Posted by Mark Hopkins, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 10, 2011 at 7:46 am
Mssrs Dudley and Janz have hit the nail on the head. To date, there's been little opportunity for the public to weigh in on the Town's intention to outsource.
There are 6,900 residents in Atherton of which 5,000 are registered to vote. Apathy dictates that about 2,000 actually do vote. But, of those 2,000 voters, likely fewer than 100 engage the Council by speaking at Meetings or writing letters.
Fewer numbers still discuss issues on these "forums". In fact, I can count on one hand the number of Atherton RESIDENTS who "blog". Yet, those people are given extra weight in driving the Council's direction. The Council wrongly interprets the bloggers as representative of the other 4,995 voters.
The Council often speaks of "outreach" and "transparency" but have come up short in this process. A last minute Special Council meeting doesn't cut it. A Finance Committee meeting held during business hours doesn't provide a great opportunity for "outreach" either.
The 2,000 participating voters and 3,000 others with a right to vote likely have an opinion on this matter and deserve to be heard.
The outreach, as Dudley and Janz observe, needs to take the form of a survey:
* Would the residents be willing to pay more for the services they receive?
* Do residents want services from Town employees or from contract, outsourced providers?
By all appearances, the Council is headed down a path of outsourcing the entire Town government, including the Police Department. What will be left behind is a group of consultants who make certain the contractors deliver upon their promises.
Let's hope the apathetic Atherton voters wake up and realize how difficult it will be to resurrect what they have. Their real estate investment could be greatly impacted by the changes in service delivery. And, once the Council shuts the door, it will be very difficult to resurrect.
Posted by right on, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 10, 2011 at 9:12 am
Mark Hopkins is right on in the his appraisal of the state of town. Unfortunately two of our Council Members harbor strong anti-police feelings probably of a personal nature. Ms McKeithen constantly leakes information to the bloggers and attempts to undermine the police department every chance she gets. Widmer is a new willingly participant. Yes, the Town Council as a group is headed down the path of outsourcing all departments including the police. Makes life simple for them. The last parcel tax passed by a margin of 78% and the verbage was directly tied to police services although public safety itmes such as roads and capital improvements. In actual fact no monies have been spent on police department and over one million dollars spent on Holbrook Park last fiscal year. The council has used the parcel tax as a cookie jar and shorted the police department so that they are seriously understaffed and that is creating potential liability issues for the town.
I think the residents of Atherton need to decide whether they want a Park (with new library) for the use and benefit of the surrounding area or do they want essential services like an excellent police department protecting their saftey and investment. The same would go for public works and building code and review enforcement.
As a zipcode Atherton is the second weathiest in personl income and property values and as such our town government needs to reflect this fact. It can support increased taxes through parcel taxes and other possible fees.
Yes the residents do need to wake up and elect people and demand a council who have leadership skills and a rightful vision for the Town. Right now the consultants have arrived and this needs to be resisted.
Posted by Right Off, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 10, 2011 at 9:55 am
The problem with the analysis Mark Hopkins and "Right On" have is that there has NEVER been a survey of Atherton residents about the police department that sets out objective facts and then asks them to make a decision. These objective facts include costs of having our own versus savings for outsourcing versus the benefits of having our own versus the (alleged) shortcoming of outsourcing.
Only then would any vote have a type of mandate associated with it.
If the pro-police residents [portion removed; stick to the issue] were so sure of the cost benefit tradeoff, they would welcome this as it obviously would put the issue to bed once and for all.
But they don't.
And therein lies some valuable information about their alleged position.
Posted by right on, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm
Off, I assure you I am a resident of Atherton. This issue of supporting a parcel tax for the police was a vote for or against and it passed with 78%. I mean really what else do you want? The public is entitled to find out what the Atherton Police Department does and how it compares in staffing and type of community we live in. For instance there are nine schools to worry about and rural communities like Portola Valley and Woodside do not nor do they have the transit populaton that swells the population each day. Call the department and ask how you can secure a copy of Guerra's report ot the council done last August. At this point there is every indication the council will not place outsourcing on the table and if they do the council have indicated this would be placed on a ballot. Then you can study the cost part all you want.
