After the Oct. 23 City Council meeting, I can only assume the Santa Clara Plays Fair advocacy group intends the word 'play' in its theatrical sense. In which case, its troupe might do better to tour its act on the comedy club circuit rather than at City Hall.
Its show bombed when the anti-49ers stadium group flung its fanfold computer paper petition across the width of the Council Chambers in streamer after streamer. It reminded me of the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera when Groucho, Chico and Harpo all try to get through customs with Maurice Chevalier's passport.
The performance wasn't improved by a spontaneous encore from the city's reigning municipal rage-monger, a guy with comedian Lewis Black's psycho delivery but none of Black's cleverness or wit.
Perhaps you shouldn't judge the message by the messenger. On the other hand, as Marshall McLuhan famously said, the medium is the message.
Belligerence, confrontation, adolescent antics, clumsy sarcasm, and snide -- and not-so-snide – insults all telegraph a clear message, although probably not the one SCPF intended.
The message that came through is a zero-sum power play: I win, you lose. It denies compromise and consensus. It's the Bush-Cheney modus operandi. It leads to waterboarding, not fair play.
And tactically, it makes no sense to alienate people right out of the box. Take me, for example.
I have no opinion about the proposed 49ers stadium project. I'm not a football fan. I will probably never set foot in the stadium. If anyone has no horse in this race, it's me.
But after last week's meeting, although I remain undecided about the stadium, I sure do have an opinion about SCPF.
And that's a lose-lose. I didn't gain any more insight into the question and they lost the opportunity to gain a vote.
There are other ways to do things. In fact, there's someone right here in town whose name is synonymous with win-win politics: retired State Senator John Vasconcellos.
The senator was a master at finding consensus with people of widely disparate views. In the process he racked up significant legislative achievements. Since retiring, he's been actively advancing his approach through his non-profit Politics of Trust foundation.
Its guiding principal is simple: "Human beings are innately inclined toward becoming affirming and constructive, responsible and trustworthy." So far the organization has launched three projects to coach and mentor elected officials and advocacy groups in the art of influencing and governing through building common ground.
What does that have to do with the price of a 21st century sports stadium?
Vasconcellos' approach suggests, for a start, assuming that those who disagree with us are honest and want the best for Santa Clara, just as we do. That precludes last week's sideshow.
Second, let's keep the discussion on the issue facing us: Is it a prudent investment for the City? Asking why the Yorks don't ante up to fill the $200 million funding gap is specious. Cities have revenue streams that private businesses don't – taxes.
How does tax revenue look 10, 20, 50 years into the future? Can the stadium help the City reduce its vulnerability to the boom and bust cycles of technology and real estate? Because this would be a regional asset – and a regional sales tax generator -- shouldn't the rest of the region contribute?
These are some of the questions I look forward to hearing answers to as analysis goes forward. However, I'm not likely to tune in to reruns of the Santa Clara Plays Fair show any time soon. Maybe TV Land will air them, right after All in the Family.