Benny Lee

Benny Lee is represents District 4 (Washington Manor) in the San Leandro City Council. He is the former president of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association and a member of the Asian Community Cultural Association of San Leandro.

His campaign for City Council was characterized by vile personal attacks against his opponent, done anonymously by his people in his close circle. Lee, a conservative, became a Democrat after deciding to run and flip-flopped on key positions such as his support of marijuana dispensaries.

After receiving over $4K in campaign contributions and independent expenditures from the Police, Benny Lee has consistently voted on their favor. For example, he’s voted to increase surveillance of San Leandro citizens, to ban medical marijuana facilities and to allow police to enter private property without warrants, if people get a permit to keep chickens or bees.

In September 2013, Lee proposed to honor the totalitarian regime of the People’s Republic of China by racing the PRC flag over San Leandro on October 1st, the day that commemorates the Red Army victory in the Chinese civil war and the establishment of the Maoist communist regime, which would lead to deaths of 73 million people, the greatest democide in history. When confronted with China’s continues horrendous human rights violations, Lee refused to even acknowledge them saying simple that he is for “freedom of speech” – only to then try to get my Facebook Page that criticizes him banned.

Jan 152014
Diana Souza

Diana Souza

And, more importantly, “Can she win?”

San Leandro City Council member Diana Souza is playing the old “will I, won’t I” game vis a vis running for Mayor.

On the one hand, she has been seeking the endorsement of highly placed Democrats. On the other hand, when asked in so many words whether she’s running for Mayor, she’s denied it.

While it’s likely that what she is doing is trying to assess whether she can garner enough political support to mount a credible challenge to Mayor Stephen Cassidy, she hurts her credibility by not being straight about it.  If she does decide to run, that lack of honesty may come to haunt her.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy is profoundly disliked by Central Labor and, by extension, by many powerful elements in the Democratic party.  Souza may feel she can exploit this vulnerability.  However, Souza’s right wing ideology – she has opposed everything from urban farming to marijuana dispensaries to even discussing services for the homeless, while pushing for restricting civil liberties in town – is not likely to be well received within Democratic circles.  Souza’s insistence that the flag of the People’s Republic of China be flown over City Hall, also suggest that she has very poor political instincts.   Anyone endorsing Souza does so at their own peril.

Souza’s greatest problem, however, is that she is not actually a viable candidate for Mayor.  Not only does she not have a base (though she will lean heavily on Benny Lee‘s connections within the Chinese community), but she has accomplished nothing in the seven years she has served in City Council.  She ran with the single purpose of building a competitive swimming pool in San Leandro, but was unable to get this done due to opposition by the public. who wanted WW funds spent on a variety of projects.   Since then, she’s had no initiatives and has served as a vote for the Police Department.

Souza also suffers from a lack of campaign experience.  She ran in 2006 against Julian Polvorosa., an elderly barber and former Council member who had been pushed to run by former colleagues and showed no desire to actually be elected.  Souza did a good job of putting signs around town and getting relatives to drop off some fliers, but didn’t need to create the grass root organization that pushed Cassidy into his 2010 win.  She ran for re-election unopposed.

Souza will likely receive the support of the Police Union if she runs for Mayor.  However, that is a double-edged sword in San Leandro.  While she can expect thousands of dollars from them, police support of former Mayor Tony Santos was likely a key reason for why he lost the race.  Indeed, current Councilmember Jim Prola blames news stories about Police Union contributions to his campaign for loosing him votes at the polls.   She is also likely to have the support of the city employee union, but that will just remind voters of how she has put employee’s interests above those of taxpayers..

Her biggest problem, however, is that whatever dissatisfaction there is in San Leandro with Cassidy, extends to the Council as well.  For example, she – along with Cassidy – voted to have the major downtown property sold to a developer for a fraction of its value, so as to be occupied by a drugstore that already has two branches downtown.  She has also voted to give the Police Chief and City manager raises, while complaining there is no money for city services.  Making a case that she’s any better than Cassidy will be tough.

Her candidacy, however, could precipitate another candidate jumping into the race.  Any votes she takes from Cassidy, could help a non-establishment candidate take the plunge.

Sep 292013
Mike Katz-Lacabe

Mike Katz-Lacabe

Today my husband, Mike Katz-Lacabe, was a guest of Brian Copeland on his KGO radio show. They discussed the controversy around raising the flag of the People’s Republic of China in San Leandro as well as the use of license plate cameras.  It’s only 20 minutes, so listen up!

BTW, Brian Copeland said that neither Councilmember Benny Lee, the architect of the flag proposal, nor any other supporters of the flag were willing to go to the show and stand up for their views.

