State of the City

Last night, Ron Gonzales gave the final State of the City address of his tenure as mayor. We invite our readers to comment on the text of the speech and reflect on how city politics have changed since Gonzales became mayor. What will be the legacy of the Gonzales years? What is your view of the state of our city and where we should go from here?

39 Comments

  1. The speech was typical Gonzo. It was from the “act as if nothing is wrong” school of politics. To speak only of his “accomplishments” and barely acknowledge the damage he has wrought on the city is typical but very disappointing. He still doesn’t get it—thinks the only thing he did wrong was get caught but that it is really his critic’s fault, not his.
    His legacy will be one of slimy politics, vendetta driven public policy, the dismantling of city staff, and ignoring the City Charter. His legacy will be one of a man who had great potential as a local government leader with the potential to move on to higher office, but because of his mean-spiritedness and “I’m above the law” attitude has trashed whatever chance he had to move on.
    The sooner he is out of SJ the better for all of us citizens. It won’t be as good for his friends who benefitted financially from his policies.
    Perhaps he will best be remembered for finally having done the right thing—bringing in Les White as City Manager. Finally, after 7 years we have somebody who will manage the city as required by the Charter. Finally a CM who will respect his employees and value their professional expertise and encourage them to provide the Council with ALL of the available information unlike the previous CM who regularly witheld information from the Council.
    Any good that Gonzo has done for the City will be forever overshadowed by the tremendous damage he caused and the many years it will take to repair what he has done.

  2. First, I did not attend the speech.  How many people attended?

    Two, Scott Herhold’s column was very good today. 

    What I’d like to hear from the Mayor is his honest assessment of what happened during his administration.  He had lofty goals, but so few real victories.  What really went wrong?

    Cisco in Coyote (bursted bubble), BART to SJ (stalled but not dead), a baseball venue etc.

    Certainly there were mistakes.  How does he really view them?  What would he do different regarding his management style?  Does he still believe the Guerra stick approach, without a carrot to offer, is the best way to accompish political or policy goals?

    I believe history will be kinder to Gonzales than his contemporary critics, myself included.  Time has a way of putting a lot of things in perspective.

    If BART does come to San Jose, for instance, Gonzales legacy will be assured.

    But there will always be the asterisk.  It would be a tremendous public service to hear, candidly, how the Mayor views his tenure—not just the spin.  What he really learned may be invaluable to future leaders.

    From a political standpoint I would encourage him to make the leap from politician to statesman and share his candid views on the State of the City—he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

  3. Greatest Hits/Scandals List

    2006— ???

    2005—Norcal

    2004—Cisco/City Hall

    2003—Lobbyist/ illegal PAC

    2002—Re-Election campaign give aways: GI Forum, Police/Fire salary increases

    2001—Calpine power plant, Palladium proposal tanks

    2000—Cheating on wife with young staffer

  4. Gonzales pointed it out himself. He showed video clips of all of his State of the City addresses and clearly illustrated that he called for the same improvements year after year. But sadly, none came to fruition.

    As he said, in his first State of the City he said he would be bringing BART to SJ before he left office, then later said that he hopes in 10 more years BART will celebrate a ribbon cutting.

    Another interesting note, he laid out plans to increase the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative city-wide. Does that mean we can add “The largest city in the nation to be 100% blighted” to “Safest big city in the nation” “Capital of Silicon Valley” and “Leading the state in affordable housing projects” ?

    At least we know that by declaring the entire city blighted we will reduce property values and make all housing more affordable. Talk about a slogan that will bring businesses in droves to San Jose!

  5. Rich-

    I enjoy your contrarian views on this blog and think that you are excessively flogged for you comments – you are brave and should be admired for continuing…

    But…A STATESMAN?  That has to be the biggest stretch since the Mr. Armstrong toy I had as a kid.

    In order to be a statesman you must be “widely respected for integrity and impartial concern for the public good” as stated by Encarta World Dictionary.

    Do you really think ANYONE will listen to this guy once he has no power and can’t intimidate, threaten and punish?

    NOT A CHANCE!  This guy will disappear and be a footnote in San Jose history like former San Jose Mayor Dan W. Gray.  Who?…Exactly.

  6. Ronzales was interviewed by KNTV after last night’s speech and was asked about the controversies surrounding his two terms as Mayor.  He simply dodged the question and went on and on about the work yet to be done and how he was committed to using all of his energy to finish the next 11 months on a positive note.  He’s a wannabe CEO, way over his head, unwilling to listen to credible advice and on a road to nowhere.  He mentioned that he was not concerned about his future and that his highest priority was to help his staff transition to other jobs after his term is up.  Can anyone out there use Ronzales’ skills or the talents of his crack staff?

