Bonds for libraries, 'COPs' for police building Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Feb 12, 2008 at 12:26 pm
Recognizing that a $69-million public safety bond measure is unlikely to garner the needed two-thirds voter support, the Palo Alto City Council voted 7-2 Monday night to draw on other city revenues to pay for the project even though that boosts the building's cost to $81.2 million.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, February 12, 2008, 7:15 AM
Posted by Pam, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2008 at 1:34 pm
bond fatigue is right. The city does what they think they can get away with.
When it becomes clear that they can't get the police station they want approved in the normal way - by explaining its merits and costs to the voters - they find a work-around where they don't have to get approval.
Naturally, this leaves less in the operating budget for things voters DO want. So pleading poverty (due to spending the city's treasure on nonsense only the staff and special interests want), they come pleading with the voters for more money if we want to keep programs we actually support.
They think we can get the votes for a library because more people want that than want a police station. If if it's true that most people support libraries but not police stations, wouldn't you think they'd build the library with existing funds first?
In a rational democracy that's what would happen. Not here: They shove down our throat things we don't want, and then tell us we have to pay for things we do want.
I say tell 'em no for everything until they start operating with at least a modicum of honesty.
Posted by Eric, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2008 at 2:03 pm
Yes, the City can afford a new Public Safety Building because right now they are paying the School District $4.2 Million for Cubberley. This will rise to $5 Million by the end of the lease. If we can afford Cubberley, we can afford a new Public Safety Building.
When the City and the School District did their land swap; 8 acres of Cubberley for the Terman Buildings, they somehow forgot to renegotiate the lease payments on Cubberley.
If the City can waste money like that, they can afford both a Public Safety Building and a new Library at Mitchell Park.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 8:11 am
City Council refuses to accept the fact that the residents of Palo Alto do not want an expensive new police station/public safety building under any circumstances. We do not want the Council to steal money from other public services in order to build a new police station/public safety building. It is clear that the Council is determined to build this new police station at any cost.
Why can't they simply re-organize the existing city hall and provide additional room for the police right there? It's a massive building and noone believes that they needs more room then what is already available to them at City Hall.
If council really wants a new public safety building, as opposed to a new police station/public safety building, then they only need a modest earthquake proof area for that stated purpose. I find it very hard to believe that there is not one such building anywhere in Palo Alto. Stop paying consultants to market and sell a massive new police station/public safety building to the residents and begin searching for a suitable small area for the real public safety concerns.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 9:51 am
Marvin (and Natalie Fisher) make good points. There is something creepy and undemocratic about a process which uses political maneuvering to get around the requirement for a vote on a putatively urgently-needed police station, while attempting to coerce more tax money from voters for a more politically popular library upgrade.
Palo Altan's are smart and involved civically minded people. If the people advocating more money for police station improvements can't convince voters we should spend the money on it, maybe there's something wrong with the proposal. To do an end-run around the requirement for a vote is disrespectful of us as voters - and of the process.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 11:30 am
It's interesting to me how people can make judgments without any background or information on the whole story. Is Resident an expert on police procedures and needs?
The auditor's Service Efforts & Accomplishments Report lists a Citizen Survey percent rating on police services as good or excellent at 91% for 2006-07. Yet surveys show that these same people are unwilling to spend money to support the police. It's apparent there is a large group who are anti-police yet would call on them when needed.
The same SE&A report shows total calls for service were >60,000 during the 2006-07 period - and someone wrote "why are the police needed when there is no crime in Palo Alto?"
There is not enough room in the present building to contain the things needed to operate effectively and efficiently. There are also legal and safety requirements to protect the public and its needs that regular buildings can't meet. It's cheaper to start afresh than to modify an existing site. Fortunately our Council is making decisions based upon research and facts, not opinions and emotions.
Posted by Ah Dave, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 12:22 pm
Dave, if we always deferred to the so-called experts asking for our money, we'd spend a lot indeed. I suppose when the Jiffy Lube guy says you need that "premium lube" you just say ok and pay?
I don't know the right answer here, but I certainly defend anyone's right to express a view. Knowing all the answers, or all the facts, is not a requirement.
Resident rejects the chorus of panels and leaders who say we need a new building - s/he wonders why using more of existing City Hall space is not good enough, or there isn't an existing building. I don't know the answer, but it seems like a good question. Do you know Dave?
Posted by Not so fast, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 12:33 pm
The PA City Council, as per usual, have dithered on the Public Safety Building and Library issue for years. Why?? Because they are unable to reach difficult decisions, which may upset certain people in PA. they are more concerned with their own self-image and electability, while refusing to take seriously the jobs they were elected to carry out.
While they dither, the price tag on these projects continue to go up. You can also couple the above with a continues loss of our sales tax revenue base as stores, hotels and soon car dealers escape our city for greener pastures in neighboring towns.
It does not matter who we elect to the city council--they all seem to immediately enter into this "we must not upset anyone" mindset and put off tough decisions while pursuing pipe dream projects like solving the world's climate change issues.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 12:36 pm
To follow up Dave's comment, Palo Alto is currently out of state-mandated compliance in several areas, in the current building. In other words, Palo Alto is, in essence, violating state law by continuing to operate in this shabby facility. I wonder how many Palo Altans would want their child interviewed in the present facility should - god forbid - anything untoward happen to that child, or themselves. A simple tour of the facility shows the dilapidated condition.
What is happening here is that a very small group of residents have, over years, found ways to intimidate policy makers by threatening to raise Cain among certain blocks of voters who are needed to pass the incredibly high bar of 662/3 + 1 for bonds or parcel taxes. Many of these individuals are to be found protesting improvements in almost any infrastructure bonds that come forward.
The great irony about this situation is that much of our infrastructure neglect - for storm drains, libraries, public safety, and schools, necessary housing infrastructure, retail infrastructure, etc, etc. has been encouraged by these same residents - many of them early recipients of the benefits of Prop 13. This is unfortunate, because those recipients of the early benefits of Prop 13 simply shifted the cost of responsibility for infrastructure maintenance to more recent property purchasers.
The double irony here is that we now have residents regularly shelling out $2-3M for a home, but finding - much to their dismay, that the infrastructure in our great city is crumbling, and quite at odds with the price they have paid for their homes. Yet, when many of these newer residents seek out help in the name of having money spent to bring their city up-to-date, their efforts are frozen out by a minority of voters.
Imagine, we are living in a city, in the middle of Silicon Valley, where we have to have a full out campaign just to pay for storm drains. It's absurd. The same goes for the police building. The same can be said for housing developments that have been forced to a vote - costing out city fiscal, political, and social capital - just because we have a minority here who consistently vote against every attempt to keep our city up to date.
I am delighted to see our City Council move forward with COPs for the Police Building, and begin to get creative in looking for innovative ways to raise revenue to pay for other things that need fixing.
What has happened is that our city has begun to innovate its way out of the constraints introduced in the first part of this century. A triple irony is that these innovations have come as a direct result of an adaptation to the tactics that have been put to work by a minority that works hard to keep our city from becoming whole, while at the same time finding ways to make lots of noise about the fact that things are broken down - blaming everyone but themselves.
It may seem odd to blame some diffuse "minority" for many of the problems that Palo Alto is currently facing, but anyone who has been around long enough in Palo Alto knows that this minority exists. They have, in the past, been enabled by policy makers who were riding a wave of municipal success that they thought would never end - a very human failing. Of course, it did end - so now we have to find ways to right the boat, and do what new things need to be done to overcome naysaying, and the politics of negativity.
I think we're entering a new phase of governance in Palo Alto. There are still policy making voices that appear attached to the old school, who continue to obsess about the cost of infrastructure, without considering its benefits, or the investment in municipal sustainability that good infrastructure represents. Thankfully, in the last two City Council elections, we have seen a shrinking of the old school policy-makers on the City Council. Currently, we have a great group, one that appears able to continue the focus brought by the last Council.
Say "YES!" to a new Palo Alto, a city that will find new ways to go forward, and once again meet the needs of all, satisfying the vast majority of citizens, and giving those citizens the safe, culturally rich city that they want, and deserve.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 1:03 pm
"Imagine, we are living in a city, in the middle of Silicon Valley, where we have to have a full out campaign just to pay for storm drains. It's absurd. The same goes for the police building. The same can be said for housing developments that have been forced to a vote - costing out city fiscal, political, and social capital - just because we have a minority here who consistently vote against every attempt to keep our city up to date."
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]. It is hardly "absurd" for the public to have a say in what the city spends our tax money on. What is absurd is the extent to which our policy makers will engage in subterfuge and bureaucratic machinations to avoid having to make a case to the voters that we need to spend the amount they say we do on a police station.
I really don't know whether we need to spend $81 million on a police station or not. A campaign would give those opposed and favoring the expenditure to make their respective cases. That the council would scheme to take the case out of the hands of voters probably says more about the merits of the arguments in favor of the expenditure than any campaign by "minority" opponents of the bond could say. It must be a real turkey and waste of money.
Arguments that Prop 13 and the associated super-majority provisions of Prop 13 give too much power to a "minority" don't really hold much water. Prop 13 was passed and has been subsequently ratified several times by a simple majority of California voters. If it's so unfair, he should be able to convince a majority of voters to alter it. Or is it another case of a "minority" holding back progress?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 1:22 pm
It appears that "Anna" has my name wrong. In any case, my post appears to have put a bee in her bonnet, in that it correctly describes the dynamic that has been holding up progress here.
In fact, "Anna" is one of the residents that I have been referring to. S/he is adamantly against building infrastructure, because s/he doesn't think that the city is run properly. S/he works to defeat infrastructure projects, and when the city begins to struggle with constraint because of those defeats, s/he turns around and blames city management. This is called "Catch 22", on a lose-lose scenario for the city.
It's beyond me what compels this obsessive minority - really about 75-100 people - to constantly complain about every little thing they think is wrong. It's also a shame that they take to characterizing hard-working city employees and policy makers that have been elected by the *majority* in the most unflattering terms possible.
"Anna" might do well to imagine what our city would be like without a police department, or a library, or storm drains, because given her current penchant for gleefully attacking these projects, if she was to succeed in her rather unsavory cause, she just might get a change to find out what it's like to live in that scenario. I rather feel sorry for "Anna", because she and those who agree with her have only to look up, and see the light.
Posted by Not so fast, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 2:23 pm
BTW, the article linked to in the initial post gives some insight into some of the ways our councils dithers, when trying to avoid making decisions;
From that article:
"Mayor Larry Klein recommended appointing an expert citizen's group to double-check the cost estimates and plans for the buildings,
Councilman Pat Burt said he still wants to re-visit the need for improvements to the Downtown Library and an the expansion of Main Library."
As usual the council is always ready to hire consultants, re-do surveys, revisit issues, appoint blue/green-ribbon panels, task forces ,committes, commissions and/or study groups in order to prolong having to make a decision and potential upset people or cause conflict, which will:
A) make the council feel bad because they have upset someone or some group
B) cause their decision to somehow hinder their future political careers
C) take them away from focusing on more important issues like climate change and/or who to endorse in the 2008 election
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 3:18 pm
Ah Dave I don't see what Jiffy lube has to do with spending millions. Most people have some knowledge of the needs of their car but no background on large construction projects.
Certainly people have the right to express their views, but if they are ignorant about the subject, they should put "I believe" or "I think" not "it is so". Otherwise they mislead the gullible who believe everything they read.
I have taken the trouble to ask questions of architects, reviewed the law, talked to the members of the BRTF, read its report, and toured the present police and emergency services areas. I know that the present building would cost more to upgrade to legal standards than a new building. I know the City Hall doesn't have the space to house the needed facilities. And I know that no existing building in Palo Alto could be modified at less cost than a new one.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 3:28 pm
7 out of the 9 current Council members have been in office 2 years or less. If I recall correctly, none of them ran against doing something about these infrastructure projects, and most of them actually included them as an important part of what they wanted to take on in their capacities as elected officials. All in a time frame when infrastructure ideas and escalating costs of same have been at the forefront of this discussion. The voters spoke, did they not?
So, given how things are heading, these same elected officials look into various alternative ways to finanace something they said they would work on if elected. Faced with a still compelling need, and some uncertainty that the initial funding approaches can work as originally contemplated, they are doing what a good CFO and investment banking firm do when trying to figure out how to cover certain capital projects a company deems important to its future.
These people are doing the job that they were elected to do, and it appears that the hue and cry is from a vocal but relatively small minority, or the candidates who were elected would have been different than what they are. I would be more concerned if they were just sitting on their hands and hoping against hope that bigger and bigger bond measures would happen. Instead, they are looking into other ways to address important challenges the city faces, needs that are core to running a city and that are not going to get any less important in the ensuing time frame.
Some have inveighed on this forum that services and staff should be cut in town, that there is too much waste in City Hall. Without conceding that point, it is apparent that some of the funding mechanisms being considered likely do have the implication of money currently being directed toward services and certain staff functions being adjusted/eliminated to fund a public safety building or another infrastrcutre project. Now there is a hard choice, giving up some of the things that many relish in Palo Alto because we need to put the money to other uses. How many sacred cows could be affected? How many groups will show up on Monday night with a furtive plea to just leave their program alone, but we understand that others may not make the cut.
I see efforts of leadership coming out of these Council discussions, some pro-active and alternative thinking being displayed. We face some difficult choices as a community, the silver bullets are in woefully short supply. Good for our council members for making plain how difficult these choices will be, and being willing to consider on behalf of those who elected them different ways to get an actionable outcome to these challenges.
Posted by Jenny, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 3:31 pm
For the history buffs, a new Police Building was first proposed when Durkin was Police Chief, that's three Police Chiefs ago.
Mike says: "....and begin to get creative in looking for innovative ways to raise revenue to pay for other things that need fixing". Certificate of Participation are nothing new to our City, they were used to get the Civic Center and King Plaza Built in the 1960s, and they were used more recently to up grade the City golf course.
Posted by Ah Dave, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 3:31 pm
Dave, it probably makes sense to presume everything here has "I believe" attached to it, regardless of how stated.
You did lots of research - that's great. Share what you found, use that to inform Resident (and me for that matter). That's more appropriate and useful, in my book, than criticizing others for stating their opinions and suggestions. You could still be wrong and Resident right (it happens), but at least we'll have the benefit of your information.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 3:48 pm
First, to "Ah Dave": The research that was done was by the Public Safety Blue Ribbon Commission. There are reams of public testimony, including testimony by those opposed to the Public Safety Building. The Commission did exhaustive diligence - it's all there, in the public domain. Have at it.
Next, Paul Losch said: " Now there is a hard choice, giving up some of the things that many relish in Palo Alto because we need to put the money to other uses. How many sacred cows could be affected? "
Paul, there are hard choices ahead, but those choices don't necessarily mean cutting services. There are ways being considered that might not lead to that scenario. Everyone is going to have to pitch in.
That said, along with my praise to the Council for maintaining a focus, there is still a need for more and better intra-regional cooperation on some of these issues, as well as others that are coming down the pike. We need to stay on top of the wave
Posted by Paul, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 3:52 pm
"Recognizing that a $69-million public safety bond measure is unlikely to garner the needed two-thirds voter support, the Palo Alto City Council voted 7-2 Monday night to draw on other city revenues to pay for the project even though that boosts the building's cost to $81.2 million."
So financing for the new PA Cop Shop is virtually guaranteed, while the PA libraries will have to take their chances at the polls. That's a poor statement of our town's priorities.
Or is it? How about a companion option on the ballot - to recall the city council members who voted for this?
Posted by Adam, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 3:56 pm
As usual Paul Losch adds a thoughtful voice to a discussion. I agree with his statements and conclusions. So far this is one of the best councils we've had by taking immediate action on a much needed project. Keep up the good work.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 4:18 pm
Paul, The PA Library will do fine at the polls. I predict 68%-72% voting "yes" for the bond. If by chance my prediction turns out to be wrong, there are additional options that can be undertaken by Council to finance the library. IN any case, the majority of Palo Altans is going to rule, from now on. The days when small groups of naysayers could control our city are gone, forever. We just don't have time for that nonsense any more.
One way or the other, we are going to get our city back up and running at full speed.
Posted by No Way, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 4:24 pm
That Library is bond going down. Want to read see the future if passed? Here's the Boston Globe's store on Newton, MA new high school. Approved at $120M, the price tag is now up to $186M and they are just getting started. The Mayor will be fired, the town is up in arms.
Posted by can't have it both ways, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 4:45 pm
"These people are doing the job that they were elected to do, and it appears that the hue and cry is from a vocal but relatively small minority, or the candidates who were elected would have been different than what they are. "
Is this were so, there should be no problem in going to the polls.
Palo Alto elected these candidates, there is a new bond measure underway, why not add this to the bond measure? If, as you say, people want this or they wouldn't have elected the people they have, then this should pass easily.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 4:58 pm
The reason for COPS is simple - if over 50% of people want the bond, but more than 33% do NOT, you can't pass a bond. But you can elect a city council. And they can do a COPS. It's expensive, but it thwarts the minority that can block a bond.
That's likely the case here. I'm not sure if it is good or bad - I hate the council going around the process, but they are following the rules, and as Paul said, we elected them. If there were a big hue and cry, I'd bet they would back off. But my guess is that COPS never get a big hue and cry, since they don't go out to vote.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 5:11 pm
Can't Have It--
I disagree with your assertion. A bond measure is an option, and for a variety of reasons, it may not be the best option for some of the work being contemplated. The precise point of my earlier posting is that we should not be bull headed about sticking with a bond measure as the only way to get something done/funded. Perhaps I was not clear enough in my statement, and you missed that aspect of what I was saying.
Separately, these are elected officials, we are not run by town meetings as some places in New England are. Going to the voters is not something to be done lightly, or as a default option.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 5:27 pm
'can't have it both ways' gets to the nub of the issue here. Paul Losch acts as if a public vote on a bond issue is an equivalent "alternative funding mechanism" to the COP.
This is false. The bond election is the usual way things like this are done. The COP "alternative" is - as was forthrightly discussed in Monday's council meeting - and end run around this. And the council members voting for it forthrightly admitted that they were voting for COP rather than for a bond election because they didn't think they could sell the voters on the bonds. This seems to many of us like an abuse of the process.
Mr. Losch's attempt to defend this indefensible action by the council by saying many of them included infrastructure as an element of their campaigns (or more laughably, "none of them ran against doing something about these infrastructure" - as if being afraid to broach a sensitive campaign issue is tantamount to support of it) only proves the tendentiousness of his post. It should be plain to anyone who followed the Council campaign that nobody said anything about avoiding a vote on the police bonds through the political subterfuge of COP's - and that more importantly, any candidate who had brought up this disreputable idea would have lost, rather than gained, support.
This forum has been full of discussion about whether the police bonds are necessary, are a good idea, are too expensive..etc. And the discussion in town has proceeded with the assumption that we'd have a vote on this matter - until the council short-circuited it with their action. The public deserves a the full airing of these very important issues a bond election would provide. We're now deprived of that.
Anyone who thinks this will increase trust in government, or will bring the disparate factions of the city together is self-evidently mistaken.
We've had more unilateral thwarting of participatory democracy in Washington the past 6 years than most of us can stomach. It's sad to see the same thing taking hold here.
Shame on the council for taking this undemocratic underhanded action. Shame.
Posted by Paul, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 5:38 pm
Sorry, but reading your last post makes me dizzy. I can't discern if you have a bedrock faith in a consistent 67% majority in all upcoming bond elections ("The days when small groups of naysayers could control our city are gone, forever."), or if you think we're going to just COP out of bond elections for everything.
If it's the former, we don't need COPs. If it's the latter, why must the libraries take their chances on the whim of the electorate, while the cops get COPped a sure thing?
I don't think our council shares your faith, else both measures would go merrily to the polls. Their choice shows their priorities.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 5:39 pm
"A bond measure is an option, and for a variety of reasons, it may not be the best option for some of the work being contemplated."
This is mushy doublespeak. There are not a "variety or reasons" it "may not be the best option" for [the POLICE STATION].
There is only ONE reason this political side-stepping of the process has occurred: the supporters of the Police Station don't think they can get a positive vote for them. This was forthrightly admitted by the council in the discussion on the matter as is laid out clearly in the Weekly account of the meeting.
Does anyone think that if the consultants and pollsters hired by the council had said that the Police Station Bonds would pass easily, they'd have cancelled our right to vote on it and gone to COP's? Nope. They'd be "bull-headed" about sticking with bonds.
Paul Losch is usually a stand-up straight-talking guy - agree with him or not. It's surprising to see him spouting all this gobbledygook about "alternative funding mechanisms".
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 5:49 pm
Vote them out, Anna, if you don't like the way they do their job. "Things are done" a variety of ways, bonds being a prominent example, but not the only one.
The way this matter has been heading, "done" is a word that never would have been applied to getting a new public safety building completed in this town. I have no doubt that there will be a substantial conversation for a number of months around this matter, as there has been thus far.
Here's my two cents, to respond to your questions posed--police bonds are not necessary, are too expensive, and not a good idea under the circumstances. Don't ask me to vote for such a bond.
BTW, I think the more important questions are around the needs we have for a new public safety building, how much it will cost, how we make sure we hit the budgets established for such an effort, and don't experience severe cost over runs. I hope we can now have a deeper conversation around those weighty matters, and not be distracted by which alternative way of paying for it.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 6:03 pm
Intentionally or not, Mr. Losch elides my criticism of his approach.
Losch is quite right that the way things had been heading we wouldn't have had a new police station. THAT'S BECAUSE THE SUPPORTERS OF THE STATION HAD NOT BEEN ABLE TO MAKE A CASE TO A SUFFICIENT NUMBER OF VOTERS THAT WE NEED/WANT/CAN AFFORD SUCH A FACILITY.
The honorable response would have been to rethink the argument to make it more effective - or concede that this was a political loser. Instead we get this end-run around the process. George Bush has his "signing statements" too. Both are (possibly) technically legal. Both are also disgusting.
Losch's "important questions" put the cart before the horse. We need not figure out how to budget and how to avoid cost overruns if the public doesn't approve the expenditure in the first place.
The Council - and Losch - seem to think it's ok to play games with the process as long as they get their desired ends.
By the way Losch's contention that the bonds are "too expensive" is really taking liberties even with the lax standards for accuracy on this forum. According to the council's minutes, the bond issue would have been $12 million LESS than the COP's. Not that a few million dollars matters when you've already coughed up your integrity on the fundamentals.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2008 at 6:42 pm
The rational decision is to shut down the branch libraries, build one larger main library, put the police station across the sreet at the current site of the Downtown branch library, retain the current police car parking lot in the current building...and kill two birds with one stone...and save a ton of money.
Even better would be to shut down the Opportunity Center (magnet for transients), and put the police administrative functions there.
Since Palo Alto has become a town of avoidance of realities, and we will, indeed, march down the path of alternative funding, what exactly do you propose that we cut, in order to pay for the new police station? Please, Paul, no matices, no procedural explanations, just name three major programs that you are willing to whack.
Here are three that I will offer up:
1. PACT funding. Let it pay most of its own way, like youth sports leagues do. Savings: $1M/year
2. Stop subsidzing PAUSD at Cubberly. PAUSD has gone for some very boutique choices (SI, MI, alternative schools, damagaing neighborhood schools). The 20 kids/classroom nonsense is hugely expensive. Make them go back to 28-30 kids/classroom, then demand fair payment at Cubberly. Savings: A few $M per year.
3. Insist that our Utility Dept. bid for the lowest cost energy, with long term contracts, without regard to Green nonsense. Actually, they could have it both ways, by buying nuclear contracts.
I can think of several more major savings, but those three are a start.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 7:17 am
I view the COPs funding as a positive move; I just wish they would do the same with libraries. The city should be funding for the upgrade/maintenance/replacement for many of their assets, and they haven't been. In addition, there has been spending on "pet" causes, poor financial decisions, etc. that should have been devoted to these projects.
We will now see who is responsible in budgeting the taxpayer's money, and who will not; those not being responsible will to pit the citizens against some part of the population to try to raise money in another way, like "business tax", or adding more fees and taxes onto utilty bills. This will be the next battle.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 7:53 am
"John, These are not viable choices for Palo Alto, and you know it.
Your mediocre choices would help make Palo Alto a less wonderful community. "
Mike, I have lived in Palo long enough to realize that it was pretty wonderful when we had neighborhood schools and 28-30 kids per classroom. I remember two head librarians who stated that the answer to a wonderful library in Palo Alto is to consolidate the branch libraries into one main library. I even remember shopping downtown without getting panhandled on a regular basis. I remember a utility department that actually tried to save us money by buying long-term cheap electricity (from any availalbe source). PACT could have and currently should pay its own way...that will make it stronger in the long term.
So no, Mike, my suggestions do not take away from "wonderfulness", but they do offer practical suggestions to solve vexing problems in PA. The only thing stopping them from being viable are political hardheads like yourself. You and some like you think there is some magical economic growth around the corner that will expand the pie. PA is now in an era without such growth...and it is finally time to grow up and act like adults. This is not the time to saddle more debt on the future, especially when there are straight-forward ways to pay as we go.
Posted by Bobby, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 7:58 am
Look for the Council to push for a tax increase of some sort to cover the $5 million/year the COP's will eat up. As Anna points out, this COP is film flammery to get around the requirement for a vote on the bonds. A good prediction is that the new tax will be a general obligation - and thus subject to only a majority vote rather than the 2/3.
Thus the 2/3 requirement is converted to a majority requirement by this substitution. If you support the police station build and have no scruples about this kind of evasion of the law, you may think this is a good thing. Others may disagree.
Those expecting "responsible budgeting" and economy to make up for the shortfall are sure to be disappointed.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 8:05 am
John, thanks for those good proposals. I do think we've "gone along to get along" at PA. What makes PA a special place is the people, the housing, and our world class university neighbor.
Anyone who has been to any of our libraries knows for SURE it isn't that (!!) and PACT will be PACT, regardless of whether funded by the city or privately.
Some people, and some councils, got confused somewhere along the line about what was important for a city to do. A shabby gentility has set in - we (some of us anyway) try to convince ourselves our quaintness is "quality," mis-spend time and money, and ignore the standard practices that similar cities use to create a vibrant environment. We live in the past, worship the sacred cows (or defer to those who do), and cross our fingers for the future.
Slaying the sacred cows, and focusing on filling pot-holes and saving taxpayer nickel, will breath fresh air into the place. Thanks for getting that ball rolling.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 11:50 am
Terry: "We live in the past, worship the sacred cows (or defer to those who do), and cross our fingers for the future."
Spoken like the true lover of nostalgia that you are. Your voice on this thread says it all; it's a paean to the "old" Palo Alto, where small, teeny-tiny minorities of naysayers questioned literally everything policy makers tried to do to improve the place.
There is a kind of niggling selfishness, and refusal to see larger ends in posts from "Anna", "Terry" "John", and the rest who constantly complain.
These residents are part of the destructive minority that I've mentioned, above. (btw, not all minorities are destructive, but this one is). They whine, and are relentless in their criticisms, but when the ideas are put on the table, theirs are wanting.
Paul Losch made a great point, earlier, about what our citizens want. Our citizens - most of them - want the police building and the library.
The ONLY reason we see negative naysayers acting like they have any power, is because of the nearly impossible bar put up to passing a bond. So, as I've predicted prior, naysayers cause their own demise, because they force people to be creative within the constraints that those very naysayers have created. That's an emerging irony that has the naysayer crowd hopping mad.
Palo Alto is going to fix its infrastructure, one way or another - with or without the minority naysayer vote.
Posted by Pam, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 12:35 pm
"Our citizens - most of them - want the police building and the library."
Actually, we don't know whether this is true or not because we haven't had a campaign and vote on either of these items. We have some reports by hired pollsters and consultants, but these don't tell us what an electorate would vote for when fully informed by arguments from both sides by a campaign.
Unfortunately, the Council removed the chance for us to have the education about the police station an election would have provided - which I think is Anna's point. We'll see what happens with the libraries - which the pollsters have said do have support. But that's BEFORE the public education a campaign will provide.
By the way, it's difficult for a "teeny-tiny" minority to obstruct "progress" in town. It takes at least 1/3 of the voters to stop anything under the (majority-approved) provisions of the state constitution. One-third hardly would qualify as "teeny-tiny" in most people's vocabulary.
Many people - no matter what their stand on the particular subject matter involved - find the notion that the city should be "creative" in getting around the constraints of the law to be offensive. We have rules for a reason. They protect us all. By skirting the edges of the rules, the Council has diminished itself and us all. If you're happy with this, consider that next time, the shoes might be on the other foot.
Posted by Paul, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 1:03 pm
Pam makes excellent points. The much sneered-at "minority rule" is the majority's wish and must be followed.
Instead of looking for ways to abdicate their responsibilities and attempting to end-run the law, our city "leaders" should try to actually be leaders, and make the case for these projects to the electorate.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 2:11 pm
"Palo Alto libraries are the best on the peninsular. Every other city is jealous of our branch system. " I hope this was a tongue-in-cheek comment. I can't imagine anyone being envious of our libraries. I took my father, who lives in Mtn View, to our Main Library. His comment was "THIS is your library? Its so old, run down and small".
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 3:47 pm
Many posters tacitly or actually say they don't know why a Public Safety Building is needed. The Council was convinced by the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force Report. The members of this task force did due diligence. Those who don't like what the Council did should do their own research or read the report to understand why the Council was convinced of the overriding need.
One of the strongest arguments was that the present facilities do not conform to State and County law. Mayor Klein made this point most forcefully at a recent council meeting.
Posted by get real, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 4:48 pm
Dave, You say: "Those who don't like what the Council did should do their own research or read the report to understand why the Council was convinced of the overriding need."
Your comment is the exact opposite as to what should be happening.
That's the whole point of bonds. Those that wish to blindly follow the council's recommendations will vote YES. Those with doubts will vote NO. If you want more YES votes, you need to put in some effort to educate the doubters and not expect them to do it themselves because if you don't they will vote NO.
The council simply doesn't want to do the work required to get a YES vote on the police building. Barton is saying as much when he notes the following:
"We have library folks who are going to work to convince the community that this is the right thing to do (for the libraries). I do not believe there is a constituency for the police building," Councilman John Barton said.
As far as they are concerned, it's too hard a sell to the community so they don't want the community to have a voice in it.
Posted by Eric, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 8:15 pm
I'm glad they are paying for the Public Safety Building with Certificates of Participation. Staff has found some surplus money in future budgets which will force the City to be more efficient. A little belt tightening won't hurt anyone.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 8:20 pm
It all sounds like robbing Peter to pay Paul to me.
I hope that in a few years' time that money will not be needed for something else that the City needs to implement. I am concerned about fiscally unwise decisions being made that will affect generations to come. Just look at the schools situation as a warning. Too many school sites were sold and houses built. Now we are paying for it.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 10:31 pm
get real. I'm suggesting that responsible citizens will track what the Council is acting on. The Council's function is to present projects and programs they are considering for the benefit of the community. Each Monday the Council meets, and its agenda is printed in the previous Friday's Palo Alto Weekly.
The Public Safety Building has been actively in the works for >5 years. If you had questions or needed information, you had the opportunity to attend council meetings, ask questions, send e-mails, talk to council people, make oral presentations, and generally made your voice heard.
One of the sources for information was the Blue Ribbon Task Force Report. While a few thought it lacking in some details, they followed up and asked for clarification. In college and as a senior in high school a student has to seek out resource material. They are not spoon fed information. This is the real world where a person must take an active part in activities that affect him or her.
Posted by get real, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 10:42 pm
Dave, This is the real world where people vote. If you want them to vote your way, you better sell your idea. You're being incredibly naive to think that people must take an active part before they vote.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2008 at 11:49 pm
Terry, and "get real" - - Your whine is vintage "naysayer". The people picked Council members who are delivering what they want. That's why they voted them in. You exhibit maximum hubris by thinking that your teeny-tiny opinion is going to turn the infrastructure repair boat around. Think again.
Posted by Pam, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2008 at 6:06 am
"You exhibit maximum hubris by thinking that your teeny-tiny opinion is going to turn the infrastructure repair boat around."
More balderdash. If the people opposing the bonds really were "teeny-tiny", the Council would have put them up for a vote. This was forthrightly admitted by several council members in their remarks.
There is a substantial portion of the people who are not disposed favorably toward the police station expenditure. That's precisely why the Council had to do an end-run around the bond vote with the COP's.
If you like a council that skirts the law in this way, don't be a "naysaying whiner" when the process works against you, as it certainly will.
Posted by Council Watcher, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2008 at 9:13 am
Where were all those "naysayers" the night the COPs were voted on. I was in the Council Chambers and about 10 people spoke in support of the COPs, and to go ahead and build the Public Safety Building and no one spoke directly against it. To be fair a couple of speakers had reservations about traffic congestion etc.
I'm glad our City Council voted to approve this project, that's why we elect them, to make these kind of decisions.
A previous member of Council once said that she could only vote to support something so long as residents came down to City Hall and let her know how they feel.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2008 at 9:29 am
It isn't always possible for many of us to go to council meetings (or school board meetings) on Monday evenings. We have families, commitments, lives, etc. In other words, attending council meetings tends to fall on those who have the time and the inclination. For those of us who do not have the time or the inclination to sit patiently all evening and wait endlessly, there are other ways for the public to give feedback and also give our opinions before the discussion and votes.
