A second candidate for Davis City Council has emerged.
Daniel Parrella, a local solar power entrepreneur, kicked off his run for council with a crowdsourcing fundraising effort where folks can donate to his campaign online. He joins Robb Davis, a local public health professional and bicycle advocate, who was the first to announce his candidacy in October.
Parrella and Davis are each seeking one of the two seats that will open up on the dais in June. However, if Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk wins his bid for the 4th Assembly District seat, a third seat would become available later in the year.
Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson has said she intends to seek re-election. The second seat is held by Mayor Joe Krovoza, who also is running for Assembly.
“(Parrella) hopes to bring a fresh face and fresh ideas to Davis politics,” a news release announcing his campaign said. “He has a pledged to run a bottom-up campaign and has announced the first-ever crowdfunding kickoff for a Davis City Council election.”
The 22-year-old is running on a three-pronged platform.
Parrella would like to install a participatory budget pilot program, which would allow people to pick what the city spends its funds on; retain locally established tech businesses that are looking to expand; and form a public utility that would offer Davis residents a choice for where to buy their energy.
“I want to start a family here, grow my business here and grow old here knowing I helped make this city an even better place for the next generation of Davisites,” Parrella said in a statement.
Born and raised in Davis with his two sisters, Parrella graduated from Da Vinci High School in 2009.
While interning for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, while studying at UC Santa Barbara, Parrella stumbled upon an organization called Solarize Santa Barbara.
After watching the program reduce the cost of solar power for residents, Parrella thought the community-led effort — which uses a group-purchasing model — would be a perfect fit for Davis.
“When I saw what they were doing in Santa Barbara with the Solarize program, it practically screamed ‘Davis’ and I couldn’t wait to try it out back home,” Parrella said in a news release.
Now, with dreams of running a full-service solar company where he could market, sell and install the energy-producing panels, Parrella works with a contractor from Sacramento selling solar systems to households.
It was while selling solar panels in Vallejo, meanwhile, that Parrella had his first experience with participatory budgeting, one of his foremost reasons for running for the City Council.
The city of Vallejo was hosting its first project exposition in its community hall last year where residents could come and scope out all the various local projects they would be able to vote on in a coming election as part of what to fund in the city’s budget.
Talking to people at the event and seeing their enthusiasm for the process, Parrella thought the idea was phenomenal.
“I thought it was quintessentially Davis,” he said.
If elected, Parrella would like to install a pilot version of this program where, to start, Davis residents would be able to have a say on somewhere around 1 percent of the city’s budget. At the beginning of last year’s budget cycle, Councilman Lucas Frerichs spoke strongly in support of this concept.
“Watching Councilmember Lucas Frerichs vainly trying to get the city to replace lights downtown makes me realize the top-down approach can’t solve everything,” Parrella said. “I am a big believer in not putting all of our eggs into one basket. The traditional top-down approach can be improved with community input using bottom-up participatory budgeting.”
Cities like Chicago, New York and Toronto already have implemented similar participatory budgeting programs.
Like Frerichs, Parrella first entered the political realm at a young age. In addition to being active in protesting layoffs at school board meetings during high school, in 2006, Parrella also was involved in the effort to annex Yolo County into the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
While the annexation effort eventually failed when Sacramento voters rejected the idea, Parrella still hasn’t given up on the possibility of a public utility in Davis.
Not only can a public utility offer much to the community, he said, such as easier access to renewable energy sources and lower prices, if the city elects to pull together a public utility with a community choice aggregation program, it introduces competition into town, which will benefit the residents.
“I can confidently say that public utility companies are always the way to go,” Parrella said. “They’re all 30 to 40 percent cheaper than PG&E precisely because they’re public utility companies. They’re nonprofits, (and) they give a lot back to the community.”
As far as retaining local, home-grown businesses, Parrella says Davis currently lacks the space necessary to accommodate growing companies.
Additionally, the council candidate believes the importance of keeping these entities in town travels far beyond the city’s balance sheet, as when these successful tech businesses leave “we lose local leaders, and we lose credibility as a home for game-changing companies.”
“I have startup experience and I’ve worked with businesses before, he said. “I know what it takes to start a company and all the talk about business parks and working with the university to create spinoffs. I’m a byproduct of that. I really think I provide a perspective on the council that’s utterly lacking right now.”
Parrella acknowledges he many not have the political clout some of his opponents may have, but he’s ready to put the work in to ensure that Davis voters know he’s a serious candidate.
“I’m definitely the outlier candidate, and I’m proud of that, to be honest,” Parrella said. “I don’t have the political connections everybody else does, but I really think we need people from the outside to run.”
Parrella also said he’s always looking for more help with the campaign. The council candidate is also in search of people who are interested in helping lay the groundwork for a participatory budgeting program.
— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash