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By Diana Diamond

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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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Let's award our public employees for working -- ??

Uploaded: Nov 3, 2021
More, we need more. Our public employee morale is down.

Two more assistant city managers are what City Manager Ed Shikada asked the Palo Alto City Council to approve the other night. That's a two-person increase in his staff. The city already has an assistant city manager and a deputy manager. The council also agreed to hire a new receptionist for the Development Center and a Public Relations officer for the police department.

This city a couple of years ago had about 1,100 employees, but that number has been reduced to 861, in part due to a two-year budget deficit. The city is currently budgeted for up to 961 employees, but hiring is a problem, the council was told. Yet the employee benefits are immense!

Council member Pat Burt explained that he wants to hire a lot more employees, since city financial analyses indicate more money than expected will come into their coffers later this year.

Maybe, but do we have to immediately spend it? And why do we need more? Because the city manager is overworked with four assistants? And do we really need 1,100 employees for 65,000 residents?

Palo Alto employee benefits include medical, dental, employee financial assistance, life insurance, long-term disability, day care assistance. health care assistance, retirement savings, pensions (5 to100 percent of a retiree's salary, cost-of-living adjustments, etc., according to the city's website, https://www.cityofpaloaltoemployee.com/benefits-by-category.


One of our city officials, the HR director, Rumi Portillo, urged the council Monday night to give employees more. She said the city normally has giveaways to make employees happy. As reported in the Post, she said this year only masks have been given out to employees. Morale is suffering and "employees are weary. They're really just hitting the exhaustion point."


City Hall has been closed since last March 2020, and many employees "have been working at home," they say. They received full pay, health insurance and continuing pension benefits. City Hall began to slowly open on June 1 2021 (14 months later) but it still is not totally operational. New regulations need to be studied, was the reason given for the slow opening.

I know that when I occasionally "worked at home," home was work. I'd start out writing, and then needed to throw things into the washer and then the dryer. And sweep up the kitchen. At mid-day, I had to run to the grocery to get some chicken and whatever for dinner. For me, home was work. I don't know if males view it that way.

Anyhow, Portillo told the council that the city should spend $80,000 for an employee appreciation program -- that would help morale.

Is she the city's director of HR or is she head of the employee's union.? Feels like the latter.

Supervisor Je Simitian started this idea of giving employees who suffered through the pandemic 'Hero Pay" for working through the coronavirus outbreak. The feds had given the county $72 million for pandemic relief, and I guess supervisors thought that money was a great way to reward employees for working, to the tune of $2,500 apiece ($76 million total) for all 22,000 county employees. County Assessor Larry Stone and County Executive Jeffrey Smith said they each would give their hero money to help the poor and needy. Wish the supervisors thought like that and spent all that money on helping the poor and underprivileged. The poor in the county really need it. County employees do not A lot of those worked at home during this period, with pay, and the average salary is at the six-digit level.


The ten-digit question: If you have a phone with a 650 prefix, as of last Tuesday you must dial the area code of each person you are calling, including your next-door neighbor. It's the new requirement from the FCC, currently for certain designated areas. If you have a 408 prefix, you are not required to use it for a local call. -- at least, not yet.

This new requirement quietly crept into our phone system, effective Oct. 24. Many of us were surprised, including several newspapers, which read "Beginning today..." Like immediately.

All this was apparently done to create a new three-digit suicide help line -- nationally it will be 988, effective July 16, 2022.

I guess it is a good idea for people contemplating suicide to have an easy number to call if they need help. But was the only possible solution to require all telephone users in various parts of the country to dial 10 digits for a call? I mean have all three-digit numbers already in use? Like 444 or 922 or 001? Or was this just the result of an extremely effective lobbying group that got the FCC to effectuate this change?

It's all in the numbers, these days.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Mountain View,
on Nov 3, 2021 at 12:13 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

About the phone prefix issue, here's the comment I posted on the Weekly's news story on that subject.
In recent decades, the nuisance of having to dial 10 digits even for local calls in the US typically resulted from area-code "overlays," multiple area codes in the same place (e.g., 669 added to 408 in southern Santa Clara County). In principle, it's possible to add such an overlapping area code without demanding 10-digit dialing, if the new code uses non-conflicting prefixes and the telco software has the necessary information to parse 7-digit numbers. It's cheaper, though, to make the public do the work, dialing extra digits so the service providers have less to sort out.

This new change is a variation of that standard situation. A new 3-digit dialing feature (988) coming next year conflicts with an existing local prefix here (as in a few other parts of the US). In principle, a simple solution is to require dialing the area code, for local calls, only with the 988 prefix. In practice, that might confuse some people and besides -- once again -- it's easier just to dump the burden on customers and make them dial more digits, even though in principle almost all local calling numbers are *resolvable* by automatic equipment without people dialing the extra digits.

Posted by Sandeep, a resident of Downtown North,
on Nov 3, 2021 at 1:10 pm

Sandeep is a registered user.

This in an embarrassing opinion piece. These musings seem incredibly out of touch with the modern world. Ms. Diamond is so far removed from how the world actually works these days that these blog posts come off as completely ignorant, entitled, and lazy.

The last thing the younger working class wants to hear is the tired drumbeat from the generation that had everything handed to them.

Posted by staying+home, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 3, 2021 at 2:17 pm

staying+home is a registered user.

agree with Sandeep. I love hearing how we begrudge the city employees for having benefits comparable to the private sector, and the extra "they say" for just the right touch of sarcastic disbelief.

Posted by Joe, a resident of another community,
on Nov 3, 2021 at 5:37 pm

Joe is a registered user.

> The council also agreed to hire a new receptionist for the Development Center and a Public Relations officer for the police department.

Diana on October 25th Council approved the addition of a Public Safety Communications Officer. This is a staff management position in Palo Alto's PSAP, supervising personnel working in the 911 call center. This is NOT a PAPD Public Relations position. Sadly, Council cut PAPD's staff for Public Relations and froze the position with the 2021 budget. PAPD's PR position was eliminated entirely in Council's 2022 budget.

No doubt, with hundreds or thousand of interactions a day, some residents have had negative experiences. But, as a long time residents of Palo Alto, members of our family have found the City's employees particularly in the Public Safety and Utilities Departments to be terrific. Over the years they have always been helpful and wonderful to work with, whether it's calling 911, getting help for injured animals or having a sewer line unplugged.

Unfortunately, running a city with as many services as Palo Alto offers sometimes means every job can't be done to everyone's satisfaction. But a lot of us appreciate the work and effort of the City's staff. Maybe even "An Alternative View" could spare a few kind words once in a while.

Posted by Muriel Halprin, a resident of another community,
on Nov 4, 2021 at 8:22 am

Muriel Halprin is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 4, 2021 at 8:42 am

Bystander is a registered user.

I agree with Sandeep apart from his last sentence.

Just because there is a new way of doing things, it does not mean it is a better way.

Most of us nowadays have our regular phone numbers already set in our phones and many of us are using out of area phones so 10 digit is being done without giving it any thought, even on landlines if we still have them. I doubt most of us will have any problems with this new protocol.

As for how many people we need working for the City, I have no idea but I seem to read about new hires for this, that and the other with a fancy title to do something that sounds overkill. What I will say is that trying to speak to someone on the phone who is actually the person who can sort out the problem is becoming more and more difficult, not just in City matters but in other fields too. Recently I was waiting to speak with someone at a commercial venture and had to wait until all the desk staff had finished having a meeting - aka a circle of people listening to one person who seemed to be giving a morale booster talk. Why can't we just have some old fashioned service with people who are actually able to help the public, help customers and give some practical help when we turn up with a problem which may be trivial to them, but is infuriating to us.

Posted by Paul Halberstrom, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 4, 2021 at 9:08 am

Paul Halberstrom is a registered user.

There is a lot of dead-weight on salary within the city payroll. I have no problem or issue with the Public Safety and Utilities departments but the indoor clerical/clerk staffing (including overpaid upper-tier city administrators) borders on overkill. These are the true municipal deadbeats. The HR department should be also disbanded as pre-screening can easily be done online by the actual supervisors and hiring departmental managers. All that is needed in the HR department is a Benefits and Compensation Manager and perhaps a low-level clerk to assist with the paperwork.
I imagine there are other useless roles that could be eliminated but I do not have access to city organizational tree chart which amounts to a weed patch.

Posted by Gertrude Lawrence, a resident of another community,
on Nov 4, 2021 at 10:28 am

Gertrude Lawrence is a registered user.

@sandeep, distraught Millennial whining about everyday life and blaming a prior generation is nothing new. Suggestion: create a Woodstock/hippie generation of your own but with better music and real musicians.

Posted by Carol Scott, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Nov 4, 2021 at 10:30 am

Carol Scott is a registered user.

As long as the City is in a hiring mood, I would love to have a few more police officers to enforce traffic laws. Stopping at stop signs is becoming a quaint habit of the past in my neighborhood. When my daughter attended Escondido, there were motorcycle police officers near the school on a regular basis to ensure that moms and dads in a hurry didn't speed through the school zone. I recently saw a bicyclist down in an intersection of El Camino Real and Stanford. Never say that reported in the Palo Alto newspapers. A little visible traffic enforcement might do wonders.

