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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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Why I am suspicious about PA’s budget cuts

Uploaded: May 25, 2020
When I first saw a list of proposed cuts the city staff had recommended for the Palo Alto city budget (due to a COVID-19 $38 million loss of revenue), I became suspicious. Many of the cuts, it seemed, would affect programs for residents, like eliminating the Palo Alto shuttle, shortening library hours and cutting community services programs for children and families.

Yet back in early April, City Manager Ed Shikada, with council agreement, decided that all employees, whether furloughed or not, would continue with their current salaries until the end of June – some 80-plus days of full salary even if they were sitting at home. I got worried. That represented about $5 million in additional expenditures. Surely he knew by then of the $38 million deficit. And this money was going to staff, not to residents. Yet he must have known of the impending deficit.

And then in May, Shikada said he would take a 20 percent salary cut this year, and ask other managers to return 15 percent of their salaries to city coffers through a “compensation giveback” (maybe there’s a tax advantage to this?). But the bulk of city salaries could not be touched, he said, because of union contracts, which both the council and city staff indicated would be difficult to negotiate with unions. Why?

Stanford Hospital cut 20 percent of all employee salaries, and they deal with some of the same unions. And Stanford has valuable health care workers during this coronavirus time, who are more valuable, in my estimation, than the jobs of many city employees.

Mayor Adrian Fine said that city employees, because of negotiated contracts, “are programmed to receive certain increases that the council has agreed to and they cannot change unless they agree to it.” Why not ask employees to agree to it and reopen negotiations? I mean these are dire times.

Our downtown is almost empty, most restaurants are closed and have “take-out only” signs, hotel occupancy is way down, and as a result the city is losing sales tax and hotel occupancy taxes.

Then my next uncomfortable feeling was what the staff and city manager were suggesting be cut from the budget (this still has to be decided by the city council, and it will talk about it Tuesday night, May 26). On the list was reduction of the police and fire department staff, contracting out ambulance services to an outside organization that would lengthen the response time for an ambulance (DURING THIS CORONA OUTBREAK!) getting rid of the shuttle, maybe permanently closing College Terrace Library, reducing code enforcement – you get the idea. All the things we residents rely on.

But what wasn’t cut is even more interesting – multi-million-dollar capital projects, like our public safety building and some parking garages and fire stations --- all programs designed to make our working conditions for some city employees more enjoyable. Whether that was done by design or coincidence, I am not sure, but I know police have been longing for a new facility for the past 20 years, even though their building is less crowded than it used to be due to staff reductions.

Then last Friday former Mayor Pat Burt and former park commissioner Pat Markevitch wrote a wonderful op-ed column in the Weekly delving into this very problem (https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2020/05/22/guest-opinion-a-better-way-to-save-vital-city-services “A Better Way to Save City Services.”

They very effectively argue that the budget-cutting process has become cloudy, and the reasons and rationale for making some cuts -- or exaggerating some – have been kept from public view. But, they show, that for 2020-21, capital improvement fund expenditures have soared in the budget – to about the $170 million level (in a year the council is cutting $38 million in actual programs that serve the public. They rightfully suggest that any new agreement to do any capital budget project should not be made until mid-fiscal year, so we all can see how the revenue loss problem is faring in January, as in more than $38 million!?

Some of these capital improvements are needed, but not immediately, Burt says. Some can wait – and the costs of some projects must be rebid because of a depressing economy. The city’s Budget Destabilization Fund has been reduced from $45 million to $25million so the city had money to pay for the full-salary furloughs (“kindness starts at home” [for employees but what about residents?), Councilmember Liz Kniss commented. As I recall, no one asked how much this would cost and how it would affect the $38 million deficit.

Please read Burt’s and Markovitch’s column – it’s important.

And this budget problem is just the beginning of a possible multi-million crisis for our fair city. Once businesses and restaurants close, it will be hard for them to return. Once business travel becomes less of a business practice, it will be harder to recoup hotel taxes from emptier hotels.

Palo Alto city employee salaries have to be cut – across the board. As the Weekly noted, according to the city budget members of the management of professionals group have a base salary of $149,306, and with benefit $240,791. We’re not quite talking poverty level here.

This is the time for the city to stop spending and start saving. If this doesn’t happen, we tax-paying residents are being screwed.

We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

 +   17 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Menlo Park,
on May 25, 2020 at 2:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Anyone who thinks that the city's revenue reduction is a short term problem is very wrong.

