Hope all of you had an enjoyable Mother’s Day weekend!
City council is dealing with a lot of issues this month. On May 9, the council held a public review of the Fact Finding Report which further investigated the watchdog Civil Grand Jury report entitled, “A House Divided: Cupertino City Council and City Staff” released on December 19, 2022. The report substantiated the Grand Jury findings.
The nearly three hour long meeting consisted primarily of public input, with over 30 speakers, including a 10 minute rant by former Mayor Darcy Paul. Councilmember Kitty Moore made a statement, then walked off the dais, though advised by the City Attorney that there was no need for recusal. Councilmember Liang Chao arrived over an hour after the meeting started, due to a work conflict, made a statement, interrupted corrections by the city attorney and the investigator, and then walked out of the chamber. Many of the public speakers called for the councilmembers to work together, yet there were two empty seats when Mayor Wei, Vice-Mayor Mohan and Councilmember Fruen had to decide further actions. Furthermore, the city manager indicated that Couniclmember Moore has refused to meet with her one-on-one since February.
This headline article in the Mercury News summarizes the meeting: Cupertino investigation triggers removal of two councilmembers from their committees, referral of former mayor to the DA’s office: Two of the sitting councilmembers could be censured NBC Bay Area TV covered the event on May 15, 2023 story: 2 Cupertino City Councilmembers Stripped of Committee Assignments This story was also covered by Cupertino Today Independent investigation confirms Grand Jury report of Cupertino Council dysfunction Previous to the council meeting, the Mercury News published an article on Grand Jury and Fact Finding Reports themselves: ‘Devalued, demeaned and frustrated’: Cupertino investigation finds culture of distrust in staff from two council members The investigation comes after a Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury report issued similar findings.
The other major challenge is the city budget with three meetings this week. The city faces a major cut due to an audit by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) which has targeted the sales tax reporting of a major sales tax producer for the city of Cupertino. The preliminary number from the state is an ongoing reduction of $31 million (or approximately a 30% loss of sales revenue) according to a city press release, substantially more than originally anticipated when notified in the FY2021-22 Mid-Year Financial report. The exact size of the shortfall remains unknown and may require years to resolve.
In the meantime, the city has to plan for an initial worst case scenario for their FY2023-24 budget starting July 1. In the budget packet for the Wednesday city council study session, City Manager, the city manager outlines strategies for managing the shortfall:
- Reduced spending across all categories
- Reduced full time staffing over a 10-year period through elimination of vacant positions
- Use of both the pension trust and retiree health trust
- Significant use of reserves
Budget cuts are necessary so the city is asking residents to provide input on the prioritization of areas for reduction. Readers are urged to complete this 2023 Community Budget Survey to guide the Finance Department as the new budget is prepared. For context, Public Works is 27% of the budget, followed by Law Enforcement (18%) and Community Development (12%). Given the large size of the shortfall, Finance is focusing on larger areas of potential savings and/or revenue generation.
Readers are urged to attend the Community Budget Town Hall on Thursday, May 18, where community feedback as well as the council feedback will be presented. Details on registration below.
In school news, as announced in the Mercury News: Former Cupertino mayor appointed to high school board: Rod Sinks will serve out term of the late Roy Rocklin, the vacant seat on the Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD) board was filled. The board faces the challenge of declining enrollments and a switch to trustee area-based elections.
UPCOMING – Community Budget Town Hall, Thurs., May 18, 6:30 p.m., Community Hall
This Budget Town Hall meeting will inform the community about the City’s financial outlook and discuss potential budget-balancing strategies. Join City staff on to learn about the City’s financial standing and to give your input. This is a hybrid meeting. You can attend virtually or in-person at Cupertino Community Hall, 10350 Torre Avenue.
Register here for Zoom participation.
UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Wed,. May 17, 2023, 5:00, Budget Study Session
Item No. 1: Initial Study Session on Fiscal Year (FY) 2023-24 Proposed Operating and Capital Improvement Program Budgets. This will be a long session, since the draft budget is over 600 pages.As a result of the revenue reductions, the City will need to reduce or eliminate some services. This will be difficult for residents and staff, but necessary for the city’s financial stability. Proposed reductions include:
- Elimination of some free events and reduced fee waivers for festivals
- A reduction in planned free Wi-Fi in parks
- Fewer professional development opportunities for staff due to reduced Citywide training and conference attendance
- A decrease in technology purchases and fewer pilots of future tech, like augmented and virtual reality
- A reduction in services and longer response times for Cupertino 311 requests
- Decreased frequency of maintenance at City facilities, parks, streets, and trees
- Reduced pavement maintenance expenditures which may affect the pavement condition index (PCI)
UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Tues. May 16, 2023, 6:45, Regular Meeting
Agenda and Presentations (note new order for the agenda)
The one Ceremonial Item is a Presentation from West Valley Community Services on the Annual Impact Report. This is followed by Postponements and Orders of the Day, then Oral Communications for members of the public.
The Consent Calendar has eleven routine items. Items which may be pulled for additional discussion (1) Item 6 Consider the City Manager’s Third Quarter Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2022-23, particularly attachment F. Third Quarter Special Projects Update, Attachment G. Competitive and Noncompetitive Grants tracking , and H. CIP Project Status. (2) Two public works bids exceeded staff estimates, so are recommended for rejection and rebidding.
Members of the public may speak on any or all consent calendar items when the mayor asks for public comment on the Consent Calendar. If a member of the council pulls an item from the Consent Calendar, it will be addressed after all action items. Members of the public may comment on that item when it is considered.
There is a single Action Item No. 13 to consider a first reading of Ordinance No. 23-2248: “An Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Cupertino amending Chapter 9.18 of the Cupertino Municipal Code (CMC) regarding Stormwater Pollution Prevention and Watershed Protection.” This code needs to be updated to comply with changes in regional law under the federal Clean Water Act.
There are eight Informational Items. Of note, Item No. 15 FY 2022-2023 City Work Program Third Quarter Update streamlines. Work Plan, CIP and operational items, as well as defunded/postponed work items. Additionally Item No. 16 to receive the Library Construction Audit Report is noteworthy. The internal auditor, Moss-Adams, identified a mere $327 of questionable costs for a $6,962,084.22 project, showing exceptional oversight by the CIP staff. This was one of the areas of concern identified in the 2020 Enterprise Risk Assessment Report.
RECAP – CITY COUNCIL – Tues. May 9, 2023, 6:00 Special Meeting
YouTube: 2 hr. 53 min.
Agenda and Presentations (Includes the Grand Jury Report and the Fact Finding Report)
Item #1: Consider a report regarding the review of potential violations of the City of Cupertino Municipal Code and City policies regarding Council- and commissioner-staff relations (“Report”) As previously mentioned, this was a difficult meeting. After prolonged discussion the council voted to adopt the recommendations and took the following additional actions (1) to remove Councilmembers Chao and Moore from their committee assignments, subject to monitoring to determine whether censure would be warranted when the Council Procedures Manual is reviewed in the fall; and (2) referral of the evidence of councilmember interference in the hiring and firing decisions of the city manager to the District Attorney’s office for further investigation on a 3-0-2 vote (Chao and Moore absent). Council also took action to authorize the release of a portion of the emails that were part of the investigation but that are not protected by the attorney-client privilege or that would invoke personnel confidentiality and privacy concerns. The city attorney’s office has since published 185 of the 1500 emails that the independent investigator examined. They reveal an astonishing level of pettiness, suspicion, paranoia, derisiveness, and the micromanagement of staff and the city manager on the part of Councilmembers Moore and Chao. The following excerpt where Councilmember Moore makes specific demands about her dietary needs is emblematic of nature of the rest of the emails:
CUPERTINO COURIER: May 12, 2023
The front page photo and article on page 5 is entitled Next in succession: Finalists selected for chancellor of Foothill-DeAnza Community College District. Community briefs include (1) Budget Town Hall set, (2) Free band concert, and (3) Student research champ. Page 11 is a previously published Mercury News article entitled Probe takes Cupertino Leaders to task: Investigation comes after a Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury issued similar findings The single legal notice is hearing before the Planning Commission on May 23 for 1655 S. DeAnza Blvd. for a mixed used development to replace the Coach House site..
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