Showing posts with label Santa Clara. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Santa Clara. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Santa Clara's $5.8 Million CVRA Lawsuit and the Delusions Behind It

 With Santa Clara's voting rights lawsuit finally settled, I looked back at more than 10 years of reporting on this issue from the first warning letter the city got from civil rights attorney Robert Rubin in 2011.   

In that jaunt down memory lane, I looked at some notes from the trial in 2018 that never found their way completely into any of my reporting — for space reasons, largely, but also because it might give critics pretext for dismissing our reporting as character assassination.

It's an exchange between Doyle and Judge Kuhnle about whether or not the California Voting Rights Act applies to charter cities. (An appeals court in the Palmdale case ruled that the answer is 'yes, it does.' ) 

In retrospect, it seems like the character — Santa Clara City Attorney Brian Doyle — did all the assassinating himself. 

I regret not publishing the transcript, because this few minutes of conversation captures the delusional thinking that led the City to the worst of all possible decisions every step of the way in the ten year slog to paying out $5.8 million.

Doyle seemed to try to re-litigate the case at the end of an award hearing, which is peculiar — I'm no lawyer but I know better than to argue with a judge about a ruling in a hearing about an entirely different matter.

Here's the annotated transcript:

Doyle: I'd like to remind the court of the city's situation. This case began with the 2011 letter [from Rubin]. I've tried to explain my dilemma. Santa Clara is a charter city. I have to act in accordance with the charter. [for the city council to change the city's election system] they had to adopt a resolution that some members of the city council had been elected with racially polarized voting…asking me to move outside the charter was impossible. 


Therefore, we instituted the charter review committee. [the plaintiffs] instead of joining us in an effort to satisfy [plaintiff's] concerns, they opposed this charter amendment [the failed Measure A for multi-member dustructs]. At what point was the City of Santa Clara to violate its charter to satisfy his [Rubin's] demands…At every single stage I have tried to respect the charter. I think the state made a mistake [in Palmdale].


Kuhnle: Wasn't that issue resolved 100 percent long ago…You don't think it's correct? Are you saying this court should ignore binding authority [appellate court decisions]? I'm assuming you did not advise [your client to do so]. You did regard it as your job [to advise your client of the law]? 


Doyle:  We don't agree with your position


Kuhnle: It's not my position…It's my job to uphold the laws of California including appellate court decisions.


Doyle: I don't necessarily agree


Kuhnle: When a state court of appeal rules, that's binding on all courts…I'm not arguing with you. I'm stating the facts. Your position is that Palmdale is not binding…You, too, have to uphold the laws of California. You feel that you're not bound by appellate court decisions. I find that an unusual view. 


[City's outside counsel] Steve Churchwell: He's not [dismissing] Palmdale… he's saying that he can't tell the city council to do this by resolution. We [charter cities] can't do anything in 30 days, we need at least six months…[back on the subject of the award] There's no damages. What they're calling a settlement is selling the city down the river. Was there any real attempt to settle? No.

Kuhnle: Reasonableness of settlements are not among the Serrano factors [for deciding awards]…I do recall there being a discussion about whether the parties [here] might find a settlement...The back and forth is very interesting but I'm not sure it bears on what's before us today. What I had to do was apply Palmdale.

Doyle: I was trying to explain my position.


Kuhnle: I don't want to get lost in matters not before the court.


Rubin: The  2011 letter was [written] without any expectation of attorney's fees. [A remedy] did not happen in 2012. It did not happen in 2015 or 2016. There was plenty of time. They [the city] controlled the trajectory of litigation at every stage. 


Kuhnle: Attorney fees raises the issue that litigation is very costly. Mr. Doyle disagrees on how the city responds to it …the CVRA applies to charter cities according to the appellate court. 


This wasn't the case that was argued at trial, however.  Churchwell focused on whether or not 85 percent confidence level in statistics was enough to prove Santa Clara's election system discriminated against minorities. The appeal was even more picayune — the definition of "usually."  (Neither of these specious argument successfully distracted from the plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face fact that no minority was ever elected to the City Council.)

It seems that these were small-bore questions compared to the one Doyle really and truly wanted to argue, which appeared to be the inviolable right of charter cities to contravene state law. The City's first briefs also included arguments about the CVRA violating the 14th amendment — a question the federal Supreme Court has twice refused to consider.

