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Palo Alto council candidates split on growth

Wide candidate pool finds rare consensus on raising minimum wage

Palo Alto's council candidates have plenty of quibbles when it comes to growth and development, but on Tuesday they found themselves almost completely in agreement on an issue that had not surfaced until now: raising the city's minimum wage.

Ten out of 12 candidates for the City Council who answered (and asked) questions at a forum Sept. 30 said they would support raising the local minimum wage to $15 per hour or whatever amount is deemed "livable wage." A few said they'd go further than the $15 proposed in a question from the audience.

"Fifteen is not enough. How about $25?" asked Mark Weiss, a concert producer who is now in his third consecutive council campaign.

Incumbent Greg Scharff noted that other area cities, including San Jose, have recently passed a wage increase.

"I think Palo Alto should definitely be doing this," Scharff said.

His two fellow incumbents, Mayor Nancy Shepherd and Councilwoman Karen Holman shared his view.

"This is a very progressive community and sometimes it's a little surprising, some of the things we haven't yet addressed," Holman said. "I think this is one of them."

Challengers Tom DuBois, Lydia Kou and Eric Filseth -- all opponents of last year's Measure D and all members of the citizens group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning -- reached the same conclusion. Filseth, a retired executive in the semiconductor industry, qualified his answer by saying the city should first carefully study the issue to determine what a "livable wage" is in Palo Alto, a position that was also shared by candidate A.C. Johnston, a partner at the law firm Morrison & Foerster. Cory Wolbach, a legislative aide to state Sen. Jerry Hill, was more concrete and said he would support $20 an hour, while Wayne Douglass, an advocate for the homeless, said "at least $15."

The only two of the 12 candidates who didn't support raising the local minimum wage were retired Gunn High teacher John Fredrich and retired aerospace engineer Seelam Reddy. Fredrich acknowledged that the wage should be $15 or more but said he favors "federal action first, state action second and finally local action." Reddy was much more fixed in his opposition.

"It's un-American for someone to tell you how much the wage should be," said Reddy, who then added that companies should voluntarily increase salaries to the needed level.

The discussion on living wage was one of few points of a general consensus, with distaste for high-speed rail and enthusiasm for allowing more "granny units" at existing properties also making the short list. The 12 candidates are running for five seats on the nine-member council. In addition to the three incumbents seeking fresh terms, the council will have two open seats. Councilman Larry Klein will be termed out after this year while Gail Price has opted not to seek a second term. Sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the forum brought more than 120 people to Congregation Etz Chayim in south Palo Alto for an occasionally tense discussion of local issues and regional pressures.

Things got particularly heated during a portion of the forum in which candidates were afforded the chance to ask other candidates questions. While the segment included a few unexpected inquiries (Weiss asked Scharff to compare Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.), Scharff and Shepherd each fielded tough questions from challengers, with Filseth pressing Shepherd on the council's plan to pursue a new police building through "certificates of participation," a mechanism that doesn't require a vote but entails a higher interest rate. The alternative, a general-obligation bond of the sort recently used to rebuild local libraries, requires approval from a supermajority of voters. Shepherd said the council didn't think it can get the supermajority.

"I prefer a bond. That's exactly what I'd like to do," Shepherd said. "But there wasn't that security in being able to do that."

Filseth characterized the city's action as one that went around the residents who didn't want to spend money on the new police headquarters. But Scharff later pointed to polls that showed the majority of the residents are willing to pass a bond for a new police building, though the rate falls just shy of the two-thirds supermajority needed for the bond.

"You have a small minority not letting the majority of Palo Alto residents get what they want," Scharff said.

Scharff was asked by Johnston about his votes in favor of commercial developments. Scharff responded that he had voted for only one "planned community" project: the four-story building at 101 Lytton Ave., and noted that in addition to being "fully parked," the development provides $2 million in "seed money" for the city to build a new garage.

Later in the forum, when asked about his top issues, Scharff said that in addition to fixing the traffic and parking issues, he'd like to abolish the planned community zone entirely. The community, he said, no longer trusts the zoning designation, which allows developers to get zoning exceptions in exchange for negotiated public benefits.

"I do not see how the (planned community) process can continue as a viable alternative when there is no trust in it," Scharff said. "Therefore, I think we need to eliminate it."

