Daniel Parrella launched his campaign for Davis City Council last year when he was 22 years old. A solar power entrepreneur with an eye toward making a place for himself in the town where he grew up, Parrella’s campaign has been marked by a clear platform, walking precincts and the endorsement of the Davis Chamber of Commerce PAC.
Parrella is the youngest candidate to win that endorsement in recent memory. The PAC also endorsed Robb Davis and City Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson for two seats to be decided in the June 3 election.
When Parrella announced his run for council, he took inspiration from the city of Vallejo, of all places.
The city hosted a meeting where the public could come and give budget priority to projects. The concept, called participatory budgeting, took hold in Parrella’s mind.
“I thought it was quintessentially Davis,” he told The Enterprise when he announced his candidacy.
Occupation: Owner of Spearhead Solar 2011-present
Education: Da Vinci High School graduate 2009, UC Santa Barbara political science major 2009-11
Family: Parents Michael and Debbie Parrella, sisters Jean and Lorie Parrella
Noteworthy: Founded Solarize Davis in 2011
Parrella’s concerns are the issues he says he hears from residents as he goes door to door. People worry about rising water rates, crumbling roads, the Fifth Street road diet and the city’s inquiry into providing electric power on its own.
“When I walk the precincts, no one — no one — supports the road diet or public power,” he said.
Like Robb Davis, Parrella blames a lot of voter grumpiness on the fact that people believe too many things are happening at once.
“It’s been a busy time for the council,” he said, adding that many recent meetings have gone past midnight.
To fix it, Parrella said he would look at changing council priorities … but not at first.
“I would have to see how the City Council operates,” he said.
While he supports Measure O, the city’s half-percent sales tax increase, he sees broad skepticism of it on the campaign trail.
“(People) need to see basic services reinstated for them to trust the government again,” he said.
The council also flubbed with the consumption-based water rates, he said. The council had opted for two years of more basic water rates in part to give it time to educate the public about the complicated consumption-based rates. But the education never happened, he said. Why not?
“They were so busy with other things,” he said.
He does like how the current council is confronting the $4.99 million budget deficit, setting up two options to tackle it: a 12 percent cut across the board, including police and fire, and a 25 percent cut, sparing public safety.
The city is also planning on $1.16 million in employee cuts regardless of whether Measure O passes.
As far as the water rates go, Parrella diverges from the council, preferring a discussion about a consumption-based rate that measures the whole year, not just the six dry months that include the summer. He supports the Sacramento River water diversion project.
“The proposed water rate structure is too difficult to understand,” he said in his candidate statement. “I want a straightforward bill that is calculated like other utilities: The more you use, the more you pay.”
Consumption-based rate architects have said the variable charge measured by the rate of water use over the summer is, in fact, set up to do that. The rate will take effect in January if Measure P doesn’t pass.
One of Parrella’s other priorities, he said, is to make sure the roads and street lights get fixed. That’s no small feat since it could require millions of dollars the city says it does not have.
He believes that when former City Manager Steve Pinkerton pointed to employee salaries and benefits as a main thrust of the city’s budget problem, the real threat is crumbling roads. Parrella understands why past councils might have seemingly kicked the can down the road to today, because he said it costs the city money to see just how much it needs to pay for deteriorating infrastructure.
That’s a cost the city should find money to pay, he said.
“What you don’t know can hurt you,” he said.
Overall, Parrella said he is a good choice for council because he is a straight talker and knows the issues.
“I’m not part of the machine,” he said. “I come to my own conclusions.”
— Reach Dave Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews