Palo Alto officials proud of 2010 accomplishments

City Council reflects on recent achievements in final meeting of the year

A year that began with a $7.3 million budget gap, a fatal plane crash and deep anxieties over California's proposed high-speed rail concluded on a high note Monday night for members of the Palo Alto City Council, who celebrated the city's achievements during their final meeting of 2010.

"There were unprecedented challenges facing our city and cities around the world this year," City Manager James Keene told the council. "I think we can say there was progress and promise from where we began and I think we ended the year stronger than we began."

Keene's presentation highlighted an array of 2010 accomplishments, which included closing a looming budget hole and cutting 40 city jobs, leading the Peninsula's challenge to the California High-Speed Rail Authority and keeping the city at the forefront of innovation.

Keene noted that in the past year, Hewlett-Packard decided to expand its local headquarters while companies such as Skype, Groupon, Bling Nation and Ning set up shop in Palo Alto. AOL, meanwhile, is preparing to set up "incubator space" for small new start-up companies at its Page Mill Road facility, Keene said.

Keene also lauded the council and staff for grappling with the recent financial struggles, which were caused largely by drops in sales tax and other revenue sources. The council began 2010 with a $6.3 million budget shortfall and wrestled with a $7.3 million structural deficit later in the year.

"Our city led the state in starting to tackle some of the systematic issues relating to employee costs," Keene said. "We reduced employee pay and benefits and at the same time we had improvements in management and employee relations."

The council acknowledged that it has plenty of unfinished business going forward. The city has yet to vote on the proposed expansion of Stanford University Medical Center -- a massive project that the council had hoped to decide before the end of 2010. The council will hear an update on the city's negotiations with Stanford next month in January.

The city's goal of tackling the infrastructure backlog, estimated at about $500 million, is just getting off the ground, with a citizen committee beginning to analyze the list of projects -- which grew from about $360 million in the past decade.

Palo Alto's effort to trim public-safety costs also remains a work in progress. Keene said staff is preparing to share dispatch services with Mountain View and Los Altos -- a plan he said he would discuss in greater detail in January.

Mayor Pat Burt, in his final speech as mayor, called 2010 "an incredible year of accomplishments" and told his colleagues that they should feel proud. He praised the council for working well together, despite differences.

"We have different skill sets, but in the end we create a whole that's much better than the individual components," Burt said.

Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa, who is slated to take over as mayor on Jan. 4, said he particularly appreciated the high number of unanimous votes this year.

"It's been great to see the council really come together and put a very aggressive work plan together," Espinosa said after Keene's presentation.

"As we can see, we're really getting things done."

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Like this comment
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm

It took a leak for the public to receive the internal summary of the California Avenue Tree Project, albeit one that contained erroneous information. Council is unanimous, in its satisfaction with that?

Not one word has been said so far, by anyone at the City, showing any
concern that it took a LEAK to notify the public.

There has been no investigation into that leak. Perhaps it is part of the unfinished business mentioned in the article. If not, it most certainly should be.

Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm

At the risk of seeming sour at this time of year, may I ask if it was the city council itself that achieved the expansion of Hewlett-Packard, and the establishment in Palo Alto of Skype and the other companies mentioned? These things happened, yes, but surely were not brought about by the city council--no back-patting justifiable here.

And (following the blackout caused by the plane crash in February), has the routing of electric power into Palo Alto now been diversified, so that the transmission towers near the airport aren't the only means of us getting electricity? What exactly has been achieved to improve this risky situation?

And has the "deep anxiety" (Gennady Sheyner's words) about the HSR been alleviated? Postponed perhaps, but not dealt with. Remember the slowness of Palo Alto to follow the other Peninsula cities in stating its opposition to the HSR plans?

The budget hole was more than "looming"--it was present in all its (ha!) glory. If the city's now in the black, please let me know.

In short, I disagree with Mayor Burt's and City Manager James Keene's pronouncement that this has been "an incredible year of accomplishments." Sorry, but . . . I guess there's always next year!

Like this comment
Posted by who cares
a resident of Triple El
on Dec 14, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Too Funny! Add clueless to the list.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Dec 15, 2010 at 9:36 am

Don't the unnecessary loss of 73 beautiful trees at Mitchell Park.
If I was on the council I would have had them redesign the parking lot to save at least 13 trees. Hoping for better tree values in the new year.

Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 15, 2010 at 9:45 am

"concluded on a high note Monday night for members of the Palo Alto City Council, who celebrated the city's achievements during their final meeting of 2010."

Have you ever seen the city council not willing to pat themselves in the back and say they did a wonderful job. They forgot to mention how well they did pouring more money into the PACT.
What about our infrastructure backlog? has that been addressed?
what about the goals that Pat Burt set out at the beginning of the year? Have they been achieved??
this council and others before it continue to be a joke--always congratulating one another on a job well done, yet nothing seems to ever get done.

"Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa, who is slated to take over as mayor on Jan. 4, said he particularly appreciated the high number of unanimous votes this year."
How do they know he will take over as mayor? Has this been decided already? Is this a Brown Act violation? We have seen in the past how council members act unethically--is this another example?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2010 at 9:57 am

Very disappointed in the City Council this year. I can't see that any of the listed achievements were down to them. They dithered one way then the other on HSR, how is that an achievement?

They had some great opportunities, but failed.

We need to improve our sales tax revenue. We need to stop approving more housing. We need to improve traffic flow. We need to improve public transit. We need to improve city infrastructure.

Until these basics get more attention, the council will always get a failing grade.

Like this comment
Posted by Truthteller
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:41 am

Self-plaudits are the last resource of the weak.

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

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