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Scare tactics Would keep Palo Alto From Sustainability

Original post made by Mike, College Terrace, on Oct 8, 2007

I don't know why the editor would print this drivel

Web Link

We all know, from many city audits that Palo Alto is a darned niced place to live.
Web Link

Why do we listen to those who do nothing but criticize, ad infinitum?

Comments (18)

Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 9, 2007 at 6:05 am

Mike--it is called freedom of speech. I would not trust any audits that the city

Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2007 at 10:08 am

And you should not Marvin.

Posted by Anna
a resident of University South
on Oct 9, 2007 at 10:19 am

I looked at the links to city audits that Mike provided. Here's one I found there: Web Link

It says that the city isn't keeping up on street maintenance and that failure to do so is costing us a lot of money since streets that aren't properly maintained have to be replaced and repaired more frequently at much greater cost. It also says that various city departments tear up the streets with no coordination resulting in wasted money and lots of patched over places which deteriorate more rapidly.

A lot of us think that things like maintaining streets are among the most basic functions a city government has. Failure to do this properly, and the kind of wastefulness detailed by the auditor is a cause for alarm by us.

We criticize "ad infinitum" because we want the city to do better. While we agree that Palo Alto is a "darn nice place to live", we don't like the direction we've been headed in. And we think that by voting down the bonds, our leaders and city management will be inspired to take a look at the way they're doing things and make some changes that will make Palo Alto an even better place.

Rah rah is fine when Stanford beats USC, but government works best when citizens are free to criticize its operation - and do.

Posted by The Real Anna
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 9, 2007 at 11:11 am

We've got Marvin, who doesn't trust audits; Fireman, who accuses the entire city of being corrupt; and Anna, who makes a very odd argument for odelaying infrastructure builds by defeating bonds, even though those defeats would create more infrastructure - including street - repair. Anna also fails to note that most municipalities are behind in street repairs, so i guess they're all inefficient, by default. Right, Anna?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The arguments made by almost every ardent critic of the city in these forums is usually fraoght with faulty logic, or a very poor understanding of how a municipality works.

What's most ironic is that if public officials listened to these people, our oublic safety infrastructure would approach failure at a faster rate, our libraries would probably fail, infrastructire repairs would soar (from construction inflation delays), and so on.

Posted by Anna
a resident of University South
on Oct 9, 2007 at 11:55 am

The Real Anna, [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] would be much more effective if he/she addressed the substance of others' points rather than labeling them "faulty" without proof or citation.

On substance at issue here, the auditor's report on street maintenance compares Palo Alto with surrounding cities, and finds that no other city has a backlog of repairs even half as bad large as Palo Alto's. See: Web Link at p 79. So it is not true, as Mike/Anna implies that all cities are in the same situation. Palo Alto's is worse because policy makers have not paid attention to this or to other infrastructure needs, and because the city has policies that allow any agency to tear up any street at will without coordinating with any other city department. This is also different in other cities, which is detailed in the report.

Naturally Mike/Anna knows this because we've had exactly the same discussion in this forum several times, with the same citations.

We won't solve our problems as long as we continue down the path that gave them to us. We need to change direction in Palo Alto and not continue to throw money down the same bottomless pit that, for example, swollowed up all the storm drain tax money without fixing even half the problems identified by the "Blue Ribbon Task Force".

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Palo Alto's policy makers are still operating in a business as usual mode. We can do more than whine: we can vote down the bond issues, sending them a wake up call, that will result in a more efficiently operating city - and that will hopefully spend any bond money they get in the future wisely.

Posted by The Real Anna
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 9, 2007 at 2:15 pm

Anna, please do explain to the readers how much more it would cost to repair infrastructure if they vote down bonds, causing further delay. I want to see you rationalize that.

Start with the *fact* that construction inflation - currently running at 15%+ - would add at least $15M in year 1, from delaydelay; and $17.5M in year two. That's $37.5 million! More than enough to fund street repairs. Accounting 101, anyone?

That's a conservative estimate, btw. Also, this delay would further confuse voters on what you label as primary infrastructure issues - things like streets. That would end up costing more, as well.

What amuses and conbfounds me is why so many people who think they can do it better, don't run for City Council themselves, I guess it's easier to criticize, ad nauseum.

Next, Palo Alto does have a street repair backlog, but it turns out that Palo Altans are not hugely complaining about that. We only hear about streets from Diana Diamond, when she's looking for some heat in a column, or from the usual whiners who complain about our city, no mattter what happens.

What's also amusing is that our *city* funded the street audit that Anna so hand-wringingly touts. Thus, our city IS trying to wrestle with inefficiencies by getting constraints out in the open, so that they can be fixed.

What we see Anna and a few others engaging in are arguments that complain on the one hand that the city is doing nothing, and on the other that when the city does something, it isn't good enough. Catch 22, anyone.

Palo Alto can no longer afford to listen to Anna and those that agree with her. our future is at stake. Can you imagine Anna as a City Council member, putting the kibosch on already-planned infrastructure projects, and starting up efforts to divert the momentum we have gained toward making huge gains to repair infrastructure? That's a platform that's worth about 200 votes, maximiun - about the number of residents in this town who will never be satisfied with anything the city does. Unfortunately, these same residents are often the most vocal.

There is a himily about the "squeaky wheel"; here's another one. "the squeaky wheel gets tuned out, or replaced".

Posted by Anna
a resident of University South
on Oct 9, 2007 at 2:30 pm

The best argument against the bonds is a very simple one:

The city is doing a horrible job of managing our money. We have a gusher of money, and yet the city can't seem to do simple basic things like repair the streets.

Despite the warnings and carping of many citizens, the city leadership and management hasn't improved over the years. Thus we have them asking for storm drain taxes only to see half of the money wasted two years after it's approved.

While in the immediate sense it might - as Anna/Mike allege - cost more for any particular infrastructure project to delay it by refusing the bonds, the long term financial future is at much greater risk if we don't get a handle on our fiscal problems. We can't keep bailing out the poor choices of policy makers and managers with a bond issue every time we get into trouble.

If we vote no on the bonds, it may wake up the people at city hall to the fact that we can't continue business as usual here.

That's what the squeaky wheels think.

On the other hand, if you think the city's management is acceptable, if you like the job that the city council and Frank Benest are doing managing our tax money - if you agree with Mike and Anna - then you should vote for the bond issue.

I don't take personal pot-shots at these people. I just disagree with their assessment of the situation in Palo Alto. I think they want to improve the city, I just think they are wrong in the way they evaluate our problems and in the way they want to fix them.

I wish they'd extend the same courtesy and expectation of good faith to me.

Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 9, 2007 at 2:30 pm

Thanks to people like "The Real Anna" and their rhetoric, i will be sure to vote no on any bond measure proposed by our city council.
Enough wasted money, enough incompetence and :good old boy" network at city hall, enough of people like "the real anna" attacking people who question what is going on in this city.
No new bonds until I see real progress to make this city better.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 9, 2007 at 2:42 pm

I knew a kid whose mother, sending him to the store, always told him he could buy candy with the change that was left over. Instead, he bought candy first, then complained he didn't have enough money to buy the staples he had been sent for. He grew up to be a Palo Alto Councilperson.

Posted by Laura Druse
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 9, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Casting the bond issues as a contest between Cheerleaders for the City and the City's Critics seems like a useful tool to getting to the root of how Palo Alto residents think about the financial management of the city.

In few other ways, can citizens have a direct say when their attention is focused by the fact that how they vote will cost them money.

I have been reading through this thread, and the many other threads on this issue over the past year or so. Neither side has a monopoly on convincing argumentation.

I originally started with the unsophisticated analysis that we need more libraries, and that the city leaders probably are being honest when they say we need a police station. So of course i was for the bond measures.

The more I followed these discussions and evaluated the facts put forward by the various sides however, the more skeptical I became. I still am not sure how I will vote: but I do think that unless the city can come up with arguments not so much about the bonds themselves - but with evidence that they are not wasting our money - the bonds should lose.

In any event, I am surprised by how good this forum can be for helping citizens refine their thinking about the issues in town. Kudos to the Weekly for providing it!

Posted by The Real Anna
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 9, 2007 at 4:28 pm

Laura, I find it strange that Palo Alto's stellar credit rating, and the range of our services - from libraries to parks, and aso on - sould be put at risk by people who say "I think I can do better". What's astounding about this is that those who say these things are in the VAST minority of Palo Altans.

The second-last school bond, and library bond, were defeated by a less than 40% MINORITY. Think about that.

It was defeated because of the negative rhetoric of many of the same people on this board, who have only a low bar to jump over, to defeat revenue bonds.

Think what the Measure D defeat cost this city, just in construction inflation alone. I think that Measure D would have come in at $49M. Apply an accelerated construction inflation rate of 15% to that defeat, from 2002, through 2009, which is when construction might begin on a new Mitchell Park library.

That's about $7.5M+ per year. It amounts to just over $50 million dollars. This would have paid for the library!

How's that for an argument?

We had better get wise in Palo Alto, and start thinking how to educate our population about infrastructure costs, or we are going to lose many city services.

I know some of the naysayers on this board; they would like nothing better.

If we decide to go the naysayer route, so be it. Then you will hear the latter complain about how we lost our city services, and how management is incompetent. It's their mantra.

It's a funny thing how people tend to trust and be crippled by bad news, instead of looking for opportunity. That's where we have been, and that's what we have to overcome.

btw, I'm no cheerleader, but the stunning reality distortions I have seen dished up by a few here - especially those who take one little part ofo the city and generalize it into the whole - deserves straightforward retort.

We'll see what happens at the polls. We need leadership that is willing to look past small thinking, and able to rally our community to keep itself sustainable.

