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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Commentary: Victory for Davis Schools

A few weeks ago the community looked on at impending doom with the school system. Instead of panicking however, the Davis community said collectively, not here and not now.

Students and parents flooded school board meetings, marching down Davis streets, rallied in the parks to keep their teachers employed and their school open.

As they looked toward the school board to find a way, it was the community that found a way.

The Davis Schools Foundation was able to raise $1.77 million for the Davis schools. That was enough to "buy back" more than two dozen positions for teachers and libraries.

But it was not the Davis Schools Foundation alone that made Thursday's victory possible. The governor's revised state budget gave the Davis school district another $1.2 million to work with.

In all over 100 teaching positions were saved. The crisis averted. Four positions still need to be cut by eight elementary schools. Another 7.3 junior high and high school positions. While not painless, certainly manageable.

As always, it was Amanda Lopez-Lara the student representative to the board that spoke for all:
"I've never seen the community come together like this--families, students, people of all races. I'll never be able to thank you enough for bringing back the teachers."
Music has been saved. Athletics have been saved.

That is the good news. And it is good. But the challenges will remain.

The school district faces financial ramifications of declining enrollment and an ongoing structural budget deficit.

The school district cannot rely on the schools foundation to provide a permanent source of funding. The $1.77 million marks a crisis-averting surge of donation, but it is not sustainable long term.

The school district will hire a pollster to determine where the community would support another parcel tax this fall.

However, even with another parcel tax, the district needs to adjust its programs. Projections suggest that enrollment will decline for a couple more years before flattening out and even beginning to rise.

We must also be mindful of the statewide economic situation and the statewide budget. The revised budget has added money, but the economic situation looks rather bleak at the moment.

These are all issues that we must deal with in the near future.

We are fortunate that we live in a community that has the ability and the inclination to keep our teachers employed and our schools open, but we should also not forget the hundreds of other districts in this state that are not nearly so lucky.

Today we can breathe a sigh of relief. The school board members, deserve a nice spa and vacation. The stress they have been under the last six months has been unreal and it has taken a toll on them.

The hard work unfortunately will begin again soon enough. In the meantime, let us just rejoice knowing that just once, we have changed the course of the future of a large number of students and a community has shown its ultimate commitment to education.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

UC Workers to Take Strike Vote Next Week

Food service workers celebrated in Woodland yesterday their victory from last month when the university announced they will become fully employed UC workers. This marked the culmination of over a year long battle by the food service workers that captured much of the imagination of the Davis community.

Meanwhile on a statewide front, the combination of budget cuts but also cost-cutting activites by the UCs statewide has led medical and service workers to take a strike vote in an attempt to resolve differences in their contract battle.

Last week the UC workers declared that they had reached impasse in their ten month old salary talks. According to a press release they will take a strike vote in a vote that runs from May 17, 2008 until May 22, 2008.

These workers are primarily medical and service workers that have been trying to protect quality patient care. They report that the lack of competitive wages are impacting the University's ability to retain its best staff. The 20,000 patient care and service workers do everything from assisting in surgery to cleaning campus dorms.

According to their release:
"UC medical centers are bleeding experienced patient care staff to other hospitals where pay is dramatically higher, and campus service workers live in poverty with wages as low as $10 per hour. Other hospitals and California’s community colleges pay an average of 25% higher for the same work."
"At UC hospitals, healthcare workers report that lack of competitive pay is contributing to high-turnover, staffing shortages, and over-reliance on temps. They are concerned this is compromising patient care and increasing the risk of complications. For service staff at the campuses and hospitals, wages are low enough for workers to qualify for public assistance. Many live in poverty and are forced to work two jobs, taking time away from their families and communities."
Workers have been negotiating for equal pay for equal work since August, 2007. However, according to the workers, UC Executives fell far short of that, forcing the 20,000 to take a strike vote.

Lakesha Harrison, Licensed Vocational Nurse & President of AFSCME Local 3299:
“This is a matter of priorities. UC Executives need to ensure UC keeps its best staff by paying equal pay for equal work. UC is losing good people to other hospitals where pay is about 25% higher, we are concerned this is causing staffing shortages and over-reliance on temps. That’s not the kind of patient care people expect from UC.”
Per the press the release, the CA State-appointed neutral Factfinder Carol Vendrillo, who independently evaluated the viability of a service workers’ labor agreement, this is a matter of priorities, rather than resources.
“U.C. has demonstrated the ability to increase compensation when it fits with certain priorities without any demonstrable link to a state funding source…It is time for UC to take a broader view of its priorities by honoring the important contribution that service workers make to the U.C. community and compensating them with wages that are in line with the competitive market rate.”
---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, May 16, 2008

Word To The Wise: Senior Housing and Other Interesting Tidbits

By E.A. Roberts



Senior housing is a complex issue at best. However, there have been some new developments locally which bear discussion. According to a 2003 AARP survey, “more than four in five (83%) of Americans age 45 and over say they strongly or somewhat agree that they would like to remain in their current residence for as long as possible, even if they have to hire outside help to care for them.” This would suggest there is a strong national preference for aging in place, rather than a desire to move to independent living facilities or downsizing to a smaller residence.

Another important point needs to be made. According to a staff report drawn up for the Davis Senior Citizens Commission: “[There is]… a lower population growth rate in Davis between 2000 and 2006 as compared to the Sacramento-Yolo CMSA. While the Sacramento-Yolo CMSA’s population increased by 15 percent, the City of Davis grew by approximately 7 percent. That 7 percent increase represents a rise in Davis’ population of slightly more than 4,000 persons, to an estimated 2006 level of 64,600.” A table of age distribution shows the rise in Davis’ population age 65 and over between the years 2000 and 2006 was 470 senior citizens; age 55 and over was 2,379 seniors.

The staff report went on to say: “Household growth trends generally mirrored population trends between 2000 and 2006, with the City lagging behind the CMSA. In the CMSA, the number of households increased by nearly 15 percent over the six-year period. In contrast, at just over six percent, the growth rate in Davis represents less than half the CMSA level. The 2006 estimate of just under 24,500 households in Davis represented an increase of approximately 1,500 new households from the number of households in the year 2000.” In other words, it could roughly be predicted in Davis there will be 24,500 + 1,500 = 26,000 households by the year 2013.

