Spending, chattering heat up as 49ers vote nears

The Santa Clara vote on a new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers is exactly one week away, and the papers are alread abuzz with talk about who’ll win and … okay, mostly who’ll win, because that’s all that papers care about these days.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ray Ratto writes that if the stadium referendum loses, 49ers owner Jed York could go down in history like Giants owner Bob Lurie, which is fightin’ words in the Bay Area. San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy is confused why he doesn’t get to vote just because he doesn’t live in Santa Clara, but nonetheless praises the 49ers stadium campaigners for “keeping it relatively low-key and businesslike” — notwithstanding the $150 per registered voter they’re spending on the referendum campaign, a possible new record for a local election and 180 times what opponents have spent.

Over in the Bay Citizen, meanwhile — which isn’t a newspaper and so can pay attention to those other things, what were they called? oh, right, “issues” — Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele had this to say about Santa Clara’s plans to rely on seat licenses to finance the city’s $330 million share of the stadium cost:

“They’re crazy. … “I don’t want to hear they’re in Santa Clara and they’re in an upper-income area. Today’s market is really really risky — we’ve been to hell and back with this stuff.”

Yes, we noticed.

Finally, the Mercury News speculates that if the Santa Clara vote fails, the 49ers could get a new stadium in “San Francisco, Oakland [or] even Los Angeles” — notwithstanding that the only source in the story who comments about an L.A. move asserts that it’s not going to happen. But of course, it’s not like this kind of misdirection matters, since it’s not like the Yorks are using veiled threats to go to L.A. to encourage pro-stadium votes — oh, wait:

“What’s at stake is making sure the 49ers have a permanent home in the Bay Area for the next 40 or 50 years,” York said this week in an exclusive interview with Comcast SportsNet.

“Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, I watched the (Cleveland) Browns become the Baltimore Ravens. And my family never wanted that to happen with the 49ers, to look somewhere else outside the market.”

Polls open at 7 am next Tuesday. Vote early and vote often.

10 comments on “Spending, chattering heat up as 49ers vote nears

  1. Ray Ratto hit the nail on the head in talking about Jed York: “So far, though, what he has is his parentsÔøΩ name and a plan to get strangers who donÔøΩt have as much money as they would like to give him some of it. His argument is that his employees need a nicer place to work because his friends and business partners have employees who have nicer places to work than his employees do. ItÔøΩs no more involved than that.”

    I’ve walked 4 precinct – about 2000 voters homes – and not one person has mentioned the LA move as anything they care about. People want to know how much it will cost and how bad the traffic etc. will be.

    Thank you Gail Steele for your comment about having the city sell seat licenses is ‘crazy’.

    And to set the record straight, the 49ers have spent $4.1 million total 2009 and 2010, while the opposition, Santa Clara Plays Fair, has spent less than $20,000. The ratio is 200 to 1. The ratio had been 500 to 1 prior to March 22, 2010. For the past two months, when worried Santa Clarans have really stepped up their contributions to Santa Clara Plays Fair to allow us to send one mailing to all voting households in the city plus have materials for handouts to walk all 112 precincts with volunteers (about 46,000 voters total), which we were able to do.

    The 49ers spent $26,000 on yard signs alone, which is more than the oppositions entire budget. And they spent $20,000 on tshirts and bumper stickers.

    Want to see videos of our city council and mayor acting on the 49ers behalf, and video clips of our 2 honest council members explaining the facts about the stadium project? They’re on youtube:

  2. If this same deal was proposed in SF Ray Ratto would be head cheerleader for the Yes campaign–he’s the ultimate SF homer and trying to do his part to try and sway the outcome.

    Gail Steele is the architect of the PSL for Oakland and she is also cheerleading a new Oakland stadium that ummmm…will require PSL’s–of course when Santa Clara passes Oakland is done so she is trying to sway the outcome anyway she can–

    Personally I will be happy when it is over next week that the whining ends—-or at least the media giving any attention to the whiners–

  3. most of the local media outlets with sports content have financial ties to the big guns (9’ers, gi-ants) so “objective” reporting on this issue is always suspect.
    regionalism within the bay area has a lot to do with who’s for or against this, regardless of the facts…

  4. Agreed, though I’d note that Ratto is more of an equal-opportunity stadium hater. See, for example:


  5. It’s madness: a city of 100,000 put at risk for a half-billion dollars by its officials. How does this happen? Why won’t elected officials simply say to the beggars, ‘Go away! You’re insane!’

    Yet it happens over and over and over. How in the name of God did we ever get to the point of building sports palaces so that wealthy people can become wealthier? It’s sick.

