The San Jose Motto

I took my semi-regular turn on the Ronn Owens show on KGO yesterday, and along with the usual talk of the Sharks, BART, and various other San Jose issues, the suitability of the San Jose motto reared its dubious head.

What is the San Jose motto you are probably asking yourselves?  Well, here it is: San Jose - the Capital of Silicon Valley. My fingerprints are on this one, since it dates from my time as Mayor.

One caller questioned its appropriateness and asked whether it described our City properly.  My answer is “yes”, “yes”, a thousand times “yes”. Tying our City to the greatest entrepreneurial center in the history of the world is a good thing, perhaps a great one.  This technological miracle was not born in our City, but we certainly nurtured it as well as possible, culminating with the opening of The Tech Museum of Innovation in the Downtown.

All over the world people look to this Valley as a center of hope and opportunity.  It seems that yearning for excellence and the title fits perfectly with what I believe the promise of San Jose is – it does not overreach or wax too eloquent, but simply and clearly links us to a rocket ship renown the world over.

There may be other titles, but it is tough to encapsulate everything a city was, is, and wants to be…This seems to be the best.


  1. Using a sports analogy, San Jose is unfortunately, not the undisputed champion.  Several other cities can lay claim to the title of Capital of Silicon Valley and be qualified as such. The heavy favorites of course are Palo Alto, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale.

    The only time San Jose can start to lay claim to the title is when we finally see an HP Tower in downtown San Jose, a Nobel price for physics going to SJSU, and the addresses of venture capitalist groups moving to East Santa Clara St. from Sand Hill Rd.

    The government buildings on Hedding St. makes San Jose the capital of Santa Clara County but of Silicon Valley they do not.

  2. You could call it the great city by the bay and it would be as equally inaccurate.  Tying our city to the great sillicon valley technical center doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t past the straight face test.  And, I don’t think it does.

    I’ll put my thinking cap on and try to think of something more accurate.

  3. How about “SJ – Democracy Powered by Technology” or “SJ – Democracy Inside”

    But before either of those mottos should be used, the city needs to leverage the huge IT resources that the valley offers (eg. the entire valley is wired) to engage it’s citizens and find out what the *citizens* think is important and how the *citizens* want SJ to be managed.

    We need a local “Orange” revolution do do away with our current fiefdom governance setup.

  4. Dear Tom: 

    You come across as someone who spends entirely too much time wishing he’d been mayor of a real city instead of an immense suburb.  Get over it.  Relish the idea that you did the best you could with what you had.  After all, fate could have relegated you to being a big frog in a pond called Fresno.

  5. Our motto should be:

    San Jose the Parking ticket capital of the world!

    Imagine the marketing opps:

    Come to San Jose’s perpetually unfinished downtown and recieve a parking ticket as a show of our appreciation!

    Imagine the great quotes from our mayor:

    We raise more money from parking tickets than tourism and innovation combined!

  6. As I recall San Jose was “the Garden City” or “The Valley of Heart’s delight” now morphed into the “Capital of Silicon Valley”.

    Now the Garden City is a bankrupt Casino, hopefully not a precurser for the entire City.

    Mottos are mostly marketing tools.  If San Jose is the Capital of Silicon Valley, maybe it should start building positive relationships regionally with those cities that incorporate the whole of silicon valley—including Santa Clara, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Saratoga, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills,  Milpitas,  and, yes, even Morgan Hill.

    Sometimes San Jose treats these smaller entities as they are treated by San Francisco, ie.  “they can’t carry our jockstrap”.

    To wit, if BART to San Jose is shown to be important for the entire region and not just San Jose, it will be built a lot faster. 

    All of us would like to see BART go downtown and to the airport.  However, if all I can get from the Feds is the money to get it to Berryessa—I’ll take half a loaf—with an eye to getting the other half as soon as possible.

    All or nothing is a risky negotiating position that rarely works out.  Ask the NHL.

  7. How about: San Jose, we’re almost Detroit!

    It seems that so many are bent on measuring San Jose’s worth by comparing it to other cities.  I believe that city mottos should be about identification rather than promotion.  A city that uses every opportunity to put it’s name and motto out to the world… (HP Pavilion at San Jose, Mineta San Jose International Airport)… tells the rest of the world that it is starving for attention.  We should stick to the Garden City.  It conveys both our agricultural history and our urban present.

  8. Arturo
      Not at all. One thing I am at peace with is the fact that I had the honor to be Mayor of San Jose, and oh, I live here still too. Read a bit more of my thoughts, not so much “into” them.  TMcE

  9. Only 11 of us care what our city is known as…but the monicker does fit.  We are the Capital od Silicon Valley.

    Please DO NOT compare San Jose to Palo Alto or Mt. View.  We are a City, they are suburbs.

    And, Arturo, never question the man!  What’s da matta with U!


  10. Mountain View, Sunnyvale and San Jose are all suburbs or at least feel that way.  Can you honestly tell me that you know when you are in Santa Clara vs. San Jose?

  11. San Jose should stop naming things after losers (i.e. Diridon Station). Silicon Valley sounds stupid too; the name’s a marketing gimmick.

    If u can’t / don’t see the difference between Santa Clara and San Jose, u need to get out more. Look at all the homeless and others that the City of San Jose supports. They walk around like zombies—for years and years because they have a good thing going.

