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Santa Clara City Observer: Nov. 15, 2016

Santa Clara City Observer

Election 2016: Still Counting

A week after the election, Santa Clara’s hotly contested Police Chief race is still too close to call. It’s likely to remain an open question into next week and possibly into December.

Incumbent Chief Mike Sellers was ahead by a razor-thin margin of 14 votes as of press time. That’s is under the threshold – 0.05 percent or 25 votes – for an automatic hand-recount. A recount could take until Dec. 8 to complete, according to County Registrar of Voters communications Media Officer Anita Torres.

The Registrar of Voters (RoV) has counted 85 – 90 percent of the ballots cast. About 30,000 mail-in ballots and 40,000 provisional ballots remain to be counted, Torres reports.


Although most elections have decisive results election night, in fact tallying the vote takes weeks and involves a surprising amount of manual work, even in our automated age.

On election night, ballots cast in person and early Vote by Mail ballots get counted. Next come last minute mail-in ballots and those postmarked by Election Day but received after the election. All mail-in ballots have to be manually signature-checked and prepped to go into the scanner

Provisional ballots are cast if there’s a question about voters’ registration – people may be voting in the wrong precincts or mail in the wrong ballots, for example. Each has to be researched to make sure the voter is properly registered and voting in the correct races before the ballot is counted. Votes in ineligible races won’t be counted.

Any ballots that can’t be read by the scanner have to be reviewed visually – for example, damaged or incorrectly marked ballots.

Sometime voters circle or check their choices instead of connecting the line, cross out one vote and add a second, or don’t complete the line or make it bold enough. Then there are over-votes, where more than the appropriate number of votes are cast – for example, voting for three candidates in a race where there are only two open seats.

Two-member teams review the ballots, explains Torres, and if the voter’s intent is clear, a duplicate ballot is created with the confusing vote correctly marked. If the voter’s intent isn’t discernable, the vote in that race is discarded, but the rest of the ballot is counted.

Last of all, write-in votes are tallied. Only write-ins for eligible candidates are counted –i.e. votes for Mickey Mouse aren’t counted.

The RoV expects to finish the complete vote tally by Thanksgiving. Automatic recounts will take place before Dec. 8. For more information, visit

Council Gets Back to Business

With the campaigning over, the Santa Clara City Council got back to business on Nov. 15.

The agenda included the sale of former redevelopment property; creating a new committee to hire a $202,000/year stadium manager; and discussing whether or not to send the 49ers a 30-day notice of breach of contract – which would engage the city in new litigation with 49ers on top of the arbitration/litigation over the stadium rent that the Council embarked on last summer.

Prometheus’ planned 150-unit Moonlite Center residential development was also on the agenda, but the developer asked to postpone it until January.

First RDA Property Sale Will Net City $14.25 Million

Tuesday night’s agenda included the sale of the 5451-5455 Great America Parkway to DivCo Acquisitions for $114.25 million. The 20.5-acre parcel, formerly owned by the Santa Clara Redevelopment Agency (RDA), is leased to Irvine, which owns three office buildings on the land. In July 2015, the RDA Successor Agency received an appraisal of $90 million for the property.

The city was forced to sell all RDA-owned land when the state legislature voted to abolish California’s RDAs – principally because they diverted property tax revenues from schools – and liquidate RDA assets for distribution to local taxing agencies.

The City of Santa Clara will receive $14.25 million from the sale, and $114,000 annually in property tax. Santa Clara Unified will receive a one-time $48 million windfall, plus ongoing tax revenue of $456,000. The remainder will go to the community college district and county agencies.

DivCo is a privately-held real estate investment company, headquartered in San Francisco. Estimated to be worth $16 billion, DivCo operates several investment funds and owns Walsh at Bowers, Lake Park Business Center and Mission Towers in Santa Clara.

Defining the Role of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee

This week the Council discussed Governance Committee recommendations for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) about the CAC’s role and its relationship with the City Council.

The CAC was formed in the1960s as required by federal laws to review grant requests for urban renewal housing block grants. It is the city’s only autonomous committee – not appointed or controlled by city government – and it appoints its own members. Any Santa Clara resident can apply to join.

Some CAC leaders have gone on to serve in elected office and as commissioners. Others made important contributions to city governance through membership on the CAC, without ever holding elected office. Two of Santa Clara’s legends, the late Eddie Souza and the late Josephine Rowen, chaired the CAC in its heyday.

In the past, according to former member James Rowen – Jospehine’s son and a former CAC chair himself – the committee has taken on the role of budget advisory committee, recommended civic improvements and brought problems and resident concerns to the attention of the city council.

This larger advisory role has never been formally defined, and has depended on the personal leadership of the chair and the city council’s willingness to include the CAC in deliberations.

Since Josephine’s days the committee’s visibility and influence has waned. The current MOU proposal is the first attempt to formalize the relationship between the council and the committee. The CAC usually meets on the last Monday of the month, at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers. For more information, email

The Governance Committee usually meets the second Monday of the month, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the City Manager’s Conference Room. Committee agendas and some of its minutes can be found by searching the city website on “governance committee.”


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