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Palo Alto May Sponsor Senior Games

Original post made by Jenny, South of Midtown, on Nov 30, 2008

So, having proposed this week to hire a "Sustainability Coordinator" with a six figure salary, pension, health benefits etc. Our Mayor and CC now want to spend $500,000 to sponsor the "Senior Games," despite the fact that Palo Alto is facing an uncertain economic future.

Our City Council are suckers for any outside entity who asks them for money, not just money but really big bucks. However, when the residents of PA ask for permit parking, infrastructure repairs etc. Not only do they ignore us but they tell us these things are too expensive.

We have an out of control City Council, spending money we don't have on things we don't need.

Comments (36)

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Posted by dave
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2008 at 11:19 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by kick back
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2008 at 2:12 pm

It is common practice in the hospitality industry for hotels and restaurants to give kick backs to the tour guide for steering customers to their establishments.

Palo Alto government gets only 12 cents in hotel tax for every dollar a hotel gets, and the government gets only one cent of the sales tax for every dollar a restaurant gets.

There are three members of the Chamber of Commerce board of directors who represent hotels: Colleen Gerstner of Sheraton Palo Alto Hotel, Barbara Gross of Garden Court Hotel, and Mark Hochstatter of Crowne Plaza Cabana Palo Alto.

Why don't they organize the restaurants and hotels to provide the $500,000 out of the increased revenues they will receive from the Senior Games?

If the tour guide benefiting from this kick back is a crony of our city leaders, that may be an incentive for the Chamber of Commerce to collect the money.

Maybe the Council Members sponsoring the idea of giving cash to the Senior Games have just included that idea as a bargaining chip to be able to get the government to provide up to $250,000 in city services to the event without reimubursement.

I assume a majority of the City Council is smart enough to not give any cash to the Senior Games after just giving cash to a convention and visitors bureau to promote Palo Alto.

The real guestion is how much money the City Council will get from the Senior Games to pay for the increased government services required by the games.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 30, 2008 at 5:26 pm

Paul Losch from the City of Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission here.

The Senior Games is a HUGE deal, and while headquartered here in Palo Alto and ably led by Anne Cribbs, will have venues in numerous locations throughout Northern California.

As someone who has been briefed on this over the course of the last couple of years, I would like to know what the initial poster is basing his/her $500,000 figure on. I am unclear what the basis for this number is coming from, so I have a difficult time formulating an opinion around the assertion the poster has made.

More people participate in and attend the Senior Games than is the case for the Olympic Games. There will be thousands of people who will stay, dine and shop in Palo Alto who otherwise would not have reason to come here. We as a community should be very excited about this whole endeavor.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2008 at 5:55 pm

Here is the link to a July article, mentioning the $500,000 "ask" for city funding: Web Link

"But to secure that economic windfall, Cribbs asked the City of Palo Alto to donate $500,000, half in services such as police and public works."

BTW, I'm not clear if this funding has already been appropriated. According to the 2009 Senior Games site (Web Link), they are holding it at Stanford. Not clear why we need to make a donation - it looks like the games are coming either way.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2008 at 6:18 pm

Here's a link to a Merc/PA Daily article from today, indicating this $500,000 item is still being considered: Web Link

It seems like they are looking for the city to be a "corporate" sponsor (like Humana, Astra-Zeneca, etc.). But not clear why we would want to put in money - the dates and venues are set, so we get whatever benefit there may be whether we sponsor or not.


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Posted by dave
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2008 at 8:15 pm

Mr. Losch. "....venues in numerous locations throughout Northern California." How many will stay and dine in Palo Alto? What percentage of what is spent will wind up as revenue for our General Fund vs the estimated $500,000 donated from the Fund? The money to be gained is all speculative, but City Council and "leaders" of the community will get photo ops. As usual it's about egos.


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Posted by Jenny
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2008 at 10:52 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 1, 2008 at 12:12 am

It is good that these questions are being asked, but some of the postings here seem to already have answers in mind.

An event of this magnitude brings many people to town who either are participants or spectators. That has implications for police, fire, and other public safety resources. It is only right to forecast what the cost of those resources will be.

In fairness, there also should be some projection of what sorts of revenues can be expected from these visitors.

What I find puzzling here is the pull up the draw bridges mentality. Palo Alto and Stanford are magnets for numerous things that bring outsiders here. That is part of the reason I like living here. If people don't like the implications and consequences of living in such an environment, that is their prerogative, but perhaps this is not the right town in which to live if that is the value set.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2008 at 2:38 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Bread and Circuses? Where have I heard that before?
If horses can be appointed to the Senate, I guess other equines can appropriately sit on our council.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2008 at 8:29 am

I think it would be good if we refrained from "if you don't like it you should move." We are all neighbors and entitled to our views and should welcome the diversity of opinion; no one has a monopoly on what is "right" for Palo Alto. If you don't like that diversity, Paul, maybe you should move ;-)

I didn't see anyone complain about the event - they complained about a $500,000 sponsorship gift by the city to a private event during tough times. That seems prudent to me. Since I imagine many visitors will stay, eat, and shop in Palo Alto regardless of whether we donate cash and services, it is sensible not to give the money. Let private donors support this private undertaking - if the Chamber of Commerce wants to give $500,000, for instance, that's fine.

Any analysis would need to look at the INCREMENTAL impact, btw. This event appears to be coming whether we contribute or not, per their web site. So how much additional hotel tax, etc., will be generated because we are a $500,000 sponsor? I doubt very much that the incremental revenue from sponsorship (if any) will cover the direct costs.

BTW, do we really have a "spare" $500,000 in our city budget as this discussion implies? Are things really so loose in Palo Alto that ~0.33% of the budget is just laying around for discretionary spending?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2008 at 9:09 am

I am fine with the Games coming here. But, I would add the proviso that as residents we are warned in advance when the events will take place and where, and what roads are closed and so on. As someone who inadvertantly got caught up in football traffic when I could have taken an alternate route if I had been warned beforehand, I think it is important to put up signs around town of alternate routes before it is too late to change your mind. In other words, let me know before I turn left onto Churchill that I would be better off going straight on Alma. It is much better for traffic if those of us who don't need to use ECR are warned to avoid it.


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Posted by dave
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2008 at 9:28 am

As Mr. Wallis implied, the rulers still give us spectacles to distract us from the way they spend taxpayers money. Nothing changes.

I find Mr. Losch's last paragraph rather mean-spirited. Also he says, "In fairness there also should be some projection of what sorts of revenues can be expected from these visitors." I agree. He should estimate dollar amounts of revenue rather than simply list possible sources.

As opposed to his statements, Me Too has raised good points that should be addressed and has stated the questioners' positions fairly.


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Posted by Jenny
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2008 at 9:53 am

I would like to point out to the censors of the Palo Alto Town Square that Jenny and Dave are two different people, we're not even married. Just because we economize in this household by using one computer, there is no need to penalize us.

We are NOT "...the same poster using multiple names"


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Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 1, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Here is the link to the proposal about funding the Senior Games that is on the Monday, December 1, 2008, City Council agenda:

Web Link

Here are the links to the staff report and attachment for the Destination Palo Alto consultant and web site that the City Council approved on October 6, 2008:

Staff report: Web Link

Attachment to staff report: Web Link
(Scope of Services on pages 10 through 16 of 40)

Why do some Council Members believe we need to spend any money promoting Palo Alto to the Senior Games participants when the City Council only two months ago approved paying a convention and visitors bureau, and paying the Palo Alto Weekly, to promote Palo Alto to visitors?


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Thank you for those links. The Council memo is fascinating - no mention that the event occurs, and we get the vast majority of the benefit (room taxes), whether we become a sponsor or not. They say sponsorship would be an "investment" - but they do no analysis of the return. Is this the kind of investment analysis we should expect from our council?


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 1, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Let's make sure my previous comments are clearly understood:

1. The Senior Games will be held here in 2009, and the City of Palo Alto will need to plan and expend resources such as police and other safety personnel, during the events. To the extent that the people organizing the Games and the City are communicating about the resources and costs projected to be needed for this, it is a good thing

2. Some analysis around what the range of revenues the Games will generate locally is called for, and I think they would help City leadership understand what it is able to do to help make the events more successful and generate revenues for the City.

3. Palo Alto is not your typical suburban community. Major events have the potential and do occur here. They have both good and bad consequences, depending on your point of view. It is part of living here, and if those consequences are not to one's liking, that's fine, but I question suggestions that Palo Alto needs to change, or alter what ir offers to the local or greater community. I really find that objectinable.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2008 at 8:10 pm

Paul, it is a shame that you think you have a corner on what Palo Alto is and should be like; and even worse, you find people who disagree with you "objectionable." Sounds like at least some of your neighbors disagree.

Since you serve on a city committee, I hope you can open your mind enough to listen to what people actually want instead of giving them what you have decided, in your wisdom, is right for Palo Alto. If not, I hope you do the right thing and resign your position in favor of someone more open minded.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 1, 2008 at 8:20 pm

Well, Me Too, I guess it is tough for the likes of someone like me to take a "Leadership Position" in Palo Alto because it leads to people calling for a resignation.

I find it offensive that you suggest I do not have an open mind in my postion on the Parks and Recreation Commission. Please attend our meetings, and if you want to pal around with me during the month between meetings when I meet with staff and go to community events, you are most welcome to do so.


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Posted by dave
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2008 at 9:11 pm

Thank you Herb Borock for your links. I agree that promoting Palo Alto through the San Mateo visitors bureau and this proposal seem to overlap. And if there is a 5% or greater increase in hotel occupancy, will it be because of the SM effort or the Senior Games festivities? Do taxpayers pay twice for the same product?

Me Too has made some excellent points. The increase in City revenue due to the games is strictly guesswork.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2008 at 10:32 pm

Paul, maybe you mis-spoke, but as I read it, you SAID you were close-minded toward people who don't share your vision for what Palo Alto is. You didn't just say you disagree with them, you said you find people who suggested Palo Alto might need to change were "objectionable."

So sorry you find it offensive - I'm just reacting to what you wrote.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2008 at 8:41 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Why not trade the Senior Games with whatever city has the Super Bowl? Or trade it to Calgary for the next Stampede?


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Posted by Who voted?
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2008 at 9:14 am

Who voted to give them money?


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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 9:02 pm

They all voted to give them money. Burt, Yeh, Espinosa and Kishimoto voted to give them only $250,000. The other 5 then voted to give them the full half million. This all happened around 12:15 am this morning.

The meeting is posted at: Web Link

At this point, I think it goes back to City staff to negotiate the final deal. Council will then have to approve the appropriation at some future date. Maybe with the budget process?


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Posted by Who voted?
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2008 at 10:15 pm

So Barton, Klein, Morton, Schmidt, and Drekmeier voted to give the business people half a million dollars.
Half a million. Drekmeier can be counted to vote with the big business interests every time. No surprises there.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2008 at 12:42 am

That's really sad to hear. Does anyone know the justification?


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 3, 2008 at 7:49 am

Interesting comment by Who Voted? about Drekmeier--he votes for big business interests, but has no problems bashing Stanford constantly .
Maybe he realizes that big business can go elsewhere, while Stanford is kind of stuck where it is, so he can play his power games (of course, that ha snot stopped him from wanting Stanford money for PA projects)


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:50 pm

What's the business case for this sponsorship?

Since this is during Aug 1 - 15, Stanford is offering housing. Looking at the senior games website, Stanford is charging $130/room.
The other Palo Alto hotels are Crowne Plaza Cabana, Dinah's Garden Hotel, Sheraton Palo Alto.

To recover the $500,000, through the hotel tax, assuming a nite's stay is $160, would require 26,041 days of occupancy among the hotels, over the 2 weeks of the games. Those staying at Stanford won't pay the hotel tax to Palo Alto, nor will those staying at non-Palo Alto hotels, which the senior games website also list (Marriot Residence Inn, 4 Seasons, etc.) I don't think there is enough hotel capacity to recover the cost.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2008 at 1:10 am

The case is much worse than that, Common. The games are coming anyway, whether we sponsor or not. So how many INCREMENTAL hotel stays will our $500,000 sponsorship produce, presumably by steering visitors on the event's web site? Not many I would guess - the visitor count won't change, and perhaps some will choose a PA hotel over one in MV or elsewhere. But nowhere near an number needed to break even on this investment.

Honestly, this is a breathtaking waste of a very large sum - $500,000! Almost any small city would salivate over that amount of discretionary cash - we casually toss it at a national event that doesn't even need our money, with hardly a thought about it.


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Posted by Jenny
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2008 at 9:59 am

Now it transpires that the Senior Games will take place in the Summer when students are not at Stanford. Therefore, Stanford is offering the senior athletes dorm rooms for far less than they'd pay in an expensive Palo Alto hotel. Palo Alto will not benefit at all from this deal.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 4, 2008 at 10:17 am

This is typical of the consistent wasting of our public funds by our city council. What are Larry Klein and the rest of the council thing?'
Why do they think people will want to make Palo Alto A tourist destination? Do they think people will flock here to see the only shopping center that Eichler designed or the HP garage? People come to Stanford and they stay and shop in Palo Alto. One has to wonder how much economic benefit Stanford provides to Palo ALto (think about that Mr Drekmeier before you bash Stanford again!!!)
The other question is do PA residents really want tourists flocking to our city--with the constant complaints about too much traffic etc.
Does our council even care about our infrastructure and crime issues or do they constantly only think about spending money.


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Posted by Art
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Marvin makes a good point. When visitors come to Palo Alto either for business or social reasons, where do we residents take them or what do the visitors ask to see? The simple answer is the Stanford campus. They are not much interested in downtown Palo Alto or the libraries, schools, etc.


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Posted by How much pay
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 4, 2008 at 4:17 pm

At first I thought the advocates for the games were doing it as a public service. But I believe Cribbs, Steve Player, and others are getting salaries. We need to know how much and who all are getting paid. Susie Thom?
I wish the article had mentioned the names of the advocates for the games and the names of the council members who voted FOR the half million giveaway.


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Posted by How much pay
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 4, 2008 at 4:17 pm

At first I thought the advocates for the games were doing it as a public service. But I believe Cribbs, Steve Player, and others are getting salaries. We need to know how much and who all are getting paid. Susie Thom?
I wish the article had mentioned the names of the advocates for the games and the names of the council members who voted FOR the half million giveaway.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2008 at 7:29 pm

The Senior Games are held at Stanford.

Doesn't Klein's wife work at Stanford?

Doesn't Barton have a teaching gig at Stanford?

Hmmmm - no conflict of interest?


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Posted by Youthful senior athlete
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2008 at 8:33 pm

Oh, come on....this is going to be a GREAT event!! Stanford offers world class sport facilities - do you expect the swimming, for example to be held in some indoor 4-lane 25 YMCA pool? (well, you might, but that would be preposterous). People will absolutely dine and stay in Palo Alto, and it will be fun to have the influx of super-healthy adult athletes in town - imagine all of that lively, fun energy! BTW, Stanford was selected as the location more than a year ago - takes years of planning.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2008 at 10:32 pm

Youthful Senior, that's kind of the point - it is a nice event that will happen, at Stanford, regardless of whether PA contributes or not.

So why are we contributing 0.3% of our total annual budget to sponsor this one-time private event, whose participants are almost exclusively people from out of town?

It really is outrageous if you think about it.


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