What’s the former San Jose mayor teaching at Stanford?
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo discussing his two terms in office during an interview with San José Spotlight on Dec. 14, 2022. Photo by Joseph Geha.

    Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo had his first day on campus this week, and he couldn’t be more excited.

    Liccardo, who termed out last year, started a part-time gig as a Stanford University law professor on Monday. His course explores the fiscal, legal and political struggles of policymaking to solve what he said are the top problems in American cities: poverty and homelessness, violent crime and global warming. The 25-graduate student course is called “How Cities Can Save the World.”

    “It’s an aspirational title, obviously, but it’s for a reason,” Liccardo told San José Spotlight. “All of us as students are idealistic. It’s important for us to channel that idealism toward the work that needs to be done that can have the greatest impact.”

    He said his goal is to inspire students to become “champions for cities” and explore ways to tackle some of the most complicated problems. The class, which meets on Mondays and Wednesdays through June, will bring in guest speakers like Lori Mitchell who heads San Jose’s Community Energy department or former San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia. Reading and discussion will focus primarily on U.S. cities, but will consider some international examples as well, according to the course description.

    “The average citizen spends about five seconds per month thinking about the challenges that confront this local community because we’re inundated with what’s going on in Washington D.C. or London,” Liccardo said. “But we know that resident engagement locally is what makes a huge difference.”

    It’s not Liccardo’s first professor position. As a San Jose councilmember, Liccardo taught a local politics course at San Jose State University in 2011. He said teaching is not his career, but a passion.

    Political observer Terry Christensen and political science professor emeritus at San Jose State University, said Liccardo is a great professor because of his policy and legal experience both in San Jose City Hall and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office where he worked from 2001 to 2006.

    “It’s really good for students to be talking to somebody with practical experience in local government. We have had dozens of county supervisors or councilmembers teach,” Christensen told San José Spotlight. “It’s sort of a soft landing for a politician who’s leaving office while they find their next full time job.”

    Christensen said he anticipates this will be temporary for the former mayor. Liccardo, who accepted the position in January, said he isn’t yet sure what his future in higher education might look like beyond this quarter.

    Since terming out in December, Liccardo has been quiet about his next steps. He told San José Spotlight he plans to stay in the world of public service and policy, eyeing different opportunities in the private or nonprofit sector.

    Liccardo is also considering a run for Congress, and paid for a poll to assess his electability, but did not confirm whether he would take on incumbent Zoe Lofgren in 2024.

    “Congresswoman Lofgren is the only one talking to the media and donors about rumors of any candidacy of mine,” Liccardo said. “If I’m running for Congress or any other office, there won’t be any need for rumors or speculation. I’ll be very explicit. Right now I’m evaluating the options.”

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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