After fifty years with just two City Managers, Santa Clara will begin to search for their third City Manager in one year.
Former Managers, Don Von Raesfeld and Jennifer Sparacino, each served our City for over 25 years. This reflected a rather calm, conservative and effective administrative approach to City business.
Julio Fuentes was hired in 2013 to rejuvenate our ongoing recession economy. Whatever you thought of Fuentes, he was responsible for $100 million of economic stimulus that catapulted our City out of the recession.
Shortly after the Super Bowl last year, with a change in Council dynamics, Fuentes resigned.
He was replaced by Rajeev Batra, who became Acting City Manager, then Interim City Manager, but never offered the full title and responsibility as City Manager. Now, Batra has resigned.
Per our City Charter, we are a city manager style of government. Our City Council is directed to establish policy and the City Manager is charged with carrying out that policy, provided he or she has 1) the managerial skills and 2) support of the Council. There are rumblings the Council wants this changed.
Batra resignation is shaped in the form of “Retirement.”
Why would a bright and relatively young man like Batra wish to retire?
Batra, gentleman he is, was honored to be asked, and yet, after a year of filling the Manager’s shoes, never really got to wear them.
Therefore, he is joining the talent departure team of former City Attorney Ren Nosky, former Chief Financial Officer Gary Ameling and of course, former Manager Fuentes.
Now you may wonder where all of this is going besides out the door?
Some of it may have to do with the upcoming budget crisis that Santa Clara is headed for.
During the elections, many promises were made by our Mayor to safety officer groups in Santa Clara in return for support of her candidates.
The recent contract negotiations with our police department is part of the payback and paycheck promised.
Our Santa Clara Police Officers Association was successful in negotiating a salary and benefit package that propels them into the highest paid safety officers in Santa Clara County.
A 21-year-old rookie patrolman will now be starting out with a whopping $200,000 package. This is a significant increase over last year.
How does that stack up with your kids looking for their first job?
As important, how does this impact our general fund and future taxpayer liability?
That future could be as soon as next year.
Remember, Santa Clara lost its battle with the State over our redevelopment assets. Assets that were producing $14 million a year to our General Fund.
Fuentes had to scramble to fill that gap while negotiating the disposal (confiscation) of our RDA assets back to the State. We were almost there before these new benefit contracts were awarded.
With many revenue-producing development projects being turned away by residents, Santa Clara could be headed for more financial disruption. In addition to our burdened budget, our current unfunded retirement liability (est. $741 million) for City employees is headed for a showdown at the “Not so OK Corral.”
You have to wonder, are residents going to pay attention or just pay?