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Too many managers? Palo Alto's largest union urges city to study 'span of control' as budget talks collapsed

Original post made on Jul 16, 2020

Palo Alto's budget crisis has strained the relationships between city management and its largest labor union, whose members will get their scheduled raises even as programs have been slashed or reduced.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 8:11 PM

Comments (22)

25 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2020 at 9:43 am

>> At the same time, Tanaka echoed the SEIU's concerns about the number of managers at City Hall and similarly called for a span-of-control study.

Kudos to Tanaka for raising this issue. It may not be news, but, it sure is great to be a management-level employee for the City of Palo Alto.


17 people like this
Posted by Most Ineffective
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2020 at 11:14 am

Tanaka is the most ineffective member of the council - unable to convince anyone of his viewpoints. We need serious, collobroative council members who can get votes to actually accomplish things. I don't think Tanaka initated and passed anything in four years.


23 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2020 at 11:30 am

Tanaka is the lone voice of reason. He's the only one willing to ask the hard questions, or do anything but kow-tow to City Hall.

I watch nearly all the meetings... at first I though he was a "hawk" on budget. The truth is Tanaka is willing to spend money when it makes sense, but will actually ask what things cost along the way. Imagine that... asking what things cost and if it's reasonable... in government!

Let's get him at least 2 allies over the coming years.


29 people like this
Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2020 at 11:32 am

Actually, what we need is less unionized public employees working at the City of Palo Alto. the City has a very high ratio of employees to Palo Alto residents. Feeding at the trough anyone? Time for some labor cost cuts. Thanks to Covid the City has less revenue --- which means the City can't expend as much. Time to cut the largest segment of City expenditures - which are the salaries, benefits, of the 1100 City employees. Unless you're in an alternate universe like the SEIU, of the other members of the City Council besides Greg Tanaka.

The City of Palo Alto has $455 million in unfunded pension liabilities for its unionized public employees --- that was before Covid 19 --- which translates to at least a $39k in debt overhang for Palo Alto households ---

Thank you Greg Tanaka for raising the issue that the City should not be considering raises at this time and should be considering how to cut labor costs - the largest component of City expenditures.


14 people like this
Posted by Longtime PA resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2020 at 12:21 pm

Another area of concern is this ridiculous every-other-Friday-off policy for all city employees.
I would like to see data if city staff is actually making up for 26 default-off days per years,
by putting in 8 extra hours on regular working days. I would be surprised if that's the case.
Now, with COVID-19, why couldn't staff be asked to work from home on these Fridays, just like everyone else who is employed? There is no good reason to have such a policy....it boggles the mind how such a perk can be justified in the face of tight budgets everywhere...


12 people like this
Posted by Jumbled
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2020 at 12:21 pm

I watched many of the council budget meetings that took place in the last 2 months. Tanaka appears confused and overlapped most of the time. What has he ever voted Yes on? When he brought up the number of managers in one of the meetings and was told that not all managers ‘ manage’ people, I was surprised as well. So I went and did some digging around. The unit is called -Management and other Professionals. Which makes sense. This group has engineers, project managers etc which don’t need you to manage people. But these are folks with professional degrees. I was disappointed that Tanaka could do his homework and keep harping on the same thing ( span of control) in each meeting. He of all the people should understand that you cannot classify these professionals into SEIU. I think it was more of a political posturing than a genuine desire to actually understand the issue.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2020 at 12:23 pm

We should be considering outsourcing more services to prevent costs spiraling. We should be concentrating on services that residents depend on, infrastructure, not managers whose work is duplicated and could easily be done by one overseer.

We should not be changing things if it takes time and money or considering anything that is going to cost money.

If my household finances were run the way the City finances were run, my family would be in a bad way. If there is less money available then we have to prioritize and some things will have to go if they are down the list. This is the opposite way the city is proposing to do things. We are the ones who live here and we are the ones who suffer when something we depend on is cut. We won't suffer when the number of managers go. We will suffer when our services are cut.


7 people like this
Posted by No hawk
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2020 at 12:27 pm

Quoting user Sally
“ I watch nearly all the meetings... at first I though he was a "hawk" on budget”.

I don’t think Tanaka is a hawk. The easiest thing to do is to vote NO without going into merits of the problem. And that’s exactly what his voting record shows. If anything, he is one confused council member.


19 people like this
Posted by NoKowTowing
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 16, 2020 at 1:01 pm

It is SO disappointing that the other 6 Council Members almost ALWAYS go along with City Staff. At least Greg has the audacity to inquire about how OUR money is spent. He ASKED for the exact span of control when citing that >20% of employees were categorized as "Management and Professional" but receives a condescending, double speak answer from Ed Shikada who obviously wants to protect his fifedom. And Ed gets away with it because the other 6 council members want to preserve their relationship with Ed so he will help them with their different agendas (e.g., unfortunately often times too much development and favors paid back to big business given campaign contributions).

I hope future candidates will challenge City Staff as Greg has been doing.


19 people like this
Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2020 at 1:10 pm

Thank goodness we have Greg Tanaka asking questions like questioning like why so many City 'managers' are needed, and why unionized public employees should still be getting a raise when the City suffers huge revenue cuts, and why so many consultants are hired to do the jobs that the City employees are hired to do.