Posted by Ed, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 10, 2011 at 2:05 pm
Right On: If things are already bad enough that ALL personnel decisions are being based on solely on money then NOW is exactly the time to be discussing the Towns largest and always growing, expenditure on the APD and any alternatives for sustainable security to the residents.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Jun 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm
No, we don't have 9 schools in Woodside. By my count, we have 8, including Canada College, which I suspect is bigger and has more commuters driving in and out everyday than any of Atherton's schools.
The San Mateo County Sheriff's Department ALREADY patrols Atherton, as it is part of the county.
Perhaps San Carlos might be a more appropriate comparison of service. It has a far larger commercial district, more traffic, more people and a more economically diverse population.
If you want to compare services and costs, there's no need to guess or speculate. Atherton's Town Manager just needs to submit a Request for Quote to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department. Atherton can specify precisely the kind of coverage they want (ie, 2 full-time patrols 24/7). The Sheriff's Department will respond with a price. That's what Woodside, Portola Valley and San Carlos did. Seems simple enough.
Then, you can decide if it's worth it without guessing.
Posted by Right Off, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 10, 2011 at 11:25 pm
What I want, right on, is simple:
Bids to be placed to outsource police services.
A ballot measure presented to residents of Atherton listing: A) cost of maintaining the police department in terms of a yearly parcel tax, B) cost of outsourcing in terms of the same measure (although we know the parcel tax would them be zero). These are objective facts.
Then I want to see objective measures of service: A) Atherton has ___ officers as part of an independent police department patrolling, B) the sheriff would provide ___ officers. Etc.
Then I want to see you, Mervin Morris etc. explain why, in this ballot, it would be disastrous to outsource, the world will come to an end, etc.
Then I want to see Carpenter, McKeithan, Bucheit etc. explain why if we don't outsource the world will come to an end, etc.
This is how ballot measures are conducted in California. Facts are set out, than two opposing opinions interpreting those facts. Then the voter makes up his or her mind.
Is this too much to ask? Is it fair to simply state "we know everyone supports it anyway, no matter how much it costs?"
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2011 at 7:43 am
If you want to know how much the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department would charge to patrol Atherton, all you have to do is ask. They can provide anything from an occasional "drive by" to multiple, full-time, 24/7 patrols. Your choice.
So if you want to compare services and costs, there's no need to guess or speculate. Atherton's Town Manager just needs to submit a Request for Quote to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department. Atherton can specify precisely the kind of coverage they want (I suppose that would be two, full-time patrol units during daylight hours and a single patrol unit at night).
The Sheriff's Department will respond with a price and that price is locked in for the time period noted in the quotation. The Sheriff can even include the hiring Atherton's existing police if that's specified. That's what Woodside, Portola Valley and San Carlos did. Simple enough.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2011 at 10:30 pm
Part of the problem of having your own police department is the overhead and management.
I can only cite the experience of Woodside which, as you probably know, contracts with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department for law enforcement services. In our case, the only people we see are the patrolling deputies (we have two patrols during the day, one at night - which we share with Portola Valley). We do see the the managing Lieutenant several times a week as well and he is the person who handles any administrative (contracting) issues with our town. When there is a shift change, the inbound and outbound patrols meet at our Town Hall for about an hour during the time that their shifts overlap.
We do not employ chiefs, assistant chiefs, captains, clerks, secretaries, receptionists, dispatchers, detectives, car maintenance, or any of the other employees that a "free standing" police service might require. All of those functions - as well as many others I have not enumerated here - are taken care of by the Sheriff's Department at their central office.
If you want to know how much this would cost, you simply have to request a quotation from the Sheriff's office. I suspect you'll have your answer in a couple of weeks.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2011 at 10:35 pm
I meant to add that Woodside only pays for the patrols that are provided. We do not have to hire any extra deputies to cover for sick or vacationing deputies - those are provided or rotated by the Sheriff from their large roster of deputies.
The Sheriff has also been able to keep the same deputies in Woodside for quite some time. As I've said before, we know our deputies quite well and, while they don't water our lawns when we're away, they do take excellent care of us!
Posted by right on, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 12, 2011 at 5:40 am
POGO,for an in depth understanding and review of Atherton policing and comparison with neighboring communities please read this report made to the Town Counci on August 18, 2010 by the current Chief. It is at the end of an agenda and starts at page 131. It reaches no conclusion but perhaps might make you appreciate that Portola Valley and Atherton are two different places and it is not a simple matter just to push one click to order the Sheriff in. It makes no mention of watering lawns. I know this will trigger another "cut and paste" by Peter to show the numbers on outsourcing but I will risk that. All fail to understand that at minimum 78% of Atherton wants their own police services by passing the parcel tax.
