City Manager Prioritizes Police Over Innovation
Police Chief Now to Report to City Manager, CIO to Report to Community Development Director
Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli, whose latest accomplishment includes the SLPD’s shooting of fleeing black and Latino suspects in three separate occasions, is now reporting directly to City Manager Chris Zapata. She was previously reporting to Assistant City Manager Lianne Marshall. Zapata has been explicit on his unwavering confidence on the police chief and has long taken the attitude that she can do no wrong, he has even excused the multitudes of falsehoods Spagnoli has conveyed to the City Council and the community as unintentional “misstatements”. However, Spagnoli’s attempts to have the School District take money from classrooms to pay for police officer salaries ruffled political feathers above Zapata’s paygrade and he has been advised to reign her in. Whether he has the ability to do so, however, is questionable.
Meanwhile, Chief Innovation Officer Deborah Acosta is no longer reporting to Chris Zapata directly. Instead she will report to Community Development Director Cynthia Battenberg. Acosta was brought in to market and expand Lit San Leandro, the city’s fiber optic loop, and to attract business and investment to town. Battenberg has no experience on these matters.
Acosta appears to not have been consulted about this de facto demotion, which brings about the likelihood that she might not want to stick around. Given that she is considered to be the most competent person at City Hall and that the City has gambled on Lit San Leandro beings its economic engine for the future, her exit would have a tremendous negative impact on the City. Zapata’s decision to demote Acosta is most likely due to his own inability to manage more than a few department heads at the time – but also illustrates how he appears to have lost interest on his position as City Manager and is just going through the motions. He has reportedly applied for other jobs, but he has been unable to convince any other city to hire him.
Marketing Lit San Leandro, meanwhile, has been more difficult than Acosta anticipated due, in great part, to Zapata’s hands off approach to the Police Department. This has led to numerous incidents of police brutality, rampant racial profiling, police spying on school children, false arrests of men suspected of being gay, and community rifts due to increased surveillance and police militarization. These incidents are regularly covered by the press and, coming on top on San Leandro’s long history of racial discrimination, do not make San Leandro a welcoming place for businesses researching San Leandro as a possible base of operations. While the fiberloop is very attractive to businesses, other cities are in the process of installing their own, so San Leandro’s window of opportunity is limited.
(This article has been edited by the addition of the third paragraph)