News

Transportation chief's outside job raises concerns

Critics wonder if Jaime Rodriguez's consulting company impacts his position as Palo Alto's chief transportation official

Since he became Palo Alto's chief transportation official in 2009, Jaime Rodriguez has been an energetic, assertive and at times polarizing advocate of bike boulevards, amenities for pedestrians and lane reductions like the one about to take effect on California Avenue.

But it's his work outside the city that has some residents asking questions. Even as he has been plugging away at about 25 bike projects and working on a panoply of traffic initiatives, Rodriguez has been heading his own consulting company called Traffic Patterns, which according to its website specializes in "traffic-operations analysis, traffic-control plan development, traffic-signal and geometric design, expert-witness services, private-development review and grant writing."


Jaime Rodriguez
Rodriguez has not been secretive about the private practice, which predates his 2009 hiring at City Hall. At that time, then-Planning Director Curtis Williams determined that his outside employment was allowed under city policy and approved it, current Planning Director Hillary Gitelman told the Weekly. This month, Gitelman reviewed his outside-employment statement -- a form submitted annually to one's manager -- and gave him her stamp of approval.

Rodriguez also properly lists Traffic Patterns on his annual Form 700, a state-required conflict of interest statement. Described as a limited liability corporation with a fair market value of between $100,001 and $1 million, his company brought in a gross income of $10,000 to $100,000 last year.

But while Traffic Patterns has not been involved in the city's traffic projects, several residents have written letters and contributed postings on Town Square, the online discussion forum, raising concerns about Rodriguez's involvement in the consulting firm. In some cases, these criticisms come from people who are unhappy about the city's ongoing bike projects, which often entail road markings and lane reconfigurations.

In a letter to the council last week, Andrea Smith criticized what she called "ugly bright yellow street signs being put up throughout PA" and wrote that Rodriguez "owns a company that designs and makes street signs." (To be accurate, Traffic Patterns does not manufacture signs.)

"Even the semblance of impropriety isn't good for the city," Smith wrote.

On Town Square, one person anonymously wondered if "there is any link between all the new green and white street markings popping up on the pavement all over town, and Mr. Rodriguez's private company" and called it "suspicious that the town is putting up so many unnecessary and meaningless street signs."

The city's policies permit outside employment, provided an employee meets certain conditions. For department heads, this entails permission from the city manager. Other employees are required to get authorization from their department heads and fill out an outside-employment statement. Approval for outside employment for non-department heads must be renewed annually every July.

The city's policy for outside employment specifies that "when a person accepts employment with the City of Palo Alto, it is assumed that the employment is to be his/her primary job."

"If the person undertakes supplemental work, such work is assumed to be secondary in importance and is subject to the approval of the city," the policy states.

The city's policy also offers guidelines for department heads to consider in authorizing outside employment, including: Will requirements of the outside employment interfere with scheduling, work performance, or on-call status of the city position? Will the status, reputation or credentials of a city position be used as a basis for advertising or soliciting outside employment? Will a conflict of interest likely result from between discharge of official city duties and outside employment duties?

When asked about Traffic Patterns, Rodriguez told the Weekly that he keeps his two roles distinct from one another. He called his company a "small private practice" and said it allows him to "see what other communities are building (both things that work and don't work) and bring that perspective to Palo Alto directly instead of always having to rely on private consultants for input." Under his agreement with the city, his company is prohibited from working on Palo Alto projects, City Manager James Keene said.

Keene told the Weekly that it's not uncommon for employees to have jobs outside City Hall, though it is very unusual for high-level managers to do so. For employees like firefighters, who may have 10-day breaks between shifts, there's nothing strange about them doing something else in the interim, he said.

Rodriguez's situation is unique in this regard, Keene said. When the city was hiring him, his private practice came up during the negotiations.

"It was very clear he was not going to come to work for us if he could not maintain this practice," Keene said. "And he was head and shoulders, by far, the best candidate we had."

Rodriguez has also been working for the company "completely on his own time," Keene said. His outside employment statement, which the Weekly obtained, lists his involvement with Traffic Patterns as taking up five hours per week, on the weekends. Keene and Gitelman said they were both completely satisfied that his private practice does not conflict with his work for the city.

Rodriguez isn't the only high-profile manager with a venture outside the public realm. Gil Friend, who was hired in 2013 as the city's first chief sustainability officer, is another. Friend served as a CEO of the consulting firm Natural Logic, Inc., a corporation that according to his Form 700 has a fair market value between $100,001 and $1 million. According to the form, his gross income from the Natural Logic was between $10,001 and $100,000 in the preceding year.

Like Rodriguez, Friend ran his business before taking on the city job and at the time of his hiring, his private practice was discussed, Keene said. The parties agreed that Friend would end his operating-executive role in the company but that he would maintain his ownership and be allowed to partake in an occasional speech or coaching engagement. He is no longer the company's CEO.

During 2014, Friend coached a few clients in the beginning of the year, taught one course and delivered no speeches, Keene said. Friend's consultancy has taken between five to 10 days this year, all on his own time. Keene characterized Friend's involvement in his private company as "minimal."

"Clearly, he cannot undertake any activities that would interfere with any of his duties with the City of Palo Alto," Keene said.

In defending the city's outside-employment policy, Keene cited Bay Area's high housing costs. Without allowing outside employment, there would be "challenges in attracting talent in a competitive market."

For high-profile positions, he said, these employments are approved "in a very selective way."

"We would want to, on a case-by-case basis, to be able to say whether or not we'd allow this," Keene said.

Keene said that in the wake of recent concerns, he has had several discussions with the city's executive team on expanding the reporting requirements in outside-employment statements. The new details could include such things as geographical restrictions and conditions designed to avoid conflicts of interest as well as perceptions of conflicts.

At least one council member disagrees with the need to allow outside employment for managers. Councilman Greg Scharff told the Weekly that because managers already have a guaranteed salary from the city, it might make more economic sense for them to prioritize their outside-employment duties over their city work.

He did not criticize Rodriguez specifically (he concurred with Keene's and Gitelman's assessment of Rodriguez's work ethic and accomplishments) but suggested that it might be time to revisit the city's outside-employment policy.

"I don't think a manager should be allowed to have outside employment," Scharff told the Weekly.

Even if Rodriguez's employment with Traffic Patterns was authorized by Williams and is disclosed on his Form 700, he ran afoul of the city's policy in at least one respect. When the Weekly asked Gitelman in late November to see Rodriguez's outside-employment statement, she said he did not submit one this year. After the Weekly's request, Gitelman said she asked Rodriguez to provide a statement for her review as soon as possible.

"Clearly we are going to have to review our policy for ensure everyone is aware of this requirement," she said in an email.

Earlier this week, she signed off on Rodriguez's request (which he submitted over the Thanksgiving break) and attached a note that his outside employment will be subject to new conditions that ensure there is no conflict. She said she has reviewed the request and is satisfied that so far there has been none. That, she said, is a bigger concern than his delay in handing in this year's form.

"To me, it's more important that there is no conflict," she said. "I was certainly aware that he had a company and that he did outside work and now I know a whole lot more about it. That's the main thing."

Comments

19 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 18, 2014 at 10:05 am

I think it is time for a rethink of outside employment for people making more than $150K a year--particularly Dept. Heads. Most professional jobs require more than 40 hours a week, and the relative high pay for these people, plus the lavis pensions--which will bring in perhaps 2X the total earnings of someone who worked 25-30 years in a government job, should be ample compensation for City employees.

It is impossible for anyone to be actually running one, or more, companies and be a Department head--particularly here in a highly engaged town like Palo Alto. A number of posters have suggested that Rodriguez answers the phone (presumably his City landline) with the name of his company. If this is true, then someone needs to update the City Manager about Rodriguez's actually using City time and resources for his company.

Let's hope the next Council is more sensitive the needs of the Residents than the current/past Councils have been. It they turn a deaf earn, this is the sort of thing that would make a nice little Ballot item--to disallow outside employment for at least Department heads and above.


17 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2014 at 10:22 am

Part of the job as a manager in the City of Palo Alto is responding in a timely fashion to inquiries from the residents. [Portion removed.]

One can only speculate if Rodriquez were fully devoted to his city job, if matters such as the traffic light issue at Town & Country, the parking issues around downtown & Calfornia Ave, and other traffic related issues would have been addressed sooner.

One can only speculate as well if staff were fully devoted to their city jobs, if fewer consultants would need to be hired to do the "actual" work.


11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 18, 2014 at 10:33 am

I submitted letter and photos regarding safety issues on a bike blvd. No response and no "courtesy" acknowledgement of receipt. Not impressive and does not leave a feeling of concern and responsibility.


12 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2014 at 10:43 am

I wondered how this all worked. How does Palo Alto feel about Gil Friend Tweeting, FaceBook(ing) and posting comments on LinkedIn and non Palo Alto related news and "likes" etc during work hours? A lot of it seems unrelated to his work and position as CSO of Sustainability. It's constant and frankly obnoxious I think. While Friend has set up a more Palo Alto specific Twitter account in addition to his personal one, does Palo Alto and it's citizens approve of its Sustainability leader spending so much time on social media at his 153k plus FTE salary? Frankly it seems obscene to me while there is so much work to be done for the community. Mr. Friend needs to grow up with regards to his comments about salary - and get to work. He has lived in Berkeley for many years and I really wonder if between commuting to PA and Tweeting so much if this guy is working.


10 people like this
Posted by Proof in the pudding
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 18, 2014 at 10:44 am

The thing is, how well has traffic been managed by this guy?

At this management level, it's not so much a matter of what he does with his off time or what he thinks about during and not during official work hours.

It's important to have and make progress toward a vision.

At the same time, it's important to correctly identify issues and opportunities big and small related to the current traffic environment.

One would think that in order to get our money's value this would require the complete attention of a competent executive, but maybe the city manager knows better.

The point is, how well have the issues and opportunities been identified and handled?

My pet peeves have not: synchronizing the Alma Plaza light in such a way that it never impedes traffic passing to or from Meadow, fixing the water on Oregon under Alma, rationalizing Alma near downtown so that turns don't make straights wait and vice versa, fixing traffic problems at Middlefield at Embarcadero, and at Arastadero and Foothill, etc.

But hey, I'm only one person. Surely across the city there have been hundreds of unsung improvements over the years.

There have been some errors in judgement. Trees cut. Sharp glass. Weird street colors. "Bicycle paths" promoted for show, instead of small changes to improve realistic routes.

These have to be weighed against all the great things.


7 people like this
Posted by Where Has Civility Gone?
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 18, 2014 at 10:45 am

[Portion removed.]

And to Scharff, who said: "I don't think a manager should be allowed to have outside employment." I reply - what makes you think you should be able to tell someone else what to do on their own time?

Certainly, conflicts of interest can and should be regulated.

But because a person may not be particularly liked by others, that is no excuse to engage in innuendo [portion removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 18, 2014 at 10:56 am

[Portion removed due to referencing a previously deleted comment.]


3 people like this
Posted by Another point of view.
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2014 at 10:57 am

I appreciate the good work Mr. Rodriguez has been doing in Palo Alto. The new bike markings which Ms. Smith's calls "meaningless" have been well received by school district families and other community participants in recent outreach meetings re: bike boulevards that I have attended.

Sharrows and green bike lanes are not new tools nor are they the inventions of Mr. Rodriguez. These are tools that have been used for years in other U.S. cities. I'm glad to see them appearing on school routes and other heavily used bike routes here. City transportation staff realizes that these markings are new to Palo Alto residents and they have created some community education materials to help local road users learn what they mean. See
Web Link I hope this information is helpful.

The current bike boulevard outreach process is an opportunity for the public to comment on proposed improvements, and so far as I can tell staff has been receptive to community input, though I must admit I have been shocked a few times at the combative tone and rudeness of some members of the public in these sessions. I hope we can all participate respectfully with consideration for each other.

I just called Mr. Rodriguez' City of Palo Alto phone. He did not answer it with his consulting business name.

While the city might consider a change in policy, I understand from this article that Mr. Rodriguez is in full compliance with existing policy and he has been forthright about this-- even before he was hired.


5 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 18, 2014 at 10:57 am

What about Mr. Rodriguez's relationship with American Asphalt that is listed on his 700 form?
Is that income from American Asphalt or ownership in the InAmerican Asphalt????

Does Palo alto hire this company?


3 people like this
Posted by To Proof In the Pudding
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2014 at 11:01 am

To Proof in the Pudding-- Oregon and Foothill are COUNTY expressways. This is not the city's jurisdiction and Jaime Rodriguez cannot solve these problems.



5 people like this
Posted by 6Djockey
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 18, 2014 at 11:10 am

In response to <Where has civility gone>,

All employers that I am familiar with require their employees to sign an agreement requiring them to get approval for any outside work that they want to do. The employer can approve, or not approve, a request for outside employment. Greg Scharff is being completely reasonable in stating his opinion that there should be no outside work approved.


5 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 18, 2014 at 11:11 am

> what makes you think you should be able to
> tell someone else what to do on their own time?

The City Charter restricts the City Manager to a full time employment situation. The City Council is elected to make policy about the City (the Municipal Corporation) –which includes negotiating labor contracts with all full, part time, and contract employees. Determining what constitutes appropriate employment conditions is the purpose of the City Council, with the possible veto by the voters.

Scharaff is just one voice of nine—so at this point, it’s just his opinion.


17 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 18, 2014 at 11:12 am

If Mr. Keene thinks Mr. Rodriquez is by the best candidate we're really in trouble.

1) He's unresponsive to residents who complain about problems and to reporters who question him. It's intolerable for Mr. Keene and Ms. Gittelman to tolerate this, to defend him and reward him with raises and continued employment. Same for the outgoing City Council.

2) The 10-yr-debacle with the Town & Country light: In frustration I wrote him, copying Mr. Keene, the council and Ms. Gittelman,about 3 or 4 years to complain.

He replied with what I called "a lengthy and largely irrelevant" response, i.e. some documents he must have had sitting around. Ms. Gittelman responded with an apology and sent me the PDF plan with that covered long-, medium- and short-term solutions basically saying he was going to "seek community input" about the T&C light and talking about need to get input from the VTA and Stanford about the EL CAMINO light.

She has asked for my comments which I provided and since she was new, I suggested she frequent Town Talk to get a feel for resident sentiment.

"Fast" forward to this August with the City Council elections pending: The Embarcadero light was finally brought up again in an August PA Weekly article saying "change is imminent" and it's going to be fixed.

In early December -- 4 months later -- Mr. Rodriquez put out what I call a 160+ page shovelware RFP that largely covered contractual boilerplate but little if any description of the the project. There was 2-week response time.

Then someone on Town Talk reported that due to lack of response, he'd put out a 2d RFP, this time more than 170 pages with again little if any project description and 2-week response time ending Dec. 23. Happy holidays,

If that's how the City does its RFP's and only details project specs in diagrams, it's no wonder we have all these cost-overruns and lawsuits.

3) As has been reported, his traffic analyses for the city have been very flawed and clearly contentious. Little if any response.

4) He is obsessed with bicycle safety with no concern about the community outcry about car traffic and increasing gridlock. He's unresponsive to complaints about same and the City is silent about critical news articles. with Mr. Keene having reportedly instructed most department managers not to talk to certain reporters. Both points here are worthy of review by the new City Council and the media.

5) He's bragged publicly about his "extra-legal" -- ie illegal -- traffic modifications, something Mr. Keene supports although it opens the city up to more lawsuits.

6) It is clearly ludicrous that someone who is paid as much as he is gets a raise and gets to keep his job. The T&C light problem has been known for about 10 years.

Let's say his salary -- no benefits, no "extra pay," no pension, etc. -- averages out to a "mere" $130,000, can someone do the math and determine if he's worth it and it costs SO much to change synchronise ONE lousy traffic light on one of our busiest streets.

THANK YOU, PA Weekly, for finally bringing this issue to light. And thank you other PA residents.


18 people like this
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2014 at 11:18 am

This type of moonlighting work by management should flat out be disallowed, high housing prices notwithstanding. Nothing a manager engages in should give the appearance of conflict. Mr. Rodriguez may have been by far the best candidate otherwise, but considering his outside employment, he was anything but.

The City Council needs to eliminate this loophole in our ethics rules.


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2014 at 12:09 pm

I agree that the T&C traffic signal has been a mess from day 1. And that the city blew it by not requiring the T&C owners to synchronize with the Paly light.

However - the claims that the traffic light/intersection has been a mess for 10 years is a bit exaggerated...since the traffic light was installed in the same year that Trader Joe's opened at T&C: 2009.


3 people like this
Posted by Proof in the pudding
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 18, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Re: Oregon and Foothill are county roads.

You may be right that the traffic manager cannot do anything about this.

Yet even middle managers in the private sector need to leverage outside organizations to get things done that need to be done. In fact, executives need to be very competent at that particular skill set. It can be hard to get government agencies to do things, or even to provide information about what they will and won't do and when. Is that not part of why we compensate local government execs so well - because they know how to function in this environment?

It's not as hard to sign up for advancing others' agendas (such as Berkeley-based bicycle groups) whenever convenient, nor is it hard to provide excuses for long-term unsolved problems. It's not hard to pay others to flounder or spend exorbitant amounts on addressing a problem. It's easy to find managers who can do these three things and we shouldn't have to pay too much for those who spend most of their attention and resources on these three things.

True, some problems involving cooperation from larger organizations are real sticklers. Perhaps we should not expect Palo Alto executives to be able to resolve them. After all, how available is executive talent around here? And how are we supposed to find that talent?


5 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Many of the new green bicycle paths seem reasonable. I especially like the one on Park near Oregon Expressway, as it helps me as a motorist figure out where to go to get onto Oregon, without impeding bicyclists.

However, the latest one I've seen, on E. Meadow from the train crossing pointed towards El Camino Way, has me wondering. It ends pointed at El Camino Way, a heavily trafficked bypass of El Camino that is used to access E. Meadow. El Camino Way is a narrow, heavily parked street with little or no room for bicycles, leading from and to El Camino, also an extremely busy street with little or no room for bicycles. While I fully acknowledge every bicyclist's right to travel any street, the dangers of the way some streets are designed makes them very dangerous. Setting aside room for bicycles on parallel routes, that are far safer, as we have done with the Bryant bike boulevard is a win-win, IMHO.

OTOH, it seems idiotic to direct bicycles to streets that have no safe bicycle path available to them, directly away from the existing bike boulevards. I hope Palo Alto will continue to identify and mark safe bike boulevards as alternatives to heavily trafficked streets with lots of on street parking that are accidents waiting to happen for bicyclists.


5 people like this
Posted by uninformed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Can somebody please explain what in Mr. Rodriguez's resume made him
the "head and shoulders" best candidate for this job in Palo Alto?


6 people like this
Posted by Conflict of interest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Me Rodriguez answers his www.trafficpatterns.net business phone on regular City of PA office hours. That is a proven fact. His website mentions another company, Sign Cells. Does he own that company, too. He also owns American Asphalt.


3 people like this
Posted by Where Has Civility Gone?
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I had two portions of my original post removed. Perhaps I was over-zealous in my use of words. Here is a cleaned-up summary:

In the first I indicated that "speculating" is just that, but has no facts to back it up.
I also noted that posts which "suggest that" some action has been taken are also non-factual.

Both types of comments hinder rather than foster constructive dialogue.

In the second portion which was removed, I stated what I feel has been a trend over the years of my residence here. I am, of course, using generalities. But from the vast majority of posts I feel that a segment of the population has grown more suspicious and bitter over the years - not only of government, but of other persons. I lament that. I can imagine some of the events that have contributed to it. I wish I could help turn it around. We would, I believe, be the better for it.


6 people like this
Posted by Head&Shoulders
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 18, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Can someone explain to me why Gil Friend is our CSO? Sorry, but the Local government I work for subcontracted work to his firm, and he is a hot mess as far as sustainability and community goes. I agree with others top executives should focus on their jobs, not moonlighting and/or Tweeting. just look at @GilFriend I am appalled, all this during work hours....? Really? Wow!


4 people like this
Posted by charlie
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Can you buy a job in Palo Alto?


6 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 18, 2014 at 1:01 pm

From the article:

In defending the city's outside-employment policy, Keene cited Bay Area's high housing costs. Without allowing outside employment, there would be "challenges in attracting talent in a competitive market."

My first thought:

The City just granted generous raises to Staff saying the increases were needed to make salaries competitive with neighboring cities. So if the salaries are now competitive, why does Mr. Keene claim that outside-employment is needed to attract talent?


