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Tough Choices for Whom

Original post made by stephen levy on Jan 11, 2012

City councils in Palo Alto and across the state are beginning to face yet another tough budget year with revenues recovering, but slowly, and retirement costs increasing despite recent success in Palo Alto and elsewhere in addressing salary and benefit costs. And Palo Alto will also face decisions this year on the recommendations of the infrastructure commission.

So it could be a year of making tough choices but tough choices for
whom?

Town Square is full of pleas for the Palo Alto council and residents to make "tough choices" but their pleas need a plain English translation because they don't mean what "tough choices" means to me. Here is my translation

Making tough choices

Translation: Please cut programs I don't like. This call often occurs in cases as the recent infrastructure commission report that raises the possibility of asking voters to fund new infrastructure projects. What "make tough choices" rarely if ever means on Town Square is make choices that are tough for the poster.

Do away with "niche programs" of "flavor of the day" spending

Translation: Please cut programs I don't like. This call often occurs in cases as the recent infrastructure commission report that raises the possibility of asking voters to fund new infrastructure projects. Note that these programs have been approved by the Council or by a majority of voters and are never programs favored by the posters themselves.

We have to prioritize

Translation: Please cut programs I don't like. This call often occurs in cases as the recent infrastructure commission report that raises the possibility of asking voters to fund new infrastructure projects. Despite the fact that virtually all posters on the infrastructure threads favor public safety and infrastructure as their top priorities, not one offered to pay for their top priority. Rather they asked offers to sacrifice rather than actually pay for what they said was important to them. That seems "convenient" to me and hardly a tough choice for the posters.

We must live within our means

Translation: If the city needs to spend more, please cut programs I don't like to make money available. Living within our means makes sense for individuals (most of the time) but for public agencies these same residents can choose to cut private spending to make room for more public spending. This may not be the preference of posters as is their right, but it is "living within our means". And it brings forth the true meaning of setting priorities and making tough choices.

To me a tough choice is one that has implications for me. So I would favor some reduction in Social Security and Medicare benefits or the growth of benefits for individuals with above average incomes.
In Palo Alto tough choices means that I favor paying my share of additional taxes for additional spending that I favor. Making tough choices does not, for me, mean asking someone else to pay but not me.

Question for readers

What tough choices do you favor in Palo Alto or the nation that are actually tough for you?

Comments (30)

Posted by Matt, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 11, 2012 at 10:18 am

"What tough choices do you favor in Palo Alto or the *nation* that are actually tough for you?"

Nationally - create jobs programs, which get folks paying taxes both federally and locally, increases revenues in the only sustainable way that can balance the budget, like we had in the 90's.

Jobs created on a large scale allow the local economies to recover.

Austerity is not the answer - growth solves most of the problems.

Is being pro-jobs a tough choice? Yes, it must be. Just look at all the wackos that prefer austerity and cutting crucial services!


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Set long-standing priorities of governance: Public safetey, then infrastructure. Apply the tax dollars to that end, with no exceptions. Anything beyond that is a non-essential choice. Apply the remaining dollars, if any, to the non-essentials. Such an approach would be a horribly tough choice for our city council, or Steve Levy, to make. Of course, they can make their case to increase taxes to pay for the boutique projects, but that would not change the prioities.

Steve Levy wants to raise taxes (his and yours!). Nothing surprising about that.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Here's some tough choices I would make.

Have one (plus children's library) located in either Main or Mitchell Park with one selection of materials and fewer librarians as a whole, but sensible opening hours.

Have large one stop supermarkets and big box stores in Palo Alto, say at Charleston/San Antonio, to reap the tax dollars Palo Altans spend out of town.

Charge rent to AT&T for using poles/trees city buildings, for cell towers.

Leave Cal Ave alone, apart from any necessary road resurfacing.

Make all city parking lots free for 2 hours then have pay per hour machines in all lots - garages and surface parking. Make all street parking in downtown metered and continue into a couple of blocks north and south of University Avenue and Cal Ave. Residents can have exemption stickers for 2 cars per address.

Stop funding PACT and similar free programs, charge a nominal amount and more for non-residents.

Charge for the shuttle and improve it to serve all parts of town to get kids to high and middle schools.

I think that is all that comes to mind straight away.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Jan 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.


The challenge was "What tough choices do you favor in Palo Alto or the nation that are actually tough for you?" meaning causing some pain or sacrifice to yourself. I may be missing something but the choices posed by resident and Jeff come close to the usual Town Square definition of tough choice as "do not spend money on programs I don't like"

So name some choices that would reflect sacrifice on your part.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I happen to like PACT and outdoor art. I would hate to see them go, but I am willing to sacrfice them, IF we have straightforward priorites (public safetey and infrastructure). I also like libraries, but we have too many of them.

Now back at you, Steve: What current programs would you diminish or eliminate in Palo Alto? I am not asking you which taxes you want to raise, I am asking about a particular program/service that you currently like, but would be willing to cut, in order to rebuild our infrastructure.

This should be interesting!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Stephen

I would imagine that someone in your position has a good personal retirement and health plan, so the "tough for me" items you list probably are not going to be very tough for you. touche.

I love the idea of free public transport, of free after school childcare, of free libraries just a short walk away, of nice public amenities in nice parks, free parking, etc. but they are luxuries we can't afford.

I think that rather than what is tough for me, it is what can the city afford and giving various freebies is a bad start. I would hate to see for example, sales tax increased, and then still see all the freebies handed around. I think as an economist (which you are and I am not) it is very easy to start looking at big numbers with long names, and forget that spending v income is often at the more obvious level where change can be easily made.

It is not just what is tough for me, but it is what is tough for Palo Alto as a city. There are many things which we can't afford to do any more. San Jose is talking about reducing library costs by replacing some librarians with volunteers - this is not just a Palo Alto issue. But, what is tough is for politicians to upset a group with political clout by saying "no".

Let's just get Palo Alto to say, "no more freebies, sorry we can't afford them" today and see if that makes a difference in our bottom line tomorrow.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 11, 2012 at 7:42 pm

> What programs would you cut?

Virtually no one in the City can answer this question, since the City's budget does not provide a clear listing of services, programs and costs.

What is needed is a listing, published yearly, that identifies the major programs, or services, that identifies the following:

Program/Service Name
Responsible Manager
Budget Section Identifier
Program/Service Expenditures
Program/Service Revenues
Estimated Number of Service/Program clients
Number of Employee Hours Providing Program/Service
Estimated Percentage Non-Residents Utilizing Program/Service.

And so on.

With such a listing, we all could begin to see exactly where the money goes, and how much cutting (or increasing) given services would have on the budget.

We (the residents) have asked for such a list, year after year .. but the City Manager, and the City Council, have simply turned a blind eye to these requests. This failure on the part of the City Manager and Council would make these kinds of questions much easier to answer, and exhibits another of the many reasons that this is not a well-managed City government.


Posted by Easy choices, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm

"Tough" choice: roll back the tax cuts. Let's start taxing as we did in the 90s, and all of the sudden the country and the state will do much better.

Alternatively, raise taxes on really high income. Same result with little pain.

And spare me the "job creators will flee" BS.


Posted by Easy choices, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Note that if we eliminate the Bush tax cuts, I'll pay more taxes.

Oh another one: get rid of the social security tax holiday. Here too it will cost me money, but we need to balance the budget and shrink the deficit.


Posted by Midtown Guy, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2012 at 9:06 am

Cut refuse pickup to once every two weeks and lower our growing
utility bill. Most of us have reduced waste.

Cut Saturday mail delivery and stop raising stamp costs.

Quadruple dog licensing fees, increase animal services, and encourage fewer dogs, of which we are going to have more numbers than children. Dogs pollute (barking, feces) and are generally abandoned by ownersduring working hours, barking neurotically from abandonment.

Look to Mountain View governance for tips. MV has excellent infrastructure, sound planning, a performing arts center, new libraries and fire stations, excellent public safety, and good revenue streams.

Put more foot patrolmen on downtown University Avenue, where
cars park in crosswalks while drivers pick up lattes, and alcohol-fueled visitors engage in very edgy behaviour that excites some
("vibrant downtown!") and leads to violence for others.


Posted by Matt, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 12, 2012 at 10:03 am

Point of clarification: "Oh another one: get rid of the social security tax holiday. Here too it will cost me money, but we need to balance the budget and shrink the deficit."

Social Security has never added a dime to the deficit.

Otherwise agree - 1990's tax levels, spending levels. Cut the areas Bush grew the government spending back, or pay for them with new taxes beyond the 90's rates (Medicare part D, DoD spending, etc...)

One place to borrow like crazy? ALWAYS borrow to create jobs during a severe recession or depression! You can't get out of bad times with austerity.

Return the economy to the roaring 1990's and cut during good times, like Clinton did - he cut everything, from the Pentagon through the EPA, etc..

A strong jobs program is the true Trickle Down; Bush's tax cuts for the rich destroyed jobs during his terms - he had the worst job creation record of any president since Hoover. JOBS created trickle down to every local economy!


Posted by Charlie, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 12, 2012 at 10:47 am

At some point, our property taxex can only afford to pay for the city expenses. All programs/functions will require to pay in cash by the residents.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 12, 2012 at 11:21 am

Steve has teed up a good question, and I believe it calls for a more upstream question.

It is more philosophical and conceptual, and one I have raised in the past.

What is the character of Palo Alto?

This town is not a standard suburban, bedroom community.

May I suggest to posters on Steve's blog that you think about what sort of personity of Palo Alto in which you wish to live.

This is a unique and great town, an there are some others elsewhere in the States, but not many.

Before we get into Steve's question, we need to ask ourselves what we want to be in Palo Alto, and how we define ourselves.


Posted by Try-Living-Within-Your-Means, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm

> Before we get into Steve's question, we need to ask ourselves what
> we want to be in Palo Alto, and how we define ourselves.

That has already been done, over the past 120 years, or so. The process was "organic", "planned", unplanned, quick, and slow. As it turned out, there was no official "defining" process, in place, over all of those years, however. For better or worse, we define ourselves via: "the Palo Alto Process".

As it turns out, most of the property in Palo Alto is privately owned, so the Paul Losches, and Steve Levy's and the "Historical Preservation" people and the cyclists (and the next special interest standing in line) can only force us into so much of their mold, no matter how much they may huff and puff, and threaten to "blow our houses down".

The "Historical" people tried their damnedest to make believe that Palo Alto was full of "historical value" that needed to be preserved. They tried to force this silliness down our collective throats. But as it were, the process allowed the electorate to have a say .. rather that just the oligarchy that has tried to run this town for the past few decades.

It's unfortunate that the current process is not better defined, and open to pubic review. But at least we are not the sheep that the Steve Levy's and his ilk would make us out to be.

But let's at least put one answer on the board: Palo Alto is a town that has not lived within its means for a long time. It has gotten carried up in the headiness of being a "social engineer", rather than an asset manager. It has lost its way, putting money into "amenities", rather than "necessaries", such as roads. It spends a lot of its money acting like a "noble host" to people who don't live here .. many of whom see Palo Alto as a "rich town" that they can milk for their own agendas.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 12, 2012 at 1:28 pm

" It has lost its way, putting money into "amenities", rather than "necessaries", such as roads."

Well said, Try-Living-Within-Your-Means. A perfect recent example is the "demand" for a bike bridge over 101 that has to be "aesthetically pleasing" --in other words money is no object.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm

"May I suggest to posters on Steve's blog that you think about what sort of personity of Palo Alto in which you wish to live."

Paul, well, of course...that is what this discussion is all about. I assume most people would put public safety and infrastructure as the top priorities. However, for decades our council has not done so...it spent on the frills, at the expesne of infrastructure. I never recall being asked to vote on the following question: Would you, as a PA citizen, be willing to allow our infrasgtructure and public safety go into decline, so that PA can have a unique personality?"

The way it's done, Paul, is that infrastrucutre funds are simply spent on the frills then, when the streets start going to hell, there is a hue and cry about bad streets. The same people who caused the problem are the ones who then claim that we need to raise taxes in order to fix the streets. I am sure you understand the model, Paul, because you have an IQ above 100. Steve Levy fully understands the model, but he is one of the guilty parties that support it.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Steven, I have to disagree with several of your statements:

1." … choices by resident and Jeff come close to the usual Town Square definition of tough choice as 'do not spend money on programs I don't like'"

I think Jeff put it well and succinctly: "Set long-standing priorities of governance: Public safetey, then infrastructure. Apply the tax dollars to that end, with no exceptions. Anything beyond that is a non-essential choice."

2. "Despite the fact that virtually all posters on the infrastructure threads favor public safety and infrastructure as their top priorities, not one offered to pay for their top priority."

I think we are all willing to pay for the top priorities. It's the nonessential stuff we don't want to fund. You say we should just give "additional taxes for additional spending." Why?

3. "… it brings forth the true meaning of setting priorities and making tough choices."

