Friday, October 18, 2013

Oct. 2013 League of Women Voters Candidates' Forum - Seat 2

Perma-link to here:

This is a summary of candidates forum for Seat 2: Glenn Hendricks, Steve Hoffman, and Gustavo Magana (34 minute mark)
See also seat 3 (Grifith vs Merrick) here:

This is part 2 for seat 2 in the Sunnyvale City Council Election covering the 2nd 50 minutes of the 120 minute video.  I made editorial decisions to select some parts and leave out others for the sake of readability.

The video of the League of Women Voters Sunnyvale City Council candidates’ forum on Oct. 15th, 2013 is available here:


Gustavo Magana: created a program at Santa Clara University to increase the enrollment of minority students

Glenn Hendricks: planning commission, and many other committees.

Steve Hoffman: Active in community, attends all city council meetings, bringing up civility and ethics.

1. 38 min:  Completion of downtown (It’s been 10 years!)

a.       Glenn Hendricks – city is too passive, try to get parties talking, pass disincentive to the current situation, pressure the developer.

b.      Steve Hoffmann – agrees – claims Hendricks took his (Hoffman’s) position.  Council has been spineless about this.  Notes he (Hoffman) has not taken developer money and would not be beholden to developers.  2 years ago when he (Hoffman) ran everyone claimed they would do something about the downtown and nothing has happened. 

c.       Magana – currently in law school.  Because it is in litigation there is not much that can be done.  Penalties on developer but cannot be done easily.  Why weren’t penalties levied beforehand? Those responsible should be held accountable.

d.      Hendricks – he has received no contributions from downtown developers – urges aggressive action.

e.      Hoffman – limits on contributions to federal campaigns are $2600 per candidate yet Glenn Hendricks has received more than that from an individual developer and also taken money from the head of the largest developer PAC (SunPAC).

2.       43 min:  How would you balance the need for econ growth, affordable housing, and preserve neighborhood character?

a.       Hoffman – we have a General Plan and we should follow it - not look at each little pocket in isolation.  Currently the city council is on a marathon to approve millions of square feet of commercial space as if they are afraid of losing their majority and need to get it all approved before a new city council takes over.  This is without accounting for the burden on schools and city services, including fewer police than 10 years ago.

b.      Magana – income disparity needs to be addressed.  People who have lived here for years are being forced out by the rising cost of housing.  The placing of buildings needs to be considered.

c.       Hendricks – the general plan is updated every ten years and you can get involved.  Zoning decides what goes where and that is the process – input from the community decides all this.

d.      Hoffman – Claims Hendricks says everything relies on community input but to Hoffman it is “open doors and deaf ears” - no one listens.  He (Hoffman) has been trying to give input for 2 years with no response.  He (Hoffman) went to the planning commission and they wouldn’t even answer a question.  If he (Hoffman) is elected, that will change dramatically.

e.      Gustavo Magana – If there were community input so many people wouldn’t be upset about the LinkedIn building.  Currently council listens and then ignores the input and does what they were going to do anyway.

f.        Hendricks – was at the planning commission meeting Hoffman attended (as a member of the commission) and notes that the meeting was only to receive input, not to answer questions, which comes later.

3.       50 min: Is the city doing enough to notify residents and receive input from residents about developments in their area and if not what would you propose?

a.       Hendricks – city is not doing an adequate job.  After the input from residents that their property values were going down because of the LinkedIn building he proposed on the planning commission that the notification area be extended (detail not mentioned: he proposed 2,000 foot radius instead of current 300 foot radius but was opposed by commissioner Gustav Larsson who felt 1,000 feet was enough).  He claims that the idea that people don’t listen is patently false.  He loves it when people come to planning commission meetings.

b.      Magana – there seems to be a complete lack of outreach to the community.  LinkedIn is a good example.  Why didn’t they go out and knock on doors and get input.

c.       Hoffman – the city doesn’t listen – Mr. Hendricks blames people for not showing up but he (Hoffman) has been going to the meetings for years and sees that everyone is ignored.  There needs to be citizen groups to work advise the city.

d.      Hendricks – the commissions that currently exist are the citizens groups Mr. Hoffman wants.  We want to hear from the public

e.      Magana – what we need is people who are actively engaged in the community.  Mr. Hendricks is like a teacher telling a class that isn’t learning that it is their fault.

f.        Hoffman – planning commissions get nominated by the council.  Mr. Hendricks was Council Member Jim Griffith’s campaign treasurer and shortly after was nominated to the planning commission.  Council nominates their own kind of people with the same mind-set.  He (Hoffman) applied to the planning commission and was turned down and now understands the reason.

