Three consecutive women from Davis, Democrats all, have represented the region in the Assembly: Helen Thomson, Lois Wolk and Mariko Yamada.
Now, though, Yamada is being termed out — and both Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza and Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk are each hoping voters will punch his ticket to Sacramento.
Other candidates for the 4th District seat are Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd, a Democrat, and a pair of Yolo County Republicans: farmer and retired Marine Charlie Schaupp of Esparto and legislative aide and student Dustin Call of Davis.
Only two will advance beyond June 3’s open primary, and a divided Davis electorate threatens to see both Krovoza and Dan Wolk bumped from the race.
Supervisor Don Saylor of Davis has donated money to both campaigns. He endorsed Wolk, because of his positions on affordable housing and public health, but he calls all three Democrats strong.
“The seat’s been held by a Davis Democrat for 12 years, so we’ve kind of gotten used to having a voice in the Assembly,” Saylor said. “If Davis voters are looking to choose between favorite sons, I think … they’ll see they have different priorities. Each voter will look at that.”
A former water attorney turned senior director for development and external relations for the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and Energy Efficiency Center, Krovoza’s career and volunteerism focus on the environment. At 51, he brings expertise he says is needed if the state is going to make smart choices in addressing climate change.
After law school, Wolk, 36, has worked in municipal law, both in private practice and as deputy Solano County counsel, and started a legal clinic, representing the poor. He says he would set to work on the state’s growing income inequality and on rebuilding the social safety net.
Krovoza and Wolk have gone their separate ways on some key City Council votes (see accompanying story).
It’s Wolk who has rounded up the California Democratic Party’s backing and the bulk of his party’s local endorsements — including the other members of the council (all three either declined comment or did not return a request for comment for this story).
Do the endorsements say more about Sen. Wolk’s influence or about Dan Wolk’s contributions to the council?
He says it’s the latter: “It says something about how well I’ve been able to work with all the members. That’s kind of critical at the state Legislature. It takes more than just a good vision and good experience. You have 80 other folks — there’s a lot of egos there — and you’ve gotta work with folks.”
The implication is that Krovoza is less of a team player. Privately, some Democrats bemoan what they say are his temper and stubbornness.
“That’s Dan’s critique on me that he uses,” says Krovoza, who counters by pointing to the tenor of council meetings — he calls it “tremendous.”
Krovoza doesn’t apologize for being outspoken, however.
“I’ve been out there bringing on an independent-minded city manager; I’ve been out there on cutting the budget; I’ve been out there on the environment; I’ve been out there doing it,” he says. “Does that ruffle feathers a little bit? Maybe. But when we’re in the meeting, I recognize everybody. I never cut anybody off.”
Krovoza says one thing that has sometimes frustrated him is a lack of response to some issues by the rest of the council. He says that during a recent debate on downtown parking, he had trouble getting Wolk to chime in.
Here, then, comes one critique of Wolk: He’s ambitious, but inexperienced — a criticism he says comes from his opponents, not from voters.
Wolk stresses that he has 10 years of legal experience related to government and has been on the council only eight fewer months than Krovoza. Others who’ve represented the region — he names Democratic congressmen Vic Fazio and Mike Thompson — got their political starts at a similar age, Wolk says.
“I feel like I have a solid amount of experience, a really good amount of experience — arguably more experience than others in this race on the issues that are critical to California: redevelopment, (prison) realignment, the delta,” he says.
Wolk also comes prepared for the inevitable questions about his mother.
“I go to her as any person would go to someone who has experience and as someone would go to their mom and talk about things,” he says.
“There’s sort of the double-edged sword nature of being a Wolk. I feel like on the City Council I’ve shown I’m independent of her, but I recognize that when you share a last name that’s going to be out there.”
He and the senator agree on some issues — he’s a supporter of her $6.9 billion water bond measure, for instance — but disagree on others: He backed a local ban of plastic bags, while she voted against one at the state level.
Krovoza on the issues
After a series of scandals that led to the suspensions of three Democratic senators, and what Krovoza sees as “a general malaise about the effectiveness of government,” voters want “a smart, functioning government that puts policy and the people over politics,” he says.
One way to do that, Krovoza says, is to make decisions rooted in facts, not politics.
