As the new year begins, California’s third largest city gets a new mayor.
Matt Mahan took the helm in San Jose on January 1st, pledging to stop homelessness, reduce crime and make the city more affordable. Former San Jose Councilman Won the mayoral election in November with 51.3 percent of the vote and replaced Sam Liccardo, who could not run again due to time limits.
“Sam texted me after midnight on New Year’s Eve and said: ‘Tag, you’re it. Don’t screw it up,'” Mahan told NBC Bay Area.
Licardo, 52, is also a former city councilman and led the Bay Area city for eight years — through a pandemic, a mass shootinga homeless crisis, a great flood even more. Just before Licardo left office, I talked with him about the housing shortage in the city, his proudest moments, and what’s next for him.
Here’s our conversation, lightly edited for clarity and length:
What are you most proud of from 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’s Aspiration – We’re using a digital platform to help first-generation students get on the path to college, and we offer micro-scholarships to ease the financial barriers to college. We’ve completely bridged the digital divide for low-income students Providing free broadband to over 150,000 residents, a program we started called resilience core is helping hundreds of thousands of low-income young adults make their way into the workforce through work that dramatically improves the resilience of our communities to respond to climate change and the pandemic and other challenges
Clearly, as we look at what we’ve left to our next generation, they have plenty of reason to be very upset with us, whether it’s climate change or billions of dollars of unfunded liabilities in pension obligations, or a host of other things. Full hosting. I feel like it is the investment we make in their future that is going to be our greatest legacy.
Let’s talk about homelessness. in 2013, before you were elected, there were about 4,770 people who were homeless in San Jose. By 2022, there are approx. 6,740,
I think, for every major city in the western United States, it’s extremely challenging. And there are much bigger forces at work here than at City Hall. The two biggest forces appear to be supply and demand. What we do know from the data is that many high poverty cities do not have a lot of homelessness. But really expensive cities like San Jose and San Francisco and LA have horrendous levels of homelessness. So this should tell us something about the extent to which supply and demand for affordable housing really has a big role to play here.
Fundamentally, for cities, the task should be how do we dramatically expand that list of affordable housing. And it’s a big problem that no one city alone can solve. There’s no doubt that if we’re really going to tackle this we need a bigger role for the state and federal government to embrace this as a national crisis.
Do you see homelessness as your successor’s biggest challenge?
Yes, this is the biggest crisis for every major city in the West. We are not unique in that regard. The challenge of our generation is this growing economic divide, and homelessness is a very serious symptom of that growing divide. This divide is driven by huge forces – globalization of technology, of automation. We can all see that more and more of our residents are being left behind in an economy that doesn’t value skills the same way it did 30 years ago, and more conflict will result as a result unless we make dramatic changes in people. Can’t accelerate your investments effectively. So I think this will be a generational challenge for our city and every tech-heavy city in the country.
What would you say was your toughest moment as mayor?
As mayor, you have a lot of hands-on experience with residents in their darkest moments of pain. I think especially of the time we were speaking to the family members of the VTA employees at the Red Cross center who were killed in the May 2020 mass shooting. The coroner could not confirm the identity of the victims. We sat there for hours with families who were not told that their husband or son had been lost. It was a very painful moment.
You haven’t announced what’s next for you. What will you be doing after leaving office?
I’m going to avoid that question. My wife and I promised that we would get away and take some time and make some decisions after I was out of the office. I don’t really have time to focus on this.
and a piece of good news before you go
The Times asked readers about the best advice they’ve received or been given in 2022. What did he find himself and others repeating?
Reactions poured in, and we’re sharing 20 of the smartest and funniest, Here are some of my favorites:
“You can’t learn anything when you’re talking.” , Linda Zimmerman, Austin, Texas
“Walk towards the monster (pain, horror, sorrow).” – Valerie Rosenfield, Oakland
“When trying to sleep at night, instead of counting sheep, try counting your blessings. This can often help. , Tom Barnes, London