Pride of the Bascom Community

Tomorrow is a big day for District 6. After 13 years of waiting—the past three of which were spent staring down a fully-functional yet sadly dormant shell—we finally get to see the Bascom Library and Community Center open all of its doors to the public. For residents of Blackford, Buena Vista, Burbank, Del Monte, Shasta/Hanchett Park, Sherman Oaks, and Winchester, the 2pm ribbon cutting at 1000 South Bascom Ave. will be the culmination of a protracted struggle with City Hall, and the district’s own councilmember.

Recognizing a need to upgrade and expand library facilities in a rapidly growing city, San Jose voters approved the Branch Library Bond Measure in November 2000, dedicating $212 million over 10 years for construction of six new and 14 expanded branch libraries. Between January 2004 and February 2010, San Jose celebrated 15 grand openings and re-openings at branches from Alviso to Evergreen.

Meanwhile, the Bascom community watched anxiously as the finishing touches were put on the new gem of their neighborhood, only to see it mothballed for more than two years—along with three other completed branches and one yet to be built—due to a lack of funding for what bureaucrats call “O&M,” or operations and maintenance. (The community center had its “soft” launch in May of 2012, but the library has remained padlocked thanks to the lowest per-resident funding of almost any city department and a parcel tax that’s remained unchanged for nearly 20 years while the city has grown by more than 100,000 residents.)

All the while, dedicated neighborhood leaders stood up to City Hall and demanded the services they voted for—services they were promised. But when the dignitaries take their places behind the red ribbon tomorrow, you won’t see a single Bascom community member standing alongside them. Nor will you see anyone from the city’s arts department, though they’ll be standing next to a two-story bronze sculpture called Stratigraphy, assembled by artist Ron Baron from artifacts collected in and around the Bascom community.

You won’t see former Councilmember and current county Supervisor Ken Yeager, who—along with former District 1 Councilmember Linda LeZotte—made sure the Bascom center was included in the library bond measure plans. Nor will you see State Senator Jim Beall, who represented the Bascom community as a county supervisor. (That is, of course, unless they decide to drop by uninvited.)

Instead, you’ll see a dog-and-pony show featuring Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio. Despite the fact that the path to this celebration began more than seven years before he ran for City Council, Mr. Oliverio will make sure he’s front and center.

The visuals at tomorrow’s grand opening will stand in stark contrast to the groundbreaking ceremony in July 2008, when local residents stood alongside then-junior Councilmember Oliverio and dipped their shovels into the first pile of dirt.

That ceremony was a grassroots affair, with impassioned speeches in both English and Spanish—a testament to the diverse and underserved Bascom community. Over the next two years, as funds dwindled and things like libraries and parks began to be seen as afterthoughts instead of critical services, the councilmember paid less and less attention to neighborhoods in his district with traditionally low voter turnout in favor of his more affluent friends and neighbors in Willow Glen. And the Bascom center became yet another rallying cry for residents who rarely have their voices heard in the corridors of power.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The larger threat lurks beneath the surface, as leaders like Mr. Oliverio and Mayor Chuck Reed choose posturing in favor of priorities that residents reaffirm year after year: library funding, revenue creation and support services. The Bascom community doesn’t have the money or influence of Lincoln Avenue or the Rose Garden, and as such, they are first in line to be the forgotten souls of today’s District 6.

Will the councilmember read this and change the program at the last minute? Maybe. But it will be too little too late. When the dust settles on this chapter in San Jose’s history, those who fought on the front lines will know they were there. And when they drive or bike or walk past the shining beacon on Bascom that they helped create, they’ll feel a lump in their throats and a swell of pride in their hearts. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. What really matters is making things happen.

Peter Allen is a proud native of City Council District 6 and a friend of all libraries. For the record, he lives in Willow Glen and went to school in the Rose Garden area.

Peter Allen is a communications consultant and proud native of San Jose. Contrary to popular belief, he is not currently employed by any candidate for San Jose Mayor or City Council. Follow him on Twitter at @pjallen2.

29 Comments

  1. > . . . priorities that residents reaffirm year after year: library funding, revenue creation and support services.

    Revenue creation?

    Isn’t that liberalspeak for “taxes”?

    I doubt that taxes are are a priority for Bascom residents or any other community.

    “Don’t tax you and don’t tax me.
    Tax the man behind the tree”

    This is simply “warlord politics”.

    Warlord Allen is just hoping to organize another Saul Alinsky raiding party to go and look behind the trees in the next village and find some loot, er “revenue”, to buy the attention and loyalty of the Bascom tribesmen.

  2. All for more libraries and community centers , BUT Not ever over Public Safety . Tis city will learn the hard lesson as violent crimes and other crimes continue to rise .  This Mayor has done a Masterful job of turning people against eachother and Blaming ALL the Citys problems on its workers , especially Public Safety . God help us all

    • Hey, maybe if kids read more books and had community centers to spend time at (instead of in the streets), maybe we’d see less criminals growing up in San Jose. A big, highly paid police force isn’t the only crime prevention tool in the drawer.

      • Lily,

        lets talk fiscal responsibility.  Seems our great mayor and city council spent 229,000 thousand on their city credit cards last year alone.  And PO used his petty cash card to the tune of 37,276.00.  And if you read todays article, this does not count the money they hide by allowing their assistants to make purchases for them.

        Seems to me by not spending all this petty cash this library could have opened a long time ago. Or spend it on public safety we might have less criminals on the streets.

        Please until Chuck and clowns get their spending priorities in order nothing good will happen in this city.  Go drink more Measure B cool aid.

  3. What an opportunistic cheap shot, Mr. Allen. Are you posturing to run for council?

    Mr. Oliverio would have loved to open a library in his district two years ago but showed fiscal restraint, choosing the high road over an easy salvo. Would it have made sense to have opened this showpiece project while police and fire were taking pay cuts?

    The irresponsible labor-dominated council from the Cindy Chavez-Ron Gonzales days promoted this building program without any plan to fund operations, then tossed the ball to their successors.

    Luckily a few of them, like Pierluigi Oliverio, had the presence of mind to ask questions and insist on responsible fiscal planning before increasing the city’s operating costs. Instant gratification would have been more politically popular but only continued the Gonzales-Chavez madness.

  4. Who will be at the press conferences for the crimes that occur there?  Most likely just the cops, not PO or Mr. Allen.

    What good are $212 million libraries and Community Centers when they’re surrounded by and full of transients and gangsters?

  5. Former Mayor Susan Hammer made a promise that after the deal was struck with SJSU to build the new landmark main library, the neighborhood branches would not be neglected.  A bond measure was put on the ballot and approved that allowed for older branches to be replaced and new ones built in places previously underserved.

    The bond measure, however, only provided capital funds and as city operating funds tightened up, it became problematic to open and operate all these new branch libraries.  I’m glad to see there’s some movement and that these facilities are opening and being made available to the communities in which they are located.

  6. Mr. Allen,

    You are incorrect. I was there today. And so was Jim Beal, Linda Lezotte, and Ken Yeager. Condemning Pier for something before it has or hasn’t happened is wrong. Just because he doesn’t share your ultra-liberal views, that’s no reason to vilify him. He has done a lot for his city and his district.

    His words were well spoken today – and spot on about the issues.

    Too bad it was so painful for you.

    • Mr. Tran,

      Clarifying my original post: Mr. Beall, Ms. Lezotte, and Mr. Yeager were NOT INVITED to attend or speak at the ceremony, nor were any leaders from the local community who’ve been advocating for this branch since the late ‘90s. We all showed up because we care about the character of our city.

      The Councilmember’s comments were rushed at best and contained very little substance or fact. His assertion that labor unions are preventing volunteers from working in our libraries has more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. The Friends of the Library already volunteer in our branches every day, as do students from local schools and other community members. But volunteers cannot replace the work of our tremendous professional librarians, who study for years to do their jobs and have made an endless string of sacrifices to ensure that our national award-winning library system continues to provide a high level of service despite reduced funding.

      Additionally, the Councilmember failed to mention Mayor Gonzales’ work to pass the library bond measure, and instead gave Mayor Reed all the credit for getting the new libraries open despite the fact that Mr. Reed has only offered token support for our parks and libraries since taking office. And if you think supporting core city services makes me an “ultra-liberal,” I shudder to think what you’d call “conservative.”

      Would it surprise you to know Pierluigi sits on the Santa Clara County Democratic Party Central Committee? Does that make him a “pseudo-liberal”?

      Btw, I have it on good authority that he hates being called “Pier.”

      Cheers,
      Peter

  7. A new library is awesome!  Unfortuantly, we can’t walk to it or even around our neighborhood after dark.  Its sad what San Jose has become.

  8. Lily Lapdog you sure are funny…. Sorry we arent going to buy into your councilperson lapdog boot licking. You are disgusting. My home was burglarized last week while I was home. It was the most terrifying experience of my life. This has occurred to hundreds of us across this city! Get YOUR priorities straight please. BTW what handle will you be using when you blog your anti city worker venom on the Mercury blogs? DISGUSTED

    • > My home was burglarized last week while I was home.

      Did you call “911”?

      My suggestion is to install multiple gun safes: one upstairs, one downstairs, one in the basement, and one in the garage.

      Set the combinations of the safes to: 9-11-0, 9-11-1, 9-11-2, and 9-11-3.

      The next time a perp tries to augment his welfare benefits at your expense, simply go to the closest safe, discreetly open it, tuck a 40 caliber Glock with a twenty shot magazine into your waistband, grab the police special short barrel shotgun with six rounds of double-ought buckshot, chamber a round, and invite the perp to shit and dance at the same time.

      When the perp is no longer constipated and unable to stand up, beg, or even wriggle, have him strip naked, grab his soiled underwear in his mouth, and crawl on his hands and knees to Dianne Feinsteins mansion and deposit his drawers on Di-Fi’s front door step.

      Don’t even think about calling the cops.  They’ll just give you a speech about how underpaid they are and how lousy their pensions are.

  9. With all of the employees who have left and are leaving the City, I would think there is a little extra money in the coffer. It would be “so so interesting” to know how much the City has saved in the last couple of years due to the exodus.

    • Obviously not enough in Reed’s mind. He isnt done lining the pockets of all his rich friends. There is so much fat left to trim from our greedy city workers! NOT. He is truly a madman… For the bloggers who live in a bubble, you really should get out there and talk to the average citizen. They are becoming victimized by criminals on a regular basis and boy are they becoming pissed off. The arrogance is so thick you can slice it with a knife!

  10. Mr. Allen’s point of view is slanted due to his position on the arts commission and is almost disgusting. So, I am sorry if I disagree with some of your statements and miss use of facts.

    First, it would have been great that you identified yourself as an arts commissioner, but were speaking as a member of the public. This is something you must do as an appointed city official. Otherwise, your opinion might be mistaken as the opinion of the Arts Commission, which might lead to ethics violations.

    Second, the bond measure that was voted on were only for the building of the libraries and not to maintain them.  It is illegal to build O/M into a bond measure for the creation and construction of a building. (at least that this is what my research has shown me). So it was a necessity for the buildings to sit vacant while the city faced the “great economic recession.” It is true that the city could have better planned for the openings of this and other libraries, however, when you think about economic principles it is better to use the money now than to save it for later.  A summary of the economic principle I am discussing is the present value of money v.s. the future value of money. (you might want to look it up.) The present value of money is much greater today than it will be in the future. Therefore, the city would have lost money if it saved or set aside funds for future use. That being said it was a wise choice for the buildings to sit vacant.

