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City Budget

Original post made by Jane Doe, Fairmeadow, on Oct 21, 2006

The City of Palo Alto's budget deficit can be reduced in several ways. Rents should be increased at the Cubberley Community Center so it is self-supporting and will no longer require subsidies from the City. An artist told me her rent was so cheap she used her studio as a storage room for her paintings!!

People who wish to preserve the Juana Briones house or restore the Ross Building should raise the money through private donations, not lean on the City. They should be turned over to private foundations like the Children's Museum and Zoo.

People who leave their cars parked on Alma and ride the baby bullet to SF should be charged $5.-$10. a day. Most of those people drive in from Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley, Woodside and Atherton anyway; they can afford it. The all day Downtown parking permit fee should be increased, this would encourage people to take the bus.

Increase the late return fees for books, CDs and videos taken from the libraries.

Green fees at Palo Alto's golf course should be increased especially for out of City players. Tie-downs at the airport should be increased too.

Pensions for City staff should be 401Ks not a percentage based on the number of years they've worked. Both industry and most Federal Government agencies have moved over to 401Ks, why can't local government.

Comments (11)

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Posted by Bystander
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2006 at 5:27 pm

Alternatively, we could get some decent sources of sales tax through stores (and auto dealers) we all use all the time and the money we already spend on taxes will improve our own city rather than neighboring cities.

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Posted by Lisa
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2006 at 7:26 am

Palo Alto is surrounded by communities with big box stores draining off our retail tax revenue. "Neighborhood Serving" is so out of date, Palo Alto needs to increase it's 20,000 sq. ft. limit on store size and encourage big box stores into the City. Auto dealerships need to be built along both East and West Bayshore. I was shopping recently in Costco in Mountain View and who should I bump into but a Palo Alto City Council person who admitted to me she shops there regularly!!!

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Posted by J.L.
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 22, 2006 at 2:29 pm

Some good ideas, some not. Certainly, our commercial and municipal fiscal realities are beginning to surface in ways that will force change.

Change the zoning laws to favor more infill residential development, *lot's more*! Let's get this city growing!

Get some real "oomph!" behind our city development efforts; find a way help our city development people learn how to leverage current city assets - we're lacking in these skills.

Increase library fines? I disagree; they're pretty stiff already.

Charge for parking on Alma? Why create a disincentive to use mass transit?

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Posted by Economyminded
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2006 at 2:32 pm

Jane Doe's suggestions all affect the end-users, the citizens, and will probably create conflict because those affected will object. What we don't seem to hear about for saving money is the huge sums approved every week for Public Works and Utilities and such. Often six figures, sometimes seven, with little or no scrutiny. The assumption is that they are so holy, it would be sacrilege to question some of those contracts.
Increase fines for overdue books to raise money? give me a break.

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 23, 2006 at 11:32 am

I agree on the sales tax issue

Last Saturday I took my teenage son shopping (a rare event in itself)for some much needed essentials(underwear, pajamas, slippers, socks, etc.). We went to Stanford and tried several stores. There was nothing there at all that he would wear so we left without spending a cent. We went to Target and got all he wanted at much better prices and even an after shopping snack. I would have rather used Palo Alto, but....... Nuff said.

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Posted by Revitalize
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2006 at 11:42 am

We need to bring in businesses that serve every day needs of average income citizens. Palo Alto services are going to pot while many still insist on an elite attitude toward attracting business. How about big grocery stores, clothing stores, box stores - not just designer boutique shops, designer grocery stores, expensive restraunts.

We need to revitalize and take advantage of the El Camino strip, Alma Plaza, (other?) and bring some honestly useful everyday business to Palo Alto It's disgusting frankly that the snob factor is going to be the downfall of the city. (Half of the buildings on El Camino look like they're falling down - and it amazes me every day driving down that road - its hard to believe some of these places are 'in business'. Its hard to even tell what some of those are...

I have a young family of five, and a very middle-ish income, and honestly, every time I need to go shopping, whether its for groceries, gas, perscriptions, clothes, home supplies, or bigger items like appliances, building materials.. I leave town (a whole five minutes, Mt. View mostly.) It never even crossed my mind before. But I'm sitting here trying to think of WHERE I would do this business in Palo Alto if I wanted to, I couldn't come up with a reasonable Palo Alto alternative.

It takes longer, and costs more, to shop IN Palo Alto than it does to drive across San Antonio into Mt. View. Middle income families need to take care of business fast and cheap, not futz around with high prices and inconvenient locations, tough parking and all that.

(The business strip in midtown is woefully inadequate - overcrowded, too small a selection, frequently out of stock, terrible parking.)

