Cupertino Matters

Our Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD) is transitioning its Governing Board elections from at-large elections to by-trustee area elections. This will drastically affect community representation on the board, since voters will vote for one candidate every four years, instead of the current at-large elections with alternating two/three trustees each election. The district has set up a Community Trustee Area Districting (CTAD) Committee to facilitate the process of gathering input and developing the draft maps that will be considered by the Board. There will be multiple community meetings to gather public input, then the Committee will submit a set of focus maps to the Board of Trustees for consideration.

The Board of Trustees’ goal is that the CTAD Committee will represent the diverse communities, interests and experience of the residents of the District. Readers are urged to apply to the CTAD committee. The application is available at  https://www.fuhsd.org/newsroom/trustee-areas with the application window closing on October 30 at 4:00 PM. Note that this process does not affect school attendance boundaries nor does it result in the closure of schools.

FUHSD has posted 4 sets of draft maps and a public input questionnaire at this webpage: https://www.fuhsd.org/newsroom/trustee-areas These conceptual maps were discussed at the Oct. 17 FUHSD Board of Trustees Meeting, Item 8.2. Public Hearing: Input Regarding Composition of Trustee Areas, in order to receive public input. The Board Packet for the Oct. 17 Meeting contains the presentation by the consultants. In addition, there is an accompanying audio recording for this meeting, with Item 8.2 starting at approximately 46 minutes. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the most recent meeting. Note that both Cupertino and Sunnyvale are too large to fit into single districts, as there can be no more than a 10% population variance between districts.

Cupertino again made the front page of the Oct. 20, 2023, Local Section of the Mercury News with the article  Former mayor threatens to sue the city:  Paul cites ‘campaign of defamation and intimidation’ by many reported by Grace Hase. Readers who had trouble accessing the original  letter and the city’s response using the Public Record Request 23-121 may access both letters here. See Paul’s bizarre, convoluted response on Twitter.

Fiscal misunderstanding regarding city finances is being  perpetuated on the dais by Councilmember Kitty Moore who questioned the city’s financial status and erroneously suggested that $150 million representing most of the city’s capital and General Fund money was available for expenditure on a single capital project. In just the previous meeting, the city established a General Fund Sales Tax Repayment Reserve of $56.5 million for potential sales tax refund liability. This part of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration’s sales tax audit represents a one-time hit to city finances. This money remains in city investment accounts until such time (which may be many years) that it has to be repaid. In addition, the city will lose ongoing sales tax revenues reducing revenue for the General Fund to $80 million to cover operating expenses, including law enforcement, salaries for day-to-day operations, utilities, taxes and maintenance of the city infrastructure, as well as debt service. The result is an ongoing  “structural deficit” with a projection of $86 million in expenditures and only $80 million in revenue for the General Fund.

There are different sources of revenue for the city, and there are restrictions on how some of that money can be spent. Revenue comes in periodically, and money is spent throughout the fiscal year, not just at the beginning of the year. The city is fiscally prudent by parking unspent money in investment accounts for interest income until the bills have to be paid.

Shouldn’t a sitting council member understand these basic financial concepts?  Councilmember Kitty Moore was Chair of the Audit Committee for two years, yet her statements on the dais exhibit a fundamental lack of understanding of the city’s fiscal position and how its investment funds work.

The next regular city council meeting will be Nov. 7.

CITY COUNCIL – Mon, Oct. 30, 5:30 p.m.  Closed Session

Item #1  Public Employee Performance Evaluation (Gov. Code § 54957(b)(1)); Title: City Attorney 

Item #2  Public Employee Performance Evaluation (Gov. Code § 54957(b)(1)); Title: City Manager

CITY COUNCIL – Wed., Oct. 25, 6:00 p.m.  Closed Session

Item #1 Conference with Labor Negotiators pursuant to Government Code § 54957.6 (Kristina Alfaro and Christopher Boucher)

Item #2 Conference with legal counsel – initiation of litigation pursuant to Government Code § 54956.9(c) (City of Cupertino v. California Department of Tax & Fee Administration)

RECAP – CITY COUNCIL – Tues, Oct. 17, 2023, 6:45 p.m., Regular Meeting; Special meeting 5:30 p.m. 

YouTube:  Part 1: 3 hr. 9 min.  Part 2: 2 hr. 10 min.

