Menlo Park wants to hire 9 full-time planners Menlo Park, posted by Editor, The Almanac Online, on Feb 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm
With an estimated 35 projects in the pipeline, Menlo Park wants to nearly double the size of its planning department. The nine additional full-time staff members would be spread among the planning, building and public works divisions if the City Council approves the new positions at its Feb. 12 meeting.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, February 11, 2013, 3:53 PM
Posted by Bob, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Feb 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm
While I appreciate the concept that sometimes you need to spend money to make money, I have a hard time grasping that big a jump -- 9 new planners and the sizable price tag.
I tend to agree with Ms. Duboc in using contact employees initially. The city can always add the staff down the road if there is long term need, but it's difficult to cut staff if the need for these projected employees flattens out or declines. Does the city manager really believe that there will be the same amount of work for all 9 five years from now?
Posted by Make your own bed, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Feb 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm
After blowing $1.5mm on Perkin Will for a suboptimal ECR Downtown Specific Plan, at best a glorified survey taking amateur exercise, maybe we should hire away some of their staff, all qualified planners, with their 3 years head start on Menlo's issues
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of the Woodside: Emerald Hills neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm
If we need these people at all, which I doubt, then their compensation should be set at market level.
That means, start the job offer at minimum wage and no benefits. If you can hire qualified applicants, then you are done. If not, increase the offer in steps until you can hire. After this process, the taxpayer is actually getting good value for money spent (I know that may be a heretical notion to some.)
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
The hiring proposal presumes that Menlo Park will be in a constant state of development forever - that is crazy.
Do as Obvious and Lee Duboc suggest - hire contractors on a project-by-project basis for each large project and bill the direct cost of the contractor to the applicant together with a small (10% to 15%) markup?
Posted by moneyball, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2013 at 1:38 pm
Davis has the right idea. There are plenty of smart people out there looking for work. And my own observation is that the correlation between remuneration and effort/intelligence is tenuous. $150k/person (I understand those are fully loaded costs) seems excessive. And why do they need $250k in furnishings? Unless you're ridiculously extravagant, you can get a state-of-the-art setup for about $5k/person. Or get the budget setup -- which is not a bad idea when you're spending other people's money -- for under $1,000.
Having managed a lot of super-talented and arguably underpaid people, I'll pit my crew against consultants' high-on-the-hog hirelings any day. And I have no doubt that we will do a better job and save the taxpayers money too!
This is the first time, EVER, that I recall MP openings being announced in a public forum. I've long wondered how those jobs were advertised. Maybe this means they will actually consider hiring residents?
Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community, on Feb 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm
Do your homework first-read the staff report. Then, look up the qualifications and job description for a municipal planner(not only do they have to be smart, they have to have specific analytical skills that can only be learned). ALmanac, this applies to you too--the proposal is NOT nine Planners, it is 3 new ones, making 2 temps permanent, the other 4 are 3 engineers and a building inspector. All of which I believe, from personal direct experience with these departments, are badly needed
Posted by MBA, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2013 at 3:07 pm
So where is the money going to be generated to pay for these new staff and their short and long term benefits? ALL of that should be bundled into fees that are charged out, but it's unlikely each will be totally billable, so the fees won't entirely pay for all the costs.
The City Manager and Council need a financial plan to demonstrate how this is going to work. Remember that the Specific Plan's Financial Impact Analysis concluded that the only way the Plan would provide financial benefits was if a hotel is built. Well, Stanford isn't interested. So the city is out the $1.5 million for the consultants and will be out even more every year for the product of their work.
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of the Woodside: Emerald Hills neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2013 at 3:16 pm
@consultant, I am a businessman in the tech industry. I believe you may have overlooked the part of my comment where I said "qualified applicants."
If you believe in paying more money than the market price, then you will not be in business very long, because your customers will go elsewhere to someone who doesn't. Unless, of course, you work for a low-accountability sector like government, which freely spends other peoples' money with barely a care in the world.
Posted by Streamline, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm
Big part of the problem is the ridiculously cumbersome bureaucracy of the approval process. Focus on streamlining procedures, get back to basics. Consider staff needed vs. contractors vs. consultants on a project basis. Keep permanent staff to minimum.
Posted by Downtowner, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2013 at 8:30 pm
No! Just no! Insane expenditure to increase the bureaucracy. Menlo can't afford this& if it takes longer to get planning approvals, maybe that will slow some of the ill-advised projects from moving forward.
Posted by consultants, a member of the Menlo-Atherton High School community, on Feb 13, 2013 at 10:49 am
"If you believe in paying more money than the market price, then you will not be in business very long, "
Ask Google, Joe. And I don't me do a search, silly. Look at their business plan.
There are times when I overpay "paying more money than the market price" because having a superior group allows my company to kick your company's butt. Smarter, more talented, more experienced, faster and better equipped will beat your cheaper "qualified applicant" team often enough for me to pay and profit plenty from the choice.
My backers agree. Otherwise they wouldn't have shoveled money at me.
This isn't a overseas widget company. This is the valley.
Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community, on Feb 15, 2013 at 9:37 am
I pointed this out in an earlier post, but I'll say it again. The proposal was not to add 9 planners to the Planning Department. It added 3 new positions and converted 2 currently filled temporary positions to permanent. The other 4 are in Building and Public Works. I personally don't feel qualified to offer an opinion on the debate as to whether permanent employees in these fields are better than contract employees-tho I certainly recognize the validity of the position that if the workload is expected to be temporary, then a hiring strategy to match would make sense. However, at the root of this issue is the reality that given the current and projected workload, these three departments are grossly understaffed. Over-worked people tend to have a higher percentage of human errors, bad for the City, and process cycle times are exacerbated, bad for the applicant (time is money). I'm glad the CC at least directed the City Manager to develop a scaled back ($300K) plan and didn't reject the need for more help out of hand.