State of the City

The State of the City address is kind of like what going to synagogue was like for me as a kid. I start off reasonably content, but before long I’m turning pages to see just how much longer it’ll last. Then I eat a lot of cake.

Wasserman mostly just talked about the good stuff, which is why we got out about 10 minutes ahead of schedule.  He praised Dirk Lorenz for being a good guy and briefly touched on the loss of the A’s and the crummy economy.

Then he started on the really happy stuff, like the BART extension and the new grade separations on Washington Boulevard and Paseo Padre Parkway, and the new Kristi Yamaguchi playground and Water Park, and, of course Solyndra and its future solar panel plant got a mention too.

He even said that there has been a 38 percent reduction in euthanasia at the shelter. Having done our Pet of the Week page for two years, I can say that is great news, because they were sometimes killing nearly 100 cats a week during kitten season. But I wonder if that would have made the cut during a better economy when there was more development to talk about.

Nothing was said about Centerville, or the Globe, or Patterson Ranch or Irvington. Niles got a mention because the Town Plaza should be finished this year. No talk of layoffs or upcoming labor negotiations. No talk of NUMMI’s future.

Mostly, if you read the Argus, there wasn’t any new news except for Linens N’ Things closing and the Kristi Yamaguchi Always Dream Playground breaking ground in May.

Matt Artz


  1. Matt – and why, praytell, was Mr. Lorenz singled out for particular praise? Surely His Honor had good and plenty reasons for giving the newly-minted Chair of our Planning Commission a big Mayoral “atta boy”.

  2. From Matt’s article in the Argh –

    “”Some saw the A’s as our economic stimulus package to lead us to economic sustainability and bring with it the pride and esteem that goes along with being a major league city,” Wasserman told several hundred guests at the Fremont Marriott.

    With the A’s out of the picture, Wasserman promoted luring more clean-energy firms to the city. He noted that earlier this month, Solyndra, a Fremont-based solar panel manufacturer, received a $533 million federal loan to build a second plant in Fremont, that Wasserman said will add 1,000 new jobs.”


    Isn’t it better strategically in the long run to diversify the City’s business base and not tie our success to one business (a sports team)? And if we are going to concentrate on one industry, make it a growth industry like green technology, not an entertainment-based industry whose bottom line is dependent on discretionary income.

    Sounds like even the Mayor has been forced to admit that Solyndra will bring us 1000 permanent, skilled, year-round, well-paid jobs – the stadium would have brought us a few seasonal, part-time security and concession jobs. Sometimes things just work out for the best.

    Also, it would be nice to have a Mayor who would view Fremont with “pride and esteem” even if it is not the home of a sports team. Talk about conditional love.

    Didn’t see any mention in Matt’s article about why Dirk got that pat on the back . . .

  3. Irvington, you are absolutely correct with your question, “Isn’t it better strategically in the long run to diversify the City’s business base…?” This is commonly referred to as a no-brainer.

    I personally think we have gained more pride and esteem for seeing the stadium deal for what it really was, a black hole for our city’s financial future.

  4. With all the negative press Mr. Wolff is accumulating these days it’s incredulous we are still lamenting his departure. But, I guess it’s like finding out someone you loved was fooling around behind your back. You just can’t bring yourself to believe you were being used.

    Here’s the latest from sports columnist Monte Poole:


    A couple excerpts:

    “HE MATERIALIZED before us four years ago, harmless as morning sun, a 69-year-old man with a twinkle in his eye and an easy grin beneath a head of thin white hair.

    Longtime Oakland City Council member Ignacio De La Fuente, as skeptical as they come, was instantly charmed. After several meetings with avuncular Lew Wolff, “Nacho” proclaimed Wolff to be a team owner committed to civic cooperation.

    Uncle Lew, as we have discovered, deftly disguised his intention — which, as of a couple weeks ago, was to abandon Oakland at the earliest convenient opportunity.
    “Wolff once had Oakland’s political establishment eating out of his hand. He had come to rescue the team from the wicked Steve Schott, and he was reaching out in ways Schott had not. Uncle Lew was, by comparison, so warm.

