By Madison Forwood
DAVIS — On Friday Nov. 20, Mayor Gloria Partida had a public discussion with chief editor of the Davis Vanguard, David Greenwald, via Zoom.
The pair talked about a multitude of issues including homelessness, COVID-19 impact and what is in store for the future of Davis. Greenwald also raised concerns about COVID-19 policies and Yolo County going back and forth between the red and purple tiers.
Mayor Partida said, “It is incredibly frustrating and it is really frustrating for business especially and I think that we have to always air on the side of caution because people’s lives are at stake.”
She continued, “You have to be as cautious as possible. Of course the county takes instructions from the state, and we take instructions from the county but you can’t really control how people are going to behave all the time, and I think that is the real frustration.”
The lively discussion transitioned to positive efforts of UC Davis and other organizations to still celebrate holidays while remaining COVID 19 aware and safe.
Mayor Partida praised the Healthy Davis Together program through the university. She noted, “They offered these small grants to students to put on safe Halloween gatherings. So they gave them money so they could put together really small get-togethers with their pods.”
The discussion also covered recently rolled out policies across the city of Davis. Mayor Partida elaborated, “Before COVID had happened, we had just opened the Respite Center and that is still there and it’s still serving the purpose that it was intended for. We are going to have a report on that, coming out pretty soon so that people can see how many people have been served and what the successes of that are.”
She offered an interesting reflection from her visits to the Respite Center, “I think what surprised me the most was that at least a few of the people that I spoke with were born and raised in Davis. These are not people that are passing through, these are people that come from our community and have fallen on hard times. A number of people had jobs but didn’t have homes.”
On homelessness, Mayor Partida had some logical insight to offer.
“The population of homeless that people see and are concerned with are people who are not in a group and not just temporarily homeless,” she said. “One of the things we are considering right now is sanctioned camping is because there are a lot of people who are camping in the ditches, they are camping next to the movie theater… They are camping in situations in which it is unsanitary. It is not safe and it makes people just really uncomfortable.”
“If we had a place people could set up,” she explained, “and if we had porta-potties and a way to deal with trash and things like that it would relieve a lot of the burden the city feels it is facing… You really can’t move people along unless you have an alternative place for them to be at.”
Mayor Partida affirmed her belief in the services Davis offers, stating, “Once we have sanctioned camping and a Respite Center that is really navigating people out of homelessness and we have all of these services that are set up to get people into housing, then we can really start asking people to move along.”
Greenwald further delved into affordable housing in the city of Davis. He stated that one of his biggest concerns for the city of Davis was affordable housing for people with small children especially with the signs of declining school district enrollment and higher cost of living.
Mayor Partida said that the issue is being addressed by the university and city.
“I think the University building the student housing will alleviate a lot of the crunch,” she said. “It will open up a lot of older apartments and housing where younger people and young families can live. I think that will help quite a bit.”
The next issue raised was about district elections. Greenwald stated that he was a supporter of the change with the following explanation, “A few years ago you had this all white male city council. I am not disparaging white males, but a city like Woodland, which is probably 40 or 50 percent Latino, to have an all white male city council, not to mention the gender factor, is really disproportionate.”
He explained however that “what we ended up with in Davis was a very undiverse group of candidates. It is harder to elect people of color and students in this format. Single member districts are the vain of a two party system. I know you were opposed to it at the start. Is there anything we can do about it at this point?”
Mayor Partida responded, “I think at this point we just have to wait and see if we are going to start undoing districts. I really don’t know what else we can do until then. I was opposed to districts in Davis because we don’t have any real concentrations of anything here. As far as minorities we are pretty well dispersed throughout the districts and so I think that the districts in Davis actually made it a lot harder for minorities or for people that do not hold mainstream ideas.”
The public was allowed to submit questions for Mayor Partida to answer in the live discussion.
One question asked what plans the city has to curb the increase of crime.
Mayor Partida responded, “Crime is up. Statistics show that crime is increasing again it is not just here in Davis; it is a trend. I know that the police department has increased its patrol for downtown. Downtown, as you said, is one of the areas where there is not a lot of people there, so where there is not a lot of people, you get an increase in crime. I think that in times like this, where people are out of jobs and people are feeling the stresses of what is happening, it unfortunately drives crime up. I think what we are doing as I said the police department is working with the Downtown business, they are doing education for businesses on ways they can discourage crime in the downtown area.”
Another question asked, “The city has repeatedly gotten into trouble for decisions made in closed session. How can the council provide more guidance to staff management and the city attorney about how to limit the subject matter discussed in those sessions beyond what is allowed under the Brown Act?”
Mayor Partida stated, “I think there are very clear parameters as to what you can discuss in a closed session. I think we always follow what those parameters are. I think there are some pieces of discussions that are maybe more subjective to what we should discuss or what we should do in public. I think for what should be discussed in a closed session those parameters are followed very carefully.”
Another attendee asked, “On the subject of resources, is the city working on increasing affordable access to mental health care as this pertains to the situation with our homeless community and police calls?”
Mayor Partida said, “The city in partnership with the county is always working on mental health. I think that one of the very few bright spots about COVID is that we have received a very large amount of CARES Act money and a lot of that is going to housing people. We did hire another social worker to work with the homeless and that person does a lot of mental health work.”
Madison Forwood is completing her fourth year at UC Davis studying political science and history with a minor in professional writing.