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Library and Police Bond

Original post made by SW, Midtown, on Mar 6, 2007

I am curious how the City Council plans to convince the community to pass a $95 million bond for the library and police station. It seems that the survey says that more people support funding the library than the police station. But a $50 million bond for the library failed a couple of years ago. So I can't see how you can get a community who wasn't willing to support a $50 million bond to support a $95 million dollar bond, especially when the increased costs are attributable to a community project that isn't as popular.

I am afraid the Council is going to lump the two projects together, because the police station won't pass on its own. I think if they do that, the bond will fail and we will again have gotten nowhere toward improving the dilapidated Mitchell Park Library.

Comments (63)

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Posted by Library Supporter
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 6, 2007 at 10:59 pm

I agree with you. Perhaps they will also tack on another $40MM for a high speed fiber project which was popular 5 years ago. Given the reputation of the fiber company, it might be another 10 years before that project is completed. Also, check out the comps, a $50MM library and community center is far in excess of similar projects that have been done in the area. All I can say is the physical plant is in deplorable condition in this town and yet everyone wants to focus on the new, new thing. How about fixing and maintaining what we have before approving any new bond issues?


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Posted by Bond fatigue
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 7, 2007 at 12:20 am

I have lived in Palo Alto for 17 years and i have bond and parcel tax fatigue. Someday, someone will have to tally all the bond initiatives that we've had between the city, the county and the school district (not to mention statewide ones)... It won't stop. Everybody who lives and owns a home in this town is not a Google millionaire.

Personally, I don't see why the police need a new NINETY FIVE (95) MILLION DOLLAR building. The price tag is ridiculous. They have a perfectly fine building in downtown. It all seems like pork for local builders and perks for a few police staff, not something that we as a city actually NEED.

I am a bit more sympathetic to the plight of the outdated library, but, come on, no one will make me believe that we need to spend FIFTY (50) MILLION DOLLARS to improve, upgrade, enlarge the Mitchell Park Library. Once again it is a ridiculously high amount of money.

Finally a word about schools: about 12 years ago we passed a large bond measure to upgrade and renovate the local school buildingsit's been with in disbelief that I have read comments, the last couple of years, about the bad shape of our schools, that they need to be "torn down" and rebuilt. Wait a minute: we just finished renovating them. Count on me to vote NO on any new bond measure to rebuild the schools (and yes, I still have a child in the school district).


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Posted by A neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2007 at 3:29 am

I too am suffering from bond/parcel tax fatigue and will vote against this enormously bloated and expensive bond measure. Yes, they will bundle them together because that's the only way they will get money for a new Police Building. Our present Police Building must be rebuilt because it does not comply with earthquake building standards, and fails many other mandated code requirements. If we don't build a new Police Building soon, the State could start fining us.

I think the answer to financing these hugely expensive projects is to sell off surplus land like Ester Clarke Park - does anyone ever visit Ester Clark Park? Mountain View failed to pass a bond measure for their new library, so they got creative and sold off surplus land. Unfortunately, Palo Alto passed an initiative which prevents Council from authorizing the sale of any land. Sometimes, we just shoot ourselves in the foot!!!!

The consultants have recommended delaying the vote for a new library/Police Building for another year to give the City time to educate the voters!!! If Council follows this recommendation expect the School District to step in and put their proprosed rebuilding bond measure on the ballot first. This will suck the air out of any bond measure for a new library/police building.




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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 7, 2007 at 5:14 am

This "poll" should be a wake-up call for all those connected with the City planning, from
the City Council to the Blue Ribbon committees to the City Mgr. and from the 7th floor at City Hall to the basement. This broad band fiasco may be the 'straw' - and residents are waking up. After the Enron debacle, the deteriorating streets, and Utililties Department personnel mess, and the 'priorities' of this Council, is there any wonder that residents are starting to suffer from 'civic fatigue'. THIS council is rapidly gaining a no confidence vote. Maybe there should be a recall at the next election. Happened once before. Yes indeed, bond and parcel tax fatigue.


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Posted by aw
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2007 at 9:06 am

I completely sympathize with Bond Fatigue and others, who are tired of the annual Staff / Council / Community bond-funded enthusiasms. Storm drains, libraries, Police, water storage, schools, etc. Never telling us what expense is coming due next.

The El Camino Park water tank is classic Council behavior. Disaster water storage is probably a really, really good thing to have. But I don't remember Council debating and directing the Utility Department to develop an overall disaster recovery plan. Perhaps we have published policy goals dictating service restoral for water / electricity / gas / sewage / roads, but that didn't seem to be the premise of Monday's vote.

All that said, Palo Alto is at a crossroads. It's up to all of us to decide what kind of community we want to live in and leave behind. Most of us moved here for the amenities: tree-lined streets, schools, libraries, parks, community center, golf course, airport, etc. Moving forward we can abandon (and even sell off) our community amenities and build private fortresses. Or we can resolve to restore the past leadership in building for the community. It's doable for a community like ours: there's probably $750M of work to get back to where we were in 1980. It doesn't help to wish construction and land were cheaper. Right now we seem paralyzed because everything is so urgent that nothing qualifies as the right first step. We're all justifiably suspicious.

Let's break through the paralysis with a clear community vision for the next 15 years and just get started!


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Posted by ToldUSo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2007 at 9:24 am

If Palo Alto residents spent all their sales tax dollars in Palo Alto rather than neighboring towns, we would generate a huge amount of revenue. Instead of getting fancy stores into Stanford which very few of us will shop in, the council should be getting the type of retail base that will be useful to the average Palo Altan so that we will shop here. Only then can we get a Shop Palo Alto campaign to be realistic.

If we can get this sales tax maybe we won't need all these bond measures.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 7, 2007 at 9:42 am

to A Neighbor,
I think you'll find selling off Esther Clark Park will not happen as I'm fairly sure it is a lake bottom and can't be built on for earthquake reasons. Also, it was likely given to the city with the provision that it remain open space. Can't we keep some open space around here?

On a different note, it does appear Palo Alto has to do everything in the costliest fashion possible (including myriads of consultants). I was one of those citizens (600 of us?) surveyed regarding the possible bond vote and my response was lukewarm. I need to see a lot of justification for such an expensive police station, though I do strongly support library improvements.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2007 at 9:50 am

ToldUSo and aw both are right: there is plenty of money in Palo Alto to restore us to the level of municipal excellence we enjoyed a couple of decades ago. In fact, looking only at the level of revenue per resident we have now - even after the recent declines, we have much more than neighboring cities like Mt. View and Sunnyvale, which aren't having our problems building libraries and maintaining infrastructure.

