Charter Review Committee Meets to Tackle Voting Rights Challenge

Charter Review Committee Meets to Tackle Voting Rights Challenge

By Robert Haugh

As we previously reported, the City Council appointed a Charter Review Committee. They met for the first time last night.

Tino Silva was appointed Chair with Keith Stattenfield as Vice Chair.

Silva is a good choice because he was on last year’s Charter Review Committee and was one of the strongest voices to push for four successful ballot measures, especially Measure R which protects Santa Clara’s parks, including the Youth Soccer Park, from sale or development without a vote of the people.  (The yes vote was an incredible 90 percent).

Interim City Attorney Brian Doyle told the group last night that he would drive the process, but that they would drive the decisions. He expects the group to meet for 3-4 months and focus on the voting rights challenge from San Francisco attorney Robert Rubin, who thinks that because the City Council has no Asian representatives, we need candidates to run in districts and not city wide.

Doyle reported that he’s been told by Rubin that he will not drop his lawsuit unless Santa Clara creates districts. We wonder how much Rubin actually knows about Santa Clara. There aren’t major ethnic neighborhoods that divide our city. Santa Clara is racially integrated, especially compared to other California cities.

We’ll watch with interest what happens with these questions in mind:

  • If you created districts in Santa Clara, how would you create them to help Asian or even Latino candidates?
  • If you can’t create helpful districts, why carve up a city with a small to medium size population? (San Jose has over 100,000 people per district. Santa Clara would have about 20,000 people per district for six council seats with the Mayor running city wide).
  • Are there other good solutions like rank choice voting?
  • After the Committee tackles the voting rights challenge, will they put other issues on the 2018 ballot, like appointing, rather than electing a Police Chief and City Clerk?

Stay tuned.

The committee members appointed by the council:

  • Mayor Lisa Gillmor – Parks & Rec Commissioner Tino Silva;
  • Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta – Santa Clara Chamber CEO Chris Horton;
  • Council member Debi Davis – Beverly Silva;
  • Council member Pat Kolstad – retired Santa Clara Police Chief Steve Lodge;
  • Council member Patty Mahan – Markus Bracamonte;
  • Council member Teresa O’Neill – former Planning Commissioner Keith Stattenfield;
  • Council member Kathy Watanabe – Hazel Alabado.

The at-large appointees:

  • Saskia Feain
  • Hosam Haggag
  • Mary Elizabeth Hanna-Weir
  • Rex McIntosh
  • Jodi Muirhead
  • Teresa Sulcer

The City may want to update the Charter Review Committee portion of it’s website. It appears as though it hasn’t been updated in some time.


  1. […] This will be on the June ballot. Voters will decide if they want to divide the city into two districts with three council members representing each district. The mayor will still be elected city wide. This was done to respond to a lawsuit by San Francisco attorney Robert Rubin who thinks that carving the Mission City into six districts will help elect Asian candidates, even though Santa Clara doesn’t have racially segregated neighborhoods like other cities. […]

  2. Santa Clara needs to change how council members (including the mayor) are selected, not just change the system to address the lawsuit, Santa Clara is an integrated city and does not have ethnic p-santa edifice districts so unless extensive gerrymandering is done, districts will not change the ethnic make up of the council.

    Every voting system needs to be examined! The problem in Santa Clara is the family dynasties. The good ‘ol boys and girls! The retireds … We just can’t get rid of them … Look, we have Patty Mahan back again? After 24 years?? WTF?? THAT should never be allowed.

    Let’s change the money too. Keep PACs out. Reduce how much can be spent so EVERYONE can afford to run! Reduce the limit to $10,000! Way too much is spent and wasted to BUY votes and throw around familiar names … New comers don’t have the name nor the money to overcome that advantage and district voting isn’t going to change that either.

  3. I’ve voted for minority candidates for council in the past. If race is the basis for going to districts, I’m not sure I’ll support it. We should have a system that elects good people.

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