These two photos show the East Palo Alto City Council in the photo on the left and members of
the city staff in the photo on the right.
This week, the East Palo Alto City Council made the decision that many city residents and some city staff members had anxiously awaited. The council make the difficult choice of deciding which staff members to layoff.
For several weeks, the council had reviewed and debated three options it had been given by East Palo Alto's City Manager, ML Gordon. All three options entailed the layoffs of city staff members, whose positions were located within the city manager's office, the city's Community Development Department (CDD) and the police department.
After considerable debate and public comment, the city council voted 4 to 1 to keep three city employees with the option of retaining a fourth employee at the city manager's discretion. Council member Peter Evans abstained from voting. The council's vote was made at the end of a special council meeting that was held on Tuesday, February 28.
The employees, who were retained at salaries considerably below their current pay, included three employees in the Community Development Department: Russell Averhart, the RDA division manager; Carlos Martinez, the RDA project coordinator and Sean Charpentier, the RDA coordinator II and a fourth employee in the city manager's office, Marie McKenzie.
The employees will be retained as economic development coordinators, which is a new position that was created, under one of the restructuring plan options the council had been presented.
Prior to making their decision, council members were told that staff cuts were needed because of the loss of redevelopment funds, which were caused by the California Supreme Court's decision last December to eliminate redevelopment agencies statewide. The city's top staff said the court's decision meant that, unless the city took action, namely, making staff cuts, the city would face a $1.0 million to $1.6 million deficit, which would have to be absorbed by the city's General Fund, which already had a budget deficit.
The council considered as its first option, the elimination of three positions from the city manager's office: the administrative analyst, the executive assistant to the city manager and the information/relations manager for a savings of $325,090. This option also entailed the elimination from the CDD of four positions: the public works inspector, the RDA division manager, the RDA project coordinator and the second RDA coordinator for a savings of $497,487. Also included was the elimination for the police department of two police captains for a savings of $415,522. In all, there would be a total savings of .
The second option involved the elimination of everyone involved in option one and the hiring of three economic development coordinators for a cost of $114,411 each. The economic development coordinators would have the task of finding ways to increase the city's revenues. Option two would save $894,866.
The third option involved the elimination of the three positions in the city manager's office, the two police captains and only the public works inspector in the CDD. This option would save $330,495.
During the community forums at the council meetings where the layoffs were discussed as a “proposed restructuring plan,” city residents were especially passionate in expressing their opposition to the elimination of the RDA division manager, the RDA project coordinators and the information/relations manager.
They argued that in at least one case the employee, whose job was up for elimination, had been with the city since 1983, when East Palo Alto became a city and was an irreplaceable resource, when it came to having knowledge of the city's institutional history.the employees who might be laid off were an invaluable asset Several residents who addressed the council argued that the employees who were slated to be laid off from the CDD and one in the city manager's office were experienced, provided continuity and had knowledge and skills that would be indispensable in the city's economic recovery.
Other residents who spoke said that they did not understand why the city would lay off employees on the one hand citing a huge budget deficit and at the same time hire other employees at comparable salaries.
In the end, the council voted on several motions that were a modification of option 2. The final motion which was made by David Woods was adopted by the council unanimously. But in adopting the final motion, which was also a modification of option 2, even Woods and several other council members acknowledged that given the reductions in salaries each of the retained employee would receive, several might choose to leave the city on their own.
The council's adopted restructuring plan with the salary reductions and the accompanying staff layoffs will take effect in 30 days.
To contact Henrietta J. Burroughs, the author of this article, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Demise of Redevelopment Agencies, a Talking with Henrietta television show
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