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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Santa Clara Politicians Wreck Bay Area Olympic Bid For 49ers Dream

When I was a City Planning graduate student at Cal Berkeley, I was first introduced to the concept of "regionalism" where one city's economic development policies are shaped to benefit not just its municipal jurisdiction, but the region it's within.

It came as no surprise to me that this concept was discussed in the backdrop of the San Francisco Bay Area of which UC Berkeley is a major part. There are nine closely linked counties here and cities that are at times in the same county and find themselves competing for the same resources.

Like sports teams.

Sports teams are more than just economic impacts, they're an expression of the culture of a city. Game day is a great time to see friends, relatives, and your doctor, and all at the stadium. When sports teams leave, a part of the city goes with them. This would be true for the 49ers. But it's also true when a region's cities work together to draw a sports team or event. This is what has happened with the San Francisco Bay Area Olympic Bid. Over the last decade, this effort has been a model of regional coorperation. A kind of unwritten contract. A contract that's about to be broken by Santa Clara's elected officials, led by Mayor Pat Mahan (pictured).

In one fell swoop, Santa Clara's not only threatened to damage San Francisco's culture, but trash the Bay Area's chances to land the Olympics. In the case of the Olympics, Santa Clara and Santa Clara County would have enjoyed overflow use of their hotels, so they would be an economic gainer -- but so would San Francisco and Oakland.

In the case of the 49ers, Santa Clara also gains if they move there, but it's at the expense of the Bay Area. That's not a good tradeoff, and it's for that reason Santa Clara should teminate its pursuit of the 49ers.

Santa Clara's argument is that it's the best choice for the team to build a new stadium in. But with an organization that has as much history and social impact as the 49ers, that's not true from a holistic standpoint. Indeed, look at the bad feelings that have already been generated. That's not going to go away and can effect everything from State politics to the direction of Federal dollars to the needs of Santa Clara. So when you add it all up -- politics and negative economic impact on San Francisco, as well as the loss of the good international will generated by the very act of bidding for the Olympics, let alone getting the Olympics -- Santa Clara's being a real selfish meany of a municipality.

The best solution is for Santa Clara to be a uniter and not a divider. The best action is for Santa Clara's Mayor to say to 49ers Owner John York "You know. You should really sit and work things out with San Francisco and that Olympics Bid and if things aren't workable, then have Mayor Newsom call us and say so. This way, we'll have a clear go-ahead."

That's a great example of regionalism. Santa Clara, be a Bay Area team player.


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