Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 2, 2012

Palo Alto looks to hike refuse rates

Staff proposes 5 percent increase and new $2.09 fee this year; more dramatic changes ahead

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto residents who try to limit their waste by switching to smaller trash cans could find their garbage rates spiking dramatically and possibly doubling over the next several years as part of the city's effort to bring financial stability to its troubled refuse operation.

The city has recently completed a "cost of service" study that proposes a radically different rate structure for residential customers. The goal is to stabilize the city's Refuse Fund, which has been losing money in recent years, and to get away from the existing system under which commercial customers subsidize through their rates the cost of providing service to residents.

A new proposal from the Public Works Department calls for a 5.3 percent rate increase for all residential customers along with a $2.09 flat fee that would be tacked on to every residential bill to cover the cost of street sweeping. The increases could be phased in over several years but start in July.

The study, which the city initiated in August 2010 and which the City Council's Finance Committee is scheduled to discuss Tuesday night, March 6, offers a rate structure that would affect all residential customers but would have the most dramatic impact on those who conserve the most. Under this model, residents who use mini-cans (about 29 percent of all customers) would see their monthly refuse rates jump from $20.52 to $45.46, a 121 percent increase. The 55.7 percent of residential customers who use the standard 32-gallon cans would see their monthly rates go up from $37.58 to $50.48, a 37 percent increase.

Meanwhile, those who use 64-gallon cans would see their rates decline by 12 percent, from $72.46 to $63.86.

Because of the severity of the spike for customers who use the two smallest containers, staff is recommending phasing the rate changes over two or three years, according to Brad Eggleston, the city's solid waste manager. The Public Works Department proposes keeping "conservation pricing" in place to encourage smaller cans but to reduce the savings of conservation pricing by introducing a flat fee for all customers.

The plummeting revenues in the Refuse Fund can, in many ways, be attributed to the city's success in encouraging conservation through its Zero Waste program. By switching to smaller cans, residents bring down their trash bills and, in doing so, reduce the city's revenues. In addition, more people recycle and compost services for which the city has not been charging its residents.

The council began dealing with this problem last year when it approved a flat rate hike of $4.62 percent for all customers, regardless of can size. The new rate structure, however, would bring much more significant changes. Under the cost-of-service model, the city would start charging all residential customers $7.66 for recycling, and $10.99 for picking up their yard trimmings and $6.71 for street sweeping.

While the city is unlikely to introduce all these fees in the short term, the street-sweeping fee would kick in as early as July under the staff proposal. Because the council already added the $4.62 fee last year, it would need to tack on another $2.09 fee to achieve the $6.71 rate required to meet the cost of providing street-sweeping services.

The model, in short, proposes a major shift from a system that provides pricing incentives for customers who switch to smaller cans to one in which rates reflect the actual cost of services. Under the model in the study, the difference between the rates for those who use mini-cans and those who use standard cans is only $5.02. Under the current structure, this difference is $16.96.

On Tuesday, the Finance Committee is scheduled to review the staff recommendation and consider an array of other options, including some that extend the rate increases over a longer period of time and others that would eliminate conservation pricing.

Comments

Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2012 at 8:45 am

This will be the start of a REVOLT.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2012 at 8:57 am

Calling this a charge is a misnomer, it is a tax. A charge indicates that there is some way we can choose a service that meets our needs.

Can we choose to leave garbage out twice a month instead of every week? Yes, but we are still charged the same! Can we put garbage collection on hold while we are on vacation? Yes, but we are still charged the same! Can we choose another garbage collection company? Yes, if we can find one we may but we still get charged by PA Utilities!

Stop raising our taxes and stop calling them charges!!!!


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2012 at 9:03 am

The city never provides a detailed accounting of all the programs and charges associated with the utilities. There needs be a detailed look at what's being charged - instead we have a city council who rubber stamps increases.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 1, 2012 at 9:17 am

I agree that a detailed cost breakdown would be very interesting. Any body know how much one of these truck drivers makes. My guess is that if you posted a job opening with a salary of $50K per year, you would probably have 5 applicants for every opening. But I bet we are paying more than $75K per person, before benefits.


Posted by About time!, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 9:31 am

"to one in which rates reflect the actual cost of services"


Posted by Sherry, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:26 am

To say that PAU is out of control is an understatement. This monopoly borders on dictatorship and shame on City Council of past who voted to remove PASCO and bring on GreenWaste; that has proven to be an outright money pit without added services/benefits to the Palo Alto residents.
High time to demand accountability and advocate for putting our utilities up for bid.


Posted by kongjie, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

kongjie is a registered user.

I think instead we should...wait for it...refuse hike rates! Muahuuuaaahahaha.


Posted by kongjie, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

kongjie is a registered user.

OMG can't believe I blew that line. Refuse rate hikes!


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:36 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Four words that apply to the headline of this story:

"eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation"

This is taught in English 101, AKA " bonehead English " at college.

( or it was in my day )


Posted by customer, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:36 am

Nice idea - reward the people who produce way more trash with a decrease! How about doing it like the water during a drought and have a steep increase when you are a "waster"?


Posted by Ralph, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:43 am

The article refers to "phasing out the rate changes over several years" and "phasing out the rate changes over two or three years." I hope that's true, but I have a feeling that what was meant was "phasing in."


Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:50 am

Palo Alto is charging more than double (in some cases) than the neighboring cities. There has to be something fundamentally wrong with the cost structure. Either that, or the city is using this as a way to increase the general fund in order to pay salaries or other costs for other departments.

As a comparison, Menlo Park charges $21.25 for 32 gallons, Web Link

Mountain View charges $20.10 for 32 gallons.
Web Link

Sunnyvale charges $30.42 for 35 gallons.
Web Link


Posted by blondie, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:52 am

I am really trying to get my head around this...Palo Alto has been a leader in the green energy/recycle movement. Am I the only one who feels that the smaller the container(s) the LESS you should pay?


Posted by Not Wasteful, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:53 am

Why can't we have a model like Mountain View, with trash pick-up every two weeks? It would be a win-win for city and customers (not for the trash pick-up guys, though). Why is this not an option????


Posted by Really angry Sr. citizen, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

We try to do our duty by recyling, limiting our waste, etc. and then we get a rate hike -- which, by the way, is scandalous!! Someone in that new company or our City didn't do their work and/or the math properly BEFORE we went on board with the new company!! The costs should have been projected and taken into consideration!! I don't think I should have to pay for someone's MISTAKE!! The nerve of them!


Posted by Believe in recycling, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2012 at 11:05 am

We have tried over the years to reduce our waste. We are now down to the smallest garbage can due to a concerted effort to reduce, reuse and recycle. Our reward? A 121% hike in our garbage pick-up rate - this is absolutely outrageous!! We might as well all switch to the biggest garbage cans available and stop caring about conserving our environment.


Posted by rem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 1, 2012 at 11:25 am

rem is a registered user.

I AGREE WITH
SHERRY :::

START QUOTE

Posted by Sherry, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, 53 minutes ago

To say that PAU is out of control is an understatement. This monopoly borders on dictatorship and shame on City Council of past who voted to remove PASCO and bring on GreenWaste; that has proven to be an outright money pit without added services/benefits to the Palo Alto residents.

High time to demand accountability and advocate for putting our utilities up for bid.

END QUOTE

PASCO was OUTSTANDING and customer friendly...


Posted by artbuilder, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 11:46 am

THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE
IS GREATER THAN
THE PEOPLE IN POWER

Again they ( water rates ) Reward our conservation efforts with Rate Hikes
Its revolution time


Posted by mindfulmom, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 11:59 am

!REVOLT!
FULL ACCOUNTING of ALL EXPENSES INCLUDING SALARIES, BENEFITS
COMPARISON and JUSTIFICATION of WHY PALO ALTO SERVICE COSTS 2X SURROUNDING TOWNS
YES, CALL IT WHAT IT IS: IT IS A TAX


Posted by C, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm

In PA, you get robbed either on the street or inside your own house..


Posted by James L., a resident of Professorville
on Mar 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm

"C" is right. Palo Alto is a "target rich environment" - with its opulent wealth and staggeringly affluent residents, we are an endless supply of cash for those who legally (City) and illegally target us.

Love it!


Posted by Taxed-To-Death, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Time to look into contracting with private-sector trash pickup firms on an individual basis. Keep in mind that on top of the rate increases that are cited in this article, is the always-present UUT (Utility Users Tax). As the rates go up, so does the tax paid.

And then, there are the yearly increases. The paper presented by the City does have a short time-line associated with these proposed rate increases, but because the City always uses non-linear multipliers when computing rate increases, these rates will grow much larger 10 years out.

This is another reason for regonalizing City services. Clearly we are paying multiple people to do the same job in every one of the local cities. No reason not to consolidate and reduce the overhead, and costs, for everyone.

There are 3 (or 4) major tax increase proposals on the upcoming ballot, and you can be certain that there will be more than one every ballot you see for a long time to come. Government has just priced itself out of the market for most people. Time to say NO!


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Is the photo supposed to represent an average household weekly pick-up? Or is that an entire apartment complex?


Posted by Rose V., a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm

This is RIDICULOUS! As a Palo Alto Resident...I've seen more rate hikes and increases than I care to realize. It seems every year they are doubling and now what feels like tripling our rates.

Seriously...I don't even put my can out but twice a month and you still charge??? WTF?

Then you look at what Santa Clara or Sunnyvale or Mountain View pay??

And now you want us to spend more money on a GreenCycle site...why so you can continue to take and take and take???

This has to stop.


Posted by Annette Puskarich, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Comments regarding previous posts:
- Mountain View garbage collection is weekly, not every other week
- PASCO did not submit a bid for the contract to provide collection services for Palo Alto so it was not an option to retain their services. PASCO's parent company, Waste Management Inc., eliminate PASCO at the end of their contract with Palo Alto.
- The more garbage you make, the more you pay.

More details about the issue are included in the report going to the Finance Committee. The meeting is a public meeting (info below)
Staff Report to Finance Committee re: Refuse Rates is available at:
Web Link

Refuse Rate Discussion-Council Finance Committee meeting
Tuesday, March 6, 7pm
Council Finance Committee Mtg
Council Conference Room
City Hall
250 Hamilton
1st floor (conference room off hallway leading to Council Chambers)


Posted by Batavia99, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm

These guys hiked our water rates. Now they're going after our garbage rates. Feed the beast.

Some years ago, I went to a Utilities Commission meeting where rate hikes were being discussed. There were 3 people from the Utilities Department there, all pleading for higher rates. No other residents were even present.

If no one shows up for these meetings, the people in charge don't hear our voice. We need to start the equivalent of TURN, the statewide organization for utility rate normalization.

Someone needs to start this organization and it needs to coordinate a presence at every meeting where rates are discussed, presenting the point of view of the residents (vs. the bureaucrats).


Posted by Taxed Out, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Please voice your opinion here:

city.council@cityofpaloalto.org.

This is yet another example of the simple TAX your way out answer rather than lower your spending. I would like to see this overcompensated city staff's reasons for ruling out cost reduction options. Clearing they must have gone down this path long and hard before recommending the residents of the city pay 121% more, don't you think??????

This recommendation cannot be allowed to get traction.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm

And don't even get me started on water rates.


Posted by Wilson, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm

> PASCO did not submit a bid for the contract to provide
> collection services for Palo Alto

While true, there was no reason given by either the City, or PASCO, at the time. Generally, when two parties quit doing business together, there is a reason.

And then, the former head of the P/W Department "retired" somewhat ahead of schedule. Coincidence?


Posted by BillB, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Has anyone explored alternatives? How about pickups every other week? I could probably manage that, even with the smallest container. How about having neighbors share one container and splitting the cost? How about senior discounts? How does Palo Alto compare to other cities in our area? I suspect we may be on the high side. Can't we renegotiate a better landfill deal with the county? It seems that less landfill should cost less regardless of the contract that was signed. Maybe it is time to go to court over the existing contract.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

I am a supporter of recycling and composting, but I am foremost a "quantitative person". Recycling and composting were supposed to be money-savers, there costs being less than taking the materials to landfills. But the numbers say otherwise. I put out far less than 64-gallons per week (and I don't put out recycling or compost until the bin is nearly full):
- a 64-gallon garbage can: $63.86
- a mini-can $45.46 + recycling $7.66 + composting $10.99 = $64.11

It is not just the bill, but since this is supposedly "true cost", those costs are an excellent proxy for carbon footprint/greenhouse gases.


Posted by SuperD, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Yet another assessment/tax on the residents of Palo Alto as a result of city gov't mismanagement...when will it stop??????


Posted by rukidding, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm

The utilities department is meanwhile morphing into a watchdog snipping at us to keep us "in-line." In addition to above comments, I want to add my opinion of these silly "evaluations" of energy use. My report always looks bad because they've got the square footage wrong. So Utilities would like me to update my data and supposedly I would then be receiving correct reports. This is silly because I know a number of neighbors who travel and my energy use will always be more than them. When I have a sick relative visiting and keep my house warmer, the usage goes up. Does the Utility need to know all these details about me?

Looks to me like I am the sheep and am getting sheered.