The problem is that spending is out of control, due primarily to employee costs, which the city has done virtually nothing about. In fact recent labor contracts have exacerbated an already bad problem by heaping more generous pension and benefits on our city workers. And despite recent paltry efforts to keep the rising number of workers down, we still have many more employees than similar neighboring cities to do the same work.

If you want to know where the money to repair the streets, maintain the library infrastructure and put our utilities underground like most forward looking cities is, the answer is simple: it's being spent by current employees to pad their retirement accounts and by past employees in secure retirement in places like Florida (where they don't have an income tax).

Due to the nature of labor laws, it will be impossible to retrieve much of this unwarranted largess to city workers. But there are ways to insure that we don't compound the problem.

It's not necessary to have city workers do the things they're currently doing - often very inefficiently. Many cities have had great success in cost savings by outsourcing work to more cost-efficient private firms. If we did this, we could, via layoffs, rid ourselves both of current employee expenses and the future pension overhang.

We'd have a fight with the Union were we to do this, but given what's at stake, it might be worth it.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2007 at 12:19 pm

Why not consider these projects investments, nased on the benefit they bring, instead of focusing on them as costs that will burden you. I haven't seen one person on this thread accurately describe the financial load that a median household in Palo Alto would assume with passage of these bonds, and then compare that to the financial benefit that these projects will bring.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2007 at 12:50 pm

A cost/benefit analysis of the bond projects, as Mike suggests, might be a good idea - but not in a vacuum, isolated from other expenditures of the city. The paradigm that is apparently meant to be inferred from the nature of the bond proposal (and Mike's suggestion) is that the rest of the budget is untouchable and reasonable - so if we want to do "more" like Libraries and Police Station we have to have burden ourselves with this giant bond issue.

Other cities manage to build libraries, and otherwise keep their infrastructure in shape out of general revenues by means of funds and the like. We should too.

There's no reason we should accept from our "leaders" the idea that they can give away our tax money to employee perks and spend it on untouchable programs or on studies of Fiber to the Home - and then tell us that anything else - including things other cities pay for out of ongoing city revenues - is "extra".

Yes, let's have a cost benefit analysis of city spending - but let's include everything, not just the bond issue items. (This is one of the benefits of zero-based budgeting proposals made by previous City COuncil member Hillary Freeman among others. Naturally this never got anywhere. The city pooh-bahs would rather deal with grand ideas like global warming than all that kind of boring green eyeshade stuff.


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Posted by Bond fatigue
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 7, 2007 at 12:52 pm


Mike,

You don't seem to realize that some of us just don't have an income that keeps us with the increase in taxes incurred from the new bonds and parcel taxes... and this regardless of any assumed "return on investment" you might come up with...




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Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 7, 2007 at 12:54 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Juliet
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2007 at 1:01 pm

Mike's idea has been expressed by a Library Commissioner. Hard to document it, so Mike why don't you do it.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2007 at 1:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2007 at 4:32 pm

Juliet, Thanks for the tip. I just looked at what the library commissioner wrote about this topic; I think it's pretty enlightened, and wish I had thought of it myself.

That said, and with respect, it's my contention that Chris' comments about doing a retroactive cost analysis of all city functions **as they currently stand, with no forward analysis of the future impact of their loss* would not serve the larger purposes of this community. In other words, what about a cost analysis that includes doing *without* the services and staff that some in Palo Alto think are overpriced? I wish I had the time for that, because my sense is that it would show is that we ARE getting our money's worth here.

About employee benefits: Tell me, why should we be in favor of stripping public employee's benefits to what they've become in the private sector. Public employees are OUR employees. Can we not treat them with the respect and security that we would (and should) expect in the private sector. We shuold be able to do better than that here, of all places.

The private sector is misguided in its current actions regarding heath care; in fact, its shortsightedness is costing ALL of us a lot more in health care and benefit costs because it has nicely shifted the burden of same away from itself. That's pretty selfish. Do we want to contribute to that trend?

Yes, there are some in our comunity that are living on fixed incomes - more than one might ordinarily suppose in a place like Palo Alto. (about 15% of households subsist on less than $40K per annum). That should be something easily worked around, as I think the median assessment here is about $300K. Why not look to private money for supplementation in cases where certain citizens could show need? I'm sure there are other ideas that would float, and work, in reality.

Again, staying with the bond issues at hand, why doesn't someone who is complaining about cost in these threads make their arguments more sound, by balancing those arguments with benefits? We're simple not seeing that here. Instead we're hearing only one side of the argument.

We KNOW what the library, community center and police building will cost - - but have we heard about the fiscal benefits. If not, why not? How about refuting what has already been written about the benefits, amply shown by the Blue Ribbon C ommission, LAC, Parks and rec Commission, and others?


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2007 at 4:44 pm

You got it right, Chris! We need to see a COMPLETE budget review to find out where our money goes.

Someone posted the following on another blog, Grow or Die, at
Web Link
-------------
In the adopted $127.7M 2006/7 budget the top 5 expense categories are:
Police - 20%
Fire - 17%
Community Services - 15%
Administration - 12%
Public Works - 10%
--------------
Would you give Community Services more money than Public Works?

For a great article on libraries in the area, see
3 NEW ICONS OF COMMUNITY PRIDE
Libraries designed to reflect civic priorities in Belmont, Hercules and San Mateo

Web Link

John King, Chronicle Urban Design Writer, says, "Ultimately, the most satisfying library of the three is Belmont's -- the one with the most modest aims. It also has the smallest budget, $8.2 million. There's no pretension and no design pyrotechnics. The exterior is a refined contemporary box that is a snug single story, except where the roof snaps back to allow for high windows that show off the stand of mature oaks and a neighborhood park."


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2007 at 5:04 pm

Why _not_ give more to community services than public works? I would like to hear what underlies the assumption that this is a bad thing to do.

What about Palo Alto's public works programs is utter failure? I don't see it. SHouldn't public safety be priority number one? If not, why not?

Sure, there's the occasional complaint about small efficiencies, but public works does a fine job. The city has moved to outsource areas that make sense, like park maintenance.

