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Palo Alto hires polling firm to help with measure

Original post made on Dec 19, 2012

With an eye toward a 2014 ballot measure, the Palo Alto City Council this week approved a $90,000 contract with a public-opinion firm to determine which infrastructure projects and funding mechanisms local residents would be willing to support in the voting booth.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 19, 2012, 4:35 PM

Comments (33)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm

They cannot be serious.

$90,000 to see which infrastructure we would support raising taxes for is not the way I want to see $90,000 of our money being spent.

Why not put the $90,000 to paying for infrastructure improvements starting Jan 2?

Why not start by getting rid of some of the managers who can't make management decisions so that the worker bees can get the work done without any more votes, taxes or delays.

Posted by Ken
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Amazing! All the money spent on consultants! Why not just have good projects and sensible approval processes???? Hiring expensive consultants to find ways to slide things past the voters is insulting and pathetic.

Posted by A Voter
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 19, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Hey folks, you voted for them. You get what you deserve. You can be sure that they (the Council) will find other ways to spent your money just like the school board just HAD to spend their surplus.

Posted by Sindt
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 20, 2012 at 10:24 am

Instead of rebuilding two fire stations that are within a few miles apart, how about selling off both pieces of land and buy land that is located between the two old stations and built only one station. Studies have shown that we have too many stations now and some are too close to each other.

Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 20, 2012 at 11:01 am

You all are so helpful. Thank you.

Posted by north pa
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 20, 2012 at 11:13 am

This does not look like the place to spend $90,000. The city council should have its own hearings/investigation on this. Meanwhile, this money could be put to better use. Say, under grounding wires around town.

Posted by long time resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2012 at 11:14 am

I remain in disbelief. Let's hire a consultant to change the name of our fair city to Shallow Alto!
Aren't we hiring people with expertise that should be able to make these decisions?
Our roads are garbage - bumpy, dark and dangerous and they hired another consultant?
The joke's on us!

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Dec 20, 2012 at 11:16 am


How much will an election and campaign that fails cost?

Posted by Goody
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 20, 2012 at 11:24 am

I sure hope they ask more questions about our new garbage paradigm. Love the city's priorities.

Posted by Voter
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm

What a wasteful, self-serving move by the council. Rather than address all of the bloat in city government (too many bureaucrats, too generous pensions), they spend our money to figure out how to try to trick us into giving them more.

A mass recall drive is needed.

Posted by agree with voter
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm

This has been a persistent pattern..figure out a way to collect more taxes by polling wording of a, police, fire, environment are all winning strategies. That is the sole job of all these consultants all over the state.

Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I was going to comment that the Utilities and Public Works departments should know better than the average citizen how to prioritize infrastructure spending (how should I know whether our gas lines or sewer lines are worse off?), but then I read the projects the Staff considers "priorities":
1. public-safety building ($47M)
2. Byxbee Park improvements ($3.6M)
3. various bike and pedestrian improvements ($25M)
3. new bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 ($10M)
4. upgrades to fire stations at Rinconada and Mitchell parks ($14.2M)
5. refurbishing of the Animal Services Center ($6.9M);
6. construction of playing fields at the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course ($6M).
None of these seems crucial to me. We shouldn't be funding any of them until our gas, sewer, water, and electric lines and roads are up to snuff.

Posted by PA resident
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Very disappointed about how this city is run and how our money is spent.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I am so sick of getting hounded with phone calls from these firms. I really can't believe that the city of Palo Alto is spending this kind of money to find out how the voters feel. Why not host a free town hall meeting and just ask?

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 20, 2012 at 7:17 pm

I oppose spending our taxpayer money this way - totally wasteful. By the time the public opinion firm gets the results together, the results may have changed owing to various factors, the economy, the influx/departure of residents...can't they (City Council) use common sense without an elaborate bureaucratic procedure for this?!
Reminds me of the awful story of the local cities' money spent on an odd consultant who was supposed to fight high speed rail - really inconclusive on where the money went (err in his pocket, I KNOW that...)

Posted by milton
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 20, 2012 at 8:54 pm

At first pass, if the city has $90k to toss around without any debate of discussion, the city has much too much money to spend. Consultants can be helpful, but really, when is the last time a city hired consultant revealed anything that was not already known?

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2012 at 9:42 pm

I am willing to bet that a poll conducted by this polling firm would find that most Palo Alto residents would oppose the city from paying $90,000 to a polling firm to find out which taxes to raise.

Posted by Awesome
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 20, 2012 at 10:41 pm

I see $90K is just for the appetizer, the whole meal could run up to $250k easily (Another classic). And the investment return for the city could be up to 200M. Awesome!

Posted by mj
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 21, 2012 at 12:30 am

I will actively campaign against this measure.

Let's add to the city's spending listed above all the staff time (paid for by us) our planning department has already devoted to Mr. Ariallaga's pet project, and future expenses the city will be landed with. Also added to above list all the money already spent in staff time and traffic consultants on California Avenue over the last five years.

Posted by anon
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 21, 2012 at 11:04 am

I find this to be remarkably redundant and a wasteful use of taxpayers $$$!

The City Council created the IBRC, Infrastructure Blue Ribbon commission to determine what the Infrastructure backlog was and to prioritize how to address it!

"IBRC Overview

Formation of the IBRC began in early 2010 and has resulted in the creation of a 17 member, City Council appointed citizen commission charged with advising the City Council on how Palo Alto’s infrastructure backlog might be reduced.

The IBRC will be advising the City Council on items such as how the infrastructure backlog should be prioritized, how a reduction of the infrastructure backlog can be financed, and how do Palo Alto’s project cost estimates compare with other jurisdictions.

The IBRC is lead by Co-Chairs Ray Bacchetti and Leland Levy and is supported by City of Palo Alto staff including representatives from the City Manager’s Office, Public Works, and Administrative Services."

the 17 member commissions final report is here:Web Link

Unless the Council believes the final report of the IBRC to be incorrect or shoddily done
they should make a decision based on their evaluation of the IBRC's final report.

Otherwise why create the commission and use so much commissioner time and staff time and effort to assist in the process?

Instead they seem willing to spend a lot of money asking consultants to determine what kind of bond measure voters would more likely be "willing" to vote for. This may result in a yes vote on a bond measure, but not does not guarantee an outcome that is the best use of funds.

This is not only redundant, a waste of money but runs the risk of a less
effective outcome!

Posted by Boo
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2012 at 11:05 am

Waste of money. Just imagine what 90,000 could really do instead. Maybe, uh, help fix our infrastructure problems, namely the ones this polling firm is going to ask about.

It also seems highly ridiculous and unfair to poll people who already have underground electric lines in their residences if they want to support undergrounding all the remaining above ground lines. As I understand it from the other article in the Palo Alto paper, this is lone of the infrastructure projects in question. I hope this polling firm will at least figure that out, though I am skeptical.

Posted by member
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 21, 2012 at 11:57 am

Thank you for providing the data on the IBRC. Given that time and money has already been spent on the investigation of needed projects than the hiring of consultants is redundant. I am expecting that the city manager, city finance chief, city staff is already well qualified to address these topics. They are a "sunk cost". Opinion polls from residents is interesting but most residents do not have the day to day responsibilites of managing the city budget and city functions. We pay people to do that. We do not pay consultants for opinion polls on what has already been analyzed by the hopefully qualified staff. Hiring consultanst to perform tasks already completed by the paid staff would not stand up in any corproation business plan. Can we please run the city like a business instead of a give-away program.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Here's my suggestion. Kill the poll.

Recognize that we do not have the bandwidth to continue adding taxes to ourselves.

Recognize that over all these years, the city should have been partitioning funds for repair and replacement. That's what a responsible organization should do.

Face the music - trim the budget and start up the necessary repair and replacement funds now. Pay as you go. No more taxes or bonds.

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm

I want to agree with Crescent Park Dad, but how does the city do that .... i.e. " trim the budget and start up the necessary repair and replacement funds now."

How does it get decided what is necessary, and what response is appropriate. There needs to be some kind of fact finding, question answering, solution generating entity. How is that supposed to get done. The city cannot in reality stand still in time, it does not have to adapt and grow, or better evolve. How is that supposed to happen in people's opinion?

What city does it well? What do other cities do, what problems have they had?

The city government, whatever it is, is not smart enough, or competent enough, or strong enough to stand up to those who want to drive change their own way, usually for money and leaving problems they are not responsible for. Does Palo Alto have more "political intrigue" than other cities?

Posted by Charles
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2012 at 10:14 pm

The City hires too many con$ultant$ to do things which are either obvious and unnecessary or which should be done by city staff already on the payroll.

How about this -- the money to pay the consultants should come out of the salaries and pensions of the staff who should be doing the work.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 22, 2012 at 11:22 am

I'm not one of those who automatically whine about my tax dollars going to waste each time elected officials do something. To me those who do that are generally the worst and most inane citizens. That being said, hhis particular outlay of financial resources seems to be an awful and unnecessary waste of money that could have been spent much more productively. The instinct to spend money on consultants should be discouraged. This doesn't make any sense at all.

Posted by Palo Verde Resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 23, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Instead of them polling to find out what we want, I would like them to let me know when they are going to do Tuesday trash pickups for the next two Tuesdays which are Christmas Day and New Year's Day?

This is the helpful sort of information I expect to find on the website and it isn't there!

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2012 at 11:35 pm

> "Palo Alto officials are also looking to hire a consultant to assist the city in community engagement and outreach."

So, our city council does not know how to reach out to residents. They didn't seem to have a problem with community engagement and outreach when they were running for office. But now that they've been elected, they've forgotten.

Is there ANYTHING the staff can do without hiring consultants?\

Posted by Kgb123
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm

The most outrageous aspect of this debacle is the question itself. The consultants are not researching which projects are needed, rather what marketing message will dupe the citizens into voting for another fee increase. It's a criminal way to run a municipality.

Oh and palo verde, Tuesday trash pickups are both moved to weds. That, fortunately is on the PA website.

Posted by RT
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 27, 2012 at 1:05 pm

To: Poll Consultant

I will be open to increased taxes/bond issuances when the dollar amount of our pension costs increases by no more than inflation.

Posted by lazlo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2012 at 9:07 pm

We have a City Manager who has no leadership skills costing us $500,000 a year in salary/benefits whose idea of leadership is to hire consultants, create endless "blue ribbon" committees, and create numerous new management positions so as to keep his name from being connected to not solving any city needs. The city council has been fooled by his nonsense but the public is demanding change. The current City Manager has accomplished nothing and unfortunately continues the city record for continuous yearly deficit budgets. What a pity!

Posted by Kate
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 28, 2012 at 10:06 am

There are NO 'highly skilled, highly educated employees making $90-100K plus a year who could not construct a poll on a question where the answer is YES, NO, or Maybe??? This is a gross waste of money. This Council is really 'off the chart' to request this, ask for this, or allow this. Council - are you even listening to the growing rage out in the neighborhoods??

Posted by resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I was gone for the holiday - came back with 2 messages from the city on the flooding of the San Fransquito creek. Adobe Creek was cleared specifically to deal with flood control in autumn - San Fransquito Creek should be cleared from the top to bottom to improve flood control. I suspect that would cost about $90K. That is an improvement to the infrastructure to the city that is needed now - not in 2014. Money spent on consultants needs to be assigned to specific geographical issues which are due to environmental isssues which are growing due to climate change.

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