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Palo Alto library bonds win by close margin

Original post made on Nov 5, 2008

Moments after Barack Obama concluded his victory speech on Tuesday, Measure N supporter Megan Swezey Fogarty shouted, "Yes we can … build a new library!" Cheers from a crowd of about 40, even though election officials had a long way to go yet.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 2:25 AM

Comments (89)

Posted by Carroll Harrington
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 5, 2008 at 6:06 am

Congratulations to Alison Cormack for leading a remarkable, energetic, dedicated and enthusiastic committee that left no stone unturned to win this noteworthy victory! Just like saving open space, generations to come will benefit from "better libraries for Palo Alto." The community owes them gigabytes of thanks!

Posted by Heather Schultz in Italy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 5, 2008 at 6:15 am

Great work Better Libraries for Palo Alto! Alison Cormack and all the other volunteer measure N supporters have done a huge service for our community. And hooray! many thanks to the voters!

Posted by no more taxes (or bonds!)
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 7:48 am

I'm sorry this Measure won. Mark my words, building new libraries will not help with any of the major issues our City is facing. I guess the win is for the contractor that will charge way too much for building/remodeling.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2008 at 8:00 am

Well, I'm glad I've got pro-13 savings because I don't want to pay for this retro piece of extravagance. All you guys who voted for it will have to pay for it.

Posted by Carolyn Tucher
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Nov 5, 2008 at 8:12 am

Palo Alto can't live off yesterday's achievements.
Special thanks to the hard working committee.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2008 at 8:16 am

Are all the absentee ballots already counted? Because if its got 16612 in favor (69.52%), that means it needed 15,931 (66.67%), which means its only ahead by 681 votes. Is this a done deal or a projection?

Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2008 at 8:16 am

This is a great victory for our community! Kudos to Alison Cormack, Lynne Russell and Megan Swezey-Fogarty for their early work to put this measure before Palo Alto voters. Congratulations to Alison and the entire committee for their enthusiastic work that successfully won approval, even in a challenging economic environment!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2008 at 8:42 am

So my already astonomical property tax goes up by 300 a year, and about 11,000 people got to decide that (about 10% of the population of Palo Alto). What a monumental rip off.

While my husband is on 50% time, and my company has frozen hiring and wages, and is about to start considering layoffs.

Well, I won't worry, I'll find the money by cutting out all my PTA AND PIE donations - that will cover me for both this bond and the school bond. Sorry, but the bills have to get paid.

yes, congratulations to the selfish few people who shoved this unneccessary luxury in terrible economic conditions down our throats.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2008 at 8:44 am

Congratulations on getting the funds approved.

Posted by Taxes
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 9:04 am

We can cut back on our school financial support to somewhat offset the property tax increase. Unfortunately, unlike school donations, this property tax won't be tax deductible (AMT).

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2008 at 9:12 am

Yes, school donations will be felt. Probably not this year, but wait until next year when the new tax bills will come. By that time, a lot more people in Palo Alto will be worried about their jobs and there may even be some foreclosures by then. I do hope that the realtors in the area are forewarning new buyers just what their tax bills will be like.

So, yes, we can look forward to wonderful new libraries, while the elementary classrooms have no aides, the playgrounds have no lunch time supervision and reading specialists and the like have their hours curtailed. It won't matter,because the libraries will somehow manage to come into our schools and look after the kids at lunch time and help the teachers grade their kids' homework or make playdough.

Or, perhaps the wealthy parents will be able to pick up the difference and pie won't suffer. I very much doubt it.

Enjoy the new libraries when they come, by the way, when will it all start. I expect my kids will be out of school by the time it is finished anyway.

Posted by Sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 10:33 am

Congrats to the construction contractors, big bucks for you guys. I bet even after the big bucks spent, libraries would look the same with minor improvements.

Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 5, 2008 at 10:42 am

I'm 74 and on a fixed income. I also have emphysema pretty bad and use portable oxygen and have other health problems. My wife is deceased and my only son is 2,000 miles away. So the downtown library is really the only thing in life I have to look forward to. I cannot get to any other library because of my health. There are quite a few of us forgotten old people that nobody thinks about anymore. This library makes a real difference in our lives I can tell you. Thank you to the folks who care enough to help keep the branches open. If my branch closed I know I would probably die with it.

Posted by Is it just me?
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 5, 2008 at 10:44 am

I wonder if this Measure passed or it's a projection as mentioned. I also think it was short-sighted to put this kind of money into the existing Libraries. Let's just call them what they are: A community drop in center for the bored and a free movie rental place subsidized by the tax payer. We need to move into the 21st century with technology centers not libraries. Are you planning on stocking them with World Book Encylopedias, too?

Posted by Is it just me
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 5, 2008 at 10:46 am

Resident - I do think you should have a place to go and hang out, but is this the answer?

Posted by Mad
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Nov 5, 2008 at 10:53 am

This is disasterous for our family. Having recently moved here, these bonds combined with the doubling or tripling of our water rates, waste collection rates, and electric rates together with a president who is going to raise our taxes may cause us to move (AGAIN) out of here. Realtors will rejoice. There are so many people who struggle here. It will be hard to sell our home with the economy like it is, now we will have to explain all these new charges to live here.
A school bond was just passed too. First thing to build was a swimming pool at Gunn.

We were told that the library just remodeled and added self check outs.

The people on council do not understand - look where they live!
Subsidized corportate housing
Student housing
Living with mom
And the rest are prop 13ers.

With the advent of computers, generations to come are staying at home and doing their research work. Libraries are a thing of the past.

This will hurt our home value.
We moved here to be closer to work. We did not move here for the libraries.

Posted by Hope the bond is a disaster
a resident of University South
on Nov 5, 2008 at 11:06 am

Passage of the bond will not hurt the elite that supported it--local politicians Klein, Beecham etc are all very well off, as are the neighborhood leaders like Karen White--money is of no concern to them--what's another few hundred dollars. Ms Cormack, who ran the successful propoganda campaign for the bond, clearly has all the time in the world to run the campaign--working to support a family i snot an issue to her.
This bond will hurt people like Mad, above, and others who are struggling to get by.
You would think that PA residents would have known by now that other people's money is something that our city is good at frittering away.
But the people have spoken.
I hear that Cormack, Beecham and the rest of the pro-N gurus ae getting together for celebratory lattes

Posted by Leslyn Leong
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 11:13 am

Thankfully many Palo Altans looked past this current difficult economic times and were not shortsighted in passing Measure N. The plans to restore our libraries, especially Mitchell Park, reaffirms our commitment to higher learning and to future generations. Once Mitchell Park and its community center is finished, I believe that it will bond our wonderful community even more. Thank you to Allison Cormack, Lynne Russell and Megan Swezey-Fogarty and their families for unselfishingly working non-stop to see that Measure N passed. We all owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Posted by Happy as a clam
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 5, 2008 at 11:30 am

This is a wonderful victory for the entire community.

Posted by I agree with Mad and Hope
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 5, 2008 at 11:41 am

Gratitude? Not from where I sit. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I'd rather have a bond measure for the infrastructure of our town, not a empty building that is used by what, 30 people a day? You didn't look at the big picture and railroaded a bond measure down our throats in the worst possible economy. How much are you going to allocate for public art in the lawn of the new libraries that we'll pay for?

Posted by Jeannie Duisenberg
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2008 at 11:44 am

Wonderful communities do not come about by accident. It takes foresight, time, planning, hard and often thankless work by some who are generous enough to spend their efforts to bring about improvement. Thank goodness Palo Alto has people like Allison Cormack and her team to lead a tireless effort to bring about this major community benefit. Kudos and thank you!

Posted by Bernard & Jane Leitner
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 11:50 am

We had a "Yes on N" sign in our front yard, and are happy with the election result. However, on reading some negative comments already submitted I am surprised some people have still not been swept up in the new spirit of community cooperation for a better city and nation.

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 5, 2008 at 11:53 am

Thank you Alison and the hard-working Measure N team! I am thrilled that our community now can develop the facilities we need to meet the increasing demand for library resources in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto is a reading community, a learning community that loves our libraries. That became very clear to me when I was precinct walking with you last week. People were so supportive, encouraging the campaign, and expressing their gratitude for this good work.

I am grateful that Palo Alto was able to achieve this nearly impossible goal, a 2/3 majority during a general election with larger-than-usual turnout! THANK YOU for your outstanding leadership! Thanks to you, City Council, staff, the Library Advisory Commission, the Palo Alto Library Foundation and Friends of the Palo Alto Library for working to identify a plan that could achieve the majority necessary to move forward. Thank you for providing the leadership that drew all of the necessary parties to common ground. That was no small task.

Finally, thank you to every single resident who voted YES. Like our predecessors, we are building to meet the needs of both our present and our future community. I feel very proud that we, as a community, have voted to carry forward our proud legacy of libraries and learning in Palo Alto.

One final, personal note of thanks to Elizabeth Alexis, Lynne Russell and Kris Loew who worked so hard to carry the flag in the part of south PA where I live. Kris, your signs and campaign material designs were fantastic. Elizabeth and Lynne, your steady, strategic educational outreach really made a difference. Alison, your leadership made all the difference city-wide.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Posted by ?
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 5, 2008 at 12:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Dime Ellison
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 5, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Great--we are now stuck with 20th century libraries for the foreseeable future.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Kathy
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 5, 2008 at 12:25 pm

That looked like a typo!

We are now going to be 'stuck' with 21st century libraries, not 20th! FINALLY

Hooray for the poeple who made this happen!

Posted by Dime Ellison
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 5, 2008 at 12:36 pm

not a typo-Kathy--I was being sarcastic.
We are now going to be 'stuck' with 2oth century libraries

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Stuck with libraries that are not open Thursday mornings, close in the early evening some days, have books always in the wrong branches and those are the things that really vex me. I am sure there are others.

