Tuesday night, Santa Clara City Attorney Brian Doyle reported that the Council had voted unanimously to terminate the 49ers Stadium Management contract “in its entirety;” implying management of NFL events as well. The discussion topic was not on the agenda.
City Council to Fill Vacancy by Appointment
Santa Clara voters will not have to wait until November for a representative of former Council Member Patricia Mahan’s district.
City Council voted unanimously to fill Mahan’s seat after she resigned earlier this month, citing health issues. The Council will have until March 12 to appoint someone, which will require five of the six remaining Council Members to agree on a candidate.
Several Council Members passively criticized Mahan’s tenure representing District 5. Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the district deserves a “champion” who will “work for the district,” and Council Member Kathy Watanabe said the district has gone without adequate representation because of Mahan’s declining health and conflicts of interest, saying the residents there deserve an advocate “not someone who has to excuse themselves from the dais.”
Members of the public who were proponents of appointment pointed to the Reclaiming Our Downtown effort as a main reason the Council should select someone.
“I feel it urgent that that seat be filled immediately because of the activity,” said Mary Grizzle, a senior involved in Reclaiming Downtown. “I want to see the downtown come to fruition before I die.”
Suds Jain, a member of the Planning Commission who vied for election to the Council and also sought appointment for former Council Member Dominic Caserta’s seat, said he believes appointment would violate the intent of California Voting Rights Act — the City is currently appealing a ruling handed down based on this very act.
Appointment, Jain said, perpetuates the status quo, which discriminates based on race. A lack of Council consensus for the appointment of Caserta’s seat led to the seat remaining open until the general election. Appointing a candidate gives them incumbency in the election, which Jain said is a huge advantage, pointing to Watanabe’s victory following her appointment to Gillmor’s old seat.
“I fear the same thing will happen with this seat,” he said. “It just goes to show that not being in the ‘in crowd’ hurts new candidates.”
He called the appointment process a “sham.”
But proponents of appointment on the Council rebuked Jain’s criticism, calling his recollection of the appointment process for Caserta’s seat “revisionist history.” Watanabe, Gillmor and Council Members Teresa O’Neill and Debi Davis took umbrage with Jain’s favorable characterization of Mahan and former Council Member Pat Kolstad, who — because the duo had vocally opposed the appointment, instead favoring allowing the voters to decide — they blame for the gridlock.
Both Watanabe and Gillmor took exception to Jain’s accusation that appointment ensures minorities are less likely to sit on the Council.
“I vote based on qualifications,” Gillmor said. “I don’t vote based on skin color. I vote on who the best candidate is for District 5.”
Applications for appointment open Wednesday and are due to the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave., by 5 p.m. on Feb. 28. The Council will hold interviews for the vacant seat at 6 p.m. on March 9 in the Council Chambers. Applicants must live in District 5 and be eligible to vote.
Council To Ask Voters To Help With Money Woes
With $190 million in capital projects slated over the next 5 years, and the City projected to run a $13.3 million deficit over the next 4 years, the Council also approved moving forward with funding initiatives.
Millions in pension liability, a decrease in stadium revenue and an expected economic slowdown have contributed to a bleaker-than-expected financial outlook for the City, said Kenn Lee, the City’s Finance Director.
The City’s ailing infrastructure was at the forefront of the discussion. Lee said the City needs nearly $1 billion in maintenance and upgrades in various areas including its storm drain stations, fire stations, parks and swim center.
Since the City needs a massive influx of money soon, the Council agreed to place a ballot measure for general obligation bonds to fund the work.
A 2 percent increase in the transient occupancy tax — essentially a hotel fee — will also come to the voters as a way to increase revenue to the City.
On the flip side of the coin, instead of opting to tax marijuana in the City, in a 5-1 vote, the Council approved placing a permanent ban on commercial sale of marijuana. Gillmor was the lone “no” vote.
Residents Ask Council To Fix Speeding Problem
Residents from Briarwood Drive attended the meeting in droves to implore the Council to install speed humps and radar along their street to alleviate speeding.
“We have a serious speeding problem,” said Alan Todd Bevis, a Briarwood Drive resident who brought the item along with a petition signed by 62 of the street’s 65 residents to the Council. “We fear for our lives — literally.”
Because of the street’s proximity to major thoroughfares, many said those driving down the street, including school buses, treat the street like Lawrence Expressway. It is not uncommon for drivers to pass those driving the speed limit, smash into parked cars or even do doughnuts nearby.
“I have two little kids. When I cross the street with them, I fear for their safety. When I pull out of my parking lot, I fear for my safety,” said Ibrahim Avci.
The Council voted unanimously to place the item on the March 31 agenda.
The Council also approved continuing to use a hybrid model — a combination of City employees and outside consultants — for its internal auditing work.
With the election drawing near, City Clerk Hosam Haggag detailed the City’s dark money ordinance, which requires political donors to disclose their identity for contributions exceeding $100. By way of explanation, Haggag said it would be similar to a civic engagement group advocating ice cream at City Council meetings if Baskin Robbins with its consultant Ben & Jerry’s funded the campaign.
Such an ordinance, Haggag said, allows voters to make informed decisions and imposes “harsh penalties” on those who break the rules, including civil action and termination of any City contracts.
“We mean business and we want to keep elections clean,” Gillmor said. “If you are going to spend money in Santa Clara, you better tell us who you are.”
Town hall meetings with the Council are also now on the horizon. Haggag pitched the idea to the Council, and the Council approved it. Two members of the Council will host a town hall in alternating public buildings such as the senior center and local libraries.
The meetings would be livestreamed and held every month. Haggag said the meetings are designed to be less formal, where residents can talk about anything they want.
Eron Hodges, General Manager of Hyatt Hotels, told the Council that the board for the City’s Destination Marketing Organization is closing in on hiring a CEO. He said he expects the new CEO to start sometime between April and May.
Consent Calendar Spending
The Council approved the following spending via the consent calendar:
- Contract for the Homeridge Park playground rehabilitation to Star Construction, Inc., for $703,000
- A $110,000 transfer from the budget stabilization reserve to increase the public works department’s parkways and boulevards program
- A $95,431 amendment to an agreement with Alternative Office Solutions, Inc. to “provide design, installation and reconfiguration of new and existing Herman Miller office cubicles”
The Council meets again Tuesday, Feb. 25 in the Council Chambers.