Morrill seeks to bring ground-level perspective to City Council

*Editor’s note: This is the first in a five-part series featuring the candidates for Davis City Council in the Nov. 8 election. Voters in District 1 (West Davis) will choose between Councilman Dan Carson, Bapu Vaitla and Kelsey Fortune, while voters in District 4 (East Davis) will choose either Councilor Gloria Partida or Adam Morrill.

Adam Morrill brings a rather unique perspective to the city council race: He’s a city employee.

Part of his environmental compliance job with the Department of Public Works is making sure residents follow regulations around solid waste, sewage and more, and he’s even faced some hostility. from members of the public when he asked them not to pile garden waste in cycle lanes or let pipes run.

He’s been in the role since 2017, but even before that, he’s spent much of his career immersed in municipal services, from patching potholes to fighting fires to drafting environmental bylaws.

Now, Morrill seeks to bring that perspective to city governance by representing District 4 on the City Council.

“Knowing how a city works at ground level is really important,” he said.

Morrill grew up in Marin County and along with his high school sweetheart, Nicole, came to Davis for undergraduate education. After earning his geography degree from UC Davis, Morrill went to the state of Montana where he earned a master’s degree in earth science.

While at UC Davis, Morrill worked for Unitrans, first as a driver and later as a bandleader.

Over the years, during and after college, his work included stints with the Marin Municipal Water District, the State Water Resources Control Board, the UC Davis Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory and the State Department of Recreational Boating and Waterways.

But he also volunteered with the West Plainfield Fire Department, became an emergency medical technician, and after developing a love for the job, joined the Piedmont Fire Department in 2014. He had then 40 years old and had two young children with Nicole.

Morrill eventually quit that job and ended up hiring with the city of Davis in 2017.

He spends a lot of time driving around town as part of his environmental compliance work and says he’s seen the changes since he was a student.

“I see roads crumbling, trees falling… We’ve been in town 25 years and I know the roads weren’t that bad when we were driving for Unitrans,” Morrill said.

“I got fed up,” he explained. “The only purpose of the city is to take care of the essentials”, which he says he does not see happening.

Then came Measure H, the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus proposal, which the city council voted to put on the ballot. A larger version was turned down by voters in 2020 and the scaled-down version met the same fate earlier this summer.

Measure H, Morrill said, would have worsened traffic on Mace Boulevard.

“They weren’t going to fix it,” he said. “Just study it.”

And the project would have been more beneficial for the developers than for the public, he argued.

The project was overwhelmingly rejected, with residents of District 4, where it would have been located, particularly opposed, Morrill said.

“When that happened, I said, ‘OK, the board is just too detached from the public. “”

It was then that he decided to run for a seat on the council.

But it’s not just about DiSC, Morrill said. He believes the council spends too much time passing proclamations, is too reactionary, and is not a good steward of city funds.

He cites homelessness as an example, saying that rather than setting up the day respite center, the city should have worked with nonprofits that already provide services.

“We need to support, not duplicate efforts.”

He also thinks the city is too management-heavy, uses too many expensive consultants, and underpays its staff, leading to staff shortages.

Among his promises on his candidate site:

* Advocate for strategic infill development that will provide entry-level housing for young families and workers as well as dedicated affordable housing, without destroying prime farmland;

* Work collaboratively with local nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and the county to address major social issues;

* Provide innovative support and resources to public safety personnel to protect residents and their property, care for the homeless, and meet their mental health and addictions rehabilitation needs;

* Implement effective programs to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 while taking concrete steps now to immediately reduce the city’s carbon footprint; and

* Encourage the private capital investment needed to revitalize downtown as a thriving environment for small businesses.

With regard to development specifically, Morrill said, the city needs to update its master plan, something he said council continues to “kick down the road.”

Rather than outlying projects like DiSC, he said, the city should focus on places like the area north of Covell Boulevard and west of County Road 102 for housing.

This, Morrill said, is a better location, surrounded as it is on three sides by other developments and it could also house a new sports park.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a big sports facility? He asked.

In response to a recent Sierra Club local inquiry, Morrill said he opposes any development that is not currently part of the overall plan, “whether it is good for the community or not”.

“We can no longer tolerate disparate alterations to the master plan as this will only contribute to urban sprawl,” Morrill said.

“Furthermore, we should seek to develop areas already integrated into the general plan before even considering anything else on the periphery. These areas have already been reviewed to see how they fit into the existing community.

“I’m not against development,” he said recently, but he thinks development has to be in the right place.

“It’s going to have to grow,” he said of the town, “but I don’t want sprawl.”

It means smaller and larger when it comes to accommodations, such as townhouses. And to ensure entry-level housing for families, a possible requirement in CCRs that they be owner-occupied.

Finding the right retail space is also important, Morrill said. With retail declining, downtown could become more of an entertainment district, which Morrill says suits him.

But that doesn’t mean retail can’t be added elsewhere.

He noted that a big-box store like a Lowe’s or a Bass Pro Shop could be located along the Highway 113 corridor, which is less frequented by residents but would still be accessible, both to locals and those who travel.

Such a location would be preferable, Morrill said, to a location on Mace Boulevard, which is already heavily impacted by traffic.

As for downtown itself, Morrill said, “you’re going to have to provide parking.”

It would support a parking structure in the Davis Depot lot, where the city could charge for parking. It would pay off, Morrill said, and it could entice more people to use the train for their journeys.

But limiting downtown parking, he said, would hurt businesses.

“You want people to come here.”

In sum, Morrill says he’s running for city council “because I’m a solution-oriented person.”

“I have extensive work experience in public works, health and safety and environmental services. My expertise can be used to help people and businesses in Davis.

Learn more about his campaign at www.adam4davis.org.

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