Here are my positions on the issues that concern Sunnyvale voters the most.
Glenn, why are you running for office?
As a lifelong Sunnyvale resident, I have an intimate understanding of Sunnyvale’s past and I see the potential for its future. When I graduated from Fremont High School and enlisted in the Marines, I did so because I wanted to give back. Today, my wife and I are raising our family in Sunnyvale. Joining the City Council would be an extension of my dedication to public service and my hometown.
I understand the community and can make a difference in the issues and opportunities facing Sunnyvale. My service on the Sunnyvale Planning Commission and Personnel Board provide me with expertise in the critical areas of land use policy decisions and employee compensation. I am committed to ensuring the downtown is completed, supporting our public safety department as they reduce residential burglaries, emphasizing long-term fiscal sustainability, and ensuring we maintain our roadways and trees. I am responsive to the communities needs and will work to keep City Council focused on core city services.
The role of the City Council is to provide vision, judgment and oversight. I have shown this leadership on the Planning Commission and will make a positive impact on Council and the City, representing each member of our community.
What distinguishes you from the other candidates?
I am running a positive campaign which means that my message is about why I think the voters should elect me. My message is not “anti” either of my opponents. That said, the voters have a choice and need to understand the differences between the three candidates.
One of my opponents is Gustavo Mangaña. Gustavo announced his candidacy on Facebook on July 23. According to his post, he was raised in Sunnyvale, which is something we have in common. He is a student or recent graduate of Santa Clara University, and I think he brings a lot of youthful energy and enthusiasm to the table. While this is admirable, I don’t think Gustavo has the depth of practical experience or a clear vision of the complex issues facing Sunnyvale. This sets us apart.
My other opponent is Steve Hoffman. I believe if Steve Hoffman gets elected, he will try and implement policies that will substantially and negatively impact our wonderful city. I do not agree with my opponent on many, if not all, of his positions. But more importantly, I think it is my temperament that sets me apart. In essence, I am a good listener, I ask good questions, I believe in building relationships, I have the practical experience and leadership skills, and I want to make good, sound decisions that benefit the whole city, both now and into the future.
If elected to office what will be among your top priorities?
• Hire a new City Manager
• Get the Downtown Project completed
• Ensure the long-term fiscal sustainability of the city
• Support the Public Safety department in their efforts to keep the public safe and to reduce crime, especially residential burglaries
• Continue our strong support of the environment
• Ensure strong maintenance of the city’s roadways and trees
• Return a level of civility to the Council Chamber and focus on the core business of the city
• Implement a holistic view of traffic for the city
• Find a way to build new city parks of a sufficient size to support soccer or baseball fields
Do you support the initiative to change the election cycle in Sunnyvale from odd-number years to even-number years?
I do not support this initiative. I think there would be unforeseen and unintended consequences were our election cycle to change. I think it would be harder for candidates to get their message out to voters through all the “noise.” I also think it would also require candidates to raise larger amounts of money to fund their campaigns and get their message out. It would be harder for candidates to get the “mindshare” of Sunnyvale voters.
There is a measure on the November ballot to increase the Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT). Do you support it?
I support this measure. I think it is a reasonable way to increase revenue to the city by about $1 million per year. This money can be used to expand services to the public.
This is a critical area that shows the difference between me and my opponent. My opponent makes constant allegations that I (and others) will be influenced by so-called “special interests,” without explaining exactly what that even means. Here’s the thing: My opponent has publically stated that he is against the TOT because be runs a small business which, among other things, provides on-site training services to people coming from out of town. My opponent has said that if the TOT is raised, it would be a hardship on his customers and therefore a hardship on his business. The apparent conclusion is that my opponent is more concerned with his “one-person special interest” (the well-being of his own private business) than he is in the well-being of all of Sunnyvale (increasing General Fund revenues by $1 million per year).
How do you reconcile public or local neighborhood concerns to a development proposal with the housing and economic needs of the community?
This is the heart of the challenge. I think it is a matter of listening to concerns and then judging the legitimacy of the concerns. You have to judge how impactful a project might be. For example: Should you allow a project to be built with reduced set-backs that would allow second-story windows to look down into a neighboring Eichler’s back-yard windows? Probably not. Should the parties work together to limit the visibility of the boundary homes so that the project can go forward and the existing homes are not significantly impacted? Probably yes.
