What a difference a few years make. This week, Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Council Member Kathy Watanabe fell all over themselves to welcome Taylor Swift to Santa Clara, or as it is now known, Swiftie Clara.
Yet it was only four years ago that the two couldn’t do enough to ensure that Taylor Swift was never, ever, ever getting back together with Santa Clara. Following Swift’s 2019 tour, Gillmor and Wantanabe backed then City Manager Deanna Santana when she published confidential details about the Stadium Authority’s contract with Swift’s concert promoter. The reveal could have seriously jeopardized the stadium’s ability to attract profitable events.
The trio also falsely claimed free tickets were given to insiders, and that they knew nothing about “comped” tickets. “Comped” tickets are common practice and often donated to nonprofit groups such as women’s shelters and youth groups.
At several 2019 council meetings, Gillmor, Watanabe and Santana made “Taylor Swift” a signifier for just about every criticism of the 49ers management of the stadium.
On March 27, 2019, Santana launched into her “20,000 Free Tickets” crusade with comments on the Swift concert saying, “…one night there was 50,000 people in attendance and the night before 29,000 and you picked up what is the delta between the 29,000 tickets sold and 49,000 attendees…the delta is the result of the giveaway or dynamic pricing the tickets at zero…and in fact it is now a matter of public record that this event lost the stadium authority $2.1 million.”
(We can’t quite untangle Santana’s math, but these are her words.)
Gillmor, in a discussion of the weekday curfew said, “One of the promoters that has claimed that we should be having these concerts on the weekdays is one of the promoters for one of the concerts that we lost over $2 million. He’s the promoter on that same concert.”
The promoter referred to was Taylor Swift’s as The Weekly reported at the time.
Watanabe added, “Taylor Swift doesn’t live on the Northside. U2 doesn’t live on the Northside. They get to go home but the people are still there and have to deal with the repercussions of events going until 11:00 o’clock at night.”
At the April 1, 2019 meeting, “Taylor Swift” prefaced or postscripted the same complaints. Phrases like “public safety costs driven by staffing,” “21,000 free attendees,” “20,000 tickets that were given away,” and “events that lose us a tremendous amount of money,” were all bandied about.
“As for the Taylor Swift tickets,” said Watanabe, “as I recall how all this came to light.”
Gillmor used Swift to replay her “dirty backroom deals” anthem, saying, “That is ridiculous for an artist such as Taylor Swift. I would really love to see the deal made between our management company and the promoters.”
Watanabe sang the chorus, with, “If you hadn’t noticed that — what happened with the Taylor Swift concert. I mean it just seems like everything is — they try to cover everything up.”
But that’s not the only act in this cavalcade of double standards. In their new roles as uber-groupies, Gillmor and Watanabe are apparently welcoming disregard for law enforcement and neighborhood residents.
Watanabe, as a city official, has told any media outlet that would listen that Swift fans are welcome to gather in public places to celebrate the superstar. She rolled out the welcome mat on NBC Bay Area, twice, inviting all 8 million Bay Area residents to hang out on the Northside to listen to the concerts without the inconvenience of buying tickets.
Gillmor echoed her support on Twitter.
The “come one, come all” invitation was in direct opposition to stated — and well-publicized —Santa Clara Police Department policy.
But the hypocrisy is not just limited to Swift. Just three weeks ago, Gillmor and Watanabe were singing a different tune, complaining about the audience of an international soccer match that apparently ran amok on the Northside. In other words, they were complaining about the logical consequences of the very thing that they appeared to be encouraging this time around.
At a July 11 council meeting, they said there were “virtual parking lots on residential streets,” “streets packed with cars that didn’t belong there,” “illegal vendors selling alcohol from suitcases,” “unsavory behavior,” “illegal vending on Great America Parkway,” and “major streets [that] had garbage all over the place.”
One commenter at the council meeting complained about cracked windshields on parked cars in the neighborhood, “loitering and littering,” and “strangers from the outside.”
But Gillmor and Watanabe seem to have no qualms about opening the door to more of the same when it comes to Taylor Swift fans. You’d think after the recent stabbing at the stadium, caution would be in order. Especially with the general hysteria this concert has incited. What’s the liability for the city if someone’s property is trashed, a car is broken into, or an ambulance can’t get through the street because of this duo’s general invitation to hundreds of thousands of fans?
The upcoming concerts should provide a healthy infusion of cash and incremental sales tax to the city’s limping bottom line, which all of us should welcome. But we won’t be surprised if a week from now, Gillmor and Watanabe are howling about mayhem in the streets and blaming Taylor Swift, the 49ers, and their colleagues on the city council for an entirely avoidable mess that they themselves invited.