Posted by web-voting-needed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm

> We need to start the equivalent of TURN

Actually, ratepayers can veto all rate hikes. The City sends out notification each time the rates are to be increased. Generally, fewer than 200 people bother to protest.

The City could make it easier for protests to be registered, such as on a web-page. But that probably would be too easy, and it is likely that some rate increases would not go through as easily as they have in the past.


Posted by DDee, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Ahhh nostalgia!
Sherry and Jim are on the right tack....

From 2008 Weekly... "PASCO Sam's likely replacement will be GreenWaste Recovery, Inc., a San Jose-based waste station and trash hauler, the Palo Alto Public Works Department recently disclosed...
The new deal means 22,329 fewer tons of Palo Alto trash will head to a landfill and 73 percent, rather than the current 62 percent, of waste would be re-used or recycled...The changes are expected to add about 7 percent to refuse rates, boosting the monthly bill for an average household with a 32-gallon bin from $26.58 to about $28.50... City staff members had previously estimated that rates would rise 17 percent under the new contract..."

AND NO, Taxpayer of Downtown North, it IS NOT high salaries or improved working conditions for the people actually doing the pickup that is to blame! While the average Green Waste salary for workers in the field is $39,000 or 45% lower than the national average, at $80,000, the average General Manager in Redwood City is 27% higher than national average for General Managers of Green Waste.
AND, a solid look at the City of Palo Alto payroll reflects the same kind of TOP-HEAVY waste and delusion (also prevalent in Sacramento, Wall St. and DC, but that is another topic).

SOOOO.... my suggestion to Palo Alto's "prime target" residents is that we take a new look at ourselves and our ways of thinking about the work and the things that belong to the common good... and those that mostly belong to our exceedingly overblown sense of our own worth/entitlement (in regards to the salaries/bonuses/expertise that we expect for ourselves, but especuially in regard to the way we seem to think that by virtue of hiring someone into a MANAGEMENT position at an exhorbitant salary, their opinion and advice are the defacto way to go ---- just look at how well it has done for the 99% nationally).

My conclusion? We would have done MUCHO MEJOR for ourselves had we removed the privatization aspect from our basic services and bought out PASCO to make it a municipal utility, keeping the trucks and workers that were on the job already. Heavens knows our state would be in far better fiscal shape if we had been able to skirt those years of extortion at the hands of the energy vendors by having applied imminent domain back in the 40s and kept PG&E as a staewide utility ---- after all, every single natural resource that they use is part of the public domain!

Seems as if all you proponents of rampant privatization have either realllllly tiny memories, or are so new to these shores that you have no historical perspective on the matter, or come from places of the mind or globe where gutting the people and plundering the common good are perfectly acceptable practices.


Posted by web-voting-needed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm

> It is not just the bill, but since this is supposedly "true cost",

This probably makes sense ..

> those costs are an excellent proxy for
> carbon footprint/greenhouse gases.

But this doesn't.


Posted by MJ, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Don't forget the huge amount of money, in the millions (six I think) that is transferred from the utilities budget to the city budget EVERY YEAR. This has to be factored into all the price hikes we are cited as "cost of service" by PAU.

The refuse rate hikes are also tied to a long-term contract with a landfill PAU signed a few years ago for a set volume of waste every year.

Meanwhile our city council "green tzar" members were busy incorporating "zero waste" as a city goal.

Now we are stuck paying for landfill space we don't use and have the extra cost of the recycling plant.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 1, 2012 at 7:39 pm

To web-voting-needed.

In order to vote on a utility rate issue - and I don't think refuse is one on the allowed list- 50% plus one OF THE USERS must vote - with a paper ballot. The State set up the rules which are virtually impossible to attain, and I am sure the State knew it. It was a 'stacked deck' from the beginning. Maybe a recall of the council unless it takes a stand. It will have to vote on this, and if the vote is FOR, that council member should be recalled or else not voted in next year. Clear as that. The 'hornet next has been kicked over'.


Posted by web-voting-needed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2012 at 7:52 pm

> 50% plus one OF THE USERS must vote - with a paper ballot. The State
> set up the rules which are virtually impossible to attain,

I was aware of the 50%+1 requirement, but not certain about the State's imposing a "paper ballot" only rule. The current "election" requires that each customer send in a proof of being a customer, and a written statement that the customer protests the rate increase. This is not a typical "ballot"--but a "rate hike protest".

However, it would be interesting to have the rules clearly stated on the City Clerk's web-site.


