By Robert Haugh
The City Council tackled many items over the last two nights. The big one involves the possible admonishment or censure of two councilmembers.
- The Council unanimously approved placing a cannabis tax measure on the November ballot.
- Despite media coverage of Santa Clara Convention-Visitors Bureau employees being laid off by the City, Chamber CEO Nick Kaspar said that the Chamber is self-funding operation of the CVB, at least temporarily. That’s not technically true, since the City gave the Chamber money to keep the employees on for 60 days after the contract expired at the end of June. The Chamber, not the City, is responsible for the employees. They have not been laid off and the CVB continues to operate.
- The Council decided 5-1 (Pat Kolstad opposed) to move forward with advisory Charter amendment votes for the November 2018 election. This would gauge the residents’ desires for districts and ranked-choice voting.
- The Council voted unanimously in favor of “sponsoring” the Korean American Chamber of Commerce of Silicon Valley’s Korea Day event. The Council approved up to $10,000 for the Saturday, August 11 event at the Moonlite Lanes Plaza. The organizers asked for permit fee waivers, portable restrooms and other items.
- The Council deferred making an appointment to the Planning Commission. Jeremy Hicks, who actually received the most votes the last time a Planning Commissioner was appointed withdrew his application.
- Approved easement acquisitions for Franklin Street and Washington Street with Prometheus, the owners of Park Central Apartments on a 4-0 vote with Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Councilwoman Patty Mahan abstaining because they own property in the vicinity.
- The Council approved the Mission Town Center mixed-use project, also known as the “Viso Project” at 575 Benton by the same 4-0 vote.
- Council officially separated the administrative duties from the City Clerk and assigned it to the Assistant City Clerk. Since the duties of the City Clerk are in the Charter, voters will have to officially change it on the November ballot. That passed 5-1 with Mahan opposed.
- Last but not least, Community leader and former Charter Review Committee member Teresa Sulcer requested censure of Councilmembers Mahan and Pat Kolstad. Sulcer wrote about her reasons on this site last month. She believes the two abdicated their responsibilities and did so in an deceptive and inappropriate way when they refused to appoint qualified candidates to the seat vacated by disgraced former Councilmember Dominic Caserta.
But after much discussion, Sulcer changed her request from censure to admonishment. That’s a lesser charge that doesn’t require a formal hearing, investigation, and the hiring of a special counsel. So an admonishment hearing of Mahan and Kolstad will be held on August 21. The council reserved the right to proceed to censure at a later date if damaging information comes out of the hearing.
Mahan and Kolstad at times seemed sorry. They publicly apologized for their actions hoping that would stop the Council from admonishing or censuring them. It didn’t work.
But when Mahan wasn’t apologizing, she was combative. She said that the majority of the council and City Attorney Brian Doyle have a “deep personal bias against me.” She questioned why she would be chastised for voting her opinion. She even said that she wanted to vote for her top-ranked candidate [Nancy Biagini] but didn’t have an opportunity.
Gillmor rebutted Mahan by saying that neither she nor Kolstad made a motion to even nominate for Biagini. Oops. Gillmor also said that the public and the council majority weren’t upset that Mahan or Kolstad voted differently. People were outraged because of how poorly “the public was treated.” She said, “I personally am not happy or proud. I think it was another stain on Santa Clara and I think it’s important that we take some kind of official action.”
Councilmember Teresa O’Neill agreed and said the looks on the faces of the candidates and the audience that night was something she “would not soon forget.” She also regretted that the council could have appointed a well-qualified candidate from an underrepresented community.
Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe said that Mahan and Kolstad’s actions were “deceptive.” “unprecedented,” and “premeditated.” Watanabe said, “Councilmember Mahan is trying to frame this as a policy dispute, but that’s not what were upset about. We’re upset about what happened to the community.”
The vote was 4-1-1 with Kolstad opposed and Mahan abstaining.
NOTE: A lot of interesting things were said by Santa Clara residents during public testimony, but we’ll save that for a future column. We’ll be writing more about this before the August 21 admonishment hearing.