Facebook gifts a police station
April 28, 2014 12:02 AM   Subscribe

After moving two years ago to the poorer and more crime-ridden neighborhood of Belle Haven, Facebook has simply given the city $600,000 to open a police substation located one block from its headquarters.
posted by meowzilla (87 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Am I wrong or is this fucking terrifying?
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:07 AM on April 28, 2014 [58 favorites]


So now will the neighborhood gentrify forcing out the less wealthy who cannot afford Silicon Valley housing prices?
posted by Cranberry at 12:11 AM on April 28, 2014


At least it's merely a conflict-of-interest police force, instead of private?
posted by ThrowbackDave at 12:11 AM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wait you can buy a police substation in the bay area for only $600,000?

Is it zoned for residential use?
posted by aubilenon at 12:17 AM on April 28, 2014 [56 favorites]


Now if they really wanted to fork out some cash they would pay for the officers to live locally rather than commute from Gilroy.
posted by benzenedream at 12:19 AM on April 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Jonsen noted that the monthly rent for the new space is $3,600 per month, substantially more than the city was spending on its old substation, which closed in January 2014.
...
Similarly, Mayor Ray Mueller gushed about the arrangement with Facebook. When asked why locals couldn’t simply foot the bill, he dismissed it, saying that Menlo Park taxpayers were already paying enough.

“I think there is precedent for taking money from private companies putting it to public good,” he said, comparing it to sponsored concert halls or sports stadiums, noting that the city would be on the hook for the full cost after two years
.
Christ, what an asshole.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:21 AM on April 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


Facebook™ Presents the Police!®:
“Do we have any leads?”

“Not yet. But mark my words: we’re going to figure out who did this and we’re going to take them down … provided someone pays us a fair market rate to do so.”

“Easy, chief,” I said. “Any rate the market offers is, by definition, fair.”

He laughed. “That’s why you’re the best I got, Lisowski. Now you get out there and find those bitcoins.”
posted by robcorr at 12:21 AM on April 28, 2014 [51 favorites]


Am I wrong or is this fucking terrifying?

Omni Consumer Products says don't worry.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:34 AM on April 28, 2014 [14 favorites]


Turns out I've run dry of bitter snark. All I can muster up now is anger.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:35 AM on April 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


Facebook draws a lot of water in this town. You don't draw shit, Lebowski.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:36 AM on April 28, 2014 [45 favorites]


Still, it seems odd that a city with an annual budget of over $42 million was not willing or able to put up the money for a new substation in the city’s poorest neighborhood until Facebook came calling.
Yeah, Facebook are the real bad guys here.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:48 AM on April 28, 2014 [24 favorites]


After moving two years ago to the poorer and more crime-ridden neighborhood of Belle Haven, Facebook has simply given the city $600,000 to open a police substation located one block from its headquarters.

Ah...doing the ol' walmart trick.

Sure, give em a bit of money to begin with. $600K...that ain't shit. Hell, the amount of police presence that will be required for the bigwigs at FB to remain happy will be way more than $600K of salary...in the first 6 mos.

So congrats, FB. You just outsourced your security guard jobs to the local government.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:52 AM on April 28, 2014 [9 favorites]


“I think there is precedent for taking money from private companies putting it to public good,” he said,

Taxes?
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:56 AM on April 28, 2014 [83 favorites]


Jonsen noted that the monthly rent for the new space is $3,600 per month, substantially more than the city was spending on its old substation, which closed in January 2014.

and

the city would be on the hook for the full cost after two years.

So what the fuck is going on here? The city closed the station that was costing them less, and now they're taking this money and opening one that's going to cost them more.

Whose pockets are getting lined here? this is like new jersey level corruption.
posted by emptythought at 1:00 AM on April 28, 2014 [30 favorites]


That's some Gibsonesque shit right there.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:22 AM on April 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


Next Belle-Haven police fb post: "Like Belle-Haven Police on Facebook and get a free home security visit from one of our officers. Click dislike and we won't answer your calls."
posted by marienbad at 1:33 AM on April 28, 2014


The millennials/youth sure are being shafted with a shit-filled future. Every social advance of the 20th century is being tossed. Might as well rename the BH Police "Pinkertons".
posted by five fresh fish at 1:39 AM on April 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


This is so banal. This is why noone bothers to write prequels to dystopian cyberpunk fiction. We are living through it right now and it is just douchebags being douchebags trying to create douchetopia.
posted by vicx at 1:45 AM on April 28, 2014 [33 favorites]


Yeah, Facebook are the real bad guys here.

There can be more than one bad actor in any given situation.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:54 AM on April 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


Mark learned everything he knows about uban planning by playing Sim City.

In other new, after three days of intensively playing Kerbal Space Program, I'm ready to write a business plan detailing exactly how to monetize asteroids.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:09 AM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


You don't have enough Energy Points to dial 911 right now!
Why not earn 5 Energy Points by inviting your friends to join Facebook?

posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:16 AM on April 28, 2014 [27 favorites]


Yeah, Facebook are the real bad guys here.

It is a valid point to call out the local government here. Crime-ridden neighbourhood, and they shut down the tiny police presence. Even though they have a massive tax base per capita:
This wealthy Silicon Valley city of 32,000 people boasts a median household income of over $113,000... So far this year, the median home sales price in Menlo Park has been $1.5 million.
For comparison, the median household income for the US as whole is $51K. Menlo Park residents are wealthy.

But apparently the local government can't be bothered to pay for police. Or at least, police in an poor(er) overwhelmingly black and Hispanic neighbourhood (in a very rich, very white town). I'm sure that's just coincidence, or something.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:21 AM on April 28, 2014 [15 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted. Three Blind Mice, maybe you can repost without the "privileged racist white liberals" flamebaity stuff? Let me know if you need a copy of your text.]
posted by taz at 2:37 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


While I disagree generally with corporations (and individuals for that matter) providing targeted funding for essential services the sunsetting of this grant, assuming the police station doesn't evaporate at the end, is kind of brilliant. Facebook managed to convince the city to hire three cops even though they are only paying for one. It'll be interesting to see whether the station continues to exist in three years.
posted by Mitheral at 2:42 AM on April 28, 2014


But apparently the local government can't be bothered to pay for police. Or at least, police in an poor(er) overwhelmingly black and Hispanic neighbourhood (in a very rich, very white town). I'm sure that's just coincidence, or something.

On top of that, they're not paying for police in the part of town where the violent crimes are happening - 8 shootings there last year, guess we'll close up the tiny substation presence we have and move all our cops over to Suburbville, where they really need them.

Bastards. Racist, classist bastards.
posted by Dysk at 3:30 AM on April 28, 2014


Are three cops in a substation going to change the crime rate in the neighbourhood?
posted by trif at 3:36 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, but they'd hopefully be on hand to deal with it when it happens.
posted by Dysk at 3:36 AM on April 28, 2014


(Of course, in an ideal world, they might sometimes not be sitting in the substation, but walking around outside - shock horror! - and maybe they could put two guys on during office hours and one on night shift instead of just closing the fucking police presence at night...)
posted by Dysk at 3:37 AM on April 28, 2014


$600K...that ain't shit. Amen. This is the same problem charities run into when doing development work. Great, you set up a hospital. Who's going to pay for that now? Who's paying for the staff? The maintenance? Consumable supplies? Sometimes the hurdle is the initial and large capital investment, and operational forces fall into place over the long-term. But that's usually a special case. Facebook probably just opened a big whole in the city's budget, rather than giving a gift.
posted by whatzit at 4:11 AM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not sure what to think about this. Typically, the awful public-private partnerships involve the private entity sucking wealth out of the public entity. The classic formula here is the multi-year property tax break for a new business, or having the city foot the bill for a football stadium used by a private team.

