Just a whiff of the Council censuring the mayor was enough to get the Santa Clara City Council to run amok, causing the City Attorney to repeatedly admonish them for off-topic remarks.
A public petition Tuesday night, submitted by Lori Garmandy, asked the Council to consider censuring Mayor Lisa Gillmor for leaking confidential information and writing a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“It sickens me to see the lies and the turmoil,” Garmandy said. “To see the negativity and all the political crap is sad.”
But Garmandy’s comments didn’t seem to deter the Council. Discussion of the petition pulled a thread that led to Councilmembers sniping back and forth at one another at length.
While admitting the line between “substantive discussion” and “discussing the merits” of having the item return to the Council is sometimes blurry, City Attorney Steve Ngo repeatedly warned the Council that it was treading on dangerous ground.
“I would ask that you stick to your own policies,” Ngo said after interjecting into Council dialog for a third time.
The mudslinging started when Gillmor defended herself. Her defense of the letter to the Governor remained the same as before, essentially saying she was only asking for a speedy decision and advocating the City’s position.
“You are going to look at censuring me for something that I had full authority to do?” she asked.
However, when she defended herself from supposedly leaking confidential information, sparks began to fly. She refuted that her public disclosure following a closed-door settlement negotiation with the 49ers was privileged information.
Following that meeting, which she and political ally Council Member Kathy Watanabe walked out of, Gillmor accused Council Member and mayoral opponent Anthony Becker of being “verbally abusive.” She said Becker cursed at her, yelled and made an obscene gesture.
Watanabe said she “sat shaking for hours” after the incident. She repeatedly called the situation “despicable,” framing Gillmor as “a victim.”
Vice Mayor Suds Jain said he has been “reluctant or shy” about going public with his impressions of the meeting, adding that he has a “different interpretation” of the events. Dialogue surrounding Gillmor’s accusation has been “one-sided,” he added.
He went on to say that the examples of leaks have been numerous and have nothing to do with how Gillmor claims Becker treated her, something Council Member Kevin Park echoed. Park said the issue was not censure but discussion, adding that Gillmor used her “mayoral privilege” when writing to Newsom.
Becker offered a verbal riposte, calling the characterization of his behavior “consistent wild accusations.” Further, he accused Watanabe of laughing and pointed the finger at Gillmor and Watanabe for “abandoning [their] elected duties.”
“You verbally abused me,” he told Watanabe. “The thing is, it is a one-way street. This is a prime example of bullying after homophobic remarks were found on a blog that you guys (Gillmor and Watanabe) support. This is clearly retaliation.”
Old guard Council gadfly Deborah Bress phoned into the meeting to call the exchange “dirty politics at dirty politics time.” She called Gillmor’s behavior “shenanigans” to “maintain her fiefdom,” going so far as to accuse Gillmor of crimes.
The Council voted 5-2 to discuss — at a future meeting — censuring Gillmor. Ngo said the item will likely have to return twice: once after getting clarity on the request’s scope and producing a staff report, then again to get direction from the Council.
Proposed Civic Center Park
An attempt to get a park to replace a housing project for the poor gained traction among the Council. A public petition from a neighborhood group near the proposed development at 1601 Civic Center Dr. returned to the Council after the Council had deferred it to the City Manager’s office back in September.
Charities Housing — who purchased the land in 2020 for $12.5 million — plans to develop the two-story vacant office building into 106 below-market-rate apartments for those earning between 30% and 60% area median income.
However, residents of the area say the area is park-anemic and that the proposed complex does not fit the neighborhood’s needs. They claim parks have not kept pace with the City’s growth and that the project’s density makes it a bad fit for the area.
Cynthia Bojorquez, Assistant City Attorney, said the neighborhood’s 1.2 acres of park per 100,000 residents fails to meet the City’s minimum standard of 2.6 acres of park per 100,000 residents.
To transform the land into a park, the City would first need to purchase it. Charities Housing agreed to sell the City the land for $18.9 million, provided the City secures an alternate site for its development and covers any additional costs associated with the move.
Although Borjorquez laid out options to buy the land — the land sale reserve, park in-lieu fees, the budget stabilization reserve — she cautioned the Council about doing so, noting that the City has already spent $50.6 million from its reserves over the past two years.
While many Councilmembers supported the idea, Vice Mayor Suds Jain said he didn’t see a need to stretch already thin City resources when there are two other parks within a quarter mile of the proposed site. Perhaps, he added, those parks don’t have the amenities they should, which demonstrates the need for a parks master plan.
The Council denied noting and filing the report, instead opting to exhaust all options during a closed-session negotiation with Charities Housing following the meeting.
Consent Calendar Spending
- A $1.92 million amendment to a contract with Delta Star, Inc. for upgrades to power-station transformers. Total contract is now $2 million; a $2 million amendment to the same contract with Delta Star, Inc. for “transformers equipment and services at various substations.” The total for that element of the contract is now $4 million.
- A $177,000 transfer from the land sale reserve to pay for raises at the fire department.
- A $446,000 transfer from the land sale reserve to pay for raises at the police department.
- A three-year, $75,978 extension to a contract with Armanino for maintenance of Levi’s Stadium’s financial management system.
- An amendment to a contract with InTWO, Inc. for software subscription and cloud/hosting services, to increase the one-time setup fee to $5,969 and annual fee to $56,532.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday Nov. 15 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