Sam Liccardo: Why San Jose Sued Major League Baseball

Original Joe’s has become a San Jose institution by serving the best eggplant parmesan in the Bay Area for over 50 years. It has thrived in downtown San Jose because their owners, the Rocca family, like so many other San Jose businesspeople, know what it takes to compete. As they compete for the loyalty of their patrons, Original Joe’s has helped to support the college tuitions and mortgages of generations of cooks and wait staff.

An independent study show that downtown hotels, clubs, restaurants, shops, and cafes like Original Joe’s would benefit from the over $83 million in annual spending from the visitors to a downtown ballpark visitors, but they’re denied that opportunity. They’re denied that opportunity because the San Francisco Giants’ lawyers, lobbyists, and billionaire owners are afraid of competition, and Major League Baseball protects them from competition. 

In San Jose, we welcome competition, because we know that an economy that values competition is the same economy that enables Silicon Valley to lead the world in the innovation.  San Jose is already the largest city in Northern California, and every projection tells us that over the next couple of decades, we’ll grow more than the next three largest cities—Fremont, SF, and Oakland—combined. We provide a home to the world’s most talented, diverse workforce, and to hundreds of great companies—from Adobe to Brocade to Cisco to Xilinx—that drive global innovation. Those companies—like the companies in every other American industry—must compete fairly against their peers, as required by federal anti-trust laws. Every American industry, that is, except Major League Baseball. 

We relish the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. This lawsuit is San Jose’s declaration of independence—the time is long since past for San Jose to take its future into its own hands. Our destiny won’t be shaped by billionaire team owners, their lawyers, or their lobbyists. And if Major League Baseball doesn’t want to allow one of their teams to move to San Jose, we’re happy to take their money—as federal antitrust law provides for treble damages for anticompetitive behavior. 

What will this lawsuit cost San Jose taxpayers? The city of San Jose will not pay a dime in attorneys’ fees. One of the finest litigation firms in the nation, the law firm of Cotchett, Pitre, & McCarthy, will take this case without a fee from the city. Federal antitrust law allows them to collect their fee, if we prevail, from Major League Baseball. If we don’t prevail, they don’t collect a fee. If we do, then MLB picks up the tab—along with tens of millions of dollars to be paid to San Jose taxpayers.

How do San Jose taxpayers benefit? Direct net revenues as a result of a half-billion-dollar ballpark development will very conservatively exceed $30 million to the city of San Jose over the next 30 years, according to a 2009 independent published analysis. School districts, the County, and other public agencies would garner tens of millions more. That’s real money that San Jose taxpayers have foregone as a result of the anti-competitive meddling of the San Francisco Giant’s’ ownership.

As the A’s ownership and the San Jose City Council have publicly committed that the stadium will be wholly privately financed, so taxpayers benefit from all of these revenues, to support police, libraries, and other vital city services. 

On Sunday, a sewage pipe backup at the 47-year-old Coliseum forced the A’s and Seattle Mariners to vacate their clubhouses. The opposing teams moved into the same locker room, sharing the one used by the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, the stadium’s other tenant.

Nothing sings “Do you know the way to San Jose?” like a backed-up sewage in locker rooms. San Jose can do better. Hopefully, MLB still knows that tune.

Sam Liccardo is a councilman for San Jose’s District 3, which is one of two city districts that contain land that has been saved for a stadium for the A’s.


  1. So in 47 years San Jose has the sewer problem and a dilapidated stadium too?? Not to mention a team/owner looking to another city for handouts.

    No thanks.

    We already have a sewer problem. Until we flush the Mayor and all 10 of the current council people, our sewer problem will stay infinitely worse than what the Oakland Coliseum is facing now.

    • Exactly as in I agree with everything Sam said. As for all the commenters, I don’t even know why you guys choose to live in San Jose. I’m sure there is a city out there that would better appreciate the cynicism.

  2. What a Joke!

    you say “so taxpayers benefit from all of these revenues, to support police, libraries, and other vital city services.”  What a bunch of BS, this lawsuit is a waste of time and will be tied up in court for years (my guess is 10+)

    Why do you clowns of Chuck always mention how this will help libraries?  We already know you could care less about police and city services because you have already cut them to the bone.

    Why not throw low income housing and homeless camps into the mix since that is where you seem to throw more money at the problem.

    I hope MLB calls for a vote and the owners say screw San Jose.  Clean up your own sewage mess before you talk about Oaklands.

  3. $3 Million/year to the City is a joke.  You guys just approved $4 Million just for homelessness issues this year!  The illegal marijuana dispensaries bring in more revenue and half of them don’t even pay…

    With all the cut-rate land you give to billionaires and the money wasted on the pursuit of the A’s, so much more could be done for the citizens of San Jose.  Because of Airport remodels, Convention Center remodels, Hayes Mansion, golf courses and Redevelopment… we poor taxpayers owe BILLIONS!

    Speaking of remodels, after your 30 years of “income” from the stadium- who do you think will have to spruce it up before the A’s move on to a City that gives them a cut-rate deal?  I guess the people in San Jose will forever be in debt to the already rich developers, team owners and lawyers that you elected leaders are beholden to.

    • Exactly. Also, how was that $1M/year calculated?  does it include the increased police and traffic and other expenses that a baseball game necessarily requires?  Also, if the land was sold for its FMV, the city would net $25M NOW!

  4. —Original Joe’s is a local institution because it is one of the few downtown entities that’s free of the fumbling fingerprints of City “business expertise.” That it has survived so many decades of government incompetence—during which bought-and-paid-for politicians and their handpicked redevelopment prima donnas treated free enterprise and fair competition as foreign concepts, is a miracle—a testament to the remarkable fortitude of OJ’s ownership.

    —Mr. Liccardo claims the City believes in competition, this, as the San Jose still reels in the wake of losing its ridiculous lawsuit against the county—filed to protect the downtown from competition and deny the public the right to an alternate entertainment venue at the fairgrounds. Measuring by Mr. Liccardo’s figures, this reckless lawsuit reduced the city treasury by about 80 years of ballpark revenues.

    —The councilman doesn’t want San Jose’s destiny to “be shaped by billionaire team owners, their lawyers, or their lobbyists.” Impressive display of chutzpah, playing the class warfare card while at the same time serving the interests of a billionaire team owner, Lew Wolff (whose name is suspiciously absent in this post), along with the Reed administration’s favored set of lawyers and lobbyists.

  5. Sam,
    I’m sure you believe every word you have posted, but the thought occurred to me that the one treasure that has not went to China is the San Jose Giants!
    Many of the corporations, that call Silicon Valley home are not manufacturing their products here. Original Joes didn’t go to china!
      South Bay Bronze did not go to China!
      The San Jose Arena, Compac center, HP Pavilion, and now SAP, are they here to stay?
      So, where is the level playing field?
      As a kid in 7th grade, 10 or so of us would bike double pump our way to the Bee’s Stadium. There we would wait for a foul ball hit over the home plate out of the park. the lucky guy would get in to watch the game by handing the ball over. At the 7th inning stretch we all got to enter. That’s 58 years ago! Rite of passage is very important!
      Bring manufacturing back to the USA, leave the A’s in Oakland, and start supporting our own San Jose Giants!
      The Village Black Smith

  6. Bud Selig is a bum that should be sued until he’s penniless and broke.  He’s just a thug who doesn’t want San Jose to get a team and be grown up.  Some traitor of his old best friend in frat, Lou, huh. San Jose should prevail and win, so it can have the A’s down and have a chance to see this guy(Bud) go broke and even to a slammer as he breaks more law out of desperation since he would go broke and not used to being in a poor retirement home.  Go San JO!

  7. There is no question the city of SJ has made monumental errors in the last 10 -20 – 40 – 100 years. One can talk city halls, old and new and misspent RDA pipe dreams by the hundreds of millions. The city can’t seem to hold on to its unique heritage (wooden train trestles) or its significant landmarks (town clock).  And yes the fat cat developers always get large chunks of flesh (taxpayer funds).

    But for paltry $20MM in land to the A’s for a ballpark could be a great thing for SJ.  Sam – go for it.  People gripped when the arena was first proposed and it has served the economics of the city well.  A ballpark can do the same thing.
    Go for it – out of the park!!

    • We the voters turned down the giants and will do the same with the A’s regardless of any law suit.  This city cannot afford it nor do we want it.  Bring back public safety and city workers and maybe in 20 years we could consider a ball park.

  8. > That’s real money that San Jose taxpayers have foregone as a result of the anti-competitive meddling of the San Francisco Giant’s’ ownership.

    I’m no lawyer, I just play one on the internet.

    My legal analysis says that Congress is the cause of the anti-competitive meddling.  Congress gave major league baseball an anti-trust exemption back when baseball was “America’s pastime”.

    Since there is no America anymore (we’re just a borderless open 24-hours a day welfare counter), we really don’t need a national pastime.

    So, why don’t the city fathers, mothers, and other ambiguously gendered parental units turn their massive collective brainpower to solving other pressing city problems.

    Problems like—oh say—the wide spread of disease by the government mandated use of non-recyclable, reusable grocery bags by little old ladies with 62 cats and two feet of cat feces in every room of their modest section 8 homes.

  9. First off, I don’t trust any dollar figure you or the City throws out there.  Oh wait it is from an “independent” study so this willy nilly number must be correct.  You suggest the City will receive a direct net revenue of over $1 million a year.  Woooopie!  All the City has to do is first give away $20 Million to Lew Wolff in a stadium land deal.  Sounds like a great deal.

    For the record, I can careless if a new stadium comes to San Jose.  I don’t care who plays there.  Just don’t use tax money to do it.  None!

    The City sounds like whining idiots.  If I were the owners of MLB, I would just hold a vote.  I don’t think these people like to be pushed around. Denied!

    Sam this lawsuit isn’t “San Jose’s declaration of independence”  that distinction will be the day Mayor Reed walks out the door and is replaced by someone other than an incumbent council member.   

    Having said my little rant.  Good luck to you Sam. Good luck also to those who stand to benefit the most…..Wolff, McEnery, Swenson,….you know the people that contributed to Mayor Reeds campaigns and the ones that will be funding yours.  Those people.

  10. Lets face it, the City has a habit of squandering needed City funds on lawsuits, when the spoiled brats cant get their way. And what about the Saint Leo neighborhood, the terrible impact.

    The City Fathers are so obsessed, with the future, that is the future of corporate profits. Thats what happens when they spend so much time smoozing with the Chamber, the Rotary, the SC Leadership Group.

    Hooray for the City that focuses on the here and now, the current needs of the electorate.

    I good example is downtown development. Downtown is the hub for most VTA routes. Who uses VTA most? Those without vehicles, duh! The elderly and lower income. So how many senior and low income units have been added downtown in the past 20 years. Almost zero. No more needs to be said.

  11. its funny that you bring up the ” commitment made by City council and the A’s ownership” as if that should mean something to people. You , Sam , this Mayor & Council have not only failed to Honor your commitments to City employees but have also sought to change and modify benefits( Naturally this is all Illegal and will be proven to be unconstitutional come late july)You are the worst kind of politician , you smile and lie thru your teeth , just like your personal hero chucky.
        Independent survey? really ? save it nobody is buying it . Nobody in their right mind could/would ever believe any numbers thrown out by you and the Reed Posse……….thats just dumb.
          and since we’re throwing out song lyrics , Im sure you know this one , LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR , LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR! Thanks to you and the Reed Posse Destroying both P.D. and F.D.  . San Jose is on pace to eclipse last years homicide rate , deal with that ! then we can talk about games

  12. Though I wrote about a hardball approach recently, this is not the tact I would have advised.  That said, I shan’t critisize movement.

    I hope the Mayor and his excellent legal team come to a rememdy that all can agree—you now have Mr. Selig’s attention. 

    Let’s play ball.

    • I agree with you on this one Rich, but what can you expect?  Sam is a lawyer.  Had it been me making the decision I’d just start my own league and say to hell with the MLB.  Make something new and better and let MLB die a slow death.  Let San Jose residents benefit and use the Green bay packers model and make a publicly owned league where only residents can own stock in the team franchise.  Sue ‘em culture peaked a long time ago and needs to die.

  13. Once again government trying to tell private business how it should run its business. This city is a joke. In the end it will be the tax payers who will suffer. This suit is not free. Rick Doyle, The San Jose City Attorney, signed the suit. He is on the city payroll to the tune of $204,000.00+ per year plus benefits. I don’t call this free. If the move is approved it will cost the tax payers BILLIONS in infrastructure improvements and the cost of the stadium itself. Look at the airport which has a debt in excess of 2 Billion dollars that we the tax payers have yet to pay off. No wonder the City of San Jose is on the watch list of cities likely to file bankruptcy. I don’t particularly care if the A’s come to San Jose or not…I do care about who will pay for it and if the history of giveaways in this city continues …we have a lot to worry about.

  14. Sam,
    Have you ever been to No Love Tuesday at Henry’s Hi-life?
    Today you were the topic of conversation!
    That and the law suit that was filed at the MLB, and Bud Selig!
    Yes, there were pros and cons! However , what surfaced from our hilerity, was ” Why?”
    Interestingly what stuck was that Sam wants to use this law suit to catapult himself into the Mayor’s position.
    What the hell do we know about the Reed, Stone, Gonzalez, Liccardo, politics?
      The buzz is out there!
    The question was asked! Has Sam ever been out to the old ball park, now, San Jose Giants?
    No one could answer the question! Can You?
      The tidal wave of community, will flood this issue!
      Mark Wilson, is a great community activist, with a baseball team that serves our entire baseball community!
      The village Black smith

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