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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Commentary: Rhetoric Continues to Fly Between County and Davis

There is an old adage in politics, that when one finds oneself in a hole, they ought to strongly consider stopping digging. After reading the article in the Woodland Daily Democrat on Tuesday, it seems apparent that not only are certain County Supervisors continuing to dig that hole, but others are actually jumping in with them and grabbing a shovel.

Supervisor Mariko Yamada has for several weeks now and really much longer than that, angered many of her former and would be supporters not only with her continued support for development projects along the Davis periphery, but for her apparent attitude toward her constituents--many of whom are dead set against suggested projects.

In this article she continues to take a swipe at those constituents:
"Yamada said the board will make its decisions based on what the board sees is best on what the board sees is best for the county. Although the process of negotiation is welcomed and preferred, the expressed interests of Davis' officials will not unilaterally dictate the ultimate outcome of the general plan.

'The relationship between the city and county may have to be re-examined,' Yamada said. 'We have an obligation to the county and we're not going to say, 'Oh, we're not going to address that because the mayor of Davis is saying no.''"
There are several different aspects of that statement that are troubling. First, this is not primarily about the mayor of Davis, this is about the city of Davis and most specifically the citizens of the city of Davis, half of whom Yamada *represents* on the board of supervisors.

Second, the city of Davis pays the county annually over $2 million precisely so that they do have a say over peripheral development on Davis' border. As long as the pass-through agreement remains, the county does have to listen to the city of Davis on such issues.

This demonstrates that Supervisor Yamada still does not get it. She is ignoring her constituents and insulting their intelligence.

While Supervisor Yamada has been outspoken about this in content and tone for several weeks now, she is now joined in the hole by her colleague Supervisor Thomson.

Supervisor Thomson complained about receiving a number of "vulgar and threatening e-mails." While there is certainly no justification for such emails, there are a couple of statements that do not sit right.

First, she is paraphrased saying that "the arguments against the proposals were misconstrued."

Supervisor Thomson's statement seemingly suggests that people did not properly understand the issues involved. And while I have not read the emails, the public who came forth last week, seemed to understand exactly the issues involved and the implications thereof. Ms. Thomson may disagree with her constituents, as she did last week, but I certainly would not suggest that proposals were misconstrued.

Second, Thomson suggests that this kind of behavior is endemic to both Davis and the Davis City Council when she says:
"I know that type of behavior does not occur within the city chambers of Woodland, Winters or West Sacramento..."
Thus implying that it does occur in the city chambers of Davis. Again, I would suggest that she not pick a fight with her city or her constituents. Ironically, she has acknowledged that the meeting last week of the Board of Supervisors was not well run.

Again, I do not agree with attacking emails, but given the gravity of the situation and the job that these people have signed up for, I would say it goes with the territory.

Also jumping into the fray is Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor, who apparently is taking his civility act to the County level. As we have suggested before, perhaps Mr. Saylor ought to worry a bit more about his own behavior and a little less about others.

Nevertheless, Mr. Saylor also shows his hand suggesting:
"I really was not happy about the threats and attacks on individual supervisors... I thought that was not necessary and even destructive."
Yet, many believe that the threat of recall and the recoil in general from the city of Davis is what finally caused the Board of Supervisors to at least temporarily back of the proposed joint study areas. Mr. Saylor needs to pick a side. To attempt to pander to both sides does not help the situation.

Questions continue about what to do next. It is clear both that talks need to occur and that the county is still posturing to continue this fight.

Last night at the Davis city council meeting, the suggestion was made by Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson that we need a change in composition on the city-county two-by-two. She suggested that Mayor Greenwald be replaced on that body with Councilmember Lamar Heystek.

This prompted an angry outburst from the Mayor who declared this was obviously an attempt to get her by the council majority.

As it turned out, it was only the Mayor Pro Tem acting alone, and the motion died for lack of a second.

While I do have some preferences for change on that board, and think it would benefit from having different and perhaps more accommodating personalities on it, the chief problem based on these public statements is not necessarily on the Davis side of things, but rather the county side of things. It seems clear to me that the two Davis County Supervisors have a clear agenda and do not appear to be willing to move on these issues. As such, changing the Davis Cit Council membership on this board, would do little to change the trajectory of talks.

Personally, I would like to see both sides swap one of their partners out for a more accomodating person--that approach may be more conducive to the spirit of cooperation. Nevertheless, the position of the city of Davis has to be to protect the pass-through agreement and oppose peripheral growth. That leaves the city and county to look toward other means by which to address some of the budgetary shortfalls registered by the county.

A key point needs to be made, chief among them is that you really are not going to generate a lot of revenue by having new development. The West Village is a net revenue loss for either the city or the county. The County Planning Department looked at the Northwest Quadrant back in February and found it did not produce sufficient revenue. Counties that continue to grow and development are not in fiscally better shape than counties that are not doing this. Development basically gives you a one-time boon in development fees. After that, the taxes generated from the housing for the county are more than off-set by the need for services. Development is not a means by which to balance the budget or even generate revenue.

All counties are hurting financially regardless of their growth policies. These issues need to be addressed at both the state and federal level. Decisions to cut services at those levels have caused them to fall to counties. And counties are last in line for state money. It is a tragic situation but it will not be improved by new development. It is that simple.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting