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Of Political Mice and Honorable Men – Opinion

Assistant Police Chief Dan Winter’s withdrawal from the Police Chief election makes one thing clear: at least one Santa Clara official cares more about the City’s wellbeing than his own political fortunes.

“An election can hurt relationships, cause tension in the workplace, and lead to more stress in an already demanding occupation,” Winter wrote in his letter last week. “I do not want an election to be a distraction from our mission of providing quality police service to the public.”

There’s only one reason Winter isn’t Police Chief Winter today.

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Mayor Lisa Gillmor and her yes-men Debi Davis, Teresa O’Neill and Kathy Watanabe prefer 17-year police union President Lt. Pat Nikolai, a political ally they can count on to do their bidding. As Gillmor said of Nikolai when he ran in 2016, “He’s going to help us with our agenda.”

They didn’t have six votes to appoint Nikolai, so they voted to subject the City to two elections that they planned to make vicious; kicking it off with a malicious and false rumor campaign that Winter planned to retire after he was elected.

To use one of the Mayor’s favorite words, it stinks.

The Council had 30 days for a decision. But the move for a special election the same year as a regular election was done in about 30 seconds — like they were hurrying to cut off oxygen to public discussion about a Winter appointment.

This stinks, too.

The 2020 campaigns would have been replays of Gillmor’s 2016 negative “stink” campaign against now-retired Police Chief Mike Sellers.

Even before the 2016 campaign kicked off, Gillmor falsely accused Sellers of directing employees not to report stadium hours, understaffing the department, “dirty politics” and creating “rank and smell and stink” in City Hall.

The police union PAC underwrote the campaign against Sellers — and for Gillmor’s slate — with about $100,000 of developer money.

That October the union threatened to refuse to work Levi’s Stadium if the 49ers didn’t punish Colin Kaepernick for exercising his free speech rights, regardless of opinion — violating the oath police officers take to do their duty impartially.

A week before the election the union held a no-confidence vote in chief, something the Mercury called “naked politics.”

All of which stink, stank and stunk.

When Nikolai isn’t running for Police Chief, he’s President of the union, and by definition part of its PAC leadership. Claiming he had nothing to do with 2016’s political shenanigans would defy common sense.

If he did so, what kind of leadership can we expect at the police department? And what kind of police leadership rests on a resume of dirty political tricks?

Nikolai and Gillmor go way back. In 2006 union President Nikolai and private businesswoman Lisa Gillmor undersigned a ballot measure favoring binding arbitration for the police. (tinyurl.com/sc2006BA). The measure lost decisively with 54 percent voting against it.

How much confidence will the public have in a police department that’s run by a union and its bought politicians?

Over the years it’s been argued that Santa Clara’s police chief should be an appointed job to ensure this crucial position is held by the best qualified. Council had their chance to appoint the best qualified candidate and did not.

Winter has over 30 years in law enforcement — 20 with SCPD — and over 20 years in police supervisory and management positions. He has an A.A. in justice administration, a Bachelor’s in management and a law degree from Santa Clara University — magnum cum laude. He’s also a graduate of the F.B.I.’s National Academy.

Nikolai’s qualifications are meager by any standard — not just in comparison to Winter’s. In 25 years he has never held a police management position. He recently got a Bachelor’s degree, which earned him promotion to Lt., his first.

How will SCPD be credible with a Chief whose qualifications are less than those of the most recently promoted captain?

The Council’s conduct — including bowing to Gillmor’s agenda by those who favored Winter — shows the qualifications they prize: political ones.

This Council and its self-serving agenda didn’t drop out of the sky. We chose them. If we want a Council that chooses duty over political agenda, we need to make the right choices when we vote. 2020 is a good time to start getting the “rank and smell and stink” out of City Hall.

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1 Comment
  1. jean 2 weeks ago
    Reply

    I remember that speech the mayor gave supporting and introducing Pat Nikolai during the 2016 campaign election. It was disgusting and has since been removed from the internet. I hope she removed it because she was embarrassed but that’s doubtful. I was waiting for her to prove those allegations she made against the Police Chief at that time. She hasn’t and if she had any, you can be sure she would have been all over the media with her big news flash. If I had been holding my breath waiting for her proof, I’d be dead for 4 years now. Such a disgrace to the city.

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