Sep 192012

It’s no secret that I support Chris Crow for City Council.  To many people, however, it is surprising – though I’m not entirely sure why.

It’s true, when I first met Chris in the comments area of San Leandro Patch, and later on my San Leandro Talk Facebook page, I wasn’t his biggest fan. I thought he was cocky, sort of a know-it-all, and let his enthusiasm get ahead of fact-checking or analysis. We argued a lot.

My opinion of him started changing when I took a greater interest in the Bal Theater’s struggles with City Hall. As my kids were out of town for the summer, I went to a Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) meeting where they’d be discussing giving Dillman a permit. Chris was representing Dillman before the BZA, laying down the facts and making his argument. He didn’t do the best job, I will admit, he got argumentative and “threatened” the BZA that the Bal would continue operating without a permit, if they didn’t get all they wanted. Still, I was impressed at the fact that here was someone, with no legal background, who had taken the trouble to study what is a very complex issue (zoning law) in order to help a community business thrive. As I learned more about how City Hall was trying to strong-arm Dan Dillman, and how it was basically Chris’ efforts that were keeping them at bay, my respect for Chris grew.

Over time, Chris and I have worked on many issues together. As he became more involved in following the actions of the City Council, its committees and commissions, he alerted me to many deeds that seemed suspicious or harmful to the City. I saw him research complex issues, ranging from the city’s taxing policy to its arbitrary zoning regulations, and come out with surprisingly (to me, at first) insightful analyses and solutions. Even more impressively, I saw him speaking out on issues that matter, standing up to a City staff that can be insulting and condescending, challenging the status quo, even at what seemed like a high political cost (his dismissal from the Planning Commission being a prime example). Chris is one of the few candidates, not just in San Leandro but across the allegedly liberal Bay Area, who is willing to stand up to the Police Department and call them out when they do something wrong. That takes an impressive amount of courage.

I respect a man, a person, who stands up for his beliefs and does what’s right for the community. I respect Chris.

Chris and I don’t always agree. He worked hard to pass Prop 29, a tax on cigarettes, which I opposed for being regressive. He is a big proponent of Bus Rapid Transit, as he thinks it would revitalize South San Leandro. I think it’s bad for riders. But we do agree on what I consider fundamentals: that City Hall’s primary responsibility is towards the citizens of San Leandro, that the government must be transparent and accountable to the community, that human dignity and civil liberties must be respected, and that we shouldn’t allow petty politics to interfere with the quest for the common good.

All this said, Chris is still a bit “green.”  Not to policy, which is really what matters, but to politics. I’m hesitant to fault him for that. Good politicians excel at lying well, selling themselves to the highest bidder while pretending to be “of the people.” In that sense, I’m glad that Chris is not a “good politician” – I hope he doesn’t become one.

I know, of course, that once he gets elected, Chris and I will knock heads many times. I will be his harshest critic. It will be Chris’ ability to take criticism constructively which will determine how good a public servant he makes. I have confidence he’ll be great.

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