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VIDEO: Measure A supporters cheer results

 

The mood was ebullient Tuesday night at the Measure A election party when the election returns rolled in showing that the bond measure extension was heading to a victory by a big margin.

By 11:40 p.m., with 48 of 65 precincts in the Palo Alto Unified School District reporting, Measure A had more than 77 percent yes votes, with 55 percent needed to pass.

Measure A extends a 1995 bond measure without raising the current property tax rate. All told, the measure will generate $378 million through around the year 2042. The money will be used, in part, for new school facilities.

This Measure A campaign was scripted on the parcel tax vote, also called Measure A, passed by district voters in June 2005. That measure won 74 percent of the vote, needing 67 percent to pass.

It seemed a little surprising that the current Measure A was even outpacing the former Measure A.

"The campaign was very similar to what we did in 2005," Jon Foster, one of the four campaign chairs, said.

The formula for the campaign, Foster said, was to tell the voters why the measure was needed. Campaign mailers did that. Then the campaign identified likely "yes" voters.

The final push started last weekend when volunteers placed "door-hangers" on homes throughout the district reminding residents to vote.

That was followed by 10,000 calls made to voters on Monday and Tuesday, again reminding people to vote.

The campaign had 100 volunteers who made 100 calls each. The volunteers, with their cell phones, gathered at four homes to make the calls.

"I'm absolutely thrilled," school board President Dana Tom said about the results. "It's a wonderful statement of trust that we will do the best for the students in the district."

"The value of a campaign like this goes beyond new school buildings," Samir Tuma, another campaign co-chair, said. "It's bringing the community together. We have made a statement tonight that we care about our community and our schools."

The Measure A campaign raised about $96,000 in campaign donations, not quite reaching the goal of $120,000 modeled on the previous Measure A campaign in 2005, according to campaign funding chair Melinda Christopherson.

One difference between the two campaigns is that the current Measure A decided to not accept money from architects, construction firms or construction consultants, Christopherson said. Those are firms that are stakeholders in the new construction the bond measure extension will fund.

The campaign returned one $5,000 check as a result and declined to accept a second for the same amount, Foster said.

Architects and construction firms are often the biggest donors to school bond-measure campaigns, so it's almost unheard-of in California not to accept their donations, he said.

View election results

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by what a waste
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 4, 2008 at 8:15 am

The Measure A campaign raised about $96,000 in campaign donations, not quite reaching the goal of $120,000 modeled on the previous Measure A campaign in 2005, according to campaign funding chair Melinda Christopherson.

Pity the $96,000 wasn't donated to PiE. We only needed 55% of the vote, which didn't require this sort of funding.


Like this comment
Posted by Holly Ward
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 4, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Dear what a waste,

Your comment shows great naivety and ignorance. The sad fact is that political campaigns require money; after the defeat of the parcel tax a few years ago by less than 1000 votes we take no chances. As the Mercury News article points out, Palo Alto is the only one of 5 school districts where the bond was facing organized opposition. And as Samir Tuma explains, Palo Altans don't just accept a conclusion; they want detailed answers to their questions before they'll authorized the borrowing of $378,000,000. Mailers and lawn signs cost money; all of the physical work (fundraising, treasurer, web site, graphic design, phone calls, literature drops) is done by volunteers who care about their community. If we had to pay for those volunteers, imagine what the cost would be.

As for your suggestion that we could have done less work to get the 55% and that we didn't need to have 77%, please let us know just exactly how we're supposed to do that. There are no local polls on voter positions on bond measures; we had a target number of supportive voters, based on the number of voters in prior elections, and we went worked hard to secure those voters. Even when you identify your supporters through phone calls, you then need to make sure that they get out and vote by making phone calls on the day of the election. The organizational and volunteer challenges are huge.
Why would we stop even one vote short when we don't know how many have voted until the polls are closed on election night?

One more point: Melinda Christopherson has served on the PIE board for many years including as Treasurer -- of anyone, she is well informed to know what $96,000 could be used for in the district. But she also knows that it costs money to make money, and raising $96,000 in order to borrow $378,000,000 is well worth the price!

Congratulations to the entire Measure A Volunteer Team on a job well done for our schools and our community.


Like this comment
Posted by Grrr
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 4, 2008 at 2:21 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 4, 2008 at 2:33 pm

I wonder who all these people are who vote for something because they see a lawn sign.


