Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 23, 2010 at 11:30 am
I haven't heard anyone on the council says they want PACT to become self-sustaining, though that is really the only path that makes sense. A lot of citizens say that, but they don't organize to wear colored t-shirts to council meetings or have pals on the Council who will protect their pet activities.
Hopefully out of our budget crisis some common sense leadership will emerge that will put us on a more sensible footing.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on May 23, 2010 at 11:37 am
Here's my "in touch" list:
All recreational areas to become as self-sustaining as possible. This could include:
Eliminate the subsidy to the Children's Theater
Eliminate any subsidy to the Junior Museum and Zoo
Charge a lot more for the use of Rinconada Pool for non-residents
Charge for renting large areas at any of the Public Parks
Rethink the use of our public spaces:
Do we need 5 libraries or do we merely want them. Is this a fiscally responsible use of money for ALL the residents or just a nice thing for a small, very vocal group?
Could we be using the land under City Hall, the Police Building, Downtown Library, the Main Library and the Art Center in a more useful manner. Could we consolidate some of those spaces?
Do we need to change some of our zoning and the "Palo Alto Process" to encourage business and $$ generating retail establishments?
City Hall Employees - just like the business world has used this economic downturn to eliminate non-essential positions, we should really streamline our City Hall.
Stop contributing to anything we don't need to contribute to, recent examples:
Senior Games (they would have come without our $$$)
Public art - why are we paying for it? Have a contest, vote for the best piece, the artist gets recognition.
Stop trying to be "green" for the sound bytes. Being environmentally conscientous is a great goal, but not at the expense of common sense. Being green should also be a sound business decision, not just a bumper sticker.
Posted by Check It, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm
"Who is out of touch?"
Hands down, it is the unions that represent public sector employees. As a lifelong supporter of unions, I'm sad to say it, but it is true. And of course, we'd have to mention the idiots running governments who promised workers more than the economy can deliver.
In the past, public employees have taken lower salaries in exchange for better benefits, but as the NYT pointed out on Thursday, this has not been true for years. The median pay for state or local employees in 2008, for instance, was 13 percent higher than in the private sector, and on top of that the public sector employees take gold-plated retirement plans and cadillac health care plans.
As private sector companies reduced pensions substantially over the last two decades, states and cities have added sweeteners like inflation adjustments and lower retirement ages.
These extraordinarily out-of-proportion hand-outs are bankrupting cities and states, and they'll have to stop. It would be good if Palo Alto could recognize that our city has been one of the most short-sighted and profligate, if we could get out ahead of the curve in cutting long-term public employee costs. We can't undo past promises, but the stick we have is firing.
The city should figure out what it can sustainably pay employees (salaries, pensions, health care included). Let's say that is 50% of what we are presently committed to. Then come up with a plan to cut 50% of workers, and see if the unions could be enticed to chop 50% of compensation. If not, then start firing. Once those people are fired (let's start at the top), open a dialogue and see if the union would now be willing to cut compensation.
Despite my deep sympathies for unions, I can't help but feel that public sector employees are swilling at the public trough and driving governments bankrupt.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm
From the PA Weekly archives:
"The group has raised $348,800 for the project and has shepherded it through the city's application process. Palo Alto is contributing $348,800 from its own coffers for plaza renovations and adding another $50,000 for sidewalk repairs."
So it sounds like about $400K went into the renovation.