Securing a two-thirds vote of the electorate, especially to pass a tax, is a tall order. But in the year 2000, at the height of the economic upturn, the timing was right for an ambitious and bold initiative to finally bring BART to Silicon Valley, further modernize Caltrain and also fund a host of other bus and rail improvements to provide Silicon Valley commuters with alternatives to congested highway corridors. Thanks for the visionary leadership and dogged determination of then-San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Jude Barry co-led “Measure A,” a 30-year half-cent sales tax for BART, Caltrain and transit. The Measure captured the support of the voting public, passing with 70.4 percent of the vote.
Early in the campaign, a young man with a penchant for public service walked into the campaign office asking to volunteer. He ended up working 80-plus hour weeks for nearly four months, co-leading in every capacity of the campaign. The young lawyer, a former federal prosecutor and Harvard-trained attorney, was Sam Liccardo, now Mayor of San Jose.
Epilogue: The 2000 “Measure A,” by statute, didn’t begin revenue collection until 2006, and will run through 2036. The first ten-mile segment of the BART extension, with stations in Milpitas and Berryessa, will open ahead of schedule and well over $100 million under budget, with passenger service expected within the next nine months.