John King's review of the Belmont Library notwithstanding, Palo Alto's library system serves a population more than _twice_ the size of Belmont, with a significantly larger service array. Library services can meann far more than a building that holds books; there is a larger, and FAR more beneficial serice benefit coming from our branch system to residents, who in TWO polls CLEARLY say they want the branch system to remain intact.

btw, King is a _design_ pundit, and doesn't know very much at all about the service or product delivery spectrum that reside within most of the structures he critiques; thus, the faulty logic of using his arguments in support of Palo Alto's library system.


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 7, 2007 at 5:09 pm

So Chris,

Give me example of inefficiently work done by city empolyees. Is it a crime to retire to a place that does not have income tax? I called Palo Alto HR today and they informed me that there are many jobs available including Police Officer. The city spend $10,000 on a billboard (on hwy 101) for Police Officers wanted and still could'nt get enough people to applied. Those who think that the city empolyees have it "to good", well there are jobs out there for you too. Could'nt pay me enough to be a cop.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 7, 2007 at 6:15 pm

Do we really need all these library branches? Why not have 2 (one north and one south) and make them REAL libraries instead of many littles ones that are runned down and with poor circulation? Close the rest down. Mountain View has ONE great library (and their resident population is about the same as ours.)

Yes, it would be nice to have your own library in your backyard, but at what cost?



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Posted by Chris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2007 at 6:59 pm

Pointing out inefficiencies in municipal work is like shooting fish in a barrel: easy, but tiresome and not much of a challenge. If you want a good local example, you might do a search on Utility Department on this site. If you do, you will find that a year or so ago, it was discovered that city workers had been doing private jobs in Menlo Park and other places on city time for two years before being caught by their lax supervisors. Maybe you missed that when you were calling Palo Alto HR.

You are quite right that for the most part, city workers are diligent and hard-working. The problem is not the individual workers; it's the rigid unionized bureaucratic system they must operate in. Private firms, not burdened by these bureaucratic rules and rigid pay scales have the flexibility to do most jobs more efficiently. That's why the private sector outperforms the public sector virtually every time doing similar jobs. It's not that they have better people; it's that they have a better system to work within. So stop attempting to imply that I'm criticizing employees as individuals - I'm not.

As for retirees living in Florida. Again the point was not to criticize retirees. Like anyone else, they look out for themselves and take a gift when it's offered - and we give our employees and retirees plenty. The point was to show that we're giving lavish benefits out of our taxes - benefits no one working in the private sector has - to have services performed that we could get at much lower cost if we had a different system. This is a lot of money that could be used to repair the streets and keep services up to the Palo Alto standards - not to mention build a library and police station without a bond, which afterall is the topic under discussion.




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Posted by Chris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2007 at 7:42 pm

Giving more money to Community Services than to public works might not be a bad idea in the abstract as Mike says. But when the city auditor says we're $28 million behind in street maintenance, when the city has to float a bond to refurbish sewers (something most cities do out of general revenues), and when the original 40 year plan to underground our utilities is stretched out to infinity, we're probably not spending enough on Public Works.


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 7, 2007 at 10:19 pm

Bottom line- the city empolyees have set up a better retirement system than the current SS system that most people will retire with. Good for them!! It's funny how no one care about this when the dot com boom was "flying high".
I have lived in this city for 26 years and we have to stop using the city empolyees' retirement and wages for our problems. We have chased away most of our tax base (Hyatt, auto dealerships), way underfunded our inferstructure (we do about this in the 80's). Look at the cities around us- Palo Alto has alot catching up to do and it is not going to do it by attacking the wages and retirement system of our empolyees.
PS: Chris, I did not forget about the few "bad apples" in the Utilities Dept doing illegal work outside the city, but even the private sector has their "bad apples" too. Plus why is this always mention- it's old news- checks and balances have been put in place to make sure it won't happen again. Let's move on.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2007 at 10:23 pm

In addition to sewers and streets, we're also behind on library, recreation and police infrastructure. So, does that mean we shuold roll over and call it quits, or roll up our sleeves and meet the forward challenges that our city will face. Frankly, given the chance, and more education about the benefits of infrastructure builds, most Palo Altans will vote to tax themselves.

btw, we may be behind on street maintenance, but the only complaints I hear about the streets are on this forum - not so about the police building or libraries.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of University South
on Mar 7, 2007 at 10:28 pm

Public works, particularly street maintenance and storm drains are a major issue.

While most streets are probably "good enough", try telling that to those of us who live on streets that flood in nearly any rainfall. My street has a 25 foot lake any time there is more than 0.1 inches of rainfall.

Upon lobbying the city to fix our street, we were met with a *very* competent, helpful, and sympathetic staffer in the storm drain department. They even had resources to do a site survey (two city engineers for a couple of days). After the survey? Nothing. Further inquiries found that the city "didn't have the money" for much needed repairs to streets that flood on a regular basis.

If you ask me, "Administration" and "Community Services" both get far too much compared to Public Works. If you consider Fire and Police to be reserved, this leaves Administration with 1/3rd of the discretionary funds. Does that make any sense? Where is 1/3rd of this money going that couldn't be spent directly on Public Works and even Community Services? Think about it for a minute - that's roughly 100 people costing $150k/year each (say 50k for expensive benefits and rent), that don't actually produce anything for the city but "administer" other programs. I say ax the failing administration and let them apply for jobs that actually do something for the citizens and taxpayers of Palo Alto.

While it may not affect 100% of Palo Alto homes, is it more important that we have a community basket weaving class for homeless, or that a good portion of our streets stop flooding every winter!


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 7, 2007 at 10:42 pm

You lost the last vote on a tax for a library. Odds are you'll lose this one too. People are tired of paying extra taxes for what other cities fund out of general tax revenue.

The fact that we're "behind" on libraries, recreation and police infrastructure doesn't mean we call it quits, but it might mean we start doing things differently than we have been. One way to do this might be to examine what we've been spending our money on. Salaries and benefits are a big part of this. We have more employees getting more money than our neighbors - who aren't "behind" on infrastructure. They should be on the table, along with the Community Services/Public Works spending ratio.

