Mar 302011

Last December San Leandro’s current City Manager, Steve Hollister submitted his resignation, stating that he would leave when his contract expired in June.  The speculation was that his contract would not be renewed.  Under Hollister, the City managed to deplete its financial reserves almost completely, a number of major companies moved out of town, it developed an anti-business reputation and quality of life in the City declined.  Tony Santos took the blunt of the blame for this in November – losing a Mayoral race in a city that almost automatically votes for incumbents – but in San Leandro it’s the City Manager, not the Mayor, who is really in charge of (and to blame for) how the city is run.

With Hollister in the way out, San Leandro needs to hire a new City Manager.  Last week, 3 months after Hollister’s announcement, the City finally got around to posting the job.   Given the shoddy quality of the job posting brochure and the recycled verbiage, it couldn’t have taken that long to create.  It’s not clear to me, then, why the search did not start sooner.  Applicants have until April 18th, to submit their resumes/references,  a relatively short window of time.   The  City has chosen not to hire a search firm.

This suggests to me that the “powers that be” have someone in mind for the position.  I’ve heard rumors that neither our Assistant City Manager Lianne Marshall or Deputy City Manager Jacki Diaz are interested in the job – so it may very well be an external hire.  In either case, I would hope it’s someone who agrees to move to San Leandro.  We want to hire someone for the long haul, and that means someone who is willing to believe in San Leandro enough to make it his/her home.  And I want someone who believes enough on his/her own abilities that he can trust he’ll be kept around for as long as s/he wants to be.

I am concerned, however, that the current City Manager hiring process has no space for public input.  For one, while the City Council are the representatives of the public, they do not reflect at all the demographics of this city.  Asians and Latinos make up 57% of the city’s population, and yet there isn’t even one Asian or Latino City Council member.   Indeed, while whites only comprise 27% of the City’s population, 85% of the City Council is white.  There should be a way for the City to solicit the imput of Asian and Latino and other San Leandro citizens in the City Manager hiring process.

What I propose is that the City form an advisory committee composed of 7 members.  Each City Council member would appoint one representative, making an effort to appoint someone from a demographic group not represented in City Council (in addition to Asians and Latinos, this could mean gays, young people, non-Christians, etc.).  This group would review the applications of the top City Manager choices, and either interview them or submit questions for their interviews (and then review their answers).  They would then either individually or as a group, submit their recommendations and the grounds for these to the Council as a whole.  The City Council, of course, would be free to make its own mind.Group members would be made to sign confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from discussing the matter.  To expedite the process, City Council members could draw on their commissioners as possible members of this advisory group or tap community leaders.

I’ll send my proposal along to the City Council, let’s see what they do with it 🙂

  14 Responses to “A new City Manager for San Leandro”

  1. Marga, your analysis is apt. The council members have clearly decided who the San Leandro City Manager will be. Classic San Leandro patronage, regardless of the choice. Imagining that the present City Council wants to promote transparency, open discussion, inclusiveness and diversity is hardly in keeping with the traditions of the city.

    Real transformative government will not come until the districts are disbanded. RCV voting provides the solution that district representation provides without the encumbrance of finding candidates.

    You are right that neither the present SLCC nor the SLBOE are representative of the community. Both were selected by an active minority that handled the electoral process well, without respect to real democratic republican principles. The majority is hardly close to the concept of the plurality.

    That the Jack Maltester-Tony Santos regime is retired is not a bad thing. The present Council is hardly progressive or even innovative, though their best side forward is the largely part time moderate Mayor Cassidy. The backroom deals will not end until the diversity of the city is manifest on the City Council and the will of the plurality is known through the electoral process.

    The best efforts for all would be the formation of an ad hoc San Leandro Educational Electoral Platform Advocating Promotion of Neighborhood Associations or SLEEP APNEA.

    The platform would well up from the aquifer of San Leandro’s diverse population. This forum could be the place to promote the blanks for the raft of good ideas that could rise from intelligent discussion.

