One should always be careful what they wish for, especially in Santa Clara, where politics seem to follow an ever shifting set of rules.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor and council ally Kathy Watanabe may soon get more than they bargained for after trying—and failing—to require council members who talk to the SF 49ers to provide minutes of their discussions.
The tense relationship between city officials and the NFL team has devolved into seven active lawsuits. But five councilors, including three recently elected ones, say they want to mend the relationship. They each met with team reps to hear “both sides” of the issues.
These kinds of meetings between council members and organizations are not unusual, City Attorney Brian Doyle concedes. But he, Gillmor and Watanabe say the rules should be different for the Niners because of the lawsuits.
In the past, Gillmor says, “there were a lot of backdoor meetings ... and deals being made outside of the public realm” with the team.
“That really, really put us down the wrong path,” she adds.
Now the councilors who meet with the team say they’ll happily document their talks—as long as meetings with developers, lobbyists, unions and other special interests get recorded the same way.
Two councilors, including Suds Jain, tell Fly they’ll try to take the idea to a vote.
“If that’s what you want,” he says, “you’re opening up a big can of worms.”
Gillmor opposed the total transparency pitch on March 16, suggesting the rule should apply to those in legal battles with the city. She shot down a request to expand the requirement because the council was meeting as the Stadium Authority at the time, so it wasn't appropriate to vote on issues not related to Levi's Stadium, she said.
Instead, the pitch to require meeting minutes on more meetings should go through the council’s Governance Committee, Gillmor suggested. Even so, she seconded a proposal by Watanabe to require minutes of meetings with the 49ers.
That motion failed on a 5-2 vote.
It's possible a motion to document all meetings with special interests could pass by the same margin if it makes it to council.