Original post made
on Mar 18, 2013
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> The infrastructure discussion is the last item on the council's
> agenda, and the meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. with
> a study session on the possible expansion of the city's fiber-
> optic network, known for years as "Fiber to the Premises,"
This FTTP project has been discredited every time it has been put forward. Last time, the (also) discredited Head of the Utilites, spent about $125,000 on a "business plan" that was so incomplete that when the Consultant came back for another $125K (for a possible total of $250K)--even the people pushing for City-subsidized fiber encouraged the Council to deny the request--which it did.
The orginal proposal was for the City to provide data, telephone and subscription TV services. The analysis at the time made it clear that the City would have to displace the current analog telephone providers (AT&T mostly) with City-provided telephone service. That meant that roughly half of the telephone subscribers would have to ditch their current providers, and subscribe to the City's telephone service.
Since that time, there has been a tremendous shift in the way people use telephones. All of the major providers are seeing a monthly loss in landline subscribers--with a shift to evermore powerful, and capable, mobile Internet devices (smartphones, tables, etc.). The FCC is curretly in the process of opening up more bandwidth for WiFi, since regional wireless data networks are becoming more prevailant. Many smartphones come with both 3G/4G and Wifi capabilies, so that the phone can "off-load" data, and voice, to the local WiFi network, reducing load on the regional net, and reducing customer costs.
AT&T has been adding additional wireless capacity to the Palo Alto area, and doubtless we will see increases in regional network capacity in the coming years.
Cable TV is also undergoing constant evolution. The arrival of IP-TV has opened many doors. Sites like HULU.com, THEWB.com, ABC.com, NBC.com, Fox.com, UVERSE.com, and others, now offer many Prime-Time Network shows for free, as well as a lot of older TV programming, also for free. (Shows like Quincy, Remington Steele, Picket Fences are available). Hulu offers a premium option, offering access to all of a given show's episode for something less than $10/month. The same is true for Amazon, Netflix and Youtube is also offering a lot of programming that includes shows that originated outside the US.
The Cable channels have been toying with offering "al a carte" pricing for a long time now. Given that programming can be delivered to mobile devices, every one of the content providers has been moving towards a recreation of the Cable-TV market. The idea that people are going to purchase their TV from the City of Palo Alto does not make a lot of sense to people who are enoying the freedom, and often low expense to the user, that is offered by the Internet.
This leaves only very high-speed data as something that the City might be able to find a niche to market its fiber services--at least until AT&T/Comcast respond. AT&T has upgraded Palo Alto to its Uverse capability over the past few years. Comcast also has run fiber to the neighborhood a long time ago. Comcast has announced its support for DOCSYS 3.0 a long time ago, through its XFINITY product offering:
The main issue for any data customer is: “how much speed can I get for how much money?”
The City was pitching that it could offer 100mbs for $35 dollars at one point. However, it eventually backed off to admit that it would have to offer a “triple play” (data, telephone, TV) package for $100/month in order to eventually pay off the costs of the system (and that was based on the incomplete business model). All of the major vendors have offered packages of one form or another that fit into this cost profile—leaving the City with nothing much to offer except the 100mps claim.
The argument that new industries would develop because the City had FTTH has never carried much weight with Palo Alto, particularly since AT&T/3rd Party vendors easily provided Fiber to those businesses that needed it. The City’s own Fiber business seems to have never been attractive to local customers—attracting somewhere between 50 and 75 customers.
The idea that this offering would be discussed in the same context would imply that people—including the Mayor—seem to think that the hardware/software/maintenance for FTTP could be hidden inside a bond issue is reprehensible. This sort of financing would have people owning property, but not subscribing to City telecommunications services, to be expected to pay the infrastructure costs for those who are subscribers. Just another example of the kinds of fiscal mismanagement that one finds when one looks at government activities.
City FTTP should be buried—once and for all!
You keep spending public money, again and again, surveying which infrastructure changes are the most important to people.
Part of the answer depends on what is being currently talked about. So, for example, if a new police building is not being talked about, it falls lower on the scale. From year to year, we spend money studying - each new committee comes up with the startling result that our police building is outdated and we need a new one.
If we're lucky some developer gets the idea of offering to construct one in exchange for big favors.
