San Jose nonprofit grades mayor, councilmembers on key issues
Mayor Sam Liccardo is pictured in this file photo.

In a first of its kind report card on housing, immigration and economic justice, a South Bay nonprofit is grading local lawmakers—starting with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Liccardo scored a C. The report cards come from Sacred Heart Community Service, which ranked elected leaders based upon their records during the past five years.

“It’s basically an analysis of how Sam and the council have voted,” said Demone Carter, director of community engagement at Sacred Heart. “These are issues that the constituents Sacred Heart serves have identified as being very important, with issues of housing being the single most important issue facing the community.”

The nonprofit, which provides housing support and resources to low-income families, wants to hold local politicians accountable on how they voted to put a roof over people’s heads, bolster public safety, increase wages and protect workers. Work permits for immigrants is also a priority.

The nonprofit has doled out grades on an A through F scale, based on a politician’s voting record on housing, immigration, community safety and economic justice. 

Liccardo is not an A student, according to Sacred Heart administrators.

“The overall grades of the mayor of San Jose are concerning for community members who are affected by these issues and it clearly points towards opportunities for growth,” said Stephanie Hanson-Quintana, director of organizing and policy for Sacred Heart. 

The nonprofit reviewed what officials did to help renters, develop affordable housing and assist the homeless. In this category, Liccardo received a C for his votes on renter protections and a B+, his highest score, for building affordable homes. He also earned a Pass on a Pass/Fail option for his support of tiny homes.

Sacred Heart Community Service graded San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and councilmembers on their voting record. Photo courtesy of Sacred Heart.

The report card project is part of Sacred Heart’s strategy for community change, Hanson-Quintana said.

“How elected officials vote also tells a story of who they care about and what they care about,” she said. “What we really want to see here is an alignment between our mission and their voting.”

The grades, which are determined by Sacred Heart staff and community members, came from politicians receiving pluses or minuses on the key issues Sacred Heart works on. If the mayor voted in alignment, he got a plus. For votes not reflecting its vision, he got a minus. If he received the same amount of pluses and minuses, he received a C. According to Sacred Heart, the grades were shared with each lawmaker.

The organization plans to release reports cards next week on all the San Jose councilmembers.

The mayor was given a C+ for  his voting record on policing and economic justice, including protecting workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Liccardo received a C for his votes on immigration, from providing city services to calling for the county to turn over incarcerated people to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Soledad Tellez, a member of Sacred Heart’s immigration committee, said Liccardo’s grades on this issue are disappointing. She wants to see improvement and fulfillment of his promises. 

“Any opportunity he has, he comes and taps our shoulders and tells us he’s with us,” Tellez said. “But what we really see in these grades is that there is a disconnect between his telling us he’s our ally and his performance.” 

Tellez says the report cards will help politicians practice social justice and serve as a road map for future elected officials. The idea is to view issues through a racial equity lens, she added, ensuring people have the services they need to thrive, earn family-sustaining wages and have access to education.

“We want them to know we’re watching and keeping score,” Tellez said. 

The mayor didn’t return requests for comment on his report card.

Soledad Tellez (left), a member of Sacred Heart’s immigration committee, said it made her sad to see Mayor Sam Liccardo’s grades. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Sacred Heart, launched in 1964, works to strengthen community engagement and advocacy to eliminate the root causes of poverty. More than 90% of its members and project recipients identify as low-income to extremely low-income households, making less than $47,350 per year for a family of four.

The goal with the report cards, leaders say, is to improve living conditions for those who call Silicon Valley home.

“We’ve seen some encouraging signs and some room for improvement,” Carter noted. 

Hanson-Quintana said the evaluations are ongoing and will be updated annually using the same criteria and metrics.

“We’re welcoming folks to really vote in the interest of the community,” she said. “When that happens, we will gladly update their score and continue to have conversation with (city leaders) so we can move toward a shared vision on these issues.”

To see all of Sacred Heart’s report cards, click here.

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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