Richard Daley, the late Chicago mayor, found himself embroiled in a scandal. He had given his son’s firm a lucrative insurance contract with the city. When the press called him on the nepotism of such an arrangement, Daley became indignant. He argued that he saved Chicago money by giving the contract to his son’s firm. More pointedly, he angrily told the media, a father, in America, has a right to help his son when he goes into business, and he would make no apologies for doing so.
Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, recently got involved in the taxi-TNC fight and used his political power to help a client of his wife, lobbyist Leslee Guardino. This may be an unpopular sentiment, but he was right to do so. Who among us would not pick up the phone to help a family member if we had that ability?
There are vast distinctions between Daley and Carl Guardino. The latter has never held elected office, but his influence in Silicon Valley is enormous. He has helped lead the fight to get BART to San Jose and increase affordable housing. His friendship and support of Sam Liccardo was a major factor in getting the former councilman elected as mayor last year.
So, when the city of San Jose put new restrictions on companies like Uber, which is a Leadership Group member, and Lyft, also a SVLG member and one of Leslee Guardino’s clients, Carl Guardino went to work. From a public relations point of view, he might have worked more effectively using his political clout behind the scenes—but he should get credit for working openly and publicly to achieve his goals.
For the record, the recent policies passed by the San Jose City Council in deference to Uber and Lyft—and subsequently the reduction of regulation upon taxi services—may not prove to be in the best interest of the city.
As outlined in a previous column, the reason for regulating the personal transportation industry in the first place was public safety. Uber and Lyft are, by all reasonable definitions, a taxi service. The relaxing of regulations does not enhance the safety of the public. But there is a contrarian, and mostly libertarian, point of view. In short, the laissez faire argument won the day.
Carl Guardino’s presence and advocacy was key in producing the new policy—and he was able to do it because he has political connections. Most people don’t really understand power, but it’s a simple concept. Power in politics is the ability to get something done. Carl Guardino has that power in San Jose, and what good is having power if one is unwilling to use it?
There will be some who bemoan his influence. Like all sore losers, they will talk of unfair playing fields, undo influence and backroom deals. But, again, all of this was done out in the open—he very publicly used his platform as head of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and a husband, to shape policy at City Hall.
The Leadership Group, while classified as a nonprofit, is the most powerful lobbying entity in San Jose, and indeed the region. The record of achievement speaks for itself. If Carl Guardino chooses to use that power on behalf of his wife’s clients, that is a perk that comes with earned success. People may be envious, but that is how things get done—and no one who exercises power is immune from criticism.
Correction: A previous version of this column did not note that Uber and Lyft are both members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. San Jose Inside regrets the error.