Council members have been voted in by the public, many of whom have voted for these candidates and many who have not. For this reason, we are trusting the council to listen to the views of their constituents. If they receive emails, voicemails, letters, quick chats in line at coffee shops, they should be able to get the feeling of their community. If they act against the feelings they are getting, then they are power hungry and not doing the job for which they were elected.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2008 at 10:12 am
And now, it seems, we can register for our library cards at home. Isn't technology wonderful! I have had my library card for years and it doesn't help me one iota to get better service at my library when I can't even get to a computer when I get there.
Posted by Carol Gilbert, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2008 at 10:34 am
What is it about "live within your means" that no level of government seems to get?!
Public entities were meant to spend UNDER what their revenues are. When that failed, the bond issue was invented. Now they could saddle future generations with paying for the big ticket items. The people know (for better or worse)how much they are willing to pay for their services. The COP is such a end-run around the process that though apparently legal, is yet unconscionable. I was happy to be able to vote some new council members in, but it's feeling like "same old, same old."
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2008 at 12:05 pm
Resident: "It isn't always possible for many of us to go to council meetings (or school board meetings) on Monday evenings"
Resident, with due respect, if you tool just 10% of the time you spend posting here, I'm sure you could find time some Monday evening to protest, or at least write a letter. Your missive is disingenuous.
Carol Gilbert:"Public entities were meant to spend UNDER what their revenues are. When that failed, the bond issue was invented."
You can say the same for the invention of general credit, which permitted you to buy your home. It's called "investment", Carol - something that those who oppose public spending don't seem to understand.
Yes, there is waste in government - just as there is in private enterprise; there's no argument about that. And, we should work to eliminate that. However, when we have near general failure of key supporting public infrastructure, and some few citizens oppose the repair of that infrastructure *without* availing themselves of the many *proven* reasons for necessary repairs, all the whining rings somehow without merit, and leaves those who support these projects even more determined to get them done. And, we will get them done.
Posted by Pam, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2008 at 12:49 pm
We have failing infrastructure because for 30 years successive City Council members have spent our bounteous revenue stream (twice as much per resident as any neighboring city) on frills and on expensive salaries and perks for city employees.
Bailing them out by giving them more money to fix the necessities they ignored during this drunken spending spree is a mistake. It will only encourage more irresponsibility in the future. In that respect, for all its dishonesty and breach of principle in the way it was implemented, the COP funding is a good thing: It removes money from the slushing general fund to spend on infrastructure rather than fill the city's coffers with more money to waste.
Naturally, it won't be long before this council will be calling for more taxes to bail them out of the $5 million/year deficit they created with these COP's. It's up to us to vote down this inevitable shakedown to force the city to live within its means.
Our city's problem is that it has too much money, not too little. WIth seemingly endless piles of cash available over the past three decades, City leaders never have had to develop the good habits of thrift adn economy that less fortunate cities have. So they spend on things like $6 million unused bicycle tunnels, neglect street maintenance necessitating premature replacement, and fail to exercise even minimum supervision of employees - leading to large scale systematic theft and graft at the Utilities Department and perhaps at the Children's Theater and who knows where else.
We can help the city recover further from its spendaholism by voting down the library bond when it comes before us. Let them use COP's for that too....and budget the very generous money still remaining in the general fund more wisely.
Posted by survey results, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2008 at 3:37 pm
The survey the city requested for the library/public safety building bond contains some interesting information. See Web Link
Section: 9. It is possible that the two bond measures I just described could appear on the same City ballot. If the $50 million dollar public safety bond and the $45 million dollar library and community center bond were on the same ballot, would you vote yes on both of them, no on both of them, or vote yes on just one of them? (IF YES ON JUST ONE OF THEM, ASK: Which one would you vote yes on?)
Yes on both measures 38%
Yes on public safety bond only 14%
Yes on library bond only 18%
No on both measures 20%
(DONâ€™T READ) Donâ€™t know 8%
You have 52% voting for the public safety bond. That small minority of naysers is fairly high at 48% at this point. It also looks like the library measure is projected to fail with only 56% support. Keep an eye out for another COP to cover that next.
This survey was for a $50m public safety building bond and only managed 52% support. The city is now proposing a $150m COP. Redo the survey with this choice and see that percentage plummet.
Someone was claiming the moral high-ground by accusing a small minority of naysayers of blocking the city. This survey indicates that it is the minority of special interest groups that is running the city.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2008 at 5:08 pm
Thanks SR for those results, which are very illuminating. And those were from a year ago when we were in full throttle economic growth; now a recession is knocking/here, home equity values are down, and btw, we'll need to fund school buildings.
I especially note that when they pitched the "pros" for the public safety building, support was flat (down slightly, actually), but when they pitched the "cons" it went down sharply. And, as you point out, these were for much lower numbers than are currently expected.
I think, maybe even hope, that our city is coming to a critical fiscal decision point - do we figure out how to live within our (ample) means, or do we keep spending like we have? Voting against the bonds seems like the best way to send a message to the Council that we need a different approach, not just more taxing and spending.
Posted by Not so fast, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2008 at 7:13 pm
Regardless about how one feels about bonds/COps for the public safety and librariy buildings, it is very clear that it is more than a small vocal minority that is against as Mike claims, ad nasuem, in his posts.
Besides the facts from the survey presented above, iti s clear that there is quite a number, maybe even a majority opposed to the bonds.
Why do I say this? i base it on the actions of the city council.
They realized that they would not get a 2/3 majority for the public safety building, so they chose to use COPS (meaning they knew that more than 1/3 of the voters opposed bonds for this issue, in other words,more than a small minority).
As for the library bond, they are opposed to having it on the june ballot because they feel the need to "sell" itto citiznes of PA (which means that they know they do not have 2/3 support now, again more than a small minority)
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2008 at 11:11 pm
"survey results", you need to read the rest of the survey - it's amusing to see you pull your "results" out of the context of the survey - try reading pages 1-5, where the survey shows majority support for both projects, depending on how the bond is structured - and *overwhelming* support for the library. As stated prior; these buildings are going to be built; I suggest you get used to that idea.
NSF, The City Council is doing what all smart political bodies do; they're managing the timing of the bond so that they can give the majority what it wants.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 16, 2008 at 12:03 am
survey: ". It states that the council needs to defer the bond until it has educated the public.""
But the Council is pragmatic enough to understand that it's very difficult to generate a 66 2/3 base of support for something that most citizens take for granted as much as the air they breathe.
That's why I'm with Larry Klein on this issue. He was against polling on the Public Safety Building from the beginning. I supported that.
Why should the policy makers of our city have to convince *voters* that we need a new building to come into compliance with the law? Voters put City Council members in office, trusting that they would take care of stuff like this. that's what they're doing.
I understand how this upsets the whiny naysayer crowd, because they just hate the fact that they can't delay this thing into oblivion. the other irony is that the naysayers are the ones directly responsible for the cost increases, because they're the ones who have forced the delay on these issues (infrastructure) over the years, Blowback!
