My View: Worried about the Inexperience of the Council Candidates?

City Hall

We are just about to start up what should prove to be one of the most interesting electoral seasons we have seen in some time.  Flash back to two years ago, and we had essentially two incumbents and everyone seemed to know that a third candidate, Will Arnold, would be easily elected to office.

While a fourth candidate, Matt Williams, would rack up an impressive vote total given the volume of votes cast in June 2016, there was not much drama.  And while Mr. Williams attempted to make an issue out of city finances, it never really gained traction.

The biggest issue probably in the 2016 election was Nishi 1.0 and all four of the candidates supported the project.

Times have changed.  With the election of Trump, the electorate has galvanized and been activated.  It remains to be seen what will end up happening on the local front.  Will local issues like the housing crisis, the tax measures, and Nishi dominate the political landscape, or will the community be more concerned about resistance?

One thing is clear – we are losing a good deal of experience on the city council.  Mayor Robb Davis has often lamented having to be the conscience of the community in the face of troubled
times such as resistance, the specter of ICE raids, mass protests, hate crimes, and other angry incidents.

And, while 2017 was filled with its share of some moments, the most consequential actions by the city council were still on local issues – housing, the tax measure, the economic analysis of Bob Leland and the need for cost containment.

Not only does Robb Davis step aside after one term, but Rochelle Swanson, who helped change the tone in city hall as well as shift policy priorities, is also leaving.

Where does that leave us?  In recent weeks, many have expressed concern about the big shoes that the new council members, who will be elected in June, will have to fill, as well as the inexperience of the crew of candidates.

But I am not sure that this is as big a problem as some believe.  The year 2010 marked another crucial election, in the heart of the economic downturn, and it was a relatively inexperienced Rochelle Swanson and Joe Krovoza who led the way.

I got an interesting email reminding me of a story from a few years ago: “A few years back I witnessed this little scene in back of chambers:  David Greenwald of the vanguard was going out of room to vending machines on recess. But as he was leaving, he leaned over and made this passing, funny comment to a council candidate who  was sitting the back….’Welcome to the City Council !’ This was January before a June election.    I checked with David G later —he goes to most council meetings…and his cheeky message was he had never seen this person at a council meeting before…..”

The person also indicated, “I am rather scared by their lack of experience.”

My view is we will have three experienced members on the council: Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee have been around since 2012 and, while Will Arnold has only been on the council since 2016, he has long experience in the community and has been around the scene for years.

It is also a steep but quick learning curve.

I still recall my December 2009 meeting with Joe Krovoza at Black Bear Diner.  I remember leaving the meeting in December thinking, that guy will never be elected to council.  Little did I realize that he would be a landslide winner of all but one precinct in Davis and spend three years as mayor.

He started out fairly green, but he learned quickly and was pretty effective in his term on the council.

There were mistakes that were made along the way.  An early meeting in 2010 after the two were seated saw a string of hasty decisions that led to the need for damage control on issues like the Zipcar.  The council would push the water project in September 2011, only to have to walk it back with the WAC (Water Advisory Committee) and a ballot initiative.

On the other hand, Joe Krovoza and Rochelle Swanson in the spring of 2011, along with newly-appointed councilmember Dan Wolk, pushed through critical changes to the budget that would pave the way for a new era of cost-containment and new reform-minded MOUs.

They did so by pushing through the changes over the objections of long-time councilmembers Stephen Souza and Sue Greenwald, who would resist the pace of change in the spring of 2011 only to lose reelection in the spring of 2012.

Bottom line: the group of candidates are not hugely experienced, but they are smart people and will learn quick.  Experience is a double-edged sword – it gives you perspective but it also at times locks you into a course of action that reinforces the status quo.

Moreover, I still see a potential landscape-shifting election emerging in 2018.  Students are angry and frustrated over the lack of available housing.  As yesterday’s conversation continues to demonstrate, there is a steep disconnect between the way students live in this community and the perception of the adults.

Will the students come together and organize in the next few months, shaking up not only the Nishi election but perhaps the council election as well?

This is going to be an election of change in Davis and this is a good group of candidates to lead the way.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Jeff M

    “With the election of Trump, the electorate has galvanized and been activated.”

    I would change that to read with the election of Trump the opposition electorate has been made ineffectual with emotional turmoil.

    Interesting what two people recognize as experience.  Prior to Trump we had eight years of a President that had zero private-sector work experience.  His total professional perspective was one of domestic public policy work.  His lack of experience was telling in the vast number of mistakes made with the American economy and with global peace-making.

    Lamenting the lack of government experience in politicians is like lamenting the lack of crime experience for a prison warden.

