Single Gal and What is Open Government?

The recent news about Lew Wolff and his “secret” plans to bring an Earthquakes stadium to San Jose while converting industrial land to homes in South San Jose to help fund the project, has brought up a whole array of questions from the public about Chuck Reed’s administration and their promise of “open government.”

The problem here isn’t the project, the people behind the project, land use, taxpayer money or anything of that sort.  The crux of the problem is that the people of San Jose have so little trust for their government—a hangover from the Gonzales administration.  It’s like City Hall is the cheating boyfriend who has asked to be forgiven, yet the public isn’t ready to trust him for fear he might do it again.

This also raises the issue of what open government really is. Is it letting the ordinary citizen in on every large-scale development in San Jose?  Is keeping deals that are not yet worked out and signed private an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of Joe Taxpayer?  Where does the line get drawn?

What I fear about a precedent being set for letting the public know about deals before they are a reality is that nothing will ever get done. Petty grandstanders frequently use high-profile projects such as this as their platform for 15 minutes of fame and tie up projects or kill them altogether.  Those of you who were around San Jose in the late 80s can probably remember that when the arena project—which was studied, planned for and discussed by a citizen task force—was almost final, last minute rabble-rousers claimed that Lincoln Ave. would be gridlocked after events and the Rose Garden would be used for tailgating.  Their cries almost worked to defeat the single best project ever approved in San Jose.  (Try and find anyone who wishes it didn’t happen now.)

I am not saying that Chuck Reed and his staff should be secretive—I do believe in the Sunshine Reforms and letting us see what’s happening in local government—but I am curious at what point Reed and his council will let us in on what we need to know. However, the main issue is people have to stop being distrustful. We have so much catching up to do in this city that we can’t afford the time that would be wasted by stalling large projects like the soccer stadium.  I think the public needs to give a little leeway if they ever want San Jose to become the great city that we all want.

76 Comments

  1. This is an interesting test case as to the council’s committment to open and transparent government.

    I find myself remembering a piece of advice given to me as a teenager by a community activist. It has served me well.  He said you could always determine where someone stood by using the following litmus test:

    “Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear what you say.”

    Will be interesting to see how this issue plays out.

  2. The story here isn’t Reed and his government. It’s the Murk looking to get people reading something (anything). If you’ll notice, they point out things like how Wolff lives in L.A. (uh oh, we hate that place!) and had a hotel moved at his will (we don’t want dictators!). The paper will discuss things such as seating capacity when refering to the new “SJSU football stadium” but now shady, back-alley deals and kickbacks are the story when talking about this new “soccer stadium.” It’s the same damn stadium. People are too easily manipulated. How about waiting until there’s actually anything close to a done deal before crying about being left out of it. Only then will the Cowtown Brigade have a say in crushing the fun.

  3. Don’t forget that the arena campaign was not exactly the most truthful and that not all of the information was given to the public.  Rather than promote the benefits of the arena honestly, supporters chose to float phony numbers from a poll to trick voters into thinking the arena proposition was losing. This manipulation of the electorate planted the seeds of doubt in many of our minds ever since. Too bad. Honesty is still the best policy—let’s hope it catches on.

  4. Single Gal—

    I hear you, and I think the mayor does, too. He was asked about this issue on KLIV last night and he responded that there has to be a balance between openness and confidentiality in certain matters, and he promised that the public will have every opportunity for input when the time comes to make a decision.

    As to why he’s not providing any details right now, I’ll tell you the same thing I wrote on the Soccer Silicon Valley blog (at http://blog.soccersiliconvalley.com ) yesterday—any role the City of San Jose will play in a new SJSU/Earthquakes stadium is contingent on a finalized deal between SJSU and Lew Wolff, and there simply is no deal yet between those two parties.

    Has Wolff spoken with City officials? I’m sure he has, just like someone might talk to your father before he offers you an opportunity to change your handle to “Married Gal.” That doesn’t mean there’s anything untoward going on.

    Jay Hipps
    VP, Soccer Silicon Valley

  5. Now the Reed apologists are arguing for closed government in “some situations for our own good.”

    I will be attacked as being someone from another city, whom I am not, and I will be attacked by others who will justify left and justify right about the need for closed door negotiations when it is about Reed and White.

    What is funny is that this is the same drivel Ron said about Norcal, “just trust us for a good deal.”

    At the end of the day, when the San Jose Inside is at the Mayor’s office, it is a different story.  One group of closed door people, replacing another group.

  6. Great Job SG!

    “Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear what you say.”
    I like this quote very much. It speaks directly to the issue of the integrity of promises made, and promises kept.

    SG, in many respects I understand your concerns, but if we use the cheating boy friend analogy you have given, I’d have to say if you really love yourself, you shouldn’t give him a second chance. And if you do, he has to “earn it.” He has to consistently behave openly by being accountable for his where abouts, and who he’s with. He has to help you through your fear of him doing it again, he has to acknowledge wrongdoing, and more importantly, he must allow time for healing. Trust is not something that is easily restored. Ask any man or woman who has been lied to, or has been betrayed.
    Here’s my main concern, city staff plays a big part in the mistrust we all have. They are pros at “accidentally on purpose” hiding things from the public, and purposely burying answers to questions in a huge binder of paperwork, so the Mayor, and Council has to hunt for things. They hide verbal answers to questions asked by the Council under a pile of verbal diarrhea, which amounts to nothing more than a pile of pretty words that tell you absolutely nothing.
    If you watch Council Meetings, you’ll be shocked to see how controlling and forceful these staffers are over their projects. My God, they act like you’re trying to steal their wallet after payday, if you question them on proper public disclosure etc.! 

