May 13th Newsletter: Cupertino’s Resources Spent Scrutinizing a Prior Council’s Actions, and the Latest Budget Updates


This month, we continue the ongoing coverage of Cupertino’s budget shortfall. This is a critical time as the City evaluates where to cut expenses, from community services to road maintenance. Your input is key – details below.

But as Cupertino’s financial situation worsens, several Council Members have instead chosen to prioritize their time (and public resources) scrutinizing the actions of a former City Council


While the role of a Council Member varies by city, according to the National League of Cities, “Councilmembers are responsible for and responsive to the citizens who elected them.” 


And so, we ask: What are our needs, as Cupertino citizens? Are the priorities of each Council Member aligned with them?


Cupertino Budget Shortfall News and Upcoming Meetings

Once again, Bloomberg news had the scoop on Cupertino’s budget woes prior to announcements by the City. Their first article explains how Cupertino is at risk of losing its share of tax revenue from online sales of Apple products in California. Their latest article announces that Cupertino plans to appeal the change, and that Apple must fund the cost of the appeal. 

Cupertino Apple Store

The State audit can go as far back as the second quarter of 2021, which implies that Cupertino could owe the State up to approximately $40M in sales tax revenue. This is far above the anticipated 30% drop in overall City revenue. 

In spite of City Staff’s knowledge of this audit and its consequences since December 2021, there were no proposals to reduce or eliminate expenditures until 2023. For example, although our City’s cost for the Jollyman playground has nearly doubled, on May 2, 2023, its budget was again increased by 16%. Including grants, the new playground is pegged at nearly $5M. The new City budget, published on May 5, includes expensive studies for new projects that are unlikely to come to fruition given our budget outlook.
Here’s how you can participate in the budget decisions, and share input on which Cupertino services to keep or cut:


1. Take the 2023 Community Budget Survey by May 16. Although the survey is open until May 31, survey results will be presented on May 17th.

  • The survey includes a question about selling assets. These are assets purchased through prior ballot tax measures:
  • Water rights, which were purchased through a bond measure in 1960, to San Jose Water, a subsidiary of a publicly-traded company
  • Blackberry Farm Golf Course, which was purchased to preserve as open space through a bond measure funded by the Utility Users Tax (UUT) in 1990
  • At the end of the survey, you can provide written comments. Draft your own response to express budget concerns or priorities that are not addressed elsewhere in the survey.

2. Write to City Council as follows:
    SUBJECT: City Council 5/17/2023, Written Communication, City Budget, Agenda Item 1

3. Meet with your City Council members

4. Attend the May 17 City Budget Meeting in-person or via zoom at 5PM. 

5. Attend the May 18 Budget Town Hall Meeting in-person or via zoom at 6:30PM 

6. Sign up to receive meeting reminders at the City website 


Civil Grand Jury Case Consumes Public Resources Scrutinizing Prior Council’s Actions

BACKGROUND: From 2018-2022, resident-focused Council Members held a 4-1 majority in Cupertino, ensuring that our local government served the needs and interests of residents first. These Council Members pushed back against those who came to Cupertino intent on maximizing profit with little regard for how their actions impact the people who live here.

During 2018-2022, the Council worked with City staff to accomplish significant achievements for the benefit of Cupertino residents, including:

Despite efforts to elect 3 resident-focused Council Members in 2022, campaigns backing financial interest candidates were significantly better-funded. Council Member Liang Chao was re-elected, but financial interest candidates prevailed in 2022 and, for now, hold a 3-2 Council majority in Cupertino.

Resident-focused Council Members Liang Chao and Kitty Moore continue to work hard to advocate for fiscal accountability, transparency, environmental protection, sensible development, and improved transit and City services for residents. They continue these efforts in spite of a work environment made hostile by a Council majority that resents sharing the dais with Council members whose legislative priorities and support base differs from their own. Unlike today’s Council majority, Council Members Chao and Moore neither sought nor received campaign support from financial interests: not from real estate interests, corporations, nor labor unions.

CIVIL GRAND JURY REPORT: In 2022, an anonymous individual submitted a complaint to the Civil Grand Jury, Santa Clara County alleging that resident-focused Council Members asked too many questions, wrote too many email messages to staff, made certain staff members “feel threatened”–not to be confused with  threatening staff, which they did not do–, and filed public records requests (a right protected by State Law for all persons, including elected officials, under Code § 7921).

MAY 9TH CITY COUNCIL RESPONSE: Council Member Chao questioned which specific Cupertino Municipal Codes she allegedly violated. None were cited by number in either the Civil Grand Jury Report or the City-funded investigation summary. She also cited specific Municipal Code sections which did appear to codify the right of Council Members to ask questions of staff. The City Attorney did not answer Chao’s question. Instead, he asserted that the problem rested with her perceived “volume and tone of voice,” presumably when engaging with staff.

Then, Council Member Fruen initiated a motion to remove Council Members Moore and Chao from their committee assignments. The motion was approved by Mayor Wei and Vice Mayor Mohan.

It is questionable whether 3 Council Members will adequately represent Cupertino residents on the many City, district, County, and regional boards and committees without Council Members Moore and Chao. 

In 4-5 months, Council will revisit the Civil Grand Jury report and reconsider the political consequences the Council majority has imposed on their colleagues. What will have changed?

For further detail:

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