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Facing unprecedented budget shortfalls, Menlo Park council favors keeping child care centers, police dispatchers

Original post made on May 21, 2020

With an estimated $12 million shortfall expected in Menlo Park in the upcoming fiscal year, the City Council took its first stab Tuesday at figuring out how to slash about a quarter of the city's budget.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, May 21, 2020, 11:54 AM

Comments (26)

Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 21, 2020 at 12:14 pm

I know that the city was planning on upgrading the play areas at Burgess and Willow Parks. While I love the idea of doing that, and my children would be very happy with equipment like like that at Nealon Park, these plans should be put on hold until after the economic downturn is over.

I am disappointed by the position of the unions, they seem to not realize that the situation has changed. If they are not willing to work with the city it might be time to look at reducing unionized staff. I would expect that will also help down the road with pension costs.

Posted by Jen Wolosin
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 21, 2020 at 12:55 pm

The meeting date has been changed to Friday the 22nd at 1pm.
Web Link

Posted by Heather Hopkins
a resident of La Entrada School
on May 21, 2020 at 1:24 pm

This is an excellent summary. Thank you, Kate!

Posted by DelanoJ
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 21, 2020 at 1:37 pm

Public service unions are doing the public a real service by refusing to help with the city’s budget problems. The result as documented in this article will be reduction in services to MP residents. Ultimately it will result in loss of union jobs too. Public sector unions and public employee pension costs are second only to COVID-19 in destroying financial viability at the local and state levels of government. Unions were created to counter exploitation of workers. Is anyone really concerned that government employees in CA bear any risk of being exploited?

Posted by M. Meredith
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 21, 2020 at 3:26 pm

The unions should forgo their pay raises this year. Their contract was negotiated pre-Covid. It is a necessary sacrifice during the Pandemic. They can re-negotiate when this crisis is over.

Posted by West Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 21, 2020 at 3:47 pm

Time to rethink public unions and all the costs associated with them. We need to go to a defined contribution retirement plan, and lay off enough union workers to make up for the deficit. Going forward, hire non-union employees. If the unions strike, pull a Reagan and fire them all. Bring in new employees or hire those who are willing to go non-union. We have to solve the cost and pension problem. Now seems to be a good time. Remember the Obama/Emmanuel quote “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” Let’s take advantage of this crisis to fix things.

Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 21, 2020 at 4:19 pm

Ten of thousands dead and millions now unemployed = tragic

Lifetime liberal democrats learning that public sector unions are only in it for themselves = PRICELESS

I cannot wait to watch this, would love to learn what the argument is for keeping a "scheduled" raise in the face of what has happened and is going on. Do they not see that no money is coming in? I know they think the city reserves (ar any available money) should be THEIRS. Probably this is what they are going to say, "You have money, and should use it to save THEIR jobs." You the council are causing unemployment - how dare you!!! Funny. Council will probably ask them for sacrifices and the union will simply say = pound sand.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 21, 2020 at 8:28 pm

The Council needs to take a crash course on the economics of outsourcing and then ask themselves which city functions cannot be outsourced.

Outsourcing of many functions will save both current dollars and future pension costs. And the city will have lots of extra office space to repurpose.

Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 22, 2020 at 9:49 am

Ray Mueller makes it seems like it was the union that is causing these potential lay-offs when in fact the proposal to unions included layoffs. Pay increases were NOT the reason unions did not agree to said terms but rather the lack of assurance of avoiding layoffs. The unions want to work with council to avoid layoffs! Conveniently still overlooked before making major cuts were revenue options (selling of Willow Rd property, childcare revenue since they are set to open very soon ) and the almost 43 million in unrestricted and unassigned funds that could save most service and staff cuts. Also overlooked, the council’s stipend and fluffed CMO- do they need a city manager, assistant city manager AND deputy city manager?

Posted by Unreal
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 22, 2020 at 10:24 am

Millions of dollars of shortfall, and the police union won't agree not to get huge raises. Carpenter got it right. The council is more or less functioning like the queen, and giving ceremonial assent to what the staff decides. A good council would just say OBVIOUSLY there are no big raises this year. Duh. We are in the hole $12MM. A better council would on top of that say, "work out your raise issue with the Sheriff, cause you're now part of them as outsourced police services."

MP Resident, you're obviously part of the union holding this city hostage. It seems (though you're not saying it) your requirement is that Menlo Park not do what any body with a P&L needs to do in tough times: reduce headcount. Otherwise, there have to be big raises. Do I have that right? Are you even willing to forego the raises if MP doesn't lay cops off? I doubt it. They'll be other demands, like the raises ratchet back up in a short period of time.

