Okay, San Jose Insiders, sharpen your knives. We’re ready for the customary evisceration reserved for those who’ve earned the ire of San Jose’s public employee unions. This week we divine the betting pool for the mayoral prospects of our very own San Jose Inside columnist. Call us crazy, we know, but one shouldn’t count out the dark horse candidate who in 2006 overtook Chamber of Commerce and Labor darlings to clinch the District 6 San Jose City Council seat.

Just two years away now, and the usual suspects have thrown stakes in the ground. Dave Cortese has cast himself as the union guy. Sam Liccardo has claimed the downtown business turf (though attempts to find middle ground on minimum wage raised eyebrows amongst the take-it-to-the-mat crowd). And Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen has published an autobiography of her short life.

The game’s not over though, and several shadow candidates lurk. The improbable Pierluigi Oliverio, on closer inspection, could be a game-changer. Even political strategists in the opposing camp admit he would be “a formidable candidate.”

Oliverio’s insanely popular in the Willow Glen-Rose Garden district, where he received 68 percent of the vote over credible South Bay Labor Council-supported challenger Steve Klein, who waged a serious campaign. Voters in these high turnout precincts disproportionately affect mayoral races, which are sometimes cliffhangers.

Sure, Sam Liccardo won re-election in 2010 with 80 percent of the vote, but that was against, well, Tim Hennessey, who didn’t raise money, wage a campaign or really even live in San Jose. In the face of that marshmallow of a challenge, Liccardo received 6,305 votes. Compare that with the 11,209 Oliverio scored in June — a 77 percent larger base of previous voters if Oliverio decides to run for mayor. Oliverio’s 11k in votes also nearly lapped Ash Kalra’s harvest of 6,671 votes in June, when he squeaked by to get re-elected with 53 percent of the vote over Tim Murphy. (We know, who?) Madison Nguyen was re-elected with 7,625 votes — 54 percent — and she had to fight her way through a recall and a runoff before her November victory. So, any way you look at it, by vote totals, percentages or being ideologically in sync with voters who overwhelmingly passed Measure B in June, Oliverio is not a force to be dismissed.

He maxed out his fundraising without breaking a sweat and threw a well-attended victory party June 24, at which Mayor Reed credited him as a key player in the Measure B landslide.
Oliverio’s independent ways may irk council colleagues, but voters don’t seem to mind. Chuck Reed and Ron Gonzales were lone wolves before they became mayor. P.O.’s strong suit, however, may be his well-established fiscal conservatism. While Cortese, Liccardo and Nguyen have shifted positions over the years to claim the elusive middle, Oliverio has remained a tight-fisted budget hawk and a social liberal. So business seeking a predictable landscape will likely throw money to an Oliverio run.

He has written more than 250 columns for San Jose Inside, so his positions are better documented than pretty much anyone in local political life. And while the others will likely hire political consultants to help draft their positions, Pierluigi keeps his own counsel and manages his own schedule.

His biggest downside may be that he doesn’t project a mayoral image. Then again, neither have most of San Jose’s recent mayors.

Asked to discuss his own electoral prospects, Oliverio waved off speculation in a predictably cavalier fashion. “I’m not participating in this conversation,” he said.

Then he corrected a waiter who mistakenly called him “Pierre.”


The Fly is the valley’s longest running political column, written by Metro Silicon Valley staff, to provide a behind-the-scenes look at local politics. Fly accepts anonymous tips.


  1. His stand on Measure B was a definite plus and I know he truly cares about the future of San Jose. He is also a Democrat. Cool. I am someone who cares about labor also, so I’d like to know his stand on project labor agreements which are good for the city and the people who work here.

  2. Pierluigi has huge, huge, huge positives in a large and active voting block of D6 as SJI points out.

    I agree with SJI that Oliverio would be a formidable candidate, and the Merc might end up endorsing him after looking at all others (and their unsteady ways) just like they did with Pandori 7 years ago.

    I say run, Oliverio run!  Voters respond well candidates who are straight shooters with innovative ideas.