We need long term solutions to a long term problem - not short term solutions to a long term problem.


 +   19 people like this
Posted by I miss my small town feel, a resident of another community,
on May 25, 2020 at 2:47 pm

What are they doing while at home? At the very least, they should all be full time contact tracers if they are drawing pay and not working.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Diana Diamond, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on May 25, 2020 at 2:51 pm

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

Good idea. The contact tracers are a real societal need.

Diana


 +   15 people like this
Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 25, 2020 at 3:33 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Thank you! And thanks for mentioning the excellent Pat & Pat piece which along with yours should be sent to the CC before their Tuesday's vote.

Much more important to get this right than to rush it through!


 +   24 people like this
Posted by A PA resident, a resident of South of Midtown,
on May 25, 2020 at 3:46 pm

Can someone explain why city employees get every other Friday off,
by default? If this is really true, can someone explain how this is
justified? That's 26 days per year of default vacation, paid for by
the tax payers, who now face layoffs and pay cuts by their (private)
employers. How is this justified? Especially in these hard times.
I propose for them to come in every Friday, not just every other.


 +   31 people like this
Posted by Diana Diamond, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on May 25, 2020 at 4:01 pm

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

The "9/40" program, as it has been called, was introduced years ago wen Frank Benest was city manager. He claimed we would save gas and help the climate if employees had every other Friday off -- or 26 days a year. He said employees could come in at 7:30 am and leave at 5;30 pm and would still be working 40 hours a week.

The problem was and is is that they don't come in at 7:30 am -- more like 9 am -- or leave at 5:30 pm -- more like 4;30 OR 5 PM. So the whole thing is a sham, in may opinion. Just a way to get more time off.

I used to walk buy city hall on winter evenings at 5 pm and the building was dark. Occasionally I would get to city hall at 7:45 and walk through offices and most of them would be empty (except some departments had admins there to answer phone calls).

It is an important problem that should be addressed. Thanks for raising it.
Diana


 +   22 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on May 25, 2020 at 4:06 pm

Always remember that governments are primarily run for the benefit of staff, and only very indirectly and loosely (if at all) for public benefit.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by ALB, a resident of College Terrace,
on May 25, 2020 at 5:26 pm

ALB is a registered user.

Thank you for this spot on piece. Yes the capital projects are not all necessary in this crisis. The bridge over 101 is nonessential as we already have a tunnel. Once the coffers are returned to healthy levels then in the future that project can be constructed. Why isn't Google kicking in more money? They are only offering one million for this bridge. There are other projects that appear cosmetic. The Cameron Park project with BBQ, Bocce and Horseshoe games, path, and other changes which amount to $200,000 need to be scrapped during this pandemic. The park is not shabby and does not need a facelift at this time. Yes the library branch system needs to be saved. My fear is in the future Allison Cormack may want to push again to drop these essential libraries as her motivation is to have Mitchell Park and Rinconada (Main Library) only. Will staff try in the future to have the council dissolve these branch libraries? Now is the time for compromise. Yes save the College Terrace Library and the other branch libraries. The city needs to step up to the plate and cut some of these capital projects. Again, thank you, Diana, for this excellent opinion piece.


 +   20 people like this
Posted by Andrea O, a resident of Palo Alto Hills,
on May 25, 2020 at 6:37 pm

Why is this not a screaming call for an audit of the spending that has been going on here? Do we really trust Mayor Fine or Ed Shikata blindly? There have only been too many politicos in the public trust who have let us down - with so much smoke, don't we believe there is fire here? For a relatively small fee, we can get all of this disclosed publicly and at least then understand just how much we are overpaying for things that should have been better managed.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Larry Klein’s clone, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 25, 2020 at 7:01 pm

So you are saying that the city should have just furloughed all the employees and put them on the unemployment line?? How magnanimous of you!!

As for,pat burts latest missive. It is too bad that n his 8:years on the council he accomplished nothing close to what he has been suggesting these last few years in his postings. I think it is just propaganda designed to rehabilitate his image for another council run.


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 25, 2020 at 7:09 pm

Diana, please run for City Council.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by densely, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 25, 2020 at 8:01 pm

Thanks for this essay!
post removed because of her personal divorce comments


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Thank you., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 25, 2020 at 11:45 pm

Nice article. Thanks for pointing me to Pat and Pat's opinion piece. They lay out a good framework for making hard choices.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Ben, a resident of Castro City,
on May 26, 2020 at 8:30 am

post removed advertisement


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 26, 2020 at 9:25 am

My gut instinct is that the CC are using scare tactics and possibly a form of blackmail. Will we find something on the ballot that will tax us more to pay for basic services? Will we find that somehow we will be charged for basic services we are already paying plenty for?