1 person likes this
Posted by Where Has Civility Gone?
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 18, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Re the post by *Conflict of interest* in which he states: "Mr Rodriguez answers his www.trafficpatterns.net business phone on regular City of PA office hours. That is a proven fact."

This is a genuine request - not a snide remark: Could you elaborate on the last sentence - "That is a proven fact."

Thanks.


6 people like this
Posted by PalyLightWasNeverNeeded
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 18, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Re: I agree that the T&C traffic signal has been a mess from day 1. And that the city blew it by not requiring the T&C owners to synchronize with the Paly light.

I've always thought that the Paly light should have never been installed. There is an enclosed sidewalk on the Alma bridge across Embarcadaro, just a short walk through the Paly Campus. On the other side of the bridge you are in the T&C parking lot. Other than high fences along the Embarcadaro side of the Paly property to keep the students from the roadway, there would be no great expense.


2 people like this
Posted by Where Has Civility Gone?
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 18, 2014 at 1:31 pm

I meant also to ask *Conflict of interest* about the statement: "He (Mr. Rodriguez) also owns American Asphalt."

I find at least 6 active companies with the name "American Asphalt" in their name on the California Sect. of State web page on corporations. They do not list owners there, only the law firm which filed the papers.
I did find that an Armando Rodriguez is associated with an All American Asphalt in Corona, California.

So, again I ask genuinely, can *Conflict of interest* provide references to the ownership by Jaime Rodriguez of a company named American Asphalt, and where it is located?

Thanks.


8 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 18, 2014 at 1:43 pm

I have no problem with people having outside jobs and outright political positions - however I do know that in any company traded on the stock exchange the use of company time to pursue personal business on a regular basis is open to reprimand - and eventual firing if continued.
The stock holders expect that people on the job are to using company assets to pursue company business - not personal business.

Why would a city government work any differentially?
City employees are being paid by the taxpayers and the taxpayers are not expected to subsidize people's personal businesses. That is an ETHICS issue.

Possibly our city employees need a class on Ethics, and need to sign an agreement that their personal business will not be pursued on company time. In addition - the city should not be awarding contracts to companies owned by employees.


Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace

on Dec 18, 2014 at 2:20 pm


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2 people like this
Posted by Where Has Civility Gone?
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 18, 2014 at 2:34 pm

RE: 6Djockey's post (copied below).

I could be wrong, but in my (private sector) experience, employers had rights to restrict employee outside work *only* if it competed with the company's business in some way. To make up a silly example, if I managed hardware development for a computer company and sold my paintings or embroidery or postage stamps on the weekends, my company would have no say in or right to restrict my outside work in any way. If, however, I were building a line of custom personal computers from individual hardware components, then I might be getting closer to that line.

So, ....
The use of such words as "any" and "no/none" are probably not applicable.

This is not to say that Mr. Rodriguez (or other city employees for that matter) is not walking a thin line when it comes to having financial interests in outside activities which might be or lead to a conflict of interest in performance of his job duties.

I see a lot of posts with 'suggested' and 'speculated' and 'suspected' but no facts or clear indication of inappropriate actions, much less wrongdoing. Should facts come to light, I would expect Mr. Keene to take appropriate disciplinary action.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
All employers that I am familiar with require their employees to sign an agreement requiring them to get approval for any outside work that they want to do. The employer can approve, or not approve, a request for outside employment. Greg Scharff is being completely reasonable in stating his opinion that there should be no outside work approved.


5 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2014 at 2:43 pm

City Manager Keene says "challenges in attracting talent in a competitive market." Please ask Keene what are specific talents that are required.

As we have seen in article after article, consultants are hired to do all the traffic analysis, surveys, etc. Essentially the management position that Rodriguez has is a middle man - take requests from senior management, find a consultant to hire; the other part of his job is applying for grants from the county, state or federal government.

What are the metrics that indicate any sort of job performance - has my cross town commute gotten better or worst? is there more traffic congestion or less? has there been more or less "accidents", you get the idea on what many residents would consider the measure of performance. City Manager Keene does not appear to know how to set goals for employees, nor manage them for the jobs they hired to do.

That's why everyone in city management gets the percentage wage increase. Doesn't matter if you are doing a great job for the residents, or a poor job. you get the same percentage increase.


8 people like this
Posted by Conflict of Interest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2014 at 3:03 pm

American Asphalt and Repair is owned by Jaime Rodriguez. In 2009 the town of Milpitas gave his company a contract. It is on the internet. Read it. Rodriguez's company, Traffic Patterns, states he can be hired as a professional witness, expert, in trials. Aren't trials conducted during the regular working day, when Rodriguez should be working at his PA job?


7 people like this
Posted by cut to the chase
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 18, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Cut to the chase: Does he have full-time employment with the City of Palo Alto? If so, I frown on moonlighting, especially if there is potential conflict of interest.
By the way, excessive markings of the roadways are confusing and will eventually require maintenance. I think simple, clear, legal communications (road signs and etc.) are more appropriate than one small city having staff decide to place a variety of green sections on the road, narrow and widen roads in odd places, and paint the "sharrows" in various spots. We go from city to city and find different schemes and I don't find that helpful (all within SF Bay Area). One expects to find difference between states but not localities with oddball markings on the roadways or "local rules."
Advancing bicycling is one thing, but doing it at the expense of the obvious need for auto transit by many, many people only leads to idling cars, frustrated drivers and unsafe conditions for the cyclists!


13 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 18, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Where has all the civility gone, my mother taught me to respond to letters and phone calls promptly, substantively and politely. I assume yours did, too.

Since we're paying Mr. Rodriquez a lot of money, is it to much to ask that he afford us the same courtesy? Or that his managers demand the same of him?

If this were the federal govt., what he's doing would be called "slow-walking" where you procrastinate on getting something done until the issue dies or new people come in to kill it. Is it realistic to expect good substantive responses to vague 160+-page shovelware RFPs in TWO weeks??

10 years on one traffic light is indefensible. For Outgoing Mayor Shepherd to respond, "Gee, we wish things had moved faster" when still nothing has been done is absurd.


6 people like this
Posted by He is a capable man
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I have been a close observer of the planning process in Palo Alto. Mr. Rodriguez is highly qualified, and brings an engineers mindset to problem solving. We are seriously lucky to have him.


5 people like this
Posted by Conflict of Interest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Here is an example of why a work conflict of interest can be corrupt. A town, such as Milpitas, or another town, gives a city contract to a person who works in another town, such as PA. The PA employee with the same type of outside business gives the PA contract to his buddy over in Milpitas. It's a case of "I'll scratch your back if you scratch my back". I have no knowledge of Rodriguez's business dealings, but my email points out how conflicts of interest lead to corruption. Even the appearance of a conflict if interest for a city like PA is not good.


10 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 18, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Then let his highly capable man fix the light sometime in the next 10 years.

Let him show how capable he is by responding to calls and letters and complaints from the people paying his salary -- a VERY common complaint here.