    I think citizens have a right to not to trust the city right now. Not enough house cleaning has been done. City staff knew about Nor Cal, and the Grand Prix long before Council did. Who do you think negotiated the deals, made staff recommendations on them, and presented it to Council? Yep, the cheating boyfriends of the City of San Jose.

  7. I am not of the belief that every negotiation needs to be in the sunshine from day one, and I am certainly not of the belief, as many bloggers here seem to be, that you put every big decision to a vote of the people.

    However, Les White’s comment reported in the Murky News that we have to “trust me” could not have come at a worse time.  Les’s record certainly shows he is personally trustwrothy, but it’s just not the word to use until at least a year has gone by to prove the mayor, council, and administration have EARNED our trust back.  I’d rather Les had said something along the lines that when the negotiations have come close to fruition, the public would be informed and invited to comment.

    And hopefully, the comment period and hearing will be scheduled so all can participate; unlike the upcoming meeting re GreenTeam’s request for a hike in garbage rates, which our allegedly sunshine new Reed administration scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday instead of an evening session @ 7:00 p.m., which would allow more public participation.

    The “trust me” and the poor scheduling don’t leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.  I think our “leaders” STILL don’t get it completely.  Saying sunshine, and acting ONLY in it are two VERY different things.

    Yup, things have been so bad for so long that in my view the peoples’ trust really must be earned back.  They haven’t earned mine yet.

  8. 5 – You won’t be attacked for the reasons you mention, but you will be attacked because you don’t know what you are talking about.
    There is no comparison to anything currently going and what Gonzales and NorCal cooked up. City staff worked under a dictatorial mayor and were not allowed to come forward with what they knew. The mayor and his staff put together the NorCal deal—city staff did not make the back-room promises that gave NorCal an extra $11 million+. Thanks to the mayor we will now have garbage rates going up as high as 29% more!
    Gonzales did not say “trust us” until after the deal was done and his secret pact started leaking out. He didn’t want anyone to know, EVER, what he had done. Big difference in how things are being handled now. Perhaps there should be more “sushine” sooner than later on the Wolff dea, but it doesn’t even come close to the near secret-government that Gonzales almost got away with and did get away with for several years.

  9. Single Gal,

    I think the situation as it’s happening neither speaks positive nor negative about the Administration’s open “Sunshine” commitments at this point in time.  Discussions and ideas have to begin someplace and at the inception of this dialogue, the public may not have to be brought in to opine on the particulars. 

    However, there will come a time, especially if any concessions involve funds, lands or conditions effecting the public’s interests, the public should be brought in to be part of the resolution.  It’s going to be at this time we will all find out if the Administration “walks the talk” and has an open “sunshine” commitment to the people of San Jose.

    Concerned Citizen

  10. Dear No.3 – not only was the Arena campaign honest and open, the poll that showed it losing was truthful. It “was” losing due to one of the most effective campaign of negativity and falsehoods in San Jose history, touting every fear but WMD’s in Willow Glen (they thought traffic was more damaging to use!). Thank God for all the families of San Jose – and Shark fans – the people saw it more clearly,  forgave me my mistakes, and voted for the future of their city. Great people!  TMcE

  11. There’s a big difference between working up a deal and its details in advance, and THEN letting the public in on the deal for discussion, and forcing a deal down with next to no notice. (Did someone say grand prix subsidy?)

    Sunshine doesn’t mean mobocracy – it means having a process for disclosure and consistently applying it.

    No money has moved, nothing of substance has been done yet, and to my knowledge, all you Norcal fans out there, no promises have been made in secret. So what’s the big deal?

  12. SG, sorry I can’t get the bad taste of the last administration out of my mouth.  And while Les White would like us to “trust” them, there is no excuse for keeping public documents hidden from the public.  Tough crap if it’s inconvenient for them to release PUBLIC documents.  I voted for Reed because I wanted to end this type of behavior, not see it continue.

  13. Tom McE. #10—Traffic was then and remains the worst four letter word one can speak in WG.  If you want to stop something there, just say (truthfully or nay) that it will cause more traffic.

  14. What the author of that article is known for is calling up folks on the phone and ambushing them to get the quotes he needs for whatever hit piece he’s currently working on. He’s the precise reason why everyone hates journalists. It wasn’t even a thinly-veiled opinion piece. It was absolute trash.

    There hasn’t even BEEN a proposal to the city council yet. Reed has said that they, the city, won’t even wrangle over anything until there’s a deal hammered between Wolff and SJSU. Yeah, the “trust me” quote did have the opposite effect, but come on.

    Don’t take the quotes in that article as absolute stuff. It was a garbage article just to stir the pot and salvage what’s left of that newspaper. And I am sad to say that.

  15. The problem here is the disclosure of the exact location of the land to be ceded to Wolff for rezoning.  The fact that the land in question can be identified casts somewhat of a fait accompli on the deal.  That handshakes and winks have already been exchanged.  That has all the taste of a backroom deal that Reed swore would not happen in his administration.  How can they say there’s “no deal” when it appears that there’s agreement on the land to be rezoned?

  16. I do think someone has a point who said that people are looking too much for things to be wrong with this administration – but they do have a point when they say that this is reason people voted for Chuck – to be the anti-Ron and let everyone in on what’s happening down there at city hall…

  17. #16 RIPavilion:

    “How can they say there’s “no deal” when it appears that there’s agreement on the land to be rezoned?”

    Well, let’s see:

    1) At this time, there is no agreement between SJSU and Earthquakes LLC to construct a stadium.  As of the Murk reportage of the 30th of March, Mr. Wolff was on record as stating that he would “know within 30 days” whether or not a deal could be reached.  As of now, there is no deal.  Nothing has been carried to the city for approval.  Nothing has been announced.  No applications for city monies have been made. 

    2) The rezoning of any land cannot occur until the application is made.  Any applications of this nature are a matter of public record, and bear public scrutiny through hearings and (eventually) a council vote.  So, unless and until an application for rezoning has been made, there is no basis on which to argue whether or not the rezoning should take place.  You stated, “The problem here is the disclosure of the exact location of the land to be ceded to Wolff for rezoning.  The fact that the land in question can be identified casts somewhat of a fait accompli on the deal. That has all the taste of a backroom deal that Reed swore would not happen in his administration. ” Unless you are aware of an existing application, I would be interested to know exactly on what basis you make that accusation.

    Sam Liccardo, in the recent vote, voiced some concerns about the lack of ability for any kind of redevelopment to get done should instant and complete release of information be required for any project that may still be in the negotiation status, and I think he’s right about that.

    Upthread, Nam Turk got it pretty close to correct – what we are discussing here is not any kind of new professional sports stadium for an absentee millionaire to display his expensive toys. 

    The discussion of seating capacity was and is being driven by SJSU’s football needs, and thus the reference to a “football stadium” was and is accurate.  If Mr. Wolff were to hold firm at his 20K capacity limit, as initially rumored, then SJSU’s involvement with the project would have stopped dead in its tracks at that very moment.

    However, since evidently agreement has been reached in that regard, the project, such as it is, has gone forward to find a whole new gauntlet to cross.  One of those obstacles is some folks (including the editors at the Murk) minimizing the whole project as merely a “new soccer stadium.”

    Ultimately, this project is about the replacement of an aging but venerable stadium that has served the entire community well for better than 70 years, but which is well past its prime.  And now, someone has come to the University and offered to pay for a similarly sized replacement facility, with the University only obligated to surrender a parcel of land for the new stadium, and the conversion of the old stadium land for a parking structure.

    Along the way, there will be hearings, public comment, and probably a lawsuit or two.  Perhaps the Edenvale folks can try to hire the attorneys who represented Shasta-Hanchett during the Arena dispute.

    But this will indeed be a true test of whether or not San Jose is functionally a city, rather than that famous description of “a thousand villages in search of a city.”

    One other thing – some other folks have stated that Reed and the current council have not “earned” trust back yet.  My question to them is – how exactly do you earn that trust in this type of governmental system, except by being given the chance to be good and accurate stewards of the public trust? 

    How long must the whole city (and the region for that matter) pay for the misdeeds of Ron Gonzales?

  18. Dear Single Gal:

    I still think everyone misses the point.  If the city can assemble real estate deals that generate many millions through entitlements, why isn’t the city assembling a deal where the profits would be used to repair our broken city?  The public trust should be used to provide civic “needs,” not private “wants.”

    Pete Campbell

  19. Thankfully, Dave and others are being consistent in their demands for open government.  It is refreshing to see some of the same people who supported Reed are demanding open government.  I am really glad to hear that reform to some people on this blog means reform.

    As for others, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, YOU ARE JUST COVERING FOR WOLFF AND REED.

  20. JMO is correct – public trust must be earned.  To be fair, the one year point would be a good milestone for measurement.  The garbage hike is likely one of several future incidents that will count as a black mark towards regaining that trust.  But, at the end of the day, it must be the collection of Council issues and actions, large and small, that should be used as the yardstick.

  21. Try this:

    http://www.mercurynews.com/portlet/article/html/fragments/print_article.jsp?articleId=5639934&siteId=568

    If you can’t reach it, turn to page 16A in the Mercury News today (4/11/07) to see this headline and first paragraph:

    “MAYOR REED RETREATS FROM STAND ON OPEN GOVERNMENT

    Mayor Chuck Reed has stared down the first real challenge to his commitment to open government—and blinked.”

    =====

    This has always been Reed’s style. He just doesn’t have his brother-in-law Bob Ingle covering for him in the paper any longer. Welcome to the real Chuck Reed.

  22. I am in agreement with those who say that this is not about the stadium (which everyone, except the local rag, has always described as a “joint use” facility).  It is about how any government works.  I also agree that it was unfortunate that Les White and others used the term “trust us”.  There is a tendency to blame all of this on the past city administration and that is accurate, to a point.  The reality is that people haven’t trusted government at any level for a long time.  “Trust us” immediately puts an image of Richard Nixon in my head.

    The fact is, in my opinion anyway, that government would cease to operate if every meeting or phone call had to be subjected to public scrutiny as they happened.  It is necessary for the public to know what took place, but not necessary for the public to be a direct participant each time.  If it did not work this way, government would cease to operate.  People tend to forget that we do not live in a true “democracy”.  It is a representative form of government.  If do not like the way things are going, we can change the representatives.  The representatives are charged with getting things done……we, as voters, give our “trust” through the ballot box.  That form of trust should not be easily taken away for many reasons, not the least of which is anarchy.

    Right now, the city finds itself in the position of being blamed (or credited, depending on one’s point of view) if this stadium deal goes sideways.  San Jose State is likely never to find another person who is willing to take the profit from a real estate deal and give it to them for a new stadium.  This is not the only real estate deal of it’s kind, past, present, or future.  It is just the only one that seems to benefit more than the developers (and let’s be clear, the developers do intend to make money on this one too).  I saw this posted elsewhere (and I will paraphrase it)…..the city finds itself at a crossroad.  One direction is toward being involved in the creation of modern facilities for one of it’s most important institutions (SJSU), while the other direction is to cowtown.

