Council Recap – Minimum Wage, Huge Donation Pledged for Swim Center Project & More
By Robert Haugh
The nine-hour plus July 18 Council meeting started with a study session on the International Swim Center, Community Recreation Center and International Swimming Hall of Fame Project. Project Finance Advisory Limited (PFAL) managed the presentation. It’s the beginning of a process that will include more study and public outreach with a recommendation coming back to the council in November. We learned some important things:
- Information from a phone poll that was conducted at the end of June was shared. Santa Clarans love their City government and the direction the City is headed, by a 65-24 margin. That’s really high for a legislative body. (The U.S. Congress is lousy, 20-74; the California legislature is okay, 57-43)
- Some of our departments rank even better: Parks and Rec (86-5), Fire (91-2), and Police (81-13). Wow. Those are impressive numbers, especially for our firefighters.
- The big surprise shared by Cynthia Owens and Kevin Moore of the Silicon Valley Aquatics Initiative was that Tod Spieker has pledged at least $4 million to the effort. Spieker owns almost 3,000 apartment units in the Bay Area, swam at UCLA for four years and competed numerous times at the Santa Clara International Swim Center – including at the inaugural Santa Clara International Swim meet in 1967. The Mayor and Council praised Spieker’s contribution as the most generous gift in history to a Santa Clara youth and recreation facility.
Minimum Wage Gets a Boost
The Council unanimously approved hikes in the City’s minimum wage: increasing to $13/hour on January 1, 2018 and $15/hour on January 1, 2019. But the hikes will be n exempted in times of severe recession. The City staff return later this year with information on establishing a livable wage for workers at municipal locations such as Levi’s Stadium.
This was a loss for the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce and the Silicon Valley Organization. Supporters of increasing minimum wage turned out in droves,while no one from business groups even attended the meeting. Ouch. They failed to represent small business members’ needs and concerns.
The Council unanimously approved (6-0, Kolstad absent) the Charter Review Committee’s recommendations for a revised election system:
- electing City Council Members by two districts – with three Council Members representing each district;
- electing three Council Members at the same time per district, alternating between gubernatorial and presidential election years;
- introducing ranked choice voting as soon as the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Office can support such a system;
- creating a transition period that would see two members elected in 2018 to four-year terms in District A, and, in 2020, one member elected to a two-year term in District A and three members to four-year terms in District B.
Other items tackled at the nine-plus hour meeting, the last one before a month-long summer recess included:
- The Council voted unanimously to create an Historic Preservation Ordinance, which could help eliminate several lengthy discussions on proposed projects in “protected” neighborhoods. This item dates back several years.
- The Council approved dates for separate Stadium Authority meetings — Thursday, August 24 and Tuesdays, September 19; October 17, November 14 and December 12.
- During the public comment period, Deborah Bress who ran unsuccessfully for Mayor in 2014 and City Clerk in 2016, made a litany of complaints about various issues. But one seemed interesting, or at least worth looking into. Bress alleged that the Council’s Economic Development Committee (Dominic Caserta, Patty Mahan and Pat Kolstad) met on Monday and tried to get City staff to allocate $15,000 without full council approval. Stay tuned for more information.