In the middle of the debate over policies, a bigger point has emerged which is what is your vision for Davis. I actually believe that’s a secondary point although I think have an answer to that. The problem with asking the vision question is that I think for a lot of people their vision is to figure out a way to keep Davis as it is now or as it was when they first moved here.
Many people will rightly point out that Davis has changed a good deal over the decades and that is unrealistic to expect either (A) Davis to go back to what it was and (B) Davis to remain as it is now.
The key point for me then is not what your vision is for Davis, but rather how do we retain the things that we love about this community (of course you could argue that is itself a vision). Here many will no doubt disagree just how to do that.
But towards that end, I found the post by Matt Williams the other day to be helpful:
He writes: “The reality of the $8 million per year shortfall (each year for 20 years) is going to force the municipal jurisdiction of the City of Davis to stop plunging its head into the sand plying ostrich, and deal with the fiscal realities we face.”
And I think this point is the tip of the iceberg, not the iceberg itself because is belies the fact that the city of Davis, as currently construction is not sustainable.
That being said, Matt Williams is correct to point out there are “different” which he differentiates from “opposing” or even “polarizing” sides to how to deal with this. But his point is strong here: “The one thing all those sides will have to deal with is change. Change brought about by the recurring shortfall.”
Toward that end, Matt Williams identifies five groups:
- One of the groups sees Davis as a one-company, “University Town,” and wants to hold on to the illusion that nothing has changed.
- Another group of people want to hold onto the one-company University Town identity, and believe the best way to deal with the collapse of the pre-2008 Ponzi Scheme is by paying the additional taxes needed to cover the costs of the City’s services to which they have become accustomed. They are willing to see Davis become more and more expensive a place to live.
- A third group is comprised of people who acknowledge the collapse of the pre-2008 Ponzi Scheme and know we need to address the fiscal shortfall, but do not want to see Davis become more and more expensive to live in. They also still see Davis as a one-company University Town. They are willing to see a substantial cutback in both the cost and the level of services the City (and DJUSD) provide.
- A fourth group is much like the third group, but they do not want to see their personal taxes increase or the level of services decrease. They will push for taxes that are paid by others (e.g. TOT and sales taxes and gas taxes). They will push for modest economic development like more hotels and building the cannabis economy), but fundamentally they don’t want Davis to change.
- A fifth group is comprised of people who acknowledge the single-threaded University town economy that we historically and currently have is both unbalanced and fiscally unsustainable … and want to add the companies and jobs needed to reduce the community’s reliance on the University.
While Davis would appear to be in good shape, there are canaries in the coal mine here that suggest that all is not well – and if we do not act things will get worse.
The biggest overt sign is that our roadways are deteriorating and we lack the ongoing revenue stream to deal with that. That may not sound like a big deal, but it goes to the fundamental ability of our government to carry out its primary purpose to deliver services to the community and maintain the community infrastructure.
I would argue that what makes this community great is manifold but part of it is the character and nature – our parks, our greenbelts, our bike paths. The walkability and bikability of this community. The engaged nature of this community.
Imagine a community where we can no longer afford to maintain our roads, bikepaths, parks, greenbelts, among other things. That is a threat to the very nature of our community.
Second, and this goes beyond the issue of fiscal sustainability, but imagine a community that grows to expensive for the average person to live here.
Third, as this community grows more expensive, the population of school aged children will continue to decline and one of the great amenities is our schools – right now we are supporting and subsidizing our schools through a combination of factors – two of which are parcel taxes and out of district transfers – in the long term neither of these seems particularly sustainable.
That is why I believe that while most people love this community because it is small, it has a college atmosphere, and they would prefer to see limited change – we have to figure out a way to allow change to happen while balancing that change.
That calls for compromise and a moderate path forward. For example, we may believe it would be better not to continue to expand onto the surrounding farmland, but then that might mean we have to accept more high density infill and redevelopment.
On the economic development side – with the slow death of retail, our choice that we already made becomes clearer – we are not going to improve our tax take through development of peripheral retail, but instead we need to look to the university and the high tech route. That’s a reason I support looking at an innovation center.
Our downtown is a key and valuable resource, but the slow death of retail is going to impact it as well – as it already has – what do we see as the future of our downtown? I see a downtown that while busy is not what I would consider thriving. How do we improve it? What if we put more people in downtown, better utilize the land by going up, and still maintain the character of the downtown?
The hard thing for people to accept is that things are going to change one way or another. There is no avoiding change in life. The only thing that doesn’t change is already dead.
Instead of fighting change, we need to direct change so that we can retain what we love about this community while making changes to be sure that we are sustainable.
—David M. Greenwald reporting