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City shell game

Original post made by Robert and Mary Carlstead on Jun 11, 2007

The proposed utility rate increases and water surcharge are excessive. Seniors on fixed income and Social Security are already strained.

Will the Council pass the increases? It recently approved $225,000 for a consultant to determine if Palo Alto should continue using PASCO as a refuse hauler. That company provided good service for years. None on the highly paid staff could do that? Last week it approved $26,200 for a consultant to evaluate top management positions, which previous councils had done.

Those expenditures equal the average utility increases for 750 senior households. According to the June Avenidas newsletter, ages 60-74 represent the biggest active voting bloc in this country. Here the upper age limit is higher. Palo Alto seniors consistently vote, are politically savvy, and involved.

The city wants $50 million for a public safety building and $40 million for libraries. Will these pass? It depends on how angry voters are after getting the utility bills for another year, if rates increase as planned in 2008 and voters analyze their property taxes.
We question the legality of the "shell game" whereby the city uses the utility fund as a profit center for the general fund.

When voters perceive that its city isn't well run, finances aren't well managed and promises aren't kept, their only recourse to fight city hall is the ballot box. The council should tread carefully and not step on this awakening tiger's tail.

Comments (32)

Posted by Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2007 at 3:28 pm

Attention Seniors - thanks to Prop 13, you live in million dollar houses and pay $500-1000 in property tax, plus you can opt out of the parcel tax if you want. Stop complaining about your fixed incomes, if you need money get a reverse mortgage or sell your house. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
(of course if you are a renter, please feel free to complain all you want).


Posted by PA senior, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2007 at 5:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2007 at 8:34 pm


PA Senior - I own a million dollar PA home and pay the taxes that subsidize your lazy prop 13 lifestyle. But at least I am young enough that I will probably live to see the cure for the disease that causes your death.


Posted by PA senior, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2007 at 9:52 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Can I give an educational suggestion? You have the million dollar house, so the cost should be chump change. My suggestion is one of what could be several, but all have a common cultural theme. Respect for elders.... That's something that vanished in USA culture with the rise of liberalism.

Take a vacation in Vietnam. The tourist facilties are top rate and the country has such natural beauty.... Even in the tourist track, you'll get exposure to their culture.... That's the educational part.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Chào Tạm Biệt,
Ông PA Senior


Posted by Bern Beecham, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 12, 2007 at 9:11 am

Come on, folks. Although I disagree with the original poster's opinion, she and other seniors (as well as non-seniors) have the right to express it.

Prop 13 is an economic issue, not one of character or morality. I'd be happy to see a reasoned discussion of Prop 13 here but it doesn't seem that's where this is heading.

Bern Beecham
Councilmember


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 12, 2007 at 10:04 am

In the spirit of Bern's suggestion, and with eyes open wide as I tread on the touchy subject of the legacy of Proposition 13....

We can celebrate that so many saved subsantial dollars for such a long time as a consequence of the lower property tax structure brought about by Proposition 13.

Municipalities and school districts in California have been largely on a "pay as you go" budget process as a consequence of Proposition 13. The prior practice of putting funds into rainy day and lock box reserves to cover unexpected emergency needs and to upgrade and replace infrastructures as they reached the end of their useful lives also went away when Proposition 13 passed. This is true all over the State, including Palo Alto.

With nearly 30 years elapsed since Propostion 13 passed, is it any surprise that many infrastructure requirements are now presenting themselves? Built out communities have done relatively little since 1978 around infrastructure, and we should not be surprised that a great deal of it is worn out and obsolete. Before we even get into how it is paid for, we must honestly face that fact, and that doing the work necessary will cost a great deal of money.

I take Bern's side in finding Mary's opinion above disingenuous, but lacking in this type of discussion is acknowledgement that there is a major infrastructure challenge we face. Funding these requirements responsibly and equitably is an extremely delicate and difficult task for people like Bern. I applaud him and the others on City Council who understand that the money generated on behalf of the City must be put into re-building our infrastructure in order for our community to thrive in the coming years.


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2007 at 10:58 am

PA Senior -

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Onlne staff.]

I respect my elders - my parents live in a non-prop 13 state and did the logical thing by selling a house and moving to a less expensive condo. Unfortunately prop 13 makes old Californians think that they don't have to pay their fair share of taxes like the rest of us and it has shown the elderly that if they complain enough they can weasel out of their tax obligation. The elderly are much richer than the rest of the country and you are all bleeding social security to death, so just be quiet and pay taxes like the rest of us.


Posted by Chris, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 12, 2007 at 11:09 am

It's sad to see Paul Losch, who used to be a fairly level-headed observer of local issues, join the brigade blaming Proposition 13 for the fiscal woes of Palo Alto.

The fact is that despite Prop 13, Palo Alto is rolling in revenue by any measure - and particularly in comparison to neighboring cities, like Mountain View. (And yet, Mountain View has had no trouble maintianing and improving its infrastructure - despite the relative municipal poverty it operates under.)

Contrary to what Losch asserts, Palo Alto is on a "pay as you go" budget, not as a consequence of Proposition 13, but because sucessive City Councils have squandered our municipal treasure on silly projects like the Homer Tunnel, on whimiscal consultant studies, and on outlandish benefit packages for our overstaffed city government (with half the employees per capita as Mountain View).

There are a lot of good reasons to revisit Proposition 13 - generational equity among the most important. But Beecham and Losch add more heat than light by pretending that Proposition 13 accounts for their failure (as government leaders) to manage the city's finances responsibly.

I wouldn't vote to give these guys more money to waste, even if it costs me nothing more in taxes personally. When they figure out a way to spend the ocean of revenue that already flows through the city in a responsible way, maybe it will be time to think about a way to increase the funds available to them. In the meantime as long they're tilting at windmills like Proposition 13 in efforts to find a scapegoat for their own failures, we'll know they haven't started to address the problem.




Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 12, 2007 at 1:14 pm

Chris,

I enjoy reading your posts, but you have from time to time chosen to interpret my remarks in a fashion that appear to serve your point of view, but do not necessarily accurately reflect what I said or my behavior.

With respect, you display a limited understanding of how funding sources work in a California city in some of your remarks. Much of Mtn. View's new infrastructure stems from monies generated from the sale of city owned land and from new development impact fees that were generated as a consequence of their commercial and retail strategies that have resulted in the large presence of various big box retailers and new comercial development in Mtn. View. We can discuss the merits of the development strategies MV and PA have each taken over the years, but your implication that MV funded these activities in lieu of applying money to other services that the city could provide is not factually valid.

You and I have had exchanges in prior posts around the need to find more from our current revenue streams to pay for infrastructure needs, with the implication that certain other cuts may be needed from services which currently are offered in Palo Alto. I stand by what I have said in that regard in prior postings, and what I said above is completely consistent with my earlier remarks.

What I describe as the consequences of Propostion 13 you choose to interpret as me blaming it for Palo Alto's fiscal woes. I did not say that, nor do I believe it. The reasons for the City of Palo Alto being in its current fiscal state stem from a variety of factors, too many to enumerate here, and Proposition 13 is a part of it.

I do contend that Proposition 13 has effected what built out communities chose to do with funds they have generated, there is a 30 year history of choices officials up and down the State have made in light of the Propostion 13 decision. I do think it was bad policy, and I do think that many officials made choices over the last 30 years that are presently putting many cities in the same place as Palo Alto, with a worn out infrastructure that needs major overhaul, and options for addressing it which are largely unpleasant.

Re-read my earlier post, and tell me if I have it wrong that we have a serious infrastructure problem that needs to be paid for somehow. I don't mind debating some of these issues with you Chris, and we often share a point of view around some of these matters. I prefer to have such discussions around what I actually say, and try to explore what we need to do to effectively address the challenges we face. Understanding why we are here should help inform what we do next, but don't mix up observation and interpretation with taking responsible actions going forward.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 12, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Paul and Bern,

Is there anywhere that I can look at a straight-forward Palo
Alto budget on the Internet?

I am looking for something like the following:

1. Total incoming monies
2. Total number of employees, in defined pay slots and actual responsiblities
3. Current and projected retirement costs for past and current employees
4. Capital projects and costs
5. Infrastructure projects and costs
6. Social programs and costs
7. So-called hidden costs, like commitments to back up loans by non-profits.

I don't think I am asking for much, here, just basic facts. All of this information could be contained on a few type-written pages (probably less than that). Maybe it exists, and I am just missing it.

I don't think we can have a rational discussion about the budget issues, unless we have a clear idea of current and future budgets.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2007 at 4:36 pm

What has been the trend in city expenditures since 13 passed?
I talked to one city staffer the day after 13 passed, and she said "Well if that is the way they feel we'll get them somewhere else."
Subsequent legislation to hold the rate of growth of budgets has essentially been blown off. Civil service, from lower but steadier income has risen to the heights where few private jobs approach the benefits.
Trim their sails and pay attention to the structure.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 12, 2007 at 5:32 pm

John,

I agree with you, and I as a citizen have had a conversation with the City Auditor along these lines. I encourage you to do the same, we need to get the sorts of answers that your questions raise. If enough of us express an interest in gaining the sort of understanding you are seeking, I hope that Council and the Auditor could come up with information that can help achieve that understanding.

I think such information could be important as voters try to learn more about the prospective bond votes that loom ahead.


Posted by Bern Beecham, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 12, 2007 at 5:44 pm

The budget is online at Web Link

Keep in mind that it's a $140 million budget and is a bit thick. But what you're looking for is in it.

For additional analysis of the budget, look at our Comprehensive Annual Finance Report at:
Web Link

Bern


Posted by Chris, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 12, 2007 at 5:46 pm

Paul is right that he and I share some concerns and agree on much of the general way to approach Palo Alto's budget issues. That's why I was surprised to see his post on Proposition 13 above.

Sorry Paul, but I don't see any other way to interpret your original post than as attributing much of Palo Alto's fiscal problem to Prop 13.

Want proof? You say,

"Municipalities and school districts in California have been largely on a "pay as you go" budget process as a consequence of Proposition 13. The prior practice of putting funds into rainy day and lock box reserves to cover unexpected emergency needs and to upgrade and replace infrastructures as they reached the end of their useful lives also went away when Proposition 13 passed. ....With nearly 30 years elapsed since Propostion 13 passed, is it any surprise that many infrastructure requirements are now presenting themselves? Built out communities have done relatively little since 1978 around infrastructure, and we should not be surprised that a great deal of it is worn out and obsolete."

It's hard to read that in a way that doesnt' blame Prop 13 (or the way that "leaders" have reacted to Prop 13, which is the same thing), for Palo Alto's failure to deal responsibly with infrastructure and and other budget issues.

The fact is that Palo Alto's budget (and revenues) of about $130 million has grown substantially since 1978 in real terms, and in terms spending per capita. The number of city employees has skyrocketed over the same period, while population has grown only modestly. This is the root of the problem.

Proposition 13 has NOTHING to do with the failure of Palo Alto to manage its infrastructure needs and budget responsibly, and bringing it into the discussion is a red-herring. Maybe the city establishment can get by with blaming Proposition 13 for the fact that our infrastructure is falling apart, but my guess is that people won't be distracted by this kind of spurious argument.

No doubt, Paul, that you are right in your second post that we have major infrastructure needs, the funding of which needs to be discussed. However, this much needed discussion is not furthered by know-nothing reductionism about Proposition 13, which is why I am disappointed to see you engage in it.


Posted by PA senior, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Citizen and Fred,

Now here's something I'm sure we can all agree on. Citizen and I were selectively censored. Fred, your comment was deleted completely, and no mention in the thread that it ever existed.

OK, It's Jay Thorwaldson's paper, and he has the right to do whatever he wants, but the selective censorship puts the remaining text way out of context.

What are the standards for censorship? Well, off-subject and ad-hominum attacks don't seem to be. Lest they would have censored your thinly veiled wish that I die.

Citizen and Fred, please print this quick. I'll bet it will be gone by morning.

Citizen, If you don't see my handle again, rest assured you didn't get your wish. They are just blocking my IP address.


Posted by Chris, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 12, 2007 at 6:18 pm

I might also comment on Paul's misleading statement about Mountain View's infrastructure needs. It is true that Mountain View generated revenues by courting big box retailers, and by selling excess city assets.

They could have spent this revenue on anything - including silly stuff like $6 million unused bicycle tunnels like Palo Alto did, or hiring more staff like Palo Alto does, or hiring consultants to grease the raise for the City Manager like Palo Alto does. THey could have spent on all kinds of crazy stuff ...they have vocal constituents too...but they didn't.

The fact is that Mountain View, acting responsibly CHOSE to spend some of their revenues on infrastructure. Palo Alto, with more revenue than Mountain View even including the big box and asset sales, CHOSE to spend its money on other stuff. And so Mountain View has good streets and a spiffy new library. We don't. It's not because of Prop 13, and it's not because Mountain View has some secret revenue stream that they can dedicate to infrastructure while poor Palo Alto has to get by on $130 million+ per year. It's because Mt. View's leaders made choices that Palo ALto's leaders were unwilling or unable to make. And choices have consequences.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 12, 2007 at 10:15 pm

Chris, I know little about MV's spending, but I know a fair amount about budgets in general, and what you say rings true - cities (and more specifically, our elected officials) choose where money gets spent and those choices lead to pretty different outcomes. Palo Alto is a rich town by almost any standard, in income and assets, but does not seem to spend its money wisely.

This thread reminds of the time Bush Sr. described our country (note: the richest nation the world has ever known) as having "more will than wallet" (his first inaugural address) - when in fact, we in Palo Alto, in my opinion, have FAR more wallet than we have will.

Fred

PS: PA Senior, thanks for pointing out that my post was expunged without a trace - I was thinking I must have never hit the submit button!

PPS: Prop 13 and its inequities are another excellent topic, don't get me wrong!


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 13, 2007 at 10:37 am

At least I had the presence of mind to recognize that my commenting on Proposition 13 and its consequences would foment some strong opinions. I think it points out why so many officials dare to tread in talking about it.

Chris, as I have experienced in other exchanges you and I have had, there is more common ground than difference of opinion between us on a great deal being discussed here. It may take a few backs and forths before that starts to become clear, I certainly feel that is the case since this thread got started.

--there is no excuse for bone-headed spending decisions, ever. It makes no difference if the coffers are flush or tight. The will -vs- wallet comment is quite appropriate, as when funds are around it is easier to choose to do things that under tighter financial conditions would not make the cut.

--Officials over the years here in Palo Alto behaved in a manner very similar to what elected officials all over the State have done since Proposition 13. I am not excusing it, but I do think it points out something has been going on that has led to many local governments all over California facing the same sort of situation that Palo Alto faces. I do believe that Proposition 13 caused a great deal of local government decision making and local voter choice making on what they were prepared to pay for get subsumed at the state level. That is the type of impact I perceive it having in Palo Alto.

Having said that, I also believe that more than most cities, we are in a position to get back more of local control and decision making. To that end, we are indeed less impacted by Prop 13 than are other cities, but the structural mumbo jumbo that Prop 13 created for cities, school districts, the counties and state are not entirely avoidable even here, and some decisions and choices end up on the table that would not otherwise have to be made.

--I am a strong believer in local government, local control, the less that trickles up to the State and Federal level, the better as far as I am concerned. I feel Prop 13 took a great deal of that away from cities and school districts all over the state, and if Palo Alto can make some progress toward getting more local control back, at least here, I say hurrah. That's what I would like to work toward.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 13, 2007 at 11:06 am

Paul,

I am just now starting to go theough the Palo Alto budget (thnaks to Bern for directing me to it). It is not quite the straight-forward thing I am looking for, but there is a fair amount of information there to sift through.

If one looks through projected budgets for the next couple of years, it shows that we should be getting roughly a 4% annual increase in revenues, yet we will get about an 8% increase in expenditures. There is a huge increase in funds committed to various "green" things related to global warming.

I don't see much in the way of state funds coming to Palo Alto. Why do you say that we have lost local control, Paul? We have the local power to live within our means, but we decide not to.


Posted by Chris, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 13, 2007 at 12:04 pm

It is unclear to me how Proposition 13 may have made local governments or voters in municipal elections suddenly turn massively stupid.

Proposition 13 or no, Palo Alto has been awash in money since passage of Proposition 13. Budgets have grown steadily in real terms, and in per capita spending since 1978 and before. We've hired legions of new employees since Prop 13 passed, as another poster, "pat", on this board documents with figures from time to time. Now we're paying through the nose for their pensions and health care - something entirely predictable at the time they were hired.

We've spent money on all sorts of frills, as have been described in post after post on this board. But we've not put aside money to keep our infrastructure up to date - even though as John points out, we have PLENTY of money to do so even while maintaining a relatively lavish level of spending on services.

I respect Paul a lot. He's willing to think hard about these issues, he comes up with good analysis most of the time, and he's one of the few here who will engage in reasoned debate on issues affecting our city over the long run. I just think he's gone astray here in all this talk about Proposition 13 and local control. Those issues are nothing but distraction. They have nothing to do with why Palo Alto's infrastructure is crumbling.

Palo Alto has almost $140 million per year to spend that the state has absolutely no say over. That's roughly double what typical cities our size spend yearly. There's something wrong with the political processes in town if, in these circumstances, we let our infrastructure crumble while we spend money on frills for vocal citizen groups and on the pet issues of the mayor.

I don't mean to be repetitive, but this is NOT a Proposition 13 problem, and it's not a local control problem. We have plenty of money available to us unfettered by outside control. Our issue is the political and fiscal discipline that's been lacking in successive city councils for a couple of decades. Pretending it's something other than what it is only will result in delay in finding a solution.






Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 13, 2007 at 12:29 pm

John,

Good for you to look at that document. It is very difficult to understand for most people, and I don't pretend to fully grasp it. You are right, very little of the revenues directly generating for Palo Alto are from State sources.

My point around Prop 13 is more of an indirect effect on Palo Alto, which actually is able to generate a good deal of income on its own. Not so for many other cities and school districts, schools especially. Perhaps I was not clear enough about that in my posting above.

I am not an expert here, but I have heard knowledgeable people comment that the way Prop 13 is written makes it very difficult for local communities to decide how they wish to manage their local affairs. It has in effect "rewarded" new development and greenfields growth, and here locally helps explain, for example, why a developer has more incentive to build housing on a property that previously was a hotel. Prop 13 is quite rigid, so trying to make it worthwhile to keep a hotel or a retail shopping area from becoming housing is very difficult to accomplish. There are others who are better able to cite other specific examples around this idea, but off the top of my head, that is one that I recall. I hope it illustrates the point about indirect impact.

Don't get me wrong, there were some very valid reasons that gave rise to Prop 13, some of the "objectives" it was designed to meet were appropriate--we don't want government at any level to over-reach. I do think, just like our infrastructure, some of the "structure" of Prop 13 also is showing some wear. The good news is that we are less saddled with it in PA than many other places, but there still are aspects of it that affect our local options, and I would prefer that we did not have to deal with them.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 13, 2007 at 2:05 pm

Paul,

Prop 13: I was here in Palo Alto when I voted for it. I was canvassed by the teachers union to vote "no". They said that teachers salaries should be linked directly to residential home appeciation. I told them "no", I will vote "yes". Happily, I got crossed off their lists!

Prop 13 protects ALL property owners, including the new ones. Recent buyers understand that they will pay more than their older neighbers, but they also understand that they will be protected from runaway government taxation going forward. BTW, the rates are the same for all residential owners - it is the assessed valuation that is controlled by Prop 13.

Palo Alto has decided to spend beyond its means. It wants to support insupportable things like a branch library system, save-the-earth crusades, etc. That is NOT the fault of Prop 13.

Is fiscal responsibility one the pillars you would consider to be important, Paul? If so, please name a major, specific, cut you would make in the current/proposed budget.


Posted by Chris, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 13, 2007 at 2:22 pm

Proposition 13 does not prevent Palo Alto from spending some of the generous revenue it has to repair our infrastructure.

I do not understand at all what Paul is talking about when he says things like, "Prop 13 is quite rigid, so trying to make it worthwhile to keep a hotel or a retail shopping area from becoming housing is very difficult to accomplish." I doubt that it is true: both East Palo Alto and Menlo Park have managed to build new luxury hotels while Palo Alto loses the ones it has - due not to Prop 13, but to the dilatory political processes in town.

But as I have been saying, whether Proposition 13 prevents Palo Alto from keeping its hotels or not, Palo Alto is awash in revenue, which has increased substantially since the passage of Prop 13.

The problem is that no matter how much revenue Palo Alto has, it can't seem to control its appetite for current spending over infrastructure investment. Until this political defect is cured, no amount of further increases in revenue will solve our problems.

We could easily cure our infrastructure defects by cutting spending on current services by 10% and dedicating the resulting revenues to infrastructure. This would still leave us with spending on services far in excess of any neighboring city.

This would take will that the current council does not have.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 13, 2007 at 8:06 pm

I think there is generally a shared opinion that Palo Alto generates revenues which are not directly affected by Prop 13, and there is generally a shared opinion that those revenues generated may be able to be applied more for infrastructure purposes than they are right now. Some progress has been made with the budget that just passed, with $3 million more going toward infrastructure in the coming year.

I own my house here and I also have a rental property in San Fraqncisco that I lived in when I first got married, so I fully understand the benefits we property owners gets from Prop 13. Part of the reason I keep the rental property is because if I flipped it and used the proceeds to buy other properties in California, I would have a new property tax bill that would require generating incremental rental income of nearly $2000/month just to cover the higher property taxes on the newly purchased properties. I get that.

Here is my simple premise: there were some valid objectives and reasons for Proposition 13 coming about, and if we look at those valid objectives today, and where things are 30 years out from when Prop 13 passed, I think we would find that the way it works no longer is the best way to keep taxes under control and to evolve and run local cities and schools. That has a little bit to do with Palo Alto's budget situation, but it is much more significant in other parts of the state than it is here.

I have had plenty to say elsewhere about the current state of affairs around the Palo Alto financial situation, and I have teed up some suggestions in prior posts about how to handle things such as the structure of employee benefits.

Right now, my opinion is the closer we can get to a clear and reasonable set of numbers that help us understand how we are doing and where we spend compared to similar cities, the easier is will be for the entire community to be able to specifically evaluate whether our spending priorities are where they should be and what we need to decide around our infrastructure challenges. That particular opinion of mine is more important than any specific line item in this year's budget. The more of us working to gain that sort of transparent understanding the better, let other opinions emerge from that analysis and information.


Posted by 14k/yr, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 13, 2007 at 9:55 pm

I am disturbed by the Carlsteads' post. After declaring (without supporting argument) that the utilities increase is excessive, the Carlsteads demand a price break because they are seniors living on Social Security. Furthermore, if they don't get their senior discounts, angry hoards of riled up seniors will vote down bond issues for libraries and public safety. Amazing! Wasn't Prop 13 enough for these people? On top of that deal, they are part of a generation that is getting never -to-be-repeated baragains on Medicare, Social Security, and incomes taxes. Sorry Carlsteads, I'll save my sympathy for the homeless, not seniors with over a million dollars in home equity. Is it my fault that you never saved a penny and are forced to live solely on Social Security? Of course, you may have engendered a little sympathy from me if you had managed pay the school parcel tax at least once in the past 7 years. Palo Alto is an expensive city to live in. What makes you so deserving of special utility breaks over and above those already granted to low income households? If I loose my ability to work, I have to sell my house and move. You can always move, like most seniors around the country do when confronted with a high cost of living. How about getting a job?

