The Palo Alto political machinery is gearing up to “Sell” the community on the idea of a bond measure to fund the infrastructure deficit.
I certainly understand the need to fix our roads and sidewalks, to underground the utility lines, and to replace the Public Safety Building before a potential disaster comes our way.
The big deception headed our way is that if you don’t support a big bond measure, you are not supporting public safety.
We do have more than a $400 million infrastructure deficit, and that happened one year at a time by spending all our revenue on operations by letting repairs fall behind or not setting aside an appropriate reserve for known future needs.
That is like a family that uses their “available” cash to take an extra Hawaii vacation each year. Then, when faced with not having enough money to keep their roof from falling in, they raid their children’s piggy banks and college education funds.
Before we go to the voters and ask for a bailout, we need to show a little financial discipline to at least provide a standard and prudent “down payment” by reducing our operating expenses to fund future infrastructure needs by more than the token $2 million that was offered in the current budget.
The formula is clear – prioritize spending on services and then reduce from the bottom. It will be uncomfortable, but not nearly as painful if we don’t do something different than the past. To borrow a commonly known question, “If you keep doing the Same Old Stuff, what makes you think you are going to have a different result?”
We can do better, and it starts with finding at least another $5 million in operating expense to reduce, and use it as a “down payment” on our future. We don’t have to look too far to see what happens when we adopt a “zero down, figure out how to pay for it later” approach.
A shared community vision on spending priorities is the only cure. We cannot accept anything less. By borrowing from our future, we will surely strangle the creativity that has made this place great, because we will be in a position of paying for our historical excesses, vs. building a brighter future. Financial discipline does not strangle, but rather preserves the opportunity to create. We can do better.