Heat closes three Palo Alto libraries early Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Jul 8, 2008 at 5:38 pm
Three Palo Alto library branches closed early today (Tuesday) due to excessive heat and no air conditioning: Mitchell Park closed at 2:45 p.m., College Terrace closed at 3:30 p.m. and Main closed at 4:30 p.m.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, July 8, 2008, 5:13 PM
Posted by Wish I lived near Gunn pool, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 7:54 pm
SPA-Needs-A-Public-Pool!, funny, I was just lamenting how, although I livea short walk to Rinconada pool, I have to sign my kids up for swim lessons at Gunn because it offers more times and more convenient times. It just goes to show that you can't please all the people all the time.
Posted by Janine, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 7:54 pm
If "North PA" is defined by Oregon/Page Mill, there are more pools avaliable in the South, than the North: YMCA, Greenmeadow, Gunn, Eichler, University, Foothill. The North has Rinconada, Paly, SCRAW. Most of the club pools allow the general public to pay a fee to use their facilities.
When I lived in the South, I was much closer to Rinconada that I am now in the North.
May I suggest that you are whining, because you like to whine?
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 8:48 pm
I have to wonder if these closed libraries are a ploy to fund new libraries. Has anyone done a HVAC study on what it would take to replace the existing heating systems with a combination heating/cooling system? I'm guessing it's a very small fraction of the Library Bond measure.
Posted by Mom w/kids, a member of the Duveneck School community, on Jul 9, 2008 at 3:06 am
I had heard that the Mountain View library was "better" than Palo Alto's but have yet to visit. Here's some info for others.
Located at 585 Franklin St: 101 S to Shoreline; left on Mercy St; right on Franklin.
Library cards are free to all California residents. To obtain a Library card, current photo identification with current address is required. If the photo ID does not have a current address, a second piece of identification with current address is required.
Library card applications are available online and at the Library. Registration is completed at the Circulation Desk or on the Mobile Library.
Library cards are issued only upon verification of current address.
Posted by Walter E. Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 5:29 am
I will contribute my engineering services to design an air conditioning system for Mitchel Park library if the council will take the half million they were going to use to house the new manager and instead use it to air condition Mitchel.
Posted by Neighbor, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 6:56 am
SPA The swimming pool at Cubberley was filled in and paved over because a young man dove in in the middle of the night, broke his neck and was killed.
The Cubberley pool, at that time, still belonged to the School District whose insurance company had to pay out Millions of Dollars in restitution to his family.
Anyway, the insurance liability costs imposed by insurance companies are so hugely expensive nearly all public pools are now closed. Even the wading pool for little kids in Mitchell park was filled in. In fact there are many times when Rinconada is closed because they don't have a certified life guard available.
Posted by Ugg, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 7:04 am
Expect the pro-library bond folks to make a big deal out of closing the libraries because they don't have air-conditioning. They won't do anything as simple as installing air-conditioning because they want you to pay for an expensive bond measure to re-build the libraries and Community Center.
Posted by Eichler Member, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 9:12 am
The Eichler pool is a nice place to go in hot weather, but it does have its drawbacks.
It is not open to the public, but you can go in with a member as a guest if you know one. We have 35 family guest passes per year.
During swim team season (spring and early summer) most afternoons it is packed with swim team members and most of the pool is out of bounds for others. If you are not a swim team member you feel like an intruder in a private club within a private club.
The wait list for membership is about 3 years.
On the plus side, for three days this week due to the heat they have extended their hours so you can swim til 9.00 pm but the locker rooms close for cleaning at 8.30 so I suppose you have to go home in your swimsuit and shower there, but that is no big deal in this hot weather.
If Rinconada has difficulty getting lifeguards, I doubt if the City can open another pool for staffing reasons.
Posted by Jon, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 9:14 am
It is sad to hear public pools are a casualty of a litigious society and poor judgments of those in society.
Re: who needs 'em?,
I need the library! The people who go to the library need it. (sorry, you seem to be caught in your own perspective. The library is a great resource for many people, and if you aren't one of them, it is your loss. And the tweedy-bird dialect is hillarious, now if only Big Al could lighten up =P
Posted by paid day off whoo hoo!, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 1:39 pm
^^ The heat is terrible at Mitchell Park. Before Simpson implemented those policies regarding closures we had employees go home due to dizziness caused by heat. If someone passed out while working the city would've faced serious litigation and review by OSHA.
