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Let's vote on a new police building now

Original post made by Diana Diamond, Palo Alto Online blogger, on Jun 29, 2006

In their eagerness to build a new police station in town, Palo Alto City Council members may have forgotten about all of us.

On Monday night, the council unanimously approved going forward with the proposal to build a 49,600-square-foot police station on Park Boulevard at an estimated cost of $38 to $45 million.

Not only did the council agree to the proposed Park Boulevard site near the corner where Agilent Technologies currently has its corporate headquarters, but it also gave city staff the go-ahead to start negotiating to buy the two parcels of land needed for the site. In fact, a couple of council members suggested the city should use its eminent domain powers, if necessary, to acquire the land.

The council members are acting like this idea for a new huge police station is a get-go from the start. They heaped praise upon their Blue Ribbon committee’s report that recommended a new police building, and Monday night voted for it nine-to-zip, with nary a negative thought. But surely they could not have forgotten that they will need a bond measure that we residents will have to approve.

So wouldn’t it seem more logical that before the council goes and buys the land, draws up plans for the new station, et cetera, et cetera, that it first makes sure that residents are willing to pay for it?

Council members know that getting resident approval will be a hard sell. So that’s why the council is talking about a June 2008 (two years from now) vote from residents. They think that much time will be needed to convince all of us that a new big police station is a good thing.

Perhaps. But it seems to me there are two ways to approach this issue: 1) Get conceptual approval now from voters, or 2) Put together an entire package, with a full set of plans and complete with the purchased land, and then ask for voter approval.

Timing is critical here, because paying for a new police station may meet with voter resistance depending on what other expenditures we are being asked to approve. There are many competing interests. We just okayed a new bond measure for Foothill-DeAnza College, which will add an average of $125/year to our property bills. The Palo Alto School District is talking about another parcel tax because it needs more money, and there’s still a push to improve our libraries, which, again, could be an additional property tax levy. At some point residents will say, “Stop. I cannot afford any more in property taxes.”

I don’t think the city should wait two years for a vote on the police station. I think the time is now. Forget about buying land until we taxpayers say it’s a good idea. The city council has to make the case right now that the space is needed and this is the cheapest way to achieve it. We don’t need to get into a community argument whether the proposed building has too big a meeting room or too much space for a police gym. We need to have people agree or disagree that a) a new police building is needed, b) that this has higher priority over other community needs ( schools, libraries) and c) the residents are willing to support a $40 to $50 million bond measure, which, by the way, with interest, will come to nearly $100 million.

Comments (4)

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Posted by no more Bonds or taxes, please
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2006 at 4:41 pm

Diane, your right again. I seem to recall a recent story in one of the local papers that estimated what it would cost each home owner if all projects that require bonds/taxes were passed. The total was ridiculously insane! The City needs to get its budget under control, I know they've made cuts and have not back filled positions but all the bonds/taxes are getting way out of hand for many homeowners in this City and County. Maybe I should apply for the Utilities Director or subsidized housing and an income (salary) that wouldn't be much effected by all the bonds and taxes! I'm not against a new police building but the timing may not be right.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2006 at 3:04 pm

I wondered about the same issues when I read about Council's approval of the police building concept. Why are they moving forward in such haste, eager to spend money they don't have? What happens if voters turn down the planned bond issues next year or the year after?

I wish you would run for city council, Diana. We need your analytical mind and rational thought process.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 3, 2006 at 7:49 am

I don't want to see any new taxes. I wish they would spend the money instead on hiring more police to slow down the crime wave in Palo Alto. A fancy new building won't help much with that. I think it's easier to try and get money to pay for buildings (create a new tax) than find the operating funds for personnel.

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Posted by Louise Lyman
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 12, 2006 at 6:18 pm

Diana, You are correct!! The issue of a new police department building should be put before the voters to decide before the city council makes plans to buy the land for the building. That is putting the cart before the horse. The seller of the property will not be inclined to give a reasonable price when they find out that the city council has already made the decision to build on property they do not own.

Another idea which could solve the space problem of the police department would be to have a satellite station in another part of town . This would even make it easier for the staff to be closer to those areas of the city. Other police functions could be handled the same way. Who said all the staff have to be in one place? In private industry that would have been thought of long before now.

I feel like I am in the middle of a Monopoly game with funny money . Schools, police department, new libraries, sewer infrastructure, sidewalks and streets all need money from Palo Alto residents, not to mention old Enron contracts!! Does anyone else feel as I do that we have to stop and make an assessment of how much is in our piggyback.

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