Whereas the Recommendations of the General Plan Update Steering Committee - March 20, 2008 states: “In 2006, the proportion of the Davis population ages 55 and over was 15%, while for the Sacramento-Yolo CMSA the proportion was 21%. 5% of the 6% difference between those two proportions is the result of the 16,285 UC Davis students who live in Davis. Removing that age distribution anomaly, the Davis proportion of residents over 55 grew more than twice as fast as those of the CMSA, and therefore it is reasonable to expect a change in the proportion of senior households in Davis from 15% to 18% of all households over the six years from 2008 through 2013. This change in proportion would increase the number of senior households by approximately 1,104 from a total of approximately 3,900 (=15% of approximately 26,000 total households in 2008) to 5,004 (=18% of approximately 27,800 total households in 2013). As convoluted and confusing as this “information” appears, the one thing that can be gleaned from the General Plan Update Steering Committee is their estimate that in Davis there will be 27,800 households in 2013.

National estimates of senior housing demand assume that 15% of senior households seek age-restricted housing units. Thus, the increase in “internal demand for age-restricted housing from current Davis residents is projected to be approximately 166 households (-1,104 x 15%). This demand can be rounded to 200 due to the recognized imprecision of the assumptions. The additional “external” demand from the senior parents of existing Davis residents who want to live in age-restricted housing near their children is difficult to project. This type of demand is real, however, and is arguably internally-generated by the children living in Davis. Based on proportion of ages in the 35 to 54 group, it is reasonable to project this demand as being equivalent to at least another 200 age-restricted housing units through 2013.” Despite the admitted imprecision of making such predictions, the General Plan Update Steering Committee is projecting a total need of approximately 400 age-restricted housing units by the year 2013.

Let’s take a look at the above statements more closely -

According to AARP: 83% of seniors would prefer not to move at all;

  • According to the Davis Senior Citizens Commission staff report:
  • The rise in Davis’ population between the years 2000 and 2006
  • For age 65 and over was 470 senior citizens;
  • For age 55 and over was 2,379 senior citizens.
  • It can be inferred that in Davis there will be 26,000 households by the year 2013.
  • According to the General Plan Update Steering Committee (GPUSC):
  • It is predicted in Davis there will be 27,800 households by the year 2013.
  • It is estimated in Davis there will be a need for approximately 400 age-restricted housing units by the year 2013.
Note the following:
  • There is no attempt to differentiate the housing needs of those between the ages of 55 and 65, versus age 65 and older, even though it can be vastly different.

  • In regard to the rise in Davis’ population between the years 2007 and 2013 of roughly 2,400 seniors age 55 and over, only 17% will want to move = approximately 400;

  • Staff report: in Davis by the year 2013 the number of households will be = 26,000;

  • The GPUSC: in Davis by the year 2013 the number of households will be = 27,800.

  • The GPUSC estimate of a need for approximately 400 age-restricted housing units by the year 2013 erroneously assumes all seniors want to move, whereas 83% probably will not wish to! The desire to “age in place” cuts the need for age-restricted housing down to approximately 70 units (17% of 400) - which in effect represents another facility slightly larger than the size of Eleanor Roosevelt Circle (60 units).
I had an interesting, if reluctant, conversation with the Covell Village developers the other day. They are conceptualizing a much smaller but interesting project, about a third the size of the original one. It is to be a large housing development for seniors and their families - of about 800 units at the Covell Village site. They claimed to have met with more than 340 individuals to collect opinions regarding the need for senior housing in Davis. To put it briefly, theirs is a “vision of a senior neighborhood design that will provide choices in home ownership, housing sizes and styles, and convenient access to healthcare and fitness opportunities.”

It all sounded very nice. Transportation in the form of a facility bus would be provided; the developers might be willing to kick in the cost of an ambulance station (a fourth fire station is cost prohibitive); greenbelts will abound; medical care will be had by teleconferencing; all income levels will be addressed and every senior should be able to afford something within the environs of the development; safe passage across the street to the shopping center would be built in. The list goes on.

Eventually I was asked if I would vote for approval of such a development. My answer was very equivocal, but to the point. The following questions were posed to the developers, to which I did not really receive an adequate response:
  • What are the internal needs of seniors in Davis, as opposed to external requirements? Are the developers serving internal needs first and foremost?
  • How will the city pay for the services it must provide to this new development? Will developers pay their fair share of those costs?
  • Is there a partnership between Covell Village and the Cannery project? Is there some way to influence the Cannery project to bring business into Davis, as well as workforce housing?
I did encourage the developers to come to the Davis Senior Citizens Commission, and make their pitch. They were also strongly urged by me to visit other commissions, and to listen to any responses carefully. Frankness compelled me to note their previous circumvention of governmental process led to bad feelings among commissioners and citizens alike. Trying to influence certain city council members to gain prior approval, with insufficient commission and community input, will not get them past the hurdle of the all important Measure J vote.

My concern has always been that development decisions are not being made based on the best interests of the city, e.g. developers promising schools without determining if there is sufficient funding to run the proposed facilities. Currently this latest rendition of development at the Covell Village site is nothing more than an attempt to resurrect the old project, but build it in smaller sections phased in over time. There is nothing inherently wrong with that approach - it has more likelihood of succeeding. The sticking point for me is to put a number to the “internal” need of Davis seniors for housing. How many units will be required?

The Covell Village developers seem to think 800 units will be necessary by the year 2013. Yet the GPUSC indicates somewhere between 200 and 400 is the optimal number, a rather loosey goosey estimate, with the acknowledgement such a figure is difficult to project. Whereas our commission’s staff report seems to forecast only a demand requisite of about 70 units. Which number is the most accurate becomes the million dollar question!

Now add onto that another layer of complication. Atria Covell Gardens, an assisted living facility for the frail elderly, saw rent and service hikes as high as 16% over two years. The residents were at the mercy of the corporate office, because other options are limited or nonexistent in Davis. Consequently there is probably a need for a continuing care facility that could offer effective competition.

It is also unclear to me if we have enough low cost housing for seniors in Davis. Middle income senior housing is most assuredly nonexistent. Eleanor Roosevelt Circle was supposed to address the lack of middle income housing, but almost completely failed to solve the issue. Instead, because of the mixed income rate structure that was not seen as desirable by potential residents, ERC is virtually filled with nothing but low income folks. Nevertheless, it is a model to be emulated for its on-site Social Services Director.

