By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – The Davis City Council candidates will be busy this week, as they meet in three separate forums. On Monday all of the candidates met in a forum sponsored by Indivisible Yolo and Yolo People Power.
The Vanguard continues its full coverage with the discussion between District Four candidates where Gloria Partida, the incumbent, is being challenged by Adam Morrill.
Question: What are the current strengths of our municipal governance and in what areas, if any, would you work to change? And how would you do that?
Gloria Partida – I think that the strength of any municipal government is the ability to serve, and that should be number one. And I think that our city does a really good job of making sure that we understand what the priorities are of our citizens and making those priorities a reality…. As far as what I think that we could improve on, there are a lot of challenges that we have. Affordable housing is one of them. And I think that we need to be as creative as we can be.
Adam Morrill – The general structure that we have is great. That provides a lot of opportunities for public participation, avenues for direct democracy, with Measure J votes on any peripheral developments. What I would change is how things are done currently. A lot of things are on the agenda as consent items rather than items for discussion by council. There’s not much rigorous debate over issues that the public sees. Most decisions are made beforehand and put on consent agenda items. And currently a lot of recommendations are coming from the bottom up rather than from the top down. Council should be directing staff to provide options for different proposals, giving them a status quo best case, and then sitting in the middle and giving them the pros and unbiased pros and cons, and then let the council make the ultimate decision on which way staff should go.
Question: What services do you think the city of Davis is doing well, and what, if any, would you work to improve?
Gloria Partida: So, there are a number of services I think that the city does really well at. I think our parks and rec is fabulous. If anybody has had children that have participated in our parks and rec services, they serve a great purpose, especially for people of middle income who need an affordable way for their children to be engaged. I think that our senior center engages also another vulnerable population. And I think that those two programs are often overlooked when we think about what our city does for our community… Aside from that, I think that Public Works does a great job. I mean, nobody thinks about whether or not the water’s coming out of their tap…
Adam Morrill: I would agree with a lot of what Gloria said. Perfect example. The rank-and-file utilities workers are constantly getting kudos from the public. We have guys doing nasty jobs, cleaning sewer lines, and oftentimes they could say, Well, that’s on your side. And if it’s not a big ball of roots, they’ll go the extra mile to actually clear that line for the customer and provide that customer service. And, and that’s where the city really shines, is with our rank and file and the level of customer service they provide.
Adam Morrill: So areas we need to improve: We need to hire an IPM [Integrated Pest Management] specialist. That position’s been sitting vacant for several years. That was a priority for council and for the commissions, and we’re seeing the effects of it now by all the weeds everywhere, because we don’t have anyone guiding that program. The urban Forestry program is highly understaffed right now. We’re relying on contractors. We don’t have an arborist on staff.
Question: Gloria, could you describe to us an example of how you’ve worked with city officials and other members of our community to advance a local policy objective?
Gloria Partida: I also was on the subcommittee when we were setting up our, our new department of housing and social services. And that was a really critical part of getting our services to our homeless and our mental health crisis. But I think that the one that affected most people in our community was Healthy Davis together. In that collaboration, I worked with UC Davis, and the county, and our congregations and our nonprofits, which actually was very familiar to me because before my time on council, I’ve spent 30 years doing very similar work. So I’ve started a nonprofit and I’ve worked with nonprofits. When I first came to Davis, I worked with the school district to get to implement our full inclusion program for kids with disabilities.
Question: Adam, could you describe to us a time that you’ve worked with city officials to and other members of the community to achieve a local aim?
Adam Morrill: So the biggest thing in advancing any policy is education and outreach. I’m currently doing that in my position with the city on the food diversion programs, working to educate restaurants, supermarkets on options for food diversion, in addition to making sure that they divert their organics so that we can achieve as close to zero waste as possible in these food establishments, which are some of the largest generators of waste in the city. And along with that is educating the public as well, and working with them to address these needs. As far as in a larger scale, when I worked for state EMS authority, I was responsible for rolling out a brand new EMT certification. So I had to travel around the state, educate individual fire departments, EMS agencies, federal agencies, as well as conducting speaking and training at conferences to deliver that.
