Palo Alto City employees so valuable that they deserve 4.5 % rises?

Are 211 Palo Alto City employees so valuable that they deserve 4.5 % rises.  No.

The City Council is spineless and afraid to upset the Public Employee Unions and thus risk losing votes and union money for re-election.

So the pay and benefits  always go up. Also the method of deciding if  ‘raises’ are necessary is wrong.  Currently the City compares its pay scale to that of neighboring cities.  Who cares what other cities are paying?

Public Serpents or Public Servants?

If our employees want to leave for work in Mt View or Menlo Park or anywhere, let them try.  Those jobs are already filled.   And if Palo Alto employees do quit.  Good.  Maybe they’ll try to find work in private business and then discover how  little they are really worth.

The Internet job boards are full of qualified, engineers, accountants, finance, and management people who would replace City fat cats for half the pay and no benefits.  Private sector workers are paid less money and few benefits but  are actually accustomed to producing profitable results on time and on budget.

Our current highly paid Public Serpents routinely harass individual property owners with arcane building requirements and failed to rebuild our own libraries and their own City Hall Palace on time or on budget.  City Hall employees need to be fired not rewarded.

Flintco claims Palo Alto won’t shovel over entitled library documents

The contractor fired from the long-delayed $28 million Mitchell Park library project is suing the city, claiming it violated the open records law by not handing over public documents it sought regarding the project.

Finger pointingThe city fired Flintco in January after months of accusations and finger-pointing over the troubled project, which was supposed to have been finished by April 2011. The city now has another contractor and says the Middlefield Road library will open in November.

Flintco said that the years-long delay was caused by hundreds of changes the city made, though it’s architect, “to address the inconsistencies, inaccuracies and gaps in the projects plans and specifications,” according to the lawsuit filed July 17 in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

In February, a month after being fired, Flintco handed the city and open records request that “in essence asked for all of the city’s documents regarding the project.”

It appears Flintco was requesting the documents in anticipation of litigation over the trouble project. On March 25th, city officials met with Flintco executives and made some of the documents available in hard copy form and on a flash drive.

“During the course of inspection, however, Flintco realized that the city was producing large quantities of documents that Flintco had not even requested and that the flash drive, in large part, duplicated the documents made available in hard copy for inspection,” the lawsuit states.

Most of the documents Flintco sought were withheld by the city, saying they were exempt from disclosure under the open records law. In refusing to turn over those documents, “the city’s response was a laundry list of boilerplate privileges and exemptions the city apparently relied upon to withhold responsive documents,” the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit states that the city withheld some of the documents saying they were protected by attorney-client privilege or that they were “protected attorney work project.”  But Flintco said such a claim was implausible because the documents were communications between the city and third parties, not attorneys.

The city withheld documents claiming they were “draft reports” or documents that show the city’s “deliberative process,” which are two more reasons a city can give for not producing documents.

City hires out side counsel

When Flintco turned up the heat on the city for not producing the documents the city retained a private attorney, David W. Ginn, who intended to hire a consultant to find the documents Flintco was seeking.

But the lawsuit said Ginn told Flintco that the city was “having difficulty in gathering all the documents responsive to the request”. The suit said Ginn has declined to state when the request would be fulfilled.

City Attorney Molly Stump told the Post yesterday that the city gave Flintco thousands of pages of documents and was getting ready to turn over thousands more when it received the lawsuit. Flintco’s request for documents was so broad and general that it inhibited the city from responding, according to Stump.

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Whose responsible for the Mitchell Park library Fiasco?

Mitchell Park Library Well according to Flintco’s website report card, their position is clearly stated:

“When it comes to improving our service, we’re not satisfied just resting on our laurels. We want honest feedback from our clients and architects with whom we work on projects. We provide clients with the opportunity to provide feedback about our team’s performance through a monthly survey that is delivered directly to the office’s executives.

We’re proud to say that our monthly client satisfaction surveys consistently result in scores of 90% or above in such areas as quality, responsiveness, constructive solution capabilities, attitude, and communication.”

So who’s to blame?

On the other hand, the city of Palo Alto has delivered its own report card on Flintco’s performance. That report card resulted in the termination of their construction contract leaving the library’s completion date in limbo. Although rumors have its opening date set for sometime in December 2014.

So who’s to blame? The citizens of Palo Alto deserve answers but perhaps we will never know. Both sides are lawyering up for what seems to become a protracted legal battle with transparency being far removed from the process. Palo Alto legal discussions are always held behind closed doors far from public view.

Although it’s clear from Palo Alto city manager James Keene’s termination letter to Flintco, he’s outlined a construction punch list failures.

In all fairness, what’s missing is Flintco’s solutions to any of the cities constructive communications and nothing has been published at the cities website in this regard that we can see. And as we all know too well, there’s two sides of the story. It’s like missing chapters from a horror story leaving us to fill in the blanks.

What we do know is that this behemoth of a library project comes with an enormous price tag far from its original contract estimate of $24.3 million. Who knows neither what the bottom line or final price tag will be nor when it’s scheduled to open.

Finger pointing

From all of the lopsided documentation we’ve reviewed, all finger pointing is directed at Flintco. Is that fair? A closer look at the actual city contract, it becomes evident too at least to us, that Turner Construction was in fact responsible for the day-to-day oversight operations of Flintco as the principle contractor. In other words, Turner Construction was to make sure that as the Mitchell Park library Flintco project advanced, Turner Construction would coordination and assure Flintco would remain on schedule and meet all required construction deadlines.

Turner Construction responsibility we gathered are clear. Furthermore, the city recognized this and understandably so. According to the contract it states;

“The project administration workload for the Measure N bond projects is beyond what Public Works staff can administer without assistance. Amendment No.2 to the contract with Turner Construction (Attachment C) will provide for staff from Turner Construction to supplement Public Works staff during the construction of the MPLCC.

In addition to providing daily oversight of the respective contractors, sub consultants to Turner Construction will provide testing and inspection services for the project. Also included in Amendment No.2 are project administration services for the preliminary design of a temporary Main Library during the construction document phase of the Main Library.”

Millions of dollars to Turner Construction

According to the original contact, that’s what the taxpayers were to ultimately pay Turner Construction for overseeing Flintco Construction, millions!  All of that has changed now.  And, as of today, there still responsible for among other things, meeting construction deadlines, quality of workmanship, and assuring the proper certification of all sub-contractors.

In fact, the city has negotiated a new contract for more and more money to be shoveled out to Turner Construction in providing for additional construction oversight in light of Flintco’s contract termination.

Now that the city of Palo Alto is holding Flintco Construction Liable for everything, so it would appear, what burden does Turner Construction bare? Turner Construction is not talking and neither is Mike Sartor Director of Public Works. He’s ignored our email request for comment. What a fiasco!

Homeless Legal Shell Game Maybe Over

Homeless Shell GameBy all accounts most everyone prefers to have the homeless simply disappear. A closer look at laws and ordinances enacted to curb homelessness on the streets of America is staggering.

From all outward appearances, seemingly benign laws such as, loitering, sleeping on the streets or in your vehicles, sit and lie ordinances are designed in reality, to force homeless individuals to go elsewhere.

Many experts in the field refer to such actions as “Selective Enforcement” a human shell game of legal maneuvering with the intent of clearing out the homeless population specifically those living in their vehicles as with the ordinance facing vehicle dwellers in Palo Alto.

Although city leadership would have us all think otherwise, there is no denying the fact that in Palo Alto city leaders are set to ban vehicles dwellers off the streets.

So what are they waiting for? Their waiting for the California 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to render its decision on the constitutionality in a similar case as outlined in a memo by city manager James Keene to Palo Alto city council members.

The vast majority of past legal cases centers on vagueness of laws enacted and or the “lack of notice of proscribed conduct.” see: City of Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999).

We believe this is not just an ordinary 9th Circuit Court of Appeals waiting shell game, but valuable time being given the city of Palo Alto and its immense legal staff the opportunity of fine tuning or making sure that all vagueness is removed from the ordinance before enforcement begins.

Cheyenne Desertrain vs. City of Los Angeles

Update: The human legal vehicle dweller shell game maybe over.

The city of Palo Alto has been anxiously awaiting the decision coming down from the 9th circuit court of appeals in rendering or putting its final touches on banning vehicle dwellers off its streets.

The delays stem from an earlier challenge in the case of Cheyenne Desertrain vs. City of Los Angeles which questioned the constitutionality on a similar ban on vehicle serving as mobile shelters for the unconventionally housed.

This along awaited prolonged court battle for the time being is over. In its decision, the court stated and clearly pointed to the “Vagueness Doctrine”.

The vagueness doctrine is designed specifically to prevent this type of selective enforcement, in which a “‘net [can] be cast at large, to enable men to be caught who are vaguely undesirable in the eyes of the police and prosecution, although not chargeable in any particular offense.’” …

OPINION UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

It’s unclear how the impact of this decision will effect the city of Palo Alto in rethinking or pursuing further its ban on vehicle dwellers. But, for the moment, the human legal vehicle dweller shell game maybe over….

