Council Split in Two Camps
The last item on last Monday’s agenda of the San Leandro City Council was the selection of the Vice-Mayor. It had been put off from a previous meeting as the then current Vice Mayor, Michael Gregory, had been absent. Gregory made a motion to nominate Jim Prola for the position. Pauline Cutter quickly seconded him and then Mayor Cassidy immediately called for a vote. He left no room for discussion, counter-motions or public comment. Of course, other council members could have interrupted to offer their own motions nominating someone else – but they didn’t do so. The vote went 4-3, with Gregory, Cutter, Cassidy and Prola voting to make Prola Vice-Mayor, and Ursula Reed, Benny Lee and Diana Souza voting against him.
The reasons for this pretty unusual vote came clear at the end of the meeting when Diana Souza paid homage to her mentor Joyce Starosciak (who, you will remember, left town because she couldn’t deal with the pain of not having been elected Mayor), to sing her own “why don’t you love me” swan song. She said she didn’t vote against Prola because he was unqualified – all of them, said Souza, are equally qualified -, but because she wanted to be Vice-Mayor and she’s never gotten the chance. She blames this on her willingness to stand up for her principles rather than compromise (principles such as “we should spend all our money building an Olympic swimming pool in the Manor”, “people shouldn’t be allowed to raise chickens or bees”, “no marijuana dispensaries in town”, “porn theaters yes, Shakespeare no in the industrial district”, “let the police do as they will”). I don’t know if I’ve ever seens as clear an example of the Dunning–Kruger effect.
Almost as interesting as Souza’s public whining session, was the fact that it was done without an actual vote against her. Either Lee or Reed could have a motion to nominate Souza as Vice-Mayor – Reed, indeed, made it clear on her comments that she voted against Prola because she wanted Souza to have the position -, but they didn’t. This begs the question as to why. The obvious answer is that they knew Souza didn’t have the votes to win – which is the sort of thing that can only happen if you’ve been breaking the Brown Act right and left to find out how your colleagues are voting.
I’m not sure what to make of the fact that Souza and her cohorts voted against Prola knowing that he had the votes to win. It solidifies the theory that Souza is not going to run for Mayor against Cassidy, but rather that her appearances around town were part of her campaign for Vice-Mayor. Ursula Reed, on the other hand, is ostensibly running for Alameda County Superintendent of Schools and you would think she would know better than publicly spiting Prola. Prola, after all, has a lot of influence in Democratic and labor circles, and while he’s not personally petty, Reed’s vote shows a lack of common sense that is unlikely to make her many friends.
The vote, moreover, solidifies the division of the City Council into two camps. Interestingly, the Reed-Souza-Lee camp is the more solid of the three. They are driven together as much by conservative social views and loyalty to the police (the police union were huge contributors to the Lee and Reed campaigns, and Souza has other reasons to be grateful to them), as by their unwillingness to move to city forward. The other four Council members form an uneasy alliance, as their political views run the gamut and they don’t necessarily share the same vision for the City. On the other hand, they do seem to take their job more seriously. It will be interesting to see if this split stays in future votes such as that on the marijuana dispensary.