by Eric Gudz
My journey of helping to rebuild the town of Senjaray, Afghanistan, informs every step I take as I bring my experience and vision to our beloved town of Davis. Turning a vision of progress and innovation into a mission of lasting prosperity and justice will remain a true highlight of my life, but I must turn my attention now to Davis and the struggles we all collectively share.
Let’s not mince words, the quality of life we’ve all come to love in this town is in jeopardy. We can no longer sit on our hands waiting for the state or some economic miracle to bail us out. It’s time to roll up our own sleeves and enact bold policies that will ensure the health of our community for years to come. As I’ve been knocking on doors and reaching out to organizations across Davis, a few of these bold policies are clear:
- A Home for Everyone. We need to tackle the spectre of homelessness head-on with a robust social services program to treat substance abuse, attend to mental illnesses, and combat economic insecurity. We could fund this through a parcel tax or other additional revenue channel. But let’s face it, when rents in this town are raising $1200-$2400 or more a year, a $25 or $50 annual contribution is a small price to pay to take care of our neighbors. Instead of transforming our historic landmarks into police stations, we should use available city-owned spaces to provide much-needed services to the multitude of communities in distress.
- Restorative Justice for Everyone. We’ve made much progress reforming our community policing, but we have much to do. While notorious, the aggressive and dishonest behavior of several police officers on Picnic Day in 2017 was not an isolated incident. Talk to any black or brown resident of Davis and they can tell you about the very unwelcomed experiences they have driving or even walking through town. We need empowered civilian oversight of our police department with an imperative of establishing a restorative justice process.
- Smart Growth for Everyone. In the 18 years since the implementation of our urban boundary limits, we haven’t seen a single development pass the proverbial kicking of the tires. We need to reform Measure J/R so that future peripheral development is more likely to meet community standards before landing on the ballot in the first place. This may mean fewer votes, but it would save our City desperately needed funds we’d spend on elections unlikely to result in anything but a “No” vote anyway. We don’t need weaker laws, just smarter ones that reduce uncertainty and increase transparency.
- Stabilize Rents & Empower Working Families. Finally, we need to do something about the rapidly increasing cost of living in this town. Our rents and home prices are set to soon rival many Bay Area communities; the Greater Sacramento region has the fastest rising housing costs in the country. We must tackle this issue with a diverse set of policy proposals from revising developer incentives to ensure future projects serve the needs of the community and not big banks, to cost containment. While our hands are tied as long as Costa Hawkins remains law, we must be ready to curb the speculative cost of living increases that have forced families, artists, and working folks out of our town. It’s time to pave the road for more innovative markets to emerge, to reinvigorate our artist community, and welcome new generations of Davisites into the community we all love. Until then, we must actively lobby for state policies that will enable us to govern ourselves.
This is Davis, so I present these ideas to you in draft form and I wholeheartedly welcome the input of the community. We are lucky to live among a plethora of engaged experts and it would be foolhardy at best to pretend any one person has all the answers. Our collaborative ethos remains eternally, not only a strong part of what makes us Davis but, one of our greatest assets.
Our community was founded on the energy of adventurers, the bold vision of change-agents, and the courage of agricultural innovators. Let’s use that pioneering spirit that founded this great town to take collective ownership of our shared struggles so that we may reap our communal harvest together.