Also keep in mind the temp inside the library is much higher than outside since half the windows at Mitchell don't open and we have lots of computers and lights running.
The taxpayers will pay for the early closures. All employees in the closed-down libraries will receive a paid day off without counting towards sick leave. Thanks to everyone for paying me to sit at home today! I really do hope this heat wave continues.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 2:05 pm
This is not for publicity and its great the public is finally aware of the recurring problems of AC/ventillation in the libraries. Several times over the past two School years, mitchell park has closed early due to heat (can only comment on what I observed as I used Mitchell about twice a week over the past two school years)
I was surprised this was never a public issue, since it involves the safety of many kids who expect to be in the library after school.I have been repeatedly surprised the Mitchell Park library does not post a Large Permanent sign (and phone message) about impending closures during high temps.. Many closures were not in the summer, but during school when many middle school kids from JLS use the libary for after school. Just a few months ago many kids were hanging out in the parking lot due to the very early closure of Mitchell PArk , already closed by 3:00 school dismissal.
Posted by some guy, a resident of another community, on Jul 9, 2008 at 2:12 pm
"The taxpayers will pay for the early closures. All employees in the closed-down libraries will receive a paid day off without counting towards sick leave. Thanks to everyone for paying me to sit at home today! I really do hope this heat wave continues."
This is complete and total garbage. You obviously don't work for the library. Pretty disgusting of you to claim otherwise. Employees must burn their acummulated vacation or work at another library.
Posted by PUBLIC not PRIVATE, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 4:46 pm
These aren't babies. They're teens and preteens. This age group has just as much right to use the libraries as adults. Since when did the PUBLIC library system become age restrictive?
Why is it also the city's responsibility to provide free DVDs, fee books, free magazines, and free wifi and computer access? People should all pay for these things or buy them based on your posts. Sheesh
Posted by Parent without handles, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 5:49 pm
There is obviously some problems concerning The Drop at Mitchell Park and the library. Both of these buildings are used by students after school. The library is used, but there is no difference between students and anyone else. The Drop is also used by students who have to sign in and The Drop is monitored (at City expense) by staff and students are expected to maintain behavior standards. There is also a homework room there as well as recreational facilities.
The Drop is a place for students to hangout. There are many latchkey kids who hang out there who may or may not do mischief if they hadn't got somewhere to go. It could be called babysitting, but it is reliably monitored. If the library is closed for any reason, The Drop will be open unless it has a scheduled closure.
It is mainly JLS students who use The Drop and it probably keeps the numbers of kids in the library down as otherwise they might hangout in there. Jordan and Terman students would be welcome, but it is further away from their schools and unless they are happy to use shuttles or bikes to get there, probably don't.
Posted by ignorance is bliss, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 8:46 pm
"Oh .. and since when is it the obligation of the taxpayers to provide baby sitting services?"
Good point. We should put it this way too:
Since when is it the obligation of the taxpayers to provide _______ service?
Fill in with:
Free books and media
Free children's story time
Free internet use
Free research assistance
Free reference materials
People should pay for all of these things themselves! It's an outrage why I should pay for all of this with my hard-earned money. Let's get rid of all of this or charge people for these things from now on!
If you don't want to pay for these things the answer is clear and simple... it's called tax evasion. Give it a try Dean!
Posted by ignorance is bliss, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 8:49 pm
I forgot to mention,
We should have all those kids in the park outta there! It's much better to have them running around construction sites playing with real life tonka toys and knocking over metal beams and porta-potties.
Posted by Ralph Larson, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 8:59 pm
I've lived in Palo Alto for 30 years. I don't recall the libraries being closed for heat reason during that time, though we've had plenty of days hotter than this week during that time. Anybody have evidence to the contrary?
If there have been library closures for heat previously, it certainly hasn't been a big deal - like the pro library bond folks are trying to make this heat wave.
I'm guessing that the bond supporters and their enablers at city hall are colluding to create a campaign issue. But from the comments here, it isn't working too well. We certainly don't need $60 million plus to air condition a few buildings.
