With the existential threat of climate breakdown looming, this is quite possibly the most important election in human history. We need to elect leaders at all levels that will help navigate our sinking ship to safer shores. The City of Davis has the potential to lead a just transition to ecologically sustainable, socially just and climate-resilient communities, but we need to elect the right leaders and make some significant changes in how this city operates.
I've watched with great interest as the city council election has unfolded with two progressive candidates in West Davis running on a climate platform - Kelsey Fortune and Bapu Vaitla. There are differences between these two candidates and I'm supporting Kelsey Fortune because I believe she has the right combination of skills, knowledge, experience and the dogged determination to help our city chart a course to safety through these troubled times.
Kelsey Fortune came to Davis nine years ago to pursue a PhD in Economics with a focus on transportation, energy and climate policies that drive equitable outcomes to ensure that all community members are included in a just transition to a green economy. Over the past decade, as an active community member and a city council candidate, Fortune has stepped up to offer her pragmatic, evidence-based solutions to guide our community. During her first campaign for city council two years ago, I was impressed with Fortune’s knowledge of our city - who owns property and who doesn’t, our transportation system, zoning laws, the needs and rights of renters, etc. Fortune has consistently advocated for infill development and affordable housing for working families and low-income individuals. Her expertise in designing climate-friendly communities are at the heart of a just transition.
Over seventy percent of Davis’ emissions come from cars. As reported by Amazon Watch and Stand.earth in Linked Fates, California is the largest consumer of crude oil extracted from the Amazon basin. Given the precarious state of the Amazon rainforest - which functions as an immense carbon sink and driver of both global and regional water cycles - every tank of gas we pump into our cars, trucks and delivery vans has severe implications for the stability of the climate. As a board member of both Cool Davis and Bike Davis, Fortune is actively engaged in implementing local climate solutions to lower our carbon footprint. Fortune is already working on designing our streets and transportation systems to support multiple-modes of transit, not just private automobiles. Fifth Street between L and Poleline now has a dedicated –and well-used –bike lane thanks to Fortune’s initiative.
The grave injustice of our time is that people of Fortune’s generation, not to mention future generations, are inheriting a crisis they did not create. Climate anxiety is something that most of us never had to contend with growing up. Most of the people in power now will not be around to live with the consequences of their decisions. One of the most important acts we can take to correct this intergenerational injustice is to ensure that young people have a seat at the decision-making table now, before it is too late to change course.
Fortune’s worldview is steeped in the harsh reality of the climate crisis. Her thinking is deeply contoured by the fact that Western civilization has reached planetary boundaries and our fossil-fuel dependent economy needs to be transformed. She chose her career path in transportation and energy economics —a path that few women choose to tread —to equip herself with the cutting-edge tools to support this transition from the bottom up, at the “street level” of where the changes are needed most.
Sustainable Economic Development
The City of Davis is in a financial mess due in part to poor planning and misguided priorities.
Fortune is the only District 1 candidate that opposed Measure H/DISC. She understands that peripheral development is actually a drain on the finances of our city, not a sustainable, smart economic development strategy. Fortune, as the manager of Purple Tree Cafe, is also keenly aware of the needs of small businesses. Fortune will apply cost-benefit analysis and smart, strategic planning acumen to put us on stronger financial footing.
Fortune brings cutting-edge policy expertise, pragmatism and a deep commitment to equitable and inclusive community-building that is missing from the city council. Her priorities include:
- Active and public transportation i.e. incentivizing city employees to use public and active transit
- Fiscally sustainable infill development that creates revenue for the city without significant increases in service and infrastructure maintenance costs
- Affordable overlay zoning to attract and support the affordable and “missing middle” housing developments we need
- Taxing rental vacancies
- Resilience centers to accommodate vulnerable Davisites and climate refugees as extreme weather events become more common
- Incentivizing the switch to home electrification rather than imposing costly, ineffective mandates
- Economic opportunities for people with disabilities and historically marginalized community members
- Community-centered decision-making
Bold, Visionary Leadership
If anything, this election has brought about a growing consensus that our current city council is inadequate and out of touch with the residents of Davis. The current council should have restored the requirement for developers to build 30% affordable housing units, for example, but have instead catered to wealthy developers at every turn at the expense of equitable, sustainable community-led development.
Fortune’s focus is on initiating a new general plan process that will meaningfully engage our commissions, non-profits, and community members from all walks of life in a much needed conversation to create a shared vision for Davis' future and a plan for how to get there. The implementation of the city’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan and downtown business plan will be in the hands of the next city council we elect.
Recently, Youth Climate Strike - now Fridays for our Future Davis coordinator and recipient of last year’s City of Davis Eco-Hero award Eliot Larson expressed their frustrations with the lack of progress on addressing the climate emergency. Larson told the city council, “Don’t give us awards - give us hope” and threatened to ask for the city councilmembers’ resignation if progress isn’t made on the list of concrete strategies for climate action that have been delivered to the city council annually since 2019.
“I work on the climate emergency every day because I want to be able to sleep at night knowing that I did everything I could to ensure the future children of the Earth have a healthy planet to live on,” said Larson. “We need a city council that will take climate action just as seriously, unlike the talk-with-no-action council we have had. Vote for Kelsey Fortune. The future of our planet depends on elected officials who have the courage and compassion to work every single day to ensure the Earth heals, through taking action.”
Please join me in supporting Kelsey Fortune for City Council to secure the courageous climate leadership we need for a livable future.