People assume salaries and benefits only go one direction — up. As economy changes, so must this assumption. Every government level is racking up huge deficits based on the generosity of our representatives. Union leadership did what they were supposed to do, go for the most they could provide their membership. And elected officials acted to ensure re-election and shared our treasury with those who supported their candidacy.
It's time for us to clarify our expectations. It is our money. The expectations for public salaries and benefits are completely out of sync with the business world. Council and unions, address these inequities.
Determine why overtime is so high and remedy it.
Terminate payout for accrued sick leave. It is for illness, not carryover income. Private businesses delete it at retirement. Chief Nick Marinaro saved up 2,071 hours of it because, "when I got sick I came to work." Well, you shouldn't have. His point in coming in sick was to bloat his retirement figure.
Vacation pay should be limited to a two-year accrual, then be taken or cashed out, or even "use it or lose it."
Pensions are history in the private sector. Employees can participate in self-funded 401K accounts. A minimal match is all that corporate employees get nowadays, not the average CPA $11,259 contribution/year compared to the $1,374 employee contribution/year. These figures are absurdly backwards.
CPA employees get more paid holidays per year than businesses do, 12 vs. 10 days.
Council members were overly generous with our unionized employees plus with the perks we were told we must pay to hire the best in administrative positions. What goes up can and must go down.
One hundred and 60 ugly, noisy and who knows how-toxic cell-phone antennas may soon be arriving in 80 residential neighborhoods across the city. AT&T's permit application states, "constructions will complete polygons 1 and 2 totally approximately 80 utility poles within the city."
Great! Just when home values were trying to recover.
After these 160 antennas go up, you can bet all the other carriers (who compete with AT&T for signal clarity) will demand equal pole rights. Suddenly 80 neighborhoods might morph into hundreds. Additional site developments will be a forgone conclusion since federal law requires non-discrimination among carriers.
Antenna aesthetics: sinister looking, out of character with the charm of Palo Alto neighborhoods without a leaf or twig of camouflage.
So I called Minh Nguyen, project contact at AT&T. Sure enough, they make noise too. Pole fans perpetually drone at 64 decibels every time the temperature hits 74 degrees. That's equivalent in sound to two people chatting outside the curb.
RF exposures? Health risks? Please experiment with your own children, AT&T. In fact, why doesn't Palo Alto have a site plan that follows other cities that relegates these technologies to the peripheries of neighborhoods and away from our schools? Will AT&T remain the only source of technical input for this project?
Drop in at the planning department and check out the pole maps. Make copies and pass them out to your neighbors. Tell your representatives what you think they need to know.
PAUSD not fully to blame
The thought-provoking op-ed by Ken and Michelle Dauber showed commendable passion to protect our kids. Ken and Michelle focused on academic pressure as the primary cause of student stress but, to me, I'd start with other primary factors: compassion and community. I'm not comfortable with labeling PAUSD as fully responsible for the stress our kids feel.
As parents, we all undertake the complex task of nurturing our children to become happy, self-confident, productive citizens. The Project Safety Net study referenced in the op-ed highlights 41 Developmental Assets critical in a community that truly values the well-being of its young people. One of these is a connection to an adult who is not related to the young person. This is an element of the connectedness that has been the school board's focus since 2010 when it adopted the approach.
As a parent, before I look to potential failings or strengths of PAUSD leadership, I personally would emphasize "connection to an unrelated adult." Have I volunteered my own time to be an adult resource for a student in the community — a student who is not my child and who is unrelated to me? Have I donated my time to help build a community asset over a sustained number of years, not just an hour or two now and then?
I also believe it is worth considering what we talk to our kids about. I try not to be hyper-competitive. I hope I successfully avoid defining people by their job, their net worth, their ethnicity, or their influence. I try to praise the work of those who volunteer their time to community-based organizations that positively influence even one person's life.
Sure, maybe sometimes blame is deserved. But I want to consider the underlying message we send to our children, and it's a better message if we can be the change we seek.
Gas production at Byxbee not an option
Not being a Palo Alto resident, I'll not comment on what should be done, but being on the steering committee for the concept, and a long-time Sierra Club member, I'll just make some factual remarks.
The opposition (to the anaerobic-digestion facility) has raised some odd concepts, such as using the current site's dump gas for electrical generation, thus income, to offset some negatives of not building the anaerobic-digestion project at all. This is not feasible. In most all cases, dumps (like Palo Alto's or the Marsh Road site in Menlo Park) do not produce useful gas reliably and continually.
In those cases where commercial power has been developed, the operator engages in environmentally damaging actions, such as "spiking" the dump with water injection to speed microbial digestion. This inevitably causes leakage, especially of methane, which is far worse than CO2, as we all should know. It also increases N2O and NOx emissions, the first being 100 times greater the greenhouse gas CO2 is, and the second being the new source of acid rain and ozone depletion. So, the recommendation from scientific studies (and Sierra Club energy groups) is that dump gas simply be burned at the site, without disturbance. In Palo Alto's case, the city already burns whatever they can get from the dump in the sewage-treatment plant, to assist sludge incineration. Of course, that overall practices is not a long-term solution in any case, which is why digestion of sewage is the preferred plan.