I think that the rights of property owners need to be taken into account. Not only the rights of the person that wants to do a project, but also the rights of neighboring property owners. There was recently a project that came before the Planning Commission where a homeowner in the San Miguel neighborhood wanted to demolish his single-story home and build a new two-story house. During the entire planning process and at the public hearing, there was some give and take, as city staff felt the second story was too large for the area. I felt that staff was being too strict in their interpretation of the guidelines. (The area is already zoned for two stories.) The project did respect the surrounding properties. The applicant made some changes to the project and I voted that this project should be allowed to go forward. A majority of the Planning Commission did not agree with me and this project is currently being appealed to City Council.
This does not mean that I think every project should just be approved, but it is an example of how I have looked at projects.
This is another area where my opponent and I differ. Land Use is a complex policy area, and we have to balance the rights of multiple stakeholders. That’s why Sunnyvale has a General Plan, various Specific Plans and our Zoning Code. It takes experience to understand how these policies and regulations work together and to sometimes use variances and deviations to achieve smart growth throughout our city. My experience of over three years on the Planning Commission will be a tremendous asset on City Council to making the best smart-growth decisions that respect the rights on all Sunnyvale stakeholders. By contrast, my opponent appears to want to stop all development, essentially ignoring the rights of current property holders who may want to expand their property or sell it on the open market to the highest bidder (who may in fact be a developer).
What do you regard as the major environmental and conservation issues facing Sunnyvale?
Population growth and resource consumption. This is the root of the issue when we’re talking about any specific environmental or conservation topic, such as water use, greenhouse gas emissions, open-space conflicts, modes of transportation and so forth. We have to find a way to balance (or even sometimes exaggerate) policies between these different needs. People want to have a comfortable life -- machines help to make our lives comfortable, but they also come at a price to the environment and to how people inter-relate with each other. This balance is not easy. Otherwise we wouldn’t see the tension we see today between people on how to deal with environmental concerns.
I will say up front, that I don’t have a silver bullet to all these issues. I will say that I am very open to learning about topics and finding paths forward to make our current problems better. Not all ideas have to come from me. I think we need people in leadership positions who can help take valid ideas that are financially sustainable, and move them forward to gain public support and turn the ideas into policy that effects positive change. I believe I can do this.
What are the principal areas of the environment that you will work on if elected?
The principal areas are resource consumption and energy generation.
Resource consumption: We need to make buildings (both residential and business) more energy efficient in usage and construction. We can control policies covering this at the city level. We need to expand the Purple Pipe network.
Energy Generation: I think one area that should be easy to improve is power generation -- with solar. In fact, implementing solar is much easier than implementing other solutions because the infrastructure already exists. For example, if a city wants to implement large scale water re-use, it would also need to make a substantial infrastructure investment to move the re-claimed water around. On the other hand, the infrastructure to allow residential and business solar generation already exists. You can use the existing power infrastructure to get the solar generated electricity back into the grid. The only thing you need to add is the generating panels themselves. This reduces the challenges on the individual property owner to participate in the overall solution.
The name of our wonderful city is Sunnyvale. There’s no better marketing tagline than the name of our city, and there’s no reason Sunnyvale shouldn’t be the leader in the generation of solar power.
What is the most important water-related issue for Sunnyvale, and what policies or actions would you advocate?
The issues are consumption and supply.
On the consumption side, the city should continue to encourage residents and businesses to plant drought-tolerant and water-friendly plants and vegetation. We should enact policies that reduce water consumption inside facilities. City parks should be made as water friendly as possible, while still enabling use by the residents. The upgrade at Fair Oaks Park and the possible upgrade to astro-turf is a good example. (Although, I would still like to see how this will work as I understand the playing surface is much warmer for the people using it.) We need to complete the re-build of the water treatment plant and increase our ability to produce and deliver to the end customer re-claimed water.
On the supply side, I think the city needs to be more involved in the Hetch Hetchy water improvement project. City residents get a pass-through bill for our water. Water rates are climbing and will continue to do so. I think the city should be doing some form of due diligence about this project on behalf of its water users. We need to make sure this infrastructure is going to provide the long-term capability to provide water to the city.