The "few" bad apples in the Utilities Department (if you think the 18 who were disciplined or fired is a "few") isn't the point. THe point is that they got away with their larceny for over two years because supervision was lacking. This isn't something you see often in the private sector where companies need to pay attention to economics in the way that city bureaucracies don't. And Anon is right about excessive administrative costs: You also wouldn't see "managers" with no one to manage as the City Auditor says we have in Palo Alto in the private sector. There's a whole body of literature on inefficient public sector services provision, Tim. I suggest you try to take a look at some of it.

None of this means there is anything wrong with most of the people who work for the city. They're hindered in any attempt to contribute to their fullest extent by a hide-bound and rigid bureaucracy that is out of place in the modern world. It's frustrating to those city employees who want to contribute more (I know, I've spoken to many of them), and it's wasting money that the city needs to spend on other things like infrastructure. We can, and should, do better. It's time to change the system.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2007 at 11:17 pm

There are only a relative few voices in Palo Alto that consistently call for "changing the system", and using that clarion call to deny improvement.

The real tragedy here is that in the far and recent past, minority voices have been given an inordinate amount of power, because they're able to lobby the few percent needed to vote against what the FAR majority of citizens will vote for, to improve their community. The 66.67% required for passage of revenue bonds and taxes make it easy for those who are consistent critics to take potshots, and throw FUD around sufficient to hold up progress and defeat positive change.

Palo Alto's citizens are going to be educated about infrastructure benefits, as well as what the naysayers in our community have cost them over the years. There is going to be an all out assault on naysaying in this community, with naysayers asked to prove their "cost" arguments against the "benefits" arguments that have already been proven.

The sad irony here is that we had a LOT of resistance to infrastructure improvements here when we could afford it, by many of the SAME people who today are complaining about how the city hasn't been doing its job.

The minority in our community has had its way too long. The library and police building will be built, and other infrastructure builds will be accomplished.

Palo Alto will become all its capable of being; we need to move beyond the sentiments of those who are thinking defense, which leads to defeat in the commercial and municipal realms.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 8, 2007 at 2:19 am

I don't measure greatness in a city by how much it spends on infrastructure, or on salary and benefits for its employees. I'm sure your side will do a lot of "educating" with tax money for polls and the like in attempt to prove the contrary however.

I always think of those who insist on doing things the old way, despite the clear and overwhelming evidence that it isn't working as the Naysayers in a community.

Good thing about votes: they always have a winner and a loser. I guess we'll see how this one goes. As I said before, my bet is that Palo Alto will vote down these boondoggles and be a winner thereby.


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Posted by momOfthree
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 8, 2007 at 10:06 am

Bundling libaray improvements with the new police headquarters is a bad idea. Supporters for one and not the other will not support the bond measure. Bond measures should not be packaged as a "bundle" of services.


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Posted by john
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 8, 2007 at 10:27 am

"Personally, I don't see why the police need a new building, they have a perfectly fine building downtown."

I just moved to Palo Alto about 2 years ago. I stopped by to file a report at the department and was actually given a tour. I recommend anyone who has not done so, ask for one and you will see why the police need a new building, or a whole lot more money to fix up what they have, which is really not feasible, because it seems they have outgrown it over the last 80 years, who would figure. The Police in every town are typically under appreciated. IF they don't do their job, they are scrutinized, when they do their job, they are scrutinzed. When they "ask" and "plead" for new resources, they are forced to have it approved by the city council and get a committee to present it to everyone which takes several years. I am surprised there are still officers who are happy to work in Palo Alto. I for one am appreciative and support whatever new equiptment and/or tools that they need to get their job done, because the town I used to live in was full of crime and violence. I think some of the residents here expect that rather than seeing it as a job well done.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2007 at 10:44 am

What's interesting about Chris' remarks is how they illustrate the intense dedication of a small, determined group of individuals to pull whatever it takes out of the hat of "no", and make it viable enough to use a structural defect in election law to keep their neighbors fro having what they want.

The truth is that if the last library vote hadn't been a revenue vote, and had instead simply been an electoral vote, it would have been considered a landslide by anyone's measure.

Chris talks about doing things the "old way", meaning "not his/her way". How much of Chris argument is "new", really? Think about it.

What's "new" about calling for outsourcing city services (with the concomitant boondoggles that usually follow when done on a large scale)? What's "new" about cutting municipal employee benefits to the bone? What's "new" about thinking about libraries as if they are 19th century relics, instead of the cultural institutions they are fast becoming? What's "new" about saying that our public safety officials don't need the proper facilities to house evidence? (20-1 (that's a bet), most of those complaining about the police structure have *never* taken a tour of that structure).

No, there's nothing new in those arguments; they're essentially coming from a libertarian fringe in our community that have heretofore been most determined. It's also a clever group, using distortion at the last minute to keep the fragile 3-4% margins on their side, and frustrate the large majority

The raw fact is that the polling shows there are some gaps to be filled if the bond is going to pass. Another raw fact is that local and regional infrastructure will continue to need updating. We'll either pass these bonds, or service levels will continue to decrease, with no one group happier about that than those who would bring necessary improvements to a halt with half-arguments. What's really ironic about this is that as sevice levels fall - just as in the recent past - it will be this *same* group that decries the inefficiencies of government. It's called the "tyranny of the minority", and will take leadership, guts, determination, and persistance to overcome, until our city gets what it needs, or until out state legislature wakes up and changes the rediculous notion that somehow a small minority of people should rule the majority at the polls.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2007 at 11:03 am

momofthree, it's not a given that a combined bond effort would fail here. Look at the polling data. Yes, there is currently a gap, but the pollster claimed that it's not a significant gap, and it could be made up if we take the reins, educate our citizens about the benefits (instead of simply focusing on cost) of this effort. That's what needs to be done, plain and simple. I trust our leadership will see it the same way.

When making a personal investment - for instance, as in a home - one often questions whether or not one can afford to make that investment. The majority of people opt to "take the chance" to risk in favor of a return gained at some later date. Our city's public safety, library, and recreation infrastructure _pay back_ financial and social benefits to our city, and its citizens.

How much is it worth to our city to have a public safety building that can properly store evidence, so that Palo Alto doesn't risk multi-million dollar lawsuits. This is only one reason why we must move forward as quickly as possible to get the job done.

