News

With budget deficit approaching $40M, Palo Alto prepares for massive cuts

Council expects long, painful recovery from COVID-19 shutdown

With the local economy in free fall, the Palo Alto City Council decided on Monday to cut nearly $40 million from next year's budget, a move that is expected to put a dent in City Hall's staffing level and require eliminating of popular programs and services.

Now, it is preparing to tackle a trickier question: What exactly should the city cut?

That painful conversation will begin to unfold on May 11, when Administrative Services Department staff returns with possible options for achieving the expense reductions. The projected shortfall presumes that social-distancing measures will remain for some time; that people will remain reluctant to — or prohibited from — traveling and attending major events; and that the recovery will take many months.

Staff presented the grim budget scenario to the council as the most dire of the three options, with the most optimistic scenario depicting a speedy recovery and the middle scenario projecting a $21.3 million revenue drop. But the council agreed that a speedy recovery is at this point an impossible alternative and the more moderate option is a highly unlikely one. Staff's worst-case scenario, which includes a $38.8-million revenue drop, is actually the most likely one, the council agreed by a unanimous vote.

"Everything is going to be on the cutting floor," Mayor Adrian Fine told his colleagues during the Monday discussion. "I hope you're ready for that."

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Councilwoman Liz Kniss said the list of services that could be cut will include library programs, recreation offerings, public safety services, planning efforts and other things "that we really prize."

"When we start hearing from police and fire about the protection we provide in the city, that's going to be tough," Kniss said. "But that which involves kids and outdoor activities — that's going to be even harder."

The Monday discussion was a preamble of sorts for a series of meetings that will begin on May 11, when City Manager Ed Shikada presents options for reducing expenses, and end on June 22, when the council officially adopts the budget. Unlike in prior years, when the council's Finance Committee reviewed the budgets of each department, the task will fall to the full council.

Given the deep level of uncertainty about the duration of the pandemic and what the recovery will look like, Chief Financial Officer Kiely Nose said numbers will almost certainly change in the months ahead.

"We continue to not know the length or depth of this emergency and how it will ripple through our social lives as well as our economic drivers," Nose said.

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She noted, however, that almost half of the city's revenues come from sources that are "extraordinarily impacted by the COVID-19 situation," including sales- and hotel-tax revenues. Tarun Narayan, the city's manager of treasury, debt and investment, said 11 of the hotels in Palo Alto, representing about 30% of total rooms within the city, are completely closed. The rest are either at 5% occupancy or are heading toward that level, he said, citing information from the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Even though the state and Santa Clara County are now easing some of the shelter-at-home restrictions that had been in effect since March, the council agreed that the devastating effects of the pandemic will linger for many months even after businesses are allowed to reopen. Some businesses will close down, Councilman Greg Tanaka said. Others will have restricted capacity because of physical-distancing rules or find themselves hurting for customers because of the economic downturn, Tanaka said.

He noted that one of the city's major revenue generators is Stanford Shopping Center, an upscale mall.

"Who's going to go out and spend $5,000 on a handbag?" Tanaka asked. It's probably not going to happen."

The biggest challenge, he said, is the persistence of social distancing even after businesses are allowed to reopen.

"The economy is seizing up and it's tough for businesses to get the business they had before," Tanaka said.

Councilman Eric Filseth called the projections in the most drastic scenario proposed by staff "appalling." They are also realistic, he said. Given the precipitous decline of hotel revenues, it's realistic to see a major drop in transit-occupancy-taxes throughout the next year, particularly if traveling doesn't return to pre-pandemic levels.

Vice Mayor Tom DuBois agreed.

"I don't see it as an extremely conservative scenario, but a pragmatic one in terms of what we've been hearing and reading about," DuBois said. "No one is talking about large events coming back in the fall, unless you have a rented out a private island or all of Las Vegas."

To deal with the massive shortfall, DuBois said the city will need take a deep look at its management structure at City Hall, including the ratio of employees per manager. Given that the largest part of the city's expenses is staffing, a major portion of the $38.8-million reduction will have to come from staffing costs.

"The public needs to understand that it's likely going to be across the board — it's going to be management, it's going to be unionized staff," DuBois said.

Councilwoman Alison Cormack predicted that the coming week will be "very difficult" and "really hard for all of us, and for our employees and for the people who live here."

"I want us all to take a deep breath as we make this decision tonight because the impacts will be felt starting next week," Cormack said.

Fine also suggested that Palo Alto's land use policies have contributed to the financial pains that the city is now feeling, with its top sources of revenues on a sharp decline. He compared the city's plight with Redwood City and Mountain View, which have been more enthusiastic about approving new development.

"One of the reasons those cities aren't facing such serious budget cuts is because they've been building commercial and residential space over the past few years and they've been expanding their property tax bases. That's the situation we're in in Palo Alto, where we haven't done that."

The city is gathering public feedback on its budget priorities through an online survey, which can be found here.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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With budget deficit approaching $40M, Palo Alto prepares for massive cuts

Council expects long, painful recovery from COVID-19 shutdown

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, May 5, 2020, 5:28 pm
Updated: Wed, May 6, 2020, 9:48 am

With the local economy in free fall, the Palo Alto City Council decided on Monday to cut nearly $40 million from next year's budget, a move that is expected to put a dent in City Hall's staffing level and require eliminating of popular programs and services.

Now, it is preparing to tackle a trickier question: What exactly should the city cut?

That painful conversation will begin to unfold on May 11, when Administrative Services Department staff returns with possible options for achieving the expense reductions. The projected shortfall presumes that social-distancing measures will remain for some time; that people will remain reluctant to — or prohibited from — traveling and attending major events; and that the recovery will take many months.

Staff presented the grim budget scenario to the council as the most dire of the three options, with the most optimistic scenario depicting a speedy recovery and the middle scenario projecting a $21.3 million revenue drop. But the council agreed that a speedy recovery is at this point an impossible alternative and the more moderate option is a highly unlikely one. Staff's worst-case scenario, which includes a $38.8-million revenue drop, is actually the most likely one, the council agreed by a unanimous vote.

"Everything is going to be on the cutting floor," Mayor Adrian Fine told his colleagues during the Monday discussion. "I hope you're ready for that."

Councilwoman Liz Kniss said the list of services that could be cut will include library programs, recreation offerings, public safety services, planning efforts and other things "that we really prize."

"When we start hearing from police and fire about the protection we provide in the city, that's going to be tough," Kniss said. "But that which involves kids and outdoor activities — that's going to be even harder."

The Monday discussion was a preamble of sorts for a series of meetings that will begin on May 11, when City Manager Ed Shikada presents options for reducing expenses, and end on June 22, when the council officially adopts the budget. Unlike in prior years, when the council's Finance Committee reviewed the budgets of each department, the task will fall to the full council.

Given the deep level of uncertainty about the duration of the pandemic and what the recovery will look like, Chief Financial Officer Kiely Nose said numbers will almost certainly change in the months ahead.

"We continue to not know the length or depth of this emergency and how it will ripple through our social lives as well as our economic drivers," Nose said.

She noted, however, that almost half of the city's revenues come from sources that are "extraordinarily impacted by the COVID-19 situation," including sales- and hotel-tax revenues. Tarun Narayan, the city's manager of treasury, debt and investment, said 11 of the hotels in Palo Alto, representing about 30% of total rooms within the city, are completely closed. The rest are either at 5% occupancy or are heading toward that level, he said, citing information from the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Even though the state and Santa Clara County are now easing some of the shelter-at-home restrictions that had been in effect since March, the council agreed that the devastating effects of the pandemic will linger for many months even after businesses are allowed to reopen. Some businesses will close down, Councilman Greg Tanaka said. Others will have restricted capacity because of physical-distancing rules or find themselves hurting for customers because of the economic downturn, Tanaka said.

