News

Palo Alto reduces library hours, ends shuttle program

City Council also votes to close College Terrace Library before signaling that it plans to restore the funding

After tentatively approving on Wednesday afternoon a budget that would close the College Terrace Library, Palo Alto leaders reversed course later in the evening and restored nearly $1 million to libraries and community services.

The decision to restore funding to some of the community services on the chopping block was the final action of a meeting that stretched for 11 hours and that concluded with staff agreeing to find $1 million in savings in the infrastructure program to offset the cuts.

The proposal to close the College Terrace Library for two years was part of a long list of cuts that City Manager Ed Shikada proposed in a budget that seeks to reduce expenses by $38.8 million.

But even with some of the funding restored, the budget that the council approved for the Community Services and Library departments reduces programs at the Palo Alto Art Center, eliminates all performances in the Children's Theatre and reduces hours at the Rinconada and Children's library branches.

The budget that the council approved Wednesday afternoon also includes the closure of the College Terrace Library, a move that many residents argued unfairly signals out their neighborhood.

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As part of its action later in the evening, the council directed staff to restore funding for the neighborhood branch and to keep open the Baylands Interpretive Center, which was slated for closure. The council also requested that staff consider ways to restore $400,000 to the Children's Theatre and $400,000 for the Palo Alto Art Center, which would otherwise see a $1 million reduction in funding.

The budget also eliminates more than $500,000 for various teen programs, including MakeX; the Think Fund grant program; and the teen center at the Mitchell Park Community Center.

The unanimous vote to approve the Community Service Budget belied the deep division on the council over the proposed cuts. Vice Mayor Tom DuBois argued in favor of restoring much of the funding for community services by making cuts in other departments, including Public Works. Councilmembers Liz Kniss and Lydia Kou also strongly opposed the cuts, even as they voted to tentatively approve the budget that includes them.

Kniss and Kou argued that the city should reduce its infrastructure spending and preserve community services. The city, Kou said, should not favor "monuments" over community services.

"It's just unacceptable — the amount of service (cuts) to the community — especially to the youth programs and to the libraries and the neighborhoods," Kou said.

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DuBois said that the budget proposed by City Manager Ed Shikada takes too much from the Community Services Department, which he noted makes up 21% of the general fund expenses but is being saddled with 27% of the cuts. The Community Services and Library departments will see a reduction of $6.5 million, bringing their collective budgets to $36 million.

"I think we need to restore some of these really low-cost but important services," DuBois said.

But given the council's May 4 directive to staff to cut $38.8 million from the city budget, council members agreed Wednesday that service changes are inevitable. Councilwoman Alison Cormack pitched an idea of temporarily keeping only two large libraries open — Rinconada in the north and Mitchell Park in the south — and using the savings that the city would achieve from shutting the other three branches to offset the massive cuts that the council approved on Tuesday to its public safety departments. Her proposal failed by a 2-5 vote, with only Mayor Adrian Fine joining.

Fine argued that without cutting items, the council cannot meet its budget goals.

"There ain't such a thing as a free lunch," Fine said. "The entire pie is shrinking. Everything – public safety, community services and libraries. And we can't just go through these items and add things back."

The council also heard from dozens of residents, both by email and through personal pleas during the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday budget meetings. Some spoke in favor of retaining teen services, including contributions to the Youth Community Services programs that promote mental wellness. Many urged the council to retain funding for the Palo Alto Art Center, the Children's Theatre and – most notably – the College Terrace Library.

"For our community, the College Terrace Library really is a tremendous center point," neighborhood resident Hank Edson told the council Monday.

Resident Kristen Anderson called the library a "vital part of College Terrace" and a resource for every demographic.

"Closing the College Terrace Library would be a false economy and overall a big step backwards," Anderson wrote to the council. "Please keep it open."

Library Director Gayathri Kanth told the council on Tuesday night that closing the College Terrace Library was "probably the most difficult decision that was taken" but noted that that the branch accounted for only 5% of the checkouts in the city's library system.

Kanth also said that the department will be decreasing its budget for library materials, even despite the fact that e-material circulation has gone up by 40% in the last two months.

In addition, the council approved the budget for the Planning and Development Services Department and for the Office of Transportation, which were slated to see a 16% reduction. The budget cuts include the elimination of the city's free shuttle program, which includes the Crosstown and Embarcadero routes. Chief Transportation Official Philip Kamhi noted that the shuttle has seen a gradual decline in ridership, which went from about 150,000 trips in 2016 to about 100,000 trips in 2019.

"This year, we'd be lucky if we hit 70,000 riders," Kamhi said of the $500,000 program.

The council voted 6-1, with Kou dissenting, to approve the planning and transportation budgets. Cormack called the elimination of the shuttle program "a huge loss" for the people who use the service.

"These are students who don't have access — who aren't able to drive yet, senior citizens who don't have licenses or can't afford cars or have disabilities that make it hard for them (to drive). That's tough," Cormack said.

Editor's note: This article was updated to reflect the actions that the City Council took after it was initially published.

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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Palo Alto reduces library hours, ends shuttle program

City Council also votes to close College Terrace Library before signaling that it plans to restore the funding

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, May 13, 2020, 6:46 pm

After tentatively approving on Wednesday afternoon a budget that would close the College Terrace Library, Palo Alto leaders reversed course later in the evening and restored nearly $1 million to libraries and community services.

The decision to restore funding to some of the community services on the chopping block was the final action of a meeting that stretched for 11 hours and that concluded with staff agreeing to find $1 million in savings in the infrastructure program to offset the cuts.

The proposal to close the College Terrace Library for two years was part of a long list of cuts that City Manager Ed Shikada proposed in a budget that seeks to reduce expenses by $38.8 million.

But even with some of the funding restored, the budget that the council approved for the Community Services and Library departments reduces programs at the Palo Alto Art Center, eliminates all performances in the Children's Theatre and reduces hours at the Rinconada and Children's library branches.

The budget that the council approved Wednesday afternoon also includes the closure of the College Terrace Library, a move that many residents argued unfairly signals out their neighborhood.

As part of its action later in the evening, the council directed staff to restore funding for the neighborhood branch and to keep open the Baylands Interpretive Center, which was slated for closure. The council also requested that staff consider ways to restore $400,000 to the Children's Theatre and $400,000 for the Palo Alto Art Center, which would otherwise see a $1 million reduction in funding.

The budget also eliminates more than $500,000 for various teen programs, including MakeX; the Think Fund grant program; and the teen center at the Mitchell Park Community Center.

The unanimous vote to approve the Community Service Budget belied the deep division on the council over the proposed cuts. Vice Mayor Tom DuBois argued in favor of restoring much of the funding for community services by making cuts in other departments, including Public Works. Councilmembers Liz Kniss and Lydia Kou also strongly opposed the cuts, even as they voted to tentatively approve the budget that includes them.

Kniss and Kou argued that the city should reduce its infrastructure spending and preserve community services. The city, Kou said, should not favor "monuments" over community services.

"It's just unacceptable — the amount of service (cuts) to the community — especially to the youth programs and to the libraries and the neighborhoods," Kou said.

DuBois said that the budget proposed by City Manager Ed Shikada takes too much from the Community Services Department, which he noted makes up 21% of the general fund expenses but is being saddled with 27% of the cuts. The Community Services and Library departments will see a reduction of $6.5 million, bringing their collective budgets to $36 million.

"I think we need to restore some of these really low-cost but important services," DuBois said.

But given the council's May 4 directive to staff to cut $38.8 million from the city budget, council members agreed Wednesday that service changes are inevitable. Councilwoman Alison Cormack pitched an idea of temporarily keeping only two large libraries open — Rinconada in the north and Mitchell Park in the south — and using the savings that the city would achieve from shutting the other three branches to offset the massive cuts that the council approved on Tuesday to its public safety departments. Her proposal failed by a 2-5 vote, with only Mayor Adrian Fine joining.

Fine argued that without cutting items, the council cannot meet its budget goals.

"There ain't such a thing as a free lunch," Fine said. "The entire pie is shrinking. Everything – public safety, community services and libraries. And we can't just go through these items and add things back."

The council also heard from dozens of residents, both by email and through personal pleas during the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday budget meetings. Some spoke in favor of retaining teen services, including contributions to the Youth Community Services programs that promote mental wellness. Many urged the council to retain funding for the Palo Alto Art Center, the Children's Theatre and – most notably – the College Terrace Library.

"For our community, the College Terrace Library really is a tremendous center point," neighborhood resident Hank Edson told the council Monday.

Resident Kristen Anderson called the library a "vital part of College Terrace" and a resource for every demographic.

"Closing the College Terrace Library would be a false economy and overall a big step backwards," Anderson wrote to the council. "Please keep it open."

Library Director Gayathri Kanth told the council on Tuesday night that closing the College Terrace Library was "probably the most difficult decision that was taken" but noted that that the branch accounted for only 5% of the checkouts in the city's library system.

Kanth also said that the department will be decreasing its budget for library materials, even despite the fact that e-material circulation has gone up by 40% in the last two months.

In addition, the council approved the budget for the Planning and Development Services Department and for the Office of Transportation, which were slated to see a 16% reduction. The budget cuts include the elimination of the city's free shuttle program, which includes the Crosstown and Embarcadero routes. Chief Transportation Official Philip Kamhi noted that the shuttle has seen a gradual decline in ridership, which went from about 150,000 trips in 2016 to about 100,000 trips in 2019.

"This year, we'd be lucky if we hit 70,000 riders," Kamhi said of the $500,000 program.

The council voted 6-1, with Kou dissenting, to approve the planning and transportation budgets. Cormack called the elimination of the shuttle program "a huge loss" for the people who use the service.

"These are students who don't have access — who aren't able to drive yet, senior citizens who don't have licenses or can't afford cars or have disabilities that make it hard for them (to drive). That's tough," Cormack said.

Editor's note: This article was updated to reflect the actions that the City Council took after it was initially published.

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

Angry
Evergreen Park
on May 13, 2020 at 7:23 pm
Angry, Evergreen Park
on May 13, 2020 at 7:23 pm
78 people like this

Closing the College Terrace library is a real mistake. I am shocked.

Given that libraries are core to the fabric and 'feel' of a community, Palo Alto residents will notice this closure orders of magnitude more than they will appreciate new city-funded buildings or bridges or continuing to prop up the salaries of senior city administrators.

For the sake of saving a measly $167,000, this seems like a very shortsighted decision by the City Council. I was sure they would have done the right thing and kept the College Terrace library open.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 7:26 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 7:26 pm
65 people like this

The shuttle should never have been free. A low cost fare should have been instituted from the beginning with perhaps free passes for some groups.

Can't a fare be instituted now instead of scrapping it? Some really depend on this, particularly school children.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2020 at 7:39 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2020 at 7:39 pm
43 people like this

The shuttle's existence cost us some VTA bus routes for which we're paying increased sales tax because after our city leaders urged us to support the tax hike, the county discovered we had duplicative service. Lose-lose.

If I'm understanding the discussion tonight, the city's NOW talking about offering fiber service for businesses! This was an idea that failed decades ago when it turned out the city lacked the expertise to compete with the big telecoms and web service providers like Google.

PA: Where bad ideas get tabled but never die and are resurrected every few years.


ALB
College Terrace
on May 13, 2020 at 10:01 pm
ALB, College Terrace
on May 13, 2020 at 10:01 pm
54 people like this

I am more than disappointed and frankly disgusted by the lack of imagination on the part of city government regarding their decision to close the College Terrace library. This library is more than a place where people check out books. Seniors and others come there to read. Kids have storytelling. Neighbors and other Palo Altans from other neighborhoods use the College Terrace library. Could a compremise be met that the library be closed for six months ONLY as the county and city finesse proper distancing rules for libraries? Once the city closes this important and historical library I fear then it will be rented out to a nonprofit. We, the constituents, can offer to develop a sound roster of volunteers to support the librarian at the College Terrace library once it reopens. Two years is not reasonable. The question I pose is who is really behind this idea in the first place? Stop the bridge project and help fund the library. This decision to close this library is disgraceful. Palo Alto is losing its soul.


Values
Midtown
on May 13, 2020 at 10:23 pm
Values, Midtown
on May 13, 2020 at 10:23 pm
45 people like this

I looked at the numbers of check-outs for the different libraries (nice reporting, PAO), and while College Terrace has the lowest number of check-outs of all the libraries, it has the most consistent numbers over the years on the graph. Not only are the College Terrace numbers consistent, they have only dropped very, very slightly, compared to the drops in the other libraries. This, in my opinion, indicates consistent use over time, which would mean that it is of value to the community. Shuttering it seems especially cruel, when I hear the council refer to the "lowest check-out numbers" as if that means this library is not used or valued and is expendable. That's not what the numbers say, but they put blinders on and forge ahead, not bothering to inspect the damage of their bureaucratic boots. That being said, I wonder if the College Terrace neighborhood, and learning-loving Palo Altans could come up with the money to keep it open. Mark and Kim gave 800,000 to restaurants, surely there are wealthy people who value libraries. And one other thing, did the Council take into consideration the budget with SIP? How much money is not being spent on any of the libraries right now? It seems to me that at this point, we must save what we value most, because it is clear that government entities will not.


chris
University South
on May 13, 2020 at 10:44 pm
chris, University South
on May 13, 2020 at 10:44 pm
3 people like this

I’m sure that the College Terrace will not be closed as a budget cut. COVID-19 is another matter.


Huh?
Palo Alto High School
on May 13, 2020 at 11:29 pm
Huh?, Palo Alto High School
on May 13, 2020 at 11:29 pm
39 people like this

WTH, Chief Transportation Official Philip Kamhi! The Embarcadero Shuttle is used by many—you are going to increase traffic in the city. Reducing traffic is supposedly top priority for City Manager, Ed Shikada. WTH Ed!


Jeremy
Midtown
on May 14, 2020 at 12:15 am
Jeremy, Midtown
on May 14, 2020 at 12:15 am
16 people like this

The headline is wrong about College Terrace, the article is correct.

The Council tentatively approved the Community Services and Libraries budget in order to move on to the next budget item, but multiple items in Community Services and Libraries were moved to a metaphorical "parking lot" for staff to consider ways to restore funding.

Virtually every councilmember said they wanted not to close College Terrace, but because of the convoluted way these meetings proceed, a majority refused to pass the motion Wednesday night because they didn't know exactly where the money was coming from and didn't feel it was the right time to restore the funding, even though they all agreed they wanted the keep the library open.


Health Comrade Sara
Professorville
on May 14, 2020 at 6:40 am
Health Comrade Sara, Professorville
on May 14, 2020 at 6:40 am
14 people like this


This is a very sad time.


Health Comrade Sara
Professorville
on May 14, 2020 at 6:44 am
Health Comrade Sara, Professorville
on May 14, 2020 at 6:44 am
14 people like this


It’s like when the health gurus locked down the county and state, they didn’t bother to look at the significantly bigger picture of what happens to revenues when we kill the economy. Well, they cease to come flow in.


ASR
College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 6:49 am
ASR, College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 6:49 am
26 people like this


We are all grateful to city council for keeping College Terrace Library open with some reduced hours during these difficult times.

Thank you


S_mom
Community Center
on May 14, 2020 at 7:31 am
S_mom, Community Center
on May 14, 2020 at 7:31 am
41 people like this

I am so glad that after several days of the council appearing unwilling to make any big changes to the staff-proposed budget they finally came to their senses and decided to find more money for the libraries (and not close a branch). Absolutely they should be prioritizing our community services over long-term infrastructure projects that can be deferred and aren't essential immediately. Remains to be seen if they can really do it and where the extra money comes from, but a step in the right direction.

Also, I've never been to city council meetings before and it is fascinating to see the dynamics. I'm not that familiar with each of their platforms and maybe I'd disagree with them on other issues, but in this process Greg Tanaka has seemed like the voice of reason and the only one willing to push back on the staff budget and ask big questions. I'm sure there's a history I'm not aware of for why they all treat each other the way they do but it is so interesting to see which ones seem like cronies with each other and the staff and which ones are willing to ask questions that annoy the others. And the politics of how supporting one member's motion seems like it might get you their vote for yours. It's surprisingly interesting to watch.


common sense
Midtown
on May 14, 2020 at 7:46 am
common sense, Midtown
on May 14, 2020 at 7:46 am
89 people like this

Politicians like to spend money, not cut nor find efficiencies

When cutting, politicians will inflict the maximum pain possible to sell new tax proposals

How many manager positions, those paying above $200,000 are being cut?

The City Manager's office of 10 people, and a $2.5 million+ cost (come on, with the reduced budget, are all of the following positions needed:

- City Manager
- Assistant to the City Manager
- Deputy City City Manager
- Assistant City Manager
- Executive Assistant to the CIty Manager
- 2 Administrative Assistants
- Chief Communications Officer
- Communications Manager
- Management Analyst

In addition there are 4 other Communication Managers in other departments


S_mom
Community Center
on May 14, 2020 at 7:55 am
S_mom, Community Center
on May 14, 2020 at 7:55 am
62 people like this

@common sense
I saw Tanaka try to get at that by asking for the numbers showing how much would be saved if managers took a 10 or 20% paycut but no one else on council seemed willing to have the staff evaluate it. Ed Shikada got kind of a sick look on his face -- it is awkward to ask those questions right in front of the people it would impact at the council meetings. I did appreciate the council members that were willing to ask awkward questions!


Health Comrade Sara
Professorville
on May 14, 2020 at 8:06 am
Health Comrade Sara, Professorville
on May 14, 2020 at 8:06 am
15 people like this


Like it or not, for better of for worse, the reality is that local government and the services it provides are going to be smaller and fewer.


ASR
College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 8:29 am
ASR, College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 8:29 am
81 people like this


A bicycle bridge to nowhere for $8 million dollars. This project could be delayed. There are other ways around to get to the east side for now.

Thanks


Darwin
another community
on May 14, 2020 at 8:36 am
Darwin, another community
on May 14, 2020 at 8:36 am
30 people like this

It's really unfortunate that the College Terrace Library was unable to be closed. But I guess the city council will always bow down to College Terrace residents whether it's accepting their foolish idea over failed traffic roundabouts, requiring developers to build a grocery store that no one used, or this insistence on keeping this underwhelming library.

This is a library that only serves this neighborhood as opposed to all the other libraries that act as more of a shared resource to a much larger population. If that neighborhood wants their own private library they should pay for it instead of hurting the rest of the city.

College Terrace swiftly had their hours restored due to a few overactive citizens, while libraries that actually matter like Childrens and Rinconada are taking massive cuts in hours so College Terrace residents can have their own private library. And the people who called in to comment that this place should be saved should be ashamed of the lies they've spread about this place. Furthermore, with the amount of students and professors in and out of this neighborhood, the amount of ACTUAL long term residents of this area is actually incredibly small. It's not a community center, there is no plan to remove the childcare center, there is no plan to remove the park, and the library does not "act as a place to study" since there are literally only two tables.

Bravo City Council. Bravo. Do any of you actually go there?


ASR
College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 9:02 am
ASR , College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 9:02 am
35 people like this


College Terrace Library is a unique structure with a feeling of small town. it’s small and may be 20-40 people use it at one time. It’s like a home you are visiting. It’s easily accessible and the landscape is well maintained. It creates a very healthy setting for very young babies, children and seniors to be able to enjoy reading in busy Bay Area setting. Certainly hours could be reduced during tough times but please keep it open for access. Seek volunteers to substitute paid workers. Without it we will lose Palo Alto charm.


Darwin
another community
on May 14, 2020 at 9:29 am
Darwin, another community
on May 14, 2020 at 9:29 am
20 people like this

@ASR the college terrace library has never had 20 people in it. They wouldn’t fit.

COLLEGE TERRACE SHOULD NOT BE OPEN AT THE EXPENSE OF OUR SECOND LARGEST LIBRARY LOSING EVENING HOURS OR YHE CHILDRENS LIBRARY BEING CUT TO 4 days a week.

SHAME COLLEGE TERRACE RESIDENTS AND CITY COUNCIL. SHAME!


Count Your Blessings
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2020 at 9:52 am
Count Your Blessings, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2020 at 9:52 am
29 people like this

As long as regular garbage pick-up is maintained & there are ongoing water/gas/electricity services, the various municipal closures & reductions do not severely impact our household.

The College Terrace Library primarily serves a small neighborhood community which is a localized luxury and the same can be said of the downtown branch across from the PD station at City Hall as only a few people frequent them + social distancing mandates warrant the temporary closures of ALL public libraries.

Being a relatively safe & fire-free city, reductions in law enforcement and fire protection make sense as well.

But as other have mentioned, there should also be salary & retirement benefit reductions among the higher paid city administrators.

Park closures and related maintenance expenditures could be enacted to cut costs as social distancing remains a primary concern.





Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2020 at 9:59 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2020 at 9:59 am
29 people like this

Count your blessings, re regular garbage pickup and utilities rates, keep watching this space. There was lengthy discussion last night on cutting back some of the recyclable / yard waste waste pickups to every few weeks. Evidently weekly garbage pickup (black cans) is legally required.

Oddly no one mentioned the $20,000,000 "surcharges" PAU has generated each and every year for the past few years by over-charging us and that gets funneled into the General Fund.


ALB
College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 10:31 am
ALB, College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 10:31 am
41 people like this

The College Terrace library serves neighborhoods including Barron Park, Evergreen, Southgate, Ventura and Stanford. Please review the packet to see all of the many letters to the council. To all of the posters who state that the CT library is only for College Terrace neighbors -- you are misinformed. Meetings are scheduled there and therefore it is a community center not just a library. It serves as a reading room for people. There is storytelling for children. The green is used by the neighborhood association for picnics where the community gets together. This library is not some quaint luxury. It is the only library that is west of Alma. Again, the budget process needs to look at capital projects and defer the bridge over 101 which can be built at a later time. The tunnel serves the purpose of allowing people to go to the Baylands. Yes if necessary the community can develop a roster of vetted volunteers to support the College Terrace library. Where there is a will there is a way.


Independent
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2020 at 10:37 am
Independent, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2020 at 10:37 am
71 people like this

Cut labor costs. Now. The average City worker's compensation is $232k. And rather than our workers pitching in to 'share the sacrifice,' they are getting raises.


chris
University South
on May 14, 2020 at 10:46 am
chris, University South
on May 14, 2020 at 10:46 am
30 people like this

The city workers now have the opportunity to make sacrifices to save some of their colleagues. That story has not been written yet.

Kniss and Cormack were putting the city in terrible negotiating position by trying to throw money at the police without getting concessions. You have to put serious cuts on the table to get their attention.

I don’t know how well Shikada will do vs the police but I have a lot more confidence in him compared to the council as negotiators.


It's harder than it looks.
Downtown North
on May 14, 2020 at 11:06 am
It's harder than it looks., Downtown North
on May 14, 2020 at 11:06 am
38 people like this

Just putting it out there again - salary cuts are nearly impossible since the unions in Palo Alto have a strangle hold on government. The administration is forced by union contracts to get rid of part time and salaried employees first (those who shelve books and help with community programs) before they can touch a union employee. Then the unions would rather see positions cut than salaries cut. They are not willing to look like they are reducing wages at all. These union laws, which are supported by California state lay, make it virtually impossible to get rid of the highly paid pencil pushers at the top of each bargaining unit.

And don't even get started trying to cut the overgenerous pensions that add up to hundreds of millions of dollars that will continue to plague us even more extensively during this downturn.

That is why the long term answer to worsening and ongoing budget issues is to cut city staff and try to hire outside private firms. They are not held to the ridiculous hiring and firing and constant raise giving with no merit review policy that the city is held to.

The city council and administration staff really have some very poor choices and most occasional watches of the city finances don't understand the details and don't support the big changes like cutting the glorified ambulance drivers who call themselves the fire department. Now privatizing them would fix our current issues.


see above
Downtown North
on May 14, 2020 at 11:07 am
see above, Downtown North
on May 14, 2020 at 11:07 am
6 people like this

Meant hourly employees, not salaried!


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2020 at 11:20 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2020 at 11:20 am
51 people like this

It's Harder..., good points. Then it's time to demand answers from the city and esp. Mayor Fine about whether or not cancelling the $6,000.000 in new raises was even discussed. He said he "can't answer that" but I wonder if he meant won't answer that.

Either way, we the taxpayers deserve answers since the "charity begins at home" line Ms. Kniss gave when awarding those raises seems absurd given the budget discussions.


Suzanne Keehn
Barron Park
on May 14, 2020 at 11:31 am
Suzanne Keehn, Barron Park
on May 14, 2020 at 11:31 am
49 people like this

Very poor choices, the infrastructure projects should have been at the top of the list to postpone. Developer influence?

Some of Greg Tanaka's and Tom du Bois should have been listened to and voted yes by the majority of the council.

Sorry to see , so clearly, what the priority's are for the City Council.

The management, city staff, should have had to take a 20 percent cut, lots of money there.


Suzanne Keehn
Barron Park
on May 14, 2020 at 11:32 am
Suzanne Keehn, Barron Park
on May 14, 2020 at 11:32 am
64 people like this

There definitely should be NO NEW RAISES.


A PA resident
South of Midtown
on May 14, 2020 at 11:35 am
A PA resident, South of Midtown
on May 14, 2020 at 11:35 am
62 people like this

Could someone enlighten me if the Council even considered a pay cut for city employees, at least temporarily? Especially those at the top?
I would be outraged if they hadn't. It's beyond me how it can be justified
that they keep going with full pay, while almost everyone else employed by private companies is facing layoffs and pay cuts. It's no small irony that those
who are now getting laid off from private employers are now forces to finance
city employees with their generous pay and pension packages....


Vicky
Crescent Park
on May 14, 2020 at 11:35 am
Vicky , Crescent Park
on May 14, 2020 at 11:35 am
3 people like this

Please tell me how I can show my approval for a posting now. I do not see the thumb-up sign now.


Fr0hickey
Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2020 at 11:39 am
Fr0hickey, Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2020 at 11:39 am
15 people like this

Can’t they cut an equal amount across all departments? A computer can do this.


rsmithjr
Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 14, 2020 at 12:09 pm
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 14, 2020 at 12:09 pm
31 people like this

Cutting the shuttle shows the lack of serious commitment to traffic issues.

The city hasn't even tried to cut redundant staff and there must be plenty of people we don't need.


Bob


wrong side of the train tracks resident
Escondido School
on May 14, 2020 at 12:23 pm
wrong side of the train tracks resident, Escondido School
on May 14, 2020 at 12:23 pm
39 people like this

Just a note about statement that College Terrace checkouts are only 5% of total:
Per the circulation data in report, online orders for library materials are NOT subdivided by where people pick them up. Since the CT Library is small in terms of shelf space, many patrons request books or media (audio books, movies, music etc) online and have them sent to the CT Library for pickup. This saves LOTS of auto trips to other far away libraries, and should be credited in the statistics.

Suggestion: acting head of library services should reach out to residents before final vote on May 26. Her preference for one big library was crystal clear but that's not what the voters voted for! And there are serious equity issues in addition to the vehicle trips: compared to the wealthy neighborhoods around other libraries, College Terrace, Evergreen Park, Mayfield and Ventura have many more renters, a significant % of seniors as well as non-English speakers. There are many more BMR units and tiny cottages rented by people barely hanging on. Very disappointing to witness the tone-deaf responses by city administrators and certain council members.


ASR
College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 12:50 pm
ASR, College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 12:50 pm
4 people like this

@Vicky

If you want to show support for a message, you can click on the + sign. It is the thumbs up sign.


Be accurate
Charleston Meadows
on May 14, 2020 at 12:58 pm
Be accurate, Charleston Meadows
on May 14, 2020 at 12:58 pm
34 people like this

If you want to try and make a difference, please e-mail the city council at city.council@cityofpaloalto.org. All the contact info is at the city web-site. Go to "government". ... ha!

Let them know what you think about the atrocious pathetic decisions they are making.

Look at the salaries at the city manager office - yes, they do have the Assistant city manager, Assistant To the City manager, Exec assistant and two admin assistants plus an analyst.

The PR department has FIVE positions each of which with a salary (plus benefits and bonuses) that is over-sufficient to cover for the $160k they would get from closing the library.


got all the story?
Barron Park
on May 14, 2020 at 1:07 pm
got all the story?, Barron Park
on May 14, 2020 at 1:07 pm
13 people like this

Ah the reality of draconian business closures finally is dawning on people. What started out as a need to "flatten the curve" is now grown into a 9 week destruction of our economy with over 30 million Americans out of work and the highest unemployment rate since the great depression. And now the knock on impact, city and state budgets decimated and services cut.

The ONLY way to get our economy and state and local budgets back in shape is to get people back to work!!


midtown2
Midtown
on May 14, 2020 at 1:23 pm
midtown2, Midtown
on May 14, 2020 at 1:23 pm
22 people like this

Really a shame that Palo Alto went in for having its own shuttles, probably causing VTA to cut back. I am sorry not to see more sympathy for the plight of those of us who use the shuttles.
The situation right now is that there is only one VTA bus in each direction per hour. I can go up to shop in Midtown but then have to wait a long time for the next VTA.
I have to go every day because of shortages of so many items. Walking is 45 minutes for me This is what we seniors are going to have to do.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2020 at 1:30 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2020 at 1:30 pm
10 people like this

Be Accurate, thanks for the reminder to e-mail the city council at city.council@cityofpaloalto.org

I just did and hope others will. I also urged them to read the comments here if they care about community sentiment.


Wake up!
Mountain View
on May 14, 2020 at 1:35 pm
Wake up!, Mountain View
on May 14, 2020 at 1:35 pm
Like this comment

[Post removed; duplicate]


bad math
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2020 at 1:45 pm
bad math, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2020 at 1:45 pm
15 people like this

wake up,

One does not calculate the death rate of a disease this way.
One of the reasons there are "only", 86.5k deaths (may 14th) is the shelter in place orders.


chris
University South
on May 14, 2020 at 1:57 pm
chris, University South
on May 14, 2020 at 1:57 pm
4 people like this

Wake up,

It is considerate of you to ask the poor and minorities to go to work and put themselves and others in danger so that as a privileged Palo Altan you can continue to live safely, comfortably, and profitably.


Be accurate
Charleston Meadows
on May 14, 2020 at 2:00 pm
Be accurate, Charleston Meadows
on May 14, 2020 at 2:00 pm
9 people like this

First, what bad math said. With 1.4M cases (known) and 85k deaths, close to 6% death rate. So, no thank you.

Second, even that calculation is incorrect: 84,575 divided by 331,000,000 = 0.00025551, which is 0.02551%.
It is indeed a VERY bad math. They teach % in elementary school.


