Saving the Shelter | June 1, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - June 1, 2012

Saving the Shelter

Passionate Palo Alto residents rally to protect animal services from outsourcing

by Gennady Sheyner

They arrived en masse, wielding signs, wearing buttons and clutching letters and petitions. Some brought their children; at least one brought a puppy. By the time the four members of Palo Alto City Council's Policy and Services Committee began their deliberation in front of the standing-room-only crowd, it was clear to everyone in the Council Chambers that this would not be your run-of-the-mill budget hearing. When it comes to animals in Palo Alto, emotions run high.

The group of protesters, which included more than 100 residents, animal advocates and shelter volunteers, flocked to the May 10 meeting to speak out against a proposal by City Manager James Keene's office to close the animal shelter on East Bayshore Road and outsource animal services to another agency <0x2015> a move that would save the city about $500,000 annually. About two dozen lined up to address the council, voicing a singular message: Closing the shelter would be a disaster for the city.

Many expressed shock that the possibility was even under consideration. Elena Kogan said she found it hard to fathom that one of the most affluent parts of the state — a region that boasts some of the world's richest companies and nation's priciest real estate — is struggling to keep a 5,400-square-foot animal shelter open.

"It's unbelievable that we're about to betray the most vulnerable life forms that are living among us, that are inherently dependent on us and that are a part of all of our lives in one way or another — even if you're not a pet owner," Kogan said.

Scottie Zimmerman, one of the shelter's roughly 50 volunteers, recently gathered signatures on a petition to keep the shelter open. She told the council committee about the community's unspoken but unwavering support for animal services.

At the May Fete parade, she approached a young man standing near a truck on a shaded street. She asked him if he'd be interested in joining the group's effort by signing the petition.

"He handed me a fistful of money and took the thing and signed it. I found out later it was $100 in cash," Zimmerman said. "The next day I was collecting signatures and a nice woman wrote me a check for $100. I didn't ask for this."

Among the speakers was Carole Hyde, executive director of the Palo Alto Humane Society, who criticized outsourcing as a "radical departure" from the city's long-standing principle of "safe community."

Under this principle, stray animals are picked up "immediately before they're injured and killed and returned safely to their owners."

"Animals entrusted to the city rely for the lives and well-being on good and wise policies," Hyde said. "The Humane Society does not believe that trucking animals out of the area to crowded facilities and uncertain fates constitutes good and caring stewardship."

But Hyde was not just voicing an opinion; she came with a plan.

Since March 30, when Assistant City Manager Pam Antil shocked the animal community with the staff's recommendations, the Humane Society has been crafting its own proposal for raising revenues, cutting costs and preserving the local shelter.

The proposal calls for elimination of 4.2 full-time positions, including the shelter's supervisor, two animal-control officers and an animal-services specialist. The part-time volunteer coordinator position would be reduced by 25 percent, bringing the total savings from staff cuts to $430,000.

The proposal also includes raising revenues by $410,000 by increasing licensing fees, offering vaccinations on Saturdays and doubling the output from the spay/neuter clinic. The group also proposed establishing a task force to consider long-term solutions for animal services, a suggestion that council members quickly accepted.

Hyde's plan — and the animal lovers' uprising — produced instant results. Committee chairwoman Karen Holman, whose pets include a surrendered dog and the offspring of a lost pregnant cat, called the community's feedback "civic engagement at its very best." She called the city's commitment to animal services "a value that this community has held for over 100 years" and described the proposal from Hyde as "very professional and very impressive." Councilman Sid Espinosa was even more glowing in his review.

"We have contentious issues, and we take up debate every week," Espinosa said. "But rarely have I seen … an organization come forward with a comprehensive set of ideas like that."

At the meeting's conclusion, the committee unanimously agreed that animal operations should not be outsourced and directed staff to come up with other ideas for raising revenues and cutting costs. Five days later, the council's Finance Committee came to a similar decision. For the first time since the Great Recession, a staff proposal for outsourcing a major city operation was rejected and the public sentiment had prevailed — at least for now.

Palo Alto's tradition of grassroots animal advocacy is almost as old as the city itself and includes some of the city's most storied figures. The Palo Alto Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the forerunner to the local chapter of Humane Society, was born in the earliest days of the 20th century and included as its founding members David Starr Jordan, the first president of Stanford University, and Jane Stanford herself. According to amateur historian Matt Bowling's new book, "Palo Alto Remembered," the two Stanford leaders helped push for the city's first horse watering trough in the days before automobiles.

Animals returned to the spotlight in mid-1920s, when Police Chief C.F. Noble ordered a crackdown on unlicensed stray dogs. According to Bowling, Noble hired a man named "Dick the Dogcatcher" to enforce this mandate.

"Soon the papers were full of letters from readers complaining about maimed dogs that were swiped from their home yards and porches," Bowling wrote. "There was also a history of the police operating with a 'shoot on sight' policy for strays."

Then, as now, the Palo Alto Humane Society (which was born in 1908) stepped up to the plate. The organization rallied to the cause of strays and helped establish a small shelter in the yard of Middlefield Road resident Mrs. Frank Thomas. This was the city's primary animal center until 1937, when its first official shelter was built on El Camino Real — a site currently occupied by the Sheraton Hotel. Bowling described the 1937 shelter as a "first-rate" facility, with full kitchen service, one-way receiving kennels and well-known figures such as Tigger, a cat who helped clear out gophers from the parking lot, and Ol' Pa, "a desert turtle who promenaded along the kennel fence torturing the yelping poppies below."

Other animals, including monkeys, raccoons, porcupines, ducks, turtles and skunks, also made their way to the shelter, Bowling writes, "not to mention a rare visit from a wolf or a crocodile."

At times, the Humane Society had to flex its political muscles to protect this happy menagerie. In 1961, the society panned a proposal from the Stanford University School of Medicine to use the shelter's unclaimed animals for laboratory research. The Society's then-Director Gerald Dalmadge claimed that taking animals for research violated the principles under which the shelter was established. Hyde said Stanford withdrew the proposal because of "strong public reaction" against it.

The current shelter on East Bayshore opened in 1972 under the auspices of the city and as part of the larger Municipal Services Center — a sprawling complex that houses the bulk of the Palo Alto's vehicle fleet and major portions of the city's Utilities and Public Works departments.

Despite the shelter's modest size and aging kennels, it's a clean and cheerful place bustling with volunteers, veterinarians and a diverse array of pets, from a cancer-stricken Pomeranian to a recently surrendered rat. Dogs and cats in containers of various sizes share lobby space with shelter employees as the latter schedule appointments and give callers updates about their pets' conditions.

The shelter is a popular place. According to the most recent Service Efforts and Accomplishments report issued by the City Auditor's Office, 68 percent of Palo Alto's respondents rated the city's animal services as "good or excellent," placing Palo Alto in the 90th percentile when compared to other cities and municipalities that were surveyed. In fiscal year 2011, Animal Services responded to 88 percent of animal calls within 45 minutes (the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority based in Santa Clara responds within 10 hours, Antil said at a recent meeting, while the City of San Jose's animal-control operation responds "within a day.")

Perhaps most impressively, Palo Alto has successfully returned 68 percent of dogs and 20 percent of cats that were received by the shelter to their owners in 2011, surpassing its targets of 65 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Furthermore, 95 percent of the dogs and cats that were put up for adoption in 2011 were successfully placed in new homes, according to a recent report from Police Chief Dennis Burns.

And it's not just Palo Altans who frequent the local shelter. Burns' report notes that 76 percent of the animals who were spayed or neutered and 61 percent of those vaccinated in 2011 came from outside of Palo Alto and its three partner cities, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. It's not uncommon for animal owners from as far away as Danville and Milpitas to visit the shelter, staff said.

Burns' report also identifies a number of options for keeping a local shelter but cutting staffing levels and drastically reducing services. One option, which would save the city close to $200,000 annually, would include (among other changes) the elimination of an animal-control officer and scrapping the shelter's in-house veterinarian and veterinary technician. But, as the report makes clear, even contracting out veterinary services but keeping the shelter would have significant repercussions for animals, particularly ones with non-life-threatening problems.

"Currently, the City Veterinarian handles medical issues that are not chronic in nature and with a positive outcome could make an animal adoptable," Burns wrote. "Some examples of these life-saving procedures are: amputation, eye enucleation, splinting, hernia repair, cryptorchid surgeries and cherry eye. Treatments such as those listed are done in the regular course of work by the veterinary staff, and adoption or rescue is the likely outcome. If these procedures were to be contracted out to regular veterinary practices the costs associated with these services may make them unobtainable and the animal would be euthanized."

Palo Alto's current animal quandary grew out of a convergence of three mostly unrelated causes: the city's spiking employee expenditures, its decaying infrastructure and the recent departure of Mountain View from the long-standing partnership in the shelter.

Palo Alto may be home to some of the nation's richest residents and hottest companies, but city finances are a whole other matter. The General Fund, which pays for most basic city services (not including utilities), relies heavily on sales-tax revenues, which plummeted during the 2008 economic slump (this year, they finally roared back to their pre-Great Recession levels). At the same time, pension and health care costs for employees have soared in recent years, prompting an annual scramble by Keene and the council to balance the city budget without significantly reducing the city's scope of services.

Though the council has passed a series of cost-cutting reforms — including a 10 percent staff reduction and cuts to employee benefits — the impacts on the larger community have been minimal.

In this climate of budget cuts, outsourcing has emerged as an increasingly attractive option. These include the print shop, upkeep of the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course, janitorial services and maintenance of local parks.

The effort generally has proceeded smoothly, with few protests or major mistakes (the only notable snafu occurred in September 2010, when the city's contractor over-pruned the trees on California Avenue, prompting an apology from the city). Palo Alto residents may be a vocal bunch, but few seem to care where their budget documents get printed or who prunes the trees at Rinconada Park, as long as they are pruned well. Given that outsourcing has become a reliable tool in the city's cost-reduction kit, perhaps it should have come as no surprise that staff proposed the same fate for animal services.

The council's newfound focus on repairing infrastructure has also thrust the animal shelter into the foreground. Last year, a 17-member commission issued a detailed report surveying the city's infrastructure problems and recommending ways to pay for the repairs and new construction. In its section on the Municipal Services Center and the Animal Services Center, the Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission wrote that the "aging facilities have been in need of upgrade or replacement for many years." It also recommended the city re-examine its strategy for providing animal services and consider "a closer relationship with regional providers such as the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority."

But the most critical driver of the ongoing dilemma is Mountain View's decision last year to ditch its nearly 20-year-long partnership in the Palo Alto shelter and to switch over to Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority, which boasts a brand new 15,500-square-foot facility with cage-free kennels. Mountain View's departure means Palo Alto will no longer be getting the $470,000 in annual contributions from Mountain View. It also means that the cost to Palo Alto of keeping the animal shelter running with existing services is slated to go up from $1 million to about $1.5 million annually.

Given the city's structural budget deficits and cuts in other departments, the cost of keeping the shelter open is big, Keene told the committee.

"I don't think, in any of these situations, we're just looking at a $300,000 or a $500,000 operational gap," Keene said at the May 10 meeting of the Policy and Services Committee. "We're saying that over the next 10 years, the $300,000 or $500,000 in savings is $3 million or $5 million and that matters a lot as far as what it means for other services that the city provides."

At the May 10 committee meeting, Councilman Espinosa concluded his comments by beseeching speakers to stay involved in the issue and to help the city find a way to make animal services financially sustainable. Two weeks later, a group of about a dozen die-hard animal advocates, including Hyde, Zimmerman and Luke Stangel, met at Palo Alto Café on Middlefield Road to put Espinosa's plea into action. It was the inaugural meeting of Friends of Palo Alto Animal Shelter, a group that is now in the process of becoming an official nonprofit organization.

Palo Alto has no shortage of Friends groups. There's Friends of the Palo Alto Library, which holds monthly book sales to raise money for libraries, and Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, which does the same for local playgrounds and open spaces. Friends of Lytton Plaza, a collection of developers and business people, helped remodel the prominent downtown plaza in 2009, while Friends of the Children's Theatre raises funds to keep the acclaimed theater operation running at an affordable rate for participants.

In most cases, these groups come together to promote new services or to protect existing ones from the budget axe. The fact that man's best friend hasn't had a Friends group to reciprocate the friendship says less about the public attitude toward animals than it does about the city's legacy of offering to the community a vast array of state-of-the-art animal services. There simply hasn't been a need, until now, for a Friends group to protect animal services from budget cuts.

At its first meeting, the group sat around a long table and brainstormed ways to raise money and awareness. Stangel, an active member of the nascent "Save Our Shelter" organization, led the discussion, which ranged from potential fundraising events to the group's name. Maureen Allen, one of the participants, lobbied for "animal services" over "animal shelter" in the title. Stangel advocated for keeping "shelter," even though — technically speaking — it is the services inside the shelter rather than the building itself that are now under fire. When most people think about the local animal programs, it's the shelter that comes to mind, Stangel said. The debate concluded with no resolution.

The discussion then turned to fundraising, and there was no shortage of ideas — from donation cans at local classrooms and agility challenges at city fairs to dog-friendly concerts in the park and designated dinner days at participating restaurants, with a portion of proceeds going to Animal Services. Then there's the work of maintaining the organization's day-to-day operations. Stangel and two other members are now in the midst of creating a website for the new Friends group to solicit donations and inform the community about progress and upcoming events.

Stangel, a former newspaper reporter who now lives in San Jose and works for a startup company, said he was shocked when he first heard that the city is considering outsourcing animal services.

"It's kind of like if they had announced that they're considering outsourcing libraries or outsourcing the Fire Department," said Stangel, owner of two cats and a dog. "To me, personally, it seems like it's one of those critical city services that absolutely should not be outsourced."

Stangel was one of the first to join a fledgling "Save Our Shelter" Facebook group that Zimmerman launched shortly after the proposal to outsource animal services was made. He then created a petition imploring the city to keep the shelter running. The message spread quickly and as of last week there were more than 2,000 signatures and counting, he said.

"It's incredible. I was going out and talking to people and nine times out of 10 they were completely up on this issue," Stangel said. "Everyone knew about it, and they were very concerned about the issue."

Now, his group hopes to channel this energy into its fundraising efforts. All the donations that have been collected thus far will be kept by the Humane Society while the new Friends group completes the process of filing for nonprofit incorporation. The goal, he said, is to raise at least $100,000 in its first year and to set higher benchmarks in future years.

The group has already scheduled its first fundraising dinner, which is set for June 19 at Gordon Biersch in downtown Palo Alto. Further down the line, it is eyeing events such as a 5K race in the Baylands and a gala dinner.

"The energy behind this effort is so high," Stangel said. "We're having people coming out and just asking how they can send money."

The group has already succeeded in changing the conversation at the council level, with both council committees agreeing that the shelter should not be shuttered. Now, Stangel hopes the group can raise enough money to compensate for Mountain View's departure and, in doing so, convince the council to keep the budget cuts for Animal Services to a minimum. The goal, he said, is to keep the city from adopting a "permanent solution" — sweeping service reductions — for the "temporary problem" brought about by Mountain View's withdrawal.

"Is it reasonable for us to ask the council to please run (animal services) at a greater deficit because we'll pick up the slack?" Stangel said at the conclusion of the Friends group's first meeting. "Our group will help raise the money."

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by jm, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 1, 2012 at 10:49 am

When I think of the additional high salaried managers Mr. Keene has added to the city staff, and the increase in the "Green Team" department (which may be in the Utilities budget) from 1 to 4 new hires recently, with all the future benefits such as health and pensions to be paid out, I am outraged that the animal shelter would have to lay off anyone.

Posted by Me, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:08 am

When I think of the high-salaried managers who wanted to put a car dealership where the animal shelter is I can only shake my head.

Do they NEVER get out of their offices and drive El Camino and see all the empty dealerships a mere 5 miles away????

Posted by rem, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:30 am

rem is a registered user.

Hay folks it is VOTING time. Maybe we need to evaluate the City & County government. There might be "room" for "cutting there....


Posted by Barbara, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:58 am

Yes, SAVE the Shelter and help the animals!

Make the fund raising obvious in shops throughout the City. Perhaps Whole Foods "reuseable bags" donations could include the Palo Alto Shelter! Let the residents know where we can send $$!

Posted by Luke Stangel, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Great article, Gennady!

At the risk of seeming self serving, I'd like to invite people to join us on Facebook at or on our brand new website:


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 1, 2012 at 4:37 pm

The shelter is an expenditure our city can no longer afford. We face annual budget deficits. We have vital needs in our essential infrastructure and public safety that cannot be funded. City management has floated the proposal of raising taxes to pay for these essential needs that should have already been funded and completed.

The Silicon Valley shelter is a more than adequate option that already serves numerous cities in our county. Mountain View already abandoned the Palo Alto shelter for Silicon Valley. The shelter supporters would like you to believe that our animal services would end and that our pets and wildlife would suffer from the move. Nothing could be further from the truth. Don't believe the hype and misinformation. We can still serve our pets and wildlife and save tax payers 2.5 million dollars in the first five years alone by outsourcing. Applying some common sense does not mean that we are less compassionate and caring.

Posted by Proved Their Point, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 1, 2012 at 8:36 pm


You proved the point for the dealerships. There are plenty of empty lots on El Camino because they weren't profitable enough. Dealers know that dealerships that face a major highway are more successful.

Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith, a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 1, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Cogent, informative article. Thank you.

Posted by rem, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 2, 2012 at 9:31 am

rem is a registered user.

hay Marrol,

Get a life. The Shelter belong to us - PALO ALTO - How about you volunteering a COUPLE of days a week......

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 2, 2012 at 9:39 am

And Rem, how about participating in a forum where we can express our opinions without the offensive comments like, "get a life". We can have differences of opinion without the cheap shots and discouraging those who don't agree with you. Please show some decency, respect, and consideration. That is the PALO ALTO way.

There is an overwhelming argument, despite where anyone sits on this issue, that serious consideration should be given to either outsource, reduce, or eliminate certain city services and programs. Our budget deficit and financial crisis will not be solves until we take these measures.

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2012 at 11:01 am

Marrol, when you call me that, smile.

You are calling me a LIAR because I report exactly what is stated on the SVACA web page. They are NOT accepting owner-surrendered pets. They are already overcrowded. They are very nice people who love animals, but they have to accept reality: Too many animals who need new homes with no room to keep them while they wait to be adopted. AND if you leave a surrendered pet for euthanasia, you must pay a fee of $150.

Hey everyone, don't pay any attention to Marrol's emotional comments about budget shortages. Voodoo economics all the way....

Meanwhile, Friends of the Palo Alto Shelter (a non-profit organization) has a Web Page here:

Join the Friends group!

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 2, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Exclusionary and intolerant Scottie. I would rather have a forum where both sides can state their argument without one side or the other making calls to simply ignore someone. Wow, how sad. Despite your outlook, I will continue to respect and consider your posts.

As for the economic outlook, what is voodoo about annual budget deficits? What is inaccurate about vital needs in infrastructure and public safety that remain unfunded? What is untrue about city management proposing to pay for these estimated 40-60 million needs through a new tax increase? It is precisely this type of spending that contributed to this very real economic plight we're in. We need to outsource, reduce, or eliminate many city services. It's a reality we must face and accept at some point. The animal shelter should be included on that list.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm

PAW cover dog is Sadie! She's the sweet stray that my neighbors found in Palo Alto & she put up a mighty chase. It took 2 ACOs to catch her. Now she's up for a adoption & needs a good home. Yay Sadie! Thank you, PAAS, for helping this scared, hungry, deserving dog.

Posted by Choice, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Marrol if everything is outsourced to save money... then would the city be run by the county?
There is a reason for taxes.... If dealerships and businesses are run out of town, that results in lost tax revenue leaving the home owner to pick up the tab which sounds like nobody wants to do.
I would say the city has a big problem on their hands to solve!
Time to Vote!!!

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 2, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I've never spoken in absolutes Choice, so no, I'm not suggesting that "everything" be outsourced. You state, "there is a reason for taxes." Allow me to address that. Taxes are in large part to fund, on a priority basis, our vital and essential needs in infrastructure and public safety. Those are the cornerstones and foundation that a community is built on. That's what taxes are for. Currently our city does not have the money to pay for these needs. Not even close at the tune of 40-60 million dollars by conservative estimates.

Our city leaders and elected officials have spent decades spending our tax dollars on frivolous niche projects and services. The list is a long one. They continue to spend in this irresponsible manner despite knowing full well that our essential civic needs have not been addressed. And what is their solution to this fiscal crisis which they and they alone have created? Why nothing less than return to the tax payers with their hand out yet again. They fail to set financial priorities, provide nothing more than lip service to our vital needs, and are seemingly incapable of saying no to the special interest groups.

I've stated on numerous occasions that the city providing animal services is indeed a civic responsibility. Those calling to outsource this service have never suggested that we stop providing animal services. However, I maintain that it is a service that can be adequately outsourced. It would save tax payers an estimated 2.5 million dollars in the first five years alone.

The vast majority of cities in the bay area already rely on a regional animal service. The city of Mountain View recently dropped out of PAAS for this reason and perhaps other reasons. If PAAS was providing such a great service, I have to wonder why Mountain View opted out. The proponents of PAAS suggest that Palo Alto pets and wildlife would suffer many hardships. I just don't buy it. I have lived in this region for many years and I don't see other cities suffering from animal abuse and neglect. On the contrary. From what I have seen and reviewed the Silicon Valley facility is a highly respected and reputable organization. The proponents complain about having to make the long drive to the South Bay for services. I have to ask the question again, just how many times does the average pet owner in Palo Alto visit the current shelter? I'd venture to say no more than 1-2 times per year tops. I can't imagine people require their services or are surrendering pets at a tune anymore than that. Millions of dollars in savings in exchange for what, a twenty minute ride down 101 to Santa Clara? If one uses common sense the answer is easy.

Posted by Choice, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Marrol I already sent my ballot in.... Enough said.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 3, 2012 at 12:59 am

As I will cast a no vote on any future bond measure that involves raising taxes to pay for essential civic needs that should have already been paid for. Not enough people willing to make sacrifices will result in a deeper budget deficit. Special interest instead of the greater good. That has become the Palo Alto way.

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Marrol, here's a quote from one of your recent posts:

"The shelter supporters would like you to believe that our animal services would end and that our pets and wildlife would suffer from the move. Nothing could be further from the truth. Don't believe the hype and misinformation."

You are stating that "shelter supporters" are telling lies. That's what it means when you say "Nothing could be further from the truth." It means you are calling my comments lies. "Don't believe the hype and misinformation." Misinformation = lies.

How is it OK for you to call me a liar, but when I fight back and tell readers (tongue in cheek) to ignore your "voodoo economics," you describe my comment as "exclusionary and intolerant"?

Truth is, animal services for Mountain View are going to decline starting in November, when they switch to SVACA. They have to buy a new truck for SVACA and put up front money (at least $300,000) for a Capitol Improvement Plan so SVACA can build up its capacity to handle animals from Mountain View.

As already pointed out, SVACA does not accept owner-surrendered pets for free (as Palo Alto does for Mountain View, until Nov. 1st). In fact SVACA currently accepts owner-surrendered pets only for euthanasia, and the owner must pay $150 for that cheery resolution.

I am not saying that the good folks at SVACA are heartless, and I'm sure whenever they can they'll open their doors to accept pets for adoption (still charging $150 fee). However, if pet owners in Mountain View can't afford to turn their pets over to SVACA, there might be more strays in the street?

That is NOT the case when they bring pets to Palo Alto. No FEE for owner surrenders from our partner cities. HIGH likelihood the pet will find a new home. Go on. Call me a liar.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 3, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Call it whatever you want Scottie, but I maintain that PAAS supporters have attempted to mislead readers with proclamations about the hardships pet owners would have to endure, that deceased pets would be left discarded on the streets, that people would have to drive an unreasonable distance for animal services, and that the cost of surrendering a pet would be unaffordable. That's what I don't buy.

I truly do not believe that we would experience an increase of discarded pets. It's not happening in other cities that participate in a regional facility and it's not going to happen here. Complaints about driving an unreasonable distance are equally unreasonable. A twenty minute drive to Santa Clara is not unreasonable. As for the pet surrendering fee, I also believe that is very reasonable. After all, how many pets does the average pet owner surrender anyway. I'm guessing this would be a once every few years expenditure, and over the life of a pet, considering food and vet costs, this isn't too much to ask.

As I've said many times in the past, whatever relative downside that might exist by outsourcing, which I believe is minimal, is nothing compared to the monumental challenges that we face in dealing with our financial crisis. We must set some financial priorities. By the way, the only remark I took offense to was the "get a life" line. I have no issue with the debate and disagreement otherwise, including yours.

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2012 at 9:58 am

Here's where you can find info about SVACA's policies for collecting deceased animals: Web Link

I provide the link so you can check me on my facts, Marrol. Meanwhile, here's what it says at the bottom of the SVACA page:

"Deceased Animal Disposal Services"

"We also provide services for owned deceased animals from Campbell, Monte Sereno and Santa Clara. Small animals are handled for a $25.00 fee; a dog, cat or rabbit for $50.00; and dogs over 150 pounds are $125.00. An additional $50.00 fee will also be charged for animals collected by staff in the field. Please contact our staff at 408-764-0344 for more information."

So you can haul your deceased Rotweiler to SVACA and pay $125 for them to dispose of the body properly. Or you can pay $175 and have SVACA send a truck to your house to pick up the dog. Or say it's your cat who has passed on. $100 for pickup at your house; $50 if you take the cat to SVACA yourself.

You really don't appreciate the HIGH QUALITY, low cost services Palo Alto has provided for years. Services that benefit outlying communities as well as the "partner" cities. Palo Alto ACOs have been called to pick up a dead mouse in someone's driveway! No charge. No fuss.

SVACA isn't saying what they do about un-owned dead animals....

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2012 at 10:05 am

"our vital and essential needs in infrastructure and public safety. Those are the cornerstones and foundation that a community is built on. "
Marrol, nobody denies infrastructure and police services are vital, but cornerstones aren't limited to those kinds of things, are they? Cities exist partly to develop social capital, to help turn people into citizens. The shelter has obviously got much to contribute to this equally vital aspect of "civic needs."

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 4, 2012 at 10:45 am

I agree with you BusinessDecision, and I have stated on numerous occasions that providing animal services is a civic need that we're all responsible for. I have never once called for an end to the city providing these services. However, I argue that this service can be provided at a much lower cost if we outsource. This is not an all or nothing proposition. There are viable options that would be more than adequate in providing these services. Palo Alto doesn't need to be in the shelter business in order to be supportive of our pets and wildlife.

With you not living in Palo Alto presumably you may not fully be aware or appreciate the dismal financial state that we're in. Our city has faced annual budget deficits for several years running. There is no relief in sight unless we begin to outsource, reduce, or eliminate certain non-essential city services. We have severe, multi-million dollar needs in infrastructure and public safety that remain unfunded. Our city leaders and elected officials have already begun to float the notion of another bond measure and tax increase in order to pay for these vital needs. Conservative estimates list that figure in the 40-60 million dollar range on the low end.

As someone who wouldn't be paying into this tax increase I can understand why you feel the way you do. You don't have a monetary stake in this. But for many Palo Altans, we are tired of city management's lack of setting financial priorities, irresponsible spending, catering to special interest groups, and the inability to say no to the feel good, fluff projects. Enough is enough.

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm

You might win, but PA would be even less worth living in than it is already. (But PA won't be alone.)

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Scottie, I do appreciate the service that PAAS has provided over the years. It is also a service we can longer afford. You mentioned that PAAS has been beneficial to outlying and partner cities. If that were the case, why did Mountain View choose to drop out of the partnership? Was it just an issue of economics, or did they feel that they could provide an adequate and more affordable service by going elsewhere.

As for the disposal fees, thank you for making my case. All of the fees you cite are quite affordable when you consider that it only occurs once in the lifetime of a pet. Unless someone is disposing pets on a regular basis, which we all know isn't true, then it should be looked at as part of the responsibility of being a pet owner. Also, I don't think that it is unreasonable to ask pet owners to take the short ride to Santa Clara for these services.

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm


There is always a way to "afford" a necessary service, especially in a city of such affluence. We must stand up for the voiceless, who are completely at our mercy. And mercy is what we must show them, not "outsourcing." No civilized society outsources creatures.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 5, 2012 at 9:05 am

Again Nora, another emotion filled plea of mercy, as if anyone is calling for an end to providing animal services, or, that those who are are somehow less caring and compassionate. It's flat out not the case. I have consistently stated that animal services is a civic responsibility, so please don't characterize me as being uncivilized. This is about providing a very adequate service, from a reputable organization, at a much lower cost.

I will respond to your statement, "there is always a way to afford a necessary service." Here's how our city management team would like to get that done. Continue spending irresponsibly on services that can either be outsourced, reduced, or eliminated, and propose yet another bond measure and tax increase to pay for our vital civic needs that have been essentially ignored and neglected. Sorry, but our city is still grappling with annual budget deficits. We do not have the money to pay for these needs. But I suppose as a Stanford resident, you're not that concerned with our budget deficit and potential tax increase. Just offering something else for you to think about and consider. It's called the big picture.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2012 at 10:39 am

Take a deep breath, go for a walk, or do whatever you need to do to get a grip on reality and get an attitude adjustment.

What Nora wrote was "No civilized SOCIETY outsources creatures." You attacked that? She never mentioned you.

Then you attack the fact that she is a Stanford resident and make a sarcastic wisecrack telling her to look at the big picture. It seems to me that Nora IS DOING JUST THAT...looking at the picture across the street from her.

Palo Alto is still a rich community. Here in Redwood City -- which is a much less affluent neighbor of Palo Alto -- we provide basic human and animal services, and manage to pay our cops, firefighters, and police a living wage that allows them to support their families in our community.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2012 at 10:49 am

Ooops -- a typing error. In the last sentence of my previous note I meant to write "our cops, firefighters, and CITY WORKERS"

I just read this website's story about the Dragon Theatre leaving Palo Alto to come to Redwood City. WELCOME ! Our city sign says "Climate Best By Government Test" and we mean it. Both the physical AND social climate is the best.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm

And by outsourcing Neighbor from Redwood City, we too will provide a very adequate animal services while addressing our very real financial problems. And how do you make the jump to "attack" simply because I pointed out that we're not any less civilized if we outsourced this service, and, that she like you may not be aware of the financial mess we're in because you don't live here. It's a much different perspective when you have no financial or community stake on this issue.

I do agree with you wholeheartedly that Redwood City is a wonderful city and community. Our city management should borrow a few ideas for your city government. With that said, if I'm not mistaken, Redwood City provides animal services without being in the business of operating their own shelter. It seems to meet with your approval. No reason why a regional service shouldn't work well here in Palo Alto.

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Marrol, by your standards then, people who own pets should pass an income test before adopting? A single mom with 2 or 3 kids in grade school should not be allowed to have a family cat unless she can set up a savings account to endow all future care for the cat?

Everything wrong with that concept is mitigated by a local service agency such as PAAS. Their mission is to control unwanted reproduction of kittens, puppies, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. To find loving homes for animals who are surrendered or picked up as strays. To send animals to their new homes who are spayed/neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and ready for a healthy future. Meanwhile, in the background the ACOs at PAAS are here to ensure public safety, rescuing stray dogs on the freeway, picking up dead animals near a schoolyard, capturing injured animals who might act aggressively out of fear, maintaining a sense of well-being in the community for pet owners and their non-pet-owning neighbors. PAAS does this with great dedication for "poor" Palo Alto, and for our partners in Mountain View, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills. PAAS does this without regard for a family's net income.

Let me see now.... I predict that your response (inevitable, I know) will call me out as foolishly sentimental and hyper emotional because I used the term "loving homes" in that last paragraph. Bingo! You are RIGHT. I do get sentimental about animals I've owned and the animals I volunteer with at PAAS. All the PAAS volunteers talk fondly of animals we have known at the shelter (by name), and we're always eager to hear from the new owners how our friends are doing. Personally, I'm proud to be a sentimental, soft-hearted, romantic when it comes to animals. So sue me.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 5, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I don't think your sentiment is foolish at all Scottie, and there is not one service that you listed that cannot continue to be addressed by outsourcing to Silicon Valley. They are a highly reputable organization operating out of a new, state of the art facility. I truly do not believe that they are any less compassionate or caring than we Palo Altans.

Interesting point you made on the issue of financing a pet. No, of course I don't believe that people should pass an income test to own a pet. However, I know it is common place for shelters, veterinarians, and pet adoption agencies to fully brief potential owners on the anticipated costs of owning a pet. Prospective owners must have an understanding of their financial obligations to properly feed and care for a pet. I think dealing with the end of life issues for a pet is a part of that responsibility, and again, fortunately it only happens once. Considering the cost of pet ownership for food, medical costs, and general equipment over the course of a pet's life, I still maintain that the end of life fees are not unreasonable.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I know about Palo Alto from having many friends there, from reading it's newspapers and reading editorials/comment/letters online, and from having worked in Palo Alto for a good part of my professional career.

It is a very wealthy town that is stingy, has quixotic spending, is often surprisingly racist -- especially about its Asian citizens, and is just angry about almost everything.

Those are serious issues, which should be the topic of community discussion and action.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Scottie, a quick question if I may. I have been discussing and proposing a means where the city can still provide adequate animal services and still address the serious financial challenges we face. I am truly considering both sides of the issue, while trying to keep the big picture and greater civic good in sight. You and other have discussed in depth the virtues of PAAS and why we should continue to fund this service. So, how would you begin to propose dealing with our annual budget deficit, and inability to fund vital needs that exist in our infrastructure and public safety? Under the current circumstances what should our financial priorities be? How and where do we outsource, eliminate, or reduce spending in order to close that gap?

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Wow Scottie (referring to Neighbors last post), and you were lecturing me about relaxing and taking a walk? LOL

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

M, the PA that you want to see come into being (addressing cop shortage and infrastructure issues and nothing else) - is it a good business decision to stay in a place that's so expensive but only able to hunker down in that way? (not that other places won't be just the same, but cheaper.) See why people are trying hard to avoid PA becoming that?

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 5, 2012 at 3:04 pm

BusinessDecision, when have I ever said that's all I want Palo Alto to be about. Of course not. I would just like to see our city leaders and elected officials stabilize the dire financial straits that we're in. Once we've balanced the budget and funded the vital civic priorities that exist, I have no issue with reviewing which services and programs collectively that we'd like to fund. It's a matter of setting some priorities, taking care of first things first, and practicing some fiscal responsibility. No one is proposing an all or nothing scenario.

As Palo Altans, I believe that many of us expect our city management team to take the lead in this endeavor and not expect to return to the tax payers and pay for these vital needs after many years of irresponsible spending. We have a huge hole to dig ourselves out of and a big part of that unfortunately is to either outsource, reduce, or eliminate certain city services and projects. Again, you're in a convenient arguing position if you're not the one facing a significant tax increase.

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2012 at 7:09 am

M, I know what you mean-- and let me get one thing out of the way first: I don't pay PA taxes but have a life-long interest in having PA be solvent. You could move away.
Regarding your idea that we could put everything back after the finances were sorted--you don't really think that once those things were dismantled they would come back again, do you? It would surely be a case of all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again. You might have money but you need good will, too. You don't want to discourage people too much in your quest for stability...

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 6, 2012 at 8:36 am

And if you're really that interested and solvent in Palo Alto, then you could move here, thereby having a financial stake in these matters. As a third generation Palo Altan I believe I have, let's say a more complete understanding of these issues along with a historical perspective. You can't provide or sustain goodwill or services unless the essential needs are covered first.

Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Dear Marrol,

You wrote that "As Palo Altans, I believe that many of us expect our city management team to take the lead in this endeavor [regaining solvency by setting better priorities]."

Let me suggest that this won't happen until Palo Altans get another city manager and another assistant city manager. Just look at what they regard as priorities--appointing an urban forester, for example.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 6, 2012 at 9:56 pm

I'm beginning to agree with you Jardins. This current city management team has and continues to make misguided decisions when it comes to our public finances. Rather than having a sense for the greater good and displaying leadership, they continue to cater to the special interest groups and vocal minorities who dictate the cities direction. They do not have the courage to say no. They do not have the ability to apply some common sense and logic to what they have proclaimed as a financial crisis.

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2012 at 12:44 am

Posted by Marrol, on Jun 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm

"Wow Scottie (referring to Neighbors last post), and you were lecturing me about relaxing and taking a walk? LOL"

I have no idea what you're talking about. I have not lectured you on taking a walk or whatever.... Who are you talking to? LOL

Meanwhile, the shelter supporters (a large and growing group) have several activities in the works. We've started a Friends group for the animal shelter. We've filed papers in Sacramento for incorporation, after which we become a non-profit 501(c)(3). We've got a lawyer and a financial wizard advising us, and are soon to be joined by a woman with years of fund-raising experience. We're developing clusters of projects in 8 or 9 areas. We're fighting back at every City Council meeting (politely, of course). We've got a new Web page at Web Link If you visit the site and click the PRESS button, you can read all the relevant newspaper articles about the shelter, right up through last Friday's issue of The Palo Alto Weekly. We cannot provide a DONATE button on the Friends web page until we are a non-profit. But meanwhile donations are pouring in to the shelter and to the Friends (thanks to the generosity of the Palo Alto Humane Society who are temporarily -- and legally -- sheltering us with their non-profit status).

Anyone reading this who's up for it, JOIN the Friends group, starting on their Facebook page: Web Link

When you get there, click LIKE, and you are counted as a Friend. We keep in touch, let you know what's going on at City Hall and elsewhere. The support group includes people of all ages, stations, and cultural backgrounds. We have occasional disagreements, but we are governed by our commitment to the future of one of Palo Alto's signature city services. We just had a Friends meeting, and I'm inspired and rarin' to go! (Anybody knows where the word "rarin'" comes from?)

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 7, 2012 at 6:59 am

My apologies Scottie, that observation was meant for Neighbor. I wish you and your supporters luck with your endeavors. If these efforts result in the shelter operating on its own, as a non-profit entity, then more power to you. If the shelter remains in the auspices of city government, and the fun raising efforts match those of what we would save by outsourcing, then again, I would have no issue.

Budget deficits and meeting financial obligations on a civic level will not occur if we do not outsource, reduce, or eliminate certain services and projects. If there is enough private money and interest to keep the shelter going and sustain itself without requiring any further government subsidies, then how could I have a problem with that. If not, then it would clearly be a time to outsource. Again, best of luck.

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2012 at 10:06 am

As long as the "taxpayer" is not paying for it... (Not that the whole economy would not benefit from people who could afford to buy Mr. Ford's cars. But that was then. This is now.)

Posted by Andrew L. Freedman, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 7, 2012 at 11:07 am

Hello folks,

I've lived in Palo Alto for the last 56 years (my age) and have a pretty good sense of our residents' collective values.

First, it disappoints me that posters who make broad, illogical statements, like, animal service is just something we can't afford anymore, don't use their full, real name when discussing something as vitally important as living beings - the animals of Palo Alto.

Yes, we can afford our services to our cats, dogs and our other animal friends and companions.

If Palo Alto were to ever undermine oR stop the care of these important living beings, then we've totally lost sight of what is important in life.

Maybe I should have been more involved in this issue - when it first came up, I knew that our CITY STAFF and our CITY COUNCILMEN AND WOMEN would find a solution. For this issue to have gotten this far without a resolution is disturbing.