When asked about her top issues, Shepherd talked about the need to update the city's Comprehensive Plan, its guiding land-use document. She called the effort (which kicked off in 2006 and which the city hopes to complete by late 2015) "most challenging and most important because there's a lot of angst about what's going on now.

"Most of the projects in play and getting developed now are under conforming zoning as the Comprehensive Plan articulated it in 1998," Shepherd said.

A revised Comprehensive Plan would, in theory, lay the foundation for changing the zoning code to address the challenges brought about by rapid growth. Johnston, like Shepherd, called the update of the document a top priority and said it's important for the public to provide its input.

"I think we need an overall plan before we start doing changes to spot zoning or changes to the (planned community) process so we know what the overall picture is before we start looking at little pieces," Johnston said.

All three of the candidates affiliated with Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning made a case for slowing down the pace of development. Filseth, a Downtown North resident, talked about the rapid changes his streets have undergone in the last five years and cited a "disconnect" between City Hall and residents who are averse to the growing level of traffic, congestion, stretched infrastructure support and school crowding.

"My experience with Palo Alto is a moderate-density family town with great services and great schools," Filseth said. "And I think that's what it should be. I think we need to realign with that vision."

Both Fliseth and DuBois argued that the existing Comprehensive Plan doesn't need the types of revamping that the city is seeking. The problem from the critics' perspective is that the city hasn't been following the vision in the existing document and granting developers too many exemptions. Kou said another four years of "growth for the sake of growing" will change the city, she said, to one that is "constant gridlock and crisis mode." The first step in solving the problem, she said, is recognizing that there is one.

"The reason Measure D was defeated was because many of the same problems had occurred so often over so much time and there was just too many people who said, 'No more,'" Kou said.

Wolbach didn't associate himself with either growth camp, instead making a case for more "civility and openness." He praised the city for going forward with Our Palo Alto, an outreach effort aimed at gathering the public's thoughts about Palo Alto's future.

The one issue that succeeded in uniting the candidates was high-speed rail. Everyone ripped the project, with Filseth calling it a "freaking disaster" and saying the state should focus on "regional transportation first, which is much more pressing than getting people between southern and northern California."

Weiss concurred.

"We're not that good at building small things like bike bridges and libraries," Weiss said. "I'm not sure how well we'll do on HSR."

Wayne Douglass generally focused his comments on homelessness, acknowledging himself to be a "single-issue candidate." He joined the campaign to oppose the council's recent ban on car camping, a prohibition that is now suspended because of a recent court case in Los Angeles.

"Six people died on the street last season," Douglass said. "I certainly don't want to see that again. I want to see people housed ... and nobody dying on the street. There is a goal worth seeking."

Even he, however, had unkind words for high-speed rail, lamenting the decision by state officials to "cram everything" through Palo Alto's rail corridor "even if it means eminent domain and destruction of people's homes."

For most of the evening, candidates focused on the threat from local developments rather than Gov. Jerry Brown's legacy project. DuBois said the city needs to stop "digging ourselves into bigger hole" and stop granting exceptions to commercial buildings. He also said he'd like to see a City Hall "culture that is more responsible to residents and also sets clarity."

"Developers and residents alike would benefit from some simple clarity," DuBois said.

Fredrich, for his part, said he'd like some clarity on what exactly the citizens group stands for. Though he also calls himself a "residentialist," Fredrich had supported the Maybell Avenue development that Measure D overturned. He also asked Filseth on how and where he would add the much needed housing. Filseth didn't give any specific locations but said the city should first determine how much housing it needs and then work to identify projects that would "benefit the community."

"I'm waiting for the definition of 'sensible zoning,'" Fredrich said. "You know 'sensible dessert eating' is, 'Don't eat the whole tray.' I don't know what sensible zoning is."

Reddy said Palo Alto's biggest problem is "traffic" and said the city needs to come up with an "innovative way" to address the issue. Palo Alto should look to projects like the Tube in London. Maybe, he said, Elon Musk can help the city come up with a "very innovative way to get past cars." Aside from this innovative new system, Reddy said he would want "Palo Alto to be just like it is."

