San Leandro, like many cities in the Bay Area, is in crisis. About half of our community members are renters and skyrocketing rents are pushing them out of their homes, either displacing them out of the Bay Area or putting them on the streets. This lack of community stability is affecting neighborhoods and schools, as the challenges of facing an ever-changing student population are significant. Yet the City Council has done nothing to address this situation. This is not surprising because the Rental Owners Association and landlords have poured money into the incumbents’ campaigns.
Lack of ethics and integrity is, indeed, a generalized problem in San Leandro city government. The former City Manager, fearing that accusations of sexual harassment by the head of a local nonprofit would become public, sent out a rambling and utterly unprofessional letter to the press, in which he detailed how he’d have business meetings with his accuser in the front seat of her car and play ping-pong with a local lobbyist. In the letter, he also discussed the contents of private conversations with Council members. Rather than fire him on the spot for unprofessional behavior, the Council put him on paid leave for months while he looked for a new job and and gave him a $350K parting gift.
What San Leandro needs is progressive and ethical leadership, thus our recommendations below. Note that San Leandro has ranked choice voting (RCV) for its Mayor and City Council races.
Mayor: #1 Jeromey Shafer, #2 Dan Dillman
Incumbent Pauline Cutter has been a disaster as Mayor of San Leandro. She seems to have approached her job as a money-making scheme. Early in her term, her daughter was hired by the City (with the approval of the City Manager) for a highly-paid position in the Parks and Recreation department – despite nepotism being explicitly forbidden by the Charter of the City of San Leandro. Cutter would later defend the City Manager against sex harassment accusations, resist efforts to ask for his resignation after he wrote an unprofessional and incoherent public letter, and later vote to give him a $300K farewell gift on his way out.
Cutter has spent much of her time traveling at tax-payer expense, but she can’t point to any concrete accomplishments from her tenure. The promise of San Leandro becoming a high tech center based on our fiberloop never materialized, and instead our industrial area is filled with warehouses that pay low wages. Moreover, Cutter has supported police militarization and despite her promise that the counter-attack armored vehicle she voted to buy for the police would not be used on demonstrations, it’s been deployed twice for such purposes. Cutter is a supporter of mass surveillance, including sharing this data with ICE.
Her opponent City Council member Benny Lee has basically the same record and positions. He demonstrated his lack of ethics by taking large campaign contributions from a garbage company that was bidding for a contract with the City of Oakland, and lobbied the neighboring City to award that contract to his contributor. The competitor was based on San Leandro, so his move could have cost San Leandro $2 million. Lee’s major “contribution” to San Leandro has been to propose honoring the genocidal Chinese government by flying its flag over City Council. As Tibetans burn themselves to bring attention to their plight and a million Ughyurs are imprisoned in China, Lee’s loyalty seems to be foremost with the Chinese government.
Fortunately, San Leandro has another choice: Jeromey Shafer. The co-founder of San Leandro for Bernie and leader of Our Revoution San Leandro, Shafer is intelligent, hard working, thoughtful and unapologetically progressive. He is committed to human rights and social justice. If elected, he will champion rent-control in San Leandro and will take an innovative approach to solving our other social ills. He will stop the militarization of our police forces and actually make the police department accountable to the city, not the other way around as it seems to be now. He is running a clean money campaign, rejecting all funds from corporations and developers and limiting contributions to $99. Shafer will also restore transparency and accountability and a sense of ethics to the office. Really, San Leandro can do no better than to support him.
Dan Dillman is our second choice because, whatever his faults, he cares about San Leandro.
District 1: #1 Eva Arce, #2 Ken Pon
Incumbent Deborah Cox is another white-moderate who supports police militarization and mass surveillance and opposes rent-control. She drew controversy for not returning the financial contribution of a politician who used the “N” word in a public meeting.
Eva Arce, a newcomer to politics, is a strong progressive who has seen her community fall apart by the Council’s regressive politics and wants to restore it. She is a big supporter of rent control, police accountability and fixing potholes. She is running a clean money campaign, rejecting all funds from corporations and developers and limiting contributions to $99. She is an intelligent woman, who does her homework and will tackle issues with a fresh, yet progressive perspective. She is just what we need in San Leandro.
Ken Pon is also a moderate, but to the left of Cox. He opposes the militarization of police and favored marijuana dispensaries when Cox was ranting against them at City Council meetings.
District 3: Victor Aguilar
School Board member Victor Aguilar was a progressive back when people didn’t want to admit to being progressive (his opponent, incumbent Lee Thomas, has never claimed himself as one). He supports rent control, police accountability, clean money (he is not taking any corporate or developer money), and free speech. As a commissioner, he refused to agree to the City Council’s demand that he forgo his first amendment rights and agree to no disparage the City Manager.
Incumbent Lee Thomas takes money from landlords and opposes rent controls while supporting police militarization.
District 5: Maxine Oliver-Benson (with reservations)
Both candidates are problematic. Incumbent Corina Lopez supports police militarization and has done painfully little to bring accountability to the police and remained a supporter of the City Manager even after he showed himself to lack professionalism, but at least she may vote in favor of rent control if someone else brings it up to the table. She also was the impetus behind the sanctuary city declaration, but would not go a step further and make it an ordinance with some teeth – this allowed the Police Department to continue sharing data with the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, which in turn shared it with ICE. Moreover, Lopez can be difficult to work with, she easily gets offended and needs to have her ego massaged lest she retaliate over perceived slights.
Her opponent, Maxine Oliver-Benson, is an African American woman who has spent her life in East Oakland as an activist. She is corporate free and has many strong progressive values – she favors rent control and police accountability, for example, and is rejecting all money from corporations, developers and other special interests (unlike Lopez). However, she supports increasing mass surveillance in San Leandro – which Lopez says she does not.
Find more progressive voter recommendations in Progressive California.