insufficient.  Councilmember Heystek instead proposed a 5 percent reduction in total compensation for employees. Second, $1.5 million in savings was wrapped up in the tier reductions, which were basically the cutting of programs and service to the public.  Mr. Heystek’s budget began to address these cuts, removing some of them from the cut list.

June 16, 2009 – The Apology: Citygate Scrubs the Deck on Fire Staffing Issue

The city uses a $15,000 study to justify current staffing levels and support the implementation of a battalion chief model. In addition, the study recommended against a fourth fire station and instead recommended joint operations with the UC Davis Fire Department. They also recommended an expansion of the response time.

June 23, 2009 – Council Fails to Deal With Structural Issues As Budget Pictures Comes Into Focus

While the efforts of Councilmember Lamar Heystek to introduce an alternative budget two weeks prior gained some concessions from the council majority, Councilmember Heystek and Councilmember Sue Greenwald found themselves on the short of end of 3-2 votes on the key issues. The bottom line was the failure of the Davis City Council to adequately address the looming structural issues of employee compensation at this meeting.  The short-term budget remained to be balanced through cutbacks to programs rather than changes to the way the city funds employee compensation.

December 12, 2009 – City and Firefighter’s Local Reach Agreement on New Contract

The city of Davis announced that the city had reached a tentative agreement on a three-year labor contract with the firefighters’ union, Local 3494. The proposed contract was on the city council’s agenda for ratification on December 15. The contract included a decrease in salary over the next three years, including a 6 percent decrease over the REMAINDER of the current fiscal year, with, in July of 2010, the salaries to be reduced by 4 percent over the current salary and, in July 2011, a 3 percent reduction from current salaries. Vanguard analysis determined the contract fell well short of the savings needed and it allowed for no period for public vetting.

December 16, 2009 – Mayor and Council Cut Off Debate on Fire Contract

Councilmember Sue Greenwald, while pressing on the failure of the firefighters’ contract to address the city’s structural problem, was cut off in debate. In a heated discussion, Councilmember Sue Greenwald pressed the finance director to explain where the inflated savings figures came from. During the course of that discussion, Councilmember Greenwald demonstrated that the level of savings was actually considerably less in year three than the 3.6 percent trumpeted by city staff. The council voted 3-2, with Councilmembers Greenwald and Lamar Heystek dissenting, to pass the contract.

December 18, 2009 – Councilmember Heystek Speaks Out about Fire Contract

The Vanguard had a phone interview with Councilmember Lamar Heystek on the 3-2 vote that passed the fire MOU. Mr. Heystek told the Vanguard, “The biggest problem that I have with the contract is that it does very little to address our structural challenges in any meaningful way and it sets the tone for the contracts that we are poised to consider and adopt in the very near future.”

January 13, 2010 – Council Majority in Need of a Math Lesson on MOU

There was the use of new math as the council majority again attempted to justify another passage of an MOU by a 3-2 vote, again with Councilmembers Greenwald and Heystek dissenting. The council majority essentially made three points. First they argued that this contract represents a savings of $744,000. Second, they argued that, while not as much as they might have liked, this contract marks the first time that the council has decreased the size of contracts. Finally, they argued that this contract began to deal with the structural issues.

February 27, 2010 – Vanguard Firefighter Brochure Hits Davis Mailboxes

The Vanguard mailed out a brochure that informed citizens about issues involving the Davis Fire Department and the fiscal challenges facing the city as a the result of overly generous fire contracts and the purchase of influence by the Davis firefighters’ union, Local 3494. Click here to see the brochure.

May 25, 2010 – Council Votes to Impose Impasse on DCEA

The Davis City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to impose the City’s last, best and final offer to the city’s largest bargaining unit, the Davis City Employees Association (DCEA).  Dozens of the members of DCEA showed up at the council meeting, there were accusations leveled toward the city about unfair labor practices, and accusations leveled that the city was bent on imposing this. From the city’s perspective, DCEA was simply unwilling to go to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith. However, the city failed to follow proper procedures and the imposition was overturned in late 2011.

June 8, 2010 – Joe Krovoza and Rochelle Swanson Elected To The Davis City Council

Joe Krovoza and Rochelle Swanson were elected to council, pledging fiscal reform and independence, having not accepted firefighter money.

February 23, 2011 – Dan Wolk Chosen to Fill Council Vacancy

Don Saylor spent six months as mayor of Davis. He was elected to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors in June 2010 and resigned from the council in January to take that seat. The council acted quickly to fill the vacancy, ultimately appointing Dan Wolk to fill the seat.

June 28, 2011 – Council Passes Historic Budget, Sets Aside $2.5 Million in Personnel Costs to Put Toward Roads and Unfunded Liabilities

Council had to stare down, the week before, 150 employees in a stifling 90-degree council chambers. Stephen Souza and Sue Greenwald argued against the sweeping reforms. Stephen Souza was arguing that the city council was going about this budget in the wrong way. He argued against restoring the reserve immediately.  He argued that he wanted the entire community involved in the process – but for those in the room and those not in the room.  In a theme of his for the day, he argued that the process “just doesn’t feel right” and he said that he wanted to “do it in a way that we can feel good about it at the end of the day.” Sue Greenwald said that it needs to be coordinated with the labor contracts situation.  “We need to make these cuts, but the process and timing is everything,” she said.  She added, “If we implement this tonight, we are on a course of layoffs, mass layoffs.” Ultimately, they would not prevail. However, the cuts were not implemented.

July 26, 2011 – Davis Hires Steve Pinkerton as New City Manager

Manteca’s City Manager Steve Pinkerton was unanimously selected by the Davis City Council in closed session, and his first meeting would be the infamous September 6, 2011, meeting in which the water project was approved at 3 am, only to be rescinded two months later.

September 27, 2011 – Unfunded Liabilities Workshop

City Manager Pinkerton laid out underfunded elements of the budget including at that time pensions ($1 million), OPEB ($2.4 million), Street Maintenance ($2.5 million), Sidewalks ($430,000); Parks facilities and City facilities. They also set a framework for implementing the $2.5 million in budget savings, however, this was never implemented.

November 3, 2011 – PERB to Disallow Davis Imposition of Impasse on DCEA and Orders Back Pay for Employees

In a tentative ruling handed down by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), they ruled that the city improperly canceled fact-finding and imposed the last, best and final offer on DCEA. PERB ruled: “It has been found that the City violated MMBA sections 3503, 3505, 3506, and 3509(b) and PERB Regulation 32603(a), (b), (c), and (g) when it passed Resolution 10-070 on May 25, 2010, before exhausting the fact-finding process set forth in its local rules.” They continued: “It is therefore appropriate to order the City to cease and desist from such activities in the future. Additionally, if the City wants to proceed through its impasse procedures, it must provide adequate time to complete the fact-finding process as set forth in its local rules.”

May 21, 2012 – Vanguard Obtains Critical New Portions of Davis Fire Department Investigation in Settlement with City

The Vanguard sued the city of Davis to release the 2008 Fire Staffing Report by Bob Aaronson after nearly three and a half years.  The City of Davis had been unlawfully withholding records that should have long before been made public, exposing the depths of their collusion with the firefighters’ union to suppress damaging portions of the Davis Fire Department Investigation written by the city’s Ombudsman Robert Aaronson in response to findings in the 2008 Yolo County Grand Jury Report. In newly-released segments of a 2008 report, the Vanguard learned that Bobby Weist, the long-time union president and arguably one of the most powerful public figures in city government, received preferential treatment in his 2007 promotion to fire captain. In April of 2007, then-Chief Rose Conroy of the Davis Fire Department promoted Mr. Weist, over “at least one of the candidates [who] was demonstrably and significantly more qualified for and deserving of the promotion than [Bobby Weist] promoted by Chief Conroy.”

June 5, 2012 – Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee In, Souza and Greenwald Out; Wolk Finishes First

Voters apparently had enough of the incumbents, voting challengers Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee into office, while voting out three-term councilmember Sue Greenwald and two-term councilmember Stephen Souza.

June 7, 2012 – City Issues Layoff Notices to Nine Employees

The day after the election, the city laid down the first gauntlet in what has been described by both sides as increasingly contentious discussion on new labor contracts across the board. The layoffs involved nine positions within DCEA (Davis City Employees Association), the bargaining unit that the city originally declared impasse on in the winter of 2010 but had that impasse overturned by a state board (PERB) the previous November. The firing triggered angry responses in the community after tree trimmers were laid off and replaced with contract employees.

November 13, 2012 – Fire Audit

Interim Fire Chief Scott Kenley presented the fire audit to council.

December 14, 2012 – City Reaches Agreement with Three Bargaining Units

The city, announced agreement with DPOA (Davis Police Officers Association), Management and PASEA (Program, Administrative and Support Employees Association), reaching agreement with five of the seven bargaining units. The contracts dealt with exploring a second tier benefit, employees to pick up their full PERS share by 2014, and a larger pick up of retiree medical by employees, and reduction of cafeteria cash out.

December 18, 2012 – Fire Audit Recommendations

Interim Fire Chief Scott Kenley presented the fire audit to council. Union President Bobby Weist misled the council, stating that the firefighters had not been not involved in process.

January 29, 2013 – Fire Round Table

The fire audit recommendations were reviewed in great detail by the city council.  In an unprecedented move, the city council literally sat at the table with the fire union to discuss the findings. The fire union demonstrated an incredible lack of respect for council and city staff while objecting to every single recommendation in the report.  The city would meet again in March 5, 2013. Ultimately, all of the report’s recommendations were approved.

February 5, 2013 – Council Stunned by Magnitude of Road Problem

The council would learn that years of spending almost no general fund money on roads meant huge deferred maintenance costs. At current levels of funding, half the streets would fail by 2032 and costs would increase to over $400 million. To bring the PCI to 70, the city would have to pay $8 million per year. Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk felt like, and quite reasonably, he had already cast one tough vote on this. “We knew at the time it was a very difficult vote to basically move $1 million into the roads and $200,000 into the bike paths,” he said.  “That was a difficult vote and we knew at the time… that that really wasn’t going to solve the problem by any means.” “But seeing this report shows you how really a drop in the bucket it really is,” he said.  “It’s very daunting and sobering to realize and think about where we’re going to find this $150 million.” Then there was Councilmember Brett Lee who said, “I must admit I was surprised and also saddened by it.  We come to this job and we know we have to make hard decisions and I was thinking we would get the labor in order, we’re going to do certain things and then it’s the nice time when we get to make the parks nice and keep the pools open longer and this is like a bucket of cold water.” “But it’s the reality that we’re faced with,” he said.

April 30, 2013 – Fire Staffing Reduced to 11

In a 3-2 vote with Brett Lee, Joe Krovoza and Rochelle Swanson voting in the majority and Lucas Frerichs and Dan Wolk dissenting, the city council voted to reduce overall staffing to 11 firefighters on duty.

June 21, 2013 – City Releases Full Unredacted Fire Report After Four and a Half Years

On Wednesday morning Judge Dan Maguire issued a tentative ruling, ruling that former Davis Fire Chief Rose Conroy’s request for a preliminary injunction was denied on the grounds that she had not been able “to demonstrate that she is likely to prevail on the merits of her claims at trial.” Newly released were rants by the former Fire Chief Rose Conroy, who stated, “From my perspective, the people that are – that have gripes and things like, that are the people that are narcissistic. That it’s about them and they don’t like it if it’s not about them and they don’t look good in front of other people …. The problem employees are the employees who don’t get their way …. These others are people that don’t fit well in a team game.”

June 26, 2013 – New Structural Deficit for City of Davis

As Davis passed the 2013-2014 budget, the city reported it will end the year with a negative cash flow of $1.62 million, but the real problems would start the next year when the city’s deficit would balloon to $3.77 million.  From 2012-13 to 2017-18, revenues grew from $41.55 million out to $45.19 million.  The problem is that costs increased from $41.7 million that year out to $50.14 million by 2017-18. By the end of this five-year period, the yearly deficit was expected to hit $5 million, with the overall deficit over the entire period at $15 million. “We have an uphill battle in the future if we want to balance our budget and address our unmet needs,” City Manager Steve Pinkerton told the council.  “It’s frankly not incredibly difficult to balance the budget if you’re putting off costs into the future.” The idea was floated to look into new revenue sources, but not addressed again until December.

November 19, 2013 – Last, Best and Final Offer to DCEA

The Davis City Council unanimously voted to impose the last, best, and final offer on DCEA. This left firefighters as the last unresolved contracted group.

November 26, 2013 – Two Attempts to Fire City Manager Pinkerton

We learned that there was an active effort underway to terminate the contract of City Manager Steve Pinkerton before the December 1 deadline, after which would enable him to receive nine months of severance for early termination. Council called a special closed session meeting two days prior to Thanksgiving; however, they emerged with no reportable action.

