News


Palo Alto's accomplishments, civic trends in 2013

Healthy economy, ongoing infrastructure problems characterize busy year

"At the end of 2013, I want us all to be able to look back and say, 'Wow, we accomplished a lot,'" Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff said at the beginning of the year.

And surely, by many measures it's been a productive and prosperous year. Even with Palo Alto's recent growing pains, residents continue to give the city glowing reviews when it comes to quality-of-life issues. In the 2012 National Citizen Survey, 94 percent of respondents rated the city overall as "excellent" or "good" and 95 percent gave Palo Alto top ratings as a "place to live." These numbers have been strong for many years and are unlikely to change significantly this year.

Outsiders have also taken notice. In November, the website Livability.com ranked Palo Alto as the nation's top city to live in. At around the same time, the think-tank Center for Digital Government designated Palo Alto the nation's top digital city in its population category. The year was as kind to the Palo Alto brand as it was to the local economy and to property values.

The council didn't exactly rest on its laurels in 2013. In a year full of political speed-bumps and setbacks, the City Council came away with a long list of accomplishments.

It succeeded in greatly expanding the city's public-art program, requiring for the first time that private developers contribute to Palo Alto's art scene. It extended a ban on smoking to every local park and began exploring new smoking restrictions downtown; mandated that every new home be pre-wired for electric-vehicle chargers; created new penalties for residents whose languishing "mystery projects" (that is, stalled home renovations) bring blight to city blocks; banned vehicle habitation in response to complaints from neighborhoods, especially adjacent to Cubberley Community Center (though it also agreed Dec. 16 to freeze enforcement of the ban for a year); shut down community centers at night; and approved new master plans to create citywide wireless and fiber-optic systems.

The local economy continued to blossom, with tax revenues in just about every category climbing steadily and the budget picture looking sunnier than it did even before the 2008 recession. Hotel-tax revenues jumped by an astonishing 57 percent in the first quarter of fiscal year 2014 (July through September), when compared to the same period a year ago. Sales taxes showed a 48 percent jump, prompting city staff to revise their budget projections. All of this was great news.

Yet when it comes to preserving the quality of life of city residents and making progress on the most urgent priorities, 2013 brought its fair share of disappointments. Library patrons are still waiting for the city's new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center to open its doors. The project has seen so many construction mishaps, missed deadlines and failed inspections that Public Works officials have given up on predicting the opening date.

In November, when it became clear that the city's hapless and embattled contractor, Flintco, will miss another deadline, officials sent the company a "notice of default." In mid-December, the city began discussions with Flintco's surety company about supplementing Flintco's undermanned crews or terminating the contractor entirely, which could further delay the long-deferred grand opening of the city's largest library.

Bookworms and library volunteers aren't the only Palo Altans whose patience was tested this year. Residents eager for the long-awaited "fiber to the premise" system, which would bring ultra-high-speed Internet to every home, will also have to continue waiting (thankfully, by now they have about two decades of practice). The only major action on this council priority was approval of master plans for the possible fiber-optic system and for a wireless plan.

When it comes to the city's faltering infrastructure, the council remains uncertain about funding repairs with a 2014 bond measure. Polls of voters showed that a new police headquarters, the city's top infrastructure priority, is unlikely to garner the two-thirds voter support needed for a bond to pass, and Jay Paul Company's withdrawal of its development proposal eliminated one avenue for getting the police headquarters built.

The council's Infrastructure Committee held extensive debates about different funding sources and possible bond packages. As the curtain closes on 2013, a hotel-tax increase stands out as the most promising source for funding infrastructure, but the city remains without a concrete plan for a 2014 election.

The biggest infrastructure accomplishment came this year in the form of street repairs, an area where the city had more than doubled its budget two years ago. This year, the city resurfaced more than 36 lane miles, an accomplishment Scharff said will allow the city to reach its 10-year goal of excellent street-condition scores "much sooner than we anticipated."

