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With revenues up, city looks to beef up workforce

Original post made on May 7, 2014

Riding the wave of a booming economy, City Manager James Keene on Tuesday unveiled a proposed budget for the coming year that adds 17 new positions to the city's workforce, including additional staffing in the Library, Planning and Community Services departments.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 11:41 PM

Comments (53)

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Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on May 7, 2014 at 6:49 am

Here we go again!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2014 at 7:14 am

As for traffic and parking, I would rather have some money spent on high tech gadgetry to show where there are empty spaces in parking garages and lots with signage in real time. I would also like to receive notice of traffic congestion before I leave home rather than when I am stuck due to an accident, road construction or other delay. An app on my phone that I could check before getting in the car showing all delays in Palo Alto would really help - not just highways.

Let's get spending some money on things that really help traffic in real terms, not just appeases.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by New skeptic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2014 at 7:41 am

@Resident,
It's getting to where an App regarding traffic delays in Palo Alto is really pretty unnecessary - just go out your door.

I would much rather see us adopt a full-time Council, with their first job to be losing that many redundant positins.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Flash
a resident of Downtown North
on May 7, 2014 at 7:51 am

Is it really more important to hire, for instance, a designated public-arts manager than to start being realistic about the actual future costs of employee pensions?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2014 at 8:43 am

There is no planning for the future here- the City simply throws money
at problems which it has created or made worse. Conditions will continue to
deteriorate. Macro factors such as economic and financial and stock market
conditions, and the drought depending on next winter's rainfall,will affect
the outcome here and trends here. The City has demonstrated that it has no ability to deal with anything in any positive way in terms of it's own future.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Traffic Planning Supporter
a resident of Midtown
on May 7, 2014 at 9:36 am

I am excited to see the proposal for more support to Traffic Planning and Reduction.

With the success and growth in the region, traffic is only going to get worse. We need a strategic plan and operating budgets to act now on the plan. Palo Alto has adopted many multi-modal traffic plans that are the envy of many cities and lauded by the American Bicyle League. Staff is doing this on a shoe string budget.

It is nice to see the additional support so that Palo Alto stays a livable and safe community for our families.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Revolving door
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 7, 2014 at 10:07 am

The City Manager's empire-building continues unabated. I hope people are keeping notes.
For example, Steve Emslie, former Planning Manager and Deputy City Manager is now working for a firm that has a PC office building project coming soon, on the VTA lot at the corner of PageMill and El Camino.
Isn't there any ethics rule about how soon a city worker can go to work for someone with projects coming before the city?


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Posted by Jon Parsons
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2014 at 10:26 am

Rule #1 - if the City has money it spends it.

Rule #2 - when the City later needs that money for something important, the ovine citizenry gets another fleecing.

Rule #3 - the City is like gangster Johnny Rocco in Key Largo, all the City wants, all the time, is "More. That's right! I want more!"

If we continue to feed the beast it will grow more powerful and hungry with every bite.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by profit
a resident of Downtown North
on May 7, 2014 at 10:39 am

Just because we are doing well doesn't mean we need to go out spend the extra money right away. I think better to always run a little lean. Amazing that he wants to give 7% raises when the normal corporate world really only gets 3-5%. Crazy


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Posted by wondering
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2014 at 10:57 am

What about the new police headquarters? Could some of the revenue be used to build a new, seismically sound one?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 7, 2014 at 11:15 am

One hopes the city manager would beef up the Code enforcement personnel.

Currently there are only two Code enforcement officers for the entire city. This is woefully inadequate. One cannot blame these two individuals for amy inefficiency!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 7, 2014 at 11:20 am

ENOUGH. Cut utility rates. Fix the infrastructure instead of trying to pass ANOTHER bond measure since you already have the money to pay for it.

NO MORE NO MORE.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Charlie
a resident of College Terrace
on May 7, 2014 at 11:23 am

Couldn't agree more with profit's point. Just because we have more money, it doesn't mean we should spend it. I remain very concerned about the pensions PA employees have earned -- will that stop with those hired now? And shouldn't we bank some funds for a rainy day?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2014 at 11:31 am

Can we get a new and different city manager too? Our current city manager needs to go.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 35yearresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 7, 2014 at 11:55 am

Typical liberal mindset....get some money.....spend it.....then issue bonds to get more.....spend it......raise taxes and fees to get more......spend it.....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm

@anon
Yes we need code enforcement. We also need more traffic law enforcement.
The City on the ground as you travel around on a daily basis looks
uglier, less safe every day. The City is going in the wrong direction
and in a big way. What we need we don't get, what we don't want we get
more of, etc, etc. We are in a long downward spiral and it continues.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 7, 2014 at 12:33 pm

> Currently there are only two Code enforcement officers for the entire city.
> This is woefully inadequate. One cannot blame these two individuals
> for amy inefficiency!

