By Michael Bisch and Kemble Pope
We read Robin Weiner’s letter in the March 21 edition of The Davis Enterprise with interest. To begin with, the Davis Chamber of Commerce and Davis Downtown very much share Robin’s concerns regarding how the city of Davis goes about allocating its limited financial resources in the face of a fiscal emergency. Not only do we share the concern, we acted upon it by funding all work on the Davis Arch project from private sector contributions. The only city money invested in this project to date has been a minimal amount of one staff person’s time to monitor the process of the project.
That said, a clear distinction needs to be made between “spending” and “investing.” Investing city resources to generate tax revenue or in public safety is clearly not the same as spending money that simply disappears forevermore. And investing in tax revenue generating projects or in public safety is also clearly not the same as investing in amenities. Would Davis residents rather pay higher taxes or support projects that reduce the tax burden because they generate tax revenue? We suspect the latter, but we shall see as the community discussion unfolds and the residents weigh in.
Davis residents may also be interested in knowing that the funds that someday may be used to construct the Davis Arch project are likely to come from other economic development projects such as the Olive Drive hotel/conference project and the University Downtown Gateway project. Additional funding is likely to come from construction taxes, development impact fees, fuel taxes and grants that are collected for exactly this type of project and can only be used for this type of project. These funds have nothing at all to do with the city’s fiscal emergency. Quite the contrary, we can use these funds to invest in long term solutions to solve the city’s fiscal emergency.
Additionally, the Chamber of Commerce took the lead in drafting a pre-application for a federal grant funding opportunity that became available recently in a very time-constrained situation that left city staff unable to do that work … and the Chamber was happy to lend a helping hand. We are all in this together.
We have invested a significant effort in community outreach as well as creating a space for meaningful community input. We are extremely pleased with the community input we received at last weekend’s community workshop and are excited by the ongoing community discussion over this community improvement project. Look for the project website soon!
In closing, we thank Robin Weiner for providing another opportunity to explain that this is a privately funded public project and invite her or anyone else to meet with project team members and or send us comments, questions and thoughts about the project. We’ll let everyone know as soon as the project website is live.
— Michael Bisch is president of Davis Downtown and Kemble Pope is the executive director of the Davis Chamber of Commerce. Contact the Davis Arch Project Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.