The bond that has been suggested will _profit_ our city, and our citizenry. Don't listen to those who complain about every little thing, or nitpick our city's budget to death. Sure, there are things that need changing, but to hear the naysayers speak, one nwould think that Palo Alto is spinning down to a crash. The only way the latter will happen is if we keep listening to the naysayers, or passively sit around and let them make arguments that are designed to appeal to emotion, instead of common sense


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Posted by SW
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2007 at 11:22 am

I have to say that if the two projects are combined into one bond measure, I will vote no. If they are split apart, I will vote yes on the library. My family's budget is stretched thin with paying for housing costs, taxes, insurance, preschool, food, etc. Any money spent right now on increased taxes for the bonds will come out of what we can put aside for our children's future college costs. And as newer residents, our assessed value is high. So these bonds end up costing us significantly more than those who have been here for 30 years. So yes, I would like to see a new library and police station, but my family can't afford to support both right now.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2007 at 11:32 am

I think that combining the bonds will cost the police a new building. There are still many people who don't believe we need so many libraries and that we should be focusing our library dollars on Mitchell Park, Main and the Children's Libary. These benefit the majority of individuals. The other library sites could be used to house other programs, generate revenue, free up the Greendell site for the school district...


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 8, 2007 at 11:33 am

Isn't it interesting that a fringe group making bogus arguments and distorting the facts can fool enough voters in a city with the highest education level in California to steal an election? The cleverness of these fringe libertarians is even more impressive when you consider they spend almost nothing while the promoters of these measures - virtually the entire civic establishment - spend hundreds of thousands of dollars making the other side of the argument.

When your opponent complains that the election is rigged and uses semi ad-hominem attack instead of addressing the proposals themselves, you can be pretty sure he's on the defensive and that he doesn't really have much to offer in the way of logical support for his position.

If one reads this an other threads on related subjects in this forum, it can be seen clearly that a lot of people are asking rational questions about how the city spends our money. They're asking why we're always asked to tax ourselves more to get what other cities seem to be able to fund out of general revenues, even though we already spend much more per resident than they do. Last time I looked, the libertarian registration was around 1 or 2 percent in Palo Alto. Strange that all of them seem to be hovering on this board ganging up on the few representatives of the rational majority.

We may need to upgrade our library system and we may need some new police facilities - though one can ask reasonably ask whether $40 million and $50 million are too much for these items. We certainly need a lot of street repair - just ask the City Auditor. But until there's some accountability for the hundreds of millions of dollars that flow through city coffers annually, we shouldn't be quick to hand over more money to them no matter how much they say the "need" it.


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2007 at 11:59 am

Chris,

Where do you shop when you come off the hill? I know I spend most of my earnings outside the city these days. Why is that? Putting empolyees wages aside, why don't we have more in our general fund like other cities? Could it be that a Home Depot, Target, Cost-co, Auto dealerships, new supermarkets, Best Buy have something to do with it?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2007 at 12:00 pm

It would indeed be interesting to do a content analysis of Palo Alto Online threads. There, one would find the same small group asking for our city to stop growing; telling our citizens that public service employees get paid too much; insisting that PAUSD is too kind to teaching staff; that Palo Alto is being ruined by unions; that our streets are in pathetic condition; that the City Manager is the devil incarnate; that City Council members don't know what they're doing; that Palo Alto is going to hell in a handbasket; that we have too many people; and so on. It's a kind of whiney, musty argument for keeping things the way they are, and a grudingly poor strategy for moving forward.

What will these folks say if the police station isn't buuilt and we're sued (as we certainly will be) by some plaintiff or defendant in a case where evidence could not properly be handled, or preserves. Of course, this group will blame it on "police inefficiencies". They'll ask for the Police Chief's job, and so on.

What will this group say when seniors in our future can't get too the library, because their naysaying has led to the eventual death of the branches? What we'll hear is more about how our city's leaders haven't considered our senior citizens; that they haven't planned well enough, and so on.

Folks, this is Palo Alto's ownn "Cath 22" contingent. Every city has one. If our city has had a flaw, it's that we'bve given this group too much power, tried to appease them with rational argument, and generally waited for their faulty logic to get a lead while we stood by and watched because we thought reason would win over negativity and obfuscation.

Those days are over.


What we _don't_ hear from this relatively small (and vocal, especially at City Council meetings) are solutions that serve anything but their discrete ends. We _never_ hear about the _benefits_ of anything they suggest _except_ how much money it will save.

There you have it folks, the _cost_ argument MINUS (disingenuously so) the arguments for _benefits_.

Mark my words, the next time there's a problem with park maintenance, now that PA is outsourcing that services, the naysaying crowd will be the first to challenge the city's process for hiring outsourcers.

Again, look at how in vote after vote, with well over 60% of our populace wanting to make improvements, som small contingent of those who say "no" have managed to carry the day.

That simply isn't going to be permitted any more. There is simply no way to appease this small group of naysayers, most of whom seem to find a way to criticize our city, no matter what the outcome, or proposal.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Tim, exactly right! You won't see Chris arguing for big box retail in Palo Alto. This is another feature of the no growth contingent; the same contingent that is hyper-critical of anything that will CHANGE our city in a way that permits us to move forward.

I have not seen Chris, or anyone supporting Chris' position, speak to how the plans that they prffer would BENEFIT the city (withint the TOTAL spectrum of social and fiscal benefit) more than the bonds that they oppose. And, we WON'T see that, because this is a group that simply wants to _stop_ things, and wish the past would return.

Palo Alto is going to stop being the hobby horse for a few, small vocal individuals who, in reality, don't want Palo Alto to change.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 8, 2007 at 12:12 pm

Tim,

I'm in complete agreement with that we need to be more open to the kind of revenue-generating businesses that other cities have been able to attract. We do need more revenue. But I think if you'll check, you'll see that even after the recent revenue declines, we still have much more to spend per resident than neighboring cities. And these cities seem to be doing a better job of controlling costs and the numbers of employees while still providing a high level of service to their residents. I think that's why you see arguments for finding other ways of providing services here in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 8, 2007 at 12:27 pm

Gosh, I guess I forgot to check in with Libertarian Cabal Headquarters before my last post. I didn't know I was supposed to be against Big Box Stores.

The notion that there's some minority of libertarian kooks controlling things in Palo Alto is perhaps the strangest conspiracy I've seen - even on the Internet. But I guess if you live long enough you see everything.

