Admittedly, it is much easier for me as just one person to decide what the council’s priorities should be this year – rather than have nine members collectively deciding. I don’t argue with myself.
So my three New Year’s resolutions for the Palo Alto City Council for 2007 would be:
• Speed up decision making – try to decide issues within a six-month framework.
Case in point: the council agreed last year to go ahead with a $1 million feasibility study for the new police station, even though it also implied that it probably would not ask voters to approve of money for a police station until June 2008. Presumably this will give the council time to explain to the community why we need a new police station.
I don’t think most Palo Alto residents need a year-and-a-half to decide. While some may argue we have to know exactly what we are voting for, I could also suggest we could vote on whether we want to spend $40 to $45 million for a new police station. If we do, fine. If we do not, then let the council come up with a more modest proposal.
Ditto for a new and/or renovated library. Cost estimates are in now, and depending upon the size it looks like we are talking anywhere from $38 to $52 million. That decision is also scheduled to go before voters in June 2008 – 17 months from now.
Both issues have been before residents for years – decades in the case of the police station. In 2002 residents voted down a $49.5 million proposal to expand Mitchell Park library so presumably the council would come to us with a lower dollar amount the second time around. That can be decided at one meeting – and we don’t have to wait until 2008 to decide whether we want a new/renovated library.
Second resolution – please concentrate on getting the infrastructure repaired, especially the roads. Council members frequently spend their time on lofty and admirable concepts such as Zero Waste and a Green Energy plans (green building, energy conservation and transportation) for Palo Alto – none of which had been fully costed out. So it’s easy for council to agree on concepts – getting roads repaired seems harder to do. The city’s Public Works department has plans for “x” amount of road repair per year for the next 20 to 30 years. But as City Auditor Sharon Erickson points out, we are already $28 million behind in road repairs that haven’t been done the last 10 years or so. Someone at city hall – presumably the council – needs to insist that this is a priority.
Third resolution – ensure we are really doing something to encourage more retail in the downtown, and to see that Edgewood and Alma shopping plazas get started. The council has had retail committees for the past couple of years, and it has had a “Shop Palo Alto” motto, as well as declaring this city a tourist mecca. But declaring isn’t doing. And if we don’t ensure there is a lot of retail downtown, tourists won’t necessarily want to come to our downtown. I see a lot of empty storefronts that I am not seeing in neighboring communities.
Three resolutions should be enough. Knowing how hard it is to live up to New Year’s resolutions, I would be happy if one of these were accomplished.