Palo Alto mulls major reductions in animal services Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on May 7, 2012 at 10:43 am
Palo Alto residents would lose many of the animal services they currently enjoy, including the ability to voluntarily surrender pets, if the city were to scrap its longstanding operation and outsource it to another city, according to a new city report.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, May 7, 2012, 9:56 AM
Posted by Michael, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 11:05 am
All of these savings will cover enough to pay 100K fire pensions to 5 retirees in their fifties.
Cutting costs is a good and necessary step, but we need to quit applying band-aids and go right for the heart of the problem: the city's almost criminal overpayment for labor. The public unions have bought our council for too long, and the result is they've sucked even rich Palo Alto dry to the point we can't afford essential infrastructure.
Here again are the ridiculous taxpayer funded salaries.
We need to get Gail Price and the other Union puppets off of our council and elect some adults who are serious about restoring fiscal sanity. Otherwise, get used to even more reduced services and even higher taxes so we can keep funding lavish retirements for city bureaucrats.
Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 11:22 am Alice Schaffer Smith is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
On Saturday, a mother mallard and her 5 ducklings were waddling down Los Palos Avenue, onto Arastradero Road. I spotted them and putting on my hazard lights, followed them. I initially called 211 as I didn't think we had a Make Way for Ducklings venue for Momma to take her ducklings, now on the bicycle path on Arastradero Road, and was told by Santa Clara County services that it was (a) too far to come and (b) call PA Animal Services. An electric wheelchair came barrelling down Arastradero Road and scared the babies who jumped (sadly) into the storm drain.The wheelchair driver didn't stop, the mother mallard went ballistic and I called the police who sent out the Animal Rescue van. In the meantime, a mover picked up the lid to the storm drain, others gathered around. Momma Mallard was on the nearby roof, on the road, on the grass....squawking like mad. Within 10 minutes (or less) the Animal Rescue Van appeared. Deftly, the Animal Rescuer retrieved the 5 babies using a long handled net and put them into a carrying case. He then tried to get Momma too, but eventually had to give that up. He took the babies to the animal shelter at Cubberley, and when they are old enough, they will be released into the marshlands at the bay.
Momma is possibly the same Mallard which has been in my backyard for 3 months, off and on with her mate, and who yesterday afternoon, was back there again.
The babies are saved, the city reacted in a timely and appropriate manner. Outsourcing this valuable service is not the answer.
Posted by Mountain View Pet Lover, a resident of Mountain View, on May 7, 2012 at 11:27 am
The Palo Alto facility is convenient for Palo Altans. It was convenient for us in Mountain View, but we didn't get a chance to vote on the change despite the fact that our taxes pay the contract. It's more than twice as far for me to get there.
Since the city of Palo Alto doesn't want to fund the shelter, perhaps the volunteers & SOS can raise the money needed. There are a lot of pet lovers in Palo Alto, Los Altos and LAH, and they have some of the highest incomes in the state. I don't have a lot of sympathy if they don't want to fund the shelter.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on May 7, 2012 at 11:28 am
Why not make some interim changes to sustain the shelter & reduce costs while moving it out from under the police dept's umbrella so that it can fundraise? Is Chief Burns that power hungry that he wants to keep it under his control? I'd think not - he's never behaved as an empire-builder.
Seriously, PAAS is most likely hosed if they remain part of the PD. This isn't rocket surgery, people.
Posted by Old Town Paly Resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 11:59 am
PLEASE DO NOT shut down our animal shelter!!! This IS a service needed by residents. Please find your budget cuts elsewhere and don't take this from us!! Work your numbers, figure something out so that the facility can operate even if only on a part time basis. Take a poll and see what the people want....
Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community, on May 7, 2012 at 1:52 pm
People don't cause excessive government expenditures, THINGS do. All of this angst could be alleviated by eliminating the ridiculous giant fart machine for Byxbee Park, the airport (even the Feds want it closed!), and migrating the City's financial database from SAP to something that doesn't eat money. City Manager Keene has to strap on some fortitude and tell the citizens that changes are in place (insofar as employee compensation is concerned) and then tell the Council members that they don't get any more green toys.
