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”.

Sep 262014
Pauline Cutter

Pauline Cutter

Pauline Cutter Best Choice, but Vote for Her Third

The following are my ranked-choice recommendations for San Leandro Mayor, as of the time of updating this article. Things can change in political races as you learn more about the candidates, which is why I don’t vote until election day.  Note that while I’m making recommendations on this race, I’m not endorsing any of the candidates. 

The race for San Leandro Mayor features four candidates: City Council members Pauline Cutter and Diana Souza, theater owner Dan Dillman and former police officer Gregg Daly, who is running as a “write-in” candidate.  Politically, Daly and Dillman are the most progressive, Cutter is a centrist while tilts right.

Originally, I thought the real race was between Cutter and Souza, with Cutter as the likely winner.  They are both City Council members and running as such.  However, Souza has been plagued by scandals, including taking money from California Waste Solutions, supporting the raising of the Chinese flag and continuing to support red-light cameras.

Dan Dillman, meanwhile, is likely to benefit from the anti-establishment vote, which in San Leandro hovers at around 25-30%.  That may be enough to knock Souza into third place.

The particularities of ranked choice voting make it possible for voters to vote their conscience while still not wasting their vote on candidates that are unlikely to win.  In this case, a voter can comfortably vote for Gregg Daly and Dan Dillman first and second and Pauline Cutter third, knowing that if Souza does make it to the last round, their vote will count for Cutter.

These are my recommendations for San Leandro Mayor:

First Choice: write-in Gregg Daly
Second Choice: Dan Dillman
Third Choice: Pauline Cutter



Gregg Daly

Gregg Daly

Gregg Daly is running as a write-in candidate to oppose the militarization of the police.  A vote for him, therefore, it’s a symbolic vote against the militarization of the police.

Daly, a former police officer,  filled out a long and quite thorough questionnaire that I’ve sent to all Mayoral and Council candidates.  I found his answers to be thoughtful, intelligent, based on facts and research and a broad base of knowledge and experience.  Unfortunately, he’s running as a write-in which means he neither will be tested in the campaign field nor he has a possibility of getting many votes.  But as a protest vote, write in Gregg Daly as your first choice.  He will be eliminated after the first round.

Gregg Daly has lived in San Leandro with his wife and three children for 18 years.  He is a retired California peace officer and former US Army Military Police with MPI and CIDC experience. He currently runs an IT Consultancy firm.

More on Gregg Daly: campaign Facebook page, candidate questionnaire

Dan Dillman

Dan Dillman


Dan is a great guy, and he’s done a great service to San Leandro both through running the Bal Theater and by being a strong liberal voice on civic issues.  Dan frequently attends City Council meetings and shares reasonable and often inspired positions.  He has spoken up against red light and surveillance cameras, against flying the Chinese flag over San Leandro, for expanding rather than limiting entertainment options and for marijuana dispensaries, among other issues.  A vote for him is a vote for the liberal politics he espouses.  While Dan is unlikely to win enough votes to become Mayor, I think he can make it past Diana Souza if people who appreciate his idealism vote for him.

More on Dan Dillman: Smart VoterCandidate Statement, Website, Facebook page



Pauline is a very pleasant lady and she has taken her job as a City Council member seriously.  She does her homework, asks questions and tries to make the best decision.  However, she is not particularly progressive.  She has voted the right way in a number of issues, including against flying the Chinese flag, against red light cameras, against restrictions of entertainment uses in the industrial area, against unnecessary golden handshakes to public employees and in favor of marijuana dispensaries.  As a former School Board member, she has reached out to partner with the schools in a variety of projects.  However, she has voted in favor of the expanded use of surveillance cameras and supports the militarization of the police department, albeit not as fully as Diana Souza.

Cutter has committed to do the job as a full time mayor, and I think she’ll do a competent job.  I don’t think the same of Diana Souza.

More on Pauline Cutter: Candidate Statement, Website, Facebook page

Diana Souza originally ran for City Council to try to get a competitive pool built in Washington Manor.  When that proved to be an unpopular expenditure of taxpayer money, she retreated and has since taken direction on how to vote from other Councilmembers and, later, from the Police Chief / City Manager. Not surprisingly, she is endorsed by the police union.  Souza has also shown quite an antipathy to collaborating with the schools, and has voted in an extremely conservative manner: in favor of flying the Chinese flag over San Leandro, in favor of red light cameras and surveillance cameras, against marijuana dispensaries and in favor of restricting entertainment in San Leandro.  Souza has the support of the owners of California Waste Solutions, who also seem ready to try to take over San Leandro’s garbage contract as well.

