COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on our city, a public health crisis that precipitated a financial crisis. Since the start of the pandemic, Palo Alto has lost a reported 1,800 jobs, while the city has suffered a large revenue shortfall, cutting $39 million from its General Fund budget. Throughout, as your City Council Member, I have worked to maintain valued city services like libraries and parks. I will continue to fight to preserve cherished community services while closely overseeing City spending.
Priorities in Light of a Pandemic
The pandemic has created a uniquely difficult situation for our city that none of us would have predicted. With the shelter in place and business closures, city revenues dropped precipitously. When it became clear in May that the City’s revenues would fall far short of expenditures, and that drastic budget cuts were necessary, I made a number of proposals, attempting to maintain stability while preserving resident services:
City managers and administrators would voluntarily accept salary cuts which
after a lot of my prodding they did
Rather than the proposed cuts to school crossing guards and library personnel, I suggested exploring cuts to city public relations personnel instead. Unfortunately, my colleagues did not support these suggestions.
I also opposed the defunding of Cubberley Community Center. Instead of taking funding away from the school district, I suggested lowering the City’s capital spending. Expensive non-urgent projects like the construction and renewal of the public safety building could be delayed. I also suggested looking at a large number of City management personnel as one area that could be trimmed in the
City’s budget. I viewed all of these proposals as ways we could maintain our limited budget in
this unique time while preserving our city’s services.
At this time, it’s even more urgent than before that we spend our limited tax dollars sensibly. We can no longer afford to entertain proposals as the City has done in the past, like spending $2 million to remodel the council chambers. I was the lone vote at the time against that project. Or the proposal that the City spend $700,000 on art for the new police building, which I opposed. With many important priorities facing us that are short of funds, like affordable housing, and many other needs that require funds, like combating homelessness, we must spend the public's money sensibly, frugally, and in line with residents'
Being financially responsible not only means making sure the City’s revenues exceed its expenditures but honoring our taxpayers and their investment in City assets. Two years ago the City of Palo Alto donated water
rights to East Palo Alto rather than bringing in millions of fair market value revenue for them as Mountain View did with their water rights and is on a much more firm fiscal footing. I opposed this transfer, reasoning it was not fiscally responsible for our city or respectful of taxpayers. I have frequently been the lone Council vote against imprudent spending, including unaffordable staff raises. If we want a bright future for our city, we have to keep the public trust, and that requires fiscal responsibility.
Plans on the Council
If re-elected, as your City Councilmember, I will promise to do the
Prioritize spending on what helps the people that live here first
Push against wasteful spending even if it is uncomfortable and I am the sole vote. I am not afraid of standing up to special interests.