December 3, 2013 – Council Approves Shared Management

The Davis City Council addressed some of the concerns from the firefighters and their fellow councilmembers about the language in the JPA agreement, including getting rid of all reference to the term Joint Powers Agreement itself, in an effort to assuage concerns about the process. Despite their efforts to address his concerns, Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk went from supporting the proposed Shared Management Model in October to opposing it on Tuesday. Lucas Frerichs remained in opposition. Two weeks before, the council received a letter from Senator Lois Wolk, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, Supervisors Don Saylor and Jim Provenza and former Supervisor Helen Thomson that urged “the Davis City Council to take another look at the serious long-range consequences of this proposal before contracting out any of these core municipal functions. There is a key difference between sharing or coordinating services and merging governance with the constitutionally separate and unelected Regents and Chancellor.”

December 18, 2013 – Council Imposes Contract on Firefighters

All of the city’s bargaining groups were under the new terms and conditions.  It took a year and a half from the expiration of the old contracts on June 30, but finally the council imposed the last, best, and final offer on DCEA, and then they voted to do the same with fire.  Both votes were 5-0. The city’s chief negotiator, Tim Yeung, noted that the firefighters were unwilling to go there or consider any second-tier benefit, so “without that savings we couldn’t fund the pay increases for the other parts of the of the deal.” Speaking during public comment, union president Bobby Weist told the council that the firefighters’ union is very “disappointed in the factfinder’s decision.”

December 18, 2013 – City Braces for New $5.1 Million Structural Deficit

The city would look to a revenue measure in June, City Manager Steve Pinkerton reported in his 2014-15 Budget Preview. He said that the city will be facing a new “a structural imbalance of up to $5.1 million in the General Fund.” “Difficult decisions are ahead concerning how to balance funding ongoing programs vis-à-vis service-level expectations in the community,” he wrote. “Davis is justly proud of the amenities it offers to residents. However, expenditures continue to grow faster than revenues, despite all the changes the City has made to date.” He argued, “Largely these increases are outside the City’s control. This funding gap makes it difficult to continue to provide the current level of services to residents.”

February 11, 2014 – Council Puts Half-Cent Sales Tax on Ballot in June

The item did not end until well after 1 am on Wednesday morning.  Just as it appeared that the council had an agreement, they decided to take one last break to think about it.  When they returned, Lucas Frerichs announced that they had decided to go back to a half-cent sales tax from the three-quarters that had been recommended by a focus group and that had seemed to be a consensus moments earlier. The measure would set the sales tax rate at 8.5 percent for six years.  The term would mean that the previous tax measure, renewed in 2010, would no longer sunset in 2016, but would rather extend until 2020 with the rest of the ordinance. Click here to see the list of programs the tax addresses.

February 12, 2014 – Pinkerton Agrees to Terms with Incline Village

City Manager Steve Pinkerton and the Incline Village Board of Trustees agreed to a negotiated employment agreement. It was announced his final day with the city of Davis would be April 25, 2014. The city council hired Gene Rogers as interim manager until they could find a permanent city manager.

 

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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157 Comments

  1. Ron

    Sorry that I didn’t get another 15 minutes of infamy, today.  (A different commenter made the statements in the article.)

    Somehow, I suspect that Sue Greenwald (as mentioned in the article, above) would not have the same agenda as the “other Greenwald” (no relation, I understand), regarding the constant and never-ending effort to over-densify and expand the city beyond its borders (via a lightweight “Chamber of Commerce” approach).
     

    1. Howard P

      regarding the constant and never-ending effort to over-densify and expand the city beyond its borders (via a lightweight “Chamber of Commerce” approach).

      Off-topic.

      1. Ron

        Howard:  Your opinion.  The article clearly mentioned Sue Greenwald, and pointed out the so-called “full circle” irony of those opposed to the approach advocated by the “other Greenwald”.  (Actually, the second day that this comparison was made.)

        Hardly off-topic.  Perhaps censorship would be a better description, if it’s deleted (as you might be suggesting). (Great idea – make an allegation in an article, and delete comments from those who challenge it. I thought you were opposed to that method.)

        1. Howard P

          If you can point to one scintilla of where housing or growth was mentioned, I’ll apologize.  If your only ‘connector’ is Sue Greenwald, I could add at least a dozen matters that also have nothing to with City finances.

          I stand by my opinion.

          You are a lot more than a tad ‘paranoid’ if you think I have either the intention or power to censor you.  Frankly, although I’m not, the weight/value of your assertions/opinions, are not worth my effort (in my opinion). Perhaps you’re feeling like a legend (in your own mind, perhaps)?  Your seeking for “infamy” was the clue I’m reacting to.

        2. Ron

          Howard:  “If you can point to one scintilla of where housing or growth was mentioned . . .”

          None today.  But, nearly every other day.  Including from some of those who obsessively focus on financial challenges, as a justification for more development.  (Not necessarily referring to David.)

          I didn’t say that you had the power to censor me.  Not sure why you’re responding, if you think that it’s not worth it.  (As another commenter recently said to you, don’t you have anything better to do?  Seriously, you seem to comment on the Vanguard, more than anyone else.)

          The “infamy” reference was a joke, since my (similar) statements (e.g., regarding the statewide scope of the challenges) were quoted in a couple other Vanguard articles, recently.  I was trying to clarify that it wasn’t me, today.  (And no – I don’t think I’m more important than anyone else.)

           

        3. Howard P

          Ron, I’ll engage on facts.  One fact is I was not “suggesting” anything.  Making a factual observation, which you now seem to admit to.

          I wrote,

          If you can point to one scintilla of where housing or growth was mentioned, I’ll apologize.

          You wrote,

          None today.

          Then you write,

          Great idea – make an allegation in an article, and delete comments from those who challenge it. I thought you were opposed to that method.

          First sentence, on a factual basis… have never deleted a comment other than my own… when I reacted, instead of thinking.  Thought better, deleted.

          Second sentence, on a factual basis, you are correct, and would be shocked if anyone could show anything to the contrary.

          But as Roberta and you have said, I’m just a troll… feel free to ignore the trolls… or get the VG to banish folk like me.

        4. Ron

          Alan:

          I like the line, as well.  However, I think that Howard is “Frank”, at least.  Not a bad thing.

          A minor skirmish, one I could have (and should have) avoided.

        1. Howard P

          David… not sure if I see a typo… when you wrote,

          I don’t even think you know which side of the argument who is on.

          Perhaps you intended,

          I don’t even think you know which side of which argument who is on.

          I could be wrong, and am not trying to put words into your post.

           

    2. David Greenwald

      Part of my problem with your narrative is that you seem singularly focused on development and wish to avoid anything that might possibly justify new development.  I actually started in the same place as you and after studying the issue for years realized that if we wanted to preserve Davis as both a vital community and sustainable one and a small town, we need to allow a small amount of economic development space or we end up strangling the economy and opening the door for far worse.

      1. David Greenwald

        My other problem is that you don’t have an institutional memory for what happened in the past, refuse to do your homework, and yet continue to repeat the same things over and over again, which are based on an incomplete understanding of history (at best).  Your comment yesterday was very telling – you didn’t read the links.  My guess is you didn’t read the timeline either before you posted your first comment.

        1. Ron

          David:

          You’re making some assumptions that simply aren’t true.  You’re also reading too much into my statement from yesterday.

          You’re also attributing some statements to me that I haven’t made, regarding economic development and cost containment.

          I’d suggest that I’m just about as aware as you are, regarding the challenges that Davis and other cities/counties (and the state itself), are facing. However, I definitely have arrived at (somewhat) different conclusions, than you have.

          In any case, you’re a very “different” Greenwald, compared to the “earlier model”.  There is no irony, regarding the fact that some “slow growth” types supported Sue. “Slow-growth” does not mean fiscal irresponsibility. (In fact, I’d argue that it means the opposite.)

          Note the comments from Souza and Saylor, whom I’d consider to be rather development-oriented. (And yes, I remember them.)

          Of course, it’s your blog, and you’re free to advocate for what you believe is best.

          1. David Greenwald

            You mean note the comments from Souza and Saylor who were chief instigators of the city’s fiscal crisis?

            I don’t even think you know which side of the argument who is on.

        2. David Greenwald

          “You’re also attributing some statements to me that I haven’t made, regarding economic development and cost containment.”

          I made no such attribution

  2. Howard P

    Fairly good start, David, but there are other pieces to ‘the puzzle’…

    PW staff, for 30 years now, have pointed out the problem of deferred maintenance, particularly for roads/bikepaths, and urged/suggested more funding… the budget process (CM’s and CCs) decided to give a token amount, and spend the money elsewhere, particularly ‘feel-good’ projects and programs… kinda’ like looking at your credit card statement and only paying the absolute minimum… not a good practice, financially… good way to go into serious debt… oh hey, we’ve done that!

    Similarly, in the 90’s, Davis’ PERS account was “super-funded”… PERS gave agencies who were super-funded the option of paying nothing for the employer obligation… Davis took that option, and felt so good about it that they took over the employee share, and decided to increase/enhance the program, and go beyond inflation-adjusted salaries.  Had they stayed the course, kept the respective PERS contributions the same, the “hole” we are in might well be a ‘divit’.  But there were more ‘glamorous’ ways to spend the money, including the big increases in salary.  [side note:  retiree medical provisions pre-existed 1980, and have actually been rolled back more than somewhat, since 1986].

    Your timeline is basically correct, and the above is meant to flesh it out a bit.  Some of your editorial spins I disagree with, but will not quibble here.

    But, history aside, and the “woulda/coulda” that goes with that, we’re at where we are at.

    These two concepts, which explain the bulk of the financial problems, should be part of the context of the timeline, in my view.

    1. Leanna Sweha

      Thank you David for a very extensive timeline of how we got where we are.  As I write this, the Assembly is holding an informational hearing on the state economy. “Volatility of revenues” is the major theme.

    2. Matt Williams

      Howard’s point about the pensions is very clearly displayed by the following two graphics from the City’s actuary John Bartel’s October presentation to the FBC.  The first one shows the Funded Status dropping from 156% (superfunded) in 1999 to 56% (severely underfunded) in 2009.

      http://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Screen-Shot-2017-02-28-at-11.08.06-AM.png

      The second one shows the annual benefits paid out trend in the green line, and the annual contributions in the brown line, with the five years of no contributions from FY 99-00 through FY 03-04.

      http://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Screen-Shot-2017-02-28-at-11.19.19-AM.png

      1. Howard P

        If someone took the chart out back to 1985, it would be even more apparent … the 1988-89 data point was lower than the 5 preceding years.  Used to be that employer contribution was ~ 8%, employee @ 7%… that was the 2% @ 55 formula for non-safety (miscellaneous)… years of employer paying nada caught up, big time.  Also, the changes the City approved as to formulae.  Perfect storm, as it were…

  3. Matt Williams

    David Greenwald said . . . “But as I argued then, and maintain now – that view misses the key context that, in 2007 and 2008, before the collapse of the economy, there was an active debate over whether benefit levels, especially PERS (Public Employees’ Retirement System) and OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits), were sustainable.  As one observer noted at the time, “3% at 50 is in my opinion an unsustainable pension benefit. It threatens to undermine the pension system for everyone else in public service.”

    David, here is a January 6, 2010 date to add to your timeline. Rich Rifkin was adding his fiscal reality voice to Sue Greenwald’s.

    http://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Future-budget-mess.jpg

    Bottom-line, the kick-the-can-down-the-road approach that Dan Cornfeld and Ron and others are advocating for … expecting our rich uncle to come and save us from our own largess, is the approach we have been following for at least 8 years, and the fiscal situation in Davis has gotten steadily and consistently worse.

    1. Howard P

      Matt… w/ all due respect, don’t think folk are looking to “kick the can down the road” (interesting simile, as “kick the can” was one of my favorite games, a form of  ‘hide-and-go seek’).

      I believe the situation is upon us, imminent, crucially important… but using a chainsaw to remove a cancerous lesion… probably not best outcome for the patient.  But we can treat the problem in different ways, and we must treat the problem…

      There are significant differences between ‘denial’, ‘measured response/problem solving’, and ‘sky is falling’… all inherently subjective.  I advocate for measured response/problem solving… but that’s just me “being a troll”. [and yes Matt, you have never accused me of the ‘T-word’… others have, repeatedly]

      1. Matt Williams

        I respectfully disagree Howard.  Prior to the Vanguard system denying me the pleasure of seeing Ron’s posts, I read Ron numerous times say that the pensions and retiree medical and roads problems are so large and so universal that Davis should not do anything and wait until the Feds and the State are forced to do something.  In the past two days Dan Cornford has argued for the same approach.  Not doing anything and waiting for “rich uncle” to swoop in and solve the problem  is a textbook definition of the kick-the-can-down-the-road approach.

