Oct 262014

For the last few weeks, we’ve been inundated with mailers from all sorts of candidates.  Those running for City Council don’t make too many claims, limiting themselves to listing their resume, saying a few platitudes and maybe having a banal quote or two from some elected official, often one voters have never heard of.   The candidates for Mayor who’ve served in the City Council, however, need to make the case of what they’ve been doing for the last four to eight years.  But are they being honest with their claims? I decided to check it out.

Diana Souza

False Claims:

In her mailer, Souza claims that several buildings were “approved and accomplished under Diana’s leadership.”  Most of these are discussed under “questionable claims” below, but it’s patently false that the 9th grade campus and Grocery Outlet were “approved and accomplished” under her leadership.  The 9th grade campus was built entirely with School District funds.  The City demanded that some aesthetic changes be made to the outside of the building and paid for these changes.  The City also partnered with the District to build the school’s gymnasium, paing part of the cost and in return having the district make it available for City purposes.   The City Council voted against having Grocery Outlet move into the downtown property which is being developed as “The Village”.  Grocery Outlet then found another property that was zoned for grocery stores and opened there.

In the “Parents for Progress” paid slate mailer, Souza claims to have provided money to complete the  new health clinic, championed after-school programs, safe routes to schools, school resource officers and crossing guards.”  However, the  The City Council did not provide any money to complete the new health clinic.  Rather, they provided a loan to the School District, at a higher interest that they were receiving from investing those funds, so that the District could buy the building.  Souza has never championed after-school programs and these, indeed, were cut while she was in the Council.  At the last City Council meeting, Souza argued that the School District, and not the City, should pay for school resource officers; she has also voted to cut crossing guards.

Questionable Claims:

In the “Parents for Progress” paid slate mailer, Souza claims to have “been good for both our school districts, funding joint projects.” However, Souza has often spoken out against the City providing any funds to the School District, even to maintain facilities used exclusively for the City.  Indeed, her animosity to the school has been so great that the San Leandro Teachers Association, who supported Corina Lopez when she ran against Pauline Cutter due to their own animosity to Cutter, has endorsed Cutter for Mayor.

In her mailer, Souza claims that under her leadership several buildings were approved and accomplished.  However, while she approved them by voting for them, she did nothing to “accomplish” them.

Souza also takes credit for many “accomplishments” that are questionable at best. The Council “added resource officers” but Souza now favors making the School District pay for them.  The Council might have increased city programs for youth, but only to cut them later.  The Council may have expanded shuttle programs, but she has voted and/or spoken against the Links shuttle since she was elected.  The Council had historically funded crossing guards, only to cut them in 2010, and then restore them but only after the School District agreed to share the costs.  As far as I know, there are no neighborhood police beats – at least not any visible ones around here -, but if there are, they would be because of the Police Chief, not anything that Souza has done.  She might have voted to adopt transit oriented development plans, the same ones which the Council used to block Grocery Outlet form using the former Albertson’s site, but these have fallen apart, which is why “The Village” was able to be constructed.

Souza has not brought new shopping and dining opportunities to town, unless she means she did so by approving Village Marketplace, which will feature a fast food burger joint. And if she brought back the Cherry Festival and the Tree lighting (Sausage & Suds is not funded by the City) before Cutter joined the Council, it was only to cut them again, as neither took place in 2010.

Her only role in the other accomplishments she lists was to vote for them.

Empty Promises: Souza has a long list of things we need to do. However, she’s been in the Council for 8 years without fulfilling them.

I e-mailed Diana Souza to ask for clarification on these claims, but did not hear back.

Pauline Cutter:

Questionable Claims: In one of her mailers, Cutter claims to have “lobbied Justice Department officials in Washington, DC for additional public safety resources.” However, the law enforcement funds that the City has obtained came in the form of competitive grants based on objective criteria.  Cutter also claims that San Leandro just received federal funding for four more officers, however the COPS grant is only for $500K, which will cover less than the cost of one police officer for four years. The City wants the School District to pay the $1.7 million needed for the three other officers.

Under “Record of Accomplishments,”  Cutter claims to have hired new police officers; however, the funds came from the COPS grant the City obtained before Cutter was in the Council.  When I e-mailed her about it, Cutter said she found the funds to continue funding the police officers after the grant expired.   Her claim to have opened Kaiser Hospital seems also unfounded, as the hospital was well under way to being built before Cutter joined the Council. Upon e-mailing her, Cutter responded that the Council fast-tracked Kaiser and it opened before it was originally scheduled to.