Posted by anon, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2012 at 8:07 pm

This is very frustrating. ... though predictable. The sanitation workers are not to blame but when we lost PASCO we lost control.
The amount of mailing we get from the garbage company is frustrating and a waste that
goes directly back to the recycle bin.
We continually get letters saying what % of energy we use compared to our neighbors but when we try to conserve - they raise the rates!!
This is completely an example of bureaucracy gone awry. The garbage service should be
removed from the city responsibility and contracted out to private companies. Then there would be competition and rates would go down.


Posted by Allen Edwards, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Dear "Taxpayer" I would guess that you have no idea what you are talking about. The average salary for a garbage collector in California is $41,000. That is a long way from the $75,000 number you so freely pulled out of....


Posted by walt, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 1, 2012 at 8:48 pm

This is truly pathetic. The city managers try to get people to produce less waste, and then punish them for succeeding! I guess no one thought of what happens when less trash is produced by the city. For $5 more, I'll take the jumbo can and fill it with construction waste I haul and pay to dump myself, thanks Palo Alto! Did the brain trust at city hall behind all this give themselves a bonus for floundering on yet another self inflicted blunder???


Posted by pragmatic, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2012 at 9:24 pm

this is pretty funny - probably most of you want higher taxes, more gas taxes, and then you balk at paying more for your garbage service - always thought palo altans are a bunch of "not in my back yard" hypocrites. would it be more palatable if the funds were used to subsidize low cost housing or green energy or cal train? this is just a small part of all the screwed up policies that liberal govt's put in place. better get used to it. there will be more if you don't allow competition in the market place to solve your problems.


Posted by Anna, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2012 at 9:44 pm


1) Are City Hall decision makers on the take and getting kickbacks from the garbage fees/taxes?

2 We should have the option to avoid being shafted by garbage fees/taxes and be able to take our trash ourselves to a dumpster outside City Hall.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 2, 2012 at 9:26 am

The amount of 'paper' sent to residents by the Utility Department and Commission is RIDICULOUS!! Repetitive warnings, admonitions, instructions.....fancy brochures in color. Enough already. In the door, out to the trash. We conserve with a diligence and STILL get an tsk-tsk that we are not doing as well as our neighbors. Palo Alto has a super highly paid guru of conservation with staff, office, phones etc. and a staff who for the most part doesn't live here. How do we 'revolt'?


Posted by rukidding, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 2, 2012 at 9:39 am

@Kate -- you are right. Looks to me like a warm-up for the Utility company to become a watchdog. Not long ago they wanted to examine our trash to make sure we are complying. Now they are checking our energy use and letting us know if we are bad or good. It is outrageous that the Utility company wants us to "update" our "profile" so that they can send us an "accurate" report.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2012 at 10:21 am

City of Palo Alto: STOP SPENDING SO MUCH!

Believe it or not, some of us are having much more difficulty making ends meet during these tough economic times than what might seem to be the "norm."

Every dollar counts in our budgets, the accumulation of these sort of decisions effect us at a greater level than most.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2012 at 11:21 am

Hey Allen Edwards, nice immature, snarky post

"Dear "Taxpayer" I would guess that you have no idea what you are talking about. The average salary for a garbage collector in California is $41,000. That is a long way from the $75,000 number you so freely pulled out of...."

If you are going to criticize some one else's post, and reply with data, how about providing a link. Oh, you don't have one and are pulling it out of your ... cause you don't know what you are taling about.

I believe Bay area garbage collectors make $75K annually (based on NPR reporting). They have a very strong union. I would like to know if the labor costs are driving up our rates. Rather than whining that you don't like my post, provide a link.


Posted by Garden Gnome, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2012 at 11:32 am

Dear Neighbors, once again, we've lost sight of the primary purpose of our municipality.

That, of course, is to provide pensions and health benefits to its employees.

If we simply eliminate the actual refuse pick-up, we can reduce the impending increase from 121 percent to a smaller figure, say 84 percent.

And please don't say we need refuse pick-up. After all, we don't repair our roads, bridges (hello Chaucer!) or any of our infrastructure. So why should we single out sanitation?


Posted by Jo Ann, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 2, 2012 at 11:42 am

Thank you for recommending that we write to the City Council at city.council@cityofpaloalto.org to express our outrage and offer suggestions.

I did. And I've gotten a response and promises to look into my ridiculous $400 bill when we were on vacation for half of the month, leaving a cold, dark empty house with everything turned off.

I've also urged them to read this discussion on specific ways to cut our bills like having pickup twice monthly and to get a sense of our outrage.

I urge you all to do the same.