    We have a cohort of people that see social outcomes of injustice, unfairness and human tragedy through an every-growing magnifying glass. They are wired to be more emotionally reactive to these things and it becomes their call to action.  However when they move from a position of professional activist to politician, they bring with them a form of performance myopia.  Think emotive blinders.  The pursuit of perfection for some unattainable social nirvana than becomes the enemy of the good.  The big picture is lost… opportunities for investment in things that would serve to improve the overall human condition for the long-term are squandered due to lack of focus, lack of attention and lack of advocacy.

    Use homelessness and lack of affordable housing as an example.  With a population of social justice professionals flowing through our city council, we are now to a point of near crisis even though we certainly have held multiple candlelight vigils, banned plastic bags, changed street names, blocked a truck used in war from becoming a tool for law enforcement, and raised taxes yet again from the argument of all the unfairness for those under-paid government employees.

    This “lack of experience” concern is somewhat laughable as it has been the lack of business and economic focus and experience that has been our liability.

    Look at it this way… we have plenty of social justice crusaders in our population.  They will continue to push for that unattainable Utopia of all things right and relevant.  We need more math and business-focused people on the council to provide some needed balance.

    1. Sean Raycraft

      I think you missed a few Fox News talking points there bud. With that said, youre mislabeling  the social justice community as a monolith, particularly on the issue of the housing crisis. There is a whole faction of us in that community dedicated to actually solving the housing crisis, as a matter of social justice.

      As far as Obama vs Trump goes and government sector experience vs private sector experience, a simple comparison using your own arguments would be W Bush and Obama. W had plenty of private sector experience, and a good amount of government experience. How did that turn out? Didnt he get us into two wars, wreck the economy, blow up the budget surplus and harm American hegemony? Clearly, your “we need more business types in office” argument could use some tweaking, to say nothing of your cynical views on pie in the sky dreams of a better future. People said the same thing about Dr King in the sixties. Was his cause

      Now, as it comes to local policy, I agree with you on many fronts. Economic development is going to be key to solving our long term unfunded obligations, fixing our roads, and bringing fiscal sustainability to the city given the gut punch the city is getting from PERS. That means the old way of thinking and doing things needs to be re evaluated, and new ideas, new innovations and new perspectives ought to come in.

      Oh, and our President is [moderator: edited, you triggered the filter….] Just in case there was any confusion there.


      1. Jeff M

        You should get your TDS in check if you want to have a conversation about the topic at hand: experience of council candidates.

        The gut punch from PERS was expected except for head in the sand leaders of that other experience.

        The housing shortage was expected except for head in the sand leaders of that other experience.

        Bad roads and deficits were expected except for head in the sand leaders of that other experience.

        That is the point.  It is time to scrap that other experience that David calls “experience”, and replace it with candidates that have a less myopic view for what we need to do for long-term sustainability.

        And that president before our current president will go down in history as being one of the worst this country has ever had.  But I understand that he made you and others feel good.

        1. Howard P


          TDS, in my world, is total dissolved solids (a measure of water quality)?  Or did you have to ‘initialize’ to fly past what you intended to say?

          Person-up… WTF (world trade federation) did you mean?

        2. Jeff M

          Sean – I think if you and I sat down we would agree with 90% of desired outcomes and for those maybe 50% of the best way to achieve them.

          And I think this would be a consistent ratio for most informed people on the left and right of politics.

  2. Tia Will

    There is a whole faction of us in that community dedicated to actually solving the housing crisis, as a matter of social justice.”

    This is demonstrably true. Using myself as one example, I have opposed a number of projects because I did not feel that they contributed to true community needs in terms of housing. The Cannery and Trackside are two examples, both being non affordable for the majority of Davisites who actually are in need ( not want of different) housing. On the other hand, I have supported Nishi, am not in opposition to Lincoln40 and remained neutral on Sterling mostly for reasons that have nothing to do with this  topic.

    Also, there is nothing “Utopian” about believing that it is possible to meet community needs instead of merely catering to the already wealthy if we have the will to do so. The wealth exists, what is lacking is the will to prioritize in favor of those in actual need.

    1. Jeff M

      Your view is the one we have been chasing and look at the mess.  But it is common for those sharing your view to just double down and claim we just are not taxing and spendng enough.

      You chase away wealth and what next?

      1. Tia Will


        Your view is the one we have been chasing and look at the mess.”
         Not sure if you were addressing this to me, but working on that assumption, we have never, in my lifetime, “been chasing my view”. My view would be that in a society as wealthy as ours, we have plenty for everyone to have enough to be provided with adequate food, housing, education and health care as well as allowing for anyone who wants to contribute extra in hours of whatever skill or contribution they want to make to earn extra for luxuries that they want. We have never, ever, either locally, regionally or nationally come anywhere near to “chasing my view” which is actually variant of the UBI which is a nonpartisan suggestion that both parties have considered at various points in time.