Diana Souza: Smart Voter, Candidate Statement, Website, @SouzaForMayor14

See also: Mayoral Candidates on the Issues. Sort of…

San Leandro Talk’s Voting Guide

Sep 172014

In the last week there have been two poorly-advertised and poorly-attended Mayoral and City Council candidate fora in San Leandro.  Mike Katz-Lacabe tweeted from the Mayoral fora.  He’s running for City Council himself, so he couldn’t report on that part of the fora, though he did note some of the “lightening questions” from the first forum.

Update: See also responses to the APA Caucus questionnaire below.

City Council Candidates

All San Leandro City Council candidates favored a marina with small boats – in other words, no support for paying to dredge the channel.

All San Leandro City Council candidates said that they did not support surveillance cameras throughout city. Leah Hall was late so no answer

San Leandro City Council candidate Deborah Cox said she supports marijuana dispensary but spoke against it at June 18, 2012, City Council meeting

All San Leandro City Council candidates say they support marijuana dispensary except Lee Thomas.

All San Leandro City Council candidates support ranked choice voting except Dist. 1 candidates David Anderson & Deborah Cox.

Mayoral Candidates

Dan Dillman says San Leandro’s pressing problem is perception. It’s a beautiful city.

Pauline Cutter says San Leandro’s most pressing problem is economics.

Diana Souza says San Leandro’s most pressing problem are the streets.  (The street conditions decreased every year she’s been a Councilmember).

Mayoral candidates on Marina: Cutter: exciting new development planned. Dillman: what voters want. Souza: new restaurants, hotel, conference center

San Leandro mayor candidate Souza asks for other candidates’ views on rent stabilization. Cutter: we need to consider. Dillman: what voters want.

San Leandro mayoral candidates on city staffing: Souza & Cutter: more cops. Dillman: use police from CHP, BART, Sheriff, Parks.

San Leandro mayoral candidate Diana Souza says working poor can be helped by recreational programs for youth, seniors and adults.

Breaking news: All San Leandro mayoral candidates support transparency at City Hall. Cutter & Dillman mention improving meeting minutes.

San Leandro mayoral candidates on red light cameras: Cutter and Dillman oppose. Souza supports. Thinks they save lives.

San Leandro mayor candidates on SLPD acquisition of armored personnel carrier: Dillman opposed, Cutter researching, Souza supports.

San Leandro mayor candidates on Measure HH: (sales tax increase for 30 years) Dillman opposed to length. Cutter & Souza support HH.

San Leandro Mayoral candidates on whether they support marijuana dispensary: Cutter and Dillman: yes; Souza: No.

San Leandro Mayoral candidates on whether to keep ranked choice voting: Cutter says yes, Souza says no & Dillman says “what voters want.”

San Leandro Mayoral candidates on flying the flag of other countries: Cutter says no, Souza says yes, and Dillman says: whatever voters want.

Note: During the interviews for the Democratic Party endorsement, Souza and Cutter clarified that they are in favor of surveillance cameras, just not throughout the city.

APA Caucus Questionnaires

While many organizations ask candidates to fill out questionnaires, very few actually make the answers public.  The Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus of Alameda County is the exception.  Here are the answers from San Leandro Candidates to APA Caucus questionnaires:

San Leandro, Mayor

San Leandro, City Council

District 1

District 3

District 5

May 042014
Mayor Stephen Cassidy

Mayor Stephen Cassidy

San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy announced today that he will not be seeking re-election for a second term as Mayor.  The news are unexpected, Cassidy had launched his re-election campaign with a kickoff fundraiser on St. Patrick’s day of this year.  Cassidy cites the difficulties of campaigning while also working full time, raising a family and performing his duties as Mayor.    Cassidy had no declared challengers at the time of his announcement.

Cassidy’s exit from the race leaves the field wide open for anyone who may want to run for the office.  With six months to go before the election, the biggest challenges will be fundraising and creating name recognition.

Two candidates are already likely to enter the scene.  Council member Diana Souza had long made the rounds trying to garner support for a campaign.  She hadn’t been very successful, but with Cassidy out of the way she has a shot.  Souza, however, was one of the candidates who voted to raise the Chinese flag over San Leandro City Hall, a very unpopular move with voters. She has, otherwise, a non-existent record of accomplishments.

Dan Dillman, the owner of the Historic Bal Theater, has also indicated he might run for this office.  Dillman ran for the District 2 City Council race in 2012, and commanded a respectful 25% of the vote despite virtually no campaigning.

