Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sí se Puede… Candidates learn that close ties to the community pay off

April 3, 1996

By Yolanda Reynolds

Photo by Mary J. Andrade

La Oferta Newspaper.

After months of campaigning by the candidates for public office and their supporters by late Tuesday night, most candidates knew whether their best effort had been enough to capture the necessary votes to be a winner.

The one local race that was not a clear-cut win or defeat was that for the Santa Clara County Supervisorial District 2 office in which Supervisor Incumbent, Blanca Alvarado, was challenged by geologist stay-at-home Dad, Scott Mathieson. It was his first bid to gain public office. By Thursday, and with 100% of the votes counted, Alvarado maintained her lead slightly over 1,000 votes. The 10,000 absentee ballots that remained to be counted made Alvarado the winner.

In this race Alvarado had a tremendous battle on her hands. Other San Jose City Council veterans, Trixi Johnson, currently on the Council, and former councilwoman Patricia Sausedo had tough battles in their bid for further elective office. A connecting experience between each of these candidates has been their role in the Redevelopment of downtown San Jose.

Alvarado’s opponent, at every opportunity, blamed her for the controversial Quetzalcoatl statue in downtown. This had caused considerable controversy when it was unveiled because of the cost $500,000, its merit or lack thereof, and, by some, for its perceived religious function as a “pagan idol.”

This controversy was inspired by the grand plans of the Redevelopment Agency/City Council, to erect in San Jose, “major” pieces of public art. Due to this plan, the City has just undergone a major protest over the planned placement, in a traffic island adjoining the City’s historic Plaza Park, of a statue of a man named Thomas Fallon, who was pictured riding a horse and bearing an American flag as if in victory. The statue celebrated the U.S. conquest of San Jose (California), then a northern Mexican town. Thomas Fallon married into a wealthy Mexican family and went on to later become a mayor in the newly acquired city of San Jose. The suitability of Fallon for such a public honor and expense of the statue became a source of a major public disagreement.

As this and other controversies of the early 1990’s swirled about the City the then San Jose mayor, Tom McEnery, (whose desire usually became the official command) announced that the Agency/Council would be recommending the closure and condemnation of the remaining Spanish language movie theater in downtown San Jose – raising another storm.

Also, at the same time, there had been many meetings, even demonstrations, on behalf of the establishment of a venue for multi-cultural arts groups to perform in downtown San Jose, alongside other major arts groups that had, for years, been handsomely subsidized and provided for by the taxpayers of the City.

It was following this series of controversial decisions that the Council/Agency quietly announced that there was a plan to erect another public artwork, depicting one Aztec ruler/God Quetzalcoatl.

It was, says a knowledgeable art aficionado who wishes to remain anonymous, as if someone had suggested, “Mexicans care deeply about Quetzalcoatl — that is what they want and they will quit protesting and bothering you.”

He went on to point out that it was curious that, at about the same time that the Council/Agency was in the maelstrom of controversy, that the Agency/Council announced that it planned to redo and reopen the Jose Theater for the exclusive use of the Hollywood producer Luis Valdez and his Teatro Campesino.

Today, the statue of Quetzalcoatl can be seen at the south end of what is now called the Plaza de Cesar E. Chavez. The Fallon statue is still in storage somewhere in Oakland, the new convention center in downtown San Jose now named the San Jose McEnery Convention Center and the Jose Theater is still gathering dust.

The former mayor. Tom McEnery, recently ran for election to the U.S. Congress but lost to then County Supervisor, Zoe Lofgren. It was a hard fought campaign and many attributed his loss to his key role in the many costly and controversial Redevelopment projects of which he was considered the chief author. Alvarado supported Lofgren in this election campaign.

McEnery has twice supported opposition to Alvarado. This election, this election the second time, McEnery was a major supporter to Mathiesion and donated to his campaign via his political action committee (PAC), named the “Me McEnery Committee for America’s Future.”

In the recent San Jose City Council/ Agency elections last Tuesday, the incumbents were all winners; Frank Fiscalini, Charlotte Powers, Alice Woody, Pat Dando and Margie Fernandes.

Important primary elections, were those for local State Senate and Assembly seats. Democrats winning in these elections are the likely winners in November because of the high number of registered Democrats in the County. Byron Sher won election to 11th State Senate seat formerly held by now US. Congressman Tom Campbell. John Vasconcellos handily won his race in the 13th Senate District, a seat currently held by Alfred Alquist.

Alquist’s wife Elaine won the election to the Assembly seat 22, a position that is currently filled by John Vasconcellos. County Supervisor Mike Honda won election to the 23rd Assembly District seat. This was a strongly contested four-way competition. Honda, whose ancestry is Japanese, adopted as his slogan the words of Cesar Chavez, “Si Se Puede.” Though some believed that this slogan would undermine Honda’s campaign, his expression of hope and determination served Honda well. This District, though culturally quite diverse, has within its boundaries, a large Latino/Chicano population that too often has been overlooked. Honda, who served in the Peace Corp in El Salvador and speaks fluent Spanish has long been appreciative of the values and needs of his Hispanic constituents.

Former Cupertino City Councilwoman Barbara Koppel and Palo Alto “mayor Joe Simitian face a runoff for the County Board of Supervisor seat now held by term limited Dianne McKenna. Milpitas mayor Pete McHugh and Pat Sausedo also face a runoff in November for election to the County Board of Supervisors to replace the term limited Ron Gonzalez.

Though voter turnout in this primary election was less than desired there emerged a hopeful trend in that some candidates have chosen to engage in positive and informative campaigns thus giving the electorate hope for less misleading and confusing debate at election time.

In this election, it was proved that access to campaign funds is important but not crucial. It appears that some candidates seemed to benefit from a well-grounded connection with their constituents and which is seemingly far more important than the collection of huge stuns of money front special, powerful, and married interests. Some of these donations actually became issues for a number of campaigns.

Hopefully more voters will become encouraged to take a more active role in selecting their political leaders aid determining the priorities of their government at all levels local, state, and national – it is very impoetant for the health of this democratic system of government that every eligible to vote person is informed and involved. © La Oferta Newspaper.