Monday, September 27, 2010

Candidates' Forum on 9/20: Part 3 - 'Tell me about those tax incentives.'

Dear Santa Clarans,

Tax incentives for private businesses tend to get a lot of ink, especially in the most trying of economic times.

In the Candidates' Forum of last Monday, Candidates Patricia Mahan (Seat 2) and Pat Kolstad (Seat 5) were adamant: No tax incentives...

...unless it's their kind of private business.

The San Francisco 49ers are a private corporation, and in fact, they're a lot more private than most. The finances of NFL teams in general are never public information - just the way their millionaire owners like it.

Even with the 49ers a clear winner and with us losers on the deal: Mayor Mahan voted for, and former Councilman Pat Kolstad supported, a total of $444 million in subsidies for the construction of a stadium for the team.

With that, they supported a one-sided Term Sheet which shoves stadium ownership onto the Santa Clara Stadium Authority. The basis of the 49ers' tax liability is then roughly only the 10 days out of 365 that they're actually playing games in a stadium pretty much profitable only to them. The technical term for this assessment is "Possessory Interest Tax," or PIT - and in general, it's a huge break over what the 49ers would be paying us if they owned and operated their own stadium.

This is a big deal: Allowing the 49ers a tax incentive we would not give to any other private corporation is not only bad precedent - it's a substantial loss for us.

In addition, the 49ers stadium is going to generate only the most atrocious job creation in return for the amount of money the City of Santa Clara is leaving on the table. For that reason, when politicians claim that they deplore what they call "tax incentives," it behooves taxpayers to ask them what they really mean by the term - and who exactly is being incentivized.

Last week, I called this City Council race a contest between experience and potential. Regardless of the label, the best stewards of Santa Clara's public interests will be those who can put consistency and fairness back into issues just such as tax incentives.

Please vote on November 2nd.

Thanks for all of your support,
Bill Bailey, Treasurer,
Santa Clara Plays Fair


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Candidates' Forum on 9/20: Part 2 - We used to call it "Fiscal Responsibility"

In the first part of this post, I acknowledged the difficult job of bringing our city's expenses into line with what's clearly a time of troubled revenue intake.

That said: There can be no talk of “fiscal responsibility” in our city without a clear and open discussion of the damage which will be done by the 49ers’ stadium subsidy.

Contrary to the statements by Seat 5 candidate and current Mayor Mahan: The issuance of stadium bonds by our Redevelopment Agency WILL cause a loss of RDA remittances to our City’s General Fund – also, in fact, a violation of the single most important Guiding Principle of January 9th, 2007.

This loss was duly calculated at $67 million by City Staff for the Term Sheet presentation of June 2, 2009 - and the Staff presentation containing that analysis was accepted on a 5-2 vote by Mayor Mahan and the other four Stadium Boosters on the Council.

Please note: The current estimations of our city's General Fund deficits don't even include the losses due to these diversions of RDA money.

In sum: A “deal” with the San Francisco 49ers which fails to yield even minuscule returns to the General Fund, but which in fact causes it to lose money, is simply no deal at all.

That’s why it was most distressing to hear from Seat 2 candidate Kolstad that the passage of Measure J on June 8th trumps all – implying clearly that Santa Clarans are not allowed to demand a better deal than the poor one offered by Measure J! This should be disturbing to all of us: First, the Stadium Boosters paste the flawed, non-binding Term Sheet onto Measure J - and they then tell us that we’re not allowed to fix what’s clearly wrong with it.

It was therefore gratifying to hear from Seat 5 candidate O’Neill a public acknowledgment of the $330 million public contribution from the yet-to-be-formed Santa Clara Stadium Authority. However, there won’t be full public disclosure of those construction money sources – or of the operating costs to be borne by that joint-powers authority – until motivated Councilmembers demand the immediate cancellation of the Confidentiality Agreement of April, 2007.

It’s been three-and-a-half years. It's long past time to tell Santa Clarans the whole truth about the Stadium Authority - and the true effects of the 49ers' stadium subsidy on our city's fiscal health.

Whether or not our votes on November 2 will change the status quo simply isn't clear. But each of us are entitled to ask the candidates where they stand on all of our city's fiscal issues - not just on some of them.

Next: 'Tell me about those tax incentives.'

Thanks for your support and best regards,

Bill Bailey, Treasurer,

Santa Clara Plays Fair


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Candidates' Forum on 9/20: Part 1 - Experience vs. Potential

The Council/Mayoral Candidates' Forum this evening compressed much material into a two-hour slot. The biggest contrast among the candidates could be boiled down to “experience versus great potential.” This was the subject of one of the moderated panel questions, in fact.

There were some recurring issues; Mayoral candidate Stampolis is a firm believer in the revitalization of Santa Clara's downtown, which was sidelined by the withdrawal of the previous bidder and which may be limited by our city's fortunes for the forseeable future. But it isn't dead.

[10/6/2010: Candidate Stampolis is a supporter of the revitalization of El Camino Real - which is an issue separate from the Franklin Mall. The error is mine.]

On driving excellence in public schools, Mr. Stampolis suggests an activist role for the city’s Mayor. This led to a difference-of-opinion between him and Mayoral candidate Matthews; while it's true that a Mayor won't be given those reins - that's what schools superintendents are for - we could compromise and promote some co-operation between SCUSD and City Departments such as Parks and Recreation and the Library. Such a process might dovetail hours and offerings of after-school volunteer tutoring and recreational activities which advance academics – say, math camps, college bowls, chess clinics, music and art. But with city services now under such severe challenge, it’s impossible to make any real predictions or demands for such programs.

[10/6/2010: See, for example, SJ2020]

Of course, the biggest item before the Forum was the state of the city’s finances. General Fund budget deficits are projected through 2016.

