Uploaded: Tue, May 22, 2012, 12:10 pm
Palo Alto eyes 2014 for infrastructure repairs
City Council agrees not to pursue a ballot measure this year; directs staff to create a detailed plan for 2014 measure
Palo Alto's quest toward a 2014 ballot measure officially kicked off Monday night, May 21, when the City Council approved a process for determining which infrastructure projects the measure should pay for.
The council voted 8-0, with Pat Burt absent, to avoid placing a measure on this year's ballot and to begin planning for the 2014 election. In doing so, it backed a recommendation from its Policy and Services Committee, which unanimously agreed on May 8 that the city needs more time to craft a measure that would help the city pay for needed infrastructure repairs.
"This really is the launch of the 'year of infrastructure,'" Councilwoman Karen Holman said just before the vote.
The council's decision to pursue a ballot measure to pay for infrastructure is the latest action in what Mayor Yiaway Yeh called the city's "year of infrastructure replacement and renewal." Last year, a 17-member citizens commission identified $41.6 million in deferred maintenance and recommended replacement of the city's police building and two fire stations. The Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission also recommended that the council boost its capital spending by $2 million annually, a recommendation that the council plans to adopt when it passes its 2013 budget next month.
As part of the vote, the council directed staff to return later this year with a timeline and a detailed plan, including identification of potential projects to be funded, cost estimates and potential revenue sources. Options on the table include a tax increase or a bond measure. Staff will return with the timeline by Sept. 1.
The council agreed that with a subject as broad and far-reaching as infrastructure, even a two-year time frame is tight.
"We need to have a clear understanding of what it is we want to put out there," Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd said. "We need to understand what it is we want to build. I hope we get to it because I think we will need all of that time to get it all ready for the initiative two years from now."
Posted by Wayne Martin,
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 24, 2012 at 8:05 am
The planning process here in Palo Alto can be characterized as somewhere between "fragmented" and "none existent". It suffers from a City Administration that does not have much in the way of an effective Information Technology "backbone", little/no use of simulation software that would provide much better "best guess" estimations of how land use/zoning changes would affect our town, in terms of new population, public sector revenue generation and traffic. The City government is firmly bogged down in a paper-centric view of the world, rather than one that has a forward looking viewcouched in the use of cost-reducing technologies.
The City did recently go through an exercise to review its "infrastructure". Unfortunately, it turned the job over to a group of people that had no expertise in asset management, information technology, or even basic analytical skills, it would seem. Rather than approaching the problem by creating a complete inventory of City assets, it seemed to be very selective in its vision of what "infrastructure" might be, focusing on a few high visibility targets, and ignoring the rest. As a result, we don't have an adequate inventory of the City's assets, and don't really know what the cost of maintaining the City's assets is, or will be, in the future.
To make matters worse, this group took a very myopic view (in my opinion) and did not consider alternatives to the current service delivery models. It seem to simply see things in terms of "business as usual" in the coming years, without any thought as to how services might be delivers on timelines ten, twenty, thirty years out. That failure to consider alternatives renders this exercise to be of limited value, I think. The data they collect, and presented, is valid. Their conclusions, on the other hand, not so much.
There are many alternatives to the current "vision" that is being set before us. The links below point to two lists of ideas that have been submitted to the City Council recently that offer an alternative vision to the current service delivery model of people-centric, paper-centric, murky asset management, that characterizes the current City government:
Ideas Submitted to the Palo Alto City Council About The Use of Technology:
The costs of running "Palo Alto" in the coming years is staggering. The current "infrastructure" needs, using bond financing, probably comes to $2B (estimated). In all likelihood, this number is understated. The City/PAUSD's recent announcement to use the Cubberley site for three new schools probably adds $300M-$500M to the future capital costs projected for the schools, and $30M-$50M for the PAUSD operating budget. The City's continued operation of the golf course, and its plan to operate the Palo Alto airport diverts about $1B in land to two small groupsabout three-quarters of which are not Palo Alto residents.
Adding the revenues/expenditures of the PAUSD/City together, we are looking at $3B-$4B every decade. When the future "infrastructure" costs are considered, this number only grows. Our "leaders" tell us that this is still not "enough"but they don't seem to have any interest in telling us how much is "enough". All we ever hear from these people is "more, more".
It is becoming clear that small municipal units like Palo Alto can not afford themselves. One obvious path is to "regionalize", either by merging municipalities, or at least to merge functions (like HR, IT, Police and Fire, Public Works). The savings that can be achieved would pay for much of this infrastructure, as well as the shifts in the service delivery models that have certain initial costs, as well as maintenance costs.
How to get from "here to there" becomes a challenge that will take a new generation of "leaders". It also will require some "undoing" of a number of laws that bind the hands of city governments/school districts, where the use of labor is concerned. All-in-all, we are looking at something akin to rewriting the DNA of a living organism, expecting it to transform before our eyes, almost immediately, with no ill effects. A pretty unachievable goal, most would believe. Perhaps. But we do have the skill set within our grasp. The only question is: "do we have the intelligence to do the right thing, and change course?"
Voting down any Council initiated Bond measures that are not coupled with significant changes to the current service delivery model, is the only way for the voters to be heard. Otherwise, it will be "business as usual" for decades to come in this town.
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