Here though, FB just gave the city a bunch of money. Yeah they'll be on the hook in two years, but that just means the city will be paying for the city's police. It sounds like the city is actually quite wealthy and could have afforded it in the first place. There's no wealth extraction going on as far as I can tell.

The article does mention the mayor had been trying to build support to re-open this station. Maybe it's BS who knows, but it looks like he figured out how to bypass his rich constituents' resistance to paying for police for poor people.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 4:14 AM on April 28, 2014 [6 favorites]


Broadly, this is just another type of public-private partnership, more often seen in road projects or stadiums, with the related range of public vs private benefits. And this won't be the first P3 project with a police force. Here are a few links found from a moment of searching: Houston Police team up with retail alliance; A Public-Private Partnership Turns San Francisco Police Into High-Tech Super Cops; and The Power of Public-Private Partnerships P3 Networks in Policing.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:43 AM on April 28, 2014


Remember all that outrage about corporate personhood?

Cities are corporations. Behold the wonders of municipal corporate personhood.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:43 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cities are corporations. Behold the wonders of municipal corporate personhood.

The failure rate of municipalities is infinitesimal compared to private companies.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 4:47 AM on April 28, 2014


Has anyone looked into who the landlord is?
posted by blue_beetle at 4:48 AM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


The failure rate of municipalities is infinitesimal compared to private companies.

Depends what you mean by failure. Ever been to Camden?

Also, if private companies could collect property tax and use armed men to repossess the property of anyone who refused to pay, they'd be a lot less failure-prone.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:50 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anyone read The Circle yet, by Dave Eggers? Finished it in January and haven't stopped thinking about it since.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:06 AM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Are three cops in a substation going to change the crime rate in the neighbourhood?

They are if your urban planning experience consists of playing hundreds of hours of SimCity2000, yes. Just drop that sumbitch in the middle of the industrial district's slumhouses, and watch as thousands of ne'er-do-well simulated criminals switch careers from "armed robbery" to "investment banking" overnight!

Unfortunately, SC2K did a notably poor job of simulating the collusion of ungodly amounts of private wealth with underfunded municipal services, so we're heading off into uncharted waters here.
posted by Mayor West at 5:08 AM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


America: All the justice you can buy.
posted by Flood at 5:28 AM on April 28, 2014


The university where I work partly paid for a police substation. I don't see how this is different.
posted by interplanetjanet at 5:39 AM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it's clear that FB are not being selfless here, but that's OK. Take the Remora; FB is the Shark, the Police Station is the food, and the local population are the Remora, feeding on the leftover scraps. FB gets nothing from the Remora, but it loses nothing also.

I'm just wondering what the Turtles are in my analogy...?
posted by trif at 5:43 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


douchetopia

That is sadly descriptive.

Partial funding of public infrastructure, and public subsidies using infrastructure, are nothing new, but it's usually a bit more out of sight -- a company does a traffic study as part of their proposal for a new store, and hopes the city will spend millions rebuilding an intersection, say. Making the developer contribute to that doesn't change that it is the public who are on the hook for all of the long term cost.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:56 AM on April 28, 2014


This wouldn't be necessary if we had a method of taking a percentage of their revenue to pay for first responders and infrastructure. You'd think someone in silicon valley could come up with something like that, but it continues to elude our elected government.
posted by pashdown at 6:13 AM on April 28, 2014 [9 favorites]


if private companies could collect property tax and use armed men to repossess the property of anyone who refused to pay, they'd be a lot less failure-prone

Well, what you call "property" is really just theft. The only reason you "own" anything is because those same armed men would stop me from taking it from you.
posted by Poldo at 6:15 AM on April 28, 2014


Preventing you from taking something from me sounds like the opposite of theft.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 6:30 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


interplanetjanet, the university where you work isn't a global social spyware honeypot seeking to know every single damn thing about you, and its leader likely never marveled on the record "they trust me, the fuckers."
posted by bruce at 6:40 AM on April 28, 2014


A writer from Continuum mentioned this on twitter, and I thought he was talking about an episode I hadn't seen yet.

For those who don't know, the show's about a cop and some terrorists/freedom fighters who time travel from 2077, where corporations run the govt. The show already had a plot where one of those future uber-gov-companies gave a huge amount of money to the Vancouver PD.

I think it's almost too hard for satire and sci-fi writers to keep up these days.
posted by NorthernLite at 7:06 AM on April 28, 2014


I think it's almost too hard for satire and sci-fi writers to keep up these days.

I think the main (terrifying) difference here is that the 'bad guys' actually think they're the good guys...
posted by Riton at 7:09 AM on April 28, 2014


Menlo Park resident here.

This wouldn't be necessary if we had a method of taking a percentage of their revenue to pay for first responders and infrastructure. You'd think someone in silicon valley could come up with something like that, but it continues to elude our elected government.

I see your snark, but before y'all fire up your pitchforks and torches, stop and think about how profoundly fucked the financing of public services became in California, thanks to Prop 13. Are there a bunch of self-satisfied complacent old white assholes living here? Hell yes. I wouldn't count Ray Mueller in their number though. I'm pretty underwhelmed by our City Council but Ray is the best of the bunch. ("Mayor" here is a mostly ceremonial post that rotates among city councilmembers.) Ray Mueller is a politician, but he has been consistently working to bring Belle Haven the public services it deserves and encouraging Belle Haven residents to participate in the political process. (Voting!)

There's a big sign in the park near my house that says "Shop in Menlo Park! Your sales taxes pay for city services." That's right, sales taxes. The city only gets a small portion of the share of property taxes. The problem with depending on sales tax revenue: right adjacent to, but not in, Menlo Park is the ginormous Stanford Shopping Center. Menlo Park doesn't see a penny of that sales tax revenue. But it's a huge competitor and big chunks of our retail areas are flat out vacant or otherwise lifeless. Oh, and the single largest property owner in Menlo Park is Stanford University. None of their land has been re-valued since 1978, and it never will be, thanks Prop 13! (Don't even get me started on what Stanford is like as a neighbor.)

Should the city be doing better by the residents of Belle Haven? Absolutely. Is this a scary horrible dystopian corporate blurring into a police state? I don't really think so. My take is that city council knew a substation was needed in Belle Haven, Facebook offered to pay, and is gambling that after all this publicity, future city councilmembers will be unable to turn around and close the substation when Facebook's money stops, because of the fear of bad publicity.

Is this the best way to do things in the best of all possible worlds? Of course not.
posted by ambrosia at 7:12 AM on April 28, 2014 [19 favorites]


If this whole social network thing falls through, at least Facebook can become the world's most heavily capitalized interior design shop.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:18 AM on April 28, 2014


Preventing you from taking something from me sounds like the opposite of theft.

Nope. You are taking it from me since I too claim ownership but you are preventing that with force. Pretty childish argument isn't it?
posted by Poldo at 7:20 AM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


So congrats, FB. You just outsourced your security guard jobs to the local government.

I think my sarcasm detector might be off. Am I supposed to think the government handling public security instead of private contractors for a private company is a bad thing or something?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:27 AM on April 28, 2014


I knew somebody would say that about my university. How do you know they aren't? Some people would disagree!

My point is where are you going to draw the line? It is ok if a university does it but not a private company? What about a for profit university? What about a hospital? What about a drug company?
posted by interplanetjanet at 7:45 AM on April 28, 2014


My point is where are you going to draw the line? It is ok if a university does it but not a private company? What about a for profit university? What about a hospital? What about a drug company?

I think there's a case for allowing a large, ostensibly publicly oriented organization to do things that you wouldn't let a private company do, but ultimately, I think your university shouldn't be allowed to do it either. The result of allowing a private organization to finance the policing it needs directly is that the resources of the police force are skewed in favor of the rich and more powerful interests in the community. Does anyone think this substation is where the community needs rather than where Facebook needs it? Similarly, the police station your university is bought is where the university needs it, not where the community needs it.

The problem with this isn't that Facebook is bad, it's that community resources (like police stations) needs to be allocated according to community needs as expressed through the democratic process. We're bad enough at doing that, even through the normal channels, without letting groups with enough money literally buy themselves public resources.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:58 AM on April 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yes, if you want to get mad here, go find someone who voted for Prop 13 in 1978 and punch them in the face.
posted by GuyZero at 8:06 AM on April 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


What are the avenues for a revision of Prop 13? Would it have to be another public referendum, or can the constitution be amended through the legislature?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:25 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


> Also, if private companies could collect property tax and use armed men to repossess the property of anyone who refused to pay, they'd be a lot less failure-prone.

If you can buy the political process to begin with, you don't even need armed men - so much simpler that way, as we've seen. Or you can just go all OCP, because that would obviously turn out well (she said sarcastically).
posted by rtha at 9:09 AM on April 28, 2014


A major corporation funding a police department—particularly in a well-to-do city like Menlo Park—seems extremely rare in the United States, if unprecedented.

Every large company I have worked for who has city police directing traffic at their parking lot exit pays for those police officers at overtime wages. I would be very interested in a map showing the percentage of police officers' wages provided by private details (this is what the New Orleans PD calls them). One year in New Orleans the average officer was getting a third of their income from private details.

Here is a New Orleans Times Picayune article from 2011 on the private detail business.

The facebook article says they are funding one full time officer. Do they have Menlo Park PD doing traffic at their parking lot egress? That sounds like it might be close to one full time job right there.
posted by bukvich at 10:15 AM on April 28, 2014


This looks like a no-win situation for Facebook here, at least in terms of its reception by the Internet peanut gallery.

If they'd hired their own security force, they'd be getting lambasted for hiring mercenaries, running their own private state, hurf durf Google Bus Ayn Rand Galt's Gulch.

So instead they paid the city to reopen a police substation that was (stupidly, it would seem) shut down, and they're instead getting lit up for corruption, gentrification, etc.

I harbor a seething hatred for Zuckerberg and all his works as much as the next nerd, but it seems like damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:32 AM on April 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


The problem here isn't "Facebook did a bad thing," it's "the state of America is such that this was both necessary and possible, and that sucks."
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:38 AM on April 28, 2014 [15 favorites]


What a wast. Facebook and everyone else would have been better off if Facebook had invested 600K in education and job training. Lost opportunity.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:58 AM on April 28, 2014


"Your security provided by a generous grant from The Weyland Consortium

Building a Better World"
posted by Windopaene at 11:01 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Police protect property not people.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:38 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's some Gibsonesque shit right there.

I'm thinking more like the distributed republics in Stephenson's "Snow Crash."

Along the lines of "Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong," how does "Mr. Zuck's Face-Topia Enforcement Area" strike you?
posted by wenestvedt at 11:39 AM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


OK, call me an oddball or contrarian, but this actually seems to me like Facebook being a good corporate neighbor.

As others have noted there are often similar arrangements with large developments, especially when there are special taxing districts (like TIF) involved, or with large non-profit institutions like universities. The PILOT (payment in lieu of tax) arrangement is what this actually looks closest to in practical terms -- just something the two parties sat down and hammered out as an appropriate funding mechanism for services that are a necessity due to the activity of the institution (everything from traffic and fire to roving bands of marauding athletic supporters). The big deal, I do not see it.

In many ways, especially the subdued, suburban design of the facility, it sure looks like it's at least as much about the citizens as the corporate population.

As ambrosia noted, California municipal services funding is some kind of extra special fucked up. Libraries close, police departments shrivel to one officer covering 40 hours a week and 400 square miles, that sort of thing. In Wisconsin, we got hit with a less draconian but still consternation-inducing funding cap by the Scott Walker anschluss, and in the article's description of the city council's jawboning and indecision I hear many local arguments recapitulated. We've had things like a police neighborhood services officer stationed in the local elementary school get reassigned because they couldn't find the grant money to keep it going and we have a sworn officer limit. The only way our city budget can increase is with the property valuation citywide increasing, or a referendum requiring a supermajority, because $ANTI-TAX ZEALOTS. Meanwhile our streets are crumbling and we debate things like the annual electricity and maintenance costs of a single intersection's streetlights. So I completely understand what Menlo Park is dealing with here, and a $42M budget isn't really being wealthy as a lot of that is going to be spoken for -- water quality, code enforcement, and so on.
posted by dhartung at 11:47 AM on April 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


hi janet, thank you for asking.

universities exist to educate their students and provide a base for their faculties to research and disseminate new knowledge. a minimal security level is a sine qua non for doing this, so if harvard wants to pony up for a substation in cambridge, or stanford/palo alto, or ucla/westwood, i'm ok with it as long as the police operations are under city and not university control. same thing with hospitals. while they can be formidable entities, i can't see any threat to my personal interests.

for-profit universities are a relatively new development, i'm not an expert, but i suspect that they will die once the unsustainable publicly funded student loan situation blows up. aren't most of the phoenix/devry/corinthian/etc. activities online now? i can't imagine the remaining physical plants taking over their hoods from displeased locals with 2nd amendment rights.

drug companies, no.

facebook is none of the above. it presents a unique, unprecedented hazard, even more than a drug company.

to guyzero and the rest of you who want to find someone who voted for prop 13 and punch him in the face, hi there. we needed to do something to rein in unbridled taxing and spending, and 13 was what was on the ballot. the major reform i would support is called a "split roll". this is where individuals continue to enjoy its protection, but corporations do not. it's been stifled in the legislature a number of times since 1978, because corporate capital continues to hold individual homeowners hostage. in 2001 when i couldn't stand california anymore, i moved to oregon. my property tax bill last october was for $847.02. high-tax-state homeowners of mefi, how do you like that?

we also have a lot of rain.
posted by bruce at 11:52 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


[...] the rest of you who want to find someone who voted for prop 13 and punch him in the face, hi there. we needed to do something to rein in unbridled taxing and spending, and 13 was what was on the ballot. [...] in 2001 when i couldn't stand california anymore, i moved to oregon.

It seems like there should be a mechanism to revisit the results of far-reaching votes like Prop 13 after a set number of years, to see if the current constituency still agrees with it at the same rate as the original voters.

Maybe all Propositions should come with automatic expiration dates unless renewed by voters, or something? Surely there's a better way than the current one?
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:07 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


A Public-Private Partnership Turns San Francisco Police Into High-Tech Super Cops;

I'm really really angry that this didn't involve robocop :(

What are the avenues for a revision of Prop 13? Would it have to be another public referendum, or can the constitution be amended through the legislature?

I legitimately think that anyone who made a serious stand on this, and seemed to be gaining any traction would immediately get into a car accident where their brand new-ish car mysteriously burst into flames, and it was never really investigated.

Way too many rich people and corporations are benefiting way too much from that tax freeze.
posted by emptythought at 12:27 PM on April 28, 2014


An Open Letter to Warren Buffett, from a Menlo Park resident, discussing the impact Prop 13.
posted by ambrosia at 12:52 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


So once the free period runs out, what union will be busted to pay for the budget "shortfall?" This looks like drown-it-in-a-bathtub-style privatization with a slightly new wrinkle.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:15 PM on April 28, 2014


the major reform i would support is called a "split roll".

Prop 13 was bullshit from the beginning. It was never about protecting homewoners, who i should note don't actually need any protection. It was always a massive corporate tax cut. Tweaking it is pointless and as you note, never going to happen anyway.
posted by GuyZero at 1:19 PM on April 28, 2014


From the open letter about Prop 13...

Prop 13 has allowed my neighbors – especially retirees – to live in their homes relying upon a predictable tax structure. Families have been able plan for the future. It may not be perfect, but it has basically worked as voters expected.

This is bullshit. There are hundreds of thousands of cities across Canada and the US without a Prop-13-like tax increase cap and they're not all going up in flames.
posted by GuyZero at 1:21 PM on April 28, 2014


my property tax bill last october was for $847.02.

This is a side-effect of living somewhere no one else wants to move to and/or offers no municipal services.
posted by GuyZero at 1:22 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


It seems like you could have reasonable limits to maximum tax percentages and annual increases, but that those limits would be considerably in excess of those set by Prop 13.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:26 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ya, if you wanted to protect homeowners the obvious way is to issue homeowner/residency grants on primary residences to offset property taxes. This would also help renters. Instead Californians got a law that's a big "Fuck you I've got mine" that disproportionately advantages corporations and the wealthy at the expense of people who can't afford private versions of public services like police, roads and rec facilities.
posted by Mitheral at 1:27 PM on April 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Instead Californians got a law that's a big "Fuck you I've got mine"

As I am "fond" of pointing out - I pay 10x the property tax of my neighbours. For houses of nearly identical value. In no universe does this make sense. Prop 13 is the biggest "fuck you" law in the universe and serves a conservative "starve the beast" anti-government agenda.
posted by GuyZero at 2:05 PM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


If about a quarter of Menlo Park's approx. 2800 students are poor and at risk for a future of poverty and crime, I'm sure Facebook thought of the benefits of spending a similar amount -- about a thousand dollars per each one of these students -- to give them a head start and to help them avoid such a future...

But hey, let's face it... that wouldn't buy them their own police department, would it?!
posted by markkraft at 2:06 PM on April 28, 2014


If Prop 13 was really about keeping retired people on fixed incomes in their homes, Prop 13 should have been limited primary residences only. Prop 13 has truely fucked CA's schools, local governments, and city services. I'd love to see a serious attempt to change the law - but I can't imagine it happening now with all the lobbying power that would oppose it.

Some of my republican acquaintances were so convienced that the Dems would use their super majority to repeal Prop 13. I don't recall it even being discussed as an option. So way to get all up in arms over nothing. The looks I would get when I'd suggest that maybe repealing or modifying Prop 13 wasn't the end of the world were down right withering.
posted by Arbac at 2:54 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm sure Facebook thought of the benefits of spending a similar amount -- about a thousand dollars per each one of these students -- to give them a head start and to help them avoid such a future...

$1000 per student. I guess that's better than nothing, but you still need a functioning police department.

that wouldn't buy them their own police department, would it?!

Beyond the safety of its employees, and giving back to the community (in a sense - seems people disagree), what use would Facebook have for a local police department? I mean, even if this did somehow buy them influence with the police.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:14 PM on April 28, 2014


So now will the neighborhood gentrify forcing out the less wealthy who cannot afford Silicon Valley housing prices?

Already happening.
posted by Chuffy at 5:03 PM on April 28, 2014


In my experience, community level policing with a presence like this (not stop and frisk) can have a very palpable effect on morale and community involvement. Kids may find it more desirable to hang out at a substation or fire station than run with gangs, and that can get the ball rolling on bigger better things. The limited scope of the investment that FB made suggests seed money, not a private army. It's about making better choices available to people who may have very limited choices, and encouraging them to run with it. Coupled with FB's ability to publicize success stories, it might just work out okay.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:07 PM on April 28, 2014


Coupled with FB's ability to publicize success stories, it might just work out okay.

It doesn't matter if the quality of life in the precinct skyrockets, this is still a terrifying precedent.

Old model: The government takes some of a business's earnings and uses them for projects where the government has determined they are most needed.

