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Charter Review Committee Set, Council ‘Squirrels Away’ Money To Support It

The Santa Clara City Council has appointed a Charter Review Committee to consider allowing voters to decide whether to appoint the City’s police chief and city clerk.

At its Tuesday night meeting, the Council approved selections for the committee and directed its scope of work. That scope included adding possible qualifications for the positions should it decide to have them remain elected as well as considering — should they change to appointed positions — whether the Council or the City Manager would appoint them.

The seven-member committee is made up of eligible voters from each of the six districts and another at-large member. The commission is composed of Satish Chandra (District 1), Chiragkumar Patel (District 2), Christine Koltermann (District 3), Daniel Huynh (District 4), Jeff Houston (District 5), Clysta Seney (District 6) and Joyce Davis (at-large.)

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Mayor Lisa Gillmor and political ally Kathy Watanabe voted against the motion. Gillmor said she wanted to give the committee a “wide berth.”

“I want to give them the authority to listen to the public and come back with an informed recommendation on these items,” Gillmor said. “I think they have heard everyone’s opinion on what they think, but I don’t think we should be guided too closely … I think we should let them do their work. They know what to do. They are intelligent people.”

All the committee’s meetings will be public with public input on the ballot measure in August and September. Should the committee opt to put the issue to the voters, the item will show up on a special March 2024 ballot.

The Council also appropriated $430,455 — $180,00 of which for a March election — to support the Charter Review Committee and related ballot measures, should they both occur.

Council Member Kathy Watanabe opposed the motion. She made a classic “won’t-someone-please-think-of-the-children” plea, saying that the appropriation is squandering money that could be used more productively, for instance for the swim center. She said it was “unfair.”

“Where is the wisdom in this decision that is being proposed tonight? How is the action in the best interest of our people, how is it in the best interest of our youth and how does this put the residents’ needs above all?” Watanabe said. “It doesn’t.”

Council Member Anthony Becker called Watanabe’s comments a “red herring,” adding that council members shouldn’t “be using children to make political points.”

Gillmor also opposed the motion, leveraging an appeal to tradition fallacy, saying that it has “never been done” and is “unprecedented.” She sardonically thanked Council Member Suds Jain for explaining his reasoning for introducing the item, saying it is “so evident” that he is worried that the Council will lose a member — referring to Becker’s indictment — so he wants to “squirrel away” the money.

As a cherry on top of her plea, Gillmor further called the action “financially irresponsible” and “highly unethical.”

Nevertheless, the Council approved the appropriation in a 5-2 vote.

Pilot Program Aims to Squash Illegal Street Vendors

A state law has hampered Council’s ability to curb illegal vendors at Levi’s Stadium on event days, but the Council has nonetheless kicked off a program aimed at mitigating the problems they cause.

SB 946 ties cities’ hands when regulating street vendors, prohibiting them from criminally prosecuting violations of their city code. Not only does the law prevent cities from limiting vendors, but it also only permits them to fine vendors who operate illegally.

Further, the law allows for up to 80% suspension of those fines if the person fined is unable to pay.

“Without criminal enforcement, the tools to deal with bad actors and the actions that can be taken out in the field, by code enforcement or police department, against violators are highly limited,” said City Attorney Glen Googins. “And with a prescribed, limited fine schedule, the repercussions of being in violation in these types of rules are of relatively minor consequence.”

However, the law provides exceptions under its “time, place, manner” provision for situations that impair health, safety or welfare. Under this umbrella, the Council has adopted a pilot program to get a better handle on the situation.

Capt. Luis Martin told the Council that, on event days, the stadium is rife with various hazards. Some such concerns include foot traffic congestion spilling into car lanes, improper trash disposal, unhealthy food handling, use of propane tanks in highly concentrated areas, hot cooktops without proper clearance or fire extinguishers and illegal alcohol sale.

The topic has been a pet complaint of Howard Gibbins, a hot dog vendor who has frequently spoken at meetings urging the Council to act.

Martin said the program will tackle the problem from various angles, including progressive enforcement starting with guest services, escalating to security and finally to police. The program will run from August through January 2024 in preparation for the event season.

The Council approved the program unanimously.

Planned Development Rezoned

The Council also rezoned a planned development to its original industrial use. Three parcels that used to host Off the Wall Soccer will be the new site of a semiconductor manufacturer at 700 Mathew St. near Lafayette Street. The new business, Quality Metal Spinning, will make interior remodels and exterior upgrades to the site.

Council Member Raj Chahal said with so many developments shifting to planned development in recent years, it is a nice change of pace to see a planned development return to an industrial use.

The Council approved the change unanimously.

Swim Club Still Sore About Swim Center Closing, CVRA Plaintiff Defends Becker

Advocates from the Santa Clara Swim Club again flooded public presentations, imploring the Council to find an expedient solution to the closing of the Santa Clara Swim Center.

A boiler malfunction caused the swim center to close roughly three months ago, displacing the club.

City Manager Jovan Grogan updated the Council on the repair, saying just a few days ago maintenance crews discovered “additional complications” while working on the boiler. While City employees are working to fix the problem, hope that the swim center will reopen this summer is likely misplaced.

Much of the swim center’s equipment was built in the 1960s. The “significant deferred maintenance” had led to “significant challenges,” Grogan said. City employees are working to find suitable alternatives in the short-term while prioritizing raising money for a new swim center in the long-term.

In a departure from many recent public comments, Wesley Mukoyama defended Council Member Anthony Becker who stands accused of leaking a confidential grand jury report. Public comments in recent weeks have seen commenters calling for Becker’s resignation.

Mukoyama, who initiated the California Voting Rights Act suit against the City that mandated district elections because they disenfranchised minority voters, accused the mayor of “colluding” with an “overambitious” district attorney.

“Stay strong and diligent,” Mukoyama told Becker. “Do not back down from the mayor and mob-minion petitioners asking you to do so. Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty.”

Becker has championed marginalized people during his tenure as council member, Mukoyama said, including homeless people, the elderly, minorities and LGBT people.

Consent Calendar Spending

  • A $598,398 purchase order with Hitachi Energy USA, Inc for electric transformers.
  • A $2.36 million purchase order with Trayer Engineering Corp for electric switches.
  • A $497,610 purchase order with Elster Solutions LLC for electric meters.
  • A $494,110 contract with Bellecci & Associates, Inc. for creek trail pavement maintenance and rehabilitation.
  • A $1.5 million amendment with Electrical Consultants, Inc. for additional services related to Silicon Valley Power’s system expansion plan through Dec. 1, 2025.
  • An additional $30 million for services related to SVP’s system expansion plan, including general consulting services with Advisian Worley Group, TRC Solutions, Inc.  Leidos Engineering LLC, Flynn Resource Consultants, Inc. and EN Engineering LLC and plan implementation with Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company, Inc., TRC Solutions, Inc., ECI, AECOM Technical Services, Inc. and Stantec Consulting Services Inc. The total amount now stands at $80 million.
  • A $750,000 agreement with Santa Clara Methodist Retirement Foundation – Liberty Tower for elevator upgrade.
  • A $100,000 agreement with Rebuilding Together Silicon Valley for the administration of the City’s Minor Home Repair program subject to the availability of Community Development Block Grant money.

The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 22 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

Members of the public can participate in the City Council meetings on Zoom at https://santaclaraca.zoom.us/j/99706759306; Meeting ID: 997-0675-9306 or call 1(669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov.

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7 Comments
  1. CSC 11 months ago
    Reply

    Isn’t Joyce Davis one of the former DEI Task Force members who improperly departed from task force’s charter and co-signed a letter in support of an elected police chief? The DEI Task Force was scuttled more than a year ago, but Nikolai keeps hanging on to and waiving that unsupported letter around. It’s likely Joyce will show up to the initial meeting in early August waiving it as well. Thankfully there appears to be better educated and professionally experienced committee members who will be seated at the CRC table with Joyce.

    • Buchser Alum 11 months ago
      Reply

      CSC,
      .
      I do not know who Joyce Davis is but since she is Gillmor’s nominee I assume it to be a foregone conclusion that Davis is for continuation of police chief elections and that she will not be swayed by the nominees of the council majority who I assume it to be a foregone conclusion will be in favor of our police chief being appointed by the city council.
      .
      And barring that will push for a compromise that sees our police chief appointed by the city manager who is appointed by the city council.
      .
      And barring that will push at least for requirements to be written into the city charter that all candidates must meet in order to qualify as a candidate to run for election. And I am sure that these requirements will disqualify our current chief from running for reelection.
      .
      Perhaps chief Nikolai should start trying to earn a master’s agree now or a juris doctorate. I do wonder if he is already qualified to retire and to retire with his pension to be set at his chief’s salary.
      .
      What do you make of Anthony Becker nominating the wife of his political godfather under her maiden name? Do you think he actually believes that nobody will know Clysta “Seney” is Clysta McLemore and wife of former councilperson John McLemore? Do you think maybe John or Clysta suggested this or do you think that Becker came up with this idea on his own?
      .
      Why in the world would he or they do this? Why not just use her legal name and the one she uses as an elector of Santa Clara? Why make it so clear that he is trying to hide a personal political connection to Clysta? We all know that all seven have personal political connections and have been vetted.