Name: Joe Krovoza, D-DavisElected offices held: Mayor, city of Davis, 2011-present; mayor pro tem, 2010-11Occupation: Senior director for development and external relations, UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and Energy Efficiency Center, 1996-present; water attorney, 1994-96Age: 51Education: J.D., UC Davis School of Law, 1994; B.A., diplomacy and world affairs, Occidental College, 1985; A.A., Pasadena Community College, 1982.Family: Wife, Janet, and daughters, Charlotte, 23, and Lillian, 20Noteworthy: Chair, Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency (2013-present); co-founder, Davis Bicycles! (2007); chair, Putah Creek Council (1996-2003); recipient, Davis Environmental Recognition Award (2001); governor appointee, California Student Aid Commission (1984-1991)Website: http://joekrovoza.org
“The University of California, not just Davis, is the research arm of the state of California, so we need to make sure that there are more mechanisms for getting good analysis and good policy recommendations out of UC and into the state of California.”
Krovoza says he talks to voters about making tough choices during the recession. The city reduced staffing by 23 percent over six years, but has maintained and in some cases increased service, he says.
On education, Krovoza touts his 17 years at UCD, his service on the California Student Aid Commission, his time as a community college student trustee.
He says there need to be protections on the UC and California State University budgets, similar to the way that Prop. 98 guarantees a portion of state funding will go to K-14 education.
“When times get tight, then, K-14 is protected but higher education — UC, CSU — are not,” he says. “This is part of what’s causing high student fees. When you’ve got to cut UC and CSU, the only place they can go for money is student fees and that’s reducing accessibility.”
Krovoza gets “a little nervous” about locking in a percentage of the budget, however. “I don’t know exactly how we’d do it,” he says.
At the K-12 level, Krovoza would seek additional funding for technical education to provide options for students who aren’t necessarily college-bound and to incentivize group-based learning.
He would oppose “teaching to the test” and seek to move away from No Child Left Behind, testing to evaluate teachers and funding formulas based on test scores.
Krovoza, who has attracted Sierra Club and California League of Conservation Voters endorsements, says he would “defend staunchly” AB 32, the state’s landmark climate change law, which set California’s goal of returning to 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2020, and continue the push for increased energy from renewables.
He’d also bring a local perspective on addressing environmental issues. More than 200 cities in the state have climate action plans but little or no money to implement them.
“I’ve been part of something called the Transportation Coalition for Livable Cities,” he says. “That group is working to make sure cap-and-trade revenue, which is going to be enormous for the state, is pushed to the highest percent possible to local communities who can prove that their local actions will be carbon-reducing.”
Krovoza says cities also need help with water management.
“A community like Davis, with all of our talent and relatively good funding, still has a hard time making these assessments of exactly what’s the most effective, efficient, low-cost system,” he says.
“As I’ve traveled around the 4th Assembly District, you have cities of 5,000 people with no experts, barely a city council, and they’re supposed to figure out how to do water management? How do they hire the consultants, how do they characterize their groundwater basin, how do they do a big bidding process to get a good firm to come in?”
Krovoza opposes the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta tunnels plan, supporting instead off-river storage north and south of the delta, rather than damming rivers, and increased conservation. He also backs high-speed rail.
During his tenure, the city has “really reasserted our leadership” on environmental issues, including a new bike plan and transportation element for its General Plan, he says.
“The water project is a spectacularly creative environmental advancement to get us off of our ground water, to go into conjunctive use, to use low-quality well water for our parks and to buffer ourselves against all the minerals in the ground that we otherwise had to treat for,” he says.
Krovoza also cites: the city’s effort to divert 75 percent of its solid waste, conservation-oriented water rates, high efficiency standards for both the water supply and wastewater treatment plants, the plastic bag ban and an anti-rodenticide resolution.
“Joe has a tremendous record that distinguishes him from public servants all over the state,” says Nicholas Josefowitz, founder of the advocacy group Leadership for a Clean Economy, which picked two Assembly candidates statewide to support (the other is Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, D-Long Beach) in races for an open seat.
“We picked people who would move the agenda forward — who would not just vote the right way but be the authors of the next great climate change legislation.”
Dodd and Schaupp have questioned whether Krovoza’s environmentalism would come before all else, including infill development and economic growth. Dodd cites Krovoza’s vote against The Cannery housing development in Davis.
“My environmentalism is performance-based environmentalism — it’s not command-and-control,” Krovoza says. “And so, in clean-vehicle regulations, in clean-fuel regulations, in land-use planning, what I believe in is setting up these financial incentives where we tell people, this is where we want to go, and we think you can move in that direction.”
Wolk on the issues
Wolk returns time and again to a general theme of what he terms the “disinvestment” in the California dream — the slashing of funds from public education, infrastructure and the social safety net that have left too many behind and too much undone.
“I think it’s important that, at least compared to the folks who are in the race, that I’m of a different generation,” he says. “My generation and subsequent generations have grown up in the shadow of this disinvestment.
