Welcome to Santa Clara, Deanna Santana
By Robert Haugh
Today is the first day for Santa Clara’s new City Manager, Deanna Santana. We welcome her to the Mission City. She has an impressive resume and reputation.
But we want to warn her in advance that she’ll be graded just as former City Manager Rajeev Batra was. And we’re not easy graders. Afterall, Santa Clara deserves the best.
Here’s what we’re looking for:
The last two city managers had vastly different styles. Julio Fuentes was known as a tough boss who kept his staff on edge. He really pushed a lot of development which has caused tremendous neighborhood backlash. Batra was a nice guy who didn’t really know what was going on. He didn’t inspire confidence from his staff or the community.
Santana’s reputation is that she’s strong, but fair. We’re impressed that she’s brought some top-notch talent from Sunnyvale.
Knowledge and Competency
We’ve heard through our City Hall sources that Santana has already had a series of meetings and reviewed key documents. One source said, “I’ve seen Deanna more in the last month than I saw Rajeev in the last year.” This is a good sign, especially since she hasn’t officially started. We hope that unlike her predecessor, she also reads the City Charter.
Openness and Transparency
We’re looking for Santana to make a major commitment to continuing the openness and transparency that has been pushed since Mayor Lisa Gillmor took over from Jamie Matthews. That means everything from forcing the 49ers to produce the documents the team owes the City to reaching out to residents in town hall meetings and through social media. We like the fact that Santana publicly distributed her City Manager’s Report in Sunnyvale. Let’s hope she does the same in Santa Clara.
We’ve heard City staff talk a lot about community outreach in the last year. But we haven’t seen any evidence it’s being done. The City’s communications and social media efforts have been weak. Santana needs to make this a priority.
The questions we hear most frequently from community leaders about Santana include:
- Will she represent the city’s interests or the 49ers’ interests when it comes to things like the curfew and audits?
- Will she side with developers or neighbors on high-density housing near established neighborhoods?
- How will she handle difficult councilmembers?