Nov 042012
Tony Santos, Benny Lee and Hendy Huang

Benny Lee (center) with former Mayor Tony Santos (left) and supporter Hendy Huang.

Lee’s mailer highlights bad decision-making by Shelia Young and Tony Santos

I am the volunteer campaign manager for  Chris Crow, who is running for San Leandro City Council District 4, so when I received a mailer from his opponent, Benny Lee, I was quite interested in reading it.  I was expecting he’d use the mailer to answer criticisms about his lack of concrete proposals on how to move San Leandro forward.

Instead, his mailer focused on criticizing the City for three poor decisions made in the last decade.  Surprisingly, these were all done while two of his endorsers, Shelia Young and Tony Santos, were Mayor of San Leandro.  Two of his other endorsers, O.B. Badger and Ursula Reed, were in the City Council at the time.  Tony Santos, in particular, has been Benny Lee’s mentor and they are staunch allies.

The first issue Lee brings up is a loan guarantee the City gave to a private company – with Shelia Young’s approval.  The borrowers defaulted, the lender wants the City to pay up, and we may be on the hook for millions of dollars.

Another has to do with a city street apparently under foreclosure.  Lee’s mailer is not clear on the particulars, but it shows the matter going back to  2005, when Shelia Young was Mayor and Badger and Santos were in the City Council.

Finally, the mailer points out the City could have saved millions by refinancing its pension liabilities when interest rates first fell several years ago.  He is right, but both the Young and Santos administration ignored this issue.  It wasn’t until Stephen Cassidy became mayor that the debt was refinanced.

Lee could have pointed out many other bad decisions past City Councils have made, such as having the City pay the employee’s portion of their pensions, engaging in the Faith Fellowship and Albertson’s litigations  (which combined cost the city about $7,000,000) and not handling the sex and race discrimination issues at the Police Department before getting sued.

I agree with Lee’s tacit conclusion that both Tony Santos and Shelia Young, and more recently Reed, appear to have done less than a competent job while in the Council.   But there is no reason to suspect Lee will do any better.  On his mailer he calls himself a “financial analyst” and promises to fix the city’s budget problems, but a quick look at his resume shows that his actual expertise is in IT, with a focus on financial computer systems.   His promise to search through the city budget for savings seems disingenuous when he could have easily done so already. The budget is available for download at the city’s website.

And indeed, Lee has given us a hint of the type of decisions he will make if elected.  For example, he would kick a green-energy company out of town, because he fears the lone wind turbine they want to install will give his wife headaches.  He would ban marijuana dispensaries because a friend became addicted to alcohol as a teen and then died of cirrhosis (yes, I fail to see the connection as well).  He would get rid of RCV purportedly because Chinese Americans are unable to understand how to vote.  And he would not make Police officers have to pay their share of pension contributions.  In return, the Police union has spent more than $7,500 to get him elected.

Now, given that I support Chris Crow, it’s not surprising that I’m unimpressed by Lee.  What is surprising is how unimpressed he seems to be with the people who endorsed him.

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