Santa Clara City Council decides on 49ers' Stadium ballot measure

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February 9, 2010

Model of proposed stadium

By Al Ortiz

SANTA CLARA, California: Santa Clarans will see a ballot measure placed on the June 8, 2010 ballot asking whether a proposed stadium should be built in the city of Santa Clara. Ballot language, from an 11th hour proposal, was approved by the City Council with a 4-3 vote, while the June 8 election date was approved with a unanimous 7-0 passage.

With the standard procedures of the Pledge of Allegiance, Invocation and roll call completed, the Santa Clara City Council began to tackle the elephant standing in the City Hall Council Chambers ahead of schedule. After a motion for continuance citing a city council conflict of interest was denied, the main topic of ballot language was discussed thoroughly, with a few interesting twists thrown in.

City Manager Jennifer Sparacino began the discussion with the proposed ballot language, completed with the help of a committee made up of the Assistant City Manager and three other council members. The proposed language read as follows:

Shall the city of Santa Clara adopt ordinance chapter 17.20 for leasing City property for a stadium for professional football and other events, no use of City general or utility funds for construction, utility payment for optional electric substations relocation, capping Redevelopment Agency funds for construction payment of construction cost overruns by a private party, and payment of rent to city’s general fund?

Sparacino dissected important phrases of the proposed language, such as "capping Redevelopment Agency funds for construction payment," stating the importance of those key elements. According to the City Manager, if there was ever a future discrepancy regarding funding or other issues, the ballot language would serve as a road map in clarifying potential confusions.

Also included in Sparacino's breakdown of the language was the funding needed in the election. According to the city, ballot language cannot exceed 75 words. Since the language was lengthier than originally proposed, hitting the area of 75 words, projected cost of the election increased to $390,000. Funding for the election was proposed to be from the city's Redevelopment Agency.

Following Sparcino's presentation, the council meeting took an interesting turn as Council member Jamie Matthews surprised those in attendance with his own proposed language. According to Matthews: "This is difficult to comprehend, drafting an ordinance based on a citizen initiative...being factual and fair is the most ethical thing we can do." Matthews later motioned for his revised language to be placed for a council vote. Matthews' proposed language informs voters that no city general funds would be used on the stadium and that the San Francisco 49ers would pay construction overruns and operating costs.

Public comments from local residents soon followed, with most stating their support of Matthews' new language. Some stated that the clarification of the language satisfied much confusion. According to resident Pat Kolstad, "I want to compliment our city staff...[the language] shows that there are no new taxes for the city, that is huge...I'm glad to see this motion that is on the floor, and that those issues are discussed. I hope you will approve this or something very close to it soon."

Another city resident, Dorothy Rosa, stressed the importance of informing voters of the measure. Rosa stated, "This ballot is so important. I had no idea what was being talking about in previous ballots. 'Am I voting for it or am I voting against it.' That is important to people who see these fancy words coming at us. I think we need to educate everyone. How do we do it? I don't know. A lot of people are so confused by this, and it really needs to be spelled out for them.

Other residents who were opposed to the measure stated that there needed to be negative effects included on the ballot language, namely pollution, traffic, and bond issues that are stated in construction proposals found on the city's website.

In the end, the city council reached a much-anticipated decision on an issue that has been on the city's plate since November 2006. According to Council member Dominic Caserta while giving his statements before the vote, "I'm proud that Santa Clarans do their homework. I'm very proud to be a small part of this process." Official ballot language will be made public on February 10, 2010 at the city's website and on Ballotpedia.

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