Mayor Sue Greenwald has suggested building a continuing care facility for the elderly in the downtown area, particularly at the PG&E site. I have no idea how feasible an idea that is, nor how practical. If I were to sum up my estimation of the situation, I have more questions than answers. But what I do know is it is not effective planning to have developers driving the process rather than being an integral part of it. My hope is that by inviting developers to speak with commissioners, perhaps we can help frame projects that better serve the needs of the city. Call me an eternal optimist!

Lessons to be learned: Statistics can be twisted to derive whatever result is desired. It will be very important for both the City Council and the public to take a very hard, skeptical look at the data. Allowing developers to drive the planning process will end in disaster, but making them an integral part is an absolute necessity. Developers are not inherently evil because they want to make a profit. However, land use planning should ultimately be decided by those who have no hidden agendas or built in conflicts of interest. Citizens should keep an open mind to development, but make sure it will meet internal needs that the city can afford.

From a personal perspective, I think the City of Davis should push hard for more business before it considers additional housing. We need greater sales tax revenue to pay for the inevitable increase in basic city services that will come with the expansion of residential housing development.


As part of the county planning committee, to develop the Yolo Operational Area People With Disabilities and the Elderly Annex (PWD/E Annex), I can give some insight into the multi-county emergency planning process that is currently taking place. Yolo is part of a ten county disaster preparedness project, that is attempting to build regional specific template designs of emergency shelters for the elderly and disabled in time of disaster. The individual counties will then “fill in the blanks” with details that will work for their particular area.

If a flood should occur in this county, the most likely emergency event for our region, the Yolo Office of Emergency Services will use the PWD/E Annex to form emergency shelters for the elderly and disabled, a special needs population. However, this Annex is only a small piece of an overarching emergency protocol, which as yet is still in the planning stages. The overall plan is expected to be completed in approximately 9 months. The Hurricane Katrina debacle served as a stark lesson on how not to do things when a state of emergency occurs.

Approximately 20 dedicated volunteers from various agencies and community based organizations have been diligently working on the Annex. Many times I expressed my concern that it was not addressing the harder issues of: 1) finding transportation to the shelter; 2) how to identify and notify vulnerable populations, especially those not appearing on any list; 3) developing memorandums of understanding between entities to ensure cooperation in an emergency; 4) educating the public as well as facilities for the elderly in regard to their responsibilities in any state of emergency.

I was assured that those topics would eventually be addressed at some time in this mammoth process. Apparently our group worked so efficiently and diligently, we have to wait for the other nine counties to catch up with us! Because we are the smallest of the ten counties, I suspect the delay may have to do with many counties having more complex considerations because they are more urban in nature. Large cities bring their own specialized problems to the table. The State of CA itself has some overall concerns of its own that need to be focused on as well. I will keep you posted as to any further progress.

Lessons to be learned: Prepare, prepare, prepare for emergencies, at all levels. As the county readies itself for future natural or manmade catastrophes, so must the public and senior facilities. All segments of the community must take on the responsibility of disaster preparedness.


On April 12th, Social Services Director Rose Levinson, Davis Senior Citizens Commissioner George Hinkle and I put on the “Fun Time Follies” at Eleanor Roosevelt Circle (ERC). It was a concert designed to promote intergenerational interplay between young and old alike, the intergenerational aspect being the brainchild of Lamar Heystek. Often seniors have nothing to do on weekends, feeling isolated and lonely. Rose, George and I decided it was high time to provide senior citizens with some weekend entertainment.

Originally the idea germinated by creating an informal group of musicians to play at Eleanor Roosevelt Circle. The residents there are stuck way out at the end of town, and have no facility bus. They seemed starving for something to do, and surprisingly the residents themselves have some pretty hefty musical talent. A little combo formed, called the Geriatric Generation Jammers (Jammers for short), consisting of Janet on accordion, George and June on ukulele, Sid on guitar while crooning Latin tunes, myself on flute. Aldo, a resident at ERC, belts out songs with superb operatic style. Robert on keyboard and base has recently hopped aboard our group.

The Jammers meet the first Saturday of each month from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at ERC - and has a blast! Anyone who wants to join in the fun may drop in to either play with us, or just enjoy singing along, clapping, dancing, or sit back and listen to good music. (There is no charge.) Just about any song is fair game for us, if we can find the sheet music for it. We’ve played just about every style of composition, from classical to rock, sprinkled with various golden oldies.

The April 12th concert itself was a huge success. About 60 people attended, on a warm spring day. At least half the audience were residents of ERC. Mayor Sue Greenwald was kind enough to grace us with her presence. Food was donated by Konditerei and Ciocolat. Nugget and Safeway supplied gift cards so residents could purchase ingredients for making special food. Other residents kept the punch bowl filled, the service flowing smoothly, and provided decorations. Those in attendance munched on cake, tea sandwiches, fudge, egg rolls, and pastries in an informal café-like atmosphere.

The musical talent was amazing. The Jammers led off with a patriotic medley; Sid and Ramon played guitar while Sid sang Latin tunes as he walked around the room; Ramon riffed off a few jazz guitar numbers; Aldo gave a stirring rendition of opera selections and popular tunes; Robert provided keyboard and bass accompaniment; a High School Madrigal octet performed some lovely numbers; and the show was rounded out by a jazz duo playing trumpet and piano - who were so popular they were asked to do an encore.

I honestly don’t know who had a better time, the players or the audience! All the musicians are eager to put on another performance; and listeners begged to know when the next concert would be. As it turns out, there are plans in the works to have another resoundingly successful event on October 25, 2008 - so put that date on your calendars! Our hope is to open up the doors to the patio off the Community Room at ERC, to make space for even more people to attend. It was an honor and a privilege to be part of such a wonderful event, and a special thanks goes to Rose Levinson and George Hinkle, without whom this experiment would never have been possible!

As an aside, when the Jammers were initially formed and first started to play, a resident from ERC was so delighted to have such entertainment, she demanded to know when we were coming back. To our great disappointment, she passed away a few days later. The group was honored to have made her last few days on earth a little brighter. Another ERC resident seems to know the name of every tune we play. Thus far we have not been able to stump this sharp cookie! Seniors have clapped and sung along as we play with gusto, and it is not unknown for them to get up and dance a polka when the proper mood strikes. What a joy it is to play for such an appreciative audience.

Lessons to be learned: You are never too old to learn new tricks! Nor to be a vital part of the community. Enjoy life to its fullest by being a participant rather than just an observer, even if all you do is sing along or support an event by just showing up.