It calls to mind Walter Mitty arguing a landmark court case just before he gets run over in the middle of the street by a bus.

Doyle's salary is about $350,000 and Churchwell banked nearly $1.5 million. That's some costly delusional thinking.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Space Laser Shocker — NFL Team, Not European Banking Family, Behind Wildfires

 Trigger warning: Satire ahead. 

Editor's note: It recently came to Observeris' attention that the local Self-Appointed Pundit (SAP) is planning a massive exposé of the San Francisco 49ers. This presumably is intended to deflect public attention from  SAP's upcoming engagement with the criminal justice system. 
When SAP's bombshell was leaked to Observeris, we realized that we had, in fact, already scooped SAP on Feb. 2.

Yesterday Santa Clara's mayor revealed that the 49ers are behind the space lasers that caused the 2018 Camp fire in Northern California, citing research by the Santa Clara City Clerk showing that in all years when there are wildfires, within six months there are 49er games.


The Clerk reported that he had gathered data from "many sources" including QAnon message boards, the Drudge Report and Infowars.


The clerk says that he has also found evidence of Martian lizard people living under 4949 DeBartolo Way in the most recent QAnon code drop, 1234567890qwerty. JFK Junior and Elvis are also likely living there, he said.


"It's a smoking gun — you could see the lasers going up from Levi's Stadium," he said. "But they didn't report these expenditures on their Form 460s. We are taking this abuse of our dark money prohibition to the Fair Political Practices Commission."


"I'd really like to thank our city clerk for bringing this to my attention," said the Santa Clara mayor. "Without his hard work, we would never have known about this. It's just another example of how the 49ers are keeping us in the dark."


"These space lizards are overcrowding our schools," said the council member from District 3.14. "They are shining those laser lights into people's windows and keeping our children from getting a good night's sleep."


The mayor brushed aside questions about why the City Clerk was reading QAnon message boards on city time.


"Our officials are very dedicated to staying informed," she said. "Some of our council members even read newspaperish thingeys like the New York Times, which has nothing to do with Santa Clara."


The Santa Clara city attorney also weighed in. "There is clear precedent for legal action here," he said, citing the 1955 class action lawsuit Doe v Martians. 


"The 9th amendment gives us the absolute right to prohibit the 49ers' use of space lasers," he said. "But the 49er lizards on the city council are blocking legal action on the orders of their Martian overlords."

The city manager proposed hiring a consultant to investigate the stadium lasers and the space lizards, saying that the city is hoping to hire Rudy Guiliani. "He has a lot of experience investigating lizard people and is currently available," the manager said. 


This was quashed by the Council's Reality Party majority. The city attorney objected, saying that refusing to talk about space lizards nesting under the 50 yard-line at Levi's Stadium was abridging his First Amendment rights"

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

City Files New Lawsuit Alleging 49ers Interference in City's Day Lengthening Initiative

Trigger warning: satire ahead

The Santa Clara City Attorney announced this week that the City is filing a new lawsuit against the 49es. The City alleges that the NFL team has interfered with the sun’s rotation around the earth, thereby stalling and ultimately reversing the City's day-lengthening initiative. 

This is the 49th lawsuit the City has filed against the team. 

"This is just another example of their mismanagement," said the Mayor. "It's not a coincidence that the NFL season opened and suddenly the days started getting shorter. We're not surprised they’re throwing their billions around to influence the solar system, helped by the Fake News.”

 The City initially saw good results from the initiative, said the City Manager. “But that started slowing down in July and then it really went in the wrong direction when the pre-season was supposed to start. We asked to see the reports about their astrology operation, but they claimed there was no such thing.” 

Speaking from an secret bunker, the council member from the Southwest-Northeast District weighed in saying, “They’re pushing these lies on small children. I’ve seen textbooks with these lies. These are our kids' minds that are being poisoned.” 

“They just have to stop, along with their media enablers,” said the member from District 9 ¾. “That’s right, I mean you, New York Times. City Attorney, can we arrest the publisher of the New York Times? We should be able to. I mean, this is totally unfair.” 

The City Attorney said that as desirable for public morals as it would be to arrest the NYT publisher for sedition, he didn’t have any jurisdiction over the NYPD. 