As our poorer neighbors in Mt. View show, it's possible to have nice infrastructure accouterments - including libraries without big bond burdens. But it's not possible to have hundreds of well paid, high pensioned employees at the same time - like we do.
Posted by unbearable hot, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 9:43 pm
Libraries closed last year and the year before due to excessive heat. It was a policy adopted by Library Director Simpson many years ago. It was put into place well before this year's bond measure.
An employee said that such hot conditions could harm library visitors or the employees. If a person/employee would to pass out while in the library he or she could sue the city and OSHA would perform a safety audit. The employee said it's the city's obligation to provide "a safe environment that does not endanger anyone's health". If the library or any other building can't meet that obligation is must close temporarily until conditions improve.
Posted by a katrina-like response, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 11:12 pm
I hardly believe that the library closures have to do with PR campaigning. Closing Mitchell on a hot day would justify such claims, but don't forget that College Terrace closed due to heat as well. Having College Terrace close down would justify renovations to its infrastructure, something Paula Simpson was against as illustrated by her desire to shut down that branch.
It's also Simpson's job to oversee library operations NOT handle the upkeep of buildings or branches. Maintenance is handled by the City of Palo Alto and the Public Works department, a dept. Simpson has no control over. The work orders for fixing the windows at Mitchell have been emailed to public works over twelve times this year alone! We're still waiting for them to be fixed. You can blame public works for all the needed repairs.
Posted by No longer a simple patch-up job, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 11:34 pm
You can't put a band-aid on a broken leg.
The Mitchell Park branch was built in 1958. That was half a century ago. Do you really expect something as old as that to be in pristine condition without problems? I think the branch was falling apart and worn down before Simpson even became director.
The Eichler homes in S. Palo Alto were built around the same time as Mitchell and have undergone extensive upgrades and renovations. Without repairs and upgrades I wouldn't expect anyone to live in them. Like all buildings time will cause decay and eventually major repairs are needed. Small cover-up jobs will do nothing in the long run.
Posted by Diane Jennings, Library Director, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2008 at 11:35 pm
Sorry to all the bloggers who'd prefer to view these closures as a ploy to win votes on a bond, but the simple fact is that we established this policy a number of years ago when a bond measure was not in the forecast. We had a need to update and strengthen our safety and emergency procedures, and this policy was one result of that process.
Ensuring the safety of staff and people who use our libraries is paramount, and I wouldn't be doing my job if I ignored that. Bond or no bond, we'll continue to close a library when the conditions warrant it.
Without going into all the details, it's actually quite a bit of work to close early. It's incovenient both for our residents as well as to staff who have to relocate to an open branch or use leave time to complete a shift.
Knowing that it is a problem when both Mitchell Park and Main libraries close early and no branch is open past 6 p.m., a couple of our managers recommended a new practice that we'll be putting into place. Under these conditions, we'll extend the hours at our air-conditioned Downtown Library until 9 p.m. It's not a perfect solution, but we hope it will provide an alternative for some.
Posted by Davy, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jul 10, 2008 at 6:35 am
Diane Jennings tells a good story. Is there any data about the number of closures in previous summers? A "policy" that closes libraries "when conditions warrant it" is one subject to easy manipulation by policy makers. One mandating closure when the temperature reaches (say) 90 degrees is not.
If our policy is the former, as Diane Jennings says it is, it would be interesting to measure the actual closures this year against actual closures in previous years and correlate that data with historical temperatures, which data are readily available.
I've not been a resident as long as Ralph, above, but i don't recall closures being a big deal in other years either.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 10, 2008 at 8:51 am
It would be easy for Diane Jennings to refute (or confirm) the suspicions of some here with data. All she need do would be to provide the dates of library closings over the past 3 or 4 years. Either the the closings are related to the heat all the time, or they're related to the heat only in bond election years.
Either way, she'd be providing a service to the voters by giving a fuller picture of the heat problems at the libraries...and by giving the voters an idea of the extent of staff involvement in trying to sway the election results.
Posted by Paly Alum, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jul 10, 2008 at 9:00 am
I grew up here and I don't recall it being in the 90s here. I dislike heat and we lived with no AC. It sounds like it may be a political move to close the libraries, yet why not? Libraries should have AC. Also, perhaps it is a liability to the city if someone dies of heat exhaustion inside the library.
