Palo Alto's quest toward a 2014 ballot measure officially kicked off Monday night, May 21, when the City Council approved a process for determining which infrastructure projects the measure should pay for.
The council voted 8-0, with Pat Burt absent, to avoid placing a measure on this year's ballot and to begin planning for the 2014 election. In doing so, it backed a recommendation from its Policy and Services Committee, which unanimously agreed on May 8 that the city needs more time to craft a measure that would help the city pay for needed infrastructure repairs.
"This really is the launch of the 'year of infrastructure,'" Councilwoman Karen Holman said just before the vote.
The council's decision to pursue a ballot measure to pay for infrastructure is the latest action in what Mayor Yiaway Yeh called the city's "year of infrastructure replacement and renewal." Last year, a 17-member citizens commission identified $41.6 million in deferred maintenance and recommended replacement of the city's police building and two fire stations. The Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission also recommended that the council boost its capital spending by $2 million annually, a recommendation that the council plans to adopt when it passes its 2013 budget next month.
As part of the vote, the council directed staff to return later this year with a timeline and a detailed plan, including identification of potential projects to be funded, cost estimates and potential revenue sources. Options on the table include a tax increase or a bond measure. Staff will return with the timeline by Sept. 1.
The council agreed that with a subject as broad and far-reaching as infrastructure, even a two-year time frame is tight.
"We need to have a clear understanding of what it is we want to put out there," Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd said. "We need to understand what it is we want to build. I hope we get to it because I think we will need all of that time to get it all ready for the initiative two years from now."