Question: So in 2020, City commissions and hundreds of community members advocated for structural changes in public safety. Is there anything is there anything remaining from the nine public safety recommendations that you want to advance? And what have you done or will do to support these kinds of recommendations?
Adam Morrill: I think we’ve approached a lot of those recommendations pretty well. What I think is missing is community engagement with public safety. You don’t see them out and about in the community, and that building relationships with the community, and I think that’s where trust ultimately starts, is by having a personal touch. I would love to see beat officers walking in downtown, going into shops, into restaurants, checking in…
Gloria Partida: Of the nine recommendations, I do think that we have addressed a lot of them. We started, you know, the Police Accountability Commission… . The one recommendation that was part of the nine recommendations that I think was the hardest to address was addressing the disparities in police stops. And why is there a disparity in who the police pull over. And part of our department of housing and social services is a piece that addresses collecting data and analyzing that data. And that I think that that’s going to be very important to every aspect of the nine recommendations.
Question: People of color in Davis are not necessarily feeling welcomed or respected—what would be the key thing that you would do to make Davis feel like a more welcoming place?
Gloria Partida: I think that we have a number of departments in the city that can work towards that end. So our arts and cultural department could really reflect the community that is here. We can do more outreach through our businesses. For instance, the nonprofit that I run works on diversity and inclusion. Some of the things that we’ve talked about is engaging with the community so that when our students arrive and they’re coming from many places they, they know that they are welcome here. There’s just a number of things that we can do through public outreach, again, that reflects the diversity of our community. Every year we paint the crosswalks rainbow during pride.
Adam Morrill: I would like to see more not necessarily festivals, but activities involving diverse groups. Have seen the faith-based groups come together at a particular time of year in Central Park so people can exchange ideas, get to know other people of other faiths. I think that’s something that’s kind of missing. We do address a lot of other groups, but we don’t really address our faith-based groups…
Question: Even a perceived rise in crime can make residents feel unsafe. What are your thoughts on this and what should be done?
Gloria Partida: First of all, you have to get the facts out very often. Things take a life of their own on Nextdoor or on social media. And so I think that it’s important to note that, oftentimes, it is a perceived and not an actual rise in crime… To get that information out to the community would go a long way to disarm the sort of anxiety that happens for folks in the community.
Adam Morrill: I think Davis is fairly safe when it comes to violent crime. We do have a property crime issue, and part of that is perception. Part of it is reality. And that stems from the police department not having adequate staff to investigate or at least speak to the public about the crimes… People feel when they are victims of property crime, feel like it’s not being addressed whether or not it’s increasing or not, it’s that perception spreads when they feel they’re powerless. They’re just gonna be a victim…
Adam Morrill: We had soccer practices for our kids over on community fields and going close to nighttime and at night with the lights, and there were people camping on the north side of the library. And so when you see those things, people are less safe, feel less safe for their children, are less likely to actually let them bike places and do things like that.
Question: We’ve all felt the blistering effects of climate change actually a couple weeks ago here, but continuing, so how should the city prepare for harm, which will occur from climate change? And what else should the city be doing to reduce potential harm?
Adam Morrill: I think we need to do more as far as having more cooling centers. In the case of the blackouts, I, we, I think we’re woefully unprepared for that. We need to have more cooling centers at city facilities along with that, being prepared for any floods, so stockpiling supplies that we can actually use with the public, because the Red Cross might not be able to get to us if there was a devastating event. So just general more preparedness is good for those emergencies.
Adam Morrill: But in general, I think what the city can do is lower its carbon footprint to minimize the effects. We need to make the city a place where it’s easy to get around by bicycle and where we feel safe to let our kids bike across town. Because tailpipe emissions are the vast majority of greenhouse gas causing emissions in the city. So addressing those tailpipe emissions is essential to getting that under control.