The three incumbents all emphasized their actions and accomplishments. Holman talked about her 13 years on the planning commission and the council and her consistent record of skeptically weighing -- and often rejecting -- proposed developments. Scharff reminded the crowd that in the past five years, the council has created a plan to finance its infrastructure repairs, invested heavily in fixing potholes, seen its downtown vacancies disappear and watched budget deficits turn into surpluses. Even with the traffic and parking problems, the city is now in a "diametrically opposite position than we were in 2009."

Shepherd said in her closing comments she looks forward to the forthcoming community conversation about how to bring Palo Alto into the future.

"It's the conversation I like to have," Shepherd said. "We really changed through these five years, and I think we're in a much better position to pivot and go directly into some of the interests the community has."

For the latest news on the council election, visit the Palo Alto Weekly's Storify.

Comments

8 people like this
Posted by Anna
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 1, 2014 at 8:23 am

Greg Scharff is trying to recast himself a "residentialist," [portion removed.] And if he was so against PC zoning, why didn't he support an outright ban after the Maybell defeat? Too little, too late.

[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2014 at 8:44 am

Whereas of course we all want people to be able to earn as much per hour as possible, we have to ask what the other side of this will be.

When we go the grocery store, we expect the line to be no more than 3 customers waiting. If the store has to pay its staff more there will be less staff and we will be in line waiting with 5 or 6 customers in front of us.

When we go to a privately owned restaurant, will we be happy to have poor service by overworked staff, higher prices and perhaps eat off paper plates with plastic silverware.

When we go to get hair cut, clothes drycleaned, work out at the gym, or any of the regular businesses we use in Palo Alto, we will find less staff and those that are there, completely stressed out from so much to do. Our costs will go higher too.

It will be the average Palo Altan that will be paying for a higher minimum wage.




4 people like this
Posted by sea seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 1, 2014 at 9:29 am

Thanks.

Government should stay out of telling businesses what the minimum wage should be.

Peter Drucker was my professor at Claremont. He is no longer. I am taught to get government to keep away from wage policies.

I am a candidate for city council and I expressed my position on this.


Respect fully


9 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2014 at 9:34 am

I thought the candidate forum was average. The opening statements by candidates were revealing; I got a clear message of what Kou, DuBois, Holman & Filseth stood for. Scharf gave a clear message as well (but it was at odds with his voting history as an incumbent). AC Johnston position seemed to boil down to "I chose to live in Palo Alto so you should vote for me". Cory Wolbach position boiled down to "let's be civil and work together". Shepard talked more about her involvement in the schools, not so much her council record (by the way she said when she ran in 2009, she was against the high speed rail - her 2009 campaign literature actually called for undergrounding the HSR).

The 2nd part of the candidate forum where candidates could question each other was mixed. The moderator limited the number of questions that could be directed to a candidate to two. One of Scharf's question was comparing Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela - not really relavent to the issues facing the city. Only a few of the questions were really worthy of the time spent.

The 3rd part of the candidate forum were audience questions (only time for 3 or 4 questions). I thought the minimum wage question, was a waste of time, as there were more meaty issues to discuss (development, Cubberley, vehicle habitation, budget, infrastructure, etc). The only interesting part was Shepard who tried to distance herself from her prior support for reducing the council size from 9 to 7. She was one who pushed to get it on the ballot, and in the forum she said she wasn't really for it.

Closing statements - I thought Kou, DuBois, Holman had good closing statements that revealed their beliefs, and thoughts. Cory Wolbach repeated this "let's be civil and work together" doesn't really give me any insight on how he would vote on various issues.

Hopefully we see more from some of the candidates on Thursday.


1 person likes this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2014 at 9:34 am

"If the store has to pay its staff more there will be less staff..."

That assumes the store currently has surplus staff on its payroll -- a synthetic truthoid I don't buy.


11 people like this
Posted by citizen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2014 at 9:55 am

I'm finding Wolbach and Johnston particularly frustrating. What do they stand for? "Civility" and "listening" is not a platform. They are not running for kindergarten teacher. Do they really hope to win based on endorsements from the likes of Liz Kniss and Joe Simitian? Johnston may not have any actual positions since he just arrived on the scene, but Wolbach at least has been an aide for Jerry Hill so you would think he would have some ideas.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2014 at 9:56 am

Curmudgeon

No I don't assume that grocery stores have surplus staff. I assume they have what they consider adequate staff to supply a service for the amount of business they do, the number of customers they get. If they have to start paying higher for staff and are not generating more business or more customers, then they will have to reduce staff. This is economics. They can't magically pay staff more money without reducing staff and/or charging more. As a result, our service will be the first thing that suffers and our bills go up as prices are higher to cover the stores costs.

