By Mayor Lisa Gillmor
Last week, I delivered the State of the City address in four different locations.
It was the second year in a row that I’ve delivered the State of the City outside of City Hall. Before I was mayor, the State of the City was hosted by a business organization.
Almost no residents attended. That didn’t seem right to me. So I knew something had to change.
The State of the City is something Santa Clarans should want to attend. The State of the City should be in neighborhoods — to make it easier for residents to find out about what’s happening with our city.
I’m proud to say that we had a nice turnout at all the events. It was a great opportunity for us to engage directly with our residents — many of whom we talked to before and after the ceremonies.
I want to thank my colleagues who attended — Councilwomen Debi Davis, Teresa O’Neill, Kathy Watanabe, and Karen Hardy.
I know they had a great time engaging with our residents. And our residents got to see how much our elected leaders have done for our city.
In particular, they got to hear and see the results of the courageous leadership of their councilmembers.
We are making the right changes and reforms that will prepare Santa Clara for the future.
As I highlighted in my speech, we are making our city government more open and transparent.
I’m proud of our Dark Money ordinance that will help prevent special interests from trying to hide their identities and buy Santa Clara elections.
I’m proud that we are taking measures to make sure our stadium is operated legally — and that we will actively enforce Measure J to protect our general fund from stadium operations.
I’m proud that we have rebuilt our financial reserves and we now have $300 million in our rainy day fund — the most we’ve set aside since the Great Recession.
I’m proud that we will soon have City Place breaking ground so that we can offer our residents great new restaurants and entertainment — and make an estimated $17 million in revenue to our general fund.
I’m proud that we are in such good shape that we can invest in our future — and I will be announcing next month the start of a campaign for a park, libraries, and infrastructure bond.
Finally, I’m proud to say that the state of our city is great.
To keep Santa Clara great, it takes a lot of work — and it’s not just the elected officials who should get the credit.
We have in the last few years benefitted from the work our new and talented city staff.
Other cities call them the “A team” — and it’s a well-deserved nickname.
I also want to acknowledge our City Manager Deanna Santana and her senior staff who were in attendance at the State of the City.
I first heard about Deanna Santana and her reputation as a seasoned City Manager. What I didn’t expect is how professionally she has turned our city around and helped our Council with a magnitude of reforms in a short period of time.
She has exceeded my expectations and works tirelessly on behalf of our community. We are so fortunate to have Deanna leading our management at this critical time and we would not have accomplished our reforms without her knowledge and experience.
There are also a lot of other city staffers — too many to name — that worked overtime to help make the State of the City successful.
They also work hard during regular hours to keep Santa Clara running smoothly. I want to thank them too.
I want all of our city staff to know that we realize they’re doing a phenomenal job. They are turning over rocks that haven’t been turned over in years. They are making changes that sometimes upset the status quo and special interests. But they are doing the right thing.
Sometimes those efforts aren’t always understood by the public, especially the media.
The changes that are happening in Santa Clara are significant and are a good story — but it’s not a simple story. It requires understanding and context.
In fact, last week, there was a report that demonstrates this. We were criticized for how we process public records act requests. That’s an important thing. But the report and media coverage did not provide critical context. They have no idea how we compare to other cities and how we have seen a dramatic increase in recent years.
As we tell our side of the story, I think people will see a complete picture — and understand that it’s part of a larger story — how we are making changes that special interests don’t like.
It’s unfortunate that the good work of our council and staff is not fully realized — yet.
We need to change that — and we will.
We need to tell the Santa Clara story. And we need to acknowledge the hard-working people — not just the city council, but city staff at all levels — who are making it happen.
I know of stories how some have been pressured or bullied by special interests. It’s unfortunate and intolerable. But I know and appreciate how our staff does professional work on behalf of our city and our residents.
Let me end by saying that I will continue to support our reforms — and I’m grateful that the majority of the council will, too. And with the hard work of a talented city staff, Santa Clara will continue to be a great place to live and be well prepared for our future.