      • CSC 11 months ago
        Reply

        Buchser: the City Council might participate in a Q&A session during a candidate search but rest assured an appointed police chief would answer to the City Manager not the council.
        .
        Nikolai hurried to obtain a college degree for promotion and refuses to speak about it or list it on his official biography, I’m pretty sure got it from a degree mill. Those type degrees aren’t competitive in applying for graduate programs so I don’t think an advanced degree is in his future.
        .
        I’m not a fan of telenovela’s and I try to stay out of personal relationships therefore I won’t drift into the conversation about politician’s spouses/partners or children.

        • Buchser Alum 11 months ago
          Reply

          CSC,
          .
          The city manager answers to the council. Therefore anyone who answers to the city manager also ultimately answers to the city council.
          .
          This city council majority may not try to intervene in the city manager’s management of the police chief or the department. But based on their past behavior it would not shock me at all if they did. It would not shock me if Gillmor were to do so if she had a council majority and the police chief were appointed by the council.
          .
          I do not know what chief Nikolai would do or not do in all the many possible scenarios that will come out of all this but graduate degrees can be had from diploma mills as well. It seems very common to me for high ranking police staff with graduate degrees such as law degrees to have gotten them from diploma mills. Depending on whether or not you think that a school with no competitive process for admission with online or correspondence classes are diploma mills.
          .
          Nice try pretending like it is like a telenovela or gossipy to discuss Anthony Becker’s appointment of Clysta McLemore, wife of John McLemore. Discussion of an elected politician nominating the wife of one of his main political mentors to a city commission is discussion of public interest, not private affairs. My questions were about the motivations of Becker and not anything having to do with the private marital relationship of the McLemores.

  2. Buchser Alum 11 months ago
    Reply

    It is curious that Anthony Becker’s nominee is listed as “Clysta Seney” when her legal name and the one she reportedly uses for her voter registration is “Clysta McLemore.”

    McLemore as in John McLemore who is her husband. The same former councilperson McLemore who along with former mayor Patty Mahan were the ones who brought Anthony Becker into the Santa Clara political scene and have mentored him.
    .
    It is surely a foregone conclusion that both McLemores agree with Anthony Becker that our police chief should not be elected but appointed by the city council of which he is part of a majority bloc. I would reckon Patty Mahan does as well though she does not live in district six.
    .
    It is a foregone conclusion that all seven nominees were vetted by their nominators so I do not think that Becker is the only one doing this. But it is amusing to see him appear to try to hide that his nominee is his political mentor’s wife by identifying her by her maiden name even though she is a Santa Clara elector as required of all nominees under the surname McLemore.

  3. Buchser Alum 11 months ago
    Reply

    The dimmest bulb on our city council Anthony Becker gave us all a good laugh last night.
    .
    While gushing over Taylor Swift coming to town as Gillmor and Park and others also did he tried to make some political points and a take a jab at Gillmor by saying that the Taylor Swift concert because it is a Sunday night concert was made possible or better due to the council majority voting for some more exceptions to the weeknight event curfew.
    .
    Fortunately for him Mayor Gillmor helpfully informed him that he really should not try to go to the concert on the Sunday night. When Becker reacted with confusion she clued him in to the fact that Taylor Swift is not playing Levi’s on Sunday night but on Friday and Saturday night.
    .
    Two nights that are of course not subject to the weeknight event curfew.
    .

  4. Buchser Alum 11 months ago
    Reply

    Gillmor then says to Becker, “…Or you can hand me your tickets.”
    It’s disappointing that, despite her unexpected love for Taylor Swift, the mayor was unable to get tickets for herself. She will regrettably miss all of the Swiftivities.

    Additionally, I would like to draw attention to the absence of Mr. Vartan, the Mayor’s personal political advisor.

    There are no such events listed on Gillmor’s calendar regarding the meeting(s) with Mr. Vartan, therefore I’m worried that he won’t show up after being questioned how frequently he meets with his client, Lisa Gillmor.

    I ask:
    How does Mr. Vartan operate with his client without any communication or scheduled meetings?
    Is Mayor Lisa Gillmor misleading the public about her schedule?

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