    Now that we’ve seen him play hardball with such an unforgiving edge that his buddy must intercede, just to offer the appearance of fairness, we know better than to turn our collective back.”

  5. Doug, it’s not Lew Wolff’s abilities as a businessman you should be lamenting. It is our city leader’s inability to play at his level. What happened with the A’s is much more a reflection on us then him.

  6. Marty, I think Monte Poole’s column clearly indicates we should have been much more wary than we were. I totally agree with your assessment. What’s the old saying about fool me once?

  7. The mayor thanked Dirk for his “marvelous contributions” to the Chamber of Commerce. The speech was a chamber sponsored event. We were all treated to the initiation of its board of directors, which if I recall, didn’t include Dirk for the first time in a long time.

  8. I love initiations – any verbal harassment, scavenger hunts, sleep deprivation, blindfolds, duct tape or spankings involved? Ah, memories . . .

    Thanks for the info on Dirk, Matt. It’s nice to know he’s contributing marvelously to those who support him.

    Which brings to mind another issue – why is the State of the City address always sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce? For one thing, the City surely has facilities large enough to accommodate those who would wish to attend an un-sponsored event. We don’t see the Federal “State of the Union brought to you by Coca Cola” or the “California State of the State, sponsored by Target”.

    If it is of benefit to the City to have the address sponsored, why is it always the Chamber doing it? Perhaps other local groups like the League of Women Voters or Washington Hospital would like a shot.

    For way too long there has been an overly-chummy relationship between City management and the Chamber. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any relationship at all, just that perhaps the City should see other people. Give ’em the old “it’s not you, it’s me – I just need some space” routine.

  9. Doug – since the subject of the A’s came up, I thought you might like this humorous piece I found in the East Bay Express this morning:

    “A’s to Swap Frat Boy Owners

    Speaking of the former president, Bush is reportedly leading a team of investors who want to purchase the Oakland A’s. As a onetime owner of the Texas Rangers, Bush is said to be anxious to get back among his intellectual peers — Major League Baseball owners. Bush also has told reporters that he can’t wait to s#@t on the City of Oakland and the team’s fans, noting that after watching other A’s owners do it over and over again, he wanted to “get in on all the fun, too.” He also is said to want revenge for Oakland’s support of Barbara Lee.

    Bush is reportedly ready to jettison the team’s plans to move to San Jose. The former president says he has a better spot in mind: Guantanamo Bay Prison. Bush noted that Cubans are rabid baseball fans and players and that the former torture chamber is only ninety miles from Florida. “If Obama closes Gitmo and normalizes relations with Cuba, this is a perfect place for baseball.” ”


    Appologies for the naughty word, I sanitized it a bit – blame it on the Express.

  10. Lou V –

    Another thought re Chamber sponsorship of this thing – what’s up with the exhorbitant fees for entry to this. Shoudn’t a “state of the union” presentation be open to all who wish to participate as oppposed to just those who can afford it ?

    If the admission price is to cover lunch (musta been a nice lunch) , I suggest you give folks the option of buying and paying for a lunch – either retire AFTER the presentation to lunch for those who wish to pay to do so – OR – give out “lunch” tickets to those who paid – the rest can enjoy their home-made PB&J and carrot sticks . . . .

    A price of admission to such an important statement by our Mayor is poor planning (at best) or an intentional barrier to participation (at worst).

  11. Anon,
    Funny you should mention the fact that State of the City addresses aren’t really open to the public. Five years ago I covered Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates’ State of the City Address. I wrote a standard story, but came in the next day to see that the editor had put his name on the story and added several paragraphs TO THE TOP about the pay-to-view aspect of the event. I nearly quit over it.
    Here’s a link to the story: http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2004-04-16/article/18655?headline=Mayor-Gives-Speeches-For-Paying-Customers

  12. Oh, Anon, you’ve hit on one of my pet peeves. By the time I checked the Chamber website this year, the event was sold out and the only prices still listed were $700 to sponsor a table and a $1500 fee for some other type of sponsorship.

