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Palo Alto hires its first budget czar

Original post made on Jul 3, 2013

Palo Alto has hired its first director of the new Office of Management and Budget, the latest addition to the city's expanding leadership team.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 9:33 AM

Comments (25)

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Posted by What a Riot
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 3, 2013 at 12:21 pm

He lost me at: "Palo Alto is a well-managed city."


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Posted by old guy
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 3, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Really 172,000 plus benefits being added to the backs of tax payers. If this was a well managed city I don't think we would need this position. Seems like the thing we are good
at is building up a large payroll and hiring consultants.

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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Why do we need a Chief Sustainability officer when that's our Utility Dept's primary focus? How about looking for someone who can cut our ridiculous rates? Cost-cutting wasn't on anyone's Mission Statement.

No more bond issues approvals from me.

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Posted by Micheletto
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 3, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Palo Alto's utility rates are not exorbitant compared to PG&E. I paid more for gas and electricity several years ago thru PG&E than I do now for gas, electricity, water, and garbage thru PA

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 3, 2013 at 2:29 pm

First time I've ever heard of this new position. He came in mid-June??? Was he in the budget?
Keene has gone over the top with his high scale hiring. How do we stop this? Is the city council asleep at the desk? Disgusted.

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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 3, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Is this a joke? How many members of a leadership team does a city of 60k need? I guess the city council rubber stamps these appointments--- they are too busy with " important" stuff--- banning plastic bags, a fancy bridge over 101, banning smoking in parks etc.
And the salaries that these people are getting? If you say that we need to over pay them in order to retain their services, I say let them walk. They are not that impressive-- employees like them are a dime a dozen. Time to,stop,keenes empire building

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Posted by Retired Staffer
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Another high-priced manager!! And he's from San Jose!! Has anybody told Keene that San Jose is so broke they had to lay off the police department?

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Posted by Stu
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 3, 2013 at 8:27 pm

let me get this straight, with all the 'managers' that work for the city, none are competent accountants or budget experts, until now? Has the city 'management' been blundering along all these years w/o budget expertise? I find the addition of yet another manager to encircle Keene to be questionable at best, and certainly costly at worst. What's next, an assistant city manager and various hangers on to wrangle all these managers?

Pray tell, what are the "highly complex citywide initiatives and projects" the city has been unable to accomplish until now?

more questions than answers, and less funding for things the city ought to be doing, yup, business as usual in city hall.

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Go back 10 years. Replace "Keene" with "Benest".

Some things never change....

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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 3, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Outside observer-- then go back a few more years to June Fleming and her misuse of public employees to work at her house. See a pattern here?

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2013 at 9:28 pm

@Not an issue,

Yep, it's been going on forever. Glad you have such a good memory :)

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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 3, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Outside observer--- another common denominator is the city council either going along with, covering up for or supporting the reigning manager without the slightest objection.
Sweeping the Fleming scandal under the rug, giving in to benests demand for a home or keenes insatiable need for more and more managers-- does not matter who is on the council -- they just go with the flow.

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Posted by shocking decline
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Next a Chief Sustainability Officer. The City itself is unsustainable
under present development trends and those projects in the pipeline.This is a failed government by any standards in terms of protecting the quality of life and character of the city and its neighborhoods. I don't even recognize this place anymore. When you
go on vacation and return it is absolutely shocking.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 4, 2013 at 8:35 am

The fact that this new "Director" thinks that the City is "well managed" begs the question why he is being hired?

The City has a highly paid Director of Finance--Lalo Perez. The City's budget documents (General Fund, Capital Projects and CAFR) seem to appear at the appropriate times, and do seem, in some ways, to reflect criticism for more information that the public has demanded.

So--what exactly is this new "manager" going to do that isn't being done? Presumably the Mitchell Park fiasco is somehow involved in Keene's decision to circle the wagons around himself with highly paid managers. Maybe Keene does recognize that people who are promoted "up thru the ranks" are generally not all that great at strategic thinking, and don't have the kinds of "wider canvas" vision that a large organization needs.

The City has assets of about $35B (rough estimate). It's hard to find anyone at City hall that can provide any sense of the value of the City's assets. So--maybe it's time for "new blood" that will reorganize the mostly staff-run departments into something that has the "look and feel" of a "well run" organization.

We can only hope. But if this man believes Palo Alto is "well run"--we're all in for a rough ride.

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Posted by Tim
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 4, 2013 at 9:42 am

Too many chiefs, and not enough soldiers. They want to cut jobs like the traffic team, which keeps our kids safe, then add some idiotic position for sustainability. I'm moving. This city has lost it's marbles.

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Posted by imperative
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2013 at 10:51 am

The one management position we should be adding is "design review" czar. This probably needs to be outsourced to a reputable established professional who has no ties to the "players" here who are ruining this city. Every decision here which has a visual and aesthetic impact needs to be reviewed- ARB,staff level, across the board. Everything.

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 4, 2013 at 12:24 pm

What can we do? A recall of the Council? Some sort of vote to oust the people running city hall and ruining this city? Brakes on the Architectural Review Board, the Planning Commission, the Arts Commission, We are being strangled by traffic , real estate prices are out of control. Some realtors have set up shop overseas and are selling Palo Alto to the highest bidders. And Arrillaga lurks in the background. Then there is the PAUSD. Can the residents clean up this mess?

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Posted by homeless
a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2013 at 3:32 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2013 at 4:14 pm

For a different approach to budgeting...

The 7-3-13 Los Altos Town Crier published this article:
Uncertainty over pensions, other costs drives lean city budget

Finance Director Russ Morreale said that uncertainty surrounding CalPERS costs in 2015-2016 was “a big driver” in the city’s decision to remain in “cost-containment mode” for the near future. “It continues to make us lean,” he said. “We have to do more with less.”
Other cost-containment steps include the deferment of an additional five city staff positions – bringing the city’s total number of position deferrals to 12. Web Link

Probably too humble an approach for a czar.

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Posted by Out of control
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 4, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Kate said it right.
And just this week an architect who recently resigned from the ARB is representing a commercial client before the Planning Commission:
>3159 El Camino Real [13PLN-00040]: Request by Heather Young on behalf of Portage Avenue Portfolio, LLC, for Site and Design Review and request for concessions under Density Bonus law of a five story..etc.<
Earlier Planning Commissioner Dan Garber resigned to go work on the Arrillaga project. (he was also on the board of TheatreWorks.) What a cesspool.
The conflict of interest corruption is out of control.
Now Keene surrounds himself with Still More of managers who owe their jobs to him. What a cesspool.

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Posted by Out of control
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 4, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Although they do a good job of hiding their names, it appears that Portage Avenue Portfolio, LLC is run by John C. Tarlton at 1530 O'Brien Drive, Suite C Menlo Park.

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Posted by more on the way
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Projects coming through the pipeline include now 537 Hamilton, a
14500 sq ft office building with parking credits. The Epiphany
Hotel at Hamilton/Emerson(the old Casa Olga)is taking shape with
its 12 ft roof extension over Hamilton Ave. For a good view of the
streetscape impact drive west on Hamilton from Bryant.

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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 5, 2013 at 7:51 am

If this Budget Czar was completely straightforward, and wanted to keep our budget house in order, the first thing he would recommend would be for the city to stop creating new high salary management positions.

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Posted by Outsider
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2013 at 12:25 am

He's a good man. It is amazing how outsider's think Palo Alto is the crème de la crème local government place to be. Once he's inside, if his true talents are allowed to HELP the City, it will improve. Otherwise, he will succumb and become "one of them". Time will tell.

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Posted by lazlo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Good Lord! Another senior management position to compliment the additional 40+ management positions created by City Manager Keene to cover his inabilities and lack of leadership skills? Keene's incompetent management skills are now costing city residents triple digit management employee salary and benefits costs that are unsustainable. Keene's multi-million dollar experiment in hiring senior and middle management positions for each and every micro-management task is almost laughable, if it were not for the incredible costs to city residents. Keene's shadow organization of management yes men is a disgrace and a slap in the face to city taxpayers! What a pity!

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