Posted by Not my library
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 5, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Who knows where to get the statistics on the libraries? How many people use them each day to check out a book, how many check out FREE movies, how many go on the internet, how many sit in the chairs and sleep? This isn't about how many library cards are passed out (my kids get them each year at school as a numbers game - that was obvious a couple of years ago) it's about why we're paying for a bad idea that's a relic of the 20th century.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2008 at 1:21 pm

What is the projected completion date for this project, more specifically the Mitchell Park Library Plan? I'd like to know so i get a better idea when my kids can start enjoying the facilities.

Posted by Measure N supporter
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 5, 2008 at 1:46 pm

I am excited about having a new Mitchell Park Library. I was shocked when we first moved to Palo Alto and I saw the state of the libraries, having come from another community with good schools, a great library, and clean parks. If Palo Alto wants to be a city with high appeal, we all need to support facilities (and schools) that are of high quality. And, yes, Gunn High School desperately needed a new pool!

Posted by Bob
a resident of Addison School
on Nov 5, 2008 at 1:55 pm

When I was a kid, we had a Book-Mobile come into our neighborhoods.
It was great! The library was too far to reach on foot, but I could request specific books and just about anything the library had on site.

Seems like something along those lines would accommodate those unable to get out as often as they like, and those not within walking distance from one of the libraries.

With a little extension of that service, could we afford to have books delivered with an on-line request, without the expense of maintaining - and now updating those libraries?

Reduce the number of libraries and their associated costs, and we might actually be able to save money while increasing access and service to all residents.

Just a thought..

Posted by Pork Barrel
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Do all the people who voted for measure N realize that our new buildings will cost us over...

*** $1,000.00 per square foot***


All the yes voters are out of their minds. Someone will make a killing on this, and we'll have to pay for it.

It is ridiculous.

Posted by Unfair Proposition
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 5, 2008 at 2:38 pm

This was a very unfair proposition because the tax levy was based on assessed value.

Supporters breezily noted that the median assessed value Palo Alto home would only have to pay the equivalent of a latte a week under this proposition - but that's because many Palo Alto homes enjoy Prop 13 severe undervaluation.

Anyone who bought an entry level hovel within the past 10 years will be paying hundreds of dollars of extra tax for many, many years because of this proposition.

In other words, much of the tax is laid on the backs of recent homeowners.

Recent homeowners do NOT use the libraries disproportionately. Why must they PAY for the new libraries disporportinately?

The fair way would have been to levy a flat tax on all properties... but I'm sure the organizers and supporters are mainly Prop 13 homeowners and benefit much more the way it was written.

In my mind, this does NOT foster community togetherness. The old homeowners socked it to the new homeowners.

I'm sure the organizers and supporters were well aware of this, but pushed it through. What does that say about community spirit?

Posted by Charlie
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 5, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Unfair proposition has a point here. Those of us who bought our current homes in the last 10 years are paying far, far more than a latte a week. So we pay an unfair portion of the costs and will for a long time to come. Coupled with the San Jose hospital upgrades, these already huge property tax bills will go even higher.

I do think that those who don't pay equally (prop 13 folks and renters) should not be able to have votes that count equally. That is the problem with this type of bill.

Posted by Nina Friend
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 2:58 pm

I am amazed that some people would criticize some of the Measure N leaders for having "too much time on their hands." Many terrific projects that go on in our community and schools would not happen without people who are willing to put in hugh amounts of time to make things happen.

To appreciate the ways women have contributed to our communities when they had "too much time," I suggest reading Cokie Robert's "Founding Mothers" and "Ladies of Liberty." You can get them from the library.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2008 at 3:05 pm

Folks, they won. Its over. Whether you agree with it or not, its what the majority wants. Now if they dont deliver what they promised for the agreed upon price or less, have at them then. ;^)

Posted by Unfair Proposition
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 5, 2008 at 3:49 pm

For all those congratulating the Prop N leaders, do you realize how inequitable the proposition was?

A flat tax on each parcel would have been fairer - just like the recent school improvement tax.

However, a library flat tax would likely have failed because it would have run into hundreds of dollars per parcel.

The leaders must have known this, so by using the assessed method instead, the bulk of the taxes gets laid disproportionately on the backs of the new homeowners.

But the old homeowners combined with renters (all gain, not a penny of pain for the renters) make up a huge voting majority in Palo Alto!

The leaders knew that and counted on that. The vote passes, the libraries get their money, and the new homeowners pay the bulk of it.

If you want to congratulate the Prop N leaders, congratulate them on crafting an underhanded deal to get what they wanted.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 5, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Please do not assume all renters voted in favor of this. Some of us may actually want to purchase in PA and are fully aware of the tax burden.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Unfair Proposition,

"so by using the assessed method instead"

You talk as if they had a choice, prop 13 requires this method.
Try to at least be fair.

Posted by Unfair Proposition
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 5, 2008 at 4:22 pm

To RS: The primary property tax is assessed under Prop 13 rules.