Back in the years of drought we had fines for using more water than we should and then a drought surcharge because they weren't getting enough revenue due to us using less water. Either way, we paid more and there was nothing done to stop City wastage. I seem to remember flushing of lines with water just running down the streets into the storm drains while we were being told not to flush toilets. We were told that it was not practical to save this wastage and it was necessary maintenance.

Now we are told that due to the SIP (not the pandemic I may add) they will have to stop spending on providing what should be basic city services such as libraries, crossing guards, police and fire fighting services.

I don't believe a word of what they tell us and I won't be surprised when they expect and manage to get more money out of us.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Diana Diamond, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on May 26, 2020 at 4:47 pm

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

I suspect, as some of you do, too, that we will soon be asked to increase our taxes because of our revenue losses. But in watching the city council meeting today, Tuesday, March 26 starting at 1 pm, there are a lot of untouched areas that are not being considered by most of the council (Tanaka excepted). As Burt pointed out, take a harder look at the capital budget (building things) -- many of those projects can be delayed and we can relatively easily get through this "shortfall" -- it is already diminishing as they speak. So be aware of new tax proposals -- they always happen, because that's the only way the city and its council knows how to raise more money. Certainly not through salary cuts.

Diana


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Palo Verde, a resident of Palo Verde,
on May 26, 2020 at 4:53 pm

Driving along Bayshore today, work on the new footbridge is starting in earnest. One lane roadway, concrete barriers, temporary traffic lights. Somehow the pace this has occurred in the last week is amazing. They have started so they must finish!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Old Steve, a resident of St. Claire Gardens,
on May 26, 2020 at 5:44 pm

Public Safety new building is not required, unless you want an EOC that works after even a moderate earthquake. Parking garage and Ped Bridge, like all public construction contracts, contain some form of payout if the project is halted, even if just delay for "Acts of God". If you terminated all "non-essential" employees for the original 3 week SIP order, you would never get them back to reopen. If you cut the positions for the new July 1 Fiscal Year, we'll hope you don't need those folks until at least September. Since Cities all over the state will face the same budget problem, imagine expanding the State Budget deficit by putting thousands of public employees on unemployment and general assistance. So Newsome can raise our taxes instead. Maybe the right thing is for Congress to handle Covid the same way they handle floods and hurricanes, namely appropriate money for FEMA to distribute.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by A PA resident, a resident of South of Midtown,
on May 26, 2020 at 8:31 pm

@Diana, thanks for your good journalism. I appreciate your critical voice.

Would you be able to summarize the highlights of the CC meeting on May26th/1pm, what were the highlights? Or was this just a rubber stamp session of previous decisions?

And did the council ever consider pay cuts for city employees? I know that
Tanaka raised it at least once in a prior CC meeting, but not sure
if this was ever a subject of serious discussion by the council.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Bankrupt, a resident of Barron Park,
on May 27, 2020 at 12:12 am

The city is bankrupt. It can't meet its future financial obligations -$450 million in unfunded pensions. Declare the municipal equivalent of chapter 11 and break all contracts with the unions. Clean out city hall. Resume normal working hours. Get rid of all jobs that accumulate pension liabilities. Clean out the city council. They are incompetent. They helped create this mess.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown,
on May 27, 2020 at 5:53 am

Have they voted to permanently suspend all bicycle programs? With COVID rapidly crushing our economy, it's time to leave the bicycle utopia fantasy on the backburner.
Think about how much money would have been saved if they didn't modify the roads so much over the past decade. They'd spend tons of money on an intersection, then literally blow up the intersection again 2 years later to install a new pedestrian ramp or repaint a traffic turning lane into a bicycle lain, complete with green color and extra reflective signs.
The damage is done, but how about from now on, no more spending on any bicycle programs whatsoever? Or how about completely shut down the TMA? The roads were safer and more efficient long before they started tinkering with it.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by A Former PA City Employee, a resident of another community,
on May 27, 2020 at 8:42 am

> "Can someone explain why city employees get every other Friday off,
by default?"

^ In addition to the city manager's environmental concerns, it was also implemented as a morale booster to help alleviate on the job stress factors.

>> "The "9/40" program, as it has been called, was introduced years ago wen Frank Benest was city manager. He claimed we would save gas and help the climate if employees had every other Friday off -- or 26 days a year. He said employees could come in at 7:30 am and leave at 5;30 pm and would still be working 40 hours a week."

^ This move was welcomed by over 95% of the city employees. The additional 26 days off was the equivalent of enjoying a holiday-type weekend every other week and how many average workers have that perk? It was even better when certain observed holidays fell on the weekends...it was like a having a mini-vacation every few months. Working for the city was a terrific employment opportunity which also included a generous retirement program & health benefits.

The current pandemic & subsequent loss of municipal revenue has changed the future of city employment but at one time working for the city provided an enjoyable work environment that paid reasonably well with minimal supervision. Job vacancies were generally filled due to attrition because most employees stayed on until their retirement benefits kicked in + the top administrators always had the option of creating assistant administrative positions to lighten their workloads.

>>> "The problem was and is is that they don't come in at 7:30 am -- more like 9 am -- or leave at 5:30 pm -- more like 4;30 OR 5 PM. So the whole thing is a sham, in may opinion. Just a way to get more time off."

^ If the supervisors arrived late and were not there to supervise, why should the underlings arrive early? It was a pattern that everyone followed and besides, there was rarely a need to expedite anything internally...with the possible exception of city utility, animal control and protective services (i.e. fire/police/paramedics) which were all outside the office duties.

Extended lunch breaks were also a perk because many of the supervisors often took them as well and if one had a job that required weekend hours, the freedom to leave early or arrive late was even easier because most PA residents assume the city is closed on weekends.

The KEY was to land a job in city hall rather than one at the library, fire/police station or municipal services (on Bayshore) where there was usually more supervision.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by A PA resident, a resident of South of Midtown,
on May 27, 2020 at 10:39 am

Regarding the 26 extra vacation days per year, which is ridiculous.
The planning/building department only opens at 9am for visitors.
That is, if you want to go there, one has to take 1/2 day off from work,
because there are waiting times to get serviced. You won't be able to
reach work before noon, with an average commute.

It's unclear why they couldn't open at 8am for visitors. Especially
that they are required to put in the extra Friday hours. But this
seems to be not happening. I wonder why.

This has to change.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville,
on May 27, 2020 at 1:54 pm

I found this link on CNN.

Web Link


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville,
on May 27, 2020 at 2:04 pm

And, then I found this link. Shocking, just shocking!

Web Link


 +   9 people like this
Posted by West Menlo, a resident of Menlo Park,
on May 27, 2020 at 4:22 pm

In looking at the PA City employee compensation website for 2018, 1510 employees make over $200,000 (including overtime and benefits). First, why does a city the size of Palo Alto even need 1500 employees? Second, why are they so richly compensated (spare me that they are all above average and risk being poached by Mt. View or Menlo Park).

In a normal business one reduces overall pay for employees (10-15% seems about right) with pay possibly being brought back up to normal levels when revenues return. If employees don't like it (including the unions) then find another job. Not that many to be found these days, so I think there would be little attrition. Even so, it's a good way to pare some fat from the organization.

Looks like the employees are in it for themselves, with the support of the Council and staff. And God knows the unions are in it to keep the incumbents around so their benefits/revenue stream doesn't dry up. A sick example of a "virtuous cycle". However, if you start doing any even basic arithmetic, the cycle has to end, otherwise it collapses under its own weight. 2022, I predict


 +   4 people like this
Posted by chris, a resident of University South,
on May 27, 2020 at 9:44 pm

West Menlo,

Not living in Palo Alto, you obviously overlooked the fact that most employees in PA work for the utility not the general fund.

The non-union employees have taken a 15% cut and the city manager a 20% cut. The negotiations with the unions including Police and Fire) are still in progress.

Your comments are not well-founded.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by West Menlo, a resident of Menlo Park,
on May 27, 2020 at 11:36 pm

Chris:

I can tell you that PA does an excellent job of keeping those numbers pretty well hidden. However, after looking at Utilities reports, strategic plans and reports to Council, it looks like maybe 250 or so people work at the Utility. So, I will say that why does a city the size of Palo Alto have 1200 or so people working for it?

Regardless of the managers taking cuts, why aren't the regular employees taking cuts---now! Not in two or 3 months, or after "negotiations.". Many, if not most, businesses are cutting employee's salaries. But it seems that state and local government have complete job security, guaranteed pay, incredible benefits and guaranteed retirement plans even in severe downturns. It just does not seem right they would not "share the pain" with the general populace.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Henry, a resident of Palo Verde,
on May 28, 2020 at 6:27 am

All city employees need to take a 10% pay cut. Yes, even the police and fire departments.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by A Former PA City Employee,, a resident of another community,
on May 28, 2020 at 8:49 am

> "The planning/building department only opens at 9am for visitors."

^ The planning/building department is one of the best places to work from the standpoint of putting things off until tomorrow.

>> "It's unclear why they couldn't open at 8am for visitors. Especially
that they are required to put in the extra Friday hours. But this
seems to be not happening."

^ Many departments have 'quiet hours' which allows office staff to review paperwork from the previous day along with pending applications...this is generally self-scheduled during the 8-9AM period which allows for late arrivals and/or an extended coffee break downstairs to start one's morning. In many instances, the pre 9AM opening timeframe provides an opportunity for one to catch-up with other fellow employees and chit-chat over coffee.

Although the current job postings at City Hall are probably on hold due to various administrative closures and fiscal constraints, the HR department receives hundreds of applications/resumes/vitae curriculums in response to its openings and it is oftentimes advantageous to know someone currently employed by the city in order to get an interview.

The City of Palo Alto is a great place to work providing one gets along with their supervisor. Just don't rock the boat and/or do more work that is expected of you as the raises will come automatically with tenure. This in turn, creates a relaxed working environment.

In retrospect, I am fortunate to have retired prior to the new employment mandates which will need to be implemented due to the adverse economic impacts of COVID-19.
The 'golden era' of working for the City of Palo Alto is apparently over as more Palo Alto residents will be scrutinizing how their tax payer dollars are actually being spent and rightfully so.

Accountability now rests with the city council and city manager's office.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by West Menlo, a resident of Menlo Park,
on May 28, 2020 at 10:35 am

Chris:

And, according to today's Daily Post, the PA City Manager and other management employees aren't really taking a 15-20% pay cut. They are "giving back" in the form of a 4.5% pay freeze, and also forfeiting accrued vacation days. Also, not taking advantage of expense accounts. So, it looks like they aren't actually taking a pay cut.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on May 28, 2020 at 2:15 pm

USA is a registered user.

Staff-level city employees make a fraction of what Silicon Valley engineers make in general and a very small fraction of what Palo Alto residents make. Cutting salaries of people on the edge is heartless.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on May 28, 2020 at 7:42 pm

"Public Safety new building is not required, unless you want an EOC that works after even a moderate earthquake."

Can somebody tell us why the EOC is still in the earthquake-prone city hall instead of a safer city-owned location like the MSC? Our city government has known of its precarious situation for decades, but has done nothing about it


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 28, 2020 at 8:45 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"Think about how much money would have been saved if they didn't modify the roads so much over the past decade. They'd spend tons of money on an intersection, then literally blow up the intersection again 2 years later to install a new pedestrian ramp or repaint a traffic turning lane into a bicycle lain, complete with green color and extra reflective signs.
The damage is done, but how about from now on, no more spending on any bicycle programs whatsoever? Or how about completely shut down the TMA? The roads were safer and more efficient long before they started tinkering with it."

Echoing Resident above and adding that they also grant multi-million dollar consulting contracts to the now-former-employees who'll collect nice pensions after doing all that damage.

Serious question: Where is the budget process now? Will any and all of the big-ticket "infrastructure" projects get deferred, cancelled or DISCUSSED??

Why, for one example, do we need a redesigned Rinconada Park now? What's going to change? What does it cost? What's the timeframe?

Haven't neighbors suffered enough disruption with the construction of the Junior Museum & Zoo (which is still unfinished and which now due to budget cuts will cost $18 per visit, now making it too pricey for most)

What's our PR, excuse me, Communications budget? $5 million??? Could no Communications professional communicate the Rinconada details?

Seriously, lots of us are asking what's happening with these big $$$$ projects. Please help us get some answers before we're told it's too late.




 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 29, 2020 at 10:17 am

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,

>> Echoing Resident above

While I think a few of the road projects were not well thought out, I like most of them just fine. Whenever I see big black tire marks on one of the additions, I think to myself, "I'm glad that the tire hit that barrier instead of the car hitting a bicycle." BTW, it concerns me that people complain about not being able to see the barriers at night. It is also "water under the bridge".

Now, back to the budget:

>> Serious question: Where is the budget process now? Will any and all of the big-ticket "infrastructure" projects get deferred, cancelled or DISCUSSED??

