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City Council Takes Action on Several Issues

A slew of actions were taken by the City Council Tuesday night, on issues ranging from public art, to campaign finance reform, to the potential for more prisoners at Elmwood Jail, and more.

In a long meeting by the Milpitas City Council Tuesday night, several decisions were made on a handful of long-standing issues, including , public art for Alviso Adobe Park, future business with the Milpitas Chamber of Commerce, the transfer of hundreds of additional state prisoners to , street maintenance and more.

Below are highlights of the actions taken by the Council during the meeting.

Campaign Finance Reform

New rules will impact Milpitas candidates in next years' municipal elections. The Council vote Tuesday was 4-1, with councilmember Debbie Giordano dissenting.

Councilmembers carefully deliberated the adoption of the new ordinance that increases the campaign contribution limit by 40 percent, from $350 to $500, and requires aggregation of personal and company contributions. Independent expenditure committees must also verbally notify the City Clerk when filing with the state.

A $60,000 voluntary campaign limit was included. Campaign consultants with more than 10 hours of  work, whether paid or volunteered, must register with the City Clerk. And, elected officials must also disclose at council meetings any contributions received from persons or businesses that come before the City Council for a public hearing involving a contract of more than $50,000. Ballot measure campaigns were excluded from this ordinance.

Councilmember Debbie Giordano read extensively from attorney Charles H. Bell's latest letter opposing the campaign finance reforms, saying they have constitutional flaws and violate free speech.

Mayor Jose Esteves said, “The benefits outweigh the risks. The public deserves to know all these records.”

Mayor Esteves opposes raising the contribution limit from $350 to $500.

Bobby Lopez, representing The Silicon Valley Fraternal Order of Police, asked the council to reconsider the ordinance, saying, “We're fighting restrictions that violate the constitution. We intend to use ballot box referendums. We use consultants.”

Active reformer Bill Ferguson opposes increasing the campaign contribution limit to $500.

Public Art for Alviso Adobe Park

The Public Art Committee requested approval of the “Water Tower” art piece for the new , over the “Wagon Sculpture.”

Mayor Esteves said, “The City could have two art pieces. There is funding is available for both.”

Councilmember Althea Polanski liked “Water Tower” best, but was concerned about other competing needs.

Councilmember Armando Gomez said art funds would be better used for street and sidewalk maintenance.

“The public isn't asking me for more art," he said. "They want the potholes fixed. Art is not one of the City's core services."

Public Art Committee Chairman Bill Foulk explained the interactive features of the “Wagon Sculpture”.

In the end, the vote was 3-2 on a motion to approve both art pieces. Opposed were councilmembers Gomez and Polanski.

The City's Contract with the Chamber of Commerce

The contract between the City and the for continued business outreach and retention through June 2012 was approved in a 4-1 vote, with Councilmember Gomez dissenting.

Giordano said she supports the Chamber's program, and Polanski thanked Chamber CEO Carol Kassab for a “very good report from the Chamber.”

Gomez said he wanted more tangible results from the program, such as increased sales tax revenue reports and new tenants at McCarthy ranch. 

Could More Prisoners Be Headed to Elmwood Jail?

A resolution opposing the transfer of up to 800 state prisoners to Elmwood Jail to reduce overcrowding by court order was unanimously approved Tuesday night. City staff also said it intends to try to get reimbursement funds for the medical response calls to Elmwood.

Street and Pavement Maintenance

The City needs $4 million annually for street pavement maintenance, but will be short $2 million due to , according to a report by Public Works Director Greg Armendariz. The State Supreme Court could rule in favor of cities keeping their RDAs, but the possibility is still unclear at this time.

The Council also discussed the need for notices in multiple languages for residential street work, and councilmembers also indicated they may look to the hotel taxes and other funds for street maintenance revenue.

No Increased Hours of Operation for the Senior Center

City staff reported on the Barbara Lee Senior Center operating hours Tuesday night, in response to a citizen's request for evening and weekend access to the center.

Parks & Recreation Director Bonnie Greiner presented a survey of seniors that indicated only a minority had any interest in these added hours, and said there is no room in the budget to fund additional Senior Center hours.  

A survey of similar nearby Senior Centers' hours showed little to no evening and weekend activities.

Greiner added that seniors can use the during some of these times. S

The staff indicated they will continue to conduct more surveys of local seniors.

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