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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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What’s wrong with this picture? PA city manager earns more than the president!

Uploaded: May 5, 2020
It’s just our money that the City of Palo Alto is spending, so why should we get concerned? But I am, because this week I saw what the city staff and particularly the city manager made in 2019, I was troubled, and sadly shook my head.

City Manager Ed Shikada made $403,729 in 2019, not including pension and health benefits, according to a chart on city’s website. And the Palo Alto City Council in December also gave the city manager $3 million to purchase a home in the city, plus another $1 million loan for it. And he’s scheduled for another salary increase this year, as the Daily Post first reported.

By comparison, the President of the United States made $400,000 last year –so Shikada topped him by $3K. The president also gets a $50,000 expense account. I don’t know if Shikada has a limited spending account.

California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom made $201,000 last year, but his salary was increased to $210.000 last December, making him the highest paid governor in the country.

What is wrong with this picture? Why is Palo Alto’s city manager getting more than the president – or any other governor in the nation?

One could argue that costs are more in California, but $200,000 more? Agreed, Shikada will make mortgage payments, but on a house that was financed by the city. (It will return to the city when he leaves.) I doubt his workload or responsibilities are greater than a president or any governor. Plus, the entire city staff, including Shikada. has every other Friday off.

Many residents simply shrug their shoulders when looking at city salaries. But they shouldn’t, because this year we are suddenly facing a $20 to $39 “shortfall” that residents will have to pay for.

Let’s just face it. Cities around the Bay Area pay their employees more than most places – not only their managers but also their employees.

Other top earners in Palo Alto were Police Sgt. Adrienne Moore ($342,009) and a police agent $334,742 – plus pension and health benefits. Some employees earn overtime, or cash out on vacation time, car and housing allowances, which can boost an annual salary

The city has approximately 1,100 employees, five of whom made more than $300,000 uin``29019, 90 of whom made more than $200,000 last year, and 498 made $100,000+.

As I mentioned, the city is currently projecting a $20 to $39 million loss in revenue, because of the impact of the coronavirus in a town where most revenue-producing businesses are closed and people are not buying. Shikada has made a list of proposed services that can be cut, among them: fewer staff or hours at a fire station; fewer or no libraries; no traffic enforcement team; much higher fees for the Art Center, Children's Theatre and the Junior Museum and Zoo; fewer special events, like the Chili Cookoff and May Fete Parade and holiday tree lighting ceremony; having homeowners be financially responsible for sidewalks and much more, as Councilmember Alison Cormack described in her guest column in the Weekly. I didn’t see specific salary cuts proposed – and staff is still on full pay until the end of June.

Stanford Hospital has slashed employee pay by 20 percent, and jobs there are critical to the health of our community. There may be some layoffs or furloughs in PA some July – we’ll have to see. I’ll be watching.

So residents (taxpayers) will bear the brunt of the shortfall. But that’s the way it usually is in our fair city.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Former PA resident, a resident of Mountain View,
on May 5, 2020 at 12:40 pm

Not quite fair: Prez gets taxpayer-funded room & board too.

Also, cost of living is higher here. :-)

Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on May 5, 2020 at 12:43 pm

Since we are now entering a depression, it would be appropriate if so-called "public servants" were limited to no more than the median compensation of the public in the area they "serve."

That would need to include pensions, health care, etc., not mere salary.

Posted by They know best, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 5, 2020 at 12:55 pm

In the past the argument has been that in order to retain the best people ( only the best people can work for Palo Alto) they have to pay them top dollar. Otherwise all the other cities in the area would steal the best people working for Palo Alto.
The city council has never had a problem overpaying their workers. They have never had a problem spending endless money on consultants and experts. They have never had a problem wasting money on nonsense like design contests.
Bottom line, money has never been an issue for,Palo Alto. After all, they are the experts in everything.

Posted by pa resident, a resident of Crescent Park,
on May 5, 2020 at 2:13 pm


Posted by Suzanne Keehn, a resident of Barron Park,
on May 5, 2020 at 2:31 pm

Suzanne Keehn is a registered user.

Time to STOP this over paying staff. Who by the way do NOT support residents. If another city wants to pay exorbitant salaries , so be it. But it's time with our budget, and the retirement package they get to cut way back. This as Diana says is more than the president, and certainly more than the median income of Palo Alto.

