The 2014 elections are just around the corner, and I can’t believe how dismal the candidate field is in San Leandro. Actually, “dismal” is putting it lightly.
Mayor Stephen Cassidy will be seeking re-election. His pitch of “I’m not as incompetent as Tony Santos” narrowly won him the seat in 2010, but he now will have to run on a record that is only marginally better than his predecessor’s. He did balance the budget – but only because voters passed Measure Z -, and he ended up getting the police union to agree to pay into their pensions, but only in exchange for raises. His biggest accomplishment so far was giving the green light to the Lit San Leandro project, but he handicapped it by making zoning code changes incompatible with the “live-work-play” concept he now realizes the city needs to spouse. Even then, there is nothing scarier to anyone seeking to invest in a town than a capricious regulatory system. Still, Lit San Leandro has potential and if it can hook in a couple of big companies into town, his chances at re-election look good.
Councilmember Diana Souza, who is being termed out in 2014, and former councilmember Surlene Grant are giddily waiting on the sidelines preparing to jump in if something handicaps Cassidy – or, more likely, if he decides he doesn’t want to go through the rigors of a second campaign in which he will have to defend himself and his record. While neither Souza nor Grant is particularly well positioned for defeating him by herself, rank choice voting opens up the possibility that they will both run, team up, and attack Cassidy from two different angles.
Neither Souza nor Grant, however, seem likely to be much of an improvement over Cassidy. Neither can point to many accomplishments while in office, and neither has a history of leadership while in the Council. I was not very active in politics while Grant was in office, so I cannot totally dismiss her yet – but Souza has proven herself unable to do anything but follow directions in the 7 years she’s been in office.
I am hoping that someone else will jump into the race, but I don’t know who it could be. Councilmember Jim Prola seems unlikely to do it at this point and nobody else in the City Council has much to offer. The School Board is mostly made up by new members without the experience to take on the reigns of the City. The only exception is my husband, Mike Katz-Lacabe, but he has pulled papers to run for City Council District 1. Former School Board President Morgan Mack-Rose was just narrowly defeated on her bid for the District 2 City Council seat, so she is likely to be out of the political picture for a while. It’s possible, however, that someone will rise up from the community – though I haven’t seen much noise from anyone who might become a serious candidate. Dan Dillman, of course, may decide to run again and this time do it seriously. Depending on how badly Cassidy falters in the upcoming year, he might actually have a shot.
If no one else pans out, however, I might actually consider running myself. I’ve never had political ambitions of my own, and this would really be a last-ditch solution; I hope it does not come to that. But I do believe that this city needs to have someone at its helm that takes the responsibilities of the Mayor and its duties towards the community seriously. Our Police Department needs to be audited and brought under civilian control – it is unconscionable that we have narcotic officers selling drugs of dubious origins, officers with a record of brutality killing unarmed civilians without any repercussions, false child porn charges filed against established members of our community, persecution of gay men and a Chief that lies to the community and the Council and tries to manipulate the political process, without any consequences whatsoever and, of course, turning San Leandro into a surveillance state. This needs to be a campaign issue. There are, unfortunately, many others.
Districts 1 , 3 & 5
San Leandro has a hybrid type of district elections. Council members must live in a particular area of town, but they are voted on by residents of the whole city.
Michael Gregory is terming out from District 1 . So far the only person I have heard that might be running for that seat is my own husband, Mike Katz-Lacabe. He pulled papers last November.
Diana Souza is terming out from District 3 herself, so that will also be an open seat. Board of Zoning Adjustments member Lee Thomas has already indicated that he will run for that seat. I tried to meet with Thomas to get an idea of his political philosophy, only to find out that he doesn’t have any. I give him credit for his honesty in refusing to engage on policy discussions before he has spent the time to learn about the issues and figure out what he thinks (though he might have considered putting off running, until he becomes acquainted with these little matters). But if someone is unwilling to answer the question: “on a scale from one to ten, how progressive are you? “, then I can only conclude that he either has no political views at all or that he is unwilling to stand up for them. In either case, that’s not what I want in a City Council member. I much rather have someone who is conservative, but who is clear and honest about his political philosophy, than someone who will decide on issues as the wind blows or his pockets are filled.
This means that I am actively looking for someone to run for that seat. In my view, the requirements for office are intelligence, integrity and a real commitment to the public good and the democratic process. A tall order, any day.
Finally, Pauline Cutter seems likely to seek re-election for District 5, and I haven’t heard of anyone poised to challenge her.
Just like with the City Council, School Board members run for a district but are elected at large. The School Board has 7 members, only 2 of whom faced a contested election – the other 5 just walked into the office. Katz-Lacabe has been trying to reduce the number of members from 7 to 5, to make it more likely that those serving are actually elected, but he has gotten little traction.
Three seats will be up for election in 2014. Lance James, who represents the north-eastern area of town will be running for re-election. Ron Carey, who represents the area south of Davis St., east of 880 up to the first railroad tracks, has said he’s not running. He had been appointed to that seat. If Mike Katz-Lacabe runs for City Council, then his School Board seat (adjacent on the east side to Carey’s, extending up to East 14th.) will be open. So far I haven’t heard of anyone interested in running for either.
If you know more political gossip, if you’re interested in running for office and want to announce here or seek my help, or if you just want to gossip, please comment here or in Facebook.