Davis Chamber of Commerce holds forum for City Council candidates

The Davis Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee (PAC) held a forum April 2 to interview the five Davis City Council candidates for the June 2014 election. The Q&A based forum discussed various concerns that the City of Davis is facing and lasted from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The main topics of conversation focused on the $5.1 million annual deficit, the parcel tax, the city employee changes and visions for the future of Davis.

Chamber PAC members will be endorsing candidates or slates of candidates and releasing a video recording of the event later this month.

The Davis Chamber of Commerce created the PAC in 1997 in order to support or oppose local, county or state ballot measures that influence the Davis business environment. According to its website, the mission of the Chamber is to promote, support and advocate the general economic vitality of its membership and the quality of life for the community.

The PAC is funded by individuals in the Chamber and is financially independant of the organization. Chamber funds do not support the PAC financially.

Questions for candidates came from audience members and members of the Chamber PAC. The five candidates are Rochelle Swanson, Sheila Allen, Daniel Parrella, John Munn and Robb Davis. Two of the five will be elected for City Council in June.

Rochelle Swanson, a current City Council member, is running for re-election. On her campaign website she says she wants to finish what she’s started since being on City Council.

“Economic stability continues to be our City’s most important challenge. I and my Council colleagues have worked hard to control and reduce expenditures. It has been a very difficult time with many difficult choices,” Swanson said.

John Munn was a 2012 Republican candidate for District 4 of the California State Assembly. He is a UC Davis alumnus with Bachelor of Science degrees in soil and water science and engineering and a Master of Science degree in soil science. Munn is retired from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in Sacramento where he worked as a soil and watershed scientist for 25 years.

Sheila Allen has been a trustee on the Davis School Board for nine years and founded the Yolo Healthy Aging Alliance among other things. She hopes to promote healthy living and economic development.

Daniel Parrella was born in Davis in January 1991. According to his press release he hopes to run a bottom-up campaign. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2013 and came back to Davis to start a solar panel company called “Solarize Davis.”

The fifth candidate is Robb Davis. He hopes to alleviate the community’s homelessness, addiction, food insecurity and abuse, reduce car use and lessen community conflict with programs such as Neighborhood Court.

“My political career begins and ends in this town,” Davis said at the forum.

The candidates had differing opinions on various subjects. A main point of discussion was the $5.1 million yearly deficit and how to alleviate it.

“It’s a large apple to swallow; we need to look carefully and prioritize to address topics,” Allen said when asked about how to address the deficit.

Parella adds that the only way to address the deficit is through business, and with such a large student population, Measure I isn’t what’s best for the community.

“I always supported it. One issue is that there is a huge transient population. There are thousands of students and … if we want a 20 percent decrease in water with a holistic approach we must appeal to all our citizen[s],” Parella said. “City budget is reduced without taxes. The parcel tax and sales tax is essential. Business is the only way to address the deficit.”

Swanson believes that it is worth looking into creating new businesses and using the assets the community has to bridge the deficit.

“We’ve gotten sidelined. We must re-engage and recommit … we need to look at places for revenue with an innovation task force,” Swanson said.

Davis explains the need for a parcel tax, a special tax that can be used for any type of spending — construction costs, employee salaries and other projects or spending needs. He believes it is vital to bettering the community, especially in terms of alleviating the homelessness downtown.

“What you’re seeing is driven by meth. People can’t get out. We’re dealing with syndromes of problems. Drug addiction, prison time … it’s time to have parcel tax to bring resources in. We’ve done it for parks, schools … we’re talking human resource and i’m going to open that discussion,” Davis said.

Munn believes the parcel tax is premature because existing problems must be solved before asking the community for more money. Because of Measure I, Munn sued the City of Davis. He won’t be dropping his lawsuit even though he is running.

“As a plaintiff I’d have to recuse myself … at some point we need to straighten our situation… we need to fix our problems first. The tax must be reliable with what it’s replacing,” Munn said.

GABRIELLA HAMLETT can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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