Jacqui Diaz

Mar 242012

Yesterday, a young woman was stabbed to death by her boyfriend near downtown San Leandro.  The stabbing was witnessed by a friend and the suspect was quickly caught.  Of course, that doesn’t do the victim any good.  Nor did the quick arrest of another man who also stabbed his 15-yo girlfriend to death earlier this year.

I congratulate the Police for their quick work, but I can’t but wonder if these murders demonstrate a much larger problem of domestic abuse that we are not seeing.  And behind that, a greater problem of men who are growing up without the coping techniques to deal with anger and frustration and know little else but to resort to violence.

Domestic abuse is not a police problem.  Washing our hands and looking at the police to arrest perpetrators is of little use.  At the moment you are hitting your wife or killing your girlfriend, you are not rational enough to be thinking “I better not do this or I’ll go to jail.”  This is a problem that we need to address earlier, from the moment a child enters kindergarten, and we must do it as a community.

I salute our public schools for having initiated the anti-bullying program at the elementary schools.  I know that at Roosevelt it works great, my daughters report that there is very little teasing going on, much less violence.  Things seem to be different at the Middle School and High School, and as the District is forced by a declining budget to cut counselors it will even get worse.

The City, of course, could very well step up. It could fund those counselors as well as early-intervention programs for children who are showing signs of anger problems and violence. It could institute outreach programs to victims of violence, direct them to existing services and so forth.  When he was running for election  Mayor Cassidy listed proudly his seat at the Board of Building Futures for Women and Children, a shelter for victims of domestic violence,  but what we need are programs, not just warm seats.

The City Council and the Mayor will cry that there is no money for social services such as these.  However, they have little trouble finding it to fund needless lawsuits and enriching their employees.   Just last Monday they approved a $500,000 parting gift for four staff members.  Right before I reminded them of their greater obligation to the community – but the vote was still 5 to 2 (with Cutter and Cassidy voting against it).

What we need in this town is leadership.  As a woman, I applaud the fact that four of our Council members are women and that three of our top-level City staff are as well.  But for years, women have been saying that if they were elected to office, if they had positions of responsibility, they would do things differently.  It’s time they follow with those promises.

Councilwomen Joyce Starosciak, Diana Souza, Ursula Reed and Pauline Cutter – show yourselves!  Get off your comfy chairs, take your lips off the butts of City staff (to be fair, this doesn’t apply to Cutter), and show that leadership.  Create programs to help the community, find the funding and don’t whine.  You were elected to do a job, do it!

And the same goes for Assistant City Manager Lianne Marshall and Deputy City Manager Jacqui Diaz.  Justify your six figure salaries!

Of course, leadership is not enough.  There has to be a commitment from the community to address the issue of domestic violence, but few things take place without someone taking that leadership.

Sep 072011

The San Leandro City Council is meeting tonight in closed session to discuss the appointment of a new City Manager.  At its July 5th meeting, the Council hired Teri Black & Company to conduct a broad search for a City Manager.  The search, which should start some time this month, will be open until October 16th.  According to the agenda for tonight’s meeting, the City Council will update the public on this search.

It’s not clear why the City Council is meeting in closed session before the public meeting.  Under the law, all meetings of the City Council must be public.  There are a few exceptions, one of which includes discussion on the appointment, discipline or dismissal of a public employee, but this section refers to specific persons.  This means that either the City Council is meeting to discuss the appointment of a specific person to this position, or that it will be violating the Brown Act.

Assuming that it’s the former, I can only speculate as to whom they will be considering.  As Black’s search has not started, it doesn’t seem likely that they will meet to discuss any new applicants for the position.  It’s possible that they’ll be discussing the past applicants – one, in particular, had impressed several members of the City Council, but he decided to take a job elsewhere.  It’s also possible that an internal applicant has suddenly appeared.  Neither the current interim City Manager, Lianne Marshall, or the Deputy City Manager, Jacqui Diaz, applied for the job back when it was opened in April.  However, it is possible that since then one of them has changed her mind.  Even if this is the case, I would hope that the City Council would continue the search (the firm has been hired and has put work on it, so we’ll have to pay them anyway) so as to assure that we get the best City Manager possible.

If, however, they are meeting in closed session to discuss something other than a specific individual that could be appointed to the City Manager position, this will be a  violation of the Brown Act and a sign of the City Council’s contempt for both the law and the citizenry, and they should be called on it.

Mar 302011

Last December San Leandro’s current City Manager, Steve Hollister submitted his resignation, stating that he would leave when his contract expired in June.  The speculation was that his contract would not be renewed.  Under Hollister, the City managed to deplete its financial reserves almost completely, a number of major companies moved out of town, it developed an anti-business reputation and quality of life in the City declined.  Tony Santos took the blunt of the blame for this in November – losing a Mayoral race in a city that almost automatically votes for incumbents – but in San Leandro it’s the City Manager, not the Mayor, who is really in charge of (and to blame for) how the city is run.

With Hollister in the way out, San Leandro needs to hire a new City Manager.  Last week, 3 months after Hollister’s announcement, the City finally got around to posting the job.   Given the shoddy quality of the job posting brochure and the recycled verbiage, it couldn’t have taken that long to create.  It’s not clear to me, then, why the search did not start sooner.  Applicants have until April 18th, to submit their resumes/references,  a relatively short window of time.   The  City has chosen not to hire a search firm.

This suggests to me that the “powers that be” have someone in mind for the position.  I’ve heard rumors that neither our Assistant City Manager Lianne Marshall or Deputy City Manager Jacki Diaz are interested in the job – so it may very well be an external hire.  In either case, I would hope it’s someone who agrees to move to San Leandro.  We want to hire someone for the long haul, and that means someone who is willing to believe in San Leandro enough to make it his/her home.  And I want someone who believes enough on his/her own abilities that he can trust he’ll be kept around for as long as s/he wants to be.

I am concerned, however, that the current City Manager hiring process has no space for public input.  For one, while the City Council are the representatives of the public, they do not reflect at all the demographics of this city.  Asians and Latinos make up 57% of the city’s population, and yet there isn’t even one Asian or Latino City Council member.   Indeed, while whites only comprise 27% of the City’s population, 85% of the City Council is white.  There should be a way for the City to solicit the imput of Asian and Latino and other San Leandro citizens in the City Manager hiring process.

What I propose is that the City form an advisory committee composed of 7 members.  Each City Council member would appoint one representative, making an effort to appoint someone from a demographic group not represented in City Council (in addition to Asians and Latinos, this could mean gays, young people, non-Christians, etc.).  This group would review the applications of the top City Manager choices, and either interview them or submit questions for their interviews (and then review their answers).  They would then either individually or as a group, submit their recommendations and the grounds for these to the Council as a whole.  The City Council, of course, would be free to make its own mind.Group members would be made to sign confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from discussing the matter.  To expedite the process, City Council members could draw on their commissioners as possible members of this advisory group or tap community leaders.

I’ll send my proposal along to the City Council, let’s see what they do with it 🙂