City Council Out of Step on Parking, Roads, Housing, and the Claw: Will it Impact the 2020 Council Race?
Tonight, the City Council will decide whether or not to convert approximately 32% of downtown parking to metered parking spaces, 7 days a week, 10 AM-10 PM. The opposition to the City’s proposal from citizens and business owners has been vocal and voluminous.
Will the City Council nonetheless vote to proceed with the plan? And if they do, will voters next spring remember and think twice about re-electing incumbents?
This is not the first indication that the Council isn’t communicating well with its citizens.
Last June, Measure I, a street and bike path parcel tax, was rejected by citizens when it failed to get the necessary 2/3 vote. Why is that? Davis’s roads and bike paths are clearly in horrible shape. The vote should have been a slam dunk. That it wasn’t seems like an indication that citizens do not fully trust this Council or are otherwise unhappy.
More recently, residents have been frustrated with changes to Mace Boulevard that simply do not seem to make sense. According to the linked article, the $3 million project has been in the works since 2013, but did the City Council check in with citizens again before the work began? Apparently not. A lot can change in that amount of time, and what might seem to have made sense in 2013 does not necessarily make sense in 2019.
And then there is The Claw, the City’s beloved formerly-weekly on-street pickup of branches, leaves, and other organic debris, also known as LITS (Loose in the Streets). The City solicited citizen feedback on reducing the LITS program to 16 pickups per year, 15 pickups per year, and 12 pickups per year (see details here). A majority of citizens preferred either no change to the current program or the option with the most number of pickups. So what did the City Council do? It voted in favor of a proposal that hadn’t even been presented to Davisites and that had fewer pickups than the proposals that citizens had rejected.
The Trackside development likewise brought significant community opposition when developers put forward a proposal that seemed far out of character for the existing neighborhood. The project, aimed at wealthy tenants, would have towered over the existing neighborhood. With the City Council refusing to listen to citizens, the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association was forced to bring a lawsuit. Now a Yolo County judge has issued a tentative decision siding with the neighborhood, finding that the city did not comply with the General Plan and design guidelines in approving Trackside.
There is an old debate about whether politically-elected decisionmakers should represent the will of the people or whether they should act in accordance with their own best judgment of what is right. Of course, neither extreme is right. There is always a balancing act between the two approaches.
The question is whether the current Council has tipped the balance too far away from what citizens want, and tonight could be decisive. After all, there are other Davis citizens who seem to have a better finger on the pulse of the City and who have not been afraid to stand up and speak out concerning one or more of the issues above, such as Daniel Urazandi, Colin Walsh, Nancy Price, Ezra Beeman, Susan Rainier, and Larry Guenther. Some of these people were candidates in the last Council race. Some could be candidates in the next.
Davisites should pay attention to what happens tonight and think carefully about who genuinely represents them.