"Just Like Other Cities" Proposal
Original post made by Your Neighbor, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2007
City Council Announces "Just Like Other Cities Initiative"
To: Voters, Taxpayers, and Residents of Palo Alto
From: Palo Alto City Council
Subject: Palo Alto's "Just Like Other Cities" Policy
We unanimously voted at our recent City Council meeting to make significant changes to how the City of Palo Alto will operate going forward. Some highlights are listed below, along with the major reasons that led to this change.
We believe that this new "Just Like Other Cities" policy demonstrates that your Council is able to show leadership as the community has requested. We wish to thank the City Auditor, the City Manager and our colleagues in comparable cities, all of whom helped your City Council develop our "Just Like Other Cities" program.
Effective at the start of our next fiscal year, City of Palo Alto staffs and departments will be sized in proportion to the population of Palo Alto, based on an average from the other cities we benchmarked. There no longer will be a question why city staffing and departments is configured differently than other cities under this Just Like Other Cities program.
As part of this process, some functions and resources that are not found in other cities also have been eliminated. This partial list includes:
Branch libraries, which will be closed,
Thousands of acres of open space and non urban parkland, which will be turned over to Mid-Peninsula Open Space
Childrens' Theater and Junior Museum, which will be sold to a private partnership
Daily trash collection and grounds cleaning at parks will be reduced to twice weekly
Classes and programs as described in the Quarterly Palo Alto Enjoy catalog
Use of city parks and school grounds for organized sports (please note that designated playing fields will still be available, based on an annual lottery)
City contributions to arts programs, homeless programs (including the Opportunity Center), seniors programs (including Avenidas)
Animal services, the responsibilities of which are yet to be re-assigned
Golf Course, which has been leased to a private real estate investment form
Airport, which will be restored to natural habitat, and also be managed by Mid-Peninsula Open Space
Utilities, which have been sold to PG&E
All City Commissions and Advisory Boardsyour City Council will review and approve everything itself
Please note that there are a number of other functions and services that will be eliminated if they are not found in cities just like Palo Alto, and we will vigorously work to ensure that any functions or services found in Palo Alto will be Just Like Other Cities.
Of course, the City of Palo Alto will continue to comply with all local, state and federal regulations to assure that your city meets legal requirements, Just Like Other Cities.
MORE "JUST LIKE OTHER CITIES" CHANGES
We also are pleased to inform you that our zoning and planning policies have been adjusted to ensure that Palo Alto's residential, retail, and industrial areas are Just Like Other Cities. WalMart and Lowes already are in negotiation with our Planning Department and Stanford to add these important retailers to the Shopping Center. The land along El Camino Real and Arastradero which previously was occupied by auto dealerships will be developed by Safeway, Target and Home Depot.
We considered converting the land of the now eliminated airport and the golf course driving range into an Auto Mall, but this is not feasible. This may change when the dump closes. See the packet from our last City Council meeting for more detail.
The Palo Alto Process also has been eliminated, no other city has anything like it. We anticipate that this will enable developers to more efficiently develop new housing that draw from designs and architectural concepts found in many other cities nationwide.
In order to fund important infrastructure and city facilities, such as a public safety building, Palo Alto will do Just Like Other Cities, and sell land and other assets in order to pay for these other needs. This is a major reason why we sold the Utility, in a fashon Just Like Mountain View sold land in order to fund its City Hall and Community Center.
In the same vein, proceeds from the sale of the Utility will pay to replace the Forest Library building with a new public safety building, and workers at Lucie Stern Community Center will move into the old police quarters. As part of the negotiations with the private partnership for the Children's Theater and Junior Museum, all options for the Lucie Stern asset are under careful consideration.
WHY THESE CHANGES?
This policy change came about because you, the community, told us loud and clear that you would not pay one penny more for anything.
You already are paying too much to live here. You felt it just wasn't right to keep getting asked to pay more and more for things. While your city council can't make any promises about how much more you will pay for other things in your life, we are doing what we can so that you don't have to pay anything more to the City of Palo Alto.
You felt that if you were going to pay about the same for your utilities as PG&E, you might as well be paying them, not reinvesting the proceeds into other parts of the city. We considered keeping the utility and only charging you for the cost of operating it, but it became clear that such an approach would run counter to being Just Like Other Cities.
You are concerned about cost overruns on city projects, and are skeptical about doing anything else that runs the same risk. All such work will be contracted out from here on, so you can blame the contractor for cost over-runs.
You are unhappy that you have to leave town to shop, and your sales taxes are collected elsewhere. You made it plain, you want retail in Palo Alto to be Just Like Other Cities. WalMart will open in time for Back To School season.
By eliminating staff and services and selling assets that are not Just Like Other Cities, and welcoming retail that is Just Like Other Cities, we predict there will not be another bond measure or parcel tax for at least another 30 years.
At that time, depending on What Other Cities are doing, your City Council at that time may decide to make Palo Alto residents pay more for something.
Thank you for your active involvement in keeping Palo Alto a wonderful community in which to live.
Your City Council