Show us the 40 million up front and not behind closed doors

An old biblical proverb comes to mind when money or finances are discussed.  Some say, money is the root of all evil.  But in reality money can be the cause of all injurious things.  Money is what makes the world go round.  Money can in fact have a corrupting influence on our politicians and businesses alike we need only look to our past corporate scandal sheet.

Keep the bank vault doors of accountability open

The editorial in the, City banks on Stanford cash for major projects falls short in any discussions on open government and transparency.

If we are going to entrust our civic leadership as our personal bankers of this money, then in light of all previous scandals there needs to be full accountability and transparency with absolutely no closed bank vault doors on any discussions.

Let’s not forget the fact that the previous city attorney Gary Baum negotiated behind closed doors a settlement with ENRON to the tune of 21 million dollars only because he felt litigation would have been to costly.  There were few cities nationally which buckled under this premise.

The ENRON and City of Bell scandals should serve as a vivid reminder to all of what can go wrong with no oversight.  Any decisions as to how the money should be spent should be given full public disclosure and now is not the time for the citizens of Palo Alto too remain silent if we are to experience any re-occurrence of the 21 million dollar give-away by Gary Baum and those responsible council-members.

What concerns us is that councilman Greg Scharff and now mayor has always pushed for new public safety building and with this “windfall” it just may serve as a blank check to promote his personal agenda’s and ambitions.

Anything that involves the council’s policy and services committee and or its finance committee needs to be fully transparent and the citizens fully engaged in this process.  Nothing should take place behind closed doors.  21st century democracy demands this; there should be no mistaking, there’s simply too much money at stake to trust our current leadership with this responsibility.

The only way citizens can truly control and trust the essence of city managers James Keene’s notions of “methodically and cautiously” spending in any responsible way as noted in the, is to place a watchful eye over how the money is managed or leveraged into “transformative investments” that benefits the community and not the councils special interests. 

Show us the 40 million up front and not behind closed doors.

Article updated:

4 Replies to “Show us the 40 million up front and not behind closed doors”

  1. July 29, 2011

    Re: Why The Brown Act and the California Public Records Act are our two best friends to limit closed door dealings by our city council, and other public officials, re the distribution of $40 million dollars from Stanford University to the people of the city of Palo Alto

    Dear Editor:

    You have penned an excellent starter piece that will add substantially to the thought process and planning that should lead to a full community discussion re how to best spend the $40 million dollars Stanford will soon start to give to the city of Palo Alto on the installment plan.

    I propose that a very large chuck of this money (at least 20%) be immediately set aside to deal with any and all homelessness issues that now, and in the foreseeable future-will face this extremely affluent city. The example we set here in Palo Alto re the way we will distribute this money, will send a message to other cities around this country. Let’s not squander the opportunity to lead by example.

    In terms of city process I am in agreement with city manager James Keene–we must be extremely exacting and deliberate in the manner in which go about thinking about this issue.

    I for one will expect full compliance with the Brown Act–and that all discussions re how to equitably distribute this $40 million dollars be carried out with maximize input from all cross-sections of the community.

    In addition to the Brown Act, and to ensure full compliance with the lofty words of public transparency and openness in the decision making process– I will be making regular and frequent CPRA (California Public Records Act) requests to make certain that no decision re the distribution of this $40 million dollars is made behind closed doors.

    We all need to stand together to fight off the proposed Draconian ban on people living in their vehicles. The first logical step in combating this attempt to marginalize and demonize our homeless brothers and sisters is to come up with alternatives to homelessness—alternatives that don’t involve criminalizing activities, such as living in one’s vehicle as a necessary option to living in the streets.

    Instead we need to put aside sufficient monies to allow for the comprehensive planning and development of viable long terms options to homelessness. This $40 million dollars–or at least a fair share of this money—must be earmarked for this purpose and will go a long way to solving a problem that might otherwise permanently scar the psyche of this city.

    Aram James

  2. I feel blessed to have grownup with Mr Aram James. We both attended Gunn High School in Palo Alto. We were part of the 1st class to complete 3 yrs. at the school Living in Palo Alto was like living in heaven and hell at the same time. Heaven for it’s opulence. Hell for the society it creates for those who are not opulent. It is not surprising to see that after 50 years nothing has changed. Palo Alto is still lucky to have Aram and is still lacking a moral conscience.

  3. I can only agree with my friend and mentor, Aram James.

    I mostly agree with him on the 20% “chuck” of change he’s recommending.

    But even beyond that–and MOST importantly–I agree with him about the importance of transparency. It is time to resist back-door deals, sweetheart arrangements, and secret promises.

    Please don’t let this be one more occasion when developers agree to minimum accommodations for the less wealthily endowed–only to negotiate a deal to put in a restaurant or plaza — (why not a bathroom???)–“that everyone can use” instead of the low cost apartments they had agreed to build.

    As Aram James wisely says, we need transparency. The time has come to stop the music and get off the blame/punish merry go round.

    I say to those on the City Council and in the community who agree with “the ordinance”–use enough of the $40 mil to do something effective.

    Stop trying to legislate the homeless into non-existence. Problems don’t go away because you are mean enough. They just get worse.

    If you doubt that, I ask you to look at Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. Did all the blood, armaments, and drummed up hatred do any good? Or did the hatred cause more destruction and insecurity than there was before?

    The reason our humanitarian and religious leaders have charity in their teachings is not to move product or fill up dead air–those teachings are there because that is what people do when their friends and neighbors are out of a place to live. They help those fellow citizens. That’s what people did after Sandy. What they are doing right now in Moore, Oklahoma.

    That is what people do for their families, neighbors, and strangers in their midst when there is need.

    People–civilized people, people with the benefit of philosophy, religion, humanity, and love–help their poorer fellow citizens. They don’t pass laws to make those already suffering’s lives harder so that they will go away.

    “Magnet” my ass. If Palo Alto became more of a magnet than it is, that means we’re doing something right–(THINK Down Town Streets Team) — it’s not something to be feared.

  4. I can attest to the fact that Aram James seems to have insight and wisdom in the area
    of government accountability as he has expressed. Why does the city need to help the homeless?
    The first reason is that we are ALL Gods children.
    The second reason is to prove our humanity toward one another.
    When a gift of this proportion is given to a city, the responsibility of how it is used is
    a serious thing. Transparency is for the public good, and I strongly recommend it.
    Please do not squander this 20% away by throwing good money after bad, as has been done
    by the city council numerous times when they support the non-profits that do not have to give ANY
    accounting for their selfish use of funds, nor show ANY actual results from public funds
    they are gifted with by a naive group of council members, who haven’t a clue whats going on
    with these non-profits.
    This 20% needs to be spent on common sense housing, without some non profit involved
    which just corrupts the process, so the needy end up getting peanuts while the “administrators”
    rake in big time. Its about time for a real change in accountability in city government.

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