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Information About Our Special Interest Watch Resident Information Card

 

You may have seen or received a copy of our Special Interest Watch.org resident information card. The card contains a number of quite frankly shocking facts. We present here a complete set of answers to the questions including supporting references to City of Sunnyvale and other agency public documents.

 

As stated on the card, see how your Sunnyvale City Council:

  • Received thousands of dollars from employee unions and gave the employees tens of millions of dollars in excessive raises:
    You can see the results here by just tallying up the contributions for the individual Councilmembers (Chu, Hamilton, Howe, Lee, Moylan, and Spitaleri), that accepted thousands of dollars in employee union contributions. Councilmember David Whittum took no money from the employee unions. The Sunnyvale Public Safety Officers Association PSOA in the last several years has given over $50,000 in cash and political advertising to 7 current or former Councilmembers and even more to other candidates. The City Council responded to their generosity by awarding officers a 44% increase in compensation in just 6 years (see Page 2 of the City of Sunnyvale's Recomended 2009/2010 Budget City Manager's Letter of Transmittal).

    The letter goes on to explain that. on average, Sunnyvale employee raises have averaged about 36% over 6 years. The letter further states that employee compensation accounts for 86% of Sunnyvale's $123 million general fund operating budget. For 2009/2010 this comes to $105 million. Meanwhile, in the private sector, raises have averaged less than half of the 36% provided to City employees. The difference comes to an annual burden almost $20 million per year in excessive raises! I

  • Voted to sell land designated for future parks; yet voted to continue lifetime medical benefits at taxpayer expense.
    The current City Council (except for Councilmembers David Whittum and Melinda Hamilton) voted to sell properties the City had acquired as part of the Murphy Park parcel and all the land now dedicated for Orchard Gardens Park (see Sunnyvale City Council Minutes - 7/14/09). The City council voted themselves continued lifetime medical benefits at their meeting of February 13, 2007 ( Sunnyvale City Council Minutes - 02/13/07).

    Despite what Candidates Spitaleri and the Sunnyvale Public Safety Officer Association (PSOA) are saying that Mr. Spitaleri eliminated lifetime medical for Council members, this simply is not true. Mr. Spitaleri and the rest of the Council voted for continued lifetime medical benefits for Councilmembers. Councilmember Moylan also voted to continue to this benefit, despite a barage of last minute campaign flyers that portend to suggest otherwise.

     This is the exact exchange as reported in the City Council minutes of February 13, 2009:

    MOTION: Vice Mayor Spitaleri moved and Councilmember Swegles seconded to discontinue retirement medical benefits from this day forward for newly elected City Councilmembers.

    Director Young stated if Vice Mayor Spitaleri wanted Council to have medical while in office, he would need to select Alternative No. 3.

    Restated MOTION: Vice Mayor Spitaleri moved and Councilmember Swegles seconded to approve Alternative No. 3: Select Alternative 2, and in addition, provide a cafeteria plan City contribution while Councilmembers are actively in office that will provide benefits equal to management employees. Upon retirement, the City contribution will remain at the PERS minimum contribution and the Councilmember will be responsible for any additional premiums.

     
    VOTE: 7-0

    Mr. Spitaleri's motion only reduced, but did not eliminate lifetime medical benefits for Councilmembers.

    See also "The Truth About Lifetime Medical Benefits for Councilmembers."

  •  Took thousands of dollars from developers and voted to let the non-performing downtown developer walk way from a $5 million penalty.
    Again, you can look and see the thousands of dollars each of the current City Councilmembers took from developers. The only exception was David Whittum who took no money from developers.

    On November 18, 2009 (with Councilmembers Whittum and Moylan opposed), the Council voted to change the existing milestone dates for the development of the Sunnyvale Town Center Project (see City of Sunnyvale Redevelopment Agency Minutes from November 18, 2009). The dates were extended at the request of the developer. The intent of the motion was to clearly allow the developer to not have to pay an impending multi-million penalty. Had the new dates been met by the developer, a potential $5 million penalty would have been waived. Since that action, the developer has defaulted on the project and the project is now in receivership. Even using the modified dates, the developer currently owes the City approximately $1.79 million in penalties.

  • Allowed violent crime to increase by 7% and vehicle thefts by 42% over the last 5 years.
    According to FBI crime statistics, in 2003 there were 172 violent crimes and 243 vehicle thefts in Sunnyvale. In 2008, these had increased to 184 violent crimes and 346 vehicle thefts, an increase of 7% and 42%, respectively (see FBI Crime Reports for the years 2003 and 2008).

    Sexual assaults are now more common in Sunnyvale as one can see at crimereports.com, with several recent rapes, none of which were reported in the local newspapers.

  • Violated State Election Laws as determined by the Santa Clara County Grand Jury and District Attorney.
    Both the Santa Clara county Grand Jury and the District Attorney found that the City Council of the City of Sunnyvale knowingly violated State Election laws when they installed newly elected members to the City Council in 2005 even before the Registrar of Voters had certified the election as final. See 2006-2007 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury Report. The report was clear that City Councilmembers knew what they did was against the law, and yet still went ahead and did it!

  • Supported more tax increases in the last four years than any other City Council in the recent history of Sunnyvale.
    The City Council has supported four major tax increase in the last four years:
        1) An increase in the City business license tax
        2) An increase in the City transient occupancy tax (hotel tax)
        3) An increase in the City property tax
        4) A 1/2 percent increase in the County sales tax
    No other City Council in the recent history of Sunnyvale has supported more tax increases.

    When discussions turn again toward a new library, a new firehouse, parks, with the uncontrollable increase in employee compensation and the depletion of the City's reserve, the incumbents will no doubt turn to increased taxes as the easy solution.

  • Approved employee salaries that resulted in 25% of the full time City employees receiving over $150,000 per year in total compensation.
    According to data supplied by the City for the 2008 year (the latest data available from the city and presented on this site) 230 out of 979 full-time employees made over $150,000 in 2008.

  • Reversed the City's long-time practice of responding to all citizen requests for information.
    In 2005 I wrote, emailed, and personally delivered a letter to the Sunnyvale City Council requesting the City answer charges made by the Registrar of Voters that Sunnyvale had violated election laws. I asked the City and our City Council to provide all information they had on file regarding the incident. They never answered my letter.

    I have received many other reports from residents that the City refuses to answer requests for information when the information may reflect badly on the City.

  • Voted to spend over $20 million of the City's reserves (savings) accumulated over the last 20 years without having to pay the money back.
    The City's latest General Fund Balance Sheet from the 2009/2010 Budget shows that Total City Reserves of $98 million in 2007/2008 are budgeted to fall from $98 million last year to $57 million by June 2010, a drop of over $40 million (see the line entry for "Total Reserves" on Pages 2 and 4). However, in 20 years, the Council budget shows a plan to increase this back to about $70 million, a net drop of $28 million.

    Maintaining adequate reserves is important for our city for two reasons: 1) reserves provide a cushion to the City's budget and cover unexpected events, such as the expenses that would occur as a result of a major earthquake, and 2) provide a source of revenue to fund needed City programs much like one's personal savings earns interest.

    The depletion of the City's reserves should seriously concern every citizen. The amount that has been spent from savings has been unprecedented in the City's history. While the City's plan suggests that spending will level out and future City Councils may begin to add to the reserves, there is no simple guarantee that this will happen. Three to four more years of spending similar to what we have seen over the past two years could totally deplete the City of all of its savings. It is almost certain, that given the current City Council's spending habits, a new tax will be required in the next few years. But if the reserves are completely depleted, the new tax will be steep, expensive, and most certainly dramatically affect every resident in the City.

    Also alarming is the steep drop in the city’s Budget Stabilization Fund, from $58 million for 07/08 to $36 million for 08/09, and projected to drop to $17M in 11/12. With the anticipated State takeaways , the 2011/2012 figure could drop additionally to $12M, funds adequate for only 33 days of operations. And this dire condition, approved by Council, does not take into account the now stalled downtown, a potentially devastating blow to our finances. It’s not clear that there will be a balance remaining in our Budget Stabilization fund in three years.

  • Gave the retiring City Manager a $50,000 bonus in the midst of the worst budget crisis in Sunnyvale's history.
    At the City Council Meeting of November 18, 2008, the city Council voted to give the City Manager a 2.5% increase salary (above inflation) and a 10% one-time cash payment based on their appraisal of her performance (see Sunnyvale City Council Meeting Minutes for November 18, 2008). Given that at the time, the City Manager was making about $330,000, the values of the bonus payments was approximately $50,000. Note the former City Manager's Employment Contract stated that "Employee shall not receive any lump sum payment under the “Pay for Performance Plan”. Based upon this, the 10% cash bonus was at a minimum unethical, and probably illegal.

Please see our blog for other information our city council doesn't want you to see. You'll be suprised and shocked what has gone on in our city for so long.


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Updated October 1, 2016 4:21 PM