Grading Deanna Santana’s First Year as City Manager

By Robert Haugh

Santa Clara’s City Manager Deanna Santana has been on the job for a year. She wrote a summary of first year.  

Here are just a few selected highlights from her longer list.

Fiscal Outlook:

  • The City reduced an $8.5 million budget shortfall from last year to $1 million without cuts in services.The City leadership contributed over $70 million to reserves and all operating reserves are at or above Council-required levels.

Grade — A.  

This is impressive. It shows that Santana and her new team have some budgeting chops that we didn’t see in previous City management.

Strategic Project Delivery

  • Santa Clara beat San Jose in two lawsuits. Now, we can build out the CityPlace project with a total transportation improvement package of about $70 million. And we got $8.7 million of housing and traffic improvements from San Jose’s Santana West development impacts.

  • Completed nearly 70 percent of Measure J Compliance Stadium Audit recommendations and issued a transparent budget and marketing plan.

Grade — B

These are both great achievements, but they were started before Santana got to town.  So, she doesn’t get full credit. But she has to steer the wheel now.

Administrative Improvements and Modernization

  • Improved procurement processes and contract oversight of the many public contracts that the City issues, especially on Levi’s Stadium and the Convention Center.

Grade — A

The Convention Center audit was a big deal and showed that the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce was mismanaging the place for years. New and better management will potentially help the City’s bottom line a lot.

Capacity-building/Streamlining to Continue to Transform the Organization

  • In Santana’s own words: “We have made progress, in likely the nation’s toughest market to recruit talent, with filling our many vacancies.”

Grade — A

The new City staff has been way more professional and talented than the previous administration. Santa Clara may have the best city management team in the City’s history.

Overall Grade — Aminus

Santa Clarans are happy. As Santana points out in her report: “approximately 90 percent of those surveyed have a positive view of Santa Clara as a place to live and more than half – 64 percent – feel City government is doing an excellent-to-good job.

Santana has been lucky that she’s had a Mayor and Council majority who believe in reform and did a lot of groundwork before Santana arrived.   We’re tough graders, so she gets an Aminus. We hope that motivates Santana to do more in her sophomore year.

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