>> Why, for one example, do we need a redesigned Rinconada Park now? What's going to change? What does it cost? What's the timeframe?

I agree 100%. 100% for each new project start. We've seen some posts from Eric Filseth, which I greatly appreciate by the way, that explain some of the financial complications with specific projects. Those specifics usually involve "matrix" financing where there are multiple funding sources with constraints. I understand that-- many of us have backgrounds where we understand how "matrix" management/funding works.

However, it wouldn't be that hard for one of the folks making over $120K/year at "HQ" (250 Hamilton) to put together a PDF with embedded spreadsheet for each of these important projects.

I expect that an explanation of the 101 bike bridge would clarify why they wanted desperately to finish it right now.

I *assert* that the non-existent document for the public safety building would demonstrate that it makes perfect sense to *defer* that project start. I'm hoping that the city will refute this assertion. (I'm not holding my breath.)

"Defer it."


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 29, 2020 at 2:32 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Back to the budget, Pat Burt answered my question in another topic. Every single big-ticket capital project was approved and will proceed.

Web Link




 +   2 people like this
Posted by Concerned, a resident of Midtown,
on May 30, 2020 at 12:24 pm

"As the Weekly noted, according to the city budget members of the management of professionals group have a base salary of $149,306, and with benefit $240,791. "

I was surprised to read that PA employee's base salary is SO HIGH.

I vote for employee salary reduction and halt of capital expenditures instead of cutting services to PA residents.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 12:10 am

The way the budget has bloated for infrastructure projects while measly community programs are cut makes no sense.
Mayor Fine and City Manager Ed Shakida both seem to assume renegotiating with unions is not possible during these "unprecedented times"

Odd.

You would expect during "unprecedented times" calls for "unprecedented solutions" meaning cutting infrastructure projects that are costing the city budget a sizable bundle and renegotiating contracts of city employees.

Instead Mayor Fine and City manager Ed Shakida go for the usual cuts. Cutting College Terrace Library with a shoe string budget. How many times has this poor library been on the chopping block?

Usual round of cuts to community programs.

The fox is in the henhouse.

The election is coming up. Vote to preserve Palo Alto City Vote to preserve community programs. Vote to ensure our taxes and fees don't go up while the fox is ensuring the salaries and raises of city employees are protected and preserved, while the city Council thinks it's easier to dig into the pockets of Palo Alto residents and tax payers.

Let city council know enough is enough. Vote for the people who will ensure that the residents of Palo Alto become the stooges left holding the spending bill, while they throw money away during these unprecedented times.

Lets demand better accountability and use of our tax dollars and fees paid.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 12:20 am

I meant: Let city council know enough is enough.

Vote for the people who will ensure that the residents of Palo Alto do not become the stooges left holding the spending bill.

Vote out the CC folks who are spending tax payers money like money growing on trees, approving all the construction projects and not representing the Palo Alto residents' desires.

These are unprecedented times. If there is a fool on the CC that thinks this is the time spend money like water like past years, vote them out. Figure out which City Councilors are standing behind the infrastructure projects and squealing in glee as construction continues during an economic downturn when we can rebid all construction projects and save millions of dollars.

Figure out who is ensuring our taxes go up and our fees go up. vote them out and do not re-elect them.

Figure out which City Councilor is actually listening to the community wishes and not their contract bidding donors


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 5:41 am

Workers have spent time putting in a sophisticated one lane system with temporary traffic light on Bayshore. This preparation work was done with great haste and speed to show that "work had started" therefore it must proceed.

Once the inconvenient (have been stuck waiting for the light to change for minutes at a time) one lane was instituted, I have not seen any other signs of work on building the bridge having started.

I just ask if there has been an urgency to make it look as if the work had started to suggest that they will be just as diligent about getting the bridge built quickly? Or is there a more subtle message about working behind a screen and slowing down when they can't be seen? Or is there an even more subtle message?

We will not be deceived.


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Posted by longtime resident, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 4:19 pm

There is a lot of misinformation being shared here. This story hasn't reached it's conclusion yet. It's evolving daily. Creative solutions are being sought for this very unique time in our lives. The economy is basically quite healthy and as soon as businesses can safely open up the economy will improve. In the meantime let's move forward wisely and try to prevent a recession. Let's all work together and "build up" and not "tear down" our community and fellow citizens with either words or actions -- or both. (Is everyone following how the city council is trying to draw the community into the discussion about the budget? Every evening there is an email update sent to residents. If you aren't receiving one, you can most likely get on the list.)


