Back in the Grove
Daniel Davis returns to PG politics.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
It’s deja vu for Daniel Davis in Pacific Grove.
Last week the City Council appointed the former councilman to complete the last five months of now-Mayor Dan Cort’s council term with a 4-1 vote. The appointment is reminiscent of 2000 when Davis stepped into a council seat left vacant by Michelle Knight.
Cort’s seat became available last month when the City Council appointed Cort to the mayor’s post. Cort stepped in to replace Jim Costello, who resigned in May while battling a rare form of bone cancer.
Davis has already made it clear that he wants to serve on the council for more than five months. He says he’ll run for reelection in November.
Less than an hour into his new appointment, Davis demonstrated his political chops with a motion to move a piece of campaign finance reform, which would limit campaign contributions to individuals only and put a $500 ceiling on donations.
The proposed ordinance, authored by Councilmembers Lisa Bennett and Scott Miller and citizens Craig Riddell, David Dilworth and Robin Tokmakian, is described as a “self-policing measure” to promote clean elections in Pacific Grove.
“After four years I wasn’t sure if I’d remember how to do this,” Davis says. “It all came back in a flash.”
The PG Council selected Davis from a field of seven applicants, including environmentalists Dilworth and Lee Willoughby, businesswoman Victoria Stilwell, and residents Carmelita Garcia, Albert Zuniga and Mitchell Matthews.
With Councilwoman Bennett absent, the five-member panel conducted brief interviews with each candidate before it’s July 19 regular meeting. Despite Bennett’s absence, Davis still needed a four-vote quorum and not just a majority of three votes.
Largely smooth as far as PG politics go, the process, witnessed by a full house, had a few moments of dramatic tension. Dilworth, executive director of Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment, withdrew his name from consideration at the outset of his interview and threw his support behind Willoughby, co-director of the Pacific Grove-based Tidepool Coalition. Willoughby, who was nominated by Councilmember Susan Goldbeck, also enjoyed strong public support from citizens who spoke before the vote.
After the interviews concluded, an initial vote resulted in three votes for Davis, one for Willoughby and one for Stilwell. Councilman Ron Schenk supported Stilwell, saying the council would benefit from a new voice. After some discussion, Goldbeck threw her support behind Davis and he was appointed in a second vote.
The 63-year-old Davis, who served as a planning commissioner from 1992 to 2000, says the attitudes and direction of the City Council and Pacific Grove politics have improved in the last six years. Davis’ first stint as a city councilmember ended in frustration in December 2002 after he declined to seek re-election.
“I chose not to run [in 2002] because I became convinced that people were not really aware of a lot of things going on in the city,” he says. “I didn’t like the direction the City Council was going and didn’t want to be a part of it. The previous city manager [Ross Hubbard] was hiding a lot of things.”
Hubbard resigned last year, leaving the city’s budget—and sewers—in a mess.
In contrast, Davis says he thinks the current City Council is committed to “open, transparent government,” which is one of the primary reasons he threw his hat back into the ring of Pacific Grove politics.
“The current council is a reflection of the public’s frustration,” Davis says. “Our citizens are demanding more transparency. The city’s in difficult financial trouble. That’s been suspected for a long time, but this council has done a great job of getting an accurate reading of the city’s finances.”
During his four-year hiatus from Pacific Grove politics Davis remained involved in a number of different issues as a citizen activist, including Forest Hill Manor, the golf course clubhouse and the open space initiative.