Palo Alto city employees to reap a boat load of money on taxpayers sponsored cruiseliner

Financial life preserverPalo Alto would spend $10 million more on salaries and benefits in the coming fiscal year then it did the year before if a new budget proposed last night is approved by city council.

Among other things, the 500-page budget proposes a 7% increase in employees compensation for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The budget proposes spending $150.3 million on those expenses from July to June 2015. In the current fiscal year, which ends in June, the city will spend $140 on those same employees. In the previous year, the city spent $134.5 million.

Other than a few brief questions, council members didn’t have much to say about the budget, in large part because they received the massive binders during their meeting and had only a few minutes to prepare questions. But the the council will review the budget and vote to approve it in the coming weeks.

Contact negotiations

Last month, City Council approved raises for the city’s 582 SEIU employees ranging between 4.5% and 14.3%.

The next largest employee group, with 213 members, is the cities managers and professionals. The city also employs 99 firefighters, 83 police officers, 46 utility department managers, seven police department managers and five fire department managers.

The police and fire unions are in the midst of negotiating new contracts. Police managers would make the most on average of all city employees, with $179,136 in salaries next year, not including benefits.

Utility department management professionals would make the second most, on average, netting $133,139 without benefits. The SEIU employees would make the least netting $70,659 without benefits, according to the proposed budget.

Thousands in overtime

For overtime work, police and firefighters would make the most. On average, each firefighter will take home $14,388 annually in OT while police officers would get an average of $13,815 annually.

The city budget shows taxpayers are going to spend a lot of money contributing to the pensions of city workers. Police and fire pension contributions are the highest on a per-employee basis.

The city’s pension contribution for police managers will be $59,903 on average, according to the proposed budget. Police officers pensions are the next most expensive, costing $42,688 each, followed by firefighters pensions at an annual average cost of $42,289, and fire chiefs pensions at $41,828.

Firefighters and police officers would also cost the most in worker’s compensation, between $12,146 and $12,887 each on average. The same is true of medical benefits.

Medical benefits for police managers would cost the city $19,992 each next year while medical benefits for firefighters and police officers trail close behind at second $18,500 for each employee.

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City of Palo Alto begins cigarette butt cleanup

The city of Palo Alto will soon require all businesses to report how many employees they have and provide other data, but the information could also be used for other purposes, such as the possible ban on selling cigarettes, according to Kim Torke, acting environmental services division director.

City council members and city employees such as economic development manager Tom Fehrenbach have said information collected by the registry would be mostly used to help the city gather information to solve parking and traffic problems downtown.

The information could also be used for disaster preparedness, business marketing, compliance with rules about water conservation, economic development and land use decisions, a report to city council from city manager James Keane said.

At its meeting Tuesday, the council members, with Greg Scharff and Liz kniss absent, voted to move ahead with creating the registry. All businesses would be required to pay a fee from $35 to $75 annually to support information collecting program.

But at the end of a report presented to counsel with a list of potential questions that businesses would be asked, such as: “does the business store hazardous materials or generate hazardous waste?”. “Does the business perform automobile repairs? “and “(does the business) sell tobacco products?”

Councilman Larry Klein told the Post earlier this week that he wouldn’t support the questionnaire asking those questions, because he and other council members wanted to limit it to a short, four or five question form.

Smoking ban

Torke told the Post that his office had asked that the question about cigarettes be added because the council had asked him to look at expanding the city’s current smoking ban in the downtown and California Avenue area.

The city already bans smoking within 25 feet of entrances to public buildings. Eventually, he said, it could help them ban the sale of cigarettes at places such as pharmacies and grocery stores.

Torke said it helps to have the information for people who would be affected by the ban so that the city can go talk to them about it in advance.

image

The city could already get the same information by going to the Board of Equalization, which licenses businesses to sell tobacco. But Torke, said it would just be more convenient to have it all on one form.

The sample questions also included inquiry about whether businesses use plastic pellets, which are used to make plastic products a rarity in Palo Alto.

Torke said that state water inspectors have asked for such information before when they check on the city’s operation, because the pellets can get into storm drains and eventually the ocean.

He said that state inspectors ask other cities to get information on their business registries. When the Post looked at the business license applications of the Menlo Park, Mountain View and Redwood City, none had questions about plastic pellets or cigarettes.

The Daily Post Today
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This is a test of the Palo Alto emergency breakfast system!

Palo Alto fire department pancakes.jpgThe Palo Alto Fire Department raised eyebrows when it used a countywide emergency alerts system to send residents information about a charity pancake breakfast.

AlertSCC, send messages to 27,000 people in Santa Clara County about Saturday’s charity event at park in Palo Alto.

The event was intended to raise money for a city effort to prevent teen suicides. It drew attendees including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer and her son.