    Like you, I think that delivering the State of the City Address is a service which the Mayor should provide to the residents, it is part of his duties as Mayor, and we should not have to pay to hear it live. While, under normal circumstances, I would pay good money to keep The Mayor as far away from me as possible, if he is going to make a statement on what his plans are for the City, tax-paying residents should not be further charged to hear him speak.

    I see Newark lists their Mayor’s speech as “Cost to attend is $35 for Chamber of Commerce Members, $45 for Non-Chamber Members, and Gallery seating is at no charge.” If Fremont has any cheap seats, they’re sure not publicizing the fact.

    Perhaps Gus can fill us in on how this event evolved into the elite function that it is today, but whatever path it has taken, it is time for a review of this practice. The people’s business should not be too expensive for the people to watch.

  13. Now why would our Mayor agree to appear in front of “the mob” whose exercise of democratic free speech gave him such a fright a while back that he said he’s have to wear a flak jacket in order to meet with them? If you don’t set a reasonably high monetary bar at the door, all the riff-raff might show up, and before you know it, the Mayor could be dodging a size 12 loafer.

    All those nice, well-heeled Chamber members are so well-behaved and more than happy to pony up to get in; they’ll probably write him a few campaign checks on the side. Yes, I know he’s termed-out, but when has that ever kept a politician from taking a donation?

  14. So, let me get this straight. The “State of the city” is not really presented in a public forum, e.g. like the city council chamber that could be telecast via the local TV channel and streamed via the web? And if a Fremonter wanted to listen to that, they would have to go to this event sponsored by the Chamber and pay an entry/event admission fee? When can I find more information on this? I went to the city website and it has a link for “More Information” that takes me nowhere: http://fremont.gov/CurrentNews/news090331stateofcity.htm

  15. D –

    I assume that the City broke the link you cite either when the event sold out or when the speech was over. There is still a link on the Chamber of Commerce website


    that you can only find by going through their calendar.

    In case the page is removed by the Chamber, it reads:

    State of the City Address and Lunch

    This event is being displayed for reference purposes only !
    Tuesday, March 31, 2009
    noon-2pm, reg.11:30

    Location: Fremont Marriott Hotel
    46100 Landing Pkwy.
    Fremont, CA 94538 Related Site
    Phone: (510) 795-2244 Event Forecast
    The Fremont Chamber of Commerce is pleased to present the State of the City 2008 on Tuesday, March 31st from noon to 2:00 p.m. at the Fremont Marriott. Mayor Bob Wasserman will discuss key developments and important issues facing our city, and we will also salute our Chamber volunteers and install our new officers. Registration for the event begins at 11:30 a.m. and lunch will be served at noon.

    Get more info by calling the Chamber office at (510) 795-2244.

    Sponsorship opportunities are available at $700 for table sponsorship and $1,200 for event sponsorships. Sponsorship packages include various forms of recognition at the event and in advertising for the event.

    For more details, contact Nina Moore at (510) 795-2244 x107 or nmoore@fremontbusiness.com.

    Online registration for this event is no longer available

    Please call 510-795-2244 to see if there is any space left

    While the speech is usually broadcast on public access TV after it is given at the Chamber, I’ve been unable to find a website for the local PATV site. TV Guide only lists it as “Government Access Programming”, with no specific programs listed. The City web page for Council webcasts shows a link to the 2008 address; the 2009 address is not posted as of this writing.

    Is it just me, or does this give the appearance that The Mayor has issues which he wishes to discuss only with Chamber members and others who can afford to take a nice long lunch during the middle of a work day and pay to attend? If these are, in fact, ‘key developments and important issues facing our city”, why is the speech not open to the public?

    Correction – I stated in an earlier post that sponsorship was $1500; as the above info shows, I was off a bit and sponsorship was, in fact, listed at $1200.