In his final written message of the year, Scharff called 2013 a year "of action and progress" and said that the city has "accomplished or laid the ground work to complete almost everything I called for in my State of the City address."

Whether or not other city leaders share this view depends on many factors, not the least of which is their definition of "almost." The council may credibly claim that it "accomplished a lot" in the politically charged atmosphere of 2013. But with so much business left undone and a council election looming, it has set itself up for an even busier 2014.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Livability
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 29, 2013 at 10:59 am

Livability, not counting the cost of living. And the air pollution.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by You betcha
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 29, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Yup, they have accomplished a few good things, but it was like pulling teeth to get them to man up and do it. They are still lagging horribly on infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the good they have done is overshadowed and outweighed by the bad. Let us hope that a new city council can limit the damage.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2013 at 1:58 pm

You would think that the city was going to hell in a hand basket based n the comments on this forum-- too much traffic, not enough parking, too many workers commuting, too many buildings that everyone hates etc. of wait, maybe this forum is not a real indicator of how the residents really feel.

"The council didn't exactly rest on its laurels in 2013. In a year full of political speed-bumps and setbacks, the City Council came away with a long list of accomplishments."
How about stowing the cheerleading gear, gennady and doing a real story on the council? What they failed to accomplish this year and how there may be widespread discontent with them. I understand that you are only an employee and someone else calls the shots, but it is obvious that the weakly is the behind the scenese cheerleader for the council. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2013 at 3:20 pm

I got to wondering about how Palo Alto was awarded the "Top Digital City" in the US, so I contacted a representative of the magazine who said they would "be happy to answer my questions about their process". So, I submitted the following--
------
Q1: How Are Cities/Towns Chosen to be considered as
candidates for your awards?

(Do Cities submit applications to be considered, or
do you pick them out of the roughly 20,000 towns/cities
in the US?)

Q2: Do you review published technology plans available
to the public?

Q3: Do you access yearly progress towards implementing
technology plans?

Q4: Do you ascertain public's use of their City's
digital services?

Q5: Do you estimate the percentage of traditional
"paper services" available on-line?

Q6: Do you consider the IT budget for each candidate
City government?


Q7: Do you Skype/VideoChat with any of the
people you interview?
-----

There was no answer to these simple questions. So—one can only wonder if this organization has any real expertise in the design/evaluation/use of e-government, or if they are just another magazine that sells ads and prints "puff pieces" to justify their existence?

It is very hard to believe that Palo Alto is the top "digital city" in the US, when one surfs the Net and reviews the web-sites of other cities.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I think it would be much more productive to list the things that are still unfinished or not dealt with rather than looking at accomplisments.

Mitchell Park library and now Main library in temporary locations.

Traffic still backs up in the same places with nothing done to alleviate the problem intersections.

Parking in downtown is still abysmal, particularly for those who wish to park all day occasionally.

No improvements in public transportation particularly for those trying to get to school from areas not served by the shuttle.

Shopping in Palo Alto is still a problem for those of us looking for affordable necessities such as groceries, household items and kids clothing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nemesis
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 29, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Rupert, perhaps you should have read the whole story before you went after Gennady. It's a pretty balanced piece.

And yes, he's a real reporter. Your remarks about him are juvenile, ignorant, and quite unfair. Perhaps identifying yourself as a fictional "rakish, dashing villan" is indicative of your maturity.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Dec 29, 2013 at 3:37 pm

> When it comes to the city's faltering infrastructure ..

Statements like this one really need to be taken with a grain of salt. While there was a group of citizens empaneled to look at this matter, they spent far too much of their time concerned with how to get bonds passed, rather than creating an inventory of "infrastructure", which documented the servicability of all of the items in the inventory, and estimated when each line item needed to be replaced/refurbished. Far too much time was spent on the Cubberley Center, and not the City's infrastructure as a whole, in my opinion.

