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Mayor faces blowback from colleagues after declaring city's support for advancing Caltrain tax measure

Original post made on Jul 20, 2020

The regional debate over funding for Caltrain swept through Palo Alto on Monday, when Mayor Adrian Fine submitted a letter of support for a tax measure to pay for the rail service, only to have his colleagues disavow his position.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, July 20, 2020, 9:45 PM

Comments (69)

106 people like this
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 20, 2020 at 10:08 pm

Adrian Fine is disrespectful to residentialists and to all city residents and his Council colleagues by not respecting the process for gathering input from the Council. He is not showing the needed maturity to be on the council or to be mayor.


66 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2020 at 10:48 pm

Of course Adrian Fine thinks that a regressive taxation system that requires residents to foot the bill for costs created by our largest employers is the best approach.

Palo Alto is the ONLY city of our size and usage that has ZERO business tax. Every neighboring and similarly situated city, including Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, Atherton, Redwood City, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, and Saratoga require their largest businesses and biggest employers to contribute *something* to the city to pay for the public services these businesses use. San Francisco has so many different businesses taxes tailored to companies and employers of every size, industry, and location that the business of collecting these taxes creates a city department, and that department is the most profitable and revenue-producing than all city departments combined.

But here in Palo Alto --due to the intentional policy decisions made by all 7 members of our current city council, led by Mayor Adrian Fine -- we are the one city to require residents to pay for everything, and our businesses, landlords, commercial developers, real estate tycoons, and multi-billion-dollar international employers like HP, Varian, and Palantir are given a fully subsidized free ride.

The fact that our city council continues to exempt our largest employers from taxation is doubtlessly one of the reasons that larger and larger employers continue to seek to move their corporate headquarters to our tax haven city of Palo Alto.

Accordingly, it is the city council's intentional tax policy that has created -- and that continues to worsen -- our record-setting, unsustainable, toxic ratio of jobs-to-employed-residents of approximately 4 to 1. This shameful imbalance of city usage means that 20% of the people who use the city -- our residents -- pay for the entire costs of running our city, including the 80% of usage -- including traffic, congestion, parking woes, public spaces, utilities services, and first responder services including fire fighters -- generated by the 4/5ths of the occupants of our city during the day who leave to go to their homes at night. This 20% -- a percentage that never would be so low had our city council acted with integrity and foresight over the past several decades -- pays for everything.

And when there are more bills to pay, our leadership continues to expect residents to pay them, even when the costs so obviously are due to the tech giants and car companies who offer up our city amenities as perks to their employees without contributing one slim dime to city coffers. This approach goes beyond being outdated -- it never should have existed in the first place. Yet this is what the city council continues to bring.

Time and time again, the city council had opportunity to put a business tax on the ballot, but it refused. The proposed business tax could have -- and should have -- contained generous carve-outs to exempt all retail, restaurants, small businesses, and even medium-sized businesses (including, for example, companies with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $500 million in annual revenues) so that only the Hewlett-Packards, Palantirs, and Teslas would be taxed. But the City Council refused to present such a wholly reasonable and pro-resident measure to the voters for their consideration.

The fact that so many of our city council members work for these same companies to whom they offer these tax exemptions fosters distrust between our residents and government, and may be connected with the council's decades-long refusal to act like all its neighbors and tax large businesses. Mayor Fine, for example, splits his time between his virtually unpaid job as Mayor of this City and his full time paid job as head of marketing at Ford Motor Company's Palo Alto office near Stanford Research Park. Which employer is he serving when he continues to move costs created by Ford to payments required to be made by residents?

(This is one of the many reasons that I strongly support requiring City Council positions to be full time roles to eliminate conflicts of interest, to be paid a market-rate public servant salary of approximately $150,000 to $170,000 (as opposed to the $400,000 paid to our current city manager).)

It's too little too late to hear weak objections from the other city council members, throwing the mayor under the bus while they are equally guilty in their refusal to require our largest employers and commercial developers to pay *anything* into city coffers (much less, to pay their fair share). All seven of them are to blame for their intentional decision to put all of the city's costs on residents and to give all businesses - no matter how large - a free ride fully subsidized by the rest of us. That they didn't somehow see this coming as the unavoidable consequence of their poor planning and irresponsible tax decisions is no one's fault but their own. Palo Alto deserves a fresh start. It is time for a change in leadership.


49 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 20, 2020 at 10:52 pm

Maybe City Council shouldn't have taken 6 weeks off in the middle of a health and financial crisis.

Meanwhile, people are lined up inches apart in line for ice cream on University Avenue and kids are playing with abandon at playgrounds with CLOSED signs on locked gates.

It is going to be a long fall and winter if this lack of compliance with social distancing and mask wearing continues.


35 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2020 at 11:16 pm

Shouldn’t Palo Alto mayor Adrian Fine instead recuse himself on this issue since his job is predicated on the notion that private corporate behemoths like his employer Ford Motors replace and privatize CalTrain with its fleet of self-driving cars? Fine likely has in his contract a huge bonus the day CalTrain goes belly up.
Is he supporting an initiative or trying to derail an ideal?


88 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2020 at 12:04 am

Yet another reason to vote Fine off Council in November.


34 people like this
Posted by Poor Judgment
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2020 at 7:22 am

Wow! Rebecca Eisenberg thinks we Palo Alto taxpayers should pay her $150,000-170,000 a year to be on the City Council if elected. (that’s for on the job training in her case). Will this amount include medical, dental, sick leave and retirement?

How about raises for years served? Twice Former Mayor Pat Burt’s coming back (also was on P&TC 8 yrs) - would he get paid more- $200,000?

Eisenberg reels off thoughts in all forums like an auctioneer at a fire sale, hoping something might stick on the walls of voters minds. It is exhausting, not enlightening often revealing poor judgment if you think about it or if you know a thing or two.

Yes we need a strong business tax - the Council didn’t put one on the Nov. ballot due to the calamity of covid on businesses including the many middle-sized ones that would not be exempted from the tax. There will have another go.



69 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 21, 2020 at 7:32 am

This is just another example of why Adrian Fine does not have the maturity and thoughtfulness to be on the city council much less mayor.
He acts on his own without any authority to do so, bypassing the council and the public.
What’s even worse is the fact that it was not even his idea but the city STAFF who admits they wrote the letter for him to sign!!!
I think we need someone who can stand up to those pressuring him to use his position as mayor to bypass the public process not cave to it!

Further taxing the public, many of whom cannot not use Caltrain due to the high ticket cost and the limited route, even more at a time when many people are Financially struggling more than usual is morally vacant.
Especially troubling given the need now more than ever for real leadership at every level of government.


45 people like this
Posted by Facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2020 at 7:55 am

Simply put, this is a clear case of a Conflict of Interests.
Fine favors development.
He is opposed by (in his own words) the "residentialists".

All the more reason for Fine to not engage in any action, in his role and authority as Mayor and without the full consent and approval of the entire Council, that benefits those he favors and disadvantages those he opposes.
This is not the only time he has crossed that boundary.

Time for the Council and residents to demand the City Attorney state her legal position on this recurring conflict of interests. This needs to be done NOW, well before November as it has a material bearing on Fine's attempt to run again for Council.

Time also for residents to team up and sue Fine/the City for abuse of office, conflict of interests, breach of duties owed the public as an elected representative, etc. Unless you enforce those boundaries you are granting those like Fine license to violate them at will.


21 people like this
Posted by Facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2020 at 8:00 am

The average Palo Alto voter does NOT have time to read multi-paragraph, dense tomes, however right or factual they are.
If she wants to win this November--and I'd like to see her win--Rebecca would do well to write shorter, crisper, more persuasive comments and opinions. More than 2-3 short paras and you have lost the voter.


84 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2020 at 8:53 am

Please vote Fine off in November. Whatever his positions, he is a terrible Council member - immature, divisive, and has both failed and abused his leadership position as Mayor. I thought he was better that Wolbach - I was wrong. Please send him packing.


38 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2020 at 9:12 am

Caltrain is running empty trains due to the Covid-19 crisis, and is asking for a tax hike to keep them going. That's ludicrous!!

Now is the perfect time to shut down all Caltrain trains, and finish the electrification project. Without active trains passing by, construction crews can work 24 x 7, to complete all track related work. When Covid-19 has passed, offices are allowing workers inside, and commuters are commuting, bring Caltrain back as an electrified service.

Martin


44 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 21, 2020 at 9:55 am

Can council pass a resolution to reprimand and fire Fine?


17 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:20 am

WOW - reading the papers on this topic there is no mention of the the governor and the state budget. Transportation is a top level state budget topic and every one is bypassing the state legislature. Meanwhile we have people who we did not elect in each little city making major decision concerning this topic.
From where I am sitting:
1. We do not need a electrical system - that is the big ticket item that is killing us. We just need newer engines which are electrical and do not run on diesel.
2. The majority of the San Mateo system tracks are on a slightly elevated track with tunnels for car transportation on the major streets. That works for them because the majority of the tracks are in a commercial district. We need under tunnels at our residential street crossings which exclude big trucks. They put one of those in a week in San Bruno.
3. We are taxing the wrong people - we need to assign a county tax for corporations who are the beneficiaries of the trains.

This whole narrative is closed off and only addressing the most limited options. Go to the Governor for the first step and get a commitment from him to put the money in the budget.


54 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:21 am

Time to lock up City letterhead.


47 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:21 am

Fine's conflicts are obvious and he's just trying to help out his MTA/ ABAG buddies who continue to push to add more than 1,000,000 more jobs and 3,000,000 more people here. Even the Mayor of San Jose admits that the plan will have the suburbs like us "screaming" since big cities like San Jose can absorb the new population while the rest of us might object to having our shopping centers and other resident-serving businesses replaced by more office parks.

From yesterday's SF Chronicle, Web Link
"this version takes a more activist approach. Besides asking cities and counties where they would like to see more growth occur, the prior approach, planners mapped out areas they see as well-suited to the development of transit-friendly, job-friendly housing.

“San Francisco’s raw growth hasn’t changed much in this round of projections,” Maloney said. But planners sought South Bay locations where housing might make sense, such as old strip malls and shopping centers.

That’s fine with the mayor of San Jose, which has 1 million residents and already is the region’s largest city.

“Planners are acknowledging facts that are already on the ground, where the housing market wants to go,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

He doesn’t expect all of his fellow elected officials to be so accepting, however: “Leaders of large cities accept the realities of growth. Most smaller cities and towns will scream.”

Of course we'll scream because we didn't elect the self-serving MTA and ABAG reps who are working tirelessly to destroy this area. Fine and his PAF/YIMBY ilk have got to go.


61 people like this
Posted by Dynamic Duo
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:22 am

Shikada and Fine seem incompetent in ways that together produce an outcome that's worse than the sum of its parts.


22 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:38 am

Poor judgment - (your words): per above, my proposed tax would exempt mid-sized businesses. The sitting council refused to put any business tax on the ballot, even those that exempt small *and* mid-sized businesses. This easily could have been done but they intentionally refused to do so.

As to the notion of giving former council members and current commissioners another chance to serve our community: these people have had ample opportunity to improve our city's quality of life, but consistently acted in the best interest of businesses and developers and to the detriment of our community. Unsuccessful experience is not an asset; it is disqualifying.

Facts - I would welcome your copy editing assistance. In the meantime, given personal attacks like those of 'poor judgment', I try to back my arguments with data, and hope that some will read.

We have much at stake in this election. Tomes are less fun than sound bites -- but Palo Alto's highly educated community deserves facts instead of propaganda.


12 people like this
Posted by member
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:44 am

For several years when I was working, I used Cal Train. The transportation cost was low, very low. I always thought riders must pick up more of the cost.


32 people like this
Posted by Facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:46 am

It boils down to a matter of BOUNDARIES.

Healthy people respect AND enforce boundaries. i.e., they respect the boundaries of others AND they also enforce their own boundaries (and those of others).

Unhealthy people neither respect nor enforce boundaries. i.e., they neither respect others' boundaries nor do they enforce their own boundaries (and those of others).

Re Fine: it is now clear he doesn't respect or acknowledge his own boundaries i.e., what his role as a Mayor allows him to do and not to do. Clearly he has transgressed those boundaries several times, thus conflating his authority as Mayor with his personal and private interests as a citizen. Without doubt it establishes he is neither healthy nor reasonable and thus at high risk of additional (and more serious) violations in the time ahead.

What is also clear is we, the taxpayers and electorate of Palo Alto, are unhealthy in that we are unable to enforce the boundaries that restrain and constrain Fine as a Mayor, boundaries that he and any elected representative are expected to comply with. Mere wringing of hands won't matter. They only inform the unhealthy we are unable to do something about their transgressing of boundaries ie they have a license to continue their transgressions.

You want to do something? Demand City Council and the City Attorney issue a Cease and Desist letter to Fine. Have an attorney write one to Fine cc Council and the Attorney. Publish the City's actions wrt Fine and use it in the months ahead leading to the November ballot. And so on.


9 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:56 am

San Francisco Board of Supervisors: "Who are these Fine and Dubois characters - and why are they trying to involve us in their squabble - can we get our city attorney to ask them not to send us any more letters?"


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:58 am

Posted by Martin, a resident of Downtown North

>> Now is the perfect time to shut down all Caltrain trains, and finish the electrification project.

I might favor that idea, if it would greatly speed up the completion date. It might cost too much to change the contract, though...

As for those who want to kill off Caltrain -- you're wrong, pure and simple. I've posted on that plenty of times previously; I'll skip posting all the numbers this time.

I don't favor using sales tax to support Caltrain-- but. But, we are stuck with sales tax, and, until we can replace sales tax with income tax, no reason why Caltrain shouldn't get its share along with VTA and BART. In the long run, we should get rid of sales tax.


13 people like this
Posted by Read before responding
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 21, 2020 at 11:06 am

@Poor Judgement - If you think through the idea of paying council members a living wage, it makes a lot of sense - your immediate jump to throw accusations at Eisenberg shows everyone here that you thinking before writing.

Palo Alto City Council members are paid around 1000$/month, with health insurance (they already receive health insurance! That wouldn't be an extra cost!). For someone who works a full time job or multiple part time jobs, a run for City Council is impossible thanks to this low wage and the expectation that council members keep their current jobs while "volunteering" to run our city. If we want people from more diverse economic backgrounds on our Council, paying council members a living wage makes complete sense. $150,000/year is the median wage in Palo Alto, so it's not a crazy suggestion at all.

Another part of paying a living wage to council members is that this would come with the requirement that once elected, council members would have to quit any other jobs they have. Their first employer would be the city, and the priorities of the residents would have to come first. If Adrian Fine has two deadlines, one from Ford (the people who pay him) and one from the city, he would likely prioritize the work from Ford. This is unacceptable.

It may seem counter-intuitive to pay a body that has regularly made bad decisions for Palo Alto more, but having this policy would allow us to replace the corrupt members of our Council with people who are dedicated to the City and who aren't from the top 1%. Eisenberg isn't proposing this policy to earn more money - her platform states she wants to make City Council more accessible to all.


Like this comment
Posted by Read before responding
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 21, 2020 at 11:12 am

^^**you are not thinking before writing.


40 people like this
Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2020 at 11:28 am

Oh dear, Fine did it again. When will he learn that using City Letterhead to express his personal views will garner backlash?

And that using City Letterhead to express City Staff views will garner even more backlash!

Annette of College Terrace is right! Hide the letterhead! But from whom? The City Manager, City Staff or Fine? ALL?

And when you say "City Council" please realize it is not a homogeneous group.

Fine, Kniss, Tanaka and Cormack usually vote as a pro-growth block. DuBois and Kou usually vote as a balance growth block. Filseth wanders between the 2 blocks. Best to call out the CC members whose decisions you find troubling, rather than the entire Council. Vote in November! Thank you.


27 people like this
Posted by Judith Wasserman
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 21, 2020 at 11:35 am

I wish we could stop talking about sales taxes! They are the most regressive tax possible, hitting those with the least money the hardest and barely bothering the rich. Find another solution, please.


19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2020 at 11:37 am

@Read - if elected officials must quit their jobs, then only professional politicians (or full-time volunteers) can be elected officials. The nature of a professional politician is that they must always be thinking of their next job, since most of the positions have term limits (like PACC). That means they are beholden to funding sources, party apparatus, and special interests which operate beyond our city boundaries and serve their own purposes.

I don't think that's necessary or appropriate for a small city like ours, or most small cities and towns. We benefit greatly from having citizen-council members from various walks of life; and indeed, I think we would suffer from having professional politicians in charge.


21 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2020 at 11:53 am

I would urge everyone to read the SF Chronicle article cited by Online Name above. Modest growth most places, massive growth envisioned in Santa Clara County. And some, like SJ Mayor Liccardo, is fine with it. It looks like an addition of 600K jobs in SCC, and, he's fine with it. And you thought traffic was bad now...


23 people like this
Posted by council
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 21, 2020 at 12:07 pm

We don't need any more stinking taxes. this is NOT a good time to be taxing anyone. There is plenty of money collected by the City every year--now, they need to learn to work within their budget. The council (Fine) does NOT have the best interests of the residents in mind with most of his decisions. Time for him to go. NO additional taxes. Protect this city, don't destroy it like some other west coast cities currently.


35 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 21, 2020 at 12:15 pm

I think the commenters have spoken well enough to make sure Adrian Fine is not re-elected to council for a second term. Elevating him to the rotating position as mayor was a mistake. He is arrogant when he thinks he can express his personal feelings/opinions and represent them as the CC's and residents' positions. And let's not forget that he was Liz Kniss' protege...groomed by her to serve on the side of pro growth. Finally, this will be an opportunity to thank them for their service and say 'goodbye' forever. I fell for it! I voted for him last time. Greg Tanaka stands out as the star of that class. I am solidly behind Tom, Eric, and Lydia, also. Take a good look at the candidates when they appear online in Zoomed campaign settings/speeches and Q&A sessions. Our future depends on it!


19 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2020 at 12:21 pm

As I said previously, if we are stuck with sales taxes, then, Caltrain should get its share. BART is far less cost-effective and has been getting its sales tax since forever. I would like to phase over from sales tax to income and wealth taxes, but, sales tax is what we have now. Best we can do is send it to where we want it.

OTOH, the last thing I want is for Adrian Fine to be able to characterize a "yes" vote as a vote for further over-development.

""The city's position is clear. (This is) just more residentialist-manufactured dispute," Fine said in a text message, referring to the group of council members who favor slow city-growth policies."

Yes to "slow-growth", yes to "residentialist", no to over-development, no to Adrian Fine.


41 people like this
Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2020 at 12:28 pm

I can't believe Fine is doing this again. He pulled the same trick previously by sending his own letter of support on housing while giving an impression that was an official support from the City of Palo Alto. This is abusing his position as Mayor. He has shown a pattern that he does not respect the office of City Council. His seat is up for re-election this November. Please use that as an opportunity to tell the City your view of appropriate conduct of a Mayor.


40 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on Jul 21, 2020 at 12:32 pm

@Gale Johnson I agree with all your sentiments but one - that Tanaka is a star. Unless you mean Tanaka has been so preoccupied with politics and his desire to frame himself as a 'tough on budget' obstructionist that he prevented Adrian and Liz from making progress on their goals. It amazes me that he can be so steadfast yet so uninformed on certain issues. I'd rather see Burt, Kou, and Lauing take over for Fine, Tanaka, and Kniss (fourth vote TBD).


35 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 21, 2020 at 1:01 pm

The mayor has gone rogue and owes the city an apology and a retraction. The irony is that the council would have likely endorsed the measure if given the chance to discuss and vote on it. Fine is not the dictator of Palo Alto and does not solely determine city endorsements.


27 people like this
Posted by Ok, Y
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2020 at 1:25 pm

>> "The city's position is clear. (This is) just more residentialist-manufactured dispute," Fine said in a text message


Right there, the YIMBY gestalt in a nutshell.


Cartoon villain to rally the cancel-culture righteous? check.

Attack the disputer, never the dispute? check.

Trustafundian-campus-radical disdain for the unenlightened? check.

Thin skin? check.

Latent maturity vanishes on social media? check.


"The City" is too important to be trusted to its residents, that's why we need SB-whatever.


37 people like this
Posted by Neighborhood Inactivist
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 21, 2020 at 2:16 pm

"L'etat c'est moi" - Louis XIV.
"The City's position is clear" - Adrian Fine without consulting any of his colleagues or having any input from the city.

Let's please vote Mr. Fine off the Council -- he is clearly in over his head.


17 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 21, 2020 at 2:27 pm

Planners again? Oh goody, they've done such an effective job so far, their plan for the future will surely be *interesting*. How much more can they pile on infrastructure-challenged cities? And are they paying any attention to the news and the impact of Covid-19 on the tech sector's telecommuting plans? How about we do something moderate and rational and not commit to any major building until we have a good sense of what will really be needed in post-Covid Silicon Valley? What's the real future of Transit Oriented Districts in post-Covid Silicon Valley. Please, let's not plan as though Covid didn't happen. That would be as ridiculous as not wearing a mask.

Also, why not put some resources into something that others have suggested in this forum: convert some commercial to housing. This could be a win-win in that it would increase housing inventory and improve the jobs:housing imbalance. I have no idea if such a conversion is feasible, but I think planners ought to be able figure out if it is.


34 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 21, 2020 at 2:53 pm

Neighborhood Inactivist, thank you!

""L'etat c'est moi" - Louis XIV.
"The City's position is clear" - Adrian Fine without consulting any of his colleagues or having any input from the city."

It's high time for the arrogant child mayor to go and to take his hallucinatory car-light fairy tales with him. Let Ford deal with him and save the rest of us from his nonsense.

Remember when he defended Elon Musk's "right" to rush reopening his Fremont factory? Well, 150+ Tesla workers are now infected with the virus. And speaking of the virus, what's he doing to recognize that DENSITY is not the best idea, that health officials are advising AGAINST public transit?

Adrian's too much in the bag for ABAG and the MTA, especially with OUR money and OUR quality of live.


36 people like this
Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 21, 2020 at 3:14 pm

Palo Alto's mayor has been corrected about the protocol concerning the city charter. Why did Fine buckle and take the bait from the city manager in sending out the staff-written letter without discussing this topic with the city council? Does Mayor Fine work for Ed Shikada? The city manager blames this fiasco on deadline pressure. That excuse does not cut it.
I have always found the vice-mayor, DuBois, to be the adult in the room. He is a thoughtful person. For various and unknown reasons the mayor is flustered because constituents prefer the mature and professional DuBois. The mayor has gotten caught again by overstepping his position. The constituents want a seasoned mayor who is not egotistical.


4 people like this
Posted by Sick-and-Tired-of-All-the-NIMBYs-and-"Residentialists"
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 21, 2020 at 3:24 pm

Thank you for all your comments! You have convinced me that mayor Adrian Fine should get my vote in November.


42 people like this
Posted by Carl
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 21, 2020 at 6:24 pm

I agree with all of the comment that Mayor Fine is a disaster. His conflicts of interest are all too clear. He never met a developer project he didn't like, especially if it is for commercial office space that will drive the demand for housing -- and increase traffic -- even further. He is the one that said that no one will be driving cars, and that they would all disappear. Guess not in my life time.

However, I think we are ignoring the role of the City Manager here. The City Manager has refused to hold even one meeting with neighborhood residents affected by the Summer Streets program even though he and the staff have conducted massive outreach to the business community. Who lives here and votes here???? The residents should decide what they want in the way of businesses and commercial office space. If you can't convince them or the positive aspects of what they are proposing, maybe you should try something else. The City Manager -- who was named to his post in a closed door meeting, with no resident input, with no outside search to be sure he was the best candidate -- is acting like a dictator and is out of control. I'm all for firing him as well as Mayor Fine.


22 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 21, 2020 at 7:22 pm

Carl, excellent points about the City Manager ignoring requests for resident input. Oddly when I tried to write to him and to the city council expressing concerns about the housing targets, his email went directly to the city council, not to him.

Time for the city government to become responsive to us. The city attorney's lame excuse that we can't argue with ABAG because they might sue us is just that -- totally lame!


38 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2020 at 8:50 pm

People should not expect any help from the city attorney. Molly Stump is a real-estate attorney.

Before coming to Palo Alto Molly Stump was chief council for SFO. SFO is just one giant rental property! Probably the largest rental property on the Peninsula.

The airline's section of the terminals are all built on long term ground leases. Car rental companies rent their space at the airport from SFO. The companies that service, fuel, and maintain aircraft all lease storage, office, and hanger space from SFO. Taxis, shuttle buses, and even ride-share companies all pay SFO for space at the entrances to the airport.

SFO rents the airline companies time on the runway and calls it a landing fee. SFO rents passengers time in the parking garage and calls it a parking fee. SFO rents passengers space in the airport and calls it a airport tax.

SFO even leases the tower to the FAA!

95% of Molly Stump's job at SFO was real-estate attorney for the city owned and operated, for-profit, rental property also known as SFO.

Wake up Palo Alto, you're not in Kansas anymore!


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Posted by Ray
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 22, 2020 at 9:37 am

There is nothing wrong to put this proposal to vote. Why Lydia Kou, Liz Kniss and Tom DuBois don't want residents a chance to vote for Caltrain tax? Please stop abusing your council process loophole to hurt people's right.


47 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 22, 2020 at 9:49 am

This has nothing to do with putting the proposal to a vote; it has to do with Mr. Fine lobbying San Francisco in the name of Palo Alto when he doesn't speak forthe city of Palo Alto, only for himself. And his big backers at the unelected MTA and ABAG.


15 people like this
Posted by Kevin Zahnle
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 25, 2020 at 10:35 am

Fascinating. This is an easy one. The mayor knew that some on the council would object. Hence he was wrong to state on city letterhead that his view represents the city's. It is understandable that the non-bureaucratic mind would feel frustrated by the inanity of it all, but the better choice is to keep people's trust - this is far too small a matter to get into a fight about.


30 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2020 at 1:48 pm

Clearly Adrian requires constant adult supervision.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 25, 2020 at 2:38 pm

I am reading a comment about paying the CC members and them quitting their day jobs.
WOW - If Ardian Fine works for Ford then he will be getting a superb 401k, retirement plan, and on-going health care that he will pay for after retirement. It makes no sense that people will give up suburb retirement benefits to sit around and argue with everyone else on the board. Do people who think this up have a good employer? Or are they living on the edge? No - all things are not equal. If Adrian was already retired then this would work.
So we need to be looking at older people who are retired, have great work experience, and are not living on the edge and subject to people throwing money at them for favors.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 4:02 pm

"If Ardian Fine works for Ford then he will be getting a superb 401k, retirement plan, and on-going health care that he will pay for after retirement. It makes no sense that people will give up suburb retirement benefits"


401k? Er, have you seen government employee pensions lately?


13 people like this
Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2020 at 12:53 am

"Given the urgent need to identify new funding, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors must support an urgency ordinance for a 1/8-cent sales tax on the November 2020 ballot."

It would have been nice if Mayor Fine, not to mention the rest of the City Council, had made it a priority to "identify new funding" due to the "urgency" of the budget crisis in May and June rather than to declare that the only option was to cut millions from City services and promise that everyone would be hurt by the cuts.


24 people like this
Posted by +1 Carl
a resident of another community
on Jul 28, 2020 at 10:50 pm

I agree with Carl. Not only should Mayor Fine be replaced on Council, but City Manager Ed Shikada should be replaced. He's pro-growth, divisive, has his own agenda, and doesn't care about residents' point of view. He's said so much that his role is to represent the businesses and the Council's role is to represent the residents. It doesn't have to be that way!

Whether we agree with them or not, the Council members are essentially "volunteering" to serve Palo Alto.

However, taxpayers are paying $356k per year (before benefits) for Ed Shikada to further his agenda. Time for a new City Council to appoint a new City Manager. Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2020 at 11:31 am

Posted by Ray, a resident of Professorville

>> There is nothing wrong to put this proposal to vote. [...] Please stop abusing your council process loophole to hurt people's right.

I welcome the opportunity to vote on it. I just don't think that Adrian Fine or anybody else should view a "yes" vote as an endorsement of "their" agenda to build more and taller office buildings in Palo Alto.

-No more office space-


32 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 29, 2020 at 2:02 pm

There are two separate issues involved here. The first is whether the city should support the tax and whether support should be based on the modified ballot language proposed by SF and SCC leaders that would set up a process for reforms of Caltrain’s governance. There’s been consensus support by the council for Caltrain in principle, they have not yet taken a position or even discussed those issues.
Both alternatives have valid arguments and the council will debate the matter this Monday.
The second issue is whether the mayor and city manager exceeded their authorities by sending an “official” letter to multiple government agencies inaccurately asserting that the city council and the city had taken an official position to not only support placing the tax on the ballot (without any contingent governance reforms) and claiming the city endorsed the voters “enacting” the measure. Neither of these assertions is true.
Despite backlash from members of the council and the public, the mayor and city manager have since doubled down, asserting that the city’s general legislative and advocacy guidelines, Web Link, authorized their action while claiming falsely that the letter only supported placing the measure on the ballot.
The city legislative guidelines provide general support for transit and funding for local projects, specifically for the city’s grade separations. They do not address or imply support for a regional Caltrain tax. The city has always, until now, recognized unambiguously that ONLY the council as a whole can takes a position on behalf of the city regarding a specific tax measure.
The mayor and city manager should have, and can still, accept responsibility for overstepping with what they thought was their good intentions and then accept the council’s decision on Monday.


26 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 29, 2020 at 4:07 pm

The mayor -- using the City of Palo Alto account -- posted his advocacy message on Next Door. I guess the criticism that he's overstepping his authority matters means nothing to him.

Shame on him and shame on the city manager.

See Diana Diamond's excellent recent blog about who's running this city
Web Link


29 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2020 at 6:04 pm

@Pat Burt,

Any discussions Council had, or decisions made, before the pandemic are no longer relevant and need to be re-thought in light of current events.

The pandemic has changed everything. People understand germ theory better than Caltrain management and are avoiding Caltrain like the plague. Even if we find a Covid-19 vaccine or develop herd immunity, Caltrain is ill-adapted and totally unprepared to deal with the next deadly pandemic.

Caltrain ridership is down 95-97%. Most of the people who used to ride Caltrain have already purchased automobiles and have become accustomed to the convenience, utility, and safety they offer. Many others have discovered tele-work and no longer need Caltrain to commute.

Weiner and Fine continue to push this obsolete transit technology because it supports their obsolete vision for real-estate development on the Peninsula.


Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 30, 2020 at 1:05 pm

Caltrain funding has been a known issue for many years and it is not going away. The hubbub in SF and PA is just classic petty politics.

Read the lead editorial in todays’s SF Chronicle “All adults aboard a Caltrain fix”.

I am not the only one who thinks that Palo Alto is playing in a sandbox.


4 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2020 at 10:40 pm

@Rebecca Eisenberg,
I appreciated your response and didn't think it was too long. When people don't have a good defense on substance they will complain about you or how you said something, especially if you are a woman, frankly. Don't let the turkeys get you down.

I agree with you that we should be paying City Councilmembers to work full-time for the residents, especially now that we have reduced the size of the council.

To those who who think it should be a volunteer position and that it's too much to ask people to take a sabbatical from full-time work to run the city -- at least to reduce their work to half time -- how many mothers with young children have been on the council in the last -- any -- years? More to the point, what has been the average income of councilmembers? How many have been traditionally from the north side of town versus the south?

A little though experiment: What if we gave new councilmembers a choice during the election, to take a salary and work for the City full-time, or to continue working full-time at their jobs (and possibly subject to conflicts of interest)? Which do you think would be favored in an election?

San Francisco supervisors make $140,000/yr + benefits. SF is bigger, but there are also a lot more supervisors and staff. Palo Alto city council should no longer be essentially a volunteer position. it's unjust to anyone who isn't rich and wants to serve. And like SF, we should re-set the salary every few years by citizens' commission (NOT city staff or manager). The council needs to remember who they work for.

Changing the salary of councilmembers may have to be a charter amendment. I believe Mtn Vw has done this/tried to do this but don't think it was to pay them nearly a comparable salary to a full-time position.


@Anon,
>>"Can council pass a resolution to reprimand and fire Fine?"
Maybe they can reprimand him, I don't know if they can remove him as mayor. He would still be on council. It's probably not worth any more effort than they've already made. The FPPC people, who are pretty toothless, said that Fine had "misled" the voters in his campaign when he hid the developer contributions (and misrepresented who he was/misrepresented his opponents). That's about as much as they do. The rest is up to the voters. Palo Alto voters should have recalled him them.

The problem is that our charter says you can't start a recall until people have been in office 6 months. That should be changed, if councilmembers are found to have misled voters in their campaigns in regards to contributions and conflicts of interest. Anyone who hasn't read the Palo Alto City charter before, it's not that long. You may be able to start an ethics investigation. It depends on how much you care whether he uses his being mayor here to further his career or even get higher office. If you care, then it doesn't matter how soon the election is. Otherwise, join the voices against him and don't send him back to office. He's immature, divisive, has never seemed to act in the best interest of Palo Altans, doesn't want to live by the rules. Didn't he change parties so he could be elected? Yech.

Please everyone, can someone please work up a ballot so we can get ranked choice voting? I think if we had it, we would have a much more representative council.



2 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2020 at 11:42 pm

"Caltrain ridership is down 95-97%. Most of the people who used to ride Caltrain have already purchased automobiles and have become accustomed to the convenience, utility, and safety they offer. Many others have discovered tele-work and no longer need Caltrain to commute."

How utterly ignorant. Those 95% - 97% of Caltrain commuters no longer have jobs to commute to. Purchased cars? They're hard-pressed to pay the rent and buy groceries.

What rubbish.


17 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 3:14 am

@Maurice,

The June 2020 unemployment rates for the congressional districts surrounding Caltrain are as follows:

12.0% (12th) Pelosi
12.3% (14th) Speier
9.3% (18th) Eshoo
12.6% (19th) Lofgren

That is a 5-7% increase in unemployment for the four congressional districts surrounding Caltrain compared to the 2019 unemployment rates for those districts.

So, do you really think the unemployment rate for Caltrain riders is 95-97%? Or, do you think 90% of the people who used to ride Caltrain have found a way to work remotely?

Caltrain riders understand germ theory better than Caltrain management and are avoiding Caltrian like the plague.


Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North

on Jul 31, 2020 at 9:14 am

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:25 am

Reading all of the articles in the papers concerning this issues it is County issue. It is not a city issue. Each County has an argument in this game with identified POC's. Except for Santa Clara County. Who at the county level is responsible for Working with the overall board on this issue? It appears that Santa Clara is remiss in contributing to the overall system both financially and managerially.

Bottom line is that we have to assume that the pandemic will be resolved by the end of the year and ridership will return to it's regular basis. People will not work from home forever. And you do not want them to. To have to work to a closure on this issue which is supporting the system until it can proceed at it's normal basis. However what is "normal" turns out not to be so since the authority for the system is not balanced and SF County is trying to use this debacle to their tax advantage.
This city really has no say is the matter regarding a yes or no. It is the counties job to assign who ever has been working all of the transit issues and get them to slug it out with the other two counties. Get Mr. Fine out of this mix - the world does not resolve around PA.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:31 am

While we are at it we have dedicated people who have been working on HSR, electrification, tunnel and bridges, and now BART replacement of Caltrain. You can tell from the comments that there is definite push to shut down one system in order to replace with another system.
There is no money for that - forget it. Bart is struggling to close it's east bay connections. We are not going to replace a working system with a pipe dream.
Put the tax on the ballot and get a county rep to go in and slug this out with the other counties. Santa Clara County has to step up. Joe Simitian - who is that person?


23 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:49 am

"Bottom line is that we have to assume that the pandemic will be resolved by the end of the year".

Probability of that is 0% Even if there's an FDA-approved vaccine by the end of the year, it would take many many months to ramp up production and get everyone in the state vaccinated. Google has already announced that their employees will be working from home through at least the middle of 2021.

An even after the Covid crisis is behind us, companies and workers will have permanently adjusted their practices for the coming age of pandemics and telepresence. Slack has announced that their employees will now telecommute *permanently*.

The age of hour-long commutes in plague canisters has passed.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted by Ahem, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> The pandemic has changed everything. People understand germ theory better than Caltrain management and are avoiding Caltrain like the plague. Even if we find a Covid-19 vaccine or develop herd immunity, Caltrain is ill-adapted and totally unprepared to deal with the next deadly pandemic.

Ahem, since your argument applies to each and every form of shared/public transportation, I guess you never fly anywhere either? Ever share an office space (shared air) with anyone? Ever ride an elevator? Ever go to a concert, a memorial service where people sing, or a crowded restaurant?

For those unfamiliar with rail technology, electric commuter rail with more modern ATC can carry up to 90,000-100,000 seat-passengers peak hour per rail/direction (more with standees). A car lane is roughly 2,000 cars peak. Once Caltrain finishes its upgrades, there will be a lot more headroom to increase capacity towards those upper limits. Here is a report for 2019 to give people a better idea of the distribution of passengers:Web Link

The bottom line is that commuter rail is a particularly efficient use of a right-of-way to move people.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 31, 2020 at 1:09 pm

The center of Santa Clara County is San Jose. That is one of the biggest cities in the state. If you go down there and check out the growth it is huge. And you have the San Jose Airport which is now showing an increase in passenger traffic. That is where the majority of the workers are located. And each company will make their position on working from home. PA is at the border with San Mateo which has their own position on the tax and their own investment in the tax. Making pronouncements based on what you see in PA is not going to fly. If any one is on the train then getting on and off is happening south of this city. You are not going to see it from here.
I sent a note to Joe Simitian to say who is on top of this issue. And what agency. They have a huge investment in the Main cross sections of transit types. We do not. We do not have all of the transit types that they have which includes Amtrak. PA is at the north end of the county so not in a position to call the shots.


19 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 3:19 pm

Anon,

You are still stuck in pre-pandemic group think. We need to start thinking about efficiency in a more holistic way that includes the effects super-spreaders, like Caltrain, have on our lives, our medical costs, our productivity, and our economy.

We are very fortunate in the Bay Area to have several COVID-safe options to passenger-rail. We have an extensive system of roads and highways where people can maintain a safe social-distance within their own vehicle and we have a workforce that was easily reconfigured for tele-work.

Once upon a time London's streets doubled as open sewers. At some point as London's mobility and density increased that became unsustainable and disease spread like wildfire forcing London to make a massive investment in sanitary systems or cease to exist.

We are at a similar crossroad. Mobility and density driven global pandemics are the new norm and transportation systems (planes and trains) that compress social-distance to achieve economies of scale are the open sewers of our shrinking planet.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 5:52 pm

Posted by Ahem, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> Mobility and density driven global pandemics are the new norm and transportation systems (planes and trains) that compress social-distance to achieve economies of scale are the open sewers of our shrinking planet.

So, are you saying that you don't travel via any means other than private cars? (And or walking/bicycling?) How about elevators? Some people use them (gasp) 10 times a day. A kind of vertical mobility in a dense city. Do you only visit 3-4 story buildings with usable stairs? How about crowded restaurants?

Although I, personally, was somewhat more careful than average about microbes, I expect to return to some higher level than now of interpersonal contact with strangers if/when this is over. How about you? Will you ever shake a stranger's hand after this? Sit down for a chat in crowded restaurant? I'm trying to understand what level of danger you think we should tolerate. I'm not convinced that public transportation is completely dead, as you apparently do.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 1, 2020 at 6:31 pm

AHEM needs to go and get checked for Covid. Stuck in pandemic mode. We are not going to shut down a safety life line now - which is what the train is. In the event of a earthquake the train is what is going to pull this place together. It is the basis for new development in the Gilroy area which is going to get new housing. We are not going to throw up our hands now and revert to the automobile being the only method of transit. It sounds like there is a segment which wants to shut down the economy of this area. Maybe older people have given up and are stuck in their homes.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 2, 2020 at 12:57 pm

The topic of this blog is the Caltrain Tax which is required to keep the trains moving. That is three counties which all have a different takes on control of matters.
If we can move on to the bottom line here if there is no tax then there is no trains - so they say - not sure on that.

We have not heard from Sand Hill Properties, Butler Construction, Peers, etc. They are heading up major construction in this county and other counties which in part propose location to Caltrain. New building in Gilroy will require trains. Opening up the AT&T center in SF will require trains - that is how people go there. Come on people - this is your bread and butter so you better start moving behind the scenes and make things happen. You have direct communication with the Governor so kick it up a notch. The Governor is tanking and needs forward moving profit centers and there are some that are trying to pull him down.


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Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 4, 2020 at 10:11 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Lots of attention today in the papers. There is someone missing here - the governor of the state. The state needs to take control of this major transit system and assign budget for it. Why isn't that happening?


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