“…That perception that there has been a distinct lack of recognition of the Hispanic/Indian contribution is expressed to me quite often throughout the City…”
By Yolanda Reynolds
La Oferta Review each week is featuring the responses of San Jose mayoral candidates to some of the issues and concerns that have been voiced within our community.
There was not order in which the candidates were selected for interview other than their availability at the time the Oferta Reporter telephoned for an interview.
This is the fourth in the series of interviews.
Mayoral candidate, Frank Fiscalini is a native Californian and has lived in San Jose all of his adult life. Frank has a B.S. degree from Santa Clara University, a M.A. from Stanford and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Northern Colorado.
Mr. Fiscalini was directly involved in education as a classroom teacher and coach at Bellarmine College in 1952. In 1982, he ended his formal career in education when he left his position as Superintendent of the East Side School District to become the President/Chief Executive Officer of the Alexian Brothers Hospital of San Jose. He remained at this post for four years.
Mr. Fiscalini most recently served as the Executive Director of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral. Fiscalini has years of community involvement with a variety of non profit organizations. Mr. Fiscalini served as the first chair of the Children’s Discovery Museum and with Susan Hammer, co-chaired the powerful Downtown Working Review Committee (DWRC) which serves as a citizens advisory group to Redevelopment.
Mr. Fiscalini has been honored throughout the years not only as a professional educator, but also for his many years of service as a community volunteer.
Frank Fiscalini and his wife, Joan, have four adult children. Joan and Frank are grandparents to eleven grandchildren.
Due to space limitations the following interview is edited. Every effort has been made to retain the highlights of the statements as expressed in the candidates own words. Mr. Fiscalini answers are reported here:
1.- There is a perception within the Hispanic community that there is an unequal distribution of city services in the community. Example – District 5 is one of the districts with the fewest number of neighborhood parks; Alviso in District 4, a community with a large percentage of Hispanic families not only lacks city services but is very concerned about the dump that has for years been allowed to function without permits or proper zoning. The list goes on. How will you address these problems – in your response be specific to the examples mentioned.
F.F. – One of the problems with the system (park funding) is the use of Construction and Conveyance (C&C Taxes). This tax gives (park) money to districts that are rapidly growing.
There is some sharing of C&C taxes – I would want to look at that and also the idea of landbanking to provide open space and to be sure there is equity in (the distribution) of city services. I would (also) look at all on the inequities that might exist – find out why and work hard at arriving at an (equitable) solution.
With regard to dumps – I have a general philosophy on land dumps – there should be a modern, scientific, system of garbage disposal that will not continue to contaminate the soil and the ground water. We have a right to pure drinking water as well as clean air.
Regarding (the owns Corning) dump, I would move quickly to find out why that dump was allowed to operate without the proper permits, and why code enforcement didn’t enforce City regulations. I would not be tolerant of an (activity) that carries the potential to cause serious environmental problems to a neighborhood.
2.- The educational achievement of all youth has been falling, particularly for Hispanic youth. What do you propose to do to help with this situation? How do you support a landbanking program? Redevelopment Law requires that no less than 20% of its money be spent on , do you envision the city’s role in education?
F.F. – Neither the City Council nor the Mayor have jurisdiction over the school systems. Having said that – I believe that the Council and particularly the Mayor have an advocacy role – helping the Districts get increased funding from the State and Federal governments.
The Mayor’s office can and should serve in the important role of forming partnerships between schools and private enterprise – to help strengthen curriculum, to find ways of providing child care centers in a cooperative venture using school facilities and – reinstitute after school programs for older children through the Parks and Recreation Department.
Mayors and political leaders must speak out on the importance of education. (They must) let Federal and State governments know that all school systems, particularly large urban school systems, need help and support.
I would work at bringing the nation’s mayors of large cities together in order to (have them) take a leading and firm position that would help improve our nation’s school system. My background and experience in education is needed and valuable in focusing attention on the educational needs of youth in our major cities.
3.- Affordable housing is an issue. How do you plan to alleviate the scarcity of such housing? Do you support that 50% of the Redevelopment monies be spent on housing?
F.F. – We do have a lack of affordable housing. Housing can not be looked at in isolation – we must look at the economy – transportation – what kind of city we want.
I would bring together a representative body of people who need housing, people who own land, neighborhoods that would be affected by increased housing construction, the financiers – to work through the problems – to arrive at a solution to (our cities) housing needs.
I would also work closely with other nearby cities. This is not only a San Jose’s problem, it’s a regional issue.
This brings me to infill – it’s right to fill in voids – and on the surface seems reasonable. Infill is acceptable in some cases – along a transit corridor – but I’m not in favor of densifying neighborhoods just to densify. I would not act in favor of impacting neighborhoods – there are places for high density housing without impacting existing neighborhoods.
I also don’t believe that every lot should be built up. We need to leave some space – where children can play – create their own activities.
As for landbanking, that should have gone on for the last 20-30 years. One good site for housing was the Sears site (on San Carlos) – but that’s no longer available.
(Currently) 20% Redevelopment money is to be spent for low cost housing. It should be that. There is a need not only for low cost housing, but housing across the board – like single room occupancy (SRO). 25% Redevelopment money is going to housing, of that, 5% – 6% Redevelopment money is going to market rate housing in the core.
The city is working on a five year (Redevelopment) plan that can’t be changed mid-stream. It’s probably hard to get 50% of the Redevelopment money into housing.
I’m not willing to disrupt previous commitments (arena, hotel subsidies) to raise the (Redevelopment) housing budget to 50% – I’m not familiar with all of the Redevelopment projects.
4 – Hispanics feel there has been and unequal distribution of arts funding and a distinct lack of recognition of the Hispanic/Indian contribution to San Jose’s History. Example: erection of a statue to Thomas Fallon, a man portrayed as a conqueror and an insult to the Hispanic community, and now – there is the officially sanctioned proposal to close the only Spanish language the only Spanish language theater in downtown San Jose. There is a lack of an “official” Hispanic presence in downtown San Jose – and a growing dissatisfaction with that absence.
How will you address these concerns? Please respond in general to the above mentioned perception and to the specific examples that have caused concern and controversy. Finally would you support a major Hispanic oriented cultural center with support given it not unlike that given the Opera, Symphony, Museum, etc.
F.F. – That perception is expressed to me quite often throughout the city – particularly in the Hispanic community. That perception has to be dealt with.
As Mayor I would operate from a base of no making decisions without speaking to the people being affected by (Council/Agency) decisions.
Regarding the Studio – I would work on the decisions before – not after. I didn’t know what was going on there (with the Studio). Like you, I found out that (The Studio) by reading about it in the newspaper.
I would have approached that issue (The Studio) differently. I would sit down and work on the problems. (In decision making) we should all win. People should work together.
On the matter of the Cultural Center – I would move forward with a program to have significant cultural centers representing every ethnic group in our city.
The diversity of our community is our strength – the more we share, the more we understand each other. There is beauty in our language, our arts, our culture and our foods.
I am advocate of making our city – one of festivals. I’m an advocate of showing off various cultures of our city with celebrations.
There needs to be recognition of the Mexican contributions to San Jose’s history.
My involvement in the restoration of St. Joseph’s (brought me) to the roots of San Jose’s history – we need statuary and celebrations that recall our history – like Santa Barbara does.
We need to do a great deal more to fund the arts. To do that we need to get more Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOT) revenues. We need more hotels in order to get more TOT funds to support the arts. I believe that government has a role in supporting the arts.
5 – There is a perception that that Hispanic businesses are not desired in downtown and in fact have been deliberately displaced. A downtown Business Association letter to the City’s Downtown Working Review Committee (DWRC) states “Retail surrounding the San Antonio Block, particularly south of San Carlos and north of San Fernando Streets, is in a state of transition. The diversity of retail in these areas adds too the character of downtown, however, many of the off-price and ethnic stores do not develop sound product or pricing strategies that enable them to effectively complement new retai or maximize sales per square foot of retail space.”
How do you react to the statement made in that memo? What measures will you take to promote downtown Hispanic owned and market oriented businesses?
F.F. – 75 percent of the jobs created here (in San Jose) are created by small businesses. It’s true there’s been an exodus in the core. That’s unfortunate because significant numbers of people were hurt economically.
We need to develop programs to help them (small businesses) develop programs that help them in marketing, in financial planning, assist them in getting loans – personnel assistance.
I would set up an office with the various Chambers of Commerce that really speak to small businesses – to give the small businesses the kind of help small business persons need.
It would really be nice to have a Mercado downtown that would have foods and products from Central and South America, that would reflect the ethnic distribution of this city.
Also downtown merchants tell me “My customers think it’s too hard to park and too costly to shop downtown.” We (the City) have a responsibility to address that problem. We may have to provide free parking as a city service.
6 – Redevelopment has demolished much housing in downtown San Jose, for example: the Guadalupe Auzerais neighborhood for the Convention Center, Children’s Discovery Museum, etc., and more recently for the arena and the Guadalupe River Park. Many if not, the majority of those displaced were Hispanic families. Some say that Redevelopment is really Hispanic removal. Currently no Redevelopment 20 percent housing dollars will be spent in the Central Incentive Zone that covers a large part of Central San Jose and includes the areas of displaced Hispanic housing. Do you consider this policy racist? Why? Why not?
F.F. – I don’t believe there is a policy to do that. I’ve not been involved in discussions where such a policy was discussed to drive those people out of the core. If that had been the case, I would have spoken out loudly against that.
We did displace some people. Id like to think that San Jose cares more than that to do something none of us could support. I have to believe that the common good of the City was a higher order to cause the Redevelopment of the core.
For thirty years the city did nothing with the core – it was an embarrassment that had to be corrected.
One of the problems (of downtown redevelopment) is the small area involved – we need a geography and when redevelopment occurred – there was a shortage of homes – that caused part of the problems – more area would give more flexibility to locate them where they would be happy.
In the City there is a need for a broad expansion of all types of housing but our (biggest housing) problems are in the affordable area.
I don’t believe we’re the only city that has these problems – we need to work together with other nearby cities.
After e years as Mayor, I hope to be able to look back on my tenure as a _mayor who did what he said he was going to do. I intend to be the Mayor of all of the people – not just some of the people.