The argument that the city needs to be run efficiently isn't, with all due respect, a negative one. If one reads the posts on this issue, it's clear what's been argued for is saving money through efficiency to free up funds for libraries, a police station if it's needed, and the documented infrastructure deficits. That's a very positive agenda, and it's unfair as well as disingenuous to attack people who are trying to improve our city by tarring them as naysayers. It is in fact the people who insist on doing things the same way we always have who are resistant to change. We need to consider changing the way we do things in this city. There are a lot of ideas that don't come from the usual suspects (thanks in part to this forum) and we need to discuss them I think.

But let me see if I can get in touch with my superiors at Ayn Rand Central before I say so for sure.


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Posted by mn
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 8, 2007 at 12:31 pm

I'm not sure how I would vote on a bundled bond issue, but if they were separate I know I would vote yes on the police building and no on the library plan. I've never been surveyed, but I disagree strongly with so many small branch libraries.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2007 at 1:32 pm

Chris wants to argue that citizens in other communities have it better. Perhaps he should list how much better the services ARE in those ocmmunities. Whjile he's s/he's at it, perhaps Chris can explain why Palo Alto isi still the preferred destination on the Peninsula. Our great service array, publc schools, and essentially good municipal management have LOT to do with that.

What say you, Chris? Can you please show us how services in other cities are delivered more efficiently, to FAR higher satisfaction values, con a consistent basis, as in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2007 at 1:45 pm

Chris, no one is being tarred and feathered. Rather, something that has been going on here for far too long - namely, the threatened control of the many, by the few - with the resultant effects of our comunity having to make one after another compromise in optimal efficiency to placate the small minority who seem to be confortable with a city that continues to seek sustainability.

One very easy example - among many. The same folks who are arguing now against the library bond (never mind the public saftety bond), are many of the same individuals who argued (successfully) a few years ago against the library bond, and defeated it. So, what has resulted from this visionary defeat? A collection that is in tatters, a library staff stretched to the max, an insufficientcy of services to serve teens and seniors - all this in spite of heroic efforts by our city to keep a proud and heralded library system functioning.

So here we now have the same naysayers, who were responsible for the defeat of the library bond some years ago, telling us that the city "just doesn't do its job". It's the same old, same old - an old saw that gives the naysaying crowd a perfect "Catch 22" argument that most people, until recently, have failed to see through.

We saw what happened with the last PAUSD effort - roughly 80% FOR improvement. THAT's what we're going to accomplish in our city around these infrastructure issues, as one by one, with a lot of hard work, we are going to point out the RESULTS of what has happened in the past as we've listened to naysayers, and others who will find any excuse to ask citizens for their fair share in keeping Palo Alto one of the great places to live and work.

This will not be an easy task, because the naysaying arguments are usually partial arguments, or so broad as to be meaningless; they are often couched in terms that are meant to attack hard-working people, or make the City Council look like it's somehow copsiratorial in maintaining the fancied inefficiencies that the naysayers invent with consistent ease. The appeals are usually made last minute, in distorted mailings, or as half-baked arguments that NEVER address the consequences of noting down needed infrastructure and other imporvments.

This time it's going to be different.


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Posted by More Bonds Please
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2007 at 1:47 pm

It's doable for a community like ours: there's probably $750M of work to get back to where we were in 1980.

I wonder why we have the necessity for so many bond measures now. Perhaps it has something to do with other taxation legislation. Interesting timeline here - I wonder what else happened shortly before 1980...


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2007 at 1:58 pm

Yeah, Prop 13, and most communities are now coming to grips with the ultimate reality of THAT bad legislation. There could have been a middle way, but now Clifornia is suffering.

I've spoken with several high-ranking municipal officials in the last year - in quite a few surrounding communities. Many are near retirement, and are happy for that because they say with the current gridlock at the state level, with durther insensitivities of the state to municipalities, that our California municipalities are fast approaching a place where they are going to struggle for sustainability.

What we're suffering from is the short-sighted greed of those who wanted to "protect what's mine". Now we're paying the piper.

Our current crisis is not about municipal inefficiencies; it's mostly about our lack of visino and ability to compel innovation that's executable. We're fast coming to a place where the latter will occur. That said, it WON'T occur at all if we listen to naysayers who want to strip the heart out of community to satisfy some vague notion that cutting things is the way to invest in the future.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 8, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Can we stop with the "crafty libertarians trick the voters" argument?

Newsflash: There is no libertarian minority controlling the process here in Palo Alto. And no one "placates" the libertarians by giving into their greedy demands.

Here's what happened: We had some elections on bond issues. The side that spent the most money still lost. Those who have a problem with that don't have a problem with free market Savaronolas. They have a problem with democracy.

The voters were responsible for the defeat of the bond issues - not some mind controlling minority of anti-government zealots.

Proposition 13, like it or not, was passed by 2/3 of voters. Libertarian greedy guts casting hypnotic spells again I suppose.

Maybe if you had some respect for the voters, instead of demeaning them as pawns who can be persuaded by "partial" and "meaningless" arguments, you'd win more elections.

As it is, you insult not only those who try to improve the city by pointing out places it could do better, but every voter in the city who you cast as incapable of listening to the arguments on both sides of an issue and making an intelligent decision. For shame.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Chris, Thanks for making my point. :)

You've taken the libertarian mantra - what started as a simple metaphorical reference - and exploded it into a mytho-reality that suits your purposes. In fact, what has happened here is that a SMALL part of the MINORITY that has defeated past bonds has used the tactical advantage it has - 66.67% is an extraordinarily difficult benchmark to achieve in ANY election, much less a revenue-seeking election - and used it to their advantage.

Prop 13 happened - I'm over it. We'll learn to deal with its limitations, but one thing we're not going to put up with anymore is watching the slow deterioration of our community to appease what essentially amounts to less than 20% of the voters here (many of whom could be turned around if someone helped them understand what their "no" votes have - and will cost - them, and the city.

You're making the same kind of emotional appeal that your side has used in the past. In fact, it would be great if the tiny, most fanatical, part of the "no voting" minority that you represent - the core group of about 100 Palo Altans - did suggest improvements. That isn't the case.

