Commission Process, please
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Good decision-making process involves staff and City Council too

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The following letter was emailed as a comment for tonight's special City Council Subcommittee on Commission Process meeting.

Dear City Councilmembers and Commission Chairs,

It is extremely difficult to comment on this item without knowing more about what will be discussed. However, one concern I have – and I will just have to see where things go today – is how this group became a “Subcommittee on Commissions.”

The original letter that triggered this subcommittee, a letter that I co-signed, was titled “A Proposal for Improving City of Davis Decision Making.”  It included provisions regarding City Commissions, but it was not limited to that.  It also included provisions regarding “transparency, information, disclosure, and public engagement” as well as provisions “for developing and making decisions on Staff proposals submitted for City Council action.”  It was not just about how commissions operate.

It would be a missed opportunity if this subcommittee were to narrow its concerns from the letter’s original scope.  Indeed, it would be a sad irony, given the letter was in part prompted by commissioners feeling that they were not being heard and seeing their communications to the city lost in translation.

The events of this week have shown that deep problems persist with City decision-making.  The proposed changes to the sound ordinance were not brought to the attention of citizens, they were not vetted by any commissions, and they were placed on the City Council’s agenda by the City Manager and the Mayor late on Friday before a holiday weekend.  And by most accounts, the proposed changes to the sound ordinance are deeply flawed, in a staff report that advocates for a position rather than providing an analysis of pros and cons.  And this is not the first time that these type of problems have occurred – by a long shot.

There is nothing that commissioners can do that would fix this process.  There also need to be changes in the way that staff and the City Council operate if we are to improve decision making in Davis. We need a system with built in checks and balances.  Clearly, we don’t have that now.

Today should be just the beginning of the conversation. I hope that commission chairs can meet again in a format more open for discussion with more public notice and public participation.


Roberta Millstein
Former chair and member, Open Space & Habitat Commission
Speaking for myself


Nora oldwin

Excellent letter. You speak for me as well as for yourself. The failure to notice the public or to provide any transparency around the proposed change
To the noise ordinance was - I don’t even have a word for it. Disappointing? Absurd? Nauseating? Maybe all of those. And to think we’ve been exactly “here” before; that this is not the first time by any means .... that’s infuriating. Oh well! Maybe I should go ride the zip line and then play some pickle ball to get my emotions back in order.....

Roberta L. Millstein

Thanks, Nora. Infuriating for sure. BrightNight comes to mind... as does the proposed sale of the property formerly known as Mace 391, just to name two other egregious examples.


Wow, amazing as usual. REALLY curious to hear the introduction to the issue in a few minutes...

Russell Tangren

The consent calendar is also used to pass significant, and provocative measures. For instance the 50% increase in fees for a consultant, or a CCTV truck.

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