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Op-Ed: Santa Clara Measures A and B

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Communities thrive when local government operates with transparency, efficiency, and accountability.  Appointing a City Clerk and Police Chief with proven track records would ensure that the City of Santa Clara’s critical functions are overseen by individuals with experience and education.  Governance positions should be elected, while administrative positions (including City Clerk and Police Chief) should be appointed and non-political.

A “YES” vote on Santa Clara Measures A and B ensures that the selection of the City Clerk and Police Chief will be based on qualifications, education, and experience rather than political connections, residency, and willingness to mount a political campaign.

In 2023, the City Council appointed an independent Charter Review Committee consisting of Santa Clara citizens including educators, business executives, engineers, and seniors.  The committee held five community meetings from August through October, at City Hall or Central Park Library.  Santa Clara incumbents and outside experts were invited to present their perspectives as to the attributes and challenges of elected or appointed positions.

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The City (staff) designed and mailed a community survey to over 30,000 registered voters and received hundreds of responses.  The process was open to the public, independent of council, thorough, and thoughtful, with many opportunities for public comment in person, online, and in writing.

The Committee concluded that an appointed City Clerk and Police Chief would provide better accountability and responsiveness to the community as well as increased qualifications for these positions. The City Council agreed and placed Measures A and B on the March 5 ballot.

Santa Clara should appoint the City Clerk and Police Chief.  An appointed City Clerk and Police Chief would:

  • have a job description with required levels of education, training, certification, and experience.
  • be recruited from a much wider pool of candidates not limited by residency.
  • work together with the City Manager and be accountable daily.
  • save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars by avoiding ballot costs every four years.
  • be hired and regularly evaluated by the City Manager.
  • not be distracted from their demanding duties by time spent campaigning and raising money.
  • insulate the positions from political pressures, allowing the City Clerk and Police Chief to focus on making decisions based on professional judgment rather than electoral considerations.

Santa Clara is the LAST city to still have an elected Police Chief in all of California and LAST in the county to still have an elected City Clerk.

The City Charter requires that candidates running for City Clerk or Police Chief be registered voters in the City.  This has severely limited the candidate pool for these positions.

Our elected City Clerk and Police Chief are accountable to the electorate every 4 years when there is another election, however, typically they run unopposed leaving Santa Clarans without a real vote, and the City must still pay thousands of dollars to have them on the ballot:

  • In 6 of the last 9 elections, only one Police Chief candidate was on the ballot.
  • In 6 of the last 10 elections, only one City Clerk candidate was on the ballot.

Appointed Clerks maintain professional certifications and regularly attend trainings. Currently, the elected Clerk is not required to do so.

Learn more at www.appointpolicechief.com and www.appointcityclerk.com

Signed by,

Christine Koltermann, 2023 Charter Review Committee Member
Daniel Huynh, 2023 Charter Review Committee Member
Jeff Houston, 2023 Charter Review Committee Chair

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2 Comments
  1. SC Citizen 2 weeks ago
    Reply

    Was it stipulated that the people who will have to work for the Police Chief be a part of the selection and hiring process if appointed?

    Having a leader the Police Department can believe in is important.

    • SC Voter 2 weeks ago
      Reply

      Well, given that only 10 Santa Clara police officers currently live in Santa Clara, only 10 of them can vote for police chief now.

      The measure is only about changing HOW the Police Chief is selected. The hiring criteria will be established by the City Manager, and I am certain the community will be involved in providing input on that process. I would expect that current Santa Clara police officers will be part of that process of establishing criteria.

      If electing a Police Chief was a better system, then at least one other city in California would still be doing it. They are not. Santa Clara is the LAST city in California to make this important change to ensure we get the best qualified candidate for the job.

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