Posted by Davy, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jul 10, 2008 at 9:06 am
Fred is right. Let's see the data. If Diane Jennings, or other city officials can't (or won't) provide the dates of previous library closings, it will be fair for us to draw the inference that this current spate of closings is a political stunt.
Posted by George, a resident of the Palo Alto Orchards neighborhood, on Jul 10, 2008 at 12:13 pm
"perhaps it is a liability to the city if someone dies of heat exhaustion inside the library."
Finally, some common sense.
Fred and Davy sound like the same character, kind of cartoonish. if these are the kind of people opposing the bond, we who favor the bond are in for an easy time of it. It's being kind to say that anyone who thinks any worker should work in 90º heat, and expose elders and the inform to the same, is a few watts short of a burned out bulb.
Posted by Davy, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jul 10, 2008 at 12:34 pm
George, (ignoring your childish insults), you miss the point. I have no idea whether closing the library in the heat is a good idea or not. And so, I don't fault Diane Jennings for closing the library in the heat - as long as it's been consistent over the years.
If she's closing the library when the temperature is 90 degrees this summer - in the midst of a bond election - then it would be comforting to see that she's followed the same policy in other years - when there's not an election.
No word from Ms. Jennings yet. We'll see if she responds....or blows off the question with some excuse.
Posted by Raffe, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 10, 2008 at 1:31 pm
"It's being kind to say that anyone who thinks any worker should work in 90º heat... is a few watts short of a burned out bulb."
This person is so out of touch with the real world that it's difficult to understand how he/she managed to make it this far in life.
Millions of people do difficult manual work in temperatures over 90 degrees every single day. Many of these people work in --- would you believe it?---Palo Alto California. Park maintenance, Utility work, street repair...etc., etc., don't stop when the mercury reaches 90.
My, my but we live in a really insular, spoiled town.
Posted by Forty Year Resident, a resident of another community, on Jul 10, 2008 at 1:44 pm
Here is an earlier post from two years ago about the Mitchell Park branch library closing due to excessive heat:
"Mitchell Park Library
Palo Alto Schools & Kids, posted by AnnoyedParent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2006 at 8:25 am
On Monday (7/24) I went with my children to the Mitchell Park Library around 5:00pm ... to find it closed with a sign "Due to extreme heat in the building we are closing" .. ok, yes, it was hot on that day. The children were disappointed - it was their library day, but oh well - what can one do.
So, we headed to the library on Tuesday - around 4:00pm ... only to find the library closed with the same note about the building being too hot! Now - this was annoying not only to my family, but to the three other families who had come there with their children.
I respect the fact that the library staff is concerned about the health hazard due to heat - but can't the city put in an air-conditioning unit?? I am not saying get the state of the art fancy units - central air the whole building - but can't the city put in the little window type units sporadically through out the building to keep the temperature at a tolerable level?
Who is responsible for this type of work? Agreed Palo Alto was never so hot in the past, Palo Alto gets a few of these hot days during the summer - but for those who have noticed, the number of hot days is on a rise and the city needs to do something!"
Paul Simpson retired as Library Director that same month of July 2006.
I could not find an earlier mention in the Palo Alto Weekly of any branch library closing due to excessive heat.
Posted by Davy, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jul 10, 2008 at 2:03 pm
Good research, Forty year.
According to weather underground, the high temperature on July 24, 2006 was 86. On July 25, 2006, the high was 95.
Interesting that there are no mentions of heat-related closures since Paula Simpson left until the most recent ones discussed in this forum - after the campaign for the bond issue had begun.
Perhaps there are closures not mentioned in the Weekly that Diane Jennings can document for us so we can understand this issue more fully.
I'd like to believe that the staff isn't gaming the election, and I'm sure that most residents feel the same way no matter what side of the issue they're on. Ms Jennings protestations are interesting, but she'd be more persuasive with actual data on closings.
Posted by fireman, a resident of another community, on Jul 10, 2008 at 3:08 pm
Nice City you got. We are so special in Palo Alto better then the rest. So much more money and education? Just can't afford an AC unit? Oops lets go to Mt View. They have AC? CPA just wishes they had it. Oh no everything is fine here.