Let him recognize that cars exist as well as bikes at a time when we have recognized CAR PARKING problems from the under-parked new office buildings.

Let him lower the walls at Town & Country that are higher than many cars and that pose a hazard when people enter T&C from El Camino and almost slam into cars so gridlocked they can't move.

Let him recheck the entrance to Philz Coffee so that the entrance is from the little-used side street not directly in front of ongoing traffic.


8 people like this
Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Non-managers working for the lovely City of Palo Alto have to sign an agreement NOT to moonlight.


3 people like this
Posted by Residenet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Jo Ann

I would hardly call Loma Verde a little used side street. Since the parking lot was reconfigured, it has been very difficult for Loma Verde traffic particularly when fire trucks visiting Phils blocks the bike lane. I would prefer to see more traffic use the parking lot by the liquor store so some way of enabling this would be helpful.


8 people like this
Posted by Support of Rodriguez and Transportation Dept.
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2014 at 4:52 pm

I completely support Jaime Rodriguez and the work done with the Planning and Transportation Department. The work that has been accomplished while Jaime has been with the City has been wonderful.

I have participated closely with Safe Routes 2 School for over 15 years and nothing compares to what has been positively accomplished with Jaime for all modes of traffic. Jamie has a strong balance between being practical and strategic with excellent people skills.

The proof is that we can get from one end of town to another during commute hours unlike our neighboring cities and still maintain a community feeling. I would absolutely invite those critics to participate with the process that takes years and years to accomplish through the bureaucracy of government. The expressway projects took over 10 years from concept to completion. I appreciate Mr. Rodriguez's ability to leverage his expertise, relationship in the industry and with other departments to make Palo Alto a place where we can ride, walk, and drive.

I am disappointed with the critics' opinions expressed. I feel that many are stuck in an earlier time where business and residential traffic was at a fraction of its current levels. Or worse, the negative opinions are representative of personal agendas that do not address the City's overall population.

I am a strong supporter of the City of Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Department. Mr. Rodriguez brings vision and strong skills to our community. We are lucky to have him and all that he has been able to accomplish.


6 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 18, 2014 at 5:14 pm

I went to a meeting on bicycle paths and the speaker put up pictures of concrete elements to put in the road - Charleston, East Meadow - supposedly to slow down traffic. One resident pointed out that the road needs to be free of impediments so that bikers do not run into them. I have a problem with roads being something other than straight - unencumbered roadways with no impediments. It is like an obstacle course. So the question is does Mr. Rodriguez have a company that is making up these road impediments? Were the consultants speaking coming from some company he owns?


5 people like this
Posted by A mediator
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Each time I wrote to Mr. Rodriguez about traffic issues in my neighborhood, he responded promptly, courteously and professionally. When did Palo Altans become so contentious and negative as shown by many of these postings? Lighten up, folks and appreciate all the good going on around us.


3 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 18, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Residenet, your suggestion to use the liquor store parking lot is certainly preferable to the present configuration without quibbling about whether Loma Verde or Middlefield is the busier.

Supporter of, could you please tell us what Mr. Rodriquez has done for car traffic since drivers around Gunn/Arastadero and Paly/Embarcero have complained vociferously as have visitors to PA who don't know which gridlocked streets to avoid.

We know he's a strong supporter of bike traffic.


8 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 18, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Green Gables raises an EXCELLENT point:

Non-managers working for the lovely City of Palo Alto have to sign an agreement NOT to moonlight.

And the obvious question about why highly paid top managers get to moonlight.

I've always wanted to know why highly paid city employees get over-time when it's a common corporate -- and unfortunate -- practice to call lower paid employees making around $20,000 "managers" so companies can get out of paying OT to the people who really need it. Also, what's "extra pay" and how much is it?


3 people like this
Posted by Where Has Civility Gone?
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 18, 2014 at 6:37 pm

I want to reply to *Conflict of Interest* post, which I have copied below.

First, I would have appreciated his posting links to references which support his statements. So without them I proceeded as follows.

Search first for "city of milpitas 2009 asphalt". You will get this link Web Link
I believe that item RA8 is to what *Conflict of Interest* refers. But note the Staff Contact name next to that item, the two items which follow it, and item #6. They are all Jamie Rodriguez. The search "linkedin Jamie Rodgiguez palo also" finds this link Web Link on which you can see that Mr. Rodriguez worked for the City of Milpitas as a City Traffic Engineer from 11/2004 to 6/2009. It was his job to put out RFQs, solicit bids, and recommend a contractor. It seem dubious that Milpitas would have allowed Mr. Rodriguez to work on those bid proposals if indeed he owned the company. Yet *Conflict of Interest* says he does.

It turns out that American Asphalt and Repair have done a number of jobs for Milpitas. I cannot, however, find any prior to June, 2009. In July 2009 Mr. Rodriguez began work for Palo Alto. I do not yet know if that is significant, but I doubt it, since the job posting and interviewing must have (should have) taken months, and thus started way prior to the Miltipas awarding the contract to American Asphalt and Repair.

The management team of that company is shown here Web Link. The name Rodriguez does not appear anywhere on the site. But of course, the owner's name need not. Indeed it is frequently difficult to discover the name of the real owner "doing business as" a company. So how does *Conflict of Interest* know? There might be a simple answer. I note that there is reference to CA Form 700 - Statement of Economic Interest. If Mr. Rodriguez had to fill one out, it might have such information. But I do not know how/where to get access to it. Has *Conflict of Interest* seen it or a copy?

As to the last two sentences, they are more innuendo. The last implies that Mr. Rodriguez would ("of course") be dumb enough to attend a public trial for pay during work hours where he could easily be seen without having taken time off from his Palo Alto job through the appropriate channels. Excuse me, but I cannot believe that Mr. Rodriguez would be that dumb. The only people you see that dumb are on Law and Order on TV.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
American Asphalt and Repair is owned by Jaime Rodriguez. In 2009 the town of Milpitas gave his company a contract. It is on the internet. Read it. Rodriguez's company, Traffic Patterns, states he can be hired as a professional witness, expert, in trials. Aren't trials conducted during the regular working day, when Rodriguez should be working at his PA job?


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 18, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Salary classification determines the pay scale. An Hourly paid person gets overtime, but typically does not have the same benefits as a salaried employee.

In some cases - like WALMART - an hourly employee needs to work a specified number of hours per week to qualify for medical insurance - over 30 hours per week.

Salaried employees have a contract for a specific amount of money per year and typically have other benefits - a medical insurance plan, possibly a salary savings plan, and other benefits that the company wants to provide - a pension plan that typically needs to be vested with some amount of minimum years worked - typically 5 years..

The employees are classified differently for the purposes of reporting in the accounting and HR records.

It is unclear why an hourly employee would be excluded from outside work since they tend to be in the lower salary range and have less benefits - or no benefits unless a union type job.

