San Leandro is about to appoint a new City Manager to lead the city, hopefully effectively and for many years to come. An ad hoc committee composed by Mayor Stephen Cassidy and Council members Reed and Souza narrowed the field of applicants from 30 to five. The Council won’t disclose their identities – ostensibly to protect the applicants’ current jobs – though hopefully demographic information on them will be forthcoming. Cassidy has not heeded my suggestion that he appoint a citizens ad hoc committee to give input on who among these candidates would work best for the city, but he is soliciting the community’s opinion albeit in a very limited manner.
For one, he set up an online questionnaire asking very general questions as to what San Leandrans want in a city manager. Cassidy has not explained how the information from these questionnaires will be put to use, however.
Cassidy will also be holding a Town Hall meeting (Sat., April 30, 9-11 a.m. Lecture Hall at Main Library) for citizen’s to provide their input on this issue. For that input to be useful, however, it is essential that the citizens attending be asked real questions concerning the particular characteristics of the five final candidates. For example, it would be of little use of citizens to tell the Mayor that they want a Latino or Asian city manager, if none of the five final candidates are of such ethnic origin. Similarly, if none of the candidates live or are willing to live in San Leandro, it won’t help the Mayor at this point to hear how important this issue is to the community. It is thus essential that Cassidy and his fellow Council members take a careful look at the characteristics of these five candidates and then ask the community specific questions about what qualities about them they would find more compelling. Would we rather have someone with more experience or with a commitment to stay in San Leandro for longer? Do we want someone who has worked in City government all his life, or would we prefer her to have business or non-profit experience? Do we want someone who is known for their financial skills – given our dismal budget situation – or someone with superior management skills? Only people with access to the candidates will know what the right questions to ask are.
The five candidates won’t be interviewed by the City Council until after the Town Hall meeting, so this is also a good opportunity for Cassidy to solicit community input about what sort of questions we want Cassidy to put to the candidates – and what types of answers would make us happiest. I will personally not be able to be at this Town Hall – it conflicts with the California Democrats Convention – but I hope that many people will attend, that the discussion will be relevant and useful and that the City Council will take the input it generates seriously.