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Committee backs Palo Alto utility rate hike

Original post made on Apr 1, 2009

Palo Alto residents should expect to see a small increase in their utility bills starting in July, when electricity, water and wastewater rates are all tentatively scheduled to go up. But an expected 10 percent drop in natural-gas rates, the biggest portion of most customers' utility expenses, should keep the average bill from swelling too much.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 1, 2009, 2:00 AM

Comments (19)

Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2009 at 11:10 am

(I probably should have filed this under CRIMES and incidents)

Council backs hike. Here's how this translates to me and others in my position I've spoken to:

CARPETBAGGERS translated for modern times: Probably the worst Carpetbaggers were the politicians who used their positions in the corrupt Reconstruction Government (CITY COUNCIL) to enrich themselves (CITY COFFERS) through bribes, graft and other despicable acts (UTILITY HIKE DURING DIRE ECONOMIC TIMES)at the expense of native Southerners.(PALO ALTANS) Today the dictionary defines a Carpetbagger as " an outsider (COMPLETELY CLUELESS) involved in politics.


The term derives from the medieval German lords who illegally charged exorbitant tolls against ships traversing the Rhine river (utilities) There has been some dispute over the term's origin and use. It was popularized by U.S. political and economic commentator Matthew Josephson during The Great Depression in a 1934 book. He attributed its first use to an 1880 anti-monopoly pamphlet in which Kansas farmers (Palo Altans)applied the term to railroad magnates (Palo Alto City Council). The informal term captains of industry (yeah, that's it)may sometimes be used to avoid the negative connotations of "robber baron". Recently the term "Robber 'Boomer' Baron" has been used to describe the undisciplined greed of financial 'robbers' (City Council) during the financial meltdown in 2008 and 2009.

So let's see. What's the good news the last few weeks? Here are just a few of the wallet grabbers:

Vehicle license tax doubles

State sales tax up a full one percent

More job layoffs this week in Silicon Valley.

According to one blog this morning, the following:
More than anything else, business needs a predictable environment if it is to create jobs. Changes in the regulatory environment and the tax code make it almost impossible for businesses to make investments.

On top of all this festive. news:

Palo Alto hikes utility rates, makes an already elevated rate even higher to fund their pet projects while many Palo Altans reported going cold this winter. When there have been numerous complaints of strangely escalated random billings. While the Utilities Dept. is being investigated for fraud.
When there is already a surplus in the utility fund due to high billing even when natural gas rates went down.

Way to support your City, Council.

Does anyone know where there would be a sale on pitchforks and torches?

Posted by BP resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 11:22 am

Why are they raising rates when they are making a profit already? Because they are stealing profits from the utilities to fund OVERHEAD=too many employees. Palo Alto employs more people per citizen than all of our surrounding neighbor cities. Do we get more services? No. We get part time work weeks, bureaucratic babble, and no responses. We have streets in extreme disrepair.

They're funding their excessive benefits packages & pay rates with utility money.

While private, federal, and state organizations are all executing cost savings measures, I haven't heard one peep from PA city council about how they are going to save money.

Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2009 at 11:22 am

Check out how much people who live outside Palo Alto pay for their utilities! If there's a problem with any utility, the City is there right away to handle it. Just call PG&E, and they might be out in a week. hmph!

Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 1, 2009 at 11:48 am

It was reported last week that we're paying 38% more for utilities than PG&E customers. Shame on Palo Alto.

Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2009 at 12:01 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Excuse me, but how can my pointing out that most people do their research before they post on this forum be objectionable and therefore deleted? Do you READ postings on any other sites, like the Chronicle or Mercury? Good way to educate yourselves on truly 'objectionable' content vs. discourse.

Posted by Has $5
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 1, 2009 at 6:35 pm

I think they said @ last night's meeting that the total net cost increase averaged about $5/month per resident (include garbage and sewer increases).

Posted by YPK
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 8:32 pm

What happened to those council members who ran on the platform of tighter budgetary and fiscal control? Since they apparently had changed their position when they voted for the rate increase en-mass, can the citizens get an injunction against the increase by reason of lack of representation?

Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Doubtful. This commentary was hot a month ago, dwindled to nothing. That's what they count on, how they win.

Posted by Rajiv
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 1, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Palo Altans are getting ripped off on this deal. Natural gas prices are down well over 60% and all we get is a 10% cut. Then electricity goes up 10% even though many of power source commodity prices are down. Hydro is flat, gas & oil are way down, and even if we are using coal, it has been tracking oil.

If workers are getting salary increases, that would be ridiculous given that everyone in the world is taking pay cuts.

So what gives?

Where's the oversight?

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2009 at 4:51 am

Oversight? they are part of the problem. This is just part of the money that the utilities transfers to the city:

"ROI" of assets - $16 million
Utility users tax - $10 million
Charges for leases - $5 million (see Diana Diamond's article, where she enumerates cases where the city will lease a parcel of land from Stanford for $1, and charges the utility department hundreds of thousands of dollars Web Link)

Add it all up and it's about $500+ per resident.

And the city council keeps voting for this hidden tax...

Posted by Resident
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Apr 2, 2009 at 5:03 am

Not all council members are in favor of this.
Greg Schmidt is good and tries very hard to grill staff on this.

There are several other council members who I am pretty certain are against this.

The city manager and his staff want the money to fund projects or something. It is hard to extract honest information from these guys.
Council tries, but gets the run around.

We need a good audit, and probably should hire several more financial auditors to help our new auditor.

Sharon was great, I wish we still had her.

Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:39 am

Well then, it would be interesting for someone to go out and interview CM Keene. Sharp concise questioning should elicit some sort of response and then we can get the reporters impression regarding the veracity of that answer. Formulate some of the questions based on some of the points put forth by poster common sense and some other's on this forum.

If some in the City Council disagree, then why vote with the others? This isn't high school, it's ok to buck your peers and vote your conscience.

Posted by Ben
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:44 am

"Council tries, but gets the run around."

Who in the hell is running our city, the council or the staff?! If the Council is trying to get answers and the city manager is giving them the runaround.... then perhaps we need a new city manager who understands who's the ultimate authority...

Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 2, 2009 at 11:45 am

The city tries to do forward contracts, and as a result we ended up paying 68% over PG&E rates for gas the last 6+ months. That was prime gas usage time, so the impact to consumers (us) was maximized.

The huge utility surplus should first have a portion allocated to a fund for the utility to rebate or credit monthly back to users to compensate for the 68% overcharge. Instead of making the biggest transfer ever to the general fund to bail out the city for not being able to balance the budget.

We utility users are captive slaves to the general fund, and staff payroll/retirement funding.

Plus the increase in water rates will come just in time for the biggest time of the year for water usage-spring and summer when the rains stop, and lawns and gardens need watering.

Posted by Alma & Loma Verde Resident
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 6, 2009 at 1:36 pm

This ridiculous...didn't they just raise our rates like 30% this past winter...oh and now that summer is coming and we won't be using our gas heaters, electricity is going up??? WTF???

Puh-leaaase!!! I know it's expensive to live here and I love PA, but come on...this is WAAYY outt-a-control!!!

Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 6, 2009 at 7:01 pm

I was not at the meeting at the time of this vote. Can anyone please tell me who voted in favor of raising rates and who voted against? I want to make sure I know who to vote out in the next election. I would very much appreciate it, thank you.

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