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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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Such delightful city employee perks

Uploaded: Jun 1, 2020
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” William Shakespeare once proclaimed in “Hamlet.” I will soften that considerably, but suggest something is amiss in the city of Palo Alto.

In my blog last week, “Why am I suspicious about Palo Alto’s budget cuts,” someone asked me how the 9/80 system was started in Palo Alto (a policy that also exists in several neighboring cities). Nine-80 is where city staff works 80 hours for nine, not 10 days every two weeks, and has every other Friday off – 26 days a year.

All my suspicions about the program came galloping back when in my blog last week an anonymous former city employee wrote about his (her?) experiences with 9/80. (I tried to track him down but he had not registered with the Weekly as a blogger, so I will only quote what he said.) I had no other confirmation that his comments were right or wrong. But, to me, they sound correct.

Posted by A Former PA City Employee, a resident of another community,
on May 27, 2020 at 8:42 am
I "Can someone explain why city employees get every other Friday off,
by default?"

>> "The "9/80" program, as it has been called, was introduced years ago when Frank Benest was city manager. He claimed we would save gas and help the climate if employees had every other Friday off -- or 26 days a year. He said employees could come in at 7:30 am and leave at 5:30 pm and would still be working 40 hours a week."

^ In addition to the city manager's environmental concerns, it was also implemented as a morale booster to help alleviate on the job stress factors.

^ This move was welcomed by over 95% of the city employees. The additional 26 days off was the equivalent of enjoying a holiday-type weekend every other week and how many average workers have that perk? It was even better when certain observed holidays fell on the weekends...it was like a having a mini-vacation every few months. Working for the city was a terrific employment opportunity that also included a generous retirement program & health benefits.

The current pandemic & subsequent loss of municipal revenue has changed the future of city employment but at one time working for the city provided an enjoyable work environment that paid reasonably well with minimal supervision. Job vacancies were generally filled due to attrition because most employees stayed on until their retirement benefits kicked in + the top administrators always had the option of creating assistant administrative positions to lighten their workloads.

>>> "The problem was and is that they don't come in at 7:30 am -- more like 9 am -- nor do they leave at 5:30 pm -- more like 4:30 OR 5 pm. So the whole thing is a sham, in my opinion. Just a way to get more time off."

^ If the supervisors arrived late and were not there to supervise, why should the underlings arrive early? It was a pattern that everyone followed and besides, there was rarely a need to expedite anything internally...with the possible exception of city utility, animal control and protective services (i.e. fire/police/paramedics) which were all outside the office duties …The KEY was to land a job in city hall rather than one at the library, fire/police station or municipal services (on Bayshore) where there was usually more super
visi==on."==

I believe the writer. When Benest first introduced this schedule around 2005, I was suspicious at the time that employees would NOT diligently come into work at 7:30 and leave nine hours later. I had an office directly across from the city hall and could see people come and go. Several times I was in my office by 7:30 but I didn’t see many city staffers coming in. I frequently toured the seven floors of city hall around 8 a.m., and while the administrative assistants were there answering phones, most others were not.

In winter months I noticed that at 5 p.m. most office lights were off – city hall was dark. And every other Friday city hall was closed.

In reality, the employees – then and now -- are working nine short days but getting paid for a full-time 40-hour week. And the average management professionals group has a base salary of $149,306, and with benefits, $240,791, according to the Palo Alto Weekly. The City of Palo Alto offers its employees a generous benefit package, featuring family medical coverage, retirement, life insurance, plus 12 paid holidays per year, complete dental and vision plan, fully paid life insurance equal to an annual salary, long-term disability plan, 96 hours of sick leave a year, two to five weeks vacation a year, a flexible account for health care and child care expenses, and more, according to the city’s web site. Plus they are about to get an automatic pay raise -- one not based on merit but just being on the job.

Sounds pretty cushy to me, and 9/80 has been going on for years.

BTW, since the coronavirus hit, most employees were told to work from home. But they all are being paid full salary from April until the end of June, costing about $5 million) when final decisions will be made or who has to go because of the city’s budget deficit of $39 million.

Speaking of the deficit, City Manager Ed Shikada announced he was taking a 20 percent cut and other managers would be taking a 15 percent salary cut. But it turns out Shikada maybe isn’t really taking such a big cut, which resident Jeanne Fleming complained to me about, and also the Daily Post ran a story about it. A memo from last Monday’s city council meeting explained how Shikada is taking a 20 percent “cut.” Some 4.5 percent is due to a city-imposed salary freeze. And 10 percent comes from 26 days of his unpaid time off. He will also give up $1,250 from his $5,000 spending account. The Post reported that Shikada acknowledged “online comments about my compensation giveback, (but) the council’s approval of this plan recognizes the value of our management and employee contribution to ensure continued services to the community.”

Shikada makes $403,729 this year, including benefits. So it seems like there’s no real 20 percent salary cut. Who is fooling whom?
We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

 +   34 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 6:48 pm

I can get an appointment with my dentist as early as 7 am. I can get a haircut as late as 7 pm. With this type of arrangement, why can't we get into the planning office at similar times? Why can't we get someone on the phone at similar times to talk about an issue that we don't have to go into City Hall, the Utilities, or other places?


 +   38 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jun 1, 2020 at 9:36 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

I agree with you, Diana. For the city manager with his $400,000 compensation package to propose laying off police officer and firefighters, and to close the only library and community center west of El Camino, as well as our extraordinary Children's Theatre program, does not reflect our community's values.