DTN Paul
Downtown North
on May 14, 2020 at 2:15 pm
DTN Paul, Downtown North
on May 14, 2020 at 2:15 pm
8 people like this

I didn't even know that there was a College Terrace library. As usual, the city council folds like a cheap suit when they encounter even the smallest resistance. I don't really think we should be cutting libraries, but given a $40M shortfall, we're going to have to cut everywhere. Somewhere, somehow, our city council and decision makers are going to need to get some spine, and say no to people.


wrong side of the train tracks resident
Escondido School
on May 14, 2020 at 2:31 pm
wrong side of the train tracks resident, Escondido School
on May 14, 2020 at 2:31 pm
14 people like this

@ Wakeup!
Good grief, you're reporting the result of dividing deaths by population but calling it percent! Please refresh your memory on what % means (hint: moving decimal point two to left to represent the rate per hundred). So for California, correct percentage mortality is .007435%, vs what you reported, .00007435.
Also, although the RATE by which cases and deaths increase has slowed in California, it is still growing. Latest predictions show 20%-40% increase in cumulative deaths by mid-June (much worse in states which have not taken shelter in place orders seriously). See CDC national and state forecasts here: Web Link
Bottom line: You are right that the economic pain of this pandemic is/will be bad. But we're now headed to two times as many deaths as the Vietnam War by July! And this is assuming we all follow the guidelines laid out by public health experts for reopening, including social distancing and facemasks. In addition, our government at all levels has adequate testing rates of the general population (for Calif, daily # tests needs to be +/- 60,000 (compared to current 20,000). Plus widespread contact tracing for each new case, and of course adequate PPE. Without each of these things, all over the country, the second wave of this pandemic will be inevitable, and both the increase in deaths and the economic devastation will be much worse. This is not a deep state conspiracy -- read: Web Link


Un-essential manager staff
Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2020 at 2:36 pm
Un-essential manager staff, Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2020 at 2:36 pm
37 people like this

Be accurate pointed out

>The PR department has FIVE positions each of which with a salary (plus benefits and bonuses) that is over-sufficient to cover for the $160k they would get from closing the library.

Not clear what all the PR people do *in addition* to the bloated City Manager's office. I do see new splashy Big graphics all over city publications which looks like graphic designers needing to do make-work.
Cut these expensive un-essential people.

In the Manager's office:
- Assistant to the City Manager
- Deputy City City Manager
- Assistant City Manager
- Executive Assistant to the CIty Manager
- 2 Administrative Assistants
- Chief Communications Officer
- Communications Manager
- Management Analyst


Barron Park dad
Barron Park
on May 14, 2020 at 2:43 pm
Barron Park dad, Barron Park
on May 14, 2020 at 2:43 pm
45 people like this

I am very glad to read the College Terrace library is spared. When I first saw the amount of saving for closing such a well-loved library (only $167,500), I thought there must have been some mistake.

And then I learn this: "There is a oft-repeated assertion that College Terrace Library checkouts are only 5% of total, implying no-big-deal to close it. But per the library circulation data report, this doesn't include online orders. This means that CT Library accounts for FAR MORE than 5% when it comes to where books are picked up! Said another way, since the CT Library is small in terms of shelf space, many patrons request books or media online via the Palo Alto library website and then have them sent to the CT Library for pickup. This saves countless car trips across town."

At my local high tech company, no one is getting raises for another year. Has any of the City Council considered asking unions and city staff to give up salary increases for one year? Surely that would save lots of community services and libraries. City Council, please ask the tough questions!


Library Supporter
Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2020 at 2:47 pm
Library Supporter, Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2020 at 2:47 pm
23 people like this

It may be helpful for current PA library staff (and City Council members) to recall an earlier director who was interested in closing libraries. On 9/20/2005, the Weekly reported: "Underlying the discussion was last year's controversial recommendation from Simpson and City Manager Frank Benest to close the Downtown and College Terrace branches to improve service at the larger, more popular branches. The Friends of the Palo Alto Library lobbied against that plan, which the council ultimately rejected. The Library Advisory Commission is surveying residents this fall to gather input about the future of the city's library service, and plans to return to the council in March with recommendations." With the abolition of the Library Advisory Commission, the library staff has no obvious source of input regarding library policies/practices. Simpson lasted 2 years in the Director of PACL job.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2020 at 4:07 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2020 at 4:07 pm
12 people like this

If they have changed course on CT library, they must equally change course on the shuttle. The shuttle doesn't have to be free, but it is the reason we are getting less service from VTA. If we don't have the shuttle and we have so little VTA, we are basically saying goodbye to public transport within the City.

Is this really what we have come to? Are we being forced to drive any distance we can't walk or those who are able to bike?

We will really pay for this when schools are full (whenever that may be), and there is traffic mayhem.


mjh
College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 4:32 pm
mjh, College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 4:32 pm
27 people like this

And here we have Alison Cormack proposing and voting to close all but two of the libraries, and Mayor Fine voting in favor.


mjh
College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 5:03 pm
mjh, College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 5:03 pm
39 people like this

The fox is in among the hens. The city manager prepared the document that lays describes what options council has for cutting the budget, with an emphasis that only by cutting safety and services can the council reach their goal. Which appears to keep major cuts away from his areas of preference. However, according to the results of Palo Alto's online survey of what citizens prioritize, there is an overwhelmingly support for keeping cuts away from safety and services and instead cutting the areas that the city manager wants to protect.


Mary
Crescent Park
on May 14, 2020 at 5:47 pm
Mary, Crescent Park
on May 14, 2020 at 5:47 pm
45 people like this

"We will find efficiency. You deserve a leaner government that's more nimble, more effective and targets the needs of the most vulnerable," Governor Newsom during today's news conference. He's proposing a 10% pay cut across the board for all state employees. Meanwhile, Palo Alto is giving raises totaling $6M to its City employees. Every person I know in the private sector is taking a hit - straight salaried employees are taking a 10-30% cut and people in tech have been told they will not be getting bonuses (which can be up to half of their compensation) and, of course, those RSUs that tech companies like to give as a form of compensation will just create a tax nightmare for them. Who makes up the budget and approves a ridiculous City budget like ours anyway? Over a million for graphics for inserts??? Feed the homeless! Update old homes with efficient furnaces and/or double pane windows - especially if we're supposed to be a "green" city.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2020 at 5:57 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2020 at 5:57 pm
22 people like this

Good for Gov. Newsom. I hope he challenges all cities, esp. the "rich" ones like Palo Alto to do the same.

Everyone IS getting hurt and it's time for the City and CC to recognize it. In last might's Budget Hearing, they were talking about utility rates and how much to raise rates if at all. In defending all the past rate hikes and prepping for new ones, the City Manager defended the hikes saying something like "our metric isn't cost-effectiveness; it's about being green."


Pasz was in favor
Crescent Park
on May 14, 2020 at 6:01 pm
Pasz was in favor, Crescent Park
on May 14, 2020 at 6:01 pm
6 people like this

Mjh- you seem to overlook that the vote was 6-1. That means that 2 of your beloved pasz reps voted in favor as well. Love how some people just love to bash Fine art every opportunity.


Deja vu all over again
Adobe-Meadow
on May 14, 2020 at 9:04 pm
Deja vu all over again, Adobe-Meadow
on May 14, 2020 at 9:04 pm
43 people like this

This is so funny, really. Every time there is an economic downturn and budget problems crop up, the City of Palo Alto wants to close branch libraries, including College Terrace. Every time, there is an outcry. Every time, the City backs down. Why do we have to go through this every single time? Where is the institutional memory?

I agree with all those who suggest we should cut administrative positions and the indecent salaries and benefits (including retirement) that the upper echelons receive at City Hall.


To @ Mary
Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 14, 2020 at 10:14 pm
To @ Mary, Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 14, 2020 at 10:14 pm
2 people like this

To @ Mary
One analysis I saw today is that Newsom just said that without being serious: the proposed 10% pay cut for state employees. The thought is on paper it will all get covered with no loss to the state workers. Meanwhile, prepare yourself, ye middle to middle-high income person for a big tax hike. We shall see, indeed.