Posted by for the police station, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 16, 2008 at 1:56 am
Mike has it all wrong on who is responsible for the cost increase. It's the city council & city manager that's responsible. The council could have decided to take the COPs approach back in 2004; instead, they delayed, trying to see if they could get support for the bond. Instead of taking the COPs route 3 - 4 years ago, they instead have spent their time on global warming, funding an environmental staff position, creating bike tunnels, passing resolutions on issues unrelated to running the city, and giving more perks to the city manager before he retired.
If the need for the police station was so urgent, they would have used the COPs alternative and the police station would have been completed by now.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 16, 2008 at 8:37 am
Please remember that the present building does not comply with State or County laws concerning safety. Larry Klein said as a City Councilperson he swore to uphold the law. The way to do that is to build a new Public Safety Building instead of the more costly approach of renovating either the present structure or any other in the city.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 16, 2008 at 10:32 am
Dave, do you know how many other city public safety buildings are out of compliance? For regs like these, sometimes they are "must do now" and others are "do it when you re-build" - which is exactly what we are trying to figure out. Presumably we have been out of compliance for a while. If others are as well, I don't view that as a knock-down reason to build new.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 16, 2008 at 12:39 pm
Terry. The penalty for breaking a law is quite different from disobeying a regulation - especially when safety is an issue.
Where do you draw the line on breaking the law? The new earthquake standards have only been in effect for the past few years. You may have noticed the hospitals began rebuilding shortly after the new standards for essential buildings went into effect.
For safety we "must do it now". Even so it a new PSB wont be completed for 3 years, and citizens will be at continue to be at risk if the "big one" hits before then.
Because someone else breaks a law does not justify breaking it yourself.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 16, 2008 at 5:17 pm
"SR, thx for your data. Illuminated this thread"
What's so illuminating about the selective culling of data to prove a point? Bill, do you turn your flashlight off when you go down in the basement?
It's a FACT that most citizens support our library and police building. If you want to generalize from a single data point in the survey, so be it. That's easily refuted on even a cursory examination of the general results.
Also, it's that small, vocal part of our community that has threatened to work against spending on infrastructure that stimulated the idea for polls and other delays, in the first place.
It's pretty disingenuous to hear from those same people, saying "why all the delay", now.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 16, 2008 at 7:56 pm
Thanks Dave. I don't see it as black and white as you do.
If anybody else knows whether other towns do or do not with these regs and what the penalties might be, that would be helpful. If the argument being made is "we must because of the regs" we should understand if that argument carries the day elsewhere. Construction and building codes can be moving targets, and we as citizens need to make a rational judgment about the cost and various methods of compliance. Let's learn from others on this.
Posted by for the police station, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 16, 2008 at 9:41 pm
mike says "It's pretty disingenuous to hear from those same people, saying "why all the delay", now."
it wasn't the naysayers who is delaying the project; it's the city council & manager who wanted to have more money to spend on lesser priority projects; they could have used the COPs method of funding a long time ago to get these projects done - especially when it would have only cost $50 million then, instead of the $80 million now.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 16, 2008 at 11:11 pm
"for the police station", Sure, some policy makers have encouraged delay by giving in to small groups on our community that demand "proof" that we need this and that. Let the whining continue. We're going to build a new police station, and we're going to repair our library station (including a rebuild of Mitchell). There's no stopping that. Time to move on.
Posted by Library fan, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 17, 2008 at 1:03 am
Mike's hostility toward residents is part of his imaginary world. There is no group opposed to the police building and there is no group opposed to the library plans. Individuals are saying what they think, but there are no groups. I guess Mike thinks by insulting people he'll win them over.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 17, 2008 at 1:37 pm
Just back...well, it's nice to see the disintegration of the anti-infrastructure crowd. All they have left is personal attack, which is what they started with in the first place. Say what you will, folks, Palo Alto is going to repair its infrastructure. Your use of this forum to create a simulated clarion call for the further retreat of our great city from excellence is not going to happen.
What you all seem to be missing is that the ;ast Library BOnd garnered 62% of our city's voters, in support. What you seem to be missing is that Palo Altans want branch libraries, and have clearly said so. What you seem to be missing is that - even without a strong poitical constituency - a majority of polled voters said they would support a bond to build the public Safety builind (not to mention a stellar commission that represented a broad range of Palo Alto constituents).
Last, what you mostly seem to be missing is that your actions in the past to hold things up have been remembered by policy makers. The jig is up. The Council has adapted to obfuscation; the Council is voting with the MAJORITY, in an effort to stop the end-arounds that have been created by lies and distortion about our city, those who work in it, and those who make policy for it.
Palo Altans don't want the shell of a city that you would leave them. They want excellence. This is a special place.
Posted by RS, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2008 at 10:54 pm
So if I understand COPs right, the city leases out a city asset to pay the revenue needed to pay the investors of the COPs. Assuming I have that right, what asset is the city giving up use of to fund the police department building?
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2008 at 10:00 am
I think the biggest problem is the way the law is written, such that minority rules. Schools have succeeded in reducing the 2/3 support threshold for their funding measures to 55%. And this threshold was surpassed by the 57% support for a new public safety facility and 62% support for library improvements, as demonstrated in the latest randomized survey of Palo Alto voters. Yet these support levels still fall short of the 2/3 required by current state law for city facility bonds.
This is why a while back I suggested that the same funding solution should be applied to both the new public safety facility and library facility improvements. Hopefully, private-sector philanthropy will help to reduce the total public outlay.
Posted by Jenny, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2008 at 12:23 pm
RS and Karen White: Staff have identified approximately $8 Million in new revenue sources to finance the Certificates of Participation.
They are: tax revenue from the proposed enlargement of the Stanford Shopping Center and hotel, revenue from an agreement with Foothill to lease the City owned section of Cubberley, rental from the current Police building, City's reserve fund, operating expense reductions, and possibly a business tax and/or an emergency 911 tax. There are others which you may be able to find in the City's website!
If the library bond measure fails in November, any additional revenues may partially cover these projects also.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2008 at 4:58 pm
"They are: tax revenue from the proposed enlargement of the Stanford Shopping Center and hotel, revenue from an agreement with Foothill to lease the City owned section of Cubberley, rental from the current Police building, City's reserve fund, operating expense reductions, and possibly a business tax and/or an emergency 911 tax. There are others which you may be able to find in the City's website!"
If wishes were fishes, nobody would go hungry. However, wishes are lacking in calories.
Posted by Nonesuch, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2008 at 5:50 pm
If the City uses COPs simply to circumvent a vote by the public -- by the residents of Palo Alto -- I urge caution.
Use of COPs in the face of strong opposition is unwise, I believe.
In particular, I'm somewhat surprised no one in the forum postings above has mentioned the case of Brevard County, Florida. As some may remember, Brevard County used COPs in the early 1990s to fund a new 'government center'. Earlier, County residents made known their displeasure; however, despite the wishes of the electorate majority, County commissioners proceeded with COP issuance.
A 15 March 1993 article in the NY Times stated in part:
"Voters have ousted all but one of the county commissioners that approved the issue, in part because of campaigns accusing the local government of using clever financial footwork with Wall Street's support to circumvent the will of the people."
Posted by Council Watcher, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2008 at 7:02 pm
Nonesuch: "Where were all those "naysayers" the night the COPs were voted on. I was in the Council Chambers and about 10 people spoke in support of the COPs, and to go ahead and build the Public Safety Building and no one spoke directly against it. To be fair a couple of speakers had reservations about traffic congestion etc".
If the "naysayers" can't even show up and speak out at a Council Meeting, they are not going to be organized enough to recall members of our City Council.
Posted by news, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2008 at 1:48 am
Quite frankly, I'd rather our city government decide to go ahead with the police building and find a way to finance it other than imposing more bonds on us (i.e. more taxes). If only they would do the same thing with the libraries, now I'd be very happy.
Something has to give. Unfortunately, we can't pay for everything. The police being would not be the highest thing on my priority list, and I suspect that unions have a lot of influence in this town, which would partly explain this decision. However... We elected them to make tough decisions on how the city's money would be spent. For once they are doing it. We should congratulate them rather than yet again criticize them.
Posted by news, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2008 at 1:50 am
Quite frankly, I prefer for our city government to decide to go ahead with the police building and find a way to finance it other than imposing more bonds on us (i.e. more taxes) through another vote. If only they would do the same thing with the libraries, now I'd be very happy.
Something has to give. Unfortunately, we can't pay for everything. The police building would not be the highest thing on my priority list, and I suspect that unions have a lot of influence in this town, which would partly explain this decision. However... We elected them to make tough decisions on how the city's money is spent. For once they are doing it. We should congratulate them rather than yet again criticize them.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2008 at 9:15 am
Terry. I don't know of any public safety buildings in Palo Alto except the present emergency dispatch center and police section of City Hall and the fire stations. Some of the latter have been worked on in the last few years.
So on the basis of need there is only one building in Palo Alto that is non-compliant with the law. And I see you are still confusing a regulation with a law. This law for essential buildings has caused hospitals, such as El Camino Hospital, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to become compliant.
Posted by Nonesuch, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2008 at 8:25 pm
"Quite frankly, I prefer for our city government to decide to go ahead with the police building and find a way to finance it other than imposing more bonds on us (i.e. more taxes) through another vote. If only they would do the same thing with the libraries, now I'd be very happy."
The Vallejo Approach!
Fiscal prudence is wise; perhaps Palo Alto, however, wishes to follow in footsteps of the City of Vallejo?
COPs are a financial instrument quite similar -- but, of course, not identical -- to bonds; but the bottom (financial) line is nearly the same: the City must have the revenues to pay principal and interest.
Why not ask the City to 'pare back', reducing the cost of the building?; why $81 million?; why not reduce the scope to, say, $30 to $35 million?
Posted by My Two Cents, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2008 at 11:03 pm
The City Council stated that one of its top priorities this year is "civic engagement", and then in a quick turnaround it considers using COPs so it can avoid discussing an important issue with the electorate? Wow! Although I actually DO favor building the new public safety building, I confess that this whole COPs business strikes me as end-run also.
I no longer have election materials in my house so I cannot verify that my memory is correct... but I thought at least one of the newly-elected Council Members claimed as part of his platform that he was going to educate the citizenry about the need for a new public safety building. It's a shame that idea has been dropped because, if the sentiments in my household are any indicator, one important reason behind bond failure has been that the information voters receive simply doesn't demonstrate that our leaders have been thorough and careful enough in the planning processes that yield the proposals that are submitted to us. This impression may be entirely mistaken, of course. But how nice it would be to have visibility into some of the discussion and decision making that led to the proposals before they are put before the voters. That type of information could help us feel confident that all reasonable options really had been investigated. And it would help us understand why our proposed buildings seem to cost two or three times what was spent elsewhere. (There may be a good reason.) The thing is, we simply don't know and often it isn't easy to find out.
Don't get me wrong. I believe it is unfair to hold our current council members responsible for the unfortunate history this community has experienced regarding failed ballot measures of the past. But I do think it's fair that our current Council members should understand and respect how much P.R. work they need to do if they are to turn around the public's lack of confidence and get everyone marching to the same beat. The fact that they are resorting to COPs rather than holding the necessary discussions only digs their hole deeper... at least in my eyes.
Posted by Anon, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2008 at 11:03 pm
Nonesuch makes an excellent point. Let us kill two birds with one stone.
Let's eliminate 10% of the city staff positions (PA has roughly twice the number of employees per capita than does Mountain View). We can do this through not re-hiring new staff as staff retire, so we don't have to lay anyone off etc. Since PA has, last I checked, almost 1200 employees, this frees up the space of 120 staff.
At the same time, let's reduce the new building cost substantially, say 50%. 20% of that comes from reduced staff to maintain space for. The rest from simple fiscal responsibility. Make a true public RFP and let the bidding commence from firms, rather than cherry picking firms to work with and slogging through the Palo Alto process.
With the 120 staff headcount reduction, the city will save roughly $12 million per year. This should easily cover a resonably priced new public safety building, as well as the entire cost of the outrageously priced library proposal. If both proposals costs' can be kept in check, we might even just have money left over to, gosh, save up for infrastructure.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 21, 2008 at 12:00 am
Anon: "With the 120 staff headcount reduction, the city will save roughly $12 million per year. This should easily cover a resonably priced new public safety building, as well as the entire cost of the outrageously priced library proposal. If both proposals costs' can be kept in check, we might even just have money left over to, gosh, save up for infrastructure."
When was the last time you spent any time within city hall operations - long enough to give you an accurate view (instead of just guessing) about the real workload of staff, and just how thin staff is stretched in every municipal department in our city?
On the one hand, you are praising Nonsuch for asking for more information, but on the other hand, you are making assumptions about city operations that are completely uninformed.
btw, it just so happens that there was a VERY public Public Safety Blue Ribbon Commission assigned to do diligence on Public Safety infrastructure. That commission invited any and all members of the public to input ideas. In addition, many hours have been spent by staff and City Council analyzing and laboring over optimal scenarios, with constraints in mind.
I mention this because it seems that every time one or two citizens - especially in these forums - says "gee, I didn't know about this", it's very often the case that an a very PUBLIC process had already been put in motion - including advertising, reporting in the papers, discussed at public meetings, etc. etc. the city cannot be blamed if citizens won't make themselves aware of what's going on, what the issues are, and what facts have been discovered from intensive diligence.