What is to be made of Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s eruption of laughter at the end of the Dec. 14, 2021 Council meeting? No one was telling jokes.
In case you missed it, Council Member Anthony Becker asked the Mayor to stop re-tweeting lies about her Council colleagues, under the imprimatur of her title as Mayor. The fabrications Gillmor broadcasts are published by fired Weekly employee Robert Haugh in his blog — a blog that she, her sometime-political advisor Jude Barry and former Council Member Teresa O’Neill took an active role in creating.
She responded to Becker’s request with the said bout of hysterical laughter, followed by several statements that her “feelings were hurt.”
But her Joker imitation wasn’t the end of it. Not only did she not address Becker’s request, but she laughed and smirked her way through the rest of the meeting, making a big show of not paying attention to her colleagues and carrying on what looked like a lively text conversation.
In many other cities, this would likely be a scandal. But not here. That’s because Santa Clara’s City Council, and Gillmor particularly, has a reputation for crazy conduct. In 1993, a Mercury News editorial described then Council Member Gillmor’s behavior during discussions of the Santa Clara Convention Center management as “hysterical ranting,” “loony accusations,” and “empty vicious bluster.”
Sounds familiar. Last month’s outburst of inexplicable mirth is just the latest in a more recent catalog of juvenile behavior that has become standard for Gillmor and her allies since she became Mayor in 2016.
Remember when Council Member Kathy Watanabe publicly told an Asian-American council member he couldn’t speak at “her” Stop Asian Hate rally?
Or when Gillmor’s lapdog, then City Attorney Brian Doyle, told former Council Members Patricia Mahan and Patrick Kolstad that he was “ashamed” to represent them?
The list of putdowns and lies that Gillmor and her acolytes dispense at public meetings is lengthy and this latest episode is only the most recent and egregious.
Because of Gillmor’s and her posse’s mulish insistence on fighting a voting rights lawsuit that cost the City about $6 million, Santa Clara was the Biggest Loser in a California Voting Rights lawsuit for two years.
Although Santa Clara has now lost the Biggest Loser distinction to Santa Monica — the San Diego Union-Tribune pegged Santa Monica’s costs to date at $10 million and an appeal is still in court — Santa Clara has become a cautionary tale invoked in California cities considering replacing at-large election systems. One former Sunnyvale council member remarked, when someone mentioned Santa Clara during that City’s change to by-district elections, “we don’t want to do anything like Santa Clara.”
Ten years ago, Santa Clara was regarded as a well-run city. Lisa Gillmor has made it a regional embarrassment. This isn’t trivial. Gillmor’s lack of collegiality, respect and even common civility on the dais is a matter of public concern.
The absence of judgment and a sense of decorum on the part of someone invested with the public trust should be a matter of grave concern. If, after two decades in appointed and elected office, Gillmor can’t be trusted to behave properly, how can we believe she can govern properly?
We hear that Gillmor is telling anyone who will listen that she’s going to “take control” of the Council in Nov. 2022. That just might cause voters to laugh her out of office.