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Milestones – We have always done it this way! – Opinion

If we have always done it that way, we are probably out of touch. This applies to almost everything including Santa Clara’s elected chief of police and city clerk.

Before you wrinkle up this article for a quick discard to the garbage can, give a minute to consider your options. If this issue is one you have already decided, that’s okay. My intention here is to look at “elected or appointed” as to what works best for Santa Clara as we journey on the highway to future growth.

There is only one major reason for making this change and it comes down to accountability. Currently, there is none for either office. Currently, neither the clerk nor the police chief is held responsible for any action or inaction until the residents vote at the next election. These two offices are basically immune from oversight. Holders of these two offices are currently determined by minimal qualifications and enough money to run for office.


This method provides zero checks and balances. If the police chief or city clerk screws up, goofs off, or is inadequate at their position there are no consequences to them — just to our City employees and residents who have to live with the results. The city manager is powerless, the city council is powerless and the residents are powerless until the next election.

Four years is a long time to wait to make a change if the wrong person is in the job.

Santa Clara is now a big boy in the growing class of California suburban cities, and Santa Clara’s 129,000 residents deserve and require accountability from their City officials.

This issue may be on your next City ballot. If so, you will have a choice to leave the issue alone or…take a step into the future and prevent these city offices from being controlled by the biggest political spenders.

Santa Clara may be one of the only cities left operating in California to elect a police chief and city clerk. The argument “We have always done it this way” is no longer an argument for thinking residents. It has become a disconnected form of government that eliminates accountability and position performance reviews.


  1. The Dude 7 months ago

    “This method provides zero checks and balances.” What are the checks and balances for a city council member who, um… lets see… gets charges with felony?
    Same would apply to an elected Chief of Police and City Clerk.

    • CSC 7 months ago

      The City Council Member was investigated and is being processed through the court system in a timely manner. Currently, the police chief isn’t held accountable to anyone that can review policy violations or potential infractions of the law on a daily basis.

  2. CSC 7 months ago

    “There is only one major reason for making this change and it comes down to accountability.”
    Accountability is a major reason, but not the only reason. Santa Clara’s current police chief is the highest paid in the Bay Area and second highest paid in the entire state (highest paid is City of Riverside’s police chief) but the lowest educated. While police chiefs in other cities have been proactive in instituting change, Santa Clara’s police chief has done nothing. In fact, complaints against officers has skyrocketed during Nikolai’s time on the top seat.
    According to studies and observations conducted by independent research institutions, voters rarely have the education or professional training to thoroughly interview and select a highly educated and credentialed police chief. In the greater majority of cases, voters typically select a Sheriff more by political affiliation rather than professional competence. By appointing a police chief, the City Manager and professional search groups can identify better qualified candidates. Nikolai isn’t police chief because the majority of residents found him to be better, he’s police chief because he was the only one allowed to be on the ballot.

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