No different metropolis in California besides Santa Clara nonetheless has an elected police chief. Lower than 20% of the municipalities within the state have an elected metropolis clerk.
It’s time to depoliticize the 2 jobs in Santa Clara. Metropolis voters within the March 5 election ought to professionalize the posts and transfer them into the 21st century by approving Measure A, concerning the town clerk, and Measure B, concerning the police chief.
The measures would maintain the town clerk and police chief to the identical requirements as different metropolis division heads. Appointed jobs employed by and accountable to the town supervisor. Topic to annual evaluations. Required to carry out professionally to remain employed.
Below the present byzantine system, the police chief and metropolis clerk stand for election each 4 years, however they’re normally unopposed. In between, and in elections after they haven’t any challenger, they’re accountable to nobody. And solely metropolis residents can run for the roles.
Police chief decide
That implies that, on the subject of the police chief, for instance, whereas different cities can conduct nationwide searches for the most effective candidate, Santa Clara is caught with solely a handful of people that can meet the residency and regulation enforcement-experience necessities and are outfitted to be chief.
Which helps clarify why in six of the final 9 elections relationship again to 1988, the police chief choice was uncontested. Few can run. And when there are challengers on the poll, it’s the form of native authorities election wherein voters are ill-equipped to make a well-informed choice and is, therefore, ripe for special-interest manipulation.
The present chief, Patrick Nikolai, elected in 2020, had beforehand served for 18 years because the president of the Police Officers’ Affiliation. In 2021, he obtained $524,000 in pay and advantages, in keeping with Clear California. The group’s information confirmed him to be the seventh highest compensated police chief within the state that 12 months.
Little marvel that Nikolai opposes Measure B, which might result in his shedding his profitable job. Little marvel that the Police Officers’ Affiliation president additionally opposes the measure. It will undermine his group’s political energy to sway the election.
Making issues worse, having an elected chief has created ridiculous strains of authority. The chief is elected whereas the 2 assistant police chiefs report back to the town supervisor. And the town supervisor hires and disciplines officers.
In most cities, the police chief stories to the town supervisor, who in flip stories to the town council. That’s the way it must be, insulating the chief’s job from politics whereas offering for ongoing efficiency accountability.
Metropolis clerk choice
Whereas the stakes are usually not as nice with the town clerk, the rules are related: In six of the final 10 elections, the town clerk choice has been uncontested. The clerk is accountable to nobody between elections. And he actually doesn’t do a lot within the $1,500-a-month job.
The truth is that the assistant metropolis clerk, who, you guessed it, stories to the town supervisor, does the heavy lifting.
If Santa Clara voters wish to see what might go fallacious with an elected metropolis clerk, they want solely look to the town of Nice Hill. Residents there found in 2014 that their clerk, Kim Lehmkuhl, had not been holding minutes for over a 12 months and as an alternative spent her time sending out tweets concerning the conferences and no matter different political points her.
As a result of Lehmkuhl was elected, there was no strategy to hearth her with out conducting an costly and gradual recall marketing campaign. Fortunately, she ultimately resigned to take a job out of city. Residents later that 12 months voted to make the submit an appointed one.
The present Santa Clara metropolis clerk, Hosam Haggag, who has served since 2018, is ambivalent about whether or not voters ought to hold the elected metropolis clerk submit. He says he’s unsure how he’ll vote on Measure A, which might get rid of the elected submit he at present holds. That alone is telling.
Then there’s the price of the elections. The mixed worth of the citywide police chief and metropolis clerk elections is roughly $300,000 every four-year cycle, relying on what else is on the poll to share the fee.
If holding the police chief and metropolis clerk as elective posts made sense, the fee wouldn’t be a major consideration. However as a result of, cash apart, the roles ought to clearly be positioned below the authority of the town supervisor, the added election price simply provides monetary insult to a nasty system.
Voters ought to go measures A and B.