Instead, what we've seen from that persistent "no on everything" core group are "plans" so radical that they lose consideration immediately, on their face. Instead, we hear about how "poor" Palo Alto is making its residents, when in fact it's those who cause delay of necessary investment and development who make us poor, and then (ironically) use the resultant effects of what can be labeled as nothing more than the obfuscation of progress and innovation to blame the victim. It's been going on here for about 15 years, but it's going to stop. Palo Altans are catching on. they want more than "poor-mouthing". Palo Alto didn't become what it is from poor-mouthing. We became what we are as a result of entrepreneurs saying "we can do this!". We need to transmit that kind ofo passion into our policy making; it's starting to happen.

We're going to deconstruct the efforts of the intransigent opposition, and use it against that opposition. The fight has just begun.

Some will say, "please don't say that, because we want to include as many on the minority side as possible, to get over the 66.67% hump". Well, that hasn't worked in the past. What DID work is what happened during the last PAUSD revenue effort. We'll work even harder on this, because we have the numbers, and the determination to keep the persistent naysaying minority in its place.


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Posted by Bond fatigue
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 8, 2007 at 11:30 pm


Mike,

What you don't realize is that many of us used to vote FOR bond measures. For example I voted for the school bond measure of over $100 million about 12 years ago.

The district then spent the next ten years or so renovating the schools. Now we are being told that the schools buildings are basically "tear-downs" and that we need to start all over again.

Wait a minute what was all the money we are paying for the B4E bonds for then? For naught?

My family can barely afford paying for all this and we no longer trust all those bond proposals. Sorry. As someone above said, such projects ought to be financed from the general funds of the city.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2007 at 12:17 am

Bond Fatigue, Believe me, I understand what you're going through. I know some seniors here who struggle with fixed incomes, and others who don't have large disposable incomes. We need to find ways to help those who can't aford to pay more. I have suggested that private contributions and other fiscal relief might help those who share yuor plight.

About PAUSD: remember, PAUSD's physical plant is quite large, and had been ignored for a VERY long time prior to B4E. Now some of that infrastructure is showing problems that can't be prepared. It costs money to run a world class school system. Also, keep in mind that yuor property values are in no small way tied to the success of PAUSD - like it or not (I'm not sure this is a healthy thing for our kids, often under too much pressure to achieve academically)

Also, I understand that not everyone is going to agree as to what the benefits of these infrastructure builds are, and even if they did, will simply not vote for their money to be spent on the proposes projects. I'm not saying that ALL of the people who vote against bands are naysayers. I've been very careful _not_ to say that.

What troubles me is the very few people - relatively speaking - who have been very involved in creating negativity around process - including very clever use of the media and other venues to spread messages that are highly skewed and timed as to do the most damage to the majority.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2007 at 4:46 pm

Chris, thanks for your post challenging the "crafty libertarians trick the voters" argument. I was just about to write my own response, but I couldn't have said it better.

Mike, while accusing the "minority naysayers" of emotional appeals, you might want to consider a bit more logic and reason in your own posts. You are missing well-made points by others. There are more than a "few" residents who think our city government could be more fiscally responsible.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2007 at 11:11 pm

Pat, I would love to hear what underlie your assumptions as to what comprises "fiscal responsiblity". Please do opine.


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Posted by Trenchant Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2007 at 8:28 am

Mike,

When I read this and related threads, I see a majority of the posters objecting to the endless succession of bond measures put to Palo Alto citizens. Not a small majority of evil genius libertarians as you accuse. In fact, on this thread, you yourself appear to be in the minority who are bent on swaying public opinion against the aim of the majority, which is to not have our money wasted. But thanks for taking the time to tell us what we really want and need--we weren't sure until you showed up.

As to your claim that this forum is the only place where you can hear Palo Alto citizens complaining about the streets, I suggest you remove your City Council brand earplugs.

And now I must beam myself back to the Global Libertarian Center for Worldwide Mind Control. And Mike, you can now return the Association for Endless Public Spending and Union Coddling.


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Posted by Juliet
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2007 at 11:00 am

Mike said the only place he hears complaints about street conditions is on this forum. Maybe that's because he doesn't listen.
At a public discussion about the budget a couple of years ago someone asked the City Manager about street repair. The City Manager said that was the subject on which his office received the most complaints.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2007 at 1:04 pm

Trenchant, In fact, you're correct. I do represent a minority opinion on this board. That said, I do represent the _majority_- opinion in the community. I know, because I get around.

This board is most highly populated by those who represent the very vocal minorities (and a relatively small minority, at that) who are well-meaning, but have held up progress for our city with visions for our city's future than have come to harm our prospects for forward sustainability. That has to change.

This minority is made up of a lot of smart people, but smart people sometimes get things wrong, especially when they're faced with change. Smart people can be more tenacious than others when faced with change, because they have more resources at their disposal to hold things up.

It's no secret that forums like this one are usually places that permit those who have a penchant for follwing issues closely, and who hold local politics as one of their personal hobbies - if not outright passions - to congregate.

The _vast_ majority of Palo Altans don't participate in this forum, or read it. That said, some policy makers and staffers do. Why should anyone who sees what has happened to our city as a result of being held hostange to a very small minority of ardent naysayers (it's usually the same core of 100-200 people, no matter the initiative) have their assumptions go unchallenged?

I, for one, have seen enough of this. So, I've decided to take some time and answer their claims, and ask them to please help me understand their assumptions.

So, far,, all I've heard is how poorly our city is run; or how greedy developers are; or how City Council doesn't know anything, and on, and on.

Unfortunately, the _vast_ majority of Palo Altans are too busy living their lives to pay attention to municipal issues. This is a problem, especially here, because in the past we had such a surfeit of good fortune we could afford to make strategic blunders and get away with them. We all took the good times for granted. No more.

So, those few who take the time to read this forum will now have an opportunity to see a view that contervails the consistent naysayer crowd; those who have cost our city plenty as they held up progress in the past, and now (ironically) dispparage policy makers and city staffers for the problems that the naysaying crowd itself had a large hand in bringing about.

Our recent past good fortune enabled our policy makers to listen to every opinion, and try to include everyone. The problem was that "everyone" was mostly represented by those vocal minorities who came to City Hall on Monday evenings and made the loudest claims for their positions. Many of those people (not all) are the ones who mostly populate this forum.

It's uncomfortable to have one's assumptions challenged, especially when one's assumptions have been able to garner some power in the past. It's uncomfortable to lose power, and be compelled to compromise. We're all going to have to learn compromise, instead of banging our fist on the podium and having our way. We're all going to have to consider new ideas that create win-win. We're all going to have to learn to work with people who we disagree with.

