Alternative Title: How to Lose Friends AND Influence People
As I have now gone through five candidate forum answers (still have one to go from Wednesday), my overwhelming sense of the candidates is that they simply do not have a good grasp of the issues. For the most part, they do not answer the question in a way that shows that they fundamentally understand the question.
I have gone through and evaluated each answer – not on the basis of whether or not I agree with that answer, but rather simply on the basis of their ability to understand the question and answer the question.
No one really understood the food question from the first forum, which was really looking for an understanding of the Farm to Fork industry and the competitive disadvantage that Davis has in developing that industry as they have. Too many of the candidates instead answered it as a downtown restaurant issue, which is not what it called for. Nor did anyone think to connect the issue to UC Davis and the World Food Center.
So first is an evaluation, candidate by candidate, in alphabetical order. I rate each answer on a three point scale (3) is they nailed the question, (2) is they got it but missed some key element, (1) they did something right, but largely whiffed, (0) is a complete whiff. I think add them up to give a score out of 15.
My first point here is that Ezra Beeman did not come to the second debate and instead was allowed to have Colin Walsh as a stand in. By itself that is not the most troubling development, but he has also come to just part of one council meeting.
Farm to Fork: Ezra gave one of the better answers here – which is grading on a curve. He managed to connect the issue to UC Davis – at least on one point, but got lost at the end talking about “Davis has got some phenomenal food right now.” He failed to connect the issue to economic development or the World Food Center. (2)
City decision-making process: Again not a bad answer here – he identified the Valley Clean Energy and talked about getting together a group of experts. (2)
Take one issue and explain your plan: Ezra Beeman chose to go with the issue of fiscal sustainability. He identified the Valley Clean Energy as a key way to bridge the revenue gap. That is hard to see. He didn’t discuss unfunded liabilities or infrastructure needs. He also raised an issue of additional employees hired by the city, which when the Vanguard checked with the city was a misinterpretation of the city chart. (1)
Growth: He was asked to share his thoughts (through Colin Walsh) on growth projects that are clearly under discussion in general in Davis. He came out in favor of Measure R, against Nishi, and in favor more or less of the West Davis Active Adult Center. He then spent the rest of his answer instead of talking about the other proposals, talking about better capturing business without really connecting that discussion to growth. (1)
Vacant store fronts: He was asked to identify why we have many vacant store fronts in Davis and suggestions to improve upon it. He didn’t really offer an answer to that even through he had the question in advance and submitted his answer. He also talked about his personal experience and the amount of available office space. (1)
Synopsis: He had two decent answers and three that either missed the mark or missed opportunities to better address the issue. (7/15)
Mary Jo Bryan
Farm to Fork: A good answer, she connected agricultural projects to the Davis downtown and talked about the need for collaboration with the university and economic development. (3)
City decision-making process: She discussed her neighborhood reaction to Sterling, and how the neighbors didn’t feel they were properly notified. (2)
Take one issue and explain your plan: She talked about planning and the fact that we are doing piecemeal planning. She showed a good understanding of the issue, the challenges and stayed on topic. (3)
Things getting better or worse in Davis: Her answer is that she likes Davis, doesn’t think things are getting worse and talked about the things she likes about the community. The problem is she spoke only from the perspective of a senior who already has affordable housing in Davis and didn’t articulate the problems that young people have getting into the market, the problems of people finding jobs, or student housing. Also, she forgot that this was a Chamber forum and thus she forgot that her audience was not a bunch of seniors but rather business people who might be concerned with the lack of economic development or vacant storefronts downtown. (1)
Other than senior housing, what issues: She went from senior housing to housing in general. She got into the problem of people trying to get their first homes, but not much further. For an answer calling on her to expand her breadth as a candidate, she really stayed in a tight area. (1)
Synopsis: She had a really good first debate, but the second one she came up short trying to move beyond her campaign’s focus on seniors and senior housing issues. (10/15)
Farm to Fork: One of the better answers here, as he connected the issue to economic development and identified existing programs like Farmer’s Market, Food Co-op, Visitor’s Bureau and UC Davis. (3)
City decision-making process: He talked about his own commission’s role in passing motions to urge greater accountability over the new tax measures. He didn’t get hugely into the process, rather he addressed the larger issue and then pumped himself – “You need someone on that city council with the fiscal expertise – and I have someone in mind – who everyday can be on that dais and make the motions and the change happen.” That really wasn’t what the question called for, but he did show expertise on this issue. (2)
Take one issue and explain your plan: Dan Carson has pushed the issue of the relationship between Davis and UCD Campus at both forums. His solution is an agreement between the university and the city. (3)
Motivation to run: Fiscal challenges. He was able to identify and then articulate a good reason for running. (3)
University and city relations: The Chamber gave him this question, so we can’t fault him for giving a similar answer. Good marks knowing the LRDP was coming out and, other than that, a similar answer to before. (3)
Synopsis: Dan Carson has extensive experience on a commission and it shows – he understands the issues and he understands them in great detail. Overall the strongest performance of the nine candidates and perhaps it wasn’t even close. (14/ 15).
