Raj Chahal Wants Santa Clara to Throw in the Towel and Throw Away Over $3 Million

By Burt Field

It was depressing to watch Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. As a Santa Clara resident and taxpayer, I watched our new City Council waste time and discuss an idea that would waste money — millions of dollars.

Councilmember Raj Chahal spent two hours pushing his suggestion for a closed-door meeting to discuss the California Voting Rights Act lawsuit. But he wouldn’t say why, even when he was pressed for a reason by City Attorney Brian Doyle. Chahal was wasting everyone’s time and being dishonest.

Finally, Chahal admitted that he wanted to settle the lawsuit. His great solution is for the City to fold its cards just a few days before a hearing is scheduled on December 17. That’s like a team deciding to quit a game with two minutes left or one inning to play. It’s not a smart idea.

Chahal says he read the briefs and came to the conclusion that the City will lose. Chahal has no legal background or prior experience with these issues if you look at his background. It would be smarter for our City Council to listen to someone who does.

As for the lawsuit, I’m glad that the City decided to challenge it. The lawsuit claims that Santa Clara has “racially polarized” voting. For anyone who knows the Mission City well, you know that we have diverse neighborhoods and Santa Clarans aren’t racist.

In fact, a judge from Palo Alto cherry-picked data to help the plaintiffs’ case. The City’s appeal points that out. It’s a pretty factual and straightforward argument according to the Santa Clara attorneys that I’ve talked to.  And yes they have legal backgrounds and an understanding of the issue. Most importantly, they care about the City and don’t have a political agenda.

The judge also decided that six districts are the solution. With all due respect, that should be something decided by our voters or our City Council. Two years ago, when we had a chance to make this decision with Measure C, the 49ers spent over $650,000 to defeat it. The 49ers clearly don’t want us to determine our own future. Chahal has admitted that he meets with the 49ers regularly. They are clearly on the same page on this issue. That’s no surprise really.

We as Santa Clarans should be the ones that determine our future not the 49ers or a judge or plaintiffs or the in a lawsuit.

If we win the December 17 appeal, we the taxpayers will pay no money to the plaintiffs. If we follow Chahal’s lead, Santa Clarans will pay over $3 million before there’s even a decision. That’s just not smart. 

Let’s hope that the City Council decides intelligently. We have a chance to save millions of dollars and determine our own future.

Editor’s Note: Burt Field is the President of Stand Up for Santa Clara. It started in March 2015, when the San Francisco 49ers and the majority of the Santa Clara City Council took action to sell the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park to the NFL Team. It’s a grassroots organization of volunteers.

14 comments

  1. For the longest time, I was clinging to Santa Clara’s at-large elections in order to avoid what I thought would be six or seven little baronies in Santa Clara.

    In other words, not doing it like San Jose merely for the sake of not doing it like San Jose.

    But the 2020 elections pretty much sold me on the power of the by-district elections – notably, our seating of Kevin Park and Suds Jain on our city council. I now firmly believe that district elections should be our operating electoral process from here on out. In time, I believe we’ll find that this is reflective not of the Santa Clara that we’re grasping at for dear life, but of the Santa Clara that we’ll leave to the Santa Clarans who come after us.

    Resistance to the original CVRA lawsuit against Santa Clara is still based on a “they-can’t-push-us-around” mentality. But if that’s all we’ve got, then going in the hole for nearly $4,000,000 in court and legal fees is probably what we deserved.

    Byron’s right about the shaky defense that the city offered contra CVRA. But I cannot go along with Councilman Chatal on this: Having come as far as we have, we _should_ see this through to the end – and get the decision on the record**, no matter how embarrassing that turns out to be.

    Message and messenger, CM Chatal really let all of us down on this one. Having joined the San Francisco 49ers’ Stadium Mob, he hasn’t get a lot of creds on this issue. Watch for him to cave on the stadium curfew shortly, and on flogging our city’s Youth Soccer Park to Jed York for a mess of pottage later on.

    I’ll be at odds with the CVRA on this one point, however: We should demand the right to elect our Mayor at large, even if we call our system a “weak Mayor” system. Any other solution, and we’ll be the California city still electing its Chief of Police at the same time we’re allowing our Council to pick our Mayor. Uh-uh.

    In other words: For now, six election districts is plenty. Let’s get this done and on the books.

    -=0=-

    ** Mukoyama v. S.C., 17-CV-308056, shows as “Inactive.” However, Yumori-Kaku v. S.C., 17-CV-319862, shows as “Appealed.”
    ( https://cmportal.scscourt.org/Portal/Home/Dashboard/29 )

    ** This will tell us how much of an exception that the decision in Santa Monica really was. However, on December 2nd, CVRA plaintiffs took Santa Monica back to court. The earlier decision in favor of the city may have hinged on the three minority members who were _indeed_ elected to their city council – from the very Pico Neighborhood Association that was the original plaintiff. Dang!