Voting "no" on bonds will cost a whole lot more than naysayers say it will save. Do the math.

Posted by Anna
a resident of University South
on Oct 9, 2007 at 6:50 pm

We can have all the invective in the world about distortions, naysayers and "VAST" minorities spouting negative rhetoric being responsible for the defeat of previous bond issues. That's really irrelevant to the upcoming votes.

On the current bond issue, each side has had the opportunity to present its version of the facts on this Forum, and will have another opportunity to do so in the coming election campaign.

It's really a simple election to explain, and distortions won't help either side:

Those against the bonds think the city is mismanaging our finances, and that turning down the bond issue will force fundamental changes in the way that the city operates that will pay dividends far into the future.

Those in favor of the bonds think that the city is doing a pretty good job managing our finances right now and that any problems can be fixed without big changes in business as usual in the city. They want the bond money spent by the current city leadership following the same processes they followed with the storm drain money, for example.

(Some in this group apparently fear that the distortions of the VAST minority will fool enough voters to make a difference in the election outcome. Fortunately, most people on both sides of the issue seem to have more respect for the voters than that. Most bond supporters and opponents also have enough respect for the other side not to question their motives or the honesty of their arguments.)

There are plenty of facts and arguments on both sides. Voters can judge them all. We'll shortly see which are most convincing to voters who have to shell out their own cash on the mere promises of reform made by the city - once more - if these issues pass.

Posted by Anonomus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2007 at 10:37 pm

After reading the above comments it occurred to me, on the subject of road conditions: There are over 60,000 commuters to Palo Alto every day and they pay no taxes or next to none. there are only 3 or 4 gas stations in town and I doubt that they buy gas at these even, so we get little gas tax. Also trucks of every size use residential streets with "No Commercial trucks===) "and they are not built for trucks. The question is how to tax these commuters or the companies they work for. Maybe a parking space tax and this might also cut down on single occupancy drivers if it is a big tax. I suspect that most of the companies in town pay little or no tax to the city.

SanAntino St is in terrible shape with tree roots as speed bumps and many truckers refuse to drive on it and cut thru residential streets to cross town. I think it is the only legal cross town truck route.

Posted by San Antonio Mess
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 10, 2007 at 8:33 am

Anonomus, a complete redesign of San Antonio Road is underway by the City. I believe the idea is to remove those overhanging pine trees with their huge roots which make the roadway so uneven. The plan is to replace the trees with easier to maintain trees. It will remain a four lane roadway with added bicycle paths and room to park.

As for a tax on commuters. You have to remember that there are plenty of Palo Alto residents driving into and through neighboring Cities just like residents of neighboring cities drive to Palo Alto. Will we start a taxing war between cities if we start taxing commuters to PA?

Posted by Traffic calming
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:05 am

Cutting down trees on San Antonio Road? Has the city arborist Doktor given his okay? Has he informed his contacts at the private group Canopy so that they can oppose this? Or do just oppose tree removal on private property? I thought every tree in PA was sacred.
any way, some of the commercial traffic that runs down San Antonio needs to be funneled down the streets of North Palo Alto--preferable down Embarcadero Road. And we need trafic calming on San Antonio Road. If College Terrace can have traffic calimng, we south PA residents deserve it also

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:09 am

Following on from Traffic Calming's post above, is San Antonio officially Palo Alto or Mountain View? Is this a combined cities effort or what is the situation? My feeling is that it may be a county project but I have no real idea?

Feedback anyone?

Posted by San Antonio Mess
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 10, 2007 at 10:08 am

San Antonio is a Palo Alto roadway, and is Palo Alto's responsibility East of the overpass over the train tracks, everything from the train tracks to Foothill Expressway either belong to Mnt Vw or Los Altos.

The plans for San Antonio have been in the works for years; the arborist would have to know about it by now. San Antonio is the only major truck route through PA, truck drivers keep turning up Charleston because the lower limbs on the pine trees hit their trucks.

Also, the road surface is so uneven due to the tree roots that truck drivers complain they can't bring heavy loads up San Antonio. If you don't want the trees cut down along San Antonio you'll have to make Oregon Expressway the truck route through PA. I believe Canopy is involved in choosing the new trees.

Posted by bruce
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2007 at 5:38 pm

The storm drains have only about half money to repair what was scheduled not because of poor handling by city government. It's because steel has increased in price over 40% in the past two years. It was thought at the time there was enough cushion to handle inflation. Obviously a better crystal ball was needed.

A more important consideration is the committee recommended a bond price, $10, that voters would accept. This was far too low to do much of the storm drain repairs needed. Future repair/maintenance of the drains will again be the victim of inflation, and we'll have to pay higher prices for the work.

One hears the cry that the City is not repairing/maintaining our infrastructure; but libraries, police building, and roads, etc. are all part of this infrastructure. By voting down bonds we are 1, not repairing our infrastructure, and 2, postponing the work to a later time when it will cost more money. Very shortsighted.

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