Santa Clara Voters Will Get Chance to Create 3 Council Districts with 2 Council Members in Each

By Robert Haugh

The City Council adopted a recommendation from the Charter Review Committee that Santa Clara moves from six council districts to three starting in 2022. 

We have six districts now because Judge Thomas Kuhnle decided in 2018 that Santa Clara had “racially polarized” voting in the past. But his order only applies through 2020. (It’s also being appealed by the City.) 

The Charter Review Committee vote wasn’t close. It was 5-2. The Council vote was close: 4-3.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor, Councilwomen Debi Davis, Teresa O’Neill and Kathy Watanabe voted in the majority.

Vice Mayor Patty Mahan opposed. She and her sister Jeanne Mahan worked closely with the plaintiffs’ attorneys who sued the City to force Santa Clara to adopt six districts.  They even helped them draw a district map.

The other no votes were Councilman Raj Chahal and Councilwoman Karen Hardy. They both ran and won in 2018 in district elections created because of Kuhnle’s decision. 

If voters change the charter in March 2020 by voting for three districts, Chahal and Hardy will have to run in districts twice as large as the ones they represent now.  

Chahal was really passionate in his arguments on Tuesday night. He was against following the Charter Review Committee’s recommendation. Chahal wants to maintain six districts. He even wants the City Council to make the change by adopting an ordinance. 

City Attorney Brian Doyle said that option wasn’t legal, but Chahal disagreed and presented his own research. Chahal is not an attorney.  

City Clerk Hosam Haggag also had to correct Chahal. Haggag reminded Chahal that the City Charter is the document that governs city elections. And only the Santa Clara voters can change the Charter. No one else on the Council agreed with Chahal’s logic.

You can watch Chahal’s presentation here followed by Doyle and Haggag correcting him.

What’s Next?

Santa Clarans will vote on March 3, 2020. We’ll decide if we want three council districts with two members each. 

We’ll present arguments for and against in the coming months. We’ll try and present some objective info and facts, too.  

When Santa Clarans voted on Measure A in 2018, we heard from a lot of people that it was confusing. Measure A also included ranked-choice voting. That didn’t help. 

The City sent out official info to try and explain things. But the City’s communication was also confusing and not helpful. Measure A lost narrowly.

Let’s hope this time voters get better and clearer info before they vote.

5 comments

  1. I thought Raj won by working hard on a good campaign based on years of volunteering countless hours to the city. Raj has earned good name recognition from the planning commission and sister cities who he used to go door to door during his campaign.

    Now I have learned that I am wrong. Raj was elected because he is Asian.

    • Good point and it should be noted raj doesn’t believe the residents should have a say in changing city charter just make ordinance by council. What happened to raj for residents? Sounds like the making of a mini mayor?? Keep sharing the video!

  2. The city is once again being deceptive with the carefully crafted and limited election choice. If the only choice is 3 districts for 6 council members, how should voters who favor 6 districts vote? If I favor six districts and vote no on 3 districts, the council might incorrectly interpret that as a vote against multiple districts, when the intent was a vote against multiple council members per district.

    Just as propaganda that masquerades as surveys, the construction of the choices for this election will effectively serve only as propaganda for pushing the council’s agenda without an intent to measure the will of voters.

    • WTH? The Charter Review Committee wascharged to find out what the voters wanted. Go and watch the meetings! They explored all options even 4 districts and by a 5-2 vote went with 3 districts. The council agreed by a 4-3 vote. Where do you get your logic from?

    • How is the city “being deceptive” by forming a charter review committee to look at changes that might be needed in the city’s charter? Charter changes are made by Santa Clara voters, not the council. And there was plenty of argument from a lot of people against breaking up the city into teeny-tiny voting districts (let’s face it, we’re not anywhere near as large as San Jose nor do we have segregated neighborhoods). The whole mess was brought about by predatory attorneys who apparently make a good living suing small cities because they’re “concerned about the CVRA”.

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