By Robert Haugh
Disgraced former Santa Clara Councilman Dominic Caserta’s vacated seat will remain vacant until November.
Councilwoman Patty Mahan and Councilman Pat Kolstad wouldn’t vote for anyone. Seriously. After hours of discussion, they didn’t disclose that they were not voting for anyone — that is until 1:30 a.m. Wow. It was ridiculous, frustrating, unprofessional and a slap in the face to all good Santa Clarans.
This is the first time in the Charter era that the Council has not made an appointment to fill a vacant seat. Mahan and Kolstad are the ones responsible.
The Council concluded their interviews after 1 a.m. Mahan and Kolstad voted against appointing Eversley Forte, Hosam Haggag, Kevin Park, Suds Jain and Mohammed Nadeem.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill, Debi Davis and Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe were willing to appoint any of those candidates. But they lost on a series of 4-2 votes. Five votes were required to make an appointment because of Measure Q passed by voters last year. Maybe it’s time to rethink the measure.
Mahan tried explaining herself in a prepared statement. It was long-winded and not really believable. It should have been made earlier to save everyone time and effort. Kolstad didn’t say a word to explain his votes.
O’Neill was really angry. She lambasted Mahan, saying Mahan insulted the applicants and the public for “pulling a stunt at the last minute.” O’Neill said she “resented Mahan” for wasting the time of the Council, the City staff and residents. Watanabe was also uncharacteristically angry and called the move “personal politics and said “it was a dark day” for Santa Clara. Davis said “this is not democracy, this is garbage.” Gillmor questioned why Mahan and Kolstad voted to appoint candidates for vacancies in the past but would not do so now. She asked them “did you really have a change of heart or change of politics?”
In a highly unusual move, even City Attorney Brian Doyle spoke up, as a resident, and said to Mahan and Kolstad “I am ashamed to be working for you two.”
Members of the public and several applicants were outraged and felt disrespected also. They too came up to the microphone and criticized Mahan and Kolstad. Right now, it would be pretty easy to get a recall petition signed for either of them.
After hearing from 19 applicants, the Council whittled that down to a really talented group of seven: Nancy Biagini, Andrew Chan, Forte, Haggag, Jain, Nadeem and Park.
Another weird Mahan move was her initial vote for Chris Stampolis to advance to the finalist stage. Seriously. Mahan voted for the guy who caused major problems at the Santa Clara Unified School District. At least, she didn’t vote for Caserta. But who knows what she would have done if the meeting went on longer.
The good: Prometheus has voluntarily agreed to work with the City to help establish right-of-way options for Franklin Street and Washington Street in the heart of the original 8-block Downtown grid.
The bad: To bring back a 75-foot Franklin Street, it would be necessary to demolish, at least partially, three existing buildings at Park Central Apartments, owned by Prometheus — and that’s probably not feasible.
But City staff and Prometheus are on-track to help make the vision come alive for a bustling new Downtown. This is the most thorough and passionate effort to revitalize Downtown. The vision was initiated and energized by Reclaiming Our Downtown. Assistant City Manager Manuel Pineda made an excellent presentation on the Downtown plans.
We are excited at the dedication, commitment and passion of the people pushing for Downtown revitalization. I too would love to one day have a Downtown district to bring my daughter to shop, dine and hang out. It may be decades away, but it’s exciting nonetheless to think about. Here’s hoping the obstacles can be overcome to make something happen.
Budget – City Staff Cuts $8 Million Deficit From Five-Year Budget Forecast
Lots of numbers and detailed information was presented about the City’s operating budget and general fund. In the five-year forecast, the City had an $8 million deficit. In the past several weeks, City staff has worked to close that deficit, balancing the budget without major service cuts. Kudos to them.
Final portion of the Council appointment process
Teresa O’Neill comments at 3:31.50
Brian Doyle comments at 3:32.59
Kathy Watanabe comments at 3:33.08
Debi Davis comments at 3:34.29
Watanabe comments on Kolstad residency at 3:36.35
Public weighs in at 3:37.57
Lisa Gillmor comments at 3:42.38
Discussion ends at 3:51.50.
Editor’s Note: We added video links to the meeting.