  7. I doubt any of us will live long enough to see the words “statesman” and “Ron Gonzales” in the same sentence.

  8. Hey, Dan W. Gray was the Mayor of San Jose, California from 1926-1928!

    In 1925 he acted as president of the California Funeral Directors Association. At least he was upwardly mobile. 

    The current guy has no viable future.  We should start a job hunt contest for Gonzo.

  9. Gonzo Legacy

    Bart to SJ = Dead

    Baseball for San Jose = Dead

    Earthquakes = Dead

    Stem Cell Center = Dead

    Ethics in San Jose = Dead

    New City Hall = Looks Dead and Ugly

    Clear Dome =  $500k clean up job Stupid!

    Being able to swindle the city he claims to care about = priceless

  10. Gonzales will be like Nixon; no matter what accomplishments he achieves he will always be remembered for his ethical failures.
    While it can be argued that many of Gonzales’ successes were begun under other administrations there is no question that San Jose has seen many positive changes during his time in office.
    Under normal circumstances if any of his big unfinished projects, BART or Baseball, ever become a reality he would be remembered as a great mayor. That won’t happen. There will always be the Norcal scandal, the City Hall cost overruns, the cheating on the wife with a young staffer, etc.
    In the end it’s too bad that an obviously intelligent, ambitious and capable man went so far off course to tarnish his own legacy.

  11. In the short term, Gonzales’ legacy will largely be about the scandals and damage he did to the political atmosphere in San Jose.  However, I do think he did a good job last night of laying out a lot of the positive things that were done over the last 7 years.  The projects completed during his tenure (city hall, mlk library, renovation of the califronia theatre, etc.) combined with the many highrise housing projects underway have created a strong foundation for a revitalized and vibrant downtown.  Taken together with his Strong Neighborhood Initiative, I think Gonzales has overseen a lot of progress in San Jose that will be recognized by future generations.

  12. There once was a mayor named Gonzo

    who liked garbage deals very much

    had cronies named joe and cindy

    and a man who could not see through the forrest
    very much

    but one day was caught

    “me culpa” he said

    but no one believed him

    He wonndered why?, He said

    The fault lies with the system, He said

    Alas he has put the golden fleece over your eyes

    with false images of baseball, bart, and the Grand Prix

    He tries and tries to convince you otherwise

    “we are looking towards the future” [My Future]

    Lets spin and spin till you believe my lies

    Here he took a page from the Romans

    Give them bread and circuses

    they will forget

    The Coruptus mandamus of the Gonzo regime

  13. Jason, downtown San Jose is already vibrant and revitalized.  Right now, they’re fine tuning downtown with highrise housing and retail: filling in the blanks.

  14. Gonzalez should be known for deceit and dellusion.  He still talks about Bart and Baseball as if they are possibilities.  I know Bud Selig personally and believe me, there is no way he allows the territorial rules to be changed – he will not allow a team to move to the south bay – period – end of story.  Why Gonzo doesn’t know this is beyond me.  Anyone who continues to believe this is either dellusional, naive or has ulterior motives.  For the citizens of SJ, it is a complete waste of our taxpayers time and money to pursue this pipe dream any further – what should have been done is save the professional team we did have – the Quakes – and ensure we have an adequate home for the other pro team – the SJ Giants – otherwise we’ll lose them.

  15. For me, Gonzo is best known for approving the many VTA fare hikes and service cuts since Measure A was approved by voters back in 2000.  Even with the new light rail extensions and new bus service VTA has introduced, Gonzo’s decisions played a key role in driving transit ridership literally back to where it was in the early 1980’s.
    While ridership is slowly gaining again, it will not be like that of the peak of the “dot-coms” in the late 1990’s.

    You know how desparate Ron is in bringing BART to San Jose when, in September 2002 as Chair of the VTA’s Board of Directors, he led the VTA Board to approve a pledge to BART to put up sales tax revenue used to run the county’s buses and light rail as collateral to pay for the BART extension’s operating expenses…

    http://www.vta.org/inside/boards/packets/2002/sep/25.html

    The sales tax revenue referred to is known as Transportation Development Act (TDA) funds – paid for by a permanent 1/2-cent sales tax in the county since 1978, charged by the state but is redistributed to all counties.  Current SJ mayoral David Cortese also approved this outrageous lien, which fellow SJ mayoral candidate Cindy Chavez absent.  No well-planned, well-financed major transit project uses money used to run current services as collateral for its operating costs.

    http://www.vta.org/news/calendar/meeting.pl?idx=880

    Do not get me started on the role Gonzo played in losing the Quakes.  Particularly when he can’t even provide a modern home for the professional baseball team that’s already in town – the San Jose Giants.  The sooner Gonzo leaves office, and the sooner we elect someone who really cares for San Jose and not its lobbyists and special interest groups, the better.