        1. Sean Raycraft


          we already have a UBI and single payer for a large segment of our society. It’s extending that concept to young folks and middle aged folks that will lead to a more just society

  3. Sean Raycraft

    Is there any particular tax you are criticizing here? Any particular city service you would like to see reduced or eliminated?

    I think the problems surrounding taxation here in town stem from a lack of available tools, and a lack of tax revenue diversification over time. Time and again we go to the parcel tax, which in many ways is the easiest way to generate revenue. Other municipalities generate a lot of their income from sales taxes related to commerce of one kind or another. The new hotel and TOT are good ideas, along with cannabis taxes going to road maintenance. A utility tax would be a good way to raise revenue as well, one that would be more equally distributed to homeowners renters and businesses instead of the straight homeowner.

    Long term, our financial situation will be fine if we can generate some growth, and there is a lot of potential, with us being in a research university town, we just have to have the courage to embrace and mold that change.


    1. Mark West

      “Is there any particular tax you are criticizing here?”

      The problem is that raising taxes on residents seems to be the only idea that is being considered, with the obvious impact of making Davis a more expensive place to live. Clearly, some like that approach because they are wealthy enough to afford the taxes and don’t mind telling those who are not to go live somewhere else. That approach, however, doesn’t really make Davis a welcoming place for young families or the working poor.

      Why not work to make the City a less expensive place to live by expanding commercial activity and creating jobs? In time, the business community could be supplying sufficient revenues for the City to allow tax rates on individuals to be reduced. Davis’ General Fund should be $80-100 M (instead of the current $50 M) with a level of economic activity more typical of cities in California. It is time to put our artificial scarcity model aside and start acting more rationally for the benefit of all residents.

      1. Sean Raycraft

        Mark, if you read my post, you would see I essentially agreed with you. Although I don’t see there being much of an unemployment problem (job creation) the lack of housing crushes any opportunity for economic Development. We solve the housing problem, create space for the talent emerging from UCD, and then we will see the entrepreneurship etc that will lead to the rise in general fund revenues

        1. Mark West

          It is not necessary to fix the housing problem before we address the fiscal one, in fact, they should be addressed in concert. The businesses are being created on a regular basis, all we need to do is create the space for them to thrive, just as we need to create the housing to allow our residents to thrive. The difference is that housing is at best revenue neutral, but commercial development provides sustainable revenues to fund services. New private sector jobs provide opportunities for residents to improve their quality of life while at the same time reducing the need to commute outside of town. It isn’t an issue of unemployment, as you state, but one of quality employment that is not funded by taxpayers.

  4. Tia Will

    Clearly, some like that approach because they are wealthy enough to afford the taxes and don’t mind telling those who are not to go live somewhere else.”

    It would seem that Mark also subscribes to the theory that it is better to tell us what other people think and favor than to just espouse his own ideas.

    1. Mark West

      “It would seem that Mark also subscribes to the theory that it is better to tell us what other people think and favor than to just espouse his own ideas.”

      Contrary to your claim, I did in fact, espouse my own ideas, a fact which you have shown a tendency to ignore.

      What portion of my comment do you believe was inaccurate?

      Whom did I specifically disparage by misstating their beliefs?

      I don’t recall mentioning the name of anyone, particularly not the one who opined on this site that those who cannot afford to live in town should move elsewhere until they can afford to come back. Do you really want me to dig through the archives to find the exact quote and attribute it to the specific author, or will you acknowledge that there are those in town who ascribe to that opinion, as I stated?

      1. Tia Will

        What portion of my comment do you believe was inaccurate?”

        I believe that there are bound to be inaccuracies when you, or anyone else, myself included makes assumptions about what others believe or the motivations behind their actions.

        Whom did I specifically disparage by misstating their beliefs?”

        I have no idea since, as you correctly noted, you did not name names. That does not mean that you were not making generalizations which there is no way to affirm or deny.

        Do you really want me to dig through the archives to find the exact quote and attribute it to the specific author, or will you acknowledge that there are those in town who ascribe to that opinion, as I stated?”

        I honestly don’t care if you want to spend your time sifting through the archive. I do know what you will find from me. I absolutely never said what anyone “should” do. I did say that had been my strategy and certainly implied that others might find it acceptable.

  5. Tia Will


    For clarification, we do not have a UBI until it extends to all members of our society regardless of age or any other group designation. That is why the U stands for universal.