  2. Hey tipsy Flake, thanks for all the information. I guess your vocabulary only allows you to elaborate as dumb.

    Your old white privileged racist outsider opinion doesn’t matter anyway.

    San Jose needs you desperately!

  3. Why didn’t the author mention what happens if Santa Clara loses the appeal? Is Burt aware that every single city in CA who filed an appeal lost? With the exception of Santa Monica which cost $22 million in lawyer fees and is going to the State Supreme Court. I hope our city council will save tax payers and do the right thing like Sunnyvale.

      • Santa Monica totally different issue from Santa Clara.
        Santa Clara’s “case” was dumb from the outset. And residents will pay.

        • You are right, JBF! The SC case was dumb from the beginning. It should never have been filed ’cause SC residents are not racists as you keep stating. It really insults residents intellect when you keep making these racist comments.Claiming racism is a call to look inside oneself. Maybe you are the real racist?

  4. Thanks for holding off on happy hour for a few minutes. We know you will make up for it later.

    You spew a lot of BS for a privileged white person. Enjoy your spoils…

  5. Burt, respectfully you are way off base as to the facts and law.
    As a threshold matter, the City of Santa Clara had a voting system in place to exclude minorities (in this case, Asian Santa Clarans) from elected positions for 70 years. You, perhaps others, find a law , the CVRA, “offensive” to your interests. Most others in Santa Clara, as evidenced by the voters rejections of keeping a racist electoral regime in place effectively ensuring Asian Santa Clarans would not hold office, found those measures, correctly, repugnant.
    Santa Clara must be better than the Alabama of Silicon Valley.
    It is true that the City is on the hook $3.4MM in plaintiffs fees and $775k in its own attorney expenses. That was a battle the City could have and should have avoided. Lead presumably by a City attorney who understood the CVRA law not at all nor, more importantly, Santa Clara’s demonstrably racist electoral past, as found by the trial court, he guided a pliant city council on this fools errand. Attorney Doyle owns this wrong and, as demonstrated by his nonsensical, incoherent rant last Tuesday, is humiliated and knows he screwed up to residents collective regret.
    Heaven knows. This is not about money. That was Doyle’s fancy, that’s on him. Rather, it’s about the disenfranchisement of the right to a meaningful right to vote.
    What’s that worth over 70 years of denial of the most important right of all?
    The City’s fight to retain a relic/variation of denying the right to a meaningful right to vote is an affront and abomination to all. It must end now.
    Finally, let me suggest that any City who knowingly subsidizes a billionaire owner to the tune of $875MM (not including losses to date) should pay the attorneys fees in the CVRA action and, indeed, issue a formal apology to all residents, especially those of Asian ancestry.
    Subsidizing a stadium for a billionaire is stupid, as Santa found out good and hard as H.L. Mencken would say. On the other hand, blowing $4MM to preserve a racist electoral system is beyond stupid. It is racism at its core.
    Both were mistakes. There may be excuse for the former. There is never excuse for racism as in the City’s fight to deny its Asian community a meaningful right to vote.

    • Once again, Byron Fleck is the only one of this website with commonsense and more importantly common decency. Reading the other comments only proves that the judge’s ruling was correct. Santa Clara just might be racist. I guess we will find out soon enough just how much money the city attorney has cost the people of our city.

  6. Raj’s position is not hard to understand, unless I look at it from the point of view of a Santa Clara resident that loves the city.
    Raj is on board with the niners and they don’t want the city to be free to select their own voting rules. When the niners want to take over a city don’t use half measures.
    This is just a preview of what is in store for us residents of Yorkville.
    Thanks for laying this out for us, Burt.

  7. Thanks Burt. As a Santa Clara resident, I take great offense being pushed into a group and labeled a racist. I will never agree or allow the court or anyone to label me or my actions racist. Racism is personal and should not be applied with a broad brush.

    We are the recipients of this bullshit, I say fight the lawsuit! As they say, “those are fighting words”.

    Using racism as a political tool or financial gain is a special kind of evil.

  8. Thank you, Burt Field, for your clear and concise explanation of the situation. I also don’t understand Raj Chahal’s pushing to settle this case just a few days before a hearing. It makes sense to carry this thing to its conclusion.

    • It’s just paying back Jed with his contribution of $3M in Santa Clara’s elections. Hope Raj gets a receipt.

Leave a Reply