Posted by Paly Alum, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jul 10, 2008 at 4:53 pm
We have to apologize for so? so what? There are angry people who read the Forum as their passive-aggressive way of socializing. They can blow off steam anonymously. I see your comment as the compliment it was intended to be. Palo Altans DO have a lot of opinions, which is a whole lot better than when I lived in MN where there were NO opinions and people rarely talked. I grew up in PA and have to say that sometimes they do have too much to say here.
Posted by Is it?, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 10, 2008 at 10:47 pm
I am not really that suspicious - the library director seems like a straight shooter. But if the policy really does date from 2007, the bond was certainly under consideration then. Heck, ever since the last bond was voted down in 2002, everyone has anticipated another bond and thinking about how to get it passed.
Posted by Pele, a resident of the Greater Miranda neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2008 at 6:29 am
We had non-airconditioned libraries for decades without controversy until the bond started being discussed. Then suddenly, when it became imperative for some in City Hall to convince us we needed to vote for a bond, they became too hot to work in during the summer.
Posted by ResidentOfPaloAltofor21Years, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2008 at 10:24 am
People here are truly genius. As I understand it, Library policy for the last 5 years has been that the libraries close when their internal temperatures in set places out in the main public area hits 90F. Notice that that's 90F in the public area. The offices in the back where many of the staff work can reach higher temperatures before that occurs. That makes for miserable working conditions. And if you want a list of closure occurrences, why don't you email Diane Jennings and ask for one?
The Main and Mitchell Park libraries are old buildings. They don't have insulation. (Which means putting in just an AC unit won't work) They haven't been remodeled in over 50 years (I'm talking about true remodeling, and not expansions). One would think that my fellow citizens of Palo Alto might be embarrassed to have a library system rated as having the highest circulation and yet the poorest quality facilities in Northern California.
Posted by Dulce, a resident of the Greater Miranda neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2008 at 10:53 am
"As I understand it, Library policy for the last 5 years has been that the libraries close when their internal temperatures...."
Coincidentally, the campaign for the (first failed) bond issue started also about 5 years ago.
Call me suspicious too. Why the sudden controversy about air conditioning when we had the same buildings, with the same insulation for 50 years without issue, and without worry that they were endangering employees' and citizens' health?
Maybe we need new libraries, but lack of air conditioning seems like a thin reed to build an argument for them on.
Posted by ResidentOfPaloAltofor21Years, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2008 at 11:41 am
So you're saying you'd rather have library patrons or employees get heat stroke then have the libraries close early? *nod* Of course! We should keep the library open and just wait for someone to get hospitalized--or worse. Then they can sue the city for keeping city facilities operating under unsafe conditions, forcing the city to increase taxes or cut public works projects in order to renovate.
Yes, 5 years a bond measure failed. It's clearly just voter manipulation that they realized high-temperature facilities are unsafe and so therefore change policy to minimize health risks and then placed a bond measure on the ballot to fix said unsafe conditions. How dare the library staff ask for safe working conditions, expansion of space for the ever-growing library collection, modernized facilities (including better bathrooms), and insulated buildings! Clearly, it's all a plot to pass a bond measure.
And for goodness' sake, the bond measure is not primarily based on the need for air conditioning! Go to any other library system in the bay area, and look at the difference between the quality of their facilities, and Palo Alto's libraries. It's mortifying how bad the PACL facilities are.
Posted by I love libraries, a resident of Mountain View, on Jul 11, 2008 at 11:56 am
My opinion: Our libraries are so important to so many people, of all ages, that they should get the best of everything. And air conditioning in hot weather should not even be an issue. Just spend what it takes, for heaven's sake, to keep employees and visitors reasonably comfortable and don't be a cheapskate about it! New libraries? Absolutely! If rebuilding rather than renovation is mandated, by all means, let's do it.
Libraries are treasure-troves of education and entertainment; they are astoundingly cost-effective, and to me, they are a sacred --- yes sacred --- part of our community. We owe one another (and one another's children and elderly parents too) a safe and serene library environment. Why is that so hard to understand? Like many others, I spent a major part of my childhood, including long summer days, reading in the library. What a joy! How can one put a monetary value on the limitless education and delight of browsing the shelves and reading whatever I wanted to --- for free? I am an educated and successful person today in large part thanks to the public library system. And I can't think of a better way to spend the taxes I pay (along with public safety resources) than on our libraries. They should get the cream off the top of our budget.