        Here’s Dan’s quote from yesterday “this is a battle that Davis and other towns and cities need to take upon with the State (and even with the Feds) as few cities or towns can maintain and improve their infrastructure without significant state (and federal aid)—and that is the way it has always been.”

        What Dan doesn’t acknowledge in that article is that the way it has always been isn’t the way it is now.  If you go to the City’s 2015 Audited Financial Report you find the following Property Tax Revenues history

        2008 _________ 2009 ___ 2010 ___ 2011 ___ 2012 ___ 2013 ___ 2014 ___ 2015

        $19.7million __ $19.9m _ $20.3m _ $20.4m _ $10.1m _ $10.7m _ $11.9m _ $12.1m

        In 2012 the State cut the City’s property tax revenues in half.  The legal vehicle for accomplishing that act of highway robbery was pulling the rug out from under Redevelopment Agencies statewide.  As you can see from the 2013, 2014 and 2015 revenues the State has seen no reason to reconsider that highway robbery decision.  A parallel set of actions by the State took place in how prisoners are handled.  The State offloaded the responsibility for tens of thousands of prisoners to Counties and Cities, as unfunded mandates.

        Bottom-line, the way it has always been is now history.  The City owns this problem.  No one else does.

        1. Howard P

          Agree with your last sentence, among others… but there was also another State takeaway… ERAF… but at this point, that’s “a done deal”… taking City/county revenues to bail out the schools (at least the State’s obligations), on a ‘permanent’ basis.  If you could refine the model to reflect both of those, bet you’d find that the trend line is still of concern, but no where near as precipitous.

          Yet, a few “ships have sailed”, and we need to deal with the local reality… but we need to have a responsible hand trimming sails and handling the keel.

          You are definitely correct that we should not count on ‘divine beings’ to save us, but we should also remember the credo of survival training:  “prepare for the worst, expect the best”… we need scalpels, strong medications… chainsaws not so much…

          But we do need to act locally!

  4. dan cornford

    Fortunately or unfortunately I do not have time to “play” with David today.  It took me all of 20-30 mins to pull up some links that support my argument of yesterday (which David quotes) and which refute David and his flat earth followers argument that Davis is almost unique in its fiscal challenges statewide and nationally and that it bears almost sole responsibility for this alleged crisis.  So, who, I ask readers, is dealing in alt facts if one takes just a little time to do half an hour’s internet research, and one doesn’t have a secret, or maybe not so secret,  growth agenda?  Have a nice day!

    http://californiapolicycenter.org/california-city-pension-burdens/

    http://californiapolicycenter.org/californias-most-financially-stressed-cities-and-counties/

    http://www.caeconomy.org/progress/entry/financing
    From the above link:
    Identifying New Financing Tools for Infrastructure Projects
    An infrastructure crisis is looming at the national, state and local levels. California faces a ten-year, $765 billion infrastructure deficit, $500 billion of which is in transportation. State resources alone cannot fill this gap, and both state and local governments lack adequate tools to address it. To remain globally competitive and to attract investment that will support growth and job creation, California needs new and innovative financing tools.
    http://www.westerncity.com/Western-City/February-2015/Grappling-With-the-Challenges-of-Transportation-Infrastructure-Financing/

    From the above link:

    How the System is Underfunded
     
    California’s local streets and roads network is currently funded through a variety of sources including the state gas tax, federal transportation funds, local tax and bond measures, and local General Funds. Because funding sources have not kept pace with inflation, we face an ongoing annual deficit of $7.8 billion in the area of streets and roads, and other components of the state transportation system face similar shortfalls.

    1. Matt Williams

      dan cornford said … “Fortunately or unfortunately I do not have time to “play” with David today.  It took me all of 20-30 mins to pull up some links that support my argument of yesterday (which David quotes) and which refute David and his flat earth followers argument that Davis is almost unique in its fiscal challenges statewide and nationally and that it bears almost sole responsibility for this alleged crisis.”

      Dan, I haven’t seen David, or anyone, say “Davis is almost unique in its fiscal challenges.”  Please point me to anywhere that has been said.  The only “unique” city I know of is Fresno, where fiscal restraint by their elected officials, city staff, and the city employee groups has resulted in  (see https://blog.transparentcalifornia.com/2016/03/10/how-the-city-of-fresno-dodged-the-pension-tsunami-providing-comfortable-but-not-exorbitant-benefits/ and http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article65349437.html)

      What David and others have been saying is that there should be very low (between slim and none) expectation that the Federal Government (under a Trump leadership) or the State Government (with its $1.6 billion deficit this year http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/01/18/1-9b-accounting-error-adds-to-california-deficit-projection.html) are going to act like a “rich uncle” and bail the City out of its roads, bikepaths, buildings and parks deferred maintenance problems.  Further, any light at the end of the tunnel for Pensions and Retiree Medical has to grapple with the key question of “Who will absorb the cost of the lost benefits?”  Will that cost be absorbed by all the California taxpayers, or by the employees alone?  If you were looking for the quintessential political nightmare.  Resolving that dilemma is it.  My personal position is that we own this problem locally, and the solution will need to be formulated and executed locally.  And the only way we are going to be able to formulate and execute whatever solution we select, it will require the active informed participation of the voting, tax-paying populace of Davis.

      The links you have provided do a very good job of outlining the problem, but those links are devoid of any solutions to the outlined/identified problem.

  5. cornford

    Matt,
    At least by implication you, David, and others come very close to saying, or at least implying, that Davis problems are, if not unique, are in some sense unusual, exceptional,  or special.   I leave readers to make their own mind up on this and will not troll the DV for quotes as I do not have that kind of time on my hands.  Relatedly, and here you can do some trolling if you want, I see few instances where you, Robb Davis  David et al. concede or point out that this is part of a wider statewide and national problem be they unfunded pension liabilities or infrastructural deficits.  That is what really galls me, and I think the links I presented today show that quite convincingly.

    Yes, of course I’d agree that these problems are serious and I have been well aware of them for decades as a social and economic historian who keeps up with current affairs here and in the UK.  The question is how much of the blame can be laid at the feet of Davis and its City Council historically?  And certainly the CC as with the 3/50 decision on pensions in 1999 can be faulted on occasions.

     But that does not mean that poorly and modestly paid city and school workers and staff should forever be denied pay increases or that their pension plans, especially for existing employees, should be drastically downgraded.  It’s funny, or not so funny, how this argument all too often comes (locally, statewide, and nationally) from people who are either wealthy or who do not have defined pension plans or both.
    Matt, you are a great one for numbers and balancing the budget so, if it is really the case that the problem of unfunded pension liabilities and shortage of funds to maintain our existing infrastructure can be solved by the cuts and kind of retrenchment you propose then please spell out exactly how you’d make cuts that would achieve this without hurting many in the community and making it almost impossible to hire (and retain)  public employees, provide health insurance, and some kind of pension.

     I know, on the latter, like many, I suspect you’d throw them to the mercy of a $401K plan just as the Republican party would in effect like to do with Social Security and Medicare in some form or other and make people’s future dependent on the vagaries of the stock market and market forces.

    Do you care, Matt, that almost half the population of this country cannot come up with a couple of thousand dollars,  or actually much less, to deal with an emergency (no time to find links), in significant part because people making your arguments have largely undermined what little safety net this country once had and reduced the real wages of most workers significantly since the 1970s?

    Yes, it is hard to see how the present federal govt. would possibly step in to help.  But the lesson of history is that things change or people and governments have changed forced upon them by realities.  Think the New Deal and the Great Society Programs, including the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.  Think  even 2008. If the banks et al. can be  bailed out with massive expenditures (the money is there if the political will and support is there) so can localities and states.

    I am no optimist and think it will take a major crisis for that to happen, like a 2008 that spins fully out of control, and that may  not actually be so far away given the polices of this admin.  Yes, in the meantime I advocate prudence in local spending, and oppose  large developments that will deepen the fiscal crisis of Davis, but I do not advocate the drastic retrenchment  that would be needed to even make a serious dent in the structural budget deficit.

     To begin with such a policy could only lead to a dent in its impact and is such a policy were carried out nationally (as  would be needed according  to you, or if you follow the logic of your argument) the effects of this austerity would be devastating.   Just look at how well austerity has worked in Europe for the last ten years with special reference to places like Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK!!!

    So, yes you can plead fiscal prudence, Matt, but I hope you and others are aware of the broader context, the potential costs of your drastic course of action, and the very distinct limits within which the city of Davis operates and the unexceptional nature of Davis’s problems statewide and nationally.
     

    1. Howard P

      Again… the 3% @ 50 things has only applied to ~ 15-20% of the City workforce… EVER… only Fire and PD… yet, folk seem to like to lump all into ‘worst case’… whatever.

    2. Matt Williams

      Dan Cornford said . . . “At least by implication you, David, and others come very close to saying, or at least implying, that Davis problems are, if not unique, are in some sense unusual, exceptional,  or special.”

      Dan, you clearly have not been following the activities of the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC) and the creation of the Project Toto model by theLong-Range Forecast of City Needs and Revenues (In-Depth Financial Review)subcommittee of the FBC.  We have been explicitly clear in our public presentations and here on the Vanguard and in the Enterprise and the Cal Aggie that the problems (both fiscal and infrastructure deterioration) of Davis are not unique to Davis.  We have also been explicitly clear that the City owns those problems.  No one else owns them.  The State has abdicated its historical role in addressing those problems.  The Federal Government has shown little or no interest in maintaining local streets in any City.  They have always been focused on major roads like Interstates.  The expansive greenbelt system in Davis wasn’t created with either State or Federal dollars.  Most cities in California do not have that kind of non-auto infrastructure.  A quick comparison of the City of fresno and the City of Davis with respect to pensions and retiree health benefits clearly shows that our past discretionary decisions have given a clear “Davis flavor” to our specific fiscal challenges.  So, at a broad brush stroke level, you are 100% correct, this is a problem broadly across the whole state … the whole country. 

      As I have said before, dozens of times, focusing on how the problem occurred does not move us one step forward toward a solution.  

      Which brings me to your last paragraph.  Yes I advocate fiscal prudence, but I am at a loss what you are referring to when you refer to “the broader context” of that fiscal prudence.  What are the potential costs of following (as a community) the same rules we follow in our individual lives … paying our bills on-time when they come due.  Where is the downside of doing that?

    3. Matt Williams

      Dan Cornford said … “Do you care, Matt, that almost half the population of this country cannot come up with a couple of thousand dollars,  or actually much less, to deal with an emergency (no time to find links), in significant part because people making your arguments have largely undermined what little safety net this country once had and reduced the real wages of most workers significantly since the 1970s?”

      You are straying from the real and practical into the theoretical.  Davis is not representative of the whole country.  Taking your point at face value, if “50% of the population of this country cannot come up with a couple of thousand dollars,  or actually much less, to deal with an emergency” what percentage of the Davis population cannot come up with a couple of thousand dollars,  or actually much less, to deal with an emergency?  It is certainly not 50%.  It is probably less than 10%.

      All you have to do is go through the historical posts of Tia Will to see that Davis is not representative of the whole country.  Davis paying its bills isn’t going to be austerity.  For the vast majority of Davis residents paying a tax that will raise the $30 million annual shortfall will happen at the margin of their personal budget.   Sure there are lots of Davisites for whom their share of the annual $30 million will be painful, but as Tia also proposed, we as a community should step up and voluntarily help those who need help.

      In simple terms, this is a Pogo moment for Davis.  Your approach is like an old Dusty Springfield song, wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ that the Feds will bail everyone out.  It ain’t going to happen as long as the current Administration is in office, and I doubt it will happen anytime in the next decade … and in the meantime Davis’ fiscal hole will get $30 million deeper each year that passes by.

    4. Matt Williams

      Dan it just occurred to me that what you and Ron are advocating for is a “Reverse Robin Hood” approach.  Davis, as an above average city in terms of per capita income and community amenities is looking for the “average” (the Federal Government by definition is the aggregate of all communities) to subsidize the “above average.”

      The same can be said within the context of the State of California.  Davis, as an above average city in terms of per capita income and community amenities in California and you are looking for the California “average”  to subsidize the “above average.”

  6. David Greenwald

    “But that does not mean that poorly and modestly paid city and school workers and staff should forever be denied pay increases or that their pension plans, especially for existing employees, should be drastically downgraded.  ”

    I may agree with that, although I would prefer to keep city employee discussion separate from school discussions.  But what do you see as your solution?

  7. dan cornford

    David and Matt,

     

    It’s late in the day and few people will read the DV any more?  Let me just say this to Matt or rather ask him this:  If the solutions are so simple and so painless,   and to be found largely or solely  at the local (or county) level,  then why have hundreds of communities across CA and thousands across the country not found  or implemented them?