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 5:54 pm

Great questions and coherent arguments. Thank you.

> The economy is basically quite healthy and as soon as businesses can safely open up the economy will improve.

How do you know that? If people do not have money or jobs, spending will be way down and there is no way the economy can recover or get back to where it was without some kind of "socialist" interference.

--

The fact is that our society and economy has been shown indisputably to be so inflexible now, so fragile now, so designed ONLY for the profit and comfort of a few, that to pretend this is not a major shift in reality is just more of the same bad decisions and foolishness.

The fact is that to be civilized and democratic, we must design the world to be on an emergency footing normally, ready and planning for any disaster of this sort or others, not just respond ineffectively after a huge disaster to help the rich and powerful.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 6:03 pm

>> I was surprised to read that PA employee's base salary is SO HIGH.

That is not exactly "so high". That is low compared to what is necessary to live around this city, in fact it is insufficient unless perhaps there are two incomes at that level, or University, or family connections, or windfalls from stock profits buoys up this class of people.

I love it when I hear the oft-repeated nasty comment that there is no right to live in Palo Alto when applied to kick out the homeless or RV'ers, and yet for the lucky and the well-connected there are a lot of these sweetheart jobs while everyone else competing in the cold harsh real world gets the boot.

The continued acceptance of this injustice is part of the same problem that is causing riots in over 100 American cities as more and more people are getting dumped into that "unfortunate" category.


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Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 10:04 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Diana,

Everything you wrote is 100% correct. Without exception.

But I have a few points to add:

- The city apparently is continuing down its profoundly wrong plan of changing the city's zoning codes to allow a wholly unnecessary high-end business hotel to replace the Hotel President apartments. Yes, the President Hotel building needs renovations. But renovations do not require a conversion of urgently needed residential units into inevitably doomed to be empty commercial hotel use. This is infuriating and insane.

- In keeping the capital construction, the city also is continuing its extremely unnecessary costly progress of building more and more large parking structures in our formerly-quaint California Avenue neighborhood to serve the huge office buildings that never should have been put there in the first place. The building of parking garages must stop now.

- Despite 20 years of violation of its Conditional Use Permit that allows it to occupy 52 residential lots, the City still refuses to enforce its own laws and collect the $4 million of penalties that Castilleja would be paying if Palo Alto had an active enforcement division.

- And, despite the fact that Palo Alto's department of inspections is literally the only tool is has to conduct any material enforcement of zoning violations like Castilleja's, Ed Shikada urges us to elminate more from that department -- which even he admits will reduce badly needed revenue. Not to mention that:

- For reasons that cannot be articulated, the City Council and Ed Shikada decided to remove the business tax from the November ballot, rather than amending it to exempt businesses with less than $100 million in revenue, or fewer than 500 employees, or any threshold that will protect our mom and pop retail and growing small business, while still taxing our multi-billion-dollar megoliths like Hewlett Packard, Telsa, and Palantir that currently pay NO taxes into our community coffers.

- Worth of its own line, to clarify: the decision to pull a business tax that would ask even only the largest of our businesses to pay their fair share continues to mark Palo Alto as one of the few cities in all of California, if not the country, that does not tax its businesses.

- These short-sighted decisions are the direct cause of the imbalance we see today in Palo Alto: where 94% of the people who occupy our city during the day, using our city services and enjoying our well-maintained roads and sidewalks, *leave* to go home to their own communities (which almost certainly tax their business occupants!) each evening.

This state of affairs is 100% caused by decisions made by our city leadership.

We all need to say NO to any cut to our public services that serve and protect our residents until the City learns how to negotiate effectively with commercial developers, huge companies, and special interests and demand that these entities that have so much pay their fair share.

Developers, businesses, and private schools are beholden to their shareholders, LPs, and stakeholders to seek the best deal on behalf of their self interests. Our City leadership needs to stand up and seek the best interest of residents! That is not just our local government's job, it is their legal and moral obligation. And now more than ever, we need to hold them to it.


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Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 10:25 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Diana -

I also want to mention quickly that balancing a budget - as I am sure you know! - involves more than cutting costs. It *also* involves increasing revenues.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that for far too long, Palo Alto has expected residents to pay for all of the costs of running this city. Meanwhile, the vast majority of people who use our city during the day do not live here! They work for our largest employers -- Palantir, HP, Tesla, VMWare, Varian, Cloudera, Tencent -- all those companies that occupy the huge office towers that none of us asked for and few of us want.