Farm to Fork: Focused heavily on restaurants downtown. She did make the connection with UC Davis and noted the Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Sciences. But she didn’t really connect that to farm to fork. (2)
City decision-making process: She talked about the development process, commissions, and argued that certain voices are not being heard. She probably would have been better served talking about one project and how the process worked for this as she was not specific enough and didn’t quite directly address the question. (1)
Take one issue and explain your plan: She addressed entry-level homes. This wasn’t a bad answer, as she identified the need for 900-square-foot homes as entry-level homes, but didn’t explain how we are going to get those homes in the current environment in Davis. (2)
Empty store fronts: She didn’t really identify a way to deal with the issue of empty store fronts. (1)
Zoning land outside of town for business purposes: The most vexing thing about Linda Deos thus far is that she appears to be wildly inconsistent on the issue of growth. Here she wants to explore “all opportunities to expand land either inside or outside” but also won’t take a stand until she sees a concrete proposal. She supports Nishi but is skeptical of supporting something on the Mace Curve. Her answer: “Am I open to it? I’m open to hearing everything. But I’m hesitant to say that I’m going to go yes on something that I don’t see.” (2)
Synopsis: She missed the mark a few times, but ultimately didn’t do that badly. (8/15)
Farm to Fork: There are a few times when Eric stretched to try connect the question to one of his key issues. In this case it was Farm to Fork connected to young professionals having barriers to move into the this community. But he sees this as a downtown eatery question rather than a farm to fork issue, which hurts what could have been a decent point. (1)
City decision-making process: Here he connected the process question to his experience on the Transportation and Safety Commission and the discussion over the funding of Unitrans. The answer here works and he addressed how the commission successfully took a problem and solved it. (3)
Take one issue and explain your plan: Here he took up the issue of renters and the need for renter protections and the development of micro-homes and accessory dwelling units. Got a little lost with adding in a line about fiber optics and promoting broadband, but overall a strong answer. (3)
Housing crisis: This is one of his issues and he was really strong on it. (3)
Parking in downtown: He talked about this in terms of transportation and the need to alleviate commuters, but he forgot his audience and they wanted him undoubtedly to discuss the mechanics of getting more people into the downtown. It’s not a bad answer, but he never talked about key issues like a new parking garage or paid parking. (2)
Synopsis: Eric might be the youngest candidate here, but he’s been engaged in the city for some time and he knows his issues of transportation and housing quite well. (12/15).