A PA resident
South of Midtown
on May 14, 2020 at 10:26 pm
A PA resident, South of Midtown
on May 14, 2020 at 10:26 pm
29 people like this

Can someone enlighten me how in the world is it justified that
City employees get every other Friday off... ?? At our expense...?
I would make them come in and actually do work, just like everyone
else who works for a living...... given their extremely generous pension
benefits, it's even more of a joke...


Reader
Ventura
on May 14, 2020 at 11:24 pm
Reader, Ventura
on May 14, 2020 at 11:24 pm
31 people like this

LONG LIVE COLLEGE TERRACE LIBRARY:

This branch is NOT just for CT residents, as someone was whining ... As far as I know, many people from Ventura, Barron Park, California Ave, etc. go there, and basically everybody from south Palo Alto, and more ...


Who is Served
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2020 at 8:54 am
Who is Served, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2020 at 8:54 am
51 people like this

Having watched much of the budget hearings, it’s clear that this budget, under Mayor Fines leadership, is full speed ahead on super expensive building projects that could easily be delayed, and instead freeing up a lot of funds for community services that were axed.

Examples - the well used Mitchell Park teen community room & Children’s Theater closed for 2 yrs. Children’s Library cut to 4 days a week and Riconada’s evening hours ended. And much more.

I was truly surprised to see a clear pattern emerge in the many motions and votes. Fine and Cormack are clearly against funding nearly all neighborhood services to residents, no matter that many were relatively or very inexpensive compared to the very expensive infrastructure projects they favored that could be delayed. They were heartless In their attitude toward services even to children and vulnerable teens.

The city’s budget survey showed that residents by far supported 2 areas for funding - public safety, closely followed by neighborhood, library and community services. These priorities were completely ignored by Fine and Cormack. I say this as a matter of fact - watch the video and you will conclude the same. Shame on both of you. And Kniss usually backs you up.
Ed Shikada sits watching over it all, with our city employees getting raises including his that just broke through the $400K ceiling.
Time to share the pain Ed - you and others need to give up some of those raises for the next 2 years.

Yes - hard decisions have to be made and our services will be cut back some. I accept that. But what Fine and Cormack are doing is unbalanced, unnecessary, and irrational.


Mary
Crescent Park
on May 15, 2020 at 9:03 am
Mary, Crescent Park
on May 15, 2020 at 9:03 am
Like this comment

@ To Mary. In hindsight I guess I should’ve realized the cuts wouldn’t be realized. Yes, we will absolutely be paying more taxes this year...


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2020 at 11:37 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2020 at 11:37 am
23 people like this

Just reminding everyone of Mitchell Park library's rebuilding (not remodel) and Alison Cormack's involvement reminding us all to think of the children.

Yes, let's remind her to think of the children, just as she did when she was a strong supporter of Mitchell Park library being on a grand scale instead of the previous more modest library.


Concerned
Midtown
on May 15, 2020 at 12:11 pm
Concerned, Midtown
on May 15, 2020 at 12:11 pm
24 people like this

Vote Allison Corms k out. She is tone deaf to real issues [portion removed.]


Me
Addison School
on May 15, 2020 at 12:13 pm
Me, Addison School
on May 15, 2020 at 12:13 pm
7 people like this

Don’t understand why libraries cost so much to stay open. Is it the 6-figure librarian salaries? Can they just hire a minimal wage employee to keep the doors open? Rinconada closed at 6:00 on Friday, Saturday, Sunday. We are an intellectual community and they want to further cut the hours?

Also, can they require CA ID for adults to use the library so homeless don’t use it as a loitering spot?


Deja vu all over again
Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2020 at 12:19 pm
Deja vu all over again, Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2020 at 12:19 pm
10 people like this

[Post removed; off topic.]


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2020 at 12:38 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2020 at 12:38 pm
25 people like this

"Just reminding everyone of Mitchell Park library's rebuilding (not remodel) and Alison Cormack's involvement reminding us all to think of the children."

Unfortunately we don't have a choice. Given the stupid design the noise from the children's play area reverberates through the entire building.

Not only was the new Mitchell Library designed without thought to how it would be used, it's a monument to how much we could spend to "upgrade" the "embarrassing" old but useful building and how poorly supervised the project was. You'll recall how late it was and how much over budget.

During that long time when the city chose to work on BOTH libraries at once leaving us with no convenient library. did the city think to get us County library passes? of course not; they waited until the project was completed!

Given that, I wonder why Ms. Cormack is so eager to push the big cap ex construction projects at a time of budget shortfalls while sacrificing services.


Chris Robell
Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2020 at 12:45 pm
Chris Robell, Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2020 at 12:45 pm
41 people like this

The resident survey (conducted by Lydia You, Council Member) asked “Should City Staff and Administrator Salaries be frozen or even cut)”.

Of 565 resident responses, 512 (91%) voted YES and 53 (9%) voted NO.

Please email city council and convey the importance of preserving resident services and making appropriate adjustments to management salaries given this unusual time. Keep in mind, the AVERAGE city employee salary+benefits is $232k/year . Management much higher as we know.

They are scheduled to get pay INCREASES. Forgo that and instead cut 10% like Newsom is planning with state employees. Then we don't have to city services to residents or endanger fiscal health of our city.

Write to City Council at city.council@cityofpaloalto.org

p.s., Resident survey results here:

Web Link


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2020 at 1:23 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2020 at 1:23 pm
8 people like this

Thanks very much for the link to Lydia Kuo's budget survey. How do those results stack up against the city's very brief budget survey? We the results of Lydia's survey discussed at the budget hearings?


Marie
South of Midtown
on May 15, 2020 at 2:01 pm
Marie, South of Midtown
on May 15, 2020 at 2:01 pm
23 people like this

I am outraged that the major cuts are to services for residents. The planning department is hardly touched. There is no talk of reducing the bloated manager to employee ratio or revisiting pension and retiree benefit costs. Employees, especially the most highly paid ones, are able to push up their salary in their final years of service so that their pension is based on a base more than their base salary ever was, ending up with Palo Alto paying pensions and benefits greater than when they were employees, in some cases for longer than they were employees. The end result is Palo Alto frequently paying more to employees in retirement than when they were employees.

Both Stanford Health and the State of CA are REDUCING salaries, at least temporarily. There are very few people in government or private industry getting raises - but our employees are getting robust raises even as they cut into the bone.

Most frustrating, was there unwillingness to actually say what the budget was for internal functions, such as IT and HR. By using the term "internal service funds" - and utilizing those funds to allocate overhead to each department, Palo Alto described IT and other functions, as a little bit in each department. Huh? What are they spending overall for IT and HR etc? How much are these functions, often ripe for becoming more efficient, being cut? You will never find out from the budget presentations.


Marie
South of Midtown
on May 15, 2020 at 2:09 pm
Marie, South of Midtown
on May 15, 2020 at 2:09 pm
15 people like this

Oh - and cutting the lease on Cubberley, is reducing income to the school district at the worst possible time. No one discussed that the reason for the lease in the first place, was to increase community services while also helping the school district, whose income as a basic aid district is not tied to the number of students.

Yet PA is one of the few cities with no business tax. I propose that they put a minimal business tax on the next ballot (say $5 a head for FTE) to get the mechanism in place and finally a way to find out exactly how many employees/contractors commute to Palo Alto so real transportation planning can take place. Staff has been unwilling or unable to collect that information from companies even though there are ordinances that require it.

I can't tell if the TMA is being funded as I could not manage to watch the council meetings 100%. However, the original budget suggested paying the TMA $750K (which benefits businesses) and cut the shuttle $500K (which helps students get home without driving and residents to get around town). This would be nuts. Please forgive me if I got a number wrong as. I'm relying on an imperfect memory and don't have time to sift through the hundreds of pages and hours of listening to get it right.


Rose
Mayfield
on May 15, 2020 at 6:04 pm
Rose, Mayfield
on May 15, 2020 at 6:04 pm
7 people like this

Who's a good friend of Mark Zuckerberg. I bet he'd be willing to pay for the bike bridge and the College Terrace Library. That would be a huge help and something we could all admire.


Resident
Downtown North
on May 15, 2020 at 10:02 pm
Resident, Downtown North
on May 15, 2020 at 10:02 pm
29 people like this

Cormack wanted to close all libraries except 2 libraries. I can't but wonder if she lives near one of the libraries. Cormack and Fine voted against many motions that were to support the library and community services.

Any idiot and program and computer can say, library takes 20% of budget, so they will bear 27% (almost equal) amount of burden in budget cuts. But how deceptive. College Terrace library only is about $160,000 per year of the budget. The deficit is $20 mm this year and approximately $40 million next year. College Terrace provides so much support yet operates on a shoe string budget. It's peanuts.

How much is Ed Shakida's salary? What about all his multiple assistants? Why was none of the administrative staff given cuts? Why is the greater community bearing the burden while the administrative staff who prepared the budget cuts not consider their own salaries and areas they could make cut backs?
The manager's office eats up over 1 million per year in salary (not including benefits).

The amount of cuts to the community services was astounding. All the while, the infrastructure construction in the MILLIONS of dollars is being continued.

Why is Cormack and FIne still a city councilor? They are not representing our interests or standing up to protect our interests.

Filseth and Kniss sit on the boundary of supporting community services.

We can not forget who made certain motions and crumbled towards the developer's interests.

We need to support the city councilors who asked tough questions. Good on Tanaka for having a backbone and looking after the best interests of the residents of our city. Tom Dubois and Kou also at various points stood for community services. Good on them for at least trying to represent the real desires of our community.

Why is public works not taking a larger cut to budget? Why is the administrative staff (who was lowest on the priority list) not taking a cut but actually getting a salary raise?

ALL SALARY RAISES SHOULD BE FROZEN UNTIL OUR BUDGET IS BALANCED AND COMMUNITY SERVICES RESTORED.


Resident
Downtown North
on May 15, 2020 at 10:13 pm
Resident, Downtown North
on May 15, 2020 at 10:13 pm
21 people like this

How convenient that Cormack proposed a motion that only 2 libraries be kept open in Palo Alto, both library being extremely close to her personal home, and flanking one to her left and one flanking to her right.

How incredibly convenient. Then the one of the very few community libraries that is SOUTH of El Camino Real and Alma she suggested closing down. An isolated community and al library that serves many families and elderly residents. Extremely convenient wouldn't you say?

What good is a City councilor when they do not represent the entire city resident's interest, but simply ones closest to her property and home that she lives in?

Why is Cormack still a city councilor? Vote her out! One needs to consider if her considerations only support Midtown residents or residents who live close to her personal property.


Barron Park dad
Barron Park
on May 15, 2020 at 11:13 pm
Barron Park dad, Barron Park
on May 15, 2020 at 11:13 pm
29 people like this

Does everyone know there is a planned $6.1M (4.5%) salary increase for Palo Alto city employees that will take place this July? Why can't they NOT take this year's increase for the sake of everyone sacrificing a little bit?

Imagine the community services and library (the one being closed is College Terrace) if the City Council members can tee up this question for serious discussion.


chris
University South
on May 16, 2020 at 12:35 am
chris, University South
on May 16, 2020 at 12:35 am
3 people like this

The salaries were not on the table this week. This week was the CC opportunity to give their reaction to the budget that the city staff prepared. They identified the departments taking the cuts, now the city negotiators are going to the bargaining units to see if they are willing to save any of their jobs by reducing their salaries. You can't really expect the police, fire, and other staff to accept a reduction in pay unless they know that their jobs are on the line. Tanaka and Kniss were trying to throw more money at the police; they would have put the city in a terrible negotiating position.

There will be an update at the May 26 budget meeting along with a chance for residents to provide more input now that the CC has laid most of their cards on the table. The final budget does not get approved until June so their is


Hamilton
Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 16, 2020 at 10:36 am
Hamilton, Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 16, 2020 at 10:36 am
14 people like this

I have been very concerned about cuts to our first responders and valued neighborhood programs. I have spoken at the city council meetings several times and gotten a bunch of personal direct responses from city council and learned a few addition things that I'd like to share that could be helpful to consider if you're consider providing input to city council, which is always a good thing:

1) Newell Bridge will be 100% paid for by CalTrans & the Santa Clara Valley Water District ($11.5 million) and Palo Alto is only providing some minimal staff project management so cutting this project would be negligible savings.

2) The 101 bike bridge construction just started making that harder to defer

3) The easiest project to defer is the Mitchell Park Fire Station. However, it will still need to be done eventually and any ongoing costs you add back to the budget will go on forever vs a temporary one time savings over several years for deferring an infrastructure project.

4) Construction costs are cheaper and you can get better pricing during a downturn so doing construction when the building market is not on fire could actually save money vs. waiting for the economy to recover first

5) I believe the city staff are giving themselves $6 million in raises and this has not been cut. It's true that much of city staff is unionized but in addition, there are not plans to temporarily cut city salaries especially for the high paid non-unionized leadership, which also makes negotiating with unions harder. I'd like to see more done on temporarily stopping raises and cutting salaries till things recover.

6) I really want to save the new sworn officers that have been hired and are now in training but we're basically keeping police head count at where it was last year (maybe a modest cut).

7) If there are not significant cuts to police then the leadership has less negotiating power with the unions.

Anyway, these are all hard decisions but hopefully the above is some food for thought. Also, let's remember that city council members are all essentially volunteers so lets be empathetic to them making some very difficult tradeoffs.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2020 at 1:53 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2020 at 1:53 pm
25 people like this

Marie, re the TMA funding of $750,000, I believe that's the right number. That was one of the items about which I wrote the CC saying should be cut. Our mayor responded saying it's the TMC, not the TMA; I sent him links from the city web site and PA Online showing it's the TMA.

His defended the program, noting it benefits the most needy and asking if I still wanted to cut it. I said yup, I still wanted to cut it because big employers are way wealthier than I am AND we're in a budget crunch.

I should have reminded him about the Wal-Mart analogy where US taxpayers have been stuck subsidizing the health and welfare benefits for its workers BECAUSE Wal-Mart systematically underpays them, sticking taxpayers kept subsidizing Wal-Mart BILLIONS of dollars each month. This has been going on for decades.

Bottom line: Look at who's backing the CC candidates. There's lots of big-money lobbyists working tirelessly to shift their tax burdens to YOU.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2020 at 2:57 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2020 at 2:57 pm
2 people like this

Wonder how many folks who have been living with Prop 13 property taxes suppression for decades who are also the ones complaining the most about budget cuts.


TuppenceT
Adobe-Meadow
on May 16, 2020 at 3:25 pm
TuppenceT, Adobe-Meadow
on May 16, 2020 at 3:25 pm
13 people like this

@Hamilton

"The 101 bike bridge construction just started making that harder to defer"
It has not started. They may have brought in some stuff to the staging area, but they can easily defer.


Another Giveaway
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2020 at 4:47 pm
Another Giveaway, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2020 at 4:47 pm
17 people like this

@Hamilton,

Where do you think the CalTrans & the Santa Clara Valley Water District money comes from? Pennies from heaven?

The bike bridge should be stopped and scrapped. The state and county are also looking at huge deficits and should not be spending millions on a bike bridge either.

Palo Alto needs to be a responsible citizen of the broader community and not just waste money because it comes through the state or county. The idea that money that comes from the state or county are pennies from heaven is childlike magical thinking. Palo Alto residents pay state and county taxes.

The current underpass is serviceable most of the year and would be serviceable year round if the city would let people use it at their own risk when the underpass has a little water in it.

It is never too late to stop spending on a sunk cost. If you don't know what a sunk cost is, you have no business advising people how to save money.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2020 at 5:30 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2020 at 5:30 pm
9 people like this

Posted by Another Giveaway, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> It is never too late to stop spending on a sunk cost. If you don't know what a sunk cost is, you have no business advising people how to save money.

@Giveaway: *Every* project, good or bad, has *sunk costs* once it has begun. That doesn't mean that the project should be stopped. Agreed that you shouldn't complete a project *just because* you've spent a bunch of money on it -- that would be an example of the "sunk cost *fallacy*" Web Link But, IF the outcome is worth the money you are *going to spend* on it, then, it should be completed.

In any case, as I understand it, the 101 Bike Bridge project has just barely begun, so, it really isn't much of a *sunk cost* example. It is, however, an example of something that likely could be deferred.

Although I personally favor a bike bridge, I am kind of annoyed at how the "iconic" aspect pushed the cost up. It is a bridge over an ugly, boring freeway. Bike and pedestrian bridges over freeways have a history of security issues, and, I wish they had stuck to functionality, safety, security, and otherwise minimizing cost. I do think a bridge is justified, but, if they had stuck to basics at the start, it probably could have been done 10 years ago for half the cost.

The new Cal Ave parking garage is a better example of *sunk costs*. The city has spent a bunch on it already, and, it will cost a bunch to complete it. But, it also would cost a bunch to stop, and, find replacement parking for the parking that is missing. In fact, it would make no sense to stop right now-- but, not because we have already spent money on it. Because given the state of the project *now*, finishing it makes the most sense. However, the new Public Safety Building (PSB) could be *deferred*. Money has been spent on the design, but, construction can be deferred.

Although there are plenty of examples of the sunk cost *fallacy* that we could look at, I'm more interested in why public projects in California are so expensive compared to comparable private projects, and, public projects in other states. (e.g. the replacement eastern section of the Bay Bridge).


chris
University South
on May 17, 2020 at 10:19 am
chris, University South
on May 17, 2020 at 10:19 am
2 people like this

Hamilton,

Your point 7 is very important. Even some of the CC didn’t seem to understand that. Eliminating cuts to the police is a terrible negotiating strategy if you are trying to get them to share the pain and take salary cuts.

Some CC members are saying you shouldn’t defer capital projects, because you would have to use the same strategy every year, making them long-term and permanent. For that to be true, you would have to assume that revenue would be reduced more than 20% permanently. While revenue will not snap completely in year 2, it is reasonable to assume revenue will improve in 2022 and some capital allocation can be resumed.


Ask the tough Q's please
College Terrace
on May 17, 2020 at 1:42 pm
Ask the tough Q's please, College Terrace
on May 17, 2020 at 1:42 pm
15 people like this

I got this response from City Council member Eric Filseth in response to my suggestion that the City Council consider seriously whether the $6.1 million (4.5%) salary increase for city employees can be pulled back a bit for the sake of shared sacrifice during this crisis.

Eric replied: "Thanks very much for your letter. The only thing I’d comment on is the raise deferrals and pay cuts. I agree with you that would be appropriate. Alas, the City is unable to simply decree this – the union contracts don’t allow it. Legally, the City’s only contractually allowed way to reduce people expenses is layoffs. Anything else must be negotiated with the unions, which takes time. There is nothing in the direction to report at this time. You may have seen Governor Newsom’s proposal for statewide employees to accept a pay cut of 10%. While that seems appropriate at a time when 25% of the private sector in California has filed for unemployment benefits, it too is only a request to negotiate, and he must work within the same constraints that we do. Government employment is indeed a unique system."

I would say in response "Are all City employees, including the senior administrators, in the union? And even if we must ask the unions for concessions, shouldn't we do so for the sake of our libraries and other community programs that are so core to the identity of Palo Alto?"


chris
University South
on May 17, 2020 at 5:01 pm
chris, University South
on May 17, 2020 at 5:01 pm
Like this comment

Ask,

What do you think is happening between now and a June 22?
We will see whether place and fire are team players or if they don’t care whether their colleagues are laid off?


Resident
Downtown North
on May 17, 2020 at 9:31 pm
Resident, Downtown North
on May 17, 2020 at 9:31 pm
19 people like this

Why is 6 million dollars in salaries non-negotiable? How about firing people who have been incompetent and useless and a burden to the city budget's and have coasted all along?

Why is not an external auditor coming in to see whether the city staffing (unionized and otherwise) can be slimmed down to something that is more appropriate given our expected 40 million dollar deficit next year? Why is the community expected to bear all the burden when the community has spoken?

Who represents the community's interests? It doesn't seem the city Manager who prepared the budget cuts is interested. He is out to protect himself and his cronies.

Will the CC represent what we want? Mayor Fine said everyone should share the burden but there is no sharing going on. The city residents get taxed and taxed further. Fined further. Cutting to community programs so we pay more out of our pockets.

All the while, they continue to spend our money as if we are in.a Boom economic ciycle.
Which city councilor thought it was a great idea to spend 700,000 dollars for an art project in front of the police department when we only had about 1 million in reserve funds? Why was an art installation almost the same amount as the city reserve funds?

Why are developers and businesses not being asked to pay more taxes?

If the 1010 bridge just started, why was it not put on hold when shelter in place orders came out and budget deficit was clearly coming down the pipeline?

WHO Is responsible for lacking the foresight to stop or pause ALL or ANY construction projects and developments until budget was balanced?

Was it the city manager who perhaps conveniently forgot to hit the pause button?

This status quo is not working for our cioty.

We are in a pandemic. Unusual times require unusual measures. That means the burden must also be borne out by the city manager's office and the CC. ANYONE who is not unionized should have their salaries frozen.

Union people need to be brought back to the table for renegotiation. UNUSUAL times. It's damn selfish for unionized city staff to say "we get our salary raise" and then dig into breadcrumb line items of the budget affecting community services that hurt the community (saying to each other, "we'll just ask the residents to fork over more money")

I"m all for firing the whole lot of incompetent city manger staff and voting out the CC who supports the incompetent over bloated city administration staff who get paid top dollars (compared to our surrounding cities) but do a worse job then they are doing.


Resident
Downtown North
on May 17, 2020 at 9:46 pm
Resident, Downtown North
on May 17, 2020 at 9:46 pm
17 people like this

Dear CC Filseth, you said " Legally, the City’s only contractually allowed way to reduce people expenses is layoffs. Anything else must be negotiated with the unions, which takes time. There is nothing in the direction to report at this time."

1. of course there is nothing in the direction to the report at this time. The people who created the report would be the ones we, the city residents, are asking to reduce salaries and do layoffs of staff. Do you honestly think that because it's not in the city staff recommendations, the CC is unable to do that? Is the CC not an independent elected official who is supposed to represent city residents' interests?

Our voices are loud and clear in the survey the city ran. It's also clear in these comments. Why is CC NOT looking in this particular direction? Just because it takes time, means it's not a valid means of controlling costs? This pandemic may last a year or longer if there is no vaccine.

2. Legally the only way is to do layoffs. CC Filseth. Please justify why the City manager's staffing and office salaries are over 1 million just in salaries per year? Why is the City Council not looking deeper (with an external auditor coming in) to lay off people whose jobs are not necessary or there is duplication of roles?

It's a bloated operation that's being run and City Council is not even considering laying off city staff? We can fire crossing guards that cost so little to the budget but add so much value in safety to our community, but administration staff are all "essential" and can not be laid off?

Who are we kidding here?

3. Why is the union not being brought back tot he table to be renegotiated? Why is that not even being considered?

These are unusual times but city council is only looking at means to pick the resident's pockets further.


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