LettersKeep the animal shelter
The animal shelter cannot close.
Outsourcing, that modern scourge, means reduced care and services for our community's animals and great inconvenience for pet owners. Residents of Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills need to know that Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority will not accept surrendered pets — they refer surrenders to a facility in Milpitas.
Residents should also know that they would have to drive all the way to Santa Clara to look for their lost pets. Residents especially need to contemplate the loss of the excellent low-cost spay-neuter clinic, which serves not only the contracted communities, but others such as East Palo Alto, whose residents desperately need close-by animal services. This will without question result in more unaltered animals, more unwanted puppies and kittens, more suffering.
The Palo Alto Humane Society, which galvanized generations of Palo Altans to create a shelter system for Palo Alto, asks the City Council for time to develop and present ideas from the private and nonprofit sector to solve the shelter's funding shortage. We believe that a private-public partnership can not only save the shelter, but modernize it. In the meantime, we ask the people of our communities to speak up for their shelter.
Palo Alto Humane Society
Leave room for public benefits
Lily Tomlin said, "No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up."
Exactly my thought after the Palo Alto City Council preserved all the developer's highly profitable office and bank space while eliminating the public benefits of housing and retail space for the Gateway mega-project at Alma and Lytton.
But wait, there's more.
The council now wants developer-subsidized nonprofit office space as a public benefit, but limited to organizations that are "downtown serving," an unprecedented narrowing of public benefits.
Councilman Scharff successfully promoted the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business and Professional Association to receive the valuable subsidized offices. Both organizations are primarily lobbyists for private for-profit businesses (see the expanded mission statements online), giving new meaning to "public benefit."
Two days later, a local newspaper reported Scharff contacted the chamber prior to the public hearing to confirm it wanted the subsidized space. The council's late-night maneuvering appears to have been coordinated among some members prior to the public hearing.
Palo Altans do our part to support business by funding and staffing the Office of Economic Development. If the chamber and downtown businesses need more money, they should hold a bake sale, as do other nonprofits.
We have many worthy nonprofits providing direct services to large parts of our community, yet we again watch our public benefits disappear. This is wrong and Lily Tomlin is right, it is impossible to keep up. The council should reverse themselves and put the public back in public benefit.
La Para Avenue
Rail could destroy California
High-speed rail is a devil's bargain for California. Discussions about how to fund it, which segment to start with and how great it will be, are like assurances of the safety of the Titanic. This project would put our state under water for decades to come.
But it seems that the specter of $3 billion in federal money is so enticing to our legislature that, in spite of the fact that California is teetering on the brink of insolvency, our state government has pledged to match the federal funds for building the bullet train, knowing that we'll have to come up with another $89 billion to complete the project. That's right: $89 billion.
The fiasco looks like this: Our bankrupt federal government offers taxpayer dollars to our bankrupt state government, which offers more of our taxpayer dollars to, no doubt, some well-greased palms — and a few high-bidding construction unions — for a needless project that can only end tragically, ruining California's economy beyond all recognition for generations to come. Think austerity measures and worse.
Gov. Brown — rather than admitting this is a time bomb for the state — has said he'll try to get the money from China. China? Do we really want the Communist Chinese holding and controlling part of California's infrastructure? What are the implications of that for our sovereignty? Our bankrupt state now seems ready to sell its soul for a "free" government lunch.
Of course there are no free lunches. That is the concept that has bankrupted most of the third world, and seduced European countries such as Greece into financial ruin. It takes wisdom and courage to turn down "easy" money, which always comes with strings attached. We need our senators and other decision makers to turn down this gigantic wrecking ball that is aimed squarely at California.
Flat fees are garbage
The newspapers have reported that the City of Palo Alto is considering adding to our refuse bills separate flat fees for street sweeping, hazardous waste and bulky waste pickup at individual locations. Bulky waste pickup already has a fee attached and is used by few people. The hazardous waste fee would be charging everyone for a service few use, and the street-sweeping fee would also be charging residents who live on streets that do not receive street sweeping, such as private streets and cul-de-sacs. It may not even be legal to charge people for services they do not receive.
Why not just charge a flat fee for a service almost everyone does use: recycling? That would be more honest, and probably people supporting recycling would not mind paying a small fee for it.