Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - November 11, 2011

Editorial: Strong majority approve Measures D, E

Binding arbitration will end for public safety unions; space reserved for compost facility

Despite the absence of a City Council race on the ballot, Palo Alto voters strongly approved measures that will improve the city's oversight of its two public safety unions and set the stage for a possible new method of dealing with its waste and compost.

Both Measures D and E rolled up solid "yes" votes Tuesday in an election that split the environmental community (Measure E) and supporters of organized labor (Measure D).

But in each case voters made the right call, ending binding arbitration for police and firefighters and making it possible to proceed with a thorough assessment of whether the city should invest in an anaerobic digestion plant that would turn yard and food waste and sludge from the sewage-treatment plant into compost and energy.

Both races were characterized by large infusions of money on what turned out to be the losing side on Measure D and the winning side on E. The firefighters union, which earlier had surprised most observers by agreeing to a contract after a 16-month stand-off, poured more than $60,000 (as of the reporting period that ending Oct. 22) into the campaign to fight Measure D, which featured such Palo Alto luminaries as Gary Fazzino, Gail Price and Ladoris Cordell in slick campaign mailers urging voters to keep binding arbitration in the police and firefighters' contract.

Supporters of D, which was placed on the ballot by a slim majority of the City Council, argued that the city faced a major handicap in labor negotiations when the final say in a contract could be given to an outside arbitrator who has no responsibility for city finances or accountability to the public. And obviously voters saw the flaws in the argument that without the right to strike, police and fire employees have too little negotiating leverage, so need binding arbitration as the ultimate threat to assure fair negotiations. But with 95 percent of California cities operating without binding arbitration, that position is obviously flawed. And wages, health care and retirement benefits are better now for police and fire unions than ever before.

With the firefighters sudden agreement on a new contract just prior to the election, Palo Alto will start the new year without two major stumbling blocks in play binding arbitration and minimum staffing. Now the city can decide how many firefighters are needed at each station and be able to work through labor negotiations without the threat of binding arbitration looming in the backround.

The clash over Measure E split the local environmental community, with longtime activist and former Palo Alto Mayor and Councilman Peter Drekmeier leading the way for those in favor of reserving a 10-acre site at the Baylands to possibly house an anaroebic composting facility, while Emily Renzel and Enid Pearson, the namesakes for two Palo Alto open space reserves, bitterly opposed to the measure, which they see as an unrecoverable loss of precious parkland.

In our editorial titled, "Yes on E, with caution," we explained that the measure does nothing more than reserve 10 acres as a possible site for a compost facility. If the city decides not to proceed with such an installation, the site would return to parkland after 10 years.

Now the way is clear for the city to consider what could be an exciting new and innovative idea to turn yard and food waste, and possibly sewage sludge into compost and energy at a new facility. An earlier study did not provide enough information to make a good decision on what could cost the city millions of dollars. Delaying dedication of the 10 acres as parkland will simply give the city time to conduct a more definitive study and then decide if the best course is to build its own facility or continue to truck waste to the Sunnyvale SMaRTstation.

Comments

Posted by next door neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 10, 2011 at 9:36 am

Can you please be more elaborate on your statement about the large infusion of money to promote Measure E?

"Both races were characterized by large infusions of money on what turned out to be the losing side on Measure D and the winning side on E."


Posted by Debbie Mytels, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2011 at 9:52 am

Thank you for your fair assessment of the impact of Measure E. The voters clearly recognized that setting aside dedication would, in your words, "simply give the city time to conduct a more definitive study and then decide if the best course is to build its own facility or continue to truck waste to the Sunnyvale SMaRTstation."

The election shows the intelligence of Palo Alto voters, who saw through the scare tactics of E's opponents. We want to give new ideas a thorough look, especially when it comes to new approaches that can reduce CO2 emissions and derive value (in this case, energy!) from our "waste."

Thank you, Palo Alto voters, for your thoughtful consideration of Measure E and your openness to continuing an evaluation of a new approach.


Posted by KP, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Thank you Debbie Mytels...I completely agree!

That's why the City Council should consult the city residents before they start changing our city. ie. Arastradero, the plans for California Ave, and now our school crossing guards!?!

If they (City Council) would consult with the residents, they would find they save money by keeping good things the way they are and working on only what is necessary and REALLY helps! (Like, let's say, the fiber optic lines put in 10 years ago!! Hmmmm, what a concept!)


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Any time Ladoris Cordell sends out a campaign mailer, I know exactly which side of the issue I'm on. (Hint: not hers.) Thank you Ms. Cordell for making my job of reading ballot measures SO much easier. You're such a sweetheart!


