By David M. Greenwald
In one of the most competitive races in the city, all four candidates for the District 5 City Council seat met on Sunday evening in a forum hosted by the Davis League of Women Voters—Josh Chapman, Kelsey Fortunate, Connor Gorman and Rochelle Swanson. They had 90 seconds to respond with a possible one minute follow up.
Question 1: The city council will continue to govern all Davis, while you are being elected by voters of a specific district. What are the top needs of your district and how do you propose to address them?
Josh Chapman: There are a few immediate needs someone has, to have representation on the council and have someone who is representing South Davis and making sure South Davis is getting a fair share. He said that another key issue is “figuring out and dealing with a solution to Mace Blvd.” Third “is getting the South Davis Library built, working with leaders to see that the voter funded money is there and get that built in South Davis.” He said he is also looking at the Open Space tax to use some of that for the South Fork of Putah Creek, “and looking at using that money to create more open space in South Davis.”
Connor Gorman: “There are a lot of different communities in Davis and sometimes they have different needs and we really need to think about what different communities need and try to address the needs of different communities,” he said. “Sometimes those needs overlap.” He thinks that a “South Davis Library is a good example” of something that many South Davis residents have wanted. He said that it would benefit not only the school district but the most economically marginalized people in the community. “These days you need a good internet in order to do a lot of things,” he said. Having a place to go during extreme weather events or when it’s really hot is also a good thing, he said. He said another need “is trying to restructure public safety and really look at a housing-first approach to homelessness.”
Rochelle Swanson: She said that there are many different communities within South Davis but an important issue is the sustainability piece. One of the pressing issues during fire season, she said,is “we have one of the largest greenbelt systems in south Davis” and “staff needs to make sure that we are aware and responsible.” “Equitable access to the other side of town is important,” she said, meaning access over the freeway via Mace, Pole Line or Richards. She said “those funds are coming forward.” She also suggested “more bus stops” allowing Unitrans to pick up more people. “Even though Covid-19 has got traffic down, as people go back to work, we need to be smart about traffic calming measures,” she said. Mace Blvd. was a significant issue in South Davis, she pointed out. She also mentioned discussions about broadband and she’s hopeful that it can bring the library discussion back as well.
Kelsey Fortune: ”You’ve got the Mace mess that needs to be addressed,” she said. She also said that we’ve been sitting on, for a long time, a pile of money to build that South Davis Library, “but there hasn’t been anyone pushing that forward.” “You also need to think about the bike infrastructure—which is something I struggle with in South Davis,” she said. “Now that I live in South Davis I definitely bike on the roads rather than the bike paths because of poor upkeep.” She also mentioned Pacifico and homelessness, which she says “has been pushed out of the downtown area into our neighborhoods.” She agrees that we need to look at a Housing First model for dealing with populations that are unhoused. She also said, “Rethink public safety in general.”
QUESTION 2: What is your position on reallocating public safety/ police funding in Davis? Please include specific examples.
Connor Gorman: “I am very in favor of reallocating police funding to real Public Safety,” he said. “I believe that we need a separate department of Public Safety that is independent of the Davis Police Department.” He mentioned the need for mental health and substance abuse crisis response, as well as homelessness outreach and other types of services. Gorman also mentioned the need for shelters and respite centers to be under departments that are not the police. “I think this would be very helpful if we’re certainly the populations that are directly served,” he said, “but also the community as a whole.” He said “really creating real public safety in our community benefits everyone.” He added, “We know that policing doesn’t actually create public safety.”
Rochelle Swanson: “Words matter, re-assessing is a very good term around public safety,” she said. “Re-imagining.” She said, “We’re learning that public safety and public service is a much bigger net that we need to catch right now.” She added, “A lot of things fall into law enforcement hands right now for which they are not trained.” Mental health, drug use, homelessness. “I believe we need to be more part of that.” She said that the city is looking at a clinician who would specialize in crisis intervention training and argued that we need more than that. “Those issues are not a forty hour a week thing,” she said. “I think we need to have more care.” She added, “ I think we need to re-assess what we actually need.” We need to hear all the citizens’ voices, she said.
Kelsey Fortune: She related that a few years ago she was raped. “Two years ago I went to the police, nothing was done,” she said. “If any other resident would like to tell me that the theft of their property needs an armed response for something that happened hours ago when they don’t even know when it happened, is a bigger issue than what has happened to me, they can go ahead, we can have that conversation.” She said, “We need to be thinking about what is an actual crime that we need to be dealing with and reallocate resources so that the actual things that are happening in our community are taken care of.” She said that she was in a minority of victims that actually go to the police, “because victims know that nothing is going to happen.” “We are in a college town, this is happening,” she said. She called for victim services, mental health services and homelessness services. “We do not need more armed officers,” she said.
Josh Chapman: He said he was definitely supportive of finding ways that we can be better with regard to the police department. “This conversation has to be had,” he said. “Anything that changes allocation, it needs to be a city-driven process, where we have multiple voices around the table. Different views, different experiences to make that decision a well-informed decision.” He noted that the majority of calls the police department receives is not for a violent crime. He said a lot of those calls are for someone who is dealing with a mental health crisis or in need of some support services. “I do support us looking at and coming up with more holistic approaches about how we look at policing,” he said. He said, “ Someone having a mental health crisis is not a criminal and we need to look at how we respond to those situations as a community, as a police department and better address the needs of the people who are looking for that support.”
Kelsey Fortune: She said, “I do have a plan for this. I’d like to see a department of safety that contains police, fire, EMS, the typical three, as well as a department of mental health services, a department for homeless services and a department for victim services.” She said “that way we can have professionals at every single level who are meant to deal with different situations.” Fortunate said that they hear co-response is not working well, but she believes that is because taking them in and then releasing them onto the street “is not actually serving them.”
Connor Gorman: He said, “There should be a separate department … it needs to be independent of the structure, and culture, budgeting and decision processes of the Davis Police Department.” But he would support looking at a potential joint model.
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