Taxi Op-Ed Sparks Contention between Mayor, Merc Reporter

The sausage-making process of political reporting is rarely clean and often requires unsatisfying, unreported compromises. For this reason, mainstream media outlets rarely allow readers and viewers to step into the kitchen and see the guts. So, in steps Fly. Last month, the San Jose Mercury News had what it thought was a juicy story of influence peddling by first-year San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. City Hall reporter Ramona Giwargis, also new to her job, had an email from a mayoral staffer suggesting his office drafted an op-ed for a local taxi driver to submit to the Merc for publication. The op-ed was written as a response to a previous opinion piece published by the paper, which trashed the mayor’s idea to have drivers for Uber and Lyft go through a fingerprinting program, similar to standard taxis. Liccardo told Giwargis he didn’t know who wrote the letter—he oddly couldn’t even rule himself out—and the Merc decided to go with the story despite the mayor’s objections. But in the rush to make print deadline—an absurdly early 2pm for some stories—the truth came out right after the story was sent to press. It turns out a PR firm drafted the letter for Yellow Cab owner Larry Silva, who then gave it to the mayor’s office, which made no revisions before passing it on to a cabbie. The Merc wrote a correction of sorts casting blame on the mayor’s office for not providing all documents, but a follow-up article muddied the waters by raising new questions. Why Liccardo and his office were involved in the first place is a question no one seems keen on answering, but internal emails show the mayor and his top staffers—chief of staff Jim Reed, Ragan Henninger and Ahmad Chapman—spent an inordinate amount of time on the issue. Particularly sensitive to media criticism, Liccardo now records his side of phone conversations with media, or at least with Giwargis, to make sure his quotes come out the way he remembers.

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9 Comments

  1. Why would anybody in San Jose be surprised . Politics in San Jose have been getting progressively more corrupt .

  2. Another diversion to distract the public from how inept and small town San Jose’s so-called leaders are. Like wasting precious cop time seeking more charges against a whack job cat killer. Not a bad idea though for any politician to tape all interviews with reporters, who are notorious at misquoting or reporting comments out of context.

    • John, your comments are normally very reasonable, but I can’t understand the place you’re coming from. A man kidnaps and kills people’s pets and you think it’s a waste of time to ask the public for more information?

  3. Can we remember the 1000 gift, or 2000 gift from Yellow Cab to Carrasco?

    Wasn’t there an FPPC Probe?

  4. Recording press interviews?! Am I the only one who finds that a bit obsessive??!

    The Mayor is a smart guy, he should know the world is littered with narasistic politicians who cared more about press than policy.

    Liccardo should worry about doing his job not keeping!

  5. It’s the 21st century. Post a link to those emails so we can be the judge of how inordinate the amount of time was. They’re public records, right? And data storage is virtually free.

  6. I think these reporters and politicians should wear body cameras so they will be less inclined to tell lies and be cheats. What do you think?