As for the ongoing Prop 13 discussion, I note that the effects of Prop 13 on the schools has not been touched upon. School funding has been slashed since Prop 13 took effect. Schools, unlike the city of Palo Alto are almost entirely dependent on property taxes. It never ceases to amaze me how poorly equipped Palo Alto schools are compared to comparably wealth townships on the east coast.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2007 at 9:53 am

Try to find a public budget cut. It will almost always be in fire or police, to punish the public for failure to pony up more. You never hear about cuts in travel budgets or Sister City funding or perks. Even then, rather than a cut it is just a failure to grow fast enough. That is why cities need to have the scope of their authority strictly limited.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2007 at 11:09 am

While I don't often agree with Walter, I think he has a point here.

When a school budget is under pressure, we always hear about all the teachers/computers that will go. I don't blame the Super/Board - they are selling their budget, maybe not in total candor, but they are doing what they think is right.

Occasionally you get the rare leading individual who just wants to do right, and will watch the nickels very carefully and accomplish what others said couldn't fiscally be done. But that is not the norm.

Some limit in dollars or authority is necessary.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2007 at 11:13 am

On the topic of PA schools vs. wealthy school districts back east - having lived in a high ranking district in the east a few years ago, I can say that I don't think PA is that far off. The elementary schools are a little poorer but the high schools seem every bit as well endowed. There are places likes Scarsdale that are off anyone's chart, but compared to "normal wealthy districts" I would say we are right in there, and the results also seem quite comparable.

My two cents,
Fred


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 15, 2007 at 6:41 am

"Right now, my opinion is the closer we can get to a clear and reasonable set of numbers that help us understand how we are doing and where we spend compared to similar cities, the easier is will be for the entire community to be able to specifically evaluate whether our spending priorities are where they should be and what we need to decide around our infrastructure challenges. That particular opinion of mine is more important than any specific line item in this year's budget."

Paul, I think that statement from you exemplifies the problem. You don't want to identify line items to be cut. You just want to look at the larger picture and create a model. Models do not create deficits, but line items do (e.g. Yoriko's new $150k staff position to green the earth). Unless you begin talking about line items,you are just blowing smoke.

Prop 13 exists because there are too many people, like yourself, who refuse to make specific line item cuts. They always hide behind models.


Posted by Mary Carlstead, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 15, 2007 at 6:58 am

I did not post the original thread on this topic. It was copied by someone else from the Duveneck/St. Francis website where 'neighbors' and friends' engage in civil dialogue and discourse without attacking one another and then hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.

I will not reply to these posts in anyway.


Posted by Pam, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2007 at 10:32 am

John is right. We don't need more numbers to know we spend too much on cotton candy and not enough on substantive nourishment in our city. We need people in elected positions who can make decisions and say 'no' when appropriate. T

he new environmental coordinator staff person John mentions is a case in point. It is ridiculous for Palo Alto to be engaging in expensive feel good grandstanding on global issues like climate change when the city's infrastructure is falling apart, we have homeless chasing away customers from downtown businesses, and the crime rate continues a worrisome rise.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 15, 2007 at 10:45 am

Ms Carlstead-- Are you saying that you did not write the original thread in this topic? That post is exactly the same as a letter that was printed in this wednesday's PA Weekly:

Web Link

So what is going on? is someone posting/publishing letters in your name without your knowledge?
I hardly think that criticism of your writing or the points raised therein is to be construed as an "attack".


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