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Publication Date: Friday, October 17, 2003

City council City council (October 17, 2003)

Mayor is no Nixon

Although he wants to, Mayor Mike Kasperzak will not be forging a new relationship with a city in China on behalf of Mountain View during his November trip to Shanghai.

Kasperzak asked the council on Tuesday to support him in signing a non-binding letter of intent to open up business relationships in China. "It's almost a ceremonial thing to sign it," he said.

But fearful of the time it would take to maintain the potential relationship, as well as the country's human rights record, council members declined.

"If we're going to reach a hand out, it matters very much to me that China is very far from a democracy," said Council member Greg Perry.

And despite Kasperzak's assertion that this relationship would not reach the level of a sister city -- Mountain View already has two -- his colleagues said it could take too much work.

"These kinds of things raise concerns with me because of the huge strength of the Taiwanese community in Silicon Valley," added Council member Rosemary Stasek.

Kasperzak said he will still take the trip, and will look into whether he can sign a letter for himself if not on behalf of the city.

Housing or books?

With restrictions on the downtown Revitalization Authority becoming apparent, the city council wrestled over what to do with its funds.

Council members were split on whether to begin issuing debt for a new low- and moderate-cost housing project, or essentially return the money to agencies that receive property tax, including the local school districts.

The money in question, which could total $6 million, can only be used on housing if it is not returned to the property tax recipients.

"I'm very conflicted," said Council member Mary Lou Zoglin. "I think schools may need this money even more."

However, the ability to issue the debt and get the ball rolling on a housing project expires at the end of 2003, an opportunity that should not be missed, argued the slim majority of council members.

"We won't have this opportunity again to invest in housing after this year," said Kasperzak. "I just think this is a no-brainer."

An issue of less contention was the Authority's ability to issue $1 million in debt for a downtown project. A list of possible projects, such as an elevator for the parking structure, will be made available at a later meeting.

"Yes" on Internet access tax

In an effort to hold onto some of the city's tax revenues that may be slipping away, the council voted unanimously to oppose a U.S. Senate bill prohibiting taxes on Internet access.

"We are not adding a new tax," said Kasperzak. "We're trying to keep people from redefining their services" to avoid paying taxes.

The city currently receives $540,000 in cable franchise fees annually and $1.2 million in utility user tax from telephone companies.

Those revenues are at risk because the Senate bill known as the Internet Tax Non-discrimination Act of 2003 also exempts telephone, DSL, and cable telecommunications services used to access the Internet.

There is currently a moratorium on taxing those services.

Auditor: city books clean

The council accepted the city's external auditor's report without incident during its Tuesday night meeting.

"There are times when I don't want to stick my neck out on an issue," said Perry, who has been critical of the selection process and limited powers of the external auditor in the past.

Perry and others on the Council Procedures Committee are working on making the selection process more independent from the city finance department, and thus more truly external.

The external auditor is currently identified by some members of city staff, but the new process would have the city council select the qualified candidate.

The auditor's report did not find any instances where the city did not comply with regulations.


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