Elaine Roberts Musser is an attorney who concentrates her efforts on elder law and aging issues, especially in regard to consumer affairs. If you have a comment or particular question or topic you would like to see addressed in this column, please make your observations at the end of this article in the comment section.

Commentary: Why is Nishi So Heavily Mentioned by the Candidates

At each of the debates thus far this election cycle, someone has promoted the Nishi Property as a good place for future development.

It seems that Sydney Vergis has consistently promoted the property as a good place for infill development. The problem is that Nishi is not infill development. It is a Measure J project and specially in fact laid out in Measure J.

Don Saylor has suggested that it is one of two future Measure J projects possibly coming down the pike.

And at the last debate, Stephen Souza promoted it as a location that could serve the student population while at the same time helping to bolster the downtown due to its close proximity to both the campus and the downtown.

Not coincidentally the project's chief sponsor is John Whitcombe from Tandem Properties, a strong supporter of that trio.

There is indeed much appeal for the 44-acre property that is located adjacent to both the UCD campus and the core area of town. As currently promoted, it could provide anywhere from between 400 apartment units to over 1000. And were it not for one very serious drawback, it would indeed be the prime area by which to develop.

In fact, the property appears not once but twice in the General Plan Housing Element report. In one iteration, it appears as the 17th rated property (Green light) and in the other as the 22nd rated property (Yellow light).

But the very reason Nishi has two iterations is the very reason why it is probably not a good site to develop at this point in time.

The reason that Nishi is a questionable location is that it has but one route into the core of the city via motor vehicle and that is along Olive Drive. Now the problem with Olive Drive is that it feeds into the heavily congested Richards Blvd. That is the most congested area of town and to put a location with a minimum of 1150 beds on that route is begging for trouble.

That is why the higher rated project does not even have access to Olive Drive. It would have vehicle access only through the university. So now you are putting a likely student development next the university which has no direct access to the city via motor vehicle.

The promoters of this project suggest this as a great way to enhance pedestrian and bike traffic from this site into the core of downtown. I do not knock the ideal of such a set up. But the fact that we would have to go through all of this just for a development leads me to question the usefulness of this development.

The HESC report suggests a number of things are needed in order for this arrangement and site to be explored. First, it would require UC Davis involvement which included granting access via car to campus. You would then have to analyze traffic, mitigation, and car management strategies for traffic toward campus. Remember we are talking over a thousand cars potentially being funneled through campus. We would have the relinquish the existing access easement to Olive Drive.

Do not get me wrong, none of these are deal breakers. Even the worst aspects of Nishi aside from the poor vehicular access to the core--noise from the railroad and the freeway and the fact that it is prime agricultural land--are not deal breakers.

However, the question remains whether student housing, and that is what we are talking about with Nishi primarily, student housing, would not be better utilized at a different location on campus.

We all have dreams about encouraging people to use alternative forms of transportation. This is not encouragement. This would be literally forcing people to do just that. If want to develop close to downtown, the PG&E site and an area just on campus would make far more sense than Nishi. Neither of those sites are encumbered by lack of traffic access and yet, because of their proximity to the downtown they would do the same thing.

Intentionally designing areas that are cut off via motor vehicle from other areas is asking for problems.

The real question is would these areas be promoted if they were not Whitcombe sponsored projects? Many people have questioned a decision not to accept money for developers, but the nice thing about not accepting money from the developers is that there is no question in anyone's mind about the promotion of one property over another. Sue Greenwald can promote the PG&E site because not only is she not taking money from a developer, but there is no one actively promoting it.

People are concerned about student housing and housing overall. The question is really, where is it best to develop. I think we need to look within our current borders to achieve our housing needs. I also think that we need to work with the university as a means to meeting the needs of students. UC Davis has one of the lowest on campus housing percentages in the UC System. And yet at the same time, UC Davis has a lot more land available to meet those needs than the city.

Creating an area in the city, cut off from the city has inherent problems. That's why this centrally located site only rated 17. Having it connected to the city, presents more problems. At this point, developing Nishi has too many drawbacks. There are simply other areas, more conveniently located, that would do the same thing as Nishi. And yet, because it is associated with John Whitcombe, Nishi will always be on someone's radar.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pensions Across the Country Threatened by Deficits

This past Sunday, the Washington Post ran an article about a silent crisis facing the pensions of public employees.

The Post writes:
"The funds that pay pension and health benefits to police officers, teachers and millions of other public employees across the country are facing a shortfall that could soon run into trillions of dollars."
More ominously, accounting techniques have disguised the extent of this crisis.
"But the accounting techniques used by state and local governments to balance their pension books disguise the extent of the crisis facing these retirees and the taxpayers who may ultimately be called on to pay the freight, according to a growing number of leading financial analysts."
At the local level this is particularly alarming:
"Local governments use these same techniques for their pension funds and face deficits that further contribute to what some investors and analysts say may be shaping up to be a massive breach of faith with a generation of public employees."
Here is the most alarming danger. And it seems to directly apply to the situation at the local level.
"Very small shifts in actuarial assumptions can generate huge changes over time," said Susan Urahn of the Pew Center on the States, which has studied the issue. "It is not very transparent, and even where it is transparent not many people understand it."
Sound familiar? One of the ways, Davis has made the budget projections look better is by shifting some of the assumptions.

This is from last night's Davis Enterprise article:
The city funded benefits under a pay-as-you-go method until last fiscal year, when it added an extra $500,000 to the payment. To fully fund the program, which would save millions in the long run, the city would have to pay in about $4 million per year, Navazio said.

'Given the level of benefits and the cost of benefits, we need to be setting aside 6 percent of our employee salaries, and that percentage is pretty high compared to other cities,' Navazio said. 'That's also a reflection of the city's benefits, which are pretty high, and how that's packaged.'

'We have got to find the means to fund that,' Councilman Stephen Souza said.

'We are fully intending to deal with it, we're just not dealing with it fully in this fiscal year,' Navazio said.

Labor negotiations will reopen during the 2009-10 fiscal year, Navazio said, and money has been set aside to address the cost-of-living increases expected.

Council members agreed there is a bright side to the city's budget picture. For one, Davis has maintained a healthy, 15 percent reserve, totaling about $5.6 million.