Posted by ASR, a resident of College Terrace,
on May 5, 2020 at 3:06 pm

Palo Alto city manager Ed Shikada is doing a great job. Let's support him.

Posted by SP Phil, a resident of Shoreline West,
on May 5, 2020 at 3:40 pm

Diana, I think it's useful to consider some more data points, rather than the city manager's salary alone.

John Hennessy, President of Stanford University, salary over $1 million, plus housing, etc. (not sure about new president)

Amir Rubin, CEO of Stanford Health, $3.2 million

David Shaw, Stanford head football coach, $4.6 million

PS The salary of the President of the United States is not a useful standard of comparison for other public sector positions. Presidents after the term of office have the potential to cash in with hefty speaker fees, book deals, et.

Posted by Sam, a resident of College Terrace,
on May 5, 2020 at 4:54 pm

Frank Shikada does not exist as city manager.
It's Ed Shikada

Posted by rsmithjr, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on May 6, 2020 at 10:15 am

rsmithjr is a registered user.

Could it be that the PA City Manager is most most highly-paid public sector job in the country? No Federal position will earn more than the president, and no state employee is likely to earn more than the governor. What about management positions in the big cities, does anyone know?

The city is run by and for the staff. City council members are nice people but they don't exercise much power.

Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park,
on May 6, 2020 at 11:42 am

". . . the President of the United States made $400,000 last year . . ." Well, not exactly. In fact, we don't know what he actually obtained from the US Treasury last year. ("Show us your tax returns!") Making his revenue producing hospitality facilities available to government officials, most likely not discounted, doubtlessly enhanced that $400K. And, that's just the tip of the iceberg. In a kleptocracy, "part of your pay is what you take away." And the presidential family have become masters of this mostly concealed additional emoluments process.

The answer to the PA overpaid personnel problem, (and for that matter most other problems), at the Federal as well as the local level, is the lack of independent oversight, transparency and accountability. It takes the presence of an independent Inspector General/Audit type of office that can't be controlled by the Administration. As we can all see, the lack thereof renders government un-democratic.

Posted by pa resident, a resident of Crescent Park,
on May 6, 2020 at 12:19 pm

stanford is private sector and pa city manager is a public job which supported by tax dollars we paid. It does not make sense this high and so much benefits specially under current circumstances. Will he do pay cut?

Posted by Zhao, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on May 6, 2020 at 12:24 pm

Salary comparisons aside, it is very reassuring to learn that an Asian-American devoted to public service is earning as much or more than the POTUS.

Mr. Shikada and his highly paid qualified staff are representative of Palo Alto's best interests & should be commended for their dedicated efforts in keeping Palo Alto in the forefront of all Santa Clara County communities.

I am hoping that in the near future and in conjunction with it's 40% Palo Alto demographics, more Mandarin-born residents begin to take a more active role in Palo Alto city politics as our emerging and predominant presence needs to be further acknowledged.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Deferred Compensation, a resident of Crescent Park,
on May 6, 2020 at 1:32 pm

It used to be that entering civil service (being an employee of a government entity) meant receiving a medium to low salary relative to the private sector, but with job security, benefits and a pension. Few jobs in the private sector offer a pension. A pension is considered "deferred compensation" because one does not collect it until after 25 years of service. This model worked fine for quite awhile, but doesn't really work anymore. Complaints about the system included getting "do-nothing" workers just waiting for their pensions. So, the federal government - in most instances - not all - started to up salaries in the 1990's to draw more talent and at the same time, cut pension benefits. CA took to upping salaries, but has only started to cut benefits in the last ten years. And, it's a big fight. A salary of $400K plus a pension for life after retirement is a great deal of money. Is someone "worth" it? Everyone should be paid well who does a good job. But, what is "well?" What is "too much?"

Posted by WilliamR, a resident of another community,
on May 6, 2020 at 1:43 pm

Back in 1929 or '30, a sportswriter pointed out to Babe Ruth that he made more money than President Herbert Hoover. Ruth shrugged and said, "I had a better year".

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 6, 2020 at 2:25 pm

Proves once again that Palo Alto sees itself as the center of the known universe--and as such, should pay its top dogs accordingly.

Posted by James, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on May 6, 2020 at 2:50 pm

We need talented people leading our local government. Without paying a good salary, the best people will switch to the private sector. Positions like President or Governor carry their own reward, whereas city manager is a thankless job.