Economics suggests that stores have to work within a budget (something our City leaders do not appear to be aware of both at the city level and the business level) and when their wage bill increases, they have to make costs somewhere else to cover the increases. Business are not charities, they have to get their money from their customers to pay their bills.

We have to look at economics not charity when it comes to saying what workers earn. We the consumers will be the ones to pay for increases in the minimum wage.


2 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 1, 2014 at 10:07 am

I'd really like to see a follow-up article on the issues confronting Palo Alto besides the minimum wage. For a question about non-Palo Alto issues, how about the candidates' stance on Citizen United.

I'd like to see a question about the long delay in fixing the lights at Embarcadero.

Both the Merc and Diana Diamond in the Daily News had pieces that focused on PA issues. Worth reading.


Like this comment
Posted by Victoria Thorp
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 1, 2014 at 11:13 am

The term "residentialist" comes up so frequently in the articles about the City Council election but it's a word that many people (especially newer residents of Palo Alto) don't understand. [Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 1, 2014 at 11:23 am

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by what's sensible?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2014 at 11:25 am

Fredrich is a sharp one. He makes a great point that the PASZ slate really doesn't have anything to offer in the way of things they WILL do, only the things they won't do. [Portion removed.] You think traffic and parking are bad? What are you going to do about it? Because "no growth" doesn't diminish our current traffic and parking problems in any way - they're still there and they'll get worse as more people move into the region- both in PA and the surrounding cities.

[Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by 6Djockey
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 1, 2014 at 11:56 am

The forum was disappointing in that there was not much discussion on the critical issues of transparency of government, growth, and letting citizens have their say in how the city is run. This was either because there were not good questions submitted from the audience (my bad here), that the League didn't choose the best questions or that there are too many candidates (and not enough serious ones) so the time for each was limited. That said, it was clear that Holman, Filseth, Dubois, and Kou want to represent residents better than they have been represented recently and that Scharf and Sheppard are trying to portray that same position despite their records to the contrary. Personally I would like to have my input taken seriously in deciding Palo Alto's future so I'm voting for the four "residentialists."


2 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2014 at 12:47 pm

> Minimum Wage ..

Why is the City of Palo Alto sticking its nose into the business affairs of private entities? This is another example of why governments are failing to deal with the core issues that are expected of them by people who are subject to their whims.

> Why not $25 an hour?

Why indeed? Why not $50 per hour, or even $75?

What should the City government be able to force private companies to pay unskilled laborers, perhaps here in the country illegally, perhaps not even speaking English, $25 to the-sky’s-the-limit salaries?

This insanity is one of the reasons that corporations need to be seen as “people”, in order to protect themselves from economic illiterates that believe it is more noble to destroy a company, than to create assets, increasing the standard of living for all, by using the business environment to achieve those ends.


Like this comment
Posted by I like the book ends
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2014 at 1:36 pm


I spy the smartest ones of the bunch, time for change in Palo Alto.




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Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Many of the jobs in the city are union directed - including the teachers, police, firemen, store personnel - Safeway' etc. Any discussion of wages is between the union and the city / company. The PACC has no part in union negotiations. Minimum wage is directed by the county and state.

San Jose is a major city with an elected, full-time mayor. Do not compare San Jose with Palo Alto. The PACC needs to understand what their limitations are relative to directing any wage limits in the city.
The City Manager would be in charge of any Palo Alto personnel excluding union member personnel.


Like this comment
Posted by sea-Seelam reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 1, 2014 at 2:43 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 1, 2014 at 4:02 pm

I support an increase in the minimum wage and rebut the notion that it will result in a decreased level of service and unemployment. I am not alone

Web Link

Harvard Business Review study by MIT Professor Zeynep Ton documents how major retailers such as Trader Joe’s and Costco benefit for higher sales revenue and profits than their low-wage competitors by investing in their employees, which reduces turnover and boosts productivity. For example, the starting wage at Trader Joe’s ranges between $40,000 and $60,000 per year, more than twice what many of its competitors offer, and yet the sales revenue per square foot at Trader Joe’s are three times higher than the average U.S. supermarket.

I have experienced a much higher level of customer service at Trader Joes than say - Walmart.

Raising the minimum wage in Palo Alto is the right thing to do for workers, their families, businesses and the community. Mr. Reddy is not only out of step with the values of our community but with current economic theory.


2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Social Security, tax brackets, etc. have been adjusted for inflation but not the minimum wage. If anything is affected by inflation, it would be the workers earning minimum wage. So why not just adjust it every year like SSI with the same index?


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2014 at 5:34 pm

> Trader Joe’s vs. Supermarkets

Web Link

When it comes to grocery chains, Trader Joe's isn't your average Joe. With more than 400 stores nearly 40 states, the company offers upscale grocery fare such as health foods, organic produce, and nutritional supplements. To keep costs down, its stores have no service departments and average about 12,000-15,000 sq. ft. Trader Joe's stocks about 4,000 items, 80% of which are its own private labels, including its signature Charles Shaw brand wine that sells for $2 a bottle, soup, snacks, and frozen items.

Trader Joe’s Salaries:
Web Link

It’s clear that you can not compare Trader Joes and the average supermarket. It would be foolish to try.

It’s also clear from the link to Trader Joe’s salaries, that they offer more than minimum wage, but given the small number of stores (only 400), the total number of employees is far less than Safeway, or Walmart.

There is simply no room in city government to get involved in employee relations of local businesses—particularly since it’s difficult to know much about the business environment of local companies.


Like this comment
Posted by Domad
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 1, 2014 at 9:56 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 1, 2014 at 10:35 pm

What is the current local minimum wage here? They want to go to $15 or so from what?


1 person likes this
Posted by Domad
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 1, 2014 at 10:50 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2014 at 12:51 am

The city could start by giving raises to all the jobs it pays $9/hour for - lifeguards, library assistants, rec assistants, etc.

Then all the residents can make sure their gardeners pay their staff the $15/hour; they can also pay their nannies, baby sitters, etc. the $15/hour. By the way, since many of these folks are self employed, they should actually be paid $18/hour, so that they can pay their FICA/medicare.


Like this comment
Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 2, 2014 at 12:58 am

I would like to respond to 'Gunn Parent'

I am not opposed to businesses making decisions based on the labor pool available and paying wages to whatever level they can and they should. May be $25/hour is reasonable in places like Palo Alto and San Francisco.

But, not the government, telling us what the wages should be.

Where do we begin? Have a minimum wage for entry level interns at Google and VMware?

Then why not have a minimum wage for engineers, doctors and nurses?

Give me a break. It is all politics.

Once again, the decision should come from employers not government.

Respectfully


Like this comment
Posted by KF
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 2, 2014 at 7:42 am

Is video of this available online?


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 2, 2014 at 8:32 am

Most large companies adjust wages based on the cost of living in any area where they have a large group of employees. You can see that type of discussion regarding where Tesla puts their battery factory. Most large companies have to compete for contracts and are required to have a DCAA approved proposal package in which the wage level by type employee is negotiated as part of their proposal efforts. The government also provides data on the cost of living for geographic areas based on their locations in those areas.

If the organization has union based employees then the negotiation is with the union.

This is a very complicated topic and not one that the PACC would be involved in. The PA City could have it's own internal take on it developed by the city business manager and Human Resources Department for the employees of the city. This then leads into the projected pension for employees.

Why this topic has come up in the PACC race is a diversion as the PACC has no official role regarding this topic.


2 people like this
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 2, 2014 at 8:32 am

A recent study by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research and Labor Employment indicates that on average, the operating costs for restaurants would have to increase by 2.8 percent to accommodate an increase of the minimum wage to $15.

Operating costs for the retail sector—another major employer of minimum wage workers—would increase by 0.3 percent. The attempt to justify unlivable wages for the weakest sector fails any real life test.

The government has a duty to protect the poorest workers in our society, the entire society benefits. That's what governments are for.


1 person likes this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2014 at 9:02 am

SteveU is a registered user.

What about all those that do not have a UNION to demand anything near a Palo Alto sized 'living wage'?
Your gardener?
Your housekeeper?
Your appliance repairman?
and 100's others you come into contact with every week?

UNIONS only go for the big fish. Government and big companies, not Mom and Pop sized business who pay big rents and try to keep the doors open and still compete with mail order and mega-corps.


1 person likes this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 2, 2014 at 9:32 am

Mr. Reddy,

Respectfully, there is already a government mandated minimum wage - it is $9 per hour in the State of California. The argument is not about the concept or politics around setting a wage floor, but what that wage floor should be in our community.

I understand that you may disagree with the concept of a minimum wage, but that is not what the City Council will be debating in the upcoming year.

Communities can make choices about setting a higher wage floor. Palo Alto is in a position to do so. Attracting and retaining entry level help in Palo Alto is already complicated by the lack of affordable housing, lack of parking next to the downtown hospitality area and the general high cost of living. Most business owners already understand this and pay more than the minimum wage. Some do not. Interestingly this includes the City of Palo Alto.

I support the candidates in the Council race who will support a higher minimum wage in Palo Alto.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 2, 2014 at 9:56 am

Gunn Parent - the Board of Education for the county of Santa Clara and the California Teachers' Union- State of California determine the wage levels for the category of people working for the school systems. This also has to project the pension projected for the state pension system - CALPERS.

Charter School may not fall into this category - but they also do not have the same benefits for pensions.

Since you identify yourself as a Gunn parent I assume you are referring to all teachers and school employees in Palo Alto and County of Santa Clara, and the State of California.

Why does everyone on this cite think they are labor negotiators? You may have an opinion but that is all it is - an opinion. Teacher salaries are not determined by parent opinion. The teacher unions, CALPERS, and the state determine the salaries.

This whole topic is a diversion - people may support something but their job description does not necessarily give them the ability to determine events.

I would hope that any further debates would stick to those topics which the PACC actually has authority over.


Like this comment
Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 2, 2014 at 10:25 am

Dear Gunn Parent

I disagree.

This minimum wage concept has been around.
We need to be innovative.

What about interns that do not get paid at all? Free labor?

What about silicon valley where they do not want hire because one has lot of experience. Minimum wage? Is that state unemployment?

Too complicated.

In summary, I disagree. It is better left for business owners to figure this out; including Palo alto city govt, state and federal agencies.

Respectfully


5 people like this
Posted by Anciana
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 2, 2014 at 11:47 am

I'm heading back for just a moment to the early part of this string, when we were discussing development in Palo Alto. I would like to see the PC program absolutely abolished. What have gotten a string of gigantic horrors, and I can't think of any wonderful thing that we have gotten from developers in return. Let's elect people who are not in bed -- ahem -- with developers. Get rid of the PC!


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Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 2, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Is tonight's (Thursday) City Council Candidates forum still scheduled for 6:30PM at City Hall? I invited a friend and she went looking for info about it and said there was nothing on the city's web site about it.

Please let me know. I'm also curious why there'd be no mention of the forum/debate. Thank you.


1 person likes this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2014 at 12:21 pm

It's amazing that we are even talking about the City's interference in the operation of local businesses, when we have much bigger fish to fry--such as this issue of whether to abolish Planned Communities (PC) from the zoning code.

It's also a shame that the so-called anti-growth candidates are not promising to terminate PC with a ballot initiative if it is not removed from the zoning code within six months after the election.

Can we please get back to this issue of how much growth Palo Alto can sustain?


2 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Agree with Gunn Parent, the debate isn't about having a minimum wage any more than we're going to debate our existing child labor laws. Lots of communities are currently debating a rise in the minimum wage, so the question is fair and relevant. A response from a candidate stating that they don't support a minimum wage is red flag. I'd understand, but disagree, with a response that says they don't believe minimum wage a local issue, or would have negative business impact. But minimum wage is settled law that nobody is talking about repealing. If you believe that business owners themselves should be responsible for setting a minimum wage, how do you feel about the City enforcing development and zoning laws? Are those also laws you wish to repeal?

The bigger problem, especially for a candidate running on business credentials, is that opposing a rise to the minimum wage in an area such a Palo Alto demonstrates a stunning lack of practical knowledge. You've likely never tried to hire and keep employees in Palo Alto at the current minimum wage. Because the current minimum wage is so low, workers leave for a 50 cent/hour pay raise or an easier commute. The goal in business with low skilled employees isn't to minimize employee pay, the goal is find the market rate for the appropriate skills. As a business owner, I would much rather have the well defined wage floor that everyone else has to meet than try to discover the appropriate pay level myself by trial and error. A higher minimum wage is actually a benefit to businesses because it keeps employment churn low and expenses predictable. If you actually worked in this environment like I have, you would know this.

A candidate making a counter argument with an assertion of a minimum wage for doctors, lawyers and nurses is bizarre. Each of those professions has well defined skills and known market rate in this area for employment. Potential employers and employees can disagree about the value of skills and their relevance to the positions offered. But, minimum wage employment is a no or low skilled job. Maybe the work is entry level with opportunity for training and advancement or maybe the work is just temporary. A minimum wage worker has no negotiating leverage other than leaving and finding another job. But churning the job market doesn't benefit anyone, employer or employee.

Finally, the scariest part of the candidate's position isn't that he's right or wrong about a minimum wage, it's that he can't see the other side of the problem. This may make him sought after in the business world, but the one-sided dedication without substantial formative arguments makes him unsuited for public office.

Respectfully


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Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 2, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Someone in another topic responded that tonight's CC Candidate forum is indeed on for tonight at City Hall. Doors open at 6:30 and it starts at 7:00.

Different questions will be asked tonight than were asked on Tuesday so maybe the focus will return to growth, traffic, gridlock, transparency, etc.


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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 2, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Responding to 'Gunn' and 'Joe'

I am not so naïve. My life time experience taught me a lot of things so as your experience .

In 1973 Oct-Nov, I was a graduate student working on my masters in Industrial Engineering at Texas Tech. Since I could not work outside of school due to immigration laws, I took a job in the Dining hall and was very happy to have gotten the job and experience to clean plates on the conveyer belt. I remember, it was near minimum wage.

So, I lived through the experience of earning minimum wages.

I understand the difficulty of working at minimum wage salaries. I have a personal experience with my daughter wanting to work in the Child care industry where they pay only around $9~ and there is a plenty of candidates.
She has a degree in Child Psychology; still it is low pay in Arizona where she lives.

My point is we need to be innovative.

When real estate goes up; we see rent increases; we need wages to be higher. But, minimum wage does not mean that it should be minimum wage. What it if the job seeker is highly skilled, they deserve to earn more.

Companies, specially in the service sector, take advantage and pay only minimum wage. That is the 'gotchha' with minimum wage concept.

We need to get another innovative to assess the job with skillset/supply and demand she what is the right wages.

We all deserve and need higher wages. How do we get there is the question.

I do not have all the answers.

Let us get the experts to decide what the minimum wage SHOULD BE for palo alto and for who.

Thinking out of the box is not sin. Please be respectful.

We all are in for better life together.

Respectfully

Respectfully


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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 2, 2014 at 3:50 pm


Here is a proposal:

Say it costs about ~$1700 for one bed room; as we calculate in mortgage applications; one needs 3 times of a mortgage or rent; $1700 x 3= $4500/month to live; with a gross income of $4500/month; one needs about $37/hour to live (1700 hours/year).

$37/hour is what one needs to live decently.
If couple live in one bedroom; they share every thing; one works part time etc., it could be ~$25-30/hour in Palo Alto.

This is approximate; there are a lot of experts on this. I am not the one.

So, we present this to business owners to give $25-30/hour.

I am ok with that.

Respectfully


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Posted by Sea-Seelam REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm

CHILD LABOR Laws

No argument. We need them.

Respectfully


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Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2014 at 8:47 pm

SF and Oakland at forefront of minimum wage movement
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Domad
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Did Marissa and Zuckerberg buy PA online? My anti tech comments keep getting removed


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Posted by Domad
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2014 at 11:24 pm

@see selam, PLEASE tell me where you can get a 1 bd for $1,700 in PA. I live in a dump in RWC , 1bd for $1,950.


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Posted by Sea-Seelam REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 3, 2014 at 4:31 am

Responding to @domad

I agree with you. Rents are higher than $1700/month in Palo Alto. So calculations are wrong; need about $40/hour job to make ends meet in Palo Alto.

Respectfully


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Posted by Barbara Millin
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2014 at 4:59 pm

This is directed to See Reddy's stance on the minimum wage. I watched the candidates forum on TV. Your comment on the government setting the minimum wage as being "un-American" stood out from all the other comments during the two hour session.

I do believe many "Americans" now believe that we should have policies that harken back to the dawn of the industrial revolution when workers had no rights. With less than 15% of Americans now belonging to unions and high unemployment there is little power in the hands of the workers.

Corporations love this. Profits and compensation are high. But they are high on the backs of the unprotected workers. Is this "American"? It is this way in North Korea, China, Rumania, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan. Would you agree that these countries reflect American ideals more than San Jose and Seattle which have enacted minimum living wage laws?

By paying low wages and low prices we are being subsidized by the sweat of others. At the extreme, it is slavery. At the very least it is unfair.
Is this a social contract that can survive?


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Posted by Sea-Seelam REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 4, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Dear Barbara and citizens of Palo Alto

I appreciate your concern.

I am from one of those countries you mentioned.

Since what I said, I am going to change my mind and agree with you all.

We need about $40/hour to live and work in Palo Alto. If one person needed to rent and earn wages here to support his/her family it is what it takes.

So, let us pass a resolution for Palo Alto for 2014; we recommend about $27 -30 dollars for businesses to start giving wages to workers. They still have to supplement to get to a level where they can afford to live here.

I was in New Delhi and Hyderabad and my home town Madhira (heritage) where I come from.

Is is more complex than US companies are looting wages. By having US companies working in India; there are many collateral improvements. Women are becoming more assertive; wearing nice clothes, standing upto their in-laws to prevent abuse and more; so as men.

I am taken away by how the world is getting closer and closer to one human capital where there are language differences; humans are becoming one society.

One day; we will not have countries; we will have one EARTH occupied by humans. Boundaries are becoming gray and thin.

I go to Euqinox and work out and go to a dance class taught by Heath Hunter; his wife is pure American from Virginia. In a dance class of about 50; there are natives of palo alto; whites + African americans + east europians + south americans + Asians from China, Korea, and Indians etc.
We dance to popular music, we are heavy, light and skinny. We sweat and enjoy. the songs we play are typically; hot 40 including Lady Gaga + 'Am I wrong' etc., at the end; we are energized.

SO world is changing. Hope more is changing to get us all energized and stay positive and see bright mornings and evenings with joy.

Most of all; less government, less policing; low laws are better.

More innovation, care for each other, health living, is what I am for.

I am a dreamer; but am practical. So let us for minimum wage declaration of $27-30/hour as a starting point.

I concede.

Respectfully


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Posted by Barbara Millin
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Dear Seelam,

You have pointed out the absurdity of my point of view. However, a living wage does not have to be based solely on Palo Alto prices but elsewhere in the wider bay area community where the costs are lower.

I would love to hear creative solutions that allow a low wage earner to support himself/herself while working one 40-45 hour job. It sounds like you might have something in mind.

Respectfully,
Barbara


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Posted by Sea-Seelam REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 5, 2014 at 8:40 am

Dear Barbara and citizens

Creative solutions; there are many in use in Palo Alto.

I recently met Don, a gentleman in his 70s near Stanford DISH.

We walked and talked. He opened his home to several people that live in Palo Alto and said, many are struggling to pay high rents and he helps them by charging modest rents.

We have many houses with empty nesters. I know; for a wealth Palo Alto family to host students is not 'that cool'. But, it has come to that in this town.

We may not want new 200-500 sq. ft. homes; if the haves open up their homes to have not's (of course - will pay rent; it is mutually win-win.

People do not do it because; it is scary to house a person that you do not know.

We need some trust between us. Only experience will bring that trust.
What I call it 'track record'.

In the meantime, we can try if it works. Open up your homes to students, young people that can not afford; etc..

I would like the PA community to think through and provide 'innovative' ideas.

That is what Palo Alto is all about!

Respectfully


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