Sam Liccardo: The New York Times Interview

Sam Liccardo: The New York Times Interview

With the start of the new year, California’s third largest city got a new mayor.

Matt Mahan took office in San Jose on Jan. 1, pledging to curb homelessness, reduce crime and make the city more affordable. The former San Jose councilman won the mayoral election in November with 51.3% of the vote and succeeded Sam Liccardo, who could not run again due to term limits.

“Sam texted me just after midnight on New Year’s Eve and said: ‘Tag, you’re the one. Don’t bully him,” Mahan told NBC Bay Area.

Liccardo, 52, is also a former city councilman and led the Bay Area city for eight years — through a pandemic, a mass shooting, a homelessness crisis, a devastating flood and more. Shortly before Liccardo left office, I spoke with him about the city’s housing shortage, his proudest moments and what’s next for him.

Here is our conversation, lightly edited for clarity and length:

What are you most proud of during your years as mayor?

I think a lot about the next generation and what we’ve been able to do to invest in first-generation college students and young adults. To give you an example: SJ Aspires – we are using a digital platform to help guide first-generation students on the path to college, and we offer micro-scholarships to reduce financial barriers to college. We completely eliminated the digital divide for low-income students by providing free broadband to more than 150,000 residents. A program we launched, called Resilience Corps, is helping hundreds of low-income youth enter the workforce through work that dramatically improves the resilience of our communities to climate change and the pandemic and other challenges we face. .

Frankly, as we look at what we’ve left for our next generation, they have plenty of reasons to be upset with us, whether it’s climate change or billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities, or a host of other things. It seems to me that it is the investment we make in their future that will be our greatest legacy.

Let’s talk about the homeless. In 2013, the year before you were elected, there were approximately 4,770 people in San Jose who were homeless. As of 2022, there are about 6,740.

I think, for any major city in the western United States, this is extremely scary. And here there are forces much greater than those within the City Hall. The two biggest forces seem to be supply and demand. What we do know from the data is that many high-poverty cities do not have many homeless people. But really expensive cities like San Jose and San Francisco and LA have terrible levels of homelessness. So that should tell us something about the extent to which the supply and demand for affordable housing has a really big role to play here.

Basically, for cities, the task should be how to dramatically expand that inventory of accessible housing. And this is a bigger problem than any city can solve alone. There is no doubt that we need a much greater role for the state and federal government to embrace this as a national crisis if we are really going to address it.

Do you see homelessness as your follower’s biggest challenge?

Yes, this is the biggest crisis for any major city in the West. We are not unique in this regard. The challenge of our generation is this growing economic divide, and homelessness is a very severe symptom of this growing divide. This division is driven by very large forces – the globalization of technology, of automation. We can all see that more and more of our residents are being left behind in an economy that does not value the same skills as 30 years ago, and as a result more will struggle unless we can dramatically accelerate our investment in people. So I think this is going to be the generational challenge for our city and for every tech-heavy city in the country.

What would you say was your most difficult moment as mayor?

As mayor, you have many experiences with residents in their deepest moments of pain. I think especially of the time we were at the Red Cross center talking to the family members of the VTA workers who were killed in the mass shooting in May 2020. The coroner could not confirm the identities of the victims. We sat there for hours with families who were not told their husband or son was missing. It was a very painful moment.

You haven’t announced what’s next for you. What will you do after you leave?

I will skip this question. My wife and I made a commitment to step away and take some time and make some decisions after I’m off duty. I haven’t really had time to focus on it.

Soumya Karlamangla is a reporter with California Today, The New York Times. Copyright, The New York Times.

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