Since 2018, when I got elected to Santa Clara’s City Council, our council majority has made decisions which have hurt residents and cost taxpayers millions of dollars – these irresponsible measures have been consistently, and vigorously, backed by Councilmembers Watanabe, O’Neill, Davis, and Mayor Gillmor. Ignoring facts and putting politics ahead of residents’ interests has become a norm sort of. One objective way to judge incumbents is to look at their voting record. I want Santa Clarans to know about this irresponsible voting record and I’m pointing out several examples:
Unprecedented Garbage rate hike of 28 to 68 percent
In December 2019, the Council majority (Mayor Gillmor and Councilmembers Kathy Watanabe, Teresa O’Neil, Debi Davis) illogically ignored feedback from residents and decided to award a 15-year garbage separation contract to Green Waste Recovery (GWR) which is costing residents $1.9 million more annually than the alternative option (or $28 million over the next 15 years). The majority refused to hold a competitive bid for the contract and ignored calls to listen to resident feedback to come up with a more fiscally responsible solution.
In July, these four council members voted to hike residential garbage rates anywhere from 28 to 68 percent in order to pay for the unreasoned contract they signed. They even voted to increase the annual program cost related to garbage utility from $896K to $2.28 Million – a hike of 254%. Candidates Bhatia, Park, Jain, and Becker joined Vice Mayor Hardy and I to stand up for residents and oppose these damaging garbage rate hikes.
Hypocrisy of candidate Kathy Watanabe on protecting Northside residents from noise
Who brought the 49ers to Santa Clara? Mayor Gillmor and Councilmembers Watanabe and Davis were part of a $4+ million campaign to bring 49ers here (Councilmember Watanabe even did an ad in support of bringing the 49ers to Santa Clara). They did not listen to the “No on Measure J” campaign, which correctly predicted that the stadium would bring all of the issues we’re suffering from now – traffic, parking, noise, neighborhood disturbance.
And now, when the stadium is here, they are not willing to address these issues in order to make money for our general fund from the stadium.
At the council meeting of January 24, 2017, despite opposition from residents, Kathy Watanabe and O’neil voted and sided with Great America to extend their operating hours, allowing them to operate their rides up to 1 a.m. for 30 days a year and up to 12 midnight throughout the year.
Hear it for yourself: The item # is 14 D – Kathy speaks at 6:27:00 in the video recording: http://sireweb.santaclaraca.gov/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=1941&doctype=AGENDA
Now, hypocritically, Kathy always talks about noise and late night disturbances at the stadium.
She can approve Great America rides till midnight year round, but she will not relax the curfew less than five days a year for stadium events.
Residents should also look at the report by the consultants hired by the Council, EMC Research and Public Dialogue Consortium :
Page 44 and 148: A majority support (from residents) the general idea of limited exceptions to the curfew and when asked about specific options, 56% support 3-4 exceptions per year and 60% support 2-3 exceptions per summer. Opposition was consistently just about a quarter.
Page 47: While curfew issues receive significant media coverage, stadium-related noise and the curfew are NOT primary issues for your residents—the following are: • TRAFFIC • PARKING • LOITERING
This council spent thousands of dollars on this report but now they are not even willing to implement the recommendations – more hypocrisy. It’s clear they only listen to experts that say what the Council majority wants to hear.
City Manager’s Salary and Benefits- $709K in 2019
Both incumbent candidates Kathy Watanabe and Teresa O’Neil voted for a compensation package that makes our City Manager one of the highest paid city managers in California and the country.
As Councilmember I voted against the raise. The contract was exhorbitant and not competitive (my decision wasn’t a judgment of Santana’s performance). This decision put us on the hook not only for an extremely high salary, but also a high pension liability. 76% of our general fund goes to salary and benefits, one of the highest percentages in the region, and as of today our unfunded pension liability is to the tune of $500 million.
We need to make fiscally responsible decisions with residents’ tax dollars. Read more at:
Related Santa Clara parking reduction voting record
Recently developer Related came back to council to reduce parking spots in Phase 1 from 2,241 to 1,913 spots, a reduction of 328 spots leading to savings of more than $16 million dollar to the developer. I opposed this reduction of parking spots because the neighborhood is already heavily impacted by traffic and parking. Kathy Watanabe and Teresa O’Neil voted for this reduction.
When I asked the developer for some community benefits in return of these savings, Kathy was not happy. Watch the tape here:
URL for 03/24/2020 meeting regarding parking topic:
CVRA Lawsuit – Residents are on hook for more than $4 million
The current Council majority, including Kathy Watanabe and Teresa O’Neil, are responsible for the decision to fight CVRA lawsuit, and as a result we are already on hook for more than $4 million. They continue to deny that our at-large elections denied minority voting rights despite the fact that our city did not have a minority Councilmember for 70 years, until 2018 — and our city is a minority-majority city. The cost will rise further because they continue to appeal. Click below for more details:
Agreement with Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc. (JLL) for consulting cervices related to Santa Clara Convention Center and Destination Marketing Organization (DMO)
After firing the City’s DMO, the Council majority voted to pay $545K to JLL to form a new destination marketing organization. The work that should have been finished by the JLL for under $200K is costing the city $545K. This is a huge misappropriation of public funds. You can view the three scope of works here and make your own judgement about how we wasted more than $345K of public money. Both incumbents voted for all these contract renewals. Click below to see details:
These are few examples of the council majority’s and two incumbents’ track record of poor financial decisions that are wasting our taxpayers’ money and not putting residents’ best interests first.
This election, voters have the opportunity to put an end to wasteful spending. I am urging Santa Clarans to vote for change, independent thinking and analysis, and collaboration. And to vote for candidates who are free from ties to special interests and have a track record of making fiscally responsible decisions. Candidates Anthony Becker, Harbir Bhatia, Suds Jain, and Kevin Park all fit this bill and can bring the change we desperately need.
Councilmember District 2 City of Santa Clara