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Palo Alto in 2010: budget woes, environment
Original post made
on Jan 2, 2010
Depending on whom you ask, 2010 will either be a year of painful adjustments in Palo Alto or a time of unprecedented opportunities. With the city facing a structural budget deficit of about $10 million and just about every major revenue source on the wane, officials are bracing for service cuts, tough negotiations with labor unions and a growing infrastructure backlog.
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posted Saturday, January 2, 2010, 9:21 AM
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Posted by Posting of HRC
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 4, 2010 at 3:32 pm
MEMORANDUM FROM CITY OF PALO ALTO HRC
To: The Palo Alto Community Dated: November 12, 2009
From: The Human Relations Commission
Dear Fellow Residents and Members of the City Staff:
Long-running labor negotiations, such as those that just ended and will begin soon again, stir up
a wide range of feelings. As we listened to and read what was being said, we wondered, as
perhaps some of you did also, what we might do to help so many good people put important
working relationships back together. With this note, we offer some suggestions to that end,
suggestions that we hope will stir reflection and discussion in the community.
In committing these thoughts to paper, we are not taking sides in past and coming negotiations.
That's not our business. What the HRC cares about is our shared humanity. Whether from the
perspective of citizen, tax-payer, worker, manager, elected or appointed official, new comer or
long-time resident, each of us occupies a place as part of a larger, interdependent, and shared
history and set of aspirations. We took that into account as we looked forward.
In reading the letters to editors, blogs, and news stories and in listening to Council meetings and
more casual conversations, four themes stood out.
Stereotypes usually get it wrong when we use them to simplify complex relationships such as
management and labor, taxpayer and city worker, city finances and family budgets. Few of us
have a good working knowledge of all sides of issues, so we reach for shortcuts. But if we let
stereotypes shut down that vital mix of critical thinking and empathy, we're not in the real
conversation about the issues.
Respect in long-running and hard-bargaining negotiations is difficult to preserve and, once lost,
even more difficult to re-establish. But healthy working relationships cannot exist without it.
When respect is present, we see each other more clearly, listen to one another more carefully,
value understanding, and are more inclined to compromise for the good of the whole.
Work is one of the primary sources of meaning in our lives. But when the adversarial side of
negotiations dominates the horizon, taking sides seems a natural thing to do. Work tends to
shrink to tasks to be accomplished or hours on the job. These clearly have significance, but work
is more than that. It is one of the major ways we connect with each other, contribute to some
larger whole, make things happen that benefit both ourselves and others. Whether we are the
producers of work or its consumers, we are stakeholders in positive, long-term relationships.
Communityboth the idea and the realityresonates with many Palo Altans. We value our
neighborhoods, our business districts, our schools, our arts, culture, libraries, parks and so much
else that we share. As citizens, residents, voters, and users of these facets of our community, we
are also stewards of them. So too are the city staff members. And the City itself must make
effective use of the funds entrusted to it to build and maintain our social, human, physical, and
We are in this together. Though highly structured, collective bargaining and those involved in it
exist in a context. The elements of the context that the HRC would like to emphasize in this
letter to the Palo Alto community, namely, the danger of stereotypes, the essential importance of
respect, the meaning of work, and the many-sided significance of community deserve, we
believe, careful and continuous consideration now and in the future. Palo Alto's history is one
of the whole exceeding the sum of the parts. We hope the continuation of that history will be an
essential part of the next round of negotiations.
HRC Mission: To address human relations issues, including promotion of
awareness, understanding and resolution of actual or potential conflicts,
discrimination, or injustice while encouraging community building and civic