4/3/12 Council Summary

As expected, it was indeed a very long night.

We started the evening with a closed session regarding reuse of the Raynor Center.  Not much I can say about this, and I don’t know when this will come before the public.  We then had a study session about council policy regarding human services.  This was a bit abbreviated because things ran long in the closed session.  Then it was on to the public meeting.

First up for us was the annual Fire Safety poster contest, which is always a good time.  This is a citywide contest for grades K-5, with the winners receiving safety-related prizes.  From memory, first prize was a fire extinguisher, second was a smoke detector, and third was a high-powered flashlight.  This is a great event for the kids who win.

We then recognized National Volunteer Week.

Following this, a representative from Foothill-De Anza gave us a presentation on the progress they’re making towards taking possession of their portion of Onizuka.  I believe it was stated that they hope to start classes there in 2015.  They also managed to recently refinance their outstanding bonds which we’re paying for through property taxes, which means we’ll be paying a little bit less.  Anyway, I’m really glad this project is going forward, because it’s the best possible use of this land, given the circumstances.  And FHDA clearly wants to be there, too, which is a very positive trait for occupants of that space.

This was followed by a number of public announcements, mainly the one about board and commission recruitment.  We have a lot of vacancies coming up this time (a surprising number of sitting commissioners have moved out of the city recently).

Then we got to business.  First up was the consent calendar, and item 1C, the list of bills, was pulled by one of my colleagues.  The balance of the consent calendar was passed 7-0.  The discussion on 1C got somewhat involved, and some unfortunate statements were made about the processes that we’ve used for years to safeguard our legal strategies and maintain confidentiality.  I’m not going to try to describe what took place.  I’ll simply say that it is a real blow to the city that we’re losing David Kahn as our City Attorney, particularly now.  David has served the city with professionalism and integrity for the past seven years, and most residents will never know just how much he’s done for all of us.  Without his efforts, we wouldn’t have Target now.  Or Nokia.  Or open streets through the center of the downtown.  Or dozens of other things, some of which I can talk about, many more that I can’t discuss.  It’s a real disappointment to me that we’re losing him, and I wish that wasn’t the case.

Anyway, item 1C was approved on a 6-1 vote (I concurred).

We then had public comments, and there were a couple, but nothing too noteworthy.  Then it was on to business.

Item 2, the appeal of a planning commission decision regarding a liquor permit, was not heard.  The applicant withdrew his application, making the appeal a moot point.  This was surprising to me, since the Planning Commission and staff had both sided with the applicant.  But it’s his application, he can do what he wants.  So there was no hearing on this item.

Item 3 was the one that was going to attract the most attention, discussion of Governor Brown’s 12-point pension reform plan.  There wasn’t too much discussion, since we’d discussed this twice before (at a previous meeting and at the strategic planning session).  So it was mostly just getting to a statement of support, or not.  A number of public speakers encouraged support for it.  The biggest debate seemed to be whether we were going to vote on the entire 12-point plan or take each point one-by-one.  But we voted 5-2 to endorse the entire plan (I concurred).

I don’t think all 12 points are necessarily a good idea.  A couple of his points are potentially bad for the city, or they could be done in better ways.  And his perspective is very much state-wide, whereas we would be better served with local control in some cases.  The biggest problem I have is with the hybrid pension program.  A resident who used to be a firefighter in another jurisdiction explained it to me this way – 401K programs or the like are based on the idea of having 30-40 years to contribute, in order to obtain a reasonable benefit.  Firefighters in particular cannot perform their jobs for 30-40 years, and most can only do far less due to physical limitations or outright damage over time.  Adopting a scheme that penalizes them doesn’t make sense to me.  But in the end, the plan is good, on balance, and the specifics of the plan aren’t that important.  There are some definite abuses that need to be stamped out, and the state needs to take pension reform seriously, in some form.  And it’s not like Governor Brown was going to say “well, I had 12 great points, but the Sunnyvale folks don’t like point #3, so I’m going to drop that one”.  The most important thing is that the legislature doesn’t drop the ball.  And hopefully, we sent that message.

Item 4 involved something of a sad task – figuring out how we will replace David Kahn as City Attorney.  We had a number of challenges to address – how to recruit a new CA, what recruiting firm to use, how to choose an interim CA, and so on.  Again, this discussion got a bit off-track and went off into areas that weren’t that productive.  But in the end, we decided on a 7-0 vote to 1) have the full council interview the interim city attorney candidates, 2) to have interviews as soon as reasonably possible to create as much overlap time as possible between David and the interim CA, and 3) to have staff choose a recruiting firm for us to use.

Item 5 involved an interesting notion – allowing the use of “back in, head out” diagonal parking.  Currently, our diagonal parking is always “drive in, back out”, but there is some evidence that reversing the angle of the parking creates safer conditions – primarily because visibility is better when leaving.  This item was not to actually authorize this kind of parking at any one location, but rather to amend our city code so that staff can at least pursue it.  Right now, our code doesn’t even allow this kind of parking.  After some discussion, I moved to approve the ordinance, with an amendment suggested by a colleague and encouraged by staff involving distance from the curb, and the motion passed on a 7-0 vote.

Item 6 involved the second reading of our ordinance prohibiting smoking in public parks other than golf courses.  There was some discussion aimed at trying to get us to adopt stricter standards, but we approved the second reading on a 6-1 vote (I agreed).

Item 7 involved the master work plans for our boards and commissions.  This was non-controversial, and I moved to accept the work plans, with one small change to the H&HS master work plan (for consistency), and it was passed on a 7-0 vote.

Item 8 involved possibly taking a position on the Santa Clara Unified School District ballot measure.  This was mostly the same discussion that we usually have with school district bonds or parcel taxes.  After some discussion, we voted 6-1 to endorse Santa Clara Unified’s Measure A.  I hope you’ll vote for it in May.

And that was it.  We had some IGR reports, nothing substantive, and then we called it a night.  We’re off for three weeks, although we’ll be doing some business in the mean time – interviewing the interim CA candidates, a closed session regarding labor negotiations with SEA, possibly some other stuff.  I think staff needs the break more than I do, since this is the heart of budget season.

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