By Robert Haugh
The Mercury News has never understood Santa Clara. Their recent editorials make that really obvious.
On May 29, Editorial Page Editor Ed Clendaniel wrote that the City Council should let the voters pick a replacement for disgraced former Councilmember Dominic Caserta rather than appoint one.
That editorial would have been more timely if it was written before the May 22nd council vote rather than a week after their decision.
It would also have been good if Clendaniel knew that a 2016 citizens Charter Review Committee suggested that an appointment be made by 4/5ths of the council. That way any successful candidate would be a consensus one. That person would need support from more than a majority of the council.
Oh and by the way, the voters of Santa Clara liked that idea. They voted 80 percent in favor in 2016. That’s right it was 80-20 percent in favor of Measure Q.
Dysfunction or Change?
In the editorial, Clendaniel also got really personal. He called the City Council “dysfunctional” but wasn’t specific. So I emailed him and asked. Clendaniel was nice enough to respond and wrote back citing three areas: staff turnover, “bickering council members” and battles with the 49ers.
Since Clendaniel doesn’t really know Santa Clara, he doesn’t realize his list is really only one thing: the battle with the 49ers. The NFL team has been driving city politics since 2010 when they won the stadium campaign.
Then in early 2016 when Mayor Jamie Matthews suddenly stepped down, there was a major turnover on the council with the appointment of Lisa Gillmor as mayor. That shifted city council politics and eventually city staff. The new majority has taken control of the city back from the 49ers.
That shift led to city staff turnover. The top staffers that left were 49er-friendly and made some questionable moves to help the team over the city. That change is good for Santa Clara.
As for the bickering council members, it was really only Caserta who was causing the division and usually when he was fighting for the 49ers. We’ve documented his volcanic explosions numerous times like: here, here, and here.
Caserta’s absence has led to boring meetings — and, unfortunately, boring columns. Last Tuesday, without Caserta, the council finished before 11 p.m., had no major debates (or temper tantrums), and had unanimous votes even with some debatable items. Okay, we sorta miss the guy.
Female Voting Bloc
What was really interesting about Clendaniel’s editorial is the personal shot he took at Gillmor for her vote for an appointment that 80 percent of Santa Clarans like. He wrote:
This is all too typical of Gillmor’s approach since she was appointed mayor in 2016. She has crafted a voting bloc — with Councilwomen Debi Davis, Teresa O’Neill and Kathy Watanabe — that rarely challenges her “my way or the highway” approach to issues.
Wow. With writing like that, we’re wondering if Santa Clara Weekly Publisher and Development Lobbyist Miles Barber has taken over Clendaniel’s body.
The controversial Barber with his Trumpian style and misogynistic views has written a bunch of columns that also personally take shots at female council members. Like Clendaniel, Barber criticizes their personalities and the female voting bloc. This 2015 column cites some examples.
In 2017, Barber wrote a column praising Caserta for challenging Gillmor. Like Clendaniel, he criticized Gillmor for her “my way or the highway” leadership. No kidding. Barber and Clendaniel used the same phrase.
We’ve been reading Mercury News editorials for a long time and don’t remember the paper ever criticizing Matthews for leading a male majority voting bloc which he did from 2014-16. Clendaniel was writing for the editorial pages then, too.
We also don’t recall the Mercury News editorials ever criticizing San Jose mayors for leading “dysfunctional” councils. Both Chuck Reed and Sam Liccardo have had really divisive councils especially on labor issues. Clendaniel and his paper clearly have a San Jose bias — and a male leadership bias.
For a long time, we’ve known that the Mercury News doesn’t understand Santa Clara. Now, we think they don’t understand that recent changes in the political landscape have been positive for the city. And they don’t understand that female leaders and voting blocs can be really good.