ATTENTION Commission Interviews – Mon. Jan. 25, 2021, 6:00 p.m.; Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2021, 6:00 p.m.
This last week, our attention focused on Washington, D.C., and the inauguration of our new president, thankful that this was a peaceful event, though under heavy security.
This week, the city council selects new community representatives for the next round of appointments to city commissions. The Planning Commission is of particular concern since it has a quasi-judicial function and can make binding decisions. The two most experienced members with extensive planning and public engagement backgrounds are leaving: Alan Takahashi (termed out) and David Fung (declined to reapply). That leaves Commissioner Vikram Saxena with two years on the commission, and Commissioner Sanjiv Kapil, who is filling out Kitty Moore’s term (and has attended one meeting so far). Both are engineers with no previous planning experience.
There are 17 applicants for the 3 seats. Some applicants merit particular concern, for reasons not reflected in their applications:
- R “Ray” Wang, the current acting chair, was previously convicted under a cyberstalking law for charges arising out of an apparent political dispute with a member of the Redwood City Planning Commission. He subsequently moved to Cupertino and changed his name. The charges came to light again when Mr. Wang threatened the employment of pro-housing political critics on Nextdoor. Shouldn’t applicants be properly vetted for criminal convictions prior to appointment? Is this consistent with city ethics? What message would his reappointment send?
- Steven Scharf, a former mayor, who refused to take disciplinary action against Wang, when charges were made known. He brought the city under additional scrutiny for his highly controversial remarks in his 2019 State of the City address, and developed a reputation for being difficult to work with among regional leaders. He sued the city in 2016 over Measure C and lost in court four times on the issue, costing the city $225,000 in legal fees. Cupertino voted him out of office while he was the sitting mayor, so why should he be considered for a pivotal role as the city grapples with increasing housing to meet state mandates? Given his past conduct and his poor treatment of constituents in public fora, what message would his appointment send the public and regional policymakers?
Council will conduct interviews for city commissions beginning at 6 p.m. on Monday, January 25, 2021 and Tuesday, January 26, 2021. These are Brown Act meetings, so the public can “attend”, though no oral feedback is allowed. These will be on Zoom, same as other city meetings, but not be televised on the city TV channel. Readers will need to register to be able to view the interviews.
- Planning Commission
- Library Commission
- Fine Arts Commission
- Housing Commission
- Bicycle Pedestrian Commission
- Audit Committee
Readers may review the complete list of applicants for all commissions, and send their comments regarding qualifications of applicants prior to 4:30 each day of interviews. Actual applications are not posted on the city website, but these have been obtained through a Public Records Act (PRA) request. They are not in name or commission order, so use CTRL F to search for individual names.
Here is the relevant section of the Policy Embracing the City’s Demographic Diversity, which has been disregarded by the majority council which has previously favored their political contributors and followers, rather than qualified applicants. Also note that the Planning Commission has no women commissioners, no young people, nobody with a planning background, and no renters. The Housing Commission suffers similar deficiencies, though 40% of Cupertino consists of renters.
Section 1 of this policy explicitly states:
A. To foster comprehensive representation within advisory commissions and committees, it would be advantageous for new members to represent the community by such factors as culture, gender, age, and location of residency within the city.
B. In the conduct of their business, commission and committee members shall pursue the benefit of a variety of perspectives in making decisions.
C. Commissions and committees increase the city’s potential, effectiveness and creativity as an organization by offering a wide range of approaches and perspectives to addressing issues and solving problems. Resolution No. 03-203
There is also a minimalist City of Cupertino Ethics Policy.
Readers are urged to voice their opinions to individual councilmembers, the council as a whole, the city manager, and the city clerk. Note that emails to city council as a whole are forwarded to the city manager, whereas emails to individual councilmembers are not. Clearly include in the subject line that you are commenting on commission interviews.
City Manager Deb Feng: firstname.lastname@example.org
City Clerk Kirsten Squarcia: email@example.com
City Council: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Darcy Paul: email@example.com
Vice-Mayor Liang Chao: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember Jon Willey: email@example.com
Councilmember Hung Wei firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember Kitty Moore email@example.com
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