The years go by. And you're going to spend money to do another survey. . . . .
Whenever I attend City Council meetings, the really important items are last, at the bottom, of their agenda. Which means they get to them sometime after 11:00 pm, after most people who work had to leave.
Seems there is an ulterior motive in the City Council's scheduling.
Since when is a new history museum an infrastructure project? How about fixing the horrible traffic infrastructure mess around Town & Country Shopping Center??
Do an economic impact study of how much sales tax revenue is lost from people deciding to avoid that mess by shopping at the Trader Joe's in Menlo Park and/or Mountain View!
And fix the timing of the traffic lights. Exhaust fumes are NOT green.
I'm afraid this will all lead to an inevitable bond measure/tax increase proposal. We need to accomplish these essential infrastructure needs without another tax increase. Fiscal irresponsibility, a lack of financial priorities, and frivolous spending has got us into this mess. In order to get out we need to stop spending and adopt true cost saving measures.
Thirteen infrastructure projects are cited in this article. The priorities in my opinion should focus only on the absolute most vital and essential needs, namely our public safety facilities, road repair, sidewalk maintenance, sewage, storm drains, and flood control. We must find a way to pay for these necessary improvements without raising taxes. Once we balance the budget, then we can prioritize the secondary needs and wants.
For example, we have to give serious consideration on whether or not we should be building a new animal services facility. That is precisely the type of city service that could be outsourced at a much lower cost. The estimated savings in the first five years alone approached the 3-million dollar range. We wouldn't be eliminating the service, just outsourcing it to a very adequate facility that in fact serves the vast majority of Santa Clara County.
As far as the other proposed projects, the 101 bike bridge should be placed on hold. So should the bike/pedestrian master plan, park improvements, community center renovations, funding of the history museum, parking garage construction, and major improvements/upgrades to the golf course. I'm not saying there isn't a need and a place for these projects, just that they take a back seat to what's truly essential. These are wants not needs. Big difference. Again, once we have our financial house in order, that would be the time to entertain these type of projects.
Of the ones listed, here are my (only) priorities:
a new public-safety building
the 101 bike bridge
construction of a new Animal Services Center
I do not know enough about the fire stations to comment on them.
For me, all others can wait until these are decided.
One word: asphalt!
My List wrote, "I do not know enough about the fire stations to comment on them".
That is the first time I have ever seen anyone in Palo Alto admit to not knowing enough about a topic to comment on it. I admire you, My List. We need more residents like you.
Most people comment in detail about issues, when they know next to nothing, formulating opinions based on what others write in blogs, then holding to it, sounding as if they are insiders, even experts on a subject. My List, you are special.
There are millions upon millions of dollars of waste right here:
Does the city need to pay its SEIU bureaucrats 150K-200K in total compensation, and why do we need so many, relative to other cities our size? Admins, street-sweepers and other low level employees are costing taxpayers over 100K.
There's plenty of money for potholes, sidewalks, and the other infrastructure that cities are supposed to spend taxpayer $$ on. Our elected officials have just chosen to support a bloated, overpaid bureaucracy instead.
First how about getting our $7M dollars back from the school district every year. Then we would have a lot of money for infrastructure repair, helping the homeless, and providing the services that a first class community deserves. The reason that Mandy Lowell Munger and her conservative buddies want the city to subsidize the schools is because they are right-wing libertarians who don't want the city to have $7M per year for government. They don't believe in the idea of municipal government. Instead, they prefer to starve the beast and use the shell of the city government as a taxing instrument to subsidize the schools -- starve the government and use its resources to feed the golden goose that lays the property values egg. They promote a "basics" agenda in the schools because they think that's an Asian dog whistle that will promote high property values and they slash anyone who wants to see more social-emotional anything in our schools. Mandarin Immersion good! High stress, good! AP classes, good! Paly math letter? Great! Anything to keep the pressure on property values. That is why the Mungers spent $30M of their personal fortune to kill public education in the state, but are happy to drain city coffers to fund the PAUSD. Because they don't like government and services for the less fortunate. They see it as a way to increase the value of their own holdings. That is all. It looks civic minded but it is about destroying local government in favor of promoting private property. So let's get our money back first and talk about what to do with it later.
Give back the utility tax, PAUSD.
It should be obvious to anyone with eyes: We need smooth roads and streets that do not injure our cars. We need smooth sidewalks, that do not injure us. The underpass on Oregon Expressway needs to be re-engineered so that it does not have to be closed every time it rains. The Animal Shelter is in pitiful condition and needs extensive refurbishing or complete replacement.
I guess the City and I have different ideas of infrastructure. I think we should spend our $$ on
Roads. Sidewalks. Public Safety. Period.
Once our roads are safely paved and our sidewalks are level, then we can spend money on extras like bridge, playing fields, museums, parking garages (which should be built by developers anyway) etc.
Roads. Sidewalks. Public Safety. Period.
The City planted camphor trees lining out street shed leaves neely all your long. Please do not reduce the weekly sweeping operations. Thanks.
If that's the list it gets a resounding "No" vote from me.
I don't get it, the City just recently spend Millions of Dollars re-surfacing and re-striping the Charleston/Arastradero corridor, and here it is again on the Infrastructure list as: Charlston/Arastradero corridor improvements. Guys, you must be kidding.
What happened to the idea of including $10 Million to maintain the current buildings at Cubberley which, if included, would only make me more determined to vote "No".
No to the bike bridge or any bike related issues. No to the parking garages. No to animal services. Deal with the streets and the roads first-- people have given good examples of projects. And a most definite no to the history museum--- little to nothing of historic value in palo alto despite what Holman tells us.
How many public opinion studies and polls need to be taken on what infrastructure needs are required? This same poll/study has been going on for 15 years and still no action. Where has all the taxpayer money that has been put in the infrastructure reserves gone? It seems the city likes squirreling away taxpayer dollars for reserve funds but doesn't want to spend any on resident or city needs. Good grief, just drive around the city and it isn't too hard to figure out what needs to be fixed. We have a do nothing City Manager who offers no leadership skills and contributes nothing to the community and a City Council completely out of touch with city and resident needs. The infrastructure of city management and city council politics is so severely broken that no direction on current city/resident needs will ever prevail. What a pity!
They should survey spending $3 Million on the Califonria Ave make over, loaning $3 million to build high density below market rate housing, $2 million to buying another house for the current city manager, the whole riff raff of studies, each costing $250,000 (compost factory, bike bridge, bike lanes, etc), $150,000/year for an assistant to the city manager for this, $150,000/year for another assistant city manager for that, $180,000/year for a deputy city manager, an extra $100,000 to buy natural gas Honda Civics, versus just plain gas Civics, and how about the $1 million subsidy for the Children's theater, and the list can go on & on.
I second the blog of Merrol wholeheartedly. He has the right things in the right order.
Unfortunately, I don't see sewers on the list of proposed infrastructure projects. They are in terrible shape. They should be the absolute priority.
AMEN to Marrol, lazlo and common sense!
BTW, the cost of the CA Ave. project is now about $4.5 million.
@Sewers please - what is the deal with the sewers? It does smell like sewage throughout the city. Is it a maintenance issue, or what? Are they leaking? Backed up?
One word: asphalt!
This is not a President or Democrat issue.
How about getting to and staying with the basic reason for a City Government in the first place: MAINTAIN EXISTING INFRASTRUCTURE!
Protect the city taxpayer using existing infrastructure.
Say NO to the spoiled City Government that WANTS ( not needs ) new pretty toys.
Roads - fix them please!
Anyone who tries to drive, let alone bike, around Old Palo Alto to get to school (or anywhere else for that matter) knows that the roads are horrible and dangerous. Fix the roads and it will immediately make driving and biking safer for everyone - even without special bike lanes.
At the top of the repair list PLEASE!! Southbound Middlefield Road between San Francisquito Creek/SC/- boundary bridge/Sunset Magazine TO Lytton. Then do the other side-northbound. These are really teeth chippers. The asphalt over the old concrete is actually raised or missing in places. Just do it!!
I remember a previous Transportation Manager telling me that Palo Alto left the roads un-repaired because that slowed the traffic down. As soon as roadways are repaired and smooth vehicle speeds go up.
That's why I'm quite happy that my residential street is in pretty poor shape. Message to Transportation Department, don't repair my street I like slow moving vehicles!!!!