He noted that one of the city's major revenue generators is Stanford Shopping Center, an upscale mall.

"Who's going to go out and spend $5,000 on a handbag?" Tanaka asked. It's probably not going to happen."

The biggest challenge, he said, is the persistence of social distancing even after businesses are allowed to reopen.

"The economy is seizing up and it's tough for businesses to get the business they had before," Tanaka said.

Councilman Eric Filseth called the projections in the most drastic scenario proposed by staff "appalling." They are also realistic, he said. Given the precipitous decline of hotel revenues, it's realistic to see a major drop in transit-occupancy-taxes throughout the next year, particularly if traveling doesn't return to pre-pandemic levels.

Vice Mayor Tom DuBois agreed.

"I don't see it as an extremely conservative scenario, but a pragmatic one in terms of what we've been hearing and reading about," DuBois said. "No one is talking about large events coming back in the fall, unless you have a rented out a private island or all of Las Vegas."

To deal with the massive shortfall, DuBois said the city will need take a deep look at its management structure at City Hall, including the ratio of employees per manager. Given that the largest part of the city's expenses is staffing, a major portion of the $38.8-million reduction will have to come from staffing costs.

"The public needs to understand that it's likely going to be across the board — it's going to be management, it's going to be unionized staff," DuBois said.

Councilwoman Alison Cormack predicted that the coming week will be "very difficult" and "really hard for all of us, and for our employees and for the people who live here."

"I want us all to take a deep breath as we make this decision tonight because the impacts will be felt starting next week," Cormack said.

Fine also suggested that Palo Alto's land use policies have contributed to the financial pains that the city is now feeling, with its top sources of revenues on a sharp decline. He compared the city's plight with Redwood City and Mountain View, which have been more enthusiastic about approving new development.

"One of the reasons those cities aren't facing such serious budget cuts is because they've been building commercial and residential space over the past few years and they've been expanding their property tax bases. That's the situation we're in in Palo Alto, where we haven't done that."

The city is gathering public feedback on its budget priorities through an online survey, which can be found here.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

Downfall
Fairmeadow
on May 5, 2020 at 8:47 pm
Downfall, Fairmeadow
on May 5, 2020 at 8:47 pm

And yet somehow despite a projected $40M shortfall they still approved $500,000 for giveaways to local small businesses. The federal govt already has a program for this. I know the fed program is not perfect but I would at least expect the PA city council to be fiscally prudent at this time and not approve this feel-good, politically correct grant program.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2020 at 9:24 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2020 at 9:24 pm

The way I read this article is that once again it is going to be the residents who will be suffering most.

We have too many chiefs and not enough indians in Palo Alto. We have statement ideas that have always been what the council want but the residents have said are too costly. We have had expensive street furniture and studies and makeovers of City Hall when the previous decor was fine for us. The new Zoo will be an expensive reminder of what we lost, when life was simple and family friendly. We have still not got electronic parking signs and aids, but we do have traffic managers. The money that has been spent on frivolous measures over the past 5 years, nay 10 years, are sad reminders of how badly city money has been spent.

Now we are told that we the residents are going to lose some of the few city services that help us, the residents, as opposed to the developers who are in the pay of council bigwigs.

On top of this, we have had all the small businesses that we value closed while the large chains such as Costco, Ace, Home Depot, etc. taking not only the business but the tax dollars to other cities' coffers. Summerwinds were treated very badly over the past couple of weeks. Let's hope they manage to pull through.

So for all of us who have had our own lives disrupted during the SIP, we can continue to expect more sacrifices when our few city services are reduced in hours or lost. As the run up to the next City Council election starts to be discussed, let's hope that the next crop of contenders are a cut above what we have and that in future they put the needs of the residents ahead of those who only want to capitalize on Palo Alto's name and zip codes.


common sense
Midtown
on May 5, 2020 at 9:30 pm
common sense, Midtown
on May 5, 2020 at 9:30 pm

1. Politicians hate cutting budgets, they'd rather be spending money.
2. Politicians always try to inflect the maximum pain onto voters so that they will approve new taxes.
3. Hotel taxes were suppose to be for funding infrastructure projects (remember all the campaign promises). Now the politicians are saying since hotel taxes are down, they are going to cut services to residents.
4. City Manager's office has 10 employees: a deputy city manager, an assistant city manage, an assistant to the city manager, a chief communications officer, a communications manager, an executive assistant to the city manager, two admin assistant, a sustainability management analyst. I don't wish anyone to lose their job, but this seems excessive to me.
5. The 2020 budget is $197 million; the 2017 was $168 million. For starters have each department go back to the their 2017 budget. That's $29 million in cuts. The middle scenario calls for $21 million in cuts, so take the $8 million to reallocate to the services you want to have less severe cutbacks (like police, fire)
6. Cut out the pet projects like the bike road furniture, zero waste, etc.


Josh
Midtown
on May 5, 2020 at 11:17 pm
Josh, Midtown
on May 5, 2020 at 11:17 pm

Hasn't Palo Alto also been "expanding their property tax base" by having home prices double if not triple in the last 10 years with plenty of houses being demolished for even bigger houses. I understand prop 13 but it seems like enough houses have sold or been demolished to account for a sizeable property tax increase. Where is all that money going? A find it crazy that the public schools are asking four thousands in donations when a starter house costs $2.5 million. Something isn't right.


Another Giveaway
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 1:29 am
Another Giveaway, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 1:29 am
Crescent Park Resident
Crescent Park
on May 6, 2020 at 6:28 am
Crescent Park Resident, Crescent Park
on May 6, 2020 at 6:28 am

And yet we still pay all the city employees way into the six figures, including nearly half a million bucks a year to the city manager.


We are here, we are here, we are HERE!
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 8:29 am
We are here, we are here, we are HERE!, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 8:29 am

We keep hearing that the city wants to be “sustainable”. But pushing for building of hotel spaces that make money from people regularly traveling back and forth when they could be telecommuting much of the time is hardly sustainable. Not to mention the use of concrete and the water and throwaway use, rental cars, and the fact that encouraging these has pushed out businesses that residents need - residents go toMountain View and Redwood City for those. Costco, Safeways, BedBathBeyond, Ace, Michaels, Smart&Final, Target, Home Depot, etc, all only available in other communities. Even Los Altos Whole Food. You can’t get staples at Stanford Mall. So, no Mayor Fine, this is not support for your overdevelopment drive, please stop using ever occasion to pivot to that. Pushing out more resident-serving businesses for noncntributing denizens of office space would only mean more day gyms and more people to shop in other communities for what they need. The idea that you can get everything online, forgetting the environmental impact of all that packaging, was put to bed with this pandemic. Having brick and mortar is essential when anything goes wrong.

MountainView also got google donations whereas Palo Alto billionaires tend not to invest in their own community except where their children want to go to a particular school, etc. They only move in their own circles and don’t see the impact they have on cost of living of other residents.

Let’s look at a hypothetical family of teachers. Together, they make $175,000 a year. Seems like a lot. But they spend 50% on housing, 25% on childcare and medical for one of the kids who was born with a condition that requires surgeries, and 15% on income tax, leaving $17,000 a year for everything else, including food, clothing, household effects, repairs, transportation, computer and communication, professional fees like a will for the kids or having an advocate so their child’s special needs aren’t swept under the rug at school, retirement savings, travel to care for an ailing parent. Do you know how far $17,000/year goes to cover a family of 3 or 4?

The family made huge sacrifices to get into a home of their own to stabilize their costs,going back way before the kids, because otherwise rent and income taxes would eat up more and, worse, be unpredictable. But then the tax law changes in 2017 increased their taxes another $9000, since they seemed surgically designed to pick off people like them, and now they live on less than $10,000/yr, but their kids won’t qualify for any need-based anything, which they’ll only realize when they get to college means they are why the poor and rich are now going to college at far higher rates and the middle class is disappearing from college ranks.