Posted by right on, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 12, 2011 at 7:50 am
Peter, as you are fond of observing that is how the democratic process works. People can vote or not but the result is what counts so get used to it and accept it. How is this quote, 'facts are facts".
Can you guess who said that?
And POGO. The Chief just presented the written report at the meeting and did not go into detail of this very lenghty report. Unless you (or others)read it then it has gone to waste and we are back to the same tired theme of call the Sheriff...it simplew just pick up the telephone. The Chief just presented the facts and did not reach a conclusion. Again he was doing his job and not putting a spin on it. As happened in San Carlos outsourcing the Sheriff took on all the sworn officers and they were better off financially and did lateral transfers. Whether or not Sheriff would make the same deal with Atherton is an unanswered question. Also whether or not they even want to take on Atherton in a time when they are under financial stress is open to question.
Posted by Right Off, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 12, 2011 at 9:23 am
Attention Atherton Residents and taxpayers:
right on has declared that the passage of Measure S by 1,426 of you means that all of you will be obligated to continue to pay for an independent police department in perpetuity, no matter what the cost, and no matter what the alternatives are.
Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community, on Jun 12, 2011 at 9:31 am
Right On said.
"As happened in San Carlos outsourcing the Sheriff took on all the sworn officers and they were better off financially and did lateral transfers. Whether or not Sheriff would make the same deal with Atherton is an unanswered question. Also whether or not they even want to take on Atherton in a time when they are under financial stress is open to question."
In San Carlos the sworn officers earn more money and the City pays less..Win/Win
Last week the Sheriff held a Town Hall meeting with the citizens to see how it going, the results are its going really well.
Someone from Atherton needs to ask the Sheriff if the same deal could be done.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Jun 12, 2011 at 10:06 am
right on -
I did listen the Chief that evening and, while he gave a pretty objective overview, his negative sentiments were clearly apparent.
But you continue to miss my point about comparing the Sheriff's contracted costs and services to those at the Atherton Police Department (at least Mr. Stogner got my point).
If you want to find out, YOU ONLY HAVE TO ASK. And actually, it is very easy to meet with the Sheriff, discuss the issues, and ask him.
Of course, it's easier still to just sit back and speculate that the Sheriff can't do it, won't do it, or it will cost too much. But if you ask the Sheriff, you'll actually have real data to analyze costs and services and make an informed decision.
Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community, on Jun 12, 2011 at 10:29 am
This would be the perfect time for the APD to offer the Town a 12-15% reduction in pay and benefits. This would show the residents that the officers understand and appreciate the current financial situation. It might help in the outsourcing subject.
The problem is that the officers would make more money if they go to the Sheriff. So the officers really have no reason (from a financial point) to object to being outsourced.
Posted by right on, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 12, 2011 at 11:04 am
Here is the problem for the Atherton Town Council. Measure S is the parcel tax that runs from fiscal year 2010-2011 for four years until 2013-2014.
Here is what the voters saw on the ballot:
To continue providing funding to maintain neighborhood police patrols and the Town's ability to respond to emergencies, repair and maintain streets, and repair and construct storm drains, shall an ordinance be adopted to continue the existing Town of Atherton Special Parcel Tax for four years?
So if the Council all of a sudden decided to outsource and asked the question, "how much" they are going to have to take it from existing general revenues. They would have to give up up the approximately $1.5MM the parcel tax generates. So for that reason I don't think that is in the cards notwithstanding voter approval of outsourcing. I do not think the Sheriff would think it is a serious question at this stage.
The contract for the police department officers has another three years to run and the reality is that it is understaffed now and the announced plan is to add more officers.
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Jun 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm
Dear Right On
As Atherton's former Finance Director I can tell you that the language in the parcel tax initiative you refer to isn't an impediment to outsourcing at all.
Just because voters approved an initiative to levy additional taxes, it does not mean that Atherton is obligated to do so.
In fact by eliminating the corrupt and inefficient police force, the amount of the parcel tax levy could be reduced by about $1 million while still providing about $800k for drainage systems and roads.