    1. Howard P

      For clarification, it will not be “universal” until we define our ‘society’ as every man, woman and child on earth, from conception to natural death…

      1. Tia Will


        It can’t be from conception since we are unable medically to ascertain that point in time except with IVF. If you want to state from a point in time which is consistently accurately identifiable, I am likely to agree with you.

        1. Howard P

          From confirmation by a qualified MD of a likely viable fetus? [am an only child because Mom had two natural abortions… I was viable]

          Oh, and no discrimination for male/female fetus…

    2. Jeff M

      I could see UBI becoming the new tax and spend pursuit for the globalists and Utopians to pay off those little people having had their economic fortunes dashed by the accumulated bonehead mistakes in governance, the reckless pursuit of corporate profit from cheaper and cheaper labor, and the irrational ideology of scarcity.

      Even so, with my conservative libertarian leanings I find some attraction to it if implemented as a single payment to every adult citizen that replaces all other direct payments from government to individuals… thus leading to smaller government and more transparency in what we are giving people.

      But it won’t work.  It will make a mess.

      First, people with bleeding hearts don’t get healed when they secure greater payments to the population they are bleeding about.  They just bleed about something else or someone else.  It is a condition of theirs that is perpetual… unfortunately.  So implement UBI at great expense and then there will just be demands for more.  We can never trust them to say “thank you” and go do something else productive.  And these days they get into positions of power where they keep taking until we eventually run out of other people’s money.

      Second, I believe the hierarchy of human needs is real and when we give too many handouts we cause human behavior problems for those having been hoisted up to higher rungs not under their own effort.  Humans are designed for struggle… it is our evolution and our need to strive and persevere… especially when we are younger.  Take away that struggle, deliver a big bank of idle time, and most will replace the struggle with something else.  And some of those will replace it with something else non-productive and likely terrible.

      Instead of paying people to not work, we need to do the opposite… encourage more to work and provide more work opportunities.  Along the way we should certainly provide a strong hand-up… especially for all young people.  But not pay them for not doing anything!?  Talk about destruction of the human condition!

      It is no surprise that there are people in this town advocating for UBI given that we are a government company town and their perspective is likely one of endless money growing on trees planted in the mansion gardens of all those wealthy private sector CEOs.  Of course there are also all the global warming alarms and a call to eliminate whole industries.  It is no surprise because we see similar views with respect to our city finances.  Rejection of peripheral business parks and related housing that would help grow our own economy.  Hell we cannot even call those things business parks for fear of the TYPE of business that might locate there… we have to call them “innovation parks” and require that they don’t make a sound nor belch any exhaust… and have green labels stamped all over them.  But even those are rejected by this community of hand-wringers lacking match skills.

      Without the types of jobs that these companies would provide and the tax revenue they would provide, we need to come up with some alternative.  SO, let’s pay off those unemployed people so they don’t have to work!  Let’s tax the wealthy more because they have so much and they really don’t need that much! Their ugly materialism is killing the planet anyway!  And while we are at it, we need to tax them more to fix the roads and to pay teachers more!

      This is the standard thinking of our past city leadership.  It has led us to this mess where now things are in crisis.  The ideas did not work and will not work.  Time for new leadership with a growth mindset and experience for what actually works.

  6. Howard P

    Although I admit to contributing to the drift, UBI is not “on the table” for CC elections [ way off-topic], as the CC cannot do one scintilla about that except for empty words… [albeit televised for egos]

    We need to elect candidates who will help guide/set priorities/direct the City of Davis… nothing more, nothing less… right now, am thinking of a proposing a referendum where in CC elections, we have the choice (we’re a pro choice City, right?) of “none of the above”.  Heard that Nevada did that, state-wide…

    I somewhat agree with the premise that new blood is needed, or at least, might be good… we know that there will be 40% new members on the CC… pick your poison/saviours… we’ll see…

  7. Tia Will


    From confirmation by a qualified MD of a likely viable fetus?”

    This would certainly be a much more logical point in time to pick since it is verifiable, usually one week after initial US assessment by repeat US if there is any doubt ( for example an US done too early).

    However, there are still many difficulties. What does one do in the circumstance where the presence of the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother ? What does one do in the circumstance where the fetus has no chance at life outside the womb ?  There are always going to be difficult moral/ethical choices to be made.

    My position is that while I do not “support” abortion, I do support the ability of the mother, with the guidance and support of a physician, to determine her own medical care. I have seen women who were willing to risk their own life as well as that of the fetus in order to try to have a baby. I have seen women who determined that the best course for them was to terminate a much desired pregnancy and try again once their health was stabilized. I have seen women whose form of contraception failed them and who opted for abortion. I have seen women who were just plain careless and were pregnant as a result. I do not believe that either I or the government has the wisdom, or the right to make these types of decisions based on personal religion or ethical system and impose that on another individual.


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