    Third, I am glad that you wrote about the opening of the community center / library. I hope some people who read this blog attended the opening. However, it may have benefited you much more to have attended the meeting and then have written this article. (just a suggestion though)

  11. Just to clarify some of the misconceptions about the opening of the library and community center that have been posted here.

    Both libraries and community centers were planned because the City of San Jose conducted extensive surveys that showed gaps in services available to residents.  These resources were out of reach for many people who continue to pay the price for them.  Residents across the city voted to tax themselves but when it came to an equitable delivery of services, those that already had services kept them on a reduced level while those who never had reasonable access continued to pay for services they couldn’t use as we slogged through budget issues. This decision was made at a council level, not by the departments.

    These facilities represented the number one priority of half a dozen neighborhood associations and several business districts across two council districts. Bascom was designed to be cost neutral if possible with two facilities in one space, passive solar, environmentally sound architecture, the ability to generate excess electricity and the option for a revenue generating cafe.  This took years of planning.

    The community center portion opened last spring with no fanfare or celebration.  That has never happened in the past. We have ribbon cuttings for any public site, but not this one.

    The elected officials who were instrumental in seeing that the new facilities were built (LeZotte, Beall, Yeager) were not invited by staff or the council office and as of Friday staff from one of those offices was still contacting residents to find out what was going on. They were there because the community invited them, the same community invisible to the councilmember. Ron Gonzales has never been invited to any of these events.

    It would have taken about 10 seconds to thank the communities who have worked on these projects for 13 years.  No need to thank them individually or by name, but simply mention the fact that thousands of hours were spent, thousands of dollars raised (outside the taxes) and thousands involved over the years. Instead we got a laundry list of names (most not involved at all), a lecture on how we can’t afford to run these facilities and a slap (via union bashing) at the volunteers who give tens of thousands of hours of their time each year to the volunteer system. And it’s not like Mr. Allen’s column didn’t give fair warning that it might be the civil thing to do.

    Community Centers and Libraries are the one thing a municipality provides that is cost effective.  We can (and will) reduce crime by providing services in areas where there are no parks, playgrounds or public libraries. We can (and did) walk and bike to the library on Saturday just as we have been walking to the community center for the last 8 months. We cannot (and will not) bring alternatives to a criminal lifestyle, develop a better prepared workforce, empower our residents or create a healthier neighborhood without equal access to public facilities.

    I this neighborhood it is more important than ever to have services (that we pay for) available.

  12. There’s a very brisk prescription pill and methadone sales operation that occurs everyday about 400 yards to the north at Bascom & Fruitdale. That area is grand central station for all the Valley Medical Center frequent fliers and transients. The McDonalds restaurant will definitely benefit as all those loiterers and rest room spoilers will now be out of site checking their yahoo email accounts @ the new Library down the street. Meanwhile, another unsupervised child fends off a pedophile hopped up on free library porn.
    Great job leaders, the one beat cop is busy at The E/R investigating another walk in stabbing.
    Have no fear. We are still safer than Detroit (unless you want to walk to the new library)

    It demonstrates our community doesn’t accept a higher level of homicide and crime that seem to be taken as facts of life in other cities,” Charles Rufus Reed 2012

  13. David,

    You raise an incredibly salient point with regard to the projected budget deficit for FY2013-14. While the Mayor and his austerity majority are anxious to cut ribbons, smile for the cameras, and please the masses, they have not addressed what effect such a shortfall would have on the four libraries opened and due to open between now and June, not to mention the Southeast branch still awaiting construction. Nor have they shown any interest in supporting the extension of a parcel tax that brings in $7M per year to help fund the $28M library department budget.

    Do they expect a $25M check to fall from the sky? Are they being entirely honest with the public about the state of city finances? Will Rick & Company abandon the prison or kill the Governor?

    I’m waiting anxiously for the answers to these questions.

    PA