Posted by Malik, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm

We need a citizen's sponsored ballot initiative that decouples all general fund access to utility budget, and repeals the utility users tax which goes directly into the general fund.

The city's thirst for revenue to fund its overpaid union special interest bureaucrats means that as long as it can raise revenue by spiking our utility rates, it will continue to do so.

It's sad that the public sector has devolved into such a self-interested cleptocracy. The taxpayers need to put an end to this value-destroying parasitic effect before it takes our county down one city at a time.


Posted by JT, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2012 at 2:44 pm

1. The city appears to be shifting the cost of street sweeping from the general fund to trash ratepayers. I guess this is a way of freeing up more money for higher salaries, big pensions and lifetime health care for city employees, but I think street sweeping should be a general government service, not something we have to pay an extra fee for.

2. From the staff report, it appears businesses are overpaying for trash pickup and homeowners are underpaying. So the city's answer is to raise the fees for residents and not change the commercial rates. Instead, they'll bank the commercial trash collection fees. Seems like they ought to give business customers a rate reduction if they're being overcharged. That would be the honest thing to do. I'd hate for the city to end up in a lawsuit for violating Prop 218.

3. I'd like to know how much big union contracts contribute to these huge increases year after year. I heard a story a few years ago, after the city got into a contract with Mountain View and Sunnyvale to run the SMART station in Sunnyvale, where they sort recyclables. One year, Palo Alto's share of the costs for running this place shot up, and council wanted to know why. Apparently Sunnyvale, which runs SMART, had some turnover on city council, and union-backed candidates won (all backed by Tony Spitaleri, our fire union president). They fired the city manager and city attorney, who had opposed outrageous pay raises for union members, and once the unions got their own cronies in there, they unionized the SMART station. Palo Alto was unaware of all of this until they got the bill.


Posted by Money down the drain, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Several years ago the City signed a contract guaranteeing that a certain amount of garbage will be delivered to Kirby Canyon which would increase each year. Palo Alto has never been able to fulfill this contract because they started recycling, so we are paying for far more garbage to be delivered to Kirby Canyon than is actually being delivered and they are penalizing us.

Since they get very little money for recycling our recycled material should be deposited at Kirby Canyon as garbage but the City feels this would send the wrong message. That's why our garbage rates are going up so fast to fulfill that contract.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Money down the drain" : "Several years ago the City signed a contract guaranteeing that a certain amount of garbage will be delivered to Kirby Canyon which would increase each year. Palo Alto has never been able to fulfill this contract because they started recycling, so we are paying for far more garbage to be delivered to Kirby Canyon than is actually being delivered and they are penalizing us."

1. Palo Alto began recycling in the 1980s and has slowly expanded the program. I am unaware of any unexpected increases amounts being recycled. So if the City is blaming recycling for the "shortage" of trash, it would seem to have been faulty calculations on their part.

2. A neighbor asked if the City was selling its unused capacity and got a reply from staff (Feb 9) "You are correct that there is a potential opportunity to sell these tons..." with the subsequent passage indicating that it was being considered but was _not_ being aggressively pursued.


Posted by Bruce, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2012 at 10:11 pm

How many Palo Alto residents get pensions or employer-paid medical care after they retire? Why do we have to be taxed on our basic necessities (utilities) to pay for them to get things we don't have?

Also, how do our rates compare to nearby cities? I thought the city set up its own utilities in order to save money. What a joke. It has become a cash cow, to cover inept, irresponsible decision-makers.


Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 4, 2012 at 10:19 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Why bother going to the Council meeting? I can't afford to make a large 'Campaign Contribution' to get my voice heard.

This is the last week I will sort my recyclables and compostables.
It all goes into that over priced can.

I used to sweep the bike lane (no curbs here) and keep it free of pine cones and needles, the major content of the compostable can. The street sweeper blasts by, barley getting half the lane (when no cars are there). So you are charging me more for what I was doing a better/more frequent job of.
BTW My pension was frozen at 1990 rates, since that time water has tripled. I can't compare garbage rates because we now use City (PASCO) provided carts that are all placed at the curb (used to be compost was curbed and in MY cans).
On the Plus side, we do have newer Power lines (1990, replaced old PG&E lines), new, safer gas lines, and now a new sewer.

There has to be a limit on higher charges. We are not sheep to be continually fleeced.


Posted by Bart, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2012 at 10:50 am

If they are going to make us pay for street sweeping, then they HAVE to tow all the cars parked on the street -- otherwise our neighbors will prevent us from getting a service we are being charged for.

THAT will be popular...!


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