    The process needs to be transparent, no doubt about it.  That being said, things can’t be slowed to the point of the public listening in on every communication as it happens.  Plus, the other guy is gone…..

  23. #18 – JD – “How long must the whole city (and the region for that matter) pay for the misdeeds of Ron Gonzales?”  Forever.  Those who deny the past are condemned to repeat it.

    #19 – Pete – “If the city can assemble real estate deals that generate many millions through entitlements, why isn’t the city assembling a deal where the profits would be used to repair our broken city?  The public trust should be used to provide civic “needs,” not private “wants.”  Dead on.  First things first.  There are so many things that need either fixing or finishing that to start a new civic debacle is just plain folly.

  24. Pinhead # 33—that’s not what Warren said.

    I agree with Warren that the public need not be in on every conversation when it happens.  However, The Brown Act makes it clear that public records are indeed public, so they all must be disgorged at some point.  One may never get complete agreement regarding what is the precise point requiring disgorgement; but many cities, including San Jose, routinely put up significant roadblocks to obtaining public documents, and that violates the letter and the spirit of The Brown Act (cf. recent stories re police records).  All doubts should be resolved in favor of the public, not the governmental entity.

    One problem with holding onto staff reports and analysis too long is that staff becomes invested in their decisions and reports and tends to brook no dissent whatsoever.  Staff needs to understand that recommendations are just that..recommendations; and other folks may have a better idea.  Staff should welcome the insight and experience of others, not denigrate it with their combative and overly defensive attitude.

  25. Wow, add coward to my list of qualities – I like the company I am in!  Why are people pissed off at Lew Wolff – he’s trying to bring LARGE scale projects to San Jose that make an impact.  Unreal!

  26. I indeed did not say “Government would be bad if we had to document things???”.  In fact, I said exactly the opposite.  The public is most certainly entitled to the disclosure of all communications regarding these kinds of deals.  That does not mean that every phone call or meeting is subject to live broadcast.  If that were the law, absolutely nothing would happen.  As long as the communications are documented, then provided to the public for discussion within a reasonable amount of time, I see no problem. 

    All of this is being discussed in the context of the cynicism and paranoia of the previous city administration.  Those guys are gone.  Will the new bunch be any better?  Who knows?  Right now, they must be given an actual chance to show their stuff.  If this proposal was being handled like the garbage debacle, there would be no knowledge of anything at this point.  I don’t see any evidence of that.

    It’s not like this is a “new” issue.  For those who participate on messageboards, blogs or chat rooms, the outline of the proposal has been known for months.  There is no evidence that it was being kept a secret.  If anyone has missed the story, I would suggest that they pay better attention.  People who claim to care are obligated to keep themselves informed.

    I also hope that some of the other re-zoning proposals are included in this discussion.  How many reading this are aware of the situation at the Berryessa Flea Market.  A very similar situation is taking place there.

    And, I am so sorry there is a Warren whose last name is Pinhead….my sympathies to your family.

  27. SG: Nobody wants a stadium when the street in front of THEIR house is not freshly paved with crisp yellow lines or the little park where THEIR kids play is made of wood and metal and not stupid-proof plastic. It’s like people just think about existing and not living. If fun costs money, then screw it. If fun doesn’t cost money but instead reallocates it for things like garbage pickup from things such as empty light rail cars, then screw it just the same. People want to bitch about where we are but seem suspiciously content about remaining there.

    Thankfully, the Murk is there to prey on these nonsensical thoughts and feelings.

  28. Well, it really does not matter for you, because a civil grand jury accusation has already been prepared on Les White, and you can donate to his legal defense fund.

    Was mailed earlier today.

    Willful violation of Public Records Act and the Brown Act.

    Maybe you can get Ron’s lawyer, Les.

  29. well, when you argue that Wolff should be allowed to keep things under lock and key, (which is something, cutie pie, that you said Ron could not do), you get the priviledge of being there with the rest.

    Gee, SG, had this been Ron, you would have been screaming bloody murder, but when a non hispanic politician and his assistants do it, you always seem to be there for them, right?

  30. I find myself on the same side of someone’s ledger as the Single Gal, Sam Liccardo, Les White, and Chuck Reed?

    (THUD!)

    Damn.  Now I’ve got to go get my jaw X-rayed.

  31. Sheesh, how do I get on the cowards list?  #35 JMoC, not to split hairs, but isn’t it the California Public Records Act (http://www.thefirstamendment.org/publicrecordsact.pdf) we’re arguing about, not the Brown Act (http://www.vanguardnews.com/brownact.htm)?

    Anyway, I wrote an (snarky) email to the Mayor’s office asking him which Reed Reform was the one where they kept public documents a secret.  They were kind enough to respond.  I’ve pasted the mayor’s memo they attached below.  In summary:

    1. I don’t agree with the memo
    2. I do believe the documents should be made public
    3. I don’t hate Lew Wolff.

    TO: Rules and Open Government
    Committee
    SUBJECT: Public Review of Potential
    Soccer Stadium Plan

    After the hearing at the last Rules and Open Government Committee, it is clear to
    me that keeping the Lew Wolff ~occer stadium materials confidential is
    permissible under the Public Records Act, as most recently interpreted by the
    California Supreme Court in the Michaelis case. After listening to statements from
    Les White, City Manager, Paul Krutko, Chief Development Officer and Harry
    Mavrogenes, Executive Director, RDA on April 4, 2007, it appears that releasing
    the materials at this time could negatively impact the staff s ability to negotiate an
    agreement in this case and in future transactions as well.

