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on Mar 30, 2012
The article states that the renovation of the art center is being "funded largely" by the Palo Alto Art Foundation. As it should be in my opinion. The question I have is how much is the city and the tax payers on the hook for?
I dare to say that no matter what the cost that might be, which I'm sure is no small figure, that this is just another example of non-essential, niche spending that is responsible for so many of our financial problems. The city is faced with unprecedented financial challenges and annual budget deficits. Vital infrastructure and public safety needs go unfunded. And what is the response of our city leaders and elected officials? How about let's propose a bond measure and raise taxes to pay for these vital needs, and continue to fund and spend millions on a bike bridge, golf course remodel, commercial district beautification, new playground construction, and now a renovation of the art center. Absolutely unreal. Like we're stupid or something.
The city has made it clear that infrastructure and public safety needs are the top priorities. I think on that most of us would agree. Now I would like to see these same city leaders actually back up their statements with some real action, and demonstrate that they can follow through on these reasonable financial priorities. Enough of the catering to the special interest groups and niche programs. Do the right thing and say no to who would should be saying no to. Let's take care of our vital civic needs, and push these non-essential programs and services to the back burner for once. The voters are watching. No tax increases to pay for the work that should have already been planned for and completed.
If you've lived here any 'length' of time, you should know that the Arts Center
was City Hall starting when the small City Hall downtown was closed and before the high rise 'wedding cake" building was opened - in the later 60's.
The Arts Center IS "infrastructure. It IS a valuable asset - like all fine arts resources anywhere - and it was badly in need of repair - sufficient ventilation for odors from oil paint and other art sources,lighting for exhibits, classrooms, exhibit rooms, lecture rooms. Like swimming pools, tennis courts, libraries, parks, the Baylands, and the golf course, the Art Center is part of what we ARE, what makes Palo Alto what it IS. And in this case outside funding paid for most if not all of the rehab and modernization. Yes, like all recreation, it IS essential for residents who are alive and active. Join the crowd.
And Kate, I'm not suggesting for one instant that we never fund and develop all of the areas that you've mentioned. At the same time, all of the areas that you mentioned take a back seat to public safety, street, and sidewalk repair, just to name a few priorities. Why do people think that fiscal responsibility is an all or nothing proposition. The art center, playgrounds, public art, swimming pools, a new golf course, bike bridges, etc, are desired commodities, but they are not essential. Once the city sets some priorities, follows through, and finds a way to fund the essential needs without having to raise taxes, then by all means, I'm all in favor of exploring expenditure options. First things first. Priorities first. What is so difficult to comprehend about financial priorities and responsible spending? Join the crowd.
To respectfully add a footnote, you are correct, the fabric of Palo Alto is comprised of all those things. But please do not lose sight that is also a city that is currently facing unprecedented financial challenges. We are a city that has had to cope with annual budget deficits for several years running. We are a city that has made deep sacrifices in the areas of public safety and infrastructure. Without the foundation of these vital and very essential needs, all of the other amenities go by the wayside.
"What is so difficult to comprehend about financial priorities and responsible spending?"
The root of the problem begins at City Hall, where the council can't even agree on the DEFINITION of a priority!
Council held a retreat in January: New challenges, same 'priorities' in Palo Alto
"Palo Alto officials often talk about 2012 as the 'year of infrastructure' in the city, but one wouldn't know it by looking at the City Council's newly adopted priority list. ... The council adopted the five priorities with some reservations and confusion about what exactly it means for something to be a 'priority.' … The council referred the discussion of what exactly a priority is, and how goals are set under each priority, to its Policy and Services Committee. Web Link
After reading the article, I sent the following to the council:
If the PA Weekly report of your priorities discussion is accurate, I am dumbfounded by some of the comments and by Council's vote to keep last year's priorities.
Mayor Yeh, you are the one who placed infrastructure at the top of your list, yet it was your "suggestion to keep the existing priorities in place." How do you justify that?
As Councilman Burt said, "If we have infrastructure as being such a priority that we're talking about devoting this day and other sessions to it but we don't call it a priority, what the heck is it? It seems like we're treating it as an 'uberpriority' but it's not on a priority list. I don't follow that rationale."
I agree and I thank you, Councilman Burt, for dissenting on the 8-1 vote.
"The council adopted the five priorities with some reservations and confusion about what exactly it means for something to be a 'priority.' … The council referred the discussion of what exactly a priority is, and how goals are set under each priority, to its Policy and Services Committee."
This is truly Dilbertesque. The definition of a priority is pretty clear:
pri•or•i•ty [prahy-awr-i-tee, -or-] noun, plural -ties
1. the state or quality of being earlier in time, occurrence, etc.
2. the right to precede others in order, rank, privilege, etc.; precedence.
3. the right to take precedence in obtaining certain supplies, services, facilities, etc., especially during a shortage.
4. something given special attention.
Even in Palo Alto, there's nothing the Policies & Services Committee can do to change the definition.
It is obvious and several of you have stated this that priorities mean choices. If you have limited resources, you cannot assign them to two things at once. As a Daily News headline proposed last week, "Pay rent or buy 49ers tickets?".
I sincerely hope you would choose to pay the rent, though I sometimes think my tax dollars are going toward 49ers tickets.
If you truly managed to priorities, the budget would reflect that and you would immediately cut whatever is needed from other parts of the budget to pay for infrastructure and public safety.
One council member responded saying that the P& S committee would "define the priority setting process so that council can be thoughtful when setting priorities" and that "*next year* we will probably have a clear process for priority setting."
Does it really require a committee, which comprises half the council, to spend a year to figure out how the entire council should set priorities?
What the council really needs to learn is how to say NO. That's a key part of managing to priorities.
Every resident has his/her "cherished" service that is inviolate. Many don't understand the difference between need and want. And the council, instead of taking its fiscal responsibilities seriously, is afraid to say NO to anyone. It's like bad parents who, instead of teaching their kids the meaning of priorities and wise spending, give them everything they ask for -- whether they can afford it or not.
BTW, Kate, recreation is not essential. Public safety and infrastructure are essential Recreation is good and nice to have, but it is NOT an essential need that we should expect the city to pay for. In any case, WHOSE recreation should be covered? Art-lovers, swimmers, soccer players, tennis players, junior actors, ... ?
Pat thanks for defining priority.
I think we also need to define infrastructure.
World English Dictionary
the basic structure of an organization, system, etc
the stock of fixed capital equipment in a country, including factories, roads, schools, etc, considered as a determinant of economic growth
There is no mention of recreational facilities as being infrastructure. Factories may not be applicable here as such, but attracting businesses for economic growth may well be.
Schools, libraries, art centers, yacht harbors, parks, community centers --none of these are infrastructure.
Roads, sidewalks, electricity distribution, water distribution, waster water collection/treatment/elimination--these are what have traditionally been considered as infrastructure.
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