Farm to Fork: He did well here, not falling into the downtown food trap and instead focusing on UC Davis and capitalizing on the university. Still never really connected some of the issues like Farm to Fork. (2)
City decision-making process: This was all set up for him to take on Trackside, but he instead went to Lincoln40. That questionable decision aside, he did all right with the question. I think he could have done more here, nailing why Lincoln40’s outreach worked and others (back to Trackside) didn’t. (2)
Take one issue and explain your plan: He stayed closer to home, talking about the downtown. I think he nailed this one. (3)
Three things you would do: He said we would increase revenue, decrease expenses, and forgot a third so he added, “sunshine and happiness.” Okay, high marks for the ad lib, but you have to be able to count to three and, in a way, he only counted to one and didn’t give a great answer even to that. (1)
Internal housing: This was again a question queued up to explain why Trackside failed and what he would do better. He was a little all over the map and got involved in the J/R thing rather than focusing on infill. (1)
Synopsis: Larry gave strong answers in the first forum, less so in the second. He really needs to take on the issue of Trackside and articulate how the process broke down and how to fix it. (9/15)
Farm to Fork: Her answer would have been good if she was asked about downtown restaurants rather than Farm to Fork and economic development. “The problem that we have is that we don’t have a cohesiveness. We have a lot of great places to eat,” she said but not a lot of places to sit down and have the order taken. “There are a lot of older people who feel that the restaurants are geared towards the young people in town.” (1)
City decision-making process: She took on the parcel tax discussion, but didn’t show a lot of insight into the process or how it transpired. (1)
Take one issue and explain your plan: She picked the relationship with the university. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised at her choice here, given her background. While I get wanting to expand her breadth, I am a bit surprised at the choice. The answer here is decent, connecting the university to housing needs and economic development. (2)
Challenge of owning a small business: This was a tough question even for someone who owns a small business. Her answer didn’t really provide us with a lot of answers for the problem. She talked about using the innovation officer for outreach and polling more businesses. (1)
What needs to change in city hall: Her answer, the city needs to do more collaborating and noted that UCD just made a deal with Sacramento for a huge innovation park and we don’t have the land for that. This was definitely her strongest answer overall. (3)
Synopsis: Sometimes candidates can be praised for expanding their issue base, other times going away from one’s strength is ill-advised and I would give that to Gloria. In neither debate did she get the types of questions that emphasize her strength as a candidate. If she is the frontrunner, she is going to need to expand her issue base to have a better understanding of key issues before the city. (8/15)
Farm to Fork: He took the Farm-to-Fork question to make a more general comment on the downtown and used his line about taking his kids to see the movie “Captain Underpants,” something he repeated in forum 2. There is not much here that addresses the question. (1)
City decision-making process: He said, “I think city council needs to be more intentional, more proactive as far as city decision-making goes.” But he never addressed the question here about picking a public process and evaluating it. (0)
Take one issue and explain your plan: Here he talked about schools and the housing crisis. His solution he repeated in the second forum. “We need to convene realtors, developers, business leaders. We are all stakeholders here, and we need to convene and establish partnerships and find ways of building homes for people to live in.” (2)
Smart growth: He talked about growing up here and coming back to live here for the public schools, but never addressed his vision for/or what would constitute smart growth for Davis. (0)
Education candidate/ how is that helpful: He talked about going to UC Davis but not about the schools in Davis – never how the issue of education lines up with city issues. (0)
Synopsis: Luis Rios needs to focus more on the issues before Davis and address those issues. (3/ 15)
Farm to Fork: Talked about Davis having a vibrant downtown and a good food environment, and he did finally nail the question as best as it could have been nailed by suggesting “taking a look at what our neighbors are successfully doing. They are bringing in new restaurants and redeveloping.” That’s what this question was getting at and he got it. Although then he went into redevelopment in the downtown rather than Farm to Fork. (2)
City decision-making process: He looked at the hotel discussion, criticized the city for picking winners and losers, and tracked the Hyatt House discussion, concluding, “two years to make a hotel decision is far too long.” (3)
Take one issue and explain your plan: Fiscal issues. Mark is running on fiscal issues, and he stuck to his strength and gave a strong answer. (3)
Traffic impacts of growth: If there is a strength of Mark West, he knows and understands the issues as well as anyone, but people are probably not going to agree that it’s a good thing to have more traffic in the core area because you don’t want people whizzing by your store. (3)
Innovation center: Mark had a chance to hit Measure R with this question and did. I think his answer was strong. (3)
Synopsis: Mark is going to polarize. There are people who agree with his positions, but he will turn a lot off as well. One thing is clear – he understands the issues here as few do. (14/15).
Dan Carson 14/15
Mark West 14/15
Eric Gudz 12/15
Mary Jo Bryan 10/15
Larry Guenther 9/15
Linda Deos 8/15
Gloria Partida 8/15
Ezra Beeman 7/15
Luis Rios 3/15
What do we learn from this? The two candidates that scored highest on this measure are Dan Carson and Mark West, who have been the most involved for the longest. You might be surprised to see Eric Gudz in third, but he has been active and engaged. Mary Jo Bryan is fourth, and a long time activist. The people who struggle the most are the ones who have been least engaged on city issues.
One person told me: “This is the worst election since I’ve been in Davis. The candidates are awful. The responses are fluff. Their comments at public comment and uninformed and nonsensical. And no one is calling them on it.”
I won’t go quite that far, but our evaluation is fairly indicative of poor performance.
—David M. Greenwald reporting