Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm
“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, ... ?