Union City council adds 3 norms prioritizing citywide focus

UNION CITY, Calif. — The Union City City Council has added three new norms to its existing seven in order to keep council members focused on the city as a whole rather than their individual districts.

On Tuesday night, the Union City City Council unanimously decided to add the three new norms, which are intended to ensure the council members maintain a long-term, citywide focus when making decisions and prioritize good customer service when interacting with residents from any district. The council also amended an existing norm to ensure council members support each other.

The City Council now has the following 10 norms:

  1. We conduct ourselves in a professional manner, treat everyone with respect and act with high integrity, always putting the interests of the city of Union City ahead of self-interests in accordance with our code of ethics.
  2. We respect the council-manager form of government, and do not interfere with the city manager’s role or any professional duties of city staff.
  3. We keep confidential matters confidential.
  4. We respect each other’s opinions, are supportive of their work advocating for the city and ensure that all voices are heard. We do not criticize others for having a different point of view, and we agree to disagree respectfully.
  5. We understand that the council acts as a body, all members are equal, and policy direction is only given by a majority vote of the council. Once a decision is made, all members of the City Council must respect the council’s direction.
  6. We are prepared for council meetings and ask our questions of the city manager in advance so we can avoid surprising staff at our meetings.
  7. We do not criticize staff to them or others. We take our concerns to the city manager.
  8. We will govern on an at-large basis, although elected by districts. We will maintain a citywide perspective and consider the needs and interests of the entire community.
  9. We will continue to allocate resources based on long-term strategic priorities and efforts, with consideration of citywide service levels and financial capacity.
  10. We understand customer service is the priority and each member of the City Council will help constituents regardless of the district in which they resides or from which a council member themselves is elected.

The City Council adopted the first seven norms to help the council members work better together as a policy body in January 2021, after crafting them with consulting firm Management Partners, now Baker Tilly, the August prior. At that time, incumbent Council Member Gary Singh was the only one on the council who had been elected to represent a district instead of the city as a whole — Union City held its first by-district elections in 2020. Three additional council members were elected to represent a specific district during the past fall — incumbent Vice Mayor Jaime Patiño and council members Jeff Wang and Scott Sakakihara. At a workshop with Baker Tilly last month, the council discussed the norms with the newly-elected council members and the adopted norms are what resulted.

Patiño requested that Norm 4 be modified to add the language about supporting each other’s work, which the other members of the council supported. Patiño also requested the council add a norm requiring the city manager to inform all council members of any updates as close to the same time as possible to avoid some council members “receiving information much later than others.”

Wang and Singh appeared supportive, but Sakakihara said the norms were intended to hold the council accountable and it would make more sense to lay out what is expected of the city manager elsewhere, with which Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci agreed. Patiño pointed out that at least three other norms touch on the relationship between the council and the city manager.

The council ultimately did not adopt that proposal as a norm, but did direct the city manager to keep all the council members in the loop about information that will be on upcoming meeting agendas.

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