The reserve could be used to address further state cutbacks that may be part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's revised budget, expected out today. The reserve also could soften any blows if property and sales tax assumptions built into the budget are incorrect.
All of which suggests that the very budgets that the city was celebrating on Tuesday night might be very tenuous. The Washington Post article cites the longevity of people as one plank of the problem. Simply put as people live longer, pensions have to pay them for longer. In order for people to continue to receive the benefits that were promised to them, state and local government must make fiscally responsible decisions. If pensions are non-transparent, the costs hidden, or if their levels are unsustainable, they will serve to undermine the pension system as a whole. Placing the burden on the taxpayers and hiding the costs, hoping to forestall difficult decisions to future leaders, in actuality threatens the entire system. That means everyone gets hurt by unsustainable policies.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sacramento Bee Endorses Jim Provenza for Yolo County Supervisor

Two years ago, there was not much difference between the endorsements of the Davis Enterprise and the endorsements of the Sacramento Bee. In the key races that impacted Davis, both endorsed Ruth Asmundson and Mike Levy for Davis City Council and Jeff Reisig for District Attorney. So when the Davis Enterprise earlier endorsed the pro-growth slate for City Council and John Ferrera for County Supervisor, we figured it was only a matter of time before the Sacramento Bee followed suit.

In reality, while the Sacramento Bee remains on the side of those candidates on the issue of growth, to their credit, they have looked beyond the growth issue when making endorsements. Hence Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald and Sue Greenwald were able to gain the endorsement for city council and now Jim Provenza has been endorsed for County Supervisor.

The Bee writes:
"The 4th District includes a big chunk of the city of Davis, the heart of the slow-growth movement in the county. When Yolo supervisors even dared to discuss the possibility of permitting a housing development attached to a much-coveted stem cell research facility proposed on county land at the edge of Davis, activists threatened a recall campaign. It's just one indication of how careful the 4th District supervisor must be in approaching this issue.

Yolo supervisors have rightly fought to prevent development on the county's agricultural lands and steer growth into cities. All the candidates promise to protect the county's agricultural resources. All agree that some growth is needed to ensure the county does not stagnate economically.

But as important as growth issues are, Yolo's most pressing issue in the county's precarious finances. A few years ago, county employees were forced to take furloughs. With the county facing a $5.9 million projected deficit this year, employees are being asked to take voluntary leaves."
So why do they pick in the end Jim Provenza? "As a member of the Davis School Board Jim Provenza has the deeper, more expansive experience with local government."

The Bee actually likes all three candidates, but in a close decision decided to endorse Jim Provenza.

As the Vanguard wrote in response to the Enterprises endorsement:

John Ferrera is a good person, on statewide issues and national and international issues, there is probably very little if anything on which we disagree. However, as this race has gone on, it has become clear to me that he is in the other camp on local land use issues which remain the key hallmark of the County Supervisor race.

Recently, both candidates were asked about land use issues. Jim Provenza was publicly against Covell Village. John Ferrera has recently acknowledged he was for Covell Village, although according to my sources he has also stated his opposition to it.

Second, Jim Provenza strongly supports Measure J. John Ferrera took more of the Don Saylor position, the public likes it, but he was less succinct about his view.

Third, when the county threatened to develop on Davis' periphery, Jim Provenza came to the meeting in July and argued strongly against such development. He referred to the proposed developments along I-80 as the congestion corridor. John Ferrera as far as I can tell was not at that meeting and certainly did not speak at that meeting.

While both candidates promise to handle city-county relations better than they were handled in 2007, only Jim Provenza has flat out supported the pass-through agreement.

When I interview John Ferrera last fall here was his response to a question of would he support the current pass-through agreement:

"The pass-through agreement is twenty years old. It’s only received minor updates and discussions and I think that the changing relationship between the state and the counties and the state and the cities, with the growth of the university, with other things that have happened in our world that have changed over 20 years, that we really need to take a hard look and make sure that it’s doing what it need to do for the county and for the city."

While Cathy Kennedy clearly needs to gain some experience with local government, she could become a very formidable candidate down the line. She has a level of sincerity and infectious enthusiasm that serve her well and tend to win people over.

This race is likely going to November with Jim Provenza and John Ferrera squaring off. Cathy Kennedy however has impressed a number of people along the way and could become a player in deciding who wins in November.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Bee has now endorsed the three slow growth candidates in Davis with the best prospects for winning. It was "stunning" (for lack of a better word) to see the Davis Enterprise overlook the experience of people like Jim Provenza when they made their endorsement. The Sacramento Bee fortunately has not replicated that mistake.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Commentary: View of Budget Depends on Perspective and Assumptions

Is Davis' budget balanced? Has the structural deficit been reduced or even eliminated?

Like most things it seems in Davis, the answer to that question depends on who you ask and how they factor in their budget assumptions. If you ask Paul Navazio the city's finance director and assistant city manager, he would tell you that the city has closed up its structural deficit, has a balanced budget, but also has a large amount of unmet needs. If you ask Sue Greenwald--part of the unmet needs are the budget deficit. We have merely papered over the deficit and the looming fiscal crisis with fancy work, heavily dependent on budget assumptions and elaborate models.

For Don Saylor, the city of Davis is making use of extraordinary planning to be this fiscally responsible that we do not have a budget deficit in a time of economic downturn across the state.

In his closing comments for example he said:
"This framework of budget balance for us includes a 15 percent reserve, that's really pretty uncanny."
He cites the number of jurisdictions whether it the schools, the university, the county and other cities that are making huge budget cuts. But not the city of Davis.

He does acknowledge that we have unmet needs that will exceed our revenues, but argues that this is based on the choices that we have made as a city.
"We see that the service demands of our city will exceed the revenues available and that's partly because of our own choices. Our sales tax revenue of $9 million per year is based on per capita collections of about $93... We're in the bottom third of sale tax collections. If we simply were at the state average we would bring in another $6 million. I'm not suggesting that we be at the state average, because that's not who we are. But minor changes in different pieces of our economic strategy will make a tremendous difference in the revenue picture for our city."
This seems to be an acknowledgment by Don Saylor that there is some kind of deficit. Also he argues both that we are in better fiscal shape than our neighbors and better fiscal shape than we have been in the past. Ironically, the reason we are in better fiscal shape than our neighbors is that our revenue sources so far have largely been immune to the economic downturn. The impact of the housing slump in Davis, in a market somewhat cut off from the rest of the state, has been far lower. Because we have a tight business market, we have weathered that better. And we do not heavily rely on state money as both the university and school does. The policies that Don Saylor and his council majority will explore will actually make us more vulnerable rather than less to economic downturns.

