It's time for residents of Atherton to have a serious discussion about the upcoming parcel tax.
Let me say in advance that I hope the discussion stays limited to the parcel tax and is high brow to avoid deletion of this very important issue.
In my view, residents of Atherton should send a clear message to the city council by voting NO on the parcel tax because they do not spend our money responsibly.
1. THE CITY COUNCIL IS ARROGANT, AND HAS WASTED MILLIONS OF OUR MONEY MAINLY FIGHTING WITH US. That's right. One lawsuit after another has involved spending a cumulative total in the millions for silly issues such as residents moving an urn from one home to another, trying to crush the former finance director (let's not turn this post into a debate about that; suffice it to say, the former chair of the finance committee, Dr. Sam Goodman, stated he felt the Johns firing was a politically motivated witch hunt), not letting residents move into a new home because at the last minute, the building department decided that permits that had long since been issued were a mistake, and others.
To some residents, it's all a joke. Admittedly, some of these lawsuits are so ridiculous that they degenerate into humor. However, if you happened to be the resident being sued over an urn, or prevented from moving into your home, you would feel very aggrieved. Remember, the first mayor of a city, Pericles, said: "if you don't take an interest in politics, politics will take an interest in you."
By voting NO on the parcel tax, you send a message to the Council that residents must be treated respectfully, and perhaps even more importantly, residents' money must be treated respectfully.
2. THE CITY COUNCIL HAS NOT TOLD RESIDENTS THE TRUTH ABOUT THE COST OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT. $750 per household is said to cover this expense, in the interest of "safety" and "keeping home values high".
Vague references to a poorly designed survey from a few years ago, where such survey did not actually analyze the pros, cons and costs, are used to ignore dealing with some very real issues:
a) Existing budget constraints have whittled down the police department so far, that we would have more officers on the street FOR LESS MONEY by contracting with Menlo Park or the Sheriff. Why? It's simple. The overhead for maintaining those departments (management, dispatch, systems, etc.) already exists, so the incremental cost for adding officers for Atherton gets distilled into exactly what we need: officers on patrol.
b) The scare tactics about "safety" and "keeping home values high" are simply excuses to maintain the historical police department. We very successfully contract out for fire service.
c) The costs RESIDENTS AREN'T BEING TOLD ABOUT involve unfunded pension liability commitments to these police officers for their 90% pensions after working for 30 years. If the county pension pool takes a hit in the stock market and cannot cover the 90% pension for a given year, WE MUST STEP IN AS TAXPAYERS AND FUND THE DIFFERENCE, YEAR AFTER YEAR. The projections already exist for what this will cost residents, and it's a lot more than $750 per household per year, but this is not being disclosed in the propaganda for the parcel tax but really MUST BE as the fiscally responsible solution is to cut off the bleeding now by outsourcing so these future liabilities are frozen instead of growing by leaps and bounds.
The only way this outsourcing will take place is to deny the parcel tax. The council members are too friendly with the chief, and the officers giving them special services such as personal mail delivery, to deal with this issue in terms of just the basic financial and other facts instead of leading with personal relationships.
IN CONCLUSION, I believe it will take a crisis to get California's budget and government "fixed" to stop the bleeding in our state wide system, and this crisis will happen sooner or later. The state politicians have done a great job of applying band-aids in the interim to make it seem like everything is really still okay. Atherton is doing the same thing although admittedly on a much smaller scale. Deny the parcel tax to force the city council to operate in a fiscally responsible manner. It will do wonders.