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Power To Your Voice

Santa Clara City Council Meeting, July 12, 2011

It might not have seemed like it, but there was other important business on last week’s City Council agenda besides Mr. Montana’s I-only-have-eyes-for-Santa-Clara development plans for seven acres of unused city-owned land across from the proposed 49er stadium site.

Montana Madness

Drawn by the football hall-of-famer, council meeting turnout attained levels unseen since it was first proposed to build Santa Clara’s own Valhalla, the 49ers stadium. The audience was easily 10 times the number of people who turned out to hear about Santa Clara’s half a billion dollar budget last month.

Despite city staff recommendation that the city issue an expedited request for proposals (RFP) for the project, with the exception of Jamie McLeod, the City Council voted to approve Montana’s request.

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“I doubt Cupertino would not consider Steve Jobs’ proposal because Bill Gates might come in,” said Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews, observing that “Santa Clara was built on entrepreneurs and risk-takers.”

The only exception to the general tone of fawning obsequiousness was Council Member Pat Mahan, who noted that, “When you tie up that land for 18 months…there’s value for that. And this applicant like any other should pay for that. Time is money.”

Charter Review Proposal Moves Ahead

Of more concern to some Santa Clara residents than the opportunity to rub shoulders with the famed NFL quarterback, is a review of the City’s charter, scheduled to begin in September.

In June, the City Council took the first steps toward establishing a committee specifically to review Santa Clara’s at-large Council seats. This follows receipt of a letter from Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) legal director Robert Rubin threatening the city with a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit.

On July 12, Santa Clara City Manager Jennifer Sparacino provided a roadmap for forming the committee and conducting the review. “The purpose of the committee is to review the charter and examine alternative methods for electing city council members,” Sparacino explained, “and to make a recommendation back to the City Council. The issue would be…electing city council members and not any other issues.”

This clarification addresses the request by some Santa Clara residents that a charter review committee also review the City’s police chief and city clerk should continue to be elected or appointed (like the City Manager).

The charter review committee will have 15 members. Each City Council Member will recommend a committee member – for a total of seven. The Council as a whole will choose six at-large committee members. The Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Clara Citizen’s Advisory Committee will recommend remaining two committee members, respectively. The City Council has final approval over committee members.

The City Manager and Council encourages city residents – including those who may not have been active in community politics before – to volunteer for the charter review committee. The deadline for applying is August, 10, 2011. Interviews will be held on August 16, at 6:00 p.m. before the scheduled City Council meeting.

The first meeting of the charter committee will be August 18, 2011 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers. Subsequent meetings will be held Sept. 1, 22, and 29, and the City Council will consider the committee’s recommendation at the Oct 11, 2011 meeting. The plan was approved unanimously.

New Korean Sister City

A new sister cities relationship with Yeongcheon, South Korea won unanimous approval. In June, Council Member Jamie McLeod and Santa Clara Sister Cities Association Board Member Kevin Park visited Yeongcheon as part of a delegation organized by Debbie Ahn, co-Executive Director of One of Us, a Korean organization serving people with developmental disabilities.

The new relationship will focus on opening cultural exchange opportunities to young people with developmental disabilities, and will be the first of its kind worldwide, according to McLeod.

New Billboard = Fewer Billboards in Santa Clara

The Council gave Clear Channel the go-ahead to construct a double-faced electronic billboard near 101 at Duane Ave. Although this is a new location for a billboard, as part of the deal Clear Channel will remove six existing billboard “faces” on Lafayette St. near 101. In addition to the ability to display public service announcements (10 percent) and emergency announcements, Clear Channel will pay the city $140,000.

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