Like this comment
Posted by what a waste,
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 4, 2008 at 2:42 pm

"There are no local polls on voter positions on bond measures;"

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] What DID your committee do and what did you spend $96,000 on? 2 mins on google brings up this:
Web Link

So, you got exactly the same result as that estimated in this survey for $96,000. How do you justify spending a teacher's annual salary when you made no difference at all?


Like this comment
Posted by holly ward
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 4, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I'd love to talk to all of you about this more in person. I'm listed in the phone book -- care to give me a call?


Like this comment
Posted by what a waste
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 4, 2008 at 4:10 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by what a waste
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 4, 2008 at 4:21 pm

Editors, Why did you remove a one line post that simply pointed out the survey puts a different perspective on the result?


Like this comment
Posted by no vote
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2008 at 5:38 pm

what a waste--
Interesting link. Page 8 puts Gunn's swimming pool at the bottom of likely voters priority list, yet it's the first action PAUSD took this morning, the day after the vote. Can you blame me for voting no?

Holly, thanks for the offer for a personal phone call. Would you please consider answering What A Waste's question here so the rest of us can hear it? "What DID your committee do and what did you spend $96,000 on?"


Like this comment
Posted by Sports booster
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2008 at 5:57 pm

"Interesting link. Page 8 puts Gunn's swimming pool at the bottom of likely voters priority list, yet it's the first action PAUSD took this morning, the day after the vote."

The timing of the start of the Gunn pool was because of the time limits for the permits and approvals (which, along with the architectural design was paid for by donations). The Sports Boosters took a calculated risk in order to be ready for construction immediately if the bond passed. The timing had nothing to do with priority.


Like this comment
Posted by Bond Skeptic
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 4, 2008 at 8:26 pm

I was sorry to see that Measure A passed. I have two fundamental problems with it: with the combined effect of the 1995 bond measure and Measure A, we as a community of roughly 60,000 people will have spent 3/4 of a billion dollars just on our school over the space of 20 years. You heard me right. Do the math: there are 20 schools in Palo Alto. 20 into $800 million dollars is $40 million bucks. Do you really mean to tell me that we couldn't have bulldozed every single school building in Palo Alto and rebuilt them from scratch for way less than $40 million per campus? Remember that we already own the land.

What that says to me is that the people who are disbursing the money don't fundamentally care about getting value for their dollars.

The second thing that's even more galling is that the total cost to the tax payers of the $800 million will be something more on the order of 1.6 billion give or take (depending on the prevailing interest rates and the time duration). I've got a better idea: why don't we calculate what the debt service would have cost us per annum and pay that into a school capital fund and then fund projects out of that fund as the money accrues. I don't fundamentally believe that there is almost $400 million worth of work that just has to start tomorrow.


Like this comment
Posted by Check your math
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 4, 2008 at 9:44 pm

1995 bond: $143 million
Measure A: $378 million

Total: $521 million. Not $800 million.


Like this comment
Posted by Bond Skeptic
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 4, 2008 at 11:27 pm

Ok, $521 million dollars. Half a billion dollars. 26 million dollars per school.

Maybe Mr/Ms Check Your Math has an HP 12C handy and can tell us what the total principal plus interest cost will be on $378 million dollars over 20 years at whatever muni bonds are going for these days.

Why does it not achieve the same goal at much lower cost to the taxpayer to start a School Capital Fund and pay into it every year the money that we would be spending on debt service if we sell the bond issue. Then fund capital improvement projects out of that pool of money. It'll require patience and discipline. Qualities that you're telling me are impossible to muster in a community such as ours?

It is my personal view that selling bonds is irresponsible. The more bonds you sell, the larger the portion of your budget becomes non-discretionary (debt service). This is one of the reasons that the state of California has painted itself into such a tight corner these days. People think bonds are "free money". They're not.


Like this comment
Posted by Jon Foster
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2008 at 11:31 pm

Thanks to Holly, Sports booster, and Check your math for your very helpful comments.

As a co-chair of the campaign to pass Measure A, I agree completely with Holly's post above. Let me add that our goal in the campaign was not to convince 55% of the voters to vote yes, it was to tell 100% of the voters what Measure A was all about and why it was so important to our students and our community to pass it. Had we known in advance that 77% of the voters would vote yes on the bond (which, of course, we didn't), I suppose we could have not bothered to contact some of the voters in the district and still ended up with more than 55% of the vote. But does anyone really think that would have been the right thing to do? I certainly don't!

The 1,000+ people who supported the Measure A campaign through their hours of volunteer time, their financial support, and/or their endorsements, and the 10,000+ people who cast a vote to support our public schools yesterday demonstrate the strength and commitment of our community. This should be a source of pride to all of us. My personal thanks to everyone who supported Measure A.

Jon Foster
Co-Chair, Measure A Campaign


Like this comment
Posted by Bond Skeptic
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 4, 2008 at 11:56 pm

Ok, I googled around a bit and found a mortgage calculator. I realize that muni bonds don't work quite the same way that mortgages do, but it's a reasonable approximate. A quick glance at a website that lists current muni bonds shows current coupons in the 4.5 - 6 percent range.

If you take out a mortgage for $378,000 at 5% for 10 years, your monthly payment is $4,009.28. That's 120 payments for a total of $481,113.60. Now I'm sure Mr/Ms Check Your Math is sharp enough to realize that you can simply scale these numbers up by 1000 to apply to our bond case.

So it will cost us an additional $103 million dollars to borrow that money assuming 5% for 10 years. If you run the numbers for 20 years, it looks a lot worse, of course:

A 20 year mortgage at 5% would have total payments of $598,711.20 (times 1000 for our case). So you're looking at $220 million dollars flushed down the drain.

Now what they don't mention in most bond issues is that they really only pay the coupon and don't pay down the principle. So at the end of the 10 or 20 years (your choice), you end up still owing a balloon payment equal to $378,000,000 in our case.

Of course, that won't be our problem, will it? Let some other poor sap deal with that. Maybe Palo Alto will be mostly under water by 2028, so no-one will be around to care.





Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 5, 2008 at 12:33 am

Yeah!!! The naysayers go down in flames, AGAIN!


Like this comment
Posted by No balloon on bonds
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 5, 2008 at 6:01 am

You're right, Mike. :)

As usual, negative folks on this forum are just throwing around untrue assertions without facts to back them up. I don't know where "bond skeptic" got the information about balloon payments but that's NOT CORRECT. If bonds had balloon payments the district would be be dealing with the balloon from the 1995 bond; instead, the district refinanced it and the rate we're all paying, including paying off the principal, is just over half the initial rate from that bond.

I also don't know why he's talking about $521 million over 20 years, when the bonds began paying for work in 1995 and the work from this one will extend through 2025 to 2028, which is longer.

It would be nice if people checked facts rather than making untrue statements and the lambasting the district about them.


Like this comment
Posted by what a waste
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2008 at 7:37 am

"As the Mercury News article points out, Palo Alto is the only one of 5 school districts where the bond was facing organized opposition."

Wow, organized opposition? One man, his camera and a website. Yes you really needed to spend $96,000 to counter that! I wonder how much he spent?

Oh, and Jon, you did know in advance that you had 80% support for the measure. Of course, that is only if you'd actually read the board packages or even tried google: Web Link

Well, I guess you can now claim you were now "instrumental" in the passing of this measure for any future political objective. That is probably what is worth $96,000 to you and your cadre. I hope you really do believe that is worth another teacher.


Like this comment
Posted by Bond Skeptic
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 5, 2008 at 7:38 am

Dear No Balloon On Bonds,

What do you think it means to say "They refinanced the bonds"? It means they took out another bond in order to pay off the principal on the first one. That means you're still paying interest on the original 1995 principal even after the retirement of those original bonds. That's exactly my point. Maybe it's not technically a balloon payment, but it has the exact same effect. How much of this new $378 million will be used to pay off principal from previous bonds?

The $521 million figure is simply the sum of the total amount allowed to be issued from the 1995 bond issue and the current measure A.

And exactly why is it good news that this bond issue will be outstanding for a longer time than 20 years? That means we'll be paying interest on it for even longer, which makes the total financial impact even worse (meaning the amount of taxpayer dollars that get flushed down the drain in the form of interest payments on the debt).

Of course maybe that doesn't matter since they keep "refinancing" the principal. In effect this means that we pay interest indefinitely on every dollar of principal value of bond we sell. So bonds are the moral equivalent of a Ponzi scheme where the engine that makes it go is inflation, rather than the ability to recruit new suckers into the scheme at an exponential rate. In 2008, $143 million seems like a trivial amount, so we don't care that the new issue is almost 3 times the size of the previous one. Fortunately inflation doesn't have any artificial limits as human populations do ...

Have you wondered why we could afford to build the Interstate Highway system in the 1950s and now we can barely afford to patch the potholes in our streets? Ride your bike down Waverly Street between Churchill and Seale. Look at the magnificent houses on either side, but don't look too hard or you're likely to catch your wheel in one of the huge cracks or divots and go head over heels. You're in one of the most affluent and educated communities in the country with all that property taxable value sitting there and the street is a mess. That we can't manage our finances better is pathetic.


Like this comment
Posted by Democracy in action
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 5, 2008 at 8:30 am

"People think bonds are "free money"."

I'm not so sure about this. The way I see it, the school board says that it will cost so much to run the district (regular property taxes + parcel tax + bond taxes). It's perfectly reasonable to disagree with both the cost (it certainly is expensive) and the method of obtaining the money (bonds certainly have their drawbacks). But both the parcel tax and the bonds were put up for a vote and the bottom line is that enough people in the community decided that they were willing to pay.


Like this comment
Posted by Bond Skeptic
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 5, 2008 at 9:53 am

Dear Democracy in Action,

You're right, of course: the people have spoken. I'm just tilting at windmills. I was complacent after the last round of sewer bonds got voted down, but I promise to be more actively engaged before the fact next time in an effort to educate people about the long term fiscal impact of bonds. My claim is that the bond promoters never do full disclosure on how these things really work. If we can't get an educated response from the voting public in a place with the demographics of Palo Alto, then maybe it's all just hopeless.

Heavy sigh. Gotta go back to work so that I can pay my new property tax assessment ...


Like this comment
Posted by Democracy in action
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 5, 2008 at 8:01 pm

"My claim is that the bond promoters never do full disclosure on how these things really work. If we can't get an educated response from the voting public in a place with the demographics of Palo Alto, then maybe it's all just hopeless."

Bond Skeptic,
You may be right, but you may also be selling the voting public short. I certainly knew full well how expensive this bond is and how it will impact my taxes for years to come. And I am more than happy to pay it. As a product of the PAUSD, I feel that I will always be in debt for what it provided me. As a homeowner, the market value for my home purchased in 2004 is already over 30% greater than its assessed value.


Like this comment
Posted by Bond Skeptic
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 6, 2008 at 8:13 am

Dear Democracy in Action,

Just one more message and then I'll let this drop ...

Just to be clear, I'm not against paying taxes to support the Paly schools. I have two sons who went all the way through from kindergarten to Paly High (the younger one graduates next week, in fact). So I know how wonderful the PAUSD school are and I want them to be able to maintain and improve both their physical plant and their curricula.

I'm just saying that I think bonds are the wrong way to fund capital improvements in general. They are the easy way out, but end up costing you horribly in the long term. But I guess there's just something fundamental and structural in the way we govern ourselves that makes planning ahead and long term thinking basically impossible.

On the positive side, at least Measure A included the taxing power to pay off the bonds, which is more than you can say for any of the state bond issues we've passed in my memory.


Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2008 at 10:16 am

Bond Skeptic: Thanks for your voice of sanity. The bonds typify our obsession with buying everything on credit – whether we can afford it or not. Reminds me of the ant and the grasshopper.

Wayne Martin, who opposed Measure A (at a personal cost of $700), was criticized for saying it’s almost an $800 million bond. But his point was correct. And Diana Diamond wrote a good opinion piece in the Daily Post about how much of our money ends up going to the bankers.

Too many residents vote yes “for the children.” But it's our children who will end up paying for our costly mistakes.


Like this comment
Posted by Post Ptui (formerly No Balloon)
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 6, 2008 at 8:35 pm

There IS no good piece in the Post (a trashy name for trashy newspapers) and Diana Diamond's unabashed negativity and unsubstantiated claims are a disaster for the health of this community.


Like this comment
Posted by CA property Taxes
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 11, 2008 at 10:19 pm

Well, it is $44/per assessed $100K. Those of you who have had your houses in PA more than 10 years should have little to worry about.

Consider other states that pay property taxes in the teens EACH year. Those funds go to the schools... $44/per assessed $100K sounds like a steal.


Like this comment
Posted by SY Choi
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 1, 2008 at 2:09 pm

According to a Paly Voice article, available at Web Link, the bond may support an entirely new performing arts center to replace Paly's Haymarket Theatre. I don't think they've made concrete decisions yet, but there's a big chance of this happening.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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