  2. Maybe class should also be a factor. Most San Leandro folks don’t make much money so a city manager who will aggressively promote fairness and inclusiveness would be great. The manager is such a key position . I wonder if there is a progressive city manager organization cities could work with?

  3. Craig, class is a factor? What do you mean by that? I am genuinely confused. Please clarify.

  4. If someone is a conservative wealthy Latino, he/she probably doesn’t have the same interests as a poor , living week to week, liberal Latino. The conservative may be very much against affordable housing and other government programs , while the liberal poor person may see affordable housing as a key issue.
    Most city managers have a business slant ,which is good for the business class but may not be good for all residents. I don’t know of any progressive city managers, maybe their relationship with other city workers is a management /labor relationship.
    Marga’s idea of making the process more open ,will possibly create a discussion as to what we want from a city manager and what are the managers values. Germany has avoided exporting their manufacturing sector because half the corporate boards are made up of workers , who don’t see outsourcing of their jobs as a good option.

  5. Craig,

    I was hoping to understand what you meant by class, as I do not believe that class per se actually exists so much as the socio economic and educational status exists. Without being too obstreperous I would contend that San Leandro is classless if you apply a traditional Marxist test to the word. If your contention is that the City Manager should come up from the Protetariat and not to descend from the Bourgeousie is shallow and a stretch.

    My sense of Marga’s proposal was that she was hoping that the Seven City Council Members would select a representative each to advise on the selection of the City Manager. While I laud your motives, I cannot see any of the Council at present selecting from your proposed class of disenfranchised, impoverished and uneducated would be voters.

    The City Manager manages the business of the City. While I support a progressive City Manager, having one savvy enough to manage the millions of dollars that funnel through the responsibility is daunting.

    I sincerely hope that there is a strong home grown progressive electorate that gets out and votes, and not the pathetic effort that has happened in so many elections. I had hoped that Sara Mestas would be more than a flash and that has not happened.

    The City needs a strong representative electorate. That will stem from leadership that will well up from the mass of disaffected voters.

  6. What I meant by class was a realization that ethnic groups hardly ever function as a unified group . A city manager who was sensitive to the needs of needs of the bottom 50 percent would be a refreshing change in San Leandro.
    Further more,we should have available information about the city’s economic and income realities, what kinds of jobs are being produced in the city, the percentage of people in poverty etc. A UCLA study claims that 5 percent of Californians go to bed hungry every night. That equates to about 4,000 San Leandro folk.
    The actual city manager won’t come from the ranks of the poor but could be aware of their predicament. Being able to run a municipal government yet still keep the realities of its citizens in mind should be an important qualification.
    Marx would comment about how the capitalists would pit workers in one country against workers in other countries to keep down wages not very different from what Alan Greenspan would argue when he said that there is very little wage pressure because of the global competition workers now face.

  7. Craig, for a moment there I thought you were serious about impacting the choice of City Manager in present time, and not about some dream in the future. Success in San Leandro in my opinion will come from the election to the City Council, appointments to Advisory Boards, Civil Service positions, Public Safety Position and the School Board of voters who meet the diversity of the community, based on the 2011 Census. In short, about 33% Asian, 33% Chicano/Hispanic/Latino, 33% Other. Of those appointees, half should be female, 10% LGBT, 10% Disabled. In short the city should mirror the community it serves. Each of these coalitions need to be harnessed and begin to vote. Those Councilpersons who are timid or do not support such a measure should be called out and brought to task for their postions. We need to work constantly for greater representation and beyond a simple plurality at the polls.

  8. What would be serious is if people got together and changed the election structure to district elections. The diversity would be much richer in a cultural sense. Now people waste their money running city wide in a place where people don’t really care that much about politics. I think one of the main issues last elections was bringing Trader Joe’s to town as well as some new high end restaurants.
    City leaders could and should address the dearth of democracy, they could put together a plan to develop democracy. . Also people who are what are called “localists” are more concerned with local politics where many people are more concerned with state, national and international issues.To many San Leandro people the town is a nice fairly quite suburb.