Posted by Marrol, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 2:50 pm
Our city can no longer afford to operate its own animal service agency. Everyone has to remember that the city is facing annual budget deficits and worst economic outlook in decades. Sacrifices and tough decisions have to be made. If the city can continue to fund an outsourced animal service and potentially save a half million dollars annually, then so be it. We must preserve our assets and maintain the civic cornerstones of public safety and infrastructure. It's time to reduce, reinvest, or eliminate non-essential spending wherever possible. It's time for our city leaders and elected officials to set some financial priorities and see it through.
Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm
The Baylands should not be an airport; we need to preserve the habitat for some very rare birds which include clapper rails, soro rails, snowy plovers and get rid of a very expensive county facility which isn't necessary to the quality of life of most Palo Altans.
Then we would have plenty of resources for those services which make us a really diverse and fascinating place.
Posted by jardins, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm
See this footage of the Palo Alto Animal Shelter, thanks to Los Altos, one of the Palo Alto Animal Services's partners. And thanks to Scottie Zimmerman for providing this link on the weekend on another thread about PAAS.
Posted by Marrol, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm
To Alice Schaffer Smith, with all due respect, we do not have enough money and resources to pay for our essential needs in public safety and infrastructure, much less for the things that make our city diverse and fascinating. I'm all for diverse and fascinating, but can we at least balance the city budget and fund our essential civic needs before we make that jump. Something has to give, and I agree wholeheartedly, the city should not be getting into the airport business either. The land should either be sold or developed in a manner that the city can profit from. In 5 years the city will also save an estimated 2.5 million dollars by outsourcing our animal services. And no, the city is not going to stop providing animal services. We're just doing the logical and sensible step of providing a very adequate service at a much lower cost. These are exactly the moves and sacrifices the city has to make to get our from under this financial crisis that we're in. It shouldn't stop there either. Until our vital civic needs are met, we need to take a hard look at whether or not we should be funding programs like the Children's Theater, or the many homeless programs that serve very few people with any legitimate ties to our community. Considering the budget deficit and unprecedented financial challenges that we face as a city, why are we funding or planning desired, but non-essential projects like park upgrades, bike bridges, playground construction, dog parks, and commercial district make-overs. Our city leaders and elected officials need to set some financial priorities and demonstrate they can so no to the special interest groups. There is a huge difference between what we desire as a community and what is essential. I am very much in favor of adding the quality of life programs and services that makes our city a special place to live, but it will not continue to be if we don't address our basic civic needs first. Let's take care of the priorities, then see what we have left over for the niche projects and services.
Posted by Marrol, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 10:35 pm
Our community will become disassociated and dysfunctional if we are unable to address this financial crisis we're in. I have no doubt that we can balance our environmental responsibilities with some common sense and logic. If the general baylands area was NOT available for some level of reasonable development, then there never would have been a golf course and airport in place all these years. If the citizens of Palo Alto truly want to maintain our quality of life, then we need to balance our budget and address the critical civic needs which have been neglected.
Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 1:37 am
I can't help but feel that some people are talking out of both sides of their face. The "outsourcing" of animal services is gonna be just fine. We need to save the money. We have to be realistic. We have to be responsible. We can't be all emotional. The budget has to balance.
Meanwhile money goes flying out the window for consultants who consistently advise our City Manager and his crew that Palo Alto will be soooo attractive with a few strategic upgrades. Such as left-turn lights and lane changes on Middlefield in front of Mitchell Park Library. (Installed and removed in a week. How much did that put a dent in the budget?)
Or that in spite of our proven and experienced urban forestry staff, what we need is a nationwide search, consultants interviewing dozens of candidates, choosing one from Texas, offering him the big salary plus moving costs, and subsidizing his house to get him here so we can really, really work on our urban forestry?
Or that Rinconada Park may appear green and beautiful, but we should install better paths and better signs to make it perfect?
Or that we should spend another bunch of money for a dog park between the railroad tracks and an incredibly busy traffic mess at Alma and El Camino. Will the consultants recommend a bridge (or two) so people with dogs on leashes won't have to dodge oncoming trains or frantic drivers as they make their way to the "park"?
I mean, the improvements to El Camino Park are budgeted at $2.5 million, right? Where the blazes does that money come from?
And how does the $450,000 shortfall because Mountain View is canceling its contract with PAAS, come to the top of the pyramid as the one expense that must be denied?
Does anybody else notice some kind of logical skew evident in the choices our City Manager is making? Could there be a hidden agenda?
Posted by Marrol, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 8:26 am
I couldn't agree more Scottie. I have highlighted all of the items who mentioned as areas that should also be on the chopping block. Solving our budget woes will not be accomplished by any one move. It will take many cuts across the board in order for us to accomplish our goal. Outsourcing animal services alone will not get the job done, but, the projected savings will be a step in the right direction.
Posted by Marrol, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm
There is undoubtedly plenty of irrational, frivolous spending that takes place at city hall. With that said, I maintain that outsourcing animal services must be a part of achieving the goal of balancing our city budget.
Posted by jardins, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm
Some years ago, Diana Diamond called for a regular review of each and every part of the city's budget, so that there would be a negotiated decision on what funding each department should have each year. Priorities would be discussed and defined, and informed by need and by the principles of an enlightened and civilized community.
This clearly hasn't happened. In fact, the reverse has happened--the city is funding many plainly UNnecessary projects while blatantly needy projects, such as Palo Alto Animal Services, are being sacrificed.
It is NOT the mark of an enlightened and civilized community to take measures that will encourage dumping of animals, non-altering of animals, medical neglect of animals--in all, suffering of animals. PAAS is small and very efficient, and fair in its pricing. It is always busy. It clearly fills a great need in this area. It is a proven asset. We should be supportive of it, and proud of its great work.
I want to know why our elected representatives, the members of the city council, aren't exercising any limits over the employees whom we pay for--the city manager and his staff. The city council knows what the voters/taxpayers want. Why is the council giving a blank check to the city manager? Behind all those charts and analyses of PAAS in the 22-page report (issued last week) there is an agenda--gambling on auto dealerships and the airport to make money for the city.
Is it ethical to put money into park hardware and into Baylands (ha!)gambles but to take money away from the proven PAAS that does so much for the quality of animals' lives???
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on May 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm
The web link posted to Diamond's column - the column raised some good points, but as usual, Diamond disappoints. Yes, she has an irrational fear of pit bulls, based on dubious information, but as is her standard, she failed to shed any real light on the PA budget. She just disappointingly mentions that the money will likely come from taxpayers.
Then, jardins mentions above some good points re ethics.
But this is what has me slack-jawed, reading these comments:
-Don't commenters here realize that there are various buckets of funds that your city budget comes from & that many of these buckets can't be mixed, are of varying amounts sourced from various sources - a number of them not city resident taxes? If you can understand a bit more about the structure of your city's budget & the origins of the funds, you'll have a better chance at saving PAAS. The new dog park funds, from what I understand, can't be used for PAAS, so it's not like the city's trying to spoil the owned dogs & kill off the shelter dogs.
I apologize for sounding so exasperated, but I truly hope that whatever effort is being made to save PAAS is more organized & has more accurate info than what these opinions reflect. I totally sympathize w/these opinions, but many of them are erroneously formulated. You can save yourselves a lot of emotional energy and effort by putting together factual info to help understand what's really going on w/your budget & what the options are for PAAS.
Since it sounds like the contract lost w/MV is NOT a done deal, is there an organized effort to deal w/that?
As an animal lover, local shelter volunteer, dog rescue veteran & PA native, I truly understand everyone's concern about the animals AND the budget problems.
Posted by Marrol, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm
In my humble opinion we should not be funding ventures into the Baylands and new park hardware, nor should we continue to be in the animal services business. I agree, animal services is indeed a required element that a local government should provide. However, it does not mean that we should be operating the service ourselves. The vast majority of municipalities do not, and I don't believe there is widespread animal abuse and neglect as a result. The regional service that Palo Alto would outsource to is reputable and more than adequate for our needs I'm sure.
Our city is facing dire financial circumstances and sacrifices have to be made. In reality the outsourcing of our animal services wouldn't even represent a sacrifice. The city is still providing animal services. We're just doing it at a much lower cost. The estimated cost saving of 2.5 million dollars in the first five years is well worth the relatively small inconvenience of a twenty minute drive to the Silicon Valley outfit in Santa Clara. And how often would most of our citizens have to make that trip? I'm guessing for a pet owner 2-3 times per year at the most. Again, a small sacrifice in convenience for a cost saving that would truly benefit the greater good.
We must also remind ourselves that this single act of outsourcing our animal services will not solve our budget woes. Our city leaders and elected officials must look at this as just one component in achieving overall financial stability. We must continue to identify the many other desired, but certainly non-essential programs and services the city either currently provides or is planning on funding. Additional sacrifices have to be made in order to address our budget deficit, as well as adequately fund our cornerstone and vital needs in public safety and infrastructure.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on May 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm
Marrol - what if PAAS is taken out from under police management & set up to:
-Increase revenue through updated services
-Receive funds from philanthropy & other sources of fundraising?
Heck, look at the board members that PHS has & what they've done! I recall when PHS's rep wasn't all too great & they've come a long way, baby.
You all are crying broke, but there are a number of 1%ers in PA. They can't fix everything, but they can help w/issues tied to ethics, such as PAAS. If PAAS offered expanded services, I'd be a customer.
Are you involved in efforts to save the shelter? Are there various plans in place to present to the city as alternatives to what Chief Burns offered?
Posted by Marrol, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm
I don't think the perspective should be one of "crying" poor as you put it. No one needs to cry about it. It is simply a sober fact that our citizens have to face. Our city is facing serious financial challenges and annual budget deficits. Vital civic needs remain unfunded. Sorry, but sacrifices have to be made.
As far as philanthropy and fundraising, I truly don't believe that a municipal government should be in that business either. Far too slippery a slope in my opinion. At this stage our city has to make some tough decisions as it relates to either outsourcing or eliminating certain programs and services. I seriously doubt there are enough private donors under the current economic climate to cover the cost of the necessary upgrades the facility requires and long term sustainability. You're in a position of hoping for a flood of private donations, and I want to ensure that our citizens don't face the reality of yet another tax increase.
If there is enough private money, motivation and interest as you suggest, then perhaps the PAAS supporters should look into forming a private, non-profit organization to serve the additional animal service needs that wouldn't be covered by Silicon Valley facility. More power to you if that's the case. I truly believe that outsourcing this city service will adequately serve the majority of Palo Alto citizens, and not create a situation where we're neglecting our responsibility as a civilized society. Our city will still provide animal services. If there are people who desire an expanded service, then that should be covered on their dime, not the tax payers.
Posted by daniel, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm
"As far as philanthropy and fundraising, I truly don't believe that a municipal government should be in that business either."
Ha, but we seem to be in the business of philanthropy, big time. We have donated very valuable public land to the Palo Alto airport, a chronic and perpetual money loser, major air polutter and perpetual source of danger and noise. It's also a facility that serves relative few, most of whom are not Palo Alto residents. Yet, when it comes to a city service that helps thousands of your fellow residents, you declare that the city government should outsource it? Have you ever demanded that the airplane owners, a pretty wealthy group, form a private, non-profit organization to serve their need and stop expecting Palo Alto tax payers to subsidize their activities?
Posted by Marrol, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm
No, but I have called for the closure of the airport entirely and suggested we either sell or develop a portion of the property in a profitable manner. I have also sighted numerous other city funded projects and services that should either be outsourced or eliminated altogether. I'm not picking on PAAS or suggesting that they alone are the solution to the city budget woes. Is that a consistent enough a stand?
Once again I am not calling to eliminate the city providing animal services. I agree it is a necessary civic function, and one that we should collectively fund. I also believe that this function can be adequately provided by outsourcing to Silicon Valley. Mountain View left PAAS to contract their services outside, and I don't think that their animal services have suffered from the move. The city and tax payers would still provide our animal services through a reputable organization that serves many other cities in our county. I don't think it's asking pet owners too much to pick up the additional expenses beyond that, especially when the move will save tax payers an estimated 2.5 million dollars in the first five years alone. It's all about fiscal responsibility, common sense, and the greater good. We have to balance the city budget and pay for vital civic needs that are being neglected.
Posted by Danny, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm
I agreed and I liked the idea given by the Police Chief. Cut the ANIMAL CONTROL SUPERVISOR, one FULL TIME ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICER AND THE VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR. PAAS is a small shelter there is no need for which I believe 4 animal control officers plus animal control supervisor. Especially now that PAAS had lost Mountain View for good. ALSO is the only shelter where a VOLUNTEER GETS PAY. Like I said before the city does not know what is going on in this shelter and WE citizens and our pets will have to pay the price for the terrible management at PAAS. I hope the City and Chief of Police stand up and for the citizens and our animals and keep PAAS running. Let go of who has to go. The important thing is to save PAAS and these positions above have to be cut.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm
> “ … the improvements to El Camino Park are budgeted at $2.5 million, right? Where the blazes does that money come from?”
That money came from Stanford. I think it has to be spent on parks. Not sure if it all has to spent on that one park.
> “Does anybody else notice some kind of logical skew evident in the choices our City Manager is making? Could there be a hidden agenda?”
The agenda behind the cuts does seem to be hidden. I’ve requested specific info from Pam Antil and the mayor about how the cuts were prioritized, under whose direction, but so far have not received a response.
> “Diana Diamond called for a regular review of each and every part of the city's budget, so that there would be a negotiated decision on what funding each department should have each year. Priorities would be discussed and defined, and informed by need and by the principles of an enlightened and civilized community.”
Over the past MANY years, MANY citizens have requested such a process. It will never happen because city council members don’t even know how to define “priority.” Really!
Read this story about the council’s annual “strategic retreat.” Web Link
“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.”
These are the folks who are running the city! Makes you want to cry or scream or both.
> “… what if PAAS is taken out from under police management & set up to … Receive funds from philanthropy & other sources of fundraising?”
The city already has public/private partnerships, e.g., the Children’s Theatre and friends, the Jr. Museum & Zoo and friends.
PAAS has the Palo Alto Humane Society as it’s “friend.” Donations to PAHS provides some funds to PAAS. I assume the two organizations are trying to find ways to keep PAAS alive.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on May 9, 2012 at 6:45 pm
Thank you, Miss Nora. I don't know why this seems like a confused bunch of spinning wheels, but I bet it's related to the lack of transparency that the city cultivates. The thing is, it effects neighboring communities as well as Palo Alto. Why didn't Chief Burns mention removing PAAS from his responsibility? Where is the genuine concern for animal welfare, from city officials?
While I understand Marrol's position that outsourcing will give coverage, there are likely to be gaps in service, as is often the case. These gaps are worrisome because there seems to be so little true concern for animal welfare by city management. I hope that I'm wrong!
Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on May 11, 2012 at 1:15 am
For those who did not attend the meeting tonight at city hall, some important facts were cited: if we "outsourced" to Santa Clara, it would cost $150 for each animal surrendered and currently they are not taking surrenders. So the net effect would be to have abandoned animals all over the city. In addition, PA picks up some 700 dead animals around the city within 30 minutes of their being contacted. The outsourcer would be 10 hours, and no guarantee. This means an increase of long delays and health hazards therefrom.
The Vet is of course reasonable to have: the spaying and neutering is a necessary and proper service to avoid disastrous animal husbandry.
I think better information about the services supplied and the consequences of not providing the same would provide more facts and less rhetoric.
Posted by Tim, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on May 27, 2012 at 7:29 am
Lets save the shelter. Let go the supervisor, full-time Animal Control Officer and the Volunteer coodinator as Chief Dennis already said. Also the city could make some employees part-time only or hourly only. The city could save money and we would have our city shelter.