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Palo Alto faces tight deadlines for bond measure

Original post made on Jan 23, 2012

Palo Alto's plan to pass a bond measure to fund a new public-safety building this year could be hampered by tight deadlines, uncertainty over location and the continuing transformation of the city's police and fire services.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 23, 2012, 9:46 AM

Comments (19)

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Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 23, 2012 at 10:54 am

The residents of Palo Alto deserve to have the idea of regional cooperation and resource-sharing fully explored before we go about creating another City monument.

Public safety needs are not unique to Palo Alto, and we have a few neighboring cities that share our standards for high-quality public safety. The "not invented here" attitude must end as we move to economies of scale is providing "right-sized" government that meets the quality standards we have come to expect.

The time is right for a new way of thinking. Even though Steve Jobs is gone, let's "Think Different."

Respectfully,

Timothy Gray


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Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 23, 2012 at 10:54 am

The residents of Palo Alto deserve to have the idea of regional cooperation and resource-sharing fully explored before we go about creating another City monument.

Public safety needs are not unique to Palo Alto, and we have a few neighboring cities that share our standards for high-quality public safety. The "not invented here" attitude must end as we move to economies of scale is providing "right-sized" government that meets the quality standards we have come to expect.

The time is right for a new way of thinking. Even though Steve Jobs is gone, let's "Think Different."

Respectfully,

Timothy Gray


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Posted by dave
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2012 at 11:58 am

I don't believe the residents will support a bond issue for any sort of Public Safety Bldg. Larry Klein is correct in what he says, but I don't think any amount of proving the need will get a 2/3 majority to pass a bond issue.

Selling the library bond is an apples and oranges comparison. The library has a built in base of support and a large group who made the effort to pass the bond issue. Few think public safety is an important issue until the need arises - such as a personal burglary or assault or even an earthquake - out of sight, out of mind.




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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm

First of all, I find it astounding that our city leaders and elected officials have the arrogance to come back to us seeking additional funds for an essential need, after years of frivolous spending on fluff and niche projects. They have been financially irresponsible especially during these very difficult and unpredictable financial times. Comparing this to a family budget, they have essentially spent the household money on new cars, vacations, and an addition on the house, leaving themselves without the funds to pay the bills and patch the hole in the roof. Their answer is to ask their employer for a pay raise in order to pay for these essential needs. At some point we as voters have to say no to these bond measures and tax increases. Enough already. Maybe if the trough runs dry they'll be more responsible on how they spend public dollars in the future.

A better and wiser alternative is to set the city's true needs and financial priorities. The first question that needs to be answered is what are our vital and essential needs. In my opinion it is infrastructure and public safety. That is the foundation of any thriving community. The next question is how are we going to pay for it. Again, we should not be expected to bail out the city after their track record of spending on non-essential projects and improvements. So where can non-essential cuts be made? I offer the following:

Outsource animal services to the county as many neighboring cities have done recently.

Close down one or more of the city libraries. The number of libraries we have currently is a luxury not a need.

Suspend all public spending on non-essential pursuits such as public art, park renovation, etc.

Scale back significantly or suspend the proposed construction of the 101 bike bridge and golf course redesign.

Suspend all public funds being spent on programs like the Children's Theater and the Lucie Stern Zoo. It's time for them to run on private donations. The city does not publicly support any other children's programs athletic or otherwise. Those families have to pay their own way or seek donations. It should be no different for PACT.

Suspend or reduce significantly all public funds being contributed to homeless outreach programs like the Opportunity Center. These programs serve very few if any people with direct ties to our community.

This would be a start. I know these sacrifices can be difficult, but during this unprecedented financial climate tough choices have to be made. Once the city can fund their essential infrastructure and public safety needs without a tax increase, let's see how much money is left over to spend on these other non-essential projects. Until then, say no to any bond measures and tax increase for something that should have already been built and paid for. Don't bail out the same people that got us into this mess to begin with.




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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 23, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I worked on the 2008 Library Bond measure, along with several council and former council members, along with a number of other citizens actively involved in this community.

The plans for the library and Mitchell Community Center were very far along in January, 2008, and while I don't dispute the need to renovate the fire stations and the need for a new police station, we are no where near the level of understanding for those facilities at this point than we were for the 2008 library effort.

It is a pipe dream to think we could put something on the ballot this November and expect it to pass. I likely would not vote for it. We are not far enough along with a clear understanding of what we are trying to accomplish.

"Edifice Complex."


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 23, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I also have an understanding of our current library facilities. We have too many for a community our size and need to shut one or more down in order to balance our annual budget deficits and pay for essential needs.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 23, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Marrol,

Get past the library matter. It went on for years and was finally a settled issue as a result of the 2008 election.

Respectfully, you have better uses of your thinking, time and energy than grinding the library axe.


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Posted by Very sad
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2012 at 1:48 pm

The libraries are a done deal but the Public Safety Building and the rebuilding of two fire stations is not.

A bond measure for a new Public Safety Building and fire houses will not pass unless the City Council offers the residents of Palo Alto something for them.

Either under grounding more of our utilities or a specific plan to upgrade the condition of our streets and sidewalks. Just providing new buildings for the benefit of the Administration is dead on arrival.

Having attended the City Council Retreat last Saturday, I witnessed one of the most disfunctional City Councils I have ever witnessed.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 23, 2012 at 2:02 pm

No issue is ever entirely settled Paul, especially during difficult financial times. We should never limit our options or discourage others from expressing ideas. Different times may call for a different way of thinking, so respectfully, I think it's important to keep all potential solutions on the table.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Paul

The library bond is a particularly good example of what is wrong with this city.

Many people voted yes for the bond not because they wanted 5 libraries but because they wanted library upgrades. That is not the same thing at all. They voted yes because they could see another 5 year wait until such time as another vote was taken and they did not even feel that this would be what they wanted. Palo Altans were never asked if they wanted 5 libraries.

The library situation is not over because of overcosts and various other expenses needed to refurbish the libraries once the rebuild is done.

Apart from the fact that Mitchell Park library is mammoth and ugly, it is costing more than initially expected although not more than is available. The library bond will continue to be the pattern for now our city council is treating its residents until something changes at the top.

The library bond will most definitely be talked about for a long time because it is relevant to all discussions.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 23, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Well stated Resident from Another Palo Alto Neighborhood. I just believe that every idea, option, and potential solution has to remain in the discussion. What may have been the direction in 2008 could change dramatically. I also find it a bit disheartening to have anyone, like Paul Losch for example, to tell me how I can best spend my time and energy when I'm just expressing ideas. We can agree to disagree without dismissing each other. To simply stomp out the ideas of others is just counterproductive and not fitting the Palo Alto spirit.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2012 at 10:40 am

Paul, the library axe is still sharp and relevant.

Libraries are a major issue because of the costs of staffing and upkeep. No one can deny that more staffers are required to support 5 libraries than if we had only one. No one can deny the cost of utilities, maintenance, grounds keeping. All are relevant to the infrastructure discussion.

Libraries are also relevant to the Cubberley discussion. The Friends are complaining that they would lose their book storage/sale areas if the city gives up the Cubberley lease.


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Posted by William
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2012 at 10:46 am

> I worked on the 2008 Library Bond measure, along with several
> council and former council members, along with a number of
> other citizens actively involved in this community.

> The library bond will most definitely be talked about for a
> long time because it is relevant to all discussions.

The Library (Bond) was pushed by a lot of so-called "community leaders" who could never be seen using a public library, and who will, in all likelihood, be seen as having provided a lot of false information to the public--when we look back on this period from the future.

The whole explosion of digital technology was ignored by the older members of the "Yes-on-Libraries" crowd. Even though the specter of "the cloud" was on the horizon--this group of "leaders" made it clear that those promoting e-books, and digital technology, were "kooks" (or worse). There was a lot of hostility towards alternative views of how information would be disseminated in the very near future.

Many of those same people are now pushing "A Big Police Station". Well, most of the claims of the "Big Box Of Books" library crowd are already being proven false. In fact, so much has changed in the last five years that the next five are almost impossible to predict.

In the last two years, the iPad has been purchased by 30 million people (roughly 10% of the American population). The adoption of e-book readers, smart phones, tablet PCs, wearable computers and cloud technology has clearly sounded the death-knell of paper books, and public libraries that are nothing but moribund monuments to our "paper past".

So .. why should Palo Altans listen to the same people--ignorant of technology, and clearly tied to special interests (meaning the government labor unions)? Why should any of us ever believe anything that City Hall, and its resident supporters, have to say about the need for a police station?

When the Infrastructure Report is finally read in detail, will it be a complete and comprehensive tally of all the City's assets and needs, or just a push for a few things that resonated with those who picked the members of this committee--because it was clear that those specific people would not do the job that needs to be done?

The library will be built--but it's hard to believe that it will be used, and it's also hard to believe that there will be costs associated with it that will make it a burden on the taxes. The same can be said for a new police station.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2012 at 11:11 am

How they spend our bond money:

"Paly's new performance center -- planners insist it's much more than a simple "theater" -- will have flexible seating accommodating up to 583. It will include an orchestra pit and trap room, full fly loft, green rooms with adjacent toilet and dressing rooms, control room and tech-equipment support rooms. It also will include a lobby, ticket sales, concession and display area as well as a performing-arts classroom and office." Web Link

Since original plans were presented, the center has almost doubled in size (from 15,000 square feet). The school board increased the construction budget by $4.68 million, from $17.72 million to $22.4 million.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 24, 2012 at 11:39 am

The city should keep the Mitchell Park and Main Libraries, thereby serving the north and south ends of the city. The remaining libraries should be closed. A city our size can no longer afford to maintain smaller, neighborhood libraries. If these properties were leased or even sold it would create much needed revenue to support truly essential needs in infrastructure and public safety.

Tough financial times call for tough decisions. Our city leaders have been informing us for the past several years that we are facing annual budget deficits and unprecedented financial challenges. These difficulties have already led to many cuts in the area of basic infrastructure and public safety. Enough is enough. Irresponsible and frivolous spending on non-essential, desired projects has run the trough dry. Now they come back to the tax payers crying poor and asking for more money to cover the cost of essential needs that should have already been planned and paid for. I don't think so. No letting them off the hook and no bail-outs.


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Posted by William
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Technology is going to be a big part of the tool set of future police departments. We've seen the LA PD using small, easily launched, drones being used to do overhead surveillance. The following link to a CBS NY on-line news report suggests that the NYPD will be also using drones in the near future--

Is The NYPD Experimenting With Drones Over The City?
Evidence Points To Yes:
Web Link

Wonder if the so-called Infrastructure Commission" spent any time considering how technology will be used by the Palo Alto police, and how the use of this technology might call for regional policing, rather than small police forces that either duplicate each other's tool sets, or claim that the technology is "too expensive" and don't adopt these new tools--at the ultimate expense of those victimized by crime? Remember, no one on this "commission" can be held accountable in a legal way for failure to anticipate the future. All we can do is to openly reject their work--and make it plainly clear to the City Council how much of a failure we think this group was.

Every police department around needs at good 5-year Technology Plan, including the Palo Alto Police.


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Posted by Max
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2012 at 11:08 am

No one has fought harder to close down one or more libraries than the library staff themselves. It's not going to happen. Community groups have too much power, and would never stand for "their" branch to be closed. Not.Going.To.Happen.Ever.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 25, 2012 at 11:33 am

Maybe or maybe not Max. One thing I have learned is to never allow the notion of "never" or "always" to dictate circumstances. Things have a way of changing. I would say the possibility of closing down one or more libraries would be difficult, but certainly not impossible. I still believe that it's wise to keep every option on the table. We'll see what happens.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm

> "Every police department around needs at good 5-year Technology Planů"

Maybe the Library Commission can help with that since they planned the "21st century libraries" without one.


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