Agenda and Presentations 

Special Meeting Agenda Item No. 1: Approval of Joint Powers Agreement to establish the Cities Association of Santa Clara County Joint Powers Agency. After discussion and failure of a substitute motion by Moore, this item was approved 3-2 with Moore and Chao voting nay.

Regular Meeting
Item No. 7: Options for construction of a City Hall facility. As outlined in the staff report for this item, funding options for infrastructure are severely limited due to the sales tax audit and resulting structural deficit. The draft Strategic Market and Programming Analysis Report provides a good overview of funding, demographics and the housing market in Cupertino, identifying a lack of rental housing as a significant issue for the city.  Average age of rentals is 1991, with no new major Class A apartments delivered in Cupertino since 2018.

Though the item on the agenda was to give direction to city staff to explore financing options for city hall, the approximately 50 public comments focused heavily on “saving the Cupertino Sports Center”, with the primary emphasis on the 17 reservable tennis courts, favored by instructors and non-residents. (There are an additional 17 public courts in other neighborhoods and Memorial Park.) The Sports Center building itself is dated and underutilized. The entire facility is heavily subsidized by the city General Fund, with $2.6 million in revenue and expenses of $3.5 million, losing almost $900,000 a year. This situation is not sustainable in the city’s current fiscal environment.

Other speakers recognized the issues of an unsafe city hall and encouraged staff to continue to explore other opportunities for public private partnerships (P3s)., recognizing they are complex. Only the Sports Center site and the current city hall sites are large enough to support a mixed use development, with rental housing providing the income stream to support the non-revenue producing municipal facilities.

The council spent almost an hour grappling with the different options, handicapped by lack of financial acumen by some councilmembers. Mayor Wei made a motion to direct staff to pursue conceptual development with financial strategies for City Hall.

Councilmember Moore then proposed a substitute motion to resurrect her 2022  proposal to retrofit the existing city hall for $27.5 million (retaining an outdated building), and misstating funds availability for capital projects. That motion failed 2-3 with Wei, Fruen and Mohan voting nay.

Councilmember Chao then made a motion to take financing to the voters, without realizing that ballot measures are very expensive and time-consuming. Her motion failed 2-3 with Wei, Fruen and Mohan voting nay.

Finally, Mayor Wei’s original motion as amended was approved 3-2 with Chao and Moore voting nay. The motion was as follows:

Wei moved and Fruen seconded to direct staff to pursue conceptual development with viable financing strategies for the City Hall, including new City Hall and/or renovation of existing City Hall, while excluding development to publicly owned recreational facilities including the Sports Center. Also, instruct City staff to research and bring to the public and City Council the following:

  1. Examples of successful Public Private Partnership projects for reference.
  2. Pursue partnership with potential development partnerships.

Item No. 8: Blackberry Farm (BBF) Golf Course Feasibility Study, considering options to complete minimal repairs and improvements to the BBF Golf Course (Option 1) or convert BBF Golf Course to a Natural Habitat (Option 3). The staff recommendation  was to proceed with minimal repairs to maintain the golf course. Public input strongly favored this recommendation, citing the value of retaining recreational facilities, particularly for seniors, youth and families. Council approved unanimously.

CUPERTINO COURIER: October 27,  2023

The front page photo and article on page 5 is entitled Feather in their cap: Online gallery part of inaugural September Bird Celebration. Local Audubon Society creates an online gallery for bird art; The Cupertino-based group’s September Bird Celebration receives  50 art submissions. Community briefs are (1) FUHSD districting committee and (2)  Historic Tavern Talk. Page 4 is a Special Feature by Supervisor Joe Simitian highlighting (1) County Health Care Closer to Home in the West Valley and North County, and (2) A New Chapter for Lehigh Cement Plant and Quarry. Page 10 is the previously published Mercury News article referenced above with a different headline:  Former mayor threatens to sue the city: Darcy Paul cites ‘campaign of defamation and intimidation’’. There are two notices of second readings of ordinances approved by the city council.

CUPERTINO COURIER: October 20,  2023

The front page photo and article on page 5 is entitled ‘Making shows for 40 years: Cupertino TV Productions plans a retrospective program. Seniors celebrate ‘Better Part’ of 40 years of making CTVP shows. Community briefs are (1) Eastbound Stevens Creek Blvd. closed and (2) Street sweeping tickets. The sole legal notice is Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) and Request for Proposals for capital housing projects.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor