I think the summary is going to be much, much shorter than the actual meeting. I’m getting caught up, sorry for the delay.
We started the evening with a closed session regarding the City Attorney’s performance review. We do these every six months for both the City Attorney and the City Manager. This was Joan’s first one.
We then went to the public meeting, and the room was absolutely packed. This was the meeting where we gave out the annual public safety awards, which meant that we had public safety officers lining both sides of chambers, with officers’ and victims’ families filling the rest of the seats.
First up was recognizing Municipal Clerks Week, and we honored City Clerk Kathleen Franco Simmons and Assistant City Clerk Lisa Natush. They do a lot to make sure that we have our agendas and other stuff necessary to be properly prepared for our meetings, and we wouldn’t be able to do our jobs without their support.
Then we had Foster Care Month recognition, and we acknowledged all of the work that the county’s foster care workers do.
This was followed by the annual public safety awards. We recognized officers who performed life-saving services, and there were several of them this time. One officer, PSO Nguyen, had four or five saves just in the past year. Typically, some 80% of firefighting calls are actually medical calls, and since our police are also fire and EMT, with AED (defibrillators) in their squad cars, they’re the first responders for non-responsive medical calls. There were also annual awards for officer of the year, PSO Robin Smith, the award for the non-sworn employee of the year for Dori Fontaine, and I didn’t write down the rest of them, unfortunately (I was too busy listening to the stories – really touching and inspiring).
We then had a presentation by Cupertino Union School District about proposed changes to the Cupertino Middle School site. We have a joint-use agreement with CUSD’s open space, where we pay to maintain them and we get to use them during off hours. CUSD is proposing eliminating one of the school’s baseball diamonds to make room for additional classrooms. They’re going to create a multipurpose room/auditorium on the baseball diamond and use the space for the existing one to create two-story classrooms. This created some discussion among my colleagues, because losing over an acre of open space isn’t a pleasant thought. There was a fair bit of discussion about alternatives to CUSD’s plans, including alternate construction plans and the possibility of re-opening schools on other district-owned property.
The consent calendar came next, and the minutes, the list of bills, the VTA grant, the Onizuka demolition, and the second reading of the Armory ordinance were all pulled, and the balance was approved on a 7-0 vote.
Item 2 was our annual adoption of our Housing and Urban Development Action Plan, the plan whereby we decide how to spend Community Development Block Grant and some of our own money to fund non-profits. A number of speakers from the non-profits came to us to speak. One of the biggest pushes we got this year was to fund Project Sentinel, which hasn’t been funded in a couple of years due to some accounting issues that the organization has had. They’ve resolved those issues and are eligible for money from us now, but they fell below the line. And we really do need their services, or similar services, in light of the difficulty we’ve been having with Fairoaks Mobile Home Park and other individual cases. But the City Manager has put aside money from the general budget for a landlord/tenant counseling and dispute resolution contract (for which Project Sentinel may very well be the only bidder), so we should be restoring those services this year independent of the HUD plan.
There was an additional wrinkle. Council policy is that no one agency receives more than 25% of available funding. But standard practice has been to provide Sunnyvale Community Services with $75k/year. Because of the decrease in available funding, $75k now slightly exceeds 25% of available funding, meaning the two now conflict. So the Housing and Human Services Commission (HHSC) provided one recommendation that conforms to Council policy, and one that doesn’t, for our consideration.
There was some discussion, and then a motion was made to approve the plan with recommended distribution as specified by the Housing and Human Services Commission, ignoring for now the 25% Council policy. An amendment was then made to make one small change to the funding of two organizations, which passed on a 4-3 vote. I was originally going to support this, but one of my colleagues made a compelling argument about arbitrarily deviating from the recommendation of the commission that did the work to research all of the agencies and propose the distribution, so I dissented on the amendment. And then the main motion passed on a 6-1 vote (I agreed). I was surprised by how easily staff’s and HHSC’s recommendation passed. It’s pretty easy for us to tinker with this particular item, and a lot of the discussion seemed to be headed that way, but in the end there wasn’t any real tinkering.
