Turf Contract Awarded.
I attended Monday night’s City Council meeting, which drew a packed house, as pro-turf and anti-turf residents squared off one last time in the Council Chambers. As I’m sure you are aware, after nearly two hours of discussion, the Council voted 4-1 to award the contract to resurface the athletic field at Highlands Park with synthetic turf, with the start of construction delayed for another 90 days until the pending litigation to block the installation of turf is resolved. Councilman Matt Grocott was the lone dissenting voice on the Council for this particular vote.
I sat in the front row of the spectator section and listened to Public Works Director Robert Weil’s introduction, as well each and every resident presentation. If you haven’t taken the time to attend a City Council meeting in person, I highly recommend doing so — especially with the crucial budget discussions right around the corner. Besides, seeing our government at work is a very interesting experience. Some impressions I took away from the meeting:
- Funds: Councilman Omar Ahmad, with the assistance of the City Staff, did an outstanding job of defining the different funds were being considered to fund this project. I wasn’t clear at the outset about the differences between Measure G Funds, Park-in-Lieu Funds, and Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) Endowment Funds — but after that discussion it was very clear. Well done.
- Public Speakers: Every person who spoke, regardless of which side they were on, spoke eloquently and effectively on their position. This takes a lot of guts to do in front of a packed house, a full council, and a television audience. I was very impressed with everyone who spoke.
- Representation: I kept an approximate count of the number of speakers and their positions on this issue. 35 speakers total: 20 (or 57%) either wanted a delay in the decision, or were against it entirely. 15 (43%) were in favor of moving forward. In addition, at the start of the meeting the turf poll that is currently running at the top of the site already had over 100 votes — 86% were against moving forward, and about 11% were in favor (the rest voted “don’t care.”) Granted, both of these datapoints are highly unscientific, but for all the claims that the pro-turf contingency was the majority, these numbers tell a different story. Yet the council still voted 4-1… I will let you draw your own conclusions.
Next Up: Budgets.
I stated in my previous post (and I remained convinced) I believe the turf contract approval process should have taken place at the same time the City Budget was being decided, not months in advance. Why? Not for the hope of using capital improvement funds for like those above to solve our operational issues. I fully understand that those monies cannot be mixed. But even though the funds come from different sources — it’s still money…and the Park and Rec Department just got a golden egg — an egg that should be taken into account when the City ultimately decides how and where to make their cuts to balance the budget.
I will be writing more posts as the budget battle starts to heat up in the coming months. Believe me, if you were looking for a time to get involved in civic issues, there isn’t a better time than now.
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