In recent weeks, the emerging story of the small town of Bell, California demonstrated to the country how city government can become too big and brash for its own good. When city workers become politicians, then begin to understand how money and politics go hand-in-hand, putting greed in front of responsibility. In this day and age of hard economic times, one would think that supposedly cash-strapped city governments would focus on fiscal responsibility, but in the south bay city of Santa Clara, money apparently flows like water, with key government officials diverting that water towards their own land, while the city's citizens watch their personal land run dry.
Santa Clara is a prime example of being at the right place at the right time. In the early 70's, just as the bay area technology boom began to take shape, the sleepy city of Santa Clara was a perfect place for high-tech companies to do business. Land was plentiful and affordable, large scale buildings were welcomed to replace aging, unused farmland, and the locality of major freeways made for easy commuting for workers. Santa Clara found itself becoming the headquarter city for tech giants which included Intel, AMD, Hewlett Packard, National Semiconductor, just to name a few.
With this new found wealth [and improved property values], the city began to re-invent itself as a technology hub in Silicon Valley. It partnered itself with its new technology tenants to help leverage new projects like a city-owned power company.
But somewhere along the way, city officials had a great idea; with Santa Clara's new image as a Silicon Valley center, why not use this to generate lots and lots of money?
And so, starting in the mid-80's, Santa Clara began to use its money to make even more money. Business parks were popping up left and right. New developments like the Rivermark project were created despite the fact that the development ruined neighboring flood plains, costing local residents thousands of dollars in previously-unneeded flood insurance. City officials were making deals left and right.
And then the motherload came into town - the San Francisco 49er football organization.
Immediately, the city government waged an all out campaign to win the heart of Jed York, to bring the 49ers into Santa Clara. The city extended a developed 11-acre lot, for a brand new team training camp, at the measely rate of under $2500/month - much less than many people pay for mortgages on their 1/8 acre homesteads.
As recently as four months ago, the city held and won a vote for a brand new $1-billion dollar football stadium, half of the cost to be covered by the city itself. It wasn't surprising to find that the 49ers themselves invented millions into the campaign to help make it work in their favor.
Now we find out that as recently as last week, the city of Santa Clara, in its continuous effort to court the 49er football team, sent an "entourage" of Santa Clara police officers, in city vehicles, on city time and taxpayers dollars, to pick up and escort the team from San Francisco airport back to the Santa Clara training camp facility.
Are you kidding me?
Meanwhile, while all of this happens, teachers and other city workers are being laid off, the city accounting office is reporting a fiscal year deficit, and city services are being cut back... what gives?
We all were disgusted by the sheer audacity of the mayor and city officials in Bell California, spending citizens time and money for their own personal agendas. Meanwhile, the city of Santa Clara suffers from a similar fate, under the guise of "improving the quality of life for its citizens". Whats not surprising is that the quality of life of city officials gets better, while mine is getting worse.
What's wrong with this picture?