Sunnyvale City Council No Longer Serves its Taxpayer Masters

Opinion: By Sunnyvale Councilmember Pat Meyering FEB 3, 2012

Recently residents of Sunnyvale have raised concerns about graffiti cleanup. A council member responded that graffiti cleanup can be provided, if:

  1. Residents are willing to have other services cut such as library, streets, parks, etc., or
  2. Residents are willing to pay more taxes.

As you ponder these choices, please keep in mind the following facts:

  1. The city manager’s current annual compensation is $360,000 
  2. The city attorney’s current annual compensation is $320,000 (I’ve been practicing law in Santa Clara County for 21 years. The city attorney’s compensation is 2.5 times higher than what the average local lawyer
  3. The assistant city manager’s current annual compensation is $300,000.
  4. The wage rate continues similarly for the other 800-plus city employees, including a city water meter reader, whose current annual compensation is $73,627 per year.
  5. A city council member in Sunnyvale receives the highest annual compensation for a council member for any city in Santa Clara County for a part-time job: $25,064 per year, plus health insurance costing the city $8,533 per year.
  6. The recently retired city manager (age 61) receives an annual pension of $216,000.

Click here for a full list of 2010 data City  of Sunnyvale salaries.

The city of Sunnyvale was created 100 years ago on Dec. 24, 1912. If you read the historical literature, the only reason residents of this area voted to establish a municipal corporation was to better themselves. They would each pay a small amount of taxes, which would be combined into a general fund.

Residents would then get many services that they could not individually afford. Examples are police protection, water, parks, streets, sewers, library and other services. The newly hired city employees and council members were to be public servants. Residents/taxpayers were to be the masters.

During the last eight years the city council has turned this plan on its head. The council has taken a 48 percent pay raise for itself and voted itself lifetime health insurance benefits. City employee compensation has doubled. The average city
employee now makes twice the amount the average Sunnyvale resident makes.

Services to residents have been repeatedly cut. Street paving has been cut 50 percent. Ten police officer positions have been left vacant. The library has been closed two nights per week. The job match program at the senior center to help  residents over 50 find employment during the worst recession in 80 years has been eliminated.

At the Jan. 10 council meeting, I asked that the council place on the agenda for the next council meetingthe following three proposals:

  1. Cut by 50 percent the compensation for the 10 people who control city government: the city manager, assistant city manager, city attorney and the seven council members (including myself).
  2. Immediately cancel the lifetime health insurance benefits for former council members.
  3. File a lawsuit against the most recent downtown developer—who made thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Sunnyvale council members—to collect the $5 million penalty the developer owes for failing to complete the project.

Placement on the agenda does not obligate a council member to vote in favor of the proposal. It simply allows the council to receive public comment on the specified issue, discuss the options and then vote as they see fit on the issue.

None of the other six council members would support even putting any of the three proposals on the agenda. If you’re not content with this situation, you’re going to have to take action. This year the city’s annual budget spends $265 million of your taxmoney.

There is enough money to pay for graffiti removal if council and employee compensation is reduced to a usual rate paid by ordinary employers.

Our predecessors in Sunnyvale designated you, the residents, as the masters, council members as the servants. It’s time the masters gave clear, unequivocal orders for the servants to follow.

PAT MEYERING, Sunnyvale is a member of the Sunnyvale City Council. Email:   SILICON VALLEY COMMUNITY NEWSPAPERS The Sunnyvale Sun

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