Any >supplemental< tax can be levied by using assessed values OR a flat levy per parcel.

A good example is Measure A (to improve Palo Alto schools) that was passed in 2005. That levied a flat $493 tax per every parcel in Palo Alto - regardless of assessed value. You will see it on your property bill.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2008 at 4:33 pm

oh, so what you wanted every parcel independant of market or accessed value to be the same fee. ok, I stand corrected on your point then, not sure thats anymore "fair" though.

Posted by whadausay
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 5, 2008 at 4:36 pm

For those who voted for this Measure, stop calling those opposed it "without community spirit". We are all Palo Altans who care about the city. Besides the taxes being imposed on those who are struggling financially, these libraries just do not serve much purpose except for those listed by others who commented.

There is "nothing" neighborhood about these libraries because most Palo Altans still have to use some kind of transportation to get to them. They are so small that inventory of books is not extensive. Thus, one has to either drive to another branch to find a book or to wait for one to be sent over, about 2 days. These libraries will not meet 21st century standard no matter how you outfit them. It is not about just making them "prettier", it is about having the right and enough materials to serve a greater audience. I have lived in PA for over 12 years and used the PA libraries less than 10 times.

Driving a little more distance gets me to MV Downtown library that is fit for 21st century. Please, if you are going to spend other people's money, spend it wisely!!

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Nov 5, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Let's start a move to overturn Proposition 13.

No more of this unfair taxation.

After 30 years, the distortions are grotesque.

Posted by Still Mad
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Nov 5, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Does anyone know if seniors are entitled to an exemption on any of these bonds?

Were they entitled to an exemption for the last two bonds for the school and library upgrade?

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 5, 2008 at 6:06 pm

For the record, I never once said I was the force (or even a force) behind Measure N. I meant exactly what I said. Alison and her amazing team did a wonderful thing for this community. I feel overwhelmingly grateful to them. This was an enormous task. A 2/3 majority is extremely difficult to achieve...even when the economy is great...even when there isn't a gigantic general election. I'll say it again. Thank you! Thank you! Thank everyone who made this happen.

In answer to the person who asked about exemptions for seniors...The answer is No. State law prohibits offering an opt-out provision to senior citizens when using a general obligation bond.

As for Prop 13. I agree. It is grossly unfair. There are more progressive ways to acheive the goal of keeping lower income families and seniors in their homes as property values rise.

Posted by Mark Samson
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Alison Cormack in 4 more years for president!

She is one of Palo Altos unsung heros. She gives, and gives, then gives some more, then denies that she did anything!

Thanks Alison.

Posted by Not for President please
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 5, 2008 at 6:24 pm

I don't know if I can handle that much perkiness.

Posted by Carolyn Dobervich
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 5, 2008 at 6:59 pm

I am so grateful to Alison for her enthusiastic, effective and unending work on Palo Alto's behalf. I want to thank the people who had doubts but voted for the library bonds anyway. I personally believe it's a vote to protect our property values and support our residents in the decades to come. This community has been good to my family for the past 30 years and I want to do my part in providing that same quality of life for residents of the next 30 years.

Posted by Jarred
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 7:32 pm

As a prop 13 beneficiary, the costs of Measure N will hit most others more than me. My sincere condolences to newer Palo Alto homeowners for this greedy confiscation and profligate waste of their hard-earned money.

Posted by Happy Renter
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 5, 2008 at 7:40 pm

I want to pat myself on the back for being a longtime renter in Palo Alto. I understood the best way to take advantage of an unjust and unfair property tax system is to rent from people who just happened to buy property 30 or more years ago. For many years the cost of my rent has equaled the cost of educating my 2 kids in the Palo Alto school system. What a deal!
At some point, all the tax increases will not be passed on to new homeowners. Then the increased taxes on property will get discounted from housing values.
Somebody said renters don't care about increased taxes well that is not true in my case. I voted against measure N and Measure A. I voted against it because it is unfair to burden future generations with debt. The old folks in this country will have a day of reckoning when the young people understand how their futures were robbed from them.

Posted by Unfair Proposition
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:21 am

Does everyone realize this tax will be assessed for 30 years?

Supporters noted the "average" cost is $139/year, which works out to an "average" assessed value of about $496,000 (thanks to Prop 13). So if your house is assessed at $496,000, your total cost works out to $139 X 30 years = $4170. It's actually more than that, as the levy would increase 2% a year with the rising assessment.

Would you write out a check for $4170 to improve the libraries?

That's the median value, so half of Palo Alto homeowners will actually pay less than that.

But if you are a recent homeowner who purchased at a median value of say 1.2 million, you will be paying well over $13,000 total for the libraries (after factoring in rises in assessment)

That's what I meant by such an inequitable proposition. The large and dominant voting bloc of old homeowners and renters voted to fund the libraries disproportionately on the backs of the new homeowners.

Thank you to those Prop 13 beneficiaries who acknowledged this gross inequity on this forum.

