Let's award our public employees for working -- ?? | An Alternative View | Diana Diamond | Palo Alto Online |


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By Diana Diamond

Let's award our public employees for working -- ??

Uploaded: Nov 3, 2021

More, we need more. Our public employee morale is down.

Two more assistant city managers are what City Manager Ed Shikada asked the Palo Alto City Council to approve the other night. That's a two-person increase in his staff. The city already has an assistant city manager and a deputy manager. The council also agreed to hire a new receptionist for the Development Center and a Public Relations officer for the police department.

This city a couple of years ago had about 1,100 employees, but that number has been reduced to 861, in part due to a two-year budget deficit. The city is currently budgeted for up to 961 employees, but hiring is a problem, the council was told. Yet the employee benefits are immense!

Council member Pat Burt explained that he wants to hire a lot more employees, since city financial analyses indicate more money than expected will come into their coffers later this year.

Maybe, but do we have to immediately spend it? And why do we need more? Because the city manager is overworked with four assistants? And do we really need 1,100 employees for 65,000 residents?

Palo Alto employee benefits include medical, dental, employee financial assistance, life insurance, long-term disability, day care assistance. health care assistance, retirement savings, pensions (5 to100 percent of a retiree's salary, cost-of-living adjustments, etc., according to the city's website, https://www.cityofpaloaltoemployee.com/benefits-by-category.


One of our city officials, the HR director, Rumi Portillo, urged the council Monday night to give employees more. She said the city normally has giveaways to make employees happy. As reported in the Post, she said this year only masks have been given out to employees. Morale is suffering and "employees are weary. They're really just hitting the exhaustion point."


City Hall has been closed since last March 2020, and many employees "have been working at home," they say. They received full pay, health insurance and continuing pension benefits. City Hall began to slowly open on June 1 2021 (14 months later) but it still is not totally operational. New regulations need to be studied, was the reason given for the slow opening.

I know that when I occasionally "worked at home," home was work. I'd start out writing, and then needed to throw things into the washer and then the dryer. And sweep up the kitchen. At mid-day, I had to run to the grocery to get some chicken and whatever for dinner. For me, home was work. I don't know if males view it that way.

Anyhow, Portillo told the council that the city should spend $80,000 for an employee appreciation program -- that would help morale.

Is she the city's director of HR or is she head of the employee's union.? Feels like the latter.

Supervisor Je Simitian started this idea of giving employees who suffered through the pandemic 'Hero Pay" for working through the coronavirus outbreak. The feds had given the county $72 million for pandemic relief, and I guess supervisors thought that money was a great way to reward employees for working, to the tune of $2,500 apiece ($76 million total) for all 22,000 county employees. County Assessor Larry Stone and County Executive Jeffrey Smith said they each would give their hero money to help the poor and needy. Wish the supervisors thought like that and spent all that money on helping the poor and underprivileged. The poor in the county really need it. County employees do not A lot of those worked at home during this period, with pay, and the average salary is at the six-digit level.


The ten-digit question: If you have a phone with a 650 prefix, as of last Tuesday you must dial the area code of each person you are calling, including your next-door neighbor. It's the new requirement from the FCC, currently for certain designated areas. If you have a 408 prefix, you are not required to use it for a local call. -- at least, not yet.

This new requirement quietly crept into our phone system, effective Oct. 24. Many of us were surprised, including several newspapers, which read "Beginning today..." Like immediately.

All this was apparently done to create a new three-digit suicide help line -- nationally it will be 988, effective July 16, 2022.

I guess it is a good idea for people contemplating suicide to have an easy number to call if they need help. But was the only possible solution to require all telephone users in various parts of the country to dial 10 digits for a call? I mean have all three-digit numbers already in use? Like 444 or 922 or 001? Or was this just the result of an extremely effective lobbying group that got the FCC to effectuate this change?

It's all in the numbers, these days.