We all know that families can make ends meet with a lot less than $400,000/year. Palo Alto's median income is $147,000 *pre*-Coronavirus. The pandemic and its consequent economic fallout - which is said to be in its early stages - has eliminated billions of dollars of collective savings for the vast majority of Californians, making it so much harder for families to send their kids to college, much less, retire. Our highest paid city bureaucrats, with their pensions and perks, could show some humility.

Leadership comes from the top. A great way to build trust and foster strong relations is to model the behavior you seek in others. If Mr. Shikada wants us to sleep knowing that we have fewer police officers and firefighters to protect us and our families, maybe he can demonstrate an ability to work 5 days a week, like everyone else fortunate to be employed during the worst economic crisis in almost a century. Our aging community is facing heightened risks with the coronavirus; now is the time to dial up public protection rather than reduce it.

Things are likely to become worse before they become better. On behalf of our seniors and our immunosuppressed population - as well as Palo Alto residents of all ages - we need to do what we can to prioritize the community's health and well being over our need for 3-day weekends. It's not too much to ask our city's highest paid staff member to earn only twice the typical Palo Altan's compensation, rather than almost three times that.

We deserve leaders who reflect our community's values. It's not too late for Ed Shikada make a better choice.


 +   44 people like this
Posted by A PA resident, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 10:39 am

Thanks Diana, for writing this article... A serious audit of compensation and work practices is called for, in the city of PA.
I would turn off this silly "every other Friday off" policy immediately, and
have them at least work from home on these days, like everyone else.
How in the world can you ask tax payers of Palo Alto to finance these ridiculous perks, when pay cuts and layoffs are happening in private industry.
Same goes for automatic pay raises. How is that justified?


 +   25 people like this
Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 11:35 am

Diane, thank you for always opening the lid!

It is obvious that Mr. Shikada's so-called "voluntary 20% pay cut" is not what it is claimed to be, and that sets the tone for all other city employees.

We have a problem in Palo Alto, and factual information needs to be shared with the citizens of our city to clearly understand the causes and the possible solutions of this problem.

The mean/average salary in Palo Alto is $107,000 (derived from the census,) and the median/middle (middle value in a list of numbers) is $147,000. These numbers are far below the salaries of many city employees, which may be a contributing factor to our shortcoming of revenue. The income is too low and the spending is too high.

I do not blame the policemen and the firemen for their salaries. I do blame the Unions representing these workers for their greedy demands, and I also blame the city executives who fail to "negotiate" with these Unions. It appears to be the same in other cities as well, i.e., San Jose, Redwood City, where the salaries of many city employees also exceed the salaries of the common worker.

I trust Eric Filseth's analyses of the above situation. He has come across to me as a smart man with a high integrity, who clearly understands the finances of the city. I would love to have him give a thorough explanation during one of our council meetings.




 +   8 people like this
Posted by Diana Diamond, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 12:18 pm

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

Rebecca --

You raise some good, interesting points. Thank you!

Diana


 +   29 people like this
Posted by A PA resident, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 12:40 pm

Could it be, that by merely asking city employees to work the number of hours they are being paid for, that much of this budget shortfall would disappear?
All they are doing is cutting back services for the citizens, while keeping their ridiculous perks in place.
I wonder if this extra 26 days is just the tip of the iceberg.
And the city manager should resign. Obviously he isn't interested in making
meaningful concessions from his out-of-range compensation package.


 +   49 people like this
Posted by Jeanne Fleming, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 12:53 pm

Great piece, Diana. Ed Shikada has awarded himself 26 additional days off to compensate for a portion of his “pay cut." When the President and Provost of Stanford took much larger salary reductions, did anyone imagine they'd be taking five weeks off, on top of their existing vacation allowances? Of course not. Likewise all the corporate executives who've taken cuts in their compensation. They're still showing up for work. But not the senior managers at City Hall in Palo Alto"the same people who say we have to close libraries and cut the number of first responders.



 +   8 people like this
Posted by mjh, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 1:36 pm

@ Rebecca Eisenberg

"If Mr. Shikada wants us to sleep knowing that we have fewer police officers and firefighters to protect us and our families, maybe he can demonstrate an ability to work 5 days a week, like everyone else"

Are you claiming to know for sure that Mr. Shikada puts in less than a regular forty hour work week? That he doesn't work evenings and weekends, either from his city hall office or from his home office?


 +   33 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Dweller, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 2:24 pm

@mjh

No, we don't know for sure how many hours he puts in. Perhaps he could
make a public, fact-based statement regarding his working hours and his impressive "pay cut". But apparently that's not in store.
And we also don't know how many hours everyone else at the City of Palo Alto
actually works. That's why an audit would help. I would be curious what the outcome is, and would be quite surprised to see them work the hours they are actually being paid for.

Here is one thing that I do know:
That the development department doesn't bother to open up the office outside of 9am to 4pm. Which means that private parties have to take 1/2 day off from work every time they have to go there. How does that square with the extra hours that the staff is required to put in, to compensate for this ludicrous 26-day per year Friday off business?



 +   16 people like this
Posted by Innuendo, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 2:29 pm

Diana- you are taking the comments of an identified person , who claims to be a former city employee as the truth.
Equally disturbing is ms eisenberg questioning the integrity of mr shikada without providing any proof. And she wants to be on the city council?
But I am not surprised, given that this is the Palo Alto weekly.


 +   37 people like this
Posted by Taylor, a resident of Professorville,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 2:58 pm

What is Palo Alto, a city of only 68,000 residents, doing with some 1,400 employees? That makes no sense. And how is it that, when 100 of these people are laid off, all of the services residents care about screech to a halt? At least, that's what the City Manager says is going to happen.

I say, let's keep those 100 people on the payroll, and get rid of the other 1300 who can't get anything done without them.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Father of 3, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 3:18 pm

Diana - is your "deep throat" source saying that the city does not require hourly employees to punch in and out using a standard or desktop digital time clock?


 +   23 people like this
Posted by Resident , a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 3:53 pm

@Innuendo

Is the tail wagging the dog here?
I would say that Mr. Shikada needs to proof to us, the citizens, that he has integrity. My job as a citizen is not, to proof that he hasn't...
An official ought to be accountable to the public, since the public is
paying for his service. Not the other way around.

With his budget cuts that nobody understands, and his unwillingness to
make concessions to his ridiculous pay package, he has proven to me
that there is something wrong with his cavalier attitude...


 +   3 people like this
Posted by 40YearsARenter, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 4:57 pm

Oh, Shallow Alto, ZuckerBurg!
...City was becoming a museum, Diana D. wrote some years ago. By me, attitudes and privilege are part of a mummy case...whole debate hear is incredibly peevish and self-centered, spoiled.
I hope that what with all you are all earning, you are GIVING, donating, and supporting SMALL, well-managed non-profits and causes.
No more cruises, no more trips, no more Gucci - support local and international well-managed non-profits.


 +   20 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 5:29 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.

@Rebecca Eisenberg,

I think that the city is cutting our services (libraries, the children's theater, etc.) so that it can avoid having to cut the city's administrative bureaucracy. This bureaucracy has grown huge in recent decades due to tax revenues.

How about you? Will you want to have a review done of our bureaucracy and make appropriate cuts?

I am sorry to be rude and ask you directly. For years, I have seen that our candidates seem to want to do the right thing when they are running, but become a part of the system once elected.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 5:57 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Is it happened hamlet was playing at the Stanford theater during the time the grand jury was investigating the proposal to build a huge office tower at 27 University and I texted the same line “
Something is rotten at 221 I mean 27 University"


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Innuendo, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 8:00 pm

Resident says :" I would say that Mr. Shikada needs to proof to us, the citizens, that he has integrity. My job as a citizen is not, to proof that he hasn't..."

Wrong. If someone , like me eisenberg claims that mr shikada is not working as he supposed to, she needs to provide the proof.


 +   22 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 2, 2020 at 9:34 pm

I think this is City Council's inability to do their work and protect our taxpayer dollars.

Imagine if every teacher, engineer, janitor, nurse, doctor, professor and secretary worked 9/80?

Everyone claimed they came in at 7:30 am and left work at 5:30 pm and took every other Friday off? A 26 day extra holiday is a full month off of work.

This should be removed. This likely would also remove all the overtime pay the city is paying out right now. We don't need people working 80 hours in 9 business days. They would be more efficient to work 80 hours in 10 business days.

Stop this insanity. Does no one at the City Council have a backbone?

And Ed Shakida's disingenuous claim that he is taking a 20% pay cut when it really is not, is just outrageous. It goes to show you how he claims one thing and actually does something else.

And this man, who lacks transparency, is the one we are trusting to run our City? Time for Shakida to leave and be replaced by someone more humble, and honest.


 +   16 people like this
Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 8:36 am

Thank you, Diana. Excellent reporting!

Let us hope some change comes of it. Unfortunately we have foxes, or possibly sloths, watching the budgetary chicken coop.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 10:14 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Are the police getting paid over-time to enforce the 10-day curfew?


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

Posted by Innuendo, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,

>> Resident says :" I would say that Mr. Shikada needs to proof to us, the citizens, that he has integrity. My job as a citizen is not, to proof that he hasn't..."

Are you folks sure that all those city employees are loafing all the time? Seems to me that they must have been working hard facilitating the massive building boom going on around town. I wish those guys would have taken a lot more time off the last six years.

One thing about the COVID-19 "phased return to normal" that has been extremely enlightening: how much air pollution and traffic returned instantly when construction started up again first. Now we know exactly what "the vibrancy and vitality we all want" means.


 +   17 people like this
Posted by Tom Halstrom, a resident of Martens-Carmelita,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 12:04 pm

Tom Halstrom is a registered user.

Anyone that believes that a city manager doesn't work more than five days a week, or forty hours a week, is seriously deluded. It's often a 7 day a week job, and involves meetings that stretch on far into the night, and often into the next morning.

City manager pay is high because there is a severe shortage of qualified candidates.

Palo Alto has a high number of employees because they have their own water utility, their own electric utility, their own fire and police departments, their own library system, their own airport, and extensive parkland. Many other cities, with similar populations, contract out for all of these. The Santa Clara County City closest in population to Palo Alto is Cupertino, where the electricity and gas comes from PG&E, the water comes from investor owned for-profit companies, law enforcement comes from the County Sheriff, fire protection comes from County Fire, and library services come from the Santa Clara County Library District.

It doesn't matter who is elected to City Council, reducing the number of employees means reducing services.

I don't care for the whole 9/80 thing but the reality is that remote working is making this moot. Managers need to learn to manage by results, not hours.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by WilliamR, a resident of another community,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 12:24 pm

^^^^ Straight-up question-- With all of the outsourcing, how does the quality of life in Cupertino compare to Palo Alto? I'm not will-acquainted with the place, but my impression was that Cupertino was a fairly nice upper-middle-class community.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by jlanders, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 12:31 pm

jlanders is a registered user.

Tom,

Good post. But you forgot some:

+ Our own 24 hour paramedic EMS and an advanced life support ambulance transport service

+ Our own tertiary waste water treatment plant (also supporting Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Stanford University and parts of East Palo Alto)

+ Our own on-call 24 hour animal control officers

+ Our own 24 hour public safety 911 dispatch center covering fire, police public works and animal control

+ Our own park rangers for Foothill Park

+ Our own gas utility

+ Our own on-call 24 hour streets department

+ Our own trees department

I'm sure there are others. But none of these employees work from home, and most drive over an hour or more to report for work in Palo Alto. These are the folks that come out in the worst conditions to fix clogged storm drains and pick up downed power lines in the middle of the night.

Not cool Diana.


 +   18 people like this
Posted by Taylor, a resident of Professorville,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 1:01 pm

The only significant staffing difference between Palo Alto and many other cities of roughly the same size is that we have our own utilities. And that difference doesn't come close to explaining the gap between the size of our payroll and the size of theirs. One example of absurd overstaffing: we have FIVE press officers. Five, in a city of 68,000!

Two facts about Mr Shikada: 1). [portion removed] and 2) He was appointed City Manager by City Council behind closed doors, with NO input from residents.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 3:22 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Amplifying Taylor's point. he was also the ONLY candidate considered and his hiring and comp plan were rushed through by Ms. Kniss so "we didn't lose him."

(Lots of press coverage on that and some press coverage of the fact that he negotiated an extra year's salary and benefits vesting in the event he was fired by PA [portion removed.)


 +   15 people like this
Posted by Chained to my desk, a resident of Mountain View,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 5:56 pm

These are some pretty serious accusations you're levelling here.  What you're accusing city employees of is tantamount to a theft of public funds.  They're being paid to work 80 hours per pay period, but according to your math they are working less than 60.  Are you willing to go on the record and accuse city employees of theft?

Did you try to interview anyone at the city about this practice?  If not the city manager himself, any of the various department heads or supervisors?  Hell, how about randomly picking someone out the CRUSH of employees who must be rolling into the office at 9:30, and asking them where they've been for the last two hours?

Did you request timesheets from the city's HR department?

Did you only observe the public service counters, or did you walk around the cubicles in every department to see if people were back there working?  

Do you think that every single job function of every employee involves public contact, and that they don't have other desk work that might be done outside of the city's stated operating hours?

Do you have ANY other evidence of this theft of public funds which has been going on since 2005, other than just "I looked out the window and didn't see anybody go in"? and "Nobody rolled out the red carpet for me during my 8am inspection"?


 +   20 people like this
Posted by Innuendo, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 6:42 pm

Looks like this based on a posting by a “former city employee" that ms diamond can not identify and track down. And it is being amplified by a city council candidate. Hardly a reliable source.
But this is the Palo Alto weekly, so thre is probably an agenda here that is being pushed.


 +   20 people like this
Posted by Public Servant, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 3, 2020 at 9:44 pm

Stop spreading mis-truths.

As a previous reporter and editor, I am shocked that you would not do your due diligence to research your claims. I have been a City employee for nearly 10 years and am in the office no less than 9.5 hours every day (1/2 hour lunch break which I rarely take) (8.5 hours on the alternate Friday to total a minimum average of 40 hours per week). And I know for a fact that my entire department does the same.

The facts are that the City Manager and team have had to find $38 million to cut from the City budget in an instant.

Go ahead, continue to ask questions, fight for programs you don't want to see cut, make suggestions on how to decrease the budget, but stop making things up and become a part of the solution.

It's obvious you don't respect City workers but we are not heartless people only in it for the “delightful perks." Despite what you think, we are good people working hard to support this City in unprecedented, scary times.



 +   12 people like this
Posted by Innuendo, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 4, 2020 at 10:44 am

At this point, ms diamond should either retract this story or at a minimum place a disclaimer that this article is based on comments by an unknown individual that the writer has not identified.
However, I have a feeling this article will win an award at next years California Gladhanding Journalism awards that the weekly is always bragging about. And they want us to pay for this!!!!


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Well...that's part of the story., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 4, 2020 at 11:29 am

Well...that's part of the story. is a registered user.

Another reason for these hours was to compensate staff for many public meetings and events that they are required to work in evenings (sometimes into the wee hours of the morning) and on Saturdays and Sundays when citizens are available to participate.

The system was designed to improve public access to staff. I think it's fine to examine how well the existing system working, but it is not okay to dismiss the many hours staff works outside of 9-5:00.

Let's make sure our analysis is fair and thoroughly examines all of the hours staff works.

That said, I have observed that some staff abuse this and others work more hours that they are required to, often from home. I have observed this as a community volunteer who works with city staff often. I've seen this in most private organizations I've worked in as well.

Flexible hours have certain advantages, but they can be abused by less motivated employees. Let's be clear, that kind of person exists in all organizations. I think we should be trying to understand what kinds of schedules improve morale and productivity. Those things generally go hand in hand. I suspect that schedule needs vary from one employee to the next, depending on what they do and how their lives interact with work.

