Lurie, after fighting losing battles with more sophisticated political foes in his hometown, is relieved to breathe lighter air. Still, Mayor Hammer did get Lurie to agree to invest from $30 million to $37.5 million of his own money in the ballpark and to pay for any construction cost overruns. Hammer proposes to raise the rest of the money through an increase—from 5% to 7%—in the city's utility tax, a move that does not sit well with a lot of the high-tech folks and other large manufacturers in San Jose, some of whom could see their utility bills increase by six figures. But Hammer, through vigorous schmoozing and a few agreed-upon tax breaks, has persuaded many of them to accept—in principle at least—that having the Giants in town would be worth the cost.
She hasn't won everyone over. T.J. Rodgers, 44-year-old CEO and founder of the Cypress Semiconductor Corporation and one of Silicon Valley's wunder-kinder, objects strenuously to "subsidizing a multimillionaire [Lurie] with a quarter-billion-dollar asset" at a time of economic recession in the valley. "We've got the Japanese in our face, and the mayor is running around with a baseball cap on her head," says Rodgers. "This is a terrible investment when we're losing jobs [Rodgers recently laid off 200 employees] and we don't have enough teachers and police. Lurie's no villain. He'd be a fool not to get the best deal he can. You look for suckers in these deals, which in today's world means government. San Jose is already a major league city in the eyes of most of the world. It's just that the mayor doesn't think so."
The city made its first step into big league sports last fall, when it became home—in name at least—to the San Jose Sharks, an NHL expansion franchise. Despite finishing with the league's worst record (17-57-5), the Sharks enjoyed a hugely successful first season, selling out all 40 of their home dates. Those games, however, were played at the Cow Palace in Daly City, which is in suburban San Francisco. The Cow Palace will be the Sharks' home until the San Jose Arena is finished in the fall of 1993. The arena, a state-of-the-art facility located downtown, is being funded primarily by the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, an arm of the city government, which is putting up about $125 million of public money. (The Sharks are kicking in about $18 million.) The voters in San Jose approved the construction of the arena in 1988—though the margin was narrow.
And the vote will likely be close on Measure G as well. The measure needs only a simple majority to pass. Even if it does, Measure G almost certainly won't win by a two-thirds vote, which it must do to avoid a legal challenge by taxpayers as a violation of California's Proposition 13 tax restrictions. Prop 13 holds that tax increases for a special purpose must win by a two-thirds majority. But Hammer and stall have, in the words of another politician, "camouflaged the measure" by wording it to read that the stadium will be paid for out of "general funds"—general funds dramatically increased, of course, by the higher utility tax.
San Franciscans, meanwhile, observe with a jaundiced eye. Angela Alioto, a member of San Francisco's board of supervisors and the daughter of former Mayor Joe Alioto, has organized a committee to get another proposal for a ballpark on the ballot this November, convinced as she is that San Jose voters will defeat Measure G. Her newest proposal, like the one that was rejected in '89, would call for a stadium to be built at a downtown site.
Jack Davis, a San Francisco political consultant who is a notoriously tough electoral infighter, sees Lurie going down for a fourth time in next week's San Jose vote, and as far as he's concerned, hooray. "Bob Lurie is one of the cheapest bleeps to ever walk down the street," Davis says. "Here's a guy worth nearly $500 million [Forbes magazine, in its most recent listing of the richest Americans, places Lurie's worth at $480 million, most of it inherited wealth], and they want to build a ballpark for him. Public funds should not be used to build a ballpark. What's obscene to me is that taxing essentials—lighting the darkness, taking the chill out of a room, cooking a meal—would be used for this purpose. Bob Lurie should be ashamed of himself."
Davis, acting strictly on his own, he says, distributed 9,000 copies last week of a photograph of a noseless Lurie that will fit over a light switch, the switch occupying the cutout space where Lurie's nose would ordinarily be. FLIP OFF BOB LURIE, the message reads.
Many San Franciscans are more seriously disturbed by native son Lurie's threatened defection. "Losing the Giants would be like losing the symphony, the opera or the ballet," says Angela Alioto.
Says Ed Moose, a San Francisco restaurateur and veteran campaigner for a downtown ballpark, "It would be a disaster, an outrage. Should the Giants leave, the consequences to the spirit, the economy and the national image of San Francisco would be incalculable. Only when they're gone will we realize what a treasure we've so carelessly discarded."
Of course, if they do move, they wouldn't be moving very far, which is Lurie's point. He has always said that keeping the team in the Bay Area has been a top priority—just not in Candlestick Park. He has not, he insists, talked "even casually" to potential buyers from other cities, although he undoubtedly will if he loses in San Jose. Could someplace like St. Petersburg be in the Giants' future? Lurie says this time he's not crying wolf.