Additionally, contrary to Peter Carpenter's perception, there is at least one source of revenue that Atherton could draw upon to solve its "structural" deficit. In fact the City Council has the authority to impose this reveue measure without any request for additional taxing authority from the electorate. It could simply increase the garbage franchise tax by an amount equivalent to the reduction in the parcel tax levy, thereby making taxpayers whole.
Admittedly this approach would be difficult in view of the huge garbage rates just approved. However I would submit it would be more palatable than to throwing out 13 well liked and highly respected Atherton employees in favor of heretofore nameless faceless contractors.
In summary Atherton is by no means stuck with that white elephant of a police department, nor is outsourcing building and public works essential to avoid a financial meldtown.
Some have praised Danielson as a leader. [Portion deleted.]
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jun 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm
Right On states:"All fail to understand that at minimum 78% of Atherton wants their own police services by passing the parcel tax."
In fact, out of approximately 7000 residents 1,426 voted for Measure S and 1,252 voted for Measure T - that is not "at minimum 78% of Atherton ". We have no idea how those who did not vote feel about either the parcel tax or having 'their own police services'.
The 2009 vote was achieved by a herculean effort to get out the Yes votes and there was no significant opposition.
And the current budget, even with that parcel tax, still has a structural deficit.
We have no idea how residents would respond to a parcel tax 3 times larger - which is what will be necessary to balance the budget in 2014 if current expenses are not significantly curtailed.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jun 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm
John Johns states:"It could simply increase the garbage franchise tax by an amount equivalent to the reduction in the parcel tax levy, thereby making taxpayers whole."
As I have frequently posted, the garbage rates are already far below what is will cost the Town and should be set to at least cover the Town's actual cost. However, the meetings on this subject generated the largest resident turn out in opposition to even these below cost recovery rates of any issue in the Town's recent history.
I doubt that there is any way the the Town Council would be able to ' simply increase the garbage franchise tax'.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jun 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm
John Johns states:"It could simply increase the garbage franchise tax by an amount equivalent to the reduction in the parcel tax levy, thereby making taxpayers whole."
Upon reflection I believe that Prop 13 would actually limit any increase in the garbage franchise tax to no more than the actual costs that the Town incurred for the specific purpose of garbage collection - i.e. it could not be used to generate revenue for other purposes. If this were not true then every local government would be doing this rather than getting voter approval for a tax increase. Please correct me with specific California Code language to the contrary if I am wrong.
Posted by Ed, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2011 at 12:04 am
Well -no one will have to worry about any Brown Act violations taken place in this next Closed Session because there isn't even one scheduled before the next Council Meeting as would normally be the case.
Rather an odd time for the leadership not to WANT to be getting together with with the management team they just hired, considering the state of affairs that the Town is in.
Posted by right on, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2011 at 9:40 am
It is amazing how the topic of this Guest Opinion by two of our village elders, Malcolm Dudley and James Janz have literally sunk into the garbage. The two ex-Mayors recommended this to the Council:
"We believe a town survey would demonstrate the town's support for an increase in the level of the special parcel tax in order to be able to restore our former level of police protection and preserve other essential town services. For example, an across-the-board increase in the parcel tax of about $350 per parcel annually would completely eliminate the projected deficit. We would urge the council to consider surveying the community before making any decisions to drastically reduce staff."
I believe this is an excellent idea, and it needs to be done immediately before the trigger is pulled on the 13 employees, the departments dismantled and other personnel cuts are made. It is going to be impossible to reverse this once done. Clearly Danielson is doing what the Council wanted him to do because they themselves are disfunctional,lack management skills and a vision for the Town. A comprehensive survey would give them direction and political cover from the various groups who sometimes, while small in numbers, exert undue influence in the decison process.
The 2010 census counted Atherton population of 6,914 with 5,731 over 18 years of age. There are 2,330 occupied housing units. It would not be too much of a task for the Town to create a survey covering outsourcing services including the police, Holbrook Palmer library site and Park financial support, little league new ballpark, new Town Center building and most importantly the appetite for the 2,330 resident homes to increase the parcel tax.
Please support Mr Dudley and Mr Janz's proposal for a survey by writing or emailing the members of the Town Council.
Posted by Peter carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2011 at 9:53 am
Right On's suggestion of a well designed comprehensive survey is an excellent idea.
Key issues are the exact wording of the questions and the price tag to put on each item that people are being asked to say yes or no to. Everybody will want anything that is free.