  3. I don’t know if there is a big backlog of unpublished comments or not, but it seems like there should be more give the elapsed time.

    I have to say that the publishing delay hurts the utility and entertainment value of this site.  In cases where public officials post about upcoming votes and the like, or when public meeting agenda are posted by staff writers, it deprives public officials of seeing comments before they cast their votes.

    Getting back to this post, I’m surprised there is no mention of Constant.  I’m not sure how things are in District 6, but my sense from interacting with my neighbors over here in District 1 is that they pay more attention to the school districts and adjacent municipalities, especially Cupertino, than they do to San Jose.  That probably has more to do with the fact that most of us use the services in those adjacent municipalities more than those of San Jose.  That’s probably true of the other areas of San Jose that are adjacent to other municipalities.  That’s why Constant can go on about the porn being viewed in San Jose’s libraries, and no one cares.  We’re all going to Santa Clara, or paying the fee to continue using Cupertino and Saratoga’s County Libraries. Not because we want to or don’t want to see porn, but because we know those libraries will be open daily.

    That that area between San Jose and Campbell that absolutely didn’t want to be annexed by San Jose is probably representative of how most of us living on the edges of San Jose feel.  We wish we weren’t part of San Jose too.  And we don’t care about Downtown, except that it keeps sucking our tax dollars away.  And if any of you “love it or leave it” folks want to pipe up, the answer is going to be gladly.  If you could trade 95129 for 95014 wouldn’t you?

    • The mission statement for this site states “This site is designed to encourage political debate, discussion and change in our city, started by people who value San Jose…”

      You clearly do not value San Jose and have yourself admitted you would rather go to Cupertino/Saratoga libraries. You have also made it clear, and let’s be honest here, San Jose is too ghetto (or low class, or dirty, or something) for you and you prefer richer neighborhoods.  Why are you commenting on this site if you really dislike the city that much?  “We wish we weren’t a part of San Jose too.”  Really, sir, really? Please move. And stop commenting, as well, some of us actually like it here.

      BTW I will take 95127-95122-95132, pretty much anywhere on the East side ANY day over your areas.  I’m sorry it is “us” making your life miserable by daring to enjoy where we live as well as having the audacity to want to be in the downtown area. I also apologize that you hate the very city you live in.  Regardless, Cupertino and Saratoga and the opinionated people too obsessed with image – whether neighborhoods, libraries, landscapes,personal, etc – can just stay out of my hometown, perfectly fine with me.  I’m fine with you guys not caring about us, just realize the feeling is mutual.

  4. Its funny that two in the Picture are the ones who “decimated” public safety! lets see what their legacies are when San Jose is named “one of the top 10 Unsafest Cities” because believe me its coming.with the mass exodus of not only public safety but also other city workers. who would want to live here? who would want to work here? who would want to start a business here?

    • That picture makes perfect sense. It’s the Rotary shaking hands with the Chamber. That’s the combination that assures the massive PAC money used to trash municipal workers can be well allocated in the mayoral election. District 6 of course has significant representatives in these two organizations; the CEO’s who will continue to look to the Chamber influence on the special privileges doled out by these two guys.

      Remember, the largest gainfully employed highly paid block of San Jose residents were not represented in the Measure B election, that is the high tech foreign visa holders who enjoy the American Dream and City services more than the disgruntled few registered voters who continue to be duped by those deflecting the real source of this countries woes to their fellow middle class, who’s share of the pie continues to be eroded by the PAC and Tea Party money machine.

      That picture is eerily similar in its impact on this writer’s resignation for worse things to come, as the one of Romney shaking hands with Ryan as his running mate.

  5. I was watching the Public Safety, Finance & Strategic Support Committee meeting last night and I’m a bit confused. May be some of you Officers, or someone from the POA who reads this blog can answer a question for me.

    Why is the SJPOA refusing to work with the City on hiring retirees to do background checks for people applying to be Police Officers, and for non sworn people who want to work for the SJPD? According to the Police Chief, 17 patrol Officers are being pulled off the streets to do these background checks, thus leaving us 17 Officers short.

