LAH offering $135,000 for PA park access
Original post made
on Jul 13, 2007
Los Altos Hills is willing to pay about $135,000 per year to gain access to Foothills Park, the Town Council voted unanimously Thursday night with one member absent, Councilman Breene Kerr said Friday.
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Posted by John M.
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2007 at 9:47 am
Analytical, this isn't about money (greed), elitism, or envy. Of course, that's what those who want to promote this bad deal will say to those who oppose it; they'll use emotionally loaded put-downs to marginalize opponents.
This is about OPTIMAL leveraging of an asset more in the direction of a win-win then the current giveaway. Currently, that is far from the case.
Recently, a private citizen wrote an Op-ED for the Weekly, claiming that our City Council engaged in giveaways. I strenuously disagreed with the premise of that Op-ED; it was a wrong and hasty generalization.
However, this is one instance where a Council member (our Mayor) and senior city staff member (City Manager) have charged ahead in an attempt to "save the day", seemingly without the forethought necessary to predict how_any_ effort to open FHP in this way would play, AND without getting a better deal than the weak deal they've made (and will no doubt try to spin as a win).
No matter what the financial component of ANY deal to open FHP, there will be a LOT of controversy. That's a given. Thus, the need to create a better fiscal and logistical rationale to sell the deal to PA citizens, in a way that ameliorates what are projected to be the main arguments against any FHP deal. This "deal" does not accomplish that goal. It's poorly wrought, poorly constructed, and poorly timed. It's not a "win" for Palo Alto in any substantial sense.
How does the present deal - if looked at analytically - make enough sense to rationalize opening FHP to LAH?
PA has spent 10's of $millions$ maintaining FHP over the years. How does LAH paying up 13% of the cost of the fire station and/or park maintenance _going forward_, a cost that in past years was contributed ANYWAY, properly leverage PA's past investment, and protect PA from financial debit on this asset in the future?
Here's a quote from a recent Weekly article:
"In years past, the station has served not only Palo Alto but Los Altos Hills as well, under a mutual aid agreement. It also received money from the Los Altos Hills County Fire District, to the tune of nearly $50,000 annually."
So, Palo Alto has recently been paying up the ENTIRE cost of staffing Fire Station #8, to protect its citizens AND the citizens of LAH. IN addition, PA has been maintaining a park on LAH border in a way that keeps the property pristine, and even permits LAH residents entrance via various footpaths, as well as official entry if accompanies by a Palo Alto neighbor.
In sum, we've been paying for LAH fire protection for at least the last few years, while LAH officials irresponsibly yanked back their Fire Station #8 contribution - one necessary to protect THEIR OWN CITIZENS. What's THAT all about?
Now, with this weak deal, our mayor and city administrator - unable to find a measly $100K from a budget that IS constrained (but from which $100k withdrawals occur not irregularly, for "this and that") - have decided to accept an offer of money from LAH officials, much of which LAH USED TO CONTRIBUTE ANYWAY. This, in exchange for PERMANENT entry status for LAH residents?
Tell us, what happens if LAH re
What I want to know is how this deal appropriately leverages our past and future investment in FHP - in any other way than immediate relief for PA's current (chosen) budget constraint for the Station8 line item.
It doesn't matter WHO owns FHP. LAH officials should be paying up to maintain public safety. They withdrew their contribution.
Palo Alto has DONE THE RIGHT THING in recent years, by maintaining that station, with advantage to LAH.
Where's LAH payback on the bill for that? Where's LAH payback on the bill for past PA park maintenance - in other words, how are we leveraging past investment in the FHP. With this deal, we're not. Where's LAH payback (via LAH user fees as they enter the FHP) for past PA revenue used to maintain this priceless piece of nature (as are all pieces of nature, priceless)?
This is a pure _short-term_ "convenience" deal, out of which - in this case - some public officials will try to come off looking like heroes, taking credit for solving a problem that THEY created. It was LAH officials who decided to put their citizens at risk by withdrawing funding for Fire Station #8 - right? It was our officials who decided not to fund Fire Station #8 - right?
Back to FHP - this is the kind of deal making that raises my hackles. It's "feel-good" in the news, but where's the beef?
Where is payback - even partial payback - for the investment that PA has made in all years past?
Again, this is NOT about keeping LAH residents out of FHP. I welcome them.
Why not take the $135K donation from LAH to pay for Fire Station #8, AND let in LAH residents on a nominal fee basis AS LONG AS LAH keeps contributing the $135K _adjusted for inflation_? How do we know that some future LAH City Council will say - "sorry, not this year"?
With entry by LAH residents kept as a semi-permanent option, for a fee (to pay back past investment), we won't find ourselves up a creek if some future LAH officials decide that they want to pull the contribution, thus leaving PA in the uncomfortable decision of looking like bad guys and cutting off LAH resident entry, or upsetting PA residents who end of re-footing the Fire Station #8 bill and FHP maintenance, while watching their LAH neighbors continue enjoy the asset that PA residents are paying 100% for, again.
This is the way the deal should look (there are/were other possibilities, but it's too late for that now - fodder for another post):
1) Take the $135K from LAH, annually, adjusted for inflation
2) Admit LAH residents for a fee (TBD, but certainly no less than $5 per vehicle)
3) Do NOT change PA's power to limit the entry of any other than PA residents (in some cases, even PA residents) to the park, just in case we begin to see environmental degradation from overuse, and/or LAH decides to pull out of the $135K deal. If the latter happens, LAH residents lose the privilege of entry, period... - let LAH officials bear the burden of their future misguided decisions to withdraw funding (of they do), instead of (in this case) doing what they should have been doing all along - properly protecting their citizens by contributing EVERY YEAR to the funding of Fire Station #8.
I hope that the more sensible members of our City Council (as regards this deal) put the Mayor and City Manager's feet to the fire on this one. I'm surprised that these two otherwise competent officials haven't thought this one through better than they have.
(On a separate note: normally a union supporter (fire safety personnel deserve every one of their perks, and more), I am incensed that the fire union leadership has been un-moving in any attempt to loosen personnel restrictions and permit that station to be manned by other than only senior personnel (more costly). That decision has been a part of what has led to Fire Station #8 being closed - and thus, community dissension. This is completely unacceptable, and if this kind of unwillingness to "share the pain" continues, I know many people who will turn against the current management of the fire union. We have fantastic fire fighters, but I for one, will not stand by while union bosses mess up the reputation of their charges, and misuse the good will of the citizens of this city).