    At another date, don’t just say like Paul Ryan or someone that $30 million needs to be cut or raised, tells us as someone who ran for City Council and who, unlike me, follows the proceedings of the Budget and Finance Committer closely just precisely how and where you would make the cuts and/or how you would raise the required revenue?  If you answer please start with my first question first.

    Finally, tell me what the City of Davis is doing in a concrete and specific way, along with the many other cities, with these issues to get the state legislature to pay attention to them. (I agree with what I think Matt says that the State Legislature is passing things down and ignoring localities–we, and esp. our officials, need to push back).  It’s always been my sense, but I do not know for sure, that the Mayor and City Council could be doing a lot more.  What communication, for example, has there been with the state legislature over the UCD LRDP issue? If any shouldn’t any written communications  be public?  Did the anyone on the City Council bother to attend the California Regents meeting in late Jan. and raise the LRDP issue as Colin and Eileen did?  I’d love to hear an affirmative answer.

    1. Matt Williams

      Dan, who said the solutions are either simple or painless?  They are in fact highly complex and very painful.

      With that said, they are infinitely more complex at the State level, and even more complex at the Federal level.  A locality is much more micro than macro.  Asking a coal miner in West Virginia to subsidize a Firefighter in Davis is a massive lift.  The difference between their income and their job security is immense.  Further, there is no connection between the value the Davis firefighter delivers and the incremental fiscal burden the West Virginia coal miner is asked to shoulder.  On the other hand there is a connection between the value the Davis firefighter delivers and the Davis homeowner or renter.

      The simple reason that the communities across California have not found or implemented them is because not enough voters, to date, have felt the pain.  Said another way, the voters haven’t told their electeds that the problem must be dealt with.  Further, the voters who have identified with the pain are much more the current retiree beneficiaries, who fear that their current fixed incomes are going to convert from dollar-for-dollar to pennies-on-the-dollar.

      The reality of your second paragraph is that until the voters create a critical mass of political will, putting forward fully-articulated solutions is pissing into the wind.  We simply are not at the “performing” stage of the process.  We are still “storming” and “norming.”  Further, crafting a solution takes much more educated and trained minds than mine to identify the parameters of the problem and craft a half dozen possible solutions, all of which will work, so that the voters can be presented with viable alternatives to choose from.  Said another way, we are in the education phase of this process.  We have 65,000 residents to engage and expose to the realities of our current situation, so that they can express their preferences.  A resident who is a current (or future) beneficiary of the CalPERS or UC Retirement sytem will have a very different set of decision parameters than someone who works for a private sector company.

      The model we followed in discussing the water plant expansion leading up to the Measure I vote is a good participatory model.

      Regarding your last paragraph, the Mayor and Council are part time, at best, and they can only direct the City Manager.  Staff needs to be the ones who are on the front line of doing concrete and specific things, along with the many other cities, to address these issues to get the state legislature to pay attention to them.  Staff are being paid an average of over $100,000 per year.  Council are paid approximately $11,000 per year. If we had a strong Mayor/strong Council system of government that would be different, but we don’t.

      1. Howard P

        More than somewhat untrue on two counts…

        Staff are being paid an average of over $100,000 per year.  Council are paid approximately $11,000 per year.

        Only way you can get to that first number is to call salary, medical, DI, Medicare, and pension contributions, and sinking fund for retiree medical by the City, “pay”.  It is misleading, at best, to say the average pay (which most interpret as salary) is over 100 K [perhaps you meant ‘total comp’/total expense].  If you look at total ‘compensation’, or City expenditures for an employee, you may well be correct, but not as worded…

        Curiously, you seem not to include PERS, medical, and retiree medical costs when you refer to CC members (yes, they get other benefits beyond stipends, but good luck finding that info from the City website or David, who I have challenged on disclosures on CC repeatedly before)… c’mon Matt, you’re better than that!  Medical alone for CC members exceeds 11k.

        We may disagree on policies, but please keep facts straight…

        1. Howard P

          On the medical, for CC was assuming family contributions… employee (which they technically are) @ 2+… not all would choose that, but they are ‘entitled’ to…

        2. Matt Williams

          On the Council Pay I’m guilty of looking at it from my personal perspective … no medical needed.  I would refuse it. So according to the 5/1/2012 Staff Report (see http://city-council.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Agendas/20120501/Packet/09-Council-Compensation.pdf). annual compensation for City Council members rose from $669/month to $1000/month, and receive a $500/month contribution to a deferred compensation account in lieu of healthcare benefits.  Given the fact that all five Council members have “regular” jobs, the in-lieu payment is the norm rather than the exception.  I’m not sure how long the deferral period is, but regardless $1,500 per month is an $18,000 per year payment, a bit more than my $11,000.  So I stand corrected.  The average payments (without pension contributions for the 306 full-time employees in 2015 was $119,662.  The average benefits portion of that total was $30,724 and the average paycheck portion was $88,938.  Employees qualify for pensions.  Council members do not.  If you take a 2.5% employee who works for 10 years, and then receives pension for 10 years before dying, that adds $18,624 to the average employee’s earned payment.

          So in a literal sense, that would make your statement “More than somewhat untrue on two counts…” somewhat true in its own right … and you have my apology for being sloppy.

          With that said, all this number crunching has diverted us from the point I was trying (very poorly) to make, that each Council member receives value for their services that is a small fraction of what the average employee receives as value in exchange for their service.

           

        3. Howard P

          Matt… the current members may not be taking full medical, but they have it as an option.  But this is indeed an area that is not “transparent” and David seems disinclined to pursue this area…

          SG insisted on qualifying for retiree medical (serving over 8 years), and I have that from two sources in HR, who had to deal with that.

          Even tho’ a low amount, CC members actually have participated in PERS for their CC compensation, and the vesting period is 5 years of service…

          [retiree medical is not reported for CC members]

          http://transparentcalifornia.com/pensions/search/?q=sue+greenwald

          Q.E.D.

  8. Ron

    Just got back.  Car got stuck in a giant sinkhole.  However, at least this prevented me from racking up more VMTs, and to think more about my response regarding David’s reference to Sue Greenwald (and her focus on containing costs) in the article, above.  Here’s what I’d like to add:

    I knew Sue Greenwald.*  Sue Greenwald was a friend of mine.  Sir, you are no Sue Greenwald.

    (* Disclaimer – I barely knew Sue Greenwald.)

    What do you think?  (Gee, it seemed funnier before I saw it in print.)

  9. Ron

    On a more serious note, some seem to be suggesting that the “only” option that the state will ultimately have is a “bail-out” of impacted cities and counties.  However, I also see a possibility of a systemic collapse, which might essentially force other changes.  (Again, regardless of what Davis does.)  This will become more likely, if/when the stock market experiences a significant and sustained downturn, since CALPERS relies upon positive returns.  (And, their “expectations” are already unrealistic, and have been for some time.)

    If CALPERS responds by requiring even greater contributions from cities/counties, this may drive more of them to bankruptcy, leading to a vicious circle of contractions.

    I wonder if CALPERS’ long-term financial structure/health has been independently audited/professionally analyzed.

    1. Don Shor

      However, I also see a possibility of a systemic collapse, which might essentially force other changes.

      While this may be true, it doesn’t seem like a sound basis for planning municipal finance and budgeting.

  10. Ron

    Matt:  “Further, the voters who have identified with the pain are much more the current retiree beneficiaries, who fear that their current fixed incomes are going to convert from dollar-for-dollar to pennies-on-the-dollar.”

    Finally, something we agree on.  However, Davis’ decisions will have very little (if any) impact, in the event of a systemic, state-wide CALPERS collapse.

      1. Ron

        Thanks, Howard.  I wonder how the health of those systems compares to CALPERS, and any possible “domino” or synergistic effect, should one or more go down.

        Regarding Social Security and Medicare, at least the government can make unilateral decisions, without “agreement” from workers.  That might help save those systems. I wonder how old an average worker (in future generations) might have to be, to obtain benefits.

        A relatively wealthy country, but it doesn’t seem that way sometimes.

        1. Howard P

          Well the ‘normal retirement age’ for full SS benefits is going up… has been… employer and employee contributions (%-age) have stayed the same, and a worker making 150k per year pays the same (actual dollars) than someone making 6 mm $…

        2. Howard P

          Also Ron depending on agency, most PERS retirees will not see one cent of their contributions to SS, either on their own, or their spouse.  My spouse is eligible for SS… were I do a silly thing and apply for spousal benefits my monthly benefit would be $0.00.  If I applied under my own record (not enough quarters but would be true even if I did) it would be $0.00.

          Some public agency folk are under both PERS and SS (called a ‘coordinated system’).  Many are not.  One of the provisions enacted in the past, with an uncoordinated system, is that any SS benefit you are ‘entitled’ to is offset dollar for dollar by a ‘public pension’. [Thanks, Ronnie! (Reagan)]

          Public employees in Davis, who were hired before ~ 1986 did not pay into Medicare.  So, unless qualified due to a spouse, ineligible.  No post retirement medical from Medicare.  Except through the public entity.  As to Davis, it VARIES, but as to bottom line, once a City employee retires, and (if) becomes eligible for Medicare, the current contracts only provide for “supplement to medicare” being paid by the City … much lower than premiums for current employees.

          I qualify for MC only because of my spouse.

  11. Ron

    Matt:  “We have also been explicitly clear that the City owns those problems.  No one else owns them.”

    The city doesn’t own CALPERS, and is essentially at their mercy regarding the amount of contributions expected from Davis for its employees (as well as those who work for other cities and counties statewide), and the financial viability of the entire system.  No control whatsoever as a single, small entity within that system.

    Eventually, city and county employees/retirees (statewide) are probably going to have to share some of the risk regarding increases in cost, over time.  As federal employees already do, via a 3-part system (relatively small retirement pension, 401K with limited employer match, and social security). In addition, the federal government limits its contribution toward employee medical plans, with employees/retirees responsible for premiums above a certain amount. It’s generous enough, regardless.

    1. David Greenwald

      You’re only part right there Ron. The city doesn’t own CalPERS – BUT they made the decision to increase the formula back in 1999 without funding that increase. You see when they went to 3% at 50, it retroactively increased all pension rates in the past when they hadn’t been paying into the fund. Even worse is the massive pay increases during the 2000s decade – each time you increase someone’s pay you are creating you’re own unfunded liability because the way PERS formula works is that it’s based on the final pay of the individual, and so each time you raise their pay, you are creating a new base pay for the employee.

      The other point you miss (because you again fail to read any of the back links and probably the article I wrote) is that we knew this problem was coming – Sue Greenwald, Rich Rifkin, and myself among others were warning that the system was unsustainable back in 2007 and 2008.

      So when Matt says we own this problem – we made the decisions to increase pay and increase the pension formula. The fact that other cities made the same mistake as we did is immaterial.

      1. Matt Williams

        What Harvey doesn’t understand (or chooses to ignore because it doesn’t support his BANANA agenda) is the differential impact a CalPERS change in its official investment rate of return (they call it their “discount rate”) has on individual jurisdictions.  For example:

        Compare a jurisdiction that authorized its terms of qualification as 3% @ 50, as the City of Davis did for a substantial portion of its employees, with a jurisdiction that authorized its terms of qualification as 2% @ 50, as the City of Fresno did for a substantial portion of its employees.

        It is pretty easy to see that the funding requirement for Fresno is only 67% as large as the funding requirement for Davis for employees of equal pay and equal vesting years.

        That difference is compounded when you look at the Funded Status of the two jurisdictions.  According to publicly available reports (see http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article65349437.html) Fresno’s pension funds have a $289 million surplus (for the largest Central Valley city with estimated 2015 population 520,052), while Davis’s pension funds have a $70 million deficit (see the bottom of page 13 of http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/Finance/2016-2017-Budget/Proposed/03.-Budget-Summary-Proposed-16-17.pdf).

        The impact of that $70 million deficit can be seen in the graph below created by the City’s actuary John Bartel.  The normal cost (which Fresno has to pay only 67% of) for non-Safety employees is $1,633,000 per year, and the “catch up payment” (which Fresno doesn’t have to pay) needed to avoid having the $70 million deficit grow is $3,780,000 per year.

        So a CalPERS adjustment of the official rate of return impacts (on an identical employee basis) an annual payment of approximately $1.1 million in the first jurisdiction and $5.4 million in the second jurisdiction.

        Further, the first jurisdiction has the $289 million surplus that it can use to “soften the blow” while the second jurisdiction has no surplus … only pain.

        The bottom-line is that the exact same CalPERS change in policy has vastly different impacts on jurisdictions based on the respective jurisdictions’ historical decisions about its authorized its terms of qualification.  That is not CalPERS’ problem.  That is each jurisdiction’s problem.

        We have met the enemy, and they are us.

        http://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2016-CalPERS-Miscellaneous.png

         

  12. Ron

    David and Matt:

    Thank you for the explanation, regarding the “supplemental” payment.  Indeed, unwise decisions occurred.

