Grading the State of the City Event and Speakers

By Robert Haugh

Santa Clara did something different this year. Because of COVID-19, we had a virtual State of the City address.

We give the Mission City good marks for doing this when some cities (cough, San Jose) and mayors (cough, Sam Liccardo) haven’t done one for two years.

We liked that Santa Clara held its State of the City and townhall over three days. That way, different districts got featured.

We liked that the Mayor and City Council honored COVID-19 heroes. A lot of people have stepped up to help our community. It’s always good to recognize some of them. (We’ll feature them in a future column.)

We liked that people could connect with the event through YouTube or Facebook or Zoom. Or even by phone. Looks like more people heard this State of the City than in past years.

We’ve come a long way from the days when NOT the Santa Clara Chamber held the event and few people attended.

We liked the fact that different people got to speak, not just the Mayor. Now, it’s time to grade them.

Speaker Grades

Mayor Lisa Gillmor

Grade: A

Gillmor listed some city accomplishments, but she focused her speech on how Santa Clara is dealing with COVID-19 and police use of force. We’re glad she didn’t shy away from these topics. Those are the two things everyone is talking about. Her delivery was good and her speech was moving at times. You can watch Gillmor’s speech. It’s about 14 minutes.

Councilwoman Kathy Watanabe

Grade: B+

Watanabe talked about the important things that she and others are doing in her district. She showed why she’s one of the most active councilmembers. Watanabe’s delivery was relaxed and good. We’d like her story about going to Safeway in the morning and letting people know on Facebook what items were in supply. You can watch Watanabe’s speech. It’s about 12 minutes.

Councilman Raj Chahal

Grade: C+

Chahal did something unusual. He delivered a State of the City speech and didn’t say anything about his district. He admitted it about one minute into the speech. He seemed nervous about it. We heard from some of his constituents in District 2 that they weren’t happy about that. Chahal read his speech and fumbled with the pages. His delivery was mediocre. You can watch Chahal’s speech. It’s about 9 minutes.

Councilwoman Karen Hardy

Grade: B-

Hardy focused on Machado Park’s renovation but didn’t say much else about her district. We give her points for brevity. But we take away points for content. We wish Hardy would tell us what else she’s doing, if anything, in her district. Her delivery was good. You can watch Hardy’s speech. It’s about 3 minutes.

Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill

Grade: B

O’Neill talked a great deal about Central Park and its master plan. She also discussed pavement maintenance and the Moonlight Shopping Center. Both are important things for Mission City residents. O’Neill is making a lot happen in her district and it shows. Her delivery was pretty good. She read her speech but didn’t fumble with any pages. You can watch O’Neill’s speech. It’s about 5 minutes.

City Manager Deanna Santana

Grade: C+

Santana delivered a PowerPoint presentation that was almost identical to the one she gave at the City Council budget workshops. It was a lot of info and it was hard to see the big picture from city management. But maybe that’s up to the City Council. Santana looked bored. But maybe that’s because she’s talked about the budget numbers a lot times already. You can watch Santana’s presentation. It’s about 11 minutes.

Councilwoman Debi Davis

Grade: INC.

Davis was a no-show for her district presentation. We hope she delivers her speech at a future Council meeting. Or she flunks this semester.


  1. Out of town, not available to get my grade !
    I had no internet connection while traveling, I will publicly give congrats to Al & Diana !
    Hope I pass

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