Sample ballots hit the mailboxes last Friday, and the vote-by-mail ballots are about to arrive as well. I want to make pitches regarding the two initiatives on the ballot.
First, I’d ask you to vote YES on Measure B, the council compensation issue. I co-authored and co-signed the “Argument For”, and it’s hopefully straightforward. The City Charter mandates a 5% raise for councilmembers every year, which is just obnoxious, and Council isn’t permitted to change this, as a matter of law. It requires a Charter amendment to fix. The 2011 Charter Review Committee (CRC) recommended basing raises on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which averages about 2%, and that’s a much more reasonable number. This can only save the city money. Please support this. Over time, Council salaries will get quickly out of whack without this.
Second, and more important, I’d urge you to vote NO on Measure A, the directly-elected mayor (DEM) initiative. I co-signed the “Rebuttal to the Argument To”, and the reasons why it is so very bad are laid out there quite clearly. All of the issues and problems are spelled out in more detail on the campaign web site as well. Please check both of them out. But the most egregious aspect of Measure A is just how bad the process was that led up to it being created. We didn’t say “here’s a problem, how can we fix it?”, followed by examining our options. Instead, a couple of people said “we really want a directly elected mayor!”, a Charter Review Committee was asked about it, its contrary recommendation was ignored, and Measure A was created by a bare minimum council majority.
So in the year leading up to this, we never discussed if Sunnyvale should maybe go to a full-time mayor. We never discussed if Sunnyvale’s mayor should maybe have additional responsibilities added to the Charter. We never discussed if we should simply go back to a one-year mayor. And we never examined a lot of the side effects of Measure A. For instance, it increases the need to hold special elections, at a price tag of up to $400,000 apiece. When DEM was discussed in 2006, the 2006 CRC was also specifically asked to address that problem (they said “since we recommend against a directly-elected mayor, we see no reason to address the cost of special elections at this time”). Santa Clara’s Charter specifically deals with this by allowing its Council to actually appoint replacements – good thing, since the exact situation that would require one happened in Santa Clara just last year. Anyway, nobody discussed this this time, and nobody thought to ask the 2011 CRC about it either, so it remains a very expensive and unwanted side effect if Measure A passes. Oops.
We likewise never discussed the issue of mayoral powers, which don’t actually come from the Charter (with two exceptions) – they all come from Council policy. And Council can change the Mayor’s powers whenever it wants. So guess what happens the first time voters elect a mayor that Council dislikes? Yep, it’ll be crazy, and nobody bothered to think that one through either.
And if that’s not bad enough, in the entire year of discussion, only a single member of the public spoke to Council to support it.
This is a bad idea, poorly conceived and poorly executed, which is more obvious since at least seven of the nine council candidates this year have voiced their opposition to it, several of them rather loudly. And still, you’re being asked to vote on it. I hope you’ll respond accordingly at the polls with a very big NO vote.