    However:

    “The fact that other cities made the same mistake as we did is immaterial.”

    I doubt that’s true, in the long run.  We shall see.

      1. Ron

        David:

        I realize that you and some others disagree, but it still seems that the statewide scope of the problem is eventually going to force changes, regardless of what Davis does.  All it’s going to take is an overdue, sustained market downturn, followed by a CALPERS demand that cash-strapped cities and counties contribute even more (during a recession, no less).  However, CALPERS may be reluctant to take action, since it could essentially lead to revolt/bankruptcy by cities and counties.  Of course, the state itself is also facing challenges.

        Also – if cities and counties are eventually only able to make payments towards CALPERS (and essentially provide no other services), this could also lead to a revolt, statewide. (Certainly not a situation that would facilitate agreement regarding tax increases, to support it.)

         

        1. David Greenwald

          Here are the problems with that scenario:

          1. When is eventually? Not seeing it in the next few years, so is it five years? Ten years? Twenty years?
          2. What do we do in the interim?
          3. Should we do nothing and hope?
          4. What does a solution look like?
          5. Does it ask the employees to take a haircut?
          6. Does it ask the tax payers to take a hit?
          7. And how much will it effect the bottom line IF and WHEN it happens?

          Again my solution is to act as though it’s not going to happen and if it does happen, we can adjust accordingly.

        2. Don Shor

          Ron, please clarify. Are you advocating that Davis not take action on these fiscal issues, and instead wait for some state action? If so, what do you think the state is going to be able to do? If not, what actions by the city do you support to address the current fiscal issues?

          1. Don Shor

            LOL — or you can just answer David’s questions that he posted at the same time as mine.

          2. David Greenwald

            The other point is that we have to pay our bills regardless – when CalPERS lowers their ARR by a quarter point, that’s a million we have to pay, we can’t defer it until the state acts.

        3. Ron

          Wow, David and Don.  Based on your reaction, it seems like both of you are quite “invested” in a solution!  (Just a joke, nothing more than that intended.)

          I understand that the city is currently paying its bills.  In the long run, I suspect that any actions taken (individually, by cities and counties throughout the state) will not be sufficient. A system-wide solution will be needed.

          Yes – we have come “full circle”. 🙂

          1. Don Shor

            it seems like both of you are quite “invested” in a solution!

            Assuming you are a taxpayer, you are as well.

        4. Mark West

          “I understand that the city is currently paying its bills.”

          Which might explain your intransigence; your understanding is false. The City is not paying its bills and has not been doing so for greater than a decade.

        5. Ron

          Don:  Yes.  But, as I mentioned, I doubt that taxpayers will support substantial increases (e.g., statewide), to prop up the system.

          Feeding this beast may ultimately not be the best approach.

        6. David Greenwald

          Ron: I find it irritating that you refuse to engage and actually answer the posed questions which I think present a problem with your viewpoint that the state will eventually step in – because as my questions imply, it doesn’t matter if the state steps in – it matters when and how.

          Then you have the temerity to suggest I’m invested in my solution.  I don’t know what the “solution” is yet, but I do know that we can’t afford to simply wait for the state to develop one potentially years down the road.

    1. Howard P

      And it applied only to new Federal employees hired after 1986.  Existing employees were not required to change, nor were their promised benefits reduced retroactively.  As Paul Harvey might have said, that’s the rest of the story…

  13. Richard C

    …Past contracts can’t be voided. CalPERS probably won’t achieve the rosy investment goals they’ve cited for years. The state isn’t going to back-fill pension costs.

     

    So we know that the long term financial situation is a problem.  The problems are largely due to the generous salaries and benefits that have been promised to City employees.  I wonder if the employee unions might be open to modifications to the agreements or is selfishness more important than the long term viability of the city?

  14. John D

    What is clear is that public sector accounting policies and financial reporting standards, across the boards, are broken. Establishing GASB funding “guidelines”, for reporting of public agency unfunded liabilities is a good starting point, however, with no powers of enforcement – they are worth only as much as the fiduciary commitment of those overseeing the accounts.

    In the case of Davis, we are indeed fortunate to have a Mayor, City Council with a Finance & Budget Commission who are all dedicated to a common sense approach to finances with equal emphasis on transparency and accountability as the cornerstones  of their approach to sustainable community finances.

    For those who don’t quite understand what this conversation is all about, can anyone offer a reasonable explanation why public sector retirement funds should be allowed to present actuarial tables using standards that are roughly twice the standards expected for those who manage similar, private sector ERISA retirement funds?  Put in other words, why should we be expecting CalPERS to produce a long term rate of return on their investment decisions that is nearly twice what is assumed for money managers in the private sector?

    Why indeed?  And, the answer to that gets back to the mechanics of public sector budgeting and financial reporting.   By employing a higher expected rate of investment return, the agency is able to recognize a lower annual contribution (i.e. expense) for its retirement programs.  The net result, by reducing the budgeted amount necessary for retirement contribution, is to “free up” additional funds with which to fund other important programs and expenses.

    Thus, if no one is any the wiser, and the modified, catch-up accounting isn’t likely to occur for years or decades into the future – what’s the harm with “freeing up” some additional, much needed funding to support other important programs.

    The only ones left exposed with this approach are the employees and future taxpayers – which is exactly why ERISA uses a much lower, long term investment return as the basis for its calculations.  It is designed to protect the long-term integrity of the employee’s retirement nest egg and, in the case of the private sector, there is no taxpayer standing in line to back up any potential shortfalls in the retirement fund.

    If it is appropriate for private sector fund managers to report funding status using a 4% anticipated rate of return, why would these same standards not apply to funds being managed on behalf of our public sector employees?

    Truly, this is the question now confronting our public sector agencies at all levels of government.

    Somehow, the fact that the Federal Government holds the keys to the Treasury and is free to print more money, or increase the money supply, has been lost on those responsible for state and local finances.   In other words, the Federal Government does have a fall back position when it comes to underfunded programs of social insurance.

    The only fall back position of our state and local agencies is to cut expenses or raise taxes – neither of which is likely to prove politically popular – thus the dilemma currently facing our communities across the country.

    Hopefully, in this context, it might become somewhat more clear why all the fuss about Economic Development as a potential pathway to helping increase revenues to support municipal services.  It’s not a conversation about growth for growth’s sake, its a conversation about how our communities might rebuild their bank accounts and financial underpinnings without having to resort to major new taxes or further draconian cuts in services.  Anyone who doesn’t think that a new $2,000 per year parcel tax won’t be an imposition on our growing number of student residents and local retirees – might want to give that notion a second thought.

    1. Ron

      “realchangz”

      And I thought that my name was “anonymous”.

      Good post, right up until the end (when scare tactics are once again introduced, as an argument to support more development).  Yeap – that’s what always seems to be behind these “sky is falling” reports.  Yeah, I’m “sure” that taxpayers are ready to support a $2,000 increase in taxes, to support a broken (statewide) system.  What a crock.

      Never mind that MRIC, for example, had more than enough opportunity to pursue a commercial development (but couldn’t, or wouldn’t, proceed).  Never mind that these types of developments haven’t sprung up to meet “market demand”, in nearby communities, either.  (Even with housing included in the development.)

      I realize that others (with similar interests) are likely going to chime in, in support of your statement.  But, rather than arguing all day again (been there, done that), I think I’ll pursue other activities.  The time for fighting will come when proposed developments are actually put forth as a “solution”, again.

      1. John D

        Ron,

        Sorry to have disappointed you with the suggestion that more well-paying jobs in our community, more retail sales, more commercial property taxes – to help augment our current, rather anemic performance – might help provide the necessary funding to support our rather high level of expectations for community amenities.

        Of course we won’t agree on all the issues, but I must have missed your recommendations to address the very real fiscal challenges we face as a community.  Rather than seeing you pack up and go home on this conversation, it would be helpful if you could elaborate on your views as to how best to resolve the problems of our community.

        1. Ron

          “realchangz”:

          I thought you knew what I’m proposing.  I’m proposing a large-scale “mini-city” rising up outside of town, which will function so well that it will “bail out” the old, dysfunctional city.  Even though it would require the same city services (whose cost is still not under control) as the existing city.

          You know – something that will allow developers to pursue housing (since that’s where the real money is, in Davis at least), with a commercial “afterthought” (with no demonstrated viability on its own merits), in order to sell the city and its residents on the idea.

        2. Mark West

          ” you could elaborate on your views as to how best to resolve the problems of our community.”

          As all can see, Ron doesn’t have any solutions, just more inane repartee. Solutions require rational thought and discussion, not the regurgitation of your own narrow propaganda.  You cannot undertand that, however, if the only voices you hear are the ones that reinforce your own worldview.

          Thank you, ‘John D.’ You made some very cogent comments that would carry much more weight if you signed your name to them, rather than copying the actions of imaginary people like ‘Ron.’

    2. Howard P

      You actually point out the main problem with the City’s OPEB situation… they had been doing it on a pay-as-you go basis, without tracking future obligations for many years… when GASB started to kick in, the City was already in a significant hole. So they needed to ‘budget’/account for those benefits in real time (moving forward), AND find the wherewithal to fill the hole that had been forming for many years.  Hence, the very scary numbers… a lion’s share of it is to fill the hole.

      Had they been doing in the 70’s-80’s- 90’s, etc., what they do now, keeping track of, and funding, retiree medical on an accrual basis, the hole may well look like a local pothole than a Florida sinkhole.

      But the fact is we are where we are.

       

  15. Ron

    Mark:  “As all can see, Ron doesn’t have any solutions . . .”

    The “suggestions” that Mark and some others are proposing do not meet the definition of a “solution”.

    1. Don Shor

      Restoring fiscal balance to Davis will require a combination of tax increases, reduced expenses, and economic development. The three peripheral business parks (innovation parks) were part of the economic development prong of that strategy. They arose from a process that began in about 2010 with DSIDE and a peripheral park task force. That task force held many public meetings and produced a dispersed economic development strategy, identifying the likeliest locations for economic development. The four sites identified were MRIC, the site near the hospital, Nishi, and possible long-term redevelopment of 5th Street. That whole process unfolded in public, with numerous articles and discussions including copious articles on the Vanguard.

      People have been discussing this balanced solution on the Vanguard for years.

      What’s your solution?

  16. Ron

    Don:

    As I’ve said repeatedly, I would probably not oppose a commercial-only proposal (e.g., as originally planned for the MRIC site), if that’s what you’re getting at.  I understand that some “slow-growth” residents were involved in that goal/process.

    However, I still suspect that a system-wide solution (e.g., throughout the state) will be needed at some point.  Seems like some don’t want to hear that, and would like to pretend that Davis is an island, and has the wherewithal to address these challenges on its own.

    1. Howard P

      Think globally, act locally seems to apply… or a single candle can help dispel the darkness… or a journey of 100 miles begins with single step… pick you simile/metaphor/etc…. inaction and praying for rain doesn’t help you deal with a drought.

    2. Don Shor

      I still suspect that a system-wide solution (e.g., throughout the state) will be needed at some point.

      And what do you think the state could, would, or should do?

        1. Ron

          Howard:

          It’s not a “suggestion”, but it might be a reality.  And, the “help” might not arrive in the form that is implied by that word (regardless of the choices that Davis makes).

        2. Ron

          Howard:

          Man, two new words in one day?  (I was somewhat familiar with the word that David used, but not “dissemble”.)

          Not sure that I’m the one “dissembling”.  Although you’d never know it on the Vanguard, the systemic challenges facing CALPERS are not difficult to uncover.  For example, the article below, immediately popped up via an Internet search.  There’s lots of articles/information out there, some of which I posted previously.

          http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pension-controversy-20150317-story.html

        3. Howard P

          Two new words?  “Temerity” and “dissembling”? Learned those in HS.

          As to your cite, pretty much have known the essence for 15 years… but thank you for the cite… might help those truly clueless.

          Yet you have still not addressed responding to valid, fair questions… playing word games, instead.  Whatever floats your boat.

      1. Matt Williams

        Good choice of words.

        dissemble

        verb (used with object), dissembled, dissembling.

        1.  to give a false or misleading appearance to; conceal the truth or real nature of:

        to dissemble one’s incompetence in business.

        1. Howard P

          Also, generally can be used to mean to ‘ignore, and /or give oblique answers to questions’ (common usage, not necessarily in Funk and Wagnell’s)… see also, “changing the subject”.

          Perhaps somebody should subscribe to Readers’ Digest… assume they still have the section, “it pays to increase your word power”…

          On topic, “dissembling” is precisely what happened years ago, when discussing “balanced” budgets, and saying ‘unfunded liabilities’ quickly, and with nearly a stage whisper…

          But that’s in the past… all we can do now is figure out how we move forward, understanding the past and present.

