political races

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 232014
Tony Thurmond and his two daughters.

Tony Thurmond and his two daughters.

The race for AD 15 offers a clear choice

Dynamic.  If I had to chose just one word to describe Tony Thurmond, that’s the one I’d pick. Thurmond is certainly electrifying.  He can entrance a crowd.   When my kids, at 12 and 9 already jaded by a life lived amidst politicians, saw him give his speech at the Democratic pre-endorsement meeting back in February, they were enthralled, inspired.   Move over One Direction, here is Tony Thurman.  He has passion. He has heart. He cares.

A month later, over coffee here in San Leandro, I come to understand what my children saw in Thurmond. I was suspicious at first, I thought he might be a performer, a preacher type that knows what to say to make people clap and sing hallelujah (and yes, I’m fully aware of the racist connotation of that thought).  But on a one-to-one basis I noted no deceitfulness, no attempts at an emotional seduction.  This is a man who knows who he is, has accepted himself and knows what he wants.  He is a man with a mission.

His mission, put simply, is to help children.  He wants to improve their lives, light up their paths to success, give them opportunities.  His story is, by now, well known in political circles and still compelling.   He was born in California to a Panamanian mom and an army dad who left for Vietnam and never came back.  His mother died when he was a child, and he was raised in Philadelphia by a young cousin. As a Hebrew Pentecostal Afro-Latino growing up in a black working class neighborhood, he was somewhat of a misfit, and yet found a sense of community and belonging that he continued to seek as an adult.  He finally found it in Richmond. He lives there with his two beautiful girls.  When all is said and done, what he wants is for them to be proud of their daddy.

Currently, Thurmond works as Senior Director of Community and Government Relations at the Lincoln Child Center, where he creates and oversees programs for truancy prevention, parenting education, school-based mental health services and support services for foster youth and families.  His work with imprisoned youth led him to establish a business academy where they can learn skills that will actually lead to a job when they get out.

Thurmond learned early that while he could help kids one-on-one  and affect perhaps hundreds through his job and volunteer activities, his impact would be much greater in government.  He served a term in the Richmond School Board and another in the City Council, but it’s in the Assembly where he believes he can have the most impact.   The right policy, the right state law could improve the life of millions.

We talk about other issues, he’s pro-environment, anti-fracking, pro-abortion, pro single-payer healthcare, pro-civil liberties.  While his goal of helping kids is central, he believes they should not be abandoned as adults. “Give people training and a job, and they won’t go back to jail,” he says. He takes crime seriously, in Richmond violent crime has been radically reduced by getting cops off their cars and into the streets, getting to know the neighbors, building trust.   He works well with the police,  who have endorsed him.  He says they respect him because he’s a straight shooter. Then again, the East Bay Express just called the Richmond’s Police Chief “the most progressive police chief in the Bay Area” in an article titled When Liberals Take Control of Police

If elected, Thurmond will bring another quality to the job: an ability to speak with anyone as an equal.  Just as important, he is able to listen and translate other people’s experiences into something that he can process and act upon.  Thurmond oozes humanity in the very best sense of the word.

Thurmond’s opponent in the Assembly District 15 race is Elizabeth Echols.  She is a nice lady and has had an impressive career as Director of Public Policy at Google and later as Regional Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.  I have served in the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee with her for almost four years.  I like her, but in all that time,  I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say a word during a meeting, express an opinion, advocate in favor or against a policy, a resolution, a position.  She has not stood up for anything, literally.  I am afraid that if elected to the Assembly, she will  repeat that pattern.  AD 15, a district with a diverse, educated and socially committed population, deserves a representative who will stand for them.

I have confidence that Tony Thurmond is that person.

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

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.

Jun 302013

politicianThe 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.

School Board

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.