MEET SAM LICCARDO
On January 1, 2015, Sam Liccardo became San José’s 65th mayor and one of the youngest individuals to serve in San José’s highest elected office. In less than three years under his leadership, San José has thrived.
GROWING OUR ECONOMY EQUITABLY
Sam has also focused on spurring the San José economy to bring more well-paying jobs to our residents, and to generate additional tax revenues that support critical city services. Early successes have included:
- Large expansions of tech employers into San José, from corporate titans like Amazon, Apple and Google to fast-growing innovators such as Silver Spring Networks, Splunk and SuperMicro;
- Mineta-San José International’s ascendance as the nation’s fastest growing airport in 2017, with the addition of six new international routes and dozens of new domestic flights;
- Provision of more small business assistance, particularly for immigrant-entrepreneurs who lead more than half of San José’s small businesses;
- Attraction of hundreds of new well-paying manufacturing jobs by reducing fees and accelerating permits on the reutilization of older industrial buildings;
- Launch of an innovative program that transforms libraries to career skills training centers, using cloud-based software; and
- Revitalization of Downtown San José, featuring thousands of new high-rise apartments, new restaurants and amenities, and thousands of new tech employees who create a vibrant, urban center for all of Silicon Valley.
SUPPORTING OUR STRUGGLING NEIGHBORS & BROADENING INCLUSION
During his first term, Sam launched a number of new initiatives designed to help create a more equitable San José, and to address the growing inequality of our Valley. In this first term, Sam has:
- Led a coalition of mayors throughout the Valley to raise the minimum wage, lifting the living standards and aspirations of thousands of low-income workers;
- Co-led an effort to eliminate veterans’ homelessness with Destination: Home and County Supervisor Dave Cortese that has already housed more than 690 vets;
- Implemented new measures to generate millions annually in funding for the construction of hundreds of new affordable housing units, including a citywide inclusionary housing policy and housing impact fee program;
- Created the Office of Immigrant Affairs to support the tens of thousands of immigrants seeking citizenship and legalization of status, to improve multi-lingual provision of services and to assist families threatened by separation;
- Led flood recovery efforts that engaged more than 4,000 volunteers to help afflicted residents get back on their feet, and raised $6.9 million from more than 3,000 donors to support the rehousing of victimized families; and
- Launched innovative, cost-effective approaches to address homelessness, including the rehabilitation of deteriorating motels into apartments, the employment of homeless residents in beautification through the “Gateways” project, the use of an “Opportunity Court” to incentivize less disruptive behavior and house the mentally ill, and (due next year) the development of microhousing villages.
INVESTING IN OUR YOUTH
Sam has paid particular attention to our youth, confronting the poverty and gang activity that keeps too many of our young people from fulfilling their vast potential. In this effort, Sam has successfully worked to:
- Restore library service to open every branch at least six days per week citywide;
- Launch after-school, academically-focused learning programs in sixteen of our poorest neighborhoods through “SJ Learns”;
- Provide more than 2,000 at-risk youth with job opportunities, career skills and financial literacy through the “SJWorks” program;
- Work with schools and private sector partners to expand internet access and provide devices for thousands of low-income students and their families;
- Support the transformation of library programing with innovative “coding camps,” on-line classes and job-training resources; and
- Eliminate financial barriers to college for 800 public high school graduates through the “San José College Promise,” a partnership with three community colleges and the community.
- Launch the 5k Coding Challenge, with a goal of helping 5,000 elementary school kids learn coding skills – and is currently engaging with hundreds of kids in low-income communities with coding camps and classes.
BEAUTIFYING SAN JOSE & ADVANCING SMART ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES
In 2017, Sam led the City Council in approving a Community Choice Energy program that will provide residents and businesses with the option to purchase greener sources of electricity at competitive rates. San José thereby became the largest U.S. city to adopt “community choice,” which will substantially reduce GHG emissions through use of renewable energy. Also in that year, San Jose metro ranked #1 in the nation in making progress under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
In February of 2018, Sam led the City Council to unanimously adopt “Climate Smart San Jose,” a plan to reduce our collective greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to meet the goals of the Paris Accords. The plan sets ambitious goals, including making San Jose the top city nationally in solar deployment, electric car usage, and other mechanisms to reduce San Jose’s GHG emissions 6.5% annually. San Jose became one the very first U.S. cities to “plot a path to Paris.”
Since his days on the City Council when he co-chaired the Envision 2040 General Plan task force, Sam pushed smart-growth policies designed to halt sprawling development on hillsides and open space, encourage new development on transit corridors to reduce GHG emissions and prioritize high-density development in the city’s urban core. An avid cyclist, Sam has also led the transformation of San José’s streetscape with buffered and colored bike lanes, and has advocated for trails development to expand safe options for San José’s rapidly-growing cycling community.
Sam also created the BeautifySJ initiative to combat trash, graffiti and illegal dumping with free large item pickup, more trash cans, expanded grants for neighborhood beautification efforts and more. The Beautify San Jose initiative is set to create a cleaner, safer, and more vibrant city.
IMPROVING PUBLIC SAFETY
Upon taking office, Sam focused on resolving political and legal battles that left San José with the most thinly-staffed police and fire departments of any major city. Since taking office, Sam has prioritized public safety by:
- Brokering an agreement with eleven city unions to resolve pension reform battles that will save taxpayers $3 billion over the next 30 years. He led Measure F in 2016, securing voter approval of that settlement, halting the defection of San José police officers to other cities;
- Rebuilding the San José Police Department, through enhanced recruiting of new officers – the June 2017 police academy class comprised SJPD’s largest in a decade – and of returning officers formerly with SJPD, together adding more than 100 officers to the force this year;
- Improving response to burglaries and other neighborhood crimes by doubling the number of Community Service Officers gathering evidence and taking reports;
- Launching the SJWorks program, enabling more than 2,000 youth living in gang-impacted neighborhoods to find jobs to develop a resume rather than a rap sheet;
- Implementing technology to modernize policing and firefighting, such as creating a crime camera registry to enable more timely investigations, using analytics to better anticipate crime “hot spots,” and enabling automated signal priority at intersections to responding fire and emergency crews;
- Adding enough firefighters to re-activate every remaining “browned out” fire station, improving neighborhood fire and emergency medical response; and
- Building greater transparency and community trust in the police by deploying body-worn cameras on every SJPD officer, expanding training for de-escalation of violence, and improving response to individuals suffering mental illness, and calling for data analysis of traffic-stop and other critical police data.
BUILDING A 21st CENTURY TRANSPORTATION NETWORK
In his leadership roles at the City, as well as at the Valley Transportation Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Sam led several critical transportation projects that will address our region’s chronic traffic congestion and under-maintained infrastructure, including:
- Co-leading a successful countywide ballot measure in 2016 and advocacy at the state level that will triple road repaving mileage, enabling the maintenance and repair of more miles of roads – 250 miles in fiscal year 2017-18 – than in almost twenty years;
- Enabling BART to commence service to San José – under budget and ahead of schedule – in early 2018 in North San José, with work progressing to bring the service all the way to Downtown San José and near the airport at Santa Clara;
- Joining local and congressional leaders in securing funding necessary to move forward with the electrification of CalTrain service;
- Advocating successfully for Bay Area Bike Share’s expansion in San José, adding another 100 stations and 1,000 bikes in San José;
- Completion of bus-rapid-transit service linking Downtown with East San José;
- Expansion of the Mineta-San José International Airport, after successful addition of dozens of new flights; and
- Planning and funding for the construction of Diridon Station, which can become the busiest multi-modal transit hub in California within a decade.
EMBRACING INNOVATION IN GOVERNMENT
In 2016, Sam launched San José’s “Smart City Vision,” forging partnerships with the tech community to leverage technology and data to improve safety, services and quality of life, with the ambition of making San José America’s most innovative city. He has pushed to use innovation and digital tools to:
- Improve the responsiveness of City Hall, such as by moving more than three dozen business permit processes online, and by launching the “MySanJose” app, to enable reporting of service requests with a smart phone;
- Enable San José to become a platform for the testing and demonstration of the latest innovations, as exemplified by the city’s partnership with Facebook to launch free gigabit-speed internet in Downtown in 2018, and by exploratory pilots with autonomous vehicles;
- Close the “homework gap” for our low-income students through partnerships like that with Sprint, which provide internet access and devices for nearly 10,000 low-income students, and the East Side Union High School district, to expand broadband access to thousands of high school students and their families; and
- Exploit the innovation of our local community, such as through the “Unleash Your Geek” initiative, which incentivizes local contestants who help to solve urban challenges with their creative inventions.
PERSONAL LIFE & EARLY CAREER
Sam and his wife, Jessica, live in the Northside neighborhood, east of Downtown. Their home lies within blocks of Jessica’s childhood home, as well as the childhood home of Sam’s father, Salvador, and of the neighborhood grocery store that Sam’s grandparents operated in the 1940s and 50s.
Sam descended from a combination of Sicilian and Irish immigrants, as well as the first Mexican settlers in the Bay Area. After graduating from Bellarmine College Prep in San José, Sam attended Georgetown University, where he rowed crew as captain of the heavyweight squad. He graduated magna cum laude in 1991, and enrolled at Harvard Law School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. After graduating with honors with a law degree and a master’s degree in public policy, Sam returned to the Bay Area in 1996.
Prior to his election to public office, Sam spent a number of years in public service serving as a federal and local criminal prosecutor on a range of felony cases, from sexual assault and child exploitation to international narcotrafficking. Sam’s extensive work in the community also included teaching political science at San José State University, co-founding an innovative program to mentor children, serving on the boards of several affordable housing organizations and advocating for several successful countywide ballot measures that are bringing BART to San José.
In 2006, voters elected Sam to the first of his two terms on the City Council, where he led efforts to revitalize its downtown, preserve San José’s hillsides and open space, boost funding for affordable housing and open a world-class soccer stadium for the San José Earthquakes.