February 12, 1991
By Yolanda Reynolds
A small group of friends of former Mayor McEnery have approached City Hall with a proposal to name the new San Jose Convention Cnter in his honor. Among those present at the Wednesday afternoon press conference were the former mayor’s chief of staff, Dean Munro, former aides, David Pandori (now councilman) and Pat Dando; Councilwoman Shirley Lewis and her cousin Rich Cristina both of whom have been business associates of McEnery.
The group’s spokesman was Michael Fox. a local Budweiser beer distributor. Fox said that the idea of honoring the Mayor came as the consequence of a meeting the group had at the Gardner school, where a young student had suggested a holiday be declared in honor of Tom McEnery. At the conference another young student said that for him, McEnery compared to Martin Luther King Jr. and he felt it appropriate to honor two such great leaders side by side. San Jose’s Main Library recently had its name changed from San Jose Main Library to Martin Luther King Jr. Library. That library is slated to be moved from that location to make room for several hotels. It is not certain where the new main library will be located.
Since this proposal has become public, a number of questions have been raised. Some citizens questioned the naming of facilities or other structures paid for with taxpayer money and located on city (taxpayer) land in honor of an individual.
The City does have a policy on this matter, which was adopted in 1972 after a major controversy erupted regarding the naming of the Center For Performing Arts (CPA) in honor of Virginia Mitchell who was the driving force in convincing the City to build the Performing Arts Center one of the first Redevelopment projects in San Jose.
Following that controversy, an Ordinance was adopted which defined an application and review process. The policy sates “1. Except as other wise provided below, City-owned land shall be given the naming with geographical or historical significance. 2. Consideration shall be given be the naming of City-owned land after individuals only when land or the money for its purchase has been donated by them, or when otherwise warranted by some contribution or service which is, deemed to be of significance. 3.Names of individuals shall be permitted for buildings, monuments, fountains, and any other facilities or structures located upon City-owned land where warranted by signiﬁcant contributions, monetary or otherwise.
The Ordinance goes on to state that requests concerning name “shall be made in writing to the City Clerk… and prior to Council approval 7 review by the Parks and Recreation Commission if appropriate… all other requests shall be forwarded to the Historic Landmarks Commission for Review.”
Kathy Chavez Napoli says. “if we are going to honor any Mayor of San Jose it should be of a person who has made a major contribution no not only to the City, but, to the nation, someone like Norm Mineta or former Janet Gray Hayes both of whom are nationally recognized – Congressman Mineta and Janet Gray Hayes both charted first – he as the first Japanese-American mayor of a major city and Hayes who was the first female mayor of a major U.S. city.”
Other suggest that the birth place of such community leaders as Cesar Chavez or Ernesto Galarza should name a monument, building, park, bridge or Convention Center (if such is to be named) in their honor.
Hank Rosendin community and a retired City of San Jose Park and Recreation Supervisor says; “Undoubtedly time will enhance the recognition of the great contribution to the development of San Jose that Tom McEnery has made. However, the hasty action of his admirers will produce nothing and will bring great embarrassment to a man who should be enjoying the completion of his eight years in office. We all learned what lack of respect for proper governmental processes causes – a deep division in the community.”
The annual “contribution to the City” by McEnery is not certain. During the last mayoral campaign candidate Chris Panapolis stated that “… half a billion dollars have been spent downtown creating a city debt of $1 billion dollars… with redevelopment consuming more than half of city property taxes (causing) city services to suffer… (and) creating a debt load of over $1,000 for every San Jose resident.” Currently the City is facing another year of budget problems – according to recent reports the City’s budget is facing a short fall of at least $3 million – that was before the Iraqi invasion. Already delayed is the promised fire station at North First and Montague.
Revenues are off, some of the decrease is due to a nationwide recession, but some Redevelopment projects have never produced as predicted by Tom McEnery and his staff. For example, the Pavilion, a downtown shopping complex conceived by Redevelopment, again had a dismal year. Business for the holiday season was down even further for the few businesses that remain there – some experiencing a 50% drop in their business from last year. Business has been so bad that one entire area, the second ﬂoor is vacant. Previous reports indicated that to date the Pavilion has received approximately a $43 million subsidy from Redevelopment (the Taxpayer). More subsidies are planed for a movie theater complex, a department store and more hotels.
Of the 21 Redevelopment projects carried out during the McEnery years, 21 were over budget from 10% to 120%. This includes the Convention Center to over $145 million. There has not been and audit of the project since 1988. Since its opening the operational costs of the Convention Center range between $5 and $7 million dollars – money which comes out of the City’s General Fund – the same fund that pays for police, library books and other neighborhood services.
The problems with the Convention Center have not ended. Just this November, another Convention Center contractor, Scott Co. of California, is suing the City and the Convention Center’s primary contractor, Blount Brothers of Alabama, claiming they are owed $4 million.
For the Hispanic community one of the gravest Redevelopment issues was the insensitive and cruel displacement of so many families from their downtown homes in the Guadalupe Auzerais area to make room for the new San Jose Convention Center, which now – Tom McEnery’s friends wish to name in his honor. The manner in which those residents were displaced, most of whom were Hispanic resulted in a lawsuit against the City. The City lost and was ordered to build replacement housing. To date much of that housing has yet to be constructed.
Mayor Susan Hammer said at that afternoon conference that she was pleased to express her support to the proposal for naming the Convention Center after her predecessor. At the start of her successful mayoral campaign Hammer told this reporter that the “City did do a miserable job – I’m not proud of it – (it’s) a black mark on the City on how it handled Guadalupe Auzerais (resident relocation)” Some people in San Jose have called Redevelopment “Hispanic Removal.”
Napoli says. “it is unfortunate that Mayor Hammer is missing here an opportunity to show leadership, she is instead doggedly following the former mayor’s agenda.”
City up to now has always insisted that everything funded by the City should include “San Jose” as part of its name to help bring identity and name recognition to the City. The City, including Redevelopment has spent millions of dollars in promoting the name, “San Jose,” in its quest for national and international fame – has it given up?
If you wish to suggest a name for the Convention Center, write to the San Jose City Clerk, Attn: Historic Landmarks Commission, San Jose City Hall, 801 North First Street San Jose, California 95110.
The Historic Landmarks Commission meets on the First Wednesday of each month at City Hall Room 200 at 7:00 pm. The public is invited to attend those meetings.