By Robert Haugh
The City Council did not appoint anyone to fill the seat vacated by former Councilwoman Patty Mahan last night. District 5 will not have a representative until next year, after a November election.
In a bizarre move, Councilman Raj Chahal started the evening by stating that he would only appoint Suds Jain. Chahal then made a motion to do just that. Councilwoman Karen Hardy seconded the motion. She too said she would only vote for Jain.
There were 8 candidates who applied, including Jain.
The Chahal-Hardy maneuver was made before any candidates had a chance to speak or answer questions.
Chahal and Hardy killed the standard process for Council and Commission appointments. It was a process that the City Council unanimously agreed to follow two weeks ago.
Yup Chahal and Hardy agreed to the process before they tried to change it to help Jain.
Editor’s Note: In the 20 years that I’ve been covering Santa Clara, no one has denied candidates for any appointment a chance to make their case before casting a vote. It’s pretty outrageous.
The rest of the City Council objected to the Chahal-Hardy maneuver.
Councilwoman Debi Davis said “What I heard is not fair to the people who came and applied. I’m disappointed in you, Raj.”
Councilwoman Kathy Watanabe said that the Chahal-Hardy maneuver was an attempt to “hijack” the process.
The other candidates and the public also condemned the Chahal-Hardy maneuver to appoint Jain.
City Attorney Brian Doyle stepped to the podium as a resident of District 5 to speak. He said it was unfair to him and his neighbors that Chahal and Hardy would only approve of Jain and deny all other candidates a chance to speak and make their case.
One of the candidates Brian Lowery addressed Chahal’s argument that he was trying to save everyone time.
“The democratic process is for you to allow it (interviews) to go through. If you say you don’t want to waste your time, then why are you here?” Lowery said. “I spent a lot of time preparing for this. You sabotaged this dream.”
Other candidates spoke and expressed disappointment in Chahal and Hardy. They all said they were prepared for the fact that a supermajority of the City Council might not agree on one candidate. But they all wanted a chance to be heard.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor wrapped up the debate. She said that there are a lot of important issues in District 5 and the residents need a representative. She mentioned the downtown plan, the El Camino Specific Plan, zoning code updates, and transit development decisions.
“Both Councilmembers (Chahal and Hardy), with all due respect, said they want to go to an election — it’s important to go to an election,” said Gillmor. “But only if you don’t pick my candidate.”
The Council majority apologized to the candidates in the room for the fact that they were denied a chance to interview after spending a lot of time prepping.
Chahal and Hardy offered no apology.