May 2, 1990
By Yolanda Reynolds
Policy makers and others in the community are asking why there is opposition in the Hispanic community to the Fallon statue as well as to other recent actions such as the proposed takeover of the Studio Theater.
The statue has become a symbol upon which the community has expressed its dissatisfaction of a series of actions taken in the last ten years.
The City of San Jose has a General Plan, “Horizon 2,000.” In this document, citizens will find, a detailed account of the services and “level of service” standards a citizen living in San Jose can expect its policy leaders to support and achieve.
In the General Plan is included such information as the type and location of zoning within the city and the kind of services it intends to provide its citizens. These services, such as libraries and the number of books per population, police, fire stations and personnel, quality and extend of maintenance of its infrastructure eg., roads, etc., parks and recreational services provided for by its city government and their tax dollars.
San Jose’s General Plan is not unlike a College catalog, in which a student is expected to meet certain requirements to remain in school so that the student can eventually graduate. The college or university is also expected to provide certain services such as qualified teachers, classrooms etc. and an agreed upon process to achieve those goals.
Both the General Plan and a college catalog are in fact a contract or compact. Each has a responsibility to the other.
The City of San Jose is its General Plan states that the basic purpose of city government is “to provide the structure within which all members of a diverse community can purpose their objectives with equality and in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding and to create and enhance the sense of community and foster the faith that the great effort required to sustain and enhance urban life can successfully be made.”
If City government has actually followed these principles a number of offensive actions and events that have taken place in San Jose would have been averted.
Mutual respect would have assured that the Fine Arts Commission and the community at large would have been consulted in the selection of public art. Most likely a statue of Thomas Fallon would not have been approved. Fallon, by any account, was not a notable figure in history worthy of such a large expenditure of public money.
For more modern day intelligentsia, the erection of statues dedicated to individuals is a nineteenth century phenomenon, today found usually in dictatorships as in Romania, the Soviet Union pre Gorbachew, and in Marcos’ Philippines.
Attention to the community’s cultural image is important. Hank Rosendin, former San Jose City Parks and Recreation Director and currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Hispanic Development Corporation, says that “the cultural experience can be a force that contributes to the development of the full gamut of human potential. This potential cannot emerge unless the capacities basic to them are given expression and cultivated. Cultural experiences can be used to expand the natural capacities of all human beings toward increasing satisfactions to the individual and to assist him/her in attaining skills needed for living the full life.”
He further states that the cultural experience can: contribute to an individual’s self worth, be a device for socialization of people, be a medium for discovery and development of leadership, be a frontier for, the exercise of freedom, be a tool for perpetrating democracy which develops responsibility, improves self image, prevents crime both juvenile and adult, be a dynamic force for the evolution and understanding of others, be a vehicle to improve health and prolong life, teaches people to serve others and improve their community, and finally elevate the human spirit in the individual, the group, the community and the nation.
When taxpayer monies are involved, priorities are automatically an issue. The San Jose Library staff recently reported to the Finance committee that the library’s budget was inadequate to meet its operational needs; in particular money for shelving library materials, most of which were foreign language materials. Shelving of these and other library materials had been delayed because of a shortage of funds.
Finance committee Council representatives, Susan Hammer and Joe Head balked at providing the needed funds from the General Fund for this purpose but suggested that the Library Director instead borrow money from next year’s budget.
Others in the community are very concerned about the lack of after school and summer community educational and recreational activities for the youth. Again, policy makers claim a lack of general fund monies.
Maria Elena Chavez, M.A.P.A. chairperson, recently shared the findings of a report prepared by the Chicano Mental Health Association entitled “An Alarming State of Affairs,” a Santa Clara County Latino Youth Incarcerated Advocacy Program Status Report.
The findings of this report indicate that “Latino youth penetrate the Juvenile Hall systems at a higher percentage (31-35 percent) than the total Latino group constitutes in the general county population.”
The emotion expressed in the community over the Fallon statues springs from an absence of adherence to basic humanistic principles in the development of the City of San Jose.
For the above reasons, the Fallon statue as depicted is offensive primarily because “it commemorates in effect or by design of the legal and bureaucratic processes which (have) deprived Latino/Mexican-Americans of many of their civil rights.”
The community is yet struggling and battling the effects of legal and bureaucratic processes which have deprived Latinos/Mexican-Americans of involvement in decision making by the policy makers and parity in the disbursement of community services and resources.
He Hispanic community points to other events as well to demonstrate that the provisions in the General Plan relative to community services and cultural diversity have been systematically violated and ignored.
There is very little evidence in either the downtown area, the Historical Museum or elsewhere in the community, a reflection of the rich Hispanic heritage, of the city.
The Mayfair “Sal Si Puedes” community, with Model Cities funding provided $100,000.00 to develop a master plan for the Plaza de Guadalupe. The new Guadalupe River Plan completely ignores the cultural aspects of the original plans completed in the early 1980’s.
The administration took that original plan and completely change it. An action not dissimilar to the Fair Association Arena plans that the City squashed, only to later surface with its own more expansive plan.
Up to this year, support for ethnic groups in San Jose by Fine Arts Commission grants has been less than 4 percent of the budget while the ethnic population is over 50 percent.
The recently completed Convention Center highlights the insensitivity to the heritage of this city and a “sense of place.” The large group of citizens who planned the gala celebration did not include any representatives of ethnic groups. Also, one million dollars was expended for a mural over the main doorway that is irrelevant to the community.
A more recent example of City Hall’s ineptness in cultural understanding was the furor created by the Mayor at his “Unity Breakfast” when he proposed to take over downtown’s only Spanish language theater by eminent domain and turn it over to the San Jose Repertory Theater.
The group that was formed in opposition to the Fallon statue, “El Pueblo Unido de San Jose Coalition,” continues to take its message to the community with noontime pickets (Fridays) at Park Center Plaza in downtown San Jose.
Vice Mayor Alvarado proposed a compromise on the Fallon statue at a meeting at Prush Park held to discuss Hispanic Arts. Tentatively the proposal is to place the statue at the Fallon home location on St. John Street rather than placing the statue at Park Center Plaza. The date and time at which the proposal will be on the Council agenda has not been announced.
At the time, the community will be able to voice its opinion.