Planet Mercury

The Mercury News editorial board recently offered its opinion on the difficulties surrounding the San Jose Airport.  The city is about to cut the ribbon on a slick new facility, but there’s not enough money to run the place.  “Airport Needs To Study All Options To Cut Costs,” read the headline.  No kidding.

The people of San Jose are learning that the airport, much like the new Civic Center, was designed as much to make a “statement” as it was to fulfill a purpose.  “Image” is almost everything around here, and it has cost us dearly.  “It’s ironic,” the Mercury News writes, “just as San Jose’s airport is about to open a terminal Silicon Valley can be proud of, it is struggling to stay solvent.”  It may be “ironic,” but it certainly should not come as a surprise to anyone.  City leaders voted to break ground on a pricey expansion and renovation of the airport at a time when the trend line for passenger traffic was falling.  Was the airport in need of upgrades and modernization?  Of course, but to what degree and expense?

Some very costly mistakes have already been made.  First of all, there’s the question of the missing “people-mover.”  A people-mover was supposed to be built in the new terminal but was canceled due to budget concerns.  How could such an important and useful feature be eliminated from the design?  Also, for some strange reason, office space was not provided for the airport’s executive staff.  The airport’s administrative offices are still located on North 1st Street!  (Wouldn’t it make economic sense to house the airport’s offices at the airport?).  San Jose Airport Director Bill Sherry has suggested that the airport’s offices be moved over to the airport for a potential cost savings of around $2 million per year.

For San Jose, cost savings and other practical ideas seem only to be in vogue when the city’s budget is failing.  San Jose keeps issuing bonds to build fanciful things that we can’t afford to maintain, and it’s all done in the name of civic pride and a quest to satisfy some perceived lack of national prestige.  Like the over-priced, built-too-small signature building at 4th and Santa Clara, the city government has bet big and seemingly lost again with the airport project.  In both cases, the Mercury News editorial board voiced its strong support from the very begining.


  1. It is a real pity that the City of San Jose, another member of the Northern California set of deceitful, dirty, financially-illerate, Democrat monopoly of political city-county-regional boards-and state legislative straitjacket web of governmental bodies, is so dysfunctional. Not only are Peter Campbell’s comments so approriate, but also look at the City’s vote and ongoing endorsement of High Speed Rail—that will suck another 12% or riders from the airport, trigger huge new financial tax diversions from Health, Human, Education, and other basic welfare and public safety needs. Worse yet, the stupid city council also pushed for Jim Beall (Democrat’s) AB1670 that will transfer ownership, maintenance, paving, and liability from the State to the City for SR82 (The Alameda/Monterey Rd) and SR130 (Alum Rock Ave) at the time when the city is cutting back at least 10% on its existing street maintenance! What’s worse is the City will lose the gas tax allocation revenue that is based on state highway miles in each city. Irresponsible.  And, the unions, even public safety unions don’t care. The effect is that the soon-to-be-laid off union public safety and admin workers will pay for these roads maintenance.  But, have no fear, because the despicable Democrat monopoly on the City Council, including Reed, have plans to increase revenue, taxes and fees—after the November election (a usual Democrat trick) with the installation of higher rate cost Smartmeters and Peak hour pricing (utility taxes go up), Red Light Cameras (huge fines and fees for the city for the slightest RL infraction that the camera catches), and bans/cost of single use bags.

    • Sjay’s civic pride has always been an inferiority complex vis-a-vis SF.

      Wait until they follow SF’s lead (aren’t they always followers and not leaders?) and use The Boot on parking ticket scofflaws.  Yet another revenue enhancer.

  2. Only a fool, incompetent, or corrupt politician would support an airport downtown.  Only a fool or selfish individual, or incompetent newspaper would support an airport downtown. 

    An airport that destroys the quality of life for a large percentage of Santa Clara County.  An airport that prevents downtown San Jose from being developed.  An airport that wastes 1000 acres of valuable land by being used as an airport, and wastes at least another 1000 acres of land due to safety zones.  An airport that has no useful purpose, and simply exists for somebody’s ego.

    Suffer San Jose.  You deserve it for electing fools.

    • I’m having a hard time believing that anyone could think that an airport has no useful purpose.  Getting me where I need to go without having to drive up to SFO is immensely useful.

      Not that I disagree with Mr. Campbell’s comments…

      • The only people who feel that SJC has no useful are the one-trick ponies who want to close SJC and build a new spwawlport in San Benito County. The rest of us are concerned that SJC is losing business which is due to many reasons. Two come to mind: An old, obsolete terminal and “prevailing wage” rules that require airport concessionaires to pay inflated wages to their employees. Fortunately, the first problem goes away in a month.

        • > “prevailing wage” rules that require airport concessionaires to pay inflated wages to their employees.

          Whose stupid rule is this, and what politicians do we have to boot out of office to make it go away?

          It should be called the “economic stagnation and permanent high level of unemployment” rule.

        • Please see the memo posted here:

          “Staff originally estimated that the cost to tenants’ subcontractors to implement Living Wage
          requirements would be approximately $3 million annually. This did not include dollar
          amounts for employees of direct tenants to the City because airlines stated that their
          employees already earned more than the Living Wage rate. The basic Living Wage rate set
          for SJC is $14.08 per hour (without benefits). This is 13% higher than the equivalent rate at
          OAK ($12.45), and 22% higher than at SFO ($11.54).”

        • And please don’t forget that according to Mr. Oliverio, we pay someone $156K/year to make sure the “prevailing” wage is paid.  WHAT?! How can that POSSIBLY be a full time job?

          Just where, other than govt. requirements, does that wage “prevail”?

          Require a posting in everyone’s premises that sets forth what that minimum (prevailing) wage is, and a phone # to call if it isn’t being paid.  Anyone not getting it will drop a dime.  No need to pay someone $156k to monitor it.  It’s self-executing.

          On the other hand, if they want to keep that job, where do I apply?  I could do it in a couple of hours/week, collect the cash and benefits, and keep my real job.

  3. I think that it would have been better if the airport would have been re-branded as a “boutique” airport. Remove the “International” tag and bring back the “Municipal” tag.. working with the idea that “smaller is better”… more personalized, detailed service. They could have made it more of an “experience”, than just trying to make it bigger. Bigger isn’t exactly better, when San Frans airport is what? 20 minutes up the freeway? They could have done something smaller and more high tech friendly where it would be a destination in and of itself…

    • ” when San Frans airport is what? 20 minutes up the freeway? “

      Jeez, how fast do you drive?  20 minutes??  It takes 20 minutes from SJC to get to Palo Alto.

      Let me know when you’re heading up there so I can get out of your way.

  4. Who Cares? It’s the Mercury News!

    It’s not like this airport boosterism is coming from a credible, respected news source. Hell, it’s not even coming from a real newspaper!

  5. Pete,

    You’ve hit the nail squarely on the head.  I’ve long said that our local movers and shakers are plagued with raging inferiority complexes.  They seem to believe that building big flashy monuments will somehow turn a mediocre city into something it can never be.  Best to leave SJ as it is and not further worsen the problem.

    • Good point. In fact, you may or may not remember when the Arena was being developed there was a discussion about what to name it. One of the most popular suggestions was the “Inferiority Complex.” It was fitting then and now.

  6. Look at track record of politically, ethically and financially bankrupt Mercury supporting or opposing any city construction project, politician or public policy – bad ideas, bad advise, and worst udgment

    Mercury is so disliked that getting their political support is a negative rather than positive with most people

    Vote against Mercury endorsements and you will be right most of time

  7. Construction unions and their local greedy developer allies wanted city hall, airport construction, convention, baseball and soccer stadiums, bart, highspeed rail for union construction jobs and high profits not for good of San Jose residents

    Our clueless labor politicians voted for high priced union and developers political paybacks without regard for future costs, city fiscal impacts, reductions in city services or employee layoffs

    Vote all labor politicians out, elect people accountable to residents not greedy labor or developers

  8. > Some very costly mistakes have already been made.  First of all, there’s the question of the missing “people-mover.”  A people-mover was supposed to be built in the new terminal but was canceled due to budget concerns.  How could such an important and useful feature be eliminated from the design?


    After hiking the length of the new terminal towing a mammoth, overloaded overhead bag, a carry on bag, and a laptop computer my spontaneous realization was:  “This REALLY SUCKS!”

    It’s alarming to learn that this was not a case of casual, dim-witted incompetence, but actual pre-meditated, malice-aforethought stupidity.

    I might have greater competence in our government institutions if they could FIRST prove that they know how to build an efficient air line terminal before assigning themselves dominion over the car companies, the banking system, and the nation’s healthcare delivery system.

    • Yes, right now the hike from check in to gate can be a long one. But that will change at the end of June when the new Terminal B check-in area will open. Then you’ll just go up the esclator to the new Terminal B gates, including the six new ones that opened last year. The gates that opened last were designed as part of Terminal B, not Terminal A but have to function as part of the latter because the former is not yet open.