Opinion: If Santa Clarans Can’t be Trusted to Elect a Police Chief and City Clerk, Who Can We be Trusted to Elect?

By Howard Myers

You may have heard the city council has appointed a Charter Review Committee to see if we should vote on a charter amendment to have the Police Chief and City Clerk appointed instead of being elected by us, the voters of Santa Clara.

In the past, I supported an appointment. But with City politics being taken over by large 49er dollars, I no longer trust this approach and support continuing to elect them. 

A few people may disagree. The following quote from a past Santa Clara Police Chief is being used by the Silicon Valley Voice to support an appointment over an election.

“It’s really the more modern way to go,” Ferguson told the Mercury News in December 1987. “The job is too complicated and too important to rely on an election,” was stated in the SV Voice. 

My rebuttal is: if we can’t be trusted to elect the Chief and Clerk, how can we be trusted to elect the Sheriff, Mayor, or any other position?

The next Charter Review Committee meeting is tonight at 7 p.m. 

According to an email that the Committee’s Chairperson Jeff Houston sent to Santa Clarans, there are numerous ways to participate. 

Members of the public are invited to attend in the City Hall Council Chambers to share input. 

The community forum will be conducted in a hybrid setting. Interested individuals may attend the meeting in person at 1500 Warburton Avenue, Santa Clara, in the Santa Clara City Council Chambers or remotely via Zoom.

Zoom Meeting Link
Webinar ID: 838 1321 6329
By phone: 1(669) 900-6833
Meeting Agenda

Individuals who cannot attend the meeting but would like to provide written comments may do so by emailing CharterReview2023@santaclaraca.gov. 

For more information on the Charter Review Committee, visit SantaClaraCA.gov/2023CharterReview

Editor’s Note: Howard Myers is an active community leader in Santa Clara.


  1. I am also concerned about the possibility of the city council appointing a police chief who is more accommodating to the Forty Niners in a way that is bad for the city’s finances which is to say I am concerned about corrupt collusion.

    I do not think that this is likely however. The city council majority also approved the appointments of our present city attorney and city manager and I have seen no evidence that they are beholden to the Forty Niners or even the council majority.

    The city manager will have the most direct oversight over the police chief. I have seen no reason to suspect that Jovan Grogan will be anything but professional and ethical.

    I think the matter of how we choose our police chief and what the police chief’s relationship with the SCPOA is important far beyond the current political controversies surrounding the stadium. It is not good for the police chief to be more answerable to the SCPOA than to the people of Santa Clara.

    In principle the ability of the people to vote in or out the police chief gives us power. But the reality is that only a tiny tiny fraction of the city informs themselves of even the much more public controversies regarding the stadium. Even fewer take the time to dig into management of the police department and track controversies within it.

    And the choice is usually made even before it comes before a public vote. There are almost no potential candidates since only a handful of police officers live within Santa Clara borders. And all of them know that there is no point for them to run against the candidate the SCPOA will support.

    Whether the police chief is elected or appointed by the council or nominated by the city manager and approved by the council the current system does not result in Santa Clara being able to select from the best possible candidates for the job. This does not mean that chief Nikolai is a bad chief or that he cannot and has not done his job well. But it is simply a fact that the present system does not allow us to choose from the best possible candidate pool. This should be fixed.

    This is more important than current city council rivalries. And we should not make the decision on this matter based upon our feelings about city council rivalries.

  2. Jed has bought districts 2 3 4 5 & 6 thanks to voter apathy. Does Santa Clara voters really want to prove themselves to be true sheepals? Then don’t continue to be led to the slaughter. Do right thing. Vote against charter change. Vote to elect chief of police and city clerk.

  3. You are smart enough to vote for the Chief and any other elected official.

    The only criteria is you are a registered to vote. If you can vote for the idiots we have in office now, you can vote for the chief of police.

    Currently it is the law.

  4. “My rebuttal is: if we can’t be trusted to elect the Chief and Clerk, how can we be trusted to elect the Sheriff, Mayor, or any other position?”

    As more transparency laws have been put into place allowing for citizens to review history of peace officers, voters have learned that there was a lot being hidden from us to make an educated decision. What really troubles residents are sample cases like former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca who not only led criminal activities within the department and jails, he also sent thug deputies to the homes of FBI agents to intimidate them from furthering their investigation. Baca was found guilty and sent to prison, while he appealed he refused to give up his elected role as Sheriff. Another case in Kansas where right-wing voters are pushing the new idea of a Constitutional Sheriff in trying to amend their State Constitution with a law banning local district attorneys from investigating alleged misconduct and starting legal proceedings against local Sheriff’s and their deputies.

    According to research conducted by a commenter on the SVV, the 2016 no-confidence vote against former Police Chief Mike Sellers was led by the POA president Patrick Nikolai after Sellers handed down a number of disciplinary actions against subordinate police officers and contradicted the POA’s claim that officers might not work 49ers games. A police chief must be able to do his/her job as instructed by departmental policy and law, not at the direction of rioting employees. The proposed Charter Amendment isn’t a claim that voters can’t make decisions, it’s an appeal to voters that experienced city executives (not the City Council) should be tasked with seeking, qualifying, and hiring the best candidate to carry out the role of Police Chief. In the City of Santa Clara there are 16 Executive Staff Members of which 15 are interviewed and appointed: Fire Chief, Director of Human Resources, City Attorney, Director of Finance, Director of Pubic Works, etc. and so should the Police Chief. In case you didn’t notice, Howard, the 49ers had nothing to do with hiring any City Manager, City Attorney, Fire Chief, or Director of Human Resources and they won’t have anything to do with appointing a future police chief either. This process works well in every other city in the County and State, it will work well in Santa Clara as well.

    • Let’s say everything you (Whomever you are) say is true…
      Then why does it have to be now?
      Just curious, what’s the rush to get this on the next ballot?
      We are looking at a staggering cost of $500k, then add in another $100k of City Staff cost, for a total of $600K just to get it on the next ballot.
      Why can’t it wait another two years? At that point it can be put on the Presidential Election Ballot. Cost nothing extra, sounds like a reasonable request to me.

      So I ask again, what’s the rush?
      Who could possibly gain if somehow this got on the next ballot?
      I know for sure who is going to lose, and that is every resident in Santa Clara.
      It’s very possible that I am totally wrong here…That’s possible.
      What would I know, I’ve just been around Santa Clara pretty much my whole life…
      However….. I do stand corrected. Twice before it has gone on the ballot, once when I was 12, the other time when I was 34.
      Both times during a Presidential Election year. Both times it got smacked down really, really hard.
      Here are the results of the last two times this has been brought up.
      In 1972 it went on the ballot. Was defeated soundly. 7,525 for, 22,175 against.
      in 1994 it went on the ballot. Was defeated soundly. 4,370 for, 10,077 against.

      In the world of elections… these are not considered close. No recount was ever asked for by the side that lost. Landslide is a common term for these types of results.
      If this is that important… and it may. It can wait two years to get on the Presidential Election ballot… net no cost to the residents.
      My prediction will echo the previous two attempts. Not worth risking $600K to find this out.

      Burt Field

    • What a crock! When council’s controlled by Jed Ughyork ya’ gotta believe he controls police chief, city manager, city attorney and HR. The vote’s in Jed’s pocket.

  5. Howard…. you are so right on the mark.
    We need to protect this aspect of Santa Clara. It is so important to me, that I will be there again tonight. And if they have another meeting tomorrow night, I will be there as well.
    Our City, as great as it was, has been abused and taken advantage of ever since we agreed to help a NFL franchise get a new home.
    Our City needs a hug.
    Thankfully this is very doable. We just have to vote our way back…. we can not believe the negative garbage that our 49er Council is trying to sell us. Read the small print. What does York / DeBartolo want? Awesome, vote the other way.
    Bottomline, we need to just look at how fast our City has fallen.
    You can go back just a few years when many of us predicted this was on their “To Do List”.
    It really just makes business sense for them. As much control the 49er Council now has, they think they need more. Controlling our Police / Fire along with the City Clerk just make good business sense for them.
    But they are not deaf….they can hear the ticking of a clock, time is no longer on their side. They are starting to scramble, and willing to spend over $600K of our money. Money we don’t have given it has been 3 straight years of no “Performance Rent” being paid to us from our tenant, the 49ers.
    So ask yourself just one question, why the rush? Why not wait until a Presidential Election when this very same issue can be added at no cost (that’s $0.00 for the 49er Council to better understand the negative financial impact on our City).
    So why is it so important right now? Hummmm
    I loved watching Joe Montana, and Steve Young scrambling around, however now having to watch the 49er Council trip over their own feet, it’s just tough to stomach.

    We never signed up for any of this. Register to vote, make a difference.

    Burt Field

    • Actually though binding arbitration charter change election loss could also be seen as a desire of santa clarans not to change the police. There are people who supported it. Granted. But santa clarans do not want any charter changes for police.

Leave a Reply