  16. Lou V,
    Thanks! I also heard from another Chamber member that the Mayor is a constant presence at their board of Directors meetings and that some of their members/directors feel that the association is too close for comfort and that the Chamber almost feels like an extension of the Mayor’s office. From the Chamber’s website, I see that they do list the Board of Directors (http://www.fremontbusiness.com/aboutDirectors.htm). But Bob Wasserman is not listed as a one. So if what the member told me is true, what is the Mayor doing in the Chamber’s board meetings?

  17. This is interesting (to me, anyway) – the text of the Chamber listing (shown in Lou’s post above) describes the Mayor’s speech as the “State of the City 2008”, to be presented at the 3/31/2009 Chamber meeting.

    The link on the City’s website for the “State of the City Webcast (2008)”


    shows it as the “State of the City 2008” and the date that it was delivered as 3/31/2008.

    I haven’t had time to watch the whole webcast yet but it is apparently last year’s speech, since the photo used shows the Council members including Cho, who is not on currently on the Council.

    Did the Chamber intend to list the 3/31/09 event as the 2009 speech (rather than 2008)?

    Poor Bob – D’s last post reminds me of that loser friend who always shows up at your parties even though they’re not exactly invited. Even if members of the Chamber would prefer not to have the Mayor there, how would they let him know that? He’s not exactly famous for dealing well with rejection, or even questioning for that matter.

    If we were dealing with a real person, we could count on our Mayor to clue us in on why he keeps showing up at Chamber Directors meetings when he’s not a Director, but given that we have the Mayor that we have, we may never know what’s going on in his head.

    I am comforted, however, to hear that some Chamber members have the sense to know when a relationship with a City official is getting “too close for comfort”, rather than looking for new and creative ways to exploit the situation.

  18. So many things to talk about!

    The Chamber first did a “SOTC” program in the early 1980’s, when Leon Mezetti was mayor. It was a breakfast session and Leon was Leon (you had to know him.) His speech was about three sentences long. “We’re doing okay. I just came back from a trip to Japan and they are really screwed up. Are there any questions?” Really! No hands went up. “Are there any questions at all?” Again, no hands went up. “No questions????” Finally a hand went up. Ed Campbell, then a fire captain and later our county supervisor, sitting at Leon’s table. “Yes, Captain Campbell. What is your question?” Campbell, “Can I have your ham?” End of questions, end of speech.

    The following year, the chamber prepared a list of questions and prepared 3×5 cards so members could ask questions. That didn’t work either and the event went away.

    Sometime, about 2000, I thought it would be a good idea to do a SOTC presentation, following a news report of San Jose’s mayor making a presentation at the convention center. They charged a small fee and pretty much sold out the place with the receipts going to some charity, I think.

    We looked for a sponsor or a venue big enough to do it and settled on the chamber, coincident with their installation of officers. I think it was 2000. It was successful and we were happy until Bill Shriver, one of our constant observers, commented to us about having to pay to hear the speech. Following that, we still did the chamber, but we did a second event in the council chamber for those who wished to attend. Maybe the fact that the speech is available on line and is broadcast on public access has made the second showing no longer viable. I found that the second presentation was better because I had the chance to practice once and I had no time constraint. The chamber event had a time limit which, for a long winded person like me, was a deterrent.

    As for Dirk. My last SOTC had a section honoring local heroes. First those who had personally gone the extra mile for one reason or another, then a section where I singled out business heroes, businesses which were a major part of the fabric of our city. I said to pick out any positive event in Fremont and you would find at least one of four businesses listed as sponsors, NUMMI, Fremont Bank, Dale Hardware, and Fremont Flowers (Dirk’s business.) I think it is the same today although there might be a few more. On top of that, Dirk has been President of the chamber, chair of the Arts Festival for many years, and active in the Centerville Chamber. Being a Planning Commissioner is a small part of his contribution to Fremont and, whether you agree with him in that service or not, he has given far more to the city than most. Being recognized by the chamber or the mayor for his service is highly appropriate. We can disagree on issues all the time and still honor someone for his work to better his community.