To the leaders and major supporters of this proposition, perhaps a few pangs of guilt and a thank you to recent homeowners are in order?

Posted by Happy Family
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:29 am

I couldn't be happier to hear about the passage of N. It's about time we upgrade our libraries. With rising construction costs, it keeps getting more expensive.

Maybe those in charge will get a better deal from construction firms given the recession.

A lot of folks on this forum seem angry about the tax. Uh... the vote is over.

Posted by Welcome EPA Mt View & Los Altos
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2008 at 1:27 am

Wife & I recently moved here and bought a small tear down at slightly over 2 million.
We have NO kids, and will probably never use any of these libraries, schools, or recreation programs.

We both work in Palo Alto/Stanford.

I hope that all the children from East Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Los Altos will use our new libraries including the Mitchell Park Community Center. Please use the computers too, since I am assuming most of the Palo Alto kids have computers at home and will soon be enjoying fiber to the home. (Something we can also live without).

Welcome! I am paying for it, and I welcome all of you to please come and use everything. It will definitely be better than your libraries in Mt. View and EPA.

Palo Altans have said that they use the libraries in Mountain View and Los Altos.

Now they can come and enjoy ours. Enjoy the playgrounds too. We don't use them and never will.

We didn't we explore a county library system (like many other states) with multiple branches, or accepted corporate and private contributions like other cities did for their libraries?

This is unfair.

Local businesses who voted for this will see the effect.
We can not afford to eat out and shop for unnecessary items. Not here or anywhere else.
You will see a huge backlash in the passing of all these bonds.
I am adding up the increases in these new costs, and will make a decision whether it is worth staying here.
There are jobs in other states - so we are considering them.

Posted by not angry just disappointed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 7:13 am

You know what would make these type of propositions fair? How about anyone who owns a property gets one vote, If your covered by the Prop-13 deal you get no votes and if you reside in a rental (home or apartment)unit you get no votes.

We need to keep this type of measure off the ballot. The money that gets wasted in this City year after year could have been saved for things like new libraries or police departments. The focus should be basic infrastructure.

Posted by P.Willis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 7:40 am

I'm very disappointed that this passed too. I hope we can all join together to make sure this library actually gets built in a timely manner, and does not go 1 cent over budget. If financial conditions deteriorate to the point where the project does not look like it can be completed on time and on budget, it should not be started in the first place.
We'll be watching...

Posted by Nancy
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2008 at 8:05 am

Wonderful news. This should be the road the entire nation should take. Stop wasting money on imperial wars, unnecessary invasions and obscenely inflated military budgets. Stop cutting taxes on those who don't need tax cuts. Spend on libraries, environmental protection, more police to fight crime, alternative energy technologies, education and universal healthcare. Only then will we join the ranks of the civilized nations.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 8:56 am

I think that now the dust is beginning to settle on this that there are many people out there who will be in for a shock next fall when they get their tax bill. I am tired of those saying that this is costing a latte a week and we should be pleased to be getting new library buildings.

Well when next fall comes around and the buildings are covered in contractors mess and the library services are in disarray because of the work, I think there will be a great many more people using the Mountain View/Los Altos libraries and will be amazed at the better deal there.

We will still have libraries that are open less hours, closed when we want to go there, and have to pre-order materials a couple of days before we need them. Yes, some people may be able to walk or ride their bikes if they have the time in the middle of the day to do so. But, many of us will still think of the library stop as an errand and drop in between the supermarket and the dry cleaners.

This service is no longer a free library service. It is a very expensive library service which will continue to be second class in its main function of lending books to residents.

Welcome to the realities of N.

Posted by Unfair Proposition
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 6, 2008 at 11:45 am

It is indeed a done deal. My reasons for posting above are:

(1) To illustrate to everyone - especially those praising the leaders and passage - how grossly inequitable and deceptive this proposition was.

Supporters assured everyone "it will cost less than a latte a week on average." The reason the cost is so low for these old homeowners is because new homeowners like "Welcome EPA" who posted above will be assessed about $600 a year for 30 years (>$18,000)in extra taxes under Prop N. Future homeowners will also bear a disproportionate cost of contruction.

(2) Hoping this type of taxation scheme does not appear in future propositions. A flat tax levy would have been fairer, since all homeowners have equal benefit and access to the new libraries.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by More forward
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Let's separate two discussions here.

First, a strong majority of Palo Altans supported a serious upgrade of the libraries and the continuation of a multiple branch system. It's time to move on and get the projects done in an efficient manner. It is in all of our interest to have these projects be successful and cost as little as possible. With downturn, there is real potential they could come in under budget, but if everyone spends their time complaining we will miss this window.

Second, most of us (supporter and detractors alike) would agree that Prop 13 is really unfair and creates a lot of distortions. HOWEVER, if we want to move forward as a city we need to live within its rules.

For a lot of reasons, if a city needs to go borrow money and wants new tax revenue to pay for it, a bond measure like the one we just passed is the only option under prop 13.

Parcel taxes are for current expenses (i.e. bond measure builds schools, parcel tax pays for teachers salaries) and have several problems with them. They are actually MORE regressive than bond measures and shift the burden from businesses to residences. A parcel tax, even if it was a legal possibility, would have been $250 per parcel. This would the same for a senior living in a tiny apartment or Facebook. Businesses, with parcel taxes, pay a little over 10%. With a bond measure, they pay about 1/3.

There are a lot of issues with Prop 13, beyond its distinct unfriendliness to new residents. I personally don't see major changes in my lifetime but that doesn't mean its not worth working on.

In my mind, letting prop 13 put a halt to all investment in our community gives a really bad law even more power.

It is unfair to blame those that worked on the library campaign for a proposition that was passed when most were in junior high.

Posted by 21st century library
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Finally! Rule by majority. What a concept! I wish we had passed the library bond in 2002, but then we only got about 62% majority. loI ...I think what people don't understand is that trying to maintain broken library infrastructure for the next 30 years would have cost them a lot more than the bond measure. Now what we need to do is pull together as a community and work with the library and the city to make sure it is meeting our 21st century needs.

Posted by Wilson
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:35 pm

This is NOT a 21st Century library .. it is simply a big building that will benefit the construction industry and the unions who have control of the city.

Palo Alto has the most inept library management in Silicon Valley. This monstrosity is just another example of how symbolism defeats substance time and again in this town.

Posted by More questions than answers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 2:38 pm

First of all, I'm all for renovating the libraries and keeping the branch system. I love libraries and the benefits they give to the community. But honestly, who was in charge of planning the proposed Mitchell Park/community center renovation? According to the architect's rendering, it looks like we're supposed to pay for someone's futuristic fantasy. It simply does not belong in the space it's meant for. Why not seismically retrofit the Mitchell Park library, add a second story, solar panels, stay true to the (now) historic architecture and keep the cost to a modest $10 million? Why combine the library and community center into one building? $50 million to pander to technonerds and kids who don't know how to behave in libraries? Is this being shoved down our throats, or what?

To those who think libraries are outdated, don't go. If actual books give you anxiety attacks, you can stay home in front of your computer screens. Not everyone agrees with you.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 2:56 pm

It doesn't really matter now if the library renovations come in under cost anyway (I really doubt that will happen, but I will humor those who think it might). We are fixed into our bond for the next 30 years and we will not get back any of the savings if this turns out to cost less. The City will get a windfall if there is any cost savings due to the economy, not the taxpayers.

Posted by Move forward
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 3:27 pm

It is absolutely not true that cost savings would not be passed on. The bond measure specified the maximum bond issuance, with an estimated cost to households. If costs are lower, they will issue fewer bonds and the cost will be less.

The bond had money built in for typical construction/planning contingencies as well as cost increases in line with recent building inflation. If costs just stay flat over the next couple of years this project may come in under budget.

For the person who was asking about whether you could just go two story - they looked a ton of permutations and there were some serious issue with all of them. A big issue is that you needed 3x+ more space than existing library plus commensurate parking. Also, renovating a space that needs more or less everything touched costs more than building anew. In some cases, the historical value of a building makes that worthwhile. In Mitchell Parks case, there have been some changes made that more or less destroyed architectural integrity of building.

As far as design goes, the architecture review board, who is notoriously finicky and fussy, were unanimous in their support for architectural direction on the first presentation. I don't think this has ever happened before.

Posted by Ann
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 5:41 pm

On the issue of whether the replacement of the existing Mitchell Park Library is warranted or not, doesn't that depend who you ask? Whether it's architects or contractors, it all depends on their point of view and whether they think they can get the city to pay $50 million. Other architects more geared toward renovation, instead of demolition, may give a different answer. I wasn't following the design process, but it's hard to believe the Main Library can be brought up to date with much less, but not Mitchell. This is an important issue to discuss now, I think, since this particular project will cost the majority of the $70+ million. Every year more propositions and measures are voted into law and every year the property taxes increase. What if people can't afford it?

Posted by Move forward
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 8:29 pm

The Mitchell Park project is MUCH bigger than the Main Library one. The 9,000 square foot library and the community center will be replaced by a 36,000 library and a 15,000 community center. The parking lot will be reconfigured (a good thing) and the entrance is being moved (a really good thing). They are also doing this with a ton of green features to minimize future utility costs.

I will say that my architect friends, who are generally unhappy with anything the city tries to do and HATED measure D, thought this was very solid.

Let's move forward.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2008 at 8:47 pm

The city/county/state are driving me crazy.

I thought that people in the southern US were not rational when it came to elections. I think people here are not rational. I don't think people here know the value of a dollar. It is all just play money to them. Build a library for 1 billion dollars? Hey, I would love a nice library... and it is for our kids! Why are we being asked to pay for improvements in this way? Why are we constantly being asked to pay for things via parcel taxes and assessments like this? Where is all the money I and others are paying via our property taxes? I have not been a resident for 20 years so I actually pay real money! I feel sorry for my neighbors who bought after me!

After the last library bond failed, it seemed that the city was finally ready to suck it up and fund these repairs/upgrades through their normal, inflated revenue stream and other funding sources. They managed to repair Children's this way and I think they were funding other repairs as well. The citizens of PA are once again allowing an inefficient city off the hook. The city that allowed the libraries to fall apart while they spent soaring revenues on who knows what else. So I guess the way the city can waste more money is to just pick something that people care about, and cut all maintenance funding on it and spend the money elsewhere. Then in 10 or 20 years they can cry about how it is falling apart and the gullible residents will blindly agree to pay extra taxes to fix it!

We also end up having to pay for a hospital that I will never even see. It is all great having other people pay for your stuff, but eventually they are not going to want to pay anymore.

This is getting out of hand. Parcel taxes, assessments, etc are evil. The only way to get rationality to this system is to make *everyone* pay the *same* amount. This insanity of Prop 13 is not fair by any stretch of the imagination. Taxing of wealth(property) is not practical since it is not a liquid asset. Just because you have an asset that is worth a lot, doesn't mean you have the cash flow to pay ever increasing taxes based on its value. They tried to fix this with prop 13. Maybe the real way to fix this it to abolish property taxes entirely and just have a higher income tax. Oh, but then that would most likely cause the school funding advantage that PA schools enjoy to go away. I guess that is not going to happen anytime soon.

Now Arnold wants to raise the sales tax to 10%.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 6, 2008 at 9:46 pm

> Local businesses who voted for this will see the effect.

Businesses do not get to vote in this kind of election. They can support it with gifts to the campaign--but the businesses themselves are disenfranchised.

Businesses can vote in Prop.208 elections however.

Posted by Isn't-It-Obvious?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2008 at 9:48 pm

> What if people can't afford it?

If you can't pay--you won't be able to stay!

Posted by Willie
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 6, 2008 at 10:00 pm

** Please do not assume all renters voted in favor of this **

Election consultants, like Larry Tramutola (often used by the school district), make a habit of advising clients to target renters with special campaign literature claiming that renters can vote Yes for bonds and not be taxed directly.

While people may rent in a town for a while before buying, it's rare to actually find people renting who understand that the Yes vote today (encouraged by bottom-feeders like Tramutola), will come back to bite in the backside in the future--when the renters decide to buy property in that town.

If you are a renter and you voted NO -- God Bless You!

Posted by JSD
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 6, 2008 at 10:44 pm

Given the news of another mid-day personal assault/robbery today (on Middlefield!), I'm sitting her pondering how many beat-cops $76M would pay for. . .

Posted by Bill
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Don't worry. I am sure this 'crime wave' will be used as a reason we should pass some additional tax to pay for more police(or maybe a new police building:) )

Posted by Sue
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 11:04 pm

EVERYBODY has a Prop 13 house. Prop 13 assesses the taxes at 1% of the sales price after 1978 then the increase in taxes can be no more than 2% a year. So someone who bought in 1982 is paying less money than someone who bought in 1988 or 1992 or 2002 or two years ago and so on. You are probably thinking of pre-Prop 13. With property taxes in the 70's going up by as much as 25% or more per year, Prop 13 rolled back the 'assessed value' to - I think - 1975. And regulated who could inflict more taxes and how. Then from the inception of Prop 13 in 1978 (can't remember the year - Goggle it) the 1% property tax of the sales price kicked in. If you think taxes are high now, you should have been around then to understand the taxes in relation to house value and salaries. If anyone remodeled a home, thus increasing its value, the entire neighborhood was revalued. The neighborhood was revalued if a home was sold at a higher price. All the rest of the neighborhood owners saw their assessed valuation go up even if they had done nothing to their homes. Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.

There was a big real estate price drop in the early 1990's before the boom. Then prices soared. again

Year by year, the Pre-Prop 13 retired seniors are passing away or moving away. The percentage of Pre-Prop 13 houses is dropping each year. But there were thousands of homes bought between 1978 and 1988 and now and ALL are Prop 13 houses. Those who bought years ago built the libraries, the schools, the parks the churches. No one had a 'free lunch'.

Posted by $76 million pie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 11:49 pm

It will be interesting to watch the developers divide up this luscious $76 million pie. They pretty much all made generous contributions to the bond effort, now they can look forward to their rewards.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 7, 2008 at 9:30 am

I think everyone knows that Prop13 covers everyone.

It just covers some people more than others.

The past few years have seen such dramatic rise in property values, that you can have people living in shanty houses paying literally many times the taxes of someone who bought just a few years prior who lives in a totally new house.

The fact that under the guise of 'libraries' they roll a 'community center' into the mix is beyond ludicrous to me.

Maybe I can enjoy many afternoons in these new libraries. It will be a pleasant escape from my shanty of a house that I am paying rediculous taxes on!

What is going to happen when the housing market collapse reaches PA and housing values go down and the cash cow of property taxes starts to decrease? Maybe we will be greeted with more parcel and other property related taxes to make up the difference?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 7, 2008 at 1:24 pm

I think the future will be a challenge for most, including Palo Alto. Money still has to be raised for books for these new library buildings. I'm not sure why everyone is so convinced that these funds will be forth coming. Look at PIE's figures for this year - not so good. We just received a mailing from PIE request donations for Middle and High Schools - they've only raised around $400,000 against a goal $1.0MM. Haven't received a mailing for elementary schools yet.

Posted by Do the math
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2008 at 2:35 pm

2 months into a 5 month campaign.... $400,000 sounds like they are right on target.

Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2008 at 2:55 pm

If I compare the PIE figures from last year in October to this year in October they are reasonably comparable. This year PIE has broken it down into elementary, middle school and high school (perhaps to make the final figure seem less daunting), but to make it comparable to last year I lumped all the grades together.

Total dollars raised for all grades this year so far, $831K, the goal is $2.57M total, so they are about 32% of the way there.

In October of 2007, PIE had raised $700K, with a total goal of $2M, making it 35%.

It is true that the remainder of this year could be a challenge, since a number of taxes are going up, along with unemployment and concern about the economy.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 7, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Do the math and Midtown Mom - the "challenge" was the point going forward in raising additional funds was the point to first posting - not just to PIE but for the books.

Posted by math
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Raising money will be a challenge but I'm confident it will get done. For those of you who can, I'd encourage you to give to that. If you can't, don't.

Posted by Palo Alto's financial apocalypse
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 8, 2008 at 10:29 am

All you smug Prop 13 sheltered morons who voted for the library tax ought to know your day of reckoning is coming.

Prop 13 creates a Ponzi tax structure with early homeowners at the top and late "home debtors" at the bottom. The problem with all Ponzi schemes is that they survive only as long as new "home debtors" enter at the bottom. The end of the Palo Alto housing Ponzi scheme is close at hand due to huge tax increases.

Predictably, Arnold S. just announced brand new sales tax increase after the election. Although Sales tax increases are regressive; higher income groups suffer less proportionally which is important if you consider the kind of income required to buy a house in Palo Alto. But what happens after sales tax increases fail to balance the budget? That's right, income tax increases. In order to justify income tax increases it will be noted how regressive the sales tax is!

President elect Obama plans to increase taxes on incomes above 250K. Now 250K is the minimum income required to buy a house in Palo Alto which is another nail in the coffin of over valued PA real estate.

Another kind of tax is the inflation tax. The drop in commodities is a temporary kind driven mostly by hedge funds selling to meet margin calls. Additionally, the unwinding of the various Yen and Dollar carry trades create temporary demand for the dollar. As soon as this fake dollar demand ends commodities will roar back to life. Even higher income people will devote more of their income to the necessities of life such as food and gas.

If you have assets such as 401K plans note there are proposals to confiscate the assets in return for government bonds paying 3% interest.

The return of inflation spells doom for the stock market. If you think the Great depression was the worst time for stocks think again. In fact, according to Steven Leeb in "The Coming Economic Collapse: How You Can Thrive When Oil Costs $200 a Barrel", the worst time for stocks was in the inflationary 70's.

The end of the stock market and tech driven IPO wealth means an end to the price appreciation in the uber expensive Silicon Valley suburbs.

All of these factors will revert PA to what it always was - a University town.

Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 8, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Measure N is an example of all that is often WRONG with government. Arrogance, poor planning, poor administration and management. This is an expensive boondoggle.

Posted by the future is bright!
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 8, 2008 at 6:41 pm

"All of these factors will revert PA to...a University town."

And we'll have a great library, too! I can't wait!

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 8, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Wake up - taxes will over take any appreciation you think you will have. Enjoy your libraries!

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2008 at 10:17 pm

We may end up with wonderful library buildings, but we will still have poor library service, no Thursday morning openings, early evening closures, need to check before heading out which branch has the book you are looking for or else wait a couple of days til it arrives in your favorite branch and .........

Posted by David
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 9, 2008 at 11:59 am

Please don't forget us in College Terrace. We wish to be included in new system efficiencies for at least access and delivery at our walkable branch. We do not want to become a "reading room museum".

Posted by a concerned Terrace resident.

Posted by Saddled
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 9, 2008 at 3:52 pm

I have held off on PIE contributions this year, waiting to see what happens to Measure N.

Given the new tax, there is no way I'll contribute a penny now or in the future to PIE or anything related to local schools. My kids have many more years in the system, and I'll consider the added tax to be my contribution. As someone who purchased a house just four years ago, I'm already doing way more than my share.

Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2008 at 5:46 pm

In a previous comment, the explanation for the enormous amount to be spent on Mitchell is that it a MUCH larger project. We know. The question is WHY is it a much larger project? Is there a serious shortage of meeting rooms, etc., in Palo Alto? Why not go over the checklist of what the architects sold to the City and see if it's all necessary, before the money's spent and demolition begins. Maybe we can end up with first class LIBRARIES for a more reasonable amount of money.

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