April 18, 1992
By Yolanda Reynolds
On Thursday night, the Giants team lost to the San Diego Padres in a 5 to 3 defeat. Judging from audience reaction to the comments on the proponents publicly funded stadium for the Giants, at the League of Women Voters debate Wednesday evening, their San Jose Boosters also lost the debate.
Debating the pro Stadium side was Steve Tedesco, who is the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Joe Coto, the Superintendent of the East Side Uniﬁed School District. The opponents were T.J. Rogers, President and CEO of Cypress Technology (an electronics firm based in San Jose) and CAST (Citizens Against Stadium Taxes) spokesperson, Ross Signorino.
San Jose’s Mayor, Susan Hammer, is asking the voters on the June ballot to give permission for building with public funds (increased taxes), a stadium for San Francisco, multi-millionaire, and ball team owner, Bob Lurie.
Mayor Hammer was not present at the debate. Signorino strongly objected to her absence because, he said, it was to her that he wished to direct his questions, since she is the Mayor rather than the two at the debate (Tedesco and Coto) who were not responsible for the City and are not answerable to the citizens.
During the debate, the spokes persons for Mayor Hammer, Steve Tedesco and Joe Coto, tried to portray the opponents of the half billion dollar tax as people who had fought every improvement that has come to the City in the last ten years. Tedesco even compared the decision of Macy’s to build Valley Fair as an example of San Jose’s shortsightedness. Signorino responded that the issue was not those long-ago decisions, but rather the current proposal which he says is a bad deal for San Jose and added, besides. that he was not involved in any of the other issues that Tedesco mentioned. Signorino admitted that had he known then what he now knows about the new, over budget San Jose arena, the costly Convention Center and hotels, he would have gotten involved earlier on.
Stadium boosters claim that the stadium and a ball team in San Jose will bring many jobs. adding about $50 to $90 million to the local economy. Rogers challenged that claim. Earlier in the debate, Rogers said that his objective in entering the stadium debate was to keep jobs in San Jose. He pointed out that, if an enterprise similar to Cypress Semiconductor was given the amount of money proposed for the stadium, the jobs created there would be 6,000 jobs rather than the 1,000 touted by the stadium boosters. He added that, for an industry like this, the payroll alone would be around $300 million not $50-$70 million as a consequence of such an infusion of money as that proposed for the ballpark. He also added that, if even one company like his left the area because of the increased costs of doing business in San lose, the loss in jobs and money would be far greater than the $50 million increase that is claimed by the stadium boosters.
Father Rubio, of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in San Jose, at a previous discussion on the proposal stadium said that, according to scholarly reports, most ballpark jobs that are created are temporary and low paying. The only well paid jobs will be those for construction which even the proponents admit will last only two years. The other goods go to the millionaire ball players who are small in number and mostly not be moving to San Jose in any event.
In contrast, most electronics manufacturing jobs in this area pay very well. In addition, Mr. Rogers pointed out that the business enterprises that bring wealth to a city/nation involve the production of goods, not the mere shifting of the entertainment dollars. It is well known that leisure activities usually only shift money from one area to another. People only have so much discretionary money to spend on leisure and, if they spend it at a ballpark, they will likely not go to movies or out to dinner, etc.
Throughout the evening, the moderator of the debate had to gavel the audience to silence because he did not want any audience reaction to the comments of the debate participants. The audience tried to follow the admonitions of the moderator but, the issues under discussion caused such strong reactions that the audience frequently broke into applause and on several occasions into gasps of disbelief. At one point, the moderator docked the stadium opponents for the amount of time that the audience took in clapping approval of their stand. The audience reaction was all very spontaneous.
Rogers, like so many others in San Jose, also challenged the priorities of the City. He said that his personal priorities were jobs, security, education and then the ballpark and he believed that for the City the priorities should be safety, jobs, education and then a ballpark. Rogers pointed out the extreme budgetary needs of the City, and the need for high school graduates that can read. He explained that the City is currently short $9 million dollars. Next year’s budget faces a deficit of $29 + million dollars, which the mayor now says that she is able to reduce to $8 million. That reduction comes at a high cost to the residents of San Jose their garbage bills will be increased and many city services will be cut severely.
Following the usual debate format of opening statements rebuttals and closing remarks by both sides of the debate, the audience was able to ask some questions before the closing remarks of the debate teams were made. The League had some of their members scattered among the audience to pick up the questions that were to be submitted in writing.
Following the debate, a number of citizens complained bitterly that their questions had not been asked. Ernestina Garcia, an Eastside resident said that in her group alone, 14 questions had been submitted of which only one was asked. Another person, Maria Ortiz, who spends many hours of her personal time working with young people, said that her question, addressed to Mr. Coto, asked for an explanation of exactly why “he could claim that a professional ball team in San Jose would be good to help combat gang activity, when neither Oakland or San Francisco, both of whom have ball teams have been able to rid their cities of gangs. Both have horrendous levels of gang activity.
