Pauline Cutter

Pauline Cutter is the current Mayor of San Leandro.

Before that she served for many years in the San Leandro School Board, and was elected Board president by her peers three times. She spent one term in the City Council before being elected Mayor. She’s a pre-school teacher by profession but has promised to be a full-time Mayor.

Dec 222015
 

These are three of the four undercover officers which a parent recognized at the last San Leandro School Board meetings. Parents and children rallied against a program that will put police officers in the classroom to try to gain the trust of students so that they will snitch on one another. There were about forty parents and children protesting and speaking out against this program, and at least nine San Leandro Police officers, both in uniform and out, assigned to monitor them.

As the undercover police officers were not recognized until after the rally, it’s possible that some of them mixed with parents and kids pretending to be one of us. They may have tried to get information out of us, or even to suggest the commission of disruptive actions. If you were at the rally and recognize any of these three officers, or if you have photos of the rally or the school board meeting, please e-mail me.

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San Leandro Undercover Police OfficersThis man, seated in the center of the last row, is one of the SLPD undercover officers.

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San Leandro Undercover Police Officers

SLPD Sargent Troy Young was seated at the far right on the last row. He turned his face around when he saw this camera, but was recognized by one of the parents anyway. Here is a photo of him before he grew his beard and went undercover.

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The SLPD had two SUVs parked across the street with officers monitoring the rally. One was marked and had police in uniform, the other one was this one.

Note: I thought carefully before publishing these photos, given that I did not want to endanger the undercover police officers. I decided to publish them, however, because

1) I think there is a real and great danger to our civil liberties when police feel free to infiltrate peaceful political rallies.  I can’t think of any legitimate reason why the SLPD wold put undercover officers (not just officer in plain clothing, but officers who are officially working undercover) to monitor us.  I’ve written to Mayor Pauline Cutter asking for explanations and received no answer.

and

2) If SLPD undercover police officers can so easily and readily be spotted by a parent, they don’t stand a chance of not being recognized by actual criminals. By exposing them here and letting them know their cover was so easily blown, I may be saving their lives.

Feb 022015
 
San Leandrans at the January 8, 2015, anti-police militarization rally

San Leandrans at the January 8, 2015, anti-police militarization rally.

Fear is a stone throw away from political repression, literally.

Update: The closed session meeting was finally cancelled on the day of the vote, but the City Council chambers were filled with police officers in uniform, in order to intimidate public speakers.  Two dozen citizens still spoke out against the tank. Only one San Leandro citizen without business ties to the police department spoke in favor of it.

Mayor Pauline Cutter has called for a special closed session meeting of the San Leandro City Council  tonight, to take place before the Council votes to acquire a BearCat (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck) for the Police Department.  The Council will secretly consult with SLPD Lieutenant Michael Sobek on a “threat to public services and facilities.”  When a neighbor inquired as to the nature of this threat, citing concerns for the children and students that will be participating in tonight’s rally, Cutter responded:

M., the agenda was revised because I decided not to have the pictures taken Monday night since there was going to be so much happening.
I believe there will be a lot of folks at the rally, I know it’s been posted all over the Internet and I just wanted to provide the new members some education on what their choices are if they feel threatened or unsafe during the meeting.
I will try my best to make sure everyone gets heard and everyone feels safe. I’m not expecting anything to happen but just want to give a little support to the new members and let them know that we have options if the meeting gets disrupted. I can honestly say I know of no plans for the police trying to interfere with the rally if fact I would imagine they of all people there would like everyone to have a peaceful rally.

There have been numerous rallies before City Council meetings, on contentious issues ranging from the flying of the Chinese flag over City Hall to the use of classroom funds to pay for police officers to spy on students.  A rally against police militarization before a Council meeting a mere three weeks ago garnered broad media attention and resulted in no greater disruption than spontaneous applause at points made by public speakers.

The fact that the City Council will be meeting secretly with the Police is particularly worrisome, as it suggests that the “options” Mayor Cutter wants her colleagues to consider solely involve police repression.  The Council, after all, will not be meeting with the City Attorney to understand what constitutes constitutionally protected speech at public meetings nor will it meet with facilities personnel to understand the security features present at the City Hall chambers.  Council meetings on contentious issues are usually heavily attended by police officers both in and out of uniform.

Even more worrisome is the fear of the citizenry that Mayor Pauline Cutter has voiced through this action and which her colleagues have yet to repudiate (they are invited to do so in the comments section).  A Mayor and a Council who fear their own citizens will surely arm the Police with repressive weapons to be used against them and will authorize the use of such weapons at the slightest hint of social unrest.    In this context, neither the purchase of the BearCat nor the policy which authorizes its use in every conceivable situation, including peaceful protests, is casual.  But it’s exactly such attitudes that must embolden citizens to stand up for their human rights and civil liberties and demand an end to police militarization and government repression.

 

 

Feb 012015
 

gunBearcatIf the San Leandro Police Department gets their way, not only will they get a brand new Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck (Bearcat), but they will be able to use it in whichever way they want.  The proposed policy allows use of the vehicle for “purposes including, but not limited to, calls for service involving potentially armed subjects, Tactical Team callouts, search warrants, officer or citizen rescues, or authorized training” (emphasis added).  The policy, furthermore, allows the use of the BearCat “during non-violent demonstrations” when “there are objective facts demonstrating a risk of injury or death to police officers and/or the public.”  As every human activity involves risk of injury – people can always fall, butt heads, get sunstroke – this language allows for the use of the vehicle at any non-violent demonstration.

The policy, furthermore, places no limits in the use of vehicle as a shooting platform (the BearCat comes equipped with 11 gun ports and a rotating roof hatch with a gunner stand) or on the use of the tear gas deployment equipment in the vehicle.

Even if the policy was stricter, the San Leandro Police has a history of disregarding policy when it doesn’t suit its needs.  In 2013, for example, the City Council passed a social media policy that prohibited the publication of photos of people in social media without the subject’s expressed authorization. The police disregarded this policy from the beginning, when I pressed the City Attorney about this, he responded that the City Manager would update the policy to suit the SLPD’s needs.  When Chief of Police Sandra Spagnoli, not only disregarded policy but broke the law by using City time and resources to coordinate lobbying against a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance, she faced no consequences whatsoever.

But a broad policy does signify that the SLPD will have no qualms about using this vehicle in any and every situation that it encounters, against regular citizens and non-violent protestors, that it will use it to intimidate members of the community and that it is more interested in appearing as an occupying force than a community safety tool.

The City Council will be voting on the BearCat on Monday, Feb. 2nd, at 7 PM.  A rally against the BearCat will take place at City Hall starting at 6 PM.

 

 

 

Jan 142015
 

butterflyNote: this article has been slightly expanded.

If you start seeing a lot of sad and mediocre public art in San Leandro, you know whom you have to blame: the past and current members of the City Council who chose to appoint friends to the newly created Arts Commission instead of people with any sort of knowledge or experience in the Arts.

When the City Council created an Arts Commission to decide on how to beautify San Leandro though art, they had the opportunity to populate it with outstanding artists and arts professionals.  Instead, three Councilmembers, Michael Gregory, Ursula Reed and Benny Lee, decided to chose their friends and political supporters, despite their obvious lack of qualifications in comparison to other applicants.

In District 1, Michael Gregory appointed his friend Jeni Engler to the Arts Commission.  Jeni is a very nice woman, an elementary school teacher, a great volunteer with Friends of the Library and a great supporter of the theater program in her church.  She and her husband have been friends with the Gregories for a long time, they attend the same church and Michael Gregory honored them with a service award in 2013.  However, Jeni Engler does not have either an educational nor professional background in either fine or performing arts, and she listed no art involvement beyond supporting musical theater.

The people Michael Gregory did NOT choose included:

– A professional artist/painter  and former docent at New York’s Museum of Modern Art with an MA in Art.
– An artist and Alameda County Arts Commissioner with a BA in Studio Art and an MA in Art Administration, who previously worked at the Art Institute of Chicago
– A professional graphic designer with degrees in Photography and Graphic Design
– A lawyer/artist, with a certificate in studio art & printmaking
– A retired graphic designer and artist very involved in the local art scene (ultimately appointed to the Arts Commission by the Mayor)

In District 2, Ursula Reed appointed friend and political supporter Dina Herrera, whom she had previously appointed to the Parks & Recreation commission, despite the fact that Herrera did not file her application to the Commission until after the date when the Council was supposed to announce their nominations.  Indeed,  Herrera’s application was not included in the packet I received from the City Clerk because I had specified I only wanted those available to Council members before they made their decision.  Herrera has been a strong supporter of Reed, endorsing her in multiple races and participating in her political fundraisers.  According to Herrera’s application, her qualifications for being in the Commission are: “I am an active community member. I would love to help beautify San Leandro and my own children perform in San Leandro’s Theater Programs”.

