Robb Davis bills himself as a public health practitioner in his candidate statement, touting more than 25 years of experience building maternal and children’s health programs around the world. A key part of his pitch is his claim of being able to bring people together to solve problems.
“Locally, I work on homelessness, helped launch Neighborhood Courts, serve on the Bicycle Advisory Commission and worked on the Downtown Parking Task Force,” the statement says, later adding after an explanation of his support for matching revenues and costs at City Hall, “… My community-building experience will be a valuable asset in addressing these challenges.”
In an interview, Davis elaborated on that claim.
The No. 1 issue he wants voters to hear about is his approach to the fiscal issues facing the city. The city faces a $4.99 million deficit that it is addressing in part by asking voters to approve Measure O, a half-percent sales tax increase on the June 3 ballot.
Davis said he would bring week-to-week initiatives to deal with the city’s debt, and also try to rectify the damage done through years of attrition at City Hall, where vacant positions have not been filled.
How? There’s been no conversation about what the city wants to provide and whether the positions remaining fill that need. Davis wants to have that conversation.
“We need to do a staffing analysis,” he said.
But maintenance issues — and not just roads — are also a concern, Davis said. The downtown Davis fire station recently was identified as part of the city’s maintenance backlog.
“We need to know fully what the backlog is,” Davis said, along with the accompanying price tag. And when that number is known, Davis wants to figure out how to meet the maintenance needs without disrupting the life of the city and the community.
The new council of which he hopes to be a part needs to look at employee costs and contain those costs, he said, even though the employee contracts won’t come up for negotiation for another year.
“We can’t wait for the bargaining process to create a vision of what’s possible,” Davis said, adding later, “… I think the consuming thing in (Community) Chambers over the next couple of years is the fiscal situation.”
It’s this devotion to cost containment and his support for an innovation business park to help bolster the city’s revenues that earned him the Davis Chamber of Commerce PAC’s endorsement along with fellow candidates Daniel Parrella and City Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson. Davis also has the endorsement of the Sierra Club, members of the leadership of Davis Bicycles! and Mayor Joe Krovoza.
Davis keeps a journal of sorts on his website about his experiences on the campaign trail. One of his early lessons was the hyper-locality of politics in Davis.
“Walk a street and its residents will discuss the problem of speeding vehicles on that street,” he wrote. “Walk up to a house and the people living there will point to a light pole and say things like, ‘See that light? It went out several weeks ago. I called the city, but have heard nothing yet.’ ”
In an interview, Davis said other things he’s heard going door-to-door is the dismay of Davisites at the magnitude and number of changes taking place: the push for yard waste containers, the sales tax measure, the cost to fix the roads, the city manager leaving and the surface water project and its related wars.
“(Residents) are feeling a lot of change — and change that is complex. They are overwhelmed by it all,” he said.
The good news is that people were willing to have a more “nuanced view” if they were engaged in a dialogue.
The problem of too many changes goes back to a council that takes on too much at once, he said, with the cause of its goals being too numerous and broad.
“When you do that, you set yourself up for overwork,” he said.
Davis said the council should set five to eight objectives and narrow its focus, putting these priorities at the top of the agenda and communicating them to the city’s advisory commissions.
One example of how this would work is the push for an inquiry into a municipal electric utility. So far, the city has spent more than $400,000 on the inquiry and authorized a cap of another $600,000 with additional council approval needed for certain disbursements of portions of that $600,000.
Davis would form a committee of knowledgeable volunteers to move things forward, but when the task of inquiry is over, they would understand their role would merely be advisory. The council could go an entirely different way.
Davis knows about this first-hand as a member of the committee that advised the council to institute paid parking in part of the downtown. The council took up only recommendations that didn’t involve paid parking.
Occupation: Public health practitioner
Education: Master’s in public health and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health
Family: Wife, Nancy Davis; two local children, Kara and Dylan; and two grandchildren.
Noteworthy: Member of the Davis Bicycle Advisory Commission; founding member of the Yolo Conflict Resolution Center; community organizing member of the Neighborhood Courts program run by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office; past member of the Downtown Parking Task Force; president of the board of the Dos Pinos Housing Cooperative; previous winner of the Cool Davis Eco-Hero Award
— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews