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Labor talks sputter as Palo Alto approves major budget cuts

Original post made on Jun 23, 2020

Palo Alto concluded one of its most brutal budget seasons in recent memory on Monday night, when the City Council approved more than $40 million in cuts and agreed to eliminate more than 70 City Hall positions.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 23, 2020, 1:49 AM

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Comments (28)

63 people like this
Posted by TuppenceT
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 23, 2020 at 2:02 am

Lydia Kou said that both the City’s survey and her own survey showed that residents prioritize services over capital projects but council chose monuments over people. Thank you Lydia for caring about the community.


56 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2020 at 6:20 am

The council cut community services but neither the bloated city manager's office or the boated pr/communications/ department? Shame on them,

The guest opinion by Winkler and the blog by Diamond questions whether the the city is working for the staff rather than us nailed it then and were unfortunately ignored in the budget discussions. Gotta keep THEIR gravy train going.


38 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2020 at 7:35 am

As a result and consequence of these measures, we must be careful to have no virtue signalling expensive alterations to City codes or practices.

Now is not the time to alter or promote the removal of gas appliances or promote EV cars.

Now is not the time to alter the residential requirement to access of Foothills Park.

Now is not the time to do anything to reduce any more quality of life for residents. Put us first and foremost, our needs and our infrastructure.


65 people like this
Posted by Budget Massacre
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2020 at 8:02 am

This Council and City Manager just cut 40 librarians (which means substantially reduced hours) and gutted our beloved Children’s Theatre, among other beautiful things.

Meanwhile, the bloated City Managers Office stands as is (see below), as do the big ticket capital projects everyone was begging you to pause. Wow.

This City Manager needs to go, as does the bulk of the City Council. Please remember this, and don’t fall for the oily excuses, when elections roll around.

Thank you Tanaka and Kou. Not just for your “no” votes, but for listening throughout the process, and trying to give your city the process it deserved.

City Manager - $356,000
Assistant to the City Manager - $310,000
Assistant City Manager - $256,000
Deputy City Manager - $214,000
Chief Communications Office - $206,000
Communications Manager - $121,000
Executive Assistant to the City Manager - $102,000
2 Admin Assistants - $178,000
Management Analyst - $85,000


60 people like this
Posted by there was another way
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2020 at 8:11 am

There was a better way to do this budget and former Mayor Pat Burt laid it out for the City Manager and the Council in his op/ed: Web Link

Instead, the council chose to follow Staff's recommendations which fail to prioritize residents and cut services. As one speaker explained last night - the service cuts disproportionately impact our most vulnerable residents. Why?!

And why was the agenda so long last night with so many items on consent?! The council is taking a vacation in the middle of a pandemic and during a budget crisis that is worse than any in recent memory. Where on earth are the council members going? There is nothing more important right now than figuring out how to deal with this fiscal emergency and hurrying up the process and agreeing to whatever Staff says just to get it done so council could go on break is inexcusable.

Is the City being run by Staff or the Council?


21 people like this
Posted by Aesculus CA
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 23, 2020 at 8:53 am

I disagree with the comments above related to "virtue signalling" when we desperately need to make significant changes to address climate change and the threat of sea level rise.

Reducing fossil fuel usage is essential to our planet's future to sustain life!


20 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2020 at 9:39 am

If you want to address climate change etc., your efforts would be better spent campaigning against Trump and the GOP and their continued gutting of environmental protections, pulling out of the Kyoto accords, etc.


18 people like this
Posted by Do Better
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 23, 2020 at 10:48 am

Am I reading correctly that they aren’t actually making cuts to the police until later in the year? But programs like libraries and children’s programs are being cut down next month? A shuttle service happening right now and librarians having jobs right now is more important than some police officers getting paid a bunch to be a part of an oppressive system. Obviously it’s okay overall to cut money from lots of places but the police brutality protests are happening NOW and it’s ridiculous to make budget cuts to that department later than other departments. This is just another example of cities caring more about police than their citizens. And I’m sure there are ways to reduce salaries a little bit of some city council staff instead of making cuts to hurt more vulnerable people. This is just overall pretty disappointing to see.


15 people like this
Posted by Oh well..
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2020 at 11:37 am

Eliminate the City Manager job and his staff and problem solved.


20 people like this
Posted by merry
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2020 at 11:43 am

Why, exactly, was the city magager(and all the assistants)
Budget not cut?


9 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2020 at 12:16 pm

Brilliant - cut the planning department so permitting takes longer which will slow the significant revenue the city gets from permits. And leave all the PR folks to the tune of, what, $500k per year plus forever pension obligations...


Like this comment
Posted by Heidi Schwenk
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 23, 2020 at 12:29 pm

To every Palo Altoian,
What’s next? How can the City Council be called upon to continue revising the budget to meet the social and community needs, reduce salaries of council, eliminate unnecessary PR or other unnecessary personnel from City Payroll, reduce pensions, etc? It seems that with many people responding to this article, there needs to be a movement to organize and not let the summer time off of the council get in the way of progress. Besides, the City Manager and Council did say they would address the issues the community has with the current Police Dept use of brutality, etc.
Who will the leaders be to continue representing the community’s demands?


23 people like this
Posted by JEANNE VALLCO JEANNE
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2020 at 12:31 pm

“a multi-point balancing act of bad choices”

I could not describe Palo Alto city government any better. And they said it themselves.

With the exception of Lydia Kou, Palo Alto’s leadership is a full display of incompetence, greed, and utter disdain for families, children, and community. A disgrace.


27 people like this
Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2020 at 12:35 pm

I felt like I was watching a tragic play last night regarding the council's lack of courage, save for Lydia Kou and Greg Tanaka's votes, concerning the budget. First there was a long chorus of sixteen year olds all with the same message that they be allowed to vote at their age. The majority announced themselves as "Rising Paly Seniors." It sounded so self congratulatory. When I grew up in Palo Alto we were taught to not tell others about our 'greatness.' It was for others to complement us on accomplishments. What are these teenagers? Bread?
The meeting was a charade orchestrated by the city manager to drain the council with the over thirty items on the consent calendar. Why did some of the council members refer to their vacations? We are in a PANDEMIC and it is their duty to serve the community. In this case
deferring nonessential Capital Improvement Projects so that safety services are kept to the standard necessary to protect citizens. Pat Burt stated this concept perfectly. The meeting was a farce.


13 people like this
Posted by Dt north
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2020 at 12:43 pm

Curious how the state got their union to take a cut in pay to help the overall budget cuts. City of Palo Alto has failed once again. We need to do better !!!


1 person likes this
Posted by fred
a resident of University South
on Jun 23, 2020 at 12:52 pm

Somebody should fact check the comments. There are some legitimate points of view expressed, but the comments are filled with inaccuracies. I guess this will all be aired out in the November election. We'll see how the challengers do against Kou, Fine, and Tanaka.


44 people like this
Posted by Deference to Staff Instead of Providing Policy Direction
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2020 at 1:02 pm

It is tiresome to listen to Fine and Cormack pander and defer to staff at every meeting. Why don't they challenge staff? Be creative and support your colleagues when they try to provide policy direction to staff on the budget instead of stubbornly standing by staff's every proposal. Offer alternatives. Listen to constituents. I know this is harder, but it's what you were elected to do. I thought the Guest Opinion regarding alternative cuts offered good options. Web Link Why were these ideas not publicly discussed in greater depth? It is your job to direct staff, not to defer to them. It is your job to represent your constituents.


11 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2020 at 1:23 pm

Thank you for this article! We need to know the details of what’s going on in our City and it’s budget.
Btw, how many in private sector get a 3% “cost of living raise!?”
Note: not all of us are VC types out here in the private sector and we don’t get those raises. For just a minor note.
I would think reversing the ugly 1M fairly recent public art purchase or allocation would be a smart start (on wall going from nonexistent garage to nonexisten police station)?


6 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2020 at 1:24 pm

Thank you for this article! We need to know the details of what’s going on in our City and it’s budget.
Btw, how many in private sector get a 3% “cost of living raise!?”
Note: not all of us are VC types out here in the private sector making zillions - and we don’t get those raises. For just a minor note.
I would think reversing the ugly 1M fairly recent public art purchase or allocation would be a smart start (on wall going from nonexistent garage to nonexisten police station)?


15 people like this
Posted by Really Disappointed
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 23, 2020 at 2:08 pm

I am really disappointed in the lack of a labor concessions agreement. Still getting a 3% cost of living adjustment?! No concessions?! What were the proposed terms?


33 people like this
Posted by Boomer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2020 at 3:33 pm

@ALB Same! I too hate all children. In the good old days we were taught to suck it up and not speak out about injustices. Clearly, silence is the only honorable course of action. I do want to correct you on one thing: "rising senior" refers to grade level - a junior in 2019-20 becoming a senior in 2020-21 is a rising senior. Otherwise, you are right on the money with you comment that teenagers are unintelligent, terrible people and their opinions are obviously unimportant. I, like you, just hope teenagers learn to sit idly by and let us boomers make the decisions.


6 people like this
Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2020 at 5:26 pm

So Boomer you are right in my not knowing that this expression 'rising senior' relates to the grade level. My sister had informed me of this earlier today. I do not hate children or teenagers. After living through the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK you do not have to 'tell' me what I think. My late father who sat on the ninth circuit was called by Judge Thelton Henderson, "The Jackie Robinson of the Federal Bench." We were always a political family and against the Vietnam war. My father gave out, with his colleague Judge Zirpolli ,more C.O.s than any other judges in the USA. Nixon hated my father and kept a file on him. Regarding voting at sixteen I believe that these young people had a right to voice their opinion as per the Constitution. I was a precinct captain for Eugene McCarthy at age seventeen. So instead of talking the talk everybody needs to walk the walk and support the candidates you feel represent your values.




8 people like this
Posted by DTNResident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2020 at 8:11 pm

For those of you who don't understand politics, there's only one way on to a city council position: MONEY. There are three groups that give the bulk of the reelection money to any candidate: 1. Developers. 2. Contractors. 3. Unions.

Developers are sitting this out as they are probably not going to build anything in the near term, so that leaves contractors and unions to provide the reelection money or labor. So the unions will get their raises and the contractors will get their projects.

You'll notice who is almost completely unimportant in all of this: YOU. No one cares what you want, because with enough union labor and contractor money, they don't need your vote. They can buy enough advertising to get ten of your uninformed neighbors to make up for your refusal to vote for them.

So keep arguing about what you "want" or what is "for the good of the city" because none of that matters.


6 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2020 at 9:17 am

The city approached SEIU asking for 3 million in savings. SEIU met with its members and put together a proposal that would save 3.5 million utilizing furloughs and other measures. They gave them more than they asked for. In exchange, the union asked that the employees have the ability to determine when furlough days were used. The city wanted managers to dictate employees schedules. The union also didn't want furloughs to impact employees retirements. The city refused to accept those two simple terms. Finally after the union offeried 3.5 million, the city asked for more savings. The union wanted to help, but the city manager's office wants to eliminate jobs. They spent thousands of dollars bringing in a union busting attorney who never even bothered to read the contract and made multiple demands that were in violation of the contract.

SEIU represents the lowest paid of city employees and the city asked them to sacrifice the most or lose their jobs. No working person can view the city's actions and think of them as acceptable. The City Manager's office had an agenda from the get go and the council bent over backwards to give him everything he wanted.

Re: Anonymous. Have you ever considered unionizing?


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2020 at 10:09 am

Posted by Jim, a resident of Community Center

>> The city approached SEIU asking for 3 million in savings. SEIU met with its members and put together a proposal that would save 3.5 million utilizing furloughs and other measures.

It would be interesting to hear a parallel discussion from the public safety union.


2 people like this
Posted by Frederick M. Chancellor, Jr.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 24, 2020 at 4:11 pm

As we criticize the budget actions, I believe it would be helpful to be provided a truly informative job description for each of the following: Assistant to the City Mgr., Assistant City Mgr., Deputy City Mgr., Chief Communications Officer, Communications Mgr., Executive Assistant to the City Mgr., Management Analyst. It is difficult to determine how much redundancy there may be and the value of the position without adequate information.

Thank


2 people like this
Posted by Frankie
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2020 at 2:51 pm

Once more the bloated and ever growing City Managers office doesn’t lose one position. Unbelievable!


Like this comment
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2020 at 9:12 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Revisiting this article after many months, I have a few thoughts:

1. ALB: I am very sorry for your loss. I met Judge Farris in 1991 or 92 when I was interviewing for judicial clerkships as a 2L at Harvard Law School. I saw him again when I was clerking in LA, and he was sitting En Banc. He was a greatly-respected, highest-integrity, wise 9th Circuit Judge that served very much as the Jackie Robinson of the federal bench. May his memory always be a blessing to your family.

2. On the other hand, the PACC acted without integrity when it refused the SEIU's reasonable compromise. Here is why employees must have a say in their furlough days: employees often have families and other responsibilities, and it is standard for employees to have a say in their days off. Here is why employees in their last year of service prior to retirement need to receive their 3% salary increase: the salary during their final year of retirement determines their pension benefits for the rest of their/their spouse's lives. So, it is huge lifetime compromise to demand that pre-retirement workers forego the compensation around which they have planned their retirement. And honestly, requiring the lowest paid workers to shoulder the bulk of the budget cut burdens serves no public interest, as these salaries barely register a dent when compared with, say, wasteful capital projects like the new police department. These workers typically earn far less than half of Palo Alto median household income, bringing home an average $50,000/year in income. Not only do those salaries not allow our workers to live in the city for whom they work, but they obviously don't let these workers save for retirement. They need and deserve their negotiated pensions, and it is the fault of the city for refusing to tax our biggest companies that we don't have cash on hand to pay them. We need to stop taking money from the poor in order to continue to feed the wealthiest big companies located here - zero of whom pay tax. It's shameful.

3. To DTN Resident: developers are very much in play in this election. Just look at Greg Tanaka's filings. Commercial developers also fund many "pro-housing" groups as well as funding political parties, so it's helpful to look at what candidates are endorsed by those groups. A candidate who states an interest in taxing commercial developers may face certain opposition -- even though commercial developers are taxed very successfully in similar cities, resulting in sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars for the general fund.

4. A question in my mind is whether residents are happy with the status quo, or whether they want change.




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