Santa Clarans, you’re going to hear much talk – and some double-talk – about “fiscal responsibility” in the 42 days left until the election.

At the outset, let’s be fair to the candidates: We can’t reasonably hold any of them to specific percentage reductions and headcounts in this one public forum. However, there was at least some agreement on maintaining the hiring freeze, asking for contract concessions from the city’s employee bargaining units - and controversial pay cuts. Nine of the ten unions with closed contracts have in fact agreed to negotiate with the City Manager’s office, we were told.

But the real killer going forward are unfunded CalPERS pension liabilities. Those rising contribution percentages to both the Miscellaneous and Safety Funds are set in Sacramento and not on Warburton Drive, unfortunately.

(Next up: "Fiscal responsibility" - in all of its forms.)

Thanks for your continuing support,

Bill Bailey, Treasurer,

Santa Clara Plays Fair


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Televised City Council Candidates Forum: Monday, 7-9 pm, City Council Chambers

Santa Clarans, if you can attend, please come to the:

Televised Candidates Forum 2010
Date: Monday evening, 9/20/2010 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Cost: FREE
Location: City of Santa Clara - Council Chambers
1500 Warburton Avenue
Santa Clara, California 95050

The Forum will also be simulcast on Comcast Cable Channel 15.

Newsrelease (PDF)

Agenda (PDF)

Best regards,

Bill Bailey, Treasurer,

Santa Clara Plays Fair


Friday, September 10, 2010

49ers Stadium: It's not about the parking spaces - Part 2

Dear Santa Clarans,

The Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday evening should have been about the actual changes applied for by the San Francisco 49ers. But after an extended presentation by the team's public relations corps, the discussion rapidly turned towards rationalizing other faulty aspects of the very Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that has unfortunately brought us to where we are today.

Again, the so-called "parking plan" isn't. But in spite of that simple truth: The rationalizations flew thick and fast, with one Planning Commissioner actually claiming that pedestrian traffic (!) and mass transit will save the (game) day.

Frankly, those claims are subject to serious dispute:

* The CS&L studies - paid for by the 49ers themselves - show that there are a mere 781 hotel rooms within 1/2 mile of the stadium. For a 49ers home game, we'll be very lucky to see even a a mere couple-of-hundred fans actually hoofing it to any stadium containing 68,500 seats.

** The kind of people who can afford $5,000-to-$20,000 for a single Personal Seat License in Santa Clara will most emphatically not be walking, cycling or taking the 57 bus to a one-billion-dollar NFL stadium. They'll be driving the Escalade or the Q45 as they are unlikely to be residents of Santa Clara. All the bike racks in the world cannot change that.

*** No hard commitments have been made by VTA for any game-day transit from the two nearest CalTrain stations to the stadium. Those train stations are nearly 3 and 4 miles from the stadium site.
For game-day traffic: CalTrain, one way or another, is going to be a big choke-point.

Irrational exuberance isn't going to fix a faulty parking-and-traffic scheme. The hard numbers already made public are very clear - and the folks who will be forced to live with them are Santa Clarans living north of U.S. 101.

Santa Clarans, please speak out on this issue to the Planning Commission and to the City Council. For our $444 million in subsidies for the 49ers, we're entitled to a lot more than we're getting.

Thanks for your support, and regards,

Bill Bailey, Treasurer,
Santa Clara Plays Fair


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

49ers Stadium: It's not about the parking spaces - Part 1

Dear Santa Clarans,

In the Planning Commission meeting this evening, an applicant for an 40-unit affordable housing project was run through the grinder because his project contained a mere 51 parking spaces onsite.

Then, the San Francisco 49ers presented their zoning change and subdivision map for a stadium requiring parking spaces for 20,000 vehicles -
with only 404 of them on the stated development site. The Planning Commission approved both of those changes for the 49ers on 6-0 votes, with one absent.

Let's be clear: It's
not about the 45,000 parking spaces any one of us could scare up within a mile and a half of a subsidized NFL stadium. And no one in Santa Clara Plays Fair has ever denied that they exist.

Rather, our objection is the complete disruption of the life of our city when we must drop 160 police officers - more sworn peace officers than Santa Clara has - into the middle of 31 traffic checkpoints to direct those 20,000 vehicles to those parking spaces.

No matter how the 49ers try to spin this:
For a 13-acre stadium stuffed onto a 20-acre site, this is no plan. It simply isn't.

The reports actually presented to the Planning Commission are here.

For a quick index of their high points, see here.

Thank you for your support, and best regards,
Bill Bailey, Treasurer,
Santa Clara Plays Fair


Sunday, September 5, 2010

The 49ers Stadium: Subsidizing a Bad Project

Dear Santa Clarans,

This Wednesday, September 8th, our Planning Commission takes up the Rezoning and Tentative Subdivision Map which will allow the San Francisco to use City lands for their stadium -
nearly half the cost of which will be paid or raised by Santa Clara agencies. The four-part report to the Planning Commission may be found here.

DEIR for the stadium was released last July 30th, meaning that the stadium project has now been separated from its first Environmental Impact Report by over a year! However, the gross faults with that EIR process - and with the final document, certified by the City Council on December 8th, 2009 - still remain. Virtually none of the stadium's impacts on our community will be mitigated in any way.

Santa Clara Plays Fair
urges interested Santa Clarans - especially if you live north of U.S. 101 - to attend the Planning Commission meeting this Wednesday evening and speak out on the stadium project. To quickly locate bullet items you're interested in, here is a quick two-page index.

Please share this with your neighbors: The 49ers stadium subsidy is a fiscal issue for all of us - but it's also a quality-of-life issue for those of us who live in Zip Code 95054.

Thanks for your continuing support,

Bill Bailey, Treasurer
Santa Clara Plays Fair