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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Santa Clara County, CA November 5, 2013 Election
Smart Voter

Tappan G. "Tap" Merrick
Answers Questions

Candidate for
Council Member; City of Sunnyvale; Seat 3


The questions were prepared by the Leagues of Women Voters of Santa Clara County and asked of all candidates for this office.
Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).

Questions & Answers

1. Of all the experience related to city government you would bring to the City Council, which three would be most important to your effectiveness and why do you think so?

1. I have ten years of government accounting experience with the Federal Reserve System. I was a cost accounting and budgeting expert with them and fully understand how large organizations (12,000 employees) are structured, where the financial weaknesses are and how to make Sunnyvale run more efficiently and at lower unit cost. As promotions came, I gathered highly pertinent experience managing staff, leading procedural audits of banks around the country and working with senior management on a wide variety of issues.

2. As a parent for 38 years, husband and father to teachers, youth sports coach for 19 seasons, a big brother in college, active in varsity sports myself in high school, 9 years of scouting (Cub, Boy & Explorer) and 6 years as an alter boy, I understand how important it is to get all of the various aspects of our society to work together to provide a safe, well educated and active community for our children. Expanding volunteerism, whether through schools, sports, senior programs or scouts will help make our community much stronger and cohesive. I believe that I have that ability to bring our community together to make Sunnyvale a great place to live, again.

3. Serving as a neighborhood activist these past nine years to work with and control ultra high density growth, I understand how difficult it is to get neighbors together for commission and Council meetings, and will show every deference to neighbor wishes in these situations. I will support our neighbors. They are the ones that elect me to my position, not other groups or developers.

2. The City Council is now in the process of selecting a new City Manager. What, specifically, is working well about the selection process, and what would you like to see done differently?

I expect the recruiting process to be similar to the last search for a City Manager, and I think that Mr. Luebbers is a fine person who has done an excellent job for the City. This process, however, misses several significant goals. Goal number one ought to be to find a City Manager that will develop a cross training program so that the next city manager will rise from the ranks. This may require actually having two assistant manager positions. Goal number two ought to be to look for a City Manager that is young enough to be able to expect him/her to remain in Sunnyvale for many years to come. It should come as no surprise that 61 year old Mr. Luebbers chose to retire at age 65. Goal number three ought to be pay the City Manager at no higher than the mid-point of his salary range. This way, he/she will be entitled to cost of living raises every year, just like every one else. Goal number four is to only grant a maximum 20% raise over the new hire's previous salary. Goal number five is eliminating the concept of "hiring the best of the best." Sunnyvale ranks tenth in per capita property taxes (according to County Assessor Stone's recent report) and yet past Councils have extolled this "best of the best" and paying the "most for the best." This has the effect of competing directly with other towns for employees based solely on salary. Sunnyvale will be better off paying at the middle of the pack level and using it's money more efficiently. Those familiar with hiring practices will tell you that money is only one issue to consider. Sunnyvale makes a mistake making money the only reason to work here.

3. What has the City done to make its pension liabilities sustainable? Would you advocate for additional changes?

Sunnyvale, in conjunction with State actions, has implemented a three tiered pension system. Thus newer employees, especially those that have never worked for a CalPERS agency before, will get a lower pension payout at retirement. To make this effective, the City would need to only hire people without existing California pensions. Typically many of our employees transfer from other agencies, bringing along their current CalPERS rate with them. This only delays the beneficial effects of the three tiered system even farther out.

Sunnyvale needs to re-evaluate it's pay scales and pay practices for new employees to lower the basic cost of operations. Lowering the amounts paid to future employees will start to lower the future pension liabilities faster. Cross training needs to be expanded because it costs, on average, 10% to give an existing employee the promotion verse 20% to hire a new employee (according to a Wall Street Journal article). These actions will together help reduce the City's pension obligations faster.

4. What is the most important accomplishment of the City Council in the last two years? What is its greatest failure?

Unfortunately there are several accomplishments and failures that are worth noting, and an artificial time frame of two years is too limiting. But within the last two years, the fact that Council finally was willing to admit, at Sunnyvale Pension Reform's 700 members insistence, that indeed, CalPERS unfunded pension liabilities were actually $280 million instead of the claimed $140 million for 2010. Other accomplishments over the past six years include bringing more jobs to Sunnyvale, and in 2007 requiring the City to present a balanced 20 year budget every year.

The greatest failure remains the still unfinished downtown Town Center. The second greatest failure and highly embarrassing to all in Sunnyvale was the censure of Council member Meyering. Not only did Mr. Meyering fail to seek any solutions, but the opposing councilmembers failed to own up to their own financial dealings when they had already publicly reported these dealings in previous filings to the State.

5. Who are your top five donors and what total amount have you received from each one? What conflicts of interest can you foresee from your campaign contributions, and how would you handle them?

$10,000 Loan - Candidate Tappan G. Merrick 1,231.16 - Donations by candidate Tappan G. Merrick $500.00 - Sunnyvale retiree $500.00 - Self employed consultant, Sunnyvale Resident $500.00 - Customer Service director, Sunnyvale Resident $100.00 - various

I see no conflicts of interest in City business, but if so, I would recuse myself from deliberations. I will not accept campaign donations, either before election or after, from developers or unions.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League.  Candidates' statements are presented as submitted. Word limits for answers are 400 words for all questions. Direct references to opponents are not permitted.

Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).

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Created from information supplied by the candidate: September 24, 2013 17:42
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