Unions asked to pay for pension hikes
After two years of budget cuts, the recession will continue to take a toll on the city budget in 2011. City Manager Kevin Duggan said that the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) reports that the city's pension costs will be rising by as much as $1.2 million this year. That is one reason the city can no longer predict a "status quo" budget, Duggan said.
The rising pension costs will likely lead city officials to ask that the city's unions to pay for the additional costs. The union contracts of several hundred city employees are up for renegotiation this year, including members of the Service Employees International Union and the EAGLES, a mid-level managers union. Firefighters and police unions will negotiate new contracts next year.
Rising pension costs aren't the only thing threatening the city budget — inadequate tax revenues and another raid by the state of city funds are also real possibilities. The state has already warned schools to "buckle up, it's going to be a rough ride," Duggan said. That could also mean additional pressure from school officials and parents to share with schools the property tax revenue from Google and other firms that's redirected to the city's Shoreline tax district.
Hangar One skeleton
The dramatic life of Moffett Field's massive Hangar One will continue to make headlines in 2011, as it has for the past several years. But 2011 may be the most dramatic year of all, as it appears to be a real possibility that the area's most iconic building may be stripped of its siding and left a skeleton next year.
In an e-mail sent Tuesday, Navy officials said Hangar One's siding is set for removal in April. With no funding for new siding in sight, preservationists are now wondering whether they should begin their own fundraising efforts. After Congress failed to pass a $10 million earmark to fund the re-skinning, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has placed hopes for the hangar on NASA, which has promised only $20 million to restore the hangar — not enough, preservationists say.
New city manager selected
Kevin Duggan, the city's respected city manager for 20 years, will be retiring in April, and everyone at city hall seems to agree that filling his shoes will be tough job.
The new city manager's leadership style has major implications for the city, from how the budget is balanced to how the city government itself is structured. The top candidates will undoubtedly be thoroughly interviewed and vetted as the council decides who will get the city's most important job. It will be a "wonderful professional opportunity" that a top-notch candidate may find attractive, if Duggan's opinion on the matter is correct.
Google's amazing office buildings
Google may have its headquarters in Mountain View, but it hasn't built any new buildings since moving in. That may change in 2011.
It has been two years since Google put on hold plans for a futuristic-looking green building for a vacant lot at Shoreline Boulevard and Amphitheatre Parkway. But with Google growing rapidly, City Manager Kevin Duggan says that the Internet giant has expressed an interest in building new offices very soon.
There are numerous possible locations for new buildings as Google now owns or leases much of North Bayshore, including those along Shorebird Way, where a new campus could replace numerous buildings Google owns.
Office development city-wide has continued at a relatively rapid pace during the recession, but housing projects that have been on hold, including a large, 500-unit development by Regis Homes on Ferguson Drive, which may finally resume construction this year.
It will be a busy year for park construction and design, with major trail extensions under construction, major city park spaces being redesigned and two small mini-parks set to open.
Rengstorff Park is scheduled to be completed in the first half of the year, which means the city will be on its way to a total revamp of one of the city's three main parks. It will likely include a new Community Center, and new park features, such as a water fountain. The city will also come up with a use for the Rock Church property across Escuela Avenue from the park, where there could be a new teen center.
The City Council will have to wrestle with thornier design issues for two new Permanente Creek Flood basins in city parks. One is at the Cuesta Annex, where many are concerned about losing trees, wildlife and a view of the mountains, and the other is at McKelvey Park, where neighbors want to replace youth baseball fields with a more neighborhood-oriented park, causing controversy. Final designs for both flood basins are expected this year, beginning with McKelvey sometime before March.
The mini-parks, one on Mariposa Avenue, the other on Del Medio Avenue, will finally get under construction this year and are set to open in the first half of 2012. Meanwhile, extensions will be completed in early 2012 for the Stevens Creek Trail and Permanente Creek Trail over Highway 85 and Highway 101, respectively.
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