Stephen Souza likewise cites the fiscal health of the city. In 2004-05, Souza argues we had over a $2 million general fund deficit and we had to use reserves to balance the budget. This year it was $800K and we did not have to use reserves. He argued both that we need to celebrate what we have done but also that there is still work to do.
"We've been able to through a very logical process identified what are the amounts of money that would get us to a point where the people's assets are going to be taken care of and replaced and the services that we have all enjoyed will not only be at the levels of today, but they'll be better tomorrow. I think that's incumbent upon us to do that also. We've looked at economic redevelopment and we've done some of that. We've looked at cost recovery, we're going to more of that. We've looked at fee augmentation and we have to do more of that. We've talked about for a long time recovering some of the costs of the 911 service, maybe that's a path we go... We've look at some tax measures, and I think we're going to have to ask the public, do you want better... [services than you have today]. We're also going to have to ask the question beyond the $2.9 million for public works, about public safety, we want a fourth fire station, do we want more police officers on the roadways? If we want those things, it will be our choice as citizens of this community to determine after we put forward this information if want these services or we don't want these services."
The question and the point that Stephen Souza does not put forward is whether we can get to these kinds of services--if we need them--by tightening our belts, becoming more fiscally prudent in the decisions that we make.

That's really where Sue Greenwald begins.
"We're not in better shape than we've been in years. That's just not true. We are locked into a 3% at 50 retirement for the next 70 years for public safety employees and now 2.5% at 55, early retirement for all miscellaneous employees. That's got to affect our longterm budget situation. We have a $42 million post-retirement, unfunded employee retiree health liability. That's huge. That's coming due in only 15 or 20 years..."
According to the Mayor all of these will impact our budget and how much sidewalk and other maintenance we can do.
"We have postponed a number of projects and we have to remember that we have hanging over our heads first off the school fiscal crisis, if we keep taxing residents it is going to be harder for the schools to raise the funds they need... Passing the sales tax and the parcel tax, that just keeps us afloat, that does not get us anywhere... We're asking for those to be renewed at the same time we need more taxes for the schools."
Furthermore, we have not taken into account $365 million in sewer and surface water projects. These projects will add over $1000 per year to the utility fees for residents and the Mayor thinks that will be closer to $2000. Are we going to be able to renew the sales and parks taxes to stay even to the revenues we have today? This does not even touch the unfunded needs that we have today. These renewals are merely what we need in order to stay even.

Contrary to the claims by Souza and Saylor, Sue Greenwald pointed out:
"We've always had a five year budget, in fact, when Carl was around we had a seven year budget forecast."
She goes on:
"Carl was the one who about six months after we passed 3% at 50 back in 2000, he came in with his face ashen, he held up this projection and he said, we're going to be having huge deficits. I didn't realize this. He was very upset, he was looking at the seven year forecast. Well we were bailed out by the housing and real estate bubble, and the housing bubble and we've been bailed out. That's over, those days are gone."
Mayor Greenwald said we are fortunate however that we have citizens willing to shoulder the load, but will they continue to as the load gets heavier and she is concerned about the 800 pound gorilla in the room in the form of the water projects that will add another $365 million over a period of time to our costs.

I think the most interesting aspect of the budget discussion is that really Don Saylor and Stephen Souza are looking at very much the same things as Mayor Sue Greenwald, but coming to very different conclusions about our fiscal health. One of the critical questions is that of unmet needs--does their existence constitute a deficit?

The other serious problem is that of retirement benefits to employees. I think Sue Greenwald has recognized from an early period of time that the benefits that we are giving out are unsustainable. They are going to eat up a larger and larger portion of the budget and as a result we will have to struggle to find ways to meet those costs in addition to the regular costs to do business in the city. We are putting a lot of strain on the very generous taxpayers of Davis. In addition to the taxes the city will be asking residents to pay just to maintain the level of revenue we currently have, residents as the Mayor points out will be asked to pass another school parcel tax, we will ask residents to pay a higher level for water. $1000 per year at minimum means that your water bill will INCREASE by nearly $100 per month. If it is closer to $2000, you may be paying an additional $150 to $200 per month for water. That's a lot of money especially for people on fixed incomes, but really for all of us.

The cost of living in Davis is about to go up. The question about the fiscal health of the system is an open question and depends on the budget assumptions and your perspective.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sacramento Bee Endorses "New Political Dynamic in Davis"--Sue Greenwald, Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald, and Don Saylor

In a stunning surprise, the Sacramento Bee yesterday endorsed a "New Political Dynamic in Davis." Actually since they endorsed two incumbents--Don Saylor and Sue Greenwald, the only new political dynamic they endorsed is Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald (my wife but no relation to Sue). But if those three were to win, that would mark a new council majority.

For me this comes just over a week after both criticizing the Sacramento Bee for their lack of coverage, their lack of understanding of Davis politics, questioning whether they should even be making an endorsement in this race.

I was both correct and it turns out incorrect in my read on the Sacramento Bee. I figured that the Sacramento Bee would support the pro-growth elements in the race and look little beyond that.

The Sacramento Bee does indeed support pro-growth policies as they acknowledge in their editorial:
"While we remain in agreement with the pro-growth candidates on issues of housing and development, the public in Davis has made its views clear."
At the same time, they seem surprisingly conciliatory to the community having a say in its own land use policies, which is a striking departure for a paper that thought the idea that Davis would vote Covell Village and Target was ludicrous.

Instead, the Bee looks past those issues and towards on big issue: the firefighters.
"Meanwhile, other important issues have emerged: city finances and the influence of public employee unions, and race relations and the police department."
The Bee has seen the damage to city finances that out of control wages and pensions to city employees can do.

They continue:
"Davis firefighters are among the top campaign contributors to pro-growth candidates, a dangerous sign. The firefighters' contract expires next year. Given the current housing slump and the lack of a retail base in Davis to generate sales taxes, it is important that this city hold the line in the next round of bargaining."
The firefighters--their wages and their attempt to influence the outcome of the election--become the top issue for the Bee rather than development.

I remain no less surprised today than I did yesterday.

