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Thursday, April 10, 2008

City Council: Status Quo or Change

I have been reading a number of letters to the editor in the past few days touting the experience of a given city councilmember. Yesterday in particular, a certain letter touted the three incumbents as having a proven record and being independent thinkers.

We all know there is a certain lady that I am kind of fond in this race. For those unclear, it is the one with the really long last name. But let us forget about this for a second. This is not about her, per se, right now. It is a more general question and a more general issue.

At the end of the day, everyone in this city has to make up their mind about whether they like the status quo on the city council or whether they want change.

And for the sake of argument the other woman, who is of no relation to me, but who shares my last name, and for those who do not know, also happens to be the mayor, she is the minority, she is not part of the status quo here. On the big issues, she and Lamar Heystek have lost each time for the most part.

So here is the question--does the current council majority represent your views on where the city should go. Or do you want change?

It is really that simple. Now you can pick a wide range of topic to evaluate the city council on.

For example, did you support Measure X? If you supported Measure X--i.e. Covell Village in 2005, then Stephen Souza and Don Saylor are probably your candidates on that issue. If you thought that Measure X was too large a development, if you believe that it would impact traffic flows on Covell Blvd., if you were concerned about protection of prime agricultural land, etc., then you might want to consider change on the city council to people who opposed such a large development.

To this date, people like Stephen Souza and Ruth Asmundson have publicly stated that the public just did not understand Measure X. Stephen Souza basically stated that the community did not understand Measure X at the first candidates debate. He said this was the first exercise of Measure J and that a project as big as Covell Village takes longer to explain to the community, that it has to come with its impacts mitigated, and that the affordable housing component has to be explainable to the public. Finally we have to totally be engaged in a process that we are expected to vote on. This is basically the Ruth Asmundson answer rehashed, Souza simply does not understand the opposition to Measure X and argues that the public did not properly understand it rather than take from the lesson that the public is not supportive of huge new develops on the Davis periphery.

Then you have the issue of housing and growth. The one percent growth guideline was supported by the council majority which included Stephen Souza and Don Saylor. Don Saylor has talked about filling our internal housing needs and used that as a justification for the one percent growth guideline. For Stephen Souza that means in addition infill development, we need to look at some new peripheral developments.

On the other hand, Sue Greenwald joined Lamar Heystek opposing the one percent growth guideline. She and others have pointed out that one percent growth sounds small but it amounts to a Mace Ranch level development over a period of three years. Sue Greenwald questions what the housing needs really means and wants to find ways to insure that when we develop we are filling our internal housing needs rather than external ones.

What is clear is the RHNA is not requiring a huge amount of new growth over the next six years, this gives council the discretion to determine its own rate of growth.

At a recent debate the two sides disagreed on this point as well.

Don Saylor argued that RHNA was only part of what we needed. He focused on the internal needs assessment and argued that we need to take a look at our own planning regardless of RHNA requirements.

Sue Greenwald on the other hand suggested that the numbers were not interesting to her. She was concerned that if Davis went beyond the SACOG allotment that this would lead to increased SACOG numbers in the future.

One of the biggest issues facing the council in the next two years will be the fate of Measure J--the iniative that allows the public to vote on zoning changes and peripheral development. Where do the candidates stand on Measure J? This will be a huge debate--will Measure J be rescinded in 2010, will it be altered in 2010, or will it be renwed as written. Sue Greenwald has already come out in support of Measure J in its current form. Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald in her literature states that she wants to make it permanent in its current forum. I have not heard the position of either Stephen Souza or Don Saylor on this issue. It will be interesting to see where they stand on Measure J which prevented Covell VIllage from being developed.

Sydney Vergis did come out in favor of Measure J in the debate, although she suggested some non-substantive changes. For the sake of clarity, she is most clearly supported and positioned with the council majority. Her treasurer is the daughter of Ruth Asmundson. Her campaign is largely run by Janice Bridge. Bridge was one of the more outspoken proponents of closing Valley Oak Elementary. She was also an ardent Yes on Covell Village supporter, appearing in their literature at the time. Other key yes on Covell luminaries supporting Vergis are Kevin Wolf and John Whitcombe just to name a few. Janice Bridge has been heard around town touting Sydney Vergis as a pro-development candidate.

Rob Roy on the other hand, steadfastly belongs on the progressive or opposition side of the fence. In a comment on the blog he said this about Covell Village:
"I was against Measure X because it wasn’t green enough. The design wasn’t revolutionary. It was just another huge subdivision (that happened to have some solar panels) sprawled out onto farmland. If the land-use design were more revolutionary, like Village Homes, (as a political strategist) I’ll say that maybe it would have passed. The difference between Stephen and I is that he voted for the project that went to the voters and he promoted it as well."
Thus if your issue is housing and growth there are clear differences between the current council majority and what a majority led by Lamar Heystek, Sue Greenwald, and Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald might bring.

The growth issue is but one example of the differences between the current council majority, i.e. the status quo, and what a new council majority might bring. At the end of the day, the public has to decide what growth policy best represents them. As the council race continues to progress, we will continue to draw out differences between the two candidates that will allow the public to make a determination as to whether they prefer the status quo or if it is time to change the direction of city council.

DISCLAIMER: Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald is a candidate for city council. Doug Paul Davis' real name is David Greenwald. They are married. David Greenwald and Sue Greenwald are not related. Neither is Stephen Souza and Don Saylor.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting