After a controversial decision to block the reappointment of a parks and recreation commissioner, the Council has decided on his replacement.
At a meeting in May, a routine reappointment spurred Council division and public outcry when the Council opted to disallow Burt Field from continuing to serve on the commission. Council Member Anthony Becker pulled the item from the consent calendar — a series of supposedly mundane items voted on in a single motion without discussion —to deny Field’s reappointment to the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Becker did not explain why he didn’t want Field reappointed, causing many to speculate as to his reasoning. Many public commenters saw the move as petty and an attack on free speech, claiming it will have a chilling effect on people applying for the City’s boards and commissions. Several commenters said the move had more to do with Field’s opinions than his ability to serve the City.
During a special meeting Monday night, the Council interviewed three applicants for the vacant seat: Peter Delaney, Vikas Gupta and Kiran Shinde. The Council took turns asking the applicants the same five questions.
While none of the three candidates had experience volunteering or working at any City events, all three said they frequently attend them, specifically the July 4 fireworks display and the Art and Wine Festival. All the candidates agreed that the closing of the City’s swim center is an issue that needs addressing.
Gupta won over the Council with his interview. During his comments, he vowed to base his decisions on data and rationale for the betterment of Santa Clarans, something he said his job as a software engineer has poised him to do.
“What matters is what the community wants, not what I want,” he said. “A lot of people have a lot of ideas, but what matters is action.”
But Gupta also brought ideas to the table, saying he would like to see a trail that connects many of the parks in the City and partnerships with big companies to bring more community gardens to Santa Clara.
An avid hiker and runner, Gupta is also a founding member of Catalyze SV and has previously served on Santa Clara Swim Center’s board, where he now volunteers.
Four members of the Council — Raj Chahal, Suds Jain, Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Vice Mayor Kevin Park — nominated Gupta for the commission. In a 6-0 vote, the Council approved Gupta’s appointment. Council Member Kathy Watanabe abstained from voting and questioning in protest of Council’s decision to not reappoint Field to the Parks and Recreation Commission.
The Council did not appoint anyone to an eligibility list for lack of a motion to do so. Becker said he was not in favor of an eligibility list should a vacancy occur for the appointment, but, again, did not explain why.
Other Appointments Prove Less Divisive
A resignation also forced the Council to appoint Betsy Megas to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The Council unanimously appointed Megas to a partial term — ending in June 2024 — and James Parissenti, Ashish Joshi and Clark Seninger to full terms — ending in June 2027.
Megas will serve the longest term since she will serve a partial term prior to her serving. The Council placed Ken Kratz to the eligibility list.
Similarly, the Council appointed a Civil Service Commissioner to a partial term and two commissioners to full terms. Wesley Dudzinksky got a majority of Council first-choice votes and will serve the longest term on the commission while Ron Billingsly and Arti Purohit will serve the shorter of the terms.
The Council meets again Tuesday.
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.