After more than a year since the United States opened and lifted restrictions on COVID, that news had yet to reach City Hall in Santa Clara.
Still resembling a gold country ghost town, the empty offices at City Hall reflect former City Manager Deanna Santana’s attitude that the services provided by hundreds of dedicated City employees were a low priority.
Even when things opened up, Santa Clara didn’t open up.
Doors were locked with signs showing hours of 9 AM to 3 PM. And if you didn’t have an appointment, lots of luck.
Closed offices preclude personal attention to details and customers and has contributed to the City’s $19 million deficit by slowing down development that would bring the City revenue.
Perhaps it’s just coincidence that that budget shortfall is close to what Mayor Lisa Gillmor and her former council cronies wasted on unnecessary lawsuits, impossible legal appeals, outrageous salaries and eliminating entertainment at Levi’s Stadium on weeknights year-round. That was residents’ money Gillmor and her former cronies frittered away.
Of course, there is more. As COVID delivered a severe hit to attendance and in-person service, departments and their skeleton staffs had to find other ways to manage the workload. Filings, approvals and permits lost the touch of personal help that used to be a Santa Clara hallmark as more work and applications were directed to the internet and City website.
Speaking of websites, Santa Clara has made a mighty mouse maze and menagerie that requires a magician to manipulate. Apparently, the Mayor and former Manager didn’t plan on doing business with folks over 55.
Folks wanting to do business with the City or citizens simply wanting to obtain a permit became an online or “by appointment only” experience.
In addition, some subcommittees that meet regularly have failed to provide agendas and minutes for their meetings. They simply ask those interested to watch the video of their meetings — even when there are no videos.
Council members who rely on these committees for fact-finding don’t have time to review two hours or more of videos for every subcommittee and their decisions and recommendations.
Last week, interim City Manager Rajeev Batra issued a memo requiring employees to return to City Hall or their appointed place of work.
Certainly, COVID has taught us that business can continue with more flexible work schedules. However, when people aren’t in the office the benefits of personal contact with residents and employee collaboration are lost, as well as hands-on management that oversees and evaluates employee performance.
With staff returning to in-person activity, productivity usually has a marvelous way of increasing.
There are dozens of projects underway, in progress, and on the drawing board. Personal attention is a wonderful infusion to reach completion. Finished projects also make a much-needed cash addition to the budget.
Thank you to Santa Clara’s new council and City Manager Batra for restoring in-person service to City Hall.