    While the Public Records Act does not require us to release the documents, the Act
    certainly would allow us to do so, and I generally support decisions to release
    documents. Before we make a decision about the documents in this case, we
    should have a policy that would provide guidelines for disclosing documents when
    the city is negotiating with someone from the private sector.
    After considering various scenarios, I realize that factors in each situation are
    different. I can envision instances where opportunities could be lost (for example,
    in corporate headquarters or professional sports relocations) if the city could not
    maintain confidentiality in the early stages of negotiations. Each instance must be
    reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and the interest in disclosure of documents must
    be balanced with the need, at times, to keep documents confidential. The Council
    should consider development of broader policy guidelines after the Sunshine
    Reform Task Force has finished its work on public records.
    In this case, the stadium plan needs to be made public, and it should be done long
    before it comes to the City Council for action. I recommend the Rules and Open
    Government Committee approve the following actions to allow the public to know
    what is being considered, even before a formal proposal is submitted.

    1. Amend the work plan for the Community and Economic Development
    Committee and direct staff to report to the Committee on April 23, with a public
    memo not later than April 16, on the plan for a soccer stadium to answer the·
    following questions:
    – What are the elements of the plan for a potential soccer stadium that would
    require action by the City?
    – How much public notice would be given for each action that might require
    City approval?
    – How would any soccer stadium affect the South Campus joint planning
    effort underway with SJSU?
    – Would the potential soccer stadium involve a financial contribution from
    San Jose?
    – How would the potential soccer stadium affect opportunities for building
    community sports fields with Measure P funds?
    – How would any potential soccer stadium affect Municipal Stadium?
    – Would the potential stadium require any land use changes?
    – How can the Council and the public be kept informed with periodic
    updates?
    2. Direct staff to make periodic updates to the Parks and Recreation Commission
    on any of the elements of the plan for a soccer stadium that would affect
    Measure P funds or parks.

  32. I think one of the main points in the conversion of the iStar Property that Mr. Wolff is betting on to finance this whole proposal.  iStar has began community meetings over a year ago to the surrounding community to get input on it’s industrial proposal.  With the lack of industrial land in San Jose and the key location, next to the freeway, I think it should remain industrial and not add to the bedroom community in South San Jose which severely lacks retail/industry.

  33. My feeling is that if there is enough of an issue about this, Wolff will not do anything that involves the city.  The current idea regarding Spartan Stadium does not necessarily depend on the city, it just appears that a deal involving the city is the simplest method of finance.  Wolff knows how to make money, so it is conceivable that another avenue for money might be in the works.  If that were to happen, Lew Wolff and SJSU could just walk away from the city.  Or, Wolff could just walk away and concentrate on Fremont and the As, and the Spartans could continue to struggle with attracting quality teams to their existing facility…..and the Quakes?  It was always fun and I have many memories.

  34. Here’s the real upshot.  If you go back to the Big Soccer blog site, you’ll see that the Earthquakes backers have been trying to cook themselves up a publicly-funded stadium without a public vote which they know they’d lose.  So they’ve concoted this scheme with Lew Wolff to ram a deal through City Hall so that Wolff funds the deal, thereby sidestepping the requirement for a vote (if public funds were to be used to build it).  Wolff uses land rezoned in a backroom deal that shouldn’t be used for housing, but gets the deal sweethearted to him so he funds his account and builds a stadium.  The whole process is intended to circumvent the requirement for a public vote on the soccer stadium.

    The problem with all this,of course, is no public comment, no debate, no vote, no voice of the people.  Just a simple “trust me”.  After 8 years of “trust me” from Ron-Gone, that won’t cut it anymore.

  35. #40-“Well, it really does not matter for you, because a civil grand jury accusation has already been prepared on Les White, and you can donate to his legal defense fund.

    Was mailed earlier today.

    Willful violation of Public Records Act and the Brown Act.

    Maybe you can get Ron’s lawyer, Les.”

    If this information is not true, you shouldn’t be posting it. On Tom’s blogg, you said Reed, and Wolff are mentioned in a Grand Jury complaint too. Rumors, and false accusations can hurt people, and their profession, and spreads misinformation.

    #30- Grow up. Name calling ends in grade school.

    This blogg is designed for open, honest exchanges of information, ideas, and concerns. It seems, some of the remains of “Mayor Watch,” bullies who like to attack what they can’t combat, mature communication between adults, have wandered over here to start the usual disrespectful discord you seem to thrive on.

  36. Just to follow-up, today’s Merc’s story on this topic had a quote from Terry Francke, general counsel of Californians Aware, an open government advocacy group that says it better than I did.  He believes Wolff’s proposal is clearly a public record:

    “There’s no business exception. There’s no arena exception. There’s no, `We don’t want to be pestered’ exception to the state’s records laws,” Francke said.

    What really bothers me is Cindy Chavez was roasted on this blog for the way she handled (mis-handled) the San Jose Grand Prix.  Now it seems it’s actually OK to be sercretive, as long as we support the project.  I guess a Grand Prix just isn’t as exciting as a stadium.

  37. Sounds like a great idea Pete! (#19)

    Do you know any developers that want to take all the profits from a rezoned parcel and “fix the broken city”?

    Oh how about just defining “broken city”.

    What is your “civic need”?

    Is sure isn’t a new stadium for San Jose State, soccer fields in Kelly park for San Jose citizens or 1400 townhome/condos for San Jose residents.

    What should Lew Wolff do for you?

  38. Coward awards

    JD
    Single Gal
    Les White
    Sam Liccardo
    Judy Chirco
    Chuck Reed
    Nam Turk

    Bravery Awards
    Dave
    Pete Campbell
    Dale Warner
    John Michael O’Connor

    Stupid old men in Los Angeles that want to keep things secret

    Lew Wolff

  39. I get the feeling that some people interpret “open government” as meaning that there are 950,000 mayors of San Jose.

  40. 47: If Wolff’s prized land remains industrial, will there be a vote to decide who gets to use it? At what point should people not be required to have a say in these matters? Where is the line drawn, and is that line not at least somewhat arbitrary?

