May 23, 1990
By Yolanda Reynolds
Monday’s mayoral press conference with the Hispanic media not only provided an opportunity for the Hispanic media to ask questions, but became a forum for a number of other concerned variety of issues. The news conference was held Monday morning in the Mayor’s sixth floor conference room. The Mayor’s conference room was ﬁlled almost to capacity. Discussion ranged from Reid Hillview to youth programs but was dominated with questions involving the Fallon statue.
This was the first press conference since coming to office (seven years ago) Mayor McEnery has held with the Hispanic media. The meeting came about several months ago when La Oferta Review publisher, Mary Andrade, and others in the Hispanic media planned the press conference with the Mayor’s Public Information Officer, Maribel Alvarez, based on the need for better communication between the Hispanic media and City Hall.
Repeated questioning regarding the final location of the Fallon statue did not elicit a direct response from the Mayor. He repeated several times that the Fallon statue was a part of a comprehensive scheme detailed in “The Plan For The Past.” The Mayor believes that, taken in the full context of this plan, future statues (to be erected after he leave the office) will mitigate the objections that many in the Hispanic community have voiced regarding the Fallon statue.
Mayor McEnery further defended his actions by pointing out that he, alone among the City’s previous mayors or anyone else in City Hall, held the city’s past in high regard and was doing something to commemorate that past.
He also remarked that historians agreed with him on the choice of Fallon as a person to be honored. McEnery also lamented that no statues had been erected in San Jose since the one built to honor President McKinley in 1901.
Elena Robles expressed sentiments shared by many others in the community, that far less objection to the statue would have been heard if Fallon holding a flag had been presented with his wife Carmela and their Mexican-American children rather than as Fallon the conqueror. Such a theme would not be one of conflict and conquest, but rather one of family, harmony and peace.
The Mayor stated that his objective regarding Fallon and other planned commemorative statues was to achieve an accurate portrayal of past history and vowed to work closely with the community on future projects.
The Mayor was questioned on a variety of points regarding the Fallon statue. The selection process by which the statue, the artist and the theme of the project were chosen was sharply questioned.
Learning that the process began with the “Plan For The Past,” a number of community members present questioned the manner in which the plan was adopted.
In a memo dated March 9, 1990 from Mayor: McEnery to Pierre Prodis, Chair of the Art in Public Places Advisory Panel, McEnery suggests among others personalities, that some more recent ﬁgures in San Jose history such as John Joseph Montgomery, Jay Mecabe, Tom Monogan, Anthony “Dutch” Hamann, T.S. Montgomery, Vic Corsiglia Sr. might be commemorated with busts or statues.
When told that many in the community objected to the Fallon statue being placed in Plaza Park, the Mayor said he was listening to “many” in the community and that the statue as depicted commemorated a period of history that should be remembered.
This reporter raised a question relative to the costs involved in erecting the Fallon statue by asking the source of money for the project, when an accounting for the funds expended was made, and expended was made, and how the city transferred the money offshore (France) where the statue was made. Another related question asked was the rational for the purchase of services and art out of San Jose when its citizens are exhorted to spend their money in downtown San Jose.
The Mayor defended buying elsewhere but declaring that art had no boundaries and that the City‘s objectives was to purchase the best available. He mentioned Hispanic names such as Mexico‘s Ricardo Legorreta. architect of the Children’s Discovery Museum. And Robert Graham who (he) “was told is Hispanic“ and who has been commissioned to construct a sculpture for Gore Park which will commemorate the arrival in Alta California of settlers from Mexico.
McEnery also stated that a part of the “grand scheme“ involved developing a curriculum about local history for elementary school children in San Jose.
Leonard Ramirez questioned the choice of Fallon for commemoration rather than the founder of San Jose, Jose Moraga. San Jose was founded and named by Jose Moraga in 1777. He hailed from Sinaloa. Mexico.
This reporter questioned how the Mayor planned to overcome a perception held by many in the Hispanic community that this administration’s policies have had negative impact on the community and shown disregard for the interest and sensitivity of that community.
Mayor McEnery responded by saying that he dealt only with reality, pointing out that he had hired many police officers 200), added 200 acres of parks to the city, 110 youth programs including some for anti drug abuse and athletic teams for the Eastside – even donating his recent increase in salary to this cause.
Anthony Soto addressed the lack of a Hispanic presence in downtown San Jose, remarking that till now the plans for a Mexican Cultural Center and Museum have not been clearly understood.
Olga Enciso Smith elicited from the Mayor a promise that he would work with her and her group on a cultural center in downtown San Jose. She also stressed the role that arts and culture play in helping to address community social problems.
Elena Robles exhorted the Mayor to recognize the depth of the sentiment felt by most of the Hispanic community regarding the Fallon statue and explained why
this issue has become a symbol of the larger concerns within the community on which City Hall policy has had such an impact. She recommended that policy makers seek input from Hispanics other than those who rely upon City Hall
funds for survival. She suggested that their advice would be more likely to accurately reflect the sentiment of the community.
The press conference ended with the promise by the Mayor that there be another one. The Mayor’s turn of office ends in seven months.