  16. A Mayor’s Revenge…

    Last night, the mayor announced a plan to extend the redevelopment agency to cover the entire city.

    He said, “This year I’m recommending to the City Council that we extend the SNI model citywide, to include all neighborhoods, with residents driving the planning for their priorities. We’ll use the SNI example of collaborative planning with residents to guide other city investments in neighborhoods. We’ll link citywide plans for parks, libraries, and streets with neighborhood priorities, and create a comprehensive plan that cuts across bureaucratic boundaries.”

    This will tend to complicate home ownership titles, downgrade values because of a finding of blight, and render long-established neighborhood associations toothless.

    This is a truly massive expansion of the powers of the redevelopment agency, and will expand the powers of the mayor and council, sitting as the Redevelopment Board, enormously.

    It will also heat up the effort to limit the power of eminent domain in California because SNI expansion really means RDA expansion which means a vast increase in city hall’s power to acquire your property to benefit developers.

  17. Mr. Itch,
    You know Bud Selig…yeah, and I had Bill Clinton over for drinks last night.  You know what your problem is Mr. Itch…you fault the Mayor (and other civic leaders and citizens for that matter) for wanting to pursue MLB for the nations 10th largest city.  The real issue is the insane territorial stranglehold that Giants have on San Jose.  If San Jose is to forever be the handmaiden of Frisco (that’s right…I said FRISCO), so be it…but we won’t go down without a fight!  As for the Quakes…what was wrong with Spartan Stadium anyway, especially for a third-tier sports league that probably won’t be around in a few years.  SJ Giants?  Give me a break!!  San Jose is a Major League City, not minor league!  If you’re a citizen of this great city and you don’t agree, shame on you.  In closing, drinks on me Mr. Itch at the First game at Diridon Ballpark (Bill Clinton will be there as well).  Peace!

  18. Dear San Jose:

    I’d like to echo some of the earlier comments.  Gonzales reminds me of Nixon too, and the word “dellusional” really does apply these days.

    In terms of legacy, the next mayoral election is crucial.  To me,  a Chavez Administration will just be “Four more years of Gonzales.”  I invite anyone to tell me when Councilmember Chavez went against Mr. Gonzales on any major policy issue over the past 7 years.

    The stakes are high with this election, and the lines are clearly drawn.  You have the two reformers (Cortese and Reed) pitted against the status quo (Chavez).  The people of San Jose have to come through.

    ( I am a volunteer with the Reed campaign).

    Pete Campbell

  19. Mr. Bradley,
    I’ll give you that Gonzo had his faults and shortcomings as mayor.  I personally never liked the guy, but I do (or did) appreciate his vision for our great city.  But as for the now departed Quakes, what role exactly did he play in them leaving San Jose?  As I recall, Spartan Shops offered them a better lease deal at Spartan Stadium, but Quakes ownership didn’t want anything to do with it. I say again, what was wrong with Spartan Stadium? So they issue the city an ultimatum…build us a new, compact soccer-only venue or else!”  This coming from a team/league that continues to loose money and that offers an inferior product (as compared to European and Latin American soccer).  To the Quakes I say “Good riddance!”  Maybe if we’re lucky the Stealth and Skyrockets will leave as well.  As for our minor league Giants (such a slap in the face from Frisco), I’ve already offered my opinion on them to Mr. Itch.  For the record, many (if not all) of our mayoral candidates want to see Major league Baseball in San Jose, including thousands of proud citizens (myself included)…this wasn’t just something of Gonzo’s making.  Have a great day!

  20. The problem with the baseball proposal (or just about any proposal that Gonzales is connected with) is we don’t know what the truth is. Most people would like to see a major league team here but not in a publicly financed stadium. In Gonzo’s world he will sell us on the idea of a team, a great ballpark that won’t cost us much and then the bill will come due (look at the SJ Gran Prix as a prime example.) When and if there is a real chance of a team coming here, and if there is a sound, privately financed stadium proposal, then you will likely see most people supporting the plan. Until that happens and until Gonzales is not involved with it, many people will reject it as just another Gonzo scam.

  21. Note:  Even Nixon gained status as a “statesman” in his later years.

    A statesman (woman) is a politician who isn’t holding public office or running for anything, thus his/her views are deemed worthy because they allegedly any lack self-interest.

    It is the aspiration of every politician to become a statesman, just not too soon.

  22. Pete,

    Ms. Chavez just recently voted against Gonzales   (and herself) on the recent vote to give Del Borgsdorf a retroactive raise and increase the the salaries of the city attorney, auditor, etc…

    How did she vote against herself?  She signed with memo with Gonzales that proposed these increases.  Gonzales complained in the Merc that the “…council was needlessly caving in to union pressure.” 

    Looks like Ms. Chavez forgot to call the union hall before signing the memo.

    See http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/13819011.htm

  23. I used to go to SF Giants games all the time when they were at the ‘Stick.

    But take a family of 4 to PacBell and you’ve been nicked for a 125 bucks before you even sit down.

    Once you arrive at your seat, you shoehorn yourself in like a sardine and spend the next 2 hours surrounded by jerks talking on cell phones while you watch steroids on cleats run around the field.

    Hungry?  Wanna get something to drink?  Did you bring your gold card per chance?

    And there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – going on between innings at PacBell.

    SF Giants?  A completely over crowded, over priced, sterile, corporate outing. 

    As usual, the morons running San Jose, ever obsessed with wanting to be ‘big-league’, are overlooking a jewel in their own backyard.

    I’ll take San Jose Giants any day of the week.

  24. I’m going to have to agree with you Babe…the sooner our Major League Baseball endeavor has Cortese or Mulcahy as the spokesperson, the better!

  25. Great post Mark T.!  As for soccer in San Jose, I was just thinking…if the next mayor wants to bring it back to San Jose, why not get an expansion team from the MEXICAN LEAGUE?!  A superior brand of soccer that won’t mind playing at Spartan Stadium.  If anyone recalls, about a month ago two Mexican teams played at Spartan Stadium in front of almost 37,000 screaming fans.  It could use a few tweaks here and there, but Spartan Stadium is more than adequate for soccer.  In closing, much thanks to Gonzo and San Jose for not gettng suckered in to the Quakes stadium ploy (he did do some things right!).

  26. To me he is like a nomad.  He will go anywhere, do anything, for any political office.  He has no love for any city except one that will give him a job.

  27. Tony:

    To answer a few concerns you had, Gonzo’s role in the Quakes leaving town was placing too much emphasis in trying to bring MLB down here with a new ballpark.  Common sense tells you that you take care of the championship teams – regardless of tier of sport – first. 

    Think about it: say an MLB team comes to town and wins a couple of World Series.  The stadium they are in is no longer modern compared to other stadiums in the country.  Suddenly there is interest in bringing an NFL team to town.  The MLB team that might need a more modern stadium for its fans and its revenue to sign better players, in the world of Gonzo, is left abandoned and likely has to find another city whose leaders – and people – will support them.
    In the quest to be a Big City, you end up alienating fans who liked the winning team who was already bringing fame (and tax revenue) to San Jose and its (current) leadership.

    Granted the Quakes’ owners, AEG, were looking to sell the team to anyone who would buy it.  Gonzo’s lust for baseball – while only addressing the Quakes’ situation publically at the last minute – IMHO only made AEG pull up the moving van and head to Houston faster than it should have happened.  If this is how Gonzo treats teams that win championships for San Jose, I cringe how a losing MLB team would fare if one bothered coming to town.

    The only issue I have with Spartan Stadium is that the nearest decent bus service was on Monterey Highway (66 or 68 buses going back downtown) which requires walking two long blocks in a near-dark industrial area – complete with abandoned railroad crossings.  Not good for events ending at 9:30pm or later.  Worse is that light rail is over a mile away.

    P.S. I was at the Sabercats’ Arena Bowl win at the Shark Tank in 2002 – a game telecast by ABC to a national TV audience.  My last Quakes game was the famous 2003 Western Final against Kansas City.

  28. Although I think I’ll usually the last person to agree with Rich, I do have to say that Ron “was not all that bad.”

    I did not care for the political stuff, the relationship with the staffer….blah blah blah…

    Ron does not get credit though for a program such as the teacher housing program.  Hundreds of teachers are put into permanent (not rental) housing through this program. 

    A statesman is a stretch though.