Cassidy’s exit from the raise reinforces the urgency of turning the Mayor’s job into a full-time position with a corresponding salary.  It is very difficult for any person who has a full-time job and is raising a family to also successfully fulfill the responsibilities as Mayor.   And yet, some of the most competent and qualified candidates are exactly in that position.  I hope whoever is elected moves the city in that direction.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy’s statement

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

I have concluded it is in the best interests of our city and my family that I focus on serving as Mayor for the remainder of my term, which expires at the end of the year.

When I originally ran for office, I did not have the responsibility of governing. I have come to the realization that adding campaigning to my list of duties would mean the compromise of too many important existing responsibilities. I wish this was the not case. But I see no way I can meet my obligations as Mayor at a high level, as well as my work duties and be present for my young daughters, while also running a vigorous campaign for re-election.

I am proud of the renaissance that is occurring in San Leandro. The San Francisco Business Times recently reported that our city is “buzzing with a fresh technology focus.” In five weeks, the state-of-the-art San Leandro Kaiser hospital will open. Last month, the City Council unanimously approved construction of a commercial district for tech firms and other companies at the forefront of today’s innovation economy. Three, Class A office buildings will be built on the vacant lot next to the San Leandro BART station, creating nearly 2,000 quality jobs.

Much more can be accomplished this year. Again, I will complete my term as Mayor.

I look forward to working with the community and my colleagues on the City Council to place a revenue measure on the November ballot to repair our deteriorating neighborhood streets, create a commission of residents to foster and support the arts and culture in our city, and extend Lit San Leandro, our ultra high speed broadband network, to our schools.

It has been a privilege to serve you and the people of San Leandro as Mayor, and previously as a school board trustee. Thank you for enabling me to have such honors.

After my term as Mayor end on December 31, 2014, I will remain active in our community. I love San Leandro and look forward to continuing to make a positive difference for our city.



Jan 152014
Diana Souza

Diana Souza

And, more importantly, “Can she win?”

San Leandro City Council member Diana Souza is playing the old “will I, won’t I” game vis a vis running for Mayor.

On the one hand, she has been seeking the endorsement of highly placed Democrats. On the other hand, when asked in so many words whether she’s running for Mayor, she’s denied it.

While it’s likely that what she is doing is trying to assess whether she can garner enough political support to mount a credible challenge to Mayor Stephen Cassidy, she hurts her credibility by not being straight about it.  If she does decide to run, that lack of honesty may come to haunt her.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy is profoundly disliked by Central Labor and, by extension, by many powerful elements in the Democratic party.  Souza may feel she can exploit this vulnerability.  However, Souza’s right wing ideology – she has opposed everything from urban farming to marijuana dispensaries to even discussing services for the homeless, while pushing for restricting civil liberties in town – is not likely to be well received within Democratic circles.  Souza’s insistence that the flag of the People’s Republic of China be flown over City Hall, also suggest that she has very poor political instincts.   Anyone endorsing Souza does so at their own peril.

Souza’s greatest problem, however, is that she is not actually a viable candidate for Mayor.  Not only does she not have a base (though she will lean heavily on Benny Lee‘s connections within the Chinese community), but she has accomplished nothing in the seven years she has served in City Council.  She ran with the single purpose of building a competitive swimming pool in San Leandro, but was unable to get this done due to opposition by the public. who wanted WW funds spent on a variety of projects.   Since then, she’s had no initiatives and has served as a vote for the Police Department.

Souza also suffers from a lack of campaign experience.  She ran in 2006 against Julian Polvorosa., an elderly barber and former Council member who had been pushed to run by former colleagues and showed no desire to actually be elected.  Souza did a good job of putting signs around town and getting relatives to drop off some fliers, but didn’t need to create the grass root organization that pushed Cassidy into his 2010 win.  She ran for re-election unopposed.

Souza will likely receive the support of the Police Union if she runs for Mayor.  However, that is a double-edged sword in San Leandro.  While she can expect thousands of dollars from them, police support of former Mayor Tony Santos was likely a key reason for why he lost the race.  Indeed, current Councilmember Jim Prola blames news stories about Police Union contributions to his campaign for loosing him votes at the polls.   She is also likely to have the support of the city employee union, but that will just remind voters of how she has put employee’s interests above those of taxpayers..

Her biggest problem, however, is that whatever dissatisfaction there is in San Leandro with Cassidy, extends to the Council as well.  For example, she – along with Cassidy – voted to have the major downtown property sold to a developer for a fraction of its value, so as to be occupied by a drugstore that already has two branches downtown.  She has also voted to give the Police Chief and City manager raises, while complaining there is no money for city services.  Making a case that she’s any better than Cassidy will be tough.

Her candidacy, however, could precipitate another candidate jumping into the race.  Any votes she takes from Cassidy, could help a non-establishment candidate take the plunge.