Milpitas city council sitting at the council dias during a meeting where Mayor Carmen Montano was absent, viewing a staff presentation on housing.
The Milpitas City Council at a meeting in October 2023. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

    One of the simplest ways to engage with your local community is to keep up with your city’s public meetings.

    In a 2022 reader survey, San José Spotlight readers told us they wanted to be more civically engaged and involved in local policymaking. Earlier this year, we compiled a guide on how to engage with public meetings in San Jose. As we expand further throughout Santa Clara County, we wanted to compile a guide for Milpitas residents interested in participating in public meetings.

    In this guide, we’ll show you how to view and engage with Milpitas meetings.

    Watching council meetings

    The Milpitas City Council has regular meetings on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. You can find the city council meeting information and other commission meeting agendas on the city’s legislative calendar.

    Milpitas must comply with the Brown Act, which governs how public meetings are run and aims to make them more accessible and transparent. The city is required to post its agenda at least three days before every meeting. A draft of the council agenda will typically be public by Thursday evening and will be continuously updated until the meeting occurs.

    Here are ways you can tune in to the meeting:

    • In person: you can attend at Milpitas City Hall, located at 455 E. Calaveras Blvd., and sit in the public audience area.
    • Zoom: You can find a Zoom link on the meeting’s agenda.
    • YouTube and Facebook: Most public meetings, including council meetings, are streamed from the city’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.
    • City web streaming: You can watch meeting broadcasts live or find audio and video recordings of past meetings on the city’s Civic Clerk portal, which also houses all public meeting agendas.

    If you require language translation assistance, Milpitas offers translation in Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. For Spanish, you can call (408) 586-3072. For Tagalog, you can call (408) 586-3051. For Vietnamese, you can call (408) 586-2400.

    Participating in council meetings

    Milpitas City Council meetings have a public comment period called public forum for people to voice their opinions on topics not on the meeting’s agenda. Topics on the agenda are open for public comment when the items come up for discussion. Members of the public get a maximum of three minutes to speak.

    Remember: Public comment during public forum is only for items not on the council’s agenda that day. If you have a comment for an item on the agenda, save it until the item is heard and the mayor asks for comments on that item.

    You can submit comments in the following ways:

    • In person: You can fill out a speaker card at the beginning of the meeting and hand it to the clerk, who sits on the right of the council dias.
    • In writing: You can submit written comments to the council via email at [email protected] by noon on the day of the meeting to be distributed to city officials before the meeting.

    The city has temporarily disabled public comment on Zoom, citing a rise in hate speech and disruptive comments that don’t pertain to city business.

    Navigating council meetings

    Milpitas’ council meetings follow a particular order governed in part by state law, city charter, convention and “Robert’s Rules of Order.”

    Regular meetings will start as close to 7 p.m. as possible, depending on closed sessions held before the meeting. Closed session is held when the council discusses topics that aren’t open for the public, such as contract negotiations or litigation.

    When the meeting starts, it opens with a call to order and roll call. If there is a closed session, it will be held after the roll call. After closed session, there is the Pledge of Allegiance, invocations and ceremonial matters—declarations of celebration or events.

    Councilmembers will then have time to make announcements on any meetings or conferences attended and paid for by the city, as well as conflicts of interests or campaign contributions related to items on the meeting’s agenda. After those disclosures, councilmembers have the opportunity to make last minute adjustments to the agenda, such as deferring an item, so pay attention if you are listening for a particular topic.

    Public forum can be held after the ceremonial matters or occasionally after the public hearing items.

    Next comes the “consent calendar,” or “consent” for short. This is a list of usually non-controversial items that are approved with a single vote of the council. Any councilmember or resident can comment on any consent item. Councilmembers can pull items off the consent calendar for a broader discussion. The public is otherwise invited to speak about all consent calendar items during one public hearing “on consent.”

    Any items after the consent calendar are items of broad public interest. Some fall under a general “public hearing” category, while others are broad topics like “community development” or “public safety.” Each item often opens with a presentation from city officials who researched the specific item.

    Once the presentation is complete, the mayor usually calls for comments from the public, where residents can voice their concerns about the planned item. These items can be proposed ordinances, which change city law, or resolutions stating a proposed council policy. Often agendas include reports from staff that don’t require an action, but the council will vote anyway to accept the report.

    After the mayor closes comments from the public, councilmembers discuss the item. They can also ask questions of city staff from various city departments, the city attorney for clarification or other stakeholders in the process. As councilmembers discuss the item, one can call for a “motion” which outlines what action the council will approve. The motion requires a “second” to show there’s support for the idea.

    Items usually require a simple majority of three votes to pass.

    Meet your councilmembers

    The Milpitas City Council consists of five members, all elected by voters. The four councilmembers and mayor are all elected citywide. As of 2023, the mayor is Carmen Montano, who took office in 2022 and previously served on and off as a councilmember since 2012. The mayor is one of five votes and cannot veto policies. Montano’s term will end in 2024 and she is eligible for reelection.

    Mayors serve two-year terms and councilmembers serve four-year terms. All elected officials may serve a maximum of 10 years, but the mayor can only serve six consecutive years. This means an official can serve three terms as mayor and one term as councilmember, or two terms as councilmember and one term as mayor.

    After 10 years, officials must wait two years before being eligible to run for office again. The mayor’s seat and two council seats are up for reelection in presidential election years, while two other council seats are open in U.S. midterm election years.

    The city council appoints one councilmember to be vice mayor every two years at the first meeting following elections. The vice mayor chairs council meetings when the mayor is absent. The current vice mayor is Evelyn Chua.

    Here are the four councilmembers and how long they’ve been in office:

    • Evelyn Chua: 2020–present. Term ends in 2024. Eligible for reelection.
    • Anthony Phan: 2016–present. Terms out in 2024. Not immediately eligible for council reelection.
    • Hon Lien: 2022–present. Term ends in 2026. Eligible for reelection.
    • Garry Barbadillo: 2022–present. Term ends in 2026. Eligible for reelection.

    Click here for contact information for the council and email addresses for each councilmember.

    Other personnel

    Milpitas operates on a council-manager system of government. That means all administrative decisions go through the city manager, who is appointed by the mayor and approved by the council. To put it simply: The council votes on and approves policy, while the city manager implements it. The current city manager is Ned Thomas, who was appointed in 2023.

    The city attorney, a law professional employed by the city, and the city clerk, who keeps the meeting’s minutes, are also present at meetings. The city attorney provides legal advice to ensure the council is following the Brown Act, answers legal questions and explains city, county, state and federal laws. The current city clerk is Suzanne Guzzetta, who was appointed in 2022. The city attorney is Michael Mutalipassi, who was appointed in 2022.

    Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

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