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Council Sets Sights On Police Reform, Passes Budget

As a response to the death of George Floyd, the Santa Clara City Council vowed to reform how police interact with the public.

During its Tuesday night meeting, the Council took action aimed at demonstrating its commitment to allaying racial tensions between police and minorities. The first action was an ordinance stating that the City “stands in solidarity with the Black community” while the second was a resolution detailing reforms within the police department.

The ordinance claims that “racism against the Black community has been persistent in both our past and our present” and that “[s]ystemic injustices, racism, and dehumanization are deeply rooted in our society.” It continues, saying the City “condemns racial inequity in all forms and violence against the Black community by law enforcement in particular” and it “does not tolerate discrimination, racial injustice, or police brutality.”

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Finally, the ordinance “demands” that Black lives matter, commits to protecting the safety of its citizens, resolves to listen to Black Santa Clarans and encourages everyone to “stand together through peaceful exchange and discourse to enact change.”

More concretely, the resolution — stemming from former President Barack Obama’s Commit to Action Initiative — will have the City review police use-of-force procedures, seek input on those policies from people from a “diverse range of experiences,” report the review’s findings to a committee and reform police use-of-force policies.

Both policies went over well with the Council and Police Chief Pat Nikolai. While Nikolai said “Santa Clara does it right” when referring to police action, he also acknowledged the City can still improve, saying it “can’t sit back on our laurels.”

While Mayor Lisa Gillmor said any change to how the City operates must amend the charter — requiring a resident vote — establishing a human rights commission would go a long way toward the goals espoused in both actions.

The idea garnered support from members of the Council and public alike.

“The essence of racism and discrimination is embedded in the fabrication of American society. It is a part of our daily lives, even if we cannot see it,” said Darius Brown. “To say it does not exist in the City of Santa Clara would be asinine.”

Both motions passed unanimously.

 

Council Approves Budget

The Council approved the 2020-21 budget.

Kenn Lee, Finance Director, told the Council in order to maintain services, allowing City reserves to dip below 25 percent the operating budget was necessary.

Due to budget concerns surrounding COVID-19, the City’s deficit has grown from a projected $4 million in January to $22.7 million, and Lee said the deficit could continue to grow.

Unfunded capital improvement needs stand at $300 million over the next five years, Lee said.

Although the City has $80 million in its reserves, Lee said the budget anticipates using $50 million of that to maintain City services. Along with reserves and cost-saving measures, City management is hoping to avoid lay-offs for its 1,150 employees.

The City has been hit hard by tax-revenue loss. Lee said estimates suggest that sales tax revenue could take five-to-six years to fully recover.

In a write-in comment, Rob Jerdonek, told the Council the Citizens Advisory Committee would like to see the City’s expenses for its many lawsuits more clearly delineated.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor said she worries the state will come after some of the City’s money should the economy continue to trend down because of coronavirus. She added that the City had some “big plans” before the outbreak and that the deficit “is not anything the City did.”

 

No Support For Bond Measure

On a similar note, a consulting firm hired by the City reported that one of its strategies to generate money saw little public support. Meanwhile, another has traction.

The Council has previously discussed increasing the transient occupancy tax (TOT), a tax paid by those renting hotel rooms in the City, and a bond measure to fund capital projects.

Emily Goodman, with EMC Research, a public-opinion research consulting firm, told the Council that there was little public support for a bond measure but there is enough support for a TOT measure.

According to 645 interviews, Goodman said residents still feel “very positively about the job the City is doing.” When asked if the City does a good job keeping them informed, 70 percent responded it did. However, the numbers dip to 54 percent of people who responded positively when asked if the Council is listening to the voters’ needs; only 51 percent supported the idea that the Council is using tax money responsibly.

Although the bond measure saw little public support, Council Member Kathy Watanabe said, “At least it (the poll) has given them some insight into the City’s needs.”

Council Member Debi Davis agreed, saying “education of the residents” will better help them understand the deficit the City is facing.

 

Consent Calendar Spending

The Council also approved the following items via the consent calendar:

  • A 6-year extension to an agreement with Innovative Interfaces, Inc. for hosting and maintenance services for $757,489.29
  • $878,163 to Mott MacDonald Group, Inc. for annual sanitary sewer condition assessment repairs; that contract also has two 1-year extension options at of $560,000 for the first extension option, and $600,000 for the second
  • A $2.5 million amendment to a contract with the California Highway Patrol — a not-to-exceed amount of $8.42 million — for traffic management and support services at Levi’s Stadium
  • A third-party administrator services agreement with Sedgwick Claims Management Services for the City’s Self-Insured Workers’ Compensation Program totaling $1.85 million
  • A 2-year contract with Santa Clara County for the Santa Clara Intensive Case Management and Homeless Prevention Program totaling $400,000
  • A $75,440 increase to a contract with Mintier Harnish, LP, for preparation of the zoning code update with for a total contract cost not to exceed $323,690
  • A 5-year contract with Hyas Group, LLC to provide consulting services related to the Deferred Compensation Plan in the amount not-to-exceed $202,000

The Council meets again Tuesday, July 7 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

For those without the above access, the City Cafeteria has been set up to accommodate up to 10 people at a time and public comment will be given from that location.

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