La Oferta

March 26, 2023

Chris J. Panopulos, Mayoral Candidate: “Redevelopment… impact to the Hispanic community has been unnecessarily cruel”

February 28, 1990

By Yolanda Reynolds

La Oferta Newspaper
La Oferta Newspaper

La Oferta Review each week will be featuring the responses of San Jose Mayoral candidates to some of the issues and concerns that have been voiced within our community.

There is o order in which the candidates were selected for interview other than their availability at the time the La Oferta reporter telephoned for an interview.

It is intended that all of the candidates will be interviewed. At this time there are seven announced candidates. In order to be as fair as possible, the mayoral candidates were each interviewed and asked the same questions.

The first mayoral candidate interviewed is Chris J. Panopulos. He was the first person to announce publicly that he was entering the race for Mayor of San Jose.

Mr. Panopulos is a lifetime resident of San Jose. He graduated from San Jose High School, later graduating with honors (top 3%) in Commerce from San Jose State and holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Stanford University. He retired in 1983 from Westinghouse Corporation, Marine Division located in Sunnyvale where he worked as a Professional Accountant.

He served in the overseas European Theater as PFC in the 526 Armored Infantry Battalion, U.S. Army from 1943-1946.

Mr. Panopulos has had a long time interest in education and has served the community in a variety of activities. He has been a strong supporter and advocate of the establishment of the Guadalupe River Park. Panopulos was first president, and with Shirley Lewis, the co-founder of Friends of Guadalupe River Park.

He is especially well known for his role in establishing community trust funds. He has started twelve of these funds to date. Beginning with small initial contributions they have now grown through careful investments, to a cumulative total of over $200,000. Most of these funds were designed to provide scholarship money to deserving students. As a member of San Jose Medical Center Board of Directors, he initiated a 10 millions endowment fund for the benefit of the San Jose Medical Foundation.

Because of his philanthropic activities, Chris has been recognized with awards from San Jose City College, San Jose State University, Stanford University and the City of San Jose.

Chris is divorced and has two children, both adults. His son, Jim is an engineer and lives in San Jose. His daughter, Dorie, lives in Burlingame and his employed with Service Merchandise.

1. There is a perception within the Hispanic community that there is an unequal distribution of city services in the community. Example – District 5 is one of the districts with the fewest number of neighborhood parks; Alviso in District 4, a community with a large percentage of Hispanic families not only lacks city services but is very concerned about a dump that has for years been allowed to function without permits or proper zoning. The list goes on. How will you address these problems? In your response be specific to the examples mentioned.

C.P. One of the first thing that I would do is bring and Hispanic into the Mayor’s office. I would expect him to give direction (to the Mayor) in addressing those inequities. (This) has to be done through the City Council, but in certain Districts where parks and other services are missing. Any additional monies available to the city will be used to address these inequities.

In an ongoing manner, the Aide will be expected to be in close contact with the Hispanic community. If inequities persist I will use every (medium) possible to alert the community that there needs to be a big improvement.”

With regard to the dumping – I’m not familiar with the issue but if there is a problem – and there probably is – then I would want my aide to use his and the communities’ input via the City Manager to try to address the problem.

I want Hispanic in key positions in all departments – Public Works, Parks and Recreation – in order that the community would have a much larger say in what is happening in City Hall.

2. The educational achievement of all youth has been falling, particularly for Hispanic youth. What do you propose to do to help with this situation? How do you envision the city’s role in education?

C.P. I would love to see the City of San Jose (be) more aggressive in support of education. My suggestion is that the Mayor and the ten people on the City Council should do everything possible to bring additional money (to the schools), through benefits and fund raising activities.

By adopting one school per year – eventually in a four-year period, 44 schools would be adopted. Also, in using the prestige of the Mayor’s office and the City Council, more money would come from the private sector – I think that could help tremendously.

3. Affordable housing is an issue. How do you plan to alleviate the scarcity of such housing? Do you support a land banking program? Redevelopment Law requires that no less than 20% of its money be spent in housing. Do you support that 50% of the Redevelopment monies be spent in housing? Why? Why not?

C.P. Again, it rides with the City Council, but the mayor has to show the leadership and it goes back to the (matter of) inequities – that of (Hispanics) being on the short end – in almost every way you could think of.

In order to bring equity, 20% is not enough. I think (it, the percentage) has to go upwards even to 50%. I would hope that Blanca Alvarado would also take the lead in trying to resolve these inequities.

I would work very closely with her (Blanca) and the Council and try to solve some of these problems.

4. Hispanics feel that there has been an unequal distribution of art funding and a distinct lack of recognition of the Hispanic/Indian contribution to San Jose’s History. Example – erection of a statue to Thomas Fallon, a man who many see as a conqueror and an insult to the Hispanic community. And now there is the officially sanctioned proposal to close the only Spanish language theater in downtown San Jose. There is a lack of an “official” Hispanic presence in downtown San Jose – and a growing dissatisfaction with that absence.

How will you address these concerns? Please respond in general to the above mentioned perception and to the specific examples that have caused great concern and controversy. Finally, would you support a major Hispanic-oriented cultural center with support given it not unlike that given the opera, symphony, museum, etc.?

C.P. I’ll address first the problem of the Studio Theater in downtown San Jose. I think it’s disastrous if the City Council, acting through as the Redevelopment Agency enact eminent domain to acquire that theater and deprive the Hispanic the Hispanic community of one tremendous asset. The City should be appreciative of the cultures within the Hispanic community.

To go back to the question of the cultural center – I would support it one hundred percent. If the Opera San Jose can get funding from the City of San Jose and other conventional arts organizations, there is no reason why the Hispanic Cultural Center can’t receive that same privilege – don’t’ treat Hispanics as second or third class citizens. Everything possible must be done to (include) them in the mainstream.

5. There is a perception that Hispanic businesses are not desired in downtown and in fact have been deliberately displaced. A downtown Business Association letter to the City’s DWRC states, “Retail surrounding the San Antonio blocks, particularly south of San Carlos and north of San Fernando streets, is in a state of transition. The diversity of retail in these areas adds to the character of downtown. However, many of price and ethnic stores do not develop sound product or pricing strategies that enable them to effectively complement new retail or maximize sales per square foot of retail space.”

How do you react to the statement made in that memo? What measures will you take to promote downtown Hispanic owned and market oriented business?

C.P. First of all, City Hall and local government, including the Mayor and the City Council should not be enemy of small business. They (city leaders) should not make it difficult for small business to survive. The worst possible thing to happen is bankruptcy. It’s certainly not in the best interest of the community, so that (Hispanic business owners and Hispanic oriented business markets would be successful and a part of the main stream of life on downtown San Jose.

6. Redevelopment has demolished much housing in downtown San Jose. For example, the Guadalupe Auzerais neighborhood for the Convention Center, Children’s Discovery Museum, etc. and more recently for the Arena and the Guadalupe River Park. Many if not, the majority of those displaced were Hispanic families. Some say that Redevelopment is really Hispanic removal. Currently Redevelopment 20% housing dollars will be spent in the Central Incentive Zone which covers a large part of Central San Jose and includes the areas of displaced Hispanic housing. Do you consider this policy racist? Why? Why not?

C.P. I agree that there are great inequities and that the Hispanic community is the recipient of these inequities.

First of all, I will preface my remarks by saying that Redevelopment – since Mayor McEnery has taken office – has tried to accomplish too many things, too fast, with little though of the impact and the consequences, with literally hundreds and perhaps thousands of people adversely affected. There has been no attempt to stabilize the inconvenience and hardships with so many projects going forward simultaneously – the downtown Convention Center, the Downtown Mall, the Children’s Discovery Museum, the Technology Center, hotels and many other items – the impact to the Hispanic community has been unnecessarily cruel.

It would ideally have been better if these projects would have been spread over a much longer period of time in order for the (community) to understand and know the options open to them I do not think that the policy is racist but it demonstrates a lack of foresight on the part of the Redevelopment Board and Agency as to the consequences of what’s happening to the people who are adversely affected – especially Hispanics and many downtown merchants.

Some if not all (of the Council) behaved as if they did not care about the consequences. It appears that the Mayor and the Council said, “Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.” That shows me a tremendous lack of planning.