It was a short time ago, Santa Clara was the envy of Silicon Valley. Good housing, great jobs, humming industries, low power rates, minimal crime, its own stadium, its own NFL franchise with the SF 49ers, excellent schools, a booming convention center and a responsive and visionary government.
Thanks to leadership provided by former Mayor Pat Mahan, the City flourished, business boomed, Levi’s Stadium was approved by voters and built within record time.
Former City Manager Julio Fuentes inherited a $23 million deficit and, within three years, put Santa Clara back in the black with a $50 million surplus.
Another major coup was Super Bowl 50 hosted by Santa Clara and Levi’s Stadium in 2016. Millions of viewers watched the Big Game, giving Santa Clara nationwide exposure.
Then, overnight, the political climate changed, and Santa Clara changed. Mayor Jamie Matthews abruptly resigned the day after Super Bowl. He has not been heard from to this day.
When Matthews was elected Mayor in 2010, former council member Lisa Gillmor lobbied cleverly and indirectly to be appointed to the council vacancy. It worked. In 2016, when Matthews retired, the vacancy on the council was the mayor’s position and Gillmor had never been mayor in her prior 10 years on council.
Despite never having served as mayor, Gillmor used the same “daisy chain” tactics she used in 2010 and her third-party lobbying placed her in the mayor’s seat.
What happened from this point forward is a horror story of mismanagement.
Within weeks, she drove out any City employee that could possibly question her actions or question her on anything.
City Manager Fuentes, out, Finance Manager Gary Ambling, out, City Attorney Ren Nosky, out. All this experience, talent and knowledge gone within weeks.
Gillmor’s chosen replacements included retired civil service attorney Brian Doyle whose delirious decisions and personal politics cost residents millions. It was also Gillmor who hired $800,000-a-year-Deanna Santana as city manager. Santana’s tyrannical tactics and autocratic management dictates eliminated the Santa Clara way. Santana also replaced numerous long-term, dedicated and loyal City employees, filling their positions with her cronies.
It wasn’t until voters said “enough” by electing Raj Chahal and Karen Hardy to the council in 2018 that Gillmor began to rethink her tactics. When residents expressed their displeasure again in 2020 by ousting Gillmor’s council cronies, she adopted a new disguise…decorum.
When you watch council meetings today, Gillmor is trying to be polite, articulate, non-combative and nicey-nicey. Can’t say it’s really working.
Lest voters forget, this is the same person that decimated Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce, fired all fifteen employees of the Convention and Visitors Bureau overnight, pushed out numerous long-term City employees, brutely attacked the 49ers, hired San Jose reject Dan Fenton to run the Convention Center into the ground and burned through millions of residents’ money foolishly, giving Santa Clara a current deficit of $19 million.
You can’t make this stuff up, and a leopard can’t change its spots by hiding its teeth.