With hours to go until he would be sworn in as the newest City Council member, Robb Davis sounded off at a Davis Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday — on parcel taxes, roads, setting priorities, the homeless and the city of Davis’ power as an engaged community.
Asked to respond to the issue of economic development in Davis, the soon-to-be-councilman said he saw major cost drivers still having to do with total compensation for city employees. Growing the tax base is important, Davis said, especially with the submittals received for the requests for expressions of interest for innovation center concepts around town.
“We have the opportunity now to go beyond just the concepts to go into the details,” Davis said, adding that he would be just one voice on the City Council. “I need to engage in dialogue with my council colleagues as we go forward.”
Even still, he said there needs to be a comprehensive approach to encouraging business in the city, not just pinning all hopes on innovation centers.
Kemble Pope, serving at his last luncheon as the Chamber’s CEO, said city budget cuts seemed to be based on attrition. At the same time, with the lowest staff per capita now on city payroll in years, it seems that new issues are added to city staff’s plate at each council meeting.
Davis took the issue in stride.
“I wish I had a 10-point plan to create efficiencies,” he said.
But Davis said the city will have to set its priorities realistically and stick to them.
“It’s hard work to say no,” he said. “It’s hard work to say we won’t focus on this in the next six months.”
Asked if it was a good idea to prioritize roads over swimming pools, Davis said he wants a clear accounting for costs.
“I know I certainly don’t have in front of me today the accounting for the replacement costs,” he said, adding that he has the numbers for roads, but not parks, and he is sure that any parcel tax the city could get voter approval for would be gobbled up by road spending.
Pope asked Davis how he would bridge the gap for educating the public about city issues.
Davis said he found this community to be extremely engaged compared to other cities he has lived in.
“I’m gratified and excited that we have an engaged and excited community,” he said, cautioning that the successful outreach is not going to be a marketing campaign. The best thing he did, Davis said, during his council election campaign was do a series of household meetings with voters to engage in a dialogue with them about city issues.
“We’re not just going out to sell an idea,” he said.
Davis said the small size of the community makes it possible to do outreach on a house-by-house basis.
One of the ideas to get across is that Davis is part of a region, especially with the surface water project.
“We can no longer think of ourselves as an island attached to a university,” he said.
Pope said he was upset with a Davis Enterprise headline and story last week about a city report on a homelessness stakeholder group, but he used that subject to sound off on what he called an increase in aggressive panhandling.
Davis said past attempts for various groups to talk about homelessness have failed because workers and volunteers get exhausted. Nonetheless, he hopes the new group will be committed.
Davis suggested at the Chamber PAC forum in April that a parcel tax for homelessness might be a good idea, and he received a bevy of bad reactions to that idea. However, he pointed out that Woodland reserved some money from a sales tax increase it passed in June for social services.
“Who knew how progressive Woodland was?” he said.
— Reach Dave Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews.com