Town Square

Palo Alto takes fresh look at managers' salaries

Original post made on May 3, 2013

The City of Palo Alto's group of managers and professionals would get a 2 percent raise this year under an agreement the council is set to consider Monday night. At the same time, the city is conducting a study that will help them determine a new salary schedule that would bring local salaries in line with those from other cities.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 3, 2013, 9:55 AM


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Posted by What Goober
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2013 at 11:18 am

Top employees? Ha ha ha. In the few interactions I've had in City Hall, I've met numerous basket cases and only one competent, motivated professional (who's since left for the private sector).

The majority of city employees, especially managers, are comfortable cats looking forward to lucrative pension and retirement benefits. And most of them are already leading the post-retirement life while collecting paychecks.

Why do we need more of them?!

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Posted by M Alguard
a resident of Professorville
on May 3, 2013 at 1:25 pm

It's time for the city government to stop this practice of hiring consulting firms to do there job. It's the job of the city manager and his staff, and the city council to do this. Let's stop wasting our taxes paying for the same job twice. Also, what's wrong with offering positions at a slightly lower salary, and see if there are any candidates. I bet there will be dozens, and several will be well qualified and good potential employees. We have lots of local talent and don't need search committees to waste months and many thousands of dollars trying to find that one "unique" candidate that comes with ludicrous requirements for housing allowances, golden parachutes, etc. HIRE LOCAL!

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Posted by not keen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2013 at 4:30 pm

The list of 200 managers should be published for everyone to see--their names, salaries, when appointed, number of employees they manage, and the name of their department.

I refuse to believe that a city of only about 60,000 residents needs TWO HUNDRED managers!!

Three have been appointed in the last three weeks--a communications manager, an aiport manager 4 years too early, and a sustainability manager. WHY is the city council allowing James Keene to invent so many highly paid managerial jobs??

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 3, 2013 at 4:45 pm

> The list of 200 managers should be published for everyone to see

The City has been releasing its salary data for three, or four, years now. The list for 2010 is uploaded at--

Web Link

The City has also released its most recent salary data on its OpenData web-site.

The question of why so many "manager" comes up frequently--but there never seems to be an answer from the City Council, or the City Manager that makes any sense. The argument most frequently promoted from various City sources is that many of the jobs City employees perform are not "office jobs"--such as the Utilities Department, the Police, the Parks and Recreation. The claim is that in order to supervise/manage these employees who are dispersed around the city's 25 square miles--"it takes a lot of managers".

With the advent of wireless communications, one would think that the City would have an opportunity to employ technology like GPS--so that every manager would know exactly where every vehicle, and presumably, every employee under his/her supervision, would be everym minute of the day. But--even after the debacle a few years ago that say Utilties employees doing "moonlighting" in the middle of the day in Menlo Park--the City still has not installed a GPS system that allows for instant location of all its vehicles.

And now with video chat via smartphones and iPad/TablePCs, the City could easily deploy more-or-less instant eye-to-eye communication, in addition to cell phones, that would help managers deal with unexpected problems.

All of this is possible--but the City does not seem to have a management team in place to formulate a technology plan that would provide a path towards more cost-effective management schemes.

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Posted by Kathy Shen is the problem
a resident of Community Center
on May 4, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Kathy Shen has no idea what she is doing. She has an office that is completely disfunctial just like this survey.

Can wait to see who gets the blame for this mess at Monday's meeting.

Everyone at City hall knows she is flawed and so is the survey.

Lets see what happens!

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Enough is enough.

No city worker should receive any raise of any sort until the unfunded pension liabilities are dealt with. They've all received giant phantom raises already, in the form of the increased payments to CALPERS that the taxpayers will be making on their behalf.

No new worker should be hired either, especially $170K PR consultants. We voters will probably need a ballot measure to force the pension issue, but in the meantime the best defense against such abuse is to vote down any new revenue, since its all for pensions anyway. For example, the city spends all of its money on an overpaid workforce, and now can't afford basic infrastructure, so they spend more of our money on consultants to tell them how to best market a bond measure to us (IE saying it's for vital public safety...)

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Posted by hmm.....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2013 at 9:53 pm

I think this is more sensible than what the school district does. No school manager should make more than the governor!

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Posted by jake
a resident of Community Center
on May 5, 2013 at 9:27 am

Absolutely a waste of time unless she could eliminate half of the positions before the meeting, and the number is likely to double in the coming years. Apparently most folks work in the city careless about the financial future and the benefits for the residents.

