Fading borders | February 4, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - February 4, 2011

Fading borders

Lean times force Palo Alto to look for answers beyond city lines

by Gennady Sheyner

When the lavish, 26-room Barron Mansion went up in a blaze on Thanksgiving evening in 1936, firefighters from surrounding towns raced to unincorporated Barron Park to save the 80-year-old Victorian structure, which had just been converted into a school.

This story contains 1882 words.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.


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Posted by Concerned Neighbor in Healthy Community
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Step One in a decision to merge one city's services with another is to ask if each community is functioning reasonably well to begin with. Palo Alto's neighboring communties are indeed functioning well. But it does not take a brain surgeon to know Palo Alto is a disaster, in every area of city government, & it must be isolated.

While neighboring communities can be good neighbors with Palo Alto, helping out in emergencies, no City Managers should think of merging anything officially with Palo Alto, without first counting the great costs. It is just not worth it. Please - no mergers of reasonably healthy communities with Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by Downsize-Now!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2011 at 3:44 pm

The previous poster makes a number of assertions about the financial wellbeing of the surrounding cities (around Palo Alto), but does not provide much proof. Menlo Park just went through an election to decrease their pension multiplier from whatever it was to 2.0% (which will save the taxpayers millions downstream). Palo Alto was able to do the same thing at the Council level without an election. San Jose has recently become aware that it has a (perhaps) $2B unfunded pension liability, whereas Palo Alto does not seem to be in as bad a situation. As to the unfunded pension liabilities of the "sister" cities, there hasn't been as much discussion of this problem as in the larger cities. So, no one knows other than the finance people for each of the municipalities what their situation is.

So .. the claim that Palo Alto is "bad" and the rest are "good" needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Given that virtually every City has the same problem: seemingly out-of-control labor unions demanding ever high salaries, and benefits .. all of us are in the same boat ..

The issue on the table is: "how many redundancies exist across the regional governments that could be reduced by a merging of services, that would otherwise just increase in cost over the coming years without actually providing any increased value added to the taxpayers to justify the increase cost?"

For instance--how many IT departments does Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View need? Could one do the job? Same question for Human Resource departments, or park departments .. and so on. And the same question goes for public safety services.

What's needed is to put all of the budgets on the table, and project the costs forward twenty years; then, reorganize and do the same projection. The difference in costs becomes the reason for considering this sort of merger.

Just talking about it, or listening to people who are happy with their cushy jobs .. isn't going to get the necessary preparatory work done that is needed to be able to see if this sort of thing makes sense or not.

Time for the local City Managers to "step up" and get this process started.

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Posted by who cares
a resident of Triple El
on Feb 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Seems to me as the previous poster glosses over is the liability for payment of benefits and retirement to employees for agencies that merge. What if a city or government agency disputes the amount they consider their fair share or have an "off" year or as Palo Alto managers claim every year they are bankrupt, (never mind they have $300,000,000* in various reserve funds) Guess thats what lawyers are for. As the reporter points out, agencies already cross city lines as evident in the number of Palo Alto fire vehicles parked at Mtn. View Safeway daily.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.