Seat 2

Steve Hoffman
Chief Executive Officer

Glenn Hendricks
Senior Engineering Manager

Gustavo Magaña
Law School Student

My pick for Seat 2 is Glenn Hendricks.

Out of all the seats and measures in this race, this is the one that gave me the most trouble. We actually have two very capable candidates in this race, and one other candidate who, though inexperienced, shows great promise.

Before I get into why I’m voting for Mr. Hendricks, I’d like to spend a little time on the two other candidates in this race.

Gustavo Magaña

Gustavo Magaña is a young man, presently in law school, who has a desire to serve our city. I was unable to find out much about him in this election cycle other than by what he revealed in the candidate forums. He has a strong interest in, and passion for, the issues facing certain segments in our society who are currently not represented very well in our City Council. He brought a level of advocacy to the forums that I thought was both interesting and refreshing. Unfortunately, in the forums he also showed me that he isn’t very familiar with the larger issues facing the city (density, budgets, pension liabilities, etc). Having a passion to help an underrepresented segment of our society is laudable, but in order to adequately fulfill the job requirements of a City Councilmember, I do think some fundamental knowledge on the workings of city government, as well as the major issues facing the city, is critical. Mr. Magaña did not show me that he possessed a great deal of knowledge on either of those subjects.

What I would like to see Mr. Magaña do is spend time on some of the various commissions and subcommittees that seek volunteers from city residents. Take the time to get to know the city’s government. Gain some experience with city government at a lower level. In time, I would hope to see him serve on the Planning Commission and, from there, take that step up to City Council.

What I hope he does NOT do is become discouraged and retreat from public life.

Steve Hoffman

I have had many lengthy, interesting conversations with Mr. Hoffman over the last few weeks. He has shown me that he is an intelligent man possessed of a great deal of knowledge regarding Sunnyvale, our government, and the issues facing us. He is passionate about our city, and is particularly concerned about ethics in our government. As the CEO of his own company, I believe Mr. Hoffman would bring an enormous wealth of real-world skills to the job of councilmember. His interest in the Butcher’s Corner development issue is particularly valuable to me, and I’ve enjoyed the many email exchanges we’ve had on that and other subjects. Under other just slightly different circumstances, I could easily find myself casting a vote for Mr. Hoffman. Indeed, I very nearly came to that decision this time around.

Note: In response to this page, Mr. Hoffman has issued a counter argument. I urge you to read it and come to your own conclusion.

Glenn Hendricks

All of that said, a decision must be made, and my decision is to vote for Glenn Hendricks.

There are two key things that cause me to cast my vote for Mr. Hendricks in this election. The first his is experience on the Planning Commission.

In watching City Council these last few months, it is apparent to me that service on the Planning Commission brings experience and knowledge to the job of councilmember that is incredibly valuable. This isn’t to say that someone can’t be a good councilmember unless they’ve been on the Planning Commission. But it is nevertheless very valuable on-the-job training. It should help a new councilmember come up to speed far quicker than someone who hasn’t served on that commission, just because the candidate will have spent a year or two already dealing with zoning issues and residents concerns (often competing and contradictory), not to mention the give and take of political negotiations. It also means that the candidate will already have established a working relationship with many of the key players in various city departments, most particularly the planning department.

But beyond that, I believe that time served on the Planning Commission allows a candidate to have a better understanding of the letter and spirit of our zoning regulations. It’s a place where a potential candidate can make mistakes in the application of those regulations, and the city can still have the chance of rectifying the mistake through review by City Council.

Clearly Mr. Hendricks made some mistakes in his time on the Planning Commission; the LinkedIn project being the biggest one. (Then again, except for Councilmember Moylan, I’m not sure anyone in the city recognized what a mistake that project was.) Still, based on his comments in the candidates forums, I’m satisfied that Mr. Hendricks has learned from his mistakes. He openly admits that LinkedIn was a decision he regrets and would reverse if he could. He is supportive of better notification of residents when these kinds of projects come up, and he has worked to ensure that the Planning Commission does a better job of responding to residents’ feedback.

The second thing I like about Mr. Hendricks is that he’s a lifelong resident of this city. He graduated from Fremont High School. He has children in our schools. His career his here. Clearly, both his past and his future is tightly tied to Sunnyvale. It means that as Sunnyvale’s future goes, so goes his own. If he votes in favor of a project that will result in gridlock in this city or overburdened schools, well, he will live with the consequences right along with the rest of us. If he blows it, he’ll be stuck with it. Hopefully, that will make him work all the harder to avoid blowing it, especially now that he’s experienced the pain of the LinkedIn project.

Beyond that, there have been some differences between Mr. Hendricks and Mr. Hoffman in how they answered questions that cause me to prefer Mr. Hendricks:

Is VTA adequately supporting Sunnyvale?

Mr. Hendricks responded ‘no.’ He elaborated with some interesting thoughts about how VTA’s decision to not bring light rail down Steven’s Creek & 85 meant that Sunnyvale has that much more cross-town commute traffic. And he says he wants to work with VTA to get that and other missing transit projects brought into Sunnyvale.

Mr. Hoffman, on the other hand, responded that public transportation is impractical, stating that it is only successful in congested cities. I disagree, having seen it work fairly well to move white collar workers in and out of Minneapolis. He went on to state that he thought electric cars were an answer, but I can’t see how that would solve our traffic congestion problems.

What can City Council do to bring the downtown mall development to a successful completion?

Mr. Hoffman responded by stating that the city has failed to enforce penalties against the developer, and he indicated we should be more forceful with him.

Mr. Hendricks indicated that we should be more aggressive is getting the parties (developer & bank) to work together, by trying to bring them together outside of the courtroom, and by using Council’s bully pulpit to editorialize on the issue so as to encourage forward progress. Overall, I thought Mr. Hendricks’ reply was more positive and encouraging.

Should you win election this year, will you be enrolling in the city’s lifetime medical and pension benefits program?

This is a question I privately asked all of the candidates because it had become something of an issue on the political email lists. I don’t actually care if councilmembers take advantage of these benefits, but I thought that their responses might be illuminating as to the type of councilmembers that they would be.

Mr. Hendricks gave me a very straight-forward response, stating that his employer already offers him medical benefits and so he has no need to enroll in that program. He also states that he doesn’t have a good understanding of how the coverage works after retirement, and so he is “inclined to decline the benefit.” He actually never responded to the pension aspect of the question, which is hardly surprising because the email discussions which inspired me to ask the question were mostly focused on medical benefits.

(Note that this is largely the same answer I got from all the candidates who bothered to respond to my question. Not all of them did.)

Mr. Hoffman responded by saying that any councilmember can enroll in these programs at any time, even after they leave office, and then get the full benefits. I was surprised to hear that councilmembers could enroll in these programs even after leaving office, so I pressed him on that point. He responded by copying the contents of California government code sections 20322, 21050, and 21051, which describe enrollment rules for California benefits programs, and emailing them to me. What he didn’t do is actually answer the question. Other people have asked him the same question on the email lists. I still don’t know if Mr. Hoffman would enroll in these programs should he be elected.

I appreciate Mr. Hendricks’ straightforward response to my question. The ability to do that is a valuable skill in a city councilmember.

One last point that fed into my decision was on the issue of Campaign Financing. I have seen multiple attacks against Mr. Hendricks (and others) because he is the recipient of campaign donations from certain wealthy and/or influential members of our community — most notably, in his case, a $3000 donation from John Vidovich who is in the middle of the Butcher’s Corner development brouhaha. The charge seems to be that because Mr. Hendricks has taken that money to finance his campaign, he has been corrupted and cannot be trusted in elected office.

I carefully considered that accusation, and I wrote about my conclusions here. My bottom line is that I don’t believe someone who is working as an engineering manager at a successful Silicon Valley firm can be bought for $3000. It’s just not that much money given his financial situation. In order for him to be bought for such a small sum of money, he would have to be a person of significantly low moral fiber. In meeting with Mr. Hendricks and talking to him about a number of issues, he just doesn’t strike me as that kind of guy.

I could be wrong, of course. But I note that as the Butcher’s Corner issue heated up, he immediately recused himself from all conversation regarding that topic. He has gone so far as to repeatedly tell me that he has a conflict of interest and does not think he should be receiving even the emails I’ve been sending all the candidates about Butcher’s Corner. I actually think he’s probably overreacting a bit, but his response leads me to believe that his instincts are to play by the strictest interpretation of the rules. That doesn’t mean that his will recuse himself from any project John Vidovich might bring to the city — the FPPC requires he recuse himself for six months after election — but I think it does show an instinct to do the right thing, which speaks well of him.

For these reasons, I urge you to vote for Glenn Hendricks for Seat 2.