It's City Hall that doesn't know the true meaning of priorities.
When one goes through a wish list, it's a matter of weighing one thing vs. another. Do I want A OR B? Should I put money in my kids' college fund or take a world cruise?

Whether we're talking about money or time, alternatives exclude. But the city can't say NO to any special interest group. It wants A AND B – AND C AND ….

I, and many others, have been railing about priorities for YEARS. The city pays no attention. Can anyone show me a list of the cities PERMANENT ONGOING priorities that drive the budget?

The only priority lists we see change every year after the council's annual retreat, which produces such stuff as youth well-being and civic engagement. Every new mayor produces his/her top items, e.g., Yiaway Yeh's "explore the meaning of the city's swelling Asian population." What does any of that mean with respect to the essential business of running a city?

I'm not suggesting, nor do I think other posters are, that public safety and infrastructure are the ONLY priorities. Rather, they are the TOP priorities and should be fully funded before anything else. That would include putting aside money for upkeep, which has not been done for many years. Had it been, the IBRC would not have been needed because the city's inventory of roads, buildings, etc. would all be in great shape.

The city council should
- clearly articulate the real priorities that apply to all cities, public safety & infrastructure being at the top
- direct staff to budget to those priorities (fully fund them before funding anything else)
- cut non-essential services that cannot be funded, rather than ask for more money
- admit that we can't have it all.

This is simple and straightforward, but it requires real leadership and a willingness to face reality. In my 30 years in Palo Alto, I have never seen a council brave enough to do it.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Jan 13, 2012 at 9:49 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

I have a policy disagreement with the 15 or so posters who regularly complain about city, state and national public spending choices. I favor more public spending, expecially for investments in education and infrastructure. These posters generally favor less public spending compared to me.

Of course they are entitled to their opinions and voting privilege.

But this post is about language and I am teasing and calling out these posters about their shameless attempt to appropriate the language of fiscal responsbiulity to their causes.

When I vote to approve library or school bonds in Palo Alto I am both living within my means and making spending choices I can afford just as I am when we insulated our home. Of course I will have less to spend on other things but I am completely fiscally responsible.

If residents in Palo Alto, California and the nation want more public services and more public investment, these are fiscally responsible choices and choices we can afford as long as we make adjustments in the other parts of our spending.

What posters mean when they say "live within our means" and make choices "we can afford" is to do this by never raising taxes or reducing their private spending.

Of course, as other posters pointed out, when the nation cut taxes in the early Bush years, our "public means" changed. What was "within our public means at existing tax rates" in the Clinton years was no longer so after the so-called Bush tax cuts.

I and other posters can legitimately claim these were tax cuts "we could not afford" just as some claim now that we "cannot afford" infrastructure spending in Palo Alto without cutting other public spending.

As Paul Losch pointed out, this is really about what kind of city, state and country we want.

As long as we don't overspend our income, we are living within our means with whatever set of public and private spending choices we make.

The 15 or so posters who often poke fun at me are the ones who are living on an alternate planet.

Despite repeatedly being voted down by their fellow citizens in Palo Alto, they refuse to make the realistic choice they may be faced with over their top public priority--put up more money or go without your top priority in public safety and infrastructure. If your deepest wishes aren't going to come true you must choose among the actual choices.

Simply repeating a call for spending cuts not favored by your neighbors avoids making the tough choices these posters actually will face.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2012 at 10:31 am

Thank you for your thoughts Stephen, but for me, setting priorities and making tough choices begins with our city leaders and elected officials demonstrating some financial responsibility and foresight. For years they have neglected vital infrastructure needs, supported projects and services that are non-essential, and have the audacity to come back to the tax payers with their hands out asking for more. They basically have spent the household budget on a vacation, new car, and and an addition on the house, and are now asking for more money to pay the bills, fix the leaks, and patch the roof. It's not about liking or disliking a publicly funded project or service. It's about what is essential and what is not.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2012 at 10:46 am

One last thought on your reference to "we have to prioritize." I believe in your assumption that the majority of people do indeed set infrastructure and public safety as two of their top priorities. You then suggest that if that is the case, then why shouldn't someone want to pay for what they said was important to them. Real easy. As a tax payer, I would have expected our city leaders and elected officials to have worked within their budget, shown some financial responsibility, have a little foresight, and realize that if we keep spending on non-essential programs and services, we won't have any money left to pay for what is vital. With that said, I truly resent them coming back to us tax payers with their hands out again. What did they think was going to happen?

As for me, and as difficult as it would be personally, I would look at closing one or more library. I would shut down the animal services department and contract out to the county as other cities recently have. All park upgrades would be suspended. I would shelve proposed projects like the 101 bike bridge, electric vehicle charging stations, and golf course redesign, despite grant money that might be lost. It would still cost tax payers money that we can't afford to spend. Facelift improvements like the proposed work on California Avenue would be stopped. I would also examine whether or not public funds should be used to support programs like the Children's Theater, the Lucie Stern Zoo, and homeless outreach programs.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2012 at 11:11 am

"As long as we don't overspend our income, we are living within our means with whatever set of public and private spending choices we make."

Yes, Steve, and we can continue to live within our means if we cut some programs and redirect that money to infrstructure (which has been neglected for years). You say this approach is not a "realistic choice", thus demonstrating your bias towards ever increasing taxation along with a 'we can have it all' mentality. Put it to a vote, then we shall see what is realistic or not.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2012 at 11:25 am

I'm afraid that Stephen is somewhat guilty of wishing to hold everyone accountable, with the exception of our city leaders and elected officials whose irresponsible spending and lack of financial responsibility got us into this mess to begin with. If we keep approving tax measures, despite their irresponsibility and lack of foresight, they will always keep coming back for more. It's time for the public trough to run dry, then maybe they'll think twice in the future.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2012 at 11:35 am

Steven,

I'm not sure if you just don't understand my comments (as well as Marrol's and Jeff's) or if you're deliberately misinterpreting them to "prove" your point. I suspect a bit of the latter when you claim that "The 15 or so posters who often poke fun at me are the ones who are living on an alternate planet."

Disagreeing with you is not poking fun at you.

"I favor more public spending, expecially for investments in education and infrastructure. These posters generally favor less public spending compared to me."

So do I! It's the spending on non-essentials that's got to stop because we can't afford it.

"What posters mean when they say 'live within our means' and make choices 'we can afford' is to do this by never raising taxes or reducing their private spending."

Your interpretation is a big stretch. I'd be happy to pay more taxes IF I knew that the existing taxes I pay are not being wasted e.g., for the Children's Theatre/zoo/5 libraries -- or going into Karzai's Swiss bank account.

Living within "our" means and choices "we" can afford varies from person to person. Maybe you can afford to pay your mortgage, fund your kids' college funds, pay for medical insurance, put money in your 401K (because you don't have a public pension) AND take a trip to Europe. Many cannot. Maybe you can afford to pay more taxes for non-essential services that are not used by the majority. Many cannot.

I suggest you open your mind to other points of view and stop making assumptions about what people mean and what people can afford.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2012 at 11:53 am

Well stated Pat, I would love to continue to support our non-essential pursuits, even to the point of paying a measure of higher taxes, just so long as we take care of our vital needs first. I cannot fathom paying more taxes when so much of what we already allocate is being spent frivolously. Let's take care of our truly essential business, and if there's anything left over, then let's look at these other projects and services. Stabilize the budget and pay for essential needs FIRST.


Posted by Try-Living-Within-Your-Means, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm

> Of course, as other posters pointed out, when the nation cut taxes
> in the early Bush years, our "public means" changed

Not exactly. The government went right on spending, because it was taking money from future taxpayers by buying bonds from the finance community (or China, as the case may be). For those of us who use this term to describe our household finances, we mean when the ability to spend stops when our earnings have been consumed. Yes, some people do borrow beyond that point, with the possible outcome that they will have to go into bankruptcy at some point in the future.

The government shamelessly steals from future generations to placate current special interests, all too often. It is difficult for it to go bankrupt because it can print money(at the Federal Level, anyway) borrow and raise taxes.. State and Local governments can borrow, and raise taxes, also. However, going bankrupt, or putting those in jail who caused these problems .. unfortunately never seems to happen in the public sector..

> As Paul Losch pointed out, this is really about what kind of city, state and country we want.

Sure .. let's shift the focus of the conversation from "hard choices" to a walk in "La-La Land" where everyone has their own airport, and golf course, and a Library of Congress and a fire station and a police station and a hospital on every block (or two). And who will pay for it? Why—"the people who live in the big houses, of course!"

Talk about your "alternate universes" ..


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Stephen

I suppose I am one of the 15 or so posters you disagree with.

When my son comes to me and says he wants to play baseball, I look into the costs and decide if we as a family can afford it. I look at my son who has a deep passion for sport and realise that physical exercise is a good thing and also being part of a team, but that it will mean that I have to find the money from somewhere. I talk with my son and probably the other members of the family, some of whom may want to do other expensive pastimes, and we make some fiscal decisions. We decide that to pay for the baseball, we will have to cut out our weekly trips to the movies and perhaps also one of our weekly meals out at a restaurant. I ask the family if they are willing to sacrifice the movie and weekly meals out, but state that we will still be able to go on vacation, in return for playing baseball. The decision is made and we forfeit our movies and eating out. That is being financially responsible.

What would not be financially responsible is to tell my son, sure you can play baseball, I will put the charges on the credit card and ask my boss for a raise to pay for it.

If Palo Alto wants to make some expensive expenses, then we have to cut something out somewhere else. We are getting taxed to the hilt be it for library bonds, school bonds or improving a hospital in South San Jose, as Palo Alto residents. We do not have bottomless pockets and asking us to make sacrifices when the city is not making any sacrifices is beyond the pale. Let the city do some cost cutting on fluff and then perhaps you can ask us to do the same with our finances.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2012 at 12:36 pm

" … this is really about what kind of city, state and country we want."

Absolutely. The trick is to understand the difference between "want" and "can afford," which Resident so eloquently described.

I wonder if Stephen is aware that there's a family of 5 (3 young children) living on the streets of Palo Alto in a camper. Not everyone in the city is a millionaire.


Posted by bill g, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Mr. Levy seems unwilling to understand the points the (15?) posters are making. It is a difference between "wants" and "must haves". We "must have" a new Public Safety Building; we don't "need" a bike bridge.

Past City Councils has catered to the many different "want" communities and grossly neglected their responsibility of supplying the "must haves" for our City. Shame.

Although Mr Levy was on the IBRC, he doesn't seem to understand that the posters recognize what he is saying, but they do understand his position. It seems he suggests we keep doing as we've done in the past and fulfill everyone's "wants". Then tax residents if the "must haves" cannot be done because the well ran dry.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Jan 15, 2012 at 2:35 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I respect the choice for posters to disagree with my choices for public services in Palo Alto, the state and nation. I know that for most of the 10-15 (15 may be too high) regular posters that we do disa+gree. Of more relevance is that these posters also disagree with the majority of Palo Altans.

But my intent was to disagree about language and, in particular, the shameless attempt by posters to appropriate the language of fiscal responsbility to their cause and only their cause.

"Wamts and needs" is just a substitute for "essential services", nich programs and flavor of the day" in posters' disagreement with the choices of residents.

And the repeated charge that this is somehow the fault of "city leaders" rings as hollow. If elected officials consistently went against voters' wishes they could and would be defeated.

I believe that the posters disagreeing with me ARE trying to be fiscally responsble in their way just as I am fiscally responsible in my approach.

I don't have children living at home so don't use public services directed at children and families. Yet I support these services as did the generation that provided them for me and if I want something new such as additional infrastructure, I vote to pay my share as I and most residents did with the recent library and school bonds.

If I don't think the infrastructure investment is a good idea (as I did not for HSR) I vote no but I do not ask other residents to give up services to keep my tax bill down.

Some posters say "let's vote". I am ok with another vote on HSR if needed and would love to have a public vote on the Bush tax cuts, which seem to be unpopular with the public.

Perhaps the City Council will reduce some current spending to provide funds for infrastrcuture but I doubt they will do so starting with the posters' list of "essential services" since so far that list is supported by nameless negative residents who are always complaining that the majority of residents do not see their wisdom.

Wants, needs, essential services, and priorities are in the eyes of teh beholder. That is why we have council elections.

And fiscal responsbility can be acheived with lower OR higher taxes depending on the preferences of voters and elected officials for public services versus private consumption at any point in time and can change as circumstances change.






Posted by Jeff, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Steve Levy,

Let me cut to the chase. You think infrastructure and public safety are just two of many possible options for our city to fund. They are not governance priorities to you. You see them as a leverage tool to pay for for any flavor of the day that you support. I get it.

You were part of an infrastructure panel that listed underfunded infrastructure and public safety needs, and (surprise!) you want additional public funds to fund these needs. Yet, you refuse to support the notion that infrastructure and public safety are governance PRIORITIES! You are a tax-and-spender, Steve, nothing more.

If you think that Palo Alto will support additional taxes to pay for what should have already been paid for, then go ahead and put it on the ballot, since you feel so confident.


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