It is unusual for salaried employees to have a second job. Typically they need to sign a non-disclosure agreement so proprietary city business is not disclosed outside the office personnel. However a lot of people are starting their so-called "retirement job" on their own time so they have income after retirement.

I am concerned by the number of consultants the city hires - that somehow conveys that the people you have hired are not qualified for their jobs. What an unattractive prospect for all concerned.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 18, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Many people become consultants after they formally retire from a company. This allows them to be involved, make some money, and possibly work less hours. This moves them out of the "Earned Income" category as an employee and changes how they report income for tax purposes.
In many cases people come back to a company as a Consultant after they have formally retired which changes up how the company reports for tax purposes.


8 people like this
Posted by uninformed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Maybe I just don't get it, but the intersection of Lytton and Alma has been so marked up with paint, signs, and various flashing signals for bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians that it is confusing and extremely accident prone. Possibly an elderly driver for example will become
confused here causing an accident.


6 people like this
Posted by Conflict of Interest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2014 at 7:38 pm

To be clear, Mr. Rodriguez has been known to answer the office phone number for Traffic Patterns during normal City of PA office hours. 408-916-8141 Of course, he probably has stopped answering that phone during PA office hours, now that the heat is on. City Manager Keene seems highly defensive regarding the Rodriguez situation.


6 people like this
Posted by sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Bicyclists may officially be legal when they ride on El Camino, Alma, Oregon on the section that passes under Park. However, they are extremely foolish and courting problems and a traffic accident. There is no room for bicycles in these areas. In fact bicycles should be banned from El Camino, Alma and the underpasses on Oregon and Embarcadero. They are a hazard to themselves and to motorists.
On Arastradero Mr Rodriquez blew it big time. A road that once was full of traffic at certain times, but on which card were able to move smoothly, has been converted into total gridlock. The only way to make traffic on Arastradero flow better and without rancor is to make all traffic exiting Gunn High School turn right and to change the light at Gunn to favor Arastradero instead of Gunn.


12 people like this
Posted by Paco
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2014 at 9:40 pm

...another case of city manager Keene taking care of his friends. It would seem that all the senior managers pull together to protect themselves and their lucrative salaries. Why aren't city council members voicing their concerns. So the city manager thinks it ok tfor his senior management "team" to run their own private business ventures from city hall? Amazing! Maybe time for a new city manager.


11 people like this
Posted by RV
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 19, 2014 at 12:27 am

I have little credibility for Jamie Rodriguez. His lack of due diligence on the Traffic Study for the Maybell project showed either he did not have the time or had other interests. Again and again the issues with the Traffic Study were presented to the City Council and his opinion solicited by them and not once did he question the Traffic Study and always accepted it without challenging it any way! This was incredible to see from the manager of the Transportation department who should have followed up to ensure the Traffic study included at least bicyclists so that student safety was fully addressed! The Community was looking to the Transportation manager to do his job and in my opinion he did not!



9 people like this
Posted by Right Role
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2014 at 8:58 am

Perhaps he should not be dealing with the public, because of his reputation for low integrity. Nor should he be setting traffic priorities because of his reputation for placing high priority on visible, politically motivated pet projects but little on the day to day nuts and bolts of our city's traffic needs, especially in the context of the growth in the city's drivers and transportation needs.

We need the cake as well as the icing.

Yet we do value and need someone who is practical and strategic, with strong skills.


9 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2014 at 9:58 am

Rodriguez also tries to suppress information and notifications of impending neighborhood projects from the residents of PA. He sends out notifications after the meeting has been held, or doesn't send out a notice at all. Rodriguez clearly does not want resident input. And, he doesn't do his homework. Rodriguez has hired a minimum of 5 planning companies to design his bike vision for PA. What is all this costing the taxpayers?


9 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 19, 2014 at 10:52 am

I'm still waiting for Mr. Rodriquez's supporters to tell us what he's done for drivers of cars and to facilitate their movement. We know he's a big supporter of bike traffic.

When I reviewed the PDF for the T&C light years ago, there were counts of kids using the crosswalk in the morning -- something like 160 -- but nothing about usage on off times, weekends, etc.

The PDF didn't even count or consider car traffic. For years and the city's been deaf to requests to at least shut it off when school's not in session even though it's one of the most major roads.

Ludicrous to get stuck at that light when the kids weren't even in school, particularly coming home from 280 late at night after an event in SF.

The only response I got from someone was "we're waiting for community input." Seriously, how much "input" do they think is needed?


2 people like this
Posted by Just the FACTS, please.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Mr. Rodriguez is a person who is due fair and thoughtful treatment like the rest of us. Most of what I read here is hearsay and unsupported by facts.

I have worked with Mr. Rodriguez on a number of projects. I have been impressed by his work ethic and commitment to implementing the transportation vision in our Comprehensive Plan. He has always been forthright and honest with me...even on occasions when we have disagreed.

Further, I see no FACTS here that tell me he is guilty of any wrong-doing. This is a public forum and it is being irresponsibly used to personally attack and defame a man through innuendo by people who seem to me to have an agenda. To the Weekly...please make sure that your uncontrolled blog is not used by a handful of people to attack a man's good name and career.

People may have an issue with city policy related to staff maintaining separate business interests, but from the facts it appears to me that Mr Rodriguez is in compliance with existing city policy and he has been completely forthright about all of his connections.

People may disagree with existing policy, and there is a process for changing that...but Mr. Rodriguez has done nothing dishonest that I can see. It's time to do some careful, responsible investigative and OBJECTIVE reporting.

Do unto others as you would have done to you.


8 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 19, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Just the FACTS, I'm not asking for general character references; I never met the man.

I'm asking for FACTtual concrete accomplishments that made drivers' lives easier --not worse -- at a time of unprecedented growth, traffic and gridlock.

I've cited facts like the FACT that his report counted kids walking across the street in the morning but not cars trying to get across El Camino to/from one of the few exits from 101.

I asked specifically why the light hasn't been turned off in the middle of the night.

Many people here have cited his unresponsiveness to letters and phone calls. Unless they're all lying, those are facts.

You've got a Diana Diamond column where she literally counted his references to bikes in a presentation -- 29 I think -- but not a single reference to cars.

Give me some specifics, not vague personal references.


4 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 19, 2014 at 1:07 pm

> Further, I see no FACTS here that tell me he is guilty of any wrong-doing

Several people have indicated that Rodriguez has answered his City-provided landline using the name of his company. While this would be wrong, it is hard to prove in a way that can turn into a personnel action. As I understand it, it’s illegal to record a telephone conversation without the other party’s agreement. So, if people were to call Rodriguez’s telephone, and he were to answer with an inappropriate response—without the recording, there is no real proof.

It’s possible that the Auditor, and the City Manager’s officer could come up with some sort of process were phones of employees are robocalled, and then appropriate City personnel listen to the response. But this seems unlikely, given the City Manager’s “who cares” attitude, per his response in the article.

If someone were to find that Rodriguez had given a sales pitch, or sold his services as an expert witness, and did not take time off from work appropriately—that would be a “fact” that Rodriguez had done something wrong.


6 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 19, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Just the Facts, I'm not attacking him personally although I've been vocal in my criticisms. Nor have I ever attacked him personally. I've never met him. He could be the sweetest nicest person in the world.

His outside employment is just one aspect of his professional performance I'd like to see reviewed objectively and in more detail. Maybe the problems stem from his management and not his own performance. Who knows but we deserve some real answers.


5 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 19, 2014 at 1:54 pm

The Utilities Scandal of the early 2000’s

Just in case there are “newbies” following this discussion, I’d like to remind everyone that around 2003, it came to light that utility workers were moonlighting—using city equipment and their billable hours to do small contracting jobs for friends, and others who were “connected” enough to get these guys to do work for them.

A downtown resident had noticed something odd with the Utility crews that were loitering in his neighborhood, and wrote a letter to one of the local papers making note of his observations. Within a few days, the Utility Director (John Ulrich) responded with his own letter, claiming that no one working for the Utilities was involved in anything untoward (or words to that effect).

Not too long after than, the MP police called the PA police to let them know that they had a PAU crew in custody, and wonder if the PA police would come and collect them. This little incident led to a many month investigation that eventually involved about 20 people. A couple of the top employees left; none of those involved were charged with any crimes. The Director was more or less given the door, but the then City Manager decided to keep him on the payroll until his next birthday so that he could qualify for the largest pension possible.

The City Manager’s Office did everything in their power to slam the lid on this situation. The Weekly, at some point, sued them for release of as many documents as the Court would allow. Any one reading these documents came to the conclusion that the management at the Utility was a mess. But no one on the City Council—our friends and neighbors who claim to be “public deciders” than the rest of us—ever mentioned this scandal during open Council sessions.

Bottom line—the City goes to great ends to make certain that its employees are protected from as many laws, or good business practices, that they can. Finding a way to actually report someone like Rodriguez for whatever reason might prove difficult.


1 person likes this
Posted by To JoAnn
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2014 at 2:06 pm

To which specific staff report are you referring? I'll do my own count. Thanks very much.


5 people like this
Posted by Action
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 19, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I think people should give Mr. Rodriquez some credit. Sure, there are some interpersonal skills that could be improved, but the man and his team are actually getting things done.

Nothing happened for decades - lots of nice plans, smiles, but nothing on the ground.

We are making forward progress, which sometimes bring complaints that it is not perfect.

Bigger projects are happening, but so are very small things that do make a difference, but you might not even notice. At schools, small red zones have improved safety and kept people from blocking neighbor's driveways. Unnecessary barriers have been removed that limited bike trailers.

Mr. Rodriquez has been there at every evening meeting, every weekend bikealong - and is remarkably patient about the sometimes rude and abusive comments thrown his way. People do get emotional about these things and things are said that are probably not appropriate.

Because everything in Palo Alto seems so larger than life, it is easy to assume that we have a 42 person transportation department. It is just a couple of guys.


11 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 19, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Good for the BIKE trailers. We know he cares about bikes, Once again, what's he done to ease car traffic? Specifically?

Great that they painted some curbs red but that hasn't stopped parents blocking my driveway at Lowell and Middlefield. No red curbs here, just a huge puddle. He's got a painting company, mo?

We've also got green bike signs, green-painted bike lanes, mis-timed blinking lights saying SLOW DOWN, Keep Clear markings ... He's got a sign company, no?

What's he done to ease traffic FLOW? Has he fixed the timing on ANY traffic lights, not just T&C? You can sit at some forever at some lights even on those rare occasions when there's no traffic. Same at turn lanes.

Also, wow can you eliminate lanes when you have more cars and expect to have less gridlock?


Like this comment
Posted by alfonso sosa
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2014 at 3:21 pm

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Conflict
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2014 at 4:39 pm

To: Where has Civility Gone

1) Rodriguez's Government Form 700 states he owns American Asphalt Rodriguez's signature is on the bottom of the form.
2) I know for a fact that he has answered his Traffic Patterns business phone during City of PA office hours. He was called at approximately 10 am one morning in October. He answered the Traffic Patterns work phone number and confirmed that he was the same Jaime Rodriguez that works for the City of PA.
Keene defends Rodriguez and says Rodriguez doesn't conduct Traffic Patterns work during PA working hours. Well, that simply isn't true and Keene's continued defense of Rodriguez makes Keene look like a weak, incompetent leader. Let's hope the incoming city council fires both Keene and Rodriguez.


3 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 19, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Action

Thank you for sharing a different perspective.

I'm impressed by the extent to which Jaime Rodriguez and his small staff have been able to continue working to improve the city's transportation infrastructure in the midst of the constant barrage of criticism.

I'd like to give him credit for overseeing a process of using neighborhood input through a series of well-publicized community meetings to inform changes on the El Camino Way-Maybell-Donald-Georgia bicycle corridor which carries many students to schools in this part of town.

He was actively engaged, but the detail work and much of the public interfacing was done by the consultant team chosen for this project (several similar projects were at various stages of completion, each with its own project consultants). With each iteration presented for resident comment and suggestions, understanding and buy-in improved until the last sparsely attended session ended with opposition expressed as "let's wait and see" rather than "this has to be stopped." That's progress.

I'm pleased with the changes that have already been implemented and look forward to full implementation of the plan.


3 people like this
Posted by cyclist
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Jo Ann, the cycling infrastructure improvements benefit the city's die hard drivers by providing people with a safe alternative. I commute by bike to Los Altos from midtown every day. If we didn't have robust bike infrastructure then I'd drive and cause even more gridlock. I'm sorry parents are blocking your driveway; perhaps if they could be encouraged to walk or bike with their kids that wouldn't happen?

During the busy time on Arastradero there are a lot of cyclists--if you count them, there are frequently more people on bikes than are in the cars (because the cars don't move much). Imagine if biking wasn't an option and all of those people drove instead?

There have been a lot of other improvements throughout the city (from better sensors for lights and improved markings and crossings) that benefit both cyclists and car drivers, and Jaime has worked incredibly hard to help those happen. It's really disappointing to see this article, apparently based on one "concern" which had an erroneous basis, and even more disappointing to read some of these comments.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2014 at 7:12 pm

I think there is a difference in perception between those who drive and those who bike.

For those who bike, there have indeed been many improvements. Quite often these improvements have been to the detriment of efficient motorized traffic flow. For those who are in a car, there have been absolutely no improvements in traffic flow for the last X number of years.

I love some of the bike improvements, but there are some places where bikes just make no sense. I rarely see somebody on a bike stopping for crossing guards, they always cross in pedestrian crossing zones, they are often on the wrong side of the road, and rarely stop at stop signs when there is other traffic stopped (I don't mind them not stopping in a 4 way stop if there are no cars). I would like to see more done to make bikes obey traffic rules. But, I am grateful that so many people are able to ride or walk to school or work. I walk as much as I can and ride a bike also.

Yes, we are fortunate that so many people do ride bikes to school and work. But, there are many people who can't do that at least not all the time. For the people in cars, we have had no traffic improvements and it is about time that some improvements were made to improve efficient traffic flow around the City.


6 people like this
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 19, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Does the city have something similar to an audit council/compliance team in the corporate world? There's enough in this case that would warrant an audit to verify if taxpayers' money is spent responsibly and/or if any internal policies have been violated (or if they need to be updated to account for moonlighting activities).


3 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 19, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Resident

I invite you to come to the intersection of El Camino Real and El Camino Way when school starts up again in January to see bicyclists paying attention to a crossing guard. He greets kids and adults alike as they approach the intersection. They wait and watch attentively for him to give the signal to cross and then safely cross with a "have a good day" in their ear as they head off up Maybell to school or work. Lynne, the crossing guard at the difficult Coulombe-Maybell T-intersection, and the guard who watches over the Charleston/El Camino crossing also do a great job for which we all owe them our thanks.

That said, I agree that there's too much sloppy, inattentive, discourteous bike riding, which is also true, of course, for driving.

". . . it is about time that some improvements were made to improve efficient traffic flow around the City." I fully agree with the sentiment. But we have widely divergent proposals out there, all aiming to do just that, and we're not even close to consensus on which to pursue. Maybe next year. . .?



1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Jerry, I think you misunderstand me. Cyclists are vehicles and should stop for a crossing guard, not cross when he has stopped the other traffic.

This is what cyclists don't understand, they are not pedestrians. They should obey traffic signs. They should stay out of crosswalks and wait at stop signs and crossing guards just like cars.

Our crossing guards are wonderful, I was chatting with one the other day and she told me that she has been told to treat bikes as vehicles, but they don't obey her.

I acknowledge that young riders going to elementary schools still have a lot to learn as cyclists so are given more leeway, but they grow into teens who have learnt that they are pedestrians. Wrong message as far as I can see.


3 people like this
Posted by Perfidy
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2014 at 9:02 am

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 20, 2014 at 11:38 am

Online Name is a registered user.

The article said "In defending the city's outside-employment policy, Keene cited Bay Area's high housing costs. Without allowing outside employment, there would be "challenges in attracting talent in a competitive market."

PA's employees have higher salaries than in surrounding communities as per recent press reports. Those reports also cited their salaries, raises and "extra" or "other" pay but didn't specify how much that is for the various highly paid employees.

How much MORE are they getting? Also, do moonlighting employees like Friend and Rodriquez ALSO get over-time in addition to their extra/other pay?

I hope the new City Council requests/requires an updated and unbiased traffic analysis of the impact of car traffic and all the new commuters flooding the under-parked office buildings, the expanded Stanford Medical facilities we were told wouldn't have the slightest impact on traffic flow.

Increased housing density, more under-parked hotels etc. should also be considered because it's specious to claim no one staying at a hotel or living in a new development has a car.

Attending every Bikealong and claiming more biking encourages traffic flow by off-setting the number of cars are Mr. R's main accomplishments cited by his supporters so some analysis is in order.


5 people like this
Posted by wmartin46
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 20, 2014 at 12:31 pm

wmartin46 is a registered user.

Many of the posters have asked a fundamental question about why the current Traffic Engineering Department Head has done to make automobile traffic better, but no good answers have been posted. I’d like to take a stab at what I think would go a long way to answer that question.

Traffic can be measured in any number of ways. Yet, none of the Traffic Department Heads seem to have done much to actually measure traffic in Palo Alto, and make that data available to the public so that we can see just what he (his department) have done on a yearly (at least) basis.

Certainly traffic volume would be the most important metric—yet, none of the Traffic Department Heads has been interested in acquiring low cost traffic counters that could be linked into the City’s data network for 7/24/365 traffic counting.

One of the key metrics for traffic flow is Level-of-Service designators (A-F). As the letter increases, the longer it takes to pass through the intersection. These measurements don’t seem to be scheduled, and performed on the major intersections on a yearly basis. These measurements include, queue length, time to clear the intersection, time to make left turns, and so on. This raw data should be made public on the City’s Open Data web-site.

The number of traffic accidents is another metric which can be linked to traffic engineering. This data is collected by the police, and eventually made public via the CHP. To the best of my knowledge, the Traffic Engineering people have never worked with the police to identify high accidents locations (like the intersection of Hamilton and Middlefield) to determine what, if anything, Traffic Engineering can do to decrease the accidents at these locations.

Bicycle use has also increased the number of bicycle/vehicle accidents. Review of these accidents would seem to be something that Traffic Engineering would want to do.

The whole idea of “safety” is very vague. People are constantly claiming that this intersection, or that, is unsafe—yet the number of vehicular accidents are not particularly high at those locations. So, video taping the intersections, looking for near misses, and beginning to publish that data would be something else that the Traffic people could do to demonstrate their awareness of possible problems that might need attention in the coming years.

Road surface conditions are generally the domain of Public Works, but certainly bicycle safety, if not motor vehicle safety, are linked to road surface conditions. There seems to be little awareness of these needs for public data about traffic in Palo Alto that seems to be a clear priority of the current, and past, Traffic Department Heads.

The ideas proposed above will cost a little money, but most of the operational costs can be managed via software. At the moment, while the Traffic Department Head is clearly not performing these sorts of data collections/evaluations, the City Council does not seem to be remotely aware that these sorts of needs exist, and can be satisfied, over time. And with this data, we can determine if the Traffic Department is actually making things better, or just spinning its wheels.


5 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 20, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

From a recent letter to the editor about the Cal Ave redesign:

Web Link

"But another red-flag is the new parallel parking configuration created a six-car backup towards El Camino Real, something I never saw before. The convenient diagonal parking replaced with parallel takes longer to negotiate. If a bicyclist was there, it would be dangerous; so a suggestion is redirecting bicyclists to parallel streets, for their safety, designating easier and safer flow of traffic for them."


People who sensibly pointed out that lane reductions would indeed create backups and were roundly scorned as being anti-progress, anti-beautification, anti-bike etc. etc. when we pointed out that cars couldn't yet levitate around other cars trying to park.

When is PA going to start using common sense in its traffic planning instead of making it a religious/philosophical war between "die hard drivers" and bicyclists, "residentialists" and high density advocates??


3 people like this
Posted by HVS
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 26, 2014 at 11:51 am

HVS is a registered user.

Its not his outside work that bothers me. Its what he does to Palo Alto that hurts.


1 person likes this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 26, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

HVS is right.

And from today's news Web Link


"Drawing on census data, the Silicon Valley Business Journal found Palo Alto had the WORST inbound commute in Silicon Valley, with close to 25 percent of inbound commutes lasting longer than 45 minutes. The average commuter into the city spends 32.3 minutes behind the wheel and 22 minutes heading out."

And just wait until they get through adding more development at Oregon & El Camino. Pretty soon no one will be able to cross El Camino, with all the major roads perpetually gridlocked.


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