Norm Mineta statue unveiled at San Jose airport terminal

Norm Mineta statue unveiled at San Jose airport terminal

Norm Mineta towered more in character than physical stature, but even the bronze statue standing high atop a granite pedestal unveiled Thursday at San Jose Mineta International Airport could never be big enough for everything he was.

“He was always a San Jose guy, the pride of San Jose,” U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who was joined by Rep. Anna Eshoo and Rep. Ro Khanna at the dedication ceremony, said of Mineta, who died in May of 2022. “I’m so glad we have this statue to remind us of the role model he was and is.”

State Sen. Dave Cortese remarked that one day after we’re all gone, kids may ask who Mineta was and why he’s got an airport named after him and a statue, too. Then, he hopes, the stories will start.

They’ll hear about a 10-year-old San Jose Cub Scout who was interned along with his family and thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II, who became mayor of his hometown — the first Asian American to lead a major U.S. city — and later a 20-year member of the House of Representatives, U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton and Secretary of Transportation under George W. Bush. They’ll hear about how he sponsored the law that gave Japanese Americans reparations and an apology for their incarceration. And how he gave the unprecedented order to ground every civilian flight immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

Mineta’s wife, Deni, and his sons, David and Stuart, helped unveil the statue, which stands in the baggage claim area of Terminal B. The likeness, created by San Jose State instructor and sculptor Steven R. Davis, depicts a standing Mineta with his right hand over his heart, a slight smile on his face. The granite block beneath it is engraved with his story and the names of donors who contributed to the piece.

The three-year project, which began before Mineta’s death, was a labor of love and gratitude by Quest Valley Charities, a nonprofit with a goal of publicly honoring Silicon Valley leaders. The group, led by former Santa Clara County Supervisor Rod Diridon Sr. and former County Schools Superintendent Colleen Wilcox, raised $200,000 from more than two dozen businesses, civic groups and individuals.

The terminal Thursday was a who’s who of Mineta’s friends and colleagues, and it was almost even bigger as Diridon revealed Vice President Kamala Harris originally had been scheduled to speak, but her schedule changed and she instead spent the day in Sacramento.

David Mineta said every child with a parent who has died appreciates when people remember that parent and that Thursday’s event was a humbling example of just that.

“He had such deep and meaningful relationships with so many of you,” he said, counting off the connections between his father and speakers including Diridon, Cortese, Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg and former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “It’s what made him carry and represent San Jose wherever he went in the world. You could take Dad out of San Jose, but you could never take San Jose out of Dad. It’s what would touch him most today.”

CLOSING TIME: The San Jose City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to officially close San Pedro Street between Santa Clara and St. John streets, taking a big step toward the creation of a long-awaited pedestrian mall. For practical purposes, the street adjacent to popular San Pedro Square has been closed since almost the start of the pandemic in 2020 through the city’s Al Fresco dining program and a series of temporary permits. But closing the street to vehicle traffic permanently has been a more involved process.

The plan would create a pedestrian thoroughfare down the middle of the street, widening the sidewalks to provide more space for seating and making the street level with them to provide easier access for wheelchairs and strollers. The vehicle exit from the Market Street garage at the north end of San Pedro Street would remain open — as it is now — with vehicles entering on the Market Street side. Other ideas floated at Tuesday’s meeting include removable bollards and a street mural. Of course, no funding exists for any of this yet, but officials are hopeful.

“The journey toward revitalization isn’t complete without a committed financial plan to develop San Pedro Street into a true pedestrian haven,” Randy Musterer, whose restaurant Sushi Confidential opens out onto the street, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “San Pedro Street has the potential to be unlike any others in the South Bay. The community feel, the safety and the unique atmosphere we fostered through these challenging times can be the foundation for a thriving entertainment district.”

SPORTING NEWS: San Jose fans will get some attention from a couple of teams with “San Francisco” in their name this weekend. The San Francisco Giants FanFest tour makes its way to the South Bay with an event at San Pedro Square Market on Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. And if you don’t have tickets to Sunday’s NFC Championship between the 49ers and Detroit Lions — and I’m guessing you don’t — the team’s official South Bay viewing party will take place at San Pedro Social, 163 W. Santa Clara St., starting at 2:30 p.m.