Where is the Medici Family?

Last year, Mayor Reed’s budget, which most of the councilmembers supported, gave warning to the city-funded “Art” groups that they would no longer receive funding from the city starting on July 1, 2012. As we know, the budget deficit continues.

Many of the art groups are in facilities partially or fully built by the Redevelopment Agency (RDA). These include the San Jose Museum of Art ($475K), The Tech ($1.1M), Children’s Discovery Museum ($285K), Mexican Heritage Plaza ($600K), San Jose Repertory Theater ($285K), History San Jose (775K), etc. The dollar amounts are how much money they received from the city this fiscal year (2010-2011).

Although valuable, art is not in the City Charter. However, there are other discretionary things the city spends millions of dollars on like health insurance for children, golf nets, etc. Art promotes San Jose and boosts the economy in ways that others items we spend millions on do not. This other spending does not have have the same return on investment.

These art groups, with some exceptions, have done a good job overall in fundraising and cutting costs. Most of the donors for these cultural facilities live outside of San Jose. Therefore, the good news is that these out-of-town donors bring money to support San Jose art groups. Besides providing exciting places to visit in San Jose, these facilities also generate an economic buzz through visitors parking, dining, drinking and some hotel room nights downtown.

Deloitte did a pro-bono study this summer for The Tech, The Rep, SJ Museum of Art and the Children’s Discovery museum. It showed an economic impact of $54 million to San Jose.

Still, money is needed to support the repair of the four facilities profiled in the Deloitte study, in the amount of $5.5 million. In the past, if a HVAC system needed replacement, the RDA would pay for it. But this is no longer the case.

There have been a few suggestions and options shared about how to financially help the arts moving forward. One option is to not cut city funding 100 percent but something less. A second option would be to charge a ticket surcharge of $1 on each ticket. A third idea was to create property tax based assessment district to fund the arts groups, however, there is already an assessment distrint in the downtown to pay for cleaning, which has been very successful. Another contemplation is to fund repairs with a Hotel Tax (TOT), but that would bump something else. Finally, the suggestion of providing validated parking for attendees was requested if entrance fees were raised.

Some of the art leaders pointed out it is difficult to raise funds for building repairs since they do not own the building. One idea discussed at the Economic Development Committee meeting was to simply give them the building in lieu of continued fiscal subsidies, allowing art groups the potential to increase fundraising. This would allow them the option to sell the naming rights to a company or a patron of the arts like the famous Medici family. Naming rights would be easier done privately than through the city.

While we are at it, I think all San Jose facilities should be on the table for paid naming rights, including the airport and Convention Center.

The fact is, downtown is a hub for cultural activities in Santa Clara County, and that art is a differentiator from other cities. Some arts groups have said they may leave downtown, but I believe that would be a huge undertaking to find another building that can house their needs. 

The city has been a substantial “donor” in the past, but this “donor” is suffering and may not be able to do so at the same level for the foreseeable future. This “donor” may only be able to donate one more time by donating the building—as long as the art institution continues to operate in that specific building.

Looking back at the efforts of so many across all cities, we know it is much easier to support a downtown than create one. The arts are a major differentiator for downtown.


  1. PO –
    Could you tell us how much is spent to maintain the HP Arena?  Could we possibly impose a $1/fee on tickets there, also?  How much revenue do we get from the Arena parking lot?  Would it be possible to impose a small per-car fee to support the arts?
    The Arena is the one venue that is seems to be self-sufficient, so why not tap into it?

  2. This would allow them the option to sell the naming rights to a company or a patron of the arts like the famous Medici family.

    McEnery wants his name on another building.

  3. I like PLO’s idea of selling naming rights to ALL city buildings.

    Let’s start with City Hall. We can get the pot dispensaries to all chip in and…well, you get the idea.  wink

  4. Here is a simple solution. Since every household pays its garbage bill through the city, give residents the opportunity to use their six garbage bills a year as a means to donate money to the artistic endeavor(s) of their choice. That way, residents can support the organizations they value and avoid having their hard-earned money go to politically-motivated boondoggles championed by elected officials. Those groups that receive support survive, while those that don’t, don’t.

  5. Arts groups, libraries, community centers, cultural events are all an important part of every modern city.

    However, they are not nearly so important as public safety.  They are not even as important as solidly built and regularly and properly maintained infrastructure.

  6. Facetious or rhetorical?  Perhaps but I’ll ask anyway.  Why not just fund the art endeavours like the city is handling the A’s and the Sharks?  Just give them whatever money they need and then take it from other departments, like oh say public safety.  Although, the PD and FD are pretty much at rock bottom so Reed and Figone may have to find another paper tiger in some other bargaining unit.  Perhaps they can pick on the maintenance folks, corp yard workers, painters, park workers or maybe the accountants.  Just spend their money and blame the shrinking budget on the city employees.Vilify those workers in the press repeatedly and eventually the public will believe it.  Art lovers will have their art and somebody besides the inept politicians to blame for missing out on other more vital services.