For example, where do you get toys in Palo Alto? I bet everyone will come up with one single answer (very inconveniently located). If not there, where? Target in Mountain View...

Without some serious revitalization of 'regular' business in Palo Alto the whole thing is going to shrivel up like an old prune. The whole burden of city services can not be born by usage fees on its citizens (who are NOT all rolling dough). How much can you charge soccer teams to play on fields? Only so much. There needs to be a vital and relevent business tax base to help rebuild and maintain our services.

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Posted by curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 23, 2006 at 3:14 pm

Here's the main problems with generating more sales tax revenue in Palo Alto:

1) Existing Palo Alto businesses want protection from big box retailers, with their cheaper prices.

2) The life style of the political class of the city (ie. city council and their supporters) don't patronize the type of stores that a middle class family would; most of them don't face the same budgets as the middle class in Palo Alto.

3) Approval process is lengthy - look at Alma Plaza, Rickey's Hyatt House, Edgewood Plaza, the propose Auto Row along Bayshore. What business wants to wait years & years with an indetermine outcome?

Net result is less sales tax revenue, more traffic.

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Posted by Future PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2006 at 3:37 pm

Hmmm, these comments are interesting as I was looking to buy a house around Duveneck but being close to everday shopping is pretty important to my family. I mean, how many times a month am I going to shop on University Ave?

Maybe I should seriously consider the homes closer to San Antonio.


ps: Does anyone else notice that these "Town Square" postings are not re-sorted when new comments are added? I find it a problem that someone could add a new comment to an old topic, and I won't notice it because it appears several webpages back. (Back to the original order of the posting).

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 23, 2006 at 5:46 pm

We need both cost cutting and revenue generation. When Hillary Freeman was on the city council (and on the finance committee), she advocated zero-based budgeting -- looking at the entire city budget in detail. My understanding is that during the current budget review process only changes are examined. That means that if buggy whips had been budgeted at $10K/year back in 1900 and no changes were made to that line item, we would still be spending $10K/year for buggy whips.

If city governments had to run like for-profit organizations, you can bet they would become very efficient or go out of business. We need someone like Hillary Freeman to focus on the budget, cut the low priority items and make revenue generation a higher priority.

As to keeping and attracting businesses, the fees the city charges downtown business owners are supposedly meant to pay for parking signs and keeping the streets clean. Shouldn't that be a given? Why would anyone open a business here if it's not. And we're paying some city employee a salary of $50K/year (plus benefits, I assume) to manage this. No wonder business owners are rebelling and refusing to pay. Not a very welcoming climate.

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Posted by Anna
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 23, 2006 at 8:50 pm

Looks like a few myths need to be debunked:

"curious" says..
"1) Existing Palo Alto businesses want protection from big box retailers, with their cheaper prices.

2) The life style of the political class of the city (ie. city council and their supporters) don't patronize the type of stores that a middle class family would; most of them don't face the same budgets as the middle class in Palo Alto.

3) Approval process is lengthy - look at Alma Plaza, Rickey's Hyatt House, Edgewood Plaza, the propose Auto Row along Bayshore. What business wants to wait years & years with an indetermine outcome?
Where do I start? First, businesses have almost nothing to do with keeping big box retail out of our city. That effort has been almost entirely the domain of neighborhood groups.

Second, City Council members are mostly not independently wealthy. Look at Drukmeier, Beecham, Mossar, Barton, Cordell, Morton, etc. There are some upper-middle class demographics there, but they're not driving Rolls Royces! I don;t buy the argument that City Council members can't identify with most Palo Altans.

You're right about the time it takes to get things done - - it's absurdly long, tedious, and costs opportunity.

and, Pat,

Hillary Freeman couldn't see the forest for the trees, and wasted thousands of taxpayer's dollars with constant requests for detailed information from staff. If anything, Freeman probably _cost_ the city money. Also, she was not a very successful collaborator; look at her voting record. In the end, what did she accomplish, except for being an naysayer on most votes - for what?

Also, cities simply _cannot_ run _purely_ like private enterprise, because they are responsible for the provision of certain services, no matter what. That's not true of private enterprise.

"Future PA Resident" is right about new comments to old posts - it's clumsy, and should be managed better. It's ironic that in this age of communication technologies more powerful than ever before, newspaper blogs are often the least communicative, and poorly designed. Se la vie!

That said - it's better than what preceded it! :)

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2006 at 12:26 pm

You can hit 'go to message board view' to see the posts in order of most recent comments. Still have to do that by individual 'category'. But it points you right to the most recent comments on each thread.

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

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