Because our local government continues to be one of the few comparable cities in the country that refuses to tax its businesses -- not even its multi-billion-dollar businesses (!!) -- our leadership continues to squeeze out more and more from the residents to support the businesses who use the vast majority of our city services yet pay virtually NOTHING for the pleasure of doing so.

That is absurd, infuriating and completely unacceptable.

The City Council had planned to put a business tax on the November ballot, but inextricably decided to pull the measure as a result of the pandemic. The pandemic and its consequent harm to our community is the reason we NEED this business tax more urgently than ever.

To protect small and medium size businesses harmed by the lockdown, the City can amend the proposed tax to exempt all companies with less than $200 million (or so) annual revenue, or 300 (or so) employees located in Palo Alto. Honestly, we could move that threshold up to $1 billion in revenue and STILL bring in hundreds of millions of dollars of urgently needed revenue simply by taxing the largest companies that have been here on our dime for decades, and owe their huge amounts of success in part to the generosity and support of our community.

Simply taxing the largest and most successful of our local employers -- eg Tesla, HP, Palantir, Tibco, Cloudera, Varian, VMWare, Tencent, and Google Nest -- would generate enough revenue to save all of our beloved community programs, save the jobs of our first responders who bizarrely are being considered laid off by the city, and restore the trust of Palo Alto's residents that our government is working for US.

THIS is why I am running for City Council. THIS is the change our residents deserve. We have the capacity to fix this -- now we need the courage. Please join me in demanding that the City Council return a business tax focussed on the largest local employers back to November's ballot.

Feel free to reach out -- anyone, feel free to reach out -- if you would like to discuss. Together we can fix this.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 2:29 am

@CresentParkAnon

Lets look at the facts.
Web Link

This is all public domain knowledge and fully transparent and legal and on the internet. There is even an app for this.

City Manager Ed Shikada made $403,729 in 2019, not including pension and health benefits, according to a chart on city's website. This is more than the President of United State's Salary. Exactly how much do you think an engineer in Palo Alto makes after working 7am to 7pm daily and on weekends with very little holidays?

Now lets look at salaries from 2 years ago. TWO YEARS AGO in 2018

The City attorney made $427,927.00 in 2018

The City Battion Chief made $408,074.35 in 2018 (of which over 100k was overtime pay. OVERTIME PAY)

The Assistant Police Chief made $404,148.60 in 2018

The Fire Inspector/emt made $397,264.26 in 2018 (of which over 100k was OVERTIME PAY)

The Police sargent made $387,943.40 in 2018 (including 50k of overtime pay)

The firechief made $383,633.82 in 2018

The police captain made $376,008.12 in 2018

The police chief-adv made $375,756.42 in 2018

The Police Sargent-adv made $358,100.53 in 2018 (with over 70k in overtime pay)

another police sargent-adve made $356,766.40 in 2018 (with over 45k in overtime pay)

Deputy city manager made $353,631.66 in 2018

another fire captain-emt made $352,235.98 in 2018 (with over 100k in overtime pay)

the list is too long.
You're telling me a salary approaching 400k per year from 2 years ago, and likely much larger this year .. is not enough to live in Silicon Valley?

Engineers are not paid that richly. Tech workers don't make that much. IT's clear the residents of Palo Alto and tax payers are being fleeced.


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Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 2:47 am

If you don't believe in being fiscally responsible and it's acceptable overpaying City workers with outrageous salaries, continuing large construction projects that are costing extreme millions of dollars, then not even charging business taxes and letting all the big guys get away with not paying into the city coffers while the little folks (that's the residents, home owners, renters, tenants) pay for higher fees, higher admission to everything, and higher property taxes.. means the city of Palo Alto residents are being taken to the cleaners.

The city budget can be easily fixed with even cancelling a few major construction projects and asking city staff to take a freeze on their salary hike.

Why did we get rid of our auditor? Here we are in the midst of a deficit with no auditor.

Bloated city staff can be thinned out. Union contracts need to be re-negotiated. Why are people getting over 100K in overtime pay? How is that fiscal responsibility?

We need to elect city councilors whoa re responsible with tax payer's monies and represent city residents' interest, not their own.

Follow the Money. And if you can't follow the money, remember that actions speak louder than words and vote out the councilors that don't represent the residents' wishes but serve some other hidden interest.


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