  12. A new city motto should reflect both Tom’s desire to ” Tying our City to the greatest entrepreneurial center in the history of the world is a good thing, perhaps a great one.  ” as well as our neighborhoods quality of life and the hard working, smart people that make it all happen. Indicating we are the best is in keeping with the concept of city mottos

    A possible revised motto is :

    San Jose – Silicon Valley’s best businesses, neighborhoods and people

    Suggestion on other mottos or revisions.

  13. I always liked Valley of Hearts Delight for San Jose but Silicon to me is something negative.  It may be because it is so associated with implants.  But San Jose surely is the capitol of Silicon Valley just as San Jose is the capitol of Santa Clara county.  It is the largest and greatest city in the valley, therefore, the capitol.

  14. I guess if i wanted to weigh into this issue i would vote for a motto that ties us to the history of the Valley, agriculure and some kind of one word leap/morph to the technology legacy. However, the disussion seems a waste of time. I am more interested in the Sharks and BART. Stick to subjects of girth here and you may get a few more people reading it.

  15. The motto is a great marketing motto.  It is not totally accurate but gives people a great image for the future. We need to support HJ’s cause and tell Intel to get out of that doggone implant business.

  16. Calling San Jose “The Garden City” made sense when farming was the dominant industry in the Santa Clara Valley and Food Machinery Corp. was the largest local industrial concern.

    But when the electronics industry and later high-technology industry supplanted farming, and when farmland was converted to housing, “The Garden City” became an anachronism.

    Of course “The Capital of Silicon Valley” is an exaggeration and a conceit. Most self-serving marketing slogans are. But so what? We don’t think of Dearborn as the auto capital of the world.

    San Jose needs a marketing slogan because it’s more akin to Anaheim than to San Francisco. As part of a state that includes Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Jose will always be a secondary destination. So when it comes to marketing itself for convention business—which is what the slogan is all about—why not “The Capital of Silicon Valley?”

    Better than “The Rosicrucian Capital of the World” or “The Whinchester Mystery City” or even “The Home of Captain Fallon.”

  17. Regarding comments 12 & 13 from Ted & Jim, it’s easy to tell when you’ve left San Jose and have entered Santa Clara (except maybe on Stevens Creek Blvd) because the trees stop.  Take a drive up The Alameda and see how barren it is as soon as you hit Santa Clara City Limits.  You know you’re in Santa Clara because that town is saturated with unncessary on-demand traffic signals that bring busy traffic arteries to their knees for one lousy car on a nothing side street.  And on the flip side, during April you know you’re in Santa Clara because they have that great system where you can throw anything out on the street and they’ll come and pick it up—we need that in San Jose.
    As for the term “Silicon Valley,”  that was coined over 30 years ago, and it does sound better than “Silicon Gulch” which is the original term given to this area.
    But you know what—“The Garden City” is still appropriate.  We have a great climate for gardens and gardening in general, even if there’s no more agricultural industry left here.  Consider the fact that New Jersey calls itself “The Garden State” and you can understand where I’m coming from.

  18. Mayor Tom,

    I agree with you for the most part.  We are the tech mecca of the world so to speak.  So lets capitalize on it!

    I liked your slogan (or the city’s slogan) in the mid eighties:

    “San Jose is Growing UP” and something about “Downtown being UPtown San Jose”.  Someone from the city put up such banners at Spartan Football games in the mid eighties. 

    I was a student at the time, and we joked that San Jose is Throwing up; which seems to be true for today’s downtown.  Maybe we will get an actual mayor the next time around!  And something significant will develop down there!

  19. We live in the shadow of San Francisco.  If the Giants were to come here, you can bet they’d take a page out of the book from Arte Moreno and call them the San Francisco Giants of San Jose or better yet the Oakland A’s of San Jose.

  20. You can tell the difference b/t San Jose and Santa Clara.  Does Santa Clara have an arena, any downtown to speak of. Please Ted!

    I do agree with changing the motto to The Valley of Parking Tickets Delight.!

  21. San Jose has linked itself to the Silicon Valley in an effort to gain more national and international name I.D. It has not worked. I have lived in the northeast and south for the last 5 years and recently moved back home to San Jose 3 months ago. Most people on the east coast have barely heard of San Jose and couldn’t even begin to point it out on the map. They have heard of the Silicon Valley, but they do not associate it with our city. I think it is time San Jose played up its charm and develops as a destination city. Being a place where semi-conductors are made does not really get you any tourism. We are the largest city north of Los Angeles and we can’t even get one of the major 3 sports here. The city and its citizens need to shake the small town mentality and start thinking like the 11th largest city in the country. San Jose has such low self-esteem that towns like Santa Clara believe to be on our level. Let’s work together to make San Jose recognized and a destination city. So people around the country and world can experience our diversity and culture.

  22. We are a destination city… for business.

    Deal with it and move on.  SJ is what it is, a place where hi-tech business gets done.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    Why are people so hung up on wanting national attention for this city? 

    Just make the city function for the residents/businesses who live here (without busting our wallets) and stop wanting to be some sort of tourist mecca, which this city will *never* be.

  23. I believe that there is a lot more people than we think, who have an idea of what San Jose is all about.  At airport lounges in the Midwest and East Coast, I have often been asked where I am from.  When I tell them I’m from San Jose, the all too common remark I get is, “oh, you must be in computers.”  (I’m actually in semiconductors but why argue.  It is the same thing to them anyway.)

    The only thing they don’t know about is where exactly is San Jose in the California map.  In that case, my standard reply is, “300 miles north of Los Angeles- about 5 hours by car.”

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