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An American Pasttime: Dueling stadium budgets.

The Fly

Stadium Redux

Crudely simplified, the San Jose Earthquakes will soon be in dire straits if they don't solidify a deal for a new soccer-specific stadium for the long term—a scenario Major League Soccer is building itself on. When Fly heard the hysteria surrounding Baseball San Jose's attempt to lure the Oakland A's into a brand-new San Jose ballpark, we flew to their rally in the Plaza de Cesar Chavez last week and asked if this effort would derail any attempt to find the Quakes a stadium. After all, if there's land available on which to build a stadium, why shouldn't that land be given to the big-league championship team already here? "These are not mutually exclusive propositions," declared Jim Cunneen, president and CEO of San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Baseball San Jose committee. "The fact is you can have a major-league soccer team facility, which is infinitely less expensive to build, and a major-league baseball [park]. What we're really trying to do is create is a vision for San Jose as a huge destination place where you have a pro-sports hockey team, a major-league baseball team and a major-league soccer team. It can all happen here in San Jose." City Councilmember Cindy Chavez agreed. "I don't think it's an either/or situation," she explained. "San Jose is the 11th-largest city in the country, and we have the room for multiple professional sports." The old Del Monte Cannery property is a potential site for the A's stadium, but Marlene Bjornsrud, former general manager of the CyberRays and a Baseball San Jose member, suggested there's room for the Earthquakes, too. "AEG [the Quakes' owner] is not willing to invest in that sizeable kind of [property]. I think the better option is the county fairgrounds." Great. That will be $460 million for a baseball stadium, and another $65 million for soccer. Taxpayers, please pull out your checkbooks.

East Side Blinks

A day after East Side Union High School District's May 13 meeting, Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas sent an email to employees notifying them that the five-member board of trustees had agreed to reinstate librarians and career techs who were targeted for termination as part of a $7.4 million cost-cutting move. Before the meeting, employees had marched about half a mile to district headquarters to protest the downsizing. Zendejas warned that librarians and techs would be vulnerable next year if a parcel tax does not pass in November or if the Legislature does not alter how school districts use money earned from bond initiatives. Even with the news that some jobs were saved, not everyone was convinced Zendejas and trustees had the best interest of employees in mind. "She seems to think she made some great proposal to keep the librarians and career techs on for one more year," receptionist Catherine Noriega wrote to Fly. "I, along with many others, feel that this was part of their plan all along. This was a way to make it look like they do care about us. The fact of the matter is that people are still being bumped out of their jobs. Even some of the career techs still have a chance of being bumped by someone with more seniority. The only thing I can thank the board and Zendejas for is for helping our chapter of the union become stronger."

In the Red

San Jose's budget woes have indirectly caused some personnel reorganizing at the city's Fire Department. Perhaps the best example of this effect is the captain's exam—the position of fire captain, after all, has historically been one of the most contended-for positions in the entire city. In normal times, candidates who were not selected as captains after passing the exam would be required to retake the exam during the next cycle along with new applicants. Now, as a result of the budget crunch and other factors (the department once believed it had to cut six fire engine companies, though that scare has passed), the eligibility list has been extended not once, but twice, which means previous test-takers are no longer required to be re-examined and wannabe captains who haven't taken the test must patiently wait their turn. "The competition is keen for those jobs," acknowledges firefighter union prez Randy Sekany. "Whenever they extend the lists, there's inevitably someone who steps up and says, Why is one group treated differently? The union's perspective is let's have a test on schedule every two years."

Xanadu

The city of Dallas, of all places, has been feeling down in the dumps ever since the television series named after the nation's eighth-most-populous city went off the air. High crime rates, poor public education, long commute times, declining air quality and a dearth of family housing will do that to a once-proud community. Dallas is in such disrepair that the City Council commissioned a study released last month that's causing quite a stir in Big D. And though Dallas' problems aren't necessarily news in the Valley of Heart's Delight, San Jose's ranking in relation to 14 other cities in the study makes interesting reading. San Jose was near the top in nearly every statistical category, including home ownership, college-entrance scores, quality of air, crime rates, park and recreation expenditures, recycling rates and gross city product. Of course, San Jose didn't fare as well in the cost-of-living index or in the strong-commercial-downtown category. But the study, conducted by strategy consultant Booz Allen Hamilton, took the unusual step of comparing San Jose and Dallas' charters, finding San Jose's to be superior. Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, who spent six years as a columnist for the alt newsweekly The Dallas Observer, said Dallas would be a different city in five years if it can revitalize its downtown. Hmmm. Sounds a lot like ... San Jose.


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From the May 26-June 1, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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