They claim they narrowly chose Don Saylor over Stephen Souza:
"Of the three pro-growth candidates on the ballot, we narrowly chose Saylor over Souza. Souza is hard working but has a testy personality that has contributed to the incivility at council meetings. Saylor is more steady and has wider experience."
Finally they encourage the slow-growth candidates to follow through on their promise for infill development:
"The slow-growth candidates we've endorsed all say they are committed to infill development. It is essential that they follow through on that commitment. Davis is a city that has priced out its working-class citizens. Whoever is elected must make a better commitment to build affordable housing for people who work in Davis."
Given the Bee's views on Davis and Davis' growth policy this was a huge surprise. But the firefighters involvement in this race has really changed the dynamics here.

Full text of the endorsement:

This year, as in previous Davis City Council elections, growth and housing (or the lack of both) are major issues.

The city had a showdown on growth with its 2005 vote on Covell Village, a proposed housing development, which this page supported as did four of five members of the City Council. Despite that support, the citizens of Davis rejected Covell Village.

This election pits moderate pro-growth candidates who supported Covell Village against slow-growth candidates who did not.

On the pro-growth side are incumbents Don Saylor and Stephen Souza, and challenger Sydney Vergis. On the slow-growth side are Davis Mayor Sue Greenwald and challengers Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald (no relation to the mayor) and Rob Roy.

While we remain in agreement with the pro-growth candidates on issues of housing and development, the public in Davis has made its views clear. Meanwhile, other important issues have emerged: city finances and the influence of public employee unions, and race relations and the police department. On the basis of their positions on those issues, we endorse Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald and Sue Greenwald.

A UC Davis graduate and longtime student and city activist, Escamilla-Greenwald is the former head of the Davis Human Relations Commission. In that capacity she was instrumental in exposing legitimate concerns from African American and Latino residents of a strong perception of police bias. Her efforts led to the resignation of the city's former police chief and the hiring of an ombudsman to handle citizen complaints. Even though she is a labor representative in her professional life, Escamilla-Greenwald has been forthright in her concerns about the generous pay raises and retirement benefits given to Davis firefighters that threaten city finances.

Greenwald was also a strong supporter of police reform. As a member of the council she has been a forceful and vocal opponent of overly generous firefighter pay raises and retirement benefits. As a result she has not gotten the firefighters union endorsement or their contributions.

Davis firefighters are among the top campaign contributors to pro-growth candidates, a dangerous sign. The firefighters' contract expires next year. Given the current housing slump and the lack of a retail base in Davis to generate sales taxes, it is important that this city hold the line in the next round of bargaining. Greenwald can be counted on to resist union pressure.

Roy declined to sit for an endorsement interview with The Bee, so we have no way to evaluate his qualifications.

Of the three pro-growth candidates on the ballot, we narrowly chose Saylor over Souza. Souza is hard working but has a testy personality that has contributed to the incivility at council meetings. Saylor is more steady and has wider experience.

The slow-growth candidates we've endorsed all say they are committed to infill development. It is essential that they follow through on that commitment. Davis is a city that has priced out its working-class citizens. Whoever is elected must make a better commitment to build affordable housing for people who work in Davis.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, May 12, 2008

Analysis: Data Shows No Relationship Between Housing Prices and Rate of Growth in Davis

For those who are regulars on the Vanguard, these are the data that underlie a long time debate over the impact of the rate of growth in Davis on housing prices. Be forewarned, if you are allergic to math, you might want to skip to the graphs that illustrate some of the relationships between new building permits and housing prices. The data show in a number of different ways that building more in Davis does not reduce the price of housing in Davis when compared to Sacramento or other cities in the region.

The Mayor Sue Greenwald requested that someone analyze the relationship between the number of building permits and housing prices.

The price data come from RAND California through 2002 and since 2002, the data come from Trends in California Real Estate from the CA Realtors Association for July of each year.

The analysis looks at a number of different iterations here--current building permits, lagged building permits, all permits, or only single-family permits. None of these changes impact the overall findings.

The first chart here just shows the raw numbers.

There are some pretty interesting features of the raw numbers. You can see that housing permits peaked in the late 1990s with 1013 new permits in 1998 and 954 permits in 1999. Measure J comes in just after that and you can see the number of new permits really fall off after that point. You can also see the price of homes increases by a large margin after 1994. But as you can see, the price of homes in Sacramento increases as well over the same period of time. The last column is what is called the Davis premium--basically the ratio of housing prices in Davis divided by the housing prices in Sacramento.

Now that's the key variable right there, because that is used as an indicator for the regional housing prices.

As you can see in this graph, the two median sales prices of homes in Davis and Sacramento County track almost perfectly. Davis is higher throughout the period, but the increase in home prices is matched by the increase of home prices in Sacramento County. In fact, the correlation coefficient for the two is .99. The correlation coefficient for the non-statistics person is basically a measure of how interdependent two variables are to each other. The value indicates how much of a change in one variable is explained by a change in another. .99 means that 99% percent of the change in the Davis median sales price is explained by the change in the Sacramento County Median Sales price. That means it is almost a perfect relationship between the two. Frankly in my background in the social sciences, you are often happy if you can explain 30 or 40 percent of the relationship.

The next graph looks at the relationship between building permits and housing prices, once we control for the housing prices in other areas in the region. To do this, we use the Davis premium and plot it against the number of building permits. We use the lagged variable to approximate the time it takes for a home with an approved permit to actually hit the market. But as I said earlier, it does not matter if you use the lagged variable or unlagged variable.

Let's go back through this graph again. The Davis Premium is the median cost of housing in Davis divided by the median cost of housing in Sacramento County. The higher ratio means that Davis home prices are growing faster than Sacramento County home prices. The lower ration means that the Sacramento County home prices are growing faster than Davis home prices. Throughout most of the period the premium is between 1.4 and 1.6. That means that Davis home prices are 140% to 160% higher than Sacramento home prices. However, when we plot those ratios against the number of building permits we see that there is no relationship between the building permits and the relative price of housing in Davis. Even with two outliers, you have pretty much a flat ratio between the two.

Analysis and Implications

The argument on this blog has been that Davis is subject to the market forces of supply and demand just like any other community. That is correct, however, as some have contended the problem with such a simple view is that it does not take into account the much larger regional market. What we see in these data is that housing prices have gone up about the same rate in the fast growing market of Sacramento County as they have in the relatively slow growing market of Davis.