I think we also need to start looking at sea-level rise. I am not an expert in this area but I am interested in getting educated on this topic. The City should start an official study to start looking at what can be done about this topic. This will probably need to be a regional activity, not something just focused in Sunnyvale.
Glenn, a former Sunnyvale City Councilmember and his wife, a former Sunnyvale Planning Commissioner, have stated publicly that a campaign contribution you received from a supporter is “quite controversial” and “imprudent.” What’s your take and can you set the record straight?
Sure. Tim Risch is a former Vice Mayor of the City of Sunnyvale, and his wife Yolanda is a former Chairperson of the Sunnyvale Planning Commission. So, first and foremost, I want to thank the Risches for their service to the city. As a Planning Commissioner and candidate for City Council myself, I can certainly appreciate their efforts and contribution.
The Rishces operate a website that aggregates data pertaining to campaign contributions made to candidates for Sunnyvale City Council. While this information can be helpful to Sunnyvale voters, their website also makes abundantly clear their strong and unwavering opposition to candidates who receive campaign contributions from so-called “special interests.” This appears to be a singular issue for the Risches and, to be clear, based on nothing more than campaign contribution data, they heap praise on my opponent and much scorn on to me, going so far as to say that campaign contributions would “bring [my] judgment in[to] question.”
Unfortunately, it has become common occurrence in recent years to attack political contributions made to candidates for Sunnyvale City Council. So, this latest attack on my character is neither a surprise nor is it unexpected. Unfortunately, it is just a tactic used to move the discussion away from what is vital for Sunnyvale. The longer the discussion continues about this one topic, the less time Sunnyvale voters have to spend learning about the positive impact I have made in Sunnyvale as a Planning Commissioner and what I am committed to focusing on as your representative on City Council. Hiring a new City Manager. Doing what it takes to complete the Downtown Project. Supporting the Public Safety department in their efforts to keep the public safe and reduce crime, especially residential burglaries. Ensuring the long-term fiscal sustainability of the city. All of this and so much more of critical importance to the people of Sunnyvale.
While I respect the Risches’ right to express their singular opinion regarding campaign contributions, my candidacy for City Council has never been about any one issue and I am not a “single-issue” candidate. I would look forward to an opportunity to meet with the Risches to discuss our visions for the future of the City of Sunnyvale, and I would hope to find common ground with them on other topics of importance to the voters of Sunnyvale.
Now, let’s talk about the campaign contribution.
As I stated publicly on Monday, September 30, 2013, at the candidate forum hosted by Cool Cities, I have received a campaign contribution from John Vidovich who is Principal of DeAnza Building and Maintenance (also sometimes referred to as DeAnza Properties). As required under the law, this contribution was also disclosed in my most recent Campaign Disclosure Statement, dated September 25, 2013.
As a sitting Planning Commissioner who is also a candidate for City Council (a “commissioner-candidate”), there are stringent rules regarding the acceptance of campaign contributions, as well as when a commissioner-candidate can or cannot vote on a land-use application at a Planning Commission public hearing.
In essence, if an individual makes a campaign contribution in excess of $250 and then appears before the Planning Commission within 12 months of having made the contribution, the Planning Commissioner must recuse himself from participating in the discussion and any subsequent vote.
While there is no specific regulation that dictates rules of conduct for a newly-elected councilmember that received a campaign contribution prior to being elected, I have already stated that I will continue to recuse myself for a period of six months after I assume office on any land-use applications or proposals pertaining to Mr. Vidovich and/or DeAnza Properties that may come before me on City Council.
In fact, I recused myself from participating joint City Council – Planning Commission study session that discussed the “Butcher’s Corner” property that was held on September 10, 2013.
I am more than happy to debate the specific issues facing Sunnyvale. I was born and raised in Sunnyvale and today, my wife and I are raising our children here. My children attend school in Sunnyvale, and play youth sports in Sunnyvale. My family shops in Sunnyvale, and dines in Sunnyvale. I am heavily involved in the community and am not a single-issue candidate. I am committed to this community and take the role of City Councilmember with the utmost of seriousness.
For the record, you can see my thoughts on campaign contributions, posted on September 15, 2013, on the League of Women Voters SmartVoter website. Click here to take a look.
And, for an alternative viewpoint on campaign contributions, check out Steve Sarette’s excellent essay from October 2, 2013, “Those Dastardly Campaign Contributions”. Click here to take a look.