15 May 2006

Merc poll: SJ residents say no to public funds for baseball

Among other election-related items, respondents to a recent poll commissioned by the Merc were asked how they felt about the city spending public money to bring MLB to San Jose. The results were negative in a landslide: 53.6% were against the idea, while 32.1% were for it.

The San Jose effort has been marred by three specific issues:
  • The Gonzales stench. The decidedly unpopular mayor (26.7% approval) publicly campaigned on behalf of the city over a year ago at spring training (the misspelling incident). He tried to have a ballot measure for a ballpark scheduled for November's general election (bad move, quickly dismissed). He now believes that his successor should figure out a way to avoid a public vote. That won't happen even if City Hall were scandal-free.
  • Dissent in the ranks. Baseball San Jose is made up of numerous civic and business leaders. Sometime after the Selig visit in September, the group became somewhat fractured as there was no consensus built about how to further pursue the A's. Some wanted to keep a low profile in keeping with Bud Selig's typical M.O. Some wanted to directly challenge the Giants and MLB. Others wanted to retreat and regroup - waiting for an opportunity to arise when efforts in Alameda County failed. BBSJ's website went dark and so went the best outreach arm the effort had. Few BBSJ members showed up at the publich outreach meetings. Any chance they had to shape the dialogue with the public was lost. On the political side, there are two mayoral candidates (Michael Mulcahy and Dave Cortese) who happen to be BBSJ leaders that are campaigning against each other. They may be splitting the pro-baseball vote, with Cindy Chavez getting a small portion as well.
  • No sizzle, no steak either. The city has been hamstrung by its inability to engage directly in a dialogue with the A's. Sure, San Jose leaders see and talk to Wolff frequently (because he is one of them after all), but the territorial rights issue has effectively put up a soundproof glass wall between them and the A's. As long as there is no dialogue, no substantive ballpark plan - with ancillary development - can be debated. It's unknown what the public's share would be beyond the land acquisition. It may very well be that if the poll respondents were answering a question more along the lines of, "Would you support the acquisition of land for a baseball team as long as there were no other public expenditures to get a ballpark built?" it might be a completely different result. The city has its hands tied because it can't explain the economic side of a ballpark concept.
Does this mean that the San Jose ballpark plan is dead? No, because things can change rapidly. San Jose is stuck being "Plan C" (if Oakland were "Plan A" and Fremont "Plan B") and there's very little it can do about it. Should the Fremont plan move forward and result in a ballpark, the San Jose effort (at least the $700K spent on the EIR) would be rendered moot. At least they'll be able to recoup redevelopment's land grab by selling off the property for housing. Should Fremont collapse and if Oakland and the A's aren't able to put a workable proposal together, San Jose could move to the forefront. Some would argue that was Wolff's plan all along. Considering the bullet points above, I have to respectfully disagree.


Georob said...

Depending on what the Giants and the rest of the owners think, San Jose could very well be Plan D. Meaning that if all options within the A's territory are exhausted, that Wolff will be encouraged to briefly look outside Northern California.

I think that there are still those who think the Bay Area should not be a two-team market. And indeed, with all the growth in the last 40 years, it still is well behind NY, LA, and Chicago population and income-wise.

But as Rhamesis' data has shown, where would the A's go? Eespecially if they're competing with the Marlins for a new locale.
As bad as things are for the A's in the Bay Area, they really don't get much better elsewhere.

It is only when MLB is faced with a team that can't be sold, moved, or build a new stadium in its own territory will they move the A's to San Jose.

No one agrees, but I still think San Jose should go after the 49'ers. That would be one way to show their superiority over SF.

HLS said...

Don't bother with a new stadium. The financial cost to community is enormous. A baseball team owner, who pays million to his athletes, tries to get as much as possible from the community. His team will draw well for the first 5 years but attendance tends to diminish if there are no league championships in sight. Montreal built an Olympic Stadium in 1976 and the Montreal Expos moved in at a very low rental. We had good teams until 1994, the year of the baseball strike. Because of the fire sale of star players, the Expos never recovered. Poor management doomed this team. It was transferred to Washington where it was known as the Nationals. Now we have a stadium, which was fully paid by the taxpayers, standing empty. Selig is a cuss word in Montreal. I become livid when I hear his name. I wrote a post about him on May 15th on my blog "Politics and the law" at

Jeff said...

Being suspicious by nature, I naturally assumed SJ was the target of choice for Lew. Your post has been very enlightening concerning the fracturing of BBSJ along political lines. Apparently after Selig spoke there was generally consensus amongst the members on the interpetation of his comments, but their differences on how they should react proved divisive. I still contend that if SJ were to challenge MLB legally, Mcgowans TR's would evaporate like smoke.

I wonder if Wolfe viewed the fracturing of his "base" in SJ and decided that Fremont would have to do. It is as close to his goal as he is likely to get. Who knows, maybe it is good enough. Based on the insight you have provided ML, I have to agree....SJ is not likely to ever recieve a team. It's sort of pathetic that an Municipality of its' size cannot marshall its strength and influence. Thanks for the enlightenment.

I have to agree with Rob...although I think the Raiders would make a more likely target if the city can get its act together. I also agree that there really is no other alternative to the bay that is very attractive. If there were, the Marlins would have siezed upon it by now. I think that Fremont has the strongest position at this point. I also think it will prove to be a viable location....transportation issues nonwithstanding.

Great comments and analysis Rob.

Keith Salminen said...

I've always believed that Wolff never had plans to do anything with San Jose. People try to point out how his ties down there are a factor when they really aren't. He has more ties in the L.A. are and a few other cities around the country.

I think Oakland can pull off ether doing your 27th & Broadway site or even look into trying to go after the Oak & 9th site again. Since 8th grade, I knew the best spot to put a new ballpark in Oakland would be at or near Jack London Square. It would be the 1st step in getting some money back into Oakland.

Still believe Fremont is Plan B.