By Matt Williams
As follow-up to the May 6th CivEnergy forum on Measure J, I published my personal reasons why I oppose Measure J as an article for the Davisite and as a comment to the Vanguard. Prompted by my list, Mayor Davis took the time to respond to all eleven (11) of my comments one-by-one. I thank Robb for doing so, and particularly thank him for the structured format he used to reply.
After taking time off for a movie and dinner date with a group of Davis friends and the Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I have put together this point-by-point response to the first of Robb's comments. This is the first of a series of articles in which I will respond to all of Robb's points. I believe that covering them one-by-one will produce a more focused and fruitful dialogue.
Matt: Nishi 2.0 Will Cost Davis Taxpayers between $350,000 and $750,000 per year
Robb: FBC findings on Nishi, January 8, 2018 (the only action they took in relation to Nishi)
We also generally concur with the estimate that annual ongoing revenues and costs for the city from the project would be modestly net positive over time.
We note, however, that the estimate does not reflect additional revenues that could result if Davis voters approve an increase in parcel taxes. Also, the estimate does not include revenues from Proposition C cannabis taxes or possible community enhancement funds that could result from the negotiation of a development agreement. Also, the EIR adopted for the original, larger, version of the Nishi project suggests that police and fire costs for serving the new residents could be nominal. (A new environmental review is now being conducted for the revised project.) Thus, in some respects, the net fiscal benefit of the project could be greater than estimated.
Robb made that same point in the May 6th Civenergy Forum, which is that the Council prefers to cover its eyes and ears and proactively ignore everything other than the formal written words they received from the Finance and Budget Commission. What they are doing is using the specifics of one facet of a multi-faceted process to hear no evil and see no evil.
When I read this comment of Robb’s last night after dinner, I couldn’t help but reflect on what Ruth Bader Ginsburg might have done if she were on our City Council. Would she have ignored the clear findings of the city’s economic consultants that it was/is unwise to look at a project’s costs solely on the basis of its immediate cash impact? Would she have read the EIR with the narrow interpretation of the formal written FBC finding quoted by Robb above,
Also, the EIR adopted for the original, larger, version of the Nishi project suggests that police and fire costs for serving the new residents could be nominal.
or would the Notorious RBG have also considered the fiscal advice of the City’s economic consultant when they said in a formal written report to the City:
Public Service Costs
EPS utilized standard industry methods to compute the expenditures for both the Annual Fire and Police expenditures. In response to concerns over the level of public service cost associated with the project, EPS conducted interviews the Chief of Police, Darren Pytel and Assistant Fire Chief, Rick Martinez.
Chief Pytel indicated that the estimates made by EPS were reasonable and appropriate particularly given concerns of difficulties in enforcement within the area due to constrained access. Similarly, Assistant Chief Martinez advised against running any scenarios with reduced Fire Department costs due to a need for increased labor resulting from the population and employment growth attributed to the project. Based on these interviews, EPS did not construct any additional sensitivity scenarios to reflect lower public service costs.
I suspect RBG would have considered the whole picture.
Instead of encouraging the voters to look at the full economic picture … both immediate cash impact and full life-cycle cost impact ... Robb is advising the voters to follow the same approach as Council used ... to cover their eyes and cover their ears as the best way to decide how to vote on Measure J. I respectfully disagree with that approach. An informed electorate makes wiser decisions when voting. It costs the City absolutely nothing to be honest and transparent with its citizens and taxpayers ... especially when they are voting.
Tell the citizens what the immediate cash impact is for the project, as well as the additional costs that will have to be paid by the taxpayers as the various components of the capital infrastructure that supports the residents of Nishi reaches the end of its useful life. What are some of those down-the-road components of capital infrastructure that reach an "end of useful life"?
- Police cars
- Fire trucks for example.
- City Buildings, and their components like roofs.
- Road surfaces.
- The surfaces of greenbelt pathways.
- Parking lot surfaces at City parks.
The Yes on Nishi team has tried to argue that they are assuming all those end of useful life costs themselves by keeping the ownership and maintenance of both the roads and parks and open space private, but that ignores their "fair share" of the end-of-life repair/replacement of the "common good" capital infrastructure.