There is a differential between the cost of housing in Davis, but it is created largely by its desirability rather than its rate of growth.

It is important to note that these data do not resolve the issue of whether and how much Davis should grow. What it does suggest is that we cannot expect that more houses and more residential growth are going to result in a reduced cost of homes. Therefore, we should not tailor our growth policies in terms of number of units around the issue of affordability and the concern that middle class people are being priced out of Davis. We likely cannot change that by building more units unless we build so many units that we begin to reduce our quality of life.

If we built thousands of new homes, then we could possible begin to cut into the differential in housing prices between Davis and the surrounding communities. But how much would it take? And such an endeavor would likely result in a whole new set of problems. It is not as though much faster growing communities have fewer problems than we do in Davis. Nor is it true that they have better school systems than we do in Davis.

These data do have enormous implications for our land use policies however. They tell us that we are likely not going to gain affordability through growth. That means that if we are concerned about declining enrollment, we need to find ways to build the type of homes that young families want to live in. The natural starting point would be the university. The city of Davis clearly needs to work with the university in partnership to supply housing for young faculty members and staff--people who are likely to have children of school age. What we face in Davis is not unique to other college towns, we simply have to find ways to provide that kind of housing--not through faster growth, but through innovative approaches, that maintain the desirability of this town while providing real options for people who work at the university.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Commentary: Pro-Development Candidates Not Forthcoming on their Growth Positions

Sacramento Bee Coverage of the Davis City Council Race

The Sacramento Bee had a pretty interesting spread on Monday laying out various positions by the Davis City Council candidates on growth

Given that the Sacramento Bee had limited space and that this will be their only article on the race, they did a good job of getting to the core of the issues and the differences between the candidates in a campaign where many of the candidates sound the same even though they have pretty divergent policy goals.

To start, the happenstance of alphabetical order served to dramatize this point. The first three candidates in the alphabet opposed Covell Village. The last three supported it. That happenstance creates an appearance of stark differences between the candidates.

Measure J and the one percent growth guideline have been covered here. You can see more clearly here that Stephen Souza diverges from his colleagues on his side of the matrix on Measure J, but you can also see that that is the only place that he really diverges from them on.

The point also needs to be made again that Measure J is indeed a lengthy document, but it is really straight-forward and not complex. A non-lawyer or even a non-planner can easily pick it up and understand it. On the other hand, one of the reasons that it is so lengthy is that the drafters of the Measure J went to great lengths to define their terms and define explicit exemptions to avoid loopholes. Any attempt to streamline it will re-open some of those loopholes and thereby weaken the measure.

Question 2 is one that really has not been asked or addressed in forums to do that. So I am going to go through those answers, since they are brief.

The question is would they support a renewed effort to develop the Covell site?

The first three candidates Cecilia (my wife), Sue Greenwald, and Rob Roy give various versions of "no."

Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald:
"I do not support developing beyond the borders of the city. We have enough land available within the city's boundaries."
Sue Greenwald:
"I just think it's way too soon to consider that."
Rob Roy:
"We have to focus on infill development. Building out is the wrong direction. Davis will sprawl and lose its character."
The next two candidates Don Saylor and Stephen Souza do a nice job of dancing on the issue.

Don Saylor:
"I haven't seen a revised Covell Village plan. I'm not going to say never, and I'm not going to say I'm all for it."
Is the first part of that answer honest? John Whitcombe's group has been meeting through out the city. I know quite a few people that they have met with to outline their plan for Covell Village. They even met with Cecilia. Are you telling me that they have not met with one of their biggest allies on the council but they met with Cecilia? I kind of seriously doubt that. The honest answer here would be "yeah, I'd consider it." Instead he tries to dance on it.

Stephen Souza:
"If a proposal at Covell Village came forward, I would be interested in looking at it and discussing it."
That's at least a better answer than Saylor's.

Sydney Vergis:
"If the neighboring Hunt-Wesson property is developed, we might want to look at mater-planning that whole area and do it right."
Either Vergis is more pro-growth than Souza and Saylor or she's less shrewd politically, but I think she puts on the table the view that the pro-development side of the ledger sees--a way to develop Covell alongside the Lewis Properties.

For a table that has four very brief answers, in many ways this tells people all they need to know about growth. And then it depends on which side you come down on the issue.

LAFCO Draws Out Differences On Growth--Souza and Saylor Abstain

I take this time to draw on Tuesday's vote yet again, because it seemed to get lost in the complexity once again.

There are two elements to the City Council's Sphere of Influence vote.

First, the need to revisit it was fundamentally due to City Planning Director Katherine Hess' misinformation to council about the meaning of the sphere of influence.

LAFCO lays it out very clearly that the sphere of influence intends to define all the lands to be developed for urban uses. Katherine Hess tried to argue that the city simply would control the land in the SOI whether it was developed or not. That clearly was not true last year when the county tried to study development of land inside the SOI on the edge of Davis. Stephen Souza at the LAFCO meeting tried to argue that there are multiple types of urban uses for land, but he quickly recognized after discussions at LAFCO that this was not the conventional view and that having an overly large SOI might open the process down the line to inclusion in the General Plan and thereby do the opposite of what was intended.

The second intrigue in the meeting is Lamar Heystek's motion removed all of the large peripheral parcels from the Sphere of Influence. Mayor Sue Greenwald seconded this motion.

The argument here is that there is no compelling reason to add more land that could become targeted for growth when there is no protection afforded to the land by being placed in the SOI. It simply signals LAFCO that there is an intent to develop these lands for Urban uses.

Ruth Asmundson opposed the removal of the peripheral parcels, as we would expect.

What no one expected is that Councilmembers Don Saylor and Stephen Souza abstained from the vote. This demonstrates their fear of on the one-hand offending their developer friends, some of whom were in the audience asking to be included in the SOI. Obviously they felt that there was some benefit to being in the SOI.

On the other hand, they did not outright vote against the measure to belie their pro-development colors. They have tried to walk this fence for a long time. They supported Covell but argue that it's good smart growth planning. They support the 1% growth guideline, arguing that this represents a low growth rate and that we are not growing at one percent anyway.

Because of the two abstentions, for the first time ever, Sue Greenwald and Lamar Heystek's two votes carried the day by a 2-1 margin. In order to not expose their true intentions on growth prior to the election, Souza and Saylor were completely silent on one of the most important growth issues for the LAFCO SOI for Davis.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting