Tom McEnery

Tom McEnery

Posts by Tom McEnery

Fighting Our Wars, Paying Our Debts

Well perhaps this is the year that they decide to do the third thing—making some decisions for themselves.

Whom, you may ask, am I referring to? Namely, that vast group of young people and uninvolved individuals who for too long have been AWOL from the crucial moment in any democracy: electing the guy who is going to make the big decisions. They fight our wars, the young, and they certainly are going to pay in a big way for the sins of the fathers and mothers in the current financial implosion. It is now very heartening to see them showing up.

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Council May Need Sobriety Test

The San Jose City Council needs to get a grip on its demeanor in public.  They’ve been a bit out of control with some recent comments. I was surprised but not amazed to see the statements from City Hall revolving around the topic of public drunkenness and arrests by the San Jose Police Department in the Downtown area. Basically, several members were quoted saying they’re appalled at the number of arrests, and the disparity in the arrest rate of Hispanics, far out to proportion to their one-third share of the San Jose population.

It is not surprising that the Council is out of touch on certain issues.  But the situation has become frightening to those trying to live or run small businesses in Central San Jose.


Mayors and Blackouts on the Debate

Well although tonight is the last Presidential debate,  I won’t pay much attention. This one is over except for the huffing and puffing of the talking heads,  the excuses of the consultants, and the dearly needed change in this country. Even Tina Fey has had enough, vowing to go to outer space if Palin wins. 

But there is one Presidential event worthy of comment that occurred 96 years ago yesterday: Teddy Roosevelt was shot.


Telephone Taxes, Casinos and Elections

There is little doubt that if measures J and K, our local telephone taxes, do not pass on the current ballot, then the quality of life in San Jose is going to change a great deal—for the worse.

As in most elections recently, real estate interests and developers have put up a large amount of the money. That is not unusual. Yet it seems that some of those interests have not been heard from for some time, the casinos at the top of the list, and they are back in the fray. Along with the Irvine Company, Equity Residential and other big-name donors are two names that we have not heard lately except in court rooms,  legal briefs and city accusations: Garden City Casino and Bay 101.

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Financial Crises: Now and Then

Well, the crisis is here and swirling all around us.  You can tell by the pained and pinched looks on the faces of the members of Congress, Cabinet officials, and in particular Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men—you know the rest of that one. 

You can’t tell a crisis is with us, here in this valley, by the throngs of people downtown last weekend, lining up for the Leonardo exhibit at the Tech and the Sharks game at HP Pavilion, those carrying shopping bags in Valley Fair, and thousands lining up at Farmers Markets from Santana Row to Campbell.



As the dust settles on the global meltdown, the state budget fiasco, and the prevailing wage struggles in San Jose, there is one very bright point of light to be seen. Tesla Motors’ decision to locate their primary manufacturing facility and headquarters in North San Jose is indeed a noteworthy event, a major shot in the arm for the local economy.

Is it something to cheer about? Definitely.


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.


Crime in San Jose

Despite the recent violent crimes, we are still a very safe city. However, I think it is fair to ask if we are safe enough.  Many would say “no.” When three murders happen over one night; when four knifings happen within a couple of blocks downtown; when more and more people are concerned about the use of police resources in central San Jose; when our murders in one weekend approach Oakland’s, then it is time to carefully monitor the crime situation and make the correct assessments.

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An Independent Referee is Needed for Reform Effort

Two years ago, San Jose’s Sunshine Reform Task Force began their work on restoring our citizens’ trust with more public participation and scrutiny and real reform. The mayor and the council, who have walked the walk and done much to open up meetings, deserve our thanks. The city now gets agendas out ten days in advance. This is a huge improvement and minimizes the chance of big surprises like the Grand Prix debacle.


The Last Shall Be First

Last week’s discussion of the Valley Fair/Westfield behemoth mall complex and its fleet of department stores is linked in one way to the more recent and dubious history of the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. Yes, they both have “fair” in their titles, but more precisely, they both offer lessons and opportunities to do a few things right in the development of key properties in our city. 


Valley Fair Past and Future

The past is prologue. Here was the center of our valley’s commercial life and tax base—the heart of San Jose. The majority of hotels and department stores, movie theatres and fine restaurants were concentrated here. If you wanted a car, you had only to come to this area. Elite jewelry stores were located here as well as retail outlets for sporting goods, uniforms, ladies’ fine wear, toys, televisions, and just about anything under the sun that the consumer could want. You could even buy a tractor. This was downtown San Jose, circa 1955


Quite a Gamble

Last week was a big one in the history of card clubs and gambling in San Jose. Historically, in restaurants and small entertainment venues, such clubs thrived. In the old Garden City Hofbrau on Market Street, the card tables were an interesting sideline in a very small room, just like the old liquor store on the corner. Food and music were the main items. That changed as the potential for additional revenues grew, and the appetite for more and better venues became paramount at Garden City, whose building was condemned in a strange city building fervor. 


BART: The Sequel

I thought that arenas and baseball stadiums brought out the most dramatic, intense, and even incendiary discussions, but I stand corrected—for now. It seems that currently in our valley, the mention of BART is enough to send many normally sane blokes to the ramparts, girded for battle.



Well, we are on the cusp of another big decision about the future of our valley and our region. Are we going to commit to the biggest transportation project in our history and vote to approve a one-eighth-cent sales tax to raise billions of dollars in a push for rail transit?


North San Jose a Worthy Model for the City’s Future

As the city embarks on a very ambitious plan in North San Jose for jobs and housing, and a mini-debate is had on the wisdom of the city owning land, it will be instructive to look at the past. While we may not always learn from our history, it never hurts to look at it and glean a bit of knowledge and perhaps even some insight.

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Campaign Spending and a Modest Proposal

Last week there was a very interesting report on spending in the last mayoral election.  In it, consultants to the San Jose Elections Commission reported that independent spending in the election totaled over $3 million. Of the six groups that were mentioned, five were associated with the Democratic Party and organized labor (including the police and fire unions). The fifth, and perhaps most controversial and effective, was the Chamber of Commerce’s PAC that leveled some particularly pointed shots at the Cindy Chavez candidacy.  By far the largest spender was the Santa Clara County Democratic Campaign, who spent over $1.7 million, ostensibly in support of Chavez’s failed campaign.