Sep 262013
Cao Shunli

Cao Shunli

On September 13th, Cao Shunli was about to board a flight to Geneva to testify about human rights violations in China, when she was questioned and barred from taking the flight.

She has not been heard of since, and she’s thus suspected of being the victim of a “forced disappearance” by the Chinese government.  As you read this, she is likely to be enduring torture and/or cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment. It won’t be the first time.

After participating in a street protest in 2009, Cao Shunli was arrested without charges, tortured during a week in a police station and then sent to a “re-education camp” for another year of mistreatment. She was never allowed to see a lawyer.

In re-education camps, prisoners must spend the whole say – save for meal breaks – sitting down, with their backs straight and arms next to their sides, listening to lectures on how to be proper Chinese citizens. At night, they have to work for free. They are not even allowed a break when they sleep, they are forced to do so straight, on their backs, with their mouths facing upwards (like corpses). Their only hope of being freed is being convincing enough in their “confessions” to convince the authorities that they have been rehabilitated into mindless, servile citizens.

Cao Shunli spent a year in the camp before being freed, but was arrested soon after and sent to another one for another year.  She continued her human rights activism after being freed, and in October 2012 she was arrested for requesting public disclosure of China’s “National Human Rights Action Plan.”

Please e-mail the Chinese Embassy in Washington ( to ask for her freedom.

Benny LeeThis post comes to you thanks to San Leandro Council Member Benny Lee

Sep 262013

alamedacityhallSan Leandro City Council member Benny Lee argued that San Leandro should raise the flag of the People’s Republic of China at City Hall because other cities like “Alameda do it”.

It turns out that that is not true.

Tibetan activists all over the world have been writing to Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore asking that they don’t fly the PRC flag on October 1st.  One activist got the following response from Assistant City Manager Alexander Nguyen:

Please be informed that the City of Alameda, California, has not, does not, and will not raise a foreign national flag on City Hall’s flagstaff.

The flag-raising ceremony scheduled next week is sponsored by our local Sister City Association and the Alameda Wuxi Friendship Committee, who use their own portable flagpoles.

This event is not a formal City Hall event; the Mayor and City Council do not sponsor it; they do not vote on it; they do not fund it.


Alexander Nguyen
Assistant City Manager

So it would appear that Mr. Lee was, to put it politely, less than truthful.



Sep 122013

chinaflagSan Leandro Actually Considering Honoring Repressive Chinese Government

If City Council member Benny Lee has his way, on October 1st San Leandro will awaken under the red banner of the People’s Republic of China.  October 1st, “National Day”, will be the 64th anniversary of Mao Zedong‘s proclamation that the communists had won the civil war and that China was now a communist republic.   No word yet on whether Lee will propose to adorn City Hall with pictures of Mao as well.

Item 10.B on the September 16th agenda is pretty straightforward:

10.B. 13-458 Consideration of Request to Raise the Flag of the People’s Republic of  China on October 1st

It comes with no accompanying materials to explain the reason for giving such an honor to the PRC state.   No similar honor is requested for the flags of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao or Tibet – or any of the multitude of nations from which San Leandro citizens come.

But it makes little difference.  The People’s Republic of China was established as a dictatorship and, 64 years later, it continues to be one.   Until it becomes a democratic nation and its citizens can enjoy full civil and political rights, the PRC’s flag can only be said to represent the Chinese state.   We don’t honor the Chinese people as a whole, much less the Chinese-Americans who live in San Leandro, by honoring that flag, we honor a dictatorial, communist government and its political allies.  That is not a position that the City of San Leandro should be taking.

Honoring the PRC state is spits on the face of all the people who live and have lived under its dictatorial rule, including the citizens of the countries mentioned above, some of whom are among our neighbors.  The honor confers a nod of approval to the horrible actions by the PRC government – from the arrests of pro-democracy and pro-human rights activists, to police brutality, the use of forced labor and torture and the generalized repression of Tibetans.

It is so incredible that a city in the Bay Area would be thinking of honoring the PRC in such a way, that when I first posted it one of my readers said he thought I was trying to be “The Onion“.

Unfortunately I’m not.  This is a real proposal, and if the San Leandro City Council does not hear from people who believe honoring the PRC in such a way is harmful to democracy and human rights, they probably will.

You can e-mail them at the following addresses (please copy and paste):,,,,,,

You can also sign the petition below.

You can also attend the City Council meeting and be heard: The meeting is at City Hall, 835 East 14th St. in San Leandro.  The meeting starts at 7, though this item will most likely not be heard until 8 or 9 PM. That is, unless the Mayor changes the order of items in the agenda.

Thank you.


An Open Letter to the San Leandro City Council Members – by the Tibetan National Congress

An Open Appeal To The Mayor of San Leandro, California – by Tibettruth