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Suds Jain and Youth Soccer League Politicking – Opinion

Even before he was elected, Council Member Suds Jain was a thorn in the side of the go-along, get-along Old Boys club of Santa Clara politics. Consider:

  • He has advocated tirelessly for a Santa Clara sustainability manager. This position has been added, but only after City Hall brought a raft of $200,000+ new managers on board.
  • He has pointed out uncomfortable truths to the City Council; for example, a development proposal featuring Silicon Valley’s first and only skyscraper that would have a higher population density per acre than Manhattan.
  • He regularly insists that developers create realistic traffic demand plans and be held accountable for accumulated traffic impacts, something that wasn’t done by his developer-friendly predecessors.
  • He has argued that the community should have low-cost use of the facilities and services it pays for, challenging the policy of “full cost recovery.”
  • He campaigned against building Levi’s Stadium as an unwise venture for the City when it was Lisa Gillmor’s and past Councils’ cherished objective.

Jain insists on basing policy decisions on facts and bottom-line benefits to residents, even when the analysis challenges long unquestioned civic protected interests. For example, selling 10,000 acres of empty land in the “loneliest town in California.” The land costs the City money every year and has proven itself valueless for any City purpose, and was last appraised at $4 million — before it was burned by a wildfire.

Gillmor’s answer to this logic was “Santa Clara has a policy of not selling land.”

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All of this makes him a favorite target of Santa Clara’s Safe Space for Bigots, hosted by Robert Haugh with the active endorsement of Mayor Gillmor. There, Jain is regularly ridiculed as either a dupe or co-conspirator of the diabolical 49ers. They can’t seem to make up their collective mind on this point.

Jain’s latest offense is a proposal to make money from City-owned facilities; specifically, from renting the Youth Soccer Park parking lot during Levi’s Stadium events when the park isn’t in use — frequently according to an informal sampling. The highly political and Gillmor-aligned Santa Clara Youth Soccer League — where Gillmor’s husband is a coach and sometimes board member — was quick to misrepresent this proposal as a proposal to give the soccer park to the satanic cabal over on 4949 Marie DeBartolo Way. Gillmor quickly repeated the lie, which was then broadcast repeatedly by Haugh and his cadre.

But this particular act of character assassination goes beyond Gillmor’s customary Nixonian fixation on destroying those on her enemies list — a broad umbrella covering anyone who doesn’t agree with her all the time. In this case, it’s Gillmor carrying water for the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League (SCYSL).

The soccer park brouhaha reveals a deeper fact about Santa Clara politics and the reason that the soccer league, via its unregistered political arm Stand Up For Santa Clara — whose stated address doesn’t exist — is so busy in Santa Clara politics. Stand Up’s founders and operators are or have been SCYSL officials, and the group has actively engaged in City campaigns since 2016, propagandizing online through social media, mass emails and organizing political rallies. They regularly broadcast Haugh’s libelous posts.

The motive behind the soccer league’s politicking is simple: the constraining resource for soccer leagues is space to play, and land in Santa Clara costs in the neighborhood of $6 million an acre.

Now, we’re all in favor of City investments in community facilities, especially programs and facilities for our kids. We also favor investment in facilities that bring events and performances that improve the quality of life here. We also favor consideration of facilities that bring prestige to the City, provided they also bring a commensurate return on that investment.

What we don’t favor is disproportionate public investment in facilities that benefit private organizations. Not all young people play soccer, and even fewer of them get to play at the Youth Soccer Park.

As the Weekly reported in 2017, between 2014 and 2018, 63 percent—$33.2 million—of the $52.7 million in Parks and Recreation capital spending was on maintaining and building soccer fields, including a new $20 million soccer park. That number was nearly twice Santa Clara’s investment during that time in all other recreation facilities—parks, pools, playgrounds, baseball fields, community gardens and walking and biking trails. Since then, the City has spent an additional $38 million on soccer facilities.

While soccer’s percent of the P&R capital project budget was almost the same in 2017-18—58 percent—as it was in 2014-15, the dollars dedicated to soccer fields grew almost 700 percent to $13.3 million between 2014-15 and 2017-18. In both 2015-16 and 2016-17, 68 percent of the P&R budget went to soccer fields. In 2018-19, that number was 68 percent, principally for the new Reed St. soccer park.

Clearly, the SCYSL has been highly successful in getting City taxpayers to finance its requirements. But the City isn’t similarly generous to other interests. For example, City Hall’s analysis last year considered the famed Roberta Jones theater a disproportionate cost and the already measly grants to arts groups were expenses that could be cut. (The grants were restored, but only after a public outcry.)

In 2019, City Hall wanted to charge Showtime about $16,000 for the theater for its annual fundraiser for senior health services and the Historic Home Tour $3,000 to use the Senior Center, for a volunteer thank-you dinner — losing the Tour’s annual Senior Center donation.

The last time Santa Clara considered investing in a community theater was the 1970s. The City has only one dedicated baseball diamond and the once world-renowned Santa Clara Swim Center continues to deteriorate. But there’s always money, it seems, for soccer.

But the soccer league may be pushing its luck. Not only is it lobbying for outsized public investment in its playing fields, it acts like those resources belong to them, instead of the taxpayers. And they have enjoyed some public success in blurring the difference between being a user of public facilities and the owner of them. Otherwise, there would be no reason for a soccer league — even one so favored in the handing-out of public resources — objecting to the use of a public parking lot when they’re not using the fields.

We have a proposal: let the SCYSL buy the soccer park. Then they can do, or not do, anything they want. At market price, say $35 million, the sale should be enough to cover Santa Clara’s deficit.

*If the soccer league wishes to provide evidence to the contrary, we are happy to amend the editorial. However, denial via Robert Haugh is not rock-solid evidence. Quite the contrary.

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