Vision and Countervisions of a Bustling San Jose Professional Sports Team, Landmarks and Parks Will Distinguish Downtown

Editorial Page: 7C

By Tom McEnery


On Wednesday, San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery delivered his annual State of the City Speech. Following are excerpts.

IN 1881, the generations before us knew San Jose as a small town with the spirit of a bustling city. Silicon Valley waited 90 years in the future. Yet thanks to a dreamer and visionary, San Jose stood at the forefront of a new technology. On December 31st, in 1881, James Jerome Owen, publisher of the San Jose Mercury, saw his dream flash into reality. That day marked the inception of San Jose’s electric light tower — San Jose’s beacon of the West.

For the next 34 years that light tower served as the symbol of San Jose.

We first gathered here in 1983 to begin a new year, a new era, a new time for San Jose.

We sought to balance growth. We sought to rebuild downtown — a place that had been murdered in the ’60’s and lay still and lifeless long after. We sought to improve and augment basic city services through solid economic development. We sought to cooperate with our neighbors on matters of regional concern — transportation, green hillsides and clean water. Some of our dreams came true; others still hold promise. But if they are to be fully realized, we must use this occasion as a time for re-commitment.

First, we must recommit to balancing growth in San Jose.

Second, we must recommit to improvements in city services. San Jose will continue to focus on such magnificent things as longer library hours, more police officers, planted flowers and new parks.

An important project we can initiate this year is the creation of Cultural Heritage Gardens throughout the city. San Jose already has a Japanese Friendship Garden. We should begin a program for the rest of the city’s communities.

We should sponsor a city-wide youth conference to discuss issues such as drug abuse, recreation and job opportunities.

Third, we must recommit to San Jose becoming a center of commerce, culture and life. The Children’s Discovery Museum will break ground. The Museum of Art expansion is well under way. The Technology Center is moving ahead. The Guadalupe River Park and San Jose’s future Central Park will create a green and blue belt of trees and water to complement the glass and granite downtown. We must hold fast our commitment to see the completion of these projects.

Fourth, we must recommit to cooperation with our neighbors to improve the transportation network. And, as we look to improve traffic, the city must also continue to find a solution for the slow-moving trains that crawl through central San Jose. A report of the grand jury clearly outlined the problem:

”We have heard complaints against railroad companies relative to making up trains on and over North First Street, the Alameda and other important thoroughfares, and we find that the acts occur many times each day and the same is an intolerable nuisance.”

For those of you who missed it, this report was released in November — November 1893. Some things never change. Finally, in 1986, the city began serious discussions with Southern Pacific to re-route the trains from busy city streets. Our efforts will continue.

There are four areas where the city should make new commitments.

First, San Jose should commit to a new tack in improving public safety. It is too much for us to become the victims of a criminal justice system more concerned about jail overcrowding and maintenance than the safety of its communities. We cannot endure the human costs created by the early release of violent felons.

We need “truth in sentencing”; I intend to demand it. Twenty years should mean 20 years.

A second area of new commitment is an expansion and widening of the city’s economic ties. We should seek to augment the ties of our local businesses with those from other regions, particularly those in the Pacific rim.

A third recent commitment should be that an arena will open in San Jose by 1991. It will provide a home for concerts, skating shows, circuses, and numerous community events. And, as sure as light follows night, professional sports will come to this city. We will make a decision on a site this year; construction will follow.

Fourth, as we commit to plans for the future, we must commit to a plan for the past — historic San Jose.

We must restore and recreate. The city should draft a five- year plan for the past. Some landmarks should be rebuilt, from a full reconstruction of the electric light tower, 237 feet high, to the old state house. Sculptures should be commissioned and dedicated to our city’s early pioneers and heroes. Living politicians need not apply.

So, I say, “Imagine. Dream.” For if we reach as far as those who preceded us, then we will surely cast a beacon of light much brighter than any single monument. We will create a dream that illuminates a path for others to follow — one that will light the furthest reaches of our city.

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