Please do not commend Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor for her comments or her vote on Tuesday night in regard to the Santa Clara International Swim Center (ISC). They were disingenuous and another political game using an issue she cares little to nothing about.
Under the glare of the local media lights and the watchful eyes of swimming families, Mayor Gillmor expounded on her deep understanding of what the ISC means to Santa Clara. She wove a tale of a young girl who, at her father’s side, grew up watching the internationally renowned swimmers dive into the pools. How her children also saw the benefits of the ISC.
It was all a media game. Hot quotes to feed her personal public image as the matron of Santa Clara, the defender of “The Santa Clara Way.”
If Mayor Gillmor truly felt strongly about the ISC and what it means to Santa Clara. If she was concerned about its plight. If she cared, she would have done something about it.
In the 1990s, around the time the ISC hit its 30-year expiration date and City staff began expressing concerns about its future, she might have acted. After all, she was on the City Council then.
In 2014, she quickly jumped to the forefront of the fight. She was the city council member who made the motion to give an architectural design firm $850,000 to design, engineer, complete a CEQA report and financial analysis for the new ISC.
In January 2018, the now Mayor Gillmor sat in a Strategic Priority Session of the City Council where the topic of the ISC’s decline was a focal point.
Still nothing happened.
Mayor Gillmor will tell you that the City was poised to act, but then COVID hit in 2020, and it was all for naught. The last time we checked, COVID wasn’t an issue during her 15 previous years on the Council when the ISC’s decline was a repeat agenda item.
Do not take Mayor Gillmor’s feigned surprise at this recent report on the ISC as anything more than politics. She knew what was happening.
Gillmor’s ability to accomplish a task isn’t in question. After all, she was quoted in a 2010 article by the New York Times as the “spokeswoman from the pro-stadium group Santa Clarans for Economic Progress.” She knows how to find money for big projects.
Which leads to another possibility. Mayor Gillmor simply doesn’t care enough.
Take note, Santa Clarans, because Mayor Gillmor pulled out all the stops to deflect blame on Tuesday night. After sympathizing with those D-1 swimmers who have lost their pools and then relating to them with a brief mention of her own children who also play D-1 sports, Mayor Gillmor pulled a tattered old page from her political playbook. She shook her finger at the “unnamed football team” who tried to take her kids’ fields away.
No matter what happens, it’s always the 49ers’ fault. Always.
An outsider might say, but wait, youth sports is important; soccer deserves just as much attention. Santa Clara insiders know better. They know Mayor Gillmor’s husband, Demitri Cacoyannis, helps run the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League (SCYSL), which operates almost exclusively at the Youth Soccer Park that those evil 49ers tried to take away.
They also know that while the ISC was slowly falling into disrepair, Gillmor was voting yes to dedicate $20 million to building the Reed Grant Sports Park. With five soccer fields, the SCYSL uses the new sports park and the Youth Soccer Park almost year-round — more than the City’s own recreation programs. And until last year, SCYSL used the sites for free.
Yes, Mayor Gillmor understands the needs of D-1 athletes…if they play soccer. Providing the City with professional soccer pitches was a mission of Gillmor’s during her two decades on council. Think about the number of times you have heard her go to bat for soccer players and their facilities, using her position on the Council to advocate for protecting and preserving the City’s soccer fields. The City is even spending millions in legal fees to battle the 49ers on the issue. She is a warrior…for soccer.
But how often has Mayor Gillmor used her media pulpit to rally for the International Swim Center? When was the last time she called up her favorite reporters at the San Francisco Chronicle to help out?
For Gillmor, it was never important to maintain the Olympic-caliber swim center. When the Santa Clara Swim Club tried to raise money in 2013 to rebuild the swim center, Gillmor was nowhere in sight. Oh, that’s right, she was busy making sure Levi’s Stadium got built.
But don’t worry, readers, because she’s still there for you. If one hair off of Jed York’s head falls onto that Youth Soccer Park, you’ll hear about it.
Mayor Gillmor and her political allies have often rallied around “The Santa Clara Way.” The way that it has always been done even if it isn’t considered best practices. Santa Clara is, of course, different and, therefore, special. Mayor Gillmor has lived by this mantra on the Council, doing things “The Santa Clara Way” and asking City staff to follow suit.
However, by allowing one of the key pieces of Santa Clara’s greatness to fall into disrepair, Mayor Gillmor has made it abundantly clear that it was never about “The Santa Clara Way.”
Gillmor is not “one of us” or a true “Santa Claran” as she contends. Being born here is not the only deciding factor. The truth is that she is not about protecting, preserving or improving the greatness of Santa Clara.
No, she is a politician, like all others. She is happy to serve the Santa Clara community in the most self-serving way possible.
The rise of soccer and the decline of the ISC is simply proof that her mission is accomplished.