  6. Dave – ‘How does this happen?’
    You have to understand how Santa Clara politics works. I’ve been here more than 2 decades and I didn’t know until getting involved in the anti-stadium campaign about 1 1/2 years ago that most of our city council members for the past at least 2 decades have been financed by one large, extremely wealthy, politically connected family and their business associates. Each person in the family, plus spouses, gives the maximum to candidates for mayor and city council positions ($500). (Some of these contributors don’t live here but still manage to contribute $500 per person per candidate even when they have jobs that don’t pay a lot, like teaching). In a small city like Santa Clara, those contributions really mount up and give the candidates that family wants a big advantage. Getting elected without that family’s backing has only happened once since the early 1990’s that I’m aware of. I’ve been through the FPPC forms (publicly available campaign finance forms) and you can clearly see the financial influence of what people all over Santa Clara call ‘the machine’. I’ve heard this from complete strangers all over the city that I’ve met precinct walking and working on this campaign. One family member from ‘The machine’ is also at the helm of the 49ers astroturf front group, which Neil wrote about a few months ago. Oh- and 2 of our city council members actually are employed by the business of that family’s patriarch. And when people ask about the number of former elected officials backing this – well, we take a look at which ones were elected backed by ‘the machine’ and you guessed it, there’s a lot of overlap and a lot of friendships with that family.
    The San Jose Merc did an article a few years ago documenting the financing of the machine (that’s now in archives and can’t be accessed without paying). But the San Jose Metro did an article a few years ago when the family got caught giving $500 contributions in cash to candidates and taken to court, they claimed they didn’t know that the limit on cash contributions is less than $100 (the city clerk gives that information to candidates when they declare themselves as running for office). Believe me, people here have woken up and I’m hearing people say that they will never, ever vote for any city council candidate who supported the stadium or is backed by ‘the machine’, after what the 49ers and cour city council majority have put us through in this campaign.
    Our local papers are already financially benefiting from the stadium campaign, and stand to financially benefit further from the stadium itself, so they won’t report on what’s really going on here.
    This is what happens when small town politics meets really really big money and there aren’t legal protections in place for voters that require financial disclosure on city ballot measures. So the 49ers working with our city council majority gave us ballot language that does not disclose the costs, and they worked together to go to Sacramento to take away our right to vote on a city charter change (the 49ers wanted to bypass our charter requirement for competitive bidding when public funds are used).
    I heard an ad on the radio yesterday that says the stadium won’t cost Santa Clarans anything. Because of freedom of speech, the 49ers campaign can say whatever they want. Sadly, many voters think there is some type of truth in advertising in campaigning. There isn’t, so therefore the 49ers with the help of our city council majority, are telling us the stadium will cost us nothing, there will be no loss to our city’s budget (city staff say otherwise), there will be no new taxes (yeah, and it will rain manna from heaven to pay for the Stadium Authority’s bond debt and operations costs the 49ers won’t pay).
    Want to read the Metro article on the $500 cash contributions? Here it is:

  7. I found it odd that no one is discussing the lesson of Glendale. Regardless of whether the hockey team moves, the city and its arena are sunk financially.

    Given the news that California politicians want to prevent cities from declaring bankruptcy, I cannot believe Santa Clara or any city would risk its financial health to build a stadium. If the York family really want to keep the 49ers in the Bay area, then tell them to put their money where their mouth is.

  8. Mr. Purdy’s not that confused. He simply shares the rather selfish attitude of most San Joseans: That Santa Clarans owe this massive subsidy to the 49ers – and that we should actually do this stupid thing for “the good of the region.”

    That’s just hogwash.

    The pages of Mr. Purdy’s own newspaper have been awash with news of the red ink in municipal budgets not only in Sacramento but also in San Jose’s own City Hall. Yet, the Mercury News actually endorses our city of Santa Clara making the same short-sighted economic decisions that San Jose – and California itself – have made.

    We Santa Clarans are the ones with the skin in the game. No one else. We’re the ones who are being told to pay a ridiculous sum in public subsidies for virtually no gain of any kind to Santa Clara other than bragging rights.

    For this reason alone: Santa Clarans should cast a solid NO vote for Measure J (for Jeopardy), and never look back.

    At long last: Santa Clara should be serving Santa Clarans – not the San Francisco 49ers.

    Best regards,
    Bill Bailey, Treasurer,


    Neighboring cities contribute not a single penny – and we certainly don’t need them telling us to make the same stupid mistakes they’ve made.