City Council Recap
By Robert Haugh
What should have been a routine and simple meeting, wasn’t …
After over an hour of heated discussion, the Council approved re-classifying two executive city management positions and setting “control point” (midpoint for the range) salaries for Chief Stadium Authority Officer and Assistant City Manager.
Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta and Councilwoman Patty Mahan grilled City Staff over the details of salary and process. They eventually voted no, but lost 5-2.
These positions are part of a restructuring by newly appointed City Manager Deanna Santana who viewed the meeting from the audience. She’s bringing in some top-notch talent like Scott McKibben and Manuel Pineda, which we reported yesterday.
Maybe that’s why in a strange statement Interim City Manager Rajeev Batra said that he could not sign the memo. Batra said that he was concerned about the budget implications and upward salary pressure on other positions. But on August 9, three weeks ago, we sent Batra some questions for a story about his legacy and tenure, which included putting together the last city budget. We asked him this question:
Many people, including you, have raised issues about Santa Clara’s long term fiscal outlook. What did you do to address this problem during your tenure as city manager?
He has not answered the question.
According to HR Director Liz Brown, these are not new positions, but simply new job descriptions. Acting Finance director Angela Kraetsch mentioned that the new positions, particularly the Chief Stadium Authority Officer would relieve current staff of some duties, therefore potentially saving some money from current salaries like her own, as the new candidates would take over some of the workload.
Mahan said that the City Charter may be violated by hiring candidates. Interim City Attorney Brian Doyle corrected her saying there is no Charter violation since the Council is not hiring individuals, but only authorizing setting a higher control point for salaries, which is required when control points surpass 110 percent.
The Council then voted unanimously to approve a new title for the City’s Electric Utility Director at a control point nearly $60,000/year more than current salary. The new title is Chief Electric Utility Officer.
Moonlite Lanes Development Proposal
Prometheus returned with a new proposal for the former Moonlite Lanes bowling alley (2780 El Camino Real). This is the first development project in the new “gatekeeper” process that allows a developer to get a sense of what is allowable before final project approval. The plan proposes 58 townhomes, at 20 units per acre, which was reduced by half from the original proposal. The project was originally six stories and is now three stories. The Council unanimously directed city staff allow the proposal to proceed to a general plan amendment where it will be approved or disapproved. This a bad omen for the massive Mariani development project which is less than half a mile away and a whole lot bigger.
The Battle of Stevens Creek
United Communities for Sensible Development requested that the City of Santa Clara take legal action against the City of San Jose Urban Village plans along Stevens Creek Boulevard. This item was heard close to midnight when Mayor Lisa Gillmor left because of eye trouble following her eye surgery. Councilman Pat Kolstad also left. The council will host a study session on September 12. Look for the “border wars” to intensify.
Economic Development Committee and SVO
This is typically a routine item that is noted and filed. But community activist Deborah Bress is making the discussion and minutes of the Economic Development Committee’s July 17 meeting an issue. She believes that Assistant City Manager Ruth Shikada doctored the minutes to hide an effort by the committee to quietly appropriate $15,000 to SVO (formerly the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce). After councilmembers said that the minutes were accurate, Bress says she taped the meeting and is sending it to the DA. This may not be Watergate, but it should be interesting. Stay tuned.