Just say no to another stadium vote
by Scott Herhold – in the San Jose Mercury News
Just say no. It’s the facile advice we give to kids to avoid drugs, to the gambler who craves a bet, even to a parent who yearns for a morsel of chocolate after dinner. Much of the time, sadly, the command does not change our behavior. Temptation is always with us.
But if you live in the city of Santa Clara, you have an opportunity over the next few days to repeat those three words for a noble reason – and with no hypocrisy. Just say no to the referendum that seeks another vote on the 49ers stadium.
You might know about this if you’ve frequented a grocery store or the main Santa Clara post office over the past weekend. You certainly do if you’re on the receiving end of the opponent’s emails. The petition-gatherers are in a frenzy to attain 4,480 valid signatures, which means they probably have to collect 6,000.
The group that opposes the stadium, Santa Clara Plays Fair, has objected to the way the stadium is financed. A stadium authority is taking out an $850 million loan, which the opponents say was not adequately disclosed early on to residents.
Here’s why your petition-gatherer deserves a polite no. On the big question – whether to have a stadium or not – the voters have spoken. In June 2010, they approved Measure J, a voluminous proposal that made the stadium possible.
You may remember that there as a big fight then. The opponents threw everything including the kitchen sink at the idea. They said it would be too costly. They said it would be too noisy. They said it would cause too much traffic.
The voters didn’t buy it. They approved the stadium deal by 58% to 42%, which in most places qualifies as decisive. Measure J directed the City Manager to implement the rest – a parking district, financing, dealing with nearby Great America and much more.
Now the opponents are seeking a second bite of the apple. The situation reminds me of a couple that decides to buy a new van, only to find the deal held up because their daughter doesn’t like the loan.
Naturally you can question any loan. In this case, Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Mathews said, “Ultimately, the 49ers are on the hook for this. There is no risk to the taxpayers.”
You can disagree. But the big point is that we have representational government for a reason: We don’t expect voters to know he ins and outs of a complex loan. We don’t expect them to know the best deal with Cedar Fair, which owns Great America. Voters are busy people, with their own household problems.
Trusting the Staff
Having given the overall approval, folks trust these things to a city staff, overseen by the council. If you don’t like their work, throw the rascals out. From talking to people in Santa Clara, I would not be surprised if City Attorney Ron Nosky delivers an opinion soon, maybe before the weekend, that the referendum is not valid. Not everything can be put legally to the voters. That might throw the issue into the courts.
But you don’t have to descend into the weeds of legality to spot a snake-oil salesman at your front door. A friend in Santa Clara put it in simple terms in an e-mail.
“This issue was decided, and it’s time to close ranks and move on,” he wrote. “Dragging out questions and continuously re-deciding them seems like a recipe for bringing all progress to a standstill.”
Amen. Just say no.