PALO ALTO (CBS SF) – Palo Alto voters passed a ballot measure that will repeal the rights of firefighters and police officers to have arbitrators settle their salary disputes with the city and another measure designating 10 acres of parkland for a new compost facility, according to preliminary election results Tuesday night.

Measure D passed with 67 percent of the vote, according to unofficial figures. The initiative will repeal a city charter requirement that a three-member arbitration panel decide disputes over wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment for Palo Alto’s firefighters and police officers.

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Complete Election Results

Those in favor of the measure, including Councilmen Patrick Burt and Greg Scharff and Councilwoman Karen Holman, claim that the charter provision must be repealed because binding arbitration for public safety unions has prevented the city from ensuring fair reforms across all employee groups and balancing its budget.

KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:

”If you look over the past 10 years, basically with other employee groups the rising cost has been roughly flat,” said Scharff. “I think they’ve gone up 6 percent. Whereas public safety has gone up 80 percent.”

Opponents, however, say binding arbitration is a fair system to settle disputes for police and firefighters and that it has proven to be a fair resolution process. Vice Mayor Yiaway Yeh, Councilwoman Gail Price, and LaDoris Cordell, a former councilwoman and San Jose’s independent police auditor, are against the measure.

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Palo Alto Firefighters Union President Tony Spitaleri said that public safety employees have been used as scapegoats.

”Blaming us for all of the economic woes that the city has been suffering was not just, and not fair,” said Spitaleri.

Measure E passed with 64 percent of the vote.

The initiative allows the city to designate a 10-acre parcel of land at Byxbee Park for a processing facility to convert yard trimmings, food waste, and other organic waste and sewage sludge from the regional wastewater treatment plant.

Proponents, including Burt and former Mayor Peter Drekmeier, argue that the facility is a “financially and environmentally sound alternative” to the current plan for handling organic waste.

Opponents, on the other hand, claim that taking care of waste locally is “impractical and unattainable.” Mayor Sid Espinosa, Councilman Greg Schmid, and Enid Pearson, a former vice mayor and chair of the Save the Baylands Committee, are among the ordinance’s opponents.

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