So--there doesn't really seem to be a Government-managed infrastructure list that is available to the public. Since the City Manager's Office has been dealing with this matter since the 1998 "Hundred Million Dollar Infrastructure Problem" report was released, and then CM Benest upped the ante to about $550M, it's been a while since a full inventory accounting has been offered to the public.

The addition of the Airport to the City's operational departments adds another $500M worth of assets to be maintained, and no mention of problems that will require City funding within the next ten years or so have been included in any of the past infrastructure inventories.

The gas/water/wasterwater/stormwater is all being managed by the Utility/Public Works. The general state of this infrastructure, which amounts in the billions, as afar as asset value is concerned, is generally not discussed with the other infrastructure items--so we really don't have a clear picture of what the state of all of the City's assets/infrastructure is (although I suspect the Operating Departments actually do know).

> When it comes to the city's faltering infrastructure ..

Comments like this one don't seem all that reliable to me. It's a shame that there isn't more hard data on the table to better understand what is really going on.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm

"Rupert, perhaps you should have read the whole story before you went after Gennady. It's a pretty balanced piece."
I read the story. IMHO, it is the typical fluff piece. You will note the portion, I pulled, out that I found especially ridiculous. Also note residents post above.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Regarding one of Wayne martins comments, perhaps the reporter should have done some homework and looked into who is giving out these awards to their city and what their credibility is.
Also I noticed that the satisfactions survey referenced is for 2012-- given the issues that arose in 2013 ( parking, measure D, new building) one wonders if this year the survey results will be different-- so comparing 2012 surveys with 2013 events is apples and orangs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by BP homeowner
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 29, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Yes, 2013 was a great year for Palo Alto's city council. They managed to unite almost every section of the city, except the area where most of them live, in opposing high density housing. They showed themselves great friends of developers and ugly buildings. They wasted money on a referendum which would have been unnecessary had they listened to residents. They did nothing to fix traffic or parking problems. Most significantly, they created consensus for ousting every one of them from the council as soon as next elections permit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Say no to baloney
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 30, 2013 at 12:49 am

The city counsel rushed thru a year approval process in 6 months for a building 10 feet over approved Palo Alto building code's on Cowper @university, it must be a very special building!!! Any idea why$$$

We need people who are actually involved not just interested in helping ultra wealthy building owners on city council pass their plans when nobody is looking. Like right at holiday time they pass stuff like this? Extra shady and sneaky IMHO.

Corrupt corrupt corrupt.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 30, 2013 at 10:22 am

Do you people seriously think that adding more parking is going to decrease traffic and commuting? No, it's just going to mean more drivers. Stop this mantra of your right to unlimited free parking.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 30, 2013 at 10:29 am

No one is asking for free parking. What residents want is that when a new commercial building goes up, the building includes enough parking for all of the employees and their cars. Nothing to do with free public parking.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 30, 2013 at 11:20 am

If the city has surplus tax revenues, maybe they could spend it on the infrastructure repairs?

Maybe this oh-so-green community could consider turning off at least SOME of the lights in the unfinished Mitchell Park library?? Instead of lecturing US about OUR use. It's blazing every day and every night.

Maybe the city could consider getting interest on the $5.3 Million "loan" to Palo ALto Housing for Maybell instead of letting it sit elsewhere??


 +   Like this comment
Posted by gary wetzel
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 30, 2013 at 1:32 pm

To Wayne Martin, The Infrastructure Commission Spent many months preparing its report. You did not attend even one meeting, or ask one question. Did you even read the report? Perhaps you should read it and the minutes of the meetings and then We might consider you worthy of one question. Gary Wetzel, Commissioner


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Gary wetzel, above, demonstrates what is wrong with the city-- questioning council members/ commission members/ committee members on their actions is discouraged. And such questions are either ignored or treated with contempt, as Gary demonstrates above.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Full of Baloney
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 30, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Yes, the City Council, ARB, and Planning Commission have done things that reek of shady dealings, self-interest, [portion removed.]

