Nov 042013
Cynthia Chandler (left) and other former Cassidy supporters at the Swing the Vote for Cassidy fundraiser in 2010.

Cynthia Chandler (left) and other former Cassidy supporters at the Swing the Vote for Cassidy fundraiser in 2010.

The following open letter was left by San Leandro resident Cynthia Chandler on Mayor Stephen Cassidy‘s Facebook page.  Chandler was a strong supporter of Cassidy during his 2010 Mayoral campaign but has grown frustrated with the Mayor’s unwillingness to lead.  After attending a town hall meeting where the Police Chief gave misleading information and the Mayor disallowed continued discussion of city issues, Chandler wrote an open letter asking that Mayor Cassidy limit the power of the Chief to write ordinances. Cassidy responded saying that he would, but otherwise praising the Police and saying that his major interest was in re-negotiating the pension obligations for firefighters.  This is Chandler’s response.

Wonderful to hear Mayor Cassidy supports an ordinance to limit abuse of police power by disallowing police from drafting city policy/ordinances. I look forward to seeing how you push this important effort. Thank you!

Regarding the city’s public safety budget, thank you for breaking down resources spent in the general fund. I would appreciate a list of expenses outside of the general fund spent on policing. Also, I do not support efforts to attack firefighter’s pensions. Firefighters have a radically reduced life expectancy as result of secondary illness brought on by exposures to toxins while fighting fires. Every day, their job risks their health and livelihood into the future. I do not think it is appropriate to build a budget on the backs of working people.

Similarly, that our city’s budget was balanced significantly through passage of a sales tax through Measure Z, which by definition, as a sale tax, disproportionately impacts people with lower economic standing, is not acceptable to me as a long term solution (and thank you for opposing that tax). Nor was it acceptable for me to read in the San Leandro Times that the majority of the Measure Z tax money went to policing at a time when overall crime is low, yet our other essential safety systems, such as roads, economic development and schools are underfunded and in disrepair.

Of course, as you point out in response to my ask that you support a marijuana tax designed to fund some of our underfunded public safety needs, no one incomplete source of funding will provide us all we need to better all these neglected safety structures. That is why we need to diversify with multiple sources of income locally, and not dismiss one source as incomplete. However, in that work, I hope that you do not continue to focus on attacking the base needs of workers–how about assessing reform to our commercial tax codes in ways that will benefit small business but perhaps add tax to large box stores and other larger businesses? Concern for diversification also is why I asked you and Council Members what you are doing to build collective power among municipalities to demand from the State what we need and re-prioritization of state funding. Your answer was that was you tried and it is hopeless. I beg to differ. I have seen no effort by the city to track and inform the San Leandro public of State efforts that may harm our community with time to organize in opposition, and no effort to support and organize voters in demanding our state representatives do right by us. Your Facebook page reads like an event calendar, not a page to lead us to action. Imagine what would happen if we had a mayor able to inspire voters and encourage other local mayors to do the same. Instead, I have watched as you appear to abdicate more and more leadership to city staff and waive away larger State-oriented efforts as pointless.

Lack of mayoral leadership fueled my upset at the recent District 5 and 6 meeting when you ended the meeting despite community members still wanting to speak and city leaders willingness to stay. Regardless of the officially noticed time of the meeting, there was no need to end the meeting at that time, and capacity to continue it. Part of my upset is rooted in a belief that it is beneficial for all our community members and representatives to hear from us all — the group process builds group knowledge and accountability. My upset also was because we in the community had heard nothing from you on your personal leadership, ideas, or concerns around crime or anything else, apart from when I personally asked you to comment on whether you would support a marijuana tax to fund underfunded public safety infrastructure. I wanted all of us voters in attendance to hear from you directly and decide if we should vote for you in 2014. I want to know what you think of the police chief presenting misleading information; I want people in my neighborhood to know what you think is a safety priority and what your solutions are.

Ending the meeting as you did, you appeared to remove yourself from any responsibility to lead or respond to your constituency, and instead chose to defer these roles to staff. I am not in favor of our town’s safety policy being conflated with policing and controlled by any Chief or unelected staff person. My concerns for your leadership are compounded when I hear you thank the Chief profusely when she misleads us all, and when she proposes unconstitutional surveillance plans (like the chicken policy provision demanding permit owners submit to searches for any reason and without cause). From what I have seen, your administration is interested in maintaining that deference to staff regardless of the needs of your constituency. I look forward to learning otherwise.

Meanwhile, I believe the voting public is increasingly frustrated with politicians who appear disconnected from their base. Last week’s opinion polls in the San Leandro Times are remarkably uniform in this view. Similarly, several district members in attendance spent the one-on-one time discussing how we would rather have district meetings that are called and run by the voters around our needs. I look forward to inviting you to attend such a meeting in my district in the New Year.