    Appropriateness of the chamber serving as the host. Totally appropriate because the chamber represents a large segment of our community, the small businesses which provide much of the employment and most of the services we all depend on. Appearing before the chamber at a lunch is no different than speaking at any organized group in town. You do not have to agree with people to be their mayor. Once the election is over, you are the mayor of everyone, not the 41% who voted for you. If you speak to any group, religious, business, fraternal, service, you are not endorsing their views or beliefs, but rather you are recognizing that each group is part of the whole that makes up your community.

    The mayor and the chamber board. In many cities around the country, the mayor is an ex-officio member of the board of the chamber (sits but has no vote.) It is important that the chamber and the city are on the same page and, if the mayor’s presence helps do that, it is fine. If there are people on the board who have problems with that, they should raise them and clear the air. I think the city has a rep on the board to give them an input, anyway.

    “well heeled” chamber members. I bet there are a lot of people struggling out there to make a buck who would take exception with that characterization. It is bad out there. I understand Cafe Bona Sera has closed and I wonder how others are surviving.

    I am certain the 2009 speech will get posted on the city web site when it is ready. It has only been two days, so give them time. And, they should also post the schedule for watching it on cable.

    And, again as I have said in the past, argue with the issues and not the personalities. Bob Wasserman did the right thing for the right reasons in making the speech. You may not agree with what he said, but give him credit for at least saying what he believes. I actually like it when people disagree with me. It gives me something to argue about and it helps me to refine my thinking, and to grow.

  19. Ahh, but Gus –

    That the constituency can *listen* and *watch* is different than being able to interact when the current mayor asks “Are there any questions ?” –

    I for one would love to attend a state of the company meeting and would love to have the opportunity to ask a question or two if given the opportunity. I can’t afford the time off in the middle of the day and I won’t pay for the “privledge” to do so..

    I think your historical perspective is interesting. And I think it makes the point that perhaps we got to where we are through no conscious intention to inhibit interaction with the larger community during this important annual presentation.

    Let’s move into the here and now – I’ll make the suggestion that the Mayors office should publicize well in advance and arrange for a public presentation of the state of the city message and allow reasonable opportunity for question and answer following same. I also recommend that this presentation be made free of charge at an appropriate venue and time convenient to a majority of working public – like in the evening on a weeknight at a local high school auditorium for example.

  20. I knew you’d have the 411 on the history of this, Gus. What a memory. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast.

    A few things:

    First, the State of the City is not just another speech. I don’t argue with the Mayor addressing the Chamber. They do represent a segment of the community, but not the whole community. However, an important speech like the State of the City should be open to all comers, particularly in light of the Mayor’s recent dust-up with the folks he was hired to represent.

    You see, it’s all about perception. This event may have evolved as it has for reasonably innocent reasons, but it’s taken a hard right into the zone where it gives the appearance that only people who can pay and who are available for an extended period in the middle of a working day can attend, thereby giving the additional impression that those people count more than the “average guy”. You can’t ask questions to a webcast. It’s time for a change.

    After the year we’ve had with this stadium fiasco, this was one time that the Mayor had the opportunity to change things up and choose to include regular citizens in this event. It’s unfortunate that he’s so tone-deaf to public opinion that he chose to stick with business as usual.

    What would have been the down-side? If they had extended themselves to be inclusive of the community at large even one time and nobody showed up, they could have happily gone back to doing it at the Chamber every year, saying that they tried to open it to the public but nobody came.

    If the Chamber is the sponsor, where does the money from the event go? To community services? Is it donated to charity? Or is it used to put forward the agenda of the Chamber, which may or may not match up with the agenda of a good many of the residents, who the Mayor is equally elected to represent.

    The Chamber is an independent organization and is free to honor Mr. Lorenz for anything they wish. When the Mayor honors someone on behalf of the residents of this town, I certainly have a problem, and I don’t think I’m the only one. You see, we were shown flat evidence that Mr. Lorenz was completely in the bag for the A’s at a time when we were reasonably relying on the objectivity of our representatives. We have a right, some may say we have a responsibility, to call him on that, and to remember it and to remind others of it if his name ever appears on a ballot. I personally find it insulting to see his name on the same line with the word “hero”.