Let us hope for justice and better Boards, Councils, and Commissions next year.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 30, 2013 at 2:18 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Translation of Gary Wetzel's comment Wayne Martin's worthiness above:

"What, Wayne, you think we work for you or something?"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2013 at 6:45 pm

The City is becoming uglier, more congested, more overbuilt,with the
destruction of its character and identity and neighborhoods. That is
what the City Council and staff accomplished in 2013 with a strong
tailwind going into 2014 with more underparked oversized office projects
in the pipeline, but thrown off balance by a resident uprising with the decisive defeat of Measure D. There you have 2013 in a nutshell.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Dear Gary Wetzel, Commissioner:

I repeat my earlier questions:

osted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
8 hours ago

If the city has surplus tax revenues, maybe they could spend it on the infrastructure repairs?

Maybe this oh-so-green community could consider turning off at least SOME of the lights in the unfinished Mitchell Park library?? Instead of lecturing US about OUR use. It's blazing every day and every night.

Maybe the city could consider getting interest on the $5.3 Million "loan" to Palo ALto Housing for Maybell instead of letting it sit elsewhere??



Also, did the city do an economic impact study of who much sales tax revenue PA is losing as residents are forced to show in neighboring communities where they can park??


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2013 at 8:51 pm

To quote Gennady Sheyner, "The council didn't exactly rest on its laurels in 2013. In a year full of political speed-bumps and setbacks, the City Council came away with a long list of accomplishments." In the next paragraph he then includes banning vehicle habitation and shutting down community centers at night as two items on that list of accomplishments.

Why are those measures to be counted as accomplishments?? In terms of a civilized and caring society, IMHO they certainly aren't!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Old Paly Rules
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 30, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Innovation award from the Alliance for Innovation? Center for Digital Government digital city award? Reporting will find that there was no real criteria. Both organizations have executive directors who worked for Keene in Arizona. Awards are easy when the old boys club is alive and well in local government.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Baloney rules
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 31, 2013 at 12:53 am

Is it possible for a class action suit against elected officials if bribery and self interest is so apparent as it is here in Palo Alto?

Im wondering what these officials think when they are walking the always empty University Avenue? Probably how to get more money in their own pockets.

Im taking my cash, money and time to RWC, San Mateo & of course Mountain View. These places are much more fun to hang out and shop vs. "yogurt town". What a terrible label, but its true.

Ill sign the class action suit/// enough of us are pretty upset by the corruption and the nose dive Palo Alto is taking.

Take a walk up and down University ave and then lets talk more....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2013 at 7:44 am

@Old Paly Rules
Great post. Everything is wired in here, a network of insiders, political influence. Rhetoric,symbolism take center stage in this kind of situation as cover to what is actually taking place. Eventually reality may take over and that is what is reflected in the Measure D vote but great damage
is continuing to be done.





 +   Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 31, 2013 at 1:39 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ Silly and Rupert

Gary Wetzel is correct, Silly is indeed being silly and no one is denying the right of citizens to complain.

Gary simply pointed out that most if not all of what Wayne said he did not know or did not exist could be found in the records of the Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission and its meetings. Wayne was simply saying things that are not true and he could have found that out.

Silly is silly in the same sense as the City Council has dedicated $ 8 million in each of the past two years to the infrastructure reserve as well as increasing road repair funding by $2 million annually as recommended by the commission on which Gary, I and 15 others served.

Palo Alto sales tax revenue is surging, which is part of the reason the Council is able to transfer $8 million to the infrastructure reserve.

The demise of Palo Alto argued so fervently by some in TS blogs is ok as a personal opinion but not consistent with at least the economic and city revenue environment.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 31, 2013 at 1:48 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@Baloney Rules

It is you who are into baloney.

You wrote

"Im wondering what these officials think when they are walking the always empty University Avenue?"

You are kidding, right.

