Sam Liccardo is our District 3 City Council representative. He is married to Jessica Garcia-Kohl, who is Rocketship’s Director of Community Development.
Mr. Liccardo met a total of 6 times with Rocketship’s lobbyist, Erik Schoennauer just before becoming engaged to Ms. Garcia-Kohl, meetings which did not include community members. Mr. Liccardo then recused himself from the Tamien Rocketship project because of the obvious conflict of interest. This put our community in a bad position as we had no political representation. In an attempt to solve this problem, Mr. Liccardo arranged for Mayor Chuck Reed to represent us. Community members had a few meetings with one of his staff, Ru Weerakoon, and voiced our concerns. She assured us that she was relaying our thoughts to the Mayor.
Eventually Ms. Weerakoon set up a 30 minute meeting with the Mayor, and a number of community members came to City Hall late one night for their sole precious opportunity to speak directly with their representative. Neighbors began explaining their many concerns about building a 3rd Rocketship, but Mr. Reed immediately disagreed with them. After subtle arguments about the benefits of walking to school and encouraging community involvement at local schools, he proclaimed that charter schools are always better than traditional public schools. After multiple neighbors expressed concern after concern, he was reminded that he was supposed to represent District 3 for this issue, as he was replacing Sam Liccardo. He looked at the small group of neighbors in the room and declared that he did not intend to represent us, but rather to do what he thought was best for San Jose.
Mayor Reed’s calendar shows multiple meetings with Rocketship lobbyists and school site visits, but other than the one 30 minute meeting, he has not been able to meet with our community. He also was invited to come to our neighborhood and tour our local district school, but he declined.
We at StopRocketship.com are saddened by the breakdown of the democratic process in this case, as lobbyists and relatives have more access to representatives than people in the community.