The Santa Clara City Council put the kibosh on increasing garbage rates.
Vice Mayor Raj Chahal is still on his campaign to undo a 2019 Council decision to award a garbage-sorting contract to Green Waste Recovery (GWR). Garbage rates for the City were on the agenda at Tuesday night’s meeting, but Chahal again presented his objection to the old Council’s decision.
The 4-3 vote in 2019 was a lengthy debate about whether to award the contract to GWR or institute a split-bin for organic waste. The split-bin option ignited public scorn, causing the Council to scrap the program, instead opting to have GWR sort the garbage.
However, Chahal has never let up about the contract and how bad he believes it to be for the residents. He echoed those sentiments during the meeting, pointing to how much the rates have increased since the contract award, which ranges from 49% to 134% for garbage collection.
“That is not what our residents expected, and that is not what our residents should be imposed with,” Chahal said. “The problem is not what we are doing this year, the problem is what we did last year.”
Craig Mobeck, Director of Public Works, told the Council that steep rate increases were always expected once agreements with garbage providers expired.
The rising cost of labor, state regulations and China’s National Sword Policy — which has caused the market for recyclables to shift from being a commodity cities earn money on to something they have to pay to dispose of — have all caused the steep increase, he said.
Council Member Kevin Park suggested a more graduated increase to avoid large spikes in the rate.
“It is not the height of the mountain that is dangerous but the steepness of the slopes,” he said.
The Council continued the remainder of the item to its June 8 meeting, where city employees will separate the residential rates for the Council.
City Budget Tight, But Council Wants Community Theatre To Stay
The elimination of funding for the Roberta Jones Community Theatre was a hot-button topic during the Council study session on the budget. City revenues have plummeted in the wake of COVID-19, making budget cuts necessary.
However, the Council was unanimous in its recommendation — bolstered by a wave of public comments detailing the theatre’s importance to the community — to direct City employees to figure out a way to keep the theatre afloat.
Another topic on the Council’s lips was changing the business tax options. Council Member Karen Hardy called the $500 cap “embarrassing, to say the least,” saying it effectively amounts to the City “subsidizing some large companies.”
“I like that we are business friendly, but that is maybe a little too friendly,” she said.
Council Member Suds Jain said the City also needs to look into one-time programs such as a study on how to maximize its traffic demand management plans. With between 20,000 and 30,000 new housing units in the pipeline, the City needs to have clearer guidelines for developers on what they expect to see in these plans and ensure developers are providing them, he said. If that means spending a couple hundred thousand dollars up front, Jain said the cost is worth it.
Request To Censure Backfires
Council Member Karen Hardy’s request to censure fellow Council Member Kathy Watanabe and admonish Mayor Lisa Gillmor came back to haunt her.
During public presentations, Bob O’Keefe, an ardent Gillmor supporter, called for City Attorney Brian Doyle to prosecute Hardy for what he saw as violating the City’s charter.
Because Hardy had a resolution prepared by an outside attorney, O’Keefe said Hardy violated the charter since it requires the City Attorney to prepare ordinances or resolutions that come before the Council. Further, O’Keefe said this violation, as specified by the charter, constitutes a misdemeanor and mandates Doyle prosecute Hardy.
O’Keefe said there were “so many reasons” why it was important for Doyle to follow through on punitive action against Hardy. If Doyle failed to do so, he said it would set a precedent that lobbyists could write ordinances and hand them over to sympathetic Council members to get passed, effectively allowing an outsider to govern.
According to the charter, if convicted, Hardy could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Council Forms New TID
Having already approved the shift in how the tourism improvement district (TID) would be assessed earlier this year, the Council simply needed to solidify the new rate going into effect July 1 by approving the formation of a new district, provided there were no legally sufficient protests.
Under a law passed in 1989, the 11 hotels in the district collect a $1 per room rented, but since the Council did not receive any protests to enacting the 1994 law that allows it to assess an initial 1.5% assessment and a possible 2% assessment for the remainder of the five-year agreement, it was able to put the new schedule into effect. The boundaries for the district remain the same.
Nancy Thome, Assistant City Manager, said the approximately $1.4 million the change would generate will go toward the destination marketing organization’s budget, which is roughly $1.29 million. The motion to form the new tourism improvement district passed unanimously.
Consent Calendar Spending
The Council approved the following spending in a single motion via the consent calendar:
- A five-year $1.5 million contract with Avenu MuniServices or sales, use and transactions tax audit and recovery services.
- A five-year $100,000 contact with Avenu MuniServices for transient occupancy tax audit services.
- A five-year $100,000 contract with HdL Coren & Cone for property tax audit services.
- A one-year $300,000 contract with True Blue Automation Services for electrical support services for the City’s water, sewer, and storm drains.
- A three-year $120,000 contract, with up to an additional $20,000 for “contingencies,” with Bank Up Corporation remittance lockbox processing services.
- A $300,000 increase to a contract with Wallace Roberts & Todd for consulting services for the Downtown Precise Plan. The contract total is now $878,346.
- A $215,436 increase — with an option for another $50,000 increase at the end of June next year — to extend the contract with TruePoint Solutions for additional data conversion, continued system configuration, and project management consultation hours. The contract total is now $1.1 million.
- A $754,554 contract with KPMG LLP for auditing services for the Santa Clara Stadium Authority for fiscal years 2020/21 through 2024/25.
The Council continued discussion of the sale of its Loyalton Ranch property to its Aug. 27 meeting and continued discussion updating park in-lieu fees for new residential developments.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, June 8 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