In case you have forgotten, Mayor Lisa Gillmor and her council cronies torched the Santa Clara Convention Center management in 2018. The Chamber of Commerce had managed the center for 40 years and had just reported a $2 million profit.
Gillmor replaced the Chamber, and it was almost immediately that the center’s profits dropped by 60%. This was even prior to COVID. Then, with the virus, convention business really went south.
Defrocked San José convention center manager, Dan Fenton, was hired to replace the Chamber, find a new manager and reinvent the convention center. His company’s — Jones Lang Lasalle — financial package should make city officials blush. Over $800,000 spent to date, which is about the same as the Chamber’s total former convention center staff. Fenton’s credentials for the job were losing San José taxpayers over $10 million through incompetence and out-of-control expenses, according to a 2007 grand jury report.
Santa Clara’s convention facilities desperately need a facelift and a new face. The center has been treated like a third-assistant stand-in facility without direction. It could and should be one of the focal locations in the Bay Area, attracting high attendance meetings and conventions.
Fenton has not led the charge for making this facility more than a stepchild in the City’s inventory. Consider the hotels, restaurants, Great America, Levi’s Stadium and the host of services available within blocks and just minutes from our international airport.
This center should now be humming and running on all cylinders. The pent-up demand is enormous and it’s time to strike while folks still have money to spend.
So far, it appears to be a ho hum cushy job for the San Jose outcast.
We have to ask…Why is he still there?
The Convention Center was just another of Gillmor’s gutting actions to reshape Santa Clara. Her motto appears to be “If it’s working, wreck it.”
Like a scythe through a wheat field, Gillmor axed City Manager Julio Fuentes. Who, by the way, came to Santa Clara inheriting a $42 million deficit and left the City with a $53 million surplus! Gillmor spent those funds and millions more.
She ousted highly respected City Attorney Ren Nosky, municipal finance expert Gary Ameling, along with a host of long-term City employees.
She hired City Manager Deanna Santana, who managed to carve out for herself a financial package and retirement plan that rivals those of tech executives — who are expected to make money for shareholders, not lose it.
And Gillmor plans to run for Mayor again?
Seriously, you have to ask; why is she still there?
Editor’s note: Miles Barber formerly served on the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce Board.