La Oferta

March 25, 2023

Fallon Statue: Questions yet to be answered

June 13, 1990

By Yolanda Reynolds

La Oferta Newspaper.

Thursday evening, June 7, after months of controversy regarding the Fallon statue, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved a proposal that addressed most of the concern raised in the Fallon controversy.

The Hispanic community spoke out in opposition to the Fallon statue because the statue portrays Thomas Fallon as a Captain raising the American flag in conquest over the Californios/Mexicans, and the selection and review and the lack of community involvement in that process.

The statue was scheduled to be placed in the center of town at the north end of Plaza Park near the San Jose Museun of Art.

The lengthy meeting (ending after 12 midnight) began with a presentation by Redevelopment staff regarding the “Arts in Public Places” and the “Plan for the Past.”

Frank Tayor Redevelopment Chief discussed another matter of controversy, the cost of the statue.

Mr. Taylor’s accounting of the cost of the statue reflected the same information this reporter received in writing from the Mayor’s office regarding the Fallon statue.

In response from the Mayor reads as follows: “the city negotiated an agreement with the developer of the San Antonio Plaza project (which requires that) 1 percent of the funds (be spent) for art projects. The total (tax to be collected) from the developer amounted to $715,000.00; the Mayor pointed out that the City, at Mr. Taylor’s request, committed an additional $295,000.00 to the proposed art purchases resulting in a total (tax) of $920,000.00. The three art projects in the San Antonio Plaza area include “the Scanga statue, the Fallon statue and art inside the Fairmont.”

His memo goes on to state, “as for the Fallon statue specifically, the total cost paid by the developer was $204,000.00, with the Redevelopment Agency contributing $205,000.00 for a total of statue cost of $445,000.00. In addition, the Redevelopment absorbed the additional cost of $506,000.00 for reconstruction and granite siding of the north island where the statue would be placed. However, the (north island) work is not directly attributed to the Fallon statue as the island will be used for art work regardless of the specific price. The total amount (for the Fallon statue alone) the Mayor’s states “is therefore $950,000.00.”

The Mayor further states that “The Fiscal Department of the Redevelopment Agency handles all accounting related to expenditures authorized by the Redevelopment Board. The fees to the artists, however are paid directly to the artist by the developer.”

In another memo dated June 17, 1988 from Redevelopment Chief Frank Taylor to Gerald Newfarmer regarding the Development and Design Agreement (DDA) for the San Antonio Plaza Development, Taylor recaps the costs as follows: a total of $920,000.00, (is) available for the “art dedication agreement.” This sum includes the reallocation of $205,000.00 from the developers “public improvement funds.”

Taylor states that the San Antonio Plaza developer commits $445,000.00 to the Fallon statue; $220,000.00 to the Scanga and the remaining. $255,000.00 is to be “spent on various paintings, sculptures, and artifacts installed in public places in the Fairmont Hotel.”

In that memo Taylor goes on to assure the Redevelopment Agency Board “the dollar figures quoted… include all costs associated with procurement and installation of the artwork, including consultant fees, artist commissions, and installation fees, all permits, framing, site preparation, and pedestals where appropriate.”

In another paragraph of the same memo, Taylor informs the Agency Board that approval of the agreement proposing reallocation of developer funds does not require expenditures of agency funds, and therefore no fiscal action is required.”

There are a number of questions to he asked such as; Did the Agency Board approve the $711,000.00, Redevelopment Agency contribution to the erection of this statue? What happened to the remaining $205,130.00 directly assessed of the developer for the Fallon statue? What “developer improvements” were delayed or changed to allow for a transfer of the $205,000.00 directly assessed of the developer for the Fallon statue? What developer improvements” were delayed or changed to allow for a transfer of the $205,000.00 developer improvement fees to the purchase of art for public places?

Contrary to reports regarding the Fallon statue in some of the media, this controversy was not simply a matter of “hurt pride on the part of some in the Mexican – American/Hispanic community.”

Many people and many groups shared the concerns and rationale for opposition to the statue. There were letters of concern, and/or speakers in support of the Pueblo Unido de San Jose Coalition from such disparate groups as the San Benito/Santa Clara Labor Council, Raza Si, the G.I. Forum, the Jackson/Taylor Neighborhood Association, the Hispanic Development Corporation, UMBE (the United Minority Business Association Entrepreneurs Inc.) and many individuals who represented the spectrum of ethnic groups living within and nearby San Jose.

Indeed, the group formed to oppose the Fallon statue, the “Pueblo Unido de San Jose – Coalition”, Thursday evening demonstrated that most of the citizens of the City of San Jose respect and appreciate the multi ethnic diversity present in the City and that they are willing to be involved in assuring that nothing occurs to change that spirit of unity in this City.

Vice Mayor Blanca Alvarado, that evening, at the conclusion of the public testimony summarized the events surrounding the Fallon controversy with feeling and eloquence.

She stated that she felt a “lesson had been learned” and that “the community had conveyed to its leaders that governance of this city, which is a community of diverse ethnic and cultures, requires that the elected officials enact policies that ensure representation, by official appointment, of those communities to the many important City commissions and committees.”

Alvarado began her remarks as follows: “The proposed placement of the Captain Fallon statue in Plaza Park, and the public controversy it has generated, illustrates the sensitivity that is required to live and govern in a multi-ethnic community such as San Jose.

For the past four months, I have listened to concerns expressed about the passionate feelings that this statue arouses in the Mexican American community and about the process by which public art is selected and approved. On both counts, I believe it is essential that the political leadership act with careful consideration and sensitivity in our pluralistic and democratic society.

Although many people may find the controversy over the Fallon statue difficult to understand, it is neither surprising not without merit when considering our community’s multicultural roots and the unique historical connection of the Mexican people to our City’ founding. In the case of the Fallon statue, Mexican Americans who have their roots in this City have come forward to remind us that historical fact has many meanings. A significant number of our community finds the act of conquest portrayed by the statue to be offensive. In essence, the raising of the flag points to the subjugation of the ancestors of many of our citizens and has opened up old wounds of historical significance.”

She goes on to say “While l am convinced that those involved in the selection of the Fallon statue acted in good faith, there is agreement that the controversy surrounding the Fallon statue arose out of a flawed review and selection process. The City Council implicitly admitted as much to be the case when it approved, on April 17, 1990 the revisions to the Arts In Public Places Program.

A major improvement to the process has been to establish a proactive role for the Fine Arts Commission, which would recommend a three year public Art Implementation Plan, recommend an overall site plan, review the annual work program of the Arts in Public Places Advisory Plane and monitor the selection process to ensure that established procedures are followed.”

In addition Alvarado says, “the Arts in Public Places Advisory Panel became more focused on the selection of artists and or works of art. By defining the respective roles and public process through which art is selected and placed, the public will have the ability to provide urgently needed input. If this public process would have existed during the time that the Fallon statue was being developed, in all likelihood, the issues would have been identified and resolved during the public process.”

Furthermore, Alvarado said “It is important to acknowledge the deep feelings and divisiveness that has emerged as a result of this issue. In acknowledgement of this reality and to promote the healing that would allow us to focus on the positive aspects of our public art program, I feel that it is important for me to apologize to those who may have been offended by the Fallon statue and or by the process through which it emerged.”

Of special significance to the Pueblo Unido de San Jose Coalition, Alvarado at that meeting pointed out that rather than recommend that the Fallon statue be placed in the St. John Historic District and that two other statues be commissioned to commemorate the Spanish and Mexican periods of the Pueblo of San Jose – she said – “I now believe that if the recommendations of the Mayor are approved by the Council, the PROCESS SHOULD NOT BE INFLUENCED BY PRECONCEIVED IDEAS.” In other words the statue and its place in San Jose is to be approached as if the Fallon statue is only one of many other ideas to be considered as the subject for Art in Public Places.

Her specific recommendations which were adopted by the Council were as follows:

“That the matter of the Fallon statue be referred to the process recommended by Mayor McEnery, which includes the formation of an Historic Art Advisory Committee (HAAC).”

The following amendments were added by Alvarado which are that there be “appointed eight community members reflecting San Jose’s ethnic diversity to HAAC, and the FULL FINE ARTS COMMISSION (FAC) REVIEW A LIST OF ETHNIC MEMBERS INTERESTED IN SERVING on the newly created HISTORIC ARTS ADVISORY COMMITTEE AND THAT THEY (the FAC) SELECT THE EIGHT APPOINTEES” and lastly that in the “spirit of goodwill and to begin the healing process, the City Council adopt, in principle, a referral to the Administrative Services committee to consider a plan to expand ethnic representation on the already established City commissions dealing with arts and culture, such as the Fine Arts Commission, the Historic Landmarks Commission, the Arts in Public Places Advisory Panel and the Urban Design Review Board.

District 9 Council person, Jim Beall, briefly restating the need for inclusion of the broader community on important commissions asked that the Downtown working Review Committee, the powerful citizens advisory group to the powerful Redevelopment Agency also be included in the amendment to the Mayor’s proposal.

A number of the City Council persons remarked upon the “good and important benefit that had resulted as a consequence of the Fallon statue controversy”. They acknowledged that governance in a multicultural community requires sensitivity and the inclusion of all groups to the process, beginning or appointments with representatives from those communities to the many important commissions and boards that make recommendations to the City Council.

Persons interested in serving on City committees and commissions should contact their City Council representative of the Pueblo Unido Coalition for more details at 727-2244 or 277-5157.