Tom McEnery

Tom McEnery

Posts by Tom McEnery

Six Degrees of Separation from Steve Jobs or the Shoulders of San Pedro Square

We all stand on the shoulders of others in the building of a city or a nation. Nowhere is that more true of our valley than in one strip of San Jose called San Pedro Square. A boy named Luis Peralta traveled north from Tubac, in Old Mexico, fully 1,000 miles, and he settled in this area; the DeAnza Party followed. We move from Peralta to Fallon, Masson, Giannini, Disney, Hewlett and Packard, and on to Jobs in a few short steps and some 200 years of San Jose history.

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Brash Young Jobs Wrote Own Epitaph

In his famous challenge to John Sculley, Steve Jobs asked if he wanted to spend his life selling sugared water to kids, or did he want to change the world? Jobs was quite a salesman. About a year after that famous quote, I saw much of that legendary asset when I met him to discuss the new Apple headquarters that he wanted to build in the southern reaches of San Jose. He had I.M. Pei to design it, bundles of cash, more cachet and a plan that was “awesome.” And he made me an offer that was tough to refuse: He’d make San Jose a great city. Jobs even talked about living in a loft downtown.

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Remembering the Kennedys

Ted Kennedy is dead.

Even after the funeral obsequies, how strange it is to hear; how jarring to read. Like all people, ordinary ones or acclaimed historians, I have been reviewing my connection to him and to the Kennedy family.


From Saigon to Hanoi

Tom McEnery recently returned from a visit to Vietnam. This is the third article in a three-part series.

Perhaps it was never expressed better than by Graham Greene’s fictional journalist Fowler (played by Michael Caine in the recent film, The Quiet American) when he notes of the naïve American: “ I never knew a man who had better motive for all the trouble he caused.” As I visited Hue I thought of Tet, and the victories that broke the American will to continue,  those pyrrhic victories, and the carnage on both ends of that offensive and its aftermath.

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Saigon: the Second Look

Tom McEnery recently returned from a visit to Vietnam. This is the second in a three-part series.

Beyond the Continental Hotel and the Cathedral of Notre Dame—we just missed a wedding there—is a place I was both anxious and nervous to see. It was once called the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes. But in slight bow to political expediency,  it has a new name: The War Remnants Museum.

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Saigon: The Original

“My father insists that I call it Saigon—you see, he was in the Southern Army,”  was the simple, direct way our guide informed us why he used the city’s old name.  The comment was made in near perfect English. “Sometimes we say Ho Chi Minh City,” he conceded, “but I prefer Saigon.”  This was our introduction to a place so much in American minds for the last forty years, just recently a significant factor in San Jose politics.

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New Year’s Greetings

Another year. They all seem to blend together at a certain point. Part of the problem of getting older, I guess, is the sameness. But it’s also an opportunity. You can see the similarities with a bit of perspective, and enjoy the way things seems so calm and, even, I venture, understandable. When you look at San Jose, you can’t help but getting a warm and positive feeling. Even in the face of the greatest economic downturn in our lifetimes, people remain positive and even hopeful for the new year.

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A Christmas Wish

It’s the time of year when we’re all in a very good mood. The Sharks won last night capping the best start in their era and one of the best in National Hockey League history. The rain was light. People seemed festive in Downtown and Valley Fair, although a bit harried in the latter stop.

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Rogues in Robes

Recently, a blog by The Fly referred to some cops in its title as “Rogues”—few of us who live and work Downtown see it that way.  We admire and appreciate them greatly. But here’s a group of dangerous people that we should be worried about.

Very, very soon, three federal judges will be deciding whether to free 52,000 of California’s 172,000 prison inmates because of overcrowding. And we have to ask the question: “Haven’t we tried this before—and with disastrous results?”


Is Redevelopment Really the Devil?

There has been much discussion on this blog, and elsewhere in California, about the state government’s so-called raid on redevelopment funds to help balance the budget. A couple of weeks back, Dan Walters, the longtime Sacramento Bee columnist, weighed in, pouncing on local redevelopment agencies (San Jose’s is one of the biggest) as the epitome of waste, and touting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to take $228 million a year from redevelopment agencies.

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Safe: What Does it Mean?

Well, we are no longer the safest city in the US—we lost that title two years ago. But much like that absurd slogan, “America’s 10th Largest City,” which some lunatic believed would set us up for great international renown, this title too is not worth the banner that it’s printed on. When it comes right down to it, who cares what a few magazine writers and the guy who makes the banner think? High time to set aside childish things and look to what is important in our city

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Advice from the Best

I was in Ireland last week with a group of Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists when a chapter from the past came to mind. It concerned the groundbreaking for a new venture launched in Ireland in 1988 by a Silicon Valley pioneer, the venerable Intel, which I attended along with a group of Irish leaders, the American Ambassador, and the eminent Dr. Gordon Moore. It was to be the beginning of what would become the roaring Celtic Tiger that transformed that small island. Intel would rise as the model for Silicon Valley’s rapid expansion in Ireland and Europe. It was good for Ireland and good for our Valley.


Think Globally, Shop Locally

When I was mayor, I bought my cars locally at Lon Normandin’s or Don Lucas’s, I shopped at Ed Mosher’s in the Fairmont, Teel’s jewelry there too, Navelet’s, and Valley Fair, but never crossed the Maginot Line that separated San Jose and Santa Clara, and therefore consciously made my decisions to provide the most sales tax to our city, San Jose, which was trying to sustain services like libraries and parks. It seemed the sensible thing to do, and after all, I thought, if you can’t find it in San Jose, it isn’t worth having.


Chads and Cads

Well, just when you thought it was over. Measure B—BART, has surged into the lead, with over 600,000 votes cast, at the astonishing percent of 66.67: Amazing does not come close to defining it. And remember, there are still 9,800 votes to count. In my grandfather’s day, a report from the Calvary Cemetery precinct would seal the win—ah, for the good old days.

This victory, if such it is, is as remarkable as any in the history of the valley. It sealed in my mind the undying resolution of our citizens to always vote for the future, to reach for the dream of a better city and valley, even in the face of frightening times.


On to the Future

Well the consultants and pundits are receding into the background, thankfully. It is now time to check the battlefield for casualties and then look at options for the future.

Paramount to our valley, the path to mass transit is very bumpy in our valley. The excruciating narrowness of the loss of the BART sales tax measure is something that will not soon be forgotten by the losers—Mayor Chuck Reed, Carl Guardino of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and rising star Sam Liccardo laid it, and all, on the line. And in an incredibly close miss, they saw the hopes of a complete BART system dashed—for now.


A Day When Hope and History Rhyme

Two speeches last night, the Obama acceptance speech and the McCain concession speech, surely give us all a new and deserved reason for feeling very good about our nation, and feed our hopes to turn the page on history, a period that we do not want to revisit and must change.  We received the type of conclusion to this often savage election that we so desired.

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