Knowledge, support low for PA bond measures Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Oct 2, 2007 at 7:54 am
Cynical and unaware, Palo Alto voters aren't likely to approve either a $50 million bond to construct a new public-safety building or a $45 million bond to improve and expand libraries, consultants told the City Council Monday.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 2, 2007, 3:18 AM
Posted by A Children Library Supporter, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 7:54 am
But no way will I support a $50M bond issue for a Mitchell Park Library. And I will not support $45M for a new police headquarters. I don't believe these cost estimates, and I don't think the City will fall apart if we don't do these upgrades. I have grown weary of the 'let's put a bond on the ballot' storyline......
And yet the City Council just keeps spending money on architects fees for these projects that will never be approved....
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 8:06 am
If the city plans to keep all the library branches open, then I will not vote for the library bond. As far as the police bond, I do not trust our city council--they waste too much money on consultants, architects, useless websites and "boutique" commissioners that the city does not need.
Kishimoto and company need to start focusing on the cities real problems. Maybe then I will vote for something that they propose
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 8:37 am
Interesting that Palo Altans are called "cynical and unaware" and that the consultants claim the information is not "penetrating" our stupid thick skulls. I would hardly call Palo Altans unaware. The problem is that we are all TOO aware of what goes on -- irresponsible spending, refusal to take responsibility or hold themselves accountable (can you say "unworkable, overpriced website" and "expensive, unnecessary green consultant"? If you took the cost of those two things alone you'd have about half a million dollars or so.). It is even more irritating to see the spin pathetically being launched at the AWARENESS of the Palo Alto citizenry. Gimme a break. Conservative, sound, long-term fiscal policy -- that's the ticket. If we saw even an inkling of that, we would no doubt be much more willing to take on those bonds. But no one likes to be taken for a ride, let alone asked to ignore the facts and just write a check. Palo Altans may be cynical, but the council is presumptuous.
Posted by Bebe Purcell, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 9:23 am
Add me to the list of cynical doubters. For too long the Palo Alto establishment, along with the management and employees unions, has run the city as a private club. They only pay attention to the majority of us non-members when they need money.
Compare Palo Alto to any other city on the Peninsula: we're rolling in money. We spend double the money per capita as most other cities. For this, we're told that we have better services and amenities than those other benighted cities.
Do we? Mountain View built a brand new state of the art library without a bond or new taxes. They have around half the number of employees we do, and they spend around half as much per resident as we do. Their streets are in good repair compared to ours. Recently one of their public works managers, asked to describe Mt. View's procedure for street maintenance, said, "Well, we try to anticipate our needs in advance and then make room in the budget for them". Imagine that: they actually budget for maintenance and repairs!
Of course there are downsides to living in Mountain View: for example, their mayor has had not one photo-op publicizing the city's Global Warming policy.
The last time we voted to give the grifters at City Hall more of our money was to fix the storm drains. Guess what: they made a mistake, and now they can't fix everything they told us was direly needed with the money we gave them. In fact they can't even fix half of these urgent needs. So far they haven't had the guts to come out and ask for more money. I guess the "needs" weren't so urgent afterall.
So now we "urgently" need a police station and a library, according to the consultants at city hall hired to manipulate us into voting to lavish more money on our overlords.
If we give them that, they can go merrily on their way, while the ranks of 100k per year employees at city hall soars past its current 1/3 ratio. Lavish pensions? Health care for life: no problem. Maintain the library infrastructure, the police station: give us some more money and we'll think about it.
Posted by Susie Thom, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 9:35 am
Our community not only needs, but deserves, new and updated library facilities. Our current facilities are dilapidated, inadequate and don't meet the needs of our citizenry. Today's libraries serve many functions beyond information resources among them community gathering places for diverse programs and events and rooms to host meetings and groups. This requires flexible spaces. Our libraries need an overall facelift to improve appeal, be more inviting and give us space to take advantage of innovations in technology. Lastly, we must meet accessibility requirements, make seismic retrofitting and replace our mechanical and electrical systems. It's all about the facilities and we, as a community, deserve better.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 9:41 am
I will not vote for a bond which includes updating all of the little branches. I agree that our libraries need updating - and the Children's Library looks wonderful - but I don't think there will be support for a bond which update so many branches. I'd be willing to update the Main Library (especially if we could get rid of those ugly brick things, yes I know it is the work of a famous architect, they are still ugly) and Mitchell park, with money for a bookmobile program.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 9:47 am
I agree with all that has already been said on this thread and will not support the measure for a new library or police station. Furthermore, I will not support the school district's decision to float yet another bond. Both the city and the school district have wasted too much money over the years on nonsense items, including all the "expert" they hire to spin the issues. Never again will I be tricked.
I watched the city council meeting last night and was disgusted to see that the majority of the conversation was about how to best spin this issue, so that all the bond measures pass the magic number of just over 66%. Apparently, the school district's spin will be to propose this new money grab as a "replacement" bond, not a new one. They squandered alot of the money from the last bond. Forget about getting my vote on this one.
The other big topic of discussion was whether to link the new police station bond with the new library bond. The question by council members... Can we reached the magic 66 and change percentage number by linking the two bonds? The question discussed was not whether the residents of Palo Alto want either bond. At a minimum, the bonds should be able to stand on their own or not at all. If the bond passes on its own, then the residents support the issue. If not, don't game the system and force these bonds on residents who do not support them.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 9:49 am
Susie Thom is right. The question is less what we 'deserve' than how to pay for it. As the post by Bebe Purcell describes, Palo Alto has a lot of money, but successive city councils have spent it irresponsibly - generally caving in to special interests and the city's unions while ignoring the basic needs of the city.
If we enable them to continue this kind of behavior by passing a bond to fund what should have been affordable out of the generous revenues the city has, we'll only see more fiscal foolishness in the future.
When the city stops grandstanding with 150k/yr Environmental Commissioner positions, when it stops hiring consultants to do work that our over-staffed city departments should do, and when it gets serious about negotiation with the city's unions, then maybe we can consider a bond issue.
Of course if the city did all these things, a bond issue might not be necessary to fund basic city infrastructure and improvements.
Let's not reward irresponsible behavior. Let's not throw good money after bad.
Posted by Lois, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 10:08 am
I agree with those who say they will not vote for a library bond so long as they refuse to close the branch libraries.
Also, I was disgusted with all the manipulation our City government is relying on to pass the bond measure. An obvious manipulative ploy is to put these bond measure on the June ballot. Traditionally, June ballots bring out the faithful who will vote "for" a bond measure; unfortunately, those that oppose don't bother to come out and vote.
MESSAGE TO EDITOR; Why is this posted under Palo Alto Schools and Kids. It definitely needs to go under "Palo Alto Issues" or "Around Town"? It took me awhile to find it.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 10:11 am
Maybe the reason it is under Palo Alto schools and kids is that the editors are (as the report says)confused about the difference between city and PAUSD bonds -- unlike Palo Alto's citizenry, which seems to have an excellent grasp of the difference and the same issues with management of funds in both organizations.
Posted by citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 10:39 am
Editors: Are you listening? Where are you now? Too busy policing the MI debate for unsavory points of view?
And by the way, what was the weirdness about the city needing to spend time lots of extra effort on the naming ordinance?
"The council also voted to have its Policy & Services Committee reexamine the existing ordinance governing the naming of city facilities. The city staff wants to make sure the naming is appropriate, with the upcoming Art Center expansion, additions to the Main Library, a new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center, renovation to Downtown Library and the public safety building, Library Director Diane Jennings said."
Well, its sort of like worrying about the carpet color for the lobby at this point, but it raises a thought.
Maybe they should offer the name up for sale (or maybe that's what they're planning on already), and fund it that way. The Hewlett Packard - City of Palo Alto Library, or something like that...
I've personally always thought selling the name of public facilities was pretty trashy - but really who cares? They should take a lesson from the school district on this and just suck up money from whatever source comes along - sell our dignity and priorities along the way - so what? At least we get MI, oh, I mean a library, out of the deal..
Posted by Happy to visit the HP Palo Alto Library, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 10:45 am
If HP is willing to cough up money for a library, we should grab it. I fail to understand those who seem to think we're somehow beneath putting a corporate name on a library - and would argue for taxing citizens as preferable.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 10:46 am
As the community parses these issues, we need to separate the spending issues from the funding issues.
--shall we spend money for a public safety facitity?
--shall we spend money for our libraries and Mithell Park community center?
--shall we spend money to assure our schools' physical assets are performing to the high standards we expect from PAUSD?
--How should we pay for a public saftety facility, if we decide we need to spend money to have a new one?
--Carve money out of other portions of the existing budget?
--Earmark future revenues above and beyond the current baseline of revenue the City has averaged the last few years?
--Some mix of the above?
--Similar question for the libraries and the MP community center
--For the schools, it is a slightly different question around how we want to tax ourselves going forward--the same, more, or less than what we are paying right now, with follow on around bonds in light of how those taxing questions are addressed.
This is a highly simple framework, but I think it is important for us to recognize there are differences in these types of questions. One could be for a new public safety building, and also be in support of floating a bond in order to fund it, for example. Two different aspects to the question.
Points of view around how the city is managing the costs of infrastructure projects presents another area of discussion, and is separate and distinct from spending decisions and funding decisions.
I believe it is important for the community to better understand what are the pressure points around these questions. I think a good case can be built for doing the public safety building, for example. If I build a convincing case for that, but do not build a convincing case that the best way to pay for it is (your choice here), it may go down, not because people don't want the public safety building, it's just that the proposed way to finance its construction does not have the same level of support.
If the community better and discretely understands what is is supported, and to what degreee, and what is not supported, and why, around spending decisions and funding decisions, there is, I believe, a greater likelihood that the community will get what it wants in the near and long term.
Posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online, on Oct 2, 2007 at 11:06 am Tyler Hanley is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
In response to "Lois" from the South of Midtown neighborhood: The first person to comment on an online article (in this case "A Children Library Supporter") selects which category the thread will fall under in Town Square. It's likely that "Children Library Supporter" chose the topic of Palo Alto Schools & Kids due to the story's reference to library funding.
Posted by Lois, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 11:10 am
Paul, there is one funding source you missed.
Mountain View City Council funded a library by selling a piece of surplus land. Palo Alto could do the same except for one thing; the voters passed an initiative which prevents our City Council from selling any land in Palo Alto.
However, a surplus piece of land could be identified and the voters asked if they are willing to sell the land to provide the funds to build either or both a library or a public safety building. In other words the voters would make the choice not the City Council.
Posted by Not so fast, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 11:10 am
So the consultants hired by the city claim the, we the citizens, are cynical and unaware. I can only assume this is the response that the city council asked these consultants to bring before the meeting last night. Now they can concentrate on "informing" us about why we should support these bond issues.
Of course we are cynical--look at what the city council "has done for us" over the last year or so--a mismanaged storm drain repair measure, a expensive worthless website, a call for creating an environmental commissioner, continued malfeasance at the utility department, the suspension of Emily harrison, the city manager characterizing the call to lower the flag in honor of brave firefighters as a willy nilly act.
Meanwhile Yoriko is gallivanting all over the place looking for photo-ops as she pushes her personal agenda with no regard for the problems facing the city. Other council members travel all over the country at our expense in order to dance and instruct everyone how we do things "properly" here.
As long as Yoriko is on the city council, i will not vote for any bond measure put forth by the city council.
It is time we have accountability from our "leaders" and we need to make sure that this time bond money will not be frittered away by the elite in city hall.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 11:28 am
Paul Losch says, "Points of view around how the city is managing the costs of infrastructure projects presents another area of discussion, and is separate and distinct from spending decisions and funding decisions."
That may be the view of the Palo Alto Establishment because seeks to isolate the city's irresponsible management of the millions of dollars we've voted to give them from the (alleged) need for even more bonds.
In fact, many of us feel quite otherwise. The city's (and the school district's) mismanagement of infrastructure funds - and their overll fiscal performance in fact - must be part of the discussion about whether we should throw more money down the same bottomless holes.
For example, a year or two ago, we voted to give the city money to repair our storm drain infrastructure. The measure was touted by the city (and its consultants) as a fix for a very specific list of urgently needed projects. Now, less than two years later, the city discovers that LESS THAN HALF of the projects contemplated can be completed with the funds we voted for them. In other words, either we get less than half a storm drain fix, or they have to come back for twice as much money.
Now if we get the same level of performance with the library and public safety bond funds (and there's no reason to expect otherwise), we need to start asking what we can do with half a library, or half a police station -- OR we have to figure that this is a $190 million package, not a $95 million package. And we can expect that like the school board, the spenders at City Hall will be back for more in a few years.
The only way we have of sending a message to the people at City Hall is to tell them NO MORE MONEY until they clean up their act and start spending the gusher of tax money they already have more responsibly.
Paul Losch is quite wrong. The vote on Bonds is a referendum on the city's fiscal management - not separate and distinct in any way.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 11:40 am
I don't think the spending issues and funding issues can be separated. When we agree on a project, and agree to give them the funding - how exactly do they spend it? That's almost the main determinant of the outcome of the next funding request.
For example, if they tell us they are bone thin on district staff, as evidence that they need a parcel tax to prevent dire impact to the classrooms - and then proceed to divert district staff away from stated priorities and on to non-priority luxury programs - did they lie about being bone thin on staff - or just change their minds, or miscalculate? Did they get our parcel tax money and suddenly feel cozy and comfy enough to set up new non-priority list of things to do for the staff? (Frankly, I think the district owes the people a refund on the parcel taxes, given that they found a way to spend a year and half of staff time on MI.)
On the facilities issues - do we believe they are managing the spending on facilities appropriately now? Are they doing the best they can within current budgets and capacity constraints? Do they understand the tradeoff between short term and long term solutions? Are they making matters worse by approving more capacity constraining projects? Do they fully understand the options and the cost of each alternative? Are they telling us the truth about the options and the alterntatives?
Are they transparent in what is happening with our money once they get it? Are they transparent with where they get private money, who gives it to them, and what those private donors are getting in return (ie: a quick leg up to the top of the priority list?)
The only real lever the people have is approval of funding. If they don't like what they see, its natural that the people will pull the appropriate levers to get our representatives in government to sit up and take notice. That's the only way we really have to force change other than electing new officials. And even then elections are a crap shoot too, because what we've learned by observing the school board over the past year is that people somehow magically change - and personal agenda's they might have kept quiet during the election somehow manage to rear their ugly heads.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 11:46 am
For all those complaining about this thread being under "Palo Alto Schools and Kids", this is about the kids. The Palo Alto Unified School District is asking for more money again. They have been irresponsible in the way they have managed the funds we provided so far. They have hired a new Assistant Principal who is clueless, overpaid the last Superintendent, including lavish perks, and now they want to float another bond? Not any more of my money is going to the district until they learn how to stop hiring incompetent individuals, overpaying them and they hiring consultants to spin everything. I have had it with them. NO MORE MONEY FOR THE SCHOOL DISTRICT UNTIL THEY GET THE MESSAGE THAT WE EXPECT FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY AND TALENTED INDIVIDUALS TEACHING OUR KIDS AND LEADING THE DISTRICT. Otherwise, we don't have any more money to give them. I will encourage everyone I know to vote no.
Posted by citizen, parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 11:51 am
Hmmm. There is one important connection between the school district and the city of Palo Alto - my (our) wallet. (The other one of course is the kids.) The elected officials of both those organizations shouldn't lose site of that.
People understand that the governing entities are separate, but do the entities understand that in effect there is NO possibility of separating the two when it comes to the experience of being a citizen of Palo Alto? You get the whole package when you sign on the dotted line.
Each of those entities should be caring deeply about the goings on across town.
The sad but true fact of the matter is that when the people are being raked over the coals and they feel it in their wallet, it spoils it for everyone. (One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.) The city of Palo Alto might be feeling the effects of a highly digruntled PAUSD consituency at this time.
And Cynical? Yes (thank in part to PAUSD). Unaware? Not.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 11:53 am
You and I have been through this before, so I won't belabor my point of view, nor will I characterize your way of analyzing things or other's as right or wrong.
Some people may believe that the way the city has srewarded the funds is has had available for certain projects is unsatisfactory. Perfectly fine to have such an opinion. Does that mean the idea of having a new public safety building is not something to do? That's a separate question, Chris. Does that mean that the best way to pay for a certain activity is a parcel tax, a bond measure or some other mechanism? That, too, Chris, is a separate question.
Then comes your questions around whether such a buidling, funded the way deemed appropriate, can be stewarded in a fiscally responsible manner. They are separate and distinct questions.
If you want to remodel your house, and can get the funding lined up the way you want it, do you decide not to do it because a contractor you talked to makes you feel you are not going to get your money's worth? Maybe you will make that decision, but it has nothing to do with wanting to remodel your house or how it is paid for, it is based on an entirely different, legitimate set of factors, in this case the project manager/contractor.
I have stated in other threads about how troubled I have been around the way the storm drain project has experienced significant cost over runs, or low ball estimates or both. It is legitimate to use this experience to question other projects the city proposes around maters of estimating and cost management.
Co-mingling the questions, or characterizing someone's analysis as right or wrong do not, in my analysis, inform this discussion. Feel free to disagree, Chris, on the matters where we part ways. We agree on more than your comments suggest.
Posted by say no to mismanagement, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 12:02 pm
"If the community better and discretely understands what is is supported, and to what degreee, and what is not supported, and why, around spending decisions and funding decisions, "
I thought it was pretty clear last time around what the storm drain tax would cover. I'd wager that most of the community understood what was promised. The first school improvement bond, B4E, was initially mismanaged, and now the school board is ready to recant the importance of class size reduction - which we're paying for, too.
No, Paul, it's not the community that needs to understand these things better, it's the leadership that lacks the required clarity and accuracy. They're the ones who must discretely understand spending and funding issues, AND which spending has community support and which funding means have community support. And why.
Posted by Winslow Arbenaugh, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 12:21 pm
"Our community not only needs, but deserves, new and updated library facilities. Our current facilities are dilapidated, inadequate and don't meet the needs of our citizenry. Today's libraries serve many functions beyond information resources among them community gathering places for diverse programs and events and rooms to host meetings and groups. This requires flexible spaces. Our libraries need an overall facelift to improve appeal, be more inviting and give us space to take advantage of innovations in technology. Lastly, we must meet accessibility requirements, make seismic retrofitting and replace our mechanical and electrical systems. It's all about the facilities and we, as a community, deserve better."
Ms. Thom is accurate in her most astute description of the deplorable state of the Palo Alto library system. Even Palo Alto's city auditor and her staff were shocked at the infrastructure and collactions disparity of our library, compared to our municipal neighbors.
We certainly have a lot of work to do, but our citizens will come through again - as they always have -- when a real need has been shown. A sound grass roots effort to educate our citizenry about the benefits that vital infrastructure brings will enlighten to a point where the vast majority will happily make this investment, because the payoff will be great.
I would like to see more written and said about the benefits that our library brings to community.
Here are a few examples:
Improved school performance, which has a direct impact on our property values
A place for all groups - teens, seniors, neighborhood associations, etc. to meet; this make our community more livable, and environmentally sustainable.
My question to those who argue against spending money on infrastructure: "What will it cost Palo Alto if we DON'T make these investments?" I would like to see those who are coming out against needed upgrades and improvements to answer that question.
In fact, we are talking about an investment in our community, and ourselves. That's what we should, and will, be focusing on from this point forward.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 12:28 pm
Paul, I think you are making it too complicated. The issue isn't funding or spending - it is trust in government. If I am on the board of a company with a CEO I don't trust, I'm not very interested in either his fundraising strategy or his spending plan - I just want him out of there.
You can't separate the City's policy from the leadership - and the leadership stinks. Hence no interest in either project "needs" or how to finance them - bring in new leadership and we'll discuss it all then.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 12:28 pm
I'm sorry Paul, but your analysis seems overly sterile and technocratic to me.
You say you think the right way to analyze the Bond question is to ask first whether voters want the project and then what's the best way to pay for it, and finally figure out whether the funding so chosen can be managed responsibly. To some, that might seem "logical", but it's not an apt way to analyze the current situation - which is political, not logical in character.
If I want to remodel my house and the only contractor in town is a crook who's demonstrated time after time that he can't do a project on time and on budget, there's no way I'm going to go forward before I get some pretty heavy proof that he's changed his ways. So the question of the character and competence of the contractor is the same one as whether I'm going to do my remodel.
Try as you might, I don't think you can convince those of us who think that city hall isn't managing our money well that our opinion on that is separate from whether we should vote for a bond issue giving the same people more money to waste. As a political matter (if not a matter of logic as you see it) - which is what a vote always is - city mismanagement and more spending cannot be separate issues.
We can't pick our contractor in this case. But we can tell the crook who has the local monopoly we aren't doing busines with him by voting no on the Bond issue.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 12:39 pm
Winslow Arbenaugh says, "My question to those who argue against spending money on infrastructure: "What will it cost Palo Alto if we DON'T make these investments?" I would like to see those who are coming out against needed upgrades and improvements to answer that question."
Like Paul Losch, Mr Arbenaugh puts the cart before the horse. Before we decide whether we want, or even whether we can afford some of the projects Mr Arbenaugh lists, the first question is whether the city has management and political leadership capacity to deliver them with the funding asked for.
I say they don't. Many others agree with me judging from this thread.
I would suggest that those attempting to garner support for the library bond focus less on the alleged need, and instead work on convincing us cynical voters that there are some responsible adults running the city.
Posted by resident, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 1:05 pm
I will support a bond for a new police building, and for the Mitchell Park library.
But, I must admit that I was under-whelmed by the updated Children's library. I'm sure it's well built, accessible to the entire community and larger. ...but, it seemed less like a great library for children of the 21st century than an homage to a great children's library of the mid-twentieth century.
I hope a different committee will design the needed expansion of the Mitchell Park library.
Posted by Lois, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 1:24 pm
There is another source of revenue for the libraries which hasn't been mentioned here and that is developer's impact fees for parks and libraries
The City is awash in this source of revenue but they are spending nearly all of it to refurbish parks. They are redoing Hoover Park and Jesus Ramos Park for tens of thousands of dollars. It was a surprise to the neighbors of Jesus Ramos Park that it was being considered for refurbishment at all because it really didn't need it.
The City would rather spend this money on parks than libraries because they expect, you the voters, to pass a library bond next year to pay to refurbish the libraries.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 1:37 pm
One reasonable solution to the library/police station issues is to close the Downtown library, and move the police station there. However, our "Blue Ribbon Commission" caved to local pressure, and decided that we, as Palo Alto, simply cannot be seen as replacing libraries with cops. They never explained why. It makes complete sense to me. We need fewer branch libraries, and a new police station. Dah?!
Palo Alto is STILL in the mode of wanting everything, even though those days are long gone. We need to defeat all bond issues, until pragamatic solutions are presented to us.
Posted by Winslow Arbenaugh, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 1:47 pm
Lois, Development impact fees are a drop in the bucket, relative to the comprehensive requirements that the library must have to operate as a functional institution.
Chris, rather than bandy about who is a competent manager, and who his not - a question that there will never be full agreement on - I would ask you to answer what not makig these investments will cost Palo Alto.
It is a real possibility that not making these investments - as soon as possible - will impact the value of our homes, as libraries and schools are intimately connected, and becoming more so.
Also, what about construction inflation? The cost for these facilities is rising at 15%+ EVERY YEAR. Are Palo Alto's citizens, once they become aware of this fact, going to wait to get this badly needed infrastructure repair completed? I don't think so.
I find it quite ironic here that so many in this thread are arguing against infrastructure investment, because if their arguments were heeded, and we didn't make these needed investments, it will cost us FAR MORE down the road, not to mention the lost opportunities we cause by waiting.
Again, we need to educate our community.
Also, it's prudent for all to understand that some individuals will always argue against municipal spending, no matter how much information they're given. I think this has something to do with the fact that some individuals think they can do things better than the people hired to do them.
Yes, we have our work cut out for us. With the right leadership, and forward vision - including the hard work of educating our citizens about the value of public infrastructure, and why it's important to make the investment now - we will overcome, and repair our library and other public infrastructure.
Again, what if we don't do this? Can you imagine how much more expensive these things will be some years down the road? Then, we'll be hearing from the same people who are naysaying on this thread; and then, we'll be hearing things like "it's just too expensive" - and on and on.
We need to inform our citizens of the facts; the truth will overcome.
Posted by John M., a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 1:51 pm
Clearly, John is in the vast minority, as all polling shows. We need to build on the majority we already have, and keep our city growing to a point where the small voices that ring their constant "no" are lost in the din of our great, promising future.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 2:03 pm
A 21 voter focus group? I would like to know where those people came from, and how they were chosen. Frankly, without exception, every person I've talked to about this has said they want to see our libraries repaired - and I've talked to dozens, if not hundreds of people about this.
I hope the City Counciil doesn't base the future of our city's infrastructure on the findings of a focus group, which is far less accurate than the polling we've done.
Sure, we have a way to go, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
What I find amazing about this is that our Public Safety Building, as one for instance, cannot properly meet the legal requirements to manage certain kinds of physical evidence.
Do any of the people whoh are complaining about infrastructure on this thread realize that if just ONE plaintiff, or defendent, gets a retrial and wins on appeal, based to our city's inability to maintain physical evidence (and other serious problems), that our city could lose HUNDREDS ofo MILLIONS of dollars. If just ONE case like that gets placed, and won - there will be a feeding frenzy to review past litigations carried out by our city by every plaintiff and defendant who hhas lost a case here in recent years (that had anything to do with physical evidence)
We have to be CRAZY to let the current situation continue. It's fiscal irresponsibility NOT to go forward with these funding investments.
Are we supposed to wait until our libraries are devoid of patrons, because they've migrated to using other community's libraries - or until we get sued into oblivion by lawyers who are (as I write this) wringing their hands, waiting for just one recent Palo Alto case to be overturned on appeal, due to our inability to properly maintain physical evidence, and other legally required mandates that we're not currently fulfilling.
We'd better get serious about this, overlook the naysayers, and move forward. We're going to findi out what our city is made of, real soon. If we listen to negativity, we're on our way to insolvency, a decrease in the value of our homes, and low-dog status among our more glorious municipal neighbors.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 2:31 pm
" if just ONE plaintiff, or defendent, gets a retrial and wins on appeal, based to our city's inability to maintain physical evidence (and other serious problems), that our city could lose HUNDREDS ofo MILLIONS of dollars"
Evidence storage, as a reason to build a new police station, is a straw man. Evidence storage can be contracted out. for example, see the following link.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 2:38 pm
Winslow and Mike,
Most of the people on this thread are not objecting to infrastructure investments per se. They're objecting to the what seems to be throwing money into a process that has failed to deliver what's been promised in the past.
To us, your arguments about what it will cost us in the future to NOT pass the bonds is premature. For us, the preconditions to spending a lot of money on infrastructure - a competent, fiscally responsible leadership - have not been met.
So Winslow, your attempt to elide past what for us "naysayers" is a fundamental point by saying we'll never get full agreement on what a competent manager is a non-starter.
We doubters and cynics need concrete demonstration that the city can manage our money responsibly BEFORE we vote to shell out some more.
You're no doubt right that a lot of people won't vote for infrastructure under any circumstances because they have a principled aversion to public spending.
But a lot of people want a new library, good schools and a high functioning police station. But the don't trust the people running the city to do things right. These people, along with those of you willing to rubber stamp whatever the Establishment sends down the pike, are enough to get your Bonds passed.
But you don't address their concerns. If you'd explain how the city is going to avoid another experience like the storm drain fiasco, maybe you'd get some to come on board with you.
But repeating "We Need" over and over, and spouting predictions of impending doom if we don't give you the money sounds a lot like the storm drains campaign.
Posted by Anon, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 2:41 pm
" if just ONE plaintiff, or defendent, gets a retrial and wins on appeal, based to our city's inability to maintain physical evidence (and other serious problems), that our city could lose HUNDREDS ofo MILLIONS of dollars"
If the police start processing correctly, meaning stop throwing people in jail becuase they used shaving cream, than they will be okay. (Referring to the man you put behind bars for child sexual abuse when he didn't) Before you can use that evidence excuse you need to do the basics first. Under todays leadership, you have a lot of bigger issues. Once you get a new Chief there will be something to talk about.
Posted by we can do it, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 2:48 pm
Palo Alto already spends more per-capita on libraries (nearly twice in some cases) than any neighboring city.
There is obviously something wrong when we have a higher library budget but lower level of service. Simply pouring more money into it is not the solution. We should demand the same level of service as neighboring cities for the same per-capita cost. Anything else is simply throwing money away.
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 2:50 pm
Chris is correct. This is starting to sound like the storm drain campaign. Back then, we were told that we faced flood and calamity if we didn't upgrade our aging storm drains. We were told that the situation was dire, and that the improvements were urgently needed.
So we passed the Storm Drain Fee (i.e., Tax). Shortly thereafter, it turned out that they could only do half as much as they said. And guess what? The sky didn't fall. And they're not coming back to beg for more because suddenly, I guess, when it is no longer politically viable, these projects no longer are urgent.
Anybody want to wager if we don't give them the money for the Police Station that we won't be sued...and the sky still won't fall?
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 3:02 pm
I am about to leave on a trip and will not be able to participate in this thread for several days, so this is my last comment for now.
I think it is perfectly fine for people to question the "messenger," in this case City Hall, and express skepticism about the need for the projects proposed and the funding mechanisms suggested. There is a trust question around expenditures of this sort, and if there must be trust before one can meaningfully engage about an important strategic question, whether it is in business, as Terry pointed out, or on municpal matters, as Chris and have been trading thoughts about.
By the same token, we should use care to make sure the message is valid or not, not merely make a judgment based on the messenger delivering it. In this instance, there are many people involved in reviewing and vetting these projects, so the sources of information are not confined to one. One may still reach the same conclusions, but I think it is disingenuous to suggest that the ideas being discussed are without merit because of leadership in City Hall. Plenty of others around town have been involved in these matters.
And, should the projects go forward, there clearly are some important questions about how they are managed and how the budgets are met. I agree that we must have confidence--trust--in those who are assigned to handle such projects as these on our behalf. If we cannot satisfy ourselves that there are people who can meet this requirement, it is ill advised to move forward on such expensive initiaves. The airport may be a case in point...
Posted by Chuck, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 3:13 pm
I'm with Bill. If the best argument in favor of a police station Bond is that we will be successfully sued for not passing it, let's save the money and spend it on streets...which really do need upgrading.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 3:47 pm
I’m in favor of upgrading all of our branch libraries and then maintaining them with budgeted funds for repair and maintenance. I don’t want a two-story Mitchell Park Library because our other libraries (and all staff) need to be supported now, not
later. Our City Council needs to put in the yearly budget specific funds for our branch libraries. I won't support any bond measures that fund giant buildings in Palo Alto.
Posted by John M., a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 3:58 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Palo Alto has spent very little on infrastructure these last few decades. We have to do it now, or it is going to cost more in the future than it will cost us today.
John, As for physical evidence beingn outsourced, go ask how many municipalities do that - practically none. Most evidence storage contractors are set up for single case outsourcing, not an entire municipality's needs. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Just wait until we have a case reversed for improper handling of physical evidence. It WILL happen, eventually - unless we create a new facility. Are you going to pay the millions-of-dollars bills, John? I doubt it. Instead, you will be here complaining about how the city is mismanaged.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Sure, Chuck, put the money into streets - let's see - that's about $28M for streets, and roughly $70M for the first few lawsuits. That makes real fiscal sense. NOT! Time for Accounting 101.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 4:04 pm
Paul, thanks for your thoughts and acknowledgement of the "trust issue." I do think there is a recent history that raises serious concerns about voting big increases. I would LOVE to see us invest more in Palo Alto's future - but I want to know the investment will be well-managed, on both funding and spending.
John M., I must be one of the new naysayers, since I haven't been around that long. I like the town a lot - but there are sure problems, with both infrastructure and leadership. Focusing on the fixing the leadership issue first seems like the prudent thing to do - bad leadership is extremely expensive in the long-run, as unfortunately we are finding out.
Posted by Sunrise/Sunset, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 4:58 pm
As much as I would like to support schools, libraries, a new police station, I do not trust the fiscal responsibility of those in power. Look at the Utilities tax--will it never go away? What was it for anyway? A tax to use the utilities? Don't be fooled into thinking we are the lowest cost in the community. Compare us to Santa Clara in cost per therm for gas. Doesn't this tax have an end date, or is it one those certainties along with death? Speaking of other communities, have you seen the libraries in Mountain View, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Santa Clara (just built a new one). These communities do not have multiple mini libraries. Maybe a bookmobile can solve the concerns of the Downtown, College Terrace population.
Posted by Oldtimer, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 6:21 pm
You are right on with your comments about the Utility Tax. I am one of the dwindling oldtimers who recalls the Utility Tax campaign and the issues surrounding it. It was passed almost 20 years ago. At the time it was put on the ballot, the advocates of the tax and the council promised that even though the tax contained no sunset provision, we'd be allowed to vote on 'renewing' it again in 10 years. I believe there was a technical reason put forward for why they did it this way.
I recall this "promise" of a revote very vividly. The vote on the tax was extremely close, and there is not much it would not have passed but for the revote promise.
Perhaps someone can find something online about the vote and campaign back then. I don't know how to do a search for that kind of thing.
As you point out, we're still paying the tax as the promise of a re-authorization vote was forgotten almost as soon as the original initiative passed.
The progeny of the crew that was running the city then still are in control. I don't trust anything they say that's not legally binding.
Posted by Chuck, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 6:25 pm
For John M, and the others using scare tactics about evidence preservation. Can you point out ONE case in the entire country where there has been a successful "Multi-million Dollar" suit against a city for failure to preserve evidence.? Just One?
Posted by John M., a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 8:42 pm
Chuck, my first Google search came up with quite a few hits - try "city failure to preserve evidence, lawsuit" in yuor Google search box, and have at it. There are many municipalities and private persons who have lost big because of failure to preserve evidence.
Posted by Millie, a resident of the The Greenhouse neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 8:49 pm
What I want to see is Chuck and some of the other people explain how we're going to fix the library in 8 years, if we fail now. Then, it will cost twice as much. And in the meantime, we will continue to suffer with a bad library. Some people do not understand basic value, or the wisdom of prudent investment. I just don't understand young people today
Posted by patmarriott, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 9:46 pm
Wonderful comments here. I agree that we are dissatisfied cynics – with good cause! But we are certainly not unaware. I wonder how much the city plans to spend to “educate” us on the bond issues.
Two points on the library bond:
(1)Where’s the fiscal analysis showing the cost (including operations & staffing) of one library vs. all the branches? Never been done!
(2)IF the bond issue passed (which I wouldn’t count on), where would the funding for operating costs come from?
It amazes me that Council felt the need to hire consultants to do studies and focus groups. If council members just paid a bit of attention to what people are saying about their mismanagement -- maybe by reading some of the PA Online blogs -- they would know what we're thinking.
Posted by Just my legal 2 cents, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 9:49 pm
I tried the suggested Google search: city failure to preserve evidence lawsuit. Unlike the rest of you apparently, I actually read the links. In the first two pages, I found NO instances where a city had lost "multi-million dollar" lawsuits, which is what the original challenge.
There were several non-monetary penalties - most often involving throwing out of a city's case, or construing the evidence against the city in a suit when it's a party. Monetary penalties were imposed as far as I can tell when the destruction of evidence is wanton, intentional or egregious - not for negligence. And even then, the highest penalty I found mentioned was $50,000.
I don't know if the current situation in town actually places us at risk of losing track of evidence. And I don't know whether there are alternatives to building a $50 million facility to remedy any such risk.
I don't even have an opinion yet as to whether I'd be in favor of a bond issue.
But I do know that those who say we risk a settlement like $70million as one poster above did is exaggerating the risk by quite a bit.
Posted by resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 11:07 pm
So to add another two cents to the frenzy ... if these projects continue to go through the notorious "Palo Alto Process" with more consultants and studies and architects and experts... we MAY someday see some "new" quaint libraries/police stations for triple the quoted budget that, by the time they open, are already undersized and lacking sufficient facilities to meet the needs of a modern city in the heart of silicon valley. All this in an effort to maintain the old-time, small town feel of what Palo Alto used to be like way back when. Until then, I think I'll visit the neighboring towns to use their great big main libraries and facilities... it's so much easier and a much more pleasant experience.
Posted by John M., a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2007 at 11:14 pm
Just my legal 2 cents, I hope you know more than our city's attorney, and other's including County attorneys who clearly delineate the risk. Perhaps your leagl expertise is worth a tad more than $.02, but then again, maybe not - I'll go with the experts.
Patmariott: "I wonder how much the city plans to spend to “educate” us on the bond issues."
Pat, the money will not be spent to change those whose minds are already made up - like yours. It's not going to matter that every one of your demands for information aren't filled [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff. ]
What's going to matter is that our citizens are going to get the facts [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I look forward to a robust educational effort that enlightens our citizens about the benefits of libraries, and public safety.
Posted by Just my legal 2 cents, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 7:56 am
Just for the record, I wasn't offering legal advice, I was commenting on a Google search that did not say what the person who cited it says it does.
John M. said that the Google search, "city failure to preserve evidence lawsuit" supported his contention that the city faced multi-million dollar ($70 million was mentioned) lawsuits if it didn't pass the police bond.
This search does no such thing. Whether the city attorney says what John M. says also should be judged in this light. Absent direct supporting evidence, I'm skeptical.
Posted by Ed Whitcomb, a resident of another community, on Oct 3, 2007 at 8:11 am
I have some knowledge that may shed some light on the preservation of evidence subject being discussed in this thread.
I am a semi-retired attorney, and have handled criminal defense cases in California for over 30 years. Typically, local police preserve evidence gathered in their investigations for for use by local prosecutors in criminal trials. If the police lose evidence(which they sometimes do), or failure to preserve record of custody (which they more often than you think), then the evidence is subject to challenge, and exclusion from use at trial. The penalty thereby suffered is the prospect of the prosecutor losing a case that was otherwise winnable.
I'm unsure of what the people talking about large dollar lawsuits might be talking about in connection with loss of evidence by local police agencies. Obviously, a defendant acquitted because the police blundered isn't going to sue. And citizens at large and victims are prohibited from suing by both statue and California Supreme precedent in cases of prosecutorial misfeasance.
This issue is separate from the cases yielded by the Google search above, which seem to concern civil matters to which the city is a party. In these cases, a city may be penalized for failure to preserve evidence relevant to a case just like any other litigant. But this kind of evidence isn't what's normally stored at a local police station or evidence facility.
In sum, I don't think there's much of a risk of adverse financial penalties to a city if it doesn't preserve evidence properly. It may find itself losing a lot of criminal cases however.
As an aside, $50 million seems like a lot if the only goal is to improve evidence preservation. I'd think there are a lot of ways to address this situation, if it exists, than building a relatively expensive new police station.
Posted by bruce, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 11:07 am
Paul Losch. Thank you again for well-reasoned comments. You do try to remain focused and not become distracted by irrelevant and specious arguments. And have a good trip.
When people argue about one aspect of the Public Safety Bldg, (e.g. loss of police evidence), we lose sight of why the building is needed. Read the Blue Ribbon Task Force's report which spells out the reasons clearly. Evidence storage is one of many needs and not the primary one.
The 21 member focus group's comments on mistrust of city government did surprise Council Member Cordell. Many on this thread echo this concern, and I hope the Council takes it seriously. No matter how worthy, without residents' support no project will be passed.
The polling consultants did find that the focus group became more favorable to both a new Library and Public Safety Bldg when they got more information about the need for the projects. I think most citizens are intelligent and thoughtful and will respond positively to well-reasoned presentations. This includes bona fide assurances they will be well managed.
Thank everyone for presenting their case for or against in a civil manner without personal attacks.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 11:41 am
With respect, bruce, the last "Blue Ribbon Task Force" we had was (I believe) for the Storm Drain Project. That Task Force assured us that the money we voted them for storm drain repair would be well managed. It wasn't.
Mere assurances will not be enough for many of us this time around. I think we need to see positive performance by the Council and by City Management in the stewardship of our money BEFORE we'll vote for big projects like the library and police station.
It's no surprise to many of us that Ms. Cordell and others were surprised by the level of mistrust of city government. She and the rest of the council have been listening almost exclusively to the special interests and insiders who seem to set the agenda in town since she's been in office. How WOULD she know what "normal" people think?
I still think it is a mistake to try to sell the skeptics among us on the worthiness of the projects as a means of getting our support - at least on the first pass. We're too jaded to believe much of what you say without proof - as I think this thread demonstrates What supporters of the bond projects fail to see is that many skeptics agree with them on the projects' desirability. It's just that we don't think the city can be trusted to carry it off. Working on the trust issue should more properly be a precondition to selling us on the merits of the library and police station.
I join you in expressing appreciation for what, for the most part, has been a civil and reasoned discussion, and for your praise of Paul Losch - who unfortunately (and perhaps unfairly) winds up being the surrogate target for the City Establishment around here. And yet he is indefatigable and patient all the while.
Posted by John M., a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 2:26 pm
Chris, you said: "I think we need to see positive performance by the Council and by City Management in the stewardship of our money BEFORE we'll vote for big projects like the library and police station."
What you're essentially asking for is *delay*, until some mythical standard of performance can be *proven* by policy makers and city staff. Here's the problem: there is no satisfying a standard that goes to infinite regress - with calls for "number", and "accountability", and all the other buzzwords that sound good on the surface, but have nothing to do with the whole picture.
Given all the talk on this thread - from you and some others - about "fiscal responsibility", your demand is just a bit south (to be kind) of "fiscal responsibility", because delay will cost far more taxpayer momney than the mythical "inefficiencies" that some people try to conjur in these forums. I still have yet to see one person in this forum answer what it will cost NOT to build this needed infrastructure. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Look at how much MORE it is costing us to repair our library now [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff}. The same thing happened before the second-last school bond.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] There is one school of thought that says "entertain all opinions and ideas". There is another school of thought that says the same thing, but then adds "and then, act". We have failed to do the latter, forgetting that there are citizens who would rather see their community suffer in ways that most of their fellow citizens would consider untenable, just so that the former could have their way, or satisfy a seemingly endless series of demands for "proof" about "efficiency", because "we know how to do it better".
What do we see as a result of this delay [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]?
1) A jobs housing imbalance caused by delays in constructing needed housing.
2) Infrastructure (school and city) not built, because of a fear of not pleasing these small groups.
3) Poor relations with Stanford, spurred on by small, vocal groups who look at our neighbor as a bully and bad guy, instead of a massive opportunity machine to be negotiated with for mutual advantage.
4) The serious loss of robust retail and hotel presence, brough about by NIMBYs
and so on....
Neither you or anyone else on this thread is going to be given the privilege of first monitoring the performance of elected representatives - and those they hire - before our city replaces city infrastructure.
These issues are going to be decided at the polls, after a concerted effort by citizens and city personnel who are determined to maintain our city ion a way sustains it into the future.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Pretending that one can convince certain individuals who have a strong propensity for not spending revenue to keep a city sustainable is a fool's game. Educate the citizenry; be proactive; ACT!
What Palo Alto needs more than anything, now, are leaders who are not afraid to say what we need, and then go out and convince our residents of the veracity of those needs. The responsible residents of Palo Alto will do the rest, and come through as they always have, because, after all, it's their city, not yours.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 2:46 pm
"Neither you or anyone else on this thread is going to be given the privilege of first monitoring the performance of elected representatives ..."
I think I see the source of our disagreement: I think that EVERYONE on this thread - at least those who are Palo Alto residents - had the privilege of monitoring the performance of our elected representatives.
Posted by aw, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 5:23 pm
The reason to build a new Police HQ or a new library is that the old ones are worn out. I wish the advocates would just stick to a simple argument: worn out facilities merit replacement.
I've read the Blue Ribbon Task Force Report, and the "reasons" in the report are unfortunately not backed up with any evidence. The reasons might be true, but as citizens we have no way to judge. The City has exercised its right to remain silent. (To take one example, if as the BRTF report claims, the building is a recruiting and retention problem, then how many Officers have resigned to join another Peninsula Police department in the last five years citing the building as a reason?)
Once we accept the principle that worn out facilities housing services we like merit replacement, then we are just discussing in what order we'll do them. This is where I have trouble with the proposed bond. As a community how will we choose to sequence Police HQ, Mitchell Park Library, playing fields, other libraries, road improvements, FTTH projects, water storage tanks, Hetch Hetchy assessments, performing arts space, History Museum, Environmental Center, Art Center, Teen Center - not to mention new school bonds?
I can imagine supporting a lot of this stuff. What I have trouble with is piecemeal approving easily foreseeable capital projects and risking that the two or three I really care about never get approved.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 6:26 pm
Aw, not so simple I think. The storm drains were totally worn out and inadequate - no dispute. We voted the tax. Oops, the city screwed up - either the costs were underestimated by half, or half the projects weren't as urgent as thought - take your pick, we're not sure yet.
If we can't trust what we're told about what we will get for what we spend, we can't reasonably decide to do the spending. What if they come back in 2 years and say "we need $20M more to deliver what we told you you'd get?" That's the concern.
Unless we have trust in government, it is hard to approve large projects.
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 6:49 pm
Terry, neither has it been adequately explained why Palo Alto, with a per-capita spending level double of that of most of our neighbors has to issue special bonds and assessments while other cities seem to maintain their infrastructure - and even build new libraries - without the new taxes.
Maybe there's a reason, but one has to ask why they can come up with money for an Environmental Commissioner, cough up $7 million on an unused tunnel under the train tracks, negotiate a union contract that a former mayor called an irresponsible disgrace because it gave away so much...and on and on....while they can't find the money to pay for more typical city services, like roads, libraries and a police station.
Posted by bruce, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 8:09 pm
Chris. The title is "Public Safety Building Blue Ribbon Task Force Report" dated June 19, 2006.
AW. The "evidence" you ask for is described on pages 2 through 8 of the Report. If you choose not to believe the needs described, perhaps you should discuss the report with one or more members of the Task Force. They were diligent with their examination of the present facility, and so even the skeptical ones became convinced of the need for a new building.
A tour of the present police/emergency dispatch center building can be arranged if you wish. Among other things it will show the crowding and lack of certain facilities. Discuss the earthquake resistance of the City Hall, which houses the Emergency Dispatch Center and Police quarters, with Glenn Roberts or one of his staff. The building does not meet current standards and is almost certain to fail when "the big one" hits.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 8:29 pm
Bruce - Shouldn't you also be concerned about City Hall, since it's in the same building as the police station? Is it OK that our city government will not be operable according to your scenario after a disaster? None of this makes sense. The police want a new building and this is the way to try to push that through. A new police station is not a public safety building....that's marketing talk. If it can be shown conclusively that we need a location away from city hall for emergency response, then lets talk about that and let the police and city officials stay where they are. As a final note, having city hall, police and public safety facilities in a building that we are now told is not safe is another great example of waste on the part of the city. Vote NO.
Posted by John M., a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 8:54 pm
Resident, your last post is a perfect example of what I was speaking about above - i.e. the infinite regress into "proof" for every little thing that some citizens demand, as if perfection can be obtained in every little way.
The vast majority of our citizens will understand their city's needs, as we get going with a program to educate them with facts that have been drawn out through extensive diligence.
I fully expect you to vote "no". That's your right. 80-85% of our citizens will vote the other way.
Posted by aw, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 8:54 pm
The storm drains are a mess, but probably an honest mess. Construction costs did go up more than normal. That said, it's unfortunate that the City didn't choose to find a way to do what they said they would do, or lock in the costs earlier. Can you trust their cost estimating abilities? No, but I've seen as bad or worse in the private sector.
To Bruce, I've read the report and it certainly has a long series of assertions. But it doesn't back any of them up with evidence. I've asked Task Force members and City Staff to go on the record with specific examples - such as recruiting and retention statistics - and they haven't responded. Your point about not meeting current earthquake standards is false. It meets current earthquake standards for existing Police buildings. It does not meet current standards for new construction, just like your current house probably does not meet the 2000 Building Code or the 2005 Electrical Code.
I don't disagree that the Police station is worn out. So is City Hall. So is all the infrastructure in our City. The problem with the Task Force report is that it doesn't just say, "All PA infrastructure is worn out. It must be replaced." I can endorse that position.
Instead it tries to make a case why the Police department should jump the queue. What's worse is they argue for their new facility with disaster service continuity, without showing us an overall plan for disaster services. How do we know we won't have an empty state-of-the-art communications center when all the staff we hired for the 2022 earthquake are home taking care of their families in Turlock?
Posted by Ter, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 9:26 pm
Aw, that may be the explanation, but I don't think we should be ok with that. When going to the voters, there should be a healthy conservatism in the estimate - not a salesman's low-ball. If you are right, then we reasonably should double any estimate served up in a bond proposal, or expect to see half a library or half a police station. So $100M for the police station?? Do you disagree?
I would argue that the "fish rots from the head down" - it is lack of attention or care from the top - the Council, the City Manager, top staff - that leads to the very poor performance we get from the city. Are they liars or just lazy - I don't really care. Either way, we deserve better and need to insist on it - if necessary, by voting "no confidence" by voting down bond proposals.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2007 at 9:27 pm
aw, thanks for pointing out the lack of data in the task force report. Instead of trying to “educate” us on why we should vote for bonds, why not present data and let us figure it out for ourselves? Too often we’re asked to trust the recommendations of committee or staff reports without access to the facts leading up to those decisions. Council doesn’t seem particularly interested in data.
When I tried to find out the cost of running each of our library branches, I was surprised to find out that even our library director doesn’t know.
Posted by aw, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 6:29 am
You're missing the point. I agree we need to move forward. However the arguments the advocates are using do us all a disservice. When they argue we should build a new $50M Police HQ because x,y and z - and x,y and z turn out to be contested or false: we have a problem. Name calling won't help.
Two choices. Either make the simple case that we need to replace a bunch of broken, worn out stuff. Then prioritize it and get going. Most of us eventually remodel our houses and buy new cars on this basis. Or if you want to publish a report with reasons to do something first, be prepared to back them up.
I support a new Police HQ as part of an overall infrastructure rebuilding plan. The BRTF is an unfortunate document because it doesn't make a defensible case why the Police HQ should be first. Perhaps there is a case, but the published information doesn't make it. Management experts? Who needs 'em. Basic rule is you can't manage what you can't measure.
As far as estimated budgets: if we stay away from complex site work we can build a new police building for $50M. If we get really wrapped up in working around trees and underground parking we could blow the budget. Good follow on question to ask is whether that includes furniture, fixtures and equipment. San Jose had a big furnishing cost overrun with their City Hall a few years ago.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 9:14 am
I think aw's point has a lot of merit.
Palo Alto's infrastructure needs, combined with the wish-list of the school district, make up a very expensive potential surcharge on our tax bills.
I doubt if even the most ardent of our 'government knows best' posters like John M would not blanch a bit at the total bill for all of the projects being discussed or contemplated.
Since it is unlikely that ALL of these projects can be afforded - even if they could gain political approval - it makes sense to prioritize.
So far we haven't even asked basic questions like, "what's more urgent - a new police station or fixing our crumbling streets?" (I don't know the answer to this, but the Auditor's report of a year ago suggests that our current $30 million street maintenance backlog will get a lot more expensive if we delay much more. Is this less urgent than a police station?)
aj is right to worry that if we pass a big bond issue for the police station now, a future vote on more taxes for streets will be more difficult. We need to ask which is more important. We haven't done that. Are all decisions at city hall made in this ad hoc way?
aj, and pat above point out that we haven't even addressed the effects on future operating budgets if we pass the library and police bond. Will operating these two facilities increase - or decrease - our ongoing budget costs? Again the question apparently hasn't been asked - even though it will affect us greatly for decades to come.
An overriding concern to all of this is the fact that the lack of prioritization and fiscal management extends beyond the issue of the infrastructure bonds to the city's budget as a whole.
We need to ask why our city, which spends double per resident what our neighbors spend, is in this sad situation in the first place.
Could the city - by restraining spending on frills like the recently approved environmental commissioner, by looking harder at big ticket items like the $6 million Homer bike tunnel, by taking a more realistic approach to negotiations with the city's unions, and generally by being more prudent with the way it spends our money - have averted much of the alleged need for these bonds in the first place?
Could we fund at least part of our infrastructure needs by taking a harder look at what we spend each year on items like the above?
I don't think we can fix what's really wrong with our city by merely tossing more money to politicians and city managers to bail them out of the problem they created for themselves with their wanton neglect of the long term needs of the city. As long as they think they can always come back to ask for more money when their lack of discipline creates problems for them, our city leaders and managers never will develop habits necessary to a well-functioning city government.
I will be looking for a lot more in the way of responsible leadership, and for more honest appraisals of our needs before I'll vote for any more spending for the city.
Posted by tom, a resident of the The Greenhouse neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 9:46 am
AW A report normally does not include supporting data; it reports the conclusions arrived after investigations and research. But in fact the complete PSBBRTFR (whew) does have 10 appendices with this background.
The reason it's called a Public Safety Building is because it is to include the dispatch center (fire, police, utilities) and an emergency operations center for use in city wide emergency e.g. severe earthquake.
For maximum coordination/efficiency they should be located as close to each other as possible.
Posted by aw, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 10:41 am
I feel your pain, but we won't make progress by looking back at old mistakes and missed opportunities. It's shooting fish in a barrel to come up with examples. The good news is the annoying stuff we wish Council would forego is a small part of the total budget. They'd win big political points if they learned to say NO to a few silly things, but reality is the silly stuff is just a distraction.
I can't emphasize strongly enough that Police bond advocates are hurting themselves with easily refuted arguments and by refusing to link up with an overall plan. Most of the Council candidates have identified infrastructure as a key need. Let's get it all out on the table, prioritize it and fund it. Is there a secret plan to curb new development by taking away all the traditional amenities and attractions for living here?
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 11:09 am
Having just finished some major construction projects for our family, I found that the overwhelming cost is not in materials, but in time. i.e. the longer it takes to do a project - any project - the costs skyrocket. I think the cost over-runs that so many contributors expect will be firmly tied to how long it takes to study, evaluate, educate, design, redesign, decide, demolish, construct, move, etc...
On the other hand, maybe the best thing that could happen is for city hall or the libraries to just collapse (tongue in cheek). That would force the city to set up some trailers/portables just like they do for our schoolchildren. Perhaps then they would rebuild more quickly - set up a bonus incentive for the contractors to come in ahead of schedule (or penalty for delays) - just like they did in Oakland with the road collapse. In the meantime, the powers that be will continue to over-analyze the issue and the citizens will continue to mistrust.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 11:34 am
aw, I agree with you on the ineffectiveness of the current tactics of the bond advocates. Their arguments seem unfocused and completely ad hoc.
But I think this points to a broader problem with the way the people who are supposed to be shepherding our city into the future behave, and that is the way they deal with both the "silly things" you mention, and the broader job of managing our money.
I do not think the items I mentioned are a distraction, because these and the many other similar items anyone watching City Hall could come up with are indicia of a broader systemic problem: the lack of ability by our leaders to effectively manage our finances. I don't think it is wise to go forward with major new spending plans while this dysfunctional situation remains unresolved for at least two reasons.
First, do we really want to risk a miscalculation with $100 million of the same magnitude apparently made with the much smaller storm drain fee? If they're off by 100% on a $100 million bond package (or even 50 or 25 percent), we could be looking at major budget dislocations.
Second, and even more importantly - addressing your point about missed opportunities and past mistakes - it seems to me that the number one priority for our city has nothing to do with either police stations or libraries per se. Our long term future will be more secure only if we do not throw more money at city hall which will allow them to cover up the mistakes and missed opportunities you mention. That is, we need to assure that the past mistakes are not repeated before embarking on a rehabbing of our aging infrastructure .
This is why I advocate reformation of the financial management processes at city hall as a precondition to addressing the major infrastructure and other needs we have. We can't afford to undertake the major expenditures contemplated for our city as long as it's operating with the same degree if irresponsibility as it has in the past decade or two.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 12:04 pm
I agree with Chris - if there is a systemic problem, we need to address it. The question I have is "how"? New faces in City Hall? - maybe, but it isn't clear why we'll elect or hire better than what we have now. Smaller council? - maybe, but with the same city manager, will it move the need? Elected 4 year Mayor? - now we are talking interesting change, but a long and uncertain path to get there and a break in period.
But I hate the idea of just muddling through - there's a never-ending stream of things that need to be done, and with bad leadership it will be negative surprise after negative surprise.
Posted by aw, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 12:17 pm
Thoughtful comments. Nothing's guaranteed in life, but it would take an effort to not build a 49,000 sq foot building for $50M. $1000 per foot is well above local construction cost norms. Even if we assume an extra $100 per foot on extra earthquake structure and another $100 per foot on Police buildout, there's a cushion built into the number this time.
My take on the budgets and planning process is the City does a pretty good job at the nuts and bolts of budgeting. They do a decent job looking at how much their programs cost last year and building in appropriate adjustments for higher salaries, etc. They even do a decent job analyzing specific projects. They are good at finding new micro missions - like the Fire Department adding elementary school bike safety training to its reported goals.
What they are not good at is multi year planning. They don't communicate well. They have trouble shutting down programs and laying off staff. And they tend not to ask, "Would you rather teach bike safety or staff another fire station?" (or tell us why the tasks aren't fungible)
Point is, I believe we need to replace a lot of worn out stuff. I think with proper direction the current staff could even get it done. But institutionally we don't have a way to do it.
Posted by John M., a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 12:36 pm
aw, Terry, Chris,, Resident
aw said "Basic rule is you can't manage what you can't measure"
Your basic assumption is that you can measure better than policy makers and citty officials.
With due respect, I have been heaqring arguments like your for YEARS in this city. We are where we are, largely because we have listened to those who want to "measure" into infinite regress.
Now is the time for action - no more "measurement". Measurement is buiult into the forward planning of the institutions that need infrastructure.
Past Councils paid heed to those arguments (and the current one still does, to somer extent) - all to the DETRIMENT of this city.
Larry Klein did not want to poll to see whther we need a police building - he was right.
YOU are right in that we don't need management consultants, and pollsters, to tell us our infrastructure is broken.
We will see at the polls what our citizens think of repairing infrastructure - after they have had the FACTS, and have an opportunity to hear about the VISION engendered in these projects.
If you only realized how much of an endless loop you're caught in - constantly looking for the *perfect* management report; claiming you know more than people whoh have been on the job for decades; disparaging the competence of long-time, hard-working city employees. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Our City Council knows what it has to do. The new Council candidates are ALL agreed on the Public Safety Building and Library/Rec Center.
Posted by aw, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 12:50 pm
I respect your views and your frustration.
If the Council knows what it has to do, where's the list for us to discuss? Did you know before two weeks ago that we should carry a $130M reserve for Hetch Hetchy? Did you know before May that we needed a $20M water storage tank? I don't even mind if we just say there's $20M per year of unknown catchup work we have to budget for.
I _want_ the City to move forward on infrastucture. I want it to move forward comprehensively. My nightmare is we approve $100M for two projects under discussion today, and do nothing else for another generation. The way to move forward is put it all on the table. Stop worrying about what we could have done 3, 5 or 10 years ago. And go. We agree on that. Do you see a way to go that ensures we address the long list?
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 1:01 pm
Aw, I don't know that I agree with you, but I find your position thoughtful and interesting. Question - what got us where we are today? Why did the city allow infrastructure to degrade to such a point - streets, public safety, storm drains, libraries, possibly (and presumably) other areas?
I worry that if we don't change something, we may just repeat the cycle (or to your point, do a little, get tired, and stop). Or if we have bad leadership on this, we'll have bad leadership on other things as well.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 1:55 pm
Just pushing forward, as if we are in a war situation, is not smart. I am FOR improved infrastructure, but I am not going to support something stupid. Look, we have been told by our previous head librarian, that we need to consolidate libraries. No way I am going to consider voting for a library bond until we do this FIRST!
Palo Altans are still living in a dream state of "everything we want, we get". We won't begin to face reality, until we cut off the money spigot for a while, and FORCE the Council to give up on the pet projects. Taxpayer money is one of the main powers in PA politics...so is the ability to restrict money. I suggest that we exercise this restraining power, for once.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 2:25 pm
John and Terry are right. A big reason for rejecting the bond issues is to remind the council that part of their job is to make choices and to say 'no' when necessary.
As aw rightly points out, we have a LONG list of projects to consider. A while back there was a thread in which there seemed to be general agreement that the wish-lists of the school district and city projects combined might reach $1.5 billion or so. Even figures much less than this would imply many thousands of dollars per parcel in bonded indebtedness.
As the worried question from common-sense seems to imply, this won't happen politically. This is why it is essential for the city to prioritize its list of infrastructure projects - taking the most important first with the knowledge we might not be able to do all of them.
And it's why the city HAS to learn to budget more efficiently and to economize on the costs of city operation. We still have a pretty healthy revenue stream in town. If we could save only 5% of the 140 million per year that we spend on general operations, we could fund pretty much all of the library and police builds without a bond.
In doing so, the city leaders could show they're taking the necessity of responsible stewardship seriously, which would start to rebuild the trust that they've lost. Then maybe they wouldn't have all these difficult questions asked the next time they want to raise money.
Posted by aw, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 2:45 pm
A smart person taught me "don't blame on malice what you can explain with stupidity." We've deferred maintenance for a generation. In any given year it's easier to retain a program and a headcount than it is to spend the money on maintenance and infrastructure. Citizens don't show up at Council meetings in matching t-shirts demanding maintenance programs and infrastructure. Buildings don't fall down; they just get shabbier each year.
Library consolidation is a great example. What the ex library head said was with our budget we could run one library really well. Unfortunately a bunch of politics got in the way - old North / South conflicts, libraries as de facto community centers, official Comprehensive Plan walkable city goals. So we have a proposed bond to rebuild Mitchell Park and perhaps add two meeting rooms to Main. If we're planning to run libraries in the 21st century then rebuilding Mitchell is a good idea, but would be nice to say what the rest of the 20 year library plan is.
I respect the pet project problem. It creates a huge political undertow that makes worthwhile projects hard to move forward. It gives us skeptics a lot of good material to work with - almost makes it too easy. But all that said, the pet projects aren't turning the fiscal dial. Kill them all and we'll recover a few million dollars per year. We have at least a $30M per year gap for the foreseeable future between infrastructure spending and potential projects. We need new revenue or lower operating costs to bridge the gap.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 3:08 pm
Aw, you make several good points - for instance, the eye-rolling pet projects are really just a sideshows.
But looking at other towns less rich than us with better infrastructure - and I wonder why? Why do we let politics get in the way, as you put it, and other people just get the job done? Why can't get pull together and auto row? Why can't we attract retail? Why can't we get much of ANYTHING done around here? It seems like the same problem over and over. What's the root of if?
Posted by Carol Mullen, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 3:11 pm
Having City staff expand into the branch libraries, if they were closed, would doom a library bond issue, if it were known or suspected.
Certainly I became suspicious of the changes to the existing "Main library" which included meeting rooms for which there is no parking.
It would be very expensive - more so than maintaining the branches just as they are. Also, such a change it would increase the traffic on Embarcadero and Middlefield.
The plans did call for a new main library - they just called it "Mitchell" but it was much larger than the existing current library.
Staff knows what it's doing, but what it is doing damages many current residents. Those who live on ever busier streets are damaged in two ways; their property values are relatively depressed (compared to those who are spared) and they have to put up with noise, streets filled with traffic, and parking filling up the streets during the day.
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 3:15 pm
Streets were meant to carry traffic and for parking. the city needs to find ways to make traffic flow better on main artery streets, instead of following the call from "too much traffic" whiners, who insist on trying to narrow main streets (i.e. Charleston, Middlefield, Embarcadero etc).
this will reduce the amount of cut through traffic.
However if you bought a home on a major street, do not complain about traffic--you knew what you were doing.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 3:16 pm
"Library consolidation is a great example. What the ex library head said was with our budget we could run one library really well. Unfortunately a bunch of politics got in the way "
Exactly, that is what I am talking about. Until Palo Alto can get to the point where REALISTIC choices are made in an environment of shrinking revenues, why should we just continue to continue with our spoilt ways?
It is, finally, time to say no. Perhaps (and I say that advisedly), we will take the necessary cold shower of fiscal responsibility.
Posted by John M., a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 3:29 pm
Palo Alto's citizens have stated very clearly that they want a branch library system. We also know that we need a major rebuild of the public safety infrastructure. We're going to get those things funded.
As those things are getting done, we will make the case to citizens for additional needs.
Remember, we have not been funding infrastructure, and we have some catching up to do. This is a hard reality, but it must be faced.
The library is intimately wound up with PAUSD quality - so rebuffing that need will hurt PAUSD, and thus our property levels.
Not one of you has addressed the question of how much more the DELAY you're all proposing would cost taxpayers. Please answer that question, as a COST of YOUR proposal. let's see how THAT squares with fiscal responsibility - something you all claim to have a corner on, but fail to display in your arguments, as you miss one important benefit to updated infrastructure, after another.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 3:39 pm
"Palo Alto's citizens have stated very clearly that they want a branch library system"
Exactly where did they state that? Was a vote taken? If they were given a choice of one main library, top notch, or a spread out system of mediocre branch libraries, which, do you think, they would choose?
Posted by Carol Mullen, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 3:42 pm
For your information, Marvin, I live on what was supposed to be a "side street" but is now used for cut through traffic avoiding the stop signs on parallel streets, and the traffic jams on the main streets.
The savings in the consolidation of the library are imaginary. The money will be spent on converting the branch libraries for use by city staff.
In any case, why should we vote for something we don't want, because people who (presumably) get what they want later will have to pay more money for it.
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 3:48 pm
Terry is right. Generally, things are "urgent" in this town only when the establishment is trying to peddle its need for more money.
When they did the Storm Drain vote, we were treated to endless horror tales of flooding, ruin, and general chaos if we didn't pass that tax increase immediately. They had to have the money - all of it because everything on their list was urgent and essential.
Now they have their money. They've also figured out that they can't do everything that only a couple of years ago was both essential and urgent.
If it was really the projects that were essential and urgent, and not their claim on our pocketbooks, wouldn't you think they'd be having emergency sessions figuring out how they were going to get these essential projects done now that the rainy season is upon us?
We don't have any emergency meetings on this. We don't even have passing comments from our elected leaders. They've got our money now, so there's no reason to get excited any more.
Let's use this "urgency" as an vehicle for fixing a very broken civic structure - and not be scared into throwing more money into the same disfunctional spending pit as the storm drain, the last school bond and....the rest.
Posted by John M., a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 4:09 pm
A claer preference for the branch system has been shown in polling. We spent money to find that out. Let's stay with those results - independently verified - and not the imaginings and preferences of the SMALL MINORITY of residents.
Carol Mullen, You are flat out wrong about branch libraries being used exclusively for city staff. That's the kind of distorted lie that was spead when Measure D failed. It won't fly this time. In fact, almost everything you have stated about libraries in your recent post has been completely wrong, not based on fact, and opposite what most residents say their preferences are.
Certainly, our city has challenges - as do our neighbors, but we're going to tackle those challenges, and no longer delay on making iour cityies sustainable for the future.
One case in point: Sunnyvale will probably pass a $108M dollar bond for its library. That's TWICE as much (more, in fact) than Palo Alto, with multiple branches. So why are you folks howling about inefficiencies here, compared to other cities.
Sunnyvale has leadership that will make this happen. So does Los Gatos, where a new police building and library are soon to be built.
Posted by bruce, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 6:13 pm
AW Many of your points are well taken, but a few are misleading. You said, that my statement was false about "...not meeting current standards... It does meet current earthquake standards for existing Police buildings." Police buildings are declared to be "essential services" according to the current earthquake standards. These are greater than those in effect when the present City Hall was built. (The supports for the CH were strengthened a few years ago, but not sufficiently to meet the present standards for an essential service building.) So saying it meets current standards for existing Police buildings is misleading. It does not meet the new guidelines which apply to hospitals and Police buildings. I'm sure you're aware that all hospitals are now undergoing rebuilding to the new "essential" building standards.
You also say that the arguments for a new Public Safety Building are easily refuted. I assume you are referring to the conclusions and recommendations in the Task Force Report. Please refute these conclusions and recommendations - referring to the Report by page and paragraph. Making statements without supporting them is exactly what you claim the Report does.
Which Task Force members did you discuss the Report with? Are you willing to tour the present Police facility and discuss the needs point by point? Without doing that, to me your opinions are just that - opinions without facts. From many of your reasoned comments above I'm sure you would be willing to listen and learn. If you then do not believe, so be it.
Posted by John M., a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 6:57 pm
Terry, Your statements about my demeanor nothwithstanding, I find it quite surprising to - over and over again - see and hear the most haughty assumptions made about our city's policies, and its personnel, by certain "regulars" in this forum.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
More evidence ofo the above is that you claim that "a price tag was not put on the library design". In fact, there are approximate numbers attached to the buildout; this has been gone over in front of City Council a number of times.
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Palo Alto Orchards neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 7:08 pm
I think what Terry was referring to is not the price of the library buildout, but rather the price of keeping the branch system operating. His point is that branches polled well when no price was put on the cost of upgrading and operating a branch system. It might reasonably thought that if residents actually had to pay more for that system than for a central system as the previous Library Administrator recommended, the results would be different.
FWIW I agree with Terry that John M sometimes is his own worst enemy and hurts, rather than helps his cause.
Posted by John M., a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 7:56 pm
Residents want, and are willing to pay for, a branch system. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Again, what I would like all the naysayers here to answer is this: what's the cost of NOT building out infrastructure, and how do present projected costs match up against the benefits of indrastructure that is sustainable?
I have yet to see one attempt to honestly answer that question, which simply goes to show that opinions contrary to the growing awareness to build and repair certain institutions are just that, only, opinions - based on preference only, preferences that are out of step with the VAST majority of Palo Altans.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 8:19 pm
John M., I want to just contribute what I do know and voice my opinion. Sorry if I don't know the answer to your question. I do know that it is dangerous to invest when you don't trust the management skill and attention to detail of the people managing the investment.
Posted by aw, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 10:17 pm
I think we've been over this before. Hospitals must meet new seismic standards or shut down under State law. Similar standards don't apply to police - and in fact the latest Police department FAQ backpedals the claim to say the current building doesn't meet standards for new buildings. BRTF would be a persuasive document if it said "State Code xyz requires..." As far as point by point refutations - good request but you're asking me to swing at ghosts. How can I say whether the current building is a recruiting and retention problem? I can only say that no one has published statistics to verify the claim. How can I say whether evidence storage is a problem? I can only say if this is a real problem I'd love to hear the interim solution before a new facility comes on line in - best case - 2012. It's pretty irresponsible to have no backup plan or interim solution if this is a real problem.
As I keep repeating, a new Police HQ is probably a good thing. So are a lot of other things. Will you join me in supporting the full ensemble of infrastructure upgrades, or will you back out if this single project is approved?
BTW, City web site won't serve up the June 2006 BRTF anymore. Anyone have a current pointer?
Posted by Starting to doze off, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Oct 4, 2007 at 10:48 pm
When John M said "Terry, I don't know anything about 23 studies" the lights went on.
I guess John M also doesn't know that the very same arguments he is making were made on the Library Commission, like making the future happen, and the cost of not building now. And disparagement of naysayers (a naysayer is anyone who disagrees with him).
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 5, 2007 at 6:59 am
"John, the FACT is that whether we decide to pay ofr these things will be decided at the polls - they don't include those things in surveys, because they're decided at the polls."
Wrong. They refused to include cost factors because they understood that it would affect the answers if the respondents were aware of how much their choices would cost. This "poll" is a good example of manipulation of politics, Palo Alto style. The Council gives "Friends of Libraries" $35k to hire its own pollster, with the caveat that costs be included. FoL hires a polling company highly biased in its favor, which then refused to include cost factors, because the results might be different than what they wanted ahead of time. The results of the highly touted poll are then used to push the preexisting agenda.
You are right about one thing, John M., the final decision will be made at the polls.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 5, 2007 at 9:07 am
John M -
"Residents want, and are willing to pay for, a branch system." I think if you read thru this Forum, a majority of posters do not support the branch system.
As far as not including costs in a poll, of course many people would like to keep the branch system if cost was not an issue. Most people I know would like a larger house, newer car, bigger yard and better vacations too - but cost is an issue. 5 branches cost more than 3 - just like 5 cars would cost more than 3. There is not just the cost to run the branch, but also the lost opportunity to do something else with the propery.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 5, 2007 at 11:14 am
I hardly consider myself a naysayer. I want to see Palo Alto grow in a SMART way. I am enough of a realist to know that the old days of "we want, thus we get" are over. You, apparently, are still living that dead dream.
As I said, above, shut down the Dowtown library branch, put the new police station there...and I will vote for it.
Posted by Thomas J., a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Oct 5, 2007 at 3:44 pm
"I am completely FOR infrastructure investments in Palo Alto - IF they make sense, AND they are fiscally responsible. Above all, they must be SMART."
Then how is it that every time one of your objections/assumptions is shown to be incorrect, you continue to oppose infrastructure repair for another reason? There seems no end to your objections, and no end to your refusal to let corrections to your objections change your mind.
Posted by bruce, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 6, 2007 at 8:45 am
AW Why is discussing/refuting needs for a new Public Safety Building "swinging at ghosts"? I am confused. And why not visit the police facilities and see with you own eyes what the members of the Task Force saw? What they saw caused them to make the recommendations they did. You can also see why "evidence storage is a problem".
Presently evidence storage is handled as well as can be without further investment of time and money. It is marginal at best. Come see. All storage, including equipment and records, is just making do with what exits.
One of the needs is places to separate men and women, adults and children when they are brought in as witnesses or suspects. But there is no written record of how many times this occurs. In like manner there is no written record of how many times a potential recruit does not join because the facilities are substandard. There are more examples, but if you won't come by and examine these needs, all you have is rhetoric and opinions.
I will locate the earthquake code that applies to essential buildings. I had it once and supplied it in a blog, but I can't find it now.
Posted by Carly, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Oct 6, 2007 at 9:06 am
To say that the current facility has deficiencies is not the same as to say we need the project currently recommended by the Blue Ribbon Task Force. There are many ways to deal with the alleged deficiencies pointed out by bruce.
The last Blue Ribbon Task Force we had in town told us about the sad state of the Storm Drains. They recommended a big tax for "essential" repairs. The tax wasn't enough to fix what they said was "essential". Now that they've got the money, I guess they're not "essential" any more.
These "Task Forces" are nothing more than window dressing for the ever-expanding appetite in town for more money to feed the bureaucracy and special interests.
We don't need tours. WE need leadership that will tell the truth and say no when necessary.
See the end of the thread. The code you mention applies to new buildings built after 1986, but doesn't seem to require existing buildings to be replaced. Let me know if there's some case law that interprets it differently. Hospital buildings in contrast have an affirmative deadline when they need to meet seismic codes or be shut down.
Happy to tour the current facility. I completely believe it shows badly.
As far as refuting claims, I'm not in a position to say if claimed recruiting and retention problems are real. I'm not in a position to say if a gym is a priority 1 need. I'm not in a position to say if segregating Officer parking from citizen parking addresses a real problem. I'm not in a position to say if current evidence storage exposes us to liability or not. I'm not even in a position to say whether the City has a coherent emergency services continuity plan. I can only say the burden of proof is on those who say these things are true...And I can say that claiming these things without evidence gives the critics (among which I don't count myself) enough rope to hang well-intentioned plans.
Posted by bruce, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 1:04 pm
AW You are right. The code(s) cited in your web link do not require existing buildings to be replaced. But they do require that essential buildings live up to the new code(s). Not the same thing at all. If we want our emergency services to function after the big one, the present building will not guarantee that.
The needs cited in the Task Force Report are indeed claims, but they are backed up the the diligent research performed by the members of the TF. This research should provide the evidence that others look for. If not, then nothing that anyone says can change their minds.
To anonymous. Yes the presently dispatch center and police buildings are worn out.
Posted by aw, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 8:29 pm
I have spoken to some members of the TF and hope to speak with the remainder soon. Here's where I'd be comfortable (based on what I know today). If we said, "Here's a comprehensive, fully-funded and staffed, City-wide emergency services plan that has the following components ... and needs a 5000 square foot hardened communications center as a key element" I'd support it in a heartbeat even without a State mandate. I don't support much of the "as long as we're doing x, we may as well do y and z." I can think of ten resident amenities I'd fund before a Police gym or covered parking. What makes me sad is we're not discussing our overall priorities and how to pay for them.