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April 25, 2009



I have question I would like to put out egarding the need for public libraies.When I was growing up walking into a libray was an encredible experience. Books, information, the scent of the place.
However, in this day and age, I do not think libraied are anything more than a refuge from the "outside".
That has a lot of value!
Nevertheless, I think the Libray syst is em is archacic and needs to be reconfigured. The Burlingame Libray is a giagantic luxurey for a city this small where we can not even take the time to water a tree.
The internet has all the resources and more that a libray can not begin to have.(unless they have free computers)
So except for a community meeting hall, what is the libray system doing for you.


Sorry about the spelling.

I hope JD you visit our libraries during story time (not available on the computer), I hope you visit our library for the author's events, the televised debates/inauguration, I hope you visit our library for our book sales, I hope you visit our library for the sense of community it gives us, I hope you visit our library to get advice and recommendations on books etc from our hardworking knowledgeable and helpful library staff.

My favorite is seeing a young person asking a librarian for advice on reading and being excited about a certain book and being able to find it on the shelf and take it home to read. OK you could get this advice in our bookstore but then you would have to pay for the book!

Some of the above library pluses are "free" on the internet but not the importance of walking into a library - especially ones like ours - and wanting to learn, do your homework, sit quietly without the TV, radio or phones on, read a newspaper, use a computer and enjoy a library event - all available to anyone and everyone.

I do not believe that a town that thinks that it is the epitome of sophistication (debatable I know!) would not value the importance of our libraries - not only to those like me who value libraries but to illustrate to our children that a library is a place to learn, a place to sit quietly and a place to value.

(our library also serves Hillsborough residents)


Those are some of the reasons we have rasied our faimly in Burlingame and I think the reason our children are living and rasing their famillies here as well.
Nevertheless, is it the " high crime rate, and parolled x-murderers the reason we need the Police force we are currently suporting?
Maybe it is the buildings, and homes burning down all over our "LARGE CITY day and night.
Burlingame=Mayberry RFD.
We need to get behind a city manager that can confront these PUBLIC SAFETY UNION/LOBBIESTS, and get real.
I am disappointed that our elected council memebers NEVER address these issues.

I agree JD it is frustrating that nobody on our council or city staff will confront this in a big way.

One resident said that perhaps it needs to take a few "bankrupted" cities to bring attention to this continuous serious draining of our city coffers.

Or even us residents to write to our city manager and our council and ask for this issue to be strongly discussed?


But wait . . . there's more! In the category of "it just never ends" there is now a bill (AB 155) floating around Sacramento to prohibit (yes prohibit) cities from filing bankruptcy. What should a city do if it can't pay its bills? Who knows . . . I guess that is to be determined by the brilliant folks we have elected to go to Sacramento. Perhaps the bankrupt state will provide the funds for the bankrupt cities.

Why would such a bill be necessary? Because local governments say that without an ability to renegotiate some of the labor provisions they have promised (but know-darn-well-that-they-can-never-meet), dozens of cities could be faced with bankruptcy in the near future.

Google: Capitol Weekly AB 155 and look for the April 23rd article. The San Mateo County Times also had an opinion piece on this within the last week or so (against AB 155) but I can't find it online.


Some cities need lots of Police and Fire presence. Some like ours,Burlingame do not. Why is this disconnect allowed to prevail?
It reminds me of the US Military in the 70s-80s paying hundreds of dollars for toilet seats and hammers.
No foresight, or common sense.
Our City has way to much Fire/Police to justify the cost. It takes away from money being spent on infrastructure.
IE Flood control, sewage, schools, parks trees. The things that make our City the jewel that it is.
We need to evaluate the need for the Police presence that is maintained now as well as the Fire Dept.
The building codes and safety apparatus that are built into homes, and society as a whole have contributed to an awareness that was not part of our daily lives only 20 years ago.


I think it has more to do with the retirement packages of the police and fire or any City of State worker for that matter. In what private sector can you retire at the age of 50 to 55 with 90 to 100% of your salary and full medical benefits!!! No private sector job that I know of. Medicare doesn't kick in for most until you are in your 60's. Why should we be paying for every City and State worker to retire at the ripe age of 51 and give them 90% of the salary they were getting and full medical benefits. I know four people retiring from State and City employment this year at the age of 51 with full medical benefits. Wouldn't we all like to be so lucky. We are fitting the bill for all of that and then we have to hire another to replace them and then they retire etc. That really needs to be changed and until the public starts to speak out about this, it won't be changed..


It is not every worker.
The people who empty garbage cans and clear the sewage drains when the drains are backed up are NOT part of that system.
All through the state that are the recipenants of the generous benefit package.
If everyone would only pay attenscion to the facts, than maybe we could all move forward.

