November 14, 1992
By Yolanda Reynolds
As the City’s residents struggle harder every day to provide for themselves and their families, the San Jose ofﬁcials of the largest City in the Santa Clara Valley continue to proceed with expensive and controversial capital (building) projects and city policies.
Early Tuesday afternoon, the City Council of San Jose unanimously approved an agreement to absorb 90% of the estimated $8.5 million cost of building two practice rinks for the Sharks Hockey Team in San Jose.
City officials say that the cost of the rink will not affect the City’s General Fund because the source of funding will be a COP (Certiﬁcate of Participation), is which a “revenue” bond that does not require taxpayer approval.
The rational of a “revenue” bond (COP) is that the project will make enough money to pay back both the interest and the principal of the loan.
A COP was used to pay for the Center for Performing Arts in the late 60’s and again for the construction of the New San Jose Convention Center. The amount borrowed for the new Convention Center was over $174 million.
In both instances, the anticipated revenues have been either nonexistent or woefully inadequate and the City’s General Fund has had to make up those payments. It was just last year that the General Fund finally paid off the debt of the Performing Arts Center. That debt payment was in excess of $1 million a year.
Since the opening of the new Convention Center — it has been draining between $8 and $10 million a year from the General Fund.
The planned rinks were considered to be to “encourage the Sharks Team players to live in San Jose, since the players generally prefer to live near the practice rinks.”
Proponents of the practice rinks also brought in ice hockey and skating enthusiasts to testify in favor of the project.
A striking characteristic of the proponents who came before the Council was that, with perhaps one or two exceptions, those who favored the construction were front such neighboring cities as Palo Alto, Fremont and Los Gatos.
Dan McFadden, the City of San Jose employee responsible for the contracts and agreements, reassured the Council that the team would be using the rinks for only 4% of the time and that the community would have access at other times.
Members of the Santa Clara Valley Hockey Association expressed appreciation for the proposed rinks because their group has had to raise around $50,000 to provide skating to their 87 kids at other privately owned rinks (Eastridge and Valco).
Albert Drost, a San Josean who is now eighty years old, said that as a youth and adult he was a skater and indicated that the patron interest in an ice skating rink was seriously overblown. He added that there is so little money to be made in the ice business that one of the rinks now in the Valley is up for sale.
Drost further criticized the expenditure of public money for a rink when the citizens of this City and the City itself have more basic and pressing needs.
Lilyann Brannon, another San Josean, protested the proposed location for the rink and suggested as an alternative the old FMC site near the yet to be completed Hockey Arena. Brannon expressed “horror” at the City’s lack of sensitivity to the signiﬁcance of the Mi Tierra Gardens, not only to the gardeners but also to the “essence of what this City should be about”
Lilyann Brannon is a long-time community advocate who favors governmental attention to children, families and the elderly. She was one of the early advocates in the Valley for community gardens as well as for greater environmental awareness and safety.
Others speakers asked that the Council consider the needs of the homeless who need not only homeless but, even more immediately, a few low-cost amenities such as “a place to shower.”
They explained that there are few places to shower and that the needy, homeless people must schedule – by mail a week in advance – an opportunity to bather at the available shelters. The likelihood that many of the “at risk youth” will utilize the ice skating rink was not addressed.
Several San Jose officials say that the added rinks are important because they are important because they will provide an “activity for the at risk youth in San Jose.”
Even though Tuesday’ discussion of rinks began at 3p.m. and did not conclude until after 9:30 p.m. many San Joseans sat through the entire meeting.
Tuesday the City Council-also discussed readjustments to the General Fund Budget and hear testimony from a number of the City’s departments.
Due to State governmental budget action, the City of San Jose (like all other cities in California) will receive less State money and must re-balance its budget.
The City of San Jose must ﬁnd another $10+ million to balance its budget. Mayor Hammer announced that, even so, her top priority remained –to hire 45 more police officers.
Les White, the San Jose City Manager, had asked that the City not hire all of the promised police officers immediately and that it instead concentrate money on those programs that tend to prevent gang and drug activity, such as increased funding for parks, recreation and library programs for the City’s youth.
The Council heard impassioned requests – most asking for adequate library services, properly maintained parks and recreational programs not only for the youth, but the senior population. Others came to plead for support of the Arts; such the restoration of the Fox Theater for Opera San Jose, a building for the San Jose Repertory Theater and the construction of a new Symphony Hall.
No action was taken on the budget.
Near the end of the Council’s Agenda the discussion regarding the Mi Tierra gardens was resumed. Several of the gardeners, Roy Hernandez and Frank Nola announced that they and others of the gardeners had agreed to the City’s proposal, which promised the gardeners one year’s free rent and water, among another features – all of which are expected to be cost approximately $300,000.
Supposedly these costs will be absorbed by the Griffen Sports Foundation, the rink operators.
Other gardeners were not impressed with the City’s offers and spoke of not wishing to leave Mi Tierra’s current location. Several of the gardeners pointed out that one of the two gardeners who wished to leave had been cited and evicted from Mi Tierra for drinking on the garden premises. Drinking at City Parks and Centers is forbidden in the City of San Jose.
Kathy Chavez Napoli, who, with Gil Juaregui, were selected by the gardeners to speak on their behalf, delivered a heartfelt statement before the council.
Napoli said that she did not expect the City to respond favorably to an appeal to save the gardens that was signed by over 1,400 San Joseans. Napoli said, “it is clear what your priorities are – it is bars, hotels and restaurants – it’s not communities and neighborhoods.”
Napoli added, you do not represent the poor and powerless – many people have come forward in support of the gardeners who feel that Mi Tierra “is a jewel, that once removed, will no longer exist.”
Napoli also reminded the Council that they are notorious for projects that run millions over budget and that this would likely occur again.
John Maris, a San Josean, reminded the Council that one of the locations, Watson Park, was originally a land fill. Maris explained that, since this landﬁll existed before environmental laws were enacted, it is likely to have toxic materials such as lead paint and discarded batteries among other dangerous chemicals.
Maris warned against making a decision in haste without first ascertaining the safety of that part of Watson Park for a community garden.
Another young speaker, after watching the Council for the afternoon and evening, spoke toward the end of the Council meeting, lamenting, with anger and frustration, the lack of respect he felt front the City Council towards the people. He pointed out that “the Mayor would let people speak at length if they expressed the Council’s sentiments but when the opponents of the rink deal and the relocation of the gardeners came forward. Hammer adamantly and rudely limited their remarks to 2 minutes.
The Council voted unanimously to relocate the gardeners. Prior to the vote, Councilman Shirakawa announced that the City had developed a “Bill of Rights of Gardeners” and said that, in the future, gardeners could stay at the location for 5 years and could not be moved without receiving notice at least one year in advance.
Besides the serious environmental issues that were raised, regarding both the garden and the rink, there are questions regarding the process by which the Marianni Development Corporation was selected to be the builder of the rink project.
Another separate issue, also discussed on Tuesday, was a proposed revision to the “revolving door” policy, which addresses the issue of ex-city officials who became involved in lobbying and doing business with the City after they leave the employ of the City or their elected position in City Hall.
Councilpersons David Pandori and Jim Beall voted against the Council’s decision to weaken a part of the current policy and to refer me controversial parts to a committee for a recommendation.
At the meeting, a contingent of Perot supporters spoke before the Council asking for a stronger revolving door ordinance. They also questioned the value of a council selected committee which they believe will follow Council direction and further weaken the ordinance.
Many who came before the Council left unsatisfied and unhappy but vowed not to become discouraged and to fight on against the Council policies.
It is likely that, as the recession lingers on and revenues to the City continue to decline, in future Council meetings where the City’s dwindling resources are at stake, the emotions at Council meetings will heighten even more as more and more people will become involved in attempts to turn City Hall’s attention to the needs of the children, the neighborhoods, education and real job creation.
For greater details on the matters discussed by the Council it is possible to listen to the entire discussion, on tape, in the City Clerk’s office on the ﬁrst floor of City Hall. © La Oferta Newspaper.