Facing budget shortfall, city targets animal services, traffic enforcement | May 4, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 4, 2012

Facing budget shortfall, city targets animal services, traffic enforcement

City manager's 2013 budget would freeze vacancies in Police Department, outsource animal services

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto would outsource its animal services, slash nine positions in the Fire Department and cut back on traffic enforcement to balance the books in 2013, according to a budget proposal City Manager James Keene unveiled Monday afternoon, April 30.

The public-safety cuts, which are included in the proposed budget, are intended to address the city's rising employee costs, particularly in pensions and health care. Citywide pension costs have spiked dramatically in the past decade, going from $3.2 million in 2002 to $23.9 million in 2012, Keene wrote in the budget's transmittal letter. At the same time, the city's health care costs have jumped from $6.6 million in 2002 to $14.9 million in 2012.

"Unfortunately, like cities across California, the benefits paid to our employees have risen over the past decade, dramatically in the past several years, and will continue to grow in the years ahead," Keene wrote.

The increasing employee costs are casting a shadow over what has been a relatively strong year for revenue growth in the city. After a three-year slump, sales taxes and hotel taxes have rebounded thanks to strong department-store sales and increased business activity. The budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1, projects $151 million in General Fund revenues, a $4.5 million (or 3.1 percent) increase over 2012.

Expenditures, meanwhile, are slated to grow by $5.6 million between 2012 and 2013. The new budget proposes $152 million in General Fund expenditures, an increase of almost 4 percent from 2012. The main drivers, Keene said, are rising benefit costs, increased infrastructure spending and a lack of concessions from police officers.

"The chief structural issue that the City faces is this simple: Expenditures are growing faster than revenues," Keene wrote in the transmission letter.

He acknowledged the recent good news on the revenue front but stressed the need to get further concessions from city workers. The city is in the process of negotiating a new contract with its largest police union, the Palo Alto Police Officers Association (PAPOA), and with the small union of police managers. In March, the city declared an impasse in its negotiations with PAPOA after five months of negotiations.

If the council were to adopt Keene's proposed budget, the Police Department would face the lion's share of the cuts in the coming fiscal year. Perhaps the most controversial cut in the proposed budget is the elimination of the department's busy and popular animal-services operation. The budget proposes to shutter the Animal Services Center on East Bayshore Road, which has provided services to Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills since 1993.

The proposed cut was prompted by Mountain View's decision last year to opt out of its partnership in the Palo Alto facility and to contract with the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority. The withdrawal means Palo Alto would no longer receive $450,000 in annual contributions from Mountain View, bringing the city's cost of running the facility from $700,000 to $1.1 million annually.

Though the council has yet to decide on the matter, the proposal has already galvanized intense community opposition, with dozens of residents sending letters to the council urging them to spare the animal shelter and 269 (as of Thursday morning) signing an online petition as part of a "Save our Shelter" drive.

According to Keene's proposed budget, contracting out animal services would eliminate 13 positions and potentially result in about $500,000 in operating costs. The outsourcing proposal would also save the city from having to make major upgrades to the aged facility. The council is also considering alternative uses for the land on which the Animal Services Center and the larger Municipal Service Center, adjacent to the animal shelter, sit. These include welcoming one or more auto dealerships to the site, which has valuable visibility from the highway.

"By contracting out this service, the City avoids the significant capital cost that will be needed to improve the animal-services center facility and provides the opportunity to explore site reuse that could have positive revenue implications for the City," Keene wrote in the budget.

Another area in the Police Department that would see a reduction in service is traffic enforcement. Keene's budget proposes keeping six positions in the department vacant and redeploying six officers from the traffic operation to field patrol, a move that the budget document states would lead to "an overall reduction in the level of proactive traffic and parking enforcement." Keene is also proposing keeping vacant a police captain position.

The Fire Department will also see cuts in the coming year, for reasons largely outside the city's control. The department has been providing on-site services to SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Because of cuts in the U.S. Department of Energy budget, the laboratory has recently decided to opt out of its agreement and to sign a contract with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District for off-site services. The decision means Palo Alto will have to close Station 7 at SLAC, reducing expenditures by $1.4 million. Because some of the cost is reimbursed by Stanford University as part of the city's broader agreement with Stanford (an agreement that staff is now renegotiating), the city has yet to determine the actual savings that will result from Station 7's closure.

Keene noted in the budget that public safety has been "largely insulated from cuts over the prior three years" — a period that has seen the city outsource services such as its print-shop operation and park maintenance. He told the council that his budget proposal includes cuts "with generally minimal impact on service levels."

Public safety isn't the only area that would see cuts under Keene's proposal. The Planning and Community Environment Department would eliminate two positions and freeze another one, saving $394,000. Keene is also proposing freezing five positions in the Library Department while Main Library is renovated — a proposal that would save $336,000.

At the same time, Keene is proposing investment of an additional $800,000 in the city's permitting operation, money that would be used to upgrade technology at the Development Center. Another $300,000 would go to the new "Airport Fund," which supports the city's takeover of airport operations from Santa Clara County.

The proposed budget also allocates an extra $2.2 million for maintenance and upkeep of the city's infrastructure, as recommended by the Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission.

The council did not discuss Keene's proposed budget Monday night. The council's Finance Committee is scheduled to hold a series of meetings on the document in the coming month, starting May 8. The council plans to adopt a budget on June 18.

The proposed 2012-13 budget is available on the city's website, www.cityofpaloalto.org.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.


Posted by Puzzled, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 30, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Cut traffic enforcement ? They have to be kidding. There is NOT enough traffic enforcement in the first place ! People running red lights, texting while drive, or on the phone... it's rampant. A crackdown on these practices is very overdue.

Better outsource animal services than cut traffic enforcement.

Also, why want to take over airport operations when we are forced to outsource other services? This seems to make little sense.

Posted by PA parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2012 at 8:23 pm

What traffic enforcement? On our street, people regularly drive on the left side, on the sidewalks, and never stop at stop signs or when turning right on red. I never see as much as parking ticket when kids are forced off the sidewalks to walk in the middle of the street.

Posted by another parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 30, 2012 at 8:32 pm

I would think they could close the budget gap by increasing traffic enforcement... for example, a cop at the intersection of San Antonio and Middlefield could continuously write $450 tickets all day for failure to stop and yield when executing a right-on-red. I have virtually daily close-calls with rude, carless, impatient, inattentive, distracted, and/or just plain clueless drivers when crossing that intersection with a child on a bicycle on the way to school.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2012 at 9:20 pm

The city gets very little of the money from traffic tickets - barely enough to cover their costs. Most of the money goes to the county. The city does get to keep most of the money from parking tickets, but those fines are small compared to moving violations. This is another case of false savings - simply shifting the burden somewhere else. Without enough enforcement we will continue to see a degradation in driving quality with an increase in crashes, injuries, lost time, police investigations, etc. Reducing traffic enforcement is short-sighted and counterproductive but it sure looks good on a budget when the public is clamoring for cuts.

Posted by traffic, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2012 at 9:30 pm

I agree that traffic enforcement is awful, especially on busy residential streets like Middlefield or Embarcadero. The city needs to work out a deal with the county to get more of the fine money fed back into the police department. There is a clear and present danger on these streets with a high percentage of reckless drivers and also a large number of pedestrians.

Posted by EcoMama, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 30, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Animal Services is an asset to the City, esp. for low-cost spaying and neutering. The staff is truly lovely -- perhaps the kindest city workers I've come across. It would be a shame, especially, if the animal control officer (I think his name is William Warrior) is cut -- he's been to our house to remove dead wild animals twice, and he always takes the time to explain to kids what he's doing, too; he goes above and beyond the call of his job, even authoring a free cartoon book for kids about animal services! All of our city's animal services are in demand, and these people do their jobs well. Outsourcing doesn't account for their good work. It may look like dollars and cents to the city, but it sure doesn't look that way to patrons of animal services -- these people aren't outsource-able. There are plenty of folks in the city who could easily be replaced (say, the entire surly planning/permit department) -- but the folks in animal services are assets and deserve accolades, not pink slips. Keep your assets, Palo Alto -- there is dead weight elsewhere.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 30, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Public safety takes the lion share of the cuts once again. Our city leaders and elected officials make this announcement on the heels of allocating millions for bike bridges, commercial district make-overs, appointing an urban forestry manager, new playground construction, golf course redesign, and a new dog park. On one hand they identify public safety as one of our primary civic priorities, and in the next turn slash more positions from those departments. Non-essential programs, services, and projects get funded, but the police and fire departments suffer more cuts. When will the rhetoric be backed up with appropriate action and common sense. Absolutely unreal.