Empty Promises: Cutter promises she “will continue to enhance our quality of life by attracting quality retail and dining options to San Leandro.”  However, she has not been able to accomplish that in the last four years, and she has not outlined a plan as to how she will do this. She also voted to sell the former Albertson’s property to developer David Irmer, assuring that only chain stores would be present in the new “Village Marketplace”.

Oct 292013
Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli

Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli

Dear City of Oakland:

I know you are looking for a new Police Chief.  Please take ours!  SLPD Chief Sandra Spagnoli doesn’t work cheap  and crime may have gone up under her, but she speaks well and smiles enough.  Surely appearances do count.  She fooled us, she can fool your residents as well.

Spagnoli is a hard worker (sure, she has about 90 days off a year, in addition to weekends, but that’s standard for public executives) and has an unmitigated commitment to social cleansing. She doesn’t discriminate between gays, the mentally illblacks, liberals or even gun-advocates – in her book everyone is a criminal that needs to be put down.  Dirty cops, however, are to be left alone – at least until they are so overt in their dealings that citizens end up alerting the Mayor and the DA.    But if you want your racial tensions – in particular those between blacks and Asians – to rise, she has a recipe for that!

One teenzy weenzy little problem with Spagnoli is that she’s not particularly married to facts.  I mean she loves facts, as long as she gets to invent them, but independently gathered and confirmed facts are nasty things that get in the way of actual police work.  Police Chiefs’ opinions should be trusted without question, and if reality interferes with your trust, then you really should disavow reality.

Take for example her claim that crime rates have gone up in San Leandro because of the release of prisoners due to re-alignment.  It’s a good story, one that she can use to get surveillance cameras that she can use to spy on troublemakers (aka community activists), so why should the fact that there has been no early release of prisoners stop her from telling it?  Or take her opinion that marijuana is a gateway drug and that marijuana dispensaries attract crime – sure, the studies that look at the actual data show that those are myths, but shouldn’t her intuition count for more than pesky studies?  Her latest kick is surveillance cameras.  She knows in her gut that they work and we should believe her despite all the data that shows that they neither prevent nor help solve crimes.

You should also not hold it against her that she often makes false statements to the City Council.  It’s not as if the Council would rely on what she says in order to pass the ordinances she advocates, right?  For example, can we really blame her for telling the Council her office received one complaint a week about backyard chickens, when in reality they only have records about one complaint being filed in the last two years?  She needed the Council to have a good excuse to give the Police access to people’s backyards without probable cause in violation of the 4th amendment, so can she be blamed for a little white lie?  And why does the Council need to know exactly how many license plate cameras the Police Department has? So what if it’s 5 rather than the 3 she acknowledged? They’re both single digits, right?

Look, our City Manager, Chris Zapata, is perfectly OK with her “truth impairment” as is our Mayor, Stephen Cassidy.  Surely the Oakland City Council and Mayor Quan won’t have higher standards than their San Leandro equivalents.

There are many more things that you can praise Sandra Spagnoli for.  She has no patience for street musicians or artists – if you want someone to intimidate your budding arts community, she’s the woman for you.   And she has pretty much eliminated all complaints against SLPD officers.  Sure, she did it by getting rid of the Internal Affairs Department, but the non-numbers of complaints speak for themselves.   Finally, she is so committed to her law enforcement job, that she doesn’t let the law stand on her way.  Really, do you want a Police Officer who respects the law or someone who catches others not doing it?

So in my name and in that of many, many, many other citizens of San Leandro, I ask you, I plead with you, I beg you to hire her and get her off our hands.


Margarita Lacabe

PS I forgot to mention that Chief Spagnoli is already very experienced with the Oakland crime problem. Indeed, when she’s not blaming realignment for San Leandro’s crime problem, she’s blaming Oakland. She already has a plan to put surveillance cameras aimed at the Oakland border to know which of your miscreant citizens dare to come into our town.

Spagnoli also has a plan to deal with youth crime: eliminate youth. She tried to put it into effect on Halloween when, after promising crossing guards for a Trick-or-Treat events put out by local businesses, she prohibited them at the last minute. Unfortunately for the Chief, nobody got killed, but I know she won’t let that deter her from finding ways to endanger kids’ lives n the future.