Posted by Carol Scott, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Nov 4, 2021 at 10:34 am

Carol Scott is a registered user.

I think it is quite easy and common to bash public employees when you don't know what environment they are working in, what leadership they have, or what they are actually doing. Having said that, I would be more amenable to giving "welcome back" awards to those employees who were furloughed during the pandemic with very little to fall back on. I would also like to see those who use public services say thank you a little more often. I also would like to see managers hold all employees to a high standard of competency, which would do a lot for moral. Nothing like working on a high performing team proud of its work.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 4, 2021 at 11:15 am

Online Name is a registered user.

How about starting by replacing the librarians and the Animal Shelter employees? How many people are already in the City Manager's Office? How many interns does it take to recycle news wire Covid Reports for his "Uplift" newsletter??

Does he really think it's uplifting to share regular news reports and RECIPES with us? WHY RECIPES??

[Portion removed.]

We hardly need more people in the City Manager's office to refuse to communicate with residents and the media like they've done repeatedly about where we are with the Utility refunds, whether the cameras at the railroad tracks are even working each time someone gets killed on the tracks,

Posted by Observer, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Nov 4, 2021 at 11:25 am

Observer is a registered user.

@sandeep. Re your comment "Ms. Diamond is so far removed from how the world actually works these days that these blog posts come off as completely ignorant, entitled, and lazy" I would observe that you are the one who is poorly informed and without any credible knowledge of the travails of earlier generations. The array of benefits made available to city employees is far beyond those provided to most commercial employees. Try to find a non-governmental position offering a pension, dental insurance, cost-of-living adjustments, day care assistance..... I would add that many of the benefits in current compensation packages were not available to most employees in prior generations - those that you assert were handed everything in a silver spoon.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 4, 2021 at 11:42 am

Online Name is a registered user.

" I recently saw a bicyclist down in an intersection of El Camino Real and Stanford. Never say that reported in the Palo Alto newspapers. A little visible traffic enforcement might do wonders. "

Carol Scott, that incident and so many more. There are many discussions on NextDoor of accidents that are never reported in the police blotter with lots of speculation about why not. I'm still wondering why the street near me was closed for hours late one night with many cop cars with their lights going and NOTHING in the paper.

As for spending on PR, esp. by the police, WHY are they wasting time redistributing the City Manager's useless Uolift newsletter? Why does it come from the short-staffed police dept and not the over-staffed City Manager's office?

Posted by Darren Phillips, a resident of another community,
on Nov 4, 2021 at 11:44 am

Darren Phillips is a registered user.

The current City of Palo Alto administrative employees should cherish their jobs and benefits package based on what little they actually contribute as a whole. And as for the Millennials wallowing in their Winter of Discontent, simply fill out an employment application and maybe you too can join the ranks of various entitled city employees cruising their way through CalPers retirement. Rather than complain, play the game as your alleged ancestors from a previous generation did.

Posted by DianaDiamond, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 4, 2021 at 11:52 am

DianaDiamond is a registered user.

Sandeep --
Alas. You wrote:
"Ms. Diamond is so far removed from how the world actually works these days that these blog posts come off as completely ignorant, entitled, and lazy. The last thing the younger working class wants to hear is the tired drumbeat from the generation that had everything handed to them."
You wrote hat we, who are older, you had "everything handed" to us? Really? No pensions unless ou worked for the same company 25 years, then portable pensions of your new employer handed it to us, and no dental, vision insurance, no paid holidays like MMLK day, or Columbus Day or Veterans day, etc. Some companies and businesses don't give out pensions, at least not like the city does.
So if you can declare that my thoughts are "so far removed from how the world actually works these days that these blog posts come off as completely ignorant, entitled, and lazy.," do tell me how today really is because obviously you know. Describe, please, where I am wrong and describe what I don't know and what, in what I wrote, is so out of touch.
I could use your knowledgeable, smart thoughts and comments about what I am missing in today's world.
Appreciatively (in advance). Diana

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 4, 2021 at 12:43 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Thank you, Diana. I've long joked that pensions are small hotels in Europe. Another standard joke is "What did you get for your 50th birthday?" Answer: Laid off.

Both are what happened to the older generation. Even big companies like IBM are trying every way they can to avoid paying their retirees anything on the pensions they expected.

I never had an employee even contribute matching funds to my IRAs and had lots of companies lie about when vesting started.

Civil SERVICE jobs were always trading security and retirement benefits for lower salaries.

And stock options are only a recent invention.

Posted by Ariel DeLaCruz, a resident of another community,
on Nov 6, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Ariel DeLaCruz is a registered user.

@sandeep...your trademark Millennial blame game holds little water. Welcome to the real world where nothing is free and everyday life remains an ongoing struggle just to survive.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Nov 8, 2021 at 6:22 am

Annette is a registered user.

Question to the City Manager who wants to add two additional assistants to his staff and Pat Burt who reportedly wants to hire a lot more employees: has the City's unfunded pension liability corrected itself? Are we suddenly in such good shape there that we can in-fill and add to the obligation?

As for a City org chart, that got buried a long time ago, I think during the Benest years. Prior to that it was accessed via a simple click on the City's website. If it was readily viewable now it would be clear to everyone that there's no shortage of management level people at City Hall. And yet Shikada, like his predecessor, often tells Council that Staff doesn't have the bandwidth for whatever work Council is considering asking of them. Given how facile we are at engaging outside consultants, I think this begs explanation. Maybe the City Manager makes such statements as a prelude to a request for more staff in his department.

Another question: is the City short on funds or not? This blog suggests that our coffers are sufficiently full to resume hiring. If that is the case, why not bring back the librarians and increase staffing in PAPD and PAFD? Could it be that the self-inflicted housing dilemma is part of the hiring challenge? Maybe the current CC should reach out to Kniss, Fine, Scharff et al and ask them what they had in mind for housing when they encouraged the commercial development that increased demand so far beyond Palo Alto's supply that balancing the jobs:housing imbalance is a pipe dream.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 8, 2021 at 10:05 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Annette raises an excellent point about asking Kniss, Scharff, Fine et al what they had in mind. Let them explain / defend their previous positions. These were the folks who were also criticized for their lack of civility as well as common sense.

Speaking of civility, where's Shikada's huge "communications" staff now that Palo Alto has again made national news for the death threats made against a sitting City Council member?? Could one of them can FINALLY issue a statement saying death threats are bad and won't be tolerated here in Palo Alto?

Posted by Consuelo DeLaCruz, a resident of North Whisman,
on Nov 8, 2021 at 11:18 am

Consuelo DeLaCruz is a registered user.

Poor sandeep. Millennials are now in their mid-30s and still complaining about the cruel hand they were dealt?

Try conveying this notion to those who grew up during the Great American Depression and then we'll talk.

Until then, quit your complaining.

Posted by Jim Lange, a resident of Los Altos Hills,
on Nov 9, 2021 at 9:50 am

Jim Lange is a registered user.

A good-paying, easy job with minimal responsibilities, full benefits and extensive time-off is a Millennial nirvana.

Apply online with the City of Palo Alto.

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Nov 10, 2021 at 1:11 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

War heroes are those who fight in hand-to-hand combat and save lives of their buddies. We had the war equivalent of those heroes during the peak of the pandemic. They exposed themselves to the virus while trying to save lives of those who had it, or had to be tested for it. Unfortunately, the 'hero' awards were handed out with the least effort made to decide who the real heroes were. Trophies for everyone!!

Posted by Lillian Davis, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Nov 10, 2021 at 1:31 pm

Lillian Davis is a registered user.

The real heroes are the ones who continued working at essential businesses (i.e. grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations etc.) during the coronavirus lock down. They did not have the privilege of working safely at home and/or receiving Covid-19 unemployment benefits.

The City of Palo Alto administrative employees who were sequestered in 2020 are not heroes by any means of the word.

They got an extended vacation!

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Nov 10, 2021 at 1:44 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I worked for three different companies during my working career. They were all involved in the defense industry, which is funded by the Federal government, but, the employees of those companies didn't get the benefits of government workers. I was laid off from the last company (a privately owned company), that I had worked for for 27 years. I get a very small cash payment from the pension payment after the medical insurance is taken out of it...and that's all. There has been no adjustment made to the pension payment since back in the mid-90's (it's frozen). I have no dental insurance, or any other benefits our city workers get after they retire. I think today, those who retire from non-governmental jobs, are pretty much left on their own except for Social Security payments. Please stop whining about low pay or benefits. But you can, are entitled to, and should, whine about the high cost of housing and living in this economically divided and dysfuntional area.

Posted by Rusty Taylor, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 11, 2021 at 11:53 am

Rusty Taylor is a registered user.

Many Millennials grew up playing youth soccer where goals & scoring weren't kept further perpetuating their delusional sense of false self-esteem.

Now they are adults and many have still not adjusted to the fact that everyday life is a scoreboard where there will always be winners and losers.

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