Mayor Liccardo’s Biggest Test

The sense of disappointment was palpable as we walked into Dave Cortese's Election Night party. This was not supposed to happen.

Most political prognosticators, including this blogger, believed San Jose’s electorate would move in a new direction based on valid polling information known before the election. But in a low-turnout race, the winning candidate is the individual who gets their supporters to the polls, not the one who looks the best on paper. Sam Liccardo got his supporters to vote, opinion polls be damned.

Now the new mayor of San Jose faces huge challenges. The most striking problem is not simply putting more cops on the street, though it is an important goal. The real work will be bringing a divided city together. The vote total reflects the intense divisions that currently exist in San Jose, as Liccardo will likely win with 51 percent of the vote.

The causes and blame for the deep political divisions are well chronicled, but now they must become irrelevant. As a city we can continue to fight the old battles, entrench ourselves in anger and wage wars of attrition that only hurt our community. A move in that direction—business vs. labor, moderates vs. progressives—or we can come together for the good of the city.

Disagreements will not disappear and pension reform will continue to move through the courts. We need to make an effort to look at issues where common ground can be found. Good will from both sides is needed to engage in an honest dialogue.

Liccardo has been a leader on affordable housing, transportation and smart growth principles. He will find willing partners who supported his opponent but are open to working with him on these issues.

But labor needs to be invited to the table. Unions are not the enemy; they are made up of good people who care deeply about this city. Likewise, the Chamber of Commerce is not simply a group of rightwing, heartless Tea Party nuts; they care about San Jose as well. In the past, these two groups worked together on issues of common interest for the good of the city. That collaboration must take place again.

Mayor Liccardo has the ability to bridge the divide and his speech after the campaign has indicated he will try. But it will take cooperation from many who are bitterly disappointed. They must meet him half way. In the current grief that accompanies all campaign losses, this may seem like a huge request.

As the victor, Liccardo will get to choose his team and agenda—those decisions can be inclusive or exclusive. He will need to rebuild trust. Already some of Liccardo’s most ardent supporters have expressed sentiments less than gracious regarding the vanquished. Those statements and editorials are not helpful in bridging the divide. It is important to note Liccardo has not been among this group.

The late John Vasconcellos was a fan of Liccardo. He also liked and supported Cortese. San Jose, he said, would be in good hands with either candidate. He had hoped to be in a position to help bring the two sides together in the spirit of the Politics of Trust after the election. Unfortunately, he passed before he got the opportunity.

But both men knew and understood the late state senator’s philosophy. It will be Mayor Liccardo who gets the opportunity to implement it, if he chooses.

In the final analysis, the goals of the city of San Jose are bigger than any single election. The city has been fighting with itself for too long. It is time to work together; this is not Washington DC.

So congratulations to our new mayor. This is the same blog I had intended to write regardless of a winner.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. Boy, a lot of words for really just a bunch of platitude.

    Someone hire this guy already!

    Come together. Common ground. Solemn resurrection of the dead. It is about more than an election.

    Blah blah blah.

    Then the qualifier: I would have written this either way.

    San Jose’s struggles with direction and competing agendas is a microcosm of an entire world dealing with the tectonics of economic globalism, technology, and cultures resetting themselves and impinging against the forces of other cultures.

    There’s never been harmony. Just hegemony. As the global playing field broadens and levels out, expect more of the same for at least a century. Why should little old San Jose be any different? Arrogance is to think we can rise above our genetic predispositions to compete for survival and perpetuation of our pride (in the lion’s sense). Ignorance is to literally ignore that we have well-funded armies who keep us from the “troubles” at arms length so we can go about planning our childrens’ princess parties without the threat of a dirty bomb going off.

    The comforts of the valley for everyday working people are threatened with the reality that places like Detroit faced 30 years ago. We do not see it, but we feel it in our bones. It is a deeper survival sense that has atrophied in us. But it is there. And it is the source of the angst we feel.

    We get caught in our own time frame references of less than a generation and think, “it used to be placid and gentler.”

    History reminds us we have never been more civil than today. And our history of violent discord is the reality of the political body.

    Elections are merely “civil” wars, but wars nonetheless with the surrender the verbal concession.

    I think we need to accept this. And accept that the tumult and discord is part of the multi-generational progress we subconsciously are trying to make as a species, but it is also the result of a far off threat we are facing as a small community coming To terms with a world competing for the same resources and money.

      • Also terrifying is if we continue to ignore these larger forces at work that are really tugging the currents of our malaise like the moon does the tide, our solutions will fall very short.

        That’s what is so laughable about all the public art spending and window dressing of the convention center,etc. Wasting good money trying to put make up on a corpse.

        Even better, map the rising tide of service jobs or the ebbing flow of manufacturing jobs. Guaranteed we are the latest ebb that started along the rust belt decades ago. And rising service jobs equals declining wages.

        • Mr. Butler. your perchant for clear, rational, analytical thinking as a means of arriving at the indisputable truth of the matter makes you completely unsuitable for politics.

    • Butler is correct, and said it well. The physical altercations in the parliaments of India, South Korea, The Philippines Italy, and even Fiji, where the entire parliament was held hostage for many weeks a short while back, were a hallmark of the US Congress less than 200 years ago. In the USA we have evolved from those physical confrontations of our opponents, but the emotional and philosophical debates continue to rage. Mr. Liccardo does not have a mandate, and neither would Mr. Cortese have had one had he won. That fact needs to be given great weight by our new mayor. Serious good faith negotiations need to take place, with part of the resolution being the dismissal of the appeals re Measure B.
      But Mr. Robinson is not entirely correct when he states: “Unions are not the enemy; they are made up of good people who care deeply about this city.” Many are indeed good people who care about the city. But many others are people who care only about the paycheck and benefits, who expect increases in pay and benefits just because time has passed, and regardless of their lack of performance, which would not be tolerated in the private sector. Think Jim Unland, a saboteur of the first order, who, thankfully, will soon be gone. Perhaps his successor will be more conciliatory. By the way, who is his replacement and what does the general public need to know about him/her? Check into it and let us know please, Josh.

  2. Most political prognosticators, including this blogger, believed San Jose’s electorate would move in a new direction based on valid polling information known before the election. But in a low-turnout race, the winning candidate is the individual who gets their supporters to the polls, not the one who looks the best on paper. Sam Liccardo got his supporters to vote, opinion polls be damned.

    Denial. Don’t convince yourself that you really won the election over the next few month.

    Over here in District 1, I didn’t see any activity regarding the two San Jose races. It was nothing like the people that Ro Kahana was able to get walking the neighborhoods. Each side was able to fill up mailboxes with junk mail and keep my phone ringing with recordings, so it wasn’t like either side had a better or worse chance of influencing the outcome.

    BTW, your other guy, Paul Fong, got turned away too.

  3. I almost did a spit-take when I saw the words “Sam Liccardo” and “affordable housing” in the same sentence. After Liccardo and Reed cut my pay and my uniform allowance (only a couple hundred bucks a year but a lot to me since one uniform shirt is $90 bucks) and nearly doubled my retirement contribution each month, I had to move far away from San Jose because there is no housing there that is “affordable” for me.

    Make no mistake; After he gets done gloating, Liccardo is not looking to mend any fences. He is looking into how to parley his new position into his next rung up the political ladder. He has undoubtedly even now begun insulating himself within a cocoon of unaccountably and plausible deniability and establishing a mechanism by which he can be blamed for nothing that goes wrong and can instead push off blame onto all his political foes and those who did not support him. Stand-by. That dirty, greedy police “Union” the Union that can’t and wouldn’t strike, picket, or institute any job actions (like any other Union may) or do anything that would harm city residents, will be placed on Liccardo’s “misrepresent and blame them first” speed dial. No matter what happens, Liccardo will never admit he was wrong about anything,, or that he miscalculated, or that any negative outcome was ever his fault.

    I don’t begrudge or fault Liccardo for growing up rich in Saratoga but just because he and his family are wealthy and he’ll never need a pension, why does he want to take mine? Just because he never has to worry about getting disabled after having his head stoved in by some meth-head with a piece of pipe, why does he want to take me out (professionally) and put me down like a horse with a broken leg if it happens to me? Before you tell me I am wrong, please read Measure B, which he enthusiastically supported and familiarize yourself with the City’s current disability policy relating to public safety personnel.

    After hearing the final election results, I felt the same way I did when I had to put my younger brother into hospice care. Goodbye SJPD. I’ll miss you.

    • “Make no mistake; After he gets done gloating, Liccardo is not looking to mend any fences. He is looking into how to parley his new position into his next rung up the political ladder.”

      I fear this may very well be true, which is a big part of the reason I supported Dave Cortese’s candidacy, despite probably being somewhat closer to Liccardo on the abstract issues. Because while the issues themselves are hugely important, character is also hugely important, and I always believed that Dave genuinely cared about the welfare of the people of San Jose. Because he’s one of them. Liccardo may get his mail in San Jose, but he’s not one of us. He’s just part of the transnational ruling class.

      Oh well, not much else to do now, other than hope that we’re wrong about him.

      • After I had my pay cut 10% and my uniform allowance all but eliminated, I can’t afford any big boy pants. I’ll just have to keep patching the ones I have until we get some leadership in City Hall. Until then, please, it can’t be just me; How’s that Measure B working for everyone else?

  4. > to help bring the two sides together in the spirit of the Politics of Trust

    Rich! Rich!

    You’re talking about Progressive Democrat politicians, not clergymen.

    They have about as much trust as bull water buffaloes during mating season.

    • I hope i didn’t misread your comment and hope you aren’t calling Saratoga Sam Liccardo who was endorsed by the GOP (secretly because he wanted to fill up my mail box and lie that he was a Democrat just to get more votes), he also received big money donations from wealthy GOP donors. This guy is as Republican as they come. He’s now indebted to more wealthy business owners who don’t even live anywhere near San Jose than he can count. Oh but I’m sure they’ll come knocking for those favors they’ll be owed. It’s going to be another sad 4 years for progressive values in this city sadly.

  5. Very well written. Congrats to Sam on a hard fought victory and best of luck to Dave in his final two years on the Board of Sups and future endeavors.

  6. I hope the backers of both candidates realize we are in ONE city. Already some backers of one of the candidates have continued their vehement, hate-filled, ‘sky is falling’ rhetoric. Please stop and let’s work together. Not all the comments made about the candidates were true – I will assume they were made in the heat of the campaign and put it behind me…and go on. Join me

  7. Rich,
    Sam is not the Mayor. Votes are still being counted. Even if he wins, AFTER the votes have been counted, the correct title is Mayor Elect.

  8. Everything I have seen Liccardo say and do the past couple years and the crap I have been on the receiving end of, I don’t trust this guy as far as I can throw him. I think, come next year the relationship of workers with the mayor and council will be a lot worse than it is now and thats a sad fact. City workers have been trying for the past 5yrs to work together and mend fences but Liccardo was one of the council members not wanting to negotiate. All of a sudden he’s elected mayor and now wants to work together? Im calling BS on that. He’s 5yrs too late and the city workers see through his crap. Need to wait for the next mayor to be elected after Liccardo for anything to change. Going to be a Very Very Very LOOOOOOOOOONG 2yrs with this manipulator and idiot as mayor.

  9. Arrogance! “Take those remaining 100000 votes and throw them in the garbage. I am the mayor!” WHAT????
    Dave I admire you for your respect of the voters. You’re the MAN!
    Merc, Metro, and the rest of You Snake Oil Charmers, getting your asses handed to you by a guy with charm, class, and loved by the people he has served, makes my Day. We Love you Mike Honda!

    • You know how many votes were remaining when Obama announced victory over McCain….70 million had yet to be counted. Did their votes not matter?…was he being arrogant? I think not

  10. The damage done will be fatal to the relationship between Liccardo and the workforce, especially the police department. Comments made by Liccardo and directed towards the officers at SJPD will not be readily forgotten. In fact each time he opens his mouth to bray about some insipid idea to improve the police department, more officers will be filling out applications elsewhere.

    The working environment is so toxic that those who can will leave. Meanwhile at the police academies, which they cannot even half fill, recruits are leaving right after graduation to work elsewhere. 20 just graduated and only 22 remain in the next class. With another 20 weeks to go in that one, odds are that only 15 will make it. During this same period SJPD will lose 75-100 officers to resignations and retirements. Maybe Liccardo can get those pinheads at IBM to fill the ranks of the officers since they proclaimed that the city only needed 600 to police the city.

    • If you don’t mind police response times being measured in hours or days instead of minutes, and you don’t mind being put on hold when you call 9-1-1 after hearing glass breaking at the back of your house around 2 AM and police staffing dropping to the point where cops are able to respond only to those calls where blood is spilled or somebody dies ( no more responses or reports taken for traffic accidents, robberies, burglaries, simple assaults, domestic violence, prowlers and other disturbances etc ) and rapes only if the victim can drive herself to the police station to report it and even then there won’t be any follow-up investigation, then yes, San Jose might be able to get by with 600 cops. All that will be necessary is to purchase more crime scene tape and train citizens how to protect the crime scene until an officer can arrive.If people think this is alarmist sarcasm, please recall that it was likely these same people who said that Measure B would have no significcant negative impact on the police department.

  11. Now that the election is over (and nothing I say can be construed as possibly harming Dave Cortese’s chances), I will say that I think Liccardo (and Reed) were (and are) entirely correct about the need for municipal pension reform. Its not a question of ideology, but rather of arithmetic.

    • But everybody already knows that. ALL of the employees know that…they simply wanted it legal and fair, which it was not. No one has ever said that reform was not necessary and no matter how we ALL have stated that to all of you, a gazillion times, you (general you) keep making it sound as if employees were against it. That simply is not true. It has always been understood that it is necessary. Reed just went about it the wrong way.

      • Reed and Liccardo couldnt be more different… ive met both and I strongly dislike Reed and Chavez got my vote… I supported Liccardo this election. Sam couldnt be allies with Labor so he was allies with Reed instead…sometimes you have to form uneasy coalition on council to move things forward. Liccardo is friendlier with Ash Kalra who he worked with often pre-council than Reed.

        I cant wait for the Reed era to be over and Sam can lead city (16,000 votes for mayor counted today and his lead decreased only 26 votes to 3647 vote margin – its over). Reed doesnt know how to communicate with the other side, sam does… and he can set the much more reasonable tone opposite strong labor. All im asking is people give Sam a chance…if he sucks after 100 days or is as unflexible as Reed id be first to vote against him for reelection

        • I hope liccardo chooses Ash as Vice Mayor. Ash is trusted by the employees and IMHO, anyone else in that seat will make an already bad relationship situation worse. There needs to be some balance.

          • How did I forget Don. Yes, he would be a good choice, as well. Those are the only two I think could provide balance.

          • Agreed! A darkhorse is Peralez but he is too new to be Vice. The guy has A LOT of promise and I am grateful he defeated Gagliardi – he did all sides a favor with that one…he won same district Sam won and they have a lot of differences – meaning MANY voted for both him and Sam.

          • Well, it’s all going to be “so, so interesting”, that’s for sure.

        • We’ve been through this before folks… the Mayor does not choose the vice mayor…the council elects the vice mayor….

          • Don’t think you’re right on that, Meyer. Mayor picks the vice mayor in SJ. It’s a perk for loyalty to the crown.

            And So So–Rocha for Vice Mayor? Two years into his first term he went off in a snit and threatened to quit. Too bad he didn’t and go back to modeling, where he has at least a modicum of qualification.

          • (From the San Jose City Charter)

            SECTION 503. Vice-Mayor.

            At the second meeting of the Council following the end of each even-numbered year within which a Regular Municipal Election is required to be held, the Council shall elect one of its members as Vice-Mayor who, until a person is appointed to succeed him or her, or until his or her office otherwise becomes vacant, shall serve as Vice-Mayor during the temporary absence or inability of the Mayor to discharge the duties of his or her office.

            In case of the temporary absence or disability of both the Mayor and Vice-Mayor, the Council shall elect one of its members to act as Mayor Pro Tempore.

            Amended at election June 6, 1972

            Amended at election June 7, 1994

            Amended at election November 8, 1994

          • The city council picks whomever the mayor prefers for the position. It has always been that way. Possibly the only vote where they defer to the Mayor’s preference.

          • John, I think he was so fed up with all of reed and clowns’ BS that he almost quit. Sometimes when you reach the point where the straw is almost breaking the camels back, you do things out of the norm. I think he got to that point of having enough of it. He tells it like it is and not afraid to disagree with the mayor. We need strong leaders, not weak, whatever you say mayor, turn with the wind Adam Henrys. I think Ash would be the best choice, though. They are both intelligent but Ash has a better understanding of the laws–and respects them.

  12. Dear Sam,

    Robinson Communications didn’t do as well as we’d hoped this season. We really wanted to get into the mayors race early, but unfortunately nobody hired us till halfway through. Seeing as how I am so wise in the ways of political science, I hate to say it, but statistically you won. The only way you could lose now is if the Holy Trinity descended from the heavens, and commanded your lord Beelzebub to open the earth beneath your feet to swallow you whole.

    As much as I prayed for this to happen, my sin collateral (think political collateral) is pretty high at the moment, so often times my prayers just go unanswered. We also know you serve a lord higher than Beelzebub, the almighty Lucifer himself! So since I know we have you as mayor the next 8 years, allow me to be the first to step forward, and receive your mark of the beast. I am willing to serve you my Dark Lord Liccardo.

    eternally your servant

    • That’s adorable, Robert… did you write a similar message on the used toilet paper of a website known as The Daily Fetch as well with regard to Dark Lord Dave Cortese?

        • Says the guy who doesn’t understand that although the Vice Mayor is voted on by the City Council it is the mayor who has traditionally decided on who his / her Vuice Mayor would be and City Council rubber stamps it.

    • That’s exactly how I feel. That man and his master Reed, are pure evil. But no matter how many lies or unethical behavior they get caught in…no one seems to notice or care.

      • Deb Wrong, Liccardo is not Reed, Cortese is not Campos…there are cliques and allies on every Council….Heck, even Dave’s brother said they he would have supported Liccardo in the first round if Dave was not running…..There are a lot of uneasy partnerships on the Council and when you call San Jose’s mayor-elect evil, it exposes how childish and immature you really are. Also, Liccardo is nothing like Reed and I think you will see that in the first 100 days.

        • Then why have you been trying to associate Dave==Campos this entire election? You’ve asked me at least a 1/2 dozen times, “Why did your cuz endorse Campos?”

          I’m not Dave’s keeper. I have no fsck’ing idea.

          • Asked and answered… SJC believes in the context of a political campaign heated “rhetoric” is fair game that should simply be forgotten once the election is settled. Not very intellectually honest is it? The worst he could accuse me of was pairing Reed and Liccardo… but I digress.

          • It is fact that Dave endorsed a brazenly unethical candidate in Xavier Campos for his reelection THIS YEAR. He thought Xavier Campos was the best person for the job in Division 5…linking the two is rhetoric akin to you linking Reed and Liccardo. Dave endorsing someone under criminal investigation and has been found guilty of ethical wrongdoing goes to JUDGMENT. Quit whining and know that Dave made a terrible terrible endorsement and made it even bigger by having Xavier campaign for him. Your two inability to defend Dave’s endorsement, coupled by his own lack of explanation could have cost him a very winnable election.

          • SJC, put it to bed, Fred. Your fixation on Campos is really over the top. The election is over.

          • Observation, I was asked a question and I answered. Meyer’s and Robert’s fixation on the issue is what led me to respond. Im shocked you didnt have any critique of Robert’s post-election diatribe, however its time to turn the page and move San Jose forward :-)

  13. The only way for San Jose to get back on track is to completely end all of the litigation between the City and its employees, both active and retired. Take a fresh, open and honest look at the City’s financial projections due not only to expected retirement costs but to debt payments for public buildings such as the city hall, airport, convention center, police substation and community centers/libraries. There are absolutely no grounds for San Jose to use the word “bankruptcy.” Any financial “crisis” has been due to poor spending decisions and playing a disingenuous blame game. If the elected officials take an honest look at the state of the City, they will realize that their human capital, i.e. their employees have a much greater potential to advance the City’s goals than the brick and mortar investments that they have funneled tax dollars into. Without smart people who are willing to work for a City that will not stab them in the back, the apparent mayor-elect will never have the “Smarter Government” that he touted in his campaign slogans.

  14. Lighten up everybody!

    Things could be worse.

    You could live in a one-party banana republic, or a bankrupt state with $330 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities, or a state with no High Speed Rail, or a state about to be flooded by rising sea levels and toasted by global warming!

    Instead, you live in CALIFORNIA! You lucky devil!

    Just count your blessings.

  15. Liccardo is a very straight person, he will do what he said, he value and respect working person,’ in his first month he will solve the issues with the police union.
    I wish him good luck

  16. Fortunately for Sam, most of the necessary pieces he needs to fix the divide between public employees (mostly the SJPD) have fallen in to place. Now Sam can sit back, “call the shots” and in his true opportunist form, take credit for everyone else’s work!

    With the SJPOA leadership changing, it will provide Sam with new faces to agree with.

    With Raul coming onto the council, Sam now has someone with credibility who can present an accurate picture of just how dire the public safety situation really is and how utterly catastrophic it will become if no fix is developed soon.

    With the recent proposed legal ruling of the Public Employment Relations Board, which lays the groundwork for legally invalidating Measure B, Sam and the council can now go back to Ed Shikada & the POA’s negotiated fix, claim responsibility, and end up looking like heroes who averted a disaster.

  17. I hope Sam will keep Shikada ( I have also thought that the mayor does elect the City Mgr). I’ve heard that Sam doesn’t agree with Shikada’s views and he will pick someone else. God I hope he doesn’t pick Gurza, he would not make a good City Mgr. I think Shikada is already doing a great job.

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