    You say soccer fans want certain steps skipped to ensure the deal is done, but at the same time, opponents tie the housing matter to a stadium that is being built on private land with private money simply because they know that everyone hates a stadium. It works both ways, so don’t act like you’re taking the high road.

  41. #47:  What in the world are you talking about?  The Earthquakes backers cooked this up?  I can only laugh.  There are probably only 15 or 20 people who regularly post messages there.  If one believes your assertion, these people have a significant amount of power in this…..I don’t think so.  Most of them probably had to budget the purchases of season tickets (back in the day).  The suggestion that they have cooked this up is hilarious. 

    There has been discussions at Big Soccer about the return of the Quakes since the day they were hijacked to another city.  Lew Wolff has been part of those discussions virtually from day one because on the day after the team was gone, he said he would like to bring MLS back.  I am a regular at Big Soccer.  I had absolutely no idea of my power in this. Lordie, lordie, lordie….

    Lew Wolff has made no secret of the fact that he wants to avoid a public vote in San Jose about stadium financing.  He is proposing a deal that is similar to many deals that have already happened and are certain to continue happening.  Purchase land relatively cheap, sell it at a higher price.  The only difference is that he is offering to use the profits for something other than a new jet.  If he merely wanted to line his pockets and not build a stadium, it appears he could do it without much of a fight.  Maybe the Bumbs could provide some hints about how to get this done without riling the natives.

  42. #47, there is no requirement of a vote for a soccer stadium.  (Which as you certainly know, is actually a soccer/football stadium)  The city has no authority at all over land use decisions on SJSU land.  There is a requirement of a vote if the City of SJ is going to pay for a stadium.  Finding ways to get it done without the city paying for it is a good thing.

    I’m also going to guess that Lew Wolff came up with the plan, not your friends on a message board.

    Horror of horrors, a backroom deal that is so backroom that everyone knows pretty much exactly what is going on.

  43. #48:

    The name of the 3rd grade name-caller over here is James Rowen.

    He is some agent for Santa Clara city government. Clearly, he thinks he is strengthening his arguments with his name calling, you know, the great “insecurity” complex. Just do a Google on “mission city lantern James Rowen” and his great argument skills and insecurity complex are there for all to see.

  44. Wrong again, Lewie, I live in the Rosegarden in a home much more expensive than the mobile home you live in on Old Oakland Road.

    Ps, I know it is true, because I mailed it, myself.

    Pss, I am a woman, hear me now, the rest of you are have no know-how.

  45. On Monday, the planning commission voted to deny the proposed Lowes project in South San Jose.  The historic IBM building is worth saving and Lowes was neither creative nor flexible in adapting their proposal to ensure that a piece of San Jose’s history remains intact. 
    On May 1st, we will get a chance to see if this new administration is any different than the last.  Two judges have ruled that the building should be saved.  The landmarks and planning commissions have voted to save the building.  IBM #25 has qualified as a city, state and national landmark.  And finally, the report compiled by City staff recognizes the value of this historic structure and recommends that the Lowes project be relocated.  They also state that there are better retail alternatives for the site.  IBM Building #25 is more valuable to the City than the proposed Lowes project.
    Will our new mayor value these experts and their recommendations?  Reed previously voted to demolish IBM bldg #25.  Will he be able to admit he was wrong and accept the findings of the experts?  Or will Reed be just another Gonzo, and fail to acknowledge his error and ignore those whose job it is to advise city leaders?
    One thing I know for sure, Lowes won’t generate jobs or increase our tax base just create a shift.  They will simply drive other businesses, like OSH and Southern Lumber who started in San Jose, out of the area.

  46. #49 – if the stadium is being built on private land with private funds, what is the city doing in the equation and why is there an argument about this land?  It’s simple.  The funds aren’t private, the funds are generated from a city land grant (otherwise called re-zoning).

    If Wolff wants to build a stadium with private money on private land, he can do it without City Hall intervention.

  47. 2 Question for San Jose City Council and Taxpayers

    1- Why does Council give Bumb’s Flea Market, Hitachi / IBM, and dozens of other developers and property owners hundreds of $$$ millions in ” windfall conversion profits” when Council rezones property from industrial to residential?

    2- Why not require sharing of increased value to offset San Jose’s future higher city home costs and loss of future taxes as many other cites do?

    3- Unless property owners “Share Windfall Conversion Profits” of $2-3 million per acre San Jose loses as explained below just say NO to conversions like Coyote Valley, Evergreen and others and worst traffic, tax and other impacts higher $$$ share

    Scott Herhold: Soccer plan: just a subsidy in disguise  

    http://www.mercurynews.com/scottherhold

    ”  So far the city has produced no cost figures for the Wolff deal. I did a back-of-the envelope estimate based on the premise that the property would have about 3,000 residents. In police and fire salaries alone, that would mean about $1.2 million a year. The difference in taxes with an office or industrial user means the city loses another $1 million a year. Over 40 years, the city is giving up around $88 million. And that doesn’t count the demands for schools, libraries or community centers. “

