Outlook 2010: more tough times
Budget woes sure to persist in the year ahead — but will Hangar be left hanging?
Most prognosticators will say that 2010 has to be better than its predecessor. Would the governor of California agree?
The state budget is once again short many billions of dollars. And when Sacramento is desperate for money the squeeze is put on local governments and school districts, so watch for further contractions at the local level. Just like last year.
On the bright side, there could be some good news at Moffett Field, where venerable Hangar One is due to lose its toxic pallor and get the new siding it needs to continue being the South Bay's most visible landmark. We're betting that Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and her friend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will finally get something done on this worthwhile project.
All in all, this is hardly a year for optimism, but there are glimmers of hope on the horizon.
Tough budget year
Mountain View officials are predicting a $4 million to $5 million deficit when it comes time to balance the city's budget in June, requiring some painful cuts to services and personnel.
After the city budget was cut to the bone to fill a similar gap last year, many are anxiously waiting to see if this year's shortfall will actually require laying off city employees. Council member Margaret Abe-Koga said city employees are being told their jobs are not safe.
"I don't see any way we'll be able to address our financial challenges without reducing positions," said city manager Kevin Duggan last week. "Whether they are vacant or filled, it's too hard to tell." City staff "need to understand what the council's and the community's goals are going to be."
In the schools, too, budget cuts will continue in 2010, and may be even harder-hitting than last year. The Mountain View Whisman School District predicts cuts of $2 million or more. At the community college level, Foothill president Judy Miner said tenured faculty could be laid off as early as March.
That leaves it to the community to come out in support of schools on the November ballot. Though generally parcel taxes and bond measures for schools are approved in this region, last November parcel tax measures in the neighboring Santa Clara Unified and Fremont Union High School districts failed.
This go-round, the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District has plans to place a bond measure on the June ballot; and because it would need only 55 percent of the vote to pass, we predict that it will.
School chief shuffle
Although nothing is official, look for Craig Goldman, current CFO of the Mountain View Whisman School District, to become superintendent after Maurice Ghysels steps down.
Ghysels put the transition in motion when he told the school board in November that he was looking for work outside the district. The board lost no time in naming Goldman as their choice to take over, although nothing can be final until Ghysels formally resigns.
The jockeying began after Ghysels, who took over as superintendent in 2005,admitted that he and Landels Principal Carmen Mizell were in a relationship and that both were in divorce proceedings to separate from their current spouses.
City Council elections
This November the city will hold an election for the three council seats held by Margaret Abe-Koga, Ronit Bryant and Jac Siegel, all of whom are expected to seek reelection.
And all three will be reelected, unless they face a serious challenge from an impressive newcomer or someone who has risen though the ranks of the city's volunteer commissions, which is unlikely.
Whatever happens, the election will be a chance for community members to evaluate the council's actions in what will be a very difficult year for city government.
School board elections
November elections may bring change to local schools. The terms of Mountain View Whisman trustees Ellen Wheeler and Phil Palmer expire this year.
In 2006 they ran unopposed, and in 2008 trustees Fiona Walter, Ed Bailey and Steve Olson ran unopposed as well. But several recent controversies in the district are likely to bring in some new candidates.
In the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, the four-year terms of trustees Judy Hannemann and Julia Rosenberg will expire, though neither has said whether they will seek reelection. Both ran unopposed in 2006.
Crunch time for Hangar
The Navy is scheduled to remove the toxic siding from Hangar One at Moffett Field in mid to late 2010, according to Kathryn Stewart, BRAC Environmental Coordinator for Moffett Field.
That means that the clock is ticking for NASA Ames to figure out a way to pay for the historic structure's restoration with new siding. Stewart said the White House Office of Management and Budget met with the Navy and NASA Ames in December and "made significant progress towards mutual understanding on various points" after negotiations between the Navy and NASA broke down over how to pay for Hangar One's restoration. She said all three parties intend to meet soon with Eshoo, who says she is ready to push for a bill to fund Hangar One's restoration.
We predict Congresswoman Anna Eshoo will be asked to find the needed $15 million in federal funding for the project, and that she will succeed.
Real estate horizons
Housing and office development will likely continue at a slow pace next year with the 53-home project at Grant Road and Levin Avenue one of the few projects to enter into construction.
But despite the disappearance of numerous projects out of the city's planning pipeline, planning issues will continue to make news this year as the city completes the update of its General Plan, which will guide future development in the city. And the City Council may approve zoning changes to encourage development of the industrial areas in the Shoreline business district as proposed by planning director Randy Tsuda.
A big question this year is whether the city's two major housing developments move forward — the already-approved 450-home Mayfield project at 100 Mayfield Ave. and the proposal to build 550 homes on 28.5 acres on Ferguson Drive. Mayfield was approved last year after years of planning, but a new owner has yet to indicate when construction would commence. The South Whisman project may also be delayed until the housing market recovers.
In late spring construction is set to begin on a pedestrian bridge over Highway 85 that will extend the Stevens Creek Trail from the Sleeper Avenue area just south of El Camino Real into the Dale-Heatherstone neighborhood.
Not long after that, construction may also begin on a pedestrian tunnel under Old Middlefield Way for the Permanente Creek Trail, along with a nearby bridge for the trail over Highway 101, connecting several residential neighborhoods to Shoreline Park and the city's largest job center in and around Google's headquarters.
Hospital costs rise
Named "the most technologically advanced hospital in the world" by Popular Science magazine in its December 2009 issue, El Camino Hospital will continue to be an industry leader in medical technologies — but at increased costs to its patients.
In January the hospital will complete construction on its new Center for Advanced Radiotherapy and CyberKnife Radiosurgery. The CyberKnife allows physicians to pinpoint solid tumors in the body and use radiation treatment without incisions or anesthesia. Beginning in February the Center will take on patients, and use the facility to teach visiting physicians how to use the CyberKnife and other forms of radiotherapy.
With the best, and likely priciest, new technologies available at the hospital, patients could see an increase in fees this year. El Camino CEO Ken Graham told journalists in September that they last raised their prices in June 2008, and that the new hospital facilities would not have an "immediate" impact on pricing. He said at the time that a price increase was not expected for at least another year — which points to a hike in fees in the middle of 2010.