By Dan Wolk and Robb Davis
A week from Tuesday, a new City Council and mayor will be sworn in at City Hall. This is certainly an occasion for celebration, and we invite the community to join us in this time-honored tradition.
But this year the celebration will be tempered by the significant challenges our community is facing. In fact, the very day it is sworn in the City Council will get down to business addressing a number of those challenges.
As the incoming mayor and mayor pro tem, we wanted to share with the community what some of those key challenges are — and our plan in the first six months of our tenure (between July 1 and our December recess) to address them:
* Water rates: The passage of Measure P clearly shows that although the community supports the surface water project, it does not favor the current consumption-based fixed rate model. As folks who have had concerns about CBFR, we can understand why. The City Council, along with members of the community and the Utility Rate Advisory Committee, is working on an improved rate structure and will look to have the new rate structure in place by this fall.
* City manager: One of the most important decisions a city council can make is hiring a city manager. The City Council has received a number of applications for the current opening and will begin the process of interviewing and selecting a new city manager over this summer with a fall hiring date.
* Economic development: It has become clear that our community needs to do a much better job of harnessing the technology coming out of UC Davis, thus growing and diversifying our economy, creating jobs and expanding our revenue base.
In addition to continuing our efforts to develop the Nishi property as a mixed-use innovation center (helped immensely by a recent $600,000 grant from SACOG), building a new hotel/conference center at Richards Boulevard and Interstate 80, and reducing red tape at City Hall to create incentives and opportunities for redevelopment (denser, mixed-use buildings) in our downtown, this summer the City Council will review submissions for “innovation centers” and examine options for ballot measures to further these efforts.
We will continue to work closely with the Chamber of Commerce, Davis Downtown, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, Yolo County and others on these efforts to facilitate the realization of a strong and growing economy that supports our community values and fiscal sustainability.
* Investing in infrastructure: The passage of Measure O was a huge relief to the community. But we are not out of the woods yet. We still have enormous infrastructure needs to address — including our roads, sidewalks, greenbelts and swimming pools. We cannot wait for the revenue streams flowing from economic development efforts to tackle these backlogs because their costs grow exponentially as they deteriorate with time. To address these, the council plans to put a reasonable infrastructure financing mechanism on an upcoming ballot, perhaps as soon as November.
* Employee morale: Considering the difficult budget cuts and personnel decisions that have been made over the past few years, and the often-bumpy relationship between city employees and management, it will be important for the new City Council to build trust with the people who make our city what it is. To that end, we plan to have monthly meetings with employees to listen to their concerns, bring back the yearly employee recognition event and show (Dan and Lucas Frerichs have even pledged to sing), and look at ways of reorganizing City Hall to make it a friendlier place to work — and for the public to visit.
* Affordable housing: Housing remains costly in our community — not just for low-income families, but those in the middle class. And with the demise of redevelopment, our community has lost its primary source of affordable housing funds. The city has initiated a discussion about how to move forward and the council will discuss those recommendations later this year.
These are only some of the challenges. But we are ready to work with our council colleagues, city staff and the larger community to tackle them. And together, we will.
— Dan Wolk and Robb Davis are the incoming mayor and mayor pro tem, respectively, of Davis.