1/8/2013 Council Summary – New Vice Mayor, Study Issues Hearing

Pretty short and simple night.

We went straight into the meeting this time, despite having a closed session regarding the city manager.  The procedure was a little different for this closed session because of either a change in the law or a change in our understanding of the law, I’m not sure which.  As a consequence of the Bell mess, the public noticing rules for certain types of closed sessions changed.  And because this closed session was scheduled after the agenda was published, it could not be held before the general meeting – it had to be done as part of the regular meeting (we just left the meeting running and went into a room, then came back).  I still don’t quite understand the changes to the law, but our new City Attorney was on top of the issue.

Anyway, we went into the general meeting and started with public announcements.  Jack Lucas from the West Valley Mission Community College introduced us to the new chancellor, Dr. Patrick Schmidt, and they discussed West Valley Mission.  We tend to ignore West Valley in favor of Foothill/De Anza, but a small portion of the eastern part of Sunnyvale is in the West Valley district.  It was nice of them to stop by.

We then had the consent calendar, and the minutes from the last meeting, the list of bills, and the proposed tentative calendar were pulled from consent.  The balance of the consent calendar was approved on a 7-0 vote, with three no votes on the second reading of the parking ordinance.

Next came public comments, which had a couple of interesting speakers.  The city is planning on replacing the stop signs at Bernardo and Remington with traffic signals, and some residents disapprove.  Another resident wanted to advocate for a dog park at Serra Park.  And another resident took issue with the conduct of one of my colleagues and wanted to question his choice of actions.

Item 2 was selection of a vice mayor for 2013.  With no discussion, we got into it.  Councilmember Davis was nominated first, I was nominated second, and Councilmember Moylan was nominated third.  We then had speeches in nomination order, which was relatively quick.  And then voting took place in nominating order, with each councilmember voting on exactly one candidate per round.  Tradition is to abstain when not voting yes.  On the first vote, Councilmember Davis got 2 yes votes and 5 abstentions.  I then got 3 yes votes and 4 abstentions.  And Councilmember Moylan got 2 yes votes and 5 abstentions.  This required a tie-breaker between Councilmembers Davis and Moylan.  In the next round, Councilmember Davis got 2 yes votes and 5 abstentions, while Councilmember Moylan got 4 yes votes and 3 abstentions, meaning that Councilmember Moylan won the tie-breaker.  We then went to the final round of voting, where I received 4 yes votes and 3 abstentions.  At that point, I had received the requisite votes, and I was selected as Vice Mayor for 2013.  I then switched seats with Councilmember Whittum.

I’m very honored to have been selected as this year’s Vice Mayor.  And I have to thank Councilmember Whittum for his service as Vice Mayor over the past year.  I’ve been watching Sunnyvale’s Council over the past decade from the inside and out, and I have to say that Councilmember Whittum did more with the Vice Mayor’s position than anyone I’ve seen in a very long time.  That’s a testament to both Councilmember Whittum for taking the initiative and to Mayor Spitaleri for giving him the freedom to make the most out of the position.  Councilmember Whittum set a very high bar for the Vice Mayorship, and it will be difficult for me to do as well.  But I’ll try.

We then went to item 3, the annual public hearing on study and budget issues.  There was a relatively small number of speakers this year, but we still had several.  One spoke in favor of a burrowing owl study issue (already sponsored by council).  One spoke in favor of a review of on-street parking requirements at private residences to emphasize cyclists’ needs.  Two spoke in favor of more and better dog parks (specifically adding one to Serra Park).  One person spoke very well about the downtown parking study issue.  And one spoke on behalf of the Heritage Preservation Commission in favor of the non-residential heritage designation issue.  That was about it.  A colleague then proposed three study issues, one involving whistleblower protection, one involving studying congestion on Mathilda and Sunnyvale-Saratoga, one involving council votes when political donors are involved.  All three were co-sponsored, but it was reported after the fact that the whistleblower and donors study issues were not eligible this year.  Both had been proposed and dropped as part of the 2012 study issue process, and existing council policy mandates that a study issue cannot be reintroduced after being dropped by majority vote for two years (unless a majority of council approves revisiting it).  That’s unlikely to happen by the deadline, since five councilmembers voted to drop each of them just a year ago, but anything’s possible.

Next up was item 4, this year’s seating chart.  And other than the vice mayor switch, everyone chose to keep the seats they had.  Very quick.

We then returned to the consent calendar.  On item 1A, a colleague wanted to change the report on the closed session from the previous meeting.  But in doing so, the colleague actually made a public statement about what he claimed had occurred during the closed session, which we’ve been taught never to do, to avoid violating the Brown Act (state law).  After a bit of a kerfluffle involving the Mayor and the City Attorney, I moved to approve the minutes as presented to us, which passed on a 6-1 vote.  Note that as Vice Mayor, I now have the traditional responsibility of moving approval of all consent items.

The usual business occurred with 1B, the list of billsI moved to approve them, which passed on a 6-1 vote.

We then went to the proposed tentative council calendar.  Two changes were proposed to dates.  It was proposed to move the budget and study issues workshop from an all-day Friday event to a Tuesday evening, with any carry-over going to the following Wednesday evening.  It was likewise proposed to do the same with the all-day budget workshop in May.  There were no takers for that, so I think I was the one who moved approval of the TCMAC as presented, and that passed on a 6-1 vote.  The changes were proposed because it was stated that it was difficult for members of the public to make those events.  I didn’t favor the changes for a couple of reasons.  For both events, the public hearing on the topics isn’t held that day – it’s held as part of the preceding regularly-scheduled council meeting.  That’s when the public gets to weigh in.  Except for a brief period at the beginning of each day, members of the public don’t have an opportunity to speak during most of both workshops.  And the workshops are televised repeatedly after the events. Further, because of the length of the events, which typically run a minimum of five hours, doing them in the evenings would cause them to run past 11:00 or midnight, which really is no more convenient for most residents than a daytime event would be.  Finally, making them daytime events allows staff to attend for their portions of the workshops while returning to their jobs for the rest of the day.  Moving them to the evenings would force staff to attend the entire events for several hours beyond their working day, something that would be unreasonably expensive for the city to bear.  In reality, such a move would simply allows the seven of us to attend without us burning vacation time or losing a day of work.  But you pay us to do our jobs, and expecting us to spend two daytime work days per year really isn’t unreasonable, not when it also minimizes staff hours and costs.

We then concluded the general session in memory of former Sunnyvale Mayor Stan Kawczynski, and we adjourned to our closed session.  More on that soon, hopefully.

And that’s about it.  Next meeting on the 15th should be very quick, because it’s just the ceremonial Vice Mayor stuff – no general business whatsoever.  Well, actually, there are two hours of closed and study sessions beforehand, but the meeting itself should be short and simple.  One of them is a 90-minute study session on the Lawrence Station Area Plan, which should be very interesting.

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