In Santa Clara, the Times They are A-Changin’ (Opinion)

In Santa Clara, the Times They are A-Changin’

By Robert Haugh

Bob Dylan wrote a song about America changing in the 60s. He could write one about Santa Clara today, especially involving the city’s relationship with the 49ers.

It started with a political earthquake after Super Bowl 50. On February 8, 2016, during a press conference about the game, then-Mayor Jamie Matthews, a big 49er ally suddenly resigned. He opened the door for change. And boy did it come.

First, Lisa Gillmor was unanimously selected by the council nine days later. In 2010, Gillmor helped lead the 49ers’ stadium campaign. But she stopped trusting the team after they reneged on their promise to relocate and build a new Youth Soccer Park. As Mayor, Gillmor would be way different than Matthews.

Then, top city staffers most responsible for the stadium contracts and operations left — some say were pushed out, although no one was fired.

In May, 2016, then-City Manager Julio Fuentes was the first to resign. He was close to the 49ers, and was known to have played golf with 49ers owner Jed York and Santa Clara Weekly Publisher Miles Barber. (Disclosure: I worked at the Santa Clara Weekly during this time).

In December, 2016, City Attorney Ren Nosky, who was responsible for the legal contracts, resigned. Those documents were considered weak by many. The 49ers used them to say that they could unilaterally lower their own rent or that the City Manager could give them permission to violate the curfew.

In January, 2017, Finance Director Gary Ameling left for a similar job in Las Vegas. He was frequently criticized for giving the City Council (and the public) little information about the stadium finances. The Harvey Rose stadium audit revealed that city staff had no codes to charge time to stadium operations, a violation of Measure J that prohibits the general fund being used for the stadium. It also found that major expenses and budget transfers were reported on just one line with no detail or explanation.


So what if Matthews were still Mayor and these three city staffers had stayed? What would be different? Our crystal ball says:

  • The 49ers would own the Youth Soccer Park.
  • The 49ers would have unilaterally lowered their own rent.
  • The 10 p.m. weekday stadium curfew would be gone.
  • The Harvey Rose stadium audit would not have happened.
  • The City wouldn’t know that the 49ers need to repay the general fund and the stadium construction fund about $1.8 million.
  • Santa Clara would be renamed Santa Yorka — joking.

Change doesn’t come easy. And it may not be complete.

Interim City Manager Rajeev Batra who replaced Fuentes has been equally friendly to the team. The City Council rejected his response to the Civil Grand Jury about the stadium audit because it was weak. Batra is retiring and will be replaced by October.

The stadium audit concluded that the Fire Department and Police Department had to fix components to their operations. A lot of police officers reportedly talked to the auditors because they were concerned about the department. Police Chief Mike Sellers got a “no confidence” vote from his troops last year, the first time ever.

In about 30 days, Santa Clara will have a new City Manager (Deanna Santana), a new Stadium Manager (Scott McKibben), and a new Assistant City Manager (Manuel Pineda) — all with stellar credentials.  We expect to see more changes. That would be good for Santa Clara — ask Bob Dylan.

Come gather ’round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’

— Bob Dylan



  1. To Drain: I knew Sellers was a niner supporter when I voted for him. If he were running for council or a policy making position I would not have.
    I did vote against having the police union running the department. That can’t end well for the city, despite that the candidate was a nice guy.

  2. Voters may regret not voting Chief Sellers out! A great guy but he has not and will not butt heads with the 49ers.
    For whatever reason he is in awe of those mobsters from Youngstown, Ohio. But that’s ok. The police across the country have a long history of getting in bed with the mobsters.

    But we can push to get rid of the other corrupt cronies of the 49ers out of City Staff, from the Fire Chief to Asst City Managers to certain Council Members.

    The corruption runs deep with the 49ers and the developers.

    Whether or not this new crew from Sunnyvale will be any different remains to be seen.
    They sure better be because they have gotten even more boatloads of cash and benefits than
    the current corrupted city staff.

  3. The soccer community knows and will not forget. These are the people who stopped the 49ers from taking over the soccer park: Lisa Gillmor, Teresa O’Neill, and Debi Davis. They stood strong for us and the city.

    These are the people who were willing to go into the backroom and give the park to the 49ers: Jamie Matthews, Dominic Caserta, Pat Kolstad, and Jerry Marsalli (RIP). Only because we packed the room were they afraid to do so. But we will not forget in the 2018 elections and beyond.

  4. Jed played golf with Julio and Miles! Very interesting report, Robert. Wonder if Rajeev who plays golf a couple times a week plays with Jed or Miles? Might want to check it out.

  5. I’m not a fan of Gillmor and I voted against the stadium. But I like that she finally saw the light. The list of things that could have happened under a Mayor Jamie Matthews is truly frightening. God save us from the 49ers.

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