The mayor’s council opponents held a press conference, telling news outlets that the move was just more evidence that the mayor and her allies needed to find a new line of work. 

 “I hear that Ringling Brothers is looking for clowns,” said one. “I could give them strong references. They always make me laugh.” 

 Update: A Superior Court judge dismissed the City's complaint late this afternoon saying that "people who still believe the sun revolves around the earth have no right to waste judicial time." The City announced that it will appeal the dismissal. 

© Carolyn Schuk

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Rose Garden Becomes Santa Clara's Special District

 Trigger warning: satire ahead

San José Rose Garden residents report that they've started seeing lawn signs for Santa Clara City Council candidates in their neighborhood. 

This is the first step in Santa Clara's Rose Garden annexation, explained the Santa Clara City Mayor in a press conference held yesterday. "We want our Rose Garden citizens to feel they're part of our community," said the Mayor, "and what better way than to invite them to vote in the city." 

Because it's too late to have the County Registrar of Voters send new ballots, Santa Clara is printing and distributing new ballots to its newest citizens, explained the Mayor. 

Many have been asking which district the Rose Garden will be annexed to.

"We feel that we need to recognize the Rose Garden's special-ness by making it a Special District," said the Mayor.  "Residents will be able to vote for all four open Council seats."

Despite the budget deficit, the City has appropriated $200,000 for an education campaign run by spinmeister Alfred E. Neuman, the City's communications and public outreach advisor. Neuman launched the program by spending nine hours reading posts on Weekly World News Santa Clara Edition, InfoWars and Discord — invoicing the City $57,959.12 for the work. 

The education campaign is needed because Rose Garden residents may not know how to vote, the Mayor explained. 

"They're used to voting in San José where they get to choose who to vote for," the Mayor said. "They don't realize that's not the Santa Clara Way." 

To help voters make the right choices, Special District voters will only have one choice for each seat,  said the City Manager. "We have to make it as simple as possible because the media is misleading people with its false narratives about candidates." 

The County Registrar of Voters said that no ballots except those from the ROV office will be counted. 

"Until we're advised through official channels, not that whackadoodle mayor, any strange ballots we receive will go into our 'special' circular file," the Registrar said. "We have a few of those every election — people voting on their own special ballots for the King of Mars and such." 

A Rose Garden resident who was asked what she thought of the annexation replied, "What annexation? If I catch that Q-Anon crank sticking signs in my lawn again, I'm going to shove them up his kiester."

Friday, February 2, 2018

Silicon Valley's housing crisis: Why we have it and what it costs us

In an interesting juxtaposition, this morning's Mercury News front page featured a story about how 90 percent of the housing California needs isn't getting built, and in another section, a story about how Apple's mothership donut was built with no thought to where the 12,500 people who work there will live.

Santa Clara's own marquee tech campus, the NVIDIA flying saucer, was also built without any thought to where the people who work there will live. It wasn't part of the conversation when it was conceived about 10 years ago, even though we were talking about a housing crisis then, too.

Instead, the Santa Clara City Council has made a u-turn on housing development—surrendering public policy to the anti-development faction because that's the one that yells the loudest.

Remember how John Sobrato got—literally—shouted out of the City Council Chambers for offering to build a $1 million supported housing-for-the-unhoused complex on Monroe?

The Council micro-managed Irvine's Mission Town Center 2016 proposal into a risky venture as far as the developer was concerned. Prometheus—a big donor to an independent expenditure committee for Gillmor-aligned candidates—has another proposal to bring forward. But it's not much different from the Irvine proposal. The only difference is that the Viso family, which owns the land, will probably want more for the lease—making it even harder to pencil out.

More recently the Council stifled the Moonlight Lanes project, leaving that property to provide low-cost housing for rats. Then there's the Mariani project that likely won't get get a hearing for another generation.

Related's City Place has yet to put a shovel in the ground. And if Mission Town Center's 400 apartments had the anti-development brigade in hysterics, imagine how far Genzon/Kylli's plan for 35-story apartment towers on "Yahoo acres" (now vacant for a decade) will go over.

And this, I've been told without sarcasm, is responsive government in action.

