We invited all Sunnyvale Mayor to speak directly to the voters through The Silicon Valley Voice website.
We asked candidates to answer the following questions in 150 words or less:
- What do you think is Sunnyvale’s major challenge and how would you address it?
- What budget challenges will Sunnyvale face in the next few years because of COVID-19 and what’s your plan for addressing them?
- What is the first action you would take as Mayor?
Here are the candidates’ answers, unedited. We note candidates who chose not to respond.
- Sunnyvale’s major challenge in the next few years will be a projected drop in its general fund of 12% over the next 2 years. It will be 5 years for our budget to return to current levels according to our city’s financial analyst. At the same time we will have unknown increases in state pension fund requirements, and the likelihood of the state reducing our share of taxes to fill their own $54 billion shortfall. Sunnyvale’s population has declined since 2017. And now “work from home” allows many to leave for less expensive cities, possibly a significant number. We may see a decline in sales taxes, possibly property values. We saw this after the “Dot-Com” bubble burst. This presents a challenge of unprecedented economic uncertainty.
- The financial shortfalls will last 4 years, possibly longer. If local sales taxes don’t return to former levels it will be worse. If “Work From Home” continues, revenues from gas taxes, and auto sales taxes will decline as people drive less. A population exodus will make it difficult for small businesses to come back to former levels of employment and revenues. We can expect greater strains on public safety as homelessness and domestic violence increase. Maintaining city services will be hard if we must cut back on work hours and employees. I will postpone most of the “Civic Center Modernization” project. The estimated cost of $280 million would require borrowing $150 million. This would incur $93 million in interest resulting in total expenditures of $373 million. Any unexpected cost overruns would incur more debt and even more interest. During unprecedented economic uncertainty we cannot afford such extravagance.
- Any mayor will still need the votes of at least three other council members to make major changes. What I can do is assemble information we don’t currently have on where we can cut back. I will meet with all the heads of all city departments to see what projects can be delayed until we see the economy come back to the levels of 2019. I will see what overtime can be eliminated for all but public safety staff. I will see how many staff members can “work from home” to reduce our future office space needs. I will see what work can be assigned to the private sector so that we can save money and reduce the need for layoffs or furloughs. We may need to reduce things such as sidewalk repairs, but I will ensure we don’t reduce public safety for police, crossing guards or firefighting staff.
- Sunnyvale’s major challenge is to protect our residents and businesses and help them recover from the current pandemic. As Mayor, I have personally done everything I can for Sunnyvale’s residents and small businesses. I’ve:
- enacted an eviction moratorium that covered Mobile Home Communities,
- advocated and raised Sunnyvale’s regional voice, getting all 15 County Mayors to sign a letter advocating County Health to partner on COVID-19 testing and tracing—and they did! We now have free COVID testing in Sunnyvale!
- visited a different restaurant every day to publicize our diverse landscape of local small businesses, and residents are following in the Mayor’s footsteps.
- delivered face coverings, supplies and food.
I have been Sunnyvale’s Counselor-in-Chief during difficult times. As Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable Co-Chair, I’m ready to chart a path forward. I’m confident Sunnyvale will emerge from this as a stronger community, and as Mayor I will work every day to make that happen.
- The full effects of COVID-19 are yet to be seen. That being said from a city standpoint we need to be vigilant and pragmatic. Sunnyvale is founded on good fiscal policy. By our charter, we require a 10-year balanced budget and a 20-year plan.For the 2020-2021 Budget, Sunnyvale Council made hard decisions, goingt beyond Staff’s budget recommendations:
- froze open positions, but didn’t lay off city staff
- postponed a portion of contracted services (like sidewalk replacement/tree trimming)
- reduced water usage at parks by 10% for two years
Staff is bringing quarterly budget updates to Council, so that we can look closely at our revenues [property taxes are above estimates].
I pledge to continue to be pragmatic and look at what projects can be postponed and what can be cut. But we should also evaluate getting better cost estimates on construction during a recession, and getting more done for less.
- My first action as Mayor will be to welcome our new District Councilmembers. An important part of the Mayor’s job is to build a well-functioning team on the dais.Even though we already spent a lot of effort to define our six district boundaries, with the 2020 Census results, we will need to redistrict again.I think it is critical that the newly elected Council in January define that process and the composition and role of a citizen’s independent redistricting commission. We need to again actively engage our community to ensure that our new district boundaries are drawn fairly.Sunnyvale Council has functioned well together over the last few years. It is part of the Mayor’s responsibility to make sure Council is productive and that our community is fully engaged on issues. I’m ready to continue my leadership as Sunnyvale’s Mayor.
- Affordable housing is Sunnyvale’s major challenge. I would address it with a three-pronged approach – planning, legislation, and through local ordinances. Sunnyvale has made great progress in adding housing through our recently adopted Sunnyvale Specific Plan and the Lawrence Station Area Plan. We are looking at adding more housing along El Camino Real and identified East Sunnyvale and Tasman Crossing as priority development areas. California cities need more funding tools and, before COVID, were looking to the state for help, with the legislation like SB 795 (Beall) Affordable Housing and Community Development Investment Program. Also ACA 1 (Aguiar-Curry) Affordable Housing and Public Infrastructure: Voter Approval. COVID put a damper on these tools. I’ll push our new State Senators to carry these measures forward. The City can adopt local measures in support of renters and housing production: Sunnyvale adopted an ADU ordinance that reduced restrictions. We could reduce them more. By ordinance, Sunnyvale could restrict demolition of existing housing stock, put in anti-displacement measures by ordinance, allow up to fourplexes in single-family zones, reduce parking requirements, adopt tenant protections, establish an EIFD or a similar financing tool
- Sunnyvale lost millions in sales tax and transit occupancy tax revenue due to COVID-19. Fortunately, we have set aside funds for a downturn and have so far been able to keep staff and most services intact. Council will continue to review the financial health of the City quarterly to ensure we can take actions needed to make further reductions. As Mayor, I support doing all we can to help our businesses reopen safely.
- Once elected Mayor, I would seek support from my Council colleagues for an independent redistricting process. It’s in the City’s best interest to ensure the residents of Sunnyvale can trust their new Council and Mayor to hold to the highest standards of transparency.