    By refusing to cooperate with the City to ease the burden on these poor cops who are filling in, I think that makes it easier for Officers, who have to cover the streets alone, to get killed or injured. I get that the POA doesn’t want outside contractors, qualified or not, because I don’t want them either, but I don’t understand the mentality of not using qualified, seasoned retired cops to do the background checks. 

    Crime is clearly rising here in San Jose, and Officers are getting injured due to short staffing. What’s the deal guys?

    • Kathleen, I think one possible argument against using civilians – any civilians – is this: it makes it that much easier for the city to force lower hiring standards in order to fill the ranks in a city which is now notorious for how poorly it treats its public employees. This is a legitimate concern among many of the officers with whom I have spoken.

      Regardless of whether or not those doing the background checks would be seasoned retired officers, the fact would remain that they would be civilians in the eyes of the City, not protected by a union, and therefore vulnerable to retaliatory actions should they not ‘tow the party (city) line’ when it comes to hiring. We have already heard that hiring standards for certain of the checks and tests have been relaxed, and this squares with our anecdotal awareness that the city cares far less about hiring quality candidates than it does about getting the most bodies for the cheapest cost. Mayor Reed, his allies and Debra Figone all seem to subscribe to the notion that, when it comes to law enforcement, ‘quantity has a quality all its own’. They all act as though you can pay police officers peanuts compared to their peers around the bay and continue to hire the best quality recruits, all the while ignoring the fact that they are struggling to retain the excellent officers already on the rolls.

      Yes, the safety of the public, and of our fellow officers, is of paramount concern, but safety concerns cannot be satisfied by opening yet another avenue to speed the decline of the department. Having sub-par recruits and laterals is not the answer to this problem and we’ve seen the consequences of poor hiring practices in agencies such as New Orleans PD. Having employees in charge of hiring who are vulnerable to the whims and retaliation of someone whom we all see as the most calculating and vindictive city manager and mayor in (at least recent) history is a frightening prospect.

      If Measure B taught us anything, it is that Mayor Reed, his allies and the majority of those who voted in this last election see police officers as a disposable commodity. If the mere fact of its presence on the ballot didn’t inform us of that, the specific language covering disability issues made that absolutely crystal clear. Civilianization of backgrounding and hiring makes it all the easier to create a police force of disposable personnel, but that doesn’t mean we have to see ourselves thus or just lay down and take it without a fight.

      Basically, it’s a trust issue. After Measure B, we don’t trust our employers –  the Mayor, most of the council, the city manager and, sadly, the citizens.

    • SJPOA is against “civilianizing” any job in the police department that is currently being done by a sworn police officer.

      Besides who actually does the hiring? The Office of Employee Relations…PD would have limited if any say in the matter. Can you imagine “retiree” pete constant (or anyone of a number of lazy blowhards)  getting hired to do backgrounds… imagine they type of person he would recommend for the job…

  6. Why would anyone vote for PJ?  This a guy who advocate growth in a suburban fashion that’s lame.  He supports Santana Row as San Jose’s hippest place and wants to see it expand.  He’s not downtown centric but Willow Glen’s own and very suburban minded, not urban minded.  San Jose needs a mayor who would take downtown to the next level and make it one of the best downtown around!  Downtown needs all the attention, not the rest of the city since it’s already in good shape, if not too much of a good shape.  San Jose needs somewhat to elevate downtown and make it vibrant since it’s the city’s living room.  The city needs calling from a candidate who’s passionate about San Jose and give the city all the respects.  He must do the following: make downtown the best and vibrant just like other major cities, continue to provide housing for all income brackets, recruits companies(mainly downtown, not North San JO) and be very aggressively pushing San Jose as a big city and for crying out loud, go out of the way to bring 2024 olympic to San Jose.

  7. Pier Luigi doesn’t have the maturity I would want in a Mayor. The political sign pulling stunt he pulled a year or two reminded me of something a teenager would do.  Liccardo would be a much better pick.

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