by Carter Coleman & Paul Lansky
Paul Lansky and I walked up to Council Candidate Dan Waylonis’ home in the Monta Loma neighborhood of Mountain View. A tall, lean guy greeted us at the door of his spacious home. Dan escorted us to his backyard and offered us Red Tail Ale. This was a good start.
I wasted no time and got right down to the important issues. Dan is a software engineer at Google who works on algorithms for mobile ads. “Would you characterize yourself as a nerd?” I asked.
“I’d call myself a sociable nerd,” Dan said. Paul and I launched into reminiscing about bygone days of paper tape and Hollerith punch cards.
We could have talked computer talk for hours and hours, but it was getting dark, and I still had a long list of questions.
“How many times have you taken public transit in the past month?” I asked. Dan admitted that he hadn’t used public transit at all.
“Hah! I got him!” I thought. But Dan then pointed out that he does ride his Specialized bike to Google every day. When Dan talks about sustainability, he’s talking about a different kind of green, however.
“This past year the city had a $5 million gap, but as you look into the future, you see the gap increasing to a $20 million deficit by 2020,” Dan claimed. “A recent report from the Santa Clara Grand Jury said it perfectly: “Cities Must Rein in Unsustainable Employee Costs.”
According to Dan’s website www.waylonis.org , there 32 Mountain View employees making over $200,000 per year, and 259 employees that make between $100,000 and $200,000 per year — including administrative assistants, golf pros, and tree trimmers.
Employee costs have grown 55-65% over the past decade, according to Dan, while population growth has been flat, and while the Consumer Price Index has gone up only 27%. Today, the average for wages and benefits for a Mountain View city employee is $123,754 and for a police or fire employee, the cost rises to $190,591.
“So what’s a Councilperson to do?” I asked.
Like Aaron Jabbari, Dan subscribes to giving new employees a different deal. There’s a reason that the private sector got out of pensions and health benefits, according to Dan, because it’s impossible to manage the long-term costs and they ultimately end up bankrupting the employer. “The right step is to bring these costs down to levels comparable to the private sector, with similar benefits,” Dan said.
Dan is a homeowner, having purchased his house in 1995. “This was one of the best investments I ever made,” he declared.
He feels that the city should encourage home ownership. “Rentals are 57% in Mountain View versus the county average of 33%. If someone buys a condo, then there’s ownership, there’s the likelihood of staying, your kids are going to go to school, you’re going to patronize the businesses around here because it’s your town,” he said.
“From the perspective of the city, ownership makes sense too, because property will get reassessed when the condo is sold, and the city will get more revenue from property taxes. In contrast, the land that rentals sit on do not turn over, and the city doesn’t get the gain.”
Hmm. Couldn’t have asked for a better segue to the question on Minton’s. How did he feel about that project?
“From what I understand, the owners didn’t want to give up the property since it’s assessed at pre-Prop 13 values. So instead now they’ve leased it to someone to develop rental properties. You get all the disadvantages of increased traffic congestion, parking issues, and burdens on people in the area, but you get none of the advantages of long-term stability of people who want to stay, and have their family, and have their job.”
“Don’t landowners get to do what they want?” Paul asked.
“My Libertarian background makes me think that ‘yes, it’s the property owners right’,” said Dan, “but the issue is that we do have zoning, and people are making decisions about buying based on zoning. If you purchased a house expecting zoning to be obeyed, and then suddenly there’s a 4-story apartment building next door, then that’s going to cause problems.”
“I think it’s critical to develop a plan and then stick to it, and not allow too many variances which can lead to unpleasant surprises for residents. It is a balancing act, and it’s harder for the larger projects because they have a bigger impact. Instead of these mega-projects, it might be wiser to do smaller projects and see how they work out.”
“In the case of Minton’s, the developer said a smaller project wasn’t viable,” Paul said.
“If the project wasn’t the best for the city, then the city should try to come up with alternatives and try to negotiate something better,” Dan said.
Dan also takes issue with the way city publishes information. “A lot of the information is published as images that aren’t searchable. It makes it harder for residents to find out what’s going on,” Dan noted. “This is easy to fix.”
We had talked for over two hours, and my beer was long gone, and the August night was getting chilly. It was time to go. And besides, I needed to get home in time for Mad Men. Can Don stay on the wagon? Is there something going on between Peggy and Pete? I had important questions in need of answers.
Carter Coleman is Treasurer of the OMVNA Steerting Committee. The views expressed in this article are his, and do not reflect the views of OMVNA or the Steering Committee.