* Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of five stories profiling City Council candidates. They will run in alphabetical order.
Sheila Allen has never served on City Council, but the City Council candidate has a track record of public service as a nine-year trustee on the board of the Davis Joint Unified School District.
She is also the founder and director of the Yolo healthy Aging Alliance, billed in her candidate statement as a “public/private partnership to enhance services for seniors …”
Allen comes with a slate of local Democratic endorsements in a Democratic town. State Sen. Lois Wolk, Councilman Dan Wolk, Councilman Lucas Frerichs and former mayors Ruth Asmundson and Maynard Skinner, along with the Davis Democratic Club, the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee and the Davis College Democrats. County Supervisors Don Saylor and Jim Provenza also support her.
She has dealt with school budget challenges as state funding dripped away and helped to pass parcel taxes to maintain the district’s school competency. Among the issues she had to deal with as a school board member were proper facilities for the Davis High softball team and a controversy around a volleyball coaching issue.
If Allen is not elected to the City Council in June, she will finish her school board term that ends in December and likely will not run again.
The Enterprise sat down with Allen and asked her about what mattered the most about her candidacy from her own perspective.
“I have a very solid understanding of what it means to be a public servant in Davis,” she said right off the bat.
And almost just as immediately, Allen rattled off a list of needs in Davis:
* A holistic budget approach that focuses not just on cuts but on revenues from things like an innovation business park that would bring high-tech jobs and new tax revenue. Moreover, give the impression that Davis wants new business, not the other way around.
* Making a city where young professionals find a place to live and thrive.
* Create housing across the lifespan: Apartments, condos and smaller houses should be built along with larger square foot homes. Residential projects should have infill in mind. Downtown could rise to three stories or in some cases even four stories, but building owners need incentives.
“We need to work on our processes so we don’t start with ‘No,’ ” Allen said.
Allen said that part of her work with City Council would be to get a handle on the items that come before council, as a first step. Reading her email from city residents and going to coffees is a second step — part of her goal of being an approachable councilwoman.
“I’m going to be fully versed in what the issue is,” she said of reading email and city staff reports. “Because we pay (staff) to be experts.”
Part of harnessing that expertise is gaining access to the staff who do the gruntwork, not just their bosses. Allen said on one example issue facing teachers in the district, she talked to elementary school science teachers to see what their viewpoint was on the item.
Along with listening to public comment at the council meetings, Allen said she would use that process to make her decisions and ask thoughtful questions of city staff.
“In Davis there is an expectation that the City Council won’t be yes people,” she said.
When it comes to addressing Davis’ thorny issues, Allen said she would take the same approach that created the Yolo Healthy Aging Alliance. For almost no additional money, placing the right people in the room together to address the problem can go a long way to solving it.
“I can bring that knowledge and that process to the city,” she said. “Some things don’t take more money.”
One thorny issue Allen wants to tackle are firefighter response times, but focusing primarily on medical call response times. The majority of fire calls are medical in nature.
As it stands now, she said, a fire engine and an ambulance go out to medical calls. EMTs don’t have legal ability to clear patients who don’t need a ride to the hospital, but paramedics and even nurses do. Patients could be assessed at their homes, stabilized and stay there, Allen said.
“I don’t have the exact plan in place, but I would like to have the conversation,” she said.
On Davis Media Access, Allen said she had a vision of Davis as a friendly, healthy, safe and neighborly community.
“Much of this does not cost money,” she said. “As the executive director of the new nonprofit Yolo healthy Aging Alliance, I have proven through my projects that when government, nonprofits, (and) interested community members come together to solve problems, change can happen.”
— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or call 530-747-8057.