Time for New Talent

Time for New Talent


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Time for New Talent!

Are Bay Area cities forfeiting their ability to make hard decisions?  Are City Councils ready to defer governance to other entities? Has profound success diminished critical thinking skills to balance jobs, housing and infrastructure funding?
Below are six articles describing cityquakes shaking all Peninsula cities.We urge our readers to think carefully as pressures rise to restructure local city government. There is immense talent on the Peninsula and that talent is needed in rebooted, sturdy City Councils. But some Councilpersons are clearly not up to their challenges. Most Council elections are coming in less than 100 days!

A City Council Seeks Voter Opinion

Brisbane residents will determine whether their community should essentially double in size when they vote this fall on a divisive proposal to transform the Baylands into a sweeping mixed-use development.
SM Daily Journal

After 10+ years of controversy, a massive mixed-use complex doubles Brisbane’s supply of homes. Council voted unanimously to amend the general plan on the upcoming ballot. The measure will pave a multi-year process for 1800 to 2200 homes, 6.6 million sf of commercial space and a hotel.
SJ Mercury News

Ed. Comment:  Standing tall above most city councils…..Brisbane officials are declining to be their voters’ mindreaders. Certain decisions can legimately be above elected officials’ comfort zones.  This city council driven by sense of community and common sense wisely seeks voter opinion on a development of historical importance for the entire Peninsula.

BTW..the best case scenario seems to be 2200 homes and 25-40,000 new jobs within 7-10 years. We can’t calculate the job/housing ratio but Brisbane voters will.

More Ed. Comment: We turn to Art Buchwald’s humor for serious advice.

Brisbane is a mirror reflecting complexity of local control.
Consider these three quotations reflected in local press.

“It is in the best interest of city to approve this,” said former Brisbane mayor Lori Liu.

“I think this plan you are looking at is cutting your own throat. It’s like saying ‘we’ll cut our own throat instead of the state cutting it for us.’ I don’t agree with that at all,” said Brisbane resident Tony Verreos.”

Brisbane City Manager Clay Holstine said, “I think the bottom-line issue for the city is that if there is going to be development there, we want it to be a fully functioning community and not just a series of buildings that are disconnected from the town.”

This is invaluable journalism by the San Mateo Daily Journal and San Jose Mercury.

Although Rude,
SNAFU is a Fitting Farewell

Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, will end an 18-year reign by retiring early next year.

It can’t come soon enough.
The region’s freeways are gridlocked. Public transit systems are in disarray. Commute times continue to increase. Heminger touts his agency as “action-oriented and project-based,” but that has translated into piecemeal construction, pathetic planning and a lack of long-range vision. The agency merely hands out money for one politically popular project after another with little sense of where it will all lead.
SJ Mercury News

Ed. Comment: Words count and we praise courage of this opinion. When a legit editorial begins with “Good Riddance”, then we read it carefully. We urge our subscribers to read it twice.

If you have lived your life without full understanding of SNAFU, click below for a definition with punch. Full disclosure: SJ Mercury did not suggest SNAFU. SFPRA slung the slang.

Danger Zone

Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury issued a report addressing housing. The 45-page report offers 39 findings and recommendations for 15 cities to close the housing gap, including employer fees, incentives for greater density and creation of “sub-regions.” Cities with high real-estate costs would subsidize housing built in adjacent cities that have lower real-estate costs.

This clarion call for denser housing makes a case for stronger state laws that will prod “flailing cities” to build more densely, particularly below-market-rate housing. A summary states, “Higher densities are a necessary solution, but cities are not fully embracing this solution in the face of resident resistance, and a lack of funding, land and urgency.”
Palo Alto Weekly

Ed. Comment: We welcome out of the box thinking, but creation of overlapping political entities with unclear accountability to voters is not only unproven but is dangerous to democracy. We think Peninsula city councils can easily improve their own performance by 200%. This would better than throwing established governing mechanisms into the dustbin.

Too many city councils do not attract the best community leaders to city hall. This is the first step for quality government. Councilpersons! Heal thyselves and encourage the best candidates to step up during the next two election cycles.

Your Tax Checks and Their Bank Balances

An obscure government agency, the Joint Powers Authority, can take on significant debt without oversight from the county, the state or the voters, according to Contra Costa civil grand jury report.
These agencies are essentially agreements between two or more government agencies to collaborate and create a third agency to provide a service or combine their monies for a large project.
Among the most important findings were that an unknown number of JPAs have taken on an unknown amount of debt that did not need voter approval and can exceed debt ceilings imposed on regular government agencies.
The county and 19 cities have at least $1.5 billion in public debt.
Ed. Comment: Democracy depends upon checks and balances. JPAs have a real role on the Peninsula. However, when taxes are spread over such large systems over very long periods of time, then everybody and nobody is in charge. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Raking in other People’s Money

Amazon’s search for a second headquarters has produced eye-popping revelations about the subsidies and other benefits cities are offering to a company worth some $820 billion.
Ed. Comment: Amazon is just the tip of an iceberg. We find tech titan tax avoidance impossible to understand but surely some journalist is on the trail of something big.

Major firms all over the US have been quietly hauling in subsidies worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to data from a subsidy watchdog. In a readers want to engage in tedious research, click on Good Jobs First.

San Bruno Budgets

Officials pass a spending plan, while pointing to need for additional tax revenue.  San Bruno officials suggested work should begin to improve the city’s financial footing in the coming years. The Council unanimously approved a budget with $47 million in payments outpacing the $45.6 million in projected income for the coming fiscal year.
Ed. Comment: These councilpersons are showing the candor their citizens deserve. It can’t be easy to state that cost of city government may be outpacing cash flow. This imbalance seems prevalent across the Peninsula but few councilpersons are as honest with each other and their voters. Is it possible that most city operating and capital budgets are structurally flawed for the long term even before the pension deficits are considered?

Success of SFPRA newsletter success depends upon its readers. Please feel free to forward the newsletter to your friends and neighbors. Ask them to subscribe at no cost by clicking the subscribe button above or by emailing cnsbuchanan@gmail.com.

Editors, Neilson Buchanan and John Guislin, are unpaid, private citizens on the SF Peninsula and have no ties to developers or government organizations.

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