As we watch today’s Recreation and Park Commission meeting on extending political insider Tom Hsieh’s no-bid contract to run the once-public Gleneagles Golf Course — which is being contested by a rival group headed by venture capitalist Brian Smith and notorious landlord attorney Andrew Zacks — we can only hope that both sides lose and the public interest somehow reemerges from this muck and mire.
Particularly disgusting is how poor children of color are being used as bargaining chips in this clash of political and economic elites, as public speaker after speaker (mostly from groups with ties to the Mayor’s Office, where Hsieh has long and deep political ties that allowed him to take over this public space nine years ago without a competitive bidding process) tries to make this decision about teaching poor kids from nearly Sunnydale housing project how to golf.
Yes, that’s what these kids really need, to learn how to play one of the most expensive and elitist sports out there, because with a little support from the First Tee program, they can all become the next Tiger Woods, right? Oh, and of course, given that the Mayor’s Office is in on this strange scheme, it’s also about jobs, jobs, jobs, with the building trades unions also supporting Hsieh and his buddies in the Mayor’s Office.
By all accounts, even CW Nevius’ column in today’s Chronicle and earlier coverage by that paper, Gleneagles is in bad physical shape and has been poorly maintained by Hsieh. Nonetheless, Hsieh blamed rising water rates related to the drought for his problem, last month threatening to close the course unless he got a more lucrative deal with run the course, triggering Smith’s bid for the course and his accusations that Hsieh and his buddies in the Mayor's Office are pulling a fast one.
“This is a city resource and it is apparently being mismanaged,” Smith told the commission this morning, noting that he only wants to help bring golf to the masses (his side echoes Hsieh’s ruse about “the children” as part of its sales pitch) because “nobody gets into a water-dependent business during a drought, I can tell you that.”
That raises a good question: Why are we devoting city resources to such a water-dependent use of public space during a drought, in an era of global warming when droughts will only become more frequent? But the broader question is this: Why don’t we just return Gleneagles to the city and let it be managed as part of the large McLaren Park that it’s a part of?
Members of the McLaren Park Collaborative spoke at the hearing, urging the commission not to view Gleneagles separately from McLaren, even as they voiced support for Hsieh and thanked him for his fundraising support of their citizen-based group. That’s Hsieh’s main forte, raising money from the rich, which he has done on behalf of the last three mayoral adminitrations and other political schemes by downtown interests and the city’s various political power brokers.
This whole issue stinks, and it’s hard to even care what’s now being said as the commission heads into a closed session discussion of what to do with Gleneagles, particularly given there’s almost no chance that this mayoral appointed commission of political climbers will vote to reclaim this public space for the broad public interest.
UPDATE: The commission voted unanimously to extend Hsieh's lease of Gleneagles for another nine years, a decision that must be confirmed by the Board of Supervisors next month.