Around Town | May 10, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 10, 2013

Around Town

LET THEM EAT KALE! ... The City Council is a particularly busy bunch this year, with agendas getting bulkier, development plans getting beefier, and new committees sprouting at City Hall like daffodils in the spring. This flurry of activity and the growing number of meetings has had at least one unintended consequence: not enough food in the budget to feed the council and staff. On Tuesday night, the council's Finance Committee was surprised to hear a proposal by City Manager James Keene to add $25,000 to the City Council budget, which includes $15,000 for "council meals." This proposal surprised Chair Pat Burt. "That just seems like a big jump, and I'm not eating more," Burt said. City Clerk Donna Grider attributed the rising food expenses to the growing number of council and committee meetings and to the fact that many of these now start earlier in the day and are thus more likely to include meals. At the same time, some council members have requested better food, Grider said. "We're finding that we don't have enough money in the budget," Grider told the committee. Keene noted that the food doesn't just feed the council members but also the staff that attends these meetings (an average meal, according to Grider, accommodates about 15 people). "I like to try to steer staff to eat here, rather than go out and submit a per diem that actually costs more," Keene said. Rather than simply swallow the added costs, the committee requested a fuller breakdown of the council's food budget. Burt said he doesn't want to just "rubberstamp" the $15,000 increase and asked Grider to come back with a more detailed breakdown of the council's food expenses. He also suggested that the city may be able to save money by eliminating food waste. Councilman Marc Berman also expressed an interest in learning more about the food budget. "Given the heightened sensitivity to everything we do, it's prudent for us to try to dig into the details of this, just to kind of make sure the public understands that we're being as cost-sensitive as we can," Berman said. Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd said she was "very grateful" for the meals. "It takes one edge off the logistics of trying to be almost everywhere sometimes as a council member," Shepherd said.

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