It all depends on how you look at the problem. Just how big is "code enforcement" in this city—of only 25 square miles in area, most of which is down in the "flats"? Well, one problem with the current system is that the City won't act without a complaint. I don't know how true this is, but it's pretty clear that given about 330 work days a year, two people with cars could do a lot more "code enforcement" than they are currently doing.

Could the police, or other City employees help out, by taking note of code violations, like the many real estate signs that appear on public property, or other kinds of signs that appear in the planter strips? They sure could—but it's not likely that anyone at City Hall is going to promote a change in the work plans for any of these people—not when they can sit on their backsides, and do as little as possible.

The City did engage the services of an on-line application that allows people to notify the City about various problems around town—but this site is intended only for P/W issues. After more than a year, they still haven't added any of the other departments—like code enforcement (which is currently in the Planning Department). They will forward a complaint, but the solution is still not appropriate for a City in the middle of the Silicon Valley.

So—anyone who believes that two code enforcement officers are not enough needs to rethink the problem, and try to come up with better reasons why more are needed other than "just because".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Voter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 7, 2014 at 12:50 pm

No more raises for unionized city workers. No more hiring either, at least until there is substantial pension reform. We're already signed up to support every city bureaucrats when they retire in their 50s with six figure taxpayer funded pensions.

Keene needs to be fired.

The product that the public gets for the money we spend is terrible.

Vote no on the new taxes as well. The icy has plenty of money. Why not underground our utilities or lower our utility users tax, since the general find is so flush.

Our government is a disaster. Please vote out all of the incumbents this November.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 7, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Dear 35yearresident;

you live in the largest liberal State in the Union. You sit here disparaging Liberals.

Texas waits for you. Can we buy you a bus ticket?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JerryL
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 7, 2014 at 1:11 pm

The article seems to be reporting that the budget calls for a spending
increase of $11.7 Million dollars and we expect tax revenue to go up
by only $9.2 million. I would like to know where the other $2.5 million
is expected to come from.

I also expected to see some of the revenue increase get tucked away for
the (next) rainy day or stock market disaster when we see a repeat of the
2008 crisis. And future tax revenue plunges again (as it will).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Enid Pearson
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 7, 2014 at 1:38 pm

It is hard to watch the city personnel increase just as soon as we get a little more money. What is even worse is to watch one of our most important public buildings fall into decay. the Lucy Evans Baylands Environmental Center has been slowly falling into decay for several years now. This Center was the first to be built in the baylands in the entire region. It's bay board walk was recently blocked off to access. The bay staff used to occupy the building which helps maintain a building, but it was abandoned for the smaller Harbor Master house. It almost seems deliberate.

I hope there are "Friends of Palo Alto's Bayland Center" who will rise up during budget time and make sure funding is directed toward restoring this
wonderful building. I will do my part when the time comes.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Enid Pearson
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 7, 2014 at 1:38 pm

It is hard to watch the city personnel increase just as soon as we get a little more money. What is even worse is to watch one of our most important public buildings fall into decay. the Lucy Evans Baylands Environmental Center has been slowly falling into decay for several years now. This Center was the first to be built in the baylands in the entire region. It's bay board walk was recently blocked off to access. The bay staff used to occupy the building which helps maintain a building, but it was abandoned for the smaller Harbor Master house. It almost seems deliberate.

I hope there are "Friends of Palo Alto's Bayland Center" who will rise up during budget time and make sure funding is directed toward restoring this
wonderful building. I will do my part when the time comes.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by bill
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on May 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm

You MUST save for the "rainy day" that will come in the future. Having a saving account with money in reserve, is a very good idea. This has been a foundation of our country for over 200 years.

Save when you have a surplus, then spent when income is below expenses.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 7, 2014 at 2:13 pm

> I would like to know where the other $2.5 million
> is expected to come from.

The City's revenue streams comes from various taxes, fees, fines, rents and grants. You'd need to look at all of these sources to see if there is offsetting revenue to make up the seeming imbalance between taxes and spending.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm

@Wayne, first comment did you mean 330 or 230 work days per year?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eric F
a resident of Downtown North
on May 7, 2014 at 2:42 pm

It's great the City is running a small operating surplus this year.

But we still have an unfunded public pension/health liability of $250-400 million (Santa Clara County Grand Jury report, Stanford report last year).

The so-called "infrastructure backlog" is another $200-300 million, depending on what you consider to be part of it.

This is is a lot of coin. These things hang over us and our children, and I'd like to hope we're looking at them as part of our overall financial picture, and not just, "whoopee, let's go spend our bonus!"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 7, 2014 at 2:42 pm

It should have been 230 work days per year. Although with Police/Fire and other Public Service workers on the job 7/24/365, this number really is 365--at least from the problem identification/reporting point-of-view.

The Code Enforcement people would be on-the-job (more-or-less) about 230 days a year.

Sorry ..

w


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 7, 2014 at 3:05 pm

wow.

After salaries and benefits are paid out, the remainder is $21 million, for everything else.
That's a mere 12% of our taxes for improving our city's physical structures.

Is this accurate? I feel incredulous.

And Scharff who is running for office thinks this is a good budget? who is the Mayor?


I'd like to know Schmid's and Holman's comments, please.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by 35 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 7, 2014 at 3:12 pm

To Raymond... I generally fly first class. I live here because I choose to and can afford to. Doesn't mean I have to like the foolish ways of those who govern the state.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2014 at 3:59 pm

They always hire, hire, hire but they never fire, fire, fire.

IF someone is held responsible in Palo Alto city government - as in, the buck stops here - for the Mitchell Park EXTREME building fiasco, and is fired, THEN I would support possibly hiring new staff in certain areas.

And yes, I also support re-storing The Baylands Center building and boardwalk. I would prefer funds spent directly on this, with public scrutiny, rather than hiring a bunch more people for nebulous positions with luxury benefits and pensions. And THEN, hiring consultants on top of that!

The disparity between life in this city government and the private sector is astounding.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Anything but fix the broken streets, eh?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on May 7, 2014 at 4:19 pm

I think most of the residents will be incredulous with this budget. I wrote previously that given a surplus, the bulk of it should go into a rainy day fund. Just like our weather, there will be rain sometimes. Clamp the lid on these absurdly high pensions and get our workforce to pay into them as the rest of workers have to. This is OUR money they're playing with.


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Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 7, 2014 at 7:04 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 7, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Shouldn't the money be instead used to fix the crappy roads and infrastructure of the town?



 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2014 at 10:34 pm


@HUTCH7.62
The roundabouts on Everett Ave have never been landscaped. A couple weeks
ago they painted the curbs yellow. We need an "Aesthetic Element" as
part of the Comp Plan as a starter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Really, they need to make sure that existing positions pensions are fully funded before they hire.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lena
a resident of Downtown North
on May 8, 2014 at 8:09 am

I agree with Anon - "One hopes the city manager would beef up the Code enforcement personnel.

Currently there are only two Code enforcement officers for the entire city. This is woefully inadequate."

Also, we need to spend the money on infrastructure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Community Center
on May 8, 2014 at 8:10 am

The city has excellent planning when comes to spending. Now it can full time digging up the road and trimming. It's no surprise seeing orange cones everywhere Ugo.


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Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Community Center
on May 8, 2014 at 8:18 am

It's correct that the infrastructure Consultant fee can be paid out but not the project itself. Bet!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JohnQP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 8, 2014 at 9:48 am

Two Assistant City Managers to keep up with operations? Isn't that the City Manager's job? Is this so Keene can be away from the city even more than usual? Council should check in with Keene's employees about his absences from the city. If you add up all of the days Keene is gone on boondoggles and various outside association meetings, the guy is never at city hall. Or maybe he just wants to spend more time at his house in Seattle? If so, he should RETIRE already. The city is paying for a part-time city manager. Don't hire two Assistant Managers, hire ONE NEW City Manager.


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Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on May 8, 2014 at 10:13 am

the recently formed Office of Sustainability as well as the Community Services and the Development Services -
NO MORE WORKERS sitting around looking at the wall. Extra money is burning a hole in City Council's pockets.
DO SOMETHING USEFUL- Decrease utility rates,j stop new condo, apartment, and office space building in Palo Alto- the residents DON'T WANT IT, how many times do we have to say that.
No more employees with cush jobs, huge salaries and endless fringe benefits and future retirement benefits. Learn to do without for once.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Revolving door
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm

There are TWO Code Enforcement Officers. And 213 Managers and professionals.
What else do we need to know about the disregard of our zoning laws? The Manager sees to it that the rules are NOT enforced.
TWO Code Enforcement officers! It blows the mind. And explains everything.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by daPeEps
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 8, 2014 at 3:51 pm

This is preposterous!! So many streets, especially north of the Oregon Expressway, are in miserable condition and this includes side streets downtown -like High and Addison. Some streets damaged in the Flood of '98 are still--- damaged. There are weeds and tall grass along prominent streets. Weeds even on Embaracdero. Only two code enforcement officers? Beyond inefficient and dumb. Why do we need more other employees?? There are so many fiascos on-going. And yes, the city needs to fix the wonderful Baylands Interpretive Center and the boardwalk, the latter a favorite in travel magazines and Sunset and were heavily used by residents and visitors. The council and city management had better wake up fast to the rising civic blood pressure of the residents.....now.

And please explain the remark above about the city manager and a home in Seattle? Sounds interesting. Is the manager away alot? [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of University South
on May 8, 2014 at 10:02 pm

How about either:
(a) saving the money for a rainy day
or
(b) funding fixes to our broken infastructure such as roads, storm drains, and the like?

Every time we ask for infra fixes, the city says it's out of money. These are simple (ish) projects not requiring fancy architects or massive (e.g. 3yr flintco) long-term contractors. It's just roads and pipes - let's get to work!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2014 at 11:58 pm

Palo Alto does NOT have a surplus. Instead, Palo Alto has a HUGE UNFUNDED pension liability. Palo Alto has yet to curb the salaries and benefits of its workforce. They have too many workers already and hiring more this year will only exacerbate the financial mess that our City Councils have created over the years. City Manager Jim Keane needs to be reined in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2014 at 11:58 pm

Palo Alto does NOT have a surplus. Instead, Palo Alto has a HUGE UNFUNDED pension liability. Palo Alto has yet to curb the salaries and benefits of its workforce. They have too many workers already and hiring more this year will only exacerbate the financial mess that our City Councils have created over the years. City Manager Jim Keane needs to be reined in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 9, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Hopefully at least 5 people on City Council have sufficient civic memory to recall that it isn't all that long ago that our financial picture wasn't rosy. Also, as JS points out, we still have serious pension obligations. I agree w/JS's conclusion that Keane needs to be reined in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 9, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Our City Council acts in a vacuum. If it doesn't rain next winter the
picture here could change drastically. Secondly, the tech sector has come under selling pressure in the financial markets in recent weeks and the IPO market has weakened. The economy in PA is directly related to market conditions. Just the drought alone requires caution. Our Council and staff
are oblivious to everything- macro factors down to neighborhood impacts of
their reckless policies and actions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Revolving door
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 10, 2014 at 10:47 am

Why is the Baylands Environmental Center being allowed to decay? It is a big asset and the City Manager / infrastructure maintenance is neglecting it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bpb
a resident of Community Center
on May 10, 2014 at 11:36 am

To: Revolving Door.

They CITY doesn't CARE!! If it did, it would fix Hamilton and Forest Avenues - and all the side streets ruined by the flood of "NINETY EIGHT!!" Downtown side streeets and many in Crescent Park are a third-world disgrace. So is
Waverley along billionaire row and surrounding streets. Really sad in residential GoogleLand. More $
? To Do what? Manage other managers? I'm fed up. And I'm not alone.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2014 at 12:50 pm

The City Council and staff do not understand, care, see or worry about anything to do with quality of life, city or neighborhood character, aesthetics, ambiance, traffic, congestion, environment. The City
is sinking like a rock in all these respects- it has crossed the line.
When I travel and return here I am struck each time at how Palo Alto is deteriorating and degrading. Project these trends out a couple more years.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Build a public safety building
a resident of Ventura
on May 14, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Instead of just blowing away all potential surpluses, how about if we just save the money and construct a public safety building outright without getting a loan? Would others support this approach?


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