  29. The problem with the teacher housing program is that is not a basic city service that a city provides. While it is a commendable program, it is not something the city should be involved in. When SJ cannot even deliver basic city services at the level they should be provided (library services, infrastructure maintenance, etc.) why should they be providing a service that takes away from the funding of basic services? If Gonzo wants to provide teacher housing then he should have run for office at the appropriate level of government that has oversight of education. Maybe if he had done that in the first place we wouldn’t have to clean up the wreckage he is leaving behind in SJ.

  30. So we’re back to baseball and BART are we? Very costly projects that, in the case of baseball, will be so-so as long as there is a winning team and a loser if the team is a loser. This is, of course true for the city if tax money is involved. How much money will the city gain from gate receipts? Anybody have any stats on what other cities earn on public venues? How long would it take to pay for a first class baseball field? Oh yeah… add another 21 million to that figure because, after all, this is a government project always late and over budget but not a problem because the contractor had a good excuse and it’s only public money after all.

    I feel negative about baseball fields because I don’t like baseball. Frankly, I’d rather watch a swimming pool fill.

    As for BART. Poorly managed, rumblings of mis-management and outright theft, high, super high, wages and salarys for management and labor, so-so service, the need for all new cars in the very near future and still no plan to run it to our San Jose International Norman Mineta airport. Public supported transportation spell that ever increasing taxes and that sums up my feeling for BART.

    I used to ride the North Shore electric railway from my home north of Chicago and connect with the elevated LOOP. I could walk from my home to the “train” and when I got off in Chicago, I could walk to any place I needed to go. I don’t think BART would offer the same advantage. So, I’ll drive and park,thanks.

  31. Jock, if you know Mr. Selig personally, then why haven’t you convinced him that trashing the territorial rights would end up being a win/win for everybody, including all the greedy baseball team owners?  This is a total no-brainer.  The Giants can have Oakland as their territory.  They’re already connected to Oakland by a short BART tube and not a 50-mile long 100+ year old railroad line.  You tell me which fans could get to SBC (oops, at&t) park quicker.

    And while you’re at it, ask him why Baltimore’s territorial rights were easily done away with when Washington DC got their team.

    Forget the Quakes.  We’ll all be long gone before soccer ever surpasses baseball or football as a national pastime.  It’s a 3rd tier sport in this country and not worth spending a dime of taxpayer funds to bring back.  If this town wants to bolster its image, it’s going to need MLB and not MLS to do it.

    I’m with Tony D on this one.

  32. Rich-While Nixon became a “statesman” the words “Watergate” and “scandal” were never far away. I suspect Gonzales will have a similar fate, without the “statesman” label.
    At this point I think Gonzo’s main aspiration is to finish his term without an indictment. This is not the kind of goal normally included in a Mayoral State of the City speech.

  33. It’s funny to see measures of success like baseball and BART to SJ applied to Gonzales. Neither has much to do with the nuts and bolts of running a city or even planning its future. Major-league sports franchises never pay back what cities invest in them beyond an economically vague national visibility (Green Bay anyone?). BART to San Jose would waste enormous amounts of money without taking care of the majority of transit needs in the city and region. Check out
    http://www.sfcityscape.com/transit/rail_maps/alternatives_south_bay.html

    http://bayrailalliance.org/southbayrailvision/

    http://www.transcoalition.org/reports/tr_inj/tr_inj_home.html

  34. Tony D,

    You are so wrong, there will never be a MLB team in San Jose and it is a waste of tax payer money for our elected officials to go along with a pipe dream that will never occur. As for the Washington/Baltimore situation, Come ON, San Jose is not the nation’s capitol. San Jose is a minor league city, just look at downtown, and just try to tell me that this is a major league city.  Sorry, but you will just have to drive up to Oakland to see the A’s and to The City by the Bay to see the Giants. San Jose is just one large suburban community on steroids.

    This is after all the San Francisco Bay Area.

  35. Because we live in the “San Francisco Bay Area” means that San Jose can’t strive for greatness?  Look Kevin, you are more than entitled to having your own opinion…but here’s hoping that your not a citizen of our fine city.  Every citizen should want San Jose to be the greatest city that it could possibly be.  I’ll be honest with you Kevin, Frisco is a great city, known worldwide for its cosmopolitan flair and history.  But does this mean that San Jose has to continue with it’s “suburban” mindset because we’re located 50 miles to the South?  Or because the Spanish decided to name the bay after their Mission… ABSOLUTELY NOT!!

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