A Letter to the General Plan Advisory Committee 4-23-19

To Members of the General Plan Advisory Committee

The issue we have is the same we’ve had for 3 years: a lack of transparency and forthrightness has again been authorized by Staff.  Misstated information produces mistaken assumptions, wasting the time of Los Gatos citizens spending hours creating a report with misleading conclusions. 

The GPAC received a Background Report from the Staff that showed the town having a “surplus” $727,000.  This was deceptive and misleading due to the fact the Staff knew of a $1.5M salary increase 6 months before the report was issued. There is no mention of the salary increases in the Background Report, and still no mention of the salary increase 5 months later in the Staff’s Mid-Year Budget Report. 

This is what we mean when we state there is a continuing lack of transparency from the town’s government.

  1. The Background Report, produced this March, did not reflect the $1.5M of salary increases approved by Council in August and September of 2018.  Obviously, Staff and the Council knew about this.  Our questions are:Why didn’t the Staff produce a Background Report that reflected the known financial numbers? 
    1. The point in time was known so far in advance of the report that the point chosen could have reflected accurate numbers.
    2. Why has this salary increase still not been individually identified in the Mid-Year Budget Report given to the public?  Is it buried in a blur of other numbers, but unrecognized and if so, for what reason?
  2. Adding to the $727,000 “surplus” to the cost of a $1.5M salary increases, would invert the “surplus” to a nearly $800,000 loss.  Why did the Staff not make the GPAC aware of the town’s changing fortunes?
    1. Why didn’t the Staff make the consultant aware of the $1.5M salary increase?
  3. What is the implication of the missing $1.5M? 
    1. The $1.5M changes the Revenues and Costs numbers as seen in Table 2.2-2 of the Background Report.
    2. Using inaccurate and misleading information for the basis of the report makes the rest of the report inaccurate, irrelevant and misleading.
    3. Creating an inaccurate report raises the issue that the town may have later issues with CEQA and the EIR.
    4. Why waste the citizens time creating an inaccurate report? 
    5. Is the General Planning process to simply make the citizens feel like they are part of the process? 
    6. If the citizens knew they were going to be given false and misleading information, would they have signed on to help the Staff create that misinformation?
  4. In Item 2.2.1 of the Background Report, Ms Prevetti points out that they are operating with 31 fewer employees than at the peak 18 years ago.  Is it not also true that they are operating with 13 more people than they were just 6 years ago?  Why wouldn’t we expect more efficiencies with the computerization and automation taking place in the past 18 years?  What was the purpose of comparing today’s levels to 18 years ago given all of the technological changes?
  5. To put the $1.5M salary increase in perspective, that’s a 17% increase over the actual wages paid just a year before.  There will be pension benefits added to that 17% that have not been addressed in the budget.  Next year, the salaries will rise another 3%.  How will these fast-accelerating salaries and the benefits affect planning decisions in the future?
  6. Pensions are our number one problem, yet salary increases are vastly outpacing inflation.  Salaries are nearly 60% of our expenses.  How will these accelerating increases affect the planning process?
  7. The town has forecasted losses from 2020 to 2024 estimated to be $8,000,000. 
  8. In the last election, the town has told us there are over $70,000,000 of unmet needs in their public document supporting the sales tax – YET – there is no mention of this $70Million in the Background Report!
    1. Did we fix those $70M of unmet needs last year and they’re no longer relevant?  Shouldn’t they at least be acknowledged by the staff since they made that statement in a public document?
    2. The $8M of deficits plus the $10M they have omitted would seem to be extremely important information for the GPAC.  But they’re not mentioned.
    3. Why not?
  9. Having served on Commissions such as this in the past, I would personally want to contribute to the betterment of our community as long as  I knew that what I was doing would have a positive effect.    As seen at the national and international levels, people are tired of being misled by the government.  Ukraine just elected a comedian to run the country… with 0 experience in politics……to negotiate with Putin!.  Our own 2016 election is another measure of the intense dissatisfaction citizens are having with their governments.  The population demanded change and we got one, for better or for worse with a guy with no political experience.  Is this an early indicator of just how dissatisfied we are with our governments?
  10. This GPAC has an opportunity to improve on the old standard, “good enough for government work”.  However, they won’t be able to do that until the Staff produces current, accurate, complete and transparent information. 

We’re long over-due.

Jak VanNada     

Los Gatos Community Alliance

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