Posted by John, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 30, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Cut services and raise taxes to pay for the bloated salaries, pensions and benefits.

Need the land for revenue to pay for the bloated ....

Its only going to get worse.

Posted by registered user, SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2012 at 12:35 am

So then ...
Why is Animal Services driving a Brand-Shiny New (Expensive) Animal Control Truck if they are going to close?

Posted by You are Right, a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2012 at 7:17 am

@PA Parent...you are right.

Traffic enforcement is at an all-time low. Just five years ago, I believe, the Police Traffic Team had a Sergeant and seven motor officers. Today, I understand, there is only one Sergeant and two motor officers. Tomorrow, if I read this article correctly, there won't be any Traffic team officers.

So, don't blame the traffic officers. Blame our City Manager and City Council. Or, just wait until a little kid gets hit and killed by an unattentive driver.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 1, 2012 at 8:40 am

> Public safety cuts/traffic enforcement issues

Last year City Manager Keene made a similar proposal about reducing the expenditures for traffic enforcement, which was overridden by the City Council. Unfortunately, the City Manager did not provide any hard data about the effectiveness of traffic enforcement to justify his decision, so the Council responded to many emotional pleas from the public and did not approve this particular budget proposal.

Last year I started looking at the Traffic Stop data that the police had posted on their web-site. Just before they convinced the Council to allow them to stop collecting demographic data. The analysis of this data revealed that 55% of the stops made by Palo Alto Police for traffic stops ended up in “NO ACTION”. Unfortunately, the data released by the Police was not sufficient to understand why the stops were initiated, or why “NO ACTION” was the result.

One of the conclusions of the paper I submitted to the Council, was that perhaps the cost of traffic enforcement was not justified, and that some/all of this police activity could be reduced/eliminated.

The paper can be found at:

Review of Demographic Traffic Stop Data For Palo Alto, CA, 2009/Q4.:
Web Link

Over the past ten-fifteen years, the number of traffic accidents seems to be slow falling in number, linked to falling traffic volumes. The Police have never really made a hard case that “traffic enforcement” reduces traffic accidents. Long-term efforts to increase vehicle safety, as well as aggressive efforts to discourage drunk driving has seen the number of alcohol-involved fatalities decline at a national level, with the same results occurring here in Palo Alto. Presumably any reduction in traffic enforcement will not mean any reduction in traffic stops involving “erratic vehicle movements”. Historic data relating to alcohol-related arrests shows about 175-225 arrests per year.

If the Council agrees to this current proposal, and accidents were to increase in a way that was related to a decrease of “enforcement”, then the City Manager would be able to readily restore this police function. The City could also install radar counting/speed monitoring equipment that would provide both traffic engineering, the police, and the public direct evidence of traffic conditions on the most heavily travelled streets in Palo Alto. This kind of equipment has been on the market for over a decade, at costs starting in the $4,000-$5,000 range. An investment of about $100,000 would purchase 15-20 of these devices—giving both the government and the pubic, a very clear view of what is going on, traffic-wise, around the city.

We Palo Altans need to think a lot more “out of the box” than we have in the past. Where public safety is concerned, we have seen a more-or-less doubling of the cost of these services over the past 12-15 years. We simply can not afford to double the cost again in the next fifteen years, with no significant changes in the level/quality of public safety delivered for the money.

Posted by Sally, a resident of Southgate
on May 1, 2012 at 9:00 am

Did no one catch this paragraph, "Citywide pension costs have spiked dramatically in the past decade, going from $3.2 million in 2002 to $23.9 million in 2012, Keene wrote in the budget's transmittal letter. At the same time, the city's health care costs have jumped from $6.6 million in 2002 to $14.9 million in 2012."