  7. Our city continues to fund museums, theaters, and plazas to give residents the false impression everything is OK down at city hall.  All the while our infrastructure crumbles, police no longer respond to crimes due to a lack of resources, and our fire department remains understaffed.  Maybe it is time to shutter some of these extravagances.  Only then may residents realize how poorly our leaders have managed San Jose.

    • Steve O

      You hit it right on the head , Hopefully now people will realize How Messed up this City is , and Realize That this Mayor and City Manager and Council (Nygun,Constant,Liccardo,Plo,Hererra) all lied about just about everything.People in this City need to start educating themselves

  8. There’s no genuine groundswell of interest in ‘the Arts’ among the people of San Jose. Otherwise we wouldn’t have to ask the City to keep them on perpetual life support.
    This claimed desire to bring ‘the Arts’ to San Jose reminds of the Seinfeld episode in which George says wistfully, “I’d love to be a Civil War buff…What do you have to do to be a buff?”

    San Jose wants to be an arts buff. Because we’re interested in art? No. Because we want to project a certain image? Yes.

  9. Who needs the Medici Family when San Jose has Prima Signora Figone and the mayor and council ready to vote to give her sole authority to negotiate a $480k+ contract with some Korean artist to provide art for the Convention Center! 

    As usual I thought you just came back from some wild excursion in the cloud but SJI’S latest on The council’s agenda made it clear…. last week you voted to screw the taxpayer by putting the illegal pension reform measure on the ballot . This week you tipped your hand through your blog. letting your council colleagues know you support giving Figone
    a blank check with single signature signing authority for up to $480k.
    A sly circumvention of the Brown Act. Well played Oliverio!

    I wonder which brave renegade will cast the lone “nay” and preach fiscal responsibility like you so courageously did with the low-income/subsidized housing in North SJ a couple of weeks ago? 

    transparency abounds… sadly not in the decision making process at CSJ.
    It is the number one character flaw currently desired by Mayor Reed for his would be successors.

  10. PO –    Appreciate your viewpoint on 4 Questions about essential city services vs gift public funds and city hiding tax subsidy spending summary from average resident and maybe Council members

    1) Why does Council continue to spend scarce city taxes on non essential services while grossly under funding essential services after years budget deficits and layoffs ?

    2) Doesn’t Council have a legal and moral responsibility to first pay for adequate city services that taxpayers are paying for, before spending millions on sports stadiums, arts, tax subsidies to individuals and corporations ?

    3) How does Council legally justify most tax subsidies for public good when city gets few decent jobs or increased taxes for taxes spent vs Council making an illegal gift of public funds to further enrich political cronies ?

    4) Residents and taxpayers are upset with Council’s a) hiding millions taxes spent on tax subsidies and non essential city services
    b) never doing tax subsidy audit to see what public got for taxes spent.

    Why isn’t there a complete list of city and redevelopment spending on non essential services and tax subsidies with taxes spent, who got taxes and what city got if anything on city web site ?

  11. Where is the Medici Family?  Not is San Jose because Council drove them out

    San Jose doesn’t treat out residents, city employees and business right, over taxes them and doesn’t provide services like other tax rich Silicon Valley cities with great schools, safer cities and higher quality of life for less taxes

    Where tax money gone ?  Into the pockets of 1% political insiders not into city services or public safety.

  12. We have plenty of art in the city. Just drive down highway 87 and look at all the art along the freeway. It didn’t cost a dime to put up….

    • Ya that art is courtesy of Mayor Reed and City Manager Figone’s budget cuts which resulted in eliminating the Grafitti Unit.  Our gang problem and the resulting homicides and violent assaults are courtesy of the dynamic duo elininating the Violent Crimes Enforcment Team (VCET).

      Have you hear the latest cut?  They are eliminating the Outlaw Motrcycle Gang intelliigence desk!  Didn’t we just have an OMG homicide in SJ and another with strongs connections to SJ? Just asking… and open hostilities between OMG’s in SanJose going beack decades?

      Nice Going Chuck and DEB you should be ashamed!

  13. City Council should not be spending scarce taxes on nice to have ” $480k+ contract with some Korean artist to provide art for the Convention Center!  ”  non essential items or political paybacks

    Spending millions on unnecessary new city building projects, non essential, nice to have events / projects / art and overbuilding low income housing got San Jose into multiple year budget crisis

    Council who represents residents during budget crisis SHOULD be overseeing all large tax spending not delegating to City Manager

    Non elected City Manager, who is not accountable to voters, should NOT HAVE the authority to spend up to $500,000 without Council approval

    Many low priority or nice to have projects under $500,000 are` being approved by City Manager while city is in serious budget crisis with more layoffs, closing most libraries and community centers.

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