A stabbing at a soccer game has left the Santa Clara City Council scrambling to examine operations at Levi’s Stadium.
At its Tuesday night meeting, the Council unanimously approved scheduling a special meeting to discuss security at the stadium. With Levi’s Stadium slated to host several big-ticket events in the future, the meeting would aim to curb many of the ongoing issues both inside and outside the venue.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Council Member Kathy Watanabe crafted the public petition to put the item on a future agenda. Gillmor said she and Watanabe visited the stadium July 2 — the night of the stabbing — and the following day. They both said what they saw appalled them.
“We don’t want to see evidence of this violence inside or outside our stadium,” Gillmor said. “It was really, really horrible. If this is an indicator as to how the stadium is operated and managed, then we have a problem. We have a lot to take care of before we can properly host these events.”
Levi’s Stadium will host the 2026 World Cup and Super Bowl LX. Additionally, pop superstar Taylor Swift is scheduled to play the stadium for two shows later this month.
But it wasn’t just the stabbing that left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Independent of some of the magnetometers not working, Watanabe said adjacent neighborhoods were cramped with cars parked along the street. Garbage was strewn everywhere. Illegal vendors peddled their wares at the entrance to the stadium and even in adjacent neighborhoods. She called the site “disturbing.”
City Manager Jovan Grogan said there is no way to “sugarcoat” that there were “significant negative impacts” from the Qatar vs. Mexico game. He issued a memo earlier in the day vowing to conduct an independent review of the event.
Vincent Navarr, a public commenter, likened the garbage to a crack in a windshield, saying it will spread until it creates a major safety concern. He called for solutions, noting that he and his neighbors are “not asking for the moon” and that they acknowledge no solution is “ironclad.”
“One thing that really irritated me was the garbage at the soccer park…just garbage and mess and alcohol and drugs,” Gillmor said. “What a mess, just an absolute mess. I was just disgusted at the whole situation there. I just wasn’t proud [of] what was going on there. We have to do something.”
Council Member Suds Jain said such instances are why he suggested the formation of a neighborhood relations committee, something colleague Council Member Anthony Becker said should be expedited.
Both Police Chief Pat Nikolai and Jihad Beauchaman, a lawyer for the San Francisco 49ers, supported the external review. Nikolai said his department expected a stabbing.
“We had a stabbing last event; we had one this event. Our fear is that this violence will continue,” he said.
Nikolai said he is confident that an external review will reveal how rigorous his department is and provide insight into how it can improve. He urged the Council to heed any recommendations “regardless of the cost” to “prioritize safety.”
The Council unanimously approved the motion for a special meeting, which is set to be held in September.
Ethics Commission Gets Nixed
The public comments section forecast another agenda item, this one about ethics. Many public members — again — called for Becker to resign his Council seat in the wake of his ongoing legal fight regarding his alleged leaking of a civil grand jury report earlier this year.
The comments dovetailed with an agenda item to establish an independent ethics commission spearheaded by Gillmor. Gillmor has repeatedly said the Council cannot “police itself” and called for the Council to heed the grand jury’s suggestion to seek outside advice on ethical matters.
Gillmor echoed her previous sentiments Tuesday, saying that although Santa Clara is a medium-sized city, it has “big-city problems.” She repeatedly referred to “special interests” in the City, a dog whistle for the San Francisco 49ers. She implored the City to seek the advice of Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.
The City had previously employed former Markkula Center director Tom Shanks as an ethical consultant. Shanks has become increasingly involved in Council spats the past few years, often employed by Council mainstay Kirk Vartan as a political hammer to bludgeon Vice Mayor Kevin Park or Becker.
Council Member Karen Hardy came to Becker’s defense, saying she is “appalled” at people trying to try others in the “court of public opinion.”
“If people are going to be ethical, it is because they want to be. No amount of browbeating or calling names is useful or helpful,” Hardy said. “It comes from within. If someone chooses to be ethical, someone saying they aren’t doesn’t make it true.”
Hardy worked with Shanks during his time in Santa Clara. She said the experience was “very frustrating,” adding that his “ethical advice” amounted to telling the Council to be on its “best behavior” and handing out heart-shaped stickers.
The City had an ethics commission for 20 years with little to show for it, Becker said, adding that elections during that time were incredibly “nasty.” Since offices such as the Federal Fair Political Practices Commission and the district attorney’s office already provide checks on politicians, he said the establishment of an ethics commission is nothing more than“political tool” or a “mini grand jury.”
“What power do they have? It is basically only recommendations it feels like — no power, no teeth to it,” Becker said. “So, in reality, if they say ‘let’s admonish or censure a Council Member’ and they send that recommendation back to the Council, guess what, the Council is, again, policing itself. It is basically a repeating cycle, and you are just using the name of an ethics commission to lend weight to it.”
Jain moved to — instead of establishing the ethics commission — have the Council hold a study session led by the city attorney yearly, instead of every two years, to brush up on AB 1234. Further, the motion also called for review of the City’s behavioral standards by an independent ethics consultant.
The suggestion of an ethics consultant chafed Gillmor, who said that is ostensibly what her request was asking for. Again, she directed the Council to the Markkula Center.
However, Becker said he would prefer the Markkula Center not be involved, citing a history of divisive elections during Shanks’ tenure. He also questioned Gillmor’s motive for frequently suggesting the center, saying he also opposed it because she was pushing so hard for it.
“People who know how the system works try to make it effective in the way they want,” he said.
The Council approved Jain’s motion in a 5-2 vote, with Gillmor and Watanabe opposing it.
Council To Discuss Funding Ballot Measure To Appoint Police Chief and Clerk
Next week, the Council will discuss earmarking money for a ballot measure to appoint the City’s police chief and city clerk. In a 4-3 vote, the Council narrowly approved a public petition from Jain requesting the City set aside money to support its charter review committee, including the cost of meetings, a ballot measure and a website.
The action would necessitate a budget amendment and would require five votes.
City Manager Jovan Grogan said the two-year budget already accounts for upfront work needed to put the item on the ballot with additional money set aside to pay for the Registrar of Voters cost to put the item on the ballot should the committee deem it necessary.
Gillmor said the motion sends the wrong message to the public. Since the City has only just begun forming the charter review committee, “squirreling away” money for a ballot measure makes it appear that the Council intends to place the item on the ballot regardless of its findings.
Watanabe echoed Gillmor’s sentiments, calling the action “premature.” The Council approved its budget at its previous meeting.
Frequent Council commenter Howard Gibbins accused the Council of trying to rob the citizens of the ability to choose the clerk and police chief, saying they should just “cut through the BS” and ask Jeb York to donate the money to fund the ballot initiative. He accused the Council majority of trying to “destroy Santa Clara” by allowing five people to appoint the positions instead of allowing voters to determine them.
Park also voted “no.”
Consent Calendar Spending
A $2 million purchase order with GE Grid Solutions for equipment, hardware and software services for Silicon Valley Power’s GE JungleMux system.
$194,511 from the Stadium Authority Capital Expense Reserve for aesthetic improvements, bowl camera upgrade and communication equipment.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, July 18 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.
Members of the public can participate in the City Council meetings on Zoom at https://santaclaraca.zoom.us/