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.