The best run governments, e.g. Singapore and Switzerland, pay high salaries, and the public gets back so much more in return. If anything, I would advocate increased salaries for our local government, especially in key leadership positions.

Posted by Is Zhao a troll, a resident of Midtown,
on May 6, 2020 at 3:26 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Tom, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on May 6, 2020 at 5:39 pm

Overrated. Get rid of him please. This city is poorly managed for the compensation he's getting, especially at a time when almost everyone is hurting by this economic downturn.

Posted by A. Blum, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 6, 2020 at 5:52 pm

Palo Alto needs to lower by 200.000 dollars Frank Shikada salary! (He made $403,729 in 2019, not including pension and health benefits, according to a chart on city's website). This should be the first cut in hard times!

Posted by Comparison, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 6, 2020 at 7:20 pm

By comparison, the very top executive salary a federal judge in San Francisco and SJ can make is about $181,000 for 2020. Most federal judges make less.
Web Link

The benefits are okay but nothing like Palo Alto's.

And that's on the top of the federal pay heap, most even very highly skilled federal workers, including people on the front lines of public health, make far less than that.

Federal workers in the Bay Area make far less than their private industry counterparts, which is clear when you look at the salary differential between places like Lawrence Livermore, which is privately run, and Ames, which is federal. The same qualification, peers working together on projects, is about half the salary in the latter. Yet still, they manage to do great work.

We do need talented people but first of all, we need to stop rebuying a fancy home for the city manager every time we get a new one. If we buy one, like the governor's mansion, that should be enough, and it should be a one-time cost. And the free house should be considered part of the salary. We should have a citizen commission to reset salaries every so many years or when economic conditions change, the way the governor does. That's why our city manager and so many of our school principals and the superintendent make so much more than the governor -- the former don't have to answer to their constituents really.

There's a really good book called Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us, and it covers business research on salary setting. It turns out if you way overpay, it inevitably leads to poorer performance.

It's kind of funny to hear people defending the need to pay people in the city so much when the city council works for zero. It's a volunteer position with a small honorarium. Of course, we wouldn't expect the city mgr to work for nothing, but maybe we could find people who live here and care about the community already to take the position, and not pay them more than the governor by twice.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on May 7, 2020 at 9:31 am

"Share your budget priorities through our OpenGov engagement tool." Web Link
Deadline May 13.

Posted by ASR, a resident of College Terrace,
on May 7, 2020 at 10:30 am

Thank you for correcting city manager name to Ed Shikada

Posted by Joyce, a resident of Stanford,
on May 7, 2020 at 10:36 am

If you know how much the President of the United States really makes, please share your data and sources! I would love to see his tax returns.

Posted by BobH, a resident of Palo Verde,
on May 7, 2020 at 10:40 am

BobH is a registered user.

Seems like a lot, but comparing his salary to Trumps or the governor makes no sense. If this was a serious article it would compare his salary to other similar sized cites in the SF Bay Area.

We want capable people managing the city and that usually means pay them fair market rate. If he is doing his job well it is worth it. We will waste more money by getting someone who is cheaper but less competent.

Posted by Another Bob, a resident of Community Center,
on May 7, 2020 at 11:44 am

What does City Manger Ed Shikada actually do? What are some examples of his good management that would be unlikely to be accomplished by someone willing to work for a lower salary? We see justifications for his salary in terms of generalities--what are some specifics? Does anyone know?

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 7, 2020 at 11:51 am


Correct. A few minutes on Google suggested that no Federal civil servant can receive more than Level I on the Executive Scale, which is $219,200 (that is salary though-- doesn't include benefits). Add about $70K for benefits and it is still less than $300K including benefits. That is the max for the top feds except the President. Agency heads, Federal Judges, you name it, appear to be limited. Basically, it appears to pay better to be a Battalion Chief here.

Looking at the data here Web Link it sure looks like public safety overtime is being "gamed". I would be gratified if someone from public safety would post here and prove me wrong.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 7, 2020 at 11:51 am

Online Name is a registered user.

He used to manage PA Utilities which for the last several years has run a $20,000,000 "surplus" by over-charging us EVERY year to siphon money from our pockets into the General Fund to feed our highly paid staff and the consultants they keep hiring. Extra credit for the legal costs to the city to defend itself again the lawsuits for this ongoing practice.

Posted by StevieG, a resident of Los Altos,
on May 7, 2020 at 12:25 pm

San Francisco Mayor London Breed earns an annual salary of $335,996. The amount earned by quieter and smaller Palo Alto is horrible. Let's drop the salary to $200,000. Probably ample!

Posted by Cur Mudgeon, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on May 7, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Ms. Diamond, city employees have the option of working a 4/10 or a 5/8 workweek in some departments. That hardly translates to a 4 day workweek and really helps those who must commute long distances due to the cost of available housing in Palo Alto. Many employers offer this option. That equals a 40 hour work week in either case, be it 10 hours a day 4 x a week, or 8 hours a day 5 x week. It can be argued that 10 hours days are more productive.

Posted by Green Gables, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on May 7, 2020 at 1:31 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

Many of the City of Palo Alto managers cash in their vacations. That money is added to their salary which is really not legal. That so-called salary is how they get to retire at a higher pay scale. Managers in all cities do this. The City Managers run the City Council not the other way around. When the staff says jump, the City Council asks how high. The City Council members have to kiss up to the staff in order to get anything done. What's the point when the City staff does what they please.

Posted by S_mom, a resident of Community Center,
on May 7, 2020 at 1:33 pm

S_mom is a registered user.

I could maybe see $400K if we weren't also substantially subsidizing his housing, but $400K plus $3M for a house seems like too much. And on the house front, does he really need a $4M house? 3 bedroom 2 bath houses still regularly go for around $3M.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on May 7, 2020 at 2:37 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Maybe if Palo Alto had fewer libertarians who bash away at notions of community, civil service or the public sector we could get good people to work for less.
Maybe some of you could stand up in public and put your name and faces to your opinions. Or likely you are waiting until its not outrageous to appear in public wearing a hood.
Government is a "we" not a "them", We the People.
Thanks, Ed Shikada, for your years of public service.

I've known at least 100 civil servants and staff here and I would say they are working very hard for their money.
We can do slightly better with electeds and appointees, however.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on May 7, 2020 at 2:50 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

By the way, I think "Drive" by Daniel Pink (mentioned by a previous poster) sucks, and I pan it in my blog.
Web Link

I'm hoping to finish Michael Lewis "The Fifth Risk", which is more relevant to this thread (if that's not an oxymoron). It seems to be about what can happen when Democracy devolves into a bunch of people who game the system and exploit the populism moment, as self-serving pseudo-leaders. There's a spare copy in a free library on the corner of Hawthorne and Waverley (take it for an hour, sit in the park, read it, then put it back for your neighbor).

Posted by nonmember, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on May 8, 2020 at 12:36 am

The President has trillions at his disposal. His salary is a gesture, not primarily a monetary dispensation.

To the City Manager, the money matters.

Therein lies the difference.

Posted by Another Giveaway, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 8, 2020 at 12:36 pm

Did city council even negotiate with Shikada?

Palo Alto city council is so used to giving stuff away to real-estate developers that I don't think they even bother negotiating anything anymore.

Shikada probably would have taken the job for half of what they offered him and been happy to have a job. Shikada probably had a hard time keeping a straight face when he saw the offer council put on the table.

Posted by Bruce Karney, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on May 8, 2020 at 2:34 pm

Bruce Karney is a registered user.

In most States, the highest paid government employee -- by far -- is the head football coach of the largest state university. Presumably because that person is producing something visible, easy to understand, and highly valued by the electorate.

Posted by Novelera, a resident of Midtown,
on May 8, 2020 at 2:35 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

I have a hunch that Ed Shikada works a whole lot harder than POTUS, at least the current POTUS.

Posted by DC, a resident of Sylvan Park,
on May 8, 2020 at 3:30 pm

We all understand the statement SB The President of the United States is paid $400,000. Thats high for a local government official. We don't care Jeff Bezos received as a salary $81,840. The private sector is not being compared. Stanford is a private school.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on May 8, 2020 at 5:25 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I have worked on proposals for government contracts and they use a standard for the pricing of jobs - it is the cost of living for a specific area. It is a matrix that takes into consideration the local monetary requirements for living in a geographical area. Any government contractor that is bidding on a contract needs to frame their labor costs consistent with the index for the area that the job will be performed in. That is why major contractors are moving their locations to Florida and Texas.
So if the government has already dictated the cost of living for an area then that could be the rule for what we pay for a job. We need to be comparing what he gets to the other like type jobs in this area based on a government determined cost of living index.
Talking about DT is just a red herring. This is a serious question that needs to be addressed. No - he is not that good and he does not deserve that amount of pay. That questions everything else that goes on in this city. It questions how this even happened in the first place.
Palo Alto - get over your self. I keep reading about the school system and all of the bad management that goes on there. San Mateo County looks more well coordinated than Santa Clara County.

Posted by commonsense, a resident of Professorville,
on May 10, 2020 at 6:27 pm

You can't make sense of that number no matter who you compare it to. In our house we sum it up this way we live ion the peoples republic of shallow alto...
If you want to fix all of the other issues homeless hungry sick and disabled, salaries like that need to go away and homes that are purchased for 30million plus need be taxed into the stratosphere. Or just ignore it all but you can't evaluate one without the other

Posted by Comparison, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 11, 2020 at 1:07 pm

If the City bought and kept more than one house for top city employees to be able to live here, that benefit would allow the City to make a one-time investment that became more and more valuable to the City over time.

It should also be done in a way that puts those employees across the City and not concentrated in the ritziest part of town with the most expensive housing. I would much rather have someone working for us who really is a part of the community instead of looking down their noses at the South side.

@Mark Weiss,
I'm very glad for you that your have not been personally attacked for the views you expressed on town square or anywhere else. I've even been attacked for emails sent to council that were published, and where my own views even evolved over time to be different, but you get people who will even hurt you and scheme to hurt you in perpetuity or be against you forever because of something you once said on a single issue that wasn't even bad or set in stone. These threads are here to search and anything you say be held against you forever.

Again, very glad you haven't been hurt. I find the more things need to be said, and the better they are said, the more violent the reaction in these kinds of public spaces. Having anonymity allows people to speak truth to power, and to let the arguments stand by themselves. I also find that inserting gender and age into the discussion changes how people respond as well.

Anonymity actually keeps ad hominem down, because it reduces the ability of anyone who doesn't like an argument to make it personal or even threaten the poster. We live in an age in which people face death threats for views they may not even hold because someone else misconstrued it. Please don't keep criticizing anonymity on these threads. While I value your input and it's civil, the trolls call for people to name themselves too because they want to be able to attack people rather than argue a case they may have very little ground to stand on.

Posted by Robyn, a resident of another community,
on May 12, 2020 at 2:50 pm

He should be first in line for a massive pay cut. Now is the time to do it. How many staffers does he require as well as other City paid benefits?
This is obscene!
It was written that a past Sunnyvale City Manager obtained from the City a loan at 1% for 40 years. Then she quit.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on May 12, 2020 at 6:05 pm

"What's wrong with this picture? PA city manager earns more than the president!"

Nothing's wrong. Everybody who actually earns their paycheck earns more than the current president earns. It's that simple.

Posted by Ryan, a resident of Professorville,
on May 13, 2020 at 9:47 am

Is there a public list of the total employee salary pay (names, job title, salary) for 2019 available? Is so, where can I find it? Thanks.

Posted by Member , a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 1:31 pm

Shikada should resign immediately for declaring emergency and imposing the 10-day curfew.

Posted by Member , a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 1:31 pm

Shikada should resign immediately for declaring emergency and imposing the 10-day curfew.

Posted by Second, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Jun 4, 2020 at 4:11 pm

It does not matter that rescinded the curfew after two nights. He should be *fired* for declaring an unjustifiable emergency and imposing curfew on ten of thousands of people.

Posted by Luke, a resident of Woodside,
on Jun 4, 2020 at 10:49 pm

This is why I so glad that I am a not a current resident!!

It's criminal that the city manager and police officers make so much.

It's even worse than this, their pensions are going to be $200,000 a year for life.

Good luck local residents! You are going to pay even more in every kind of taxes.

Defund the Police. Defund the administrative staff!

Posted by Steve Ramsay, a resident of another community,
on Jul 28, 2020 at 3:49 pm

If anyone is interested in researching public salaries and benefit costs simply google "transparent California" followed by the city or county you are interested in. You will be amazed y what we pay our public servants

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