By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – While the issue was a tax share agreement, in a lot of ways that issue took a back seat on Tuesday to complaints about Councilmember Dan Carson and whether his actions and his role with both the campaign and filing the writ to change the ballot language continued to overshadow some of the proceedings.
The issue of potential conflict also bled into whether the city got the best deal in terms of the tax share agreement.
Roberta Millstein pointed out, for instance, “the council subcommittee composed of Mayor Partida and Councilmember Carson has negotiated that the city of Davis will get 50% of the state’s sales taxes that Bradley Burns sales taxes and the county will get 50%. However, this seems to be a worse deal for the city that was negotiated for previous projects, such as Nishi, and WDAAC for those projects, the city received 85% of the Bradley Burns tax revenues.”
Connecting the two issues, she pointed out “perhaps it is no surprise that with the city council, having already signed off on the project and an election looming that the city might not be in the best position to negotiate, but I have to ask why citizens should accept what is apparently a lesser tax deal because the city council went along with the developer and rushed this project to the ballot.”
Meanwhile, Alan Pryor charged, “I request that Mr. Carson recuse himself from any involvement on behalf of the city regarding any aspects of the DiSC project going forward, including the deliberations tonight on the proposed tax sharing agreement with the county, I’m making this request because Mr. Carson is identified as the honorary chair of the Yes on Measure H campaign committee. And thus (he) has an inherent conflict of interest by directly representing the city in these matters and indirectly representing the Yes on Measure H campaign and the interests of the developers.”
He added, “The current tax sharing agreement is a perfect example of where Mr. Carson has failed to get the best deal possible for the city and secure as much sales tax revenue as possible from the project.”
But others have noted, “Given how much everyone has hung their hat on the $3.88 million number,” Councilmember Carson “would have nothing but incentive to ensure” that the city arrived “as close as possible to that number.”
Moreover, as was pointed out on Tuesday, “comparing the sales tax share agreement of 50/50 Bradley-Burns for a commercial project to that of an 85-15 split for Nishi and Bretton Woods” which are both almost purely residential is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
EPS in fact initially predicted a 50-50 split in the tax share.
Dan Carson for his part noted that when the council put Measure Q on the ballot to renew the city’s sales tax, he led the campaign and no one raised an objection at that time.
“I am an elected official, I’m allowed to be a political leader as well,” Carson said. “Is there any problem with an elected city council member who voted for a project supporting the project he helped to put on the ballot?”
City Attorney Inder Khalsa pointed out that conflict of interest provisions are limited.
“You do not have a financial conflict with respect to the project and you don’t have any other legal conflict interest,” she said. “Councilmembers do have First Amendment Rights and can be advocates of a ballot measure.”
However, that is the legal standard, and several former mayors have raised ethical objections to Carson’s actions.
In a letter from Former Mayor Ann Evans she wrote, “Councilman Dan Carson has set a low bar for conduct of an elected official in Davis. Funded by the developer of DiSC (Measure H), Carson in effect sued the local citizens in opposition to H, and furthermore is suing them to pay for legal expenses he incurred in a case he did not win outright.”
She added, “I am shocked and saddened by these actions. What lasting chilling effect will this have on an open and democratic discourse in Davis? Citizen activists should not need to pay over $100,000 to share their opinion publicly.”
In a joint letter signed by six former mayors: Joe Krovoza, Sue Greenwald, Mike Corbett, Ken Wagstaff, Ann Evans and Bill Kopper, they write: “We are concerned that Davis City Councilman Dan Carson’s involvement in the Measure H campaign and his efforts to pass Measure H set a terrible precedent for Davis and harms our citizen-based democratic processes.”
They write, “Carson is the first elected official in Davis to lead a developer’s campaign committee to annex land to the city for a subdivision. He is also the first member of the city Council to use developer money to file a lawsuit to strike down his fellow citizens’ ballot arguments against annexation.”
They later wrote, “Just the possibility of another developer suing the citizen opponents of a project could scare Davis residents from standing up and speaking out. That’s not the Davis way. Winning a political debate shouldn’t depend on the size of your pocketbook. Instead, make your best case and then let the voters decide.”
From their perspective, “The problem with Carson’s conduct in the Measure H campaign is that he has blurred the line between his role as an elected representative of the people of Davis and his advocacy for a development project. This conflict of interest was on full display at the April 5 City Council meeting, when he took up a Measure H matter that was not on the agenda and gave a lengthy political speech. Even Mayor Gloria Partida admonished Carson this was improper.”
In the meantime, the Board of Supervisors and City Council were both unanimous in their support for the tax sharing agreement.
“My colleagues and I are happy to support the exhaustive work done by Supervisor Saylor and Supervisor Provenza to reach an agreement on revenue and property taxes for the proposed DiSC annexation,” said Board Chair, Supervisor Angel Barajas. “The agreement demonstrates the importance of the City and County working together on projects with a nexus between us to improve services for both jurisdictions.”
In addition to the tax-sharing agreement, there is a traffic and traffic infrastructure MOU which includes several key provisions, addressing timing and responsibility for various infrastructure projects, such as:
- Extends the Mace Boulevard Corridor Plan to Pole Line Road/County Road 102 for project design, including design of a second westbound lane from Harper Junior High to East Covell and for improvements to the intersection of Mace Boulevard and County Road 104A/30B. Any such lane addition on East Covell would be the responsibility of the developer, subject to approval of separate environmental analysis and associated hearing processes. For all other project related traffic infrastructure mitigation within the City, makes clear where the developer or the City (under a fair share contribution scenario) is responsible for construction.
- Clarifying which traffic infrastructure mitigation measures are the developer’s responsibility to construct and committing the developer to fund 65% design drawings for the Mace grade separated crossing at the time of issuance of grading permits to allow City, County, and developer to collaborate in the pursuit of grant funds for that improvement.
- Methodology for a pre-construction survey of county roads and later assessments of project construction damage to such roads, with the developer responsible for necessary repairs.
- Methodology for determining “Fair Share” contribution of the DISC 2022 project to the CR32A railroad crossing relocation project.