So please stop with the corporate/developer shill stuff for five minutes, Mayor Fine, and realize your job is actually to be a PUBLIC SERVANT to the residents of this town. If you can’t pivot to that in this crisis, please resign for the good of our children’s future.


The City Bureaucracy Is BLOATED
Crescent Park
on May 6, 2020 at 9:40 am
The City Bureaucracy Is BLOATED, Crescent Park
on May 6, 2020 at 9:40 am

>"4. City Manager's office has 10 employees: a deputy city manager, an assistant city manage, an assistant to the city manager, a chief communications officer, a communications manager, an executive assistant to the city manager, two admin assistant, a sustainability management analyst. I don't wish anyone to lose their job, but this seems excessive to me."

^^^ Curious...how do the (1) deputy & assistant city manager, (2) assistant & executive assistant to the city manager, (3) chief communications officer & communications manager roles differ and what are their salaries + benefits package?

It's time for the City of Palo Alto to trim the fat & consolidate various administrative job responsibilities/duties...in other words, DO SOME ACTUAL WORK & stop hiring and handing off one's job responsibilities to other overpaid underlings.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 6, 2020 at 9:57 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 6, 2020 at 9:57 am

In the city's recent letter, they claimed to want feedback on the budget so please participate in the survey where you rate your priorities and are invited to comment Web Link


George
Midtown
on May 6, 2020 at 10:17 am
George, Midtown
on May 6, 2020 at 10:17 am

> And yet we still pay all the city employees way into the six figures, including nearly half a million bucks a year to the city manager.

@Crescent Park Resident: If you want city staff who actually live here and know the city, of course they need to be paid exorbitantly. The cost of housing here is excessively high. Start advocating for more housing if you want the cost required to have city staff not living in Gilroy to come down.


What Will They Do Next
Old Palo Alto
on May 6, 2020 at 10:45 am
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
on May 6, 2020 at 10:45 am

20% pay cuts across the board. Get rid of unnecessary employees. No new hires. Businesses do this, why not City of Palo Alto ?


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 10:46 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 10:46 am

Once again looking at Web Link I can't help but notice that some folks have a "standard markup" for benefits, and, others have a huge amount of extra compensation. Overtime?

1) Cut all overtime. Zero overtime.

2) Stop all new project/construction starts. Halt. Put the plans in mothballs and come back in three years. We don't have the money.

These two items alone should just about cover the shortfall.


Kerry55
Palo Verde
on May 6, 2020 at 11:13 am
Kerry55, Palo Verde
on May 6, 2020 at 11:13 am

Our City Staff salaries have been bloated for a LONG time. The Union stronghold needs to be broken. There is no good reason why so many workers make over 6 figures and get so many perks that private companies don't offer. Please do not build more development to get us out of the mess that was created by the large scale projects built in the last 10 years that have only lowered the quality of life for so many of us. Just say NO!


Timothy Gray
Charleston Meadows
on May 6, 2020 at 11:21 am
Timothy Gray, Charleston Meadows
on May 6, 2020 at 11:21 am

Prioritize, and then cut from the bottom. Decide before the priorities what budget reduction is needed before the priorities are disclosed and then go about the fiduciary responsibility of implementing the cuts.

The City council and the city manager need to simply fulfill their stewardship of a public trust and dispassionately make the cuts without political discourse. Stick to the. Priorities and ignore the squeaky wheels and campaign donors. Let the chips fall ...

This is not a new approach to professional management. We cannot accept anything less than the council to simply do its job.

Set the process in motion and remove all personal and political sentiments. This is the only intellectually honest way to proceed and anything less would be purposeful deception.

Perhaps this is a new opportunity to allow wisdom to be our guide.

Offered with gratitude for the public service offered by our Council members. Now, get on with serving the public — not your donors.

Respectfully,

Tim Gray


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 11:37 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 11:37 am

Mayor Fine took the opportunity to advocate for denser commercial development in Palo Alto. But his property tax comparison, especially to Mountain View, is disingenuous.

Mountain View does make more in commercial property taxes than Palo Alto, especially from Google. But the real difference is that Mountain View actually OWNS THE LAND under Google, and charges them rent for it. Mountain View collects about $20 million per year from commercial leases on city-owned public land in the North Bayshore area and elsewhere, with Google and others as tenants. As a business landlord, Mountain View has prospered.

The equivalent isn’t that Palo Alto zone for dense highrises on privately-owned land like Fry’s, but that we let a tech company build an office park on public open space land at the Baylands Nature Preserve, and make money on rent. Which is more or less what Mountain View did.

The Mayor is familiar with commercial development and knows all this. It just isn’t what he said.


To Josh
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 12:16 pm
To Josh, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 12:16 pm

The majority of our property tax dollars go to the school district. The city gets only a small portion of that revenue. Most of their revenue comes from hotel occupancy taxes, sales taxes, fees,etc. I suggest you go to the City Council web site and click on the presentation that was given Monday night to get a quick overview of the budget.


pa resident
Crescent Park
on May 6, 2020 at 12:24 pm
pa resident, Crescent Park
on May 6, 2020 at 12:24 pm

how can city manager got millions of housing allowance plus 400k job? check Diane's article on pa online. no audit here?


Budget Massacre
Downtown North
on May 6, 2020 at 12:25 pm
Budget Massacre, Downtown North
on May 6, 2020 at 12:25 pm

City Hall will "save" money by seizing even more taxpayer money through increased higher fees, including on programs for seniors and kids. I guarantee it.

It all flows down from the top. Our council needs to be replaced.

Covid is not City Council's fault, but the bloat and inefficiency of our city staff is. They are all egos and grandstanding, with little effort to get to the heart of things. That might be, ya know, a hard job. It might ruffle feathers. It might require courage and the willingness to endure criticism for a public purpose.

I had high hopes for Mr. Shikada. Sadly, he has shown no interest in the hard, central job of instilling accountability for performance and efficiency into the bureaucracy.


Buteo
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 12:30 pm
Buteo, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 12:30 pm

Please give City Council your feedback on budget priorities before the May 13 deadline at Web Link


Another Giveaway
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 12:36 pm
Another Giveaway, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 12:36 pm

Palo Alto can't just cut pay across the board. It's not that simple.

The city's head count is actually right-sized to administer all of the many types of thinly disguised developer giveaways and the city's ambitious property tax fueled growth plans. The city needs a whole new business model to replace the old business model before they can cut the budget, but that is way above the city council's and the city manager's pay grade.

The city bureaucracy is basically in a holding pattern, pretending the old business model will somehow continue to work in a post Corona world while they wait for guidance from the real-estate industry and the party.

Most of the $500,000 the city is giving to small businesses will go to businesses that lease their business location, so most of the $500,000 will pass right through the business owners account to commercial property owners to cover past due rent.


Development will not help us
Downtown North
on May 6, 2020 at 1:34 pm
Development will not help us, Downtown North
on May 6, 2020 at 1:34 pm

Mayor Fine is still being a shill for the development industry when he says that we would be better off with high rise office developments. As stated in a previous response above, Mtn. View owns and rents bay frontage land to Google. As it should, Palo Alto has left our bay front land for park space and to protect natural habitat.

Fine would have us all (except himself and his friends of course) living in stack and pack housing and getting ill during the pandemics that are sure to continue to come given the world's massive overpopulation problem and the continued destruction and exploitation of natural habitat and animal life. The denser we are the more chance of getting disease.

Further making this city denser has never helped the people who live here. There is no additional park space added or extra roads added or more community space added with development. We are living off of the space that came with the original city over a hundred years ago and slowly overcrowding and chipping away at that community space as we cram more people in. We are already overpopulated for what this area can handle for human produced pollution and our consumption needs.

Lastly when it comes to what to cut. I vote for the entire way the fire department is handled. These people hardly work at all. How may fires do they actually fight? Practically none. They mostly go out and act as an ambulance service. The few serious EMT calls could be handled by far fewer people. Also why do they get paid to sleep and eat and hang out for 24 hours at a time. They should be on a regular schedule and come to work and actually work. We should find city work for them to do when they are not out on a call. I'm sure there is a lot of work that they can be trained to do or can handle already. The system that we currently have is way too costly and antiquated, letting them sleep and eat and hang out on our dime. And for all of those who will scream about response time, it is likely that if the 2AM shift was actually awake and working they could get to you faster. But lets see a full report on what percentage of their time they actually fight fires (I would guess way less than 1%) and the amount of emergency calls (not just hospital transport) that they do? We should know what work we are paying many millions of dollars for. And I doubt the fire department is worth it as it is currently structured.


Another Giveaway
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 3:42 pm
Another Giveaway, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 3:42 pm

@Development,

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

Mayor Fine may not understand that he is being a shill for the development industry. He may actually believe it is just a happy coincidence that the development industry just happens to have the same plan for Palo Alto. Mayor Fine may not really understand the real-estate industry is the invisible hand propelling him through the party bureaucracy.


Frank
Charleston Gardens
on May 6, 2020 at 3:59 pm
Frank, Charleston Gardens
on May 6, 2020 at 3:59 pm

"When we start hearing from police and fire about the protection we provide in the city, that's going to be tough," Kniss said. "But that which involves kids and outdoor activities — that's going to be even harder."

Huh ? You know what kids like ? First responders who show up when they’re needed. If a park program isn’t available they’ll be OK,

For everyone worried about unions consider they may be the only ones fighting to make sure you are protected. Are Mountain View and Redwood City going to lay-off or brown our public safety? Palo Alto isn’t better for doing that it’s actually a sign of dysfunction.

They already made drastic cuts during an economic boom:

Web Link

And those don’t include the cuts to a station and rescue unit several years earlier.

If Kniss is worried about kids she needs to flip that statement around. Maybe she can clarify?


Reality
South of Midtown
on May 6, 2020 at 4:00 pm
Reality, South of Midtown
on May 6, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Still no talk of the 40+ million in budget stabilization that could be used? Not the first time we’ve had a defecit, and some $ was set aside for just this occasion.


We are here, we are here, we are HERE!
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 5:03 pm
We are here, we are here, we are HERE!, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 5:03 pm

@Development
Our firefighters do not sit around doing nothing. I would rather have a few too many than not enough personnel when fire season hits.

Dear Firefighters. I "liked" @development's comment before I saw the uncalled for slam against our first responders, @developments comments do not speak for me or my neighbors. I am grateful for your protection of our community. Being at the ready is a hard job, and the rest of us know how important the EMT aspect of your work is to saving lives.

One thing does need to be restructured. Safety departments need to be their own standalone departments and planning and transportation should answer to them, not vice versa. Totally the wrong priorities.


Resident
Downtown North
on May 7, 2020 at 1:13 am
Resident, Downtown North
on May 7, 2020 at 1:13 am

Of course Fine would say those things. He has been in the developer's pockets forever. He is pro-development. What I don't understand is, our Mayor can move away in a blink of an eye. He has no property here. He has no kids in the school system. He is not vested. Yet he is represents our interests?

It's similar to our PAUSD school board, who has no kids in the PAUSD system but are sending their kids to private schools instead.

Who are the folks voting in these people who are not vested ?


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2020 at 9:25 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2020 at 9:25 am

Posted by We are here, we are here, we are HERE! a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> Our firefighters do not sit around doing nothing.

Of course they don't. They roll an engine every time there is a "lift assist" for an elderly/disabled person in the city. (No, I'm not kidding.
This is routine practice for those who don't know.) Then, there are the small kitchen fires that result in the big snorkels from neighboring cities (yep, seen that, too). I can't help wondering if that is why we have had two battalion chiefs and a fire inspector/EMT making $397K-$425K, roughly 2.5X base salary, and, in fact, more than the fire chief. I love firemen as much as the next person, but, $425K for a battalion chief? Really? And, they want us to lay off the librarians?

>> I would rather have a few too many than not enough personnel when fire season hits.

Me, too. In fact, if we could modestly reduce firemen's compensation, we could staff up wildfire protection.


rsmithjr
Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2020 at 12:01 pm
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2020 at 12:01 pm

The city budgeting process has been unsustainable for decades. It is largely based on reliable and continued increases in revenues. This has allowed the city to hire and pay whatever it wanted, the money was always there.

Read the story of the "7 fat years/7 lean years" in Genesis. We just entered the "7 lean years".

Some suggestions:

1. Stop talking about reducing services. We don't want services reduced, at least not until we have tried all other ways. Cease to threaten us with cutting our libraries! It is one of the few city services we really enjoy.

2. Don't expect the taxpayers to bail the city out with some kind of tax increase.

3. Do the kind of restructuring that businesses do in this sort of situation. Review resources and staffing utilization, and find ways to cut expenses. Study the number of employees, the salary increases that have been showered on them, and the unsustainable benefits. Why are we paying people 10 says of salary for 9 days of work? I would add that I have read about dozens of companies doing just these sorts of things to try to survive.

4. It is commonly believed that the city has too many managers. Trim them back while saving the folks doing the work.

4. Diana Diamond in the Weekly just pointed out to us that our city manager earns more money than the president and the governors of all states. With all due respect, is this really necessary or appropriate?

4. If you think this is impossible to find savings, I would imagine that the city could put together a blue-ribbon commission from the community to undertake reviewing the city's budget and suggesting savings.


YP
Crescent Park
on May 7, 2020 at 4:34 pm
YP, Crescent Park
on May 7, 2020 at 4:34 pm

I've been highlighting the other side of the equation with respect to the impact of SIP in many posts the past two months . Shutting down businesses, creating 33 million unemployed (and counting) in this country , lives ruined through broken families, drug abuse, suicide and depression. So who is keeping the tally of that vs flattening the curve.

Nary a word of agreement from other posters rather a total buy-in that we need to almost completely shut down our economy to save lives and avoid a discussion of the trade-offs.

So now reality hits home with respect to city, county , state budgets. When you force people out of the workforce, lower tax revenue, increase unemployment benefits what did you expect? ??

The next shoe to drop is a drop in services as this article highlights. So NOW finally people are realizing the consequences of SIP.? And sorry cutting a few salaries of city officials ain't going to help much. Quit whining , you can't have it both ways


Anon checker
Downtown North
on May 7, 2020 at 6:07 pm
Anon checker, Downtown North
on May 7, 2020 at 6:07 pm

“Of course they don't. They roll an engine every time there is a "lift assist" for an elderly/disabled person in the city. (No, I'm not kidding. “

Who else is going to get someone off the floor at 2am. You ? Should they walk to the house to save the engine driving and be late to the next call ? The engine fights fires and carries medical personnel and handle all types of problems. Having one provides peace of mind 24/7 and life saving protection when needed.

You mentioned small kitchen fires and sending help from other cities. You realize that’s required because the city cut the local resources and depends on Mountain View now ? 911 calls don’t often include the outcome - in fact most people cannot explain what’s going on so the system responds in case there is a serious fire or problem. You’re understanding of emergencies and mitigating them sounds inexperienced and privileged as in nothing bad will ever happen so why bother ?

No one is taking home 400k - you’re misinformed and posting bad information to prove your point. The facts are the city will likely cut public safety before other services and the citizens will pay for it. People like you will make that happen despite being misinformed.


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