http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2011/11/11/changing-of-crossing-guards-vexes-parents


Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 11, 2011

Changing of crossing guards vexes parents

Palo Alto gets new crossing-guard manager for the first time since 1999

by Gennady Sheyner

For the first time in more than a decade, Palo Alto is preparing to hire a new company to manage its ranks of school crossing guards and not everyone is thrilled about the change.

Dozens of parents attended the Monday night (Nov. 7) City Council meeting to urge the council not to make a switch from the present company, All City Management Services, which has been managing the city's crossing-guard program since the Police Department privatized the service in 1999. This year, the city went out to bid on the contract, as it has in the past, and received responses from eight companies, four of which had lower costs than the incumbent.

The council voted unanimously to support a staff recommendation and award a contract to American Guard Services, the company with the lowest bid. It reached this decision despite oral and written arguments from dozens of parents who claimed the transition would threaten the safety of their children.

Many speakers who opposed the change pointed to Michael Saterfield, a crossing guard who mans the intersection near Terman Middle School. One parent after another praised Saterfield for his ability to command the attention of students and drivers and for keeping the busy stretch of Arastradero Road safe. Stacey Ashlund, whose daughter goes to fourth grade at Juana Briones Elementary School, was among them.

"I let her cross Arastradero by herself for only one reason Michael is his name," Ashlund told the council. "I see no rebellion at that intersection. I see happy compliance. What I wouldn't give for that in my household?"

American Guard Services offered jobs to current crossing guards, but only under lower wages. Saterfield said the proposed rate was far below the existing one. While the current management company offered in its bid to pay crossing guards $14.39 per hour in the first year and $14.75 in each of the following two years, American Guard proposed a rate of $13.25 an hour in the first two years and $13.51 in the third year.

Saterfield also addressed the council during the public comment period and urged council members to renew All City's contract.

"I think that safety is the issue here and we provided that safety and we will continue to provide that safety," Saterfield told the council. "I don't think it's a matter of dollars and cents when it comes to safety of children."

Despite this chorus of opposition, the council opted to accept staff recommendation and award the contract to the lower bidder. Police Lt. Ron Watson told the council that American Guard Services appears well qualified to handle the assignment, which includes commandeering 29 school-area crosswalks. Staff members also reached out to other cities that have worked with this company and were assured that American Guard's operations were smooth.

Under the contract the council approved Monday night, American Guard will receive about $290,000 per year, 8.6 percent less than All City Management would have received under its bid.

Councilmen Larry Klein and Greg Scharff both argued that the city should honor its commitment to an open bidding process for government contracts.

"Having a process that says we'll go to the lowest responsible bidder has served us well," Klein said.

"There's been a lot of talk tonight about Michael's great services and I'm delighted to hear about that," he added. "But that can't possibly be a way for a government agency to make policy."

Others agreed that the city should follow its usual procedures and award the contract to the lowest responsible bidder. City Manager James Keene said the city owes it to its citizens to get the best value. Scharff said no company in their right mind would be willing to bid against an incumbent company knowing that the council could reject its bid "on a whim."

"If we go with a non-lowest responsible bidder, we design a process that forces the current company to win the bid," Scharff said.

Some council members, including Vice Mayor Yiaway Yeh, voiced concerns about the staff proposal to make the switch on Dec. 1, a timeline that Yeh said doesn't provide adequate time for a smooth transition. The council agreed to give staff leeway about extending the timeline as needed, provided the process doesn't stretch beyond Feb. 1.

Council members also urged some of the crossing guards in attendance, including Saterfield, to stick around, even if it means lower wages.

"We want to retain the workers and especially the superstar workers," Mayor Sid Espinosa said. "I heard tonight and previously that current workers, most if not all, will be offered roles with the new company and we hope they take it because we appreciate your service and we know you work hard for the citizens and for our youth ensuring our safety."

TALK ABOUT IT

Share your opinions on how the City Council handled the process for choosing new crossing-guard management on Town Square on Palo Alto Online.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by TermanParent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2011 at 5:37 am

It's amazing how despite the community opinion (and I personally wrote a letter) the council took the different path. We are talking about saving $22k a year between 29 busy school locations?! That much for the safety of our kids. I am tired of not being heard. Sad...


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2011 at 7:08 am

Something rotten in state of Denmark.
Yes, Mr. Scharff, better than selling out children's safety to save a buck we should fire American Guard and form a local entity comprising the 27 current workers.

The entirety of the value proposition American Guard seems to bring to the table is that they are confident they can get our current workers to work for less. They are gaming the system. If people like Klein and Scharff and their elitist and cockeyed views of democracy -- right wing -- cannot see through this they should step down.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2011 at 7:25 am

Couple days ago I was crossing the street in front of Terman. It was Mike's day off. Some other guard was nowhere close the intersection and a minute later I saw her at Terman parking lot on a cell phone. Can't PA with all our tax $$$$ pay $22k annual difference to avoid all that s***. Mike was TALKING to all kids and brought smiles, beside controlling the intersection and keeping it safe. Ridiculous decision. Counsel once again proofed that our opinion doesn't matter.


Posted by anothermom, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 8, 2011 at 7:44 am

It is ridiculous that on the one hand they promote bicycle riding, on the other hand they cut the safety, what are they thinking in city hall?


Posted by City employee, a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2011 at 7:54 am

Hey, you people voted these people in and now they want to cut your safety. Less money for fire and police and now at the crosswalks. Are you suprised? You shouldn't be the city council doesn't care about your safety and that was clear when they started making cuts at the police department.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2011 at 8:06 am

The crossing guard near us is nowhere as good as the previous guard. This one is gone before all the kids have left school, can't speak English and waves bikes through without making them dismount. The previous one actually spoke to the kids and told them how to cross safely, was there in plenty of time before the kids started coming and remained until there were no longer kids coming out of school and made the bikes wait unless they dismounted.

I always gave our crossing guards a gift at Christmas just to show my appreciation. They were teaching the kids road safety and how to cross the street, not just stopping traffic and waving.


Posted by Hunter, a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2011 at 8:07 am

This company employs a former PD Manager, so I've heard...go figure


Posted by Traffic-Guards-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2011 at 8:21 am

Interesting the the cost of the contract for these guards did not seem to make it into the Weekly's accounting of the Council meeting. And this is "quality journalism"?

This contract is costing about $350,000/year. Over the next ten years, that will be over $3.5M. That is a lot of money that could be used to rethink the reconfiguration of the busiest intersections, and to look at some technological solutions, such as surveillance technology, and more speed monitoring/speeding detection equipment that could effectively increase the police presence around the schools with the heaviest traffic.

The schools could also help by monitoring the driving practices of parents in/around the schools, and notifying those parents that have been observed driving in unsafe ways that their children are at risk when they are driven to school.

It's time for the PAUSD parents to get some of the heat they deserve, for the unsafe driving practices they exhibit in/around the schools.


Posted by Mom of 3, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 8, 2011 at 8:27 am

While I'm all for being cost-conscious, this is foolish penny-pinching. The savings is negligible in the context of a city budget (there are many other truly "extra" things that could be cut!), while it is signaling to the crossing-guards caring for our children that we think their efforts aren't worth the money. Silly.

btw - the crossing guard at Embarcadero and Newell is excellent. It is rare that you see someone take the amount of initiative and ownership that he does in a position like this. He goes out of his way to ensure that drivers are being safe and following the rules, and also directs and educates the students (and parents!). That's the sort of work ethic we should want to reward -- and a pay cut certainly isn't a reward!

Bad decision City Council.


Posted by parent/staff, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Nov 8, 2011 at 8:29 am

Amazing. To echo other parents, when Michael isn't there it's pure chaos. He is also a member of the Terman Community and the kids adore him. All this to save $22k a year? I wish the council members had kids that went to biked to Terman everyday, they'd be singing another tune for sure. Just another example of not listening. Mike isn't going to "stick around" and the council will be faced a bigger problem when the first accident happens. Such a shame...


Posted by Guard's Wife, a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2011 at 8:36 am

My husband and his Mother are 2 of the guards that were approached by this new company. They were told they would have to take a pay cut, as well as pay for uniforms (some $1200)... why would anyone want to stay under those conditions?? Jobs are scarce right now, and they are making it unappealing for these guards to stay at the job they love. I know that my Husband and his Mother take great pride in their sites, and see that the children are sent off to school with smiles on their faces. Such a shame that money has to take that all away............


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2011 at 9:02 am

I'm suprised at the unanimous vote by the council on this matter, because in the past some of the council members have supported the "prevailing wage" concept for city construction projects, ie. forcing bidders on contracts to employ people at "union" wages.

But then again, the school crossing guards are not unionized, so they didn't contribute to the campaigns of Shepard, Price, etc. is not a coincidence that Shepard, Price, et al voted to go with the low price bid?


Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 8, 2011 at 9:20 am

As Palo Altans we have come to expect a certain level of service and responsiveness from our city government. It is not being met with this decision. Public safety is paramount whether we're talking about police staffing levels, the fire department, or the school crossing guard program. Certain things should not be done on the cheap, and this is one of them.

