The Davis City Council will be asked by City Manager Steve Pinkerton on Tuesday to carve out space in the budget for a brand-new executive management position at City Hall, called the chief innovation officer, to focus on technology-based economic development.
To pay for the new employee, the city would have to find $120,000 per year — over a three-year contract — in the general fund.
The chief innovation officer also would be paid a matching $120,000 by a tech business association called techDAVIS, a local nonprofit business association made up of current and former senior technology executives and ex officio members from the government, university and business services sectors.
If approved by the council, the CIO’s primary responsibility would be to heighten Davis’ profile as an ideal place for tech and innovation businesses to move their operations, if they’re not here already.
“There are very few places that have as great of an opportunity as Davis does right now,” Pinkerton said Monday. “We need to make sure that we have a team in place that, when companies are interested in locating here, we can afford them every opportunity to locate and to succeed.”
Pinkerton added that there has been much interest from tech businesses to move to town recently because they want to anchor themselves to UC Davis, which has established itself as a national leader in agricultural and biological research, or because they see Davis as an attractive place to live.
But with Pinkerton and Ken Hiatt, the city’s community development and sustainability coordinator, devoted to other tasks, the city manager believes Davis needs someone who can give these companies the city’s full attention.
“This would put someone in place who already has connections with the UCD system, knowledge of the type of businesses (the city wants to attract) and who can relate to our existing companies,” Pinkerton said. “They become the point person for anyone interested in bringing an innovative company to Davis.”
In addition to drawing tech businesses to Davis, something the council has highlighted as one of its top goals, Pinkerton says the chief innovation officer also would coordinate with other city departments and local agencies to provide city services in an efficient, effective and economical manner.
Meanwhile, the proposal for the new management position comes in the midst of ongoing labor negotiations with the city’s two largest employee associations, Firefighters Local 3494 and the Davis City Employees Association.
The city’s negotiation team previously locked in contracts with five other labor groups that made sizable cuts to health and retiree health insurance and pension benefits in exchange for small salary increases. But deals with the two remaining groups have remained elusive.
When Pinkerton presented his budget last June, the council accepted it, but not before several members derided its lack of creativity by focusing more on the cuts rather than generating revenue.
The city manager hopes this new individual will help tip the budget scale back to the revenue side.
“It would be irresponsible not to look at positions that look at bringing in more revenue to the city,” Pinkerton said. “We have a lot of needs; we can’t just cut our way out of issues, cut our way to add services or improve infrastructure. We have to look at enhancing revenues, too.”
The City Council also will restart the round-table discussion Tuesday that it began in January to discuss and potentially rework various Fire Department policies.
After agreeing to lengthen the city’s response-time goal from five minutes to six, to create a shared-management plan with the UCD Fire Department and to possibly drop service boundaries between the city and university, the council likely will have to make its most difficult decision Tuesday: Deciding whether to reduce fire engine crews from four to three, thereby eliminating one firefighter from the department.
The reduction, as recommended by former Interim Fire Chief Scott Kenley, could save the city $360,000 per year. Union representatives, on the other hand, believe the change could put firefighters in danger and leave several neighborhoods more vulnerable with longer delays in the time it takes an adequate number of firefighters to reach a fire.
The council meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Chambers at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd. It will be broadcast live on Comcast Channel 16 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. The meeting also can be streamed live online at www.cityofdavis.org/media.
— Reach Tom Sakash at email@example.com or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash