Expect More Bad Decisions With Sam Liccardo In Charge of VTA

San Jose Mayor and VTA Board Chair Sam Liccardo. Photo: Josie Lepe

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo will once again take over as Chairperson of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Board of Directors for 2018, “elected” at the Board’s December 7 meeting with no other candidates submitting applications. Liccardo was VTA Board Chair in 2010 as well, and was Vice-Chair in 2017.

“Please accept this letter expressing my interest in serving as the Chair of the Valley Transportation Authority for the upcoming year. I would welcome the opportunity to serve in this role on behalf of the residents of Santa Clara County,” wrote Mayor Liccardo, his entire November 14 letter to then-Chair Jeannie Bruins of Los Altos.

With fellow San Jose City Council members Chappie Jones, Johnny Khamis, Lan Diep, and Raul Peralez also serving as voting VTA Board members, Liccardo already effectively controls the overall agenda of the 12-member Board. As Chair, he will control the Board’s meeting agendas even more explicitly.

Liccardo adamantly supports the agency’s most controversial decisions, including the extension of BART from the San Jose Diridon Caltrain Station to the Santa Clara Caltrain Station, which could cost over $1 billion to duplicate existing rail service. Liccardo also drew up VTA’s 2016 Measure B Sales Tax, bloated with $1.85 billion for highway traffic expansions over the next 30 years. The San Jose Mayor also insists on proceeding with a deeper 45-foot wide single-bore tunnel for the BART stations underneath Santa Clara Street, while BART prefers the shallower, less financially risky, and industry-standard 22-foot wide double-bore tunnels.

According to VTA’s Administrative Code, the Board Chair’s primary duties are to:

  • Preside at all meetings of the Board
  • Establish the Board’s agenda in consultation with the General Manager/CEO.
  • Regulate the order of presentations to the Board consistent with the Board Rules of Procedure.
  • Sign all ordinances, resolutions, and legal instruments approved or authorized by the Board whenever not otherwise delegated to the General Manager/CEO or staff.

Santa Clara City Council member Teresa O’Neill and Cupertino Mayor Savita Vaidhyanathan submitted full-page cover letters in their competing applications to serve as VTA Board Vice Chair in 2018. The Vice Chair performs the duties of the Chair in his absence.

“I truly believe that transportation is key to the success and quality of life of everybody in this community, and VTA is the voice of this community that’s going to help ensure that quality of life and the ongoing success of this community,” said O’Neill in support of her application.

“I represent five cities in the west valley area, where people live but go to other places to work,” said Vaidhyanathan. “We see this every day and it really impacts the quality of our life.”

O’Neill was elected as Vice Chair, receiving nine votes while Vaidhyanathan received two votes, from Jones and herself.