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Finance Committee approves big utility-rate hikes

Original post made on Mar 19, 2008

Average residential utility bills in Palo Alto will climb $25.71, or nearly 9 percent, beginning in July, according to rate increases proposed for Palo Alto's electric, water, gas, refuse and storm drain users.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 1:38 AM

Comments (14)

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Posted by a
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 19, 2008 at 9:42 am

This is what happens when you have a mortgage crisis and a federal reserve who keeps devaluing the dollar and an incompetent Congress who's in the pocket of the oil companies. Inflation skyrockets and utility rates go up. The price of natural gas, coal and oil will only keep going higher as the dollar goes lower and as the oil companies keep prices high for their profit. Folks need to call Anna Eshoo and tell her Congress has to do something to ban ethanol, to break up the oil companies, and regulate the natural gas companies, all of which are causing the rising cost of fuel and food and gas.

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Posted by Peak
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2008 at 10:11 am

Oil extraction rates in North America peaked decades ago. Natural gas extraction rates are likely to peak in the next few years. We're not in any position as a nation to dictate prices on anything except coal at this point.

Prices are going to rise until Americans consume sharply less oil and natural gas, pretty much no matter what political solution we try to impose.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2008 at 11:18 am

The US has plenty of oil, our problem is we also have lots of fools who believe the way to get more and cheaper energy is to enact punitive regulation and taxation of energy producers. This is known as whipping a rented mule, the derivation of which expression I leave to your wikkiing.

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2008 at 12:42 pm

So no one went to the meeting to protest? This was a 'done deal', a 'slam dunk' before it ever started. Why would anyone waste the gasoline or the time to go and 'protest'. It was already
agreed upon. And the utility money feeds the general slush fund for ridiculous expenditures - but what the heck, it's just the money of the poor suckers who live here and
put up with it.

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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 19, 2008 at 12:59 pm

In case you all have not figured it out, yet, utilities rate increases are the current and future taxes of Palo Alto. I think it is probably the right way to go. It is one of the rare taxes that is not heavily indexed against the rich and uppper middle class. We pay, according to what we use.

Our streets and other infrastructure should be paid out of the general fund. The fact that our various city councils have decided to create a bloated buueaucracy, to handle feel good projects (e.g. outdoor art displays, Opportunity Center), is our own fault. It seems that we are about to embark upon a very costly "green" campaign. In the meantime, our streets are going to hell.

Utility rates are going up, both to pay higher fuel costs (much of which is self-inflicted, as Walter says), but also to pay for our boutique and non-boutique needs. Get used to it. It is not about to change in liberal Palo Alto.

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Posted by a
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 19, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Kate, this utility hike is national problem experienced on a local level. I just called Eshoo's office to investigate the federal reserve because the fed reserve is devaluing the dollar and causing steep inflation. This relates to to the utility hike. I hope you call Eshoo too.

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2008 at 5:58 pm

To John, College Terrace

Just how angry to we have to get? What do we have to do to change this situation - short of a recall? The council passes ridiculous expenditures like the web site, $250K for a consultant to decide on a new refuse company when PASCO has done a good job for over fifty years; about $250K was squandered on an ill-fated Edgewood Plaza project engineered by the staff and city manager before the residents were included - and they rebelled; at least $200K wasted on the Embarcadero roundabout debacle; then there is $180K for a new statue on
California Ave., $10K for a plaque for "King Plaza", thousands wasted on streets that are resurfaced by Public Works then dug up by Utilities. Just monitor the 'consent calendar" at each meeting. Talk about "earmarks". And the list is long. Anyone else want to add to this list?

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Posted by Jim
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2008 at 7:43 pm

We moved to San Francisco six months ago. We lived in Palo Alto for 27 years in a 2300 square foot ranch style house. We live in a 2,000 square foot condo in the city. PA utilities averaged 275.00 in the six warm months and and $450.00 for the six cooler months. In San Francisco, where it is always "cool", we have never had a utility bill higher than $280.00 all in for electricity, gas, water and refuse.

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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 19, 2008 at 9:09 pm


"Just how angry to we have to get?"

Doesn't matter. Nothing will change, short of a major crisis. However, utility rate increases, which are tax increases in sheeps' clothing, are better than many other alternatives.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2008 at 9:32 pm

It doesn’t matter how angry we get because the city council doesn’t care. I’ve always said that the only way to get Council’s attention is to march on city hall with torches and pitchforks. I meant it metaphorically, but I’m beginning to think it has to be taken literally.

Remember the movie, "Network," where Peter Finch gets people to yell out their windows, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more?" Maybe Palo Altans are too civilized for that.

Historically the council only pays attention to large groups of people who show up at council meetings, preferably with crying children, banners, buttons and or shirts of a specific color. That group magically becomes “the majority.”

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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Mar 19, 2008 at 9:40 pm

From the article: "No one attended the meeting to protest the rate increases."

It might have helped if someone showed up to complain about it.

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Posted by Rick
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 19, 2008 at 10:47 pm

There are a lot of things to add to the list:
10 to 20 million to create the Heritage Park and rundown Clark Bldg..

Possibly 10 million to relocate the Pwr.Substation on Alma..To satisfy the 800 High owners..And millions to bldg. low income housing at the site for the low income workers in downtown resturants,etc..

$200,000 plus for the Amgen bike race in downtown so the businesses, resturants could make maybe $200,000more in profits.

Leasing the city owned new bldg.downtown at less than it cost to build and maintain, $100,000's of thousands maybe every year and with a long term lease.

100's of millions needed to fund the police and firefiters retirment funds. Each person who retires after 55 will get more than $1,000,000 every 10 years they are alive.

I suspect that one of the problems is that we elect high paid executives that make 10 times the average income of people who live in Palo Alto. (the I don't have any problem paying my util bills so why should you.)

It's not to late to protest!! Gather signauatures!! It supposotly won't go till council till June.??

We need a structured rate on elect. and gas. Low rate for low usage and the more you use the higher the rates, stepped up.

The primary causes for lack of income to the general fund are: Big longtime companies pay little in property taxes just like longtime home owners. There are even more relaxed rules on what constitues ownership changes for non-residental property.
The state takes 90%of property taxes and citys are left with only 10%.
The state also has all of the income taxes and probably part of the sales taxes.
The state transfers the gas tax into their general fund instead of giving it to the cities.
The city has driven retail sales places out of South Palo Alto: Alma shopping center, the Sun site on SanAntino Rd converted to nonprofit and housing use instead of possibly several Auto Dealers which would bring many millions of $$ to the city instead of costing the city for the nonprofit and housing. Other retail along SanAntino has been replaced with housing.

The city could charge a business tax,or parcel tax based on the size of the building, but probably won't for obvious reasons (business run the city and for their benefit).

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2008 at 12:06 pm

I'd like to add that the Homeless Shelter commonly known as the Opportunity Center is costing the residents of Palo Alto a fortune. I'm tired of the City Council summarily approving a project like the homeless shelter and then turning to everyone who lives here and pays taxes to fund increases in basic services. Electricity, gas and water are BASIC SERVICES. City Council needs to do their job and stop stealing from utility funds to pay for the latest and greatest pet project brought before the Council. As soon as my youngest is out of high school, I'm out of here.

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Posted by Lois
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Rick: "Gather signatures". I have watched on several occasions as our City Council is presented with petitions, they ignore them. Whenever an issue generates 30 - 40 speakers standing up before City Council to pretest an issue, they listen. I've even heard a previous Mayor say that we cannot know what you want unless you come down here and tell us. So, if you want to complain about rising Utility rates, make the effort, go down and tell Council when it comes up on the Agenda.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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