On that topic, why do we need to pay City employees just to hire consultants? The City can just hire the consultant directly and save the paycheck and all the overgenerous benefits and unfunded pension liabilities. Why not just pay the consultant, since they are hired for their expertise, which apparently the City employees cannot supply.


11 people like this
Posted by Robbie
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2020 at 1:38 pm

I grewn up in PA and worked for PA for 10 years. Within the last year I moved on from PA. The amount of $$$. Some of these manager make is disgusting. Mostly seating around answering emailing and pretending to be somebody. (Dont forget the tree cutting on Cal ave. Or the traffic reducing round abouts). Lots of money for over planning and contrators. Only too lose more money to fix the problem that was created by these high paided managers.
The reason PA parks, facility's, and services are so great is due to the men ( seiu labor union) and women doing the work. Support these people trying to eak out a decent living. We have enough people in our WH trying to eliminate unions soo they can line there pockets.


13 people like this
Posted by S_mom
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 16, 2020 at 2:34 pm

I've liked what I've seen of Tanaka too. Most of the rest seem too buddy-buddy cozy with city management, and therefore unwilling to ask hard (but important questions).


5 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 16, 2020 at 5:25 pm

"If anything, he is one confused council member."

Or pragmatic, not driven by simplistic dogma.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2020 at 7:41 pm

The City can't impose wage freezes on unions. The SEIU is allowed to choose raises over fewer layoffs, and they did. The City legally must go along. Everybody knows that, including Tanaka.


9 people like this
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 16, 2020 at 10:54 pm

The less SEIU the better.


8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2020 at 9:26 am

Articles like this paint a rosier picture than is the case. Quotes regarding layoff numbers often don't include part-time employees who are being cut/hurt the most. Basically, the bottom below the bottom.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2020 at 1:03 pm

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> Articles like this paint a rosier picture than is the case. Quotes regarding layoff numbers often don't include part-time employees who are being cut/hurt the most. Basically, the bottom below the bottom.

A different Anon from me, Anon, but, I agree. For example, they outsourced the part-time swimming pool lifeguards, and got rid of what looked like a large-ish number of people, but, taking a bunch of people making < $6K/year with no benefits off the payroll doesn't do anything real for the budget.

What I still don't understand is why they want to initiate construction on the new Public Safety building when the revenue stream identified for that has dried up. Why not defer it a year or two until the revenue stabilizes?

I would also like to know if PAPD has anything to do with "NAPO" directly, or indirectly. NAPO, the National Association of Police Organizations, has just made a partisan endorsement for President. Web Link Better not be any of our tax dollars flowing directly or indirectly to NAPO.


3 people like this
Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 17, 2020 at 2:04 pm

“Tanaka estimated that about 20% of the city's employees are managers and argued that proportion is too high.”

Tanaka is not a management consultant for city governments. He was told repeatedly by the City Manager in public that a “Manager” title is frequently used for people who have ZERO people to manage such as a Project Manager. Even if he knew how many managed others, he has no expertise in best practices on city staffing by department.

"We're giving raises. It's just mind-boggling," Tanaka said at the June
22 meeting, just before the council adopted its budget.

The reporting is correct. The city cannot force a revocation of the union contract that was signed in 2019 including that raise. He was grandstanding for the camera minutes before the final vote on an issue that council could not change.

Tanaka intentionally ignores or twists facts that interfere with his political goal of looking like a hero on any financial item. He is being dishonest with citizens.




13 people like this
Posted by Do a span of control study
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 17, 2020 at 2:20 pm

I watched this part of the meeting. Tanaka was pushing for a study of the management span of control, same as SEIU. I think is right thing to do.

I never heard him say the city had unilateral control of the raises nor does the article say that above either. I don’t understand the accusation of twisting facts? There was no grandstanding, just the intent to look out for the public interest. Where is all this anger coming from?


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2020 at 4:46 pm

@Disappointed:

Here is the Transparent California website, now updated with 2019 salary data.

Web Link

Now, I have to say that, "on the face of it", CPA is "top heavy". See for yourself. Tanaka, SEIU, and I have one thing in common: we are agreed that the City should take a look at the management structure, span of control, and salaries for managers.

And, since I looked at it again, I was hit in the face again, by the surprising salaries of some public safety personnel who make more than the chiefs, their bosses, and make huge amounts more than their base salaries. I've commented on this previoiusly, and, no one has ever provided a credible justification for why, for example, a "Battalion Chief" makes 68% more in pay than their base pay, and, is third in salary after the city manager and city attorney.


11 people like this
Posted by Political time
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 17, 2020 at 8:08 pm

Tanaka is getting attacked because he is asking the hard uncomfortable questions of city management and they don’t like it. I suspect a lot of the comments are from managers in the city and candidates for city council. It is election time. Expect more negative campaigning.


5 people like this
Posted by Carol
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2020 at 10:07 am

I am retired from government. The best run government management I experienced was working under FULLY retired military supervisors back in the days when so called “double dipping” was allowed. As we are already paying for their medical expenses it cuts our expenses in my view to make further use of their polished expertise.
What impressed me the most with these folks is they supervised at our side (at the crack of dawn), not in back offices, were excellent in day to day training of staff, & kept a sharp eye on the floor without exception.

I know I would not be reading here of so many concerns if FULLY retired military personnel were running the show. You have to pay for good government management, but more importantly know where to find it.


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