    Time to ” Share Windfall Conversion Profits” or NO San Jose conversion approvals

  48. #58- For the record, Scott Herhold’s “back-of-the envelope estimate” is a bunch of nonsense.  First, it wildly assumes that the iStar property in South San Jose could soon be developed for office or industrial use.  The plot of land has been an abandoned orchard for decades; if no housing is built on this land, we could probably expect it to remain abandoned orchard for more years to come; empty plots of land don’t contribute tax money to the city!  Second, as I write this, hundreds of housing units are being built in San Jose, with more planned for the downtown in the form of high-rises.  Where’s Scott’s outrage over these projects, and their supposed drain on city services?  San Jose’s a growing city Scott, get over it!  Third, what we’ll probably get at the iStar property is smart transit oriented development; with light-rail and Caltrain being minutes away.  This would entail ground floor retail and 3-4 story market rate condos and townhomes (think density ala Santana Row).  This won’t be some crime-ridden, Section 8 housing project that is a drain on police and fire services!  $1.2 million a year?…give us a damn break!  Lastly, not all residents would use community centers and libraries, and only residents with children would use local schools.  It wouldn’t be that great of a demand, as Scott Herhold would want us to believe.  “Over 40 years, the city is giving up around $88 million” for Lew Wolff’s soccer/football stadium…nothing more than “back-of-the envelope” BS!!

  49. #53:

    Oh, so great for you, little girl!! Didn’t your mommy tell you it is past bedtime? And did you finish that homework you have to turn in to the 3rd grade teacher?

  50. #59 Anthony Dominguez

        The reality is that I Star is perfectly designed for commercial.  There is a lot of high density coming in next to it at Hitachi, with the neighborhood residential you referred to in regards to what might work on I Star.  One of the rationalizations of the high density on the Hitachi site was that the I-Star site would appropriately complement Hitachi with the opportunity for large retailers that is desparately needed in South San Jose.  That are does not need a Santana Row type development, it needs commercial property. 
        Anthony, to be more precise, thousands of housing units are being built around San Jose right now as we speak.  But, the ability to do that requires that the Council remain firm in not ceding those lands zoned for industrial and commercial to allow for such rapid housing development.  Your argument of rezoning I-Star seems to be that “Well, houses are coming up all over San Jose.”  The problem with that is the downtown is appropriate for high rise housing.  And, Hitachi is deemed appropriate for transit oriented, high density residential, if there is enough commercial and industrial landing to support it.  If we give up I-Star so it becomes majority residential, we will be losing ground in that region for what the general plan requires so that we can pay for services that Hitachi will require.

  51. #59 – Anthony – there’s no outrage over the housing that’s being built in Downtown, for example, because it’s been balanced against the general plan.  Those projects went forward after analysyis of the ancillary city services required to handle the additional housing units in the area.  The rezoning of the iStar property does not take into account these services according to the general plan, and that’s where the “back of the envelope” BS costs are being conjectured.

  52. #57- I don’t doubt what you are saying, and you are correct, Lew Wolff could fund this from some other source and walk away from the city altogther. 

    One thing that has not been mentioned in this discussion of what the city may want to do to develope the south campus area.  Right now, the area between Spartan Stadium and the Fairgrounds is all industrial.  My understanding is that the city wants to develope at least some of that area as residential/commercial space.  Considering that the city apparently wants to invest a few $Million next to the proposed stadium for recreational fields, one can assume that it is possible that there is some sort of trade off with what might happen with the property Wolff is eyeing.  As I understand it, Wolff has no interest in developing the iStar property…he just wants to buy it, then sell it to a developer.  It is conceivable that he has interest in the south campus area for commercial developement, somthing that falls in line with what he has done elsewhere in the city.  I have this feeling that one of the reasons why the city has been reluctant to release any information is because not only has there been no agreement about anything, there is actually not much common ground identified.  If that is the case, it would not be very smart to tip anyone’s hand.  I would not be surprised to learn that this is far more complicated than people might think. 

    Personally, knowing what the county board of supervisors are considering at the fairgrounds, I would rather see Wolff buy some of that property, sell it to a developer, then use the profit to build a soccer only stadium at the fairgrounds.  To heck with everyone else.  However, I think I am intelligent enough to realize that a deal like that is far too simple for the the board of supervisors to act on.

  53. #56 , very well said.
      As a planning commissioner, I can tell you that the vote was a no-brainer.  Building #25 was clearly worth saving and Lowe’s did not budge one bit in trying to reach a compromise.  I hope the Council follows our recommendation in conjunction with staff and the historic landmarks commission.  As a community, it is up to all of us to make sure that they do.

  54. Dave#43: You bare correct that Public records are governed by The California Public Records Act, Govt. Code section 6250 et seq., and meetings of public agencies are governed by The Raplh M. Brown Act, Govt. Code section 54950 et seq.

    LLL#56 claims: “IBM Building #25 is more valuable to the City than the proposed Lowes project.”  Really?  How much tax income does it generate?  Is it still functioning?

  55. #65 Did you not read or understand what has been said and how much money is being make while San Jose city budget will need $ 5-10 million per year to pay for increased city costs

    #58 about Blumb’s Wolff conversions – Time to “ Share Windfall Conversion Profits” or NO San Jose conversion approvals – Blumb’s conversion is worth 120 acres = $120 -240 million windfall profit while home development make more money

    #60 here is a lot of high density coming in next to it at Hitachi, with the neighborhood residential you referred to in regards to what might work on I Star.  One of the rationalizations of the high density on the Hitachi site was that the I-Star site would appropriately complement Hitachi with the opportunity for large retailers that is desparately needed in South San Jose.

    Your commnet –  rezoning requests to convert industrial land to residential land is not uncommon. It is obvious that they are being made by some property owner/developer wanting to make a buck for themselves.  –

    $2-3 million profit per acre converted

    Shows San Jose has problem with too many conversions and developers are not paying San Jose for loss of jobs land and have millions in future cost increases. 