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Posted by Bag ABAG
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2013 at 2:05 pm

City staff and management already make much more than equivalent workers in the private sector (ie us), especially once you consider pensions, healthcare, various other spiffs, and age of retirement.

This City Council does not serve the interests of Palo Alto residents and voters. Basically the City spends our money on themselves, and then asks to borrow more via a bond measure. Oh, and did we mention the water rate hike?

We need to:

- Defeat the bond measure (which pays for
all the above, not "infrastructure")

- Elect a much more pro-resident council in 2014

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Posted by Midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2013 at 9:34 pm

I took a look a the salaries and for most jobs, they are way out of line for the jobs these folks are doing and the kinds of degrees and experience required. I do not begrudge firemen and police who do a risky job, but the rest of the jobsm the salaries cannot be justified. I feel I'm just getting screwed by these people.

Instead of just complaining here, what can we do to bring the salaries and benefits in-line with the private sector? I'm NOT willing to pay taxes to keep these fatcats in business. If they want to leave, let them leave. I'm sure we can find people with equivalent skills at a lower pay.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on May 5, 2013 at 10:46 pm

All employees who make over $125K with the exception of Public Safety should be required to live in Palo Alto IF they make decisions, plans, or procedures affecting the finances and lives of Palo Alto residents. They must live HERE and "share the pain" of their handiwork. Example: Utility rates, utility 'procedures", green rules and regulations, zoning, public benefits, planning.... anything that impacts Palo Altans, changes the city, deals with 'developers'. It's easy to find where the 'managers' live. It's all on the internet. "I'm making a list and checking it twice....."

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on May 5, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Good idea Bob. I'm curious, though, where could someone live in Palo Alto on a 125K salary?

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Posted by Quokka
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 8:17 am

America is supposed to be a meritocracy, where performance is the deciding factor in rewards/raises.

It appears more and more that it is becoming a sort of aristocracy, where people, many of them not even citizens, with lots of money and an oversized sense of entitlement, receive all the rewards.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm


If firefighters actually spent their time fighting fires, I'd agree with you.

But in fact most studies show they spend 3-4% of their time on fires. The rest of the time they are just really, really expensive paramedics, with incredibly out-of-date work rules: 4 or more on every call no matter what kind, get paid for sleeping in the firehouse instead of doing shifts like everybody else, etc.

Even then their base pay would be ok. It's the retirement that's the killer. Firefighter pensions start at $100K/yr and go up from there. And they retire at 55, not 67. Multiply that out by a few decades and every single one is a multimillionaire, courtesy of you. Not including free healthcare for them and their family for life, sick pay for days you aren't sick, etc etc.

If all that seems snarky, consider that a quarter of the city's annual budget, and growing, is firefighters. So yeah, they're part of the public-employee ripoff ring too.

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Posted by hard to believe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 5:53 pm

The cost of City government due to excessive employee benefit packages compared to other cities and the manager/employee ratio is a big problem. But a bigger problem is the complete disconnect
between the City staff and Council and the expectations of residents in terms of the preservation of the quality of life and character of our City and its neighborhoods. Extrapolate these trends out a few more years in your mind and imagine where this takes us.

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 9, 2013 at 5:11 pm

To Outside Observer:
Palo Alto has a large senior population - sixty-five and up. Due to exercise, good weather, and being active there is a sizable number of Korean War vets now in their 80's. The Vietnam vets are in their sixties. There are still many WWII vets still among us - in their 90's. Most are living on 'fixed income' and Social Security. A few on military pensions. Some may have worked for Lockheed or HP, or some other company long enough to get a pension. But I doubt if many retired on $125K a year!! Acc. to the American Legion, it's more like $75K a year before Federal and state taxes and Medicare payments....and those medical bills, food, utility bills, car, and house, new roof, water heater, a replacement for a 30 yr. old refrig, a used car, maybe even a trip to see the grandkids. May have to take out another mortgage. Yes, they live among us and read with disbelief the salaries and pensions for city employees who want more and more - while their city 'falls apart' - not they one they moved into and loved and presumed it would be that lovely place in the future.

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on May 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm


I'm afraid you missed my point. Bob said:

"All employees who make over $125K with the exception of Public Safety should be required to live in Palo Alto"

So, I ask again, where could a City Employee live in PA on a 125K salary?