  9. Well said, Craig. The localists who identify their issues, without respect to state, national and international cocerns will become among the most electable. The groups who promote and support the local issues will become the powerhouse of San Leandro.

    I do not share your enthusiasm for district elections. These have not served San Francisco well.

  10. Thomas,most successful, intelligent Latinos and Asians see running for office in San Leandro as a bad investment since it involves minimal contact with voters and a $25,000 or so investment primarily in mailers. Localists should see district elections as campaign finance reform. Some city council races in San Leandro are more expensive than races in Oakland .But of course interest group money would be less effective in district races since grassroots efforts are more manageable on a district level.
    Also the localists idea of San Leandro exceptionalism doesn’t hold water. It may get Republican support in elections but the real budget problem is not the city workers but the skyrocketing health care cost and the economy , not only here but throughout the country.You can’t just make things nice in San Leandro.
    Localists don’t look at commercial property taxes either , which is draining cities and schools of $8 Billion a year in California . Not something the local exceptionalists can solve or even apparently address. Our schools suffer from one other serious problem which is a high poverty rate among students. When schools have less than 10 percent poverty level students ,we are first in reading and science internationally and 3rd in math. When schools have 25% ,we’re still number one in reading and science. Unfortunately many schools including San Leandro have a much higher poverty rate. This is where the class analysis comes in or as you would say the Marxist Bourgeois /Proletariat split.
    Of course being a powerhouse is more important to localists than seriously addressing these issues.

  11. Craig, please correct me if I am restating your point incorrectly.

    You assertion is that responsible and effective Hispanic, Asian and other represenatives are unlikely to want to hold office because of the expense.

    Your assertion is that as long as there are district races, PAC and special interest money will largely buy out the candidates.

    Local leadership cannot improve anything and it is only at a statewide level that the real issues will get solved.

    So your solution is what?

  12. Thomas ,yea I guess you could have an inspirational teacher or principal in a school in a poor neighborhood who would motivate a few more people to go to college , is that your vision? The numbers don’t lie. If you have lots of people who unfortunately are poor , the schools won’t do well. Paying their parents more might be a solution.
    The election process here is deceptively undemocratic having to run city wide. You either are in a race where you have no competition or you need to raise 2 or three times what the job pays. District elections are fairer to the candidates who are after all making the financial investment to run . Of course its not that much for interest groups who can buy access by bankrolling a candidate. Making a significant personal contribution in a political environment where the majority of voters don’t know who their local city councilors from a hole in the ground isn’t that appealing.
    As a localist you should support more local election which means district elections.

  13. Craig, It sounds to me like you are arguing for the status quo and that there is no hope. I had thought that you were a progressive Democrat in an overwhelmingly Democratic city with virtually no interest in supporting the Libertarian, Republican, Tea Party, American Independent and other crazies who inhabit dark allies and bars, but who generally vote down any progressives.

    I cannot recall the slogan but it was sort of like Act Local Think Global. I thought that was your mantra.

    This thread is about a City Manager. I thought you were supportive to that concept as opposed to the strong mayor model as recently championed first by Jerry Brown and then lamentably by Ron Dellums.

    Fortunately San Leandro does not have that. The real business of the city is run by the City Manager. Hollister was not successful. I am told he chose to resign before his performance review.

    Based on his lousy records he is good riddance.

    Building a city wide plank of local issues can be very effective. I thought you were building a website and program of activism to promote that.

    What happened?

  14. A strong city manager depoliticizes government and makes it more of a bureaucracy rather than a democratic process. Marga in her mayor article is advocating a somewhat stronger mayor.
    I guess I support proportional representation ,which means Republicans would have a fourth of the seats in San Leandro. Given their undemocratic nature , it might not be worth the pain and suffering which goes along with fairness and the party of No. Many people think it would help the Greens but the big winner around here would be Republicans.
    Acting locally and thinking globally is consistent with district elections. Advocating for more democracy and less money driven politics is consistent as well.
    SL Progressive Democrats will be at it again soon, though I’m less optimistic about how free most people are in a society where few citizens of working age have “Just Cause at work.A right most Europeans and other developed democracies have.

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