Palo Alto expenses have way more than doubled in the past decade, going up at least double inflation.

There is nowhere for responsible management to go other than reducing employment costs, which generally means reducing staff and services. I am happy to see Jim Keene and all staff making the tough choices.

Palo Altans need to become comfortable with getting by with less, and volunteering to help our community pro bono when and where we can.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2012 at 9:21 am

We've had pathetic city councils and government before, but this one 'takes the cake'. Don't we have an election this year- I hope? Do we have any residents with civic knowledge and guts who will run? Maybe. But it takes money - and money is where IT'S AT in civic elections. Unions, big business, developers, contractors, Stanford backers, the PaloAlto inner circle, even the press. This list goe$ on. What can we do? Just consider that Joe Simitian (State Senate) plans to run for Liz Kniss's seat (County Bd. of Supes). He's term limited out in Sacramento. She'll be out too so she's going to run for her old seat on the Palo Alto City Council, and this civic musical chairs goes around again.

Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on May 1, 2012 at 9:50 am

Palo Alto has traffic enforcement?

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 1, 2012 at 10:02 am

> Palo Alto has traffic enforcement?

The police claim that they have been making around 16,000 stops a year. While there is no accurate number of vehicle-trips-per-day in Palo Alto, data released by Traffic Engineering some years ago suggests that perhaps there might be somewhere around 500,000-550,000 vehicle-trips-per-day.

16,000 stops per-year amounts up to an average of about 44 stops per day. Against at traffic load of possibly 550,000 vehicle trips a day, this very low level of enforcement becomes questionable, at best.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 1, 2012 at 10:13 am

I would say that you're correct Sally, however there are many other places that city management can go in addition to reducing public employee costs. I do not believe for one second that our public employees alone should be vilified and blamed for the financial mess we're in. You talk about Keane and company making the tough choices, alright then, how about applying that decision making process to the multitude of non-essential programs and services that the city currently or has proposed to fund. If we're going to make cuts, then shouldn't we start with setting some financial priorities and working from there?

During these challenging times of cuts and sacrifices, I have to question whether or not the city needs to continue to fund the Children's Theater with public dollars. Why does the city continue to allocate a six figure annual contribution to the Opportunity Center and other homeless programs that serve very few people with any true ties to our community? Why are we setting aside millions of dollars to construct bike bridges, playgrounds, and dog parks? Why are even discussing pouring many more millions into a golf course redesign? Why is the city hiring an urban forestry manager? Sadly the list goes on.

I am not opposed to any planning that would provide amenities and add to the quality of life in Palo Alto. I do expect our city leaders and elected officials to demonstrate some common sense, balance, and willingness to say no to the many special interest and niche groups that drives our decision making process. I would also expect those same city leaders to pursue those endeavors when we can afford it, and not in the midst of a financial crisis. If most reasonable people agree that public safety and infrastructure are the essential civic priorities, then I have to wonder why those departments continue to face cuts, and, these other non-essential programs and services continue to be funded. The tough decisions have to be made across the board. Sacrifices and cuts have to be made across the board. This is the approach most people would take in dealing with their own family budgets, and it's precisely the approach the city should have with their own.

Posted by Traffic Stops, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2012 at 10:21 am

Traffic enforcement is a State function, therefore, the State gets most of the money generated from traffic tickets. Why should Palo Alto pay Officers to enforce State law?

Now that most arterial and collector streets in Palo Alto come under the 85th percentile rule, it is almost impossible for a Traffic Officers to give a speeding ticket. For example a vehicle must be going over 38 MPH to get a ticket on Charleston even though the street maybe fictitiously posted at 25 MPH.

No, the traffic Cops are a waste of money under State law.

Posted by Miss Management, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 1, 2012 at 10:51 am

Now that the "bad economic times" excuse cannot be used any longer, Keene has nothing to use other than "rising employee benefit costs" to jump on another band wagon to distract from the real issuse - POOR CITY MANAGEMENT DIRECTION AND BUDGETING with no accountability. (Untruths told to Council to cover Keene/Kronie arses does not count.) Management is lining their pockets greedily with tax payer dollars (fringe benefits, invented OT). Heck some so-called engineers (whom ARE in management) cannot even read a plan or understand projects they are overseeing. Hence the internal chaos private citizens are not aware of, while (unvisible) infrastructure falls apart.

IF all employees had to pay 100% of their medical and retirement costs, Palo Alto City Manager, engineering staff, and his kronies STILL COULD NOT FIX City infrastructure because they DON'T UNDERSTAND IT and are not qualified to oversee them or guide employees CORRECTLY.

Posted by Hey Babe, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 1, 2012 at 11:27 am

So all those 16K+ stops and the 'no action taken stops' must have been to check out hot chicks?

Posted by Jerryl, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 1, 2012 at 11:42 am

Last heard a city department handling something called "zero waste" had 4 employees. I would much rather see them cut than 4 police officers or fire department employees.

Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on May 1, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Close and redevelop the airport. The only reason the airport is open is because of the influence of "hobby pilots" who are cranky, wealthy and offer no scheduled air service to anywhere. Why do you think the County is getting out of the airport business? The property could house a new, more efficient Municipal Services Center, Public Safety facility with on-site vehicle maintenance, Animal Services building, and even a new North County Justice Center. The "hobby pilots" can fly out of San Carlos, San Jose or even Half Moon Bay.

Posted by janet, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 1, 2012 at 12:31 pm

The animal services group is absolutely outstanding and a great asset. I would rather see some of the down town bloated salary lot get axed. That way you would kill two birds with one stone: cut present costs and eliminate future pension costs. When the Post published the city salaries some time ago I couldn't believe what people were being paid.

Posted by jm, a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Has anyone counted how many NEW administrative positions have been added at city hall by Keene in the last few years?

Posted by Cur Mudgeon, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 1, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Parking tickets: enforce NOT parking over the rolled curb on Nelson Drive by Cubberley, any time there are games or practices. Keep the money in Palo Alto.

Yes, cut the silly a$$ positions that support those irritating "you are not as green as your neighbors" letters that Utilities sends out, as well as the Zero Waste fluff. Palo Altans already know how to recycle--we have recycled ourselves into another garbage rate increase.

And tell me again why we fund Children's Theater and libraries, when the county library in recent past has worked just as well for some of us? Why not outsource THAT?

Leaving this overcrowded, traffic congested, overpriced city looks better and better. Oh wait, that's what they want. More tax $ when the property is sold and then bulldozed and rebuilt.

Posted by Gethin, a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm

The folks at Animal Services are wonderful but the it is not an asset to Palo Alto, its a complete waste of money. We should close as soon as possible. If they have just bought a new vehicle perhaps Mountain View will buy it off us!
I totally agree with this comment:
Yes, cut the silly a$$ positions that support those irritating "you are not as green as your neighbors" letters that Utilities sends out,
How much do we waste on this worthless program in terms of salaries, postage, etc. for something that ends up 100% in our trash? If you want to have a score to refer to on the City website, that's one thing but let's get rid of this useless mailing.
I would prefer to find personnel cuts outside of police and fire if possible. And I think its very possible.

Posted by Leonor Delgado, a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I am truly surprised that with so much public support in favor of retaining Animal Services with the understanding that it will be necessary to make changes so that Animal Services becomes more profitable, the City Manager's office went ahead with its proposal to eliminate the shelter and all associated services.

I would have thought that the public outcry was sufficient to budge the powers that be to sit down at the table with those who oppose axing Animal Services to of work out a better solution that would respect majority public opinion and keep Palo Alto's animals safe. How sad that maintaining sinecures in other parts of the city government and continuing to create new positions and search for outside candidates are way more important to the budgetary office.

I often wonder WHY it is that to those who choose unelected city officials the grass always looks greener somewhere else, with the result that outsiders who merely "crunch numbers" or "make policy" are invariably selected for these positions.

Palo Alto Animal Services has a long history of good work in this community and is a respected organization. Palo Altans want to keep that level of care for their animals and other services. Palo Alto has a history of looking for ways to help its less fortunate neighbors; that is why the low-cost vaccine program and the spay-neuter clinic service lower income residents of neighboring communities and rescuers who are often strapped for funds.