Just to cover all of the existing services and balance the budget this year would probably require a total parcel tax of about $800/year. Next year that amount would probably need to increase to $1100/year.
Outscourcing police services at more than the Woodside level of services would probably save $2 million/year.
Lot's of other options would need to be defined and costed out to complete the survey instrument.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2011 at 11:49 am
Another key issue will be to get a statistically valid response rate in a Town that has primarily unlisted phones, lots of locked gates and with a propensity to discard unsolicited snail and email.
Previous surveys were compromised by low sample size and a biased response rate by advocates. Similarly, past elections were biased by very aggressive campaigns to get out the Yes vote and no organized opposition.
Finally, there will be the difficult problem of more people saying in an anonymous survey that they would be willing to pay X than people would would actual pay X or vote for a corresponding parcel tax.
Posted by You just don't get it, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2011 at 7:57 pm
Mr. Carpenter, you just don't get it. We don't need any surveys about what is already known and proven. As right on has said, the parcel tax passed overwhelmingly and it was all about police services. Your crusade, which has been joined by Kathy McKeithen, to destroy what makes living in Atherton so special, the Atherton Police Department, just won't succeed. Disgruntled residents who have been offended by not being treated like royalty by the police won't be able to help you either. Criminals will be treated as such no matter how much money they have. If you don't like it here, go away.
Posted by Ed, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm
Peter: Do you know enough about outsourcing to to tell me if the contractor for the Building Department would get to retain for themselves any profit that might be generated? I'm thinking of the Million dollar reserve that Building has right now even in a bad market which I realize will stay with the Town--but going forward would the contract service provider get to keep any new profit. I am confused about why the very first thing to be outsource seems to be the most viable of all departments, but I am now wondering if we might be outsourcing it's revenues. as well which seems even an crazier choice.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2011 at 9:19 pm
Ed asks:"Peter: Do you know enough about outsourcing to to tell me if the contractor for the Building Department would get to retain for themselves any profit that might be generated?"
Sorry, I do not know the answer to your question. I suggest that you address it to the Town Manager.
As to the reserves in the Building Department it is my understanding that Prop 13 prohibits fees which are in excess of costs - as a necessary prevention of the use of fees to generate revenue in lieu of tax revenue. I may well be wrong.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2011 at 9:32 pm
I can't imagine the outsourcing company is doing this out of the goodness of their heart. Of course they are in this to make money.
But that isn't the point.
The point is that outsourcing SHOULD save money. If it doesn't, then why do it?
I will say one thing for Mr. Danielson. If his strategy wasn't to outsource these services, at least he has successfully brought these public employees to the bargaining table. In my opinion, they usually resist serious bargaining until they receive pink slips.
Posted by Ed, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm
Pogo: Item 11 on the consent calendar is to make our current finance director the Town's voting member representative to ABAG litigation insurance. I don't want to see this town drive another perfectly good employee off the deep end and it seem like like a bad decision to put more pressure on Ms Ho when already ALL of the Town decisions are driven SOLELY by money. Shouldn't Danialson take this role on himself and then pass it on to the next city manager?
Your thoughts please. Is it just a tittle and a few meeting or is this substantial responsibility getting outsourced from the City Manager's Office onto stressed staff?
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm
I'm sorry, but I honestly don't know.
Sitting on ABAG isn't usually a major responsibility or time commitment. I suspect Atherton will be requesting indemnification from ABAG for some of their threatened or pending lawsuits. Perhaps Mr. Danielson wants to ensure continuity of representation for Atherton on ABAG's insurance committee. If Mr. Danielson were to take this role himself and then leave, that might present a loss in continuity for Atherton.
Probably a good decision. From what I've seen of Ms. Ho, she is quite capable of handling this.
Just my unofficial and admittedly uninformed opinion. Mr. Danielson can provide clarification for his reasons at the meeting, if requested.
Posted by Ed, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2011 at 10:42 pm
Well Pogo-- it reminds me a lot of the FULL council unfairly requiring John Johns to do an extremely political audit and then throwing him under the bus when they couldn't handle the backlash from what it turned up.
I can understand why Danialson wouldn't want the headache-- but too bad--it's the City Manager's job not the finance directors, and this kind of situation has gone very badly before with some very long lasting repercussions on everyone....................
Down right sneaky if you ask me--but you are right -it will get dressed up as "continuity"