Enough with these shysters! A union came about to protect coal workers being forced into unsafe mines more than 100 years ago. The concept is ridiculous now. The sad fact is where's the union for the public taxpayer, cause it sure isn't this city council!

Posted by Coming and going
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 22, 2020 at 11:31 am

Reading the last two posts illustrates how much fun the City Council is having right now. @resident attacks Councilmember Mueller for challenging the union position. Then @unreal bashes City Council somehow, for the union position the Council has already challenged. The budget isn’t even adopted yet.

Posted by Iris
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 22, 2020 at 4:46 pm

It makes little sense to pay all staff at the median. Some may have less experience or may be less proficient than others. A wide band for pay for each position allows pay for performance and pay for skills and experience.
Hang tight, Council, on negotiations. No is a complete sentence.

If there ever were a "rainy day", this is it. I hope the Council considers using some of its reserves. Now is the time to do some public works projects that take longer and cost more when there is more traffic. Now is the time to plan and build a downtown parking garage when it would not s disrupt downtown businesses as much.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 23, 2020 at 11:07 am

"Amsterdam is trying to get ahead of the problem with a recovery plan it released in early April titled Amsterdam Circular Strategy 2020-2025. It’s a bit different from what one might expect from a post-pandemic recovery plan: Its main goals aren’t about growing the economy or increasing the gross domestic product. Rather, it’s about making the city better for people and the planet. The city’s plan focuses on ensuring affordable housing and jobs, revamping recycling programs, and cutting food waste. Its overarching goals are to slash the use of raw materials in half by 2030 and phase them out completely by 2050. With this plan, Amsterdam appears to be the first city in the world to turn to something called “doughnut economics,” an economic framework created by British economist Kate Raworth in 2012. PRI (8 minutes)"

Web Link

Posted by Ronen Vengosh
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 23, 2020 at 12:05 pm

Thanks for this important overview. This shows the importance of community papers.

Posted by Chopping Block
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 23, 2020 at 2:06 pm

@MP Resident "Also overlooked, the council’s stipend and fluffed CMO- do they need a city manager, assistant city manager AND deputy city manager?"

Some good thoughts. While we're at it, how about the cop who was arrested in Sunnyvale for seeing a prostitute while he was on duty and supposed to be protecting Menlo Park citizens on Menlo Park streets? As I recall from what was reported by the Almanac, the union forced MP to keep this creep on the payroll. Can we cut him out of the payroll?

Posted by Mel
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 24, 2020 at 5:20 pm

Menlo Park won't be the only city facing budget problems. Now would be the time to push for consolidated fire/police throughout the whole county!! Why do these small towns need their own need their own fire/police.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 24, 2020 at 5:43 pm

A county wide emergency services agency that combined police, fire and ambulance services would save millions and it would improve the service levels for all of these critical functions.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 26, 2020 at 9:44 am

For those who think our economic recovery will be swift please read this article:

Web Link

The City of Menlo Park should plan on significant sales tax and hotel occupancy tax reductions over the next two and perhaps three years.

This is NOT a short term problem and every day in delaying cost reductions means the worse the budget shortfall will be.

Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 26, 2020 at 2:12 pm

@ Iris: Why is a parking garage necessary? Serious question. Please rethink.

In the 1960s to early-90s, downtown MP thrived. Streets and stores were busy. There were fewer restaurants but MP had a vibrant daytime scene. It even had a couple of movie theaters, 3 before Su Hong took over the Menlo Theater @ Doyle & Santa Cruz (now Left Bank. That's why the acoustics are so terrible. Cavernous space. The loft used to be the projection booth.) More people were out & about & no one whined about a need for a parking garage. Now, with far fewer attractions downtown, why do we need more parking? Who's going to come anyway? No retail to speak of. No old-school investment/stock brokerage firm next to Ann's Coffee Shop with daily foot traffic. 2 hour parking is enough for shoppers, visits to hair or nail salons, accountants, chiropractors, post office, etc.

Restaurants rely heavily on alcohol sales to boost profits. Is it restaurants, hoping to keep the bar scene busy over long, liquid lunches, happy hours & after-dinner drinking who push for a garage? We used to ride our bikes to town & end up at Baskin Robbins at dusk in the summers. Our fathers drank @ the BBC & parked @ the CalTrain lot. The Golden Acorn was a very busy place, so busy they had to move to El Camino @ the north end of town to get more indoor space.
It isn't offices pushing for parking because there are far fewer downtown office workers now than 30+ years ago.

If it's restaurants & their patrons driving the garage push, have their landlords contribute heavily to the cost. MP won't have a downtown unless retail comes back & I don't mean a Wags behemoth, which belongs next to Safeway. We did fine with Preuss Pharmacy & now there's Pharmaca. I miss the old hardware store, because the little Ace is good & tries hard but we cannot do one stop shopping to supply all our needs, sending us to big box stores in neighboring towns. Or maybe it's the big construction companies who want to compete for the contract & the inevitable overruns?

Residents who've learned to cook during this SIP & who've suffered lost/lowered incomes may not be rushing back to eat out so often. They'll still want to enter shops to actually see, touch, or try on what they buy. Maybe the parking garage drive is led by those who want to bring in diners from surrounding towns? Because PA, RC, and Los Altos don't have many more good restaurants?

Posted by Whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 27, 2020 at 2:25 am

Downtowner. SuHong didn't take over the movie theater bldg, it was another Chinese restaurant.
Btw folks why if the city is so short of money did it go ahead last week and begin redoing the tennis courts at Nealon Park.

Posted by Tom Davis
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 27, 2020 at 9:08 am

First of all, the city should start cleaning Menlo Park Police Department. I am a cop for a small city in the bay area and i am a MP resident. In my department, we are 32 sworn officers and 20 non-sworn. The city has a population of 36 to 38 Thousands citizens. We have a chief, one captain, three sergeants and one supervisor and 26 patrol officers working 4-10 and 3-11 hrs. Like Menlo Park PD, our calls are more relate to non-emergency calls and a good %70 of the calls are towards the parking enforcement officer/CSOs and animal control units. I see MPPD officers just hanging around the corner, few times not only one but five patrol cars just sitting there and wasting city money. Now, I believe MPPD has about 60 to 70 officers. In a conversation with a former watch commander for MPPD he mentioned that there is no needs for 60 to 70 officers in MPPD, in the matter of fact he said not even 50 officers are need in MPPD. Lay off at least ten officers to start the city will be saving about $ 1 million dollars this fiscal year. Lay off one of the two watch commanders, lay off one of the two canine officers, lay off couple detectives. All Menlo Park needs is 30 sworn officers and about 5 community service officers/ parking enforcement officers driving around enforcing parking rules, citing , doing traffic control at schools. I have been a cop for 18 years now and believe that is all Menlo parks needs regarding law enforcement.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 27, 2020 at 9:48 am

"All Menlo Park needs is 30 sworn officers and about 5 community service officers/ parking enforcement officers driving around enforcing parking rules, citing , doing traffic control at schools."

And just like San Carlos, Woodside and Portola Valley that level of service could be provided under contract by the Sheriff at a much lower cost and without any future pension liabilities - a no brainer.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 2, 2020 at 12:19 pm

Another projection that makes clear the City of Menlo Park's revenue shortfall will NOT be short term:

"The U.S. economy faces a projected 10-year recovery.

The coronavirus contraction will reduce 2020-30 U.S. economic output by a cumulative $7.9 trillion—3% of GDP over the period—the Congressional Budget Office forecast, relative to its January projections. While growth is expected to resume after this year, the CBO said, the pace likely won’t be fast enough for GDP to catch up with the previously forecast level until the fourth quarter of 2029."

The Council needs to make structural adjustments to the entire city government - not quarter by quarter stripping away of social services. And they should start by giving the outsourcing of the police department to the Sheriff - which will save millions EVERY year and will IMPROVE the level of police services - serious consideration with lots of public input.

I for one will never vote for or support any current council member who does not demand a serious discussion on police outsourcing.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 10, 2020 at 7:51 am

"The U.S. economy could take the better part of a decade to fully recover from the coronavirus pandemic and related shutdowns, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday.

In an analysis that highlights both the depth and duration of the pandemic’s economic impact, the CBO said it has marked down its 2020-30 forecast for U.S. economic output by a cumulative $15.7 trillion, or 5.3%, relative to its January projections. Adjusted for inflation, the shortfall is estimated at $7.9 trillion, or 3% of cumulative gross domestic product."

The city is facing a LONG term problem that demands structural changes NOW.

Posted by Unions
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 10, 2020 at 1:54 pm

Peter, unfortunately the answers are obvious if you look at the situation logically, but special interests are at work. It's called the union, and it controls too much of the city council in Menlo Park to be able to make the right decisions here. Interestingly, the same phenomenon is going on around the country in terms of police misconduct. The unions are shielding their members from proper economic market forces, as well shielding them from consequences of misbehavior.

Posted by Hard workin' man
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 11, 2020 at 12:23 pm

Get rid of police unions.

They never support other unions, and give unions a bad name.

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