This is not as black and white as Ms. Diamond paints it. The picture is more nuanced, and solutions should consider the needs of the public and our staff.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Sunshine, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 4, 2020 at 11:45 am

Yes, Diana. They do not put in the time that other employees might. I noticed when I returned to work some years ago that the younger employees (whom many in management favored) often arrived late, then did not start to work immediately. They had breakfast from a truck, chatted with others and finally started to work about 1 hour late. Of course they had to break for coffee at 10 am, then lunch, at least a full hour +, followed by afternoon coffee, and depart around 4:30. Official work hours were 8-5. Bosses tended to prefer these employees as they did not want to hire someone who might be "more of a mother" to the others. This happened in industry.
Notice something completely different when my daughter works from home. She starts about on them and works until lunch, returns to work, and works until 5-6pm. I almost feel sorry for her that her father and I demonstrated a good work ethic. She got a habit that one could say punishes her.


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Joel, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 4, 2020 at 1:10 pm

I'm proud of the Palo Alto City worker's for the beauty of our city and the conscientiousness of serving its citizens.
Somehow Diana has appointed herself to be the watchdog of Palo Alto government which she usually sees as inadequate in her eyes. I applaud our government workers. Thank you.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by midtowngrrl, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 4, 2020 at 3:49 pm

let me guess, diane, you got yours, right?


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Used to work there, a resident of another community,
on Jun 4, 2020 at 8:52 pm

Diana, I can't tell you how dismayed and saddened I am by your decades-long campaign of cynicism and mistrust. Your constant harping on City employees and elected officials is profoundly insidious -- breeding further cynicism and mistrust of government among Palo Alto residents -- not to mention counterproductive.

I worked at City Hall for quite a few years, and I can tell you that having to put up with the whiny criticism from your ilk is a *major* drain on the morale of City employees. And right now, of all the times you could beat this drum, when employees are facing layoffs and furloughs, just shows an incredible lack of class and sensitivity on your part. Having to put up with this type of harassment, being made to feel like you're incompetent, a grifter -- this is also a big reason why the City has to offer its employees these nice "perks" that you're so ready to malign.

And let me ask you: To what end? What have you accomplished in this self-appointed role of watchdog that you've been playing all these years? Have you uncovered massive amounts of fraud, corruption, misuse of funds, misallocation of City property in the last 10-15 years? I don't think so. Because from where I sat, City employees were among the sharpest, hardest working, and most ethical folks I've ever worked with. They deserve better than to be smeared with these serious and unsubstantiated allegations. And if you can't do better than this, Diana, then you should just stop.


 +   17 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 4, 2020 at 11:57 pm

The last 10 posts reads like non Palo Alto residents. Could it be city employees wanting their 80/9 perk to be preserved is on here attacking Diana's journalism? I for one, and many other Palo Alto Residents appreciate this journalism. Why is this perk still around in existence?

We really need an auditor who audits if this 80/9 perk has resulted in the outrageous overtimes of many city employees. You only have to go online and see all the public salaries of our city employees.

Web Link

Take a look Palo Alto residents.
Look at the outrageous overtime being logged by city employees. Who logs in over 100K of overtime hours per year?

This 80/9 system may actually result in an inefficient system that is costing tax payers so much more money. We are in a deficit this year and next year. We are cutting services to the community. We are shortening library hours that seniors and families rely on (not just for books but also air conditioning on sweltering days). Its a place that community meets and enjoys time together (whether it's story time or doing an activity together).

Meanwhile cuts are made to our valued libraries so they are only open 3 days a week now, we have city people earning over 500K per year last year. Take a look.

LAST YEAR:
City manager earned $569,799.60

City Attorney earned $460,604.29 (did she do her job with 10 day curfew that we all loved?)

Battalion Chief made $457,648.08 including OVERTIME PAY of $112,965.28
Police Sarg. made $454,780.86 including OVERTIME PAY of $145,745.68
Police Agent made $449,623.23 including OVERTIME PAY of $164,175.73
Police CHIEF JONSEN made $417,065.24
Fire Chief made 406,942.06
Police Captain made $403,020.36
Police Captain made $399,666.65
Police Sarg. made $391,021.05 including OVERTIME PAY of $50,461.27
Battalion Chief made $390,814.87 including OVERTIME PAY of $85,838.40
Police Sarg. made $380,594.01 including OVERTIME PAY of $33,927.78
Police Lieut. made $379,682.31
Utilities Director made $379,360.70
Police Agent made $378,232.17 including OVERTIME PAY of $79,975.23
Deputy Chief Fire Marshall made $375,850.65
Police Lieut. made $373,788.52
EMT made $372,534.76 including OVERTIME PAY of $106,408.73
Police Sarg. made $371,889.54 including OVERTIME PAY of $46,840.40
Fire Inspector/EMT made $371,038.09 including OVERTIME PAY of $78,579.18
Fire Captain/EMT made $364,537.28 including OVERTIME PAY of $78,070.25
Battalion Chief made $364,203.82 including OVERTIME PAY of $3,189.12
Police Lieut made $363,180.45
Police Sarg made $361,349.34 including OVERTIME PAY of $26,760.76
Police Sarg made $359,941.40 including OVERTIME PAY of $39,183.51

Assistant CITY Manager made $359,819.05
Fire Captain made $356,305.92 including OVERTIME PAY of $68,896.37
Police Sarg made $354,694.14 including OVERTIME PAY of $31,700.15

Director PLANNING made $353,083.18

Utility System Operator made $352,383.20 incl. OVERTIME PAY of $110,723.44

Police Sarg made $352,032.89 including OVERTIME PAY of $36,229.71
Fire Captain made $348,988.54 including OVERTIME PAY of $71,929.88

DIRECTOR of HR made $347,843.99
Fire Captain made $347,788.46 including OVERTIME PAY of $60,378.95
Police Lieut made $347,618.80
Battalion Chief made $347,259.32 including OVERTIME PAY of $33,638.05

CHIEF assistant CITY Attorney made $341,829.79 (did THIS Person look at the 10 day curfew that City Attorney apparently didn't look at???!!)