    San Jose should like other city’s get money or ownership of community facilities not continue to give away future tax revenue lands and pay for increased costs

    San Jose should share in OWNERSHIP of stadium with Wolff and SJSU since Council rezoning creates the money to pay for the stadium ( $1 million per acre after conversion = $3-4 million acre = $ 74-148 million for stadium from land conversion only – while Wolff’s profite will be from building 1,500 homes on its 74 acres and running free stadium and team profits

    Nothing is for free – Definately NOT Wolff’s soccer stadium

  56. In perusing the city council meeting agendas or synopsis the past year or so it appears that rezoning requests to convert industrial land to residential land is not uncommon. It is obvious that they are being made by some property owner/developer wanting to make a buck for themselves. Yet, in the Wolff case we have a developer who wants to take the money from a rezoning and build something that will be a great asset to our local public university and to our city. This proposed new stadium will be a catalyst for redevelopment in an area long mentioned for it. The city has been long on ideas on what they would like to see there, but short on ideas on how to fund it. In my opinion the Wolff stadium proposal is a great way to get the ball rolling (no pun intended) for this redevelopment. It is truly ironic that at this same time when the Wolff proposal is being criticized here and in our local newspaper that a larger rezoning of industrial land (Berryessa Flea Market) to residential is barely registering a response from the Chicken Little Brigade.

  57. No, # 70/ curious – I have not lost my perspective. Although, being involved w. the ownership of the Sharks gives me a conflict on this soccer issue and the future stadium, I think my position on Industrial land conversion is constant. As we changed 1400 ac. of Indus. to Residential in 16 yrs., the city got little; many were enriched.  Any conversion of Indus. should be judged on the benefits to the city as a whole and the impact on services. This should occur here: pure, but rarely simple.  Oh, and while I was Mayor we had a “net” incr. in Indus. land/tax base – and improved services.  TMcE

  58. Earthshaker – do budget math

    Wolff’s 1500 homes or 3-4500 new residents with 3-4000 new vehicles plus add Flea Market 2500 homes, 5-7500 residents , 5-6000 vehicles = large city budget impacts and public investments for increased city services, police, fire, parks transportation, community centers etc – not paid by developers or covered by property taxes

    Got a better estimate than Herholds or others?  – Give it – but don’t expect public to believe that increased city services, facilities, parks, police, fire, steets, traffic controls, city staff etc costs are free  

    San Jose has built homes and reducing services and staff for years

    Services and facilities are not free regardless of your name calling and poor city budget understanding or how jobs and retail pay for city services

    If San Jose gives up more jobs land without getting something for jobs loss – money or ownership of facilities – we lose twice – increased costs and lost jobs / retail tax revenue

  59. Dear Earthshaker—As you probably remember, San Jose (with McEnery as chief proponent) has fought for years against greedy home builders who want to convert irreplaceable industrial land for the quick fix of housing profits. With an imbalance of jobs (which cost little to service) and an oversupply of housing (which COSTS the city to service), San Jose ought not be trading industrial land for housing—even for a new soccer stadium. There may be no “public investment” in terms of cash outlay right now, but the long-term cost of provide police, fire, parks, libraries, sewers, etc. for Lew Wolff’s new housing development will surely outweigh the alleged benefits from a new soccer stadium—which, by the way, offers little in the way of its own financial benefits to the city.

  60. Dear Tom:

    In response to #72, where you suggest that “Any conversion of Indus. should be judged on the benefits to the city as a whole and the impact on services.”—Seems to me that unless this is done for the Wolff stadium deal, that we do not know the genuine impact of the proposal. Wouldn’t you agree? In which case, you and others ought to be calling on Reed for a complete analysis of the impact before any deal is struck.

  61. #74.  74 acres is roughly 1,800 feet x 1,800 feet. That is just a little more than a 1/4 mile square. Now really, how much more are they going to spend on fire and police protection? There is already a fire station probably not more than a mile away from that site, and this isn’t Section 8 housing that is going in so I really don’t forsee the need for a huge police presence. As far as parks go, the document released by the city said the developer would have to put in parkland. I have to admit I don’t know much about sewers, (being that I am on septic), but I would venture to guess that the developer will have to bear the burden for putting those in also. Yes, there will be maintenance costs, but people do get sewer bills every month, and they are paying property taxes afterall!

  62. #67, yes I did read what has been said on the matter, but, for the life of me can’t understand where some of these numbers come from, especially the $5-10 million per year you claim.  Herold writes one of the worst articles in the history of the Merc, where he gives us his back of the napkin math, which he freely admits could be wrong, while he conveniently neglects to factor in the economic benefits of the stadium. And you members of the Chicken Little Brigade glom onto it like it is the Ten Commandments.
      It is attitudes like yours that have made San Jose the Boringest Big City in America. We have some of the best weather in the country, but little to do out in it. The city has the opportunity to help provide at little cost to itself a much needed sport and entertainment facility that will be enjoyed by many tens of thousands of its inhabitants. Don’t spoil it.

  63. I continue to wonder why Tom McEnery isn’t leading the charge to see all the details of Lew Wolff’s proposal to trade industrial land for housing. That’s something Tom has—with foresight and intelligence—decried for years. Could it be that he’s so invested in the McReed Administration that he’s lost his senses? Or his integrity?

  64. #69, the city’s chief development officer, Paul Krutko, says the stadium plan, ““would not require any public investment” and would be built “debt-free.” Yet, there are those running around saying the sky is falling. The city has long wanted to redevelop the South Campus area, and those plans included a new or refurbished stadium, however, the city could not say how anything would be paid for. Obviously, they feel the Wolff proposal for the stadium makes sense for the city from a financial standpoint.

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