Fire Chief Eric Nickel said he did not intend to advertise the breakfast but authorized the alert because he was concerned residents might inundate the city’s emergency dispatch center with calls related to one of the activities at the event: a rescue [pancake] simulation by a helicopter.

The alert included a sentence about the rescue simulation.

Nickel said that the city did not receive any 911 calls about the helicopter and that he has received fewer than 10 complaints about the alert.

Still, he said a discussion he is warranted between public safety officials and the city manager about use of the system.

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$250,000 To buy new shopping cart homes and other services for the homeless

Shopping cart home.jpgOn Monday, Palo Alto city Council will decide whether to spend $250,000 to house 20 of the cities estimated 157 homeless. But how will caseworkers pick [and chose] which 20 get new homes?

It won’t be based on good [up standing] behavior. In fact it’s just the opposite.

A report by [homeless “de facto” expert and] City Manager Jim Keene to council says those who will get priority in the selection process are those who had had the most run-ins with the law and are at risk of being repeat offenders.

In addition to the $250,000 from the city Santa Clara County will provide $100,000 from a state grant under the [pension] prison [reform] realignment bill, which sends state prisoners to county jails to relieve [themselves plus] overcrowding.

And state money is earmarked for helping those who have been arrested, have a high chance of being arrested again, who “significantly impact county, state, or local resources,” and who are “homeless or at risk of being or becoming homeless.”

‘Chronically homeless’

According to a report, the “chronically [acute] homeless” individuals can use the assistance to get themselves into a [new cart] home and, with the help of a [mental basket without wheels] caseworker, will apply for government programs, get help for substance abuse and receive medical care.

“These will be prioritized for individuals who face significant barriers to achieving economic self sufficiency,” the report states.

The program was recommended by a city task force [be with you] comprised of [toothless] homeless advocates [without a bite who will gum you to death], which formed in August shortly after the [technically advanced city] council voted to ban car camping and camping at Cubberley Community Center [along with taking away their ability to shower themselves.]

The task force considered other options such as creating a “homeless outreach [‘and put the touch on someone’ team,” which has already been successfully implemented in the San Mateo County cities of San Mateo, [our] East Palo Alto [brothers from the hood] and Redwood City, and bears some resemblance to the proposed Palo Alto program.

Helping biggest troublemakers

Mila Zelkah, strategic relations fellow for InVision Shelter Network, which manages the apartments at Palo Alto’s Opportunity Center, told the post in August that the outreach team program focuses on helping the people who cause of the most problems and are the source of repeat calls to police.

During its first year, the program helped 40% of the people on the police [hit] list of troublemakers to either get a job, find housing, enroll in a substance abuse program or a mental health program.

In it’s second year and the years after that, the program successfully helped about 25% of it’s homeless clients Zelkha said, adding that San Mateo County recently set aside more money to bring the program to Pacifica and South San Francisco.

When council members on the Policy and Services Committee voted to recommend dedicating $250,000 to help the homeless, they asked the homelessness task force to decide how the money could be best spent.

But the [helpless] task force was only given about a month to organize and come up with the plan that’s going to the full [circle marry-go-round] council on Monday.

Zilkha said that the force [be with you] had planned ask for more [spatial] time at a Sept. 26 meeting with City Manager James Keene, but wasn’t able to after he [dodged and] canceled the meeting.

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Palo Alto’s Tunnel of Love and Hate

Caitlin Ann Taylor-Stanford University, Ca
Caitlin Ann Taylor-Stanford University, Ca – Santa Clara County Jail Booking Photo furnished by Google

But you better be careful you just might be arrested. That was the experience of one MADD scientist from all places Stanford University as described in a detailed police report provide by PAPD Lt. Zachary Perron:

Caitlin Ann Taylor (DOB 05-18-1990, female, 5’7” tall, 140 lbs, blonde hair, hazel eyes) was arrested on 09-17-2013 at 7:42 p.m. in the 2400 block of Bryant Street.

She was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail on 09-17-2013 at 8:55 p.m. for 148(a)(1) PC (resist arrest) and 243(b) PC (battery on peace officer), both of which are misdemeanors. She was released from custody on 09-18-2013 at 3:48 a.m., and her bail is set at $6000. Her occupation is “scientist.”

It just goes to show and prove that those arrested come from all walks and cyclists of life.

Why the arrest detail? Good question. California civil code allows all media reporting agency’s to do so despite what some may feel as an evasion of privacy. Bottom line, once your arrested, it becomes public record. Here’s the civil code procedure: See: California Government Code & 6254 (f) (1).