    “You do not have to agree with people to be their mayor.”
    “. . . give him credit for at least saying what he believes.”
    Now, you’re not going to try to justify that “mob” remark, or the Mayor’s generally acidic attitude, are you, Gus? Really? Have I been wrong in thinking that there has never been a lot of love lost between you the the current Mayor? Is this really the kind of guy you want to try to defend? You were one of our best Mayors, Gus. Please, don’t throw away the good will you’ve earned on somebody like this.

    You help me grow; I’m returning the favor. Symbiotic, no?

  21. Gus, Thanks for explanation / History. I have been a resident of Fremont for over 50 years and I keep learning about my city. I think you provide a great public service by doing this. Thanks again

  22. Lifer,

    Maybe it comes from having been there, but I try very hard to separate the office from the person or the issue (I admit I couldn’t do that during the last presidency) so my comments are based on that view. I disagree with Bob Wasserman on many things across a spectrum of issues, but I have tried to keep a civil relationship. Having a different view on issues does not change personal relationships, but it does either restrict your interactions or raise them to a louder level. I often say I disagreed with my mother on many things, but I still loved her.

    Based on some experience with the Marriott banquest process, I don’t think there is much profit from the cost of the lunch, at least from the member price. And, I am sure the profit goes into the budget of the chamber itself.

    Also, as far as doing the presentation again, I would make the presentation as often as people would come. Maybe I am just a ham, but telling the story of our successes is the best part of the job. Even the failures are worth talking about if you show you have learned something from them.

  23. Gus,

    You see, your reply proves again to me that you’re what I always believed you to be; a gentleman. How did you ever make it in politics as long as you did? I sincerely hope that we’re turning a corner these days so that people with perspective and understanding can come back into public service. It’s been a while.

    Of course, being unencumbered by public service (now that I’m retired from civil service) I can let my personal prejudices run wild and free.

    I’m thinking that you may have enjoyed your speechifying not so much because you were a ham, but because back in the day the City had actual successes upon which you could brag. What’s Bob-o going to enthuse about, the water park? The police station being seismically unsound? Stores going under? Schools in lock-down? The “no response to burgular alarms” policy?

    “Even the failures are worth talking about if you show you have learned something from them.” That is so true, but when was the last time the Current Occupant showed us that he has learned anything from one of his many failures? He can be on the front page of the paper passing out all the Meals on Wheels he wants, but he’s never apologized for insulting half of the residents of this town during the stadium debacle. He posesses a true Bushian attitude.

    Finally, the Chamber is comprised of business owners; I doubt seriously if they would continue to sponsor this event if it was not turning a profit. Also, the profit need not be entirely monetary; their sponsorship grants them access that the “regular guys” don’t have.

    Take care, Mr. Mayor, and thanks for posting. Do you think, once his term is over, we’ll see Bob here sharing his thoughts with us? Maybe he’s already here – hmmm.

  24. San Francisco Business Times article:
    I-880 cities working to develop a sense of ‘place’

    Cities on the Interstate 880 corridor in southern Alameda County are undergoing a renaissance, transforming obsolete downtowns into environmentally sound destinations — “places” — based on public transit, entertainment, work, shopping and services.

    Fremont — after almost 50 years — is getting its central business district, 100 acres bounded by Fremont Boulevard, Mowry Avenue, Paseo Padre Parkway and Walnut Avenue and containing the BART station, to blossom.

    David Cropper, managing director at TMG Partners, the San Francisco developer working on Fremont’s central business district.

    “It seems to me the key is finding what kind of ‘place’ can be well made in these cities, rather than just reproducing the model next door,” he said.

    “We are really too early, regarding Fremont,” Cropper said. “The next steps are to meet with the city in the coming months to scope the rezoning and environmental documents required to make the project a reality. Concurrently, we will be doing site planning and starting preliminary building designs, but all of that has to follow the city’s work to rezone the property.”

    Link to complete article:

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