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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Should Davis fear a collaborative process with the county?

In 2005, County Supervisor Mariko Yamada suggested a need for "a more structured communication mechanism between the County and our four city partners in Davis, West Sacramento, Winters, and Woodland on issues of mutual concern."

The logic of this approach is simple and straight forward. Shouldn't the governing bodies communicate as they update their respective general plans? It seems like such a basic and obvious concept.

As Yamada cited back in 2005, there is already an established county-city 2 by 2 process through which Supervisors meet with their respective District’s Mayors and City Council members. This would merely be an expansion into a large and broader Yolo County "council of governments."

Davis City Councilmember Stephen Souza has latched onto this idea and placed it on the City Council agenda for this evening.

His proposal is for a joint meeting--just as the city has with its commission to "enhance a culture of cooperation and improve the ability of both our governmental bodies to serve our respective constituents."

There seems to be a fear however that this type of joint meetings will be used to re-write the pass-through agreement to force the city to grow at a set rate on the periphery.

That is a legitimate concern. However, there are a couple of points that should be made in response to this legitimate concern.

First, if the council majority wants to impose a growth rate of one percent or even higher on the Davis periphery, they are going to need to get it through the Measure J vote. That gives Davis voters a strong mechanism by which to control peripheral growth.

Second, while it is true Measure J expires in 2010, it is also true that there will be two council elections between now and then. If peripheral growth becomes a threat from this council majority, it can be used as a weapon against them in the next two elections. The public will have to make a decision as to whether or not they want to grow on the periphery.

Third, if the current council majority wants to grow on the periphery, having talks or not having talks will not have any effect on that desire. The current council has the votes to do this with or without collaboration from the County Supervisors. The County Board of Supervisors is not going to give greater legitimacy at least for the majority of citizens of Davis who opposed peripheral development projects such as Covell Village.

Talks can never hurt--particularly if you are in a minority position. We need decisions that occur in the light where we can scrutinize them and take them to the public if need be. Talks place issues on the public record. If the County Supervisors and the Council Majority indeed attempt to use this process to force growth on Davis--that attempt will be on a public record at a public meeting and the progressives on the city council can then take this to the voters in 2008.

As I said, I understand completely the concern about forced peripheral growth on Davis. But if that is to happen--I want it to occur in an open and public process where statements are on the record and where we can then take it to the voters in 2008 to see if they indeed approve of such actions. If they do, there is nothing we can do to stop it. However, at least by having a public process, the public will be aware.

Moreover, there is another reason to have talks that has nothing to do with peripheral growth and everything to do with having a formal process whereby each group can meet and discuss concerns. Communication is the best way to resolve differences and work toward shared goals. Both the city and county take into this process their own concerns and objectives about the next 10 to 20 years of planning and it only makes sense to at least communicate about each other's intentions.

In summary, if this becomes an issue about forced growth on Davis--I think a number of people would like to know about it and will fight against it. However, I see no reason to fear talks and I see many reasons to prefer that these talks occur in an open and public meeting with Brown act requirements that will force members to talk about it in the open.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting