By Renee Applegate
DAVIS — On the evening of Apr. 20, 2021, the Davis City Council met virtually to discuss and vote to appoint members to vacancies on all but three of the City’s advisory commissions. The Council was tasked with filling both short- and long-term midterm vacancies.
The Council’s meeting agenda clarified that “every effort has been made so that commission membership will include underrepresented groups.” When crafting its recommendations, Councilmember Dan Carson stated, “The subcommittee’s recommendations included recommendations of 14 women, 7 people of color, 1 person who identifies as LGBTQ, and 5 students.” In addition to a thorough application and interview review process, the meeting agenda mentioned that the Subcommittee took “into consideration the current makeup of commissions.”
The Council Subcommittee on Commissions, run by Mayor Gloria Partida and Councilmember Dan Carson, facilitated the applicant selection process and provided appointment recommendations to fill vacancies for eleven advisory commissions. Before an official vote was taken, the City Council heard a total of 29 public comments.
Most of the public comments were centered around the Tree Commission. According to the City’s website, the Tree Commission is tasked with examining “tree removal requests,” making “recommendations to the City Council on Landmark Trees designations” and hearing “appeals regarding denials of tree modification permit applications” and public nuisance decisions “of the Parks and Grounds Superintendent.”
Though the Tree Commission had vacancies for three regular positions and one alternate position, the Council Subcommittee on Commissions made “no recommendation […] for the alternate commission position.” Long-term Davis residents as well as current sitting members on the Tree Commission objected.
Seventeen public comments articulated to the Council their confusion about its decision to not recommend current Tree Commissioner Colin Walsh for reappointment as the alternate commission position.
The public comments portion of the item swayed heavily in favor of Colin Walsh, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the District 2 council seat in the 2020 election. In his own public comment, Walsh described himself as a “lifelong advocate for the environment” and “dedicated commissioner.”
Those advocating on behalf of Colin Walsh listed his “very thorough investigation,” “responsiveness,” “history” in the community and “ability to take the positions seriously” as reasons to reappoint Walsh. Though “Walsh has only served one year,” attested one public commenter, “he has been a “diligent and hardworking member, serving on four subcommittees and passing all but one of his motions unanimously.”
Not long ago, Colin Walsh found himself at the center of a controversy regarding Davis’ Measure J in 2018. During the election cycle, Walsh was accused of “slut-shaming” a student for her clothing choice.
Still, several community members, including Walsh himself, noted that removing Walsh would derail the process for updating the tree ordinance considering that Walsh currently serves on the Tree Ordinance Subcommittee.
This subcommittee is tasked with updating the tree ordinance for Davis. This task, one community member commented, “hasn’t been updated since 2002, so it’s a big job.” Another community member requesting Walsh’s reappointment argued that Walsh’s removal during this process “would make it difficult” to successfully rewrite the ordinance.
John Reuter, a current Tree Commissioner, spoke to Walsh’s dedication to the commission and recommended the Council appoint Walsh for the alternate position. Reuter, who is working with Walsh to update the tree ordinance, insists that Walsh “does his homework.”
Like Reuter, a handful of community members were impressed by Walsh’s commitment to “developing a plan for urban canopy.” While speaking on behalf of himself, Walsh expressed to the Council that “the beautiful urban carbon-sequestering canopy that we have here in Davis is a result of planning and engagement of the City of Davis and its citizens.” Walsh stated that it was this community planning and engagement that drew him to the commission in the first place, and he hopes to continue “forward-thinking work if reappointed.”
Once the City Council heard all public comments, votes were tabulated behind the scenes and appointments were announced.
In spite of the no alternate appointment recommended by the Council Subcommittee for the Tree Commission, Colin Walsh was reappointed as a regular commissioner to the Tree CommissionWalsh received three regular appointment votes from Mayor Partida, Vice Mayor Lucas Frerichs, and Councilmember Josh Chapman.
The new term for commissioners will start on Jul. 1, 2021.
Renee Applegate is a fourth-year student at UC Davis, currently majoring in Political Science (Public Service) and minoring in Environmental Policy & Planning and Professional Writing. She is from San Clemente, CA.