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MP City Council Acted Inconsistently on Fee Increases

Original post made by Resident, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park, on Mar 24, 2010

In yet another display of bad governing, the city council this evening spent almost two and a half hours tinkering with the staff’s recommended Master Fee Schedule. The proposed fee increases were based on cost recovery guidelines recently approved by the city council and were aimed at reducing the city’s structural deficit. Rather than adjust the guidelines or phase in the implementation of the fee changes, the council majority led by Heyward Robinson felt it necessary to debate each individual program fee and to “soften the blow” on certain groups. Two individuals spoke on behalf of soccer and baseball and as a result both of their fees were reduced. No one spoke on behalf of volleyball and basketball so their fees will still increase 30-50%.

While most of the council adjustments were in the $1 to $10 range, the council did make drastic changes to the recommended fee for a resident to file a SECOND appeal to the city council regarding SOMEBODY ELESE’S home improvement or commercial development project. The staff had recommended full cost recovery that would have ranged from $1000-2500 depending upon the complexity of the case. Kelly Fergusson was passionate that “no resident should be discouraged by cost from filing multiple appeals to the city council.” “That’s what we’re here for,” she said. So while the cost for one week of kindergarten for low-income families will rise from $45 to $250 and the cost to legally build a shed in your own back yard will go from $0 to $515, the cost for any resident to file an unlimited number of appeals to block someone else’s building project remains at $110.

As usual, only John Boyle dissented.

Tonight’s council meeting once again demonstrates recurring issues with the current council majority. 1) They make arbitrary decisions based on limited public input; 2) They want to play the role of council, commissions, and staff. 3) They are far more interested in blocking redevelopment of our neighborhoods and commercial areas than enabling it.

Comments (7)

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Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 24, 2010 at 9:14 am

Hopefully the three incumbents will all be voted out of office this fall. This council has been a disaster -- maybe even a recall of Cohen and Fergusson should be undertaken, so that a complete sweep and re-start should be done. The issue of Rojas and the fact that his contract expires this year should be on the table.

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Posted by Ro must go
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 24, 2010 at 10:27 am

The problem starts with our city manager. The council has done a bang-up job--remember that they are all volunteers, and several of them also have full-time+ professional commitments and families--and even though I don't agree with all of them all the time, I can't think of too many people in MP who would both be willing to serve on the council (you interested, old timer? or just want to complain?) and have the qualifications.

The problem is that city management is not willing to do its job properly, is not interested in reining in costs, pulls dumb stunts like this nickel-and-diming proposal, and then dumps garbage on the council to sort out in an evening meeting.

I will vote for Rich, Heyward, and John in November, but only if they publicly acknowledge the problems with city management and agree to replace the current leadership, preferably with someone from private industry who can bring a fresh perspective to the job. The city manager lifers all seem to have been cut from the same empire building cloth, whereas our city needs someone who can approach the role in a businesslike way.

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Posted by Penny
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 24, 2010 at 10:41 am

Replace the finance director, while you're at it.

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Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 24, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Rojas indeed must go. But just remember, only council has the final say. Last night they could have just said, no to all the fee increases and that item should have been over in 2 minutes. Again I say, the whole council needs to be replaced.

Just remember also, it was this council that appointed Rojas to begin with. You think they are now going to throw him out? Who looks bad if they do that?

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Posted by Been There, Seen That
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 24, 2010 at 1:47 pm

This is an ongoing problem from prior councils as well. It was actually much worse before because there were no cost recovery guidelines at all - it was all done on an ad hoc (read: playing favorites) basis.
At least things have gotten semi-reasonable, although that's bad that just because one person makes the meeting and speaks up, that fee gets reduced while fees for other similar programs don't.

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Posted by Merlin
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 28, 2010 at 11:35 am

Cost recovery is on the face, a fair principal, but it's look carefully and you may feel differently. I wanted to build a backyard BBQ. Turns out I will need a special permit with drawings, elevations, specifications, etc. Staff then reviews, approves, and inspects the work. Staff creates regulation, staff enforces regulation, etc. What is the effect? Staff makes more work for itself, creates overtime, and the need to hire more staff. staff perpetuates itself. Staff then justifies "cost recovery" to help pay for all the extra regulations. Where do these brilliant ideas come from? It starts with the vague notion "that there ought to be a law.". Does the city really have a compelling reason to regulate BBQs? Probably not. So what if one or two neighbors don't like BBQs or lawns, or sheds, or dogs, or whatever. The question is WHY SHOULD the city regulate EVERYTHING that might become a dispute with a neighbor, or whoever?

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Posted by James
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 28, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Well, it's confirmed Menlo Park is both business and residence unfriendly. I'm afraid to ask what the city wants to regulate or tax next for fear of giving them any more ideas.

I know -- let's just issue them IOUs; the state did it so let's just follow suit.

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