Andrew L. Freedman
Palo Alto, CA 94306

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 7, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Thank you for being so candid Mr. Freeman, but on an open forum such as this remaining anonymous in order to freely exchange ideas and thoughts has become quite common place. That's all we're doing here. If people wish to express themselves in a more formal setting such as a city council meeting, which I have done in the past, then naturally it would require greater qualification and exposure. I truly don't see how an anonymous post on this forum, for the purpose it serves, is any less virtuous or valuable than one which is attached to a name. If I were to apply your logic, then are you equally dismissing the vast majority of shelter supporters who have commented on this forum and are also anonymous. No, of course not. But apparently you give them a pass because they happen to agree with your position. Sorry, but it has to be a two-way street. With that said, I do respect your commitment and willingness to put yourself out there.

As for the issue at hand, you appear to join the ranks of many of the shelter supporters who somehow believe that the city providing animal services would cease to exist. No one, including myself, has called for animal services to be abolished. I have said from the very beginning that providing animal services is a civic responsibility that we should all share. I just happen to believe that by outsourcing we could continue to provide a more than adequate service at a much lower cost. A very important consideration when one thinks about our budget deficit and civic obligations that aren't being met.

As Mr. Zimmerman has pointed out, the shelter supporters have been quite active in fund raising, etc. I wish them the best of luck and success in their cause. If they manage to accumulate and annually sustain the funds necessary to keep a city shelter open then good for them. I would support this arrangement just as long as the funds they raise are equal to what tax payers would save from outsourcing.

One last thing Mr. Freedman. Like many supporters on a myriad of controversial issues you focus entirely on the cause in which you support. However, we can't dismiss the big picture here. This became a controversial issue because the city management team moved to outsource our animal services in order to help balance the city budget and dig ourselves out of the financial mess we're in. That move is now being deliberated and reconsidered apparently.

So I ask you, do you have any ideas on how the city should address the deepening budget deficit? What steps should we take to remedy this financial crisis? How do we pay for our vital and essential needs in public safety and infrastructure without another tax increase? If spending less is one conventional method of solving a budget issue, then which city programs and services should be outsourced, reduced, or eliminated? Again, we have to look at the bigger picture.

You see it's not just a matter of considering or supporting a single cause. If that were the case then everyone would simply wish to preserve their own cause and not take the greater good into consideration. Undoubtedly sacrifices have to be made. Our city cannot continue to operate and function to its fullest potential under the current circumstances. So I ask again, where will the sacrifices be made? I still happen to believe that by outsourcing animal services, which would save tax payers approximately 2.5 million dollars in the first five years alone, is a viable option. It would be another step toward addressing this financial crisis, balancing the budget, and freeing up public funds to pay for our vital and essential needs in public safety and infrastructure.

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm

I'm not Mr. anything. In fact I'm in a couple of the photos appearing in the online Weekly article that prompted this line of comments.

I'm Ms. Zimmerman. And it's my real name.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 7, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Then once again I apologize for misstating Ms. Zimmerman. I wish you the best of luck in your pursuits.

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:07 am

M, It might be too late for you to read this, and Post might remove it, but I do not accept that you have more understanding because you are 3rd generation PA. ("I have, let's say a more complete understanding of these issues along with a historical perspective.")
No. Your stance on a balanced budget and vital needs (aka limited govt) is political, nothing more.
Anyway, historical perspective: remember when Palo Altans felt so terrible because police, teachers, and nurses could not afford to live in PA? Now these same public servants are vilified. So much for "perspective."

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 8, 2012 at 2:43 pm

You're out of touch with the issues Business. This isn't about politics, it's about being fiscally responsible and reducing our growing budget deficit. It's also about our city paying for civic needs in infrastructure and public safety without raising taxes. I'm not vilifying our city employees either, especially our police officers. Quite the contrary. A big part of our public safety needs involves avoiding any further cuts in the department.

Like I said, until you're faced with a financial stake in these matters you can never truly appreciate the position our city is in. Easy for you to be supportive of the shelter when you'll never be faced with having to pay a nickel in additional taxes. I suppose I'd be supportive too if people in another city were picking up the tab.

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm

M, I did not say that you personally vilified anyone.
I have not said that I would NOT support higher taxes. I did say I could not afford to live in Palo Alto. But for all you know, I am a person who does support higher taxes.
This is politics. People often support or oppose things even if they have no skin in the game. They have beliefs that are very often independent of what is involved for them financially. It is insulting to say that someone can of course support the shelter if someone else's taxes are going to pay for it.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 8, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Support if you wish, but while doing so, consider the totality of the circumstances and realize that our city is in the midst of financial crisis. Sorry, but we can't afford it.

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm

You just do not accept that this is politics, not economics.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm

How is a multi-million dollar annual budget deficit, and zero allocated funds to pay for essential civic needs not an economic issue. LOL It's precisely your way of thinking that got us into this mess. Like I said, if you were paying what it costs to live in Palo Alto, already paying higher taxes, and facing yet another tax increase, then you might be singing a different tune. A convenient position you're in, but one that leaves you with little influence on the issue. Sorry, but PA can't be the regional keeper of the peninsula anymore.

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2012 at 6:31 pm

"your way of thinking that got us into this mess."
Believe me, I don't get through a single day without reflecting that my entire life was lived on a false foundation. I did sometimes think that it could all come crashing down. (Did you?) But I didn't do anything.
Why? Because that was everybody's way of thinking, that even if it seemed in many ways too good to be true, everything would be o.k.
Having said that, I should be lining up with you, and saying we cannot possibly go on like this.
But I say instead: "things were not nearly as good as we thought they were throughout my life, so now they are probably not as bad as we think."
I should really look at the numbers, though, and I will try to.

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