Santa Clara’s Best and Worst of 2019: From A Youth Soccer Team and Indy 500 Driver to a Suspended Attorney and an Abusive Publisher

By Robert Haugh

2019 was a busy and eventful time in the Mission City. Here’s a list of awards for the best and worst of the year from the stories we wrote about in the last 12 months.

The Best List 

Best New Community Event

The Parade of Champions returned to Santa Clara to revive a great tradition.

Best New City Event

Mayor Lisa Gillmor changed the State of the City to move it into the community and honor people and groups in each district. 

Best Sports Team

Santa Clara Sporting 17U 02 Green Boys played for the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship in Kansas.

Best NFL Football Team

49ers — they’re having a great season thanks to last night’s win and their number one seed for the playoffs. 

(Runnerup: Raiders for NOT playing in Santa Clara)

Best NFL Owner

Stephen Ross of the Miami Dolphins — because of his The Related Companies’ major Northside development, not his football team.

Best Local Restaurant

Achilles — it’s ranked 9th on Yelp’s “must try” eateries in the nation.

Best Law Firm

Hanson Bridgett for representing the City and winning a stadium rent arbitration fight with the 49ers. The team tried to lower their rent by $170 million. Instead the judge increased it by $10 million over 40 years. Wow.

Best Photo

Tie: Disgraced former Councilman Dominic Caserta illegally dumping garbage and Chris Stampolis rolling around on the floor at a public meeting.

Best Investigation of Sexual Harassment

Foothill College

They completed an investigation of sexual harassment allegations against Caserta in two months. And wrote a report about his inappropriate actions. The Santa Clara Unified School District says they can’t complete their investigation. It’s been over a year and a half. Wow.

Best Lobbyist

Kevin Moore is a former councilman who’s really cashing in after leaving the council. Lots of people question his ethics and style. But he’s lined up clients like the Kylli mega development.

Best City Decision

The City decided to initiate legal action to take away the 49ers’ management of non-NFL games. The team has done a horrible job and they were caught committing wage theft this year.

Best Local Boy Making Good

Kyle Kaiser qualified and raced in the Indianapolis 500 this year. He’s Santa Clara born and raised.

The Worst List

Worst NFL Owner

Jed York of the 49ers. His team is doing great on the field because he’s turned things over to Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. Off the field, his team is more like a Tomsula operation.

Worst Cost Cutting Move

Kaiser Santa Clara’s Chris Boyd cut a chaplain to save money and let the No One Dies Alone program go downhill. That’s not good for a lot of patients or the hospital’s reputation.

Worst Attendance and Performance by a Councilmember

Vice Mayor Patty Mahan has missed a lot of meetings and leaves early because of her health. That’s understandable. But she also takes a lot of vacations and doesn’t return calls from people in her district seeking help. That’s not.

Worst City Staff Move 

For years, the City has held firm on the weekday stadium curfew. That way Northside residents can sleep for school and work. But for the Rolling Stones, City Manager Deanna Santana gave the 49ers a pass. She didn’t tell the council or the community about it until after the concert and issued a lower fine. 

Worst Investigation of Sexual Harassment 

See Best Investigation of Sexual Harassment above.

Worst Case of Financial Impropriety

49ers team exec Jim Mercurio is the stadium manager and negotiates with a lot of stadium vendors. He also had stock from two of them — until we wrote the story. Then he was forced to sell. 

Worst Attorney

Attorney John Mlnarik got his license suspended for ripping off money from clients. He also represents Caserta. That’s two big black marks.

(Runnerup: Jim McManis, Brian Exline and Ann Ravel who lost a frivolous lawsuit against Mayor Gillmor. They won’t disclose who paid their bills.)

Worst Columnist

Santa Clara Weekly/SV Voice Publisher/Lobbyist Miles Barber has been publicly corrected by City staff lots of times this year.  He’s writing stuff in his column that’s factually inaccurate. They could probably do it every week. He’s also been officially reprimanded for being abusive to City staff at a public meeting. 

(Runnerup: Caroly Schuk of the same publication has been corrected, too. But not as often.)

Worst Business Organization

The Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce lost the Convention Center contract because of malfeasance and mismanagement, according to an audit. Now, the City is suing them for almost $500,000. Wow.

Worst Transportation Agency

The Valley Transportation Authority. There’s really no competition.

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