Cities consider forming new government agency for lobbying and grant-seeking

Daily Post Staff Writer

Cities in Santa Clara County will decide whether to form a new government organization called a Joint Powers Authority, or JPA, in order to lobby on behalf of the cities and seek regional grants.

However, not all 15 members of the Cities Association of Santa Clara County are sold on making their partnership official.

“Not everyone is lining up behind this, based on the amount of questions and pushback we got from our city attorneys” association attorney Gary Baum told the association’s executive board on Friday.

“I don’t really understand the angst around this,” Mountain View Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga said. “I feel like we’re trying to protect all the cities.”

Representatives of each city will discuss the proposal at a meeting on Thursday, and they can vote on whether to recommend becoming a JPA to their councils on Nov. 10.

One of the main reasons for forming a JPA is to protect individual cities from lawsuits, Baum said.

In June, each city pitched in to pay former Executive Director Andi Jorden $180,000 to resign after she threatened to sue. The payments were based on a city’s size: Los ALtos paid $6,336, and Mountain View and Palo Alto paid $8,030.

Jordan, who is the wife of former Los Altos City Manager Chris Jordan, alleged that she was harassed by two Los Altos councilwomen — Anita Enander and Lynette Lee Eng — because they didn’t like her husband.

Jordan said that as executive director she advised the Cities Association to become a JPA or individual cities could be sued, and she used that view to get her settlement.

In the wake of Jordan’s threat, the association doubled its dues, gave the executive director position a 40% raise and quadrupled the pay for Baum.

Monte Sereno Mayor Javed Ellahie was the only representative to publicly question the need for an association, and he he wanted small cities like his to pay less.

Supporters, including Abe-Koga and San Jose Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, told Ellahie that the association can lobby for state bills and regional grants, and its positions carry more weight than individual cities.
Another reason to form a JPA is to clarify that the association doesn’t have to pay taxes, Baum said.

The JPA would be established after eight city council ratify the agreement, according to a draft of the agreement. If the association drops below seven members within the first two years, then the name would have to change, Baum said.

The JPA board would come up with a work plan and vote on projects that cost more $50,000, the draft agreement says.

The Cities Association has a relatively small budget of $258,062, funded by city dues.

Shali Sirkay is currently working as the interim executive director for $100 an hour. Sirkay specializes in public health and is a board member for the Los Altos School District.

There are several other JPAs in the area, including the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County, which deals with issues like traffic, waste management, air quality and abandoned vehicles. Santa Clara County cities are all in the Silicon Valley Regional Interoperability Authority, an agency dedicating to making sure that emergency radios work together.