Council Members and their anti-development cheerleaders would strenuously deny the charge of being anti-development and say they're all for the right development. The beauty of the "right development" is that, like J.K. Rowling's wizarding world, it's invisible to the rest of the world.
As that's an impossibility here in the reality-based world, we continue—and will continue for the foreseeable future, I'm betting—to enjoy the quaint charm of mid-century strip malls and used car lots on El Camino.

Our children, young educated professionals, aren't yelling. They're not at City Council meetings because they took jobs in Dallas, Indianpolis or Pittsburgh where they can afford to buy a house, according to Carson Bruno at Real Clear Markets. So they don't care if Silicon Valley slowly fades into the economic sunset. They're willing to pay higher property taxes (and they do) for a decent home rather than share a $3,500/month one-bedroom apartment with four people to pay the rent.

But I wander.

We keep hearing Silicon Valley has a housing crisis. And the reason is pretty simple: we haven't built enough housing. Not only that, we're make things worse by building even less housing than we did as recently as a year ago.

Joint Venture Silicon Valley's 2016 "Silicon Valley Index" reports that the number of new residential construction permits dropped more than 50 percent between 2014 and 2015—from 11,000 to slightly less than 6,000. The percentage of multifamily construction dropped 20 percent. In that time, Silicon Valley built only 22 percent of the needed moderate income housing but 130 percent of the high income housing target, according to the Assoc. of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

This isn't some kind of inevitable catastrophe like a tsunami or an earthquake. It's  largely of our own making. Only one factor, limited land, has passed out of our control. The rest are in our power to change.

First, there's the California Environmental Quality Act—an equal opportunity tool for obstructing development and a lucrative revenue source for specialist attorneys with no end of tricks up their sleeves for using CEQA to the advantage of developers, unions and NIMBYs.

In a textbook example of the law of unintended consequences, CEQA is most effective at obstructing its ostensible goal of improving environmental quality.

The most frequently challenged projects are transit-oriented, urban infill, those using renewable energy and housing, according to Elana Eden at Panetizen. Then there's local governments' preference for commercial development with its higher revenues and lower service needs. And last but not least, are vociferous self-absorbed NIMBYs who, quite simply, want to freeze time in an imagined past -- agriculture is very picturesque to those who never had to do the backbreaking work and face the financial risk.

The cost of obstructionism is our economy.

In a 2015 California Legislative Office report, the LAO laid out the causes and costs of California's stratospheric real estate prices and rents in this infographic.

There's a simple answer: build more housing. In won't be politically easy, now that the opponents of development have captured the spotlight. But what's worse: the noise from 100 complainers now or being judged 'guilty' by history for smothering the goose that laid the golden silicon eggs? 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Ro Khanna: Doing the People’s Business by Finding the Common Ground

By Carolyn Schuk

Many politicians can say little in a lot of words. But it’s a rare politician who can say a lot in a few words. Santa Clara's Congressman Ro Khanna (D-District 17) is one of them. Recently, he took some time from a jam-packed day to talk with the Weekly about what Congress Members do all day—contrary to popular opinion, it isn't talking to lobbyists—and what it takes to be effective for constituents when your party is in the minority.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Santa Clara City Manager Calls it a Day

Santa Clara City Manager Julio Fuentes resigned from his position as the City's chief executive on Thursday, and says that his last day will be around the end of May. The reasons, says Fuentes, are personal and his relationship with the Santa Clara City Council remains cordial.

"I've run my race," he says, "and I'm ready to pass the baton. I've had an incredible opportunity to do things I never had an opportunity to do before and I'm grateful. We'll always look back fondly at our time in Santa Clara and I appreciate all the people who have been so great to me. I will always be a gigantic supporter."

A native of Southern California, the 59 year-old Fuentes lived his entire life there with the exception of the last three years. Three generations of family, including two of his children, are there, as well as many close friends. "At heart I'm a Southern California boy," he says.

He has been a city manager in four California cities – Pomona, Azusa, Alhambra and Santa Clara – for a total of almost 30 years. Fuentes' tenure as Santa Clara's city manager came at a transformational point in the City's history, and one that demanded the public administration equivalent of tightrope walking without a safety net.

Fuentes was hired by a unanimous vote of the City Council – Mayor Jamie Matthews and Council Members Lisa Gillmor, Will Kennedy, Patrick Kolstad, Patricia Mahan, Jamie McLeod and Kevin Moore.