Why does the budgetary office insist on throwing out the baby with the bath water and keep adding and maintaining so many outsiders in the (proverbial) pond?

Posted by Choice, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Now that everybody is upset..... How about voting for some new officials to run the city, the way we want it run.

Posted by registered user, Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm

RE: Donald, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood: "The city gets very little of the money from traffic tickets - barely enough to cover their costs."

It may not even do that: A previous Chief of Police said when you factored in the various overheads, a typical officer wouldn't write enough tickets to recover costs by a significant margin.

Several years ago, several cities facing this absurdity changed their enforcement from traffic tickets to municipal ordinance violations, thereby keeping most of the money local. I haven't been able to find any follow-up on those experiments to see if they were successful, or if the county and state figured ways to purloin those fines.

Posted by lazlo, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 1, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Perhaps it is time to seriously consider outsourcing the office of City Manager. Costs to the public for the operation and staffing costs of this one office have risen over 300% in the past 2 years. We have a City Manager whose limited financial education has only brought reductions in needed services to the taxpaying public while offering no vision for the future and whose office provides no essential service to the community. The City Managers staff is occupied by persons whose job it is to simply nod their head in aggreement everytime the Cty Manager speaks and regurgitate the nonsense he spews to somehow make us believe that his words are credible. Keene's only hope for continued employment goes unregulated as long as his actions and words correspond with what Larry Klein wants Keene to do or say. It is time to end the Keene and Klein Circus and outsource the City Managers Office to better serve the public.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Everybody has been upset for a long time, Choice.

Would new officials really make a difference? As Kate noted, it’s all a game of “civic musical chairs.” The important rules for being elected to the council in Palo Alto are:

1. Must play nice.
2. Must never say anything negative about city staff, nor demand accountability from them.
3. Must defer to the city manager, especially in budget matters, even though he theoretically works for us.
4. Must recognize that Palo Alto is the greenest, bicycle-friendliest, library-and-arts-supportive, youth well-biengist most supreme city in the entire universe, costs be damned.

Any candidate with real spine would never be elected because he/she would be marginalized by the powers-that-be. And even if -- by some miracle -- a real change agent did get elected, she/he would be 1 vote out of 9.

Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm

There is no traffic enforcement to speak of in Palo Alto to begin with. Since our civic leaders have decided to turn Palo Alto into another Hong Kong, disregarding the reality that this is a small town lacking the space and infrastructure to accommodate the kind of massive traffic nightmare and environmental destruction this would cause.

We own very valuable land, the airport land, which can bring in revenues, but instead we give it away for free to serve as a playground for rich spoiled, mostly non-residents, while the city manager calls for cuts and eliminations of essential services.

Posted by member, a resident of College Terrace
on May 1, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I think we would hardly notice the absence of traffic cops. Where they are now? I have a question: How many bureaucrats are there per real worker? That is where the real waste of funds is. Also the structure of retirement and health benefits is totally out of step with reality. We like to be generous but there really the bottom to our purse.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 1, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I see police presence near schools in the morning & afternoon. In fact, saw the po-po today near a school. I was glad because the homey tailgaiting me had to slow down when he saw the patrol car.

Posted by Mrs. Frost, a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2012 at 8:03 pm

My daughters and I looked into shelters up and down the Peninsula, after our dog of 16 years died. While we found other shelters 'modern', we have come to appreciate PAAS for the total value it represents. I am not ready for a new dog, but my girls come to get a bit of animal time. At PAAS we found much more than a shelter, we found inspired civic engagement on behalf of the staff. My daughter was so very inspired, in fact, that she has made PAAS the focus of a service project to collect items and money. Over the last several months we have seen dogs which I would not have thought could be trained, let alone find homes, paired with families who post their success stories as encouragement to others. In Scotland when something comes at a good price AND is of quality, they call it Good Value. Their clever use of You Tube videos (speaking of modern...) is outstanding. As a member of an LLC which owns a professional building in Palo Alto, I am of the opinion that shutting PAAS is short-sighted. And as a resident of Menlo Park, I can say that beware of auto-row leading to blighted property in the future.

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on May 1, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Reducing traffic enforcement in PA is the bicyclists dream.

Suppose that might have something to do with it?

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on May 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Posted by Gethin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, 9 hours ago


The folks at Animal Services are wonderful but the it is not an asset to Palo Alto, its a complete waste of money. We should close as soon as possible. If they have just bought a new vehicle perhaps Mountain View will buy it off us!

Not to the animals, Gethin, nor to residents using this service. Not cool, Palo Alto.

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on May 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Mrs. Frost,

Kudos to you and your daughters for your wonderful work at the PAHS. It would be terrible if they were forced to close.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 2, 2012 at 6:52 am

Outside Observer,
The last time that the City proposed cutting the traffic team a group of bicyclists met with City leaders to convince them not to do it.

Sorry to crush your stereotypes.

Posted by Jo Ann, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 2, 2012 at 11:01 am

It's obvious that our city officials need to get out more if they think a car dealership would thrive where the much-needed animal shelter is,

Perhaps they could drive north on El Camino into Menlo Park and look at all the empty dealerships there.

Save the shelter and cut the costly administrative positions. They only need to cut two or three positions to cover the $450K needed for the shelter!

And don't forget to mail in your written protests about the proposed utility rate increases to the City Clerk.

Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm

The best way to cut expenses is to reduce the city manager's staff which is bloated. The animal shelter is an absolutely essential service. The cost of running it can be reduced significantly by reducing the staff and using more volunteers instead and by a modest increase in the adoption fees. The city manager's proposal to eliminated the shelter should be DOA and disregarded.

Posted by Traffic Stops, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm

The reason for the Traffic Officers to be cut is simple. The Police Department lost a whole lot of senior officers at the end of last year - there numbers are way down.

It's not a question of replacing the Traffic team who will now return to regular patrol because we've lost those Officers already. That's how they plan to cut costs.

Meanwhile the Police Union is refusing to accept any cuts in pay and benefits, so lets just cut the number of Cops. Incidentally, it costs way over $100,000 to put a recruit through the Police Academy and pay him or her at the same time. From the time a Police Officer is hired to the time he/she can go out on the street along takes almost one year.

Posted by resident, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 2, 2012 at 8:36 pm

I recognize some names (Wayne Martin and Doug Moran) that have good ideas and comments. Too bad they weren't elected to city council to put these items in to action.
The police and fire dept personell are excellent employees in Palo Alto. The Animal Shelter is an excellent service too. I totally agree that Palo Alto spends too much money on Admin.
in the city hall. I always wonder why our neighbor Menlo Park is able to operate on such a more modest budget than Palo Alto.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 3, 2012 at 3:13 am

Since Animal Services is in the headline and getting plenty of commentary, and since this article and thread is archived for perusal far into the future, I'll enter a note here that the current NewsPoll "Should Palo Alto outsource its animal services and bring an auto dealer to the current Animal Services Center site?" shows over 90% No, less than 4% Yes, remainder undecided, with 536 votes cast. Whether love of animal services or dismay at auto dealerships, I don't recall ever seeing a more lopsided NewsPoll result. The poll actually appeared in relation to a previous story March 26 reporting that shutdown and outsourcing was being considered. Web Link

Posted by Sally C, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2012 at 11:21 am

Steve U,

The new truck for Animal Services was ordered 2 years ago, which if you remember there was no danger of losing PAAS. The old
truck had over 100K miles and needed to be replaced. PAAS does not
throw away money.

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on May 3, 2012 at 11:57 am

The Los Altos Town Crier sent a reporter to PAAS last week. There's an article in the April 25th Town Crier. And here's a link to a video created when the reporter visited the Palo Alto shelter.

Web Link

If you've never visited the shelter, this will give you a sense of what goes on there.

Los Altos and Los Altos Hills are two communities served by Palo Alto Animal Services.

Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on May 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Auto dealerships need more acreage than the El Camino can provide. The combined acreage of the MSC and Animal Shelter can support two dealerships and add substantially to the tax coffers with little to no impact on residential neighborhoods. The airport acreage can support a new public safety building, MSC, animal shelter and even a new North County Justice center. Send the non-resident hobby pilots to Reid-Hillview, San Jose, San Carlos and Half Moon Bay. Palo Alto should reclaim the airport for services to the vast majority of residents.

Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 3, 2012 at 1:43 pm

The owners of the land used by the airport, that is the Palo Alto tax payers, have been giving away the land to the airport users, rent free, for decades. How can the city manager suggest the elimination of a necessary service like the animal shelter when the city is allowing mostly non-residents to use valuable public land, when we can use that land for so many purposes which would benefit the entire community instead of a few hobbyists, most of whom are not even residents?

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 3, 2012 at 2:13 pm

As desired a service a local animal shelter may provide, this is still a wise economic move on the city's part. No one is suggesting that we eliminate providing animal services to our citizens and pets. Outsourcing that service however will in the long run save tax payers a considerable amount. I agree, providing animal services is essential. I just believe we can provide that service without operating our own shelter. There are very adequate alternatives available. The savings in paying a staff pay and benefits alone will be well worth the move.

Posted by So, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2012 at 7:39 pm

If we did not have an abusive quanity of library branches, maybe we would not have to cut as much elsewhere. Just a thought.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 3, 2012 at 9:10 pm

The library issue is a done deal at this point So, at least for now, but I couldn't agree more. Palo Alto could eliminate two libraries and still be well represented for a city of our size. Before public safety suffers any additional cuts, we should be taking a serious look at eliminating or reducing a multitude of other non-essential programs and services that the city currently funds.

In addition to outsourcing animal services, I would also set our sights on eliminating or delaying the funding for the Children's Theater, 101 bike bridge, golf course remodel, new playground construction, park upgrades, commercial district make-overs, and the Opportunity Center.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 4, 2012 at 11:39 am

> The library issue is a done deal at this point

To the extent that the Council will not shut one, or more, or these library branches this year, or next, this is probably true. But the advance of cloud-based e-books, and the aggressive march of digital technologies, will soon leave these libraries empty.

Walk into any coffee shop in Palo Alto (or the Silicon Valley for that matter), and the place is full of laptops, Kindles, and people reading on iPods/iPads. Ten years ago, you wouldn't see any e-book readers, and only a few laptops. Now, thanks to WiFi, and smartphones, there are few books to be seen. People can download a book from any one of dozens of sources wirelessly (or via wireline), making brick-and-mortar libraries soon to be little more than mausoleums honoring Guttenberg's very effective print technology.

Within a decade, it's hard to believe that the City will not close some of these branches. Maybe there might be some opportunity for selling them to special interest groups, that raise money from their membership to keep them open--but unless this sort of transfer of ownership occurs, most of these branches will very likely lose local government funding.

Posted by Agree with Puzzled, a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I agree with "Puzzled"...good grief, we need it employees giving dutiful citations. Seems crucial to keep safe on the roads...& for pedestrians, cars, and bikes...

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm

I just read the City Manager's "report" on the options for Palo Alto Animal Services. 22 pages. "Net Savings to the City" pops up over and over as the bottom line on tables. Fire all but 2 or 3 people, and the net savings is pathetic. Thing is, the city loses income when we close the spay/neuter clinic, the vaccination clinic, and have to send Police out to deal with barking dogs (instead of traffic safety).

PAAS is Priceless.... Save Our Shelter!

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 4, 2012 at 7:59 pm

The city is making the right move. Outsource PAAS.

Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm

BE THERE this coming Thursday, May 10, Council Chambers at 6:00 p.m.--the city's Policy & Services Committee will be discussing the Palo Alto Animal Services (PAAS).

This is the ONLY item on the agenda. (And who knows, it may be the only opportunity for discussing PAAS before the council votes on the overall city budget in early June.)

It is important that you attend!!

Posted by Ben, a resident of College Terrace
on May 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I agreed with Marrol.. Palo Alto should outsource not only PAAS, but Police too. Hire Santa Clara Sheriff Office instead. They are cheaper and Palo Alto could save money.