4.       57 min: Do you think the city is on a sustainable course to maintain pay and pension costs.

a.       Magana – need better communication with the groups that receive pensions.  Respects pensions so people can have a decent retirement.  Should not take away the retirement from current retirees.

b.      Hoffman – the current course is not sustainable.  The average compensation for full time public safety officers in Sunnyvale is $250,000.  They can then retire with up to 90% of their highest earnings (editorial comment – the compensation includes overtime which is not included in retirement income in Sunnyvale though it is in other cities and counties).  By comparison, if you went to an insurance co. at age 55 when police and fire officers can retire after 30 years of service and bought an annuity to guarantee $100,000/year income for the rest of your life, you would have to give them $2.1 million.  The question is not whether they deserve it, they do, but whether it is sustainable and the answer is no.  Employees in the private sector get nothing like this and public employees should receive similar retirement to that of the private sector.

c.       Hendricks – the current course is not sustainable.  The employees need to contribute more.  We need to work with our bargaining units to make it sustainable. I think the bargaining units understand that it is not sustainable but they will want to negotiate the changes.

d.      Magana – Mr. Hoffman talks about facing reality but this is an expensive place and retirees should not have to move from the place they have lived all their lives just to afford retirement.

e.      Hoffman – That is not what I am saying, just that city employees should face the same realities private sector employees will face.  As for what Mr. Hendricks said, when the bargaining units negotiate with the city council Mr. Hendricks will have a major conflict of interest since much of his campaign is financed and supported by unions.

f.        Hendricks- Mr. Hoffman is dealing with half-truths – I do not believe the unions are spending 100’s of thousands of dollars on flyers.  I will not be beholden to the unions.

5.       1 hr 03 min: Revenues – will increased spending on public safety, parks, etc. require more taxes?

a.       Hoffman – Sunnyvale does not have a revenue problem so we don’t need to raise revenue in fact there are a lot of excessive fees.  The biggest expense is employee salaries.  We currently pay police and fire $50,000 more than the second highest in Santa Clara County.  If we paid only $25,000 more than the 2nd highest we could increase the police force by 10%.  We do not need to increase revenue.

b.      Hendricks – we need more revenue and we should increase the Hotel tax which Mr. Hoffman opposes.  I favor greater revenues in fees from developers

c.       Magana – I think we can live with the revenue we have now.  We need to set our priorities straight and make sure that we interact with the community so we give them parks they need.

d.      Hoffman - I find it curious that Mr. Hendricks brings up the hotel tax because that brings up the issue of integrity and civility in the council.  I spoke against it and Mr. Hendricks has misrepresented my position despite my emails informing him.

e.      Hendricks - Mr. Hoffman is speaking half-truths that I have somehow violated some rule or done something wrong.  The Federal campaign contribution limit does not apply to local elections.  That is a big difference between us in that I have had a very positive campaign.

f.        Magana – we should be more civil to each other.

6.       1 hr 10 min: Campaign finance – you have different approaches to campaigning, please estimate how much your campaign expects to spend this campaign?  Please share your opinion on whether campaign contributions can influence thinking or lead to conflicts of interest.

a.       Magana – I am trying to do it as grass roots as possible because I grew up understanding money doesn’t grow on trees.  I will keep my spending under $1,000. If you are taking money from people you already agree with that is okay, but if you are taking money from anyone that offers it, that leads to conflict of interest and is wrong.

b.      Hendricks – I am doing retail politics going door-to-door talking to everyone but I can’t reach everyone so I have to go to mailers.  This takes money and people have given me money to support this.  I have not accepted money from any negative organizations.  Some businesses and organizations have contributed to me they are reputable well-respected organizations or businesses in the city and there is no reason to run away or hide from that.  I do not feel I will beholden so I can do what I think is the right thing for Sunnyvale.

c.       Hoffman – Mr. Hendricks did not answer the question of how much he expects to spend. It is not only how much he will spend but how much will be spent on his behalf by special interests.  The Police Officer’s Assoc., which is like a union, is spending many tens of thousands, possibly up to $100,000 when you add all the money for all the candidates they are supporting. I am on a mission over here – I believe I will spend about $2,000 all contributed by individuals so I will not have any debt (editorial comment – he is referring to “pay off the debt” post-election “parties” where people can contribute to already elected officials). We have all seen what happens in Washington, D.C. – it has a corrupting effect.

7.       1 hr 15 minutes: Civility – what will you do to foster good communications on the City Council?

a.       Hendricks – there is a complete lack of civility.  I have been trained to actively listen and hear the content rather than tone.  It stops city business and hurts the business.  I have been working on the planning commission in a collaborative style.

b.      Hoffman - You need to communicate with those you oppose as well as those you agree with.  Mr. Hendricks has not communicated with Mr. Meyering or responded to my emails.

c.       Magana – People on the city council are not aware of the negative impact of their bickering.

8.       1 hr 19 min – why should voters choose you?

a.       Magana – I have lived here all my life and have seen people in poverty and homeless and beat up because of their color or gang affiliation.  I want to represent the dispossessed.

b.      Hendricks – I was born and raised here and love Sunnyvale.  I want to work on your behalf on the policies and general plan and make Sunnyvale a better place to live for you and my children.

c.       Hoffman – I have lived here since I graduated college.  We have all seen the decline in Sunnyvale in the last 10, 15 years.  I will try to get a law passed requiring all council members to recuse themselves from voting on issues affecting their campaign contributors. This may be the last chance to get a council not controlled by unions and developers.

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