One of Fuentes' recommendations was his strategic focus on community development; which earned's 2011 Official of the Year award. The organization recognized Fuentes' key role in making Alhambra's reputation as one of that region's most business-friendly cities with a growing economy, a new community theatre, and fresh and appealing public art and street-scaping.

On his first day on the job in Santa Clara in 2013, Fuentes faced a host of challenges, any one of which would constitute a fulltime job. Tackling them was a job that didn't allow much time for personal or family life, or even rest.

For almost a decade, Santa Clara's budget had been on a slide, following a tech bust, a real estate bust, and a changing economy. City departments faced budget and staffing cuts. Employees faced furloughs, with layoffs on the not-too-distant horizon. The City had a structural budget deficit and a nearly empty emergency reserve fund.

There was a looming battle over the assets of the shuttered redevelopment agency, and the real possibility that Santa Clara would lose millions in RDA lease revenues and hundreds of millions in city-owned real estate, including the Northside branch library and the Santa Clara Convention Center, with no money set aside to cover these claims if the City lost its case.

Santa Clara had also just embarked the previous April on the building of an estimated $1 billion football stadium, and the City Council had committed to a Super Bowl bid for the un-built stadium.

Three years later Fuentes will leave Santa Clara with over $50 million in emergency reserves, a balanced budget and a surplus, and significant new revenue from the development impact fees he proposed that will allow Santa Clara to start adding significantly to open space and parks in the City.

Santa Clara's Levi's Stadium was completed on schedule and about $200 million under budget. Last month Super Bowl 50 was an unqualified success – including a first-ever reimbursement for Super Bowl costs – and put Santa Clara on the world's map. People know Silicon Valley, Fuentes says, but they don't recognize the names of many of the region's cities. "Santa Clara doesn't have that problem any more."

After almost five years, the RDA lawsuit was finally settled and the City retained the Northside library and the Convention Center. The City's revenue growth, thanks to new development driving property tax revenue as well growing sales and hotel tax revenues, more than covers the lost RDA lease revenue.

But none of this comes without taking a physical toll on the City staff. Many cities alternate periods of intense and demanding change with periods of relative stasis, Fuentes says. But "Santa Clara is flat-lined at 100 mph every day. It's physically tiring.

"We have so many incredibly talented staff people," he continues. "Without doubt we're operating at the level of a city that's much larger because people are burning both ends against the middle. They are doing a Herculean job. But even Hercules gets worn out."

Fuentes still has some projects on his list to be finished before he leaves.

One is the package the City Council needs before it can give a go-ahead to Related Companies' proposed City Place Santa Clara retail, commercial and entertainment center on land that is currently the municipal golf course. "That project is incredibly important economically to the City," he says.

Other jobs include the 2016-17 budget and Levi's Stadium rent re-set (specified in the 2012 contract with the 49ers.)

"A lot of great decisions were made in the past," Fuentes says. These decisions enabled Santa Clara to become the dynamic city it is today. These decisions are still being made by the City Council for the future. "But they're also looking at how those decisions are going to be affect core services to residents. And that's the appropriate way to go."

What's next for Fuentes? It may be retirement and coaching high school football – something he's done in the past. It may another job in public administration – he has received offers, he says. "A lot of people tell me I should teach."

For public officials looking to make their communities places people come to instead of being places they leave, Fuentes is their man.

To read more:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Judge Rules: Dissolution Law Did Not Invalidate The Stadium Agreements

"Before redevelopment agencies were dissolved, the Forty Niners contracted with the City of Santa Clara's Stadium Authority and redevelopment agency to finance construction of a new stadium to be owned by the City and used by the Forty Niners. Do those contracts survive dissolution of the redevelopment agencies? The court concludes they do."

Read Judge Alan Sumner's ruling at and search for case # 34-2012-80001192. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

First Look at Santa Clara's Super Bowl Bid

Tuesday night Santa Clarans get their first look at what cities are expected to ante up for a Super Bowl bid. The City Council called a special meeting for Tuesday night to adopt a series of resolutions about government services – especially public safety – and tax and fee exemptions for the NFL during a Super Bowl.

Basically, the City of Santa Clara will the provide government services – including public safety, fire, emergency medical services to support the Super Bowl and related events held in Santa Clara at no cost to the NFL or to the teams playing in the Super Bowl. Instead, the San Francisco Super Bowl committee will reimburse Santa Clara for these costs – paying the city for pre-event services within 60 days of invoicing, and 50 percent of the anticipated Super Bowl event costs 30 days before the game.

Other accommodations concern city taxes and fees. One is that employees of the NFL and their affiliates will be exempt from Santa Clara hotel taxes and parking permit fees -- the estimate is this applies to around 350 people. The other is that Super Bowl tickets will be exempt from the Santa Clara's $0.35 per ticket surcharge. This is capped at $250,000 and the city estimates that most of that will be collected from regular season games.

The Council is working from estimates that a Super Bowl carries with it an economic boost for a region of $300 million. This is likely based on a Williams College study of Super Bowl economic impacts from 1970 to 2001, which posited the $300 million as the best case. The study also cautioned against confusing gross returns with net returns. 

The New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee reported $434 million in total overall economic activity tied to the 2013 Super Bowl, according to a report in New Orleans Times Picayune. The question is, of course: How much of that activity will be in the City of Santa Clara -- or even in Santa Clara County? San Francisco clearly anticipates that it's going to get a big boost. 

All this being said, a Super Bowl would be a tremendous boost for Santa Clara both in terms of civic prestige and city visibility. These are intangibles whose effects cannot be measured in the short term, yet pay dividends for the city decade after decade in many ways. 

Here's a link to read the agenda report and the text of the resolutions.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Santa Clara Cities Association Tells County: RDA Actions Aggressive, Partisan and Costly

A couple of weeks ago the Santa Clara County Cities Association sent a letter to the County Bpard of Supervisors about what amounts to their dereliction of duty in the unfolding RDA dissolution debacle. To what the cities say, we would only add that it seems reasonable to ask that the Board of Supervisors give at least as much attention to hundreds of millions in public investments as they do to George Shirakawa's now-notorious expense reports.

Here's the letter in its entirety (five pages):

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Contentious School Board Meetings Yield Higher Attendance, Plus a Vocabulary Lesson

Every cloud has a silver lining. Even the contentiousness that has characterized Santa Clara Unified School District Board meetings since the new board was seated in December -- although that may be hard to believe for those unfortunate enough to have endured those marathon meetings. 

The upside is that that many more people are attending board meetings and actively participating. And that, after all is what democracy is all about.

Another upside is that the community is getting to know some people, who are clearly articulate and informed about education, and, refreshingly, aren't connected with the usual suspects in Santa Clara politics. 

Let's hope that some of them come forward to run for Santa Clara Unified school board in 2014. Who knows, we may even see a new face from the South of Forest neighborhood if that area is successful in its fight to rationalize* district boundaries in this town. 

*Per Merriam-Webster, there are several meanings for the verb 'rationalize' besides "providing plausible but untrue reasons for conduct." These include: 
  • To bring into accord with reason 
  • To apply the principles of scientific management for a desired result
  • To substitute a natural for a supernatural explanation
  • To free from irrational parts (mathematical)
It seems to me that all of these apply to California's crazy quilt of school districts. They defy reason, are extremely costly and inefficient, are zealously defended by the High Priests of the Status Quo as divine directives, and need to be purged of irrelevant baggage that obstructs proper decision-making. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

School Accountability Report Cards, Public Access to Meetings On the Agenda for Jan. 10 SCUSD Board Meeting

The Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) has another full agenda for its first meeting of 2013.

Interim annual reports about current bond projects are on the agenda. Both bond issues – 2004's Measure J ($315 million) and 2010's Measure H ($81 million) – are for capital improvements to school facilities and both have a clean bill of health.

The district is also opening a request for bids to provide travel services for the district for the rest of the school year for multi-day field trips, athletic competitions, band performances, educational study trips, and special events.

