Mercury News Editorial
Sam Liccardo is the best choice for mayor of San Jose.
In a field of five to succeed Chuck Reed, Liccardo is by far the most thoughtful, creative and capable of lifting the city beyond its fiscal limitations to thrive as the urban heart of Silicon Valley.
In fact, he wrote the book.
Following the example of David Pandori, a strong contender in the 2006 mayor’s race, Liccardo has written about his plans and ideas on his web site and will distribute a paper version. Political operatives mock the strategy; voters want sound bites, not substance, they say. We think they’re wrong.
Liccardo’s main flaw is trying to solve every problem. He’ll need to focus more as mayor. But he is best prepared to lead without slipping back into financial instability, and he has the right values for a city this diverse in ethnicity and income levels.
The mayor’s race will be decided in a November runoff between the top two finishers June 3. Dave Cortese, a Santa Clara County supervisor and former San Jose City Council member, is likely to make the cut because he alone has the solid support of unions — the South Bay Labor Council, public employee unions and the Democratic Party. (All the candidates are Democrats, but the party here is synonymous with labor.)
City Council members Rose Herrera, Madison Nguyen, Pierluigi Oliverio, Liccardo and 70 percent of San Jose voters supported Measure B, Reed’s pension reforms, which Cortese opposed. The measure needs tweaking — probably more than Liccardo suggests — but the priority of stabilizing city finances is the defining issue of this campaign.
For those who believe increasing pay and benefits is the only way to improve city services despite continuing budget deficits, Cortese is the choice. It is a choice to return to the past.
On the big issues, Cortese speaks in generalities that sound reassuring but often lack grounding in facts. He panders to unions — for example, suggesting the city revisit a proposal by public safety unions to join CalPERS’ pension plan, a strategy columnist Daniel Borenstein skewers on the opposite page.
Because of this, any of the other candidates would be better than Cortese, but three have less to offer than Liccardo:
- Rose Herrera has a record of accomplishment in Evergreen and has good ideas for economic development. But she lacks the temperament to be mayor.
- Madison Nguyen’s life is an inspiration — a classic tale of an immigrant emerging from poverty to achieve the American dream. But in nine years in office, she never made a citywide policy proposal until last month.
- Pierluigi Oliverio is popular in his Willow Glen-Rose Garden district and has accomplished some citywide goals. But it’s hard to see him as mayor of all of San Jose. He seems not to grasp why low-wage earners need to be able to live here or why the city should help the homeless.
This is where Liccardo shines. He was working on the homeless problem before it got front-page headlines, recruiting the Downtown Streets Team project to expand to San Jose. It was his idea to explore turning underutilized motel rooms into efficiencies for low-income housing. Affordable housing is as important for the region’s economy as building homes for well-paid tech workers, and Liccardo understands that.
Public safety is always number one on voters’ minds, and the police union vehemently opposes Liccardo. Of course unions would rather work with Cortese, but if Liccardo wins, they’ll deal with him. We’re confident he can rebuild the bridge between city employees and the mayor’s office that has crumbled over the past seven years.
Read the book (samliccardo.com). You won’t agree with all of it, but you’ll be impressed by the thought Liccardo has put into leading the city. He has the intelligence and the heart to be mayor of San Jose, and he deserves the chance.