By Robert Haugh
You’ve been in office over 3 months now. What do you like about the City Clerk’s job? What do you dislike?
The single most enjoyable thing about the new job is simply getting to know the amazing people that work tirelessly for our City. The Clerk Office’s staff are a very talented group of individuals who not only are the face of the City to the public, whether they call or come in person, but are also the ones that do a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work in helping the City run its day-to-day operations.
There isn’t really anything that I would say I dislike about the job, but quite honestly one of the more challenging things I’ve been working through is getting clarity on the delineation of responsibilities given the newly defined scope of the Clerk’s role.
What progress are you making on your campaign pledges?
One such example of these new challenges is with one of my campaign pledges around monthly Town Halls with our elected Santa Clara leaders. While this is something that is not directly included in the new definition of the elected Clerk’s responsibilities, I’ve always felt it important that the City Clerk facilitate access of information to the residents, and one of those means is by facilitating access to its elected leaders. To this pledge, I will be bringing forward a proposal to the Council for consideration to how best they (as the Town Hall participants) would like to engage in such an activity, along with approval of the budget necessary to conduct these Town Hall meetings.
The other major campaign pledge I made was that as the elections official I would also be the City’s watchdog on campaign finance issues and that I’d fight dark money from poisoning our local politics. I’m not ready to share anything publicly at this time, but I’m working on some interesting proposals that I think the public will be very excited about that will 1) improve transparency in our local government and election campaigns, 2) help safeguard the City and maintain the integrity of our elections processes, and 3) quash dark money interference in future elections.
Finally, the City overwhelmingly supported Measure N with over 70% of the vote in the last election. While a judge had ordered that Santa Clara no longer elect its council by numbered seats and instead use districts, the residents have spoken loud and clear that they want to be involved in defining what those districts are and how they are composed. They also spoke loud and clear in this advisory Measure N vote that they want to directly elect the Mayor at large. As the elections official in Santa Clara, I will be driving the outreach process which will likely involve (with Council’s approval) a resident-led committee for that definition and composition of districts. For those readers who are interested in taking part in that process, please stay tuned for more details when this issue is brought to Council in the very near future.
People are asking why you don’t attend City Council meetings even though you’re being paid the same as Councilmembers? Do you think you should?
I don’t believe the premise of this question is entirely accurate. While the monthly stipend I receive is the same $2,000 as Councilmembers, per AB23 they also receive an additional $30 for every meeting they attend (which includes Stadium Authority and Council Committee meetings and any other ad-hoc meetings they attend) – which adds up (the Clerk does not receive that per AB23). Also, the Mayor’s stipend is $2,500 by virtue of the added responsibilities she has over regular Councilmembers.
The question that I think is more important is: what value do I bring to the council meetings in my official capacity that would necessitate my attendance? My answer to that is simple – in any meeting where I would be bringing forward a proposal or update to the Council on issues which would fall under my responsibilities (such as the 3 items mentioned in the earlier question), I would attend and present in my official capacity as City Clerk. For all other meetings, the Assistant City Clerk and other Clerk staff are there as is defined per their responsibility. The stipend isn’t given just so I can simply attend meetings – in fact I’ve attended council meetings as a resident since being elected but chose not to sit on the dais since I was not there in an official capacity – but the stipend is given to me so I can do the job that I was elected to do.
How much time do you spend doing your City Clerk duties per week?
In these first few months, I’ve been spending a few hours per week. Once Measure N and other regular activities (such as the Town Halls) pick up that time will increase. And certainly when election season is upon us that time will increase dramatically. I’m also planning to take additional certified Clerk training to help prepare me for the elections season to be more effective, as well as other engagements I would participate in by the California Association of Clerks and Elected Officials. While I don’t have regular office hours (which may change when election season is upon us), I am always easily available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 408-615-2221.