    3. Howard P

      Trust me on this (even tho’ not using full name)… the State might, partially act regarding the State’s PERS account.  To think that the State will act beyond what it has (closing the doors to any new folk getting 3% @ 50 (PS), or 2.5% @ 55 (misc)) is I strongly believe, is ahead of the recreational use of marijuana curve.

      Each agency in PERS has their own ‘account’… if the City ‘fixed’ its underfunding tomorrow, and went back to more of a normal rate, it would not help or hurt Woodland, Yolo County, etc. one scintilla.  It would fix “the Davis problem”.

      One possible way to fix the hole is to make sure we don’t make the hole deeper moving forward, and possibly try a GO Bond to fill the hole now, spreading out the payments over 20-25-30 years… bond rates are quite low now.

      It would require a 2/3 vote, as a “special” tax, but if the voters were convinced the City was acting in a “never again” way, it just might pass.  It would smooth the obligations out, rather than “shock and awe”.  I suspect the assessment would be significantly lower than any limited-time parcel tax.  But right now, without cost-containment, economic development (within or outside current City boundaries), it would be a crap-shoot.  The stool needs 3 legs to be stable.  The third leg (parcel tax/bond, ‘donations’) is the main one in question.

      There are many other possibilities to resolve the financial issues, but the State should not be counted on, except, perhaps, to protect their own employees.

      1. John D

        Howard P,

        Sorry, but I must cry foul on the GO Bond suggestion.

        What we have today is already the equivalent, utilizing 25-40 years to “amortize” the current Unfunded and Underfunded Balances – only without the assured interest payments and the bond creation and placement costs.

        On top of that would be the “trust” factor required to assure “voters and future taxpayers”  that the offending public agencies would “never again” repeat this fiasco.  Good luck with that.

         

        1. Howard P

          No foul, but perhaps not the right approach… it does give certainty… unlike PERS ‘smoothing’ rates to get the same effect… I fully agree about the ‘trust factor’, and if I didn’t use that term, I certainly alluded to the fact it would be critical.

          “What we have today”, as you say, is not without its own “opportunity costs”, related to where the money would otherwise be spent… roads/parks/other infrastructure maintenance and/or repair.  Could conceivably be penny wise, pound foolish.

          Am not wedded to a GO bond… am wedded to doing something constructive… not seeing much discussion on that, except in vague, ‘easy off the tongue’ concepts.

          You reject a concrete option I floated… care to give us some concrete suggestions?

          Ex: 20% salary cut for those making over 100k in total comp; 10% salary cut for those with less than 100k. Offering no retirement except SS for any new hires. Complete abolition of retire medical…

          Not suggesting any of those, but have seen no CONCRETE proposal/suggestion from you or anyone else for real change (or changz).

  17. John D

    Howard P,

    As David and other have previously observed, our community is substantially underperforming on both per-capita retail sales , and per-capita retail sales tax revenue..  Further, I would posit we are equally under-performing on per-capita commercial property tax receipts.

    Legitimate conversations which would explore the dynamics underlying these metrics would be a welcome start.

    What are our legitimate areas for economic development that could realistically leaded to meaningful growth in these two categories of revenue.

    Is it possible, just maybe, that the finding from this effort could uncover previously ignored areas of opportunity for career development, enhancement of our educational internship opportunities, availability of local, education-relevant employment opportunities not requiring a commute to the Bay Area or Sacramento.

    So, yes, economic development would seem a very appropriate area for further exploration and discussion.   On the other hand, for those interested in discussions of significant  increases in property tax – please step forward and put your case to the community.

    As you so accurately observe, however, neither of these conversations is being pursued in earnest.

    Discussion of a specific Innovation Center project cannot be conflated with a discussion as to Why an Innovation Center might prove to be both a boon to the local economy, nor why it might be in the best interests of the university, or the Davis School District, or to the future career prospects of our many aspiring young graduates.  Today, it seems we cannot even seem to acknowledge that we “might” be under-performing on any number of key economic metrics.  In other words, if we aren’t able to understand that we might have some organic, economic challenges built into the structure of our local employment demographics – how can we expect to  have a meaningful conversation.

    1. Howard P

      No disagreement in principle, here…  and as to economic development, only the developers and business owners, on properties within the City or on the periphery, can actually be “concrete” and bring a football to move forward, so fair reply.  Thank you.

    2. Ron

      Oooh.  Tell us more, my silver-tongued anonymous friend.  Boon to the economy, best interests of the university, school district, high-paying careers, etc.  And, no tax increases, to boot!  Perhaps even saving the statewide retirement system (of which Davis is a small part of, and which is the cause of much of our woes).

      We’d have to be an outright fool, to question such a wonderful thing.  Where can I sign up, for this promised land?

      Make Davis great again! (Might it include free red hats, for everyone)?

      1. Howard P

        I line up with many here, who believe there needs to be the three-legged stool… cost containment (we may differ on how draconian that might need to be), interim taxes, and economic development within our borders, be they existing or proposed.

        A two-legged stool is likely to be exceedingly unstable, yet you seem to be advocating that, Ron, and you are, frankly (although I’m not), getting sillier and sillier in your refutations (third word for today?) and random sarcasm.

        Which is your God-given (and constitutional) right… but not very effective, in my view.   If I were a physician (which I also am not) might prescribe a ‘chill pill’… you have yet to give one concrete (realistic) proposal as to solve the problems.

        But rest assured, no one will listen to what I just wrote, as I’m semi-anonymous, and obviously a total troll.

        1. Ron

          Howard:

          I have no objections to your post.  However, I’d suggest that it’s our “other” anonymous poster who’s making some silly statements.  (Couldn’t think of a more “obscure” word to use, in response.)

          We’ve had “actual” commercial/innovation center proposals that have gone through a substantial process, but have been withdrawn (or, in the case of Nishi, failed at the ballot).  Nearby communities (which are much more welcoming of growth and development) have not been inundated with similar developments. (Might that provide a “clue”, regarding the actual level of market demand for these types of developments?)

          Of course, developers are always eager to build more housing in Davis (which tends to make long-term finances for the city even worse).  However, it doesn’t appear that they’re willing to build a commercial project, unless it includes housing (thereby defeating the original purpose).

          In the meantime, Davis (and communities across the state) are still not in control of retirement benefits.  And, they never will be (unless the state gets more involved).  Asking me (or anyone) for a “solution” to that problem is like pissing into the wind, at this point.  It’s not a reasonable question (but it does seem to be focused upon, by those inexplicably pushing for more development).  I suspect that some realize this, but simply refuse to accept it.

          I’m sure this type of conversation will get replayed, over-and-over again, into the future.  (Perhaps not always with me.)

        2. Howard P

          Ron… much more measured, and think folk appreciate that… Nishi, in my opinion, did not fail on the concept… truly the devil was in the details: access, which I assert was a very significant problem, and the only reason I voted no; the air quality spaghetti that apparently stuck for some; lack of affordable housing component, etc.

          At the end of the day, the complications, rhetoric, etc. (in my experience and personal opinion), led a significant number of people to vote “no”, not due to specific problems, but because they were unsure/confused enough not to vote “yes” (so, voted “no”)… my guess, and that is all it is, the latter group comprised about 10-25 % of the voters, but admit I can’t prove that.

          People (voters) are not as ‘engaged’ as one might hope, particularly not on a complex issue, and Nishi was certainly that.

    3. Mark West

      “As you so accurately observe, however, neither of these conversations is being pursued in earnest.”

      As Don pointed out above, the conversation about the need for economic development has been ongoing for years, with a well-vetted plan as a result. We have not failed to have the conversation, we have failed to implementation the solution, due in large part to those, like ‘Ron,’ who continue to live in denial of the obvious need.

      1. Matt Williams

        Mark West said . . . “We have not failed to have the conversation, we have failed to implementation the solution,”

        Mark, the point you have has some resonance, but doesn’t adequately explain the full picture.  There definitely has been a conversation, but as has been pointed out many times in the past here on the Vanguard the conversation has not included a broad enough audience.  In my opinion, too many Davis voters did not join that conversation (either pro or con) prior to being asked to vote on Measure A. The result of that failure to include enough of “the middle” in the conversation meant their votes were up for grabs in the weeks and days leading up to the June election day.

        Ron and his allies, especially Colin Walsh connecting with the UCD student voters on Facebook and Twitter, carried a message that “connected” with that uninformed/underinformed middle of the voting populace.  The Yes on Measure A team talked a good game with respect to the student voters, but didn’t walk their talk.  Colin simply worked harder and worked smarter than they did.

        Elaine Roberts Musser argued long and hard that the tactics of the No side were less than honorable, but those complaints were not a “playing to win” approach.  They were a “playing not to lose” approach.  When all the dust settled uninformed/underinformed middle of the voting populace connected more with the No side than the Yes side.

        The lesson to be learned is that the conversation has to be both broader and deeper prior to committing to getting into the ring for a go/no go battle with no gloves on.

        1. Ron

          Matt:  The lesson to be learned is that the conversation has to be both broader and deeper prior to committing to getting into the ring for a go/no go battle with no gloves on.”

          Holy cow.  Please read Matt’s entire statement, more than once.

          For the record, my involvement with campaigns is extremely limited (despite what Matt states).

          Matt seems to think that the “problem” is that developers are “not getting their message out” (despite their well-financed campaigns, recruitment of some students, etc.).  Matt (and some others) are refusing to accept the message provided by a majority of voters, and believe that it’s a matter of “tactics”, rather than the actual proposal.  He now appears to be providing “coaching lessons”, regarding how to “win”, next time.  He states that it’s simply a matter of “informing the uniformed”, who were unmercifully “taken advantage of” by those opposed to the development.  And then, he repeats someone else’s statement regarding the “less than honorable” tactics used by those opposed to the development.

          Wow.

          Matt’s statement above seems to confirm my suspicions regarding his involvement with “Project Toto”, as well as his constant one-sided presence on the Vanguard.  He seems to be somewhat of an advocate for development at this point, rather than an impartial analyst.  I am truly sorry that he’s chosen that path.  (Remember, he’s on the city’s Finance and Budget Committee, which is supposed to be an impartial body.)

        2. Mark West

          “The lesson to be learned is that the conversation has to be both broader and deeper prior to committing to getting into the ring for a go/no go battle with no gloves on.”

          I disagree. The solution is to stop trying to appease the obstructionists like Ron and Colin, and instead be more aggressive in getting the story out, knowing that the opposition is going into the ring without any gloves. In my view, the ‘Yes on A’ team got complacent and was not ready for a bare-knuckle fight with an opponent willing to do and say anything to win. We don’t need to ‘expand the conversation,’ we need to be open and honest about the needs and the project and be willing to fight all the way to the end, especially since we know we are dealing with a dishonest opponent.

          The urgent need to expand economic development in Davis was recognized in the mid-1990’s as you will see if you read the General Plan. Instead of talking about the problem for another twenty years it is time we start acting on the solutions.

        3. Don Shor

          Since apparently you cannot see Ron’s comments, here is his reply to you:

          Matt: The lesson to be learned is that the conversation has to be both broader and deeper prior to committing to getting into the ring for a go/no go battle with no gloves on.”

          Holy cow. Please read Matt’s entire statement, more than once.

          For the record, my involvement with campaigns is extremely limited (despite what Matt states).

          Matt seems to think that the “problem” is that developers are “not getting their message out” (despite their well-financed campaigns, recruitment of some students, etc.). Matt (and some others) are refusing to accept the message provided by a majority of voters, and believe that it’s a matter of “tactics”, rather than the actual proposal. He now appears to be providing “coaching lessons”, regarding how to “win”, next time. He states that it’s simply a matter of “informing the uniformed”, who were unmercifully “taken advantage of” by those opposed to the development. And then, he repeats someone else’s statement regarding the “less than honorable” tactics used by those opposed to the development.

          Wow.

          Matt’s statement above seems to confirm my suspicions regarding his involvement with “Project Toto”, as well as his constant one-sided presence on the Vanguard. He seems to be somewhat of an advocate for development at this point, rather than an impartial analyst. I am truly sorry that he’s chosen that path. (Remember, he’s on the city’s Finance and Budget Committee, which is supposed to be an impartial body.)

        4. Ron

          Don:

          Thanks for posting this, for Matt to see.  As I stated to you when I “reported” both of our comments, it’s not fair to Matt, that he couldn’t see my response.

          Deleting the entire communication is another option, as far as I’m concerned.

          [moderator] I am hopeful that this can be discussed civilly. Not sure how Matt will do that if he can’t see your replies, but we’ll see how it goes.

        5. David Greenwald

          In fact here is function of the Finance and Budget Commission:

          Providing transparency of City Finances to the citizens of Davis.
          Reviewing the spending outlined in the city budget in order to advise the Public that City Council/City Management is accountable for spending taxpayer dollars effectively and in keeping with important city priorities.
          Searching for and advising actions that could maximize city revenues and reduce governmental costs and help ensure municipal fiscal stability.
          Providing recommendations/special studies on financial and economic issues to the City Council.

