Editor's note - The East Palo Alto City Council is considering making staff reductions that will eliminate nine city employees. The council's decision regarding the layoffs is slated to be made at the next city council meeting that is scheduled for Tuesday, February 28. Several East Palo Alto residents spoke against the proposed layoffs at the council's meeting on February 21. East Palo Alto resident, Dennis Parker, was one of the residents who spoke at the meeting. His remarks are featured below.
The RDA staff that you are considering for layoff are the only people who can figure out how to close the gap and how to restructure the City organization.
In order to survive, the city must find ways to work smarter and to generate revenue. We have always relied heavily on grants, yet we have lost a lot of grants through mismanagement. That’s one new revenue stream.
If you lay off your experienced people, you lose the institutional history, continuity, and the talent that you need to make the kind of creative decisions needed for recovery. Four Corners has been an empty lot for a decade. You need to take the skills learned within the Redevelopment Agency and reapply them within a new city organization.
With Facebook, Google, and Stanford looking for office space and housing, the worse that you could do is to get rid of people who could not only go after more grants, but could find ways to create partnerships and start running the city like a business.
Times Square, New York, and Las Vegas Nevada were not always the world-class family-friendly destinations that they are now. They re-invented themselves, and East Palo Alto must do the same using human resources in a literal sense.
When Hewlett-Packard fell on hard times back in the 60’s or 70’s, rather than lay off their senior engineers, they allowed them to work at minimum wage doing manual labor on a ranch owned by one of the founders, while retaining their tenure and benefits. When the economy picked up, everybody was in place to ride the wave back to prosperity.
Before Ikea and the new off-ramp from Highway 101 to University Avenue were built, a lot of bridge commuters were making illegal left turns in order to use neighborhood streets as shortcuts. The One East Palo Alto (OEPA) Public Safety Committee suggested a project similar to a speed trap, where a police officer and a few assistants would position themselves to flag over offenders.
There were so many offenders, that the team could issue tickets as fast as they were able to write them. They could even pre-fill the forms with date, location, etc. to make the process even faster. This could generate enough revenue to pay for the extra staff.
We were told by one police lieutenant that you cannot write traffic tickets for a source of revenue. But if you think outside the box, what’s wrong with increasing public safety and the quality of life, with the side-effect of increasing revenue? Today’s version of this scenario is the gridlock caused by cars blocking the intersection where they exit Highway 101 and block the intersection when the light changes next to Jones Mortuary.
I know what it’s like to get laid off. I’m unemployed myself. Quite often, the employees left behind suffer as much as those laid off, because the survivors have to fill the gaps to maintain the same level of service with fewer people. Morale drops, while fear and lack of trust increase.
In summary, the lessons I have learned from private industry are: Hold on to your brain trust. Reward good employees. Run the city like a business. Think outside the box. Reinvent yourself.
To contact the author of the opinion piece, Dennis Parker, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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