If I'm not mistaken, the school crossing guard program falls under the umbrella of the police department's overall budget. They have contracted out this service to a provider for many years. It is a predictable outcome that the crossing guard program is awarded to the lowest bidder, after the police department's own staffing level and specialized positions have been cut significantly over the years. Something has to give, and it's sad that our children's safety has to be compromised in an attempt to achieve a budgetary goal. Public safety at all levels has to come first. Personally, as a Palo Altan, I expect and desire the best. We get what we pay for folks, every time.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 8, 2011 at 10:09 am

Huh. Take some money from the Mitchell Park folly and apply it to this situation.


Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2011 at 10:11 am

You get what you pay for. A higher wage gets a higher quality employee. What just happened is that the crossing guards just got a huge 8% pay cut, under the guise of a company change. When that happens, the better people will drift away first, because they are best suited to finding another job that pays better than the new wage. What you are left with is the cell phone chatters and riff-raff.

What we get is promised from the new company that our childern will still be safe with their lower-paid people verses a proven performer with higher-paid people. The people we get will be those attracted by the lower pay or people who have non-pay reasons for taking those jobs. Finding out that our kids are not as safe as they used to be will be painful. We may have to station more $200K/y officers at those intersections if it turns out that the new guards cannot control them as effectively. Or we have a couple accidents.

I am actually surprised that the crossing guards have been paid so little. If the city wants to save money by squeezing pay, they should probably look at those that make more money in the first place. Why try to squeeze blood from a turnip? We have many city employees who could have their salary reduced by the total cost savings we are talking here and hardly notice it, or at least feel less pain than the crossing guards.

But no, we compromise our kids safety, and I will wager that in a year or so we will be hiring an expensive consultant to help us figure out what went wrong.


Posted by stressful, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 8, 2011 at 10:19 am

I thought our city leaders cared much about the overall emotional and physical well beings of our school kids, would the unsafe crowded road affect their physical well being and thus in term to affect their emotional well being as well.


Posted by green acre Mom, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 8, 2011 at 10:25 am

I sent an email a few days ago to City Council supporting keeping the current crossing guards. Both my kids attend Terman and I feel confident they will get to school safely since Michael is there to halt traffic. I view him as an important ASSET to my children. With all the money being poured into Project Cornerstone and the 41 Development Assets, this is one asset I want to make sure and maintain. Maybe take some money out of the whole Arastradero restriping mess. Why do they continue to gouge the little guys? Maybe some of the higher ups can take a pay cut.


Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2011 at 10:29 am

When is the next city council election? I'm not voting for any of these people. Ten bucks an hour is already a very stingy wage to pay these wonderful crossing guards in whose hands we place the safety of our children. As a community we have the responsibility to not be terrible employers and here we are. When the service gets much worse we will have our city council to blame.


Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2011 at 10:34 am

The trouble is that running a city is a matter of playing a numbers game, and it is hard to put numbers on the safety of our kids until a few of them get run down. Pay packages and contract quotes are easy to see the numbers in, much less nebulous than the safety question at this point.

I have a suggestion. Please review a few recent threads on this board for traffic safety, look at the number of people posting there who don't see the need to limit their speed to 25 mph on residential streets, who seem to feel that they should be able to set their own speed limits. THOSE are the guys these crossing guards are for.


Posted by stressful, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 8, 2011 at 10:42 am

The major accidents would happen if the kids/crossing guards are unfamiliar with the road or uncare for the work with less pay.What about other kids if their friend is hurt, what are their feelings, especially they are their classmates or brothers or sisters?


Posted by SW, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2011 at 11:05 am

"Having a process that says we'll go to the lowest responsible bidder has served us well," Klein said.

Yes, it certainly worked well with the Mitchell Park Library.

My mother used to oversee large construction projects for community colleges. She said the lowest bid policy was destructive. Contractors would underbid just to win (since the lowest bid always won) and then would jack up the cost with overages and change orders. And you often ended up with a lower quality contractor.

It seems likely that will be the outcome of this situation, as well. I don't think you should need to put a contract out for bid unless you feel you are overpaying for the quality and value of services you receive. In this case, I definitely do not think $14.75 an hour is overpaid. However, if someone is just standing out there, talking on a cell phone and leaving the post early, then $13.25 is way too much.

Most everyone I know with kids in Palo Alto schools are very happy with their current crossing guards. Why does the city council have to muck everything up?




Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2011 at 11:11 am

There was a 7-year-old girl killed in EPA just a couple weeks ago, crossing the street on her way to school. There was no crossing guard at that intersection, I understand. It was tragic for everyone involved.

