I spoke with our mayor Pat Burt today and he told me that although he initially thought he could raise $40m (towards our roughly $200m budget) via a business tax, he has lowered his expectations to $10m. At a recent public hearing he was discussing $20m. At this rate, by the time there is something on the November ballot, we may be asking our billionaires and trillionaires to pitch in a measley million dollars, or just let us literally eat the remains of their scrumptous power lunches; let us eat cake!
I told Pat that people in Palo Alto like winners, and they like heavy hitters. I name dropped Palo Alto Vikings’ Henry Bolte, who had 13 homers for the #2 top public school in the entire Bay Area (and had 48 steals). Our mayor Pat Burt, using my baseball analogy said he was trying to bunt the ball to avoid striking out.
I said Pat, you are a leader. You should stand up in public and act your conscience. If you think the fair share for business — like Tesla, $742b market cap, Amazon, $1.25T (trillion) market cap, Google, $529b market cap, Ford $55 HP, $41b market cap, is $40 million for the public coffers and not a measly million say so, no matter how loud the opposition.
He said that he had commissioned three polls and the pollsters said the voters don’t want $40 million or $20 million or maybe not $10 million, and he will feel peachy if he raises a mere million. I asked him how much the pollsters cost us, and he said he didn’t know. I asked him if it was true that our pollster or consultant is affilated with Jarvis Gann the famous anti-tax activists and he said he thought Jarvis Gann was a sidewinder for the St. Louis Browns. He said “Jervis Gunn”*, it sounded like.
I said, what about VCs? Did he know that there is a company called Ribbit Capital on University that has announced, via the Silicon Valley Business Journal in January, 2022, that it raised $1.1 BILLION for a venture fund. Ribbit which is above CVS and whose entrance is next to a homeless lady who sleeps where the exit is blocked off to the pharmacy.
He said he thought VCs, because they have relatively small offices and few employees would leave and go to Menlo Park and Mountain View if we tried to tax them. I said one, Menlo Park and Mountain View unlike Palo Alto already have business taxes, and two, since Palo Alto has the greatest concentration of venture capital in America, we should have the most progressive tax on venture capital.
He said my argument was “specious”, jumped up from his perch, brushed past me (and my small dog, Daffy) around to the other side of the porch (of Printers Ink, the former bookstore turned coffee house turned part-coffee-house part-wine-bar). I said “Define specious”.
As he was climbing on to his bike and (for no good reason) strapping on a helmet, I said, facetiously and a bit irked, “Thanks for not attacking me”.
He said that I had not learned anything nor shown any human growth since he last attacked me (which was in March, 2011 during his previous council term, at the same joint, but 50 feet away, inside the shop).
“You are just like Eddie Haskell”.
I said that if he was my therapist the Eddie Haskell remark might mean something to me, but as a mayor and purported businessman he had no business analyzing me, calling me names, resorting to ad hominems, or dodging my questions. I meant to say, because I had rehearsed this with an ally a few minutes before approaching him, that at best he wil go down in history as someone who gave concessions to power, and was concillatory with special interests. I said that the Castilleja result — he voted the previous night to let them rebuild their campus and expand their student body despite their flagrant violations of their Conditional Use Permit — plus the business tax debacle — an extension of what I call a “tax holiday for Palo Alto’s billionaires and trillionaires”– will foment class war, the ultra-rich versus you and me, dear reader.
To the extent that Eddie Haskell was a character in a 1950s sitcom about American life and American Family — “Leave it To Beaver” — starring Ken Osmond as a villain or very flawed but funny minor character who tried in vain to kiss up to the adults and misrepresent in a classically ironic sense, this slur applies to Pat Burt way more than to me. I texted him later to say I had in earnest tried to be nice to him, find good in him, laud him when he did something right. This despite the fact, as he admitted he attacked me, bullied me (more than once). When I discussed this dynamic with then-mayor Alex Yiaway Yeh he said that all seven other council members had complained of Pat’s tactics – they called it being “burted”. When Pat ran again for council in 2020 only one of those seven endorsed him. The other six of his peers shunned him.
Pat attacked me because I wrote on the comment board of the local paper that I didn’t believe him when he said that billionaire builder John Arrillaga had merely initiated a proposal to build an office tower on park land at 27 University and that “we were taking the lead now”. Sure enough, I was correct, and the Santa Clara County Grand Jury reported that Pat Burt and other council members had violated The Brown Act and our own policies by meeting serially with the billionare to secretly advance his pet project. This cost the tax payers $500,000 — money we foolishly spent fleshing out his plans; maybe it’s not too late to ask the Arrillaga estate to repay us.
Taxing the the vast business capital here a feeble $10m is like giving big business a $100m per year tax holiday, if you consider what cities like San Jose and Mountain View do. That we’ve never enacted a tax, while the Dow has grown from 8,000 in 2003 to 32,000 today, is like squandering a potential billion dollar rainy day fund.
During the Covid era compounding our problems, our libraries have been open only a third of the possible hours, and we furloughed hourly workers who might have worked at community events at places like The Palo Alto Art Center.
Pat Burt is a coward and a fool in that he pretends to work for the people but is really the useful idiot for the ultra-rich and the small group of landlords who runs things here. It’s hard to tell, honestly, whether he thinks he is doing a good job, or if, if he actually listened to a 10 minute tape of himself, he would realize he is way out of his class.
Maybe “corruption” is too strong a word for this dynamic. [I had written to council last month calling attention to a situation in Anaheim, California where the FBI caught their mayor in multiple serious misdeeds and claimed that a “cabal” ran that city] But I hope, in these writings, that come November we can find three Palo Altans to run for Council who are willing to bite their lip and take their swings at the plate and not bunt the ball, in the analogy that Pat gave me. We need people who are willing to make Democracy like baseball our national pastime, and not yield to crony capitalism like Pat Burt appears to do.
Our business tax should target the 100 largest and wealthiest companies that do business here, and it shouldleave alone Mom and Pops; instead, current leadership calls for spreading the taxes among 1,000 companies, mostly family owned. I saw Pat with Nancy Coupa discussing the topic at her Ramona Street cafe but told her today she should not have been bothered at all. (The Chamber of Commerce put her in their anti-tax ads: how does it hurt Mom and Pops – -the majority of your members, Charlie Weidanz, if We The People tax the ultra-rich?).
The VCs might just as likely brag about raising a billion for their funds while raising $10m for the libraries, rather than slink away to some lesser locale, as Pat Burt claims to fear. Or show me evidence that they are as lily-livered and un-American as our current unfortunate mayor.
Maybe on top of finding a good candidate for council and then mayor, we should work on a recall of Pat Burt (who after, all, was termed out once before). He is a disgrace to American principles and our community. He is the Eddie Gaedel of batsmen at a time when we need Stan the Man (or “Oh Henry”).
*Dizzy Dean was a great picture who said things like “slud” into third rather than “slid” or “slid”. Dazzy Vance was another good pitcher of that era, who I read about or collected his trading cards. Gene Bearden I do not recall. But I do know and am indirectly referencing Con Dempsey the father of my contemporary and opponent Dave Dempsey, who told me his father’s career was ruined when the expert Branch Rickey made him switch from sidearm to overhand. Don’t trust the experts, trust your gut, be it baseball or corporate creep. There is no Jervis Gunn or Jarvis Gann of the Browns, to my knowledge. But I am “city serious” (Lardner, 1924) that I taped Pat Burn making a fool of himself walking back his bungling and not even bunting of the tax initiative. Sit down, Meat!