Gloria Partida: Currently we are in the middle of putting together a climate action and adaptation plan. And I think that that is going to be the roadmap for us to address all of the issues that we have to address for this climate emergency. It’s going to be really important to follow the recommendations in that plan that are feasible and that don’t leave people behind. Right now people are a little concerned about some of those recommendations but I remind people that it is a draft and the reason that it’s out there right now for people to respond to and to give input to so that we have a robust plan. It’s also really important that we work with the county and we work with the state. The climate crisis is not something that we can do on our own.
Question: So nearly a third of respondents to a recent survey, contracted by the city, identified the lack of affordable housing as the top challenge facing Davis. As a city council member, what have you done and if you were to come in again what would you do to ensure the city of Davis has its fair share of affordable housing?
Gloria Partida: That is one of the biggest challenges that we have, and it’s also one of the most critical issues that we have. And every project that has come before council, I’ve advocated for the maximum number of inclusionary units… . I’ve also tried to work to have a number of tools available. We need to have some funds that will go into our housing trust fund. We need to build something like this so that we can help people with first time homes. And also we need to work with the county on their voucher program.
Adam Morrill: I think when most people talk about affordable housing, they’re talking about what affordable with a lowercase ‘a’—something that entry level home buyers can afford. Because right now we’re missing that middle. We have a lot of rental properties. We have a lot of older, larger, single family homes that are out of the reach of the general public. We couldn’t afford to buy the house that we’re in—that we’ve been in 20 years now. There’s no way we could buy our own house. We need to hold to any development in the future to a 35% minimum affordable housing.
Adam Morrill: When I say affordable, I mean like, town homes, condos, and then stipulating in the CCNRs that they must be owner occupied so that they don’t fall into the rental market. So they’re there. So as people move out of their homes, after their kids leave, other families can move in, and then newer buyers can actually access the market.
Question: Could you comment on the affordable housing elements of recent and upcoming projects?
Gloria Partida: I would love to see our percentage be 35% as well. I’d love to see, you know, our percentage be greater than that. Unfortunately we have a, you know, a state regulation that prevents us from going above 15% unless we do a feasibility study first. And that is what we are doing right now… . I think that the projects that, that you mentioned we did as much as we possibly could for those projects…
Question: What would be the kinds of approaches that you would take to building and enhancing relationships between the city and UC Davis?
Adam Morrill: It needs to be much more cooperative. Right now. It’s very one sided. The university pretty much does as it chooses. And a perfect example being with Unitrans. I was a Unitrans driver and I’m proud to have done that. But the University basically uses the city to obtain the grant funding for a student transportation system that is pretty much what it is and, and isn’t paying for impact fees to help for the roads. It’s very clear that the damage that is being done to the roads from the buses. But it needs to be a conversation. I mean, you need to speak with maybe the employees, get the employees involved in demanding housing on campus. It can’t be a one-sided relationship.
Gloria Partida: Before Healthy Davis together happened, there was an MOU that was hashed out between the city and the university and the county. I mean, the city did push the university to commit to building its fair share of housing. And I think that that conversation, which was difficult and we were kind of on the brink of lawsuits and things like that, really opened up the communication that we have with the university. And the relationship has gotten a lot, has gotten a lot better. And I don’t think that Healthy Davis together could have happened if we didn’t have that relationship that we had built previously.
Question: Homelessness, what should the city be doing to address that challenge?
Gloria Partida: As I mentioned, I was on the subcommittee to put together this new department of Housing and Social Services, and that department is looking at the solutions to homelessness. We have a new department head who has actually gone out into the community and, and worked with our nonprofits, had conversations with our nonprofits, and is trying to figure out who’s here, first of all, who are the homeless among us and why are they, why are they in this situation and what services? How can we connect them to services? We need to find a way to prevent homelessness from becoming a culture, from becoming something that is embedded, that they accept and that we accept.
Adam Morrill: Honestly, it’s more of falling to the nonprofits and the county. Cities aren’t in general designed to be providing social services. Speaking to members, people who worked for Davis Community Meals, they were unhappy that the respite center was built. The government’s not very good about spending the taxpayers’ dime, but a nonprofit sure can stretch a dollar really far. I think the better use of those funds would’ve been who have directed those to the nonprofits, the ones that are in the trenches in the … that are the experts and know what they’re doing.