Item 3 involved approval of a contract for redesigning the Water Pollution Control Plant. This was a big call, because it’s a large chunk of money that’s the start of a very big project. To make things more challenging, we received three qualified bids, but they were wildly different, and staff recommended the most expensive of the three bids. That’s always a little unnerving, and it’s complicated by the fact that we don’t have the technical expertise to evaluate the bids or second-guess staff’s recommendation. And some of us were clearly nervous about that. But in the end, we approved staff’s recommendation on a 7-0 vote.
Item 4 involved proposed changes to our municipal code related to criminal and administrative citations. This was mostly minor stuff that involved the discretion that DPS and the City Attorney have in dealing with misdemeanors. It was mostly cleanup, but it also proposed fixes to some problems with minor issues. In some cases, staff hasn’t had the discretion to deal with certain nuisance issues (noise issues, animal cases, and so on) as anything but misdemeanors. In addition to the cleanup, staff wanted to create wiggle language so that they can drop misdemeanors to minor infractions when they deem it appropriate. And with very little discussion, we approved this on a 7-0 vote.
Item 5 was the elephant in the room, consideration of a resolution of censure against Councilmember Meyering for ongoing violations of the Code of Ethical Conduct and Council Policy. This came up at our last meeting in response to a particular episode of conduct. So we discussed the conduct at some length. A number of members of the public spoke to the issue, with most supporting Councilmember Meyering and a couple expressing concerns with his conduct. And then we got into the vote. I moved to approve the resolution, striking one sentence that Councilmember Meyering took issue with, and the resolution was approved on a 5-1 vote with Councilmember Meyering recusing himself (even though he wasn’t required to).
I had a lengthy write-up on what happened and why. But at this point, things seem to have calmed down, and there’s no value in accidentally or deliberately reigniting things. I’ll simply refer to this essay titled “Civility” by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. The highlight is the last paragraph (my emphasis added):
Generally, civility is best fostered by a group commitment to parliamentary procedures such as Roberts Rules of Order. Councilmembers may decide, for example, to use formal titles when addressing each other at public meetings, to stick religiously to time limits for discussion, to respect the role of the presiding officer in moving the discussion, and to disallow displays such as applause or booing in chambers. While such measures may feel stilted, they reflect the high standards of conduct that should govern those who represent the public.
This is why Sunnyvale’s Code of Ethics exists, and why it needs to be defended.
Item 6 involved the potential creation of an ethics committee for the November election. After a little discussion, a motion was made to create a committee, named an election committee instead of an ethics committee, but it died for lack of a second. A second motion was made to not create a subcommittee but support other groups’ efforts to create debates, and it died for a lack of second. A motion was then renewed to create an election subcommittee that would include a charter for a “last word” debate, and it passed on a 5-2 vote (I agreed). The Mayor then appointed councilmembers Davis, Martin-Milius, and Moylan to that subcommittee. I was deliberately passive on this issue. I was advised that I could vote on this issue despite being up for re-election – that there was no legal conflict of interest in doing so. But while I accepted my responsibility to vote, I wasn’t willing to drive this issue in any way – not even to second a motion.
We then returned to the pulled consent calendar items. The previous minutes were approved on a 6-1 vote (I approved). The list of bills was approved on a 6-1 vote (I approved).
The demolition of Onizuka generated some discussion. One colleague had to recuse because he’s started working at Foothill-De Anza, and the demolition is a joint project between FHDA and Sunnyvale. A colleague had concerns about entering into the agreement. But a motion was made to approve the agreement, and it passed on a 4-2 vote (I agreed).
Then we approved the rezoning of the Armory on a 6-1 vote (I agreed).
That was it for the agenda. We had a couple of IGR reports. Then a colleague proposed returning to an issue we discussed in a study session and bring to the next agenda discussion of a Transit Occupancy Tax ballot measure. This passed on a 5-2 vote (I agreed).