          No where does it say “impartial” in fact just the opposite, it says “actions that could maximize city revenues.”
          So I would argue that your comment carries with a baseless accusation and could represent a personal attack from your position of anonymity.

        6. Ron

          David:

          Perhaps I misunderstood the purpose of that committee.

          What do you think, regarding someone on that city-sanctioned committee (and on Project Toto) making the following statement (as well as the other statements made):

          Matt:  “The lesson to be learned is that the conversation has to be both broader and deeper prior to committing to getting into the ring for a go/no go battle with no gloves on.”

          1. Don Shor

            There is no presumption of “impartiality” on any of the city commissions.
            Matt’s presence on that commission is of no relevance to his comments here.

        7. Mark West

          DG: “So I would argue that your comment carries with a baseless accusation and could represent a personal attack from your position of anonymity.”

          I am going to delete my intended response to this quote, but leave the quote intact.

        8. Ron

          Don:  “Matt’s presence on those commissions is of no relevance here.”

          A city-sanctioned committee member, and lead member of Project Toto is advising strategy on how to “win” against residents who might make decisions that don’t coincide with the (goals?) of that committee and project.  And, is suggesting that those who support a future development enter into battle “with no gloves on”.

          And, you don’t see the problem with that.

          On a related note, can someone describe the city’s involvement with Project Toto?

          1. Don Shor

            Matt’s position on the commission is of no relevance to his comments on the Vanguard. Whether I agree with his analysis of the election, or his metaphor of a bare-knuckles fight, or any of that is not really the point here. Your use of the term “city-sanctioned” is odd and only seems to be in furtherance of your mock indignation and continued attempt at an oblique personal attack.

        9. Ron

          Message for both David and Don:

          If you’re more concerned about my “personal attacks” from a position of anonymity (as repeated by Mark above), rather than the substance of my statements, I would like to encourage you to permanently block me from logging on to the Vanguard.

          Please let me know if you’d prefer this, so that I’m not surprised when trying to log in, again.

          I wouldn’t mind just watching you guys agreeing with each other, from a distance.

          [moderator] For the record, blocking people is not part of my job description as moderator. But whenever someone suggests this, I am reminded of William F. Buckley’s famous rejoinder to a writer who demanded that he cancel his subscription: “Cancel your own goddam subscription.” You are perfectly capable of not logging in and not commenting. We aren’t responsible for your actions, and asking us to take responsibility for your continued participation on the Vanguard is peculiar.

        10. Howard P

          Ron, your 8:52 post…

          What is “impartial”?  In your view…

          As I view ‘impartiality’, that is the responsibility of professional staff, CM on down… lay out the facts, lay out options (and they get ‘clues’ on the latter from CC & commissions).  The commissions, and CC who appoints them, have become inherently “political”, not impartial… yet, in living memory it was not that way… commissioners and CC members listened, then used their judgement (not “agenda”), instead of being selected for their “agendas” by wetting their finger to see which way the loud wind blew, and going with that.

          I fear that ship has sailed… more the pity… now some CC members are more focused on getting political traction to run for higher office… look at how many members of the CC have run for supervisor, Assembly member etc., in the last 15-20 years.

          Look at how many did in the previous 20-30 years before that.  BIG DIFF!

          Think the Greeks had the right idea many, many years ago… those who seek office/power are unsuitable.

        11. Mark West

          Ron”  “I would like to encourage you to permanently block me from logging on to the Vanguard.”

          You should not be blocked, you should be outed.

        12. Ron

          Don:  “Your use of the term “city-sanctioned” is odd and only seems to be in furtherance of your mock indignation and continued attempt at an oblique personal attack.”

          There is no mock indignation on my part.  Someone who the city entrusts with complicated, fact-based financial analyses and advice has (apparently) also become an advocate for development, and is advising how to “win” against opponents.

          You (once again) fail to see the difference between a concern (based on actual quotes and facts – freely shared on the Vanguard), vs. a personal attack.  It’s not the first time that you’ve failed to see this.  Therefore, I don’t expect that you’d see it this time, either.

          Well, maybe Matt won’t respond tonight. But, that’s o.k. – since some associated with the Vanguard are fighting for him.

          1. Don Shor

            You (once again) fail to see the difference between a concern (based on actual quotes and facts – freely shared on the Vanguard), vs. a personal attack. It’s not the first time that you’ve failed to see this. Therefore, I don’t expect that you’d see it this time, either.

            You once again are making a tendentious linkage and turning it into a personal attack in comment after comment.
            I urge you to stop digging this hole.

        13. Matt Williams

          Don said . . . “Since apparently you cannot see Ron’s comments, here is his reply to you:”

          Matt: The lesson to be learned is that the conversation has to be both broader and deeper prior to committing to getting into the ring for a go/no go battle with no gloves on.”

          Holy cow. Please read Matt’s entire statement, more than once.

          For the record, my involvement with campaigns is extremely limited (despite what Matt states).

          Matt seems to think that the “problem” is that developers are “not getting their message out” (despite their well-financed campaigns, recruitment of some students, etc.). Matt (and some others) are refusing to accept the message provided by a majority of voters, and believe that it’s a matter of “tactics”, rather than the actual proposal. He now appears to be providing “coaching lessons”, regarding how to “win”, next time. He states that it’s simply a matter of “informing the uniformed”, who were unmercifully “taken advantage of” by those opposed to the development. And then, he repeats someone else’s statement regarding the “less than honorable” tactics used by those opposed to the development.

          Wow.

          Matt’s statement above seems to confirm my suspicions regarding his involvement with “Project Toto”, as well as his constant one-sided presence on the Vanguard. He seems to be somewhat of an advocate for development at this point, rather than an impartial analyst. I am truly sorry that he’s chosen that path. (Remember, he’s on the city’s Finance and Budget Committee, which is supposed to be an impartial body.)

          Thank you for sharing that Don.  It is clear by his comments that Ron doesn’t know how to read the English language, so I will parse it out for him v-e-r-r-r-r-r-r-y slowly.

          “Matt seems to think that the “problem” is that developers are “not getting their message out” (despite their well-financed campaigns, recruitment of some students, etc.).”

          No Ron, your imagination is running away with you once again.  Nowhere in my comment does the word “problem” occur.  Nowhere in my comment is there any combination of words that means “problem.”  I shared my personal opinion with Mark about why I believe the No on Measure A campaign came out on top of the vote count.  I have said exactly the same thing to Colin face-to-face (numerous times), as well as to numerous other members of the No on Measure A team.  Colin and Alan Pryor and Bob Milbrodt and Nancy Price and Don Price and numerous others can confirm that.

          “Matt (and some others) are refusing to accept the message provided by a majority of voters, and believe that it’s a matter of “tactics”, rather than the actual proposal.”

          Again your imagination is running away with itself.  Where have I said, or implied, overtly or covertly, that I question the validity of the Measure A vote.  In fact, if you go back and read my comment again, you will see that I very clearly state that the No on Measure A team soundly defeated the Yes on Measure A team.  No on Measure A scored more touchdowns, intercepted more passes, defended the line of scrimmage more effectively, took advantage of the weaknesses in the opposition’s game plan (proposal).  They won the game.  That is a matter of public record.  It is part of the historical record.

          “He now appears to be providing “coaching lessons”, regarding how to “win”, next time.”

          Providing coaching lessons?  To whom?  Nobody from the Measure A team is listening to me.  Furthermore, I wasn’t talking to them.  I was talking to Mark West, explaining to him why I thought his statement was wrong.  Nothing more, nothing less.

          “He states that it’s simply a matter of “informing the uniformed”, who were unmercifully “taken advantage of” by those opposed to the development”

          In the immortal words of Ronald Reagan, “There you go again.” Your imagination, and your imagination alone, has inserted “unmercifully taken advantage of”  If you go back and reread what I said, you will see that I complemented the No on Measure A team for conducting an effective education campaign that “connected” with the voters whose daily lives leave them with little or no time to devote the time to being informed about issues that only tangentially touch their day-in, day-out activities.

          Matt’s statement above seems to confirm my suspicions regarding his involvement with “Project Toto”,

          Well Ron, what are those suspicions?  You are truly superb in the use of unsubstantiated innuendo in your rhetoric.  You frequently use the expression “I understand” but never, ever provide substantiation of what your source is for that “understanding.”  You stated explicitly that there are non-legal standards in your alleged profession, auditing, regarding conflict of interest, but you have not provided a single source or link to support those beliefs of yours.  You have someone call me to explicitly state you are not one of Eileen Samitz’s “minions” but rather one of the caller’s “minions.”  You imagination takes wing once again with flights of fantasy when I reply to an erroneous Don Shor accusation against you, with the words “No Don, Ron is a real person, not an anonymous person” which is a 100% correct statement on my part, and discloses exactly 0% about you or your identity that wasn’t already patently obvious.

          In closing, let me say that I am fully aware of how hard you are trying to use me as a scapegoat and/or a receptacle for all the ill will that you carry around with you, and I want you to know that I have no problem at all if you want to use me in that way.  You have my permission to do so.

        14. Matt Williams

          David Greenwald said . . . “So I would argue that your comment carries with a baseless accusation and could represent a personal attack from your position of anonymity.”

          David, please follow the example Don has set and quote what you believe is a personal attack.  I will be happy to engage Ron’s concerns.

          1. Don Shor

            He said, and David replied to:

            “he’s on the city’s Finance and Budget Committee, which is supposed to be an impartial body.)”

            Hence what you’ll see in my replies about impartiality, the commission, etc.

        15. Matt Williams

          Thanks Don.  I’m not sure how a factual statement about my being on the Finance and Budget Commission could be considered to be a baseless accusation.  Am I missing something?

          NOTE: If there is anything that Ron says that anyone believes I should respond to, or be aware of, simply quote him in a comment. To the best of my knowledge he is the only Vanguard poster I can’t “see.”

        16. Matt Williams

          Now that I can see and respond to Ron’s comments, I’ll play some catch-up.

          Ron said . . . “What do you think, regarding someone on that city-sanctioned committee (and on Project Toto) making the following statement (as well as the other statements made)”

          As Tia has pointed out in another thread, there is

          an important difference between posting to change someone’s mind ( probably not going to happen often) vs to present a point of view that may not have been considered previously

          Ron has read my comments/statements as if they are trying to change someone’s mind.  I made the comment from the perspective of presenting a point of view that I believed (and still believe) Mark West had clearly not considered in his previous comment.

          I personally do not come on the Vanguard, or join a dialogue in the community, in order to change anyone’s mind.  I prefer a dialogue to a debate.  As I stated earlier, the Measure A vote was (in my opinion) a community dialogue, not a community debate.  It was a snippet in a long community conversation, preceded by prior snippets and followed by snippets to come.

          Ron’s interpretation of my comments is through the colored lenses of someone who is almost always trying to change someone’s mind.

          My exhortation that “the conversation has to be both broader and deeper” was/is all about expanding the dialogue to include both points of view and individual citizens that may not have been included previously.  The roots of democracy from 5th Century Greece to the present day are all about maximizing the amount and quality of citizen participation.

  18. Ron

    FYI:  I have “reported” a comment made by Matt to the Vanguard, as well as my own response.  It is not fair (to Matt), that he apparently cannot see or refute my response, if needed.

    Thank you.

  19. Ron

    Don:  “I urge you to stop digging this hole.”

    Please tell me why you feel that stating concerns regarding actual quotes and facts (freely shared on the Vanguard) comprises a “personal attack”.  (Not just this example, but in general.)

    And, please tell me why you disregard many other “insults” that actually ARE personal attacks.

    I’m signing off soon, regardless.

    Seems like I fell into a hole again today, attempting to point out things to those who aren’t interested in honest debate (e.g., the conversation regarding the state-wide challenges related to retirement benefits). Just simply refuse to acknowledge anything, I guess.

    1. John D

      Ron,

      Maybe another way of looking at the situation would be to ask the question from the viewpoint of a hypothetical City Manager.

      How to you respond to the following question:

      How do you expect me to run this operation with half the per-capita sales tax revenue and half the per-capita commercial property tax revenue of most of our peer communities?   You tell me, where  do you want to see the cuts in services.

      1. Ron

        realchangz:

        Some of my responses have been “disappearing”, so I guess we’ll see if this one sticks.

        The city has been functioning.  Recently, we’ve had a mayor who confirmed this.  The new mayor has a different point of view, but the circumstances haven’t changed. Sales taxes are not the only source of revenue for cities.

        How would you respond to the following:

        How do you propose “fixing” the still-rising pension costs, when individual cities cannot control costs for a statewide system (of which it is a very small part of)?

        How do you account for the fact that MRIC developers withdrew their original commercial-only proposal, after years of processes involving citizens, the city, and the developer?  What does that state, regarding the level of market demand for a commercial project?

