This is the eighth of the Vanguard’s series of 11 questions. Every Monday until the week before election, we’ll have a new question and answers. Answers are limited to 250 words.
Question 8: What issue drove you to decide to run for council? Now pick an issue that you were not paying attention to that you now plan to focus on if elected.
During my career as a fiscal and policy analyst at the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, it became clear that the best way to reform state government is to focus on structural problems, the broad underlying causes of dysfunction such as problems in the way the state hires workers and purchases goods and services. Fix these two processes and many other problems go away.
As anyone who has attended the candidate forums knows by now, my City Council campaign has focused on two broad structural issues — addressing the city’s $8 million annual financial gap, and improving the working relationship between the City of Davis and the UC Davis campus. Addressing these broad issues will improve city services and infrastructure and address our housing, traffic, and parking challenges.
But another structural issue concerns me. We are an engaged and passionate community, but finding agreement among our passions is often very difficult. Too often, we talk past each other and fail to reach compromises to address our problems. After knocking on doors and meeting with thousands of Davis citizens, it’s clear that some residents who have a lot to offer feel left out.
Accordingly, I promise to reach out to listen and to learn from every perspective. I will go to every neighborhood and segment of our community to understand how City Hall can work for them. I will use the full depth of my experience I’ve gained over decades to build common ground and mutual benefit to move us forward.
When I decided to run I did not do so because I had a specific issue in mind but, rather, because I felt all issues needed to eyed though a lens of equity for all community members. From this perspective it does not matter what issues arise, all must be deliberately and carefully considered.
I have experience being a fair and thoughtful leader and have seen that too often decisions are made without considering all voices.
The loudest voices are those most often heard and even when those voices advocate for the disenfranchised, they sometimes do so without collaborating with the people they purport to be advocating for. Or worse they use the disenfranchised as leverage to further an agenda.
I have spent my life fighting to create community. As cities grow so does the potential to lose community. A community that acknowledges all its members is stronger. However, communities are only as strong as their city councils.
I feel the number one thing cities can control to ensure that communities happily co-exist, is to ensure vibrant economic development.
Strong economic development spreads the tax base. This allows the collection of revenue to be spread out instead of aggregated into parcel taxes. Collecting revenue via tax measures cause citizens to feel unfairly burdened.
When citizens feel unfairly burdened it is often the people on the margins that are targeted as the source of that burden. We have the largest generator of innovation and potential sitting in our midst.
We need to find ways to remove barriers and capture not only the potential from UC Davis but from other yet unseen sources. There should be a clear path for startup incubators or small businesses to scale up and become large employers.
One of the main issues that drove me to run for City Council was that it seemed we were missing opportunities to address multiple City issues at the same time; e.g. housing, economic, development, transit, carbon footprint. An issue that has come up since I’ve been a candidate that I feel needs to be addressed is not so much a new issue, but the policies related to that issue; i.e. how our policies with regard to business are negatively impacting our economic development.
When I started my business it took one form, 15 minutes and $14. Because of that experience, my impression about starting and running a business was that it was quick, simple, and inexpensive. This is not true for all businesses. In a city that has world-class research occurring in a whole host of fields, there is a dearth of business compared to the rest of our region. Few cities have the potential for innovation that Davis has, yet we are not realizing that potential.
I believe we need to address this issue in the same way we should be addressing all of our City’s issues: with community and collaboration. I believe we need to collaborate with the business community and with the University to reassess our business policies, making sure we are not standing in our own way when it comes to innovation and economic development. Without economic development, our quality of life is not sustainable.
The number one issue that motivated me to run was the lack of housing in Davis for working families, students, and seniors that want to downsize. My wife’s first home was half of a split lot duplex. This was the size of home she could afford and it allowed her to then buy a larger home when her earnings increased. I want to find ways to build the smaller homes and/or multi-unit properties so that we can give folks the opportunity to live and stay here in Davis.
The “new” issue I’d focus on now would be development of our downtown. I’m a proponent of building up with a mix of residential, office and retail space. I believe that by housing young professionals, seniors, and students downtown we will create further economic opportunities in this area of town. I’m excited about the planning process we’re currently in and look forward to implementing the ideas that come out of this.
Mary Jo Bryan
The primary issue that made me decide to run for City Council is our current unbalanced housing stock in Davis. To address that key issue, I will work tirelessly to bring together all the parts of our community to develop an inclusive plan for both present and future housing needs. We need to find a way to alter the diversity of the Davis housing market, both economically and culturally, to include more middle-income homes.
Our General Plan and land-use zoning designations must meet the needs of the Davis community, as well as reaffirm mutually agreed-on expectations. I support a citywide discussion and decision on how to accomplish this objective. Whether single family, multi-family or student housing, Davis must have a citizen-approved General Plan and zoning regulations and forego our current inconsistent piecemeal approach.
One issue that I have spent less time on than housing and updating the General Plan, is the specifics of our relationship with the University. Housing for students is a huge part of that relationship, one that has consumed the city’s attention; however, just as crucial is renewing and re-establishing a shared commitment to improving the City’s revenue. We cannot rely on taxes to fix streets and maintain infrastructure, we need other sources of revenue.
We need to forge a stronger and permanent partnership with the University, built on trust and transparency. The amount of intellectual capital that is created each year at UC Davis is immense, and I would put my energy into addressing each opportunity of collaboration with a win-win approach mindset, so we can mutually celebrate successes rather than bemoan lost opportunities.
As a renter who’s paid a $4,000 security deposit (for a 2 bedroom apt) and an annual $250 a month increase in rent in Davis, these concerns drove me to run for Davis City Council to ensure that renters are adequately represented and that our city resolves our housing crisis promptly.
Spending some time trying to figure out how to save our city more money, one issue that I wasn’t focusing on before that I plan to prioritize is contract management. Contract management was a significant part of my work during my combat deployment to Afghanistan, and I’ve got a few ideas to share.
Specifically, I feel that we can improve the management of our city contracts by utilizing a process tracking system or smart contracting process. This would only require a minor modification of the RFP process, whereby each step in the contracting process would be electronically recorded. Furthermore, inquiries and comments from the general public could be logged at each stage of the smart contract, incentivizing responsive behavior and preventing any execution of a contract without first addressing any or all comments. Ultimately, we would have a more transparent process and further contain costs by reducing staff and contracting process time in general.
Council Candidate Weekly Question: Lawsuits against the City