Posted by Need more Info, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 10, 2011 at 12:28 pm

...or building a road to nowhere between the Art Center and the Main Library.
As "next door" asked, we need more information about who donated to the E campaign. Jim Baer's name was printed, but who else donated over $50?


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 10, 2011 at 2:07 pm

See PA Online Oct 27 news article "For Measure E, 'yes' outpaces 'no' in fundraising"
Web Link lists about 100 names.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Resolution 9195 of the Council of the City of Palo Alto, Exhibit A, Section 7: "Ten years from passage of this Initiative, the City Council may rededicate any portion of the Property not utilized for the purposes of this Initiative to parkland."

Why did they use the word "may" instead of "shall"? Did anyone read the fine print that we will be arguing over when 2021 rolls around?


Posted by follow the money, a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2011 at 3:45 pm

"The largest cash donations to "Yes on E" in the past month came from Palo Alto resident Carolyn Curtis at $1,500 and Palo Alto resident James Phillips at $500.

The largest non-monetary contribution came from the Santa Clara County Republican Party, which reported spending about $2,829 on a mailer to its members in support of Measure E."

Youe read that correctly: THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!!!

And Carolyn's Curtis $1500. probably went to pay for that kid from Oakland hired as "campaign consultant".



Posted by so??, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2011 at 4:03 pm

"Youe read that correctly: THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!!!"

So?? Whats your point?


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Palo Alto City Council
City of Palo Alto
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Elected Council Members:

Subject: Measure E's Passage—The Voice of the Minority Speaking

The passage of Measure E, supposedly an authorization by "the voters" to "de-dedicate" some acreage in the baylands area is being touted by the local papers as if it were a "big win". In fact, the turnout was not particularly large, with only 9,820 voters giving their approval to this proposal. This amounts to only 27.8% of the total registered 35,366 Palo Alto voters, and only 15% of the 64,403 souls claimed by the US Census to live here. Most of the residents did not vote for Measure E--just remember that!

And, remember, too, that this was not a Prop.218-style election, giving property owners a say in the outcome via a place in the polling booth. Nor were the local businesses given any chance to voice their opinions either, at least in a direct, one-business-one-vote sort of way. Given that commercial accounts consume perhaps as much as 85% of the total electricity in Palo Alto, having their rates go up to pay for any construction that might result from actions resulting from the passage of Measure E could have serious impacts on the operating costs of electricity for businesses, and possibly even other Utility-related costs, too.

Please keep these important numbers in mind when considering the aftermath of the Measure E election.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Wayne,

Although I concur with some of your opinions, and you put up the good fight, you simply don't get it, IMO.

The vote in favor of "E" is tantamount to a vote in favor of the suggested technology (anaerobic digestion, AD), because the political actors that pushed this measure will not settle for anything less. It is baked into the cake.

Unfortunatley, as with the high speed rail fiasco, we are now stuck with this fiscal and environmental folly. The ultimate "best use" will come through political pressure, not prudence or science.

Very sad for our town. Very expensive, too...as if we can afford any more boondogles.


Posted by follow the money, a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm

To: so?

What's my point?

Not much, I guess.

Unless you remember that the Republicans are the most corrupt politicians around. And ultra-anti-environment.
Pretty ironic that they would fund a so called "Green" initiative.

"Tell me who your friends are..."






You read that correctly: THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!!!



Posted by Bob Wenzlau, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 11, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

As a proponent for Measure E, I am delighted with the generous donations. This post defends the integrity of our process and honors our donators.

The proponents of Measure E did not enter into this exhausting process with any other purpose than to prevail, and any campaign require money and enormous volunteer commitment.

As much as the discussions in these forum become toxic, I have to write to rebut the defamatory tone of the commenters who seem to not be able to let go of their conspiracy thoughts.

Some history. The initiative was drafted during the spring and summer of 2010 by a small group primarily extending from the team involved with the city sanctioned Blue Ribbon Task Force. That the Council's mandate to the task force was encumbered by biases toward the use of land, the logic of the initiative was to clear the encumbrances and allow evaluation free of that land constraint. California law permits only one purpose to an initiative, and as such we could not ask for un-dedicating the parkland and making a project, hence the initiative only speaks to land use.

Based on dialogue with council members and staff, the initiative assimilated flexibility in use of stipulated technologies on the land. Though the initiative offers flexibility, the citizen task force, advisors from Stanford's environmental engineering program and expert consultants hired by the City hold that anaerobic digestion is the appropriate technology coupled with composting. Some think this is a small faction, but it reflects broad national consensus and best practice. The actual form (dry or wet) is a detail that will be sorted out in time, and we left that to the future analysis.

Fund raising for the campaign happened at least 9 months after the drafting of the initiative generally in June 2011. While getting a petition approved required relatively little funding, winning an election required a war chest. There was no connection in time between the drafting of the initiative and when the campaign funders were tapped. As such stop insulting the integrity and motives of our contributors - such stones have never been hurled toward any of our opponents who motivations and contributions were based on a different calculation of their environmental values.

As most in the campaign have jobs and families to raise, we were delighted that a young person was willing to step in and work for a modest payment. Alex enjoyed the chance to be part of a grass roots campaign, and I certainly benefited as I had to run my small company across this campaign effort.

As a lifelong Democrat, I will defend the Republican party's choice to endorse. Some posters choose to chastise our campaign given the Republican party endorsed our effort - I note the CAPS used in their highlight excitement. Lost on the commenter was that the campaign also did also earn the endorsement of the Democratic party and the Green party. Republicans stand for business, and they likely saw the project likely representing a smart economic move - a natural Republican endorsement.

In closing this is a big win, and a strong endorsement for local composting and green energy. Election experts have said the turnout in an off year was huge. Thanks again to all that had the wisdom to vote, and vote YES.

Our campaign is not over, and the next chapter will begin as we encourage Council and staff to begin the next chapter in this journey. Local composting will not be ended, the incinerator will be shut down, and a new source of local green energy initiated.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 11, 2011 at 5:07 pm

"Our campaign is not over, and the next chapter will begin as we encourage Council and staff to begin the next chapter in this journey. Local composting will not be ended, the incinerator will be shut down, and a new source of local green energy initiated."

That was a given, from the get go. A vote in favor of "E" was a vote to enable the political types to force a truly inefficient and ,frankly, absurd technology, known as anaerobic digestion(AD).

This thing has never been about science and rationality. Bob, you are NOT a scientist, nor are you a rational advocate. You are a political activist, period. OK, you won this round, but you are not over the hump, yet. We have seen this movie before...it was called HSR...unanimous approval by our city council, very green propaganda, then a total disasater. Your AD model will end up in the same ash heap of disaster as did HSR.

The essential question is whether our current city council wants to follow you and yours down the same path. If they do, then they are the captives of a very bad history.


Posted by Questioning, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Straight up - this is like shorting your employees so you can buy 10 super yatchs. Thank you city management and Palo Alto Weekly. To quote, "Palo Alto voters are so sophisticated..." More like "outrageously misled". D - The arbitration rights issue is so the city can impose terms on a contract with safety employees. The Measure E was not about preserving park lands it was about who would come up with the 111 - 256 million dollars to pay for the treatment plant. Keep Palo Altans misinformed! ~ Good job!


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2011 at 11:10 pm

bob wenzlau is hiding the fact that everyone's refuse rate will skyrocket if the city council decides to build the compost factory; he claims the compost factory will make money - if that were the case why will our refuse rates skyrocket?

in another post bob wenzlau also say measure E makes a "national statement", so this is more about vanity rather than making the most effect use of investment dollars to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 12, 2011 at 6:09 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Engineering News Record recently said that the average waste to energy plant was more polluting than an equivalent coal fire plant.


Posted by Alex DiGiorgio, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2011 at 9:34 am

Congratulations, Palo Alto, on a tremendous victory for sustainable development, local self-reliance, and cost-effective resource recovery!

Although there's still a lot of work to do (environmental review, selection of specific technologies, etc.) we are well on our way toward cultivating better future for our children and grand-children.

To those interested in finding more information on organics recycling (and the proven effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of composting, anaerobic digestion, etc.) BioCycle is a tremendous resource: Web Link.

Please don't be swayed by nay-sayers; claiming anaerobic digestion (AD) is unproven is like claiming climate change does not exist. In light of the thousands of real-life examples of operational AD projects in the U.S., Europe, and the rest of the world, it's clear these statements are not motivated by a genuine desire to identify sustainable solutions to our future resource needs.

Trucking our waste "away" is neither cost-effective, nor ecologically responsible. Recycling it and transforming it into compost and renewable energy is the best possible public policy. This is why The Greens, Democrats, Republicans, Acterra, Clean Coalition, Palo Alto Weekly and League of Women Voters all found common ground with Measure E.

Thank you again, Palo Alto, for passing Measure E and demonstrating your commitment to sustainable living!


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 12, 2011 at 11:36 am

AMEN to the comments from Craig Laughton, Questioning and common sense!

Yes, this is one of PA's many vanity projects and yes it is just like HSR. Unfortunately, residents respond to magical thinking as opposed to reality.

Whether it's a poll, a survey or a vote, money is never mentioned. Askede if HSR or anaerobic digestion or bike paths are a good thing, people will inevitably say "yes." Then put a price tag on each, ask them if they'd be willing to pay for those "good things," and see how the vote goes.


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2011 at 9:16 am

Or, as Lynyrd Skynyrd would say, on D and E, ooh, that smell.
Web Link


Posted by Stephen, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 13, 2011 at 8:18 pm

To Walter Wallis: Please give the citation for ENR - I am curious to see what is written in the article you reference.


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Measures D and E thoroughly demolished the myth of Sophisticated Palo Alto. The whole E thing reminded me of The Music Man - Prof Harold Hill (played by Peter Drekmeier) gulling the rubes with promises that a Boys Band (anaerobic digester) would finally put River Ciry (Palo Alto) on the map. Lost of tap dancing by Hill (Drekmeier) as Marrianne the Librianne (played brilliantly by Emily Renzel) forces him to tweak his story again and again. Finally, fade to the Minuet in G (as in garbage) as Palo Alto bankrupts itself trying to make its shiny new plaything do something useful.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Great post, crumudgeon. Amazing how the people drank the kool aid and even more amazing is the power that some people have in this community to convince others to pay for their dreams!!
BTW, I thought this election was just to undedicate the parkland. Drekmeier and his supporters never said anything about wet or dry AD. Right?????


Posted by Eco Guerrero, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2011 at 1:02 am

Que impresionante! Curmudgeon displays so much creativity even svatoid is inspired to begin a post saying something positive...before saying something unconstructive. But it's the role reversal that is most amusing; usually it's svatoid who is the curmudgeon. Bien hecho!

Curmudgeon, perhaps you could use this creative gift to contribute 'sophisticated' ideas for helping Palo Alto meet its Climate Action Plan and Zero Waste plan? What a shame it would be to have such wit, but use it only for public amusement and not public betterment. Que lastima seria!

I'd ask Pat, Craig, svatoid, Curmudgeon and Common Sense to contribute constructive ideas, but I know what their response would be: "No-construction is too EXPENSIVE!" De acuerdo; we can't afford too many bright ideas. Why pay a little to be proactive when we can pay a lot to be reactive? Bravo.

Since you sophists are so wise, please explain to us how spending millions of dollars a year on fossil fuel to haul our waste "away" will save Palo Altans money.

The City's Feasibility Study found that exporting our waste--the only alternative to managing it locally--will require ratepayers to subsidize 450,000 more truck miles driven per year. Ay Carrumba!

Pero no problemo; why generate clean energy ourselves when we can spend public dollars on dirty energy indefinitely? I'm sure fossil fuel prices won't increase at all over the next 20 years...














Posted by Pedro Guerrero, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2011 at 7:07 am

Looks like Eco Guerrero has taken a break from worshipping at peter's feet to lob an attack at those that dare to disagree with his opinion. Why not impress us by posting in Italian? It makes you sound so much more classy!


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 15, 2011 at 10:00 am

"Since you sophists are so wise, please explain to us how spending millions of dollars a year on fossil fuel to haul our waste "away" will save Palo Altans money."

One cannot explain what is not true, except to call it the falsehood it is.

Don't fret so much, bambino. Even the mayor of River City (Paul Ford) fell under Professor Hill's spell. If a mayor can be fooled, so can anybody.


Posted by Oh Dear, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Now any criticism about the project will be suppressed with claims the it was "voter approved." I can just picture the aroma from a massive anaerobic digestion plant. There won't be many bird watchers coming to the baylands...


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm

" Alex DiGiorgio, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood"

In case you all haven't figured this out yet, Alex has claimed to be from another community. Now he is claiming to be from Palo Alto. In fact, he is a politcal activist with something called the "Clean Coalition".

Palo Alto has been attacked from the outside by political activists. They don't give a damn about how their vanity projects affect us. Anaerobic digestion is a farce, but it does provide many $Millons to activist groups. This is, simply, about political power...it is NOT about an effective way to deal with our waste stream.

Why do Palo Altans continue to buy into extremely costly, and absurd ideas (e.g. HSR, Historic homes, mulitple libraries, over-the-top pensions, etc.)? Is there something in the local DNA?


Posted by Dear Oh, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 16, 2011 at 11:46 pm

An anaerobic digestion plant would probably smell better than the sewage treatment plant that's already there...


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