        If there is sufficient demand for an “innovation center”, why haven’t other nearby “developer-friendly” communities (such as Woodland) stepped up years ago, to fill market demand?   What does that state about market demand?

         

        1. Howard P

          Some of my responses have been “disappearing”, so I guess we’ll see if this one sticks.

          If you mean, you write something, hit “post comment”, and then it goes off to “the bit bucket”, has happened to me, once already today… in my case, when I thought I had posted, got an error message saying something like “the site took too long to respond”… it never got posted…

          When all or a part of my post does show up and is subsequently ‘removed’ there is evidence… either that mine got removed, with a brief reason, or because mine was a reply to someone’s post which was removed, again with a brief reason.

          I don’t consider those “disappeared”…

      2. John D

        Ron,

        So, I guess I’m to surmise that you son’t have any services you could easily do without.

        Secondly, no there is virtually nothing we can do to halt the inevitable movement to lower actuarial returns on public sector pension and retirement benefits – meaning those budgetary pressures will not cease anytime soon.

        Like most cities and agencies, we could revert to only making PAYGO-level contributions to the OPEB fund.  Perhaps that is a strategy you might favor.  It could probably “save” several million dollars a year in outgoing budgeted expenditures.    In other words, follow the lead of Yolo County and the State.

        As to you other point about developer pullback, I don’t have have any insights other than to suggest it is a heavy lift to invest that kind of money when there is so little visible, community support for such an effort.   There are other drivers, however, such as general community attitude about whether major new, well financed private sector employers from areas like AgTech adn Biosciences would be a welcome addition – something about 500-700 person employers really wouldn’t be an “appropriate” or “suitable” for Davis – a viewpoint that I truly don’t understand.

        So, no crystal ball here, but perhaps some issues worth exploring if we are the least interested in change.

  20. Ron

    Matt:  “The lesson to be learned is that the conversation has to be both broader and deeper prior to committing to getting into the ring for a go/no go battle with no gloves on.”

    Nice.  And, encourages a civil, responsible “dialogue”.

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron, what is your definition of civil, responsible “dialogue”?

      As I said earlier, my exhortation that “the conversation has to be both broader and deeper” was/is all about expanding the dialogue to include both points of view and individual citizens that may not have been included previously. The roots of democracy from 5th Century Greece to the present day are all about maximizing the amount and quality of citizen participation.

    2. Ron

      My definition of a “civil, responsible dialogue”?

      Easy – I would encourage development-minded individuals to get “into the ring for a go/no go battle with no gloves on” next time, as per your message to Mark.

      1. Matt Williams

        Ron, your response to my question is a prototypical “posting to change someone’s mind” comment.  Your response also neither provides a definition, nor answers the question posed to you.

        With that said, any decision decided by a ballot is, by definition, a go/no go battle with no gloves on.  If you do not understand that, then you do not understand our electoral process.

         

        1. Ron

          Matt:

          I had essentially posed the question to you (in regard to your statement to Mark). I made no such statement.

          Again, I’m failing to see how your statement that those supporting development need to “get into the ring for a go/no go battle with no gloves on” facilitates a civil, responsible dialogue.

        2. Matt Williams

          Ron, that is easy, the vast, vast, vast majority of the dialogue (robust and inclusive) happens before a decision is made to put the question to the (now well informed) voters in the form of a ballot question in an election.  You are conflating two separate community processes that are separate and distinct.

          Further, the community dialogue can (and often does) take place without any question ever making it to a ballot.  A perfect example of that reality is the late-2015 community dialogue about a possible Utility Users Tax.  Lots of formal and informal community dialogue, some of which took place here on the Vanguard, the result of which was that no Utility Users Tax vote was ever put on the 2016 ballot.

          Your posting history over this week indicates that you either don’t understand how to dialogue, or don’t want to dialogue.  The evidence of that is the long list of questions posed to you that you have not answered.  Some (but not all) of those unanswered questions are:

          When is eventually? Not seeing it in the next few years, so is it five years? Ten years? Twenty years?
          What do we do in the interim?

          Should we do nothing and hope?

          What does a solution look like?

          Does it ask the employees to take a haircut?

          Does it ask the tax payers to take a hit?

          And how much will it effect the bottom line IF and WHEN it happens?

          Ron, please clarify. Are you advocating that Davis not take action on these fiscal issues, and instead wait for some state action?

          What actions by the city do you support to address the current fiscal issues?

          What do you think the state could, would, or should do?

          Ron, your 8:52 post…What is “impartial”?  In your view…

          Providing coaching lessons?  To whom?

          Well Ron, what are those suspicions?  You are truly superb in the use of unsubstantiated innuendo in your rhetoric.

          Ron, Maybe another way of looking at the situation would be to ask the question from the viewpoint of a hypothetical City Manager. How to you respond to the following question: How do you expect me to run this operation with half the per-capita sales tax revenue and half the per-capita commercial property tax revenue of most of our peer communities?   You tell me, where  do you want to see the cuts in services.

           

        3. Ron

          Matt:

          If there’s ever an award for the most evasive, wordy response (which deflects a simple question), yours would certainly be in a position to win.

  21. Ron

    John D.  “As to you other point about developer pullback, I don’t have have any insights other than to suggest it is a heavy lift to invest that kind of money when there is so little visible, community support for such an effort.   There are other drivers, however, such as general community attitude about whether major new, well financed private sector employers from areas like AgTech adn Biosciences would be a welcome addition – something about 500-700 person employers really wouldn’t be an “appropriate” or “suitable” for Davis – a viewpoint that I truly don’t understand.

    Thanks, but my question back to you would be, why hasn’t one (or more) of these types of facilities already been built in “Welcoming Woodland” (e.g., about 5 miles up Highway 113 from the border of Davis), or some other nearby “development-friendly” community?

    Assuming that your statement regarding 500-700 new employees is accurate, I would wonder about the types of jobs that you’re referring to.  Also, if housing is included (and intended for those new employees), I’m not seeing the “net gain” in employment opportunities for existing residents, if that’s what you’re suggesting.

    But perhaps most importantly, some have noted that adding this type of facility will increase pressure on the housing market (and encourage sprawl and overly-dense infill), regardless.

    1. David Greenwald

      “Assuming that your statement regarding 500-700 new employees is accurate”

      Reading his post, I’m not sure what you mean by his statement regarding 500-700 new employees.  What he’s saying is that there seems to be a community opposition to larger companies moving in here.

        1. David Greenwald

          I’m not sure how either, but I explained what he was trying to say which did not align with your comment.  This is not even a debate, I’m simply clarifying his comment that you clearly got wrong.  Why are you fighting me on this?

        2. Ron

          David: “I’m not sure how either . . .”

          You’re the one who brought this up, and I’m still not sure what you’re objecting to, or stating that I got “wrong”. (And, your latest comments seem to acknowledge that you’re not sure “how”, either.)

          There is no “fight”, or at least not one that I’m understanding or involved with. Suggest dropping it.

        3. David Greenwald

          And to answer your question they have.  Monsanto moved from Davis to rural Woodland.  Bayer/ Agraquest moved from Davis to West Sacramento.  Genentech went to Vacaville.

        4. Ron

          David:

          Thank you.

          Regarding companies that have actually physically “moved” from Davis to other areas, did they do so because of opposition to their already-established presence?  Or, was it possibly due to some other reason (e.g., more space to expand/operate, less-expensive land, need for a new facility, opportunity to sell their existing facility at a substantial profit, etc.).

          Are you (also) referring to companies that never existed, in Davis?  And, for whatever reason, chose to locate somewhere else? (Again, perhaps for a variety of reasons.)

          (Honest questions.)

          My point was that nearby areas will readily meet “market demand”, but have apparently not done so regarding the type of “innovation center” hoped-for by some, in Davis.  And, I was wondering why that hasn’t already occurred.

        5. David Greenwald

          Agraquest needed more room, they were founded in Davis by Pam Marrone, and sold to Bayer.  Davis didn’t have commercial space due to land use policies and West Sac provided them a good home at a huge loss to the community.

          Monsanto I believe was more complicated than just space, they were the target of some of the Occupy Davis protests.

          Genentech was before my time.  Someone else might be able to fill in the details.

          The other point is that Innovation Centers are relatively new phenomena.  Davis was a bit ahead of the curve there, but you have the Railyards moving forward in Sacramento and the formerly Davis Innovation Center going to Woodland.  UC Davis decided not to do one on campus least under the current LRDP.  So we’ve lost out at least for now on the possibility of space and economic development.

        6. Howard P

          The Genentech thing was most likely to have been on the Covell Village/Crossroads site… after Crossroads proposal ‘death’, prior to Covell Village proposal, as I recall.  They decided to locate in Vacaville, just off I-505.  I followed this, as at the time, my sister-in-law worked at Genentech in the Bay Area…

  22. Ron

    Thanks, David and Howard.

    My other question would be, assuming that the “Davis Innovation Center” is actually going to Woodland, how might that impact market demand for a similar facility in Davis.  (Same question regarding the Railyards facility, in Sacramento.  However, that one is farther away than Woodland.)

    Still wondering if the facility in Woodland is actually going forward.  (You’d think that the developer would at least update their website.)

    http://davisinnovationcenter.org/

  23. Ron

    Matt:  “You stated explicitly that there are non-legal standards in your alleged profession, auditing, regarding conflict of interest, but you have not provided a single source or link to support those beliefs of yours.  You have someone call me to explicitly state you are not one of Eileen Samitz’s “minions” but rather one of the caller’s “minions.”

    I see that Matt’s statement above still stands, but my responses have disappeared.  I’ll try one more time, in case anyone’s interested.

    I have provided sources and links, but they were deleted as off-topic.  (It is true that the “topic” was not being addressed in the article.)

    I did not ask anyone to call you, nor do I know who you are talking about.

    In my opinion, statements such as Matt’s comprise a false and misleading “personal attack”.

     

  24. John D

    World-Class Research University communities, across the world, are quite unique.  Not only do they typically play host to a high percentage of student residents, but equally as often they also play host to any number of established research and development companies – often home to individual companies with 500-1,000 or more employees.
    If we truly want to continue this conversation about imagining ourselves as an Innovation Centric host community in these exclusive ranks, then it seems only reasonable to ask why Davis is so markedly different from those campus communities that are so often put forward as examples for comparison.  UC Davis Extension’s own Studio 30 report titled “City of Davis Innovation Center Study” presented to the City of Davis Innovation Center Task Force in July 2012, has often been cited as our definitive report on successful communities with successful, university-linked Innovation Hub/Centers of excellence.
    How about if we take a closer look at the communities comprising these successful examples?  The report elected to focus on 18, university centric Innovation Center developments from across the United States and including three examples from Canada, UK and Germany.
    While it is a very interest and constructive report, particularly relevant for elaborating the distinctions of university innovation centers, the scope of the report was not structured so as to explore or otherwise emphasize the critical role of local employment demographics to the ultimate success of the centers, nor to measure their economic or synergistic values to the local host universities.   As such, the report was largely silent on the critical role of local, private sector research and development employers to the success of the innovation centers themselves.
    The major point of these comments is not to be critical of the report.  Rather, the central point of my comments would be we have never, systematically taken the opportunity to look under the hood of these other “peer communities” in any organized fashion that might better allow us to understand our potential as a successful host community for one of these unique types of communities.
    I guess my question would be: “How does one divorce the discussion of the role, potential and opportunity afforded by the local, sustaining host economy from a discussion of the resources (both technical and financial), technical skills, knowledge and cultural traditions necessary to support the host university as it strives towards new goals in Innovation and Research?”
    If we look back in history – UC Davis was “all about” supporting and sustaining the distinctive local conditions, employment opportunities and industries found in Yolo County.  That local culture and those local industries is what originally defined the community and established the linkage between the university and the community.  Back in the beginning, that is what the university was all about.
    Today, however, it is almost as though the university has left the city behind.  This is not what we see in most of the other communities that would be host to a World Class Innovation Hub or Research Cluster – where the host community has evolved and grown alongside the mission and direction of the university. 
    Today, it feels very much as if the town has forgotten that IT first invited the University into its fold in order to help the town improve its local economy and increase its opportunities to prosper.
    I’d leave it to Vanguard readers to take a closer look at the full, 95 page report and to decide for themselves which 4 or 5 of the listed host communities they would feel is “suitable and appropriate” for comparison with Davis.  Then, perhaps, we could take a closer look under the hood to better understand how this strategy of Disbursed Innovation Centers could be best employed to further the vision of Davis as an evolving, ever improving advocate for a healthy, culturally diverse, and fiscally sustainable model for urban living.
     
    On the other hand, maybe nobody is really that interested in the jobs discussion, or fiscal discussion, or future trajectory discussion………or maybe it’s just that nobody has the time to be bothered.

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