By Kirk Vartan
On Jan 26, 2021, I joined the Santa Clara Council meeting to hear the update on the City’s first-of-its-kind Worker Cooperative Initiative. I was excited to hear about the progress, the experts, and share what I was working on with Mission College to further support this effort.
I decided to stay for some of the meeting. It was kinda exciting to sit in once again on local politics as I used to do so often. A seemingly routine consent item regarding “Conflict of Interest” got pulled due to a letter from the 49ers organization asking for a literal last-minute continuance. The request seemed typical of this organization: no warning, no data, no good will, and most of all…no participation or attendance.
After hearing the City Attorney speak about how he made a request for clarification back in May 2020 on this very item that was never answered, with multiple meetings between then and now, I was shocked when I heard Councilmember Kevin Park’s comments. He spoke about how he was not familiar with the issue, wanted to learn more about it, was not aware of issues from the past, etc.
I have known Kevin for over a decade. He was a strong voice in the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), I saw him regularly at council meetings, and I have heard him speak intelligently and thoughtfully about council issues. And as a fellow engineer, I respect and understand the methodology he uses to review data and draw conclusions.
I don’t know what happened to the Kevin I knew, but what I witnessed on Tuesday was none of that.
I heard hair-splitting comments about what he “said” vs “what he was saying” and that he was not familiar with the concern being raised and wanted time to review the information himself. The City Attorney moments before literally shared the relevant information. The City Manager was also sharing the information. And then he said they need to be heard just like other companies like “A Slice of New York” — my restaurant.
That was when I felt compelled to speak during public comment. I stated that I was shocked at Councilmember Park’s comments. Even though he had just heard the City Attorney and City Manager cite specific information, he didn’t see any problem with a continuance request made only 6 minutes before the meeting started. He was ready to give them the benefit of the doubt, implying the request was done in good faith.
I referenced examples where the 49ers were absent at all Stadium Audit meetings, missing in action at council meetings, showing up with a riotous crowd to tear down the Mayor, basically not attending anything expected, including this meeting. It’s not like they couldn’t attend via Zoom. ANYONE could have attended to represent this item, yet they did not. If A Slice of New York is expected to present or speak about an item, or has an issue with an item, we show up. The 49ers are never apologetic, they continually sue the City multiple times, complain about how mean the council is to them, and spent $3 Million to elect current members.
I attended all the 49er Stadium Audit Committee meetings and recorded every one. When all the concerns were brought up at these meetings and brought back to the council, how many 49er representatives showed up? Zero. None. Never. They provide minimal data (like their mandated Marketing Plan that is basically non-existent or 24 months late).
The 49ers are PARTNERS with the City, yet here is their level of respect and good faith. They want to:
– Take the youth soccer park
– Cancel the agreement to rebuild soccer parks in the City
– Reduce their rent
– Change the rules of Measure J
– Avoid paying for adequate policing around the stadium and stick the extra costs to Santa Clara
– Funded lawsuits
– Not share financial data with the City
– Bring a mob to City Hall under false pretense
– And most consistently, not show up at relevant meetings even when they are virtual!
An intelligent, data driven engineer should conclude these partners are not displaying good-faith behaviors. Therefore, this most recent request to continue a consent item to an unknown time in the future, when they were asked back in May 2020 for data, is disingenuous and consistent with how the 49ers have been treating the City. It happens to be with the same, smug tone that Councilmember Park used when he addressed the Mayor.
Additionally, this is about Form 700s and conflicts of interest, an area already shown to be fraught with problems since a top executive (Jim Mercurio) had to redo them once questioned. And another top executive (Al Guido) is refusing to turn in his form even though it’s clearly required by law.
So how much more information do you need to determine if this is a good faith, urgent request by the 49ers? The City Manager and City Attorney said they could always amend the policy if evidence shows a reason for it, something the 49ers can do at any time. What is someone in my shoes supposed to think? I see a response that seems to only be rooted in opposition to the Mayor, as if being able to stop the process “just because” is justification enough for this action.