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Why Seniors should Vote Yes on Measure A

Original post made by Alice Smith, Green Acres, on May 22, 2008

As a senior citizen and long term resident of Palo Alto, I encourage Palo Alto voters to support Measure A. The quality of our community is not measured by whether a building is smartly dressed up or not, but whether the schools are environments which foster creativity and intellectual growth.

Danger invites a rescue, and the dangerous and dilapidated facilities need addressing now.

Those of us who are fortunately homeowners in Palo Alto have the added benefit of real estate valued in part by the quality of our schools and community infrastructure.

We seniors should support this school bond which adds no additional property taxes and which means our school buildings will be refurbished appropriately to the growing demands made to them in this flourishing community.

Alice Schaffer Smith

Comments (16)

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Posted by No Reason for A
a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Alice, as a senior you probably remember the 1995 B4E Bond, which was $153M for bringing our facilities up to high standards. That money was spent and hopefully wisely.

So today, Measure A asks for $400M ($400 million!!) for further upgrades. There may be some upgrades needed - I'm sure in our system there are needs.

But your claim that "dangerous and dilapidated facilities need addressing now" I think vastly mis-states the condition of our facilities. The $17M of "thermal comfort upgrades," $42M for high school athletic and theater facilities, $18M for new windows, $26M for fields and hardscaping at middle schools - these are not "dangerous and dilapidated" situations.

Mr. Skelly, while he is doing many things well, has got it into his head that we should have fancier buildings. Not just good, not adequate, but really deluxe. The price tag for that is $400 million. I think we all, including seniors who have already paid for previous bonds, should say NO to this vision. The Board, hopefully, will come back with a more appropriate bond of $200M or less to address any "dangerous and dilapidated" issues that might indeed exist.

And keep in mind - the city will soon be knocking with Library and Police bonds, that indeed will be NEW taxes. Keep our powder dry. Vote NO on A.

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Posted by Sports Booster
a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2008 at 6:03 pm

"$42M for high school athletic and theater facilities... - these are not "dangerous and dilapidated" situations."

Actually, they are. The Gunn pool for instance is certainly a sub-standard bordering on dangerous facility that has reached the end of it's useful life. It is interesting to note that most of the other high schools in the area, especially those built in the same era as Gunn, have already or are in the process of upgrading their athletic facilities. Similar facilities at Los Altos, Mountain View, Homestead, Sequoia, Burlingame, Milpitas, and Santa Clara have all been built in the past ten years. Virtually all of them through bond monies. Note also that the Gunn and Paly tracks, the Gunn lights, and the new FieldTurf at both Gunn and Paly have been paid for almost entirely through donations. So Palo Alto has actually spent LESS taxpayer money on its high school athletic facilities than our neighbors, and it shows.

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Posted by No Reason for A
a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Booster, the aquatics center you rightfully want is budgeted at $4.8M. So we build that, and the Paly theater that needs redoing for $5.4M, at we have $368 million left to be spoken for.

At $400M, Measure A is budgeted at over 2x what is really needed. Everyone at PAUSD knows it - they like the flexibility of having far more to spent than is really needed. The question is whether we want to give them $200M in excess funds looking for projects, or keep those funds for projects like Libraries, Public Safety Buildings, or even our own homes.

If we give ALL the money to the schools, it isn't there for the city projects without hefty tax increases. So let's say NO to A and get back a bond that actually adds up.

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Posted by No Reason for A
a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2008 at 7:03 pm

Something to think about - coming in the pipeline soon after the school bond are bonds (or other more expensive financings) for a new library and new public safety building. If we cut Measure A back to $200M (still a very large amount), the reduction would MORE THAN PAY for the other two projects.

If we don't do that, we'll actually be signing up for $560M in financing (plus interest, so double it) to pay for all 3. That means we get significant tax increases. Or, if we vote down the other bonds, we get LOTS of upgraded schools but NO upgraded library or public safety building.

Let's do the smart thing - vote NO on A and get a bond that adds up.

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Posted by Grandma
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 22, 2008 at 7:17 pm

I am a senior and I have no intention of voting for this wasteful bond measure. I will not vote to push onto future generations of Palo Alto residents a huge debt that I voted for which they have to pay for. A definite "No" from this senior.

There are many things wrong with this bond measure not least of which is they have no intention of using the money to replace "dilapidated buildings". The money is going for unnecessary luxuries like a new swimming pool for Gunn when they have a perfectly good facility right now, and a new theater for Paly when they have a quite adequate facility.

As for replacing all the windows without injecting insulation in the walls and ceilings of many of the schools is a total waste of money. It will not lower heating and cooling costs.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2008 at 9:12 am


Have you actually seen the Gunn pool and the Paly theatre recently. I have been at both and they are not adequate facilities. Your kids may have been at PAUSD schools 20 years or so ago and your impression may be that they have not deteriorated, but I can assure you that they are no longer adequate or even pleasant.

Many seniors live in their homes without realising how the years have been hard on their property. It is easy to live in something on a daily basis and not see that it is getting old and in disrepair. A bandaid on an old bathroom seems to work so it stays there for years. It is only when the senior moves out and the property is owned by a new owner, that the old gets ripped out and up todate more efficient replacements are fitted.

It is also the norm for property owners to take out loans to improve their homes. First they take out a loan to do the kitchen and as that loan gets paid off a fresh loan is taken out to do the bathrooms. It is also true that most people take out loans when buying a new car or some other big ticket item. The school district is just doing the same.

The other thing, I believe seniors have an opt out clause on some of these additional taxes.

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Posted by Grandpa
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 23, 2008 at 9:52 am

Grandma forgets that our grandparents paid for the schools we have now. In fact, Palo Alto school district voters funded construction of 20 new schools from 1948 to 1960. Now its our turn to help fund improvements that will benefit generations in the future. And Measure A is particularly easy to support because it doesn't even increase tax rates. It simply uses our existing tax rate from the 1995 bond to provide funding to the school district to fix the facilities we have and build new facilities where needed. With the schools already very crowded due to enrollment growth over the last ten years and with enrollment projected to continue to grow, we need to provide construction financing for the school district. Measure A is the right thing for our schools and for our community.

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Posted by No Reason for A
a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2008 at 10:23 am

Grandpa, this isn't just a "fix the facilities" bond (which I'd support) - this represents a budget for SIGNIFICANT UPGRADING - far more than is really needed. Skelly wants fancier facilities and he wants us to pay for it. These will not increase the quality of our students' education one iota - it will just give us fancier buildings.

$400 million is an astounding amount of money really really zero new facilities; in fact, half would be more than adequate (as PAUSD well knows). And if pressing new projects emerge - like new schools, which beyond Garland the District does NOT anticipate needed - they can come back and make the case for more.

Moreover, if A is approved, THEN YOUR TAXES WILL GO UP if the Library and Public Safety Building bonds are approved later. So if you want a new library or police HQ at all, you can't give all our money to the schools.

Keep our powder dry for future needs. Vote NO on A - it goes too far.

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Posted by Newcomer
a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Alice doesn't identify the biggest reason seniors should vote for this measure -- they get all the benefits of higher property values associated with improved schools while paying FAR, FAR lower taxes than those of us new to the district. In some cases this is 5% of the taxes. What a deal. As a newcomer, I know both why I moved to Palo Alto and the fact that my tax RATE won't go up and I will strongly support this measure. It seems so miserly, ungrateful, and foolish for seniors who have benefited and will benefit from the great schools here to oppose this measure. There was a time when one generation felt a responsibility for the next. What has happened to civic pride and a real concern about the fate of others.

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Posted by Seniors Vote No
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 23, 2008 at 5:33 pm

Seniors should vote against A for the same reason everyone should - it is way too big. $400M for "improvements"? We don't get a single new school with that amount. And 13 years ago, B4E was supposed to fix all that needed fixing.

Anyone who thinks A is a smart bond is just happy to pay double for anything.

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Posted by Long-time Resident
a resident of Ventura
on May 23, 2008 at 8:01 pm

Hey, let's not confuse the inequities created by Prop 13
with the issues related to school bonds.

I would complain that the list of projects to be funded
is wrong-headed (I don't support spending that much money
on upgraded athletics facilities and improved theater space
that exists elsewhere in the district), but I think its
just a wish list designed to attract voting interest without
real commitment to deliver all these things.

Learn some local history, folks. The "Building for Excellence"
bond measure was supposed to have solved the infrastructure issue.
Does anyone remember the published plans for the brand-new
replacement for JLS that was going to be built from the ground up?
After the bond passed, PAUSD frittered away time and money without
much to show for it. That was only about 10 years ago and those
bonds are nowhere near being paid off. So spare me the "dangerous
and delapidated" rhetoric.

I think it will happen again. And then in a couple of years
we'll get a new superintendent who wants to make a mark
and the process will begin again.

And remember, the city is hell-bent on building a Baath Party Palace
style police headquarters building *and* they're want to capitalize
on the pent-up anger and frustration over our embarrasingly bad
library system to fund a bunch of community center space (at
a per square foot rate that's a multiple of what neighboring
communities have spent on lovely facilities).

Plus, who knows how much more covert city funding they're going to
extract through the City Utilities by leasing more things to

Bottom line: vote "No" as a wakeup call so that future funding
requests are responsibly scaled, targetted and managed.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2008 at 8:21 pm

Don't you remember, we voted no against the library bond last time and all we have to show for it is a dilapadated system getting worse all the time. We need to be financially prudent but we also need to start improving our infrastructure. Voting no just means that in five years time we will be in a worse situation than we are now and we have another bond to vote no on.

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Posted by Long-time Resident
a resident of Ventura
on May 23, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Hi Resident,

Actually we didn't vote down a library bond. It was a massive
community center etc. building bond that had included within
in it funds for the library.

And the current council continues with this kind of thinking.
If I remember correctly, about 9 months ago they had a discussion
about what else to co-package with the pure library-related
building so as to maximize what they could get passed!

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2008 at 12:26 am

I still don't understand a $400 million bond under which no new schools are being built. I'm still hoping someone can explain the high estimated costs of the projects--$18 *million* in windows?

The numbers just aren't making sense--and with this kind of bond, the numbers are supposed to make sense, it's not supposed to be an open construction bond.

I'd be a lot happier with a bond half this size. I don't like voting against school bonds, but I have a lot of questions about one this size.

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Posted by Lois, long-time resident of Palo Alto
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 25, 2008 at 12:53 pm

I'd like to add a plea for the big picture.

We have chosen to live here, most of us, and we are immensely lucky. We have a very special community, where people routinely have lovely homes and good jobs and high school students who worry about solar cookers and Nalgene bottles instead of cocaine and drive-by shootings.

To quote George Bernard Shaw:
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

Schools are the heart of our community, and we, all of us, form that community. I vote yes for A.

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Posted by No Reason for A
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2008 at 1:09 pm

Lois, that's a nice sentiment, which I share. But it is not a good reason to tax us all $400 million (double it for the interest we'll pay) for school upgrade projects.

Our children's education will not suffer one iota from a bond half that size - but in fact, it will spare our children from paying off this bond 35 years from now (yes, the bond payments goes through a staggering 2042!). In addition, we'll be able to afford the new library that I'm sure our community needs more than new landscaping at middle schools and $17 million of "thermal comfort upgrades" (whatever that is).

We need a smaller bond focused on important projects. Keep our powder dry for other important projects. Vote No on A - let's get a bond that adds up.

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

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