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Atherton's financial meltdown

Original post made by al on May 29, 2009

I am highly familiar with Atherton's financial condition and financial trends.

The Town government must explore alternative methods of service delivery if it is to avoide the fate of general motors (albeit at a much smaller scale).

With a cost of fully one half of the Atherton general fund budget, the first place to look for cost savings is the Police Department.

I have heard many times over reference to a 97 percent satisfaction rate with the Atherto Police Department. I am familiar with that survey. It was poorly designed and the results are therefore unreliable.

A more appropriate quesiton would have been something to the effect of should Atherton keep its police department even if it means paying a 50 percent premium over what it would cost to obtain protective services from neighboring jurisdictions such as Menlo Park or San Mateo County.

Comments (1)

Posted by Move to the Sheriff, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 29, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Atherton can't afford a police department. We pay more than twice per capita for our police than Menlo Park. Charles Marsala said in a different thread that this increases home values. Well, Atherton does not a have its own fire department, but home values have done just fine.

The truth of the matter is that having the sheriff patrol Atherton would make it more safe, not less. The reason is that Atherton has gone through several ways of cutting police officers, to the point at which it's down to the bone. And it's still running a deficit. With the sheriff, we'd have enough officers to make the town more safe.

Atherton doesn't have the money for it. It's now being proposed to siphon money from the library to pay for a town hall. A creative idea, I must admit, but it underscores that Atherton, much like the Barack Obama high-spending federal government, is living beyond its means. Most of the budget is going to the police!

The members of the town council probably continue to look the other way on the police issue because of the long-standing historical presence of the police department and their relationships with the police chief and other police management.

Finally, a police sergeant in Palo Alto makes more than the chief in Atherton. What does this say? Where will the best police officers try to get jobs? The 97% satisfaction rate and the image of the Atherton police tipping their hats to residents is somewhat misleading. There have been ugly incidents between the police and two high profile residents in the last two years, both of which probably would not have occurred in Palo Alto or Menlo Park.


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