This is our second of eight questions. The candidates get exactly 250 words. The answer is due at 9 pm on Thursday.
What do you see as the biggest problem facing Davis?
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our entire world and deeply impacted our community. We are ensuring that City decisions, communications, and combat strategies adhere to the Federal, State, and County regulations and represent best practices known at the time.
We are maximizing collaboration with UC Davis, the centerpiece of which is the Healthy Davis Together project, a joint effort between the City and campus to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while facilitating the return of UC Davis students. This project will increase COVID-19 screening and contact tracing, and provide protection, resources, and support services to keep our community healthy.
We have also instituted Open Air Davis, which provides regular weekend street closures to support downtown businesses and create safe community activity. We are developing strategies to combat general community mental health, like pandemic fatigue, and a COVID ombudsman program to help businesses navigate rules and programs. We are also taking seriously our responsibility to provide testing and have opened our civic spaces as testing sites.
The City also embarked on a successful Project Roomkey effort, to provide non-congregate shelter options for people experiencing homelessness and minimize strain on our health care system. We are exploring short and long term alternatives to the IRWS for this winter and options to address those experiencing homelessness who are at highest risk for serious illness.
I believe in following the science and advice of medical experts, regarding COVID and everything else. That is exactly what your City leadership is doing.
This has been a year of multilayered crises for many Davisites. There is obviously the global COVID-19 pandemic, the related economic crisis, escalating tensions around racism, and a climate crisis ravaging our region like never before. In many ways these crises aren’t new, but they are the lingering effects of neglect in our society.
COVID-19 is new but for a long time many people, disproportionately people of color, have lacked adequate access to quality healthcare. This contributed to shortcomings in testing and treatment efforts across the nation, and right in our own neck of the woods. This particular recession is new, but what’s been with us for a while is how difficult it has been for many families to make ends meet, and how local governments have strained fiscally to provide essential services. Today’s protest movement is unique in many ways but it references near word-for-word the calls of countless previous generations for structural change. Our current fire season is the largest and most destructive we’ve ever seen, but at the time so was the 2018 fire season. The times we’re in and the problems we’re facing require us to develop some new leadership and bring in some new ideas. I also believe the city council could govern better by listening more to its residents when campaigning for office and particularly when developing policy.
A lack of genuine community engagement. Davis has many problems; the budget, housing, public safety, our roads and bike paths, homelessness, our environmental impact, updating our general plan to describe how and at what rate we intend to keep growing, increased divisiveness, and – of course – the Pandemic. Robust community engagement would help us achieve better outcomes for all of these problems.
I believe our community is the best consultant team available to develop creative and elegant solutions to our issues. Our community gives input, but I do not see a real desire in City leadership to truly engage our community to solve these problems. I want to put community engagement at the center of our problem solving.
The update of the Downtown Plan was a great example of input versus engagement. When it came to building height, we were reminded that the committee wanted to be bold. Yet when it came to the topics we wanted to address boldly – sustainability, resiliency, accessibility, and affordable housing – we were told those were too expensive.
I do not know of a project by the City that would not have been improved with better community engagement.
The biggest problem facing our city right now is the notion that maintaining the status quo will lead our community through these unprecedented times. The pandemic, racial and social injustice, declining trust in government, and the city’s fiscal challenges have made it clear that we are in a new normal. Local priorities must reflect the groundswell that calls for meaningful and effective change. Any attempts to argue for maintaining the status quo are simply tone deaf.
Constituents I talk to are eager for real change and innovative thinking in local decision making and they do NOT believe that having fresh perspectives on the Davis City Council is a “distraction” or “nonsense” (as a current Councilmember publicly opined this week).
If you think a lack of transparency is okay
If you think the perpetuation of systemic injustice is okay
If you think our roads and greenbelts are okay
If you think the Mace Mess is okay
If you think the BrightNight agreement is okay
If you think not building libraries and community spaces in South Davis is okay…
Then support those candidates that will bring the same solutions, experience, and ideas.
However, I believe that we should strive for a better Davis and not settle for the idea that continuity equates to a solution for new social, political, and economic challenges. We should advocate for diverse viewpoints to make our community more resilient rather than using fear to insinuate that change is inherently bad. Our town, and our community, deserve better.
In my opinion, currently the pandemic and its unknown economic impacts on City operations, the local economy and residents is the most critical issue facing Davis. Will our business community survive? Will the City have enough revenues to deliver municipal services? While there are many things outside the City Council’s control, there are actions we can take. It’s time to substantially improve the transparency of how decisions are made and expand efforts to keep residents informed about looming challenges and opportunities. We need a uniform process to analyze issues and create sound policies for Davis reflective of our economic reality and a diversity of voices. Local leaders have a responsibility now more than ever to foster inclusiveness. District 5 comprises freeway, commercial, retail, Olive Drive, affordable housing and a mix of single-family homes divided from the rest of the city by I80 and the railroad tracks. Historically, South Davis has felt it provides revenue to the City and gets little in return. Davis, as a whole, needs to unite our various neighborhoods to meet the challenge we face effectively. It’s impossible to predict how Davis will weather this crisis but with sound leadership, a diversity of voices at the table, and experienced City staff, I have confidence we can do well. I am ready to bring my experience from the last recession and recovery to the table with even more energy, compassion and optimism.
There’s a lot of issues in Davis at the moment. However, there’s also a lot of common themes and intersections between them. One such theme that I would say is the biggest problem in Davis is the City Council ignoring or dismissing the interests of certain groups, especially the needs of marginalized communities.
Remedying this problem requires two key components. First, there must be ample opportunity for community input and suggestions on issues and proposals affecting the City, both during City Council and Commission meetings as well at separate town halls with a more conversational format that allows for back-and-forth discussion. Similarly, surveys should be distributed broadly as well as specifically to those who are the most impacted. Every effort should be made to actively seek out feedback by meeting people where they are rather than putting the burden on them to attend pre-scheduled events.
The second key component is making decisions that address people’s needs while centering the most marginalized. In other words, getting input isn’t enough and doesn’t really mean much if it’s not acted upon. I think our community should pursue potential ways of allowing people to have more direct power over their lives. On top of this, until that power is distributed, City Council and staff should be ready and willing to act on feedback from Commissions and the public. Furthermore, City Council and staff should especially listen to experts — in the conventional sense (academics, policy wonks, etc.) and the often overlooked area of lived experience.
Climate change. There are many problems that may seem more pressing, including the Covid-19 pandemic, deadly fires across the western U.S., public safety reform, fiscal shortfalls, housing shortages, homelessness, and crime. However, climate change will be the defining issue of our generation, and action begins with us.
As individuals, we must recognize, learn, act, and educate. There are many ways to contribute, driving less, introducing drought-tolerant landscaping, transitioning from natural gas to electrical energy, composting, taking shorter showers, eating less meat, limiting electricity use during peak hours, supporting businesses that follow best practice, and working together with our neighbors. We must use our energy to normalize actions that push people and businesses to put the planet before themselves.
Local government must lead by building, legislating, and collaborating. We need a commission on the climate. We need to implement proper incentives to encourage the reduction of our collective environmental footprint. We need to set high standards for new development. We need to invest in green infrastructure. We need to work with other cities to promote these policies beyond Davis.
Many issues face us, but nearly all are exacerbated by climate change. We need a Green New Deal for Davis, and we need it now.