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Still No Decision On Fate Of Police And Fire Departments Cutbacks

The Santa Clara City Council again delayed deciding whether to cut police and fire services, greatly impact essential services or all but wipe out its reserves.

In a continuation of last week’s discussion, the Council again discussed making a dent in the $42 million ongoing budget deficit brought on by COVID-19. Last week, Kenn Lee, the City’s Finance Director, told the Council that cutbacks are necessary in the shadow of a looming financial disaster.

In a nutshell, the City has to decide whether to allow cuts in police and fire to contribute $5.8 million of $12.3 million reduction of the City’s ongoing budget deficit. Alternatively, the Council could opt to leave police and fire untouched and instead diminish already stretched-thin City departments. Doing so, Lee said, would “significantly reduce essential City services.”

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The only other option is for the Council to dip into its budget stabilization reserve, and pension trust fund and drain its land sale reserve.

Although Rob Jerdonek, chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee, said the committee supported Lee’s recommendation, many public members called in to oppose it.

“It is absurd not to use those reserves right now,” said Patrick Walsh, a firefighter. “This is the City of Santa Clara, not the bank of Santa Clara.”

A motion by Council Member Karen Hardy to protect several aspects of the fire department, most notably ceasing the use of a fire engine and freezing positions instead of eliminating them morphed into similar consideration for the police department.

The amendment failed, and so did the original motion. Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Council Members Anthony Becker and Kathy Watanabe supported the amendment but opposed the motion, causing it to fail in a 4-3 vote. Items related to budget amendments require five Council votes.

A subsequent motion to continue the item until next week passed unanimously.

 

Climate Action Plan Gets Boost

The Council also heard a report on its climate action plan. The plan details steps to come into line with state mandates surrounding carbon emissions.

The report recommends a more aggressive approach than SB 32’s mandated 40% reduction by 2032 and 80% by 2050.

Andrea Martin told the Council that non-residential electric makes up the lion’s share of emissions, adding that carbon neutral emission would get the City “partway there” to reducing greenhouse gases.

Council Member Suds Jain said Silicon Valley Power has fallen behind in how green and inexpensive its energy is. Although the City aims to be carbon neutral by 2045, Jain said it is “not enough.”

“The cities around us are doing far better at tackling this, essentially, existential crisis,” he said.

Jain proposed an amendment to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2035, increased secured bike parking, a 25% reduction in vehicle miles traveled reduction from active measures, not just proximity to transit. Adopting an emissions tracking dashboard was also part of the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Due to the length of the meeting — more than seven hours — the Council deferred a study session on the non-NFL marketing plan and possible action on the Stadium Authority budget to its next meeting. City Manager Deanna Santana said, because the Planning Commission’s meeting Wednesday, March 10 has been cancelled, the Council could meet to “catch up” on any deferred items.

The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, March 9 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/j/99706759306; Meeting ID: 997-0675-9306 or call 1(669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov

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15 Comments
  1. CSC 8 months ago
    Reply

    First and foremost: credit for the low crime rate in Santa Clara is due upon the tens-of-thousands of parents who are raising good children and young adults.

    A quick look at the data Santa Clara provides to Transparent California and you’ll see regular police officers are compensated more than $200k per year and rank and file firefighters $170k/yr, that’s not including additional pension contributions and benefits paid by the city. Santa Clara could literally initiate 10% cuts across the board (police and fire) and realize these guys are still pulling in $200k and $150k annual paychecks. Ten percent cuts would safe the city more than $4MM per year.

    • NO.BS 8 months ago
      Reply

      The pay cuts need to happen in the city manager’s office. Her entire department is the highest paid in the city. Not to mention, when they showed the cuts they allegedly made to help the situation, it isn’t accurate. No one was cut from her department. They were just shuffled around. Bet the SVV could verify which departments everyone moved to, would be an interesting article to read. That didn’t save the city any money. Just an attempt to make the city manager look good. There was also mention of fire not playing ball. Not only is that false, but the nerve to say that when the CM took her pay raise at the beginning of the pandemic! Additionally, rolling that housing stipend into her salary package is going to cost the city an insane amount of money long term. Something else they need to undo…she already pulled the pin out of the grenade, we all know she will be out of here before we know it leaving out town in flames.

      • CSC 8 months ago
        Reply

        The City Manager, the Mayor, and the employee unions – especially PD and FD – are all in it together…boost their own pay and benefits, payoff council members to vote for their overly generous compensation packages, and then retire to a state that doesn’t tax pension income.

      • Debi 8 months ago
        Reply

        I totally agree, city msnagers office and staff should tslk at least a 25% cot which would
        Solve the entire budget issue.

  2. CSC 8 months ago
    Reply

    There is a similar conversation over at Robert Haugh’s blog site Santa Clara News where Haugh’s followers defend against cuts to police and fire budget and Haugh points to City of Palo Alto Management taking a 15% pay cut. Since Robert picks and chooses which posts to allow, I thought I’d post my reply that likely won’t be allowed on his site…

    If Haugh is going to point out leadership in another Santa Clara County city (Palo Alto) taking a pay cut it’s only fair to look at incomes of similar experienced peace officers in neighboring cities Campbell and Sunnyvale. The following figures are 2019 average base / total income (not including pension and benefits contributions) for regular beat officers…

    Campbell: $110,962 / $148,572
    Sunnyvale: $137,327 / $202,148
    Santa Clara: $150,614 / $197,870

    First thing to consider is Sunnyvale refers to officers as “Public Safety” because police officers are also certified firefighters so they pull double duty and have double certifications. If we use Haugh’s 15% pay cut suggestion, Santa Clara police officers would still make much more than equally qualified peace officers in Campbell and still be relatively close to Sunnyvale given that’s city’s double duty.

    After 15% cut…
    Santa Clara: $128,022 / $168,190

    • NO.BS 8 months ago
      Reply

      Your data is skewed because your picking and choosing. If you take all of the other fire agencies in the county, you’ll actually find SCFD’s salary is average, in the middle of the rest. I’ll never understand why anyone would want to encourage increased crime by taking PD off the streets or harming citizens because of slower response times for PD and FD. Our city’s population keeps growing. Public safety should also be growing along with it.

      • CSC 8 months ago
        Reply

        The data isn’t skewed, literally picked to cities that border Santa Clara, pulled on available similar data, and averaged. Not hard. If you want to pull in other agencies in the county that don’t share a border with Santa Clara – like Morgan Hill, Gilroy, or SCCSO who patrol Saratoga and Cupertino – go ahead, and share what you find. I did and it illustrates an even larger chasm in pay. Heck, you want to get more creative…pull up pay data for cops in Beverly Hills and compare it to Santa Clara, see how that works out!

        Adjusting over-inflated compensation doesn’t encourage crime, it simply lowers financial liability. But heck, since you’re already looking up compensation data for all entities in Santa Clara County also look up crime statistics. It’d be great if you could model why Santa Clara cops would leaving for San Jose if their base dropped to $128,022 when San Jose pays $129,417 with a much higher crime rate. All legitimate police science organizations agree (1) police staffing numbers shouldn’t be correlated to population density alone and (2) non-violent crime statistics have more to do with economic health of a community. Credit to Santa Clarans for raising good kids and a positive community.

    • Jean 8 months ago
      Reply

      Robert Haugh is a disgrace. He’s out $50,000 bail for charges of sexual misconduct with a 5 year old CHILD. Why anybody would consider him credible is reprehensible.
      https://www.svvoice.com/santa-clara-blogger-charged-in-sex-crime-pleads-not-guilty/

      “On Nov. 19, 2020, Haugh turned himself into the Santa Clara police after being advised that a Warrant had been issued for his arrest on Nov. 10, 2020 on the charge of “lewd conduct with a minor,” according to the Santa Clara Police Department arrest log.

      Last August, Haugh was arrested on a different complaint, “sexual penetration with a foreign object.” He was released with no charges after the District Attorney found an “insufficiency of evidence” in the case. At that time, the DA requested additional information on the case, according to DA spokesman Sean Webby.”

  3. NO.BS 8 months ago
    Reply

    Couldn’t agree more, Jean. Haugh is most definitely not a credible source.

  4. Frank 8 months ago
    Reply

    Politicians always bow to the interest of the police and fire unions above the interest of the voters

    • Jean 8 months ago
      Reply

      I agree with Frank. Especially in Santa Clara where the Police and Fire Unions donate a lot of money to the political scene. Last year was the first year they were out spent and it took Jed York to do it. In previous years, they and the mayor’s developer friends were the top campaign donors.

      Seeing that Tony Becker sided with Mayor Gillmor and Kathy Watanabe on this and in favor of the police and fire unions that did not support him during the last election, I will be expecting some political favors that might be in the works between the 3 of them.

      • NO.BS 8 months ago
        Reply

        You’re referring to PD. People often lump their spending in with FD. But it was PD spending that cash.

      • NO.BS 8 months ago
        Reply

        As for Becker, was glad to see he cares more about his fiduciary duty than who did/did not endorse him. Some of the council seems to forget it’s not about them and their grudges, they are supposed to be the voice for their constituents.

  5. DD 8 months ago
    Reply

    I do not want the cuts to be made from the police or fire department. And by the way is the lobbyist money coming from my taxes? I would prefer instead to cut the funding of the lobbyists.

  6. Davy L. 8 months ago
    Reply

    Here’s an interesting article from today’s San Jose Mercury News: Santa Clara City Police Department plagued by racism, lawsuit alleges: 46 of the department’s 49 management positions or 94% are held by people who identified as White. In comparison, only 45% of Santa Clara City residents are White, according to the most recent U.S. Census. The federal lawsuit was filed this Monday (3/4/21) against the city of Santa Clara and Police Chief, Patrick Nikolai, by Santa Clara police Sgt. Jacob Malae.

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