Gillmor Could Get More Than Expected in Transparency Pitch

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.

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The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

6 Comments

  1. I agree with Gillmor. But check out this

    TERESA ONEILL MEETING WITH JUDE BARRY

    SUBEC

    TEACHINGS OF THOMAS AQUINAS

  2. Just to remind readers, and as background that San Jose Inside should routinely provide, Levi’s Stadium is owned by the City of Santa Clara–it is public property–that has been leased to the San Francisco 49ers since 2014. Owner Jed York and the 49ers have since then attempted to violate the terms of the contract they signed with the City of Santa Clara Stadium Authority regarding the use of the stadium. Those attempts failed in court.

    York’s “Plan B” was a hostile takeover of the City Council through a massive intervention in the 2020 council elections in which he spent $3 million in support of four 49er-friendly council candidates, of whom three prevailed. When combined with two other “pro-49er” Council incumbents, the 49ers are expecting a pliant majority to do their bidding (see https://sanjosespotlight.com/santa-clara-council-candidates-49ers-police-union-point-fingers-over-campaign-donations/ and https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/10/25/opinion-santa-clara/).

    The proposal–or rather the bluff–by the five “pro-49er” Councilmembers–Vice Mayor Raj Chahal (District 2), Karen Hardy (District 3), Kevin Park (District 4), Sudhanshu “Suds” Jain (District 5) and Anthony Becker (District 6–to make public the minutes from all meetings with special interest groups and lobbyists, should be immediately agreed by Mayor Gillmor and Kathy Watanabe (District 1). This would provide Santa Clara residents with the type of transparency that is needed to have confidence in what their Council is doing and why.

    Such transparency would more fully expose any conflicts of interest that councilmembers, including Mayor Gillmor herself, might have with real estate developers and businesses operating in the city (https://www.sanjoseinside.com/news/photo-ops-with-local-mayors-helped-indicted-siliconsage-real-estate-figure-burnish-image/). This would be a healthy development and clarify how it is that City officials decide to attach the destiny of their city and its residents to the vicissitudes of big corporate players like the 49ers in the first place. That neoliberal addiction is a big problem generally in the U.S. and shedding more light on it would help residents fight against it.

    This is especially true in a city as historically well-run and well-financed as Santa Clara. The City’s fiscal stability, in great part, rests on its direct public ownership of “business type” assets, e.g. electric utility, water utility, sewer utility, water recycling utility, Mission City Cemetery, Santa Clara Convention Center, sports and recreational facilities and, of course, Levi’s Stadium, among others. These public entities collectively bring in more than twice the revenues collected by the City via taxes and fees. Such publicly-owned enterprises allow the City to maintain superior infrastructure, facilities and services for its 130,000 residents at lower cost (see the easy to follow June 2019 financial report https://www.santaclaraca.gov/home/showdocument? id=65838).

    In other words, publicly-owned enterprises make Santa Clara a more affordable and pleasant place to live. In advancing York’s agenda, his Council allies run the risk of committing City funds toward the advancement of the 49er’s business plans–i.e. subsidizing a multi-billion-dollar organization. This poses a potentially mortal danger to the fiscal and governance integrity of a city that has distinguished itself historically by its relatively strong finances.

  3. Karen Hardy is “pro-49ers”?! I’ve been out of Santa Clara for quite a while, but given that she was a vehement and vocal opponent of the stadium, I find this assertion very surprising.

  4. She still is. The problem is not Gillmor, she has really never been the problem. Gillmor has been outstanding.

    Racist Kathy is the problem. She is a petty, stupid useless person who hates the three minority council members

    She denied the opportunity for Kevin Park to speak at stop Asian hate rally

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