Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A tale of two subsidies

(These remarks were addressed to City Council at their meeting last night.)


My name is Au Nguyen. I am a Santa Clara resident.

This is a tale of two subsidies.

In June 2006, Nanosolar of Palo Alto went looking for a location to build their factory. This new factory would be huge. Nanosolar estimated that it “would nearly triple the nation's solar manufacturing capacity.” The Mercury News reported that San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Clara were considered.

Nanosolar eventually chose San Jose.

Five months later, just after Election Day, the 49ers said they want to build a stadium in Santa Clara. The city hired consultants to study the proposal.

On Sunday, the Mercury News reported that San Jose gave Nanosolar a subsidy of $1.5 million.

The 49ers want a $222M subsidy. This is 150 times more than the amount that Nanosolar got from San Jose.

Nanosolar said their factory will employ “several hundred people.” (SJMN, June 21, 2006)

The 49ers say the stadium will employ “316 people.” (KMA report, June 1, 2007, page 12.)

Also on Sunday, Julie Patel of the Mercury News reported that the total cost of our feasibility study may be as much as half a million dollars.

With what we’re spending just to examine the 49ers’ subsidy request, we could have been a third of the way to subsidizing a solar energy company. The two subsidies would have created about the same number of jobs.

Why are we so willing to spend money on professional football but not solar energy?



I am not in favor of any public subsidy for private enterprise, whether the for-profit corporation makes solar panels or puts on football games. I just want to highlight this comparison because of the similar number of jobs that would be created and the vastly dissimilar amounts of the subsidies.

In fact, the City of Santa Clara has a website to promote our city as a great place to do business. It lists the "top 5 reasons to move to Santa Clara:

  1. Lower energy rates
  2. Lowest combined utility rates
  3. Speed-to-market
  4. Easy access and transportation
  5. Highly educated workforce
A subsidy is not listed.

Last night, City Manager Jennifer Sparacino said it best when she remarked (in discussion of an unrelated subject) that we "just want all to be treated fairly and equally, without special favors."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Back to School

It's been almost three months since the City Council last had any public agenda item related to the San Francisco 49ers' request for the City of Santa Clara to contribute $222,000,000 in public funds for a football stadium (although it seems that they have been having plenty of closed-door meetings.)

Tonight, however, the proposal will be back in public session.

At this evening's meeting, the City Council will consider the request to spend an additional $185,000 in public money to continue to study this proposal.

In case you've lost track of the total to date, this new request will bring the total to an even $500,000. And of course that figure doesn't include all of the staff time that has also been spent on this proposal.

I'm certainly in favor of studying and research, but before continuing to spend any more money, the City Council needs to get back to the Guiding Principles it established for itself back in January.

One of those principles was a requirement that Cedar Fair agree that they will not assert business interference or negative effects from the feasibility studies and that this agreement needed to be in place "prior to pursuing discussions with the 49ers."

The City does not yet have that agreement.

So, the problem with spending money NOW on a feasibility study is that conditions may change by the time Cedar Fair is willing to agree to moving forward with a stadium without any reduction in their payments to the City or any City agency.

Therefore, we shouldn't be spending money on a study now. We should wait until Cedar Fair has agreed in writing to not assert their own business interests. When Cedar Fair does sign such an agreement -- then we can take up the question of whether additional public funds should be spent studying it.

And there's one more issue.

The cost estimates in the San Francisco 49ers' proposal were based on the City Council approving the project in July 2007.

So once we have Cedar Fair's approval, the City Council needs to ask the San Francisco 49ers to submit a revised construction budget.

Once those two pieces are in place, then and only then should we even consider spending more money studying this proposal. Financial conditions can change, and there's no point determining whether or not the July 2007 estimate is feasible, since we are already well past that approval date.

What can you do?:

1. Attend the City Council meeting on TONIGHT at 7pm and speak out! Speakers will probably be limited to 2 minutes each.

2. Call the Santa Clara City Council at

(408) 615-2250

3. Write a Letter to:

Patricia M. Mahan, Mayor
City Hall
1500 Warburton Avenue
Santa Clara, CA 95050

4. Send an email to:

5. Spread the word! Tell your neighbors and friends and encourage them to get involved!