In order to appoint Herrera, Reed rejected the timely filed applications of:

– An Arts professor/writer/reviewer/judge/curator/art producer with a BA in Studio Art and an MA in Curatorial Practice.
– A graphic designer with experience producing Latin music shows.

In District 4, Benny Lee appointed friend and political ally Martin Wong, who listed no involvement with the arts in his application beyond being vp or a church chorus. Lee rejected:

– A local artist
– The technical director of the California Symphony Orchestra, who has a BA in Sociology
– A Mexican American community member with a BA in Anthropology and coursework on museum curating

Things were better in the other parts of town.

In District 3, Diana Souza appointed Susan Harlow-Schott, the only person who applied.

In District 5, Pauline Cutter appointed Anna Edwards, an amazing African-American artist.  There were other qualified applicants, including a typeface designer and professor at California College of the Arts, a brilliant professional sculptor/artist and a curator and artist coach who worked as Deputy Director of the San Francisco Arts Commission (she was appointed to the Commission by Mayor Cassidy), but I don’t think anyone can doubt Ms. Edwards’ qualifications.

And in District 6, Jim Prola appointed Kathleen Ott-Davis, an art designer with a BA in Fine Arts over two other applicants, a professional singer of Portuguese Fado and Prola’s own wife (who paints).

The City invited people who did not reside in San Leandro, but who are involved in the cultural life of the community, to apply for an at-large appointment to the Arts Commission.  There were a couple of extremely qualified applicants, including the Executive Director and curator of a mobile public art gallery with decades of experience in art exhibitions and promotions and a Mexican American professional artist who runs an art promotion company, but neither was chosen by Mayor Cassidy.

One single at-large space remains in the Commission.

Arts Commission Applications

Dina Herrera’s application

Jan 052015
 
Laython "Judge" Landis

Laython “Judge” Landis

Update 2: Campaign finance reports show that Pauline Cutter returned Judge Landis’  contribution.  Deborah Cox did not.  Landis died in November 2015.

Update: Deborah Cox has given in to public pressure, this afternoon she spoke with Brian Copeland and said she’d return the contribution.

San Leandro has a long and tortuous history of racial segregation and discrimination.  The city was almost exclusively white well into the 1990s and stories of police cars guarding the border with Oakland still linger in the memory of many African Americans. Writer and comedian Brian Copeland, who moved to San Leandro as a young child, turned his experiences growing up here into a powerful one-man show, which became the longest running solo play in San Francisco.   The book based on his play, Not a Genuine Black Man: Or, How I Claimed My Piece of Ground in the Lily-White Suburbs, has earned 5 stars on Amazon.com.

While San Leandro has changed greatly since then, and we are now one of the most diverse cities in California, too many of the long-term residents who remain have kept their racist and xenophobic attitudes which they express unchallenged.  It was thus  not in the least surprising to hear that Laython “Judge” Landis, a former San Leandro City Council and current director of the Oro Loma Sanitary District Board, made an outright racist remark during a board meeting (which he later repeated thrice during a TV interview).  What was surprising is that someone actually called him on it and tried to hold him accountable for it.

Lands is well known in town for his racist and sexist commentaries; he once described President Obama as “just a monkey with ears” and has made indecent propositions to local female politicians.  But he has been an elected official for over four decades, his name carries weight with the older and white San Leandro population and he can be generous with his financial contributions.  This means that politicos keep inviting him to their events, using their names and taking his checks.

In the last election alone, Landis gave a $1,000 contribution to now Mayor Pauline Cutter and a $2,000 contribution to now Councilmember Deborah Cox.  On his radio show and on Facebook, Brian Copeland called on Cutter and Cox to return such contributions.  Cutter committed to doing so and has already taken Laython Landis off the list of the endorsers for her Mayoral run.  Deborah Cox has not personally addressed Copeland’s request, but the response of Angela Ramirez-Holmes‘s, Cox’ campaign manager, response is telling:  “I have no idea why giving him the money back is helpful. I don’t understand this call to action.

San Leandro deserves better.