Government Code Section 6250-6270

(1) The full name and occupation of every individual arrested by the agency, the individual’s physical description including date of birth, color of eyes and hair, sex, height and weight, the time and date of arrest, the time and date of booking, the location of the arrest, the factual circumstances surrounding the arrest, the amount of bail set, the time and manner of release or the location where the individual is currently being held, and all charges the individual is being held upon, including any outstanding warrants from other jurisdictions and parole or probation holds.

So what’s the problem with Pedestrians vs Cyclists?

According to eyewitnesses, the Palo Alto police have been stationing themselves outside the tunnel of love and hate entrance to catch illegal contraband? No, no Mexican cartel this time.

Walk BikeThe PAPD have been assigned to catch cyclists riding their bikes through the tunnel of love and hate illegally. Although there are no signs posted warning otherwise so whats the Baskin-Robbins problem or scoop?

According to unconfirmed reports, pedestrians have been complaining about cyclists zooming through the tunnel of love and hate at reckless speeds without consideration for their foot-tracking brethren’s safety almost knocking them over on a daily bases all the while they should be walking their bikes as posted.

What’s interesting is that their is no municpale code attached to this sign [a first for Palo Alto] indicating an infraction of the law. What’s up with that Palo Alto? They have an ordinance or law to cover almost everything we do in Palo Alto. You name it, they got it! [PAMC 2.0]

The lack of a PAMC may in fact be a viable defense for this MADD scientist ridding her bike through Palo Alto’s tunnel of love and hate not so friendly bike city, but assaulting a peace officer!

Finding the right solutions

That’s a big no, no. Even in my book, you deserve everything meted out to you by the judge.  Don’t even think about placing your hands on a peace officer under any circumstance.  If you allegedly did, your a real “bonafide” MADD scientist.

Alexander, an avid bike rider BTW from Stanford who declined to provide his last name said that the number of cyclists he’s observed walking their bikes through the tunnel of love and hate out of 100, was 10 percent. That’s MADDing high percentage.

Lin Liu, another Palo Alto Stanford worker, and Earth Science Researcher, said that in the two years of walking through the tunnel of love and hate, putting things in a researchers perceptive formula of 4 riders to 1 walker…

In conversation with the first person interviewed, we both agreed, arresting persons for riding their bikes is not the answer.  Their ‘needs to be a mutual coexistence’.

lane dividerSo we came up with what we beleive to be a lasting solution.  Highway dividers, those relative poles to run right down the center of the tunnel of love and hate.

Cyclists on one side, and pedestrians on the other side. That just might work with the caveat of adding one of Palo Alto’s famous in your face control your life municipal code warnings.

Related story: Now this is worthy of a police chase and the waste of taxpayer dollars

Santa Clara County Public Defender or Public Pretender?

Molly O'Neil.jpgI am sure most of you have seen today’s Daily Post [if not it will cost you] (Saturday Aug. 31-Sept 1, 2013).

The headline reads: “Defender rips car camp ban …says criminalization of the homeless is not the answer”

The defender in question is: Santa Clara County Public Defender Molly O’Neal.

Although… I am sure most … if not all of us…would have preferred ….that our Public Defender…who earns $241,455 per year….have stepped to the plate sooner…to voice her opposition to this hate law (the vehicle habitation ordinance)…. passed by the Palo Alto City Council.. by a 7-2 vote… on August 5…. I still believe her… late to the game.. opposition to the ban ….should be acknowledged, applauded and encouraged.

Our support for Molly O’Neal is..in my mind…particularly important… since upward of 90% of those individuals cited under the VHO are likely to be represented by members of the public defenders office.

We should encourage the office… I spent almost my entire career with…to zealously.. and with an undivided loyalty to each member of the unhoused community…who calls on the public defenders office to represent them… to represent them to the fullest…raising each and every meritorious defense to the charges.

The reality is…the public defenders office labors under large/huge case loads …and… as the old saying goes…the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

In other words… each and every time a member of the unhoused community is cited for a violation of the VHO, the StopTheBan Coalition…needs to support that individual… and let the public defenders office know that we are tracking the case…. and supporting the public defenders office to provide/guarantee the best possible legal defense in each and every case.

When ever possible members of the StopTheBan Coalition should pack the courtroom in support of each and every unhoused person charged under the VHO…. and the latest ordinance…. that prohibits members of the public from being in Palo Alto Parks… or on the property of public facilities …between 10:30 p.m and sunrise.

For any of you who wish to let Santa Clara County Public Defender Molly O’Neal know…. how you feel about her now very public stand against the VHO …and the criminalization of the homeless generally …here is her e-mail address: molly.o’neal@pdo.sccgov.org.