The board will also be asked to approve hiring an Interim Assistant Superintendent, Business Services Division, Dana Taylor, at $85.00 per hour for up to 960 hours, for the remainder of the school year. This follows the retirement of the former Asst. Superintendent, Jim Luyau, after a 2012 extraordinary audit (report and analysis)  by the County Office of Education found questionable accounting practices on the part of district employees who were handling bookkeeping for two other county education agencies. Dana Taylor has experience in Moreland School District and was recommended by the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

Discussion Items:

School Accountability Report Cards (SARCs). These are detailed analyses of each school in the district, including: physical plant, materials, per-pupil spending, teacher salaries, demographics, and student performance. One observations: teacher salary and per-pupil spending doesn't predict student performance, but – no surprise – the percent of economically disadvantaged students does.

This item could be an opportunity for en encore of the Dec. 13th out-of-the-blue proposal made by Board Member Ina Bendis to make Bracher a K-6 – or K-8 – school. Making such a proposal through a routine Board Agenda, and without prior investigation or discussion is highly unusual, and provoked a tsunami of criticism from district teachers and parents, and accusations of hidden agendas and conflicts of interest. Board Member Chris Stampolis' children attend Bracher. Bendis has donated to Stampolis' political campaigns and provided him with pro bono legal advice

Posting Past Board Agendas and Minutes on the District Website, Video-Recording Board Meetings, proposed by Board President Christine Kolterman. There has been discussion over the years about bigger online archives, video-recording (instead of just audio-recording) and TV broadcast of board meetings. In the past the board majority ruled that the additional equipment, data storage and staff costs weren't justifiable. 

The irony here is that two sitting board members who opposed these moves lost re-election campaigns arguably because of the opacity of board proceedings. In the past, the Board kept detailed minutes of discussions. Baord Member Bendis objected, claiming that the minutes were biased, and the Board now keeps an action-only summary. 

Update from the Superintendent regarding the District's Extraordinary Audit Report: The Superintendent will present the district's 3-part plan to prevent similar abuses in the future:
·      Internal Control Structure: e.g. documentation
·      Hard Controls: signing authorities, monitoring
·      Soft Controls: social, i.e. employee roles

Public Access to Board Meetings.

Expect plenty of discussion on this topic, precipitated by the last three board meetings (Dec. 13, 18, and 19) which saw overflow crowds and audience behavior more familiar in the context of a sports competition than a school board meeting. A change of venue as well as rotating meeting locations will be discussed.

Board Members Ina Bendis and Christine Koltermann are trying to frame this as a civil rights issue on the grounds that the people who didn't get seats – some of whom may not speak English and at least one of whom was apparently disabled – were denied access to public meetings. As these meetings also were the setting for harsh criticism of the actions of the board's new majority – Bendis, Koltermann, Michele Ryan, and Stampolis – Bendis and Koltermann also allege that the their critics have suppressed other points of view by taking up all the seats.

Bendis previously set the tone for this discussion of civil rights and public decorum by referring to those who had reserved seats as an "exalted class." Over her 6-year tenure on the Board, Bendis has contributed to the lack of decorum she now bemoans with other similarly sarcastic remarks belittling other board members and district employees. She has also the subject of two harassment complaints brought against SCUSD. And last year she filed a police complaint (subsequently dismissed) against former Board Member Pat Flot, claiming that Flot had physically threatened her. Flot claims this was aimed at intimidating Flot from running for the board seat that opened up when long-time board member Don Bordenave retired.

Bendis also has claimed special privileges for herself, including speaking beyond the two-minute limit and a private office, on the grounds that she has ADHD, a disability that must legally be accommodated. Despite her ADHD, in the course of her 60+ years Bendis managed to earn a Ph.D.,, M.D.,  J.D. and admission to the California Bar.

Also under discussion
  • A process for qualifying search firms for finding a new Superintendent to replace Bobbie Plough who announced her retirement following Dec. 13's chaotic, 7-hour board meeting. This makes the third time SCUSD has hired a new Superintendent in 6 years. At the Dec. 19 meeting, Bendis proposed a subcommittee appointed by Board President Koltermann to research search firms. This was voted down 6-1 by the board. 
  • New instructional materials/resources for AP Foreign Language
  • New editions of handwriting and literacy intervention – who guessed that penmanship was still taught in school? You certainly couldn't prove it by my son's writing.
  • New Construction and Engineering Program Teacher position
  • Scheduling an SCUSD Board Governance Retreat
No indication about whether there will be a report from the Stampolis and Ryan about their recent trip to China, sponsored by the Hanban Institute of the Chinese Ministry of Education.