Another question, which they said was not asked, was whether, “nuestra gente” would have professional jobs, if the stadium came to San Jose. After the debate, another unanswered question is whether the Giants plan to ﬁre all of their current workers, since they claim that in coming to San Jose the stadium and team will create many new jobs. Where will those jobs come from if Lurie does not plan to ﬁre his current employees, many of whom are minorities according to Giants management claims.
Other questions left unanswered related to challenges to claims that in investment of public funds for a ball park is more important than City support for the refurbishing of abandoned structures for housing in San Jose. Last week, Leo Perez and others of the student homeless Alliance, offered “sweat equity” in exchange for City assistance in the repair of abandoned buildings for low income housing. They were refused.
The City, through the police, has let the homeless know that beginning, next week, it will launch an aggressive sweep of the homeless camps. Leo Perez, though employed, is homeless and was especially bitter at the lack of sensitivity and care for the less fortunate who live and work in San Jose.
A number of people in the audience were critical of the fact that some city and county staff persons associated with the Mayor’s office and that of Supervisor Ron Gonzalez, were busy submitting cards with questions that were recognized while other citizens realized that their own questions were ignored. Aurora Becerra, another East Side resident said of the debate no wonder “la gente” don’t participate, they (some of the politicians) don’t want to hear us. Another in the group said “it was a farce!” Others concurred and added that the debate was “setup” and that the anti-stadium tax interests were short changed.
In another gathering of people, who remained to assess the evening’s event, similar were expressed. One person even offered that the League of Women had a good reputation but that, on Wednesday night, that image had become tarnished.
To the surprise of Ross Signorino and others, the debate ended half an hour early – 9 p.m. rather than 9:30 p.m. When Signorino inquired about the change in plans, he was told by a League spokesperson that the questions were repetitious and therefore already answered.
Looking rather glum and standing in the rear of the auditorium throughout the debate, was Ed Mc-Govern the Campaign strategist for the Stadium Campaign.
The pro stadium position, earlier in the week, had already lost in its bid for stadium support from the Berryessa Citizens Advisory Council The Council membership had come together to hear a stadium debate. Representing Mayor Hammer at that debate was her aide, Darryl Seaton, who debated Ross Signorino.
That evening, though the Berryessa Council had not previously announced to its membership that a vote would be taken regarding the stadium and objections were raised. Attorney Chuck Reed a member of the Council said that “it was legal. “A vote was taken. The result was a tie when Council President, Bill Hughes, who is also pro stadium voted. Adding to the concerns already raised by some stadium opponents was the fact that, by the time the vote came, many members of the organization had left – evidently unaware that a vote would occur.
All but one of the candidates running for office in that District, question the stadium. One candidate, Carm Grande a police officer, clearly stated his opposition to the tax and the location for the stadium. Margie Fernandes, formerly Susan Hammer’s aide has refused to state an opinion but has said that she “will go by the will of the people.”
At the League debate another matter that greatly disturbed CAST was the presence of City staffer, Deputy City Manager Darryl Deaborn, who the League said would be there to clarify financial issues. CAST announced that they believed Deaborn to “be biased in favor of Men- sure “G” because of his employment under Mayor Susan Hammer and his role in creating the Giant’s Stadium Subsidy package.” They also said that Mr. Dearborn has made public comments with “unsupported allegations challenging the accuracy of statements made by Citizens Against Taxes” – specifically the $1500 annual cost to the taxpayer versus the $35 annual stun projected by the stadium proponents. CAST argues, that over time, the actual annual cost of the taxes to San Joseans will escalate to $1,500. That sum is arrived at by including an expected annual inflation rate of 3%, the interest payments, construction costs etc. The total will reach over $500 million for the construction of the ballpark in San Jose.
One other question regarding Certificates of Participation (Copy the funding mechanism for the stadium, received only a partial answer from Mr. Deaborn. He did not elaborate on the vulnerability of the City’s General Fund should the stadium taxes fail to realize the anticipated revenues. Also, the City expects to form an “authority” as the agent or the COP’s. In that way, the actual total bonded indebtedness of the City (taxpayers) is not reflected in reports to bonding agents.
The City, in the past, has used COP’s as a way of securing money for major projects of which the more notable are the Convention Center, the Center for Performing Arts and the new Communications Center. Contributions from the General Fund to these different projects amount to many millions of dollars. Requests for exact figure on these amounts were not answered by City Hall in time for publication.
Signorino emphasized that his involvement, and that of others in CAST, was a grassroots completely volunteer effort and that their objective was to get the “TRUTH” out to the voters along with their concerns for priorities of some City leaders particularly the Mayor of San Jose on this, the worst of times that the City and its residents have faced since the depression of the 30’s.
For more information on Citizens Against Taxes, telephone CAST 111. For more information on the City’s budget contact Darryl Dearhom at 277-5511.