All five City Council candidates sounded off at the Davis Community Church community values forum Monday night, taking a break from politics somewhat to talk about what makes them tick.
A thematic question, how the candidates’ personal values shaped them and set them apart from other candidates, brought out a host of different answers.
Sheila Allen referenced her small-town Wisconsin upbringing, where neighbors looked out for neighbors as if they were all family.
“My theme has been about caring and about neighbors,” she said, adding that she is the kind of person who would help someone across the street. Allen sneaked in some politics, however, saying the neighbors of Davis have expertise, and on any given subject, someone in town is an expert on it.
Robb Davis seemed to pick up on that theme, saying everyone is gifted in some way, something he said he firmly believes in.
“When you believe that everyone is gifted and you’re on a team of five you begin to seek out the gifts of others and bring them together,” he said, later adding that the challenges Davis faces are going to take everyone’s gifts to overcome.
John Munn pointed out that he is running for fiscal sustainability, “to be clear.”
“My personal values come from my 1950s rural upbringing,” he said, adding that values of honesty, truthfulness, respect and the American way are guiding values.
“My values translate into campaign positions that promote fiscal responsibility,” he said.
Daniel Parrella said his childhood in Davis shaped him, including the garden at Fairfield School that bound him to environmental ideas. Now a solar power entrepreneur, he recounted the fateful day he hopped a fence on Pole Line Road with his father to check out solar panels — a new technology at the time.
“The city of Davis tackles problems that other cities don’t do,” Parrella said. “I’m the kind of guy that dives in head-first.”
Rochelle Swanson said she grew up in Ashland, Ore., a place she said has people of diverse backgrounds. Swanson drove home a point that, despite her busy work schedule, she has usually managed to work from her home in Davis to give her the flexibility to attend events in town and talk to local people.
“I’ve been lucky to have enough work that when a client’s values didn’t reflect my own I’ve handed work back,” she said.
Another question for the candidates dealt with how they would approach an issue if they didn’t know the opinions of their constituents.
Munn said again he is running on fiscal sustainability, but that trust is important to that process, which would involve negotiation.
“I know that trust is necessary for all involved for anyone to compromise,” he said, later adding that no one should think what he said was campaign rhetoric.
Parrella said he took the question to mean how a City Council member would vote against the majority. He imagined a scenario where he might be the swing vote on a major decision.
“I would say that I would vote against the majority if I believe the decision I make will make Davis a better place 50 years from now,” he said.
Swanson said as her experience on the council told her, a City Council member has to work against the audience sometimes. She remembered a vote on affordable housing that went against the majority.
“I think it’s really important to be able to look beyond the chamber,” she said.
Allen remembered her “no” vote on the closure of Valley Oak Elementary School, due to declining enrollment.
“I had to take a stand for quieter voices,” she said, referencing students and parents who weren’t at the school board meeting.
“When making tough decisions, sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t,” she said. “But I listen to my heart.”
Davis said he interpreted the question as, what does one do when faced with incomplete information?
“You always make decision with incomplete information,” he said. “People hold positions, but underlying them are needs.”
By listening to the needs underlying positions, you understand the issues more, he said. He talked about the Fifth Street road diet, where bike lanes, left-turn signals and turn pockets would be added at the expense of a single lane of car traffic in each direction. He also referenced his post on a commission that dealt with downtown parking. He said City Council members need to also deal in facts, not just needs.
“When a decision is made, we should give a rationale for the decision made,” he said.
— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews