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Services Director Richard James to retire

Original post made on Dec 17, 2007

Richard James, director of Palo Alto's Community Services Department, is back at work full-time, but only for six months. On Monday, James announced his plans to retire in June.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, December 17, 2007, 4:39 PM

Comments (27)

Posted by Five-Years-Is-Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2007 at 7:44 pm

Having city employees on the job for 29 years is too long. It becomes very easy to lose perspective about the need for change, becoming reluctant to see a need for change. This attitude most assuredly affects those beneath such a manager. Having directors with such long tenures is one of the reasons Palo Alto is so behind the times in so many departments.

Five years is enough for directors and above. Best they move on to another city/industry segment and new blood take their place more than three times a century.


Posted by Maslow, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 17, 2007 at 8:44 pm

Five-Years-Is-Enough,

Can the same apply to residents?


Posted by HBO Executive, a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2007 at 8:51 pm

Maslow, Thank you for an excellent idea!

Can I join you in helping to create an ex-residents club? We can offer the ex-residents a whine-tasting room, where they get to taste the very beginnings of a city project by giving them the first page of the project's deployment manual. Just think, they can whine to their heart's content.

The beauty of the whine-tasting room is that it would be the only room in Ex-Residentsville, because there would be a small budget set up to help the ex-residents figure out to build their ideal city. Wouldn't that be fun to watch? Talk about "Reality TV"! Wow!


Posted by Five-Years-Is-Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2007 at 8:52 pm

> Can the same apply to residents?

Not at the moment. Data shows that about 500 homes turn over a year out of about 20K properties--about every forty years on average. National stats suggest that many people move once every seven years, however.


Posted by HBO Executive, a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2007 at 9:00 pm

Five, we're looking for residents whose behavior deviates from the mean. How about a casting call?


Posted by Five-Years-Is-Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2007 at 9:29 pm

> we're looking for residents whose behavior
> deviates from the mean

You mean like people who would not fit well in Stepford?


Posted by Periwinkle, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 17, 2007 at 9:31 pm

I wish Richard James a full recovery, and a fulfilling retirement. He has been a dedicated Palo Alto employee, and has contributed much to the well-being of Palo Alto's citizens.

Thank you, Richard.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2007 at 6:27 am

Thanks Richard James for the service to the city.

With all the recently announced retirements, the council should look at potential for lowering salaries, promoting from within, and gradually making the management to worker ratio better.


Posted by HBO Executive, a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2007 at 10:04 am

Five, right! - you're __perfect__ for a leading role. you have what it takes! please! and bring your friends with you! you're star material!


Posted by Five-Years-Is-Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2007 at 10:28 am

> for the service to the city.

The problem is--who's to know what kind of service a city employee (particularly a director) provides to the city and its residents? City/State personnel policy (and law) prohibit the release of personnel files, such as yearly reviews which would provide insight into the goals/achievements of this employee.

This city does not provide particularly relevant goals/achievements of departments to the public in ways that provide enough information about how departments (and their managers) are doing. Yes, some information is provided in the narrative section of the city budget for most departments, but generally not at a level that can allow residents to fully appreciate how effective that department's director might be.

In the private sector, directors are always trying to seek ways to save money, which never seems to be the case in the public sector. The city auditor did identify some ways to use private sector labor to reduce the costs of certain grounds keeping activities. This opportunity for cost savings did not arise from this director's office, however.

Look at this department and ask: "are the deliverables of the department of lesser quality, the same quality, or higher quality" than before this director/manager took the helm? Such a question might be a little hard to answer without some thought, but such a question needs to be asked when managers/directors depart.

> promote from within

This is the wrong thing to do for director level jobs. New ideas are more likely to come from cross-pollination than from within the ranks.


Posted by Reality Check, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2007 at 11:11 am

"in the private sector, directors are always trying to seek ways to save money, which never seems to be the case in the public sector."

This indicates a gross ignorance of current - and past - municipal operations reality. Have you ever been to a budget meeting?

It also indicates an ignorance of the private sector, where it is not uncommon for director level personnel to lobby for more stuff to "manage".

You are making hasty generalizations that do not universally apply to the public OR private sector.


Posted by Five-Years-Is-Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2007 at 7:03 pm

> This indicates a gross ignorance of current - and past -
> municipal operations reality. Have you ever been to
> a budget meeting?

The Palo Alto City budget has doubled over the past ten years. The head count for the city has remained about the same. The output of the cities departments has not varied markedly.

> It also indicates an ignorance of the private sector, where
> it is not uncommon for director level personnel to lobby
> for more stuff to "manage".

While true, in the private sector directors frequently lose their jobs when they fail to perform up to the expectations of general management. In addition, companies all too frequently go out of business when directors and above fail to understand their jobs properly and produce a product that people are willing to pay for.

For instance--the Palo Alto web-site was a disaster. It's doubtful that anyone will lose their jobs over this mess. Maybe someone can point to a similar situation in the private sector--but such a situation would be the exception, not the norm.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2007 at 7:39 pm

FYIE: Thanks for your observations. I agree with you. In most for-profit organizations, managers' feet are held to the fire and they are held accountable for their decisions and for what happens in their departments.

Imagine what would happen if corporations had to pay 90% of salaries (with cost of living increases) plus full benefits to every employee who retired. Those companies would soon go out of business.

We have a huge problem in the state because of the unrealistic compensation packages that are paid to government employees. Yes, it would be nice if every employee in every job could have such benefits, but they are simply unaffordable in today's economy.


Posted by Logical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2007 at 10:31 pm

Richard James is one of only three department heads or CAO's not tainted with corruption, gross incompetence or maleficence.

OK, Town Square regulars, I challenge you on my statement. Name me more than three others.... Or tell me how Mr. James is tainted....

His retirement will be a great loss to the community.


Posted by Five-Years-Is-Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2007 at 11:07 pm

> Or tell me how Mr. James is tainted....

No one has suggested anything untoward about Mr. James. What has been suggested is that the current system does not provide information about the achievements/failures of director-level employees so that the public can fully appreciate their effectiveness in their jobs.


Posted by Typical PA, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2007 at 9:12 am

A guy works here for 29 years and aside from a couple of comments thanking him, this becomes a forum for whiners and venting.

Ugg - what an ugly town.


Posted by Five-Years-Is-Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2007 at 9:30 am


> A guy works here for 29 years and aside from
> a couple of comments thanking him

Thanking him for what? Didn't he get paid for all of those years?


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2007 at 9:51 am

No one has said anything against Richard James in these posts.

I think what people are concerned about is a general lack of accountability of city employees. The web site is the most recent example of money wasted, disastrous results, more money wasted to fix problems.

Relative to accountability, see: City to clarify response to audits
Status report: Of 93 open recommendations, only five tasks have been completed
Web Link

The article notes that '... part of the problem may lie in the classifications. Simply separating recommendations into "completed," "in process" and "not started" may not be adequate.'

Isn't that obvious? I've worked for several companies that manage by MBOs (management by objectives). If an employee says an objective is "in process," that could mean it was just started yesterday or it's 99% complete. What manager would be satisfied with a report that it's "in process"?

There are just too many questions about how our city is run.


Posted by Five-Years-Is-Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2007 at 9:59 am

The Director of Public Services makes over $160,000 a year in Palo Alto. In addition to this very high salary, pension "take home" will be over $100k a year!

Isn't that thanks enough?


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2007 at 10:06 am

"There are just too many questions about how our city is run."

And, from a consistent read of these forums, as well as local print media, there are only a relative few who appear to have the obsessive concern with "how our city is run".

At some point, the weak arguments brought forward to criticize every little government decision begins to take on a feeble and unproductive tone.

What's even more startling - in terms of the way *private sector* firms generally work (since so many are touting their private sector "experience" [I wonder]), is that the compulsive whining exhibited by some here is in itself something that would be frowned on in the private sector. Usually, whiners in the private sector are dismissed as "woulda, coulda, shoulda" types who like to Monday morning quarterback, and hear themselves talk. These are the people that compel a change in one's direction if you see them hanging out in the hall, whining about this or that. Who needs it?


Posted by Five-Years-Is-Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2007 at 10:29 am

> the compulsive whining exhibited by some here is in
> itself something that would be frowned on in the
> private sector.

When people need to "whine" in the private sector, they usually are the precursors of a "going-out-of-business" sign in front of the business in question.

Unfortunately, government operations that would ordinarily be seen as failures in the private sector just keep getting bigger and more ineffective in the public sector.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2007 at 10:38 am

you mean like the Microsoft Vista fiasco? or the General Motors fiasco? or the RJR Reynolds joke on America? or the billionaire farmers who profit from the Farm Bill fiasco? Pulleesse..get your facts straight


Posted by Five-Years-Is-Enough,, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2007 at 11:46 am

> you mean like the Microsoft Vista fiasco?

The press isn't reporting Vista as a "fiasco"--nor is Microsoft!

Web Link

For the quarter ended March 31, Microsoft's profit jumped 65 percent to $4.93 billion, or 50 cents per share, from $2.98 billion, or 29 cents per share, in same period last year, boosted by sales of Vista and Office 2007, and by upgrade coupons issued over the holidays.

Web Link

Microsoft: Vista sells nearly 40 million licenses in first 100 days

Has Microsoft de-committed Vista? My what metric do you claim that Vista is a failure (or fiasco)?


or the General Motors fiasco?

Web Link

For Release: November 7, 2007

GM Reports Third Quarter Financial Results

* Record third quarter automotive revenue of $43.1 billion
* Improved automotive operations on continued strength in emerging markets
* Ongoing challenges in U.S. mortgage market adversely impact GM income from GMAC
* $39 billion reported loss driven by $39 billion valuation allowance on deferred tax assets
* Improved liquidity position of $30 billion

DETROIT – General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM) today announced its financial results for the third quarter of 2007, marked by record global sales, further improvement in its core automotive business driven by solid financial performance in key growth markets around the world and improved liquidity.
---

Has General Motors gone out of business?

Pleeezzzeee -- get your facts straight!


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2007 at 12:01 pm

Microsoft Admits Vista Failure Web Link

There is no person in the business world that I know who would defend GM's market stance as anything but along-term failure. Here's another note about GM's"success"
Web Link

Sure, GM might come back, with TAXPAYER help. How does that square with all your private enterprise mastery talk?

Like I said, your comparisons between public and private enterprise leave a lot to be desired, to say the least



Posted by logical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2007 at 7:25 pm

Vista not a fiasco? Yeah, just like M.E. and "Bob"

Web Link

Microsoft's profits are the result of it's monopoly.

If GM made cars with as many defects as Microsoft products, the Feds would put them out of business in a heartbeat!

Please think about that the next time you have to pony up the $$$ for your anti-virus software/service.

Would you be willing to pay $$$ for a service that could only "try" to insure that your car would start in the morning?

Of course not! Every other consumer product is compelled to perform "as advertised", else face legal consequences.

Every consumer product except Microsoft products.....



Posted by Five-Years-Is-Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2007 at 9:35 am

> Microsoft Admits Vista Failure

That link is month's old! Go to Fry's and see how many XP Laptops are on sale.

Microsoft did not remove Vista from the marketplace.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 21, 2007 at 10:16 am

Five, I don't have time to do more research for you. Just go ask any IT administrator. Vista is dog meat, and most IT admins want it gone. The leading PC magazine just listed Vista as this years major tech disappointment (first, of 15 disappointments). You need to bark up another tree.


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