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Friday, February 09, 2007

Commentary: County Declares War on Davis

The message delivered on Tuesday by the County Supervisors should be enough to alarm Davis residents who have long fought hard and long to control the rate of growth.

The message from Supervisor Mike McGowan goes even further. McGowan was quoted as saying:
"I don't care where (Davis) puts their additional units, but from any standpoint they have to absorb their fair share. I'm not telling them where to grow."
He added:
"One of the reasons we are embarking on the General Plan update is that we can't maintain the old way of doing business; we aren't generating the revenues we need."
Not mentioned is the fact pointed out by Davis Mayor Sue Greenwald that housing is not a reliable source for revenue.

But there is more in this rhetoric. The notion of fair share. This notion is based on the presumption somehow that California can continue to grow. That it has the resources--namely the water--to be able to sustain high rates of growth. As it is, Davis is looking at expanding its water capacity and paying an addition 300 to 450 million dollars for a water project.

Supervisor Helen Thomson represents part of Davis.

The Davis Enterprise writes:
"But Thomson later suggested there was much to talk to Davis about in addition to new housing.

In exchange for the county's policy of directing commercial and residential projects to the cities instead of building them on agricultural land, the cities pay the county a fee in what's called a pass-through agreement.

In 2005-06, Davis paid nearly $2 million to the county in its pass-through agreement, Thomson said. But that agreement is nearly 15 years old and there are other issues to discuss. Thomson cited her own example of "poor planning" by the city of Davis — allowing homes to be built on seven 20-acre parcels at Binning Ranch north of Davis."
Of course what the article fails to mention is in fact, that the City of Davis and Yolo County just recently renewed the pass-through agreement.

My thoughts are this: I am very disturbed by the audacity of Supervisor McGowan who does not reside in Davis making such bold assertions.

However, I am even more disturbed by the lack of leadership from the two Davis Supervisors in this regard.

Growth around Davis is an issue for the Davis City Council. The City of Davis will determine and should determine how and when and in what places it will grow.

I sympathize with the County about their dilemma. They provide services to the cities and have revenue shortfalls. I am not unwilling to look into changes in the pass-through agreement. But Davis residents have fought long and hard be able to retain control of their growth both through Measure J and the hard fought pass-through agreements. If the county expects that they are going to get their way on this, I think they have another thing coming.

It was very reassuring to see both Mayor Greenwald and Councilmember Saylor vehemently on the same side on this. The entire council seems united on this issue. And the citizens of Davis control forty percent of the county supervisors.

I have no problems with discussions but the rhetoric of fair-share is a slap in the face to Davis residents. The notion of fair-share is inherently selfish. It is about the procurement of scare resources with discussion about the future carrying-capacity of the state of the California and moreover fails to look into the future at what the climate changes may have in store. I think the idea of growth is blatantly irresponsible and unfair. We need to address these questions and not simply look at growth as a cure-all for fiscal and revenue problems.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting