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Letter: City employees should volunteer pay cuts

Original post made by Resident, Adobe-Meadow, on Mar 17, 2009

Here's a letter that was posted in the Almanac that I wanted to repost here. I believe it has direct relevance to Palo Alto in light of the recent city's planned utility rate increases, and the new proposed green tax.

Letter: City employees should volunteer pay cuts

The expression "Biting the hand that feeds you" comes to mind in today's world when our governments are looking to the taxpayers to keep afloat.

Why should taxpayers allow more taxes when our city, state and federal elected officials are not doing one thing to curtail the public employee system give-away program.

It is time for taxpayers to speak out against taxation on residents and businesses. No more taxes until the outrageous salaries and retirement and health care benefits of public employees are dealt with fairly and comprehensively. Officials who have taken support and money from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and other public employee labor unions to get elected need to regroup and get back to the notion that they represent the people — the taxpayers — not these unions. To consolidate, cut the fat, and get in step with the private sector should be their goals.

The SEIU and associated public employee unions ought to stop biting the hands that feed them and start voluntarily making concessions. The out-of-balance employee expense line items in our government budgets are coming home to roost and if these union leaders continue to ask for more and refuse to cut back, their members will end up with nothing. Cities will file bankruptcy and there will be no jobs along with unfunded retirement and health care benefits.

Elected officials and union leadership need to give the taxpayers a reasonable and sustainable plan before we are willing to throw more money into the pot.

Mary Gilles

Hermosa Way, Menlo Park

Comments (8)

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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Ms. Giles is exactly right. The power of municipal unions in California has gotten completely out of control. We are in an unfortunate situation where the people who benefit from higher taxes have much more political power than the people who pay the taxes.

The deleterious effects of this are readily apparent: We are paying more and more in taxes, and getting less and less from the government while union members retire in their 50's with inflation protected pensions and lifetime health care.

It's no wonder that California suffered a net loss of 144,000 native born citizens last year through migration to other states. (These people having been bled dry by the high taxes are replaced mostly by immigrants - who require more taxpayer assistance and more government employees to deliver that assistance.)

It's extremely unlikely that this will change absent some totally unexpected political awakening. And Ms Giles' paean notwithstanding, it's unrealistic to expect unions to voluntarily give back some of their unsustainable and unreasonable benefits - even though they are destroying the state.

Steel and Auto unions destroyed their respective industries in much the same way. Expect the same from the SEIU, and a lot of whining when the goose dies and no more golden eggs are forthcoming.

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2009 at 8:19 pm

A 15 to 20% pay cut is appropriate for all Palo Alto civil servants in these difficult times, if they do not like it they can throw their hat in the private sector--good look with that.
Get more of the PAPD out on the street rather than in their cars and make them accountable for results, reward them for performance, ie solving and deterring crime, through IT the metrics are objective and transparent.

There is also a great deal of fat in the administration of PAUSD , we should preserve good teachers but a 25% cut of jobs among administration will do no harm and a great deal of good.Here head count rather than salary needs to be cut.
Impose a freeze on new hiring in that sector for at least 5 years.
Administration should all be suspended and invited to apply for the reduced positions, however, they will have to prove how they add value to our kids education. Mac Kinsey and other local consulting companies like PwC and Accenture will provide this service pro bono or for a reduced fee I have no doubt what soever.

We will not be out of this economic funk for at least 5-7 years, if we are lucky.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Most of the Palo Alto employees including department heads do not live in Palo Alto. They have no stake in the city and take their paychecks to some other city where no doubt they can use plastic bags!! Their paychecks pad the coffers of other cities. some of the top managers live in San Jose, Santa Cruz,, the East Bay, North County, and Contra Costs County. This is not THEIR city, and they are bleeding us dry. The employes union and the police and fire union run this town. A candidate can't get elected without those foot soldiers. This tax on business will ruin the city. A carbon tax too- in addition to the one Obama wants to impose. Out of control utility costs on which we are taxed even on cell phones. IF city employees don't want to take a cut - most everyone else has - let them go someplace else and try to get a job, Good riddance.

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:40 pm


If you get rid of the City employees, who will replace the necessary ones, Palo Altans?

In terms of compensation and benefits, what would you require before you would work for the City?

There is a reason almost no Palo Altans work for the City. That reason is the Palo Altans

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Posted by CityWorker
a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 12:51 pm

It is an assumption that City workers aren't already making sacrifices during the budget crisis. Positions are not filled, but the City continues to run because staff take on more responsibilities, more work.

The union workers in the past have voted to keep their salaries flat during downturns, and may do this again. That means City employees sacrifice by taking in less pay as inflation rises and income does not.

Many do live in other communities as the wages paid here do not cover the cost of living in this City. But that doesn't stop them from giving the best service they can.

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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2009 at 1:20 pm

"Positions are not filled, but the City continues to run because staff take on more responsibilities, more work."

There has not been an increase in overtime hours at the city, so what is happening is that city workers are doing more with the hours we pay them for than they were before. This of course begs the question of what they were doing with their time at work BEFORE they started doing more.

Does it not seem rational that city workers - like those in the private sector - should be giving the maximum effort for their pay every day? If they have time to take on the duties of former co-workers who have departed for their taxpayer funded retirements on the Golf Course, then obviously they weren't doing all they could for the city with their time on the job before this.

This "worker" has (apparently unwittingly)revealed how coddled our city workers are, and has given voice to the complaints of many of us that the city is far overstaffed. (We have twice the employees per resident as Mountain View, for example.)

We need a manager and a council that will toughen up and police our bloated government workforce. A cut of 25-50% likely could be had with little reduction is services if the remaining employees were managed so as to force them to work to their full capacities. It is ridiculous that employees leave and they're contributing so little that others can so easily take up the slack as the poster implies.

We can't afford this nonsense any longer.

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Posted by Retiree
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2009 at 3:21 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by manager
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 1, 2009 at 3:57 pm

No one gives maximum effort all the time.

You can give maximum effort for a short time, then productivity suffers.

For that reason, the most productive management creates an environment that sustains an effort below maximum; 80% is generally recognized as a good target.

The ability of remaining employees to temporarily cover for missing ones does not indicate any fault of the missing or remaining employees, nor does it indicate that the organization is bloated.

But I do think it is bloated, based on productivity comparisons with other cities.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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