By Robert Haugh
In an unusual move, the City put out a press release and four-page memo to the entire Santa Clara community that corrects an August 31st Santa Clara Weekly/SV Voice editorial, “City Makes About-Face On Election Education And Ethics.”
There’s some pretty strong language from Acting City Clerk Jennifer Yamaguma:
The notion that the November 2018 election is not transparent, ethical or democratic is not only false, but irresponsible reporting and quite frankly offensive to the residents of Santa Clara.
Wow. That’s like an Iron Sheik smackdown from Hulk Hogan.
The major issue seems to be whether or not the City will hold Candidates Forums. We have in the past. But won’t this year. Here’s how Yamaguma explains it, and she spanks the Weekly/Voice again.
It is legally problematic for the City staff/resources to initiate and organize candidate forums, however, City Policy allows for neutral organizations to conduct candidate forums in City facilities – despite the article’s inaccuracy regarding not allowing candidate forums in City facilities. The City is committed to following City policy, the law and regulations set forth by the Fair Political Practices Commission. The use of tax dollars in support of campaign activities is not permissible, and the City will not simply follow past practice without diligent review and compliance with policy, the law or even the appearance of partisan influence. It is negligent to characterize this as “voter suppression” but it is rather the legal use of tax payer dollars and the professional administration of an election as a compliance officer for federal, state and local statutes. The article should have done a better job of distinguishing between the City Council Policy which allows neutral organizations to use City facilities and the fact that it is legally problematic for City staff to organize candidate forums; instead, it drew false conclusions that attempt to assign a wrong intent.
I’ve covered a lot of these Candidates Forums in the past as a reporter for the Weekly. I agree that they were a waste of time and money. I don’t think voters learned anything. It was just an opportunity for candidates to take shots at each other. The “ethics advisor” never seemed to help in any way.
The last time these were held in 2016, it may have been counterproductive. Councilwoman Patty Mahan made ethics charges against both Councilwoman Debi Davis and Councilwoman Kathy Watanabe that didn’t stick or stop them from winning re-election by big margins. Mahan never mended fences and it may be the source of her difficult relationship with her colleagues.
Yamaguma ends her memo strongly. The bold was in the official memo.
As the Elections Official, who has ethically and successfully supported several Santa Clara elections, I am duty-bound to provide factual information and to promote a fair and transparent election for the voters of Santa Clara this November. It is regrettable that a local media editorial board did not inform the public of these important facts and the process used to evaluate and improve our past practices to ensure the responsible use of tax payer money and to be in compliance with the law and City policy.
NOTE: We asked the Weekly/Voice’s editor Angie Tolliver who wrote the editorial. She was good enough to reply, but would not disclose the author or authors.