New model: The government is told by the business what projects to do where, and then the business gives them the money to follow that plan. Or not.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:16 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is really stupid on FBs part. They should just relocate to downtown SF and get a big whopping tax break and let everyone else pay for their police protection, like Twitter.
posted by 99_ at 8:34 PM on April 28, 2014


halfbuckaroooooooooo for the win!

All snark aside, what is your experience with "community level" policing and its effect on morale and community involvement? I truly am curious.

I have a very different lived experience of said tactics, which I liken more to setting up a bunker in hostile territory. Basically, unless facebook invests in after-school programs, literacy initiatives, the public school system, job training etc. I don't see how a police station alone will lift up a community from poverty, or even really help said community in a substantive way...
posted by nikoniko at 9:15 PM on April 28, 2014


I harbor a seething hatred for Zuckerberg and all his works as much as the next nerd

You better not say that out loud in Menlo Park.
posted by homunculus at 10:11 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


setting up a bunker in hostile territory

I get that you are referring to departments using things like NYPD's stop and frisk approach. But while NYPD does itself claim to practice community policing, resorting to a bunker mentality is, all due respect, the exact inverse of what community policing is supposed to be. And no, it isn't supposed to be a magic "fix a neighborhood" bullet, either. Generally the point is working with a community through its localized institutions and leaders and putting enough enforcers on the ground, even if possible walking a beat, to get to know both law-abiding and sliding-scale-of-offending citizens. The substantive effect is that they provide the community with effective public safety which they were otherwise lacking. A substation alone doesn't do that, of course -- it's a philosophy that has to permeate a department from top to bottom.

New model: The government is told by the business what projects to do where, and then the business gives them the money to follow that plan. Or not.

I hope I'm not shocking you by pointing out that this happens all the time already, generally via a foundation or other intermediary, but frequently as part of economic development districts. Tax increment financing diverts the increase in value achieved through redevelopment (often achieved via the power of eminent domain) directly to projects within the district that enhance the economic feasibility of the district. Within that framework there can be, as directed by state law, side agreements on what both parties may do. The business might say "we need an expanded sanitary sewer capacity" and the city installs it. (Something like that is happening in my city this year.) But definitely the promsie and availability of grant money can be a tool used to promote policy -- say, a gun buy-back, or free needles, or at the other end of the scale things like SWAT equipment and other police militarization.

If you want historical examples look to e.g. A. Montgomery Ward promoting the free, public lakefront that became Chicago's hallmark. I mean, c'mon. The power of the purse is nothing new.
posted by dhartung at 12:13 AM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is really stupid on FBs part. They should just relocate to downtown SF and get a big whopping tax break and let everyone else pay for their police protection, like Twitter.

That's just misleading. The vast majority of the tax breaks Twitter got was a break from a payroll tax SF levies even on stock options, which no other city in the bay area does. The tax breaks they got for moving to mid-market was relatively small peanuts.
posted by gyc at 8:30 AM on April 29, 2014


If FB gave $600k directly to the city, would people that are bothered by this be OK with that? What if they paid $600k in taxes?

Do you really think that any corruption/favoritism by police would be different if they simply knew FB was one of the biggest city income sources, rather than direct contributor? I'm sure the politicians know where the money comes from, so if they are doing anything based on money it doesn't really matter what form it comes into city coffers by, does it?

And I thought people wanted corporations to be giving more money to local governments in the bay area. But, I don't see how you can do that without creating a conflict of interest from the governments, who know that if a company doesn't like what they do they can choose to move away and give that tax money to others.

So --- whats the solution? Trust politicians to not be affected by large tax revenue sources? Federalize all taxes and redistribute, so the location of a corporation or person has no affect on taxes?

(On a side note, my other thought looking at that article was how much nicer that station looks than my local police station, which is kind of sad since its not really _that_ nice, probably more that LAPD stations are not in good shape)
posted by wildcrdj at 2:50 PM on April 29, 2014


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