Uber, Lyft Keep It in Family with Help from the Guardinos

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.

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. Could we politely ask the Guardino’s to next work on solving SJPD’s severe staffing shortage? Mayor Liccardo seems uninterested, so far lacking any plan for funding the needed officers.

    • Did you miss the fact that the City Council reached a settlement with their police union a couple months ago? Mayor Liccardo pissed off a lot of his own supporters by reaching out to the unions and coming up with a compromise that would address the cause of SJPD’s staffing shortage (i.e. a benefits/compensation package which was not seen as competitive enough to attract officers).

      To refresh your mind, here’s what the President of the Police Officers Association said about that deal (courtesy of SJI):

      “We are deeply appreciative of Mayor Liccardo’s leadership and the leadership of City Manager Dueñas and his entire team for working with us to resolve our differences over Measure B and move our city forward.
      Mayor Liccardo told San Jose that he wanted to negotiate a resolution to Measure B and he kept his word and now it is our job to end the rancor and rebuild our police department and provide the residents of San Jose the services they expect and deserve.
      It was a long and difficult effort, but when two sides work collaboratively and collectively…a positive outcome can be had. This is a historic day for San Jose and we are committed to using this collaborative process to resolve any differences in the future. Again, thank you Mayor Liccardo for your leadership.”

      Sean Kaldor, VP of the Firefighters Union said:

      “Mayor Liccardo should be commended for taking a hands on approach to bring us together and come to an agreement that will put our city in a strong position to recruit and retain a city workforce that can deliver quality services to our residents.
      This historic agreement will end the divisiveness that has gripped our city and turns a new page in the relationship between public safety workers and city hall. Thank you, Mayor Liccardo, the City Council and City Manager Norberto Dueñas and your entire negotiating team for your hard work and long hours to make this possible.”

      So I’m confused why people are still attacking Mayor Liccardo over this issue. I can understand anti-union folks who might argue that he “caved” to the unions, but what I can’t understand is the people who criticize him for supposedly not making any effort to address SJPD’s staffing shortage.

      • Agreement was reached however it has not been certified by the Court so measure B IS still the law in SJ.

        Have you missed the fact that SJPD has only rehired 2 of the hundreds who left for better pay and benefits?

        Have you missed the fact that the Police Academy Class that began 2 weeks ago and is budgeted for 60 cadets started with 10 (yes TEN)????

        Are you aware that the class that is supposed to start in February 2016 and would technically be be the first class “recruited” AFTER the City and Police reached the agreement that is approved but not implemented because it has not been certified by the Court yet was only able to pass 45 of the few hundred who applied on to the City hiring board? Did you know that the City hiring board typically rejects (on average) about 80% of the background packages that the Police Backgrounders pass on to them? Meaning we can expect 9 or 10 applicants will offered a job and seat in the Feb 2016 academy?

        Are you aware that out of those offered jobs for academy seats over the last 5 years about 30% will reject San Jose’s offer and accept a competing police departments offer because measure B IS still the law and provides no job security and non competitive pay and benifits? So for Feb2016 we might start with 6 or 7 cadets?

        It would be very instructive and downright entertaining for the public to discuss the makeup, character and other peculiarities of post measure B applicants but also a violation of any number of state and federal laws that protect job applicants and their “dignity” if it could be said that some of those rejected have any dignity to begin with.

        …but SJPD is still hiring just not the type of people they would have ever remotely considered hiring in the past.

        Oh and SJPD is still losing an average of 3 officers a week…. and NOT to early retirement or 20, 25 or 30 year retirements…it’s loosing them to other local departments that are not aand never were bound by measure B.

        So… yes the City and Police did reach an agreement to settle measure B the only problem is that Measure B is still in effect.

        I’m glad you were wondering and came here to learn what is going on. You can follow up with other credible source on your own. Just keep in mind you heard this from the Meyer of San Jose and NOT any of SJ’s politicians and certainly not from SJ’s news sources the Merc or SJI.

      • Jedi Joe: No, I did not miss Mr. Liccardo’s recent settlement with the POA, trying to undo all the damage he caused with Measure B.

        Even with the settlement that has yet to be approved (either by the Court overturning Measure B or a vote of residents), SJPD is severely understaffed. There is no leadership from Mr. Liccardo in defining how many officers SJPD needs to be fully staffed, the funding plan for paying for the needed officers, and the timeline for restoring SJPD.

        In 2016, San Jose residents will be asked to vote on a new 1/2 cent transportation sales tax, a new wetlands parcel tax, and possibly a new homeless parcel tax. While these needs are important, public safety should be the highest priority in terms of new revenue. San Jose residents need to hear from Mr. Liccardo how he plans to pay for badly needed officers so they can determine the best use of their limited tax dollars.

        • In 2016, San Jose residents will be asked to vote on . . .

          > a new 1/2 cent transportation sales tax,


          >a new wetlands parcel tax,


          > a new homeless parcel tax.


          In 2016, San Jose residents will be too busy to worry about any of this stuff.

          They will be voting to elect President Trump, putting a stake through the heart of the California High Speed dodo bird, killing the delta water tunnels, building more dams and reservoirs, and buying new health insurance plans to replace their stupid, high deductible, useless Obamacare plans.

          • Massive hypocrisy led Mayor Liccardo to mock persons in a racial way who supported bonds. Each of the three taxes listed just above are subject to have the revenue stream borrowed against it in the nature of a bond which cuts the face amount available to the city to about 1/2 the total tax revenue.

            This is similar to how the design & construction of the new city hall was financed. A revenue stream was created and bonded out. Taxpayers are still paying to retire the bonds issued to build the city hall.

            This is bonding with a vengeance and appears to me to be something he claimed to be opposing when he conducted his primary campaign. It was a nasty, bigoted ad and the mayor deserves to be reminded of it when the call comes to vote on and support these new bonds. Anyone who understands San Jose financing knows that the mayor and council have never rejected an opportunity to bond out a revenue stream and lose 1/2 the total value of the tax bonded on.

  2. What is so interesting about these set of articles in San Jose Inside and in pieces done by your associates like Mr. Robinson is the detailing of the web of relationships between the same people all over the city in every issue. Now we learn that taxi and shuttle service within the city is plagued with the same incest as every other part of business and government. Someone works for someone who is married or in business with another someone. I go back to some articles months ago which suggested that one council member before she was a council member getting a free trip to New York paid for by Yellow Cab. Did this council member abstain from voting last week? Apparently not. Why? Because the probably was a reason hatched up that said, well you took a freebie, but ipso, lotso, hocus pocus, you get off the hook. If you litter on the streets, or if your dog poops wrong, pay the fine, but if you get elected to council from the school board, you can run then for assembly, and also get shopping trip to New York courtesy of Yellow Cab and the Chamber, and by the way, vote our way. Equity at City Hall.

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