Posted by Not so hot, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2008 at 3:20 pm
Thanks Bill, very interesting.
>The Main and Mitchell Park libraries are old buildings. They don't have insulation. (Which means putting in just an AC unit won't work) <
Why don't they have insulation? they have been re-roofed. Are you sure or are you guessing?
Since when is a 50 year old building old? Of course buildings need maintenance and upgrading but someone created the idea that 50 years is time to trash a building. Was it someone who makes money building new ones? What mindless baby boomer started that nonsense?
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2008 at 4:07 pm
" Our libraries are so important to so many people, of all ages, that they should get the best of everything. ... Just spend what it takes, for heaven's sake..."
It is this "spend whatever it takes attitude" that has city state and federal governments in so much financial trouble right now, and is the objection of many in town who are worried about the bond.
We've spent "whatever it takes" on crazy union contracts and pensions, on goofy unneeded bicycle tunnels, on endless consultants and pollsters and on all sorts of non-essential silliness over the years.
As a result of this "spending whatever it takes", we find ourselves in the position of being asked to vote more taxes on ourselves to fund libraries - something Mt. View - which has more of a "spend only what is necessary" attitude - did WITHOUT a bond or new taxes.
And there is a lot of worry that we're giving in to the "give libraries the best of everything" crowd when we could have very adequate libraries much more economically. (Thus you see lots of suggestions for economizing on construction or on rethinking the branch system or the concepts inherent in the current bond proposal in these forums.)
We are told we can't afford to fund the basic infrastructure in town like street repair. How much of this is because we've been spending "whatever it takes" on non-basics like global warming policy and the like?
Why should we continue to listen to the same profligate and irresponsible voices that have us in our current situation? Maybe if we said "no" to the "spend whatever takes" mantra by voting down the bond, city leaders will come back with a proposal to spend only what is necessary - on libraries and on so much of the rest of what the city currently wastes money on.
Posted by libraryguru, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2008 at 4:44 pm
You are out of sync with most of our community. The auditor says we need to rebuild; the community wants to rebuild; the library staff wants to rebuild; the library commission says we need to rebuild; the library foundation says we need to rebuild; the library friends wants a rebuild. They all want branches. They are all willing to do whatever it takes through sacrifice to make this happen.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2008 at 6:01 pm
"The auditor says we need to rebuild; the community wants to rebuild; the library staff wants to rebuild; the library commission says we need to rebuild; the library foundation says we need to rebuild; the library friends wants a rebuild. They all want branches. They are all willing to do whatever it takes through sacrifice to make this happen. "
Auditor, staff, library commission, library commission, Friends of the Library....It's no news that the city establishment wants its hands on more tax money. However the "sacrifice" mentioned in the post is not sacrifice on the part of the establishment as much as it's yet another sacrifice by the taxpayers of Palo Alto that's being called for.
Whether the establishment is willing to sacrifice us on the altar of "rebuilding and spending whatever it takes" of our money is really beside the point. The issue in the upcoming bond election is whether we'll give them more of our money to play with when they've demonstrated an incapacity to spend the gusher of revenue they have responsibly.
The outcome is not foreordained...which is why we have elections in the first place, and why so many in the establishment are obviously worried about this election despite preelection ersatz campaigning by the staff, the wholesale hiring of election consultants and pollsters with our tax money, and the laughable arguments put forward by some bond proponents.
Posted by I love libraries, a resident of Mountain View, on Jul 12, 2008 at 1:38 pm
I live in Mountain View now, but I lived in Palo Alto for ten years, and you bet I push for "what it takes" to give my community the best library resources we can obtain. This doesn't mean profligate or wasteful spending; it means getting top value for our investment in materials, systems, vendors, employees and personnel. I believe in smart spending, and I know that fund allocation is always a contentious issue. And it it should be, if we are to get the most for our money.
I pay a lot in taxes, and I'm happy to do so. I was a beneficiary of community generosity when I was growing up in the form of wonderful new elementary school, great textbooks, hot lunches, well-kept libraries, and all kinds of after-school activities. I was not a rich kid at all, barely middle class, in fact. And the taxpayers of my community were not rich either. So "what it takes" is my return on their investment in me. An acknowledgement that times have changed, the challenges might be greater and relative costs higher, but I will still be there for my community and its libraries. Be they new or renovated, let's keep them open and comfortable.
Posted by ResidentofPaloAltofor21Years, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 12, 2008 at 1:54 pm
Not so hot asked, "Why don't they have insulation? they have been re-roofed. Are you sure or are you guessing?"
I am SURE they don't have insulation; I am not guessing. I have talked to multiple library employees as well as Diane Jennings about this. The Main and Mitchell Park branches don't have insulation. They don't have double-paned windows. As to why, most likely it's because citizens refused to pay for basic facility upkeep. Again.
I often marvel that citizens will repeatedly vote for large blank-check school bonds (even though the PAUSD receives 85% of all Palo Alto Property taxes), without ever demanding that the PAUSD gets an audit, and yet won't vote for bonds to upgrade poor quality library facilities.
...and if you want to see a copy of the Library budget, contact the City Manager's office. Failing that, I know Diane Jennings keeps a copy in her office.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jul 12, 2008 at 3:12 pm
"most likely it's because citizens refused to pay for basic facility upkeep.."
The notion that the citizens of Palo Alto refused to pay for upkeep to any facility in town is bizarre in the extreme. As has been amply documented in the press and on numerous threads in this very forum, Palo Alto has twice the revenue per capita compared to any of its neighbors and to any comparable sized California town.
Upkeep on our libraries (and streets, and most other infrastructure) has languished not because Palo Altans "refused to pay" for it, but rather because our councils have blown our generous revenues on pet projects like Climate Change initiatives and unusable bike tunnels, and have caved in to employee demands for unsustainable wage and benefit packages in successive contracts.
We have no revenue shortage in Palo Alto - to keep up libraries - or to do most of the rest of what "Normal" cities are able to do without new bonds or taxes. (Mt. View built a brand new state-of-the-art library WITHOUT new taxes, e.g.) What we have is a shortage of leaders who act responsibly when they're voted into office and a city management that has increasingly arrogated to itself the policy making function that should belong to the council - and enriched itself in the process.
Until these things change, there will be no shortage of demands for new taxes to fund basic governmental functions. And no shortage of wasteful management of the funds we do give them. (Recall the Storm Drain Tax which turned out to be sufficient for only HALF of the projects originally promised - two years after it was passed!) One way to hasten this needed change is to tell the pooh-bahs at City Hall "NO" by voting down the library bond.
Posted by ResidentofPaloAltofor21Years, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 10:22 am
Basic rule of thumb: citizens elect the council, who directs the city manager on how to spend money. They'll spend $40 mill on a new police station, but money has not been--and never will be--set aside to help the libraries. The citizens have not been willing to demand the council do so--which says that the citizens aren't willing to have other programs cut in order to fix the libraries--so the statement that "the citizens refused to pay for basic facility upkeep" is in fact accurate. The city only gets 5% of any citizen's property tax, so it's not like its coffers are overflowing.
The states of the libraries are positively atrocious. Voting against the bond measure will merely post-pone any chance of that changing any time soon.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 11:15 am
Resident, your logic eludes me. Yes, the council is elected - but how are the citizens supposed to "demand" funding normal upkeep? In fact, it seems like special interest groups - small branches, PACT, environmental action, employee groups - can get their projects acted on, but at the expense of "everyday" projects. It is hard to generate outspoken demands for the everyday - that's why the Council needs to stand up for it. They do not, hence our predicament.
The coffers in fact have plenty for basic upkeep - unfortunately we do not make that our top priority. Instead we have honed our reputation as a "quirky" city with "character" which amounts to shabby infrastructure and a few unusual city funded programs. It is a shame really.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 1:08 pm
Resident21 has a bizarre reading of recent local history and politics. In fact the new police station was funded through the back door using COP's not because it was what "citizens who elect the council" wanted it, but precisely because the Council analyzed the situation and determined that there was no way they could win a bond vote on the matter. I.e., it was an end run around the voters.
The game in Palo Alto is simple: spend the money they already have (more than any similar city in California) on things that the citizens won't support, and then dun the electorate for extra money to fund what citizens actually want or need. (And contrary to what Res21 says, our coffers are gushing in comparison to other cities...we just spend our money on silliness and expensive employee perks.)
The way to stop this nonsense is to vote them and their projects down until SOMEBODY starts demonstrating some sensible responsibility on fiscal matters.
Me Too has it exactly right. Once elected to the council too many people attach themselves to the chic and quirky - to the detriment of focusing on municipal basics.
Posted by Anna Banana, a resident of the Esther Clark Park neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 1:57 pm
Anna has not one shred of proof for anything she's saying. How do you know what citizens who elect the Council want. the majority of our citizens want a police station, and a library. Get over yourself.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 2:20 pm
A. Banana may wish to research before s/he writes. In fact contrary to the assertion that "Anna has not one shred of proof for what she's saying", there is ample concrete proof that the council EXPLICITLY decided to fund the police station with COP's precisely to avoid a vote which their polls showed they could not win. Banana may wish to check out the Council Minutes from April 7 of this year, or the following Weekly story: Web Link
Banana might have fun flaming here, but is contributing nothing substantive to the discussion.
Posted by Anna Banana, a resident of the Esther Clark Park neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 3:51 pm
Where was Anna when the Blue Ribbon Commission did the diligence and said we needed a new police station? No doubt she was sitting in her home, feeling safe from crime thanks to our police force. I wonder what Anna would say if Palo Alto was sued for $10M by someone who was prosecuted in a case where physical evidence was mishandled. We are in current violation of law on physical evidence maintenance and other standards. Seems like Anna wants to roll the dice on Palo Alto's future. No doubt she'll blame the city if we get sued. Online comments are cheap, Anna. How about putting some money into escrow to cover the cost of those future lawsuits, when they occur, if the police building isn't built? Will you?......................... Yeah, that's what I thought.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 4:11 pm
Banana wants to spout inanities about hypothetical $10 million suits - of which there is virtually no chance. (Some criminal will sue because the Police loses the evidence against him?! Right, Banana.) In contrast to this blather, I want to vote on a Police Station.
If Banana's case is so compelling s/he and the council ought to be able to convince the voters to vote for a bond (which would save $10 million in interest charges over the "alternative" financing COP's the council actually approved to get around the requirement for a vote.)
But Banana, like so many supporters of city spending lacks the courage of their rhetoric and so resorts to online name-calling and support for backdoor non-Democratic methods to get their way. COP's are a dodge of a police bond vote the Council knows it couldn't win. Banana doesn't want to address that and resorts to name calling instead.
They'll let us vote for libraries after they've spent the rest of the city's treasury on pensions for 50 year old retirees, tunnels to nowhere and similar non-essentials. It won't be long before we have a street repair bond proposal because they aren't using the gusher of revenue they have to repair the streets.
Then I assume Banana will come be calling names, challenging anyone who questions this financial merry-go-round as someone who doesn't want smooth streets. "We'll get sued for $10 million by someone who loses control of his vehicle after hitting one of our potholes"...what tripe.
Vote No on the library bond and start the repair of our broken political system. It's the only way to restore sanity in town.
Posted by Bob Ryals, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 4:22 pm
"Where was Anna when the Blue Ribbon Commission did the diligence and said we needed a new police station? No doubt she was sitting in her home, feeling safe from crime thanks to our police force."
If Anna is feeling safe in her home thanks to our police force operating out of the current facility, I guess I can see why she'd not feel the need to spend $70 million on an unnneeded new facility.
As to Blue Ribbon Task forces, I'm pretty unpersuaded by anything they say. The last BRT Force said we needed a bunch of money for urgent storm drain repairs. We passed a tax on ourselves, and within a year or so, they were telling us they could do only half of what the BRT force said was "urgent" with the money. I guess the rest somehow became not so urgent in the interim. My guess is the same will be true of the Police building. If somehow we don't build it with the vote-avoiding Certificates of Participation, we'll probably get by just fine.
Same with the libraries - though Anna is right that voting "NO" will put some needed pressure on the system to reform.