Name: Dan Wolk, D-Davis
Elected offices held: Mayor pro tem, city of Davis
Occupation: Solano County deputy counsel
Education: Juris doctorate, UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law, 2005; bachelor of arts in economics, Stanford University, 1999
Family: Wife, Jamima Wolk, and daughters, Avery, 5, and Layla, 3
Noteworthy: Founder of the Legal Clinic of Yolo County; chair, Davis Social Services Commission (2010-11); grew up in Davis and attended Davis public schools, singing with the Davis High School Madrigals and Jazz Choir; sang baritone for the Stanford Fleet Street Singers a cappella group
“So, for example, when I was at law school my tuition doubled over the course of three years at UC Berkeley. And I have young children, a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old. I have this personal stake in the betterment of California’s future. I’m very concerned about the California my daughters are going to grow up in.”
Wolk is a supporter of universal preschool and expanded kindergarten, of reducing class sizes and providing funding enabling the state’s community colleges and universities tuition to hold the line on tuition.
“Education is where you’ve really seen this disinvestment occurring in California — we’re 49th (nationally) in per-pupil spending,” he says. “Getting back to (the state) turning the corner, now you have this Local Control Funding Formula, which is providing more funding, but focusing more on districts with a higher proportion of English-language learners, low-income children and foster children.
“I think people recognize that more needs to be done, and that’s exactly what I stand for.”
Wolk sees universal preschool as both a boost to education and to helping poor families shoulder the cost of child care. “You’re not only helping the child but helping the parent who is working,” he says.
Income inequality is a major concern for Wolk. He supports the planned increases to the state minimum wage and is “interested in exploring further increases.”
“You’ve got almost a quarter of all Californians living in poverty. Just within our own district, Lake County, for example, has one of the highest poverty rates of any county in the state,” he says. “That’s a real issue in California that we need to be addressing.”
He says he would work to reverse funding cuts to public assistance programs.
“We need to ensure that we have a strong safety net so that folks who, for whatever reason, find themselves in a difficult situation, have the help they need,” he says. “We’ve really seen the cuts in that area, whether it’s the health care system or the mental health care system. I’ve seen those up close as a county counsel.”
Wolk notes that the Sonoma Developmental Center in Eldridge is one of just four residential care facilities for severely disabled clients left in the state. All are slated to be downsized.
“I’m really going to fight to keep it open,” he says. “It really highlights the need to have a place where people who are mentally ill can go that are safe and have good services.”
Yolo County Public Guardian Cass Sylvia has known the candidate all of his life (her husband, Craig Reynolds, is chief of staff of Sen. Wolk), and says Dan Wolk is an ideal person to champion the cause of low-income Californians.
“(Dan’s) just an ethical, caring guy,” says Sylvia, who is also president of the nonprofit Short-Term Emergency Aid Committee, which assists the poor with basic necessities. “He’s always been interested in the underserved population. In law school, that was an interest of his, and, as soon as he had time, he started a free legal clinic.
“Dan has always said, ‘Whatever I can do’ and ‘How can I help?’ ”
Wolk “unequivocally” opposes the governor’s delta tunnel plan. He backs Sen. Wolk’s alternative bond measure, which focuses on assisting communities with safe and reliable water supplies, the development of regional water supplies and reducing the reliance California’s most stressed watersheds.
“I think what we need to focus on are desalinization and water conservation, greater storage, things of this nature that theoretically would be part of a water bond,” Dan Wolk says.
“I get the sense that there’s a desire to make those investments. Davis and Woodland have been willing to do that with our water project. Davis has been willing to do that with our roads. There are other communities out there throughout the state that are really facing these challenges, and water’s a main one.”
Wolk is also a supporter of high-speed rail, in part because the Capitol Corridor stands to benefit as a feeder line.
Wolk has attracted the endorsement and financial of a number of labor organizations. The California Professional Firefighters and the California Dental Association’s political action committee likely took notice of his votes opposing a Davis firefighter staffing cut and supporting fluoridation.
One of his Democratic opponents, Dodd, has noted that Wolk signed the Service Employees International Union pledge and hints that Wolk may be beholden to unions if elected.
“If you look at the (union) support of me, take the California Teachers Association, which supports me,” Wolk says, “or California School Employees Association — they’re supporting me because they see me as a real warrior on issues that are important to them, in that case education.
“When you take the California Nurses Association: I’m a strong proponent of a single-payer system, I’m someone who would really fight for the health care system, would fight for providing more resources to our social safety net and the nurses see that in me and support me. So I wear it as a badge of honor that these labor organizations are supporting me.”