The November calendars of Santa Clara public officials are out, and the City of Santa Clara is not ending the year on a positive note for transparency.
At the Nov. 21 City Council meeting, Santa Clara’s Ordinance No. 1950 was discussed at length and City Attorney Brian Doyle said that, based on the wording of the ordinance, there were no real repercussions for any Council Member omitting meetings with developers, lobbyists, union leaders, politicians and residents, except that the calendars must be modified once an omission was found. He also said that, based on the ordinance’s verbiage, phone calls do not need to be reported. Any Council Member can choose to have phone conversations that directly impact the quality of life in Santa Clara and not make those meetings known.
It’s a huge blow for the supposedly transparent government Mayor Lisa Gillmor claimed she wanted to bring to the City. What’s even more concerning is that a month after the meeting where Doyle said the calendar needed to be rectified, the Council Member calendars still have zero mention of Peter Hillan or Banner Public Affairs, except on Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta’s calendar where his meeting last month remains, as do phone calls he had with the WEEKLY (Nov. 13 and two on Nov. 21), the Mercury News (Nov. 16 and 21) and former City Manager Rajeev Batra (Nov. 14 and 21).
Caserta, whose calendar had been light until recently, has been listing both in-person meetings and phone calls. In November, the Vice Mayor had phone calls with Steve Eimer of The Related Company about the now unfrozen City Place project (Nov. 6, 13 and 15); Joe Head of SummerHill Homes regarding one of the SummerHill projects (Nov. 7); Lou Mariani of Mariani’s Inn and Restaurant who is trying to redevelop part of his property (Nov. 7); Sean Kali Rai about cannabis in Santa Clara (Nov. 8); Santa Clara business owner Kirk Vartan regarding “City business” (Nov. 21); Irvine Company’s lobbyist Jim Cunneen (Nov. 21); and Jean Cohen of UA Local 393 of plumbers, steamfitters and HVACR service technicians about affordable housing (Nov. 28).
His two notable in-person meetings were with former Council Member and current Genzon lobbyist Kevin Moore about the Yahoo site (Nov. 14) and with Eimer and Related’s lobbyist Jude Barry regarding City Place (Nov. 15).
Council Member Teresa O’Neill, whose calendar has always been full, seemed to have ended her near-monthly meetings with Barry until recently. However, most of O’Neill’s meetings with the lobbyist were listed as phone calls and only one phone meeting with anyone shows up on her November calendar. On Nov. 15, she had a conference call with Ben Field of the South Bay Labor Council and Teamsters’ Joint Council 7 Political Director Doug Bloch regarding “labor peace.”
O’Neill also records a lunch meeting with local blogger Robert Haugh regarding “current life events” (Nov. 2), and a meeting with Moore, Hanns Lee of Irvine Company, Dihua Yan and Amy Tran of Genzon Investment Group’s Kylli Inc. and Perkins and Will architect Dennis Dornan about the Yahoo site (Council Member Kathy Watanabe also attended but was not listed on O’Neill’s calendar) on Nov. 6. The majority of O’Neill’s additional calendar items are public events and meetings.
Council Member Debi Davis’ calendar appears to have been scaled back, with nearly every entry being either a public meeting, public event or meeting with employees at Santa Clara or San Jose’s City Hall. In fact, Davis recorded only four meetings outside of those parameters: one with City Manager Deanna Santana, Assistant City Manager Ruth Shikada, Old Quad Association President Adam Thompson and residents Rod Dunham and Adam Thompson about Santa Clara’s downtown on Nov. 9; an introductory meeting with Gillmor and Santa Clara University’s Associated Student Government Vice President Samantha Perez on Nov. 22; a meeting with Gillmor and residents Rich Bonito and Howard Myers about the Mariani project on Nov. 28; and a Nov. 30 meeting with Santana and Mission College’s President, Daniel Peck. Davis did not list any phone calls in November.
Gillmor listed five phone calls throughout the month of November: a call regarding City Place with Santana, Santa Clara’s Chief Operating Officer Walter Rossmann and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on Nov. 8; a Nov. 17 call with Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Meg Whitman about the company; a Nov. 21 call with Candida Diaz when she was an applicant for Santa Clara’s Cultural Commission; a call with Irvine’s Carlene Matchniff on Nov. 21; and a Nov. 22 call with Eimer.
Gillmor’s notable calendar meetings include a Nov. 6 meeting about the Great America expansion with Santana, Great America’s lobbyist Cynthia James and Cedar Fair’s Matt Ouimet, Richard Zimmerman, Duff Milkie and Raffi Kaprelyan; a meeting regarding Irvine Company with Santana, Matchniff and Irvine’s Dan Miller on Nov. 13; and a Nov. 29 meeting about City Place with Santana, Eimer and Related Company’s Steve Ross, Ken Himmel and Anthony Messelli.
Watanabe’s notable meetings include a lunch meeting with resident Tino Silva on Nov. 13 regarding the catchall “community issues,” a meeting with Irvine lobbyist Cunneen on Nov. 14 regarding Santa Clara Square; and a meeting with The CORE Companies’ Vince Cantore and Paul Ring regarding 90 N. Winchester on Nov. 15. Watanabe lists only one phone meeting, which occurred on Nov. 28 with resident Skip Brossard regarding “renting driveways.” Nearly all of Watanabe’s other calendar items are public meetings or public events.
Council Member Pat Kolstad’s calendar shows only five items: two public events, two public meetings and one meeting regarding City Place with Barry on Nov. 30.
Finally, Council Member Patricia Mahan, who will be taking time off because of health issues, also had a light calendar for November, which lists 15 meetings, only one of which was not a public meeting or public event—a Nov. 13 introduction meeting with Silicon Valley Organization.
Since the current Council took office in November of 2016, Related Companies or Barry have met with Council 36 times regarding City Place or other topics, SummerHill has had 34 meetings about various City projects, Vartan has met with Council—often with other members of the community—13 times and Irvine Company or Cunneen have met with Council 11 times.
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