Sooner or later we'll manage to do that better than we have in the past. We'll be a better community for it.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Juliet, did the City Manager say how many complaints he has received about the streets? Why shuold we assume that the number was absolutely high, even if it was relatively high compared to other compalints.

Have you seen our city auditor's reports? The citizens here are pretty happy with the way public services works in our city.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Mike and Juliet, I've seen the city auditor's reports. She says we are $28 million behind on street repairs.

Check it out: Web Link

When you're having an argument, it's sometimes nice to know the facts you're arguing about.

Regards, Dave


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Posted by curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2007 at 1:56 pm

In many businesses, when a new project comes up it gets prioritized against existing projects, and if it is more important, then the less important projects would lose some of their funding.

Let's assume that the public safety & library upgrade is of higher importance than something else the city is doing - then those other functions should lose some of their funding to help pay for these more important projects. Now if those other functions are really important, then the citizens could vote for a "bond" to restore those functions that were defunded...

With that logic, would people rather fund

- Public Art or Public Safety Building/Library Upgrades
- Children's Theatre or Public Safety Building/Library Upgrades
- Art center or Public Safety Building/Library Upgrades
- Historical building preservation or ...

Another example is if the Police Department needs more space, how about relocation of some other city function to free up space? For example, why not move the downtown library to the Roth building and use the Downtown Library for additional space for the Police Department?

Or how about moving the City Council Chambers to the Art center or Roth building and using the additional space for the police department?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2007 at 3:08 pm

Dave, I'm well aware of the $28M reference to street repair. Have you considered that street repair doesn't have to be done all at once, and that it can be partially deferred? How many complaints have we seen about streets in Palo Alto? I use our roads every day; they're no better or worse than any other surronding city.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Curious, why are you assuming that city oprations have to result in a zero sum game, so that some service, or some segment of the population loses something? Your assumption is simply not a given. Certainly, it's not a gicen in the private sector - in fact, for most private sector companies that are doing well, just the opposite happens.

IN fact, that part of the private sector that thrives often finds ways to _expand_ revenue-generating opportunity so that it can grow, and further insulate itself from future shocks. The private sector is also very good at establishing partnerships in ways that compelement strengths and weaknesses.

One thng the most successful of private sector firms _don't_ do is cut away the things that define their essense (brand), or lose sight of their most important functions.

Municipalities are charged first with keeping people safe, and then providing opportunity. That's what the bond will accomplish.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 10, 2007 at 3:20 pm

An earlier comment was that PA is still a premiere destination on the Peninsula - I agree, but I don't think it has anything to do with our superior services, I think many of our services are far inferior to our neighbors.

PA is a destination for business because of its great to have PA on your letterhead, Stanford is here, VC's are here, we have great restaurants to walk to at lunch, etc.

PA is a destination for families because our schools are great. Our schools are great because we have caring parents, great staff and the money to fund them. We have the money because our real estate is expensive therefore we have a real estate base to pay for our schools.

PA is not a destination for our services, we have a antiquated library system spread all over town (but a wonderful library staff), old community centers, one pool, old playground equipment at many of our parks, not enough fields for our kids, etc. We make it very difficult for businesses to get started. We make it very difficult for builders to work here (ask any contractor about dealing with inspections and the ever changing interpretation of the rules in PA.) We do have street sweepers on a regular basis though!


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 10, 2007 at 3:42 pm

PA Mom,

As a Parks and Recreation Commissioner, I am curious which playgrounds in town fit your description of old. There has been a complete replacement of playground equipment over the last several years, so I am curious to know which of the "many parks" in your opinion have old equipment.


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Posted by curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2007 at 4:21 pm

Mike,

Until the citizens & council are willing to make the compromises necessary to increase revenue, it is a zero sum game.

If some of these other services are high enough priority, then let citizens decide if they are willing to float a bond necessary to fund those activities. Private companies prioritize all the time; those that don't a good job of prioritizing will fail over the long term. The council ought to at least debate the issue, and they should have made it part of their "bond" polling.



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Posted by Arthur Dindle
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2007 at 7:08 pm

I just read through this over-long thread. Mike has a lot of posts criticizing people who disagree with him as less than completely forthright, saying that they distort, use half truths, craft "emotional" arguments, and are otherwise less than truthful or factual.

Does he adhere to these standards himself? He says that Juliette is wrong or exaggerating when she says people are upset about the condition of streets. He cites the city auditor as his source, implying that the Auditor supports his claim that residents aren't upset about streets.

The auditors report (cited by Dave above) does no such thing! The auditors first sentence is, "Palo Alto has a $28.7 million backlog in street repair, and less than half of residents rate street
maintenance good or excellent." This directly contradicts what Mike claims.

Then, even after Dave has pointed out the auditor's report, Mike compounds his hypocrisy, indicating there's really no problem with the backlog because the repair can be taken care of on a 'deferred' basis.

Once again, let's go to the Auditor's Report: "The annual street maintenance budget is inadequate to both address the backlog and stay current with recommended preventive maintenance. The backlog is extensive." There's no planned rational deferral going on in Palo Alto. We're letting the streets deteriorate because we're not spending enough money on them and according to the auditor, we're doing so little maintenance, the problem is getting worse, not better.

I know the anonymity of these boards allow people to be more free-wheeling than they would in person, but sheesh, I've never seen such brazenness.

If you ask people to play straight with the facts, seems you have at least a little obligation to do so yourself.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 11, 2007 at 10:38 am

In the year since the Auditor's Street Report came out, nothing has been done to address the situation described therein. Streets, like most infrastructure, deteriorate more rapidly if they're not properly maintained. No doubt then that the deferred maintenance backlog is larger than it was a year ago - larger than the $28.7 million the auditor says it was then. Additionally, if the maintenance isn't done in a timely fashion, repair and replacement of streets becomes MUCH more expensive. This is only part of the financial time bomb the city is sitting on.

The $3 million the council is trying to "save" this year (or to extract in the form of more taxes from the business community) was initially (apparently) intended partly to be used to begin addressing the street problem. But there are already calls from some members to use if for other "more urgent" purposes instead.

Is there any doubt that whether we pass the police and library bond issues or not, that in a few years - when the street problems become a crisis that's too big to ignore - the city will be telling us we need a "Street Infrastructure Bond" to address the problem?


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