So what is worse: No crossing guard or an inattentive crossing guard? At least the inattentive crossing guard gives us someone to blame, after the fact. I would rather prevent the event with a good crossing guard.

Consider this also: The crossing guards love their jobs and strive to do a good job of it, throwing themselves into their work. The new replacement crossing guards will know that, no matter how well they do, they can still be out of a job next contract period because someone underbid their company. What does that do for their dedication to their jobs? Work hard, get screwed, it's the American way.


Posted by KP, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2011 at 11:15 am

Our "City Council" doesn't EVER care what the citizens of this city want or think OR KNOW! First they screw up our streets, are working on screwing up California Ave, and now want to do the same with our school kids.

This is getting to be a bit rediculous!

Hey City Council...Design the City Hall building with one way walks, up only elevators and down only stairwells. Waste your time there...leave OUR city alone!


Posted by stressful, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 8, 2011 at 11:19 am

The poor little guys , they get paid so little,yet they have so much responsibilities.


Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on Nov 8, 2011 at 11:26 am

A lot of people on this board do not understand Palo Alto's financial situation.

You parents are lucky you still have city-provided guard services.

Has anybody considered asking the parents to pay for them?
Why load this burden onto the hard-pressed taxpayer?


Posted by Old Town Paly Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2011 at 11:34 am

WHY DO THEY TRY TO FIX SOMETHING THAT IS NOT BROKEN?!! Didn't the City Council realize that our current crossing guards (some who have been there for years) not only do their job, but also protect our kids with not just a stop sign in hand, but more a trusting relationship that has been built?? Why take that away from the kids, parents and the schools when there are predators out there who don't have as good of a chance trying to lurk at our schools with the stable and established folks that have been there looking out for our kids already? REALLY?! Dollars and sense is what it comes down to and I, personally, am sick of safety being compromised by money. Tsk Tsk Palo Alto City Council!


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 8, 2011 at 11:43 am

@stressful: that argument would work if not for the Mitchell Park Folly.


Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2011 at 11:45 am

"Has anybody considered asking the parents to pay for them?"

<looks at property tax bill>

Uhhhh, we do. They just want to take in dollars and spend pennies. They can do this to save $60K per year, while they sign up city employees for pensions, each of which is far more than that per year.


Posted by Karen Ambrose Hickey, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 8, 2011 at 11:46 am

I'm very disappointed. We have a great crossing guard. Yes, we are lucky to have them, but we also have more commute traffic that likes to run red lights and sit in crosswalks and less money for police. I'm sure many of the other areas are like ours. Our guards are proactive in addressing drivers, parents and kids to keep everyone safe. I saw Isaac stay hours after when that plane crash cut the power. He continued to work in the intersection helping cars and pedestrians through the morning. He's enthusiastic, friendly, but demands your attention. Please re-consider.


Posted by safe can still be new, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2011 at 11:53 am

If you are that worried, then take your children to school, walking or driving. It seems the current is ok, but if there is a less expensive option, it SHOULD be looked at. It still could be just as safe. Things change, and we don't have lots of lose change ($) in our city.


Posted by stressful, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm

It should be read "safe can still be cheap",just like we say to chinese products "cheap can still be used"


Posted by sympathetic-but..., a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm

1. good people lose their jobs all the time.
2. we get attached to people we know
3. why assume that the replacements will not be conciencious as well? that they will not strive to do a good job? that they do not value children's lives?
4. city revenues ARE DOWN and cuts need to be made.
5. we all have our own pet/important projects (which we feel should have more money), and our own targets (wasteful, unnecessary, etc.) to be cut.
6. there is a constituency for everything: tennis courts, vegetable gardens, library, soccer fields, playgrounds, road repair, trees, creek repair and flood control, crime prevention, parking on sidewalks, green/energy efficiency, jobs/pensions, recycle center, cell phone coverage, no cell towers, etc. - the list goes on.
7. we cannot fund all of these to everyone's satisfaction (pro or con).
8. we try representative governance - and task those elected with the balancing of those conflicting demands upon resources.
9. THE RESOURCES ARE SHRINKING, and whereas on a one-case-at-a-time basis it might seem that we can afford the extra cost, that approach has gotten us into a lot of the current trouble in which we find ourselves now.
10. In the large, when you look at the entire (budget) problem, then it becomes a much more complex issue.

So, vent if you must. But then provide concrete, preferably well thought out, alternative solutions to the problem in its full context.







Posted by Spoiled in Palo Alto , a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm

You people have no clue!

You should be thankful you have what you have. Many cities don't have any crossing guards at all becuase the City and the School can't afford them.

Be thankful for what you have and get over yourselves.


Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm

"Many cities don't have any crossing guards at all becuase the City and the School can't afford them."

I agree, we should be grateful for our crossing guards. Guess what: We ARE grateful to them. We LIKE them, we APPRECIATE them. We don't like seeing them get the shaft.

Let's look at what they get for being wonderful for us: Less than $15/hr, is that full time or part time? Is there paid vacation or sick leave? Health benefits? Is there a pension or 401K plan with matching funds? Are there educational requirements, criminal background checks? Who are they and why do they do it?

Has anyone considered that the anual pension of just a couple retired city employees, who retired at 50 and never produced again, would pay for the entire crossing guard program, not just the difference between the two companies we are talking about? There are a LOT of places to save $60K per year that do not compromise the safety of our kids. You guys are squeezing in the wrong places.


Posted by grumpy granny, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 8, 2011 at 1:25 pm

To Terman parent: Ask someone who was here when they closed Greendell and Cubberly. "They" seem to have a habit of listening, then promising one thing and doing the most expedient thing no matter what anybody has said, in the end.


Posted by Rex, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Nov 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm

If it ain't broke, why fix it? Why bid out services when the customers are perfectly happy with what they have currently? At least, that's the way it's done in most well managed organizations.

And speaking of safety, let's not forget the children who were killed in East Palo Alto recently because of the lack of a proper crossing guard. It's time to rethink this penny-wise, pound-foolishness.


Posted by registered user, rem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Government DOES NOT CARE. IT is the bottom line. IT is money in their pockets for election time.

Maybe be it is time for OCCUPY PALO ALTO!!!!!!!!


Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm

"Maybe be it is time for OCCUPY PALO ALTO!!!!!!!!"

Nawww, fun as it would be, most of us have jobs we need to hold so that we can earn the taxes to pay these people. But come election time, it might be a good idea to remember that the vote on this was unanimous, and VOTE THE RASCALS OUT!


Posted by Guard's Wife, a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm

My husband and Mother-in-law make even less than $11/hr. But you know what? It's NOT about the money, it's about taking pride in their jobs, knowing that the children are safe while they are on duty. Having someone else come in and tell them that in order to continue to do the job they love, they have to make even LESS money is a slap in the face. Also consider the weather conditions that they work in. Standing on a corner in pouring rain for a couple hours a day?? Worth much more than what they are currently being paid, in my opinion.

Unless you know someone who is a crossing guard, and know their circumstances, you have no right to say they shouldn't be mighty pissed off about this offer!!!!!!!!!!


Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Guard's Wife, please help me. Are your husband and mother-in-law considered full-time or part time? Aside from the pay, what other benefits do they receive? (I have more specific questions in one of my earlier posts.)

I want to know more about what it is like to be a guard. And while I do not personally know any guards (which is why I am asking,) I cannot imagine that any of them would NOT be pissed off by this. They have a right to be. On the other hand, it sounds like your husband and mother-in-law are making less than the new max, so they should be able to maintain (or even improve) their income by switching companies. I hope so.


Posted by David, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm

The city is required award the lowest responsible bid when going to out bid. If not, then the police department would be in violation. Awarding this contract to another company for the same service for a higher cost of tax payers money does not make fiscal sence. It is poor business.

As a parent who went through the same issues when my kids were young, get use to it. Besides death and taxes, there will always be change. It is guaranteeed.


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Wow. Thirty eight posts have been offered on this since my brief message earlier today. I thought last night's Council meeting, or the first hour, was part and parcel of the Democracy gap we suffer here. (And I think of Acterra, Doug Keith and the lady from EPA as excellent prologue for what followed).

Council, with a little urging from parents, PTA etc, can direct staff to cancel contract with American Guard without cause and with 15 days notice. In the interim, let's figure what is wrong here and how to right it.
I for one -- and I could at least ask two or three others similarly situated -- could offer 5 hours a week volunteer at one of the 29 designated sites until we get our star and superstar existing contractors back on the job at original rates but with some kind of better organization that eliminates this glaring weakness of the right wing privatize dogma.
Penny-wise pound-foolish plus self-absorbed drivers and lack of leadership could put our kids in harms way.
We can do better; if we can do it for the downtown pizza parlor we can do it for school safety.


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Ok, now i've read this and am going to send a note to Council that citizens on the Palo Alto Weekly comment board are polling 37 to 3 against what Council didn't do last night: cancel American Guard and do a new RFQ and also find out how to make our crosswalk workers work for us in these budget sensitive times. Doug Keith is our newly retired and pensioned second generation former public safety lieutenant can be offered the job of helming this -- the Blue Ribbon Crosswalk committee -- or Roger Smith and Le Levy, or Michael Mark a former 3Com lawyer newly appointed to planning commission without ever having attended a PTC meeting -- he can surely figure this one out -- or Ladoris Cordell or Alan Davis or Tom Jordan. Agent Robert Parham is a former Dartmouth rugby player, US Marine and teaches SWAT -- he can probably train our new Special Crosswalk and Fend Off the Racketeering Brigands From San Leandro Team. How about a worker owned crosswalk co-op or a public-private partnerships or do what we did, find a crack team of mature 10-year-olds; it worked at Fremont Hills circa 1975. Or call those same now 40-somethings who did so well at that championship crosswalk season of 1975; like I said I will volunteer on this, as a stop-gap.

I am sick of our so-called leadership dodging every opportunity to actually do some good, and hiding behind dogma and cowardice. (on the other hand if you look at the American Guard website these people do not look like fun people to tossle with -- but then again do you really want them that close to our children?)

Instead of mouthing group-think and bad Orwell outtake platitudes leadership should do, say, act think.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2011 at 7:14 pm

The city can afford to hire at $150,000/year an assistant city mgr for "Sustainability", whose major task so far was starting a 3rd farmer's market; they can also make a loan to buy the city manager a house of over a million dollars, pay for remodeling, and pay a portion of the property taxes. They can afford to pay $250,000 to do the compost factory study. When it comes to pet projects, the city council finds the money; when it comes to basics like police & crossing guards no savings is too small.


Posted by Watcher, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 8, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Where's the cash? Gotta pony up the bucks if you want to keep the service. Funny how the sense of entitlement in PA is so great that everyone's in an uproar about this.


Posted by Old, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 8, 2011 at 7:29 pm

The crossing guard on Newell and Embarcadero is amazing. I often wonder why he isn't working for the PD. I am now thinking he should be on the board.


Posted by Old, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 8, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Spoiled in Palo Alto: Yes, we do have the right to complain. Are you ware of much we spend to live here? I didn't pay $2 mill for a crappy home in Palo Alto to live in an undesirable community. A "small" portion of the money spent should go for things we we the citizens of PA want.


Posted by Guard's Wife, a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2011 at 8:27 pm

JustMe... They have NO benefits, and are considered part time. They even had to pay for their own background check when they were hired.. As far as it being an improvement with the "new" company.. No, they would have to pay for their own uniforms (from what we hear, $1200 worth), and would lose any time they had with ACM toward pension. My Mother-in-law has already put in 6 years with ACM and will lose it when the other company takes over.

It bothers me that these guards have built relationships with the kids/parents in their neighborhood, and now they will be severed... like it didn't even matter. They are being cut off at the knees for doing a good job. Grrr, it makes me angry just thinking of the heartbreak on my Mother-in-law's face when she heard the outcome at the meeting last night.


Posted by steve, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 8, 2011 at 9:59 pm

so within a mile of the wealthiest private univ in the country...and within a mile of steve jobs house and that of his millionaire neighbors, we compromise public safety. I hate palo alto. it's so far worse than ever.


Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Watcher, Uh, we pay high property taxes based on our inflated property values, which you Stanford residents get a break on. And incidentally, why is this your affair? Are your kids going to PA schools on our dime?


Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Guard's Wife, I'm sorry our elected representatives have acted with no regard for the opinions and feelings of those who elected them. The parents of the children who have been kept safe by these wonderful crossing guards are not happy with this at all. All the parents I've heard from have expressed appreciation for their dedication, skill, and kindness to the students, and great dismay at how this group has treated them. This is not right and we're trying to do something about it.


Posted by kate, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 8, 2011 at 10:40 pm

I would like to personally thank the friendly and dedicated crossing guard who works at the corner of East Meadow and Middlefield. I hope that I continue to see him there after December 1!


Posted by Embarcadero Parent, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Nov 8, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Isaac, the crossing guard at Embarcadero and Newell is fabulous. Not only does he make sure that cars stop before the crosswalks, but tells the children and adults when it's safe to cross, helps the bikers with crossing safely, and lets drivers know when they don't have room to clear the intersection when it is congested (often!). He is always professional and sends people on their way with, "Have a nice day!"

We really hope that Isaac and the other crossing guards are rewarded for their dedication and not penalized with lower pay for staying. Isaac is an asset to the children and families who use the Embarcadero/Newell intersection to walk, bike or scooter during the busy commute hours.


Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Guard's Wife, I am so sorry. I really don't know what to say, except I am sorry the ciy is so uncaring.


Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 9, 2011 at 12:59 am

How about the City chipping in the Millions that they saved from NOT being sued from 6th grader-to-be Salina Reymonds death..(and others who did NOT have a crossing guard when they were struck and killed?????)
It's pure insanity to let crossing guards like Mike go due to some chump change dispute. He should be getting MORE than what the services are paying him now for a job he does well...just like most other company's do.
What a slap in the face to those who care for our children...and control those drivers who are NOT paying attention at a busy intersection. I would like to see one of the city council members take the job over...just for a few days~ maybe then they would get the feel... I double dog dare them...........................


Posted by Bob, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2011 at 9:02 am

Michael does an exceptional job at Terman. He takes a personal interest in the kids and keeps everyone in line. While I understand the need to save money, the city does a terrible job of prioritizing their efforts. We have a top-heavy administration filled with high-paid bureaucrats while the city hires crossing guards at the lowest possible rate and looks for ways to take away Cubberly Field from the numerous kids and adults who use it to play softball and soccer. It seems like Palo Alto is waging an all out assault against children.


Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 9, 2011 at 9:33 am

"We have a top-heavy administration filled with high-paid bureaucrats while the city hires crossing guards at the lowest possible rate"

No, the city is not hiring those crossing guards. If the city treated its employees that way there would be serious problems. So they hire an outside company to hire and abuse the crossing guards, and therefore they keep their hands clean, in theory.

This really all smacks of having some MBA's running the show, with no regard for factors that cannot be immediately quantified in monetary terms.

I cannot accept that the crossing guards are doing their job for the money, it is so little money. It sounds more like lightly compensated vollunteer work to me. They do it because it needs to be done and it is nice to know you are being a valued service. They will now be an insulted service, and the new company will have to offer their lower pay and requirment to self-supply to people from a couple rungs lower on the ladder. But there is no way to quantify that right now, so it apparently does not matter.


Posted by MD, a resident of University South
on Nov 9, 2011 at 9:55 am

JustMe, the city is treating its public safety employees this way, and the voters now enable them to do so more freely, by passing measure D. By passing it, they cannot strike and have no way of objecting to this treatment.


Posted by Watcher, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 9, 2011 at 11:01 am

Well, Observer, I am stopping for kids crossing all the time while I am driving and SPENDING MONEY in your city. I love the snide NIMBY attitudes that people get when a nonresident has an opinion based on experience of spending money in your town. For all you know, I LIVE in PA and work at Stanford, or live in Stanford and work in your city. Or my ex lives in Palo Alto and our kids go to school there, or my spouse works in Palo Alto and our kids are grown...the possibilities are endless.

You think you all pay high taxes? Seriously, you need to put your wallets where your mouths are. You're not unique in this country, thinking that you're paying adequately for services. That's a big problem here - your perspectives are all out of context with reality. If it wasn't the case, you all wouldn't have these complaints.

The excellence of the guard at Newell and Embarcadero, with his no-nonsense, take charge attitude and total bravery makes me think he should be on your city council, but he's most likely too smart for that - not to mention, not a resident.

Good luck - you folks sure need it.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2011 at 11:18 am

Going for the cheapest option in the short term often is not the cheapest option overall. The cheapest option is cheap because it cuts corners somewhere. In this case, it appears that they cut corners on wages to their employees. This means that the best employees will look for jobs elsewhere so that they can get better wages. We will be left with those that are not the best at their job.

I don't doubt that some of the busiest intersections have some of the best guards. That is probably planned by the management, give the hardest intersections to those who are doing the best job because they can manage it. I doubt very much if they are getting a better hourly wage because they are better at the job or their intersection is more difficult.

However, we have many intersections around town which are not on major arterial roads and these crossing guards are definitely of lower caliber. Guards who cannot speak to kids because they can't speak English are a liability. Likewise those who often turn up late or leave early, spend the time they are working on their phones, or looking after their own kids (I have witnessed all these things) are not the type of crossing guard we want.

By going with the lowest bid, these are the kind of guards who will end up transferring to the new company because they probably won't get a job elsewhere. I suspect they will also be moved to the more difficult intersections.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Watcher, in the midst of the economic downturn, PA residents passed an added parcel tax to support the schools. The community does pay high property taxes and strongly supports the PA public schools. Superintendent Skelly does an excellent job, as do most of the teachers, special ed teachers, support staff and crossing guards. The citizens DO put their money where their mouths are, supporting K-12 ed at the ballot box and through the PiE program. next time ... do your homework!


Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Watcher, Defensive much?


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Maybe the school district should start providing school bus service. I believe hearing that the Palo Alto Unified school busses you see all over town are for 2 uses: transport of athletic teams, field trips etc, and for transporting kids from outside the Palo Alto city limits to school...is what I've been told correct?


Posted by Russian!om, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 9, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Big mystery - how the voices of tax payers are so ignored?! And they are comming for more, adding to the already high property taxes. Why then we are running so many groups to 'care' for our youth, when we are getting rid of REAL PEOPLE' who do? Leave our guards and kids as is and start restructuring and budget cuts in different places. Truly, why does a little town
Ike PA need so many libraries?


Posted by Watcher, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 9, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Defensive? Not even close. But unfortunately, I had to explain why I am in your town because you seem to think you have hermetically sealed borders or something and that nonresidents couldn't possibly know about anything in Palo Alto or have dealt with the crossing guards.

I've done my homework, which is why I said that you all think you pay so much in taxes for services. Clearly, it's not enough with the economic downturn because all that's ever posted here are complaints with city services, school problems, firefighter problems, police problems. You need to throw more money at it because that's what you've always done - and that will also give you more chances to complain. Or instead of complaining, do something else, as the clever people here have already suggested.


Posted by mhunwick, a resident of Addison School
on Nov 10, 2011 at 10:12 am

I am writing to ask the Mayor and the City Council to rescind the contract with American Guard Services. Children's lives are more important than the anticipated $22K annual saving in the city budget. Having crossing guards like Mr. Saterfield who know children by name and who foster a friendly relationship with public safety officers are more important than small differences in hourly salary. What better way for children to learn to respect laws than from caring people whom they know as individuals.


Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 11, 2011 at 2:34 am

I assume the City Council members do not read the Palo Alto Online threads...reason being is that there has been no response to the double dog dare (above).......................


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

I posted this to council, in letter to council. It's a little sassy but these times demand a little shaking things up. I also left a voice mail to Camile Townsend, school board member.

I posted this to a local website and would like Council to act:

I think Council should direct City Attorney to rescind contract with American Guard and go to re-bid. Meanwhile, community leaders can work with the longtime workers who protect our children and neighborhood kids on way to school and help them self-organize to provide this service, and submit or re-submit a bid. One of the moms I polled suggested that City could hire the 30 or so workers directly but that is even less popular in these times (although it makes perfect sense to me). But if a public private partnership can form to help build a patio for a pizza parlor downtown surely this rates as highly. We would have 15 days between sending the letter and forming the new self-organized entity. I would be willing to volunteer at said crosswalks as a stop-gap, and I feel confident I could find if necessary some others.

The only value added by the new vendor is their confidence in being able to get our existing workers to work for less. What values are being upheld by their occupation other than "might makes right" or "penny wise pound foolish"? We don't want these goon squads around our kids.

Here is the text of my post:
Ok, now i've read this and am going to send a note to Council that citizens on the Palo Alto Weekly comment board are polling 37 to 3 against what Council didn't do last night: cancel American Guard and do a new RFQ and also find out how to make our crosswalk workers work for us in these budget sensitive times. Doug Keith is our newly retired and pensioned second generation former public safety lieutenant can be offered the job of helming this -- the Blue Ribbon Crosswalk committee -- or Roger Smith and Le Levy, or Michael Mark a former 3Com lawyer newly appointed to planning commission (edited something here) -- he can surely figure this one out -- or Ladoris Cordell or Alan Davis or Tom Jordan. Agent Robert Parham is a former Dartmouth rugby player, US Marine and teaches SWAT -- he can probably train our new Special Crosswalk and Fend Off the Racketeering Brigands From San Leandro Team. How about a worker owned crosswalk co-op or a public-private partnerships or do what we did, find a crack team of mature 10-year-olds; it worked at Fremont Hills circa 1975. Or call those same now 40-somethings who did so well at that championship crosswalk season of 1975; like I said I will volunteer on this, as a stop-gap.
I am sick of our so-called leadership dodging every opportunity to actually do some good, and hiding behind dogma and cowardice. (on the other hand if you look at the American Guard website these people do not look like fun people to tossle with -- but then again do you really want them that close to our children?)
Instead of mouthing group-think and bad Orwell outtake platitudes leadership should do, say, act think.
In related topics I appreciate the courage and wisdom of councilmembers Gail Price and Yiaway Yeh for bucking the trends and acting their conscience on important matters. They are keepers.

Signed,

Mark Weiss
resident of Palo Alto
Fremont Hills (PAUSD) class of 1976


Posted by Guard's Wife, a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:20 am

Well, today is the last day for All City Management Guards to work in Palo Alto. I really hope that the city realizes it's mistake before it's too late, and bring these men and women back to their sites!!!