Santa Clara picks committee to help divide the city for elections
The Santa Clara City Council meets on June 26 for its twice-monthly meeting. Photo by Janice Bitters.

Santa Clara has appointed seven people to its Charter Review Committee, a group that will help determine how future City Council members are elected.

The committee will meet over the summer and fall to gather resident feedback before helping craft a ballot question about how the city should be split up for voting purposes that will be up for a vote in the March 3, 2020 election.

Elected city officials held interviews for the committee earlier this month, and then released the names of the seven-person committee on July 10. The appointed group will decide if and how the city should be split up when it comes to voting districts.

“We are simply trying to get a pulse from the community on whether we should have districts at all and what that would look like,” City Clerk Hosam Haggag said during the interviews this month.

Santa Clara was ordered by a judge last year to change its election process amid concerns around minority representation. The city is appealing the decision now, but in the meantime is complying with the ruling and responding to a November 2018 ballot question, known as Measure N, in which 70 percent of residents supported exploring a move toward district elections in the city, rather than electing all City Council members at-large.

Measure N was authored in response to the city’s longstanding lack of minority representation on the City Council, a situation that supporters of the measure said may be remedied by splitting the city into distinct districts for municipal election purposes, according to a lawsuit brought by lawyer Robert Rubin against the city.

Santa Clara’s last council election in 2018 was held based on the six district plan, when Karen Hardy and Raj Chahal were elected to the council. Now the Charter Review Committee will help decide if those six districts will stick.

The committee includes residents in the six districts that were recommended by a judge for future elections. One member will be an at-large position, representing the entire city.

The committee members appointed by the City Council are:

  • District 1: Benjamin Cooley
  • District 2: Steven Silva
  • District 3: Christine Koltermann
  • District 4: Katherine Almazol
  • District 5: Sudhanshu Jain
  • District 6: Stephen Ricossa
  • At-Large: Richard Bonito

Councilmembers took hours interviewing candidates who had applied for the committee, lamenting that they couldn’t pick a larger group of people.

“We felt a smaller group was better — it cuts down on the arm wrestling,” Hardy told the candidates. “But I want you to know that I look out over this group of people and you’re exactly what we were hoping to see: a cross section of the city, a cross section of where you live and a lot of different experiences.”

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