Holy Roller

Does anyone know how the Storm Drain Measure turned out?
The votes must be coming in.


The San Mateo County Times reported today that 3888 ballots of 8880 mailed have been returned so far. Voters have until 8 p.m. tonight to return their ballots to the city clerk. Opening and counting of the ballots will start tomorrow at 9 a.m. and the city anticipates knowing the outcome by the close of the business day tomorrow. So, to answer your question directly, HR, at this point no one knows how the votes are trending because none of the ballots have not been opened.


Who opens/counts the ballots, and out of our total population, why 8880 mailed?


Hi Jean -- The City Clerk's office is counting the ballots, with the assistance of Wildan Financial, who was hired to oversee the storm drain engineering study/campaign. I'm not sure if any other parties have been specifically sworn as deputies to oversee the counting of ballots. Only property owners vote, not residents; presumably there are 8880 property owners in Burlingame.


Printed from THE DAILY JOURNAL, dtd. 05/06/2009


The escalation of city worker benefits

When the stock market boomed in 1999, many cities across the Peninsula, the state and the nation had no problem funding employee pensions since investment revenue paid for most of their contributions.

The boom allowed cities to create an avenue for employees to enjoy full benefits at little cost. But investment revenue soured when the dot-coms crashed in the early part of this decade. Combined with the economic downturn after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, there was little wiggle room for benefits as city costs went up to make up the investment revenue shortfall.

After Sept. 11, many police and firefighter contracts included new benefits as the general population had a renewed respect for the dangerous situations the workers in those positions were in every day. New contracts included generous benefit packages such as the 3 percent at 50 plan that allows workers to get 3 percent of their salary for every year served at the age of 50. For many police officers and firefighters who have careers cut short because of injuries, the deal seemed fair. As one city employed the new benefits package, others followed suit and other workers wanted similar deals. Salary inflation became a fact of life particularly when the cost of living on the Peninsula was factored in. Cities that didn’t remain competitive risked losing their best and brightest to other cities who offered such benefit packages.

Now, however, the cities across the Peninsula are facing a decrease in revenue across the board. Hotel tax is down, sales tax is down and property tax is down with increasing foreclosures and lowered property values.

In fact, a report circulating among city managers on the Peninsula shows that revenue growth for nine local cities averages 4.61 percent over the last five years while average employee cost increased 8.87 percent. At this point, it is simply “keeping up with the Joneses” but without the cash to do so.

Thus, the conundrum. In normal business situations, a company would cut costs by eliminating workers and benefits to make ends meet when the economy takes a turn. But when a city leadership is facing the loss of public safety workers and services like park maintenance and libraries, the political will takes its own turn. Saddled with generous benefit contracts, cities are facing more and more dire situations in which they must turn to new revenue sources like sales taxes and fees for the most basic of services like sewer repairs.

Besides, no elected member of a City Council wants to take on powerful public employee unions particularly in an election year when their support is needed to remain in office. There have been recent instances in which elected officials take on unions and ask employees to share in the pain and are promptly shown the door. It’s the local political equivalent of the third rail.

Salaries and benefits are a tricky thing, however. Some salaries balloon with overtime to eye-popping dollar amounts often above $100,000 a year and sometimes closer to $200,000. It might seem easy to simply declare that a police sergeant making up to $150,000 in salary and overtime is egregious, but overtime is a way for cities to ensure shifts are covered without the cost of hiring and training a new employee who may have to be cut when revenue slips. It is a balancing act for city managers and finance directors all over, particularly when they are facing a council fearful of putting a halt to salary increases and a population suffering its own difficult economic situation. But a new sentiment is arising among city brass, and that is the end to the larger benefit packages. Now, there is discussion from San Carlos and Redwood City to Burlingame about a new tiered benefit system for new hires, salary reductions and increases in employee contributions for their health care. This is the political equivalent of dancing under the heels of an elephant and a few elected officials are daring to try.

People wonder why projects such as the Bay Meadows redevelopment had such city support. The reason is simple. At one point, the track’s revenue would pay for much of the city of San Mateo’s services, but as attendance waned, so did the cash. And city officials sought new sources of revenue and that is simply through the commodification of land as a source of that revenue. Until the electorate realizes that revenue is needed to pay for the services they have come to demand, there will be increased emphasis on new development that will produce sales and property taxes. Either that, or there will be numerous new requests for additional taxes or a bolder continuation of that dangerous dance of questioning just how much city workers make.

Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jon@smdailyjournal.com.


All the city labor contracts, as well as the salary schedules for each position, are available on the city's website. Go to www.burlingame.org, then to departments, then click on Human Resources.

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