I have walked University Avenue virtually every day and week for 45 years. It is almost always crowded during both the day and night. Whatever are you calling "empty"?

As an irony you are in conflict with the other complainers whose mantra is either "University is so crowded, I never go there anymore" or the really nonsensical "University is so crowded NO ONE goes there anymore".

I sympathize with the people who mourn the loss of places they liked to shop but high rents come about from market demand and could not exist in an "empty" University Avenue.

I encourage you to follow your own advice

"Take a walk up and down University ave and then lets talk more...."


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Posted by Chuck Jagoda
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 2, 2014 at 11:19 am

I don't think banning homeless people from sheltering in Cubberley COMMUNITY Center was an accomplishment. One group grabbing up a public resource (with 7-2 City Council help) for themselves and excluding others (the poorest, weakest, least vocal of the community) is not only NOT an accomplishment--it's downright UN-American.

I don't think banning us poor folk from sleeping in our cars was an accomplishment.

I don't think closing Clare Mateo Shelter or destroying the Sunnyvale armory after this winter--with NO REPLACEMENT--are accomplishments. If six homeless people died in the cold this winter WITH the armory open, how many of us do you think will die next winter WITHOUT the 150 shelter beds of the armory?

I think remembering that any advantages anyone has are only temporary, the result of a certain amount of good luck, and depend on the contributions of many others (some long dead, some not dead yet)IS an accomplishment.

I think having gratitude rather than a sense of entitlement is an accomplishment.

Palo Alto has disgraced itself, its people, and its reputation with the draconian anti-vehicle habitation ban. Even though the City Council voted to delay the imposition of citations and fines for AS MUCH AS A YEAR, they have not redeemed themselves OR the image of this (otherwise) fine City.

If YOU want to do something helpful--something that would be an accomplishment, you can call or write the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and tell them to SAVE THE ARMORY. They can be contacted at BoardOperations@cob.sccgov.org 408.299.5001.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 2, 2014 at 12:24 pm

@ S. Levy: don't you hate it when facts get in the way of the "truth"? ;-)

We may not agree on everything - but at least we can agree that using verifiable facts are crucial to conducting a rational debate.

@ C. Jagoda: The community center was never intended to be a homeless shelter and I think you know that. If the city had stopped the camping when it first started (as they should have), we wouldn't be having any of this discussion --- and probably would not have had to enact the ban. Unfortunately for good citizens like yourself, the abusers of the center caused the intense push back by the surrounding neighborhoods. Between the trash, human waste, the break-ins (classrooms and bathrooms), drug paraphernalia, alcohol abuse, etc. - the minority hurt the majority of campers. And certainly you know that a good portion of the campers are not from PA and were never from PA. So to say that a city resource or asset should be given over to out of towners is not going to go over well with the tax base and/or the local neighborhood. And you would also know that PA is not the only city that has some sort of camping ban - stirring up drama soley pointed at PA is a bit silly when camping is not allowed just about everywhere else around here.


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Posted by Chuck Jagoda
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 2, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Hi Crescent Park Dad,

Thank you for your response. It's nice to know people's thoughts in response to one's statements. And thank you for calling me a "good citizen."

I agree--facts are very important. And what exactly are the facts differs a lot from person to person. I can't say that I know all the facts, but here are some of my observations and some observations of others.

1. I never heard about break-ins to rooms or buildings at Cubberley.
2. The uses of Cubberley are many and the people served by it are many. It may not have been intended as a "de facto" homeless shelter, but it evolved into a place where homeless people could shelter--in cars and on the ground. This is actually to the credit of Palo Alto, a city like others in the area woefully deficient in building/allowing/encouraging the low cost/affordable/below-market-rate housing that we elders, we homeless, and various other members of the community need. That evolution is/was a good thing and accidentally made up for the neglect of the housing needs of those who can't afford million dollar homes and the repeated rent increases of 30%.
3. I DON'T know that many of the people who camped at Cubberley were from elsewhere. I DO know that one guy who lived in his truck's mother had taught in Oakland. Another woman who lived in her car to escape an abusive relationship grew up in Palo Alto. Another lady had been a substitute teacher in Palo Alto. I'm sure at least some of the people there came from someone else. So did I. Where were you born? So, do you recommend walls around the city and checkpoints? I really think the idea of all the cities trying out-compete each other to see who can be least hospitable to homeless pretty sad.
4. WHY should the City have stopped the camping when it started? WHEN did it start? One elderly man has been camping there for over 15 years. WHY limit this COMMUNITY resource to just to just some people?
5. Here's a fact for you: Liz Kniss (and she is NOT the only one) complained about sanitation and health and cleanliness of Cubberley campers--yet defended the closing of the bathrooms and showers. The members of the Greenmeadow Association who objected to cleanliness were unwilling to meet and discuss working together to make it better by keeping the showers open.
6. One night when I was sleeping at Cubberley I happened on an open men's room! My surprise was further fueled when I noticed a sign on the inside of the men's room door saying, "This bathroom is open on weekend nights." I asked around and was told (by long-standing car campers) that the weekend custodian didn't like homeless people so he locked those doors on the weekends he worked. The custodian who worked on the alternate weekend WAS a Cubberley car camper--a truck driver who lived a long distance away and stayed in his car when he had routes that started in Palo Alto area--and when he worked left the bathroom doors unlocked on weekend nights.
7. There are a number of people involved in this issue (campers and home-having activists) who believe the City purposely did nothing about the RVs, generators, and other quality of life issues--in an effort to gin up resistance, complaints, and justification for the oncoming assault and expulsion of homeless people.
8. What are your suggestions for the women who lived in cars there and were not about to go into any shelters--one claimed she was more afraid of shelters than the relationship she was fleeing? Where would you have them go? "Back where they came from?" It's AWFULLY tempting to believe that all or a majority of these scruffy, unwashed folks are "from somewhere else"--as if they really helped excuse the cruelty, the discrimination, the willful blindness to one's brothers and sisters. It's just not so. It's not so that we are from somewhere else. And, even if it WERE true, it would excuse nothing. You don't find any version of the Bible that has Christ saying, "As you do unto the least of your brethren, so you do unto Me unless your brethren come from another city." He didn't make that exception that is so popular with some folks. As former Palo Alto mayor Sid Espinosa so wisely, humanely, Christianly said: "Wherever people came from, they're here now." There is no such category in the law for "residents who have been here long enough to deserve care" NOR "residents who HAVEN'T been here long enough to deserve services.
9. American law doesn't provide for discriminating against only SOME members of a community. It's supposed to be behavior-based, not life style-, or class-, or degree-of-poverty-based.
10. Do you not recognize your relatives, friends' children, even YOUR children among the ragged hordes? Do you really think the same things that we are afflicted with COULDN'T happen to these people that you care about? Do you think all of us were living like this all our lives? Don't you know that some of us had the same jobs and lived in the same dwellings you all did? Do you really think there's some entitlement that will you allow to bring up your kids in the same ways you are now FOREVER? If you do, all I ca tell you is so did we. The truth, the hard truth, as we have found out is that the American dream is dying. The former working poor are now the homeless, the former middle class is facing becoming homeless. Plenty of your neighbors who used to feel secure are now facing homelessness because they have absorbed all the 30% rent increases their fixed incomes can absorb. The next rent increase will mean the end of medicine, food, or paying rent. When those who will inevitably (this greatest ever transfer of wealth from poor to rich that has been going on for the past 40 years has only increased in the last 8 years of this Recession. As Palo Alto home values have increased over that time, the resources of many people have disappeared. Those who used to donate to food banks, now go to food banks) need to camp at Cubberley or sleep in their cars or get food stamps--they (you? your kids?) will find those resources have been taken away in an effort to avoid the very circumstances they (you?) are now (then) facing. Karma can be a real drag like that.
10. Yes, Palo Alto is not the only city with a camping ban. It USED to have that loftier moral status, but it's bargained it away in an attempt to not have to see the moral cost of the benefits we have in this country. And to make believe that what's happening to the poor will never happen to them. Palo Alto USED to be a model that other cities looked up to--and deservedly so. Now, worried about being a magnet, it has jumped down in the dirt with others and competes to be the least hospitable to homeless people. By so doing--cutting out bathrooms in parks, sit/lie ordinances, making it illegal to sleep in a park, a car, or on the ground, restricting access to PUBLIC resources--Palo Alto hasn't bought itself one iota of safety, security, or protection from the ravages of poverty. Some of the people living on the streets are literally the sons and daughters of some of the most prestigious parents in Palo Alto: Yes,Stanford docs' and Silicon Valley tech geniuses'kids sleep in the dirt in Palo Alto. I can introduce you to them.
11. You what DOES work? You what does help make the problems better? And even lessens the fear that no one talks about--that it could happen to ME!--you what will do that? The exact opposite of attempts to distance oneself from the poverty. I cite the behavior of the parents at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. They sign up six months in advance to sit and visit with homeless people when the Hotel de Zink is hosting homeless people there. (As you may or may not know the HdZ is a rotating shelter that puts up 15 people at various churches for a month. Those kids come in their jammies and bring card tricks and hang out with homeless people. They are not growing up with the fears and potential traumas that Greenmeadow parents are so concerned about. The MPPC kids grow up knowing homeless people and don't fear them. The kids whose parents impart so much fear to them are not doing anyone any favors.
12. Action is the answer, My Friend, not banishment. You can't banish your fears by hiding from them. You must face and encounter them. That's when you find out that what you were SO afraid of is not so scary after all. And you can't do ANYthing about homelessness by telling homeless people to "go back where you came from." Very attractive for scared folks. But it's just not any kind of a solution.
13. The Palo Alto City Council--SOME of the more scared members--point their fingers at the clergy, the advocates, and the homeless ourselves for "not doing enough." I find it very depressing for City leaders to act so badly. What REAL problem solvers do is first of all accept responsibility. Then they roll up their sleeves and look for solutions. They--the people who really SOLVE problems--don't try to blame everyone else. Who would solve the problems if everybody spends all their energy blaming others? That's for children and very frightened, and benighted, adults. We all can choose whether we will leaven the darkness with light (Channukah and Kwanzaa are both Festivals of Light) or whether we will pull the covers over our heads, the walls up around our gated communities, and the limited resources they have away from under homeless people.
14. If the City of Palo Alto REALLY wanted to help solve the situation--and had half a clue--it would be finding ways to GIVE vehicles to homeless people. There surely can be no cheaper way to Gimme Shelter.


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Posted by Chuck Jagoda
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Chuck Jagoda is a registered user.

Hello to Crescent Park Dad and any others who may be reading my comment above.

As soon as I figure out how to, I will go back in there and fix up a few confusing parts I have now found. I left out a couple of "know"s in one part and forgot to close a parenthesis and, in general, need to give the comment a good proof reading which I didn't do a good enough job of before I posted it.

I apologize to anyone who is confused. Hopefully, I'll get it fixed soon. Probably right after the Webmaster gets back to me with instructions for editing posted comments.

I also would like to take out the part where I ask where you were born. My point is it doesn't make any difference where you were born. Sorry about that.

Chuck


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Posted by MightyTravels
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 10, 2014 at 5:08 pm



The Sheraton Palo Alto is another place to consider. It's right off the Stanford Campus and connected to the Palo Alto University Av. Great location and good rooms. We were not really sure if we liked the setup of the hotel (probably not) and the lounge/ breakfast experience. But certainly a good place to spend a week in summer for business down on the Peninsula.

Web Link


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