At its most recent meeting, the Santa Clara City Council put community legacy ahead of its deficit. In a moment of agreement, the Santa Clara City Council unanimously approved waiving $30,000 in fees for a local baseball tournament.
Organizers of a trio of baseball tournaments for Wilcox High School appealed to the Council for special dispensation previously, requesting that the item be put on Tuesday night’s agenda, asking them for a one-year fee waiver.
The City’s latest fee hikes gobsmacked organizers when the new fee schedule had them being asked to pony up $30,000 to host the tournaments when they had previously paid nothing.
Paul Rosa, the tournament director, told the Council if he had known the fee was skyrocketing, he never would have put the tournaments together, which net only about $4,000 apiece. However, the tournaments are already scheduled, and he simply asked the Council to waive the fee for this year.
The altering of the fee schedule was a cost recovery measure, largely brought on by the City’s $27 million deficit in the wake of the pandemic.
“It is true that we have a $27 million deficit, but we are not going to put that deficit on the backs of this baseball program. I don’t think that makes any sense,” said Council Member Kevin Park. “This is exactly the kind of program that we need to get out of deficit for — so we can support. It seems unconscionable to me that we would go from zero dollars to $30,000 with no step in between.”
The rest of the Council agreed, voting 6-0 to waive the fee for this year so the tournaments — to be held in February, March and April — can go ahead.
Many council members said they would like the tournaments to continue to be held at Washington Park ballfield, continuing a rich history of community events.
Rosa said he and other organizers have offered to volunteer to maintain the fields to help cut down on City employee costs. However, Jim Teixeira, parks and recreation director, said doing so opens the City to liability because of agreements with the school districts dating back to the 1980s.
In light of the fees being waived, Council Members Raj Chahal and Suds Jain both said they would like the City and the school district to work to amend the agreement so the tournaments can continue without a subsidy.
Kirk Vartan, a Santa Clara business owner and San Jose resident, said the event is one of Santa Clara’s “crown jewels” and that he fully supported it. Vartan also took time during public comment to gripe that the Council has not afforded such consideration to legacy businesses, referencing the City’s upcoming business tax increase ballot initiative.
Rosa said he didn’t expect to continue paying nothing forever but said anything beyond the $1,500 he offered would be prohibitive to hosting the tournaments. With the Council’s vote, the tournament will have $10,000 of its fees covered by a City grant with the remaining coming out of the parks and recreation budget, which will require five council member votes to approve at a later meeting.
City Attorney Salary at Issue
Doing a 180, the Council also narrowly pulled the trigger on approving an increased salary for the new city attorney.
In a 4-3 vote, the Council adopted a new salary — $340,000/year — for recently hired City Attorney Glen Googins. As previously, Council Member Kathy Watanabe and Mayor Lisa Gillmor decried the increase, saying it was folly to fire the previous city attorney, Brian Doyle.
With a $27 million deficit, both said the $1 million the City spent hiring outside counsel for roughly a year’s worth of work flew in the face of the Council’s duty to be fiscally responsible. They both added that it was “nothing personal” to Googins.
Vartan again chimed in, saying that the Council majority bandy the deficit about when it suits them but ignores it when it wants to give a new city attorney a higher salary.
Park said with cost-of-living adjustments, Doyle’s salary would likely be what the City is offering Googins, something that anyone on the Council “able to do math” would be able to deduce.
Council Member Anthony Becker, who joined Watanabe and Gillmor in voting “no,” said he too bemoans higher salaries, but that the Council majority is simply working under the precedent set by the previous Council — a Council headed by Gillmor and Watanabe.
“We didn’t start this fire. We are just trying to manage it,” he said.
Council Upholds Planning Commission Ruling
The Council upheld a variance for a hobby hut as well. A 68 sq. ft. hobby hut in the backyard of 2121 Sheraton Dr. can stay put after the Council upheld an exception to the setback rules granted by the Planning Commission.
The variance narrows the 5 ft. setback requirements that abuts a neighboring fence.
A neighbor of the homeowner complained that the shed was too close to her property and appealed the Planning Commission’s ruling that the City allow an exception to the zoning code. However, the Council denied the appeal, saying there is ample evidence to suggest the variance is warranted.
Chahal and Park both voted “no.” Chahal said he was not convinced that the shed needed to occupy the area it did instead of elsewhere on the tenant’s property.
Consent Calendar Spending
- A $3,900 purchase order to Valley Transit Authority for the annual construction access permit and related training for Stadium Manager staff.
- $500 to IPROVEIT for the background screenings of stadium manager staff.
- $153 purchase order to Benjamin Litho, Inc. to print cards for guest services.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 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.
Thank you for the straightforward report on the meeting and even the city attorney salary approval without significant bias.
Did Becker explain why he voted no? The quoted statement from him reads like something he would say while reluctantly voting yes. But he voted no. Did he say he feels Googins should not be paid more?
Seems like a falsely symbolic vote to me. Something he may point to in the future as sign that he’s a deficit hawk when the reality is that he knew his vote would not make a difference.