Attorney + Chief assistant City attorney salaries combined together are
460K + 340K = over $700,000 yet we had a 10 day curfew put in and none of these Attorneys did a once over of the 10 day curfew?!

This speaks to the level of spending and non-accountability of tax payer funds.

Go to this website and check out the city employee salaries.
Then consider who is blasting Diana for writing up a city employee perk.
Follow the money.

the salaries continue on for pages for people who made more than $300,000 per year.

Even if every single person took a 5% or 10% pay cut, our deficit likely would disappear given the salaries.

Guess who is not suggesting that. Oh. Our city manager Ed Shakida who was compensated for OVER HALF A MILLION dollars in salary LASST YEAR.

But we tolerate gaffes and incompetence and "inexperience"

Web Link








 +   5 people like this
Posted by Tom Halstrom, a resident of Martens-Carmelita,
on Jun 5, 2020 at 12:43 am

Tom Halstrom is a registered user.

Taylor wrote: "The only significant staffing difference between Palo Alto and many other cities of roughly the same size is that we have our own utilities."

Not true, as jlanders pointed out. Palo Alto is a "full service city," as are many older cities. Residents benefit from this in multiple ways, but it does mean a lot more employees than cities that contract out for most services.

Also, having your own water, gas, and electric utilities is not trivial, it requires a LOT of employees to keep all that running. However the benefit is that rates for these are significantly lower than in cities that are served by for-profit utilities.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Tom Halstrom, a resident of Martens-Carmelita,
on Jun 5, 2020 at 12:46 am

Tom Halstrom is a registered user.

@Resident

That is a LOT of overtime pay. But paying overtime is almost always less expensive than hiring additional employees because you have to pay for another set of benefits. This is why both companies with non-exempt employees, and government agencies, choose to pay overtime instead of hiring more people.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by This is not journalism!, a resident of another community,
on Jun 5, 2020 at 6:53 am

Hey @Resident, this piece of work is not "journalism"!!! Journalism requires fact-checking, which Ms. Diamond is either unable or unwilling to do. So instead she cavalierly reports, word for word, the unsubstantiated allegations of an unknown individual and calls it a day.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jun 5, 2020 at 12:34 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

rsmithjr -

I apologize for not seeing your question. I urge you- and everyone - to call or email me directly as this system does not notify when questions are asked. I am easy to find using google, Facebook, and linkedin. Campaign email is rebecca at winwithrebecca dot com (but all email addresses reach me).

At any rate - your question was:

"How about you? Will you want to have a review done of our bureaucracy and make appropriate cuts? I am sorry to be rude and ask you directly. For years, I have seen that our candidates seem to want to do the right thing when they are running, but become a part of the system once elected."

Short answer: YES!!!

Longer answer - in progress -

1 - It is not rude to ask a candidate who is requesting your vote any question whatsoever. In fact, not to ask strikes me as unwise.

2. - It is a very interesting question whether being elected will make me "part of the system." I have many responses. First, one reason I seek official office is that advocating for change from outside the system is exhausting, time consuming, and sometimes demoralizing. For example, I have been advocated for fairness and transparency in our City's review of the Castilleja Amended CUP for years, given that Castilleja has been in violation of both its existing CUP and the settlement agreement it signed with Palo Alto in 2013, and that settlement agreement made clear that if Castilleja broke its promises again - which Castilleja did immediately and continues to do - that the City of Palo Alto would pull Castilleja's existing CUP and cause Castilleja to leave the 52 residential lots in Old Palo Alto on which it sits, despite not being a residence in any manner whatseover. I do not understand why Palo Alto has refused to fine Castilleja for its zoning violations - which amount to $500 per violation per day according to our building ordinances (amounting to $6 million / year with Castilleja's typical over-enrollment by 40 students) and I do not understand why we are not enforcing a contract that both parties signed in good faith. People have accused me of all sorts of bizarre motivations for my insistence that Palo Alto act responsibly towards its tax payers, who have been paying for all of the uses of city services that Castilleja has been using without paying a dime into our city coffers for 100 years.

Here is my motivation: financial fairness. Palo Alto residents should not be forced to pay for special projects that occupy our limited residential lots, over-using our resources without paying any taxes.

Another example: I have been rallying for a business tax in Palo Alto for years in order to align us with similar cities across the country. Whether we enact a business tax based on payroll or business revenues or both, we MUST require our business occupants to pay SOMETHING. To accommodate small and medium businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic and its economic fall out, the business tax can have large exemptions for local employers with 300 employees (for example) and/or, say, $300 million in revenue.

The goal with the business tax is to ensure that our LARGEST employers in Palo Alto -- those who employ tens of thousands of workers by day who leave at night -- pay their fair share, or at least SOMETHING more than nothing. Looking at the revenues and payroll of only our City's largest employers -- HP, Varian, Palantir, Tesla, VMWare, Cloudera, Tibco, Roche, Tencent ... -- taxing only the very largest employers could not just balance our budget, but bring us back to the time when Palo Alto led the country in terms of quality of city services and investment in public spaces, green space, community events, and the arts. This is a no-brainer!

But it is the City Council that decides whether to have a business tax, and inexplicably, they pulled the business tax from November's ballot, as if HP, Tesla, and Palantir cannot afford to pay for the police protection, fire department, utilities, street cleaning, parks, and everything else these multi-billion dollar employers offer their tens of thousands of Palo Alto employees on our dime.

Those are just two of the fiscal battles I have been attempting to wage from the outside. Although I have made some progress -- for example, by exposing the conflicts of interest of one of our former City Commissioners to the media and sacrificing 15 minutes I had been granted to interview for that Commission instead towards the purpose of cleaning up that commission -- that Commission was not re-appointed to an additional term, for the first time in a couple decades -- trying to make effective change as an outsider is close to impossible for most people.

As to the specific financial mess you describe -- one of countless -- of course conducting an audit of our city payroll is high on my priorities -- particularly to the extent that these city employees (and elected officials) often appear to have conflicts of interest that may, and often seem to, split their loyalties.

There are a lot of potential approaches to this large set of problems. One approach, which I like, is to make many of these highest paid city staff positions elected offices like they are in other cities. Those positions could include the City Manager, City Attorney, and Police and/or Fire Chief. An additional approach - which I like also - is to create and enforce strict rules against any potential conflict of interest, whether that conflict is actual or merely in appearance. The appearance of a conflict of interest erodes public trust.

For example, I do not understand why our mayor -- who pulled the business tax from the ballot, and who continues on a regular basis to approve more office construction (including just last night) -- is allowed to work full time for Ford Motors, who benefited from both of those official actions, at the expense of Palo Alto residents. Does Adrian Fine oppose the business tax in order to climb the ladder at his day job with Ford? We can't know. But to anyone watching, the question is fair.

Requiring City Council members to forego their financial and other conflicts of interest would require us to convert the City Council positions to full time jobs, and I welcome that! If the salaries were pegged at a level more in line with similar cities, those salaries could be in the $150K-$175K range - or whatever voters decide. I wonder how many sitting council members would agree to let go of their potentially lucrative day jobs in order to serve the community of Palo Alto full time. If they were not willing, that may help us find elected officers who are interested in putting the needs of our community over their own. And to clarify: without hesitation I support the transitioning of council seats to full time roles, even if those roles were paid at 1/3 the salary of the top staff we appoint and manage.

More improvements I'd like to put on the table include:

(1) creating the office and role of an ombudsperson, which also could be an elected role, depending on research and community input. and

(2) Reinvigorating the beleaguered office of inspections (another focus of Ed's hatchet) and creating an actual department of enforcement with teeth. Inspections and enforcement not only ensure fairness for application of city codes and laws, they also make sure that developers, employers, builders, and businesses (amongst others) who derive revenue from our city at very least follow the safety and similar codes necessary to avoid costly accidents and harm to others. These departments also derive essential revenue for city services, such as the potential $6 million a year our city could and should be collecting for Castilleja's violations of local law and breaches of the settlement agreements they signed with the assistance and approval of their own expensive lawyers.

These are on top of the ideas I proposed earlier:

(3) Consideration of conversation of highly paid staff roles from appointmented positions to elected offices;

(4) Creation and enforcement of strong rules against actual or perceived potential conflicts of interest in our city staff and elected officers;

(5) Creation of office of ombudsperson, whether elected or otherwise.

(6) Close tax loopholes and other undeserved benefits given to largest businesses and special interests, including commercial developers who demand changes of zoning laws to accommodate their financial interests, huge employers who continue to expand their offices without paying a dime into city coffers, telecom companies that are allowed to build up within feet of residential homes, and special interests whose use of the same city services that our local government now seeks to cut has been paid for entirely by our residents for more than a century.

These goals and values are deeply ingrained in me, instilled by my father (retired federal bankruptcy judge) and mother (retired teacher with 50 years of service to her community). I did not invent these ideas in order to run for office.

Rather, I am running for office BECAUSE these are the goals and values that drive me. The goal to make our government work for all of us. The value that everyone -- not just residents -- should pay their fair share.

I hope that helps. Again, please feel free to contact me directly. And if I had your contact information, I would reach out to you as well.

Best regards - Rebecca


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Will Vote For Rebecca BUT..., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 6, 2020 at 9:29 am

>> "For years, I have seen that our candidates seem to want to do the right thing when they are running, but become a part of the system once elected."
- rsmithjr, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,

^^ The real reason...campaign promises & expounding progressive ideals is part of the pre-election process. Tell the voters what they want to hear, address their frustrations and offer 'lip service' to appease them & capture their votes.

Once elected, you are 'in' and nothing matters anymore because if you 'play the game' and become part of the 'system', your chances for re-election are almost guaranteed as you will now have a multitude of endorsements from your council colleagues, real estate developers, other commercial interests, various lobbying associations (i.e. police union) and what not. Then you simply 'term out' (and run for county supervisor if so inclined).

As witnessed by other elections both regional & national, selling a bill of goods is often the best way to get elected. It is the American way.

If Ms. Eisenberg is truly sincere in regards to her campaign proposals then more power to her progressive council/city vision...

BUT good luck initiating these concepts as the PACC is little more than a rubber stamp committee elected by special interest groups and they will rebuke any (and all) of these proposals.

Cronyism and payola are a venerable part of American politics and one cannot expediently alter or change American cultural perspectives.

Trimming fiscal fat as a progressive liberal is an exceedingly difficult task as those living off the fat will be very reluctant to surrender their overpriced salaries and PERKS.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by BJ, a resident of another community,
on Jun 6, 2020 at 9:58 am

Hi just a few thoughts from someone who lives "outside" the city of Palo Alto. The salaries listed for the city employees is absolutely ridiculous and is what is driving your debt and services being cut...It is requiring hire taxes to be paid by your local residents that make on average what 2 or 3 times less. Under absolutely NO circumstance should any government, state or city employee make a salary / benefits that is higher than a comparable job in the private sector PERIOD. You the citizens of Palo Alto have the power to change this..... Good luck and I do hope you find the courage before the city is forced into bankruptcy like mine and benefits are slashed in half.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Will Vote For Rebecca BUT...,, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 6, 2020 at 10:08 am

>> "The salaries listed for the city employees is absolutely ridiculous and is what is driving your debt and services being cut...It is requiring hire taxes to be paid by your local residents that make on average what 2 or 3 times less. Under absolutely NO circumstance should any government, state or city employee make a salary / benefits that is higher than a comparable job in the private sector PERIOD. You the citizens of Palo Alto have the power to change this....."

^ An excellent point! Rebecca, please take heed & strive to rid the City of ALL overpaid administrative deadbeats...easier said than done.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by DIana Diamond, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 6, 2020 at 12:43 pm

DIana Diamond is a registered user.

There are some wonderful, thoughtful comments on this site, but also those who complain that what I wrote is based only on one comment of an individual who used to work at city hall, and that I am just out to get at city employees.

Not true. I have been a journalist in Palo Alto for more than 20 years, covering politics and city hall as a reporter and then a columnist (and also an editor of one of our local papers), and my responsibilities included talking not only to the public but the city staff.

What I wrote is not only what one former employee said, but my comments were also based on my own observations and numerous, as in very many, conversations I have had with staff members. I stand by what I wrote.

There are some employees who say that they work hard under a 9/80 program. I am sure some of them do -- but not all. And maybe they can better explain why lights at city hall are all turned off by 5 p.m. if they are are supposed to work until 5:30 p.m.

But this column represents one example of some of the overspending that happens at city hall. And our city council is not much help. One new council member once told me he was instructed by his peers to ALWAYS make sure he compliments city staff and their hard and well-done work before he makes any other comment -- otherwise staff wont like him.

This subject goes deeper than we see at the surface. I agree an honest, careful auditor should be hired to better examine all that is going on.

Thank you all for all your thoughts!

Diana


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community,
on Jun 6, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Many offices I visited in Saõ Paulo, Brazil used a fingerprint time clock. Employees would present their finger every time they either entered or exited the building (even for lunch breaks).

This way management could easily at least know or audit how many hours every employee was on the premises.

This would work well here for office employees. Not so much for those with jobs that take them out "into the field."


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Cooper, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 7, 2020 at 8:35 pm

We're paying this guy Shikada $500,000/year, and he imposes a ten day curfew on our city that is so blatantly unlawful the ACLU instantly objects? It's time for Council to get rid of him.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Concerned resident, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 7, 2020 at 8:52 pm

Amen, Cooper.

We have a City Manager who, in a time of crisis, awards himself 26 extra days of vacation -- and is incompetent when he's on the job. It's time to give Mr. Shikada 365 days of unpaid vacation.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Taylor, a resident of Professorville,
on Jun 7, 2020 at 9:00 pm

Agreed, Cooper and Concerned. And the curfew is by no means the only aggressive"and totally wrong"call our City Manager has made. [Portion removed.] City Council, do your job! Send Mr Shikada packing!


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Will Vote For Rebecca BUT..., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 8, 2020 at 9:51 am

> "And maybe they can better explain why lights at city hall are all turned off by 5 p.m. if they are are supposed to work until 5:30 p.m."

^ To perhaps save on electricity?


> "One new council member once told me he was instructed by his peers to ALWAYS make sure he compliments city staff and their hard and well-done work before he makes any other comment -- otherwise staff wont like him."

^ It's called the Eddie Haskell Approach.


> "...an honest, careful auditor should be hired to better examine all that is going on."

^ How about an efficiency expert to scrutinize the ROI of PA city administrative salaries/benefits VS the time actually put in along with the ACTUAL results?


> "We have a City Manager who, in a time of crisis, awards himself 26 extra days of vacation --"

^ It's called a PERK!





 +  Like this comment
Posted by name withheld, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 8, 2020 at 10:59 pm

After tonite's public comments at City Council, the entire Police Department deserves a 25% raise.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Concerned Palo Altan , a resident of Community Center,
on Jun 9, 2020 at 6:29 pm

Back to the folks we taxpayers are paying the big bucks to at City Hall:

[Portion removed; please provide links to the stories you are quoting.]





 +  Like this comment
Posted by Acupuncturist, a resident of Slater,
on Jun 15, 2020 at 4:31 am

Striving for Health aims to help those who are seeking acupuncture treatments in Northern VA. Their office is in Herndon, Virginia, right next to Reston. They offer acupuncture treatments, herbal treatments, herbal supplements, dietary therapy, cupping treatments, gua sha treatments, and more in regards to Traditional Chinese Medicine. They also offer holistic pain-free facial treatments like cosmetic acupuncture near me in Herndon, VA. They also offer cosmetic acupuncture, microcurrent facial treatments, facial